What the carnal mind will never get about worship

Can we talk about worship?

Here are a few quotes to get us started. I cannot vouch for the authenticity of any of them, having found them in that motherlode of fascinating quotes, real and imagined, solid and made-up-on-the spot, the internet.  Smiley-face goes here….

–1) From actor Brad Pitt:  “I didn’t understand this idea of a God who says, ‘You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I’m the best, and then I’ll give you eternal happiness. If you won’t, then you don’t get it!’ It seemed to be about ego. I can’t see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me.”

First, you have misrepresented the Heavenly Father, Mr. Pitt.  And secondly, there is a reason this makes no sense to you.  The Apostle Paul put it this way: “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him.  Nor can he understand them, for they are spiritually appraised” (I Corinthians 2:14).

I don’t mean to be harsh in that assessment, but this is the reason so many on the outside look at Christian worship and shake their heads. They just don’t get it.

Let me repeat that: They. Do. Not. Get. It.

–2) From a blog in which some guy talks about religion. When asked why God wants us to worship Him, the man answered,  Everyone likes being praised. It’s a huge ego bump, after all. But why does God need it? I mean, what kind of egomaniac needs millions of people all over the world praising his name? Isn’t that a little arrogant? Short answer: Yes.

He went on to make a case for God being egotistical.  Oh, really further, it turns out he thought he was being pro-God.

He should spare God the compliment.

Without knowing this fellow, from the evidence I would say he’s another one who just doesn’t get Christian worship.

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The room in your house no one knows about

“I’ve got a secret!”  –Popular television game show of the 1960s and 1970s.

A fellow I know wrote of the secrets his family was harboring as they struggled to deal with an addictive, out-of-control relative.

“You know how the family gets ready to host a guest and the house is clean and in order and nothing out of place?  The guest is impressed.  He wishes his house could be this neat and organized with nothing out of place.”

“But what he doesn’t know is that there is one room where you have stored all the junk and clutter.  If he were to open the door to that room, he would be amazed.”

That, he said, is how things are for a family that tries to keep up an image when they are about to come apart.

They push things back into that private room, whose door they dare not open.

It’s about family secrets.

Everyone has them, he said.

One of our deacon families was hosting a gathering of church members.  I was amazed at the lack of clutter.  They ought to see my house, I thought.  But they had no stack of newspapers, no unread or partially read magazines lying around, no pile of books to be donated to the library or returned there.

When I asked our hostess how she did this, she surprised me.

“Brother Joe, there is one room you dare not look into.  That’s where we dumped all the clutter!” And she laughed.

Do we do this with the human heart, I wonder. Have one room that holds all the family trash, all the clutter, all the stuff we dare not show the world?

It is true that everyone has their secrets, things they dare not tell the world. And, I will go so far as to say that’s normal.  It’s even probably healthy.

I do not want to know that you and your spouse had an argument last night.  Neither do I need to know about your private lives, the intimacies (or lack thereof) between you.

Keep it to yourself. It’s all right.

For months, Fran had cared for her ailing husband before death finally claimed him. She was literally worn to a frazzle. Their long marriage had been difficult, but she had been faithful and had kept the family secrets. And now that was all gone.  That’s why she did something highly questionable.

Within hours after the funeral, the widow told her children: “No more secrets.”  What followed was her announcement that she felt strongly that she and a family friend had grown close and would someday marry.  “I wanted you to know,” she said. “I’m so tired of keeping secrets.”

That was one bit of news the family wished she had kept to herself. They were not ready for this and could not handle it.

Some things should be kept secret: What a couple does in the bedroom does not need to be told.  What the husband or wife did before marriage (or before coming to Christ) should be left behind.  If the couple went through counseling and the garbage came out in the safety of the sessions, they should forgive and forget and go forward.

So, let no one who reads this think Joe is calling for complete openness about every detail of our lives.  You do not need to know everything I’ve done and I have no use for that information from you.

But many of us maintain secret rooms in our spiritual houses which need to be cleaned and disinfected and aired out.  We’re talking about repentance of sin, and healing and a new holiness.

