Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Call to Worship


Προσκυνέω (proskynéō)

The word “pro” means before or to bow before and the word “skyneo” seems to be a derivative from the word kiss. Together the word indicates one who bows or even prostrates himself before someone and kisses his hand as a dog kisses the hand of his master. This a delicate and powerful verb and it brings strong and profound images. It is the word most used in the New Testament when translated worship. It not only requires an unusual focus without compromise, but it requires a knowledge of the object of our worship that is so powerful it literally breaks us away from the temporal and ushers us into an eternal realm which is filled with His presence. It is unlike anything upon this earth.

You can see people idolizing rock stars, and Hollywood actors, and politicians, and even religious figures. That may appear to be a sort of worship and in the fallen realm it is. But that is purely idol worship whether it is a man or beast or a material thing or even part of the creation. It is an abomination before God and He literally hates it. That kind of idol worship is rampant through this fallen nation as well as the entire world. And it has infiltrated the church as well. I will deal with idol worship and true worship in the Spirit in this post.

Idol worship appeals solely to the flesh. But God created man to receive His goodness and worship Him. So man has a capacity, and even a need, to worship. And if he does not know God through Christ then he finds something that he can worship. It can be a job, or a car, or a house, or a person, or his own success, or a philosophy, or nature, or clothes, or his own body, or his intellect, or it can be any number of things. He may not prostrate himself physically before these things but in his heart he worships them. But that worship is all vain and nothing more than idol worship.

The only true worship is the worship of the Creator. It is why man was created. God has given man the highest privilege of worshiping Him which glorifies God and fulfills man. Now when a sinner is redeemed by faith in Jesus Christ his spirit comes alive and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within his being. This a great truth as well as a great mystery. But the Spirit of God is what gives us the desire and the direction of our worship. He empowers us to understand the magnitude and majesty of our Great God and he guides into a worship that truly glorifies Christ.

But please understand that worship is not music. True worship emanates from the heart of a believer. Now music can assist with worship if it glorifies God. And even the music itself can help lead our hearts and minds away from the earthly and temporal realm. Even instrumental music helps to insulate us from earthly distractions and allows us to focus on our Lord. The first use of the word “worship” is in Genesis and it relates to Abraham going to worship the Lord by the sacrifice of his son Isaac. My pastor friend Scott LaPierre reminded me of this truth and it does have obvious implications and applications. All true worship comes through the divine sacrifice of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We can praise God for food and clothing and life and health, but worship is eternally tied to the cross.

I have passed by church signs which say “Exciting worship!” or “Contemporary Worship!” or “Great worship!”. Now those phrases not only misrepresent the essence of what it means to worship God, but notice that the adjectives have to do with how it moves us. It is a humanistic expression of that which should be sacred and holy and given to our Wonderful Lord and Redeemer. It is meant for His glory and His glory alone. But make no mistake, you cannot truly worship God without His presence changing you. If you are just temporarily blessed than you have enjoyed some good music, but you did not enter into His presence.

Now you cannot include worship in a multi-task situation. Rick Warren suggested that you can worship God even while taking out the trash. That is absolutely wrong. You can praise God in those kinds of situations, but worship cannot be done as a “kill two birds with one stone” kind of exercise. In order to truly worship God we must forsake the cares of this world, sanctify the Lord in our hearts, and seek His face without distraction or compromise. That requires sacrifice and time and a sincere heart which must not be set upon anything in this temporal realm. If you are worried about lunch after church you are not worshiping. If you are thinking about bills or a job or a child or anything in the material realm you are not worshiping in the Spirit. Are you beginning to see just how shallow these worship times are in so many churches. The worship leader can gently guide the congregation through the various music songs, but if he draws attention to himself, or if stimulates the crowd by the weight of his personality or exuberance, then he is a stumbling block.

Worshiping God is a sacred and holy place. It is a labor of love to cleanse yourself of all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, but we must be cleansed in the brazen laver even before we enter the Holy Place. No one can come out from the filthiness of this fallen world and rush right in and begin to worship God. A worship time is not part of a daily schedule which is allotted a certain amount of time. If time is a factor than worship is not. We must not only be redeemed, but we need to be cleansed by His blood and the power of His Word. If you spent no time in God’s Word or in His presence during the week then your Sunday worship will be soulish and not spiritual.

I am not saying that if you have been careless about your spiritual life during the week you cannot worship Christ on Sunday, but I am saying you must go through some sincere repentance. You have grieved the Spirit and you must make things right. That is why I believe it is wise and beneficial for the congregation to pray at the beginning of the service even before the music begins. To truly enter into the presence of God is not stepping into a closet and then leaving when you are done. I admit that being in God’s presence in a way which exceeds His general omnipresence is a wonderful mystery, however it is essential for believers even though it has been substantially lost to the western church.

