An Idol Among Us

Joshua 24:14-15, 23

14 Now obey the Lord and worship him with integrity and loyalty. Put aside the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt and worship the Lord15 If you have no desire to worship the Lord, choose today whom you will worship, whether it be the gods whom your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But I and my family will worship the Lord!”  23 Joshua said, “Now put aside the foreign gods that are among you and submit to the Lord God of Israel.”

When I consider the apostasy of willingly, knowingly worshiping a dead god, it is ridiculous to me.  I venture to say that there is a disconnect for many of us when we contemplate how it would be possible to serve false gods when God had so clearly shown Himself to be the One true God.  Parting the red sea?  The ground opening up and fire coming from the sky? Yep!  He’s the One true God.

It would seem fairly obvious that an object formed by our own hands is not capable of being all-knowing or saving, but maybe it is not as obvious to us because these gods are among us; interwoven in our culture, possibly not easily recognizable.  In fact, it might even be in our own Christian culture that we are worshiping false idols.

How could we be so deceived?  The enemy is cunning.  An idol cloaked in righteousness would not be easy to discern.  If it is our ancestors who laid a foundation of worshiping a false god, it is part of the family dynamic.  We do not readily see it, because it is our custom.  It might even appear holy or be esteemed by man.  The Amorites worshiped many gods, which would likely be obvious to us today, but perhaps less known gods of theirs were glorifying in their own sophistication, power and strength. These became their hidden gods of worship and could be a stumbling block to God’s people if they did not recognize it.

Does the body of Christ have idols that need to be cast down that are not visible to us?  I enjoy visiting different denominations within the body of Christ.  It occurs to me that each one has its strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps idols. When we begin to worship truth rather than the Giver of all truth, or to worship music rather than the God Who is the Only One with whom we are to delight, we have lost our way.  When we boast of our knowledge of doctrine over recognizing our need for compassion when we see a broken person, we have forgotten the purpose of our salvation.

It can be so subtle, but it can be like a noose tightened around the necks of the congregation, who are made to bow down to the culture of the church.  We begin to acquiesce to please those around us in their worship style or preferences and forget that our relationship with God is our own.  We can begin to be “religiously correct” instead of following the Holy Spirit.

Worshiping false gods is giving glory to anything or anyone other than God.  It can be as small as instead of praising one’s appearance, diverting praise of beauty to the One Who gave it.   It can be as big as thinking our denomination is “the” denomination, rather than viewing us all as the body of Christ.  If we are to worship God with integrity and loyalty, we need to pursue intentionally worshiping Him alone with all sincerity.  Worshiping God, we are completely undone and recognize our spiritual poverty.  We dare not forget that our righteousness is not our own, but given freely so that we could worship God freely.  May we not again become ensnared after so great a salvation.

Oh God, You set us free from religion so we could know You.  Please help us to remain in You and to recognize and avoid cultures that infiltrate our gatherings.  May we never accept any counterfeit that would draw us away from You.

Worshipful Wednesday: Who is Worship For?

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Psalm 9:1-2

“I will thank the Lord with all my heart!  I will tell about all your amazing deeds! 2 I will be happy and rejoice in you!  I will sing praises to you, O sovereign One!”

John 4:24

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Hebrews 13:15

“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”

Hebrews 12:28

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”

Thank you for stopping by on this Worshipful Wednesday!  Worship is often misunderstood as a part of the church service alone, but it is a lifestyle of thanksgiving to the One Who has given us every blessing we have.  As a worship leader in churches for over twenty years now, I confess that contemplating God’s Holiness, goodness and character in song is one of my favorite things to do.  I say one of, because just reading and listening to His Word fills me with an inner joy that cannot be contained.  But I fear our worship is lackluster in comparison to what God deserves.

Worship is cultivating gratitude from a heart that recognizes our own dependence on God.  It is in the very act of worship that we draw nearer to God.  Affection in marriage or in the parent/child relationship is the most essential aspect of those relationships.  A child and a parent both want to know they are loved and adored.  We can become hardened in this world and begin to think that receiving adoration is our highest goal, though.  God knows we need affirmation and love, but our greatest joy is found in giving that highest worship to Him.

I remember as a new believer not understanding why God would require us to worship Him.  It seemed a little vain to me at the time, though I did not want to even think such a thought.  But if God had not commanded us to worship, we would worship far lesser things.  What our hearts are set on to worship affects greatly how we live on this earth.  Practically speaking, when we worship created things which cannot compare to the greatness of our God, our aspirations are lesser than what God could accomplish in us.

Until we grow deeper in our relationship with God and see that He is worthy of the highest praise and adoration, it does not make sense to us in our humanity.  Certainly contemplating all that God has done makes Him praiseworthy, but in our pride we can be deceived into thinking we deserve what God has done for us.

Our flesh can be overwhelmed with worshiping God for all eternity – it seems tiring and repetitive.  That is when we realize that we have not really gotten a glimpse of Who God is.  We need to worship Him to know Him more.  We can be fans of people on this earth, but they will ultimately all perish and their splendor will fade.  But God – the great I AM, is not like us. No, He is Holy, perfect in all He does, without beginning or end.

