Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

Having the Right Heart and Attitude

August 29, 2013

Isaiah is almost sarcastic at the beginning of Chapter 58:

Yet day after day they seek me

and delight to know my ways,

as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness

and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;

they ask of me righteous judgments,

they delight to draw near to God.”

I added the italics on “as if.” That phrase reveals the points to come. The people say they seek God, but there is something wrong. Wonder what it is?

“Why do we fast, but you do not see?

Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”

So the people are also asking of God what’s wrong. In our terms they are saying, “We go to church. We donated to the church. Why does it seem that you are against us?”

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,

and oppress all your workers.

Ah, now we have reached the point that God charges against them. Two points really. First, when they “fast” or worship, their attention is not on God. It is on themselves. They fast only to serve their own interests. Then look at the last phrase. We’ll study more on that later. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a spiritual teaching that does not also include a moral teaching–a teaching on the way we treat other people. Those seem to go hand-in-hand.

“What is the greatest commandment?” asked the teacher to the Teacher. Jesus replied with the Shema about worshiping the Lord. Then he said that the second commandment was as important as the first–to love your neighbor as yourself.

These people were thinking of ways to take advantage of people in their community even while worshiping God. This is abhorrent to God, the God who wanted to build a community focused on Him.

When I teach the Spiritual Disciplines, I always begin with the proper attitude. Simply practicing the Disciplines will do you little good. It begins with the right attitude.

Same with leadership. Beware this judgement of Isaiah in your practice of leadership. Take care of your attitude.

Lost That Loving Feeling

August 12, 2013
Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, The Righteous Brothers

Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, The Righteous Brothers

The powerful voices of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, The Righteous Brothers, pound in my brain. “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling, oh-oh-oh, that lovin’ feeling; Baby, you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling and it’s gone, gone, gone.”

Our small group has been reading Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus by Kyle Idleman. In a chapter called Passionate Pursuit, he discusses a concept I haven’t heard for years–acedia. That’s a Latin word usually translated as sloth–one of the “seven deadly sins.”

Like Idleman, I pondered why “sloth” was one of those sins. It just didn’t seem to fit. Then I read the Desert Fathers writings and came across John Climacus (or St. John of the Ladder) who wrote The Ladder of Divine Ascent. This great book from the 7th century describes for the early monastic movement what emotions to overcome on your Divine ascent, and he devotes a lot of space to acedia (uh-see-dee-a).

You have been pursuing something with great passion. Your girl friend / boy friend. Your profession. Your sport. A deeper Spiritual life. You think you cannot live without the object of your pursuit.

Then, something happens. Usually a little at a time other cares start to impinge on your mind, emotions, energy. You don’t seem to care as much. Don’t devote so much time.

Then Bill and Bobby are singing your song–You’ve lost that loving feeling.

Passion is used often these days to describe oneself. Once in an editorial I wrote about being passionate about automation and manufacturing (I still am, by the way). A friend wrote that she is a “passionate communicator.” (and she is). So many people begin something with great passion and then wither–like the seeds scattered on thin soil that Jesus describes that sprout fast and then wither in the sun.

If you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling in your Spiritual quest, there are ways to get it back. You begin by getting back into the Spiritual Disciplines. Read The Bible or a devotional every day. Meditate and Pray every day. Worship and Celebrate with your Jesus-follower friends. Remember why you were first in love. Stir up the embers in the fireplace and add some new kindling. Get the fire roaring again.

Introverts and Extroverts

April 12, 2012

There are two types of people. Well, maybe three. There are people who get energy from being with other people. We call those extroverts. There are people who get energy from being alone. These are called introverts. Then there are people like me, I suppose. On the Myers-Briggs Types Indicator, my scores on that scale come back ambivalent.

But how we are determines how we like to worship. It determines how we work best. But we need a little of both.

A man called Chris Anderson started a conference years ago where he invited people with significant ideas to present short talks (no longer than 20 minutes but most often about 10 minutes) to an audience who paid as much as five figures to the left of the decimal point to listen. He called it the TED Talks conference. It became successful. There are now many of these around the world. He now records them and you can watch for free.

Recently Susan Cain presented on being an introvert in a culture that increasingly rewards (or forces you to be) an extrovert. It is worth a listen.

In our spiritual practice, we need to be aware of our tendency and seek balance. Introverts would tend toward study and meditation. Extroverts tend toward worship, celebration and service. Following the example of Jesus, everyone needs time alone to find God and center themselves. It might be difficult for extroverts, but it is necessary to achieve depth in your celebrations and service. Study and meditation alone will not make you whole. Introverts need to get out and be with people. Learn to celebrate and serve. Just as Jesus often withdrew to be with God in order to serve more, we also need to seek that balance.

The Lord Hates Your Worship

March 14, 2011

How many times have I read that in the Bible? People worshiped. They gathered according to custom. They gave offerings according to their custom. They developed laws to explain how to obey the 10 “Commandments” that sealed the covenant with God. Then they tried to obey those laws.

But God said time after time that the odors of the sacrifices were a stench in His nostrils.

We gather together. We sing. We pray together. We worship according to our customs. What does God think?

Maybe I’m rushed. In a hurry to get there. In a hurry to get somewhere else. Maybe I’m distracted by worries at work. Or worries because I have no work. Or by the woman (or man) across the aisle. Or maybe because the pastor has a flap of his coat pocket accidentally tucked into the pocket.

Maybe God just doesn’t seem real to me today.

Maybe God won’t accept my worship today.

Maybe it’s time to slow down. Take a deep breath. Read a Psalm. Focus on God–and leave all the distractions behind.

Maybe then he’ll honor my worship.