Tag Archives: worship

The Worship of Your Heart

Luke 7:36-50

That woman who anointed Jesus’ feet. I want to be her.

I want to love Jesus with abandon, worship Him without thought of anything or anyone else. I want to give Him all I have, cling to Him with tears enough to wash His feet.

Do you think for a minute she worried about what other people at dinner thought of her, how she must have looked to them, bent over with her face on the ground, crying the ugly cry? I don’t think she even knew anyone else was there. Her only thought was loving Jesus. He was all that mattered. I want to worship Him like that, too.

Here’s the thing: there has been a line drawn between contemporary and traditional worship styles. What we “do” during worship places us firmly on one side or the other.

On one hand, we’re told if you raise your hands you’ve crossed over into the contemporary camp. On the other hand, if you don’t raise your hands, you’re not really worshiping. On one hand, we’re told if we look to heaven with smiles on our faces we’re putting on a show. On the other hand we’re told that serious faces can’t worship, that we ought to look to heaven with smiles on faces when we worship.

Now what? What does Scripture tell us about worship that pleases God?

Very often, especially in the psalms, we are told to worship God joyfully, with singing and dancing. However, very often Scripture condemns those exact demonstrations of worship.

So which is it? Do I raise my hands or bow my head? Do I put a smile on my face or shed tears instead?

The answer, I believe according to Scripture, is “yes!”

What I see in the woman we read about today is someone who took herself out of her worship entirely. Her worship of Jesus came from a humble, selfless, repentant heart. Her worship wasn’t about her. It was about Jesus only.

I will confess there have been times during a hymn or song of praise, my instinct was to raise my hands in worship. But I have stopped myself because I didn’t want people to think I crossed the contemporary line. And there have been times when I was told to smile or clap, but my heart was broken in worship, and smiling and clapping would not have been an honest expression of my heart.

When I read about this woman I realize I’ve put too much thought into what anyone says my worship should look like. Maybe we all ought to stop trying to orchestrate worship to fit our picture of worship, and let God lead instead.

Maybe we all ought to consider our heart’s condition before the Holy God we worship. Raise your hands if that expresses the worship of your heart. Bow your head if that expresses the worship of your heart. Fall at the feet of Jesus and let your tears wash His feet if that expresses the worship of your heart.

Let our worship of God come from hearts that belong to Him, cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and from humble, grateful hearts that can’t help but worship Him. Worship Him with abandon, without thought of whoever is sitting next to you.

And, worship leaders, may I suggest your own worship of God ought to cause you to focus on Him instead of what the people you are leading in worship are doing. Let God move in hearts without your prompting. Jesus didn’t tell the woman how to wash His feet, or where to pour the oil. He accepted the expression of her worship as she presented it to Him from her heart.

Anyway, as I consider my own expression of worship, I pray you will do the same. May all of us worship our Lord as He deserves, from hearts cleansed by the Savior, and focused on Him without thought of anything or anyone else but Him. Worship isn’t what we do or don’t do. It’s whether or not our hearts are in tune with our Holy God.

20 Years In The Making

Nehemiah 7

The wall was repaired in a matter of days. Once lying in rubble around Jerusalem, it now stood firmly, the result of everyone doing his or her part. They hadn’t relied on professional builders. They’d relied on God who gave them the ability to do something great.

There had been opposition, bullying, insults and lies thrown at them to intimidate them to stop. But the Jews didn’t stop. And God was glorified.

So now what? Their goal was reached. Did they just sit back and simply enjoy the fruit of their labor? Not at all.

Appoint the residents of Jerusalem to act as guards, everyone on a regular watch. Some will serve at sentry posts, and some in front of their own homes. (vs 3b)

That wall protected Jerusalem and its residents from outside forces. Jerusalem was also the place where God lived on Earth That wall was there to keep the enemy out.

What spoke to me is that all the residents took guarding the wall seriously. Everyone did their part in protecting the wall around Jerusalem. It guarded the Temple. It also guarded their own homes. That wall was worth guarding.

We are celebrating 20 years of Frederica Baptist Church today. 20 years ago this month a couple dozen people took a giant leap of faith, believing God was calling them to establish a church on the north end of this island. 20 years ago they met in homes, in store fronts, in an elementary school, until they could use their own savings, or put their own homes up for collateral to buy a commercial building in which to worship. It took almost 15 more years from that point to pay off the debt, sell the commercial building, and erect a church building on land given this small congregation, a gift they knew was from God.

So today we will gather with our present fellowship along with former pastors and friends who have called Frederica Baptist their church home at times during these past two decades. It’s going to be a glorious celebration! God be praised.

