Posts Tagged ‘God is who we worship’

Joshua 8:30-35

The Lord’s Covenant Renewed

There is a Christian contemporary song that came out a few years back called, “The Heart of Worship” by Matt Redman. The lyrics to the song go like this:

 

When the music fades

All is stripped away

And I simply come

 

Longin’ just to bring

Something that’s of worth

That will bless your heart

 

I’ll bring You more than a song

For a song in itself

Is not what You have required

 

You search much deeper within

Through the ways things appear

You’re looking into my heart

 

I’m comin’ back to the heart of worship

And it’s all about You

It’s all about You, Jesus

 

I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it

When it’s all about You

It’s all about You, Jesus

 

According to Song Story, at www.crosswalk.com, Matt says that

 

“The song dates back to the late 1990s, born from a period of apathy within Matt’s home church, Soul Survivor, in Watford, England. Despite the country’s overall contribution to the current worship revival, Redman’s congregation was struggling to find meaning in its musical outpouring at the time.

 

“There was a dynamic missing, so the pastor did a pretty brave thing,” he recalls. “He decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season, and we gathered together with just our voices. His point was that we’d lost our way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.”

 

Reminding his church family to be producers in worship, not just consumers, the pastor, Mike Pilavachi, asked, “When you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?”

 

That’s the thing that we struggle with at times as churchgoers we get so caught up on things that do not matter to God. Sometimes we get so caught up in the trappings of church that we forget why we are there. We are there to worship God. It does not matter what the formula of the service is, contemporary or traditional. It does not matter that we have lights and bumpin’ sounds systems, it does not matter that we have one song, the welcome, two songs, the cool video bumper for the sermon series, the sermon, the closing song, and the final word from the pastor, and then the musical overlay to our dispersal. That’s our formula. I am sure that your church has yours. Do you worship the formula or are your there to worship God?

 

I have noticed a disturbing trend, at least to me, lately at my church. It is a modern worship style church like Elevation, like NewSpring, like many others of our kind. We have the modern worship building. We have the café with the cool name. We have the kids’ ministry with an equally cool name (and they worship with an equally cool sound system). We have the bookstore with all our latest t-shirts and books by the most recent Christian authors. We have the atrium where there is plenty of room to congregate, sip on your coffee, and talk. We have the welcome team that greets everyone who comes through our doors. The coffee and the conversations and getting your children checked into Kidzlife with its computerized labeling system, it is all easy to get wrapped up in. Lately, myself included, I have realized that we spend maybe too much time milling around in the atrium talking and reconnecting with other LifeSong folks. It’s not like we are not warned. We have a video reminder that comes on the atrium TV sets on the walls just above our heads that we have 5:00 minutes before church starts and it counts down to 0:00. At five minutes, the sweet voice of our church’s finance & admin manager, Bonnie, reminds us that there is 5 minutes til the service begins, 2 minutes til the service begins, and 1 minute til the service begins.

 

However, I would venture to say that half of each service’s attendees are late getting into the worship center. There are conversations that have to be finished. There is a refill on our coffee or fruit drink that has to be obtained. There is that bathroom break that you just didn’t get around to. Over half the congregation comes in and does not get settled until the opening song is about halfway done. Then, at the end of the sermon, right at the beginning of the final song, a certain percentage of the congregation begins peeling off. I realize that some of these people are working the service that day, but all of these folks are not. These are parents rushing to get their kids before the rush after the service is really over. These are people who want to get to their cars and get out of the parking lot before the mad rush at after church is over. These are people who want to get to the local restaurants before the LifeSong rush.

 

What are we here for on Sundays is my question. It is not about the light show. It is not about the bumpin’ sound system. It is not about the cool videos. It is not about Jeff, our senior pastor, the face of our franchise. It is not about singing the latest songs that we have heard on His Radio (89.3 on your FM dial) or sampled and downloaded to our iPhone. It is not about all the cool stuff that we do make our church appealing to you. It is about worship. We are there to worship God. All the cool stuff is there to get us to be in the right frame of mind to worship God.

 

These were the things that I thought about this morning when I read the passage, Joshua 8:30-35. Let us read it together now:

 

30 Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, 31 as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses—an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it they offered to the Lord burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings. 32 There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on stones a copy of the law of Moses. 33 All the Israelites, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord, facing the Levitical priests who carried it. Both the foreigners living among them and the native-born were there. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel.

 

34 Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them.