But unless you truly take time in private to worship God you will be dependent upon auditoriums, a vibrant worship leader, great music, and a certain time and place before you can at least feel something. The average Sunday morning “worship service” is a well crafted event designed to move people emotionally and it has a time limit. So millions of church members come to a building on Sunday morning after having spent little or no time with God during the week. And the music begins and the worship leader comes out upbeat and exuberant and encourages the people to come alive. People begin to clap to the music and the praise band plays and the praise singers sing and after the allotted time it closes in prayer and the pastor rises to greet people. Yes, it is all so predictable and redundant. And that is what is called “worship” in the average evangelical church.

But I call your heart and mind to hear what I am saying. If you and I truly desire to be changed into the likeness of Christ in 2014 we will have to enter into a deeper place of prayer and worship in our personal lives. If we want our lives, our actions, our attitudes, our thoughts, and our beings to manifest the Lord Jesus we must first sit at His feet like Mary and listen to His voice, worship His Being, and seek His face through prayer and fasting. Nothing is born of God without travail. Anything of spiritual value is not given to those who are living for themselves or even those who have carved out precious little in their lives to meet with God.

Yes, we were given that opportunity this past year, but who among could claim we could not have done much better for Him? But here we are on the week’s eve of another year and that same opportunity is before us. I wish to step out on a fresh journey with many of you who feel the unction of the Spirit. I’m not speaking of forming some kind of club. But I desire a spiritual partnership, and internet church so to speak, which challenges us all and makes us accountable to God and each other. There is no distance in the Spirit. I believe God can use this medium for His glory in and through us. I am hungry for more of Christ and less of me. If that bears witness with your spirit then watch for my upcoming posts and let us seek Him together in a worship and prayer experience which gives a natural birth to servanthood.

Lk.7: 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?
50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

This sinful woman would not be denied. She desired to worship Christ. Let us ask ourselves just how relentless were in order to get to Jesus? Do we clear our schedules? Do we experience hunger pains when we are kept from Him? Do we care what others think? Do we speak on the phone more than we speak with Christ? Is our personal worship time so essential and so spiritual that it really is foundational to our spiritual life? And in the past month just how long and deep was your time with Him? And how dramatically were you changed in this past month?

Jesus was moved by the unashamed worship from this woman who was obviously had a reputation of immorality. But she did not care who saw her and she was not to be denied. Oh to worship Christ with such abandon that nothing else matters. To be drawn to the sec ret place under the shadow of His wings and there seek His matchless face with brokenness and worship and not to be even aware of time because you were being swallowed up in His glory has all but been lost to us today. Is that not what He desires from us?

Corporate worship has become a tepid and predictable exercise which resembles last week’s worship in time and depth. One closes his eyes during a song and blesses Jesus and as quickly as it began it ends. The service continues. It is a nice time of fellowship and the preacher does a good job and the music was a blessing. Next Sunday will be the same, and this coming week may see some devotional time which finds a small space between everything else. And so it goes.

If that is what we desire and what we think pleases God then all we have to do is repeat 2013 and we will arrive in December of next year just as we arrived in December of this year. Make no mistake if we truly desire to seek Christ’s face and allow the Spirit to slay us and remake us completely into His very image then this will be a great battle. Prepare yourself for the spiritual battle of a lifetime. This kind of journey has many dragons which are made by the world and the devil as well as many dragons of our own making. Do not enter the year with some kind of frilly vision of experiencing soaring emotions and having your earthly life blessed. No, it will take an unusual commitment that will require the entirety of you will.

If you can be compromised to the point of quitting you will. If you can I do suggest some times of fasting especially in the first weeks. Your flesh has been trained to think about and plan and to worry about all things pertaining to this earthly life. It will not relinquish its lordship easily. The battle will be intense and you will receive no real encouragement from others. In fact, you may well incur criticism. There will be no earthly reward. The reward will be Christ Himself.

The church has gathered together and invited Christ to come to our meetings. And yet all through the week the Spirit has invited us to come and meet with Him. His invitations have gone largely unrequited except a few convenient times which literally cost us nothing. We have convinced ourselves that we can rush into His presence and rid ourselves of the world’s stench quickly and after a half hour we rise to do what we had already planned and that is worship. We have accomplished our objective and we feel good about having had a “devotional” time. It cost us nothing.

