Tag Archives: contemporary worship

Forget About Yourself Altogether (Nehemiah 8)

Hearing God’s Word read to them grieved the people. They worshiped God with their heads down, “faces to the ground.” Standing in the presence of Holy God will do that to you.

C.S. Lewis said this in his book, “Mere Christianity:”

“The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It’s better to forget about yourself altogether.”

Please don’t attend church for the experience. Please don’t worship God for the blessing. Please don’t judge worship of God on the basis of how many hands are raised, or people clapping, or how loud the praise team drums are playing. Forget about yourself altogether.

Worship is about God.

After their worship service where God’s Word was read and explained, Nehemiah told the people to go, stop weeping, enjoy some good food, take care of each other.

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (10b)

The celebration came after worship, not during. I know people don’t want to hear this. I know we’ve been made to think worship should be a rocking party, resulting in an euphoric experience.

But the more I read God’s Word the more I am convinced that is not worship. Worship can’t be about me.

It’s better to forget about yourself altogether.

Ezra 3:10-13; The Good Old Days

I got stuck here in Ezra 3. Something I read the other day has kept coming to mind, so I decided to take a closer look. It’s the picture of the celebration over the finished foundation of the temple.

Priests, dressed in their finest, trumpets, cymbals, the choir singing, “He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.” All the people shouting praise to God.

Well, maybe not all the people.

Scripture tells us many of the older folk wept aloud. Why? Did they not want the temple rebuilt? Were they lamenting a personal loss? Scripture tells us their weeping was as loud as the praises of the others.

I used to hate it when Dad would talk about “the good old days,” how great things “used” to be, and how awful things were in the present. (That was fifty years ago when I was young. Ouch!)

Now all these years later, I hear Dad’s words coming out of my own mouth. Maybe there was something to what Dad was feeling all those years ago.

The old folks who cried when they saw the new foundation were the ones who remembered Solomon’s magnificent temple back in the day. They remembered the splendor adorning God’s house, and could recall the worship that was given Him there. Those truly were the good old days.

No wonder some of the people were grieved as they realized the refurbished temple wouldn’t come close to what it once had been. No wonder they were sad to know this new generation had no idea what they were missing.

We were talking in Sunday School recently about how things used to be in the church, the years of Billy Graham crusades when the focus was on meeting God, the main draw was the preaching, and the thought of being entertained was the furthest thing in anyone’s mind.

I remember walking into a church and feeling like I was in a church and not a venue. I remember sitting there for an hour without a coffee in my hand. I remember caring how I presented myself to God for worship in His house. I remember altars at the front of churches where people were able to kneel for as long as it took to get right with God. I remember pulpits.

Forgive me if I “weep aloud” when I see the refurbished church today. You see, I remember the splendor.

Now having said all that, let me also say I know worship is happening in churches today where Jesus is proclaimed as the Savior. I praise God that sin is being confessed, souls are being won through the precious blood of Jesus. I love my church where guitars accompany praise songs and hymns, where people aren’t all in suits and dresses.

But there is a part of me that wishes we could go back to the way things used to be, and I’m not apologizing for that. You see, I remember Solomon’s temple.

Now before you jump down my throat, I know things weren’t perfect back in the day. I know there were problems in churches fifty years ago, disagreements, lukewarm hearts, and sin isn’t something that just reared it’s ugly head in the twenty-first century. But I would be foolish to think a new approach to worship has eliminated those same problems in churches today.

In fact, I’m not sure the church is any better at addressing those problems today than they were fifty years ago. Maybe we aren’t even doing as well at it.

All you young people out there, mark my words. If God tarries another fifty years, you’ll be looking back at 2017 as the days of Solomon’s temple. And one day you might hear your own voice talking about “the good old days,” and wishing your grandchildren could know what worship was like when you were young.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for churches where Your Holy Spirit is free to work in the hearts and lives of people, for pastors who proclaim the truth of Scripture, where Jesus is known to be the only way to You, and where You are worshiped as You demand. But God, I also see that the further we get from the cross, the more tolerant we are of sin, the more we talk about Your love, and fear You less. I see an increasingly casual approach to worship that is contrary to Your Word, and I am grieved. I don’t want to live in the past, Lord. But I also don’t want to discount what was right and good about the way things used to be. Give us wisdom. Give us discernment. May Your Church throw away tradition and trend, for the sake of tradition and trend, and just be people who want to worship You, serve You, love You, obey You, learn about You, and please You. May our worship of You be about You, and not about how it makes us “feel.” May we all, young and old, be the Church You want us to be, for as long as You give us life on this earth.

