Why Worship…? Part 1

… In Hard Times.

When we think of worship, different traditions will have a different idea of what that word means. Worship to ultra-traditionalists may involve a series of rituals and citations that represents God’s holiness versus our uncleanliness. At the other end of the spectrum, to some ultra-charismatics, worship is singing and dancing with abandoned passion that celebrates God’s grace to us.

But worship is more than all of that. It’s how we devote ourselves to God throughout our life. If worship was just how we honour God when we come together but not when we are on our own, then when things, inevitably, get tricky in our lives, we don’t feel that our God is near. We feel utterly alone. The bible is clear that worship isn’t what we do in our church services. During our services, we may express our worship to God, corporately, in many different ways. But these are just expressions of our worship. Worship is our way of life. Our devotion, not just for 90 minutes each week, but 10,080 minutes each week.

It’s important to understand what worship is and isn’t in order to explore the reasons why we worship. And to challenge ourselves – Am I worshipping when I am not being watched? Or is it a mask that I wear?

In this this part, I want to look at the most difficult time to worship – When we are going through hard times!

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Fear and anxiety can be crippling for some people. No one is prepared for suffering. We try to avoid it, if possible. Especially in the West, where were are free to practice religion without fear of persecution. But Jesus was very clear when he said to his disciples “pick up your cross and follow me!”

The phrase “we’ve all got a cross to bear” misleads readers on this issue. We, in our comfortable lives, relatively speaking, think that life comes with certain burdens, responsibilities, that we must tolerate and deal with, but ultimately God makes everything fine if we believe it. It is a fallacy. Unfortunately, preachers have and continue to mislead Christians with this way of thinking.

The truth is, Jesus was not being metaphorical. He was warning his disciples to expect hardship and suffering as Christians. Some of us will, and do!, die because of our faith. So, if we are to expect suffering, then why does it surprise us and casts anxiety when it comes? The idea that Christians don’t go through hard times is foolish and immature. And it is often a reason that people stop coming to church – or refuse to try coming to church. That somehow they aren’t sorted enough to come to church. Or, that they thought that becoming a Christian would erase all their problems. People blame the Church for their difficulties. Some times the blame is due, but in all cases there is a really simple solution. Worship the Lord!

Paul, to the Philippians, says that we should bring all of our requests to God, in “thanksgiving”. How do I do that? How do I praise God in the hard times? What does that do?

Paul raises three points about how we are to face hardship, here.

1) be open and honest to God about what you are going through: In everything by prayer and supplication.

2) Praise God, regardless: with thanksgiving

3) Be specific with what you are asking: let your requests be made known.

A mistake that Christians make is we believe that we have to be happy when we worship God. We can’t approach him if we are sad. Utter nonsense! Jesus did not hide himself when he was suffering. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, knowing what was to come, cried before the Father. Pleaded that “the cup should pass” from him – but he worshipped nonetheless “your will be done”! What followed was brutal suffering – suffering that few people in the history of Mankind has every experience. But Jesus stayed close to God and was devoted to see the will of His Father be done. God knows our hearts, He knows what we are going through. David writes in Psalm 139 “Lord, you have examined me and know all about me”. You can’t wear a mask, where God is concerned. But He calls us to worship regardless. Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).

Another mistake we make, when we are going through hard times, is thinking that God has forsaken us. That He is not with us and we are on our own. There is so much scripture to refute this thinking! Here is just a few:

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:9-10

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

Finally, God doesn’t promise an easy life. He doesn’t promise that life on earth will be a stress free, painless, paradise. On the contrary, as we have seen. But he does promise “peace… [that] surpasses all understanding.” He also promises:

  • to be “a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9)
  • that there will come a day when all pain and struggle will end (1 Peter 5:10)
  • but until that day, if we press into Him, he will instruct and guide us (Psalm 32:8)

So keep worshipping the Lord! Seek Him, read scripture, sing songs and honour Him. Remember that hard times are temporary. But, we can face hardship with God’s peace and protection. He is with us!

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The Church is One Body: Part 2

In the first part of The Church is One Body, I concentrated on three parts which focused on God. God is at the centre of everything the Church should be about. Everything flows from God and our hearts our delighted in Him. The Word of God should be what informs all aspects of Church, from direction and vision to growth and evangelising. And finally, the Church should be a reflection of Jesus, that when people look at the Church they identify Jesus in it.

In this second part, I will focus on the body having hands, legs, a digestive system and reproductive organs.

Hands

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

Hands are a useful part of the body. Human hands, especially. When it comes to work, most people rely on their hands, whether that be for labour, cooking, typing, surgery, playing music, writing and many other tasks. Not many of us appreciate how valuable our hands are. Indeed, for people without hands, I think it is fair to say that doing, even simple, tasks can be a real struggle.

