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Let’s Fight FOR Worship!

Old PewsEverybody worships. Not everyone believes in God, or in gods, or in the God of the Bible, but everyone worships. Everybody ascribes worth to something, which is one of the basic definitions of worship.

My favorite book about worship, outside the Bible, is Warren Wiersbe’s Real Worship: Playground, Battleground, or Holy Ground?. Wiersbe offers this concise definition of worship…

Worship is the believer’s response of all that they are—mind, emotions, will, and body—to what God is and says and does. This response has its mystical side in subjective experience and its practical side in objective obedience to God’s revealed will. Worship is a loving response that’s balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better.

As my favorite Worship Pastor on the planet likes to say, “worship is both revelation and response.” It’s tuning in to listen to a holy God, and it’s responding to what I hear and see. Genuine worship results in a net increase in my personal awe of God and ultimately changes my life in a way that is contagious. It makes me craveable, as Artie Davis might say.

Jesus once had an argument with a woman about worship. It’s recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter four, but the short version is that when Jesus got personal with her, she brought up an argument about the “right way” to worship as a diversion. Funny how the subject of worship often becomes the source of conflict when we’re trying to avoid the real issues of the heart. This woman’s understanding of worship was pretty normal.

  • Worship is confined to a time a place (hence, a “worship service”).
  • Worship is defined by our rituals and traditions.
  • Worship is the sum total of the goodness I offer up to God.
  • Worship is about receiving or “getting a lot out of” an experience.

Jesus challenged all of her assumptions – not with answers rooted in Jewish tradition, but answers rooted in the eternal fellowship He had enjoyed thus far with the Father. Out of that experience, Jesus revealed a different and better way to approach the subject of worship.

  • Worship should be an everywhere, all-the-time activity.
  • Worship happens in truth (the “real” world), but also in spirit (the “unseen” world).
  • Worship is the response of sinful creatures to a holy God.
  • Worship is about giving or offering up, which is far more blessed than receiving anyway.

When we fight about worship, we’re usually fighting like the woman in the argument. We’re fighting about when, where, and how. We’re arguing about externals, traditions, and preferences. When we fight for worship, we’re fighting with the heart of Jesus, who sought to establish a connection between broken humanity and a healing Creator.

John Piper is credited with saying that “missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Right now, on planet earth, there are literally billions of people who are worshipping the creature more than the Creator (see Romans 1). They don’t know the One who showed up at the well that day, and we who do know Him are responsible. The woman at the well that day, out of the overflow of her worshipful spirit, brought an entire town to meet Jesus. Once she “got it,” she fought for worship. I want to fight for it too. He’s worth it.

Can You Just Heal My Boy?

Boy“I begged your disciples to cast out the spirit, but they couldn’t do it.” (Luke 9:40 NLT)

The disciples had plenty of great experiences to boast about. They were in the inner circle. They had been hanging out with one of Israel’s most popular rabbis. But on this day, they were powerless. They had religious solutions to offer, but this man wanted just one simple thing… “Can you just heal my boy?”

Sometimes we have a ton of great answers to offer, but no one is asking the right questions. Broken people are the worst. They never quite understand the importance of our religious ceremonies, liturgies, and traditions. They don’t seem to care about our denominational structures, our political schemes, and our battles over buildings and secondary doctrines.

Instead, they have the nerve to ask questions about their enormous, real life struggles. From their point of pain, they seem to ignore our list of programs and ask questions like… Can you heal my boy? Can you help my marriage? Can you help me stop looking at pornography? Can you help me find forgiveness for my abuser?

Maybe we should start answering different questions.

Photo By Christian Haugen

Book Review (and Giveaway): Transforming Church in Rural America

I grew up in a small, rural community in a small, rural church. I’ve served as Pastor of small, rural churches as well. So to see that Pastor Shannon O’Dell had written a book on “breaking all the rurals,” he had my attention. Upon reading his work, I’ve been left uncomfortable and disturbed!

In Transforming Church in Rural America, Shannon actually has the gall to challenge our longstanding traditions such as voting on everything and settling for the status quo. He calls on us to throw away our golden calves and personal preferences in exchange for a rather uncomfortable challenge – the challenge to embrace a vision for actually reaching lost people.