But I am reminded this was never the goal. God didn’t call these people 20 years ago to build a building so people could drive by and say, “Look! There’s a new church on the north end of the island.” He didn’t ask us to build a church so people would come to fellowship with us, but fellowship with Him through the blood of Jesus. We aren’t here to be a social club, but a holy people unto the Lord, equipped to go and make disciples on the north end of the island.

There will be opposition. And it will be up to each of us to stand guard against the enemy. Our enemy is Satan, sin, apostasy, heresy, tolerance, compromise, the world. We will depend on our leaders to protect us at the door, being gatekeepers and barring the door against the enemy.

But each of us must do our part, too, by guarding our homes, and our hearts from the enemy. Satan is not welcome here! And it’s up to each of us to stand guard.

So I’m going to church today to praise God for bringing us to this point. We have a wonderful facility in which to worship and prepare to be the people we need to be to do God’s work on the north end.

We will sing, worship God together, share a meal, laugh, remember, and praise our faithful God today. Then tomorrow we’ll get to work, protecting what God has given us, and being His hands and feet in this community.

It’s been 20 years in the making. But the work is just begun.

True Worship

Isaiah 1:1-19

What is worship God accepts? It’s not just ceremony or sacrifices. It’s not parades, gifts, or pious meetings. It’s not even lifted hands.

True worship can only come from clean hearts. No matter what form worship takes in your church or in your home or car, God will not even pay attention if your heart is harboring sin. Clap your hands, jump up and down, work up a sweat, or shed some tears. None of it matters unless your heart is right with our Holy God.

Isaiah begins his book talking about the rebellion of God’s people. And then he tells us what God thinks about their acts of worship. God is sick of it. He gets no pleasure from it. In fact God says He hates their worship celebrations. Their worship has become a burden God wants nothing to do with.

Then Isaiah tells us what God requires from those who want to worship Him:

Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” (16-19)

Let’s not make the mistake of thinking we can go into a worship service like we are attending a concert or ballgame. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking we ought to get something out of worship. It’s not about us.

Let us go into worship, whether in our closet or in the sanctuary of our local churches, with clean hearts, sober-minded with fear and trembling before a Holy God who demands holiness of any one who worships Him. I think God is very clear to say that before we sing the first note of any praise song, we had better have sincerely prayed:

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence; and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation; and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:11-12)

Then and only then, will your expression of worship be acceptable to God. True worship, worship He demands, comes from holy people.

All or Nothing

Reading 2 Kings 10 today, I wondered why Jehu went through with sacrificing the burnt offering to Baal. I mean, I get why he called the prophets and worshipers of Baal to the temple with the promise of a big corporate worship service. Get them all in one place, then kill them all while you have them cornered.

But why go through the worship before destroying everything Baal?

Then I read on and it made sense. Jehu never intended to actually give up Baal. Oh, he obeyed God. He destroyed the idolators and their idols. But Jehu kept Baal in his heart.

He mostly obeyed. But mostly obeying is disobedience.

In fact, Scripture tells us “he refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit.” (10:31)

It’s possible to look like an obedient servant of God, to go to church every Sunday, sing in the choir, maybe teach Sunday School. It’s possible to abstain from alcohol, show love to your neighbor, and say, “Praise Jesus” twenty times a day, and still be disobedient.

God’s not fooled by what we do or say. God sees our hearts. You can read your Bible every day, and be as disobedient as an atheist if you are refusing to totally submit your heart to the Lord.

You can’t mostly obey, and think it balances the scale. It doesn’t. True Christianity – the heart that God approves – is all in. It has to be all or nothing.

Build On, Lord!

Psalm 127

Unless the Lord builds the house, the work of the builders is wasted.

We are about a month away from moving into our new church building on the north end of this island. To say we are excited is an understatement.

If I would tell you the many ways God has shown His hand in the twenty years since our church was formed, you would be amazed. We can see His direction and blessings at every turn. Just since we broke ground eighteen months ago (yes, during COVID), there has been one delay after another, the business building we owned and could not sell for years finally sold, we were faced with price increases and materials shortages. So many things that seemed like obstacles to us, turned out to be avenues for God to do His thing! And did He ever! We are almost ready to open our doors nearly debt-free.

It’s going to be a glorious day!

But our prayer is that this will be the LORD’S HOUSE in every aspect. We know He has built the structure. But more important is the building of the Church, those of us who will worship Him there.

The “building” has only begun.

May each of us allow God to continue teaching, leading, convicting, forgiving, growing each of us who call Frederica Baptist our church home. May our hearts be yielded to His will, our efforts be to His glory. May the Lord continue to build this house so that our work is not wasted.