In the Book of 2nd Samuel we see God angry at His people in chapter 24 because they had conquered their enemies and felt very confident in their accomplishments. The Philistines and the Moabites had been defeated as well as other enemies. King David was a great leader and this string of great victories made them feel superior. God told David to number the men in his armies, and as David did the Lord saw just how proud he was in their number and strength. David now had his eyes on men and not on the Lord. 70,000 people died of a plague.

So David wants to offer a sacrifice unto the Lord and he approaches Araunah the Jebusite and offers to buy his land in order to make an altar unto God. But Araunah the Jebusite gives David the land and even says he will give him the sacrifice for free. But David refuses.

II Sam.24: 24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.

Oh my dear brothers and sisters how often have we offered to the Lord that which cost us nothing? In fact have we not settled into a religious patter where God is offered a small section of our lives and we have come to believe He is pleased with our offerings? If you will allow me some obvious allegory:

David’s leads a blessed life. His armies have been very successful and he is king. He rises and has his Jewish coffee while he reads from Samuel’s Study Torah for a few minutes. He bows his head and asks God to bless him that day and after a handful of minutes he rises to begin another wonderful day. He has met with God and he feels very blessed. He loves his country, he loves his family, his loves his preacher, he loves his life, and he loves the Lord. What could be better?

And here we are today going through the motions and training our minds to receive affirmation from a god we have created. This is not a shower of guilt designed to make us feel bad. This is the truth being exposed before our very eyes. This is what we have constructed and it literally costs us nothing save a few pennies in the church coiffeurs. We now can live our own lives and invite God to visit us once in a while. It is so very American, in fact it is the religious American Dream.

Now if that is what we want we already have it. It has been perfected into a well oiled machine. We can give God literally convenient scraps during the week and go to the gathering and perform self affirming worship during the music time and leave the building to live exactly the way we did last week. It is very chic.

But if we really believe Christ deserves more, and if we really believe we can find more of His presence, and if we believe we can be changed, then it will cost us quite a lot. But the cost comes before the reward. That is the divine order. The cross comes before the resurrection. Be prepared.


Anonymous said...

Amen. Count me in for seeking more of God and less of me. As our time on earth grows shorter - we must look upward and have that move outward.

Cherie c. said...

If I may Pastor Rick, a testimony of reward and failure on this very subject.

I felt in my heart right after the storm Sandy hit my area that this storm was a time of testing because of what we had gone through. Not as bad as others, but it was scary, and talk about being out of your comfort zone. Although my journey has been out of the visible church since 2010, I had a feeling that my growth in the Lord was not as it should be and the conviction of this culminated with the storm.

Instead of being calm and at peace in trusting the Lord, I complained, bemoaned what we didn't have, and was thoroughly miserable. I had failed. Failed to be the follower of Jesus He was calling me to be. But in His great love and mercy for me, I know He took me through more trying times than that storm, with a strong Fatherly hand of correction, He dealt with me and my poor testimony to my family. Do not speak and act like you know God if you really don't because He hates liars.

The next three weeks were so hard for me, I could hardly do anything. When I found Pastor Rick's blog, it was in essences a starting path. It had posts that helped me to know which direction I was in, and the direction I needed to be in. No relief was found here, only a path to better understanding. See I was here to get relief from my chastisement which was wrong. The Scripture found on these posts God used to speaking to me and the only "relief" was going to come from the Lord.

So I felt a calling to fast and pray. I set aside a day and a time each week. The first week spent in this time was truly what was needed to bring the literal trembling and fear under God and in control. But it didn't completely end. I know I did not do it exactly right, because the very next time I didn't know how I was going to see it to the end of the time. Much to my surprise even though it was such a struggle, I actually went past the time with no ill affects. It took a deep reaching of obedience to truly worship Him and pray. I can with all honesty say, it was not me, but Him who got me through.

Cherie c. said...

As I was doing this, I would sit and smile saying the Lord is going to bless me. He did, but the trouble didn't stop, in fact things at home grew worse. The closer I got to the Lord, the more distant I became from my family. Not that I was distant, they viewed me as odd, and they began to treat me like a stranger.

My motive at the start was to rid myself of the fear and trembling, but to also worship and get closer to God. My heart was willing but the times when I failed, I knew it was because I was counting the minutes until it ended. I felt really bad, so I quit and went back to praying, but not as I really should.