 

The altar was to be built out of uncut stones so it would be holy (see Exodus 20:25). This would prevent people from worshiping the altar itself or worshiping the craftmanship of the workers rather than great works of God. And on this altar was to be written, most likely, the Ten Commandments which are the central core of all of God’s laws. The altar was to remind them of the fact that God was the reason for their victories. The whole scene we see here is about reminding the Israelites as to why they have reached the point that they are at. It is because of God. When they have properly worshiped God they have had victories. When they have not worshiped God in proper focus they have suffered defeat. It’s that simple. This scene of worship, which probably took a good while (seeing as how Joshua repeated the blessings and curses from the books of Moses), was to remind them that they needed to stay focused on God and worship Him for what He has done and will do.

 

That got me to thinking about that disturbing trend that I mentioned about our church services. I admit that I am just as bad about straggling into the service as anyone else. So I am preaching to myself here as much as anyone else. I may not slip out of the service as some do, but I am guilty of missing the target on the beginning of the service. What are we here for? To worship God. We are not here to sip coffee and have conversations that are more important than to end them when the warning for services are about to start. We are not here to beat everyone else to pick up your kids. We are not here to beat everyone else out of the parking lot. We are not here to beat the mad rush to the restaurants after church. We are not here to say we were here and leave early so we can make it to the lake on time. We are not here as a checklist thing that we check off as having been done. We are here to worship God.

 

I am not saying that we should not congregate in the atrium and talk to one another. There are people that we need to reconnect with and see how their week went and there is value in that. Developing relationships at church are essential in retaining people at your church. We want our people to end up having their best friends in the world right there in our church’s congregation. There is support and accountability that comes from having deep and abiding friendships within the congregation of your church. What I am saying is that we need to place priority on worship on Sunday rather than having our needs met.

 

Maybe we should be drifting from the atrium to the worship center sooner so that we can begin preparing our hearts for worship. Maybe we should be in there in prayer to have our hearts opened to better understanding God’s Word and open to any conviction of our heart that may come. Maybe we should be in there praying for God to use our pastor’s words to convict someone’s heart so mightily that they give their life to Christ. During the service, maybe we should be less focused on certain things happening in certain ways. During the service, maybe we should be less focused on the media aspects of the service that we think are so cool. During the service, we should leave our phones in our pockets. During the service maybe we should not be thinking about whose in church this week and who we don’t see. During the service, we should be focused on worshiping God. After the sermon is complete, maybe we should be in less of an exit mode and more in praise mode for having just heard a mighty word of God and it being driven home by the final song. Maybe, we should be less concerned about keeping our afternoon time schedule and just luxuriate in the moment of worshiping God.

 

I think that might be one of the reasons that during our senior pastor/elder’s sabbatical that the other pastor/elders are going to have a time of Wednesday night prayer services. These prayer services will be just that. All the fancy stuff that makes modern church what it is, will be stripped away. We will be there for prayer and prayer only. We will strip away the trapping of modern church and just worship through prayer. We will be seeking God’s will for our church – each and every one of our people not just the pastor/elders. We will be all stripping away all that we have added to church and focus on the one thing that we are there for – worshiping God.

 

Have you overcomplicated your relationship with God? Do you need to strip away all the fancy stuff you have added to it? Do you need to refocus on the focus of our praise – God? Do we need to remember the joy of our salvation and the simplicity that was our relationship with God?

 

Or do you need to understand that church is not about you? Or that church is not about what church can do for you? Church is about assembling together to learn more about God and to worship Him for who He is and to take that idea to the streets. We all need to focus on God! We all need to stop and worship God and thank Him for the things that He has done for us through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 10:11-36 (Part 4)

The Israelites Leave Sinai

 

“Lord, thank you for today!” This is the first thing that a friend of mine from church posts on Facebooks every day, virtually without fail. He posts this, I imagine, the first thing he does when he gets up each morning. When others are posting about needing coffee, or about their dreams the night before, or about what they have to do today, he simply says, “Lord, thank you for today!” Even as Christ followers, we may be like all others on our social media posts. We may post first thing in the morning about a Bible verse, or some cute puppy or kitten picture with a Bible verse, or some other profound meme. We may post a funny Christian meme. We may write our blogs each morning after extensive thought about a passage of Scripture. We may imbed our blogs or posts with GIF image clips that capture the essence of our thought in a blog or a post to Facebook. I am not saying that these things are wrong. Many of these expressions of our faith in our Savior Jesus Christ are quite good and are often posted with the intent of praising our Savior and inviting others to do the same. However, in my friend’s post, there is a beautiful simplicity. He simply thanks the Lord for another day. How beautiful is that? How simple of a recognition is that? It’s beauty lies in its simplicity.