In the body of Christ, the hands are represented by the Church’s activeness. Paul’s call, in 1 Corinthians, wasn’t to the staff team in a church but to every member that make up the church. We are all called to give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord.

Now, we know that we are not all called to be pastors or teachers or church administrators. But we are all called to go and make disciples, followers of Jesus (see Matthew 28:16-20). We are all called to love our neighbour (Matthew 22:39). We are all called to serve the poor (Matthew 19:21). We are all called to honour our bosses at work (Ephesians 6:4-6). When a church is not active in these areas, they struggle. They struggle to be affective for Christ. They struggle to grow. But when a church is active in these areas, then they become fruitful and prosper.

Legs

“And each went straight forward; wherever the Spirit was about to go, they would go, without turning as they went.” Ezekiel 1:12

There is so much to say about the Church having legs. Paul urges several churches to keep ‘running the race’, persevering in times of trouble, pressing on towards a higher and eternal destination. The Church should always be pressing on. We know that we are living in victory but there is still a day to come when all things will be made perfect. Unfortunately, many churches are sitting tight, waiting for the day to come. But the Church is not designed to do that. Just like any body is designed to do, the Church must be on the move. But we move with intention.

The Church is invited to be on a journey with God. This is a real privilege for every Christian. As Rick Warren says “God is at work in the world, and He wants you to join Him”*. The verse above, in Ezekiel, is from a vision that Ezekiel has of heavenly creatures who follow the Spirit wherever He goes. These creatures know the glory of the Lord. They dwell with God and see him in ALL His glory. We only get a partial glimpse, until the day that God completes His work. That does not mean that we don’t do the same, however, going to where the Spirit goes. But we pursue to see what the Heavenly creatures sees. And we are invited to do just that. Who wouldn’t want to see more of the Glory of God!?

If a church wants to see more and more the glory of God, and see all that He is able to do through the Church, then it must be on the move. Always moving forward, not turning this way or that or backwards (see Phil 3:13, Prov 4:27, Luke 9:62).

*http://www1.cbn.com/churchandministry/evangelism-made-for-a-mission

Digestive System

“Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.” Jeremiah 3:15

Every body has to be fed, if it is to remain alive. But when we eat food that food needs breaking down. The blood has to absorb the nutrients from food and the waste disposed of. When bad food is eaten, the body rejects it and the person is sick. Good, wholesome foods make a body strong but junk food causes weakness and disease.

This is no different with the body of Christ. In Matthew 4:4 we read that “Man cannot live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” The Church must be fed. Fed on the Word. But it is not just knowledge that the church needs but understanding also.

Churches that are spiritually dead are receiving food that has more waste than nutrients. The size of a churches congregation is not always reflective of how alive a church is, spiritually speaking. There are many sermons given in church that has little or no nutritional value, and worse, they are being fed bad food that causes the body to be weak and sick.

But churches where the pastors are feeding the flock with nutritional food, the bible – the whole bible, not just the bits that taste sweet – are being strengthened. A church who’s members absorb the word of God and seek to understand what they are taught, are able to discern what is good and holy and what will cause sickness. A church with a good digestive system is able to move forward, labour for the Lord, thirst after the knowledge and understand, reflect the glory of Jesus and delight in the Lord, from whom everything flows.

Reproductive Organs

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.”

Acts 9:31

When I was thinking about the different parts of a body that I should suggest the Church should have, my Englishness thought “oh, gosh! Where will this be taken!” But the truth is, reproduction is an essential part of life. All life forms have the ability to reproduce. If it doesn’t then it is not alive. Therefore, it’s important to talk about this when it comes to the body of Christ.

Churches must multiply. It is quite easy for churches to think that having 100 people in it is a nice size church and that they are all doing so well because they are consistent in attendance, etc etc. But unless that church of 100 people is in an area that has only 100 residents and the nearest settlement is 100% catered for, then that church is not in a healthy situation.

I live in a town that is made up of two large villages. The approximate population is 20,000 residents. There is not a single building, that can host 20,000 people in it. Therefore, there has to be a multitude of churches that work together to cater all those who God is calling to worship Him (which is everyone!). And even then, there still are not enough churches or services that exist at the moment. But what there is must not become all that is needed.

If a church wants to plant churches or have multiple services, there must never be an attitude of “well, we don’t have enough people, we already cater for all our congregation”. That is the mark of a church without a reproductive system, a church that will die out.

Every member of the Church, as I have already mentioned, are called to extend the Kingdom and make disciples for Jesus. Children bear children.

***

So we, Christians, form one body – the body of Christ. We all have our part to play. But as a Church we are all one body. A body that places God at the centre of our being, who reflects the glory of Jesus. A body that recieves all direction, vision, nutrition and growth from the Word of God. A body that is active in labour and moves forward to where the Spirit goes. A body that is feeding from the Word and absorbs good and holy teaching. A body who multiplies and increases bringing more of the Kingdom into the world.