2 Kings 14-16; In Deference

As I continue to read through the history of kings, I notice some repeating themes. Like I said the other day, most of the kings follow in their fathers’ footsteps. Good kings influenced good kings, bad kings influenced bad kings.

It seems those who took on the position of a Jewish king may have had a death wish. Whether they reigned two weeks or twenty years, someone was always plotting to kill them and steal the throne.

Good kings followed God in varying degrees. Bad kings didn’t follow Him at all.

We get to King Ahaz in these chapters today. He was not a good king, even though his father Jotham had been. Scripture tells us Ahaz made a treaty with the Assyrians, sworn enemies of God’s people. We read that Ahaz remodeled the Temple, removed the basins, the canopy, and the royal entryway, he moved the walls and the Sea, “in deference to the king of Assyria.”

“When you show deference to someone, you make a gesture of respect. The noun deference goes with the verb defer, which means ‘to yield to someone’s opinions or wishes out of respect for that person.'” (Vocabulary.com)

Has the Church made a treaty with the enemy? Look at what has been removed from our places of worship: altars, pulpits, Bible reading, hymns, organs, steeples, pews, the list goes on. We’ve remodeled our sanctuaries much like Ahaz remodeled his.

I read this invitation this morning: “If you are looking for a spiritual home that is full of love, acceptance of all, and truly tolerant of all beliefs, ask me about…”

I think too many churches have removed sin from their vocabulary, they don’t talk about God’s holiness and His righteous judgment. They’ve removed so much of what makes the Church God’s house, in deference to whom? Non-christians? Christians who want to feel good about going to a Sunday service without the responsibility of living a separate life during the week? Satan?

It’s time to break our treaty with the enemy, and defer to God instead. God who is Holy, Fierce, Unchanging, who went to the cross because of sin; God who accepts those who accept Jesus, and rejects those who reject Him.

Holy God, I thank you for pastors and churches who are standing on the Truth of Scripture. I thank you for congregations of people who are not afraid to resist trends and political correctness. Bless their fellowships in a mighty way. I pray for those who are caught up in the treaty between your people and the enemy. Convict hearts, Lord. Drive us to our knees. And may Your people worship You in spirit and in Truth, according to Your Word. Then, Father, enable us to get out there and do what You intend the Church to do, introduce lost souls to their Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

April 9 – Take a Peek and Die

I Samuel 4-8

Curiosity killed the cat.

The Philistines had sent the Ark of the Lord back to the children of Israel. What a surprise it must have been for the people of Beth-shemesh who were working in their fields to look up and see the Ark coming toward them on a cart, pulled by two young cows.

They rejoiced! The Ark was back after having been captured by the enemy.

For whatever reason, the men of Beth-shemesh took a peek inside the Ark. It was famous, and here it was right there in their own backyard.

Did they stand in line, like a crowd waiting for their turn on that death-defying roller coaster at an amusement park? Was there excitement as they stepped nearer and nearer to  the place where God was? Was it an adrenaline rush as they were about to do something they knew they probably shouldn’t, but just had to see inside?

Was there a bit of fear as they approached God in such a manner?

I don’t know what they were thinking. But I know what God thought about the matter. 50,070 men died because they had disrespected the Ark of the Lord, they had disobeyed God.

I can’t help but think of the contemporary approach to worship we see today. It’s casual. Bring a cup of coffee and enjoy the show. Let’s sing songs about how loving God is, and repeat the words over and over until we feel that worship experience everyone is talking about. Let’s watch the preacher perform his comedy act, complete with special effects, and go away feeling good about ourselves.

Sadly, too many churches provide an opportunity for people to get a glimpse of God. They get just close enough to God, hear just enough Bible, that they consider themselves children of God. But they don’t deal with their sin problem, they pride themselves in their tolerance, and they don’t humble themselves before a Holy God.

Is it possible to get just close enough to God to be fatal? Ask the people of Beth-shemesh.