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. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” ~ Isaiah 29:13-14
What has kept me from worshiping God with my whole heart? The truth is that nothing can keep me from worshiping God with my whole heart… unless I let it. And another significant truth is, I have often let it.
That does sound really bad… especially from a minister who desires to proclaim the Word of God and to see it take root in the hearts of good listeners. When we are gathered to worship our Father, I desire to lift up my heart to God without reservation. I really cannot blame someone else if I fail to do so.
But I have failed. I have failed so many times because as a minister I am concerned about too many other things. I’m concerned that everything we do is done well, not distracting away from the glorious purpose for which we have assembled. Do you see that? I’m distracted because I hope others aren’t distracted! I hope that things are done in such a way that our guests will want to return and learn more about Jesus. I brace myself because I know certain songs might bring a critic to my ears to tell me that they were displeased by it. I notice when there are lags in the service and wonder why someone hasn’t already been in place when the previous item finished up. I look up at the screen and wonder if it is vivid enough to be seen, or if I should have used different colors. And the sermon, well, the people deserve better. “Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” God forgive me, I have too often let worship distract me from WORSHIP!
I could point the finger at others and shift the blame, but I’m not interested in finding fault. I’m interested in finding heart. At some point along the way every minister has to realize that every person in the room is responsible for the way they worship the Lord. How can I bring God’s Spirit-Filled message to the congregants when I’ve been so distracted? I think I have to do two things:
*I need to do all the preparation I can ahead of time, and make sure that we serve God with excellence during the worship time. Then I need to let that go. The truth is, most of the time everyone participating is conscientious and reverential in their duties and they do a great job.
*I need to erase my worries about what other people might think during the worship time … and just freely let my heart focus on God. If that means my hands reach up toward Him seeking His presence, I can’t be concerned about what someone else might think of that. If I clap along to a song, or weep during a prayer … if I desire to shout ‘Amen’ or ‘Hallelujah’ … or to remain quiet in my thoughts. To be reserved and stoic while enthusiasm for God stirs within me is to withhold my worship. God can never be pleased with that.
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. ~Acts 16:13-15
I desire for God to open up my heart in that way.I can remember times in the past when I felt that He was working on my heart as worship blazed around me. I pray to worship together with a sanctuary full of believers who have wide open hearts with God’s Spirit bringing us to respond to His message. And it is very likely that this happens whenever we are together, even if I do not perceive it. God, astound us with “wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”
Recently I attended a conference out of town and worshipped in a place where I had no duties, no recognition, and no real identity with the group. I was just a face in the crowd. As such, I was freed from thinking about anyone else… just God and me …and a sea of voices around me. It was beautiful. And it made me wonder why I have so often allowed the Enemy to dampen my spirits with things over which I had no control. I don’t know. But I will be doing more to focus my heart and attention on the One who died for me and placed me in a beautiful family of Believers.
What are your ideas for being focused on God during the assembly?
Thanks for reading,