 

Like I said, many of us try to overcomplicate what is basically a very simply faith and it is evident in our posts on Facebook. Who are we trying to impress? Are we more interested in the number of likes that we get on Facebook or are we really trying to express our faith. Even in church itself, the worship service, we have tended to overcomplicate and over-symbolize things. Much of the new wave of modern worship that has been sweeping the nations over the past decade or more has been a reaction to the rituals and symbolism that had become and still is a part of many traditional denominational church worship services not to mention the high formality and symbolic nature of the Catholic worship services. Again a caveat, there are those for whom the symbolic nature of traditional worship services in both the Protestant denominations and the Catholic Church does not get in the way of their worship of God but rather enhances it. These are the ones that can divorce the liturgy from the worship of God and see the liturgy as the vehicle and not the prize. However, for many in the Catholic and the traditional Protestant churches, the symbolism and all the formality can become that which they worship. These types tend to think modern worship with drums and electric guitars are professional lighting and darkened worship centers with seats instead of pews is just pure sacrilege. They think it blasphemous that there is no choir in robes and no preachers in suits and no gold plated offering plates. No acolytes lighting of candles and no one carrying the cross down front. No one carrying the Christian flag into the service. Ahh, the blasphemy of it all, they think.

 

We who subscribe to modern worship styles have our traditions too. We sometimes smugly think that the traditional churches just don’t get it anymore. We sometimes smugly think that we have got this Jesus  thing cornered and that the traditional churches are killing themselves being married to their traditions. But just think about it. We have developed our own must-haves. We must have our drums and electric guitars and modern layouts for worship centers with elevated stages and designed backgrounds that change with the sermon series that we are in for the next 4-6 weeks. We must have a tech and sound booth that manages the sound system and video system that is equal to any rock concert. We must have our lyrics to the latest Christian song projected on the screens above the stage. The auditorium must be seats and not pews. The worship band leader must wear a skull cap that gives him that hip edge and he must have a scruffy beard. The worship band leader must also wear a t-shirt that has a profound modern worship saying on the front of it. The sound system must be bumpin’ loud. The worship band must sing the songs that we hear on our Christian contemporary radio station. We must have bumper videos that introduce the sermon (so we can darken the stage and get the worship band off the stage and set up the stage for the sermon. We must have a senior pastor in blue jeans and a t-shirt in the summertime. In the winter, he must wear a polo shirt and a blazer or an open collared shirt untucked, of course, with or without the blazer. Out in the atrium, there must be a café for our Starbucks coffee and a bookstore with the latest CDs from the worship band and the books of the preacher or the books of other modern church preachers. It must have the cool church t-shirts and other church merchandise. Video monitors in the atrium are a must. There must be booths for the various ministries of the church with their own videos playing behind them. We have our packaged and programs ways of worshiping in modern churches. You can go to NewSpring in Anderson, SC, Elevation in Charlotte, NorthPoint in Atlanta, The Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL, and my church, LifeSong Church in Lyman, SC and you will basically get the same kind of feel from these modern, new wave churches. A Youtube video by Central Church in Las Vegas reminds us, as modern churches, not to get too wrapped up in our formula of worship. See it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RJBd8zE48A.

 

I am not saying that these are wrong either. Many thousands of people have come to Christ through these non-traditional churches that otherwise would not have been reached. I am extremely proud of the diversity of people in our church. From all walks of life, we have people that would have never gone to church anywhere else if it had not been for LifeSong Church holding itself out there as the church for sinners, beggars, thieves, and prostitutes. We are reaching people just as are many non-traditional modern-style churches. But, we must be careful in our modern approach not to become the very thing that we rebelled against. What we consider now the traditional churches were once the rebels against the traditions and excesses of the Catholic church. We must, in our modern worship rebellion not get married to the must-haves of modern worship. We must not become so enamored with our style that we forget the simplicity we were seeking when we rebelled against the traditions of the traditional church.

 

It is the overcomplication of our faith and the simplicity of my friend’s faith that came to mind when I read the closing verses of this passage today. Let’s think about that as we read this passage for the fourth and final time today, Numbers 10:11-36, and let’s pay attention to vv. 33-36:

 

11 On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the covenant law. 12 Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran. 13 They set out, this first time, at the Lord’s command through Moses.

