Being the Anti-Worshipper

8 05 2014

Thursday Re-mix:

Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.

Today, if only you would hear his voice,
“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
    as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested me... Psalm 95:6-9

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1


??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????There are some of you reading this post who cannot believe there are still churches struggling with the “worship wars” of music and style and diverse forms of gathered worship.  You fought those battles years ago and have enjoyed a long time now of unity on that subject.  There are others of you who, frankly, cannot even imagine what it feels like to have that conflict in your rear-view mirror, because you are right in the middle of it now, with little hope for a friendly resolution.  Either way, whether those struggles are fresh for your church or long since forgotten, we all could use a gentle reminder about worship and what, exactly, are our objectives as we plan corporate worship.

The Psalmist from Psalm 95 does us a great favor, not only reminding us of the object of our worship, but also reminding us of what is NOT worship.  The references to “Meribah” and “Massah” in Psalm 95 relate to an ugly moment in Israel’s history documented in Exodus 17.  The people were complaining to Moses because they were uncomfortable…because they were not getting what they wanted.  There was a sense of entitlement in them…exactly the opposite from the contrite hearts which true worship demands.

True worship, you see, is about sacrifice.  This is true in the Old Testament and the New Testament alike.  Paul’s words to the Romans clarify this: offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Worship has always been about sacrificing what we want in order to acknowledge God.  The hearts of the Hebrew people at Meribah (i.e., the insistence that they get what they want) is, according to the Psalmist, exactly the opposite of worship…it is anti-worship.

Isn’t that the irony, then, of the worship wars?  At the very heart of that conflict is people clinging to what they want, to what they are comfortable with.  Just like at Meribah.  It is that very act of personal insistence about a style of worship which makes me an anti-worshipper.  When I hold fast to what I want in the music or the preaching or the other forms of worship, when I make worship all about my leanings and my preferences, I become the very antithesis of true worship.  It’s not about sacrifice at all.  It’s about me.

I’ve been speaking into this “worship wars” issue for some years now, but for some reason, I had missed this painful bit of irony.  Shame on me.  And shame on us.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




The Problem with Sundays

6 03 2014

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’ “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever. Jeremiah 7:4-7

Gathered WorshipThe people of Judah in Jeremiah’s time and so many of us in the church today have all suffered from the same delusion…that genuine change begins in gathered worship. But, just like a genuine dating relationship doesn’t really begin until the SECOND date, genuine change in a Christ-follower’s heart doesn’t begin on Sunday. The real change begins on Monday.  The people of Judah discovered that too late.

Young King Josiah had good intentions and a good heart. He had “rediscovered” God’s instructions about worship and about Holy holidays and festivals. He had even made great strides in destroying the idols and instruments of worshipping those idols. He had restored the people’s respect and reverence for the temple. All of that was good. But it was not enough.

And gathered worship is definitely good for the church today as well. Please don’t hear anything in this post saying otherwise.  I believe we as Christ-followers should be participating in Spirit-filled worship as often as possible.  It is where we celebrate together God’s activity in our lives. It is also where we get our engines “recharged” for the week. And it is where we PREPARE our hearts for the changes and course corrections they need. But, like the people of Judah, as soon as we begin measuring the real “change” in our lives primarily by what happens on Sunday, we have set up an embarrassingly wrong metric.

It is easy, isn’t it, to attend church every week, to serve on committees, councils and leadership teams, to read our Bible every day and thereby tell ourselves that we are in a right relationship with God…that we are right on track in our Christian walk.  But do you see that none of those things necessarily demonstrate any change of the heart at all? Our actions and attitudes toward others on Monday through Saturday are the things which show real heart change. Without that proof, our gathered worship is, well, shallow…even empty. It will not please God. Not without an active faith to go with it.

Our liturgies, hymns, praises and prayers on Sunday are supposed to be reflections of hearts and lives turned toward God all week long. Otherwise, they become meaningless…even hypocritical.  And that is the problem with measuring our faith by our Sunday activities.  Moreover, as leaders, doesn’t this mean we must admit that Sunday-oriented goals, while certainly informative on some level, are not our most important goals?  In preparing our Sunday lessons, maybe the question is NOT “what do I want them to KNOW at the end of my lesson on Sunday?” Maybe the right question is, “What do I want them to DO on Monday?”

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




True Worshipers and their Scoffers

11 02 2014

Tuesday Re-mix:

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  Mark 14:4-6

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  John 4:23-24

You and I can take solace in the fact that we would never do what “some of those present” did to poor Mary of Bethany in Mark 14.  You and I are way, way too spiritual to ever do such a thing!  Truly, all Mary was doing was loving Jesus with extravagance…pouring her very heart out with every ounce of perfume which left that container.  She was oblivious to the awkwardness or to the social or political “incorrectness” of her actions…her heart was 100% for Jesus in that moment.  That, my friends, was the very picture of “true worship”.

So, to scoff or to rebuke her for it…well, wow, that is just embarrassing.  I’m just glad you and I would never do that.

There are actually a few other places I can think of in the Bible where people scoffed at or made fun of someone’s worship of God.  None of those stories ended well for those scoffers.  It seems that  God really does frown on such scoffers.  Worship, after all, is not for their benefit at all; rather, it is aimed only at God.  What business is it of others to “judge” someone’s worship as being “unfit” or “undignified” or “uninspired”?  Only God can make that judgment…because only God can read a man’s heart.

Oh, sure I may snicker and snort a time or two at the lady up in the front of the worship service waving her hands in the air, or at the old guy standing in the back with his hands in his pockets and staring down at the floor.  I suppose I may make a little fun of the decision to sing the same chorus over and over and over and over  and over again, or I may chortle a bit at that last hymn we sang, which sounded like something out of a funeral…in the deep woods of Kentucky…in  1940.  Sure I have probably commented now and again on the disrespectful, sloppy attire of kids in worship these days, or of the HUGE waste of money on big, fancy buildings when we could be feeding hungry people with that money.  I am certain I have walked away from certain pastors’ sermons and from certain teachers’ lessons thinking to myself, “Wow, he/she is a really horrible communicator…God deserves better than that.”

I’m sure you and I have done all those things.

But that’s not the same as scoffing at someone’s worship.  Right?  I mean, that is different.  Right?

Right?

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com







Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,786 other followers