“Gathering with God’s people is not first about being blessed but about being a blessing. It’s not first about getting but about giving. As we prepare to worship on Sunday morning, our first consideration should be ‘how to stir up one another to love and good works.’ We should approach Sunday deliberately, eager to do good to others, to be a blessing to them. In those times we feel our zeal waning, when we feel the temptation to skip out on a Sunday or withdraw altogether, we should consider our God-given responsibility to encourage ‘one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.’ This text is not about us, but about them. This text is not for Christian individuals but Christian communities.”
“It is not easy to convey a sense of wonder,
let alone resurrection wonder, to another.
It’s the very nature of wonder to catch us off guard,
to circumvent expectations and assumptions.
Wonder can’t be packaged, and it can’t be worked up.
It requires some sense of being there and some sense of engagement.”
“But everyone who lined the streets
had a different reason for waving those palms.
Some were political activists;
they’d heard Jesus had supernatural power,
and they wanted him to use it to free Israel from Roman rule.
Others had loved ones who were sick or dying.
They waved branches, hoping for physical healing.
Some were onlookers merely looking for something to do,
while others were genuine followers
who wished Jesus would establish himself as an earthly king.
Jesus was the only one in the parade
who knew why he was going to Jerusalem – to die.
He had a mission, while everyone else had an agenda.”
“Worship is first and foremost for His benefit, not ours,
though it is marvelous to discover that in giving Him pleasure,
we ourselves enter into what can become our richest
and most wholesome experience in life.”
I guess the worst thing about growing up
is that fun and amazement drift into sporadic entertainment
and forced, ritualized behavior.
The glow of vocation slips into the monotony of procedure.
The exhaustion that comes from playing too hard
becomes more effort than it is worth.
Comfort is more yearned for than the experience of reading
or talking away the night.
Joy becomes a matter of observing and reflecting
on the almost grotesquely carefree child.
Christ spoke several times of children and of his attraction to them.
He thought we needed to be like them, in some ways.
I pray I never mistake atrophy of imagination for maturity.
I pray that I never approach Christ so solemnly
and so full of the cynicism of years and doubts
that I find him distracted while I whine to him.
I pray I never see his eyes wander from me
as he searches for a child lost in play.
Number thirty-four in God Is No Fool by Lois Cheney
But I must confess that there are days
when my circumstances don’t seem to lend themselves to worship.
Days when I feel so caught up in my own problems
or so pulled down by my own depression
that entering into worship would almost feel hypocritical.
What am I to do on those days?
On those days I am to worship anyway!
I am to bring the Lord what the Bible calls sacrificial praise:
‘So through Jesus let us always offer to God our sacrifice of praise,
coming from lips that speak His name.’ (Hebrews 13:15)
“Church: if the world could see a snapshot of our worship today,
would they perceive that we believe our God is worthy of praise?”
“Could ‘astonishment’ be a good synonym for worship?”
This question arose in one of my recent God Questions posts.
I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days, and it seems to me that “astonishment” may not actually be a synonym for worship, but I believe it is an important aspect. An aspect that is usually far too lacking.
I remember the very first time we used drums in a worship service. Some people were astonished. Some in a good way. Quite a few in a bad way. They expressed their astonishment in phone calls, letters, and notes on the “silent roll call” cards.
I remember the first time someone had the audacity to serve communion without wearing a tie. Many were astonished that the elders would allow it.
I remember a time when I used the phrase, “come hell or high water” in a sermon. I received a phone call from an astonished church member who couldn’t believe a preacher would use profanity in a sermon.
People have been astonished at the use of dramatic lighting, modern music, video preaching, removing the organ, removing the attendance and offering statistics from the bulletin program, the way the worship leader wears his hair, an awesome guitar solo, and more. Much more.
When was the last time you were astonished in worship?
What caused it?
There have been times during a communion service that I’ve been astonished that God could ever accept me. I know me. I’m sure He does, too. It’s astonishing to me that, in spite of my selfish sinfulness, God made such a horrific sacrifice… for me.
Sometimes, when I look around me on Sunday morning, I’m astonished at lives that are changed through the ministry of my church. God does that. He uses us broken sinners to bring healing and hope to other broken sinners. Astonishing.
I see our worship team, our children’s ministry volunteers, our greeters, and many more servants, and I’m astonished at the number of people in my church who give an astonishing amount of time, energy, talent, and money in serving in the church, and in their community through Whiz Kids, Habitat for Humanity, and elsewhere. Astonished and thankful.
Sadly, I’m also astonished at the people who refuse to see any of that because they’re uncomfortable with the music, or the lighting, or whatever.
I don’t think comfort and astonishment mix very well.
“And all were astonished at the majesty of God.”
What astonishes you?
I think it depends on what you’re looking for.
Next Sunday morning, look for God.