 

14 The divisions of the camp of Judah went first, under their standard. Nahshon son of Amminadab was in command. 15 Nethanel son of Zuar was over the division of the tribe of Issachar, 16 and Eliab son of Helon was over the division of the tribe of Zebulun. 17 Then the tabernacle was taken down, and the Gershonites and Merarites, who carried it, set out.

 

18 The divisions of the camp of Reuben went next, under their standard. Elizur son of Shedeur was in command. 19 Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai was over the division of the tribe of Simeon, 20 and Eliasaph son of Deuel was over the division of the tribe of Gad. 21 Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things. The tabernacle was to be set up before they arrived.

 

22 The divisions of the camp of Ephraim went next, under their standard. Elishama son of Ammihud was in command. 23 Gamaliel son of Pedahzur was over the division of the tribe of Manasseh, 24 and Abidan son of Gideoni was over the division of the tribe of Benjamin.

 

25 Finally, as the rear guard for all the units, the divisions of the camp of Dan set out under their standard. Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai was in command. 26 Pagiel son of Okran was over the division of the tribe of Asher, 27 and Ahira son of Enan was over the division of the tribe of Naphtali. 28 This was the order of march for the Israelite divisions as they set out.

 

29 Now Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place about which the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us and we will treat you well, for the Lord has promised good things to Israel.”

 

30 He answered, “No, I will not go; I am going back to my own land and my own people.”

 

31 But Moses said, “Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you can be our eyes. 32 If you come with us, we will share with you whatever good things the Lord gives us.”

 

33 So they set out from the mountain of the Lord and traveled for three days. The ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them during those three days to find them a place to rest. 34 The cloud of the Lord was over them by day when they set out from the camp.

 

35 Whenever the ark set out, Moses said,

 

“Rise up, Lord!

    May your enemies be scattered;

    may your foes flee before you.”

 

36 Whenever it came to rest, he said,

 

“Return, Lord,

    to the countless thousands of Israel.”

 

 

Here, we see Moses put the focus on what the focus needs to be. Our Lord God. Moses gives God the credit when they move out and gives God the credit when they settle down. My friend from church opens his Facebook day with “Lord, Thank You for Today!”. What if we all did that? What if we gave God credit from the get-go. What if not knowing what the day ahead holds, we give God thanks for it. What if when we move out from camp and even before we know what we will encounter in the wilderness of the Sinai Desert that we give God the credit for scattering our foes even before we get into a battle. What if when we get home we ask God to protect where we are. What if we give God the credit he deserves for every aspect of our lives? What if that is the first thing we do when we get up is thank God for the unknown day ahead? What if we thank him for protecting us throughout our day. What if we ask him to continue protecting us and our families when we get home.

 

We will encounter temptations and the attacks of Satan everyday. Him daring us to do that which is against God. Every day. What if we just worshiped God daily by thanking Him and trusting Him like Moses did and like my friend does.

 

That is simple faith my friends. Lord, Thank you for today, puts God first before anything. It is saying to the Lord this day is yours. It puts God first. It puts God on the throne and it shows our dependence on Him. Let our worship be that way collectively as well as a church. Regardless of whether you are a traditional church or a modern church. Let our worship be placed not on the trappings of church, whether it be the symbolism imbued nature of traditional church or whether it be the hip-coolness of modern worship, but rather on our mighty God. It is He we gather together to worship. It is really rather simple. We must worship God as the center of it all. We must worship His mightiness, His greatness, His love for us through His Son. We must give Him credit for all that we are and will become. We must give Him credit for saving us from our sin. We must give Him credit for all that He is and all that He has done and all that He will do. We must simply worship God. We must be as Moses who gave God the credit before and after the journeys of His people. He knew it was by God’s protection and favor that Israel continued to exist and not by how he, Moses, led them. He realized that he, Moses, was simply an agent for one mighty and powerful God.

 

That is how my friend sees it to when he, my friend, says, “Lord, Thank You for Today!” before he does anything else. That’s what it is all about. Worshiping God in everything we do. Every day. Giving credit where credit is due. We are subject to our God. We must worship Him and Him only. It is by His grace that we even exist. We must worship Him. If our worship is toward anything else. If we as churches worship the way we worship we worship the wrong thing. We must remember we are to worship God. Lord, Thank You for Today says it all.

 

Amen and Amen.