[Read more…]

When Tradition Is Meaningless

I’m currently studying Zechariah, chapter 7 in the course of teaching through the Minor Prophets on Wednesday nights. We’ve been covering these dozen books in leaps and bounds, but sometimes I am forced to slow down and really camp out in a shorter passage of Scripture. Such is the case here. [Read more…]

The Lord Who Heals and the People Who Worship

I must confess, as a Baptist, it took me a rather long time to come to understand the healing nature of God. We Baptists, as Adrian Rogers put it, “believe in miracles, but trust in Jesus.” I still believe this is best. But I also freely admit that in our reaction to the extremism of “healing evangelists” like Binny Hinn and other obvious hucksters and false prophets, that we have a tendency to write off all supposed healings as a mere charade.

Scripture, however, clearly teaches that the Great Physician, through His miraculous touch, heals the bodies of many people. Such was the case for the entire camp of Israelites in the wilderness when they reached the bitter waters of Marah. I’m inclined to believe that these poisonous waters made many of the people quite ill. So God steps into the picture, sweetens the waters, and heals the people. So He reveals to them another title for Himself – Jehovah who heals you.

Fast-forward about fifteen hundred years to Matthew, chapter fifteen. A Gentile woman comes to Jesus and His disciples, begging for a demon to be cast out of her daughter. I am especially moved by her form of worship. First, the text declares that she “cried out to Him, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is demon-possessed.'” Amazingly, “He answered her not a word.” She chases God and He delights in the pursuit. She was apparently persistent for the disciples asked Jesus to dismiss her, saying, “for she cries out after us.”

Jesus continues to stonewall her by explaining that He was sent with Israel as His first priority, so why should He perform miracles for a Gentile woman? His remaining just beyond her reach is really an attempt to lead her on in her pursuit of the Almighty, and of course it works. “Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!'”

Instead of responding to her cry, Jesus argues that He really shouldn’t be casting such great miracles before the dogs of the Gentiles. She wisely continues her pursuit, presenting a responding argument that as a dog, she’ll gladly take the crumbs that fall to her. What a great lesson she teaches us. Our worship must always have a heartfelt ring of “Whatever, whenever, however God, just bless me!” to it. So He gives in and heals her, thrilled at her great and faith-filled pursuit. Oh, for such demanding hunger that argues with God for His blessings!

In the next paragraph, Matthew records for us that multitudes came to Him and were healed, “so the multitude marveled when they say the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.”

Jesus is the Great Physician, the mighty Healer of the children of men. I find it sad how we overlook the miraculous nature of God. We like to bring Him down to our level. “Well, you know I just think that in modern times, He heals through modern medicine…” Yes, He invented all of it and yes, He uses it, but let us never forget to look for the miraculous and to ask, to beg, to plead for His blessing.

I had a conversation a couple of years ago with a good friend who used to sit under my preaching every week, but who had moved to another town, gotten married, and attended a church of a different denomination. He related to me the story of a funeral that he attended. As he watched the mourners pass the casket to pay their last respects, his heart cried out within him, “Why did nobody ask God even once to heal her?”

Our answer, as good traditional Baptists, might be, “Well, it was just her time, it just wasn’t God’s will to heal her.” Though my friend and I may not agree on all things, I support his question. Why do we no think to ask, to beg, to plead with a worshipful heart to the Almighty Healer to perform miracles. I don’t believe He will always heal, for people do get sick and die, but shouldn’t we at least ask Him?

The theological argument that has arisen from this issue relates to the atonement, and whether or not physical healing for all of God’s people was purchased at the cross or not. I think it’s a moot point either way. The cross proves He heals in the ultimate way, spiritually and eternally. Healing didn’t necessarily have to be purchased, in the sense of a financial transaction, by His atoning death. He was already able to heal, but His atoning death was the ultimate picture of the great work of an Almighty Physician to heal the diseases of the spirit, the soul, and the body.

I think we have naturalized God and have forgotten that He’s a God of tremendous power, who is overwhelmed with compassion, and who desires to give unspeakable peace and joy to His children. He is just as alive and well today as He was in the days of Moses and Jesus. As the old song puts it, “He is able to deliver thee!” So ask, pray, beg, be an intercessor, anoint with oil, believe that He will work miracles, but ultimately trust His decisions no matter what.