Then spring of this year, times got worse for me again. I got very sick, but not to the point of death. I was so sick that I could hardly eat, or move. But I still would come to Pastor's blog. Then the Lord blessed me; well, I feel it was a blessing. In my agony I read a post here that was calling for prayer for a sister in Christ due to her illness. So I asked the Lord one day what He wanted me to do, I did not know this person, but I was drawn to pray for her. Through Pastor Rick, I was able to get in contact with this dear sister in Christ. We spoke, we prayed, and the Lord heard my prayers (I am certain, along with other prayers from the body of Christ she was healed). I noticed only after a while, that I started to get better. I was able to find treatment, where other treatments didn't work. It was only after I put my needs aside and focused on my sister in the Lord who to me was far worse off, that healing came to me. Then another dear sister battling an illness also needed prayer. I was again blessed to be able to talk with her and her dear friend Rita, that I then was completely healed. I did ask the Lord for my healing, but only in passing. When I saw that God was answering prayer, that is when I was filled with Joy. And, I was getting better. As I write this I see how wrong I really was. Worship is not a time to bring your complaints and wishes to God. It is a time of praise, and submission that is a blessing if we only embrace it.

Lately, the last month or so I have been dealing with self righteousness. Not regarding that time but on other matters. You'd think I would remember my last lesson of God's correction. Not so, I am a fool. And not in a good way.

So again I have been corrected and blessed. i cannot tell you exactly how, I wouldn't know where to begin. But know that He is dealing with me. God will not be mocked. But if He didn't correct me; along with His great love and mercy for me, I would be headed to hell right now. It is true, although perhaps a bit dramatic sounding, none the less true. If it wasn't a struggle, it would not mean anything. Life here can be filled with joy, but it will not be your best life now. If it were to be that then we would not need a savior. Any rewards we get here are dung because it is temporal. Our reward is in heaven, a much sweeter reward than what we get here.

I started earlier this month with fasting and prayer again. My prayer was answered and the last time, nothing. In fact, this is how awful I am, I again found myself begging to get through the day to the appointed time to be done with it. When the week before was such a blessing and so easy. How horrible am I? Very. But again He brought me past the ending time, much to my shame.

Cherie c. said...

This Call to Worship is an answer to a prayer I have had for some time now, Pastor has been most patient with me. I am embarrassed to say that I have been nothing less than awful, but Pastor Rick has been most forgiving and I do not deserve it. So has many of my brothers and sisters in the Lord. The Lord has humbled me, and I am now ready to receive what ever He wants to give or ask of me. I have seen failure and I have seen blessing, but the worship has not been what is should. I sometimes think I am not saved. How could I be and do as I do, and say what I say? If my only sign that I am saved is that my family doesn't want me around because I am too much in the Word, then perhaps I am, but I know I can do more and I am not always so sure. I know there is more. If I can lose sleep to wrap presents for my husband to give to his family (which I hated to do), then why can't I lose sleep for my Lord?

The Lord is slowly molding me even when I resist (disobey). He is so faithful where I am not. I would have given up on me a long time ago, but He doesn't and I deserve nothing less than His righteous anger.

I see this month sentimental commercials with a holiday theme regarding family, and good times. I guess I am not seeing it, or I guess I am seeing it for the first time just how much man is for himself. He loves his family, his friends, his trips, his food, his car, his pet, his sports, but not so much God. In not one of those heartfelt commercials was there any mention of Jesus. I was not surprised, but there is going to be less tv going forward.

I am not bragging about fasting and prayer, I am the loser among losers, I just want to share with you how hard it can be, but so worth it. You will have to give up tv time, family time, even not cook dinner and let them fend for themselves or not to put God first. You will even have to go to work or school while fasting and carve out times throughout the day to pray, but it can be done. You will not do it the Spirit will. How do I know. The last time I fasted when I prayed I asked for strength because it was so hard. I would look at the clock and count the time before it would end. But while in my prayer I lost all track of time and when He said prayer time was over, I could not believe it was as long as it was. I was in my office at work. Now the cost for that day was being behind in my work and having to stay later the next couple of days to get the work done by year end, but so what. It should have cost me more for His sake. It should cost me everything for His sake, because it cost Him so much more, more than I could ever repay.

When Pastor speaks of the struggle this Call to Worship will be pales in its description. He hit the nail on the head, but didn't elaborate enough. He knows, but is being kind. Intentions are fine, but not really. You have to completely rely upon God for strength. That in and of itself empties you. Grace is measured out to each of us according to the will of God. So I am not putting upon anyone what their time should be or even if they should do fasting and prayer at all. I can only speak of myself and hope it is an encouragement. I have diabetes, three kinds of arthritis, I was born with a piece of my immune system missing, and one of the forms of arthritis cause severe fatigue, cysts in my joints and under my skin, and other maladies. For me, when I fast, I feel hunger pangs, but it doesn't hurt. In fact, I feel physically better after fasting as long as I have had prayer time with it. When I just fast, it does no good. Jesus said fasting and prayer, they go hand in hand.