He has been so faithful in bringing us this far. He will be faithful as we move ahead in our new digs. May He find us faithful.

Build on, Lord!

Why Church?

1 Kings 6

I guess I didn’t realize the Temple Solomon built was only 90 feet long and 30 feet wide. I had it pictured much bigger in my mind. My house is just short of 80 feet long, and my living area is about 27 feet wide. The church I belong to is building a new structure much larger than 90X30 on the north end of this island.

Of course, Solomon’s temple was ornate, extravagant. Nothing was too good for the House of the Lord. But it occurs to me it was built for worship. It was not built for social gatherings.

It didn’t include a coffee bar or comfortable seating areas for casual conversation. It was built solely for the purpose of meeting God, not each other.

I know people will say that in 2022, if a church doesn’t offer programs, classes, fun activities, and entertainment it will die. And I’m sure that is true. So I’m not saying we shouldn’t have comfortable chairs and a children’s wing, fellowship dinners and celebrations. In fact, I hope these things are actively a part of the church you attend.

But I wonder if we haven’t strayed a bit too far from what God wanted to see in His house. Is He just one of the things we worship, along with programs, music, fellowship, and fun? Or is meeting God the only reason we gather?

I think He should be.

Who Are We Listening To?

Numbers 11

I never noticed it before. I’ve read about the Jews complaining about the manna many times. But I guess I overlooked the fact the complaining began with “the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites.” (verse 4)

Makes me wonder. Are the changes in the Church coming from fully surrendered Christians inside the Church, or from people on the fringe who want to hold on to a bit of the world, people who want to feel good about themselves, and enjoy an entertaining hour on Sunday morning and call it worship?

Do we inside the Church hear a complaint (I’m sick of manna. I’m sick of hymns. I want meat. I want a cappuccino) and think, “Yeah. Me, too”?

The Israelites, instead of encouraging the foreigners to appreciate the God given manna and to praise Him for His blessings, took on the sin of the foreigners and complained themselves. Instead of pointing the foreigners to God, the foreigners pointed the Israelites to themselves. Many Israelites died as a result.

I wonder if we haven’t taken on the sin of self-centered, worldly desires of our foreigners, too, instead of helping them understand worship is not about them, not about their likes or dislikes, but about a sacrificial surrender and focus on God? Do we inside the church prepare those who are on the fringe to worship God in spirit and truth, or are we just interested in making them like us?

Who are we listening to? If we are listening to the “foreign rabble,” or today’s unchurched, we might be listening to the wrong people. At least that’s what I see here in God’s Word.

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.

Serious Business

Exodus 30

Worship is serious business. I know we don’t live in Old Testament times. I know we live under grace. But is worship less serious this side of the cross?

We read that people died for worshiping God in ways that suited themselves. You worshiped God in the way He demanded – or you’d better not worship at all.

Haven’t we made worship about ourselves? We take surveys and read studies that tell us how to fashion worship according to what we like, or how we think others will like so that they’ll want to join us.

I wish we spent as much effort on preparing hearts to worship God the way HE likes! I don’t see Scripture suggesting worship should be fun or entertaining. Do you? Yes, we are told to make joyful noise, to enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise. But I can do that going into a ball game.

Isn’t worship more than what it looks like? I see God telling the people to prepare, to repent first, to be holy…. THEN worship Him.

Worship is serious business. Or it ought to be.

(Acts 16) How Far Are You Willing To Go?

It seems that immediately after the Church leaders made it plain that a Gentile did not have to be circumcised in order to be considered a believer, Paul had Timothy circumcised. Paul had been strongly against the circumcision requirement. So was he being hypocritical when he insisted Timothy be circumcised? What gives?

Well, first off, Timothy was already a believer. He had already accepted the saving work of Jesus by faith. His circumcision was not a step toward salvation. He was already saved.

So why on earth would he go through that painful surgery if he didn’t have to?

Timothy wasn’t circumcised for his own benefit. He did it for the benefit of the Jews who needed to hear the Gospel, and he knew the Jews would not easily accept the word of an uncircumcised man.

Paul and Timothy were picking their battles. It was the Gospel they wanted to preach, not the value or uselessness of circumcision.

Sometimes we get so caught up in little details and opinions that the Gospel isn’t heard. What is more important: what the preacher wears on Sunday morning (and I’m talking to you who prefer suit and tie AND you who prefer jeans and t-shirts), or is it what he says from the pulpit that matters?

Is it more important to hear drums or an organ accompanying the singing, or is the preaching of the Gospel more important? King James, NIV, or the Gospel being explained through the text?

Timothy was willing to go as far as having that surgery to clear the way for the Gospel. How far are you willing to go?