Thursday, November 1, 2007

When I cannot worship . . .

Two statements grab my attention this morning. One is from Ross’ book, Recalling the Hope of Glory. He says, “Unfortunately, almost everything in our nature and in our world pulls us back from (true spiritual worship); and without a good knowledge of the biblical revelation on the subject, worship becomes routine, centered on people and performances, and secularized. And the sense of celebration of being in covenant fellowship with the living God is lost.”

The other one is from 1 Timothy 5:19. It says, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.

By reading Ross and by remembering some of my own experiences, I put these two thoughts together and come up with: If I don’t like what is going on in the worship service, I cannot blame the pastor or the leaders in the church; it is my own fault.

Some say they can worship God in nature. If that means pristine nature, they need to travel far to find it. Even the most remote parts of our world are littered with cigarette butts and beer cans. While we can delete them by altering our photographs, they still distract the view and, if it were me, ruin the worship.

I’m not so sure those distractions are any different from the stuff in church that can annoy me and pull my mind away from worship as well. Everyone has their list. Mine may not be pollutants like a hiker’s leftovers, but are more like crying babies, standing children bouncing and saying ‘no’ and people visiting while they should be listening or singing.

However, these things are out of my control. Instead, my list of responsibilities includes being prepared for worship by spending time during the week with God. When I love and commune with Him every day, I am overflowing with personal praise by the end of the week. Corporate praise on Sunday is most meaningful when my own heart is already there.

When others, for whatever reason, cannot enter into worship, I need to remember how difficult this is. As Ross says, everything in our nature and in our world pulls us away from it. Worship is the ultimate denial of self. I fight that too. My world and my stuff demand my attention, even on Sunday morning.

Worship is also the ultimate closed door to the temporary, to all things here and now. In worship our hearts are lifted above our circumstances to enjoy and adore the God who controls them, and to confess that He knows what He is doing. I fight that too, particularly when things are not going well. I need to remember that our churches are filled with people who have challenges in their lives, things that demand their attention.

Yet as I write this, I remember that God is in charge also of crying babies, standing children, and the hearts of those who seem to be ignoring Him. He is Lord over all and I can worship Him concerning even the distractions because He is not blind to them. He knows what is going on, and He has His reasons for allowing such things.

The next time I hear someone blaming the worship team or the pastor, anyone or anything for their problems in worship, I might have a few questions to ask them, but now that Ross and 1 Timothy have my attention, I first need to answer them myself!

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