This people draws nigh unto me with their mouth and honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. – Matthew 15:8 (Jubilee Bible 2000)
I have been sensing that part of what God is doing in the United States of America is bringing to light how we, as a nation, and the western church culture here – the religion of America – has become complacent. We are so concerned with our selfish rights that we no longer serve one another, much less God, in love and affection. Seeking the best for others over ourselves.
“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! – Revelation 2:4 (NLT)
We go to church on Sunday morning hoping to hear our favorite worship songs, and we sing them – raise our hands high in praise. Or do we?
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 (NIV)
Do we surrender ourselves in worship, pouring ourselves out like a drink offering – or do we do what we’ve been taught to do? Do we do what we think will draw people through the doors of our church without giving consideration to their hearts before God? Do we?
Perhaps the destruction in our streets and the bad economy we suffer, the out of control government and the prevailing Marxism in our schools is not about politicians run amuck, but rather a people whose hearts have wondered far from their First Love.
What I see in churches… What I’ve been guilty of myself is a worship of the style of music, the arrangement of lyrics and the energy of exercise… But is God at the center? Is He the heart of my worship or is it the desire to be seen, to be thought devoted to Him even when my heart is focused on other things like that thing I want to buy or the bills that need to be paid? That opportunity at work I’ve been asking Him to give me favor for… What is the focus of my heart when the music starts and my hands are lifted high?
For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. – 2 Timothy 3:2 (NLT)
I sense the Lord’s Spirit grieving over what the modern church in America calls “worship.” It is driven by religious ideals, things taught and things feared, it has become about the style and the people who are participating and not about recognizing and being in awe of the presence of God in our midst. We put on production, turn down the lights, release smoke and evoke emotional responses. But, do we teach the people to express devotion to God? We mimic what we see that moves us, but do we mean what we sing and say? What if God just wants us to sing out to Him a new song because we love Him and not so the man in the front row would feel comfortable? What if He wants to teach us the kind of worship the Israelites expressed before Ezra when they stood for hours at the reading of Scriptures in a language they no longer understood and wept at its reading, falling to their face in worship. It starts with the leadership… Are we doing what man has taught us to do as good religion or are we moving our hearts in worship toward God out of devotion, affection and love for Him? Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:1)
Back when I was growing up in my faith, when I had begun to understand what it means to worship God in Spirit and in Truth, I faced a decision. I had been attending our small “bapti-costal” church for a couple of years. The contemporary style of praise and worship had helped me to abandon self-consciousness and as I grew to know and understand Who God is, the sacrifice of Jesus as my Lord and Savior and the presence of His Spirit in my life – I began to worship with abandon to myself. I would lift my hands high. Sing with all my might and the words I sang began to resonate with my experience of Him. I could sing a soulful, ancient hymn with the same passion that I sang an upbeat modern hit because I knew the God I sang about. I worshipped. Hands high or face to the ground. I worshipped.
He taught me worship the night he roused me from sleep and unlocked the door of my mind where the skeletons of my past lived. He spilled them out on the floor before me and had me confess them to Him in repentance. He required me to worship.
He taught me worship every morning as I lay on the floor of my office, picturing myself at His feet and there I stayed until I experienced His presence. I worshipped.
He taught me worship at the bedside of my teenage son. As I prayed my guts out on that child’s behalf while he slept each night – slipping further and further away from me. I worshipped.
He taught me worship when that same child lay in a hospital bed clinging to life for eight days. When he had a good day I worshipped with shouts of joy and when he had a bad day I worshipped through my tears. On the day he died, I worshipped. I prayed. I worshipped. I never missed the fact that God had not left or forsaken us. I worshipped.
On the day of His funeral, I worshipped. When my heart was broken, I worshipped. When the seasons changed, I worshipped. When we lost the house, I worshipped. I worshipped. Not because I liked the songs, or felt like it – but because my God deserved nothing less than the fullness of my affection and devotion poured out to Him in praise, gratitude, love and devotion. I worshipped.
Do you hear God asking you this morning… “Will YOU worship Me?”