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Building an altar - pt 2

Do you recycle your worship?

Posted by Chris Scott (Senior Leader Bridge Church)

What is a ‘good time’ of worship? Simple question, right? Well not quite. (in fact I am not over keen on this language anyway as worship is a living, dynamic and ongoing walk with God)

I hear people using this language all the time. “We had a ‘good time’ of worship on Friday night!” or “I went to a meeting at ‘so and so’ church and the worship was awesome!!” Now I understand of course what it is to be in a powerful worship environment, whether on my own with God, or in a conference or church meeting, and frequently at the Bridge Church, but I do suspect most people’s assessment of the ‘worship time’ has more to do with how they feel rather than how God feels. How do you measure the quality of worship? Worship is not about us feeling good, although that is a wonderful by-product, but actually it is about us blessing God with the devotion of our heart, soul, body and mind! The question is not ‘how blessed am I’ at the end of a ‘time of worship’ but how blessed is God!

I do suspect most people’s assessment of the ‘worship time’ has more to do with how they feel rather than how God feels. How do you measure the quality of worship?

I want to stay with the scripture we looked at last week but look at it from a completely different perspective. Remember in Joshua 8:20-24 Joshua was told to build an altar to the Lord after defeating Ai and he was given clear instruction to use “uncut and unshaped” stones.

This may have seemed a strange request because, let’s face it, the altar would look much better with dressed and decorated stones, but if we ignore the significance of this we may miss out on a great truth regarding our worship. The altar represents worship, and what we use to build that place of worship in our lives is very important to God and determines whether or not he is blessed. God told Joshua that the altar of worship was to be built with fresh, untouched, uncouth, ‘never used before’ stones. In short, God wanted “virgin” stones!!

God didn’t want ‘recycled materials’ to be used for worship. He didn’t ask for the stones that were used in the previous altar to be brought to this one! The point here is clear, how often do we bring recycled worship and offerings to the Lord? How often do we try and build our altar of worship to God with ‘yesterday’s stones’. God wants life and authenticity in our worship not repetition and duplication. He does not want a photocopy of ‘last weeks’ worship this week!! The problem is we get too comfortable with how our ‘worship stones’ feel and rather than cutting new rock from the quarry, albeit a bit rough and ready, and bringing that to God, we come with a our predicable approach to worship, which looks OK to everyone else and fits nicely into the altar but is devoid of life.

What is your altar of worship made of? God doesn't want ‘recycled materials’ to be used for worship, he .wants fresh worship cut from the quarry of your heart!

What is your altar of worship made of? God doesn't want ‘recycled materials’ to be used for worship, he .wants fresh worship cut from the quarry of your heart!

It is all too easy to come to church and go through the motions, bringing nothing new and nothing real to the altar. It may all look good on the outside; we lift our hands, we close our eyes, we sing the songs but all we really do, is all we have ever done!! There is nothing fresh, nothing untouched by human hands. Our approach to worship, particularly in church, can become casual and safe. We regurgitate the same old attitudes, motives and expectations in our worship and then wonder why “I didn’t get anything out of the worship today....I guess the worship band were just not anointed enough!!”

Let me tell you it has little to do with them and everything to do with you!!!

Worship is not dependant on the band!! Worship is not dependant on the songs!! Worship is not dependent on the equipment or the venue!!...worship is dependent on what we bring to the altar. Psalm 100 clearly says we “enter gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” It’s what we bring that counts!! If we bring our recycled “always done it this way” attitude then although it may well look like a great altar of worship we will not have touched the heart of God!!

This is why two people can come out of a meeting completely different. One leaves having had an amazing encounter with the living God but the other leaves negative and unchanged by the whole experience. Maybe it has more to do with what was brought to the altar than what was hoped to be taken from it.

This is also why when something goes wrong with our equipment, or the programme on a Sunday morning, it does not mess up Gods plans!! In fact, how often when things have been stripped down to bare minimum, have we felt a more powerful sense of Gods presence in the meeting? Let me make this clear, it is not because we have stripped things down that God is any more blessed then when everything is full on……no, it is simply because we become aware of the need to bring something different to God, something that is not dependant on the normal scaffolding of a band or worship leader, and God is blessed because its uncut stone!! Therefore there is no reason why we should not experience the same sense of Gods presence every week…because it depends on what we bring!

David understood this so well. When he returned to Jerusalem with the Ark of the Covenant the Bible declares that he “wore linen ephod and danced before the LORD with all his might” (2 Sam 6:14). You can almost hear the sound of jaws dropping and the gasps of surprise as the people watch their mighty king prancing around in the “altogether”. This was not how worship was done!! He broke with normal convention and offered something completely new to God. In fact it looked so out of place and fresh that his wife Michal despised him because she thought it made him look like a fool! But David understood that he needed to bring fresh stones to the altar! It simply wasn’t good enough for him to offer what had always been offered in the past. He declares to Michal “I danced before the Lord not men.... I will become even more undignified than this” This ushered in what is known as the ‘Tabernacle of David’ a 40 year period in Israel’s history where the worship life of a nation was transformed into something vibrant, accessible, passionate, 24/7, exuberant and joyful.

Finally, God required stones that have not been “shaped by human tools.” Don’t let your worship be defined and therefore limited by other people, by the past, or by what you have always been comfortable with. Some people cannot worship outside of a style or form they are comfortable with…how sad is that! I have a preferred style of music as we all do, but my worship must not be limited to it, or by it. Last year Usha and I spent a few days in Cambridge and were able to go to the Choral Service at King College one evening. Now this is not my preferred style of meeting at all, but I could still sense the presence of God there and worship him who transcends every style and preference! God is not anymore or any less blessed by a Hillsongs song than he is an old hymn. Both can be offered in a right way or a wrong way…God is looking at how you bring it!!

So!! How will you and I approach worship, Sunday mornings in particular? Are we happy to come with nothing new to offer God, churning out the same old stuff? Do we assess the quality of the meeting by the ‘warm fuzzies’ that we feel, or by the how much we have given of ourselves to God as we honour him by letting his Spirit reign in our life?

Are we content with being comfortable and familiar stones in the altar? Altars are not intended comfortable places, and they are not for the benefit of the one bringing the offering but the one receiving it!! Do we need to feel comfortable and ‘looked after’ before we worship? So what if the building is a bit too hot, too cold or draughty. Sso what if the band hit a bum note or two or don’t play your favourite tune. So what if the projector blows or Guest Central runs out of sugar or biscuits!!...should that really determine our approach to worship or how we feel about our worship experience? Of course we try to make sure all this doesn’t happen…..but if it does, how will you respond? Sit back and sit out, go through the motions, and then complain about how “they just didn’t get it right this morning.” Or, will you respond by bringing something unused from deep within yourself that will honour and bless our God.

This week bring something new to worship! It may be as simple as just turning up early to pray or prepare, or even to help out the workers. It may be lifting your hands for the first time, giving a word, praying out loud, dancing or jumping. It may not be as tangible as that, maybe you just need to leave your apathy or your despair at home and come with a more positive attitude and expectation……..whatever it is, bring some new rock to the party!!!

The result if all this is that maybe, just maybe, one Sunday morning God will turn to one of his angels and say “now that’s what I call a good time of worship”

Be blessed


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