It’s not worship without this

Worship is at the heart of who we are as Christians.

But our definition of what worship is needs fine-tuning. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a gathering of saints and someone leading says something like, “Okay, church, let’s stand and worship.”

That sounds harmless enough. The implication, though, is that worship means standing up to sing. Of course, singing is a part of worship. But only a part. That’s one of the reasons the worship wars are so silly. We get riled up about one small aspect of worship.

While we gather for corporate worship, most of our worship doesn’t happen then. On Sunday mornings, we pray together and listen for God’s voice through scripture. Of course, we sing and give our offerings. Again, those are all aspects of worship. Our true worship is connected to those practices. 

But our true worship happens when we leave. Worship is more than liturgy and holy days. Our worship of God is our willingness to live according to the ways of God. Obedience is worship.

Particularly throughout the Old Testament, God’s call is for obedience. Instead, the people turned to idols. Now, they still said the right things about God and participated in religious services. But they didn’t live according to God’s measure of righteousness. If they did, they would have taken care of one another. They would have provided for the widows and orphans. Justice would have been at the forefront of their relationship with the world. Their idol worship hardened their hearts and perpetuated their self-centered lifestyle. 

In Isaiah 1, God says to a disobedient people, “I hate your New Moons and your appointed feasts. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them” (Isaiah 1:14). I wonder how many of our worship gatherings are a burden to God.

We see both these aspects of worship in Exodus 24. God told Moses to bring the elders of Israel up the mountain with him. Moses was to go near to God and the elders were to “worship at a distance.” What do you think their mountain worship looked like?

After this, Moses told all the people what God told him. The people’s response is what we’re considering today. They said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” Their obedience would be their worship. 

So, when you’re with your church family on Sunday morning (or whenever you meet), you bring your worship of God with you. In our gatherings, we glorify God and offer our lives as living sacrifices together. From there, our true worship is living as if all that we said about God is true. So true that we will live like it is.

Stay blessed…john

The secret’s out

I don’t find myself at the mall very often.

I’m not a big shopper. Most times that I do go it’s with family. A few years ago, they got me to go with them. Keep in mind that I’m done looking at the store’s merchandise in a fraction of the time everyone else is. So, I tend to pay more attention to fixtures and store layouts. As I meandered through the store, a small display caught my attention.

To me, this display summed up all our problems. I didn’t want to forget it so I even took a picture. It read: Give me what I want.

As much as we know what’s wrong with that approach to life, if we’re not careful that becomes our life pursuit. We’ll work ourselves crazy to get what we want. Time with our family, time with our Lord gets cut as we do what we need to do to get what we want.

Not only is that a selfish way to live, but it’s also tiring. Is it any wonder so many of us feel exhausted, frustrated and on edge? What’s more, many people who spent years pursuing what they thought they wanted to have, come to find out it wasn’t worth the effort. Better said, it wasn’t worth what they gave up in their pursuit.

So, what will we let their experience teach us?

What I want to learn from them is something Apostle Paul communicated with the Philippian Christians. He called it “the secret to being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.”

I’m not sure why the NRSV translates it as a “secret.” You tell someone a secret. What Paul is prescribing is something you need to learn.

But you can’t buy Paul’s lesson. It isn’t meant to be packaged or marketed.

What’s his secret? What has he learned that has helped him go through his life? Two things, actually. One is contentment. Being happy with what you have. I guarantee you won’t ever find that advertising at the mall! The second is knowing God’s power. Paul goes on to famously say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Chances are, you and I have missed something about that verse that is a powerful part of the lesson. Paul is speaking to a group of Christians who have encouraged him. They’ve supported him in prayer and helped him with finances while he was in jail. One of their own sent their gift and was a help to the apostle as well.

I get the impression Paul learned his secret lesson in the Christian community. Any need he has had, God’s people have been God’s response.

I hope you and I learn that we don’t need everything we think we want. And we certainly don’t need to let our lives be guided by that pursuit. Instead, Lord, help us to learn to be content and to be strengthened by your power.

Stay blessed…john

I know that I know

Did you know you can pay for personalized messages from actors, politicians or athletes? Almost any famous figure you can imagine. You can do so through an app called Cameo.

Well, what can I say, I had a few boring moments during quarantine. As a result, I’ve gone through some Cameo videos. I didn’t pay for anything, but I watched people like Troy Aikman, Randy Travis, Tommy Chong, and Anthony Anderson, to name a few.

When I watched some of these videos, I noticed something.

First, celebrities, of course, use the recipient’s name. That’s the kicker, having your favorite musician or actor recognize you. Typically, a friend or family member arranged and paid for the video. So, they also say that friend’s name. It reminds me of when the wait staff comes to your table on your birthday. They don’t know who you are, but someone told them there was a birthday.

Something else struck me, though. It was what almost all the celebrities said. It went something like, “Your friend told me about what you’re going through. I know what you’re going through is difficult. I know you’ve had a hard time.” Or they’d say, “I know you’ve been sick.”

I know.

Did they?

Well, they read it from a form someone completed online. So, yes, they knew. But how much can you know about someone’s pain and struggle from one sentence or just by what someone else has told you?

Knowing involves more, doesn’t it?

Saul had planned to kill David. The king couldn’t stand the younger warrior’s success and fame. When David escaped from Saul in 2 Samuel 19, he went to see the prophet, Samuel.

Once Saul found out where David was, he sent messengers to capture him. When the messengers arrived they saw a group of prophets in a “frenzy,” led by Samuel. This was normal practice for prophets. As they prophesied, speaking praise to God, I assume, the messengers came under the spirit’s pull.

They joined the frenzy.

Saul found out and sent more messengers. The same thing happened to them. And it happened a third time with another group. Each time, Saul heard and knew what was happening.

Finally, he went himself.

Was he tired of hearing about what was happening? Did he run out of messengers? Was he intrigued? Whatever the case, Saul went to David himself. He, too, fell into a frenzy. This wasn’t the first time Saul had experience with this kind of activity. Read how that started in 1 Samuel 10.

Now, this isn’t a simple text. Saul will not reign for good; God rejects Saul as king. You also have to question the spirit Saul received from God. Some scholars have suggested Saul was insane.

So, I don’t mean to take all that lightly and churn out a trite Sunday school lesson. Instead, I think the deepness of the text invites us into a deeper understanding of the story.

And we can say the same thing about other stories found in scripture. Even about faith itself.

We can’t see or experience the deeper meanings if we aren’t willing to go past superficial knowledge. Knowing the story of Saul is one step in knowing how his experience speaks life into ours.

In order for us to truly know how God speaks to us, how faith moves mountains and how the mercy of God changes us, we have to go beyond just what someone else has told us. God has something to speak directly to your heart. It may be in a frenzy. It may be in a quiet moment of prayer or while in worship or service with God’s church.

Be willing to know more about God than those celebrities know about the people in their videos. 

Stay blessed…john