Tag Archives: worship experience

It’s Not Acceptable

Leviticus 10

It’s hard to read about the deaths of Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons who dared to worship God by their own rules. But it serves as a reminder how seriously God takes worship. We must worship Him in spirit and in truth. We must worship Him with clean hands and hearts.

Sin cannot worship God. And we cannot hope to worship God while sin is in our hearts, I don’t care if you raise your hands and work up a sweat dancing in the aisles. That is not a sign of true worship. Oh, the person caught up in the moment may be truly worshiping that way, but only if they have dealt with their sin first and are worshiping in spirit AND truth. The simple act of looking like a worshiper, doesn’t make one a worshiper.

After Nadab and Abihu were killed, the people worshiped God flat on their faces. I’m pretty sure they weren’t told to have a smile on their faces. And I doubt they were having a good time.

There are many examples of what worship can look like in Scripture from dancing in the streets to tearing clothes and shedding sorrowful tears. But the one thing all of these examples of worship have in common, the one thing that expresses true worship, is hearts surrendered to God, washed clean, pure, holy, and ready to worship.

Worship any other way is worship by someone else’s rules. It’s just not acceptable.

I hope you plan on going to church tomorrow to worship your Savior with fellow believers. But lets’ stop trying to produce an emotional experience in worship. Let’s be sure we all are worshiping from hearts cleansed by the blood of the Lamb according to God’s rules.

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.

Psalms 142-150; Praise and Worship

These last chapters in the book of Psalms really has me thinking about praise and worship. The psalmists say all of creation praises God.

I’m sitting in my sunroom, looking at a flowering rose bush, listening to chirping birds, hearing the wind rustling the leaves on trees, enjoying the sunlight after yesterday’s rain, and wondering how any of that translates into praising God.

The beauty of creation is doing exactly what it was created to do. The pine tree in my back yard doesn’t seem to be trying to be a live oak. And it’s branches grow upward, pointing to heaven as though lifting hands in worship.

Now I’m not suggesting the pine tree is choosing to do what God wants it to. It just can’t help itself because it’s a tree, and God is God. And I think that’s the kind of praise these psalms talk about in reference to all of God’s creation… including us.

I love that I am reading these psalms the day after my pastor preached from Mark 7, where Jesus called out the Pharisees for their insincere worship of God. They had been more concerned about their man-made traditions than about God.

My pastor reminded us that not everyone who attends church worships, not everyone who sings the songs worships, not everyone who carries a Bible and says an occasional, “Amen,” worships.

The difference between the praise and worship of my pine tree and me is, I have a choice. Worship for me involves a setting aside of the cares of my day, my plans for the week, the chip in my nail polish, or the baby in my lap, and intentionally focusing my attention on God alone.

If I am distracted, my worship becomes like unauthorized fire. If you want to know God’s take on that, read about Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10.

One of my concerns about modern day worship services is the tendency to replace thinking and intention with feeling. The “worship experience” turns attention away from God and toward me, my own experience. When the drummer does a solo, or the guitar player performs an impressive run, where does my attention turn? If I sing the same phrase eight times so that my heart “soars,” my attention in on my heart, on my feelings of euphoria.

Now, lest you think I think singing hymns is the only acceptable form of worship, how many times have you had your eyes on the words in the hymnal, and your mind on the roast in the oven? Distraction is distraction whether you are are praising God with a rock band or a pipe organ.

Our God is worthy of praise. Our God demands worship. I believe Scripture tells us distracted praise and worship is neither praise nor worship.

God deserves better than that.

May 4 – Praising God With Abandon

2 Samuel 5:11-6:23, 2 Chronicles 13-16

David praised God with abandon. He didn’t set himself apart because he was king. He got down there with the rest of the people, singing, dancing, and praising God in the streets. He didn’t care if he looked foolish. He was praising God.

I know some people believe we should take that same behavior inside our churches and into our worship services. I don’t see where that was the case in Scripture. But Scripture does tell us there is a time to rejoice in the Lord with abandon.

Got me to thinking about my life, my worship of and service to God. He seems to be asking me if I hold back from serving Him because I’m afraid of what someone might think of me. Do I not talk to that person God has laid on my heart, because I don’t want to sound foolish, or have them think I’m a religious nut? God is asking me why I’d care about that.

Do I hide my tears when singing that hymn that touches my heart, or hear a word of Scripture that makes my heart sour, or am convicted by something the pastor says from the pulpit? Am I concerned that the people sitting next to me will think there’s some deep sin I’m committing, or that there is something wrong with me? Again, God is asking why that matters.

When David’s wife Michal told him he looked like a fool out there in the streets, he said, “Look lady, God’s been good to me. And I’m going to celebrate that whether you like it or not.” (Don’t look for that quote exactly. I kind of took some liberties with David’s words.)

God deserves our praise. I think we short-change Him when we take all emotion out of our worship. And I think we divert attention away from Him when our worship becomes an experience.

More than ever I want to take myself totally out of my praise, my worship, and my service to God. It’s not about me.

He alone is worthy.


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.

Feb 15 – Standing On Ceremony

Leviticus 8-10

I tried to put myself in the scene described in these chapters today. What would it have been like to have witnessed Aaron’s consecration service? It must have been a pretty impressive ceremony. I think I would have wanted a front row seat.

The Bible says the congregation gathered at the doorway of the tent, in obedience to God. They were about to see history in the making. They saw the cleansing of Aaron and his sons, watched Moses put the tunic on Aaron, and everything that went with it. They saw the turban placed on Aaron’s head. They witnessed the anointing, the sacrifices, smelled the aroma, and watched as Aaron and his sons ate the ceremonial food.

Then seven days later, the congregation came near again, and stood before the Lord. More sacrifices were offered and then…

the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. (9:23-24)

I wonder if we are missing something with our casual approach to worship these days. I certainly don’t think we have to go back to the kinds of ceremonies we read about today here in Leviticus. But is there something we can apply to our approach to God from what we read?

I think the Old Testament people went to this important church service in obedience, and with hearts focused on God. They didn’t go for a worship experience. They seem to have gone, however, expecting to worship God.

There is a subtle difference I am convinced we need to be careful of. Going to church for a worship experience puts the focus on me, on my experience. Going to church to worship God takes me totally out of the picture, and the focus on God alone.

There was nothing casual about this ceremony. And God’s glory appeared to them with fire from on high. Their response was to cry out and fall on their faces in worship of a Holy God.

May we worship God as He deserves.