Thursday, October 25, 2018

Just imagine!

What is church to you? A social club? A place to meet and greet? A chance to 'get things right' all over again so you can go out and do the same old stuff next week? So many folks trudge off to church on Saturdays and Sundays, oblivious to any heartfelt reason for going to church or attending worship services in some location. Scripture warns us to be very careful when entering God's house - there is a specific purpose for church attendance and we need to be mindful in his presence. Right now, church 'attendance' for me is to stream the service over live video feed on Sunday mornings at the same time others are gathering in the building some call the 'church'. Mom and I find it quite a blessing that this type of service is offered for those of us that find it a little harder to get to 'church' these days.

Watch your step when you enter God's house. Enter to learn. That's far better than mindlessly offering a sacrifice, doing more harm than good. (Ecclesiastes 5:1)

The key is in that second sentence: Enter to learn. There is a heart attitude and an openness of mind/spirit that is called for in "rightly" entering God's house. The focus of our heart often determines the outcome. If we are simply there to "catch up" with old friends, we are likely to only have an outcome of a nice conversation that gives us all the latest tidbits of life's happenings. We fall short of actually being challenged in our spirit to leave behind our sinful pursuits and to take up a life of obedience and service. What does it mean to prepare ourselves for worship? What is it that Solomon had in mind when he said we need to be "entering to learn", not just offering sacrifices for the sake of sacrifice? To answer those questions, we need to look at what scripture teaches:
  • Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. (Psalm 29:2) - worship is a celebration of the holiness of God. It is an acknowledgment of the greatness and love of our Lord - raising his name in honor. Yes, 'going to church' allows for us to 'worship', but 'being the church' is a much better investment!
  • 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. (Psalm 95:6-7) - worship is a presentation of our bodies, spirits, and minds to him - in recognition that he is our creator. As creator, he directs the care of his people - we enter into his presence in awe of his continual care and his tender mercies.
  • Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. (Psalm 100:2) - worship is a joyful thing, involving the whole being in celebration of the greatness of our God. It stems from a heart of gratitude and adoration.
  • The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. (Isaiah 29:13) - worship is the opposite of rule-keeping for the sake of having each rule "checked off the list". It is a connection of heart with God. 
  • 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. (John 4:23) - worship is to be entered into with truthfulness of heart, openness of mind, and connection of spirit to the heart of God.
  • But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (I Corinthians 14:24-26) - worship is an opportunity for the conviction of sin, the changing of lives forever. It is an opportunity for the voice of God to be heard, the spirit of God to be embraced, and the enabling of God to transform lives.
We could go on and on with example after example of what true worship involves. The scriptures are filled with them. The main theme of each passage is plain: God must be central and in making him central in our lives - we become the church! When he is at the center of our lives, all else falls away. Nothing else really matters. That is the spirit of worship that God honors. We enter to learn - enter to hear from him. The final book of the Bible is Revelation. If you turn to the last chapter, you find that the call is to "Worship God" and no other. It has been the message from the beginning of time - have no other thing you worship EXCEPT God. Will we "enter to learn"? Just imagine the possibilities if our hearts would be turned to God in this way! Just imagine!