A bizarre little incident took place in the days when Nehemiah was leading God’s people to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem.  Throughout their long, hard ordeal, the Israelites were harassed and undermined by their pagan neighbors, led by a wicked trio known as Sanballat the Samarian, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arab.  (These brutes are active throughout the book of Nehemiah, and receive an ‘A’ for persistence!)  Finally, the wall is completed around the city and things are moving forward. That’s when Nehemiah the governor makes a discovery.

Eliashib, the high priest, who was in charge of the various storerooms in the temple, turned out to be a relative of Tobiah the Ammonite due to the forbidden practice of intermarriage with the pagans.  On one occasion, when Nehemiah returned from conferring with his boss, the king of Persia, he “discovered the evil that Eliashib had done on behalf of Tobiah.”  And what was that?

He had provided the enemy Tobiah “a room in the courts of God’s house.” (Nehemiah 13:7).

Got that?

The enemy of God’s people was given an apartment in the Temple.  It would be hard to think of anything worse.

Nehemiah says, “I was greatly displeased and threw all of Tobiah’s household possessions out of the room!”  But he did not stop there.

“I ordered that the rooms be purified.” And he did not stop there.

“I had the articles (instruments of worship) of the house of God restored there, along with the grain offering and frankincense.”

He threw out the offensive material, had the place fumigated and washed down, and then furnished the room with holiness.

Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?

Nehemiah adds, “Therefore, I rebuked the officials, saying, ‘Why has the house of God been neglected?’” (Neh. 13:11)

There are fewer joys in this life more satisfying than knowing your entire life is open to the Lord, that all the rooms are His, that you are completely clean and pure, and you are fully free in Christ.  Jesus once said, “The ruler of this world is coming and he has nothing in me” (John 14:30).

We must not stop until this is the case with each of us.

“…to You our hearts are open; nothing here is hidden. You are our heart’s desire….”  (“Here for You” by Matt Redman)

 

 

 

 

 

What the carnal mind will never get about worship

Can we talk about worship?

I’d like to start each section with a fascinating quote.  I can’t vouch for the integrity of any of the quotes since they were lifted from the internet.  But they are good discussion starters…

1) From actor Brad Pitt: “I didn’t understand this idea of a God who says, ‘You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I’m the best, and then I’ll give you eternal happiness. If you won’t, then you don’t get it!’ It seemed to be about ego. I can’t see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me.”

There is a reason this makes no sense to you, Mr. Pitt.  The Apostle Paul put it this way: “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him.  Nor can he understand them, for they are spiritually appraised” (I Corinthians 2:14).

I don’t mean to be harsh in that assessment, but it explains why so many on the outside look at Christian worship and shake their heads. They just don’t get it.

Let me repeat that: They. Do. Not. Get. It.

2) From a blog in which this guy talks about religion. Someone asked him why God wants us to worship Him.  He answered, “Everyone likes being praised. It’s a huge ego bump, after all. But why does God need it? I mean, what kind of egomaniac needs millions of people all over the world praising his name? Isn’t that a little arrogant?”

Short answer: Yes, it is.

He then proceeded to make a case for God being egotistical.  The funny thing is he thought he was being supportive of God.

He should spare God the compliment.

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Sixteen lies Satan feeds us about worship

“God is Spirit. And they who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; tremble before Him all the earth” (Psalm 96:9).

If worship is powerful–that is, if kneeling before Almighty God in humility and rising to praise Him in gratitude and going forth to obey Him in faithfulness has power in the world to change lives and redirect society–then the enemy will be working to put a stop to it.

Count on that.

If God uses our worship to transform sinners, starting with us, then the enemy will do all in his power to neutralize it.

So–how is your worship these days?

Are you working at worship, at learning to humble yourself and praise Him more effectively?  Are you giving yourself anew to the Savior throughout the day, every day?

Notice the one question we did not ask: Are you getting anything out of your worship? Scripture does not allow us to ask that.  We are promised nothing from worship.  In worship, we do the giving. We give Him praise and prayers, offerings and love, our time and our attention, and ultimately ourselves.

Warren Wiersbe used to say, “Worship pays. But if you worship for the pay, it won’t pay.”

What has the evil advisor told you in the secret recesses of your mind and heart to dissuade you from worship?

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Lessons about Heaven from my favorite opera

Someone has said that good music is music which is written better than it can be played.

