time in our church services when our favorite song is played and we can sing with all our heart. When the singing time is finished we sit down and have that warm, fuzzy feeling and we say that we experienced
a wonderful time of worship.
As I’ve been
thinking about this over the last few months on staff here at Antrim, God has been challenging this thought process. When I moved to PA a little over 3 years ago the Lord began to direct my attention
to the verses in Romans 12. I know you are all familiar with the chapter so let
me just share with you what God showed me. He began to transform the way that
I think but renewing my mind with His word. He has been transforming my thoughts
on what worship truly is and I’d like to share with you some of my findings.
As I began to ask
the Lord to show me what He sees as true worship, His Word became alive and these passages jumped out at me. The Lord is speaking
in Isaiah 29:13 “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from
me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.”(NLT) I was challenged to think about the ‘man-made rules’ that I have grown up with and what I have
considered worship. Could it be that God considers these acts as ‘nothing
but’? As I pondered this the Lord directed me to the New Testament where
Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman. I’ve read the story MANY times…but
this time something new stood out! The woman was informing Jesus
of how she could not worship because she was not able to go to the ‘mountain’.
“Jesus replied, ‘Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.’”
John 4:21 (NLT emphasis mine) I was surprised to read those
words…it will no longer matter! Could it be that we are so worried
about the details of how and where we worship that we have lost the purpose behind it!!!
I believe worship
is a special part of our relationship with God. Exodus 34 tells us that
God is jealous about his relationship with us.
many different speakers talk about relationships. I remember hearing someone
talk about the act of saying “I love you!” We all know that this
is an important part of any relationship, especially in marriage. Let’s
say you make a commitment on your wedding to say I love you every day. So each
day you get up and the first thing you say to your spouse is “I love you!”
And then you go throughout the rest of your day and you don’t even think about communicating that to them…because
you already said it for that day. It becomes something that you simply check
off your To-Do list! We all know that this is not the way things work and your
spouse may enjoy hearing those words…but after a time the words become rote and begin to mean nothing…especially
when they are not followed throughout the day with other meaningful words and actions.
I believe the same
is true in our relationship with our God. He asks us to worship Him but
not just an act that we participate in every Sunday morning.
Another story that
draws my attention when studying worship is found in Matthew 26. A woman approaches
Jesus as He reclines with a group of men and anoints Him with expensive oil. The
general consensus of the men in the room is…how dare she interrupt our gathering…a woman among men, wasting expensive
perfume that could have been used for ‘ministry’! Jesus’
response was…she has it right…wherever the Good News is mentioned, this woman’s story will be told! Wow…I want to be like her. Yet
when I really think about it…do I? All the people around her discouraged
her and said she was wrong.
Could it be that
what God desires in worship is very different than what we have made it? Could
it be that God asks us to be extravagant with our Worship? Whether we are singing
(any song, because the song choice ‘no longer matters’), serving in the nursery or Sunday school class or giving
financially! When you walk away have you left something costly at the altar? In the words of King David out of 2 Samuel 24, “I will not sacrifice to the
Lord…offerings that have cost me nothing!”(NIV)
I encourage you
to allow the Holy Spirit to renew your mind and transform the way you think about Worship.
I do not want the Lord of creation to say that my worship is “nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.”
If you desire to
know more about what God sees as true worship…open up the Word and ask Him to show you!
I don’t know of any other book that would be a better resource than the love letter our God has already given
us! Worship is just a response to what He has done! I invite you on an exciting journey of discovering who God is and how we can worship Him.