We need to worship someone greater than we are.  Worshiping the creation could never fulfill us like worshiping our Creator – the only One truly worthy of praise!  We need to be transformed and that happens in His presence.  Our hearts and minds easily falter and can be divided.  Worshiping God aligns our will with God’s, and helps us to focus on what really matters and to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives: knowing Him.

The irony in God’s command for us to worship Him is that He does not need our worship – it is we who need to worship.  It is in love, not selfishness, that He is requiring us to worship Him.  We are harassed and helpless sheep who need direction. Thank God that He has shown us Himself and our need to worship Him alone.  Worship Him now.  Contemplate all that He has done for you.  Set aside the barriers that hinder sincere worship.  He is worthy.

Lord, help us to worship You in humility and truth.  You are worthy of all our praise and adoration.

Thoughtful Thursday: Devotion to Who?

Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another with mutual love, showing eagerness in honoring one another.”  Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Serving the body of Christ is one of the greatest honors a Christian can do.  God is truly glorified when people come together and serve Him, whether it is in missions, youth, children’s ministry, teaching, worship ministry, small group ministry or however the LORD leads.  I have served in worship for over twenty years and experienced many different styles of worshiping God.  I have sacrificed higher staff positions at churches to serve alongside precious saints, and count it all joy. But sometimes we can become too comfortable in our role, or stay in a role for people rather than God’s calling. Devotion is hard to come by these days.  Scripture calls us to be devoted to one another, but we set ourselves up for disappointment if our devotion is in man instead of the LORD.  We are not serving a church or a leader, no, we are serving God.  Coupled with devotion to a person is expectation.  We should serve with no other motivation than bringing God joy, and yet oftentimes we have expectations at what that service could eventually lead to, if we are honest. Certainly if one has proven faithful in their service, it is biblical that eventually after being faithful with a little one will be faithful with more talents.  Desiring to grow the talents given is also God-honoring.  We want to prove faithful with the trust and spiritual gifts the LORD has given to us and not squander what He has placed on our heart, but sometimes in our humanity we do not understand that God is nudging us on. It is times like these that our hearts can be in anguish because we love the people we are privileged to serve with, but also know that every position we hold is temporary.  If we are devoted to God, then we want to please Him and go wherever He will send us.  Sometimes this hurts, but the peace of obedience and following Him far surpasses any plans we may have. Lord, lead us and help us to not look to man, but to You alone.  May we be devoted to You and Your glory in everything we do.

Preparation of Informed Intentional Worship

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Hebrews 2:1-3

1 “Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty, 3 how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first communicated through the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him.”

Hebrews 4:1, 14, 16

1 “Therefore we must be wary that, while the promise of entering his rest remains open, none of you may seem to have come short of it.  14 Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin.16 Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.”

The book of Hebrews is like coming home to me. It is a fresh reminder of being fervent in our relationship with the LORD and full of zeal for the amazing gift of salvation He gave us.  Yesterday, like most Sundays, I had the privilege of serving on the worship team.  As I looked out over the congregation, I found myself distracted.  Not by any one particular thing, but by the lack of zeal I felt in my worship.  I began to contemplate deeper the words I was singing and wondered how I could ever mouth words without a deep passion within.  God is worth all that I have to offer Him and if I really believed the words I was singing, how could I ever offer worship void of passion?  I am not speaking of a blind zeal here, but the need for informed worship.

God understands.  He is able to sympathize in our weaknesses.  Sometimes it is frankly hard to concentrate in this chaotic highly stressful world.  Even Christ had to go away to a quiet place to worship God.  When I contemplate coming to worship the God of this universe in a public setting, sometimes I need to imagine myself before Him, bowing down before the King of kings.  I need to tune out all that is around me and focus singularly on the object of my worship – the lover of my soul.  This can be quite challenging, as many thoughts can flood my mind in a given moment.

It is not enough to strive to remove the excessive busyness of my mind, though.  I choose to reflect on some aspect of God’s greatness which informs my mind of how awesome my God is.  Contemplating a Scripture that pierces my heart or encourages my soul, meditating on His character that thrills my whole being, or reflecting on moments in my personal relationship with God – all can be a catalyst propelling me to sincere worship.  This makes the time of worship so much more meaningful than merely singing the same words I have sung before, perhaps many times.

A practical analogy might also shed some light.  My children have lamented about how many people lose affection for their spouses.  I earnestly desire to model a vibrant marriage before my children but realize that this takes constant intentional action.  It is very human to take for granted the incredible gift of our spouse, just as it is to take for granted the gift we have in Christ.  How can we keep this fervency?  Just like we need to recognize the amazing blessing our spouse is, we need to be Intentional and grateful to God, choosing to focus on the amazing things God has done and will do and simply on Who he is.

Lastly, worshiping God takes preparation.  We cannot just haphazardly enter His presence.  We can come as we are, desperate before Him, but need to be mindful of Who it is we are worshiping.  This might mean taking time to prepare the evening before the sabbath for this one day out of the week when we worship in our community.  It might mean having a strategy to help us worship during church when we are tempted to be distracted.  God help us to intentionally worship Him in Spirit and truth.  We will never be able to offer Him what He deserves, but may we come earnestly seeking Him with all our heart, soul, mind and being.

Lord, please forgive when I am distracted or lukewarm in my devotion to You.  You are worth so much more than I could ever give.  I love You, LORD, and desire to know You more.  Help me to do the one thing needful – kneel at Your feet in worship of You.