I’m on a Turandot kick right now. I love all the Puccini operas, but this one has been special after I found how different it is from all the others. I’m not a musician, cannot read music or play an instrument.  But I do love good music. I swoon at certain kinds of music, however, and this is one of them.

For years Turandot was not as well known as Puccini’s other more popular operas (La Boheme, Tosca, and Madame Butterfly). In fact, few people had even heard of it. One day I found out why.

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Why Heaven requires new songs

“And they sang a new song, saying, ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood…” (Revelation 5:9).

John must have been fascinated by the sights and the sounds of that heavenly vision.

They started small.

At first, he was treated to a heavenly quartet. The four angelic beings–were they seraphim?–of Revelation 4:7-8 burst into song, calling out, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.  Who was and is and is to come!”

This was no little chorus they dropped into the Lord’s throneroom.  We read, “They do not rest day or night, saying (this)” (verse 8).

Imagine that. An endless song.

These long-winded, six-winged angels with angelic voices take us back to Isaiah 6 where similar creatures are calling out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts. The whole earth is filled with His glory.”

I heard a preacher say that two huge lessons are given here: One, the holiness of the Lord (His “otherness”) is a bigtime truth, and two, the Lord has no trouble hearing the same words of praise coming at Him continuously.

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My favorite things in church

My favorite place in church is the altar area.

When I was pastoring, sometime in the middle of a weekday, I would slip in and kneel there and spend time with the Lord.

The question arises as to “Why? What makes that place special?” After all, even though we call it the “altar,” it isn’t, not in the Old Testament sense or even the New Testament sense. Calvary is the ultimate altar for believers. The only answer I can find is: “I don’t know. I just know I need it and love it.”

What I do not understand is believers who never come to the altar and pray. It seems that only the most spiritually sensitive do, and I sure want to be among that number.

I love, love, love those times in church when for reasons unknown the congregational singing comes together like never before and everyone is singing at the top of their voices, the hymns are circulating around the room, bouncing off the ceiling and coming back to fill us, and our souls are lifted. It feels like we have touched the hem of the garment of our Lord, and makes us long for Heaven all that much more.

What I do not like is when the worship leader tries to manufacture this on his own. I’ve seen them do that, and the result is fake, hyped, unworthy.

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Two small articles that changed my life forever

The Commission magazine exists now only on-line but for many generations it arrived in the homes and churches of Southern Baptists all over the country. I’ve known and appreciated several of its editors and grieved when it went out of business. (It was the monthly publication of the SBC International Mission Board, headquartered in Richmond.)

Two things in that magazine changed my life forever. They were so tiny, I’m confident that the people who dropped them in had no idea how powerful they were and no inkling of how God would use them.

We need a cartoonist! 

The first was a tiny notice in the fall of 1976 announcing that a cartoonist was needed by the missionaries in Singapore. As a part of their urban strategy, they wanted to produce an evangelistic comic book and distribute to teens all over that island nation.

They needed someone to draw it.

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Lies the enemy whispers during worship

“We have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2).

The devil’s first plan of attack is to get us to worship him.  He tried that with our Lord, as recorded in Luke 4:7. “All these things will be yours if you will worship me.”  He soon found the futility of that.  Not then and hardly at all since has anyone wanted to bow down and worship this foolish fallen angel.

But such a persistent enemy always has a backup plan. Plan B is to interfere with our worship of the living God.  Satan will do anything to throw a wrench into the works and shut down or hinder our daily submission to the Lord Jesus and all that involves (prayer, commitment, study of the Word, service, etc).

Not long ago, while sitting in church listening to a friend preach, I began a list of the lies Satan whispers to God’s people who gather to worship Him….

–“This isn’t working.  You’re wasting your time here.”

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People who sound like hell

“Cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).

“In thy presence there is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

If the atmosphere of heaven is joy and praise, then the noxious fumes of hell must be saturated with  equal parts anger, complaining, bitterness and blaming.

Scriptures keep telling us that the atmosphere around the throne of Heaven is praise and joy and gratitude. In other words, worship.

–There is Psalm 16:11 (above) which is as good as we could ask for.

–In John’s vision of Heaven which we call Revelation,  he tells us that near the throne stood “four living creatures, each having six wings…. Day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, The Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come’” (Revelation 4:8).  Around the throne, the praise is continuous.

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