And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Friday, January 30, 2009

What Worship Do You Offer

What worship do you offer?

As our church has been reading through the Bible in a year, I find myself pondering the minute details of scripture. A pattern emerges to my sight of the constraints of worship. This then coincides with a common wondering of my heart as to why the church lacks power today. Maybe its because we don’t worship properly? Worship is to be done through all our acts as unto the Lord, but that communion with God we call “the worship service” is seemingly more about us than God.

Today I was prompted to look at the story of Cain and Able worshiping God. It is found in Genesis 4: 1-7. In the past I had had it explained to me that the problem was that one offered vegetables and the other blood. This has a connotation to it, but as I looked at the text I saw that God reveal to us some evidence that it wasn’t the sacrifice itself that was rejected, but the offerer.

Both men offered what came from their livelihood. And we know in the later chapters of the Bible that there are offerings of first fruits. These being acceptable. However, blood was required for the sin offering. All offering were a foreshadowing of the Christ who was to come. But here they are different in these regards. It says Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground, a simple portion of what he had. Able however brought the firstborn, he brought the best and the first. Think of it, here is the first of what he got from his hard labors. And he chose to give it to God. I wonder what joy he had in his heart of thankfulness and awe of God that made it better to give unto God this treasure than to keep it for himself. He did not sniff at the things of God, nor did he sniff at God. He wanted the best possible offering for His Lord.

We see evidence of what God saw in the next few verses. God had regard for Able and his offering. Wow, when was the last time that I could say that God was truly pleased with what I offered Him. That would incorporate my offering, my attitude in giving it, my attitude afterwards, my heart, my soul, my mind, my strength, my whole self. How do I know by the evidence of God and not man made fabrication that my worship was acceptable to God?

We see that God had no regard for Cain. Cain saw it too. He did not seek God in this failure, he simply got angry, his face fell, and eventually it festered, even after God warning him, into murder.

God gives us and Cain a clue. “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” So somewhere it was not about what was offered, but the heart with which it was offered. Notice again it was simply fruits of the ground. The text does make distinction between the two offerings. Cain’s seems to simply be just whatever he had on hand. It wasn’t special. It was not reflective of who God is, but rather a expression of how he regarded God. We need to pay special attention to this in our own lives.

This of course prompts me to think through aspects of worship and my heart.

• How do we treat worship of God, not just our tithe?
• In worship, or Bible study, do you expect to meet with God?
• Do we take special care to have our hearts enamored with God before the worship time?
• Why am I even at church? Is it my job or my treasure to serve God?
• Why do I sing the chosen songs? Have I looked to see if they are focused on me and my abilities or upon the majesty of God?
• Must I always sing happy songs, or am I brought low as the Psalmist is by the recognition of unworthiness and despair?
• In worship do I look to be entertained?
• Do I disdain parts of worship because they do not appeal to me?
• Am I more concerned about who is there or about if God is there?
• Have I taken time the night before to cleanse my heart in repentance?
• Do I live during the week with my self preservation in mind or knowing that I will face God on Sunday?
• Am I even thrilled to be in God’s house?
• Do I dress as if God matters, or am I comfortable to head to my next “adventure” afterwards?
• What are the plans for my day before and afterwards? Do they incorporate a reflection and commitment as to whatever God may bring to us that day?
• Am I only concerned with worship on Sunday, or do I look to abide soli Deo Gloria all week?
• Do I look to rest in God? Is it Sunday or a Sabbath? Is it a break in my time before doing other things or is worship what I have longed for all week?
• Am I growing? Do I find God more awesome every week, yes every week?
• Am I giving of myself? What sins are fleeting away?
• Is scripture a beheld treasure of mind and heart?
• Is it all about God?
• Have I met with God? Not a pastor or friends, but have I met God?
• Emotional work up or worship in Spirit and in truth?
• Intellectual framework of theological exercises, or passionate love of God that shows emotions in spirit and in truth?
• Morality and law or Grace and covenant?
• Do I cherish the covenant?
• Do I cherish my baptism?
• Do I long for the Table of the Lord?
• How do I handle criticism of others?
• Have I loved my enemy?
• Where have my eyes been?
• Has my mind been renewed to the glories of God?
• Has my life this week been God and….?
• How have I regarded others? Do I celebrate when they excel me?
• Have I come to Him as a little child?
• Am I trusting in riches?
• Is anyone in need and I turned them down?
• Do I give others partially what they need, holding back for myself.
• Have I celebrated the cross by sharing Christ this week with someone?
• What has entertained me?
• Have I made the most of my time or put God off?
• Am I ever aware that the days are evil and that I must abide in Christ seeking wisdom to overcome it all?
• Do I know the will of the Lord or am I often baffled?
• What am I drunk with? It may not be wine but whining. It may be home improvement projects. It may be my stock portfolio. Maybe its success or being the best.
• Am I filled with the Spirit? How often, how deep?
• How deep is my understanding of the scriptures? How long has it been this way? When was the last time I had a spiritual growth spurt?
• Do I greet others with Psalms, Hymns, Spiritual songs? Do I gossip and complain?
• Do I come to the alter and know that I need to make things right with a person?
• How did I treat my wife this week? Did I love her as Christ loves the Church?
• How did I myself submit to authority this week? Did disdain them? Did I slander? Did I speed past posted speed limits or break other “minor” laws?
Did I pass the test of abiding in Christ according to the sermon that was preached the week before?
• Have I loved God so much that I have trained up my children this past week, or ever? In my rising up and lying down, in the path that I go am I taking my children to the depths and heights of knowing God?
• Have I lied or bore false witness?
• How is my regard for the name of God? It is Holy unto me?
• Do I have a low view of sin?

Now this list is certainly not exhaustive. Nor is it to be a legalistic mold of laws for us to be conformed to. True it’s a list of things that need to be in our lives, but the heart, the substance of who we are must change by God first. Here we find grace. Let us live by the grace of God and offer acceptable worship from the heart in Spirit and in truth.

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