Cherie c. said...

We can not guarantee in this life anything, but I can guarantee that Pastor speaks the truth when he says it will be a battle. I sometimes lose the battle, but wounded and scarred I pick back up my cross, repent, ask for mercy and forgiveness and go forward again. Each time learning what I did before; which was right and which was not. I don't know if I did it right, but I did drink water throughout the day. When I did experience discomfort it was short lived and had no lasting affects. When you're putting your flesh down it will fight you tooth and nail. It will make you feel like a failure, call you to quit. But I would not, I kept saying to myself, for the Lord. Think of those who I wanted to pray for; what by the will of God needed to be prayer for. Talk to the Lord or just kneel before Him in silent worship, leaving the flesh and the world, and all the people in it behind.

I want to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. I want to fast and pray to honor God and to bring before the Lord those who are in need of salvation or physical needs. I want to just be before Him as He wants, not as I want. I want to be counted for I am not ashamed of the Gospel, of Jesus Christ, of God.

I know this desire is not of my own, but I am so grateful to even have it. God blesses the just and unjust, the unthankful and the evil (Luke 6:35) Just how much MORE will He freely give to His children when they obey, and worship, and honor Him.

Pastor Rick, I have been struggling, but I know I can and should do more in this area. I know I will get it wrong sometimes but I am willing to go.

Revelation 3:10
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world; to try them that dwell upon the earth.

Fasting and prayer is not only a form of worship, it is a real reliance upon the Lord. For strength, for patience, to forget about self and focus upon Him. He will do the rest! Yes, He will. And when I failed, I could still feel the love. I have had many tears this month, many humble and broken moments,and convictions I am not proud of, but I hope and pray that even in the smallest way, if He can find any good in what I have done with His help, that I can just hold an inch of the hem of His garment, I will be saved, and whole, and holy, and blessed to be Mary sitting at His feet. With tears of great Joy I write this. Thank you Pastor Rick for letting me share and I pray that those here will be encouraged to join you in this call to worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on His terms and not ours.

your sister in Christ Jesus (I hope)
Cherie c.

Cherie c. said...

Please excuse my terrible writing. It is hard to write when your eyes are blurry.

Anonymous said...

Cherie, temporal rewards are not dung. Don't volunteer to be ungrateful.

Cherie c. said...

Not unexpected that someone would find something I said to take out of context. We should always be thankful for whatever the Lord blesses us with, but those blessings can become an idol if we let it. People can become idols if we let it happen. Perhaps reward was a poor choice of words. The bottom line is, we should be willing, if not eager, to let the temporal go for our Lord. So sad that you could not see that. Peace.

Anonymous said...

Thank-you for this post Pastor Rick; as the Spirit moves you, there are times many of us believe you are listening to our lives from the corner of the room, unnoticed.

"You will receive no encouragement from others."

"In fact, you may well incur criticism."

"There will be no earthly reward."

"The reward will be Christ Himself."

It has been heartbreaking in receiving no encouragement in my faith in Jesus Christ from the church system set up by man, in fact, the words inflicted upon my being from those who profess to know Jesus Christ have been legion, edifying the human flesh and the spirit of the age, which is self deification. Pastor Rick, it has heart time and again, and I can only Praise God, our Father, that He has sustained my living faith through our LORD Jesus Christ, for He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.

Oh, how I cling to His promises. Jesus Christ is my only Hope.

This blog has been a small blessing in my life that has spoken volumes to my soul of which I am truly thankful. Earthly rewards compare nothing to what is awaiting us in Christ Jesus, and one day I look forward to meeting all you there, in HIS GLORIOUS PRESENCE.

If you permit me here, I would ask that all of you pray for those of us who have not a church membership card, many of which are being harrassed by the church attendees for their hearts are colder than the frozen tundra.

And please know this, when you speak the name of Jesus in your communities, whether large or small, and His Wonders and His Ways, even the "churched" will look at you as if you were pond scum, not even worthy to commune with an amoeba. If indeed we love Jesus, then why does no one even desire to hear His precious name?

And when you do not walk the road of man's relgion, perhaps you will be run off the road by a wild driver embracing a religious system.......the one Jesus was kicked out of long ago.

"For in thee (Jesus), my soul takes refuge....." Praise Jesus, o my soul.