Category Archives: Worship as Lifestyle
Have you ever shot a flare into the night sky that burst into the bright lettering, “I’m Exhausted”? I’m guessing you probably have—and I’m also willing to wager that if you look out your bedroom window tonight you’ll see my flare burning brightly against the evening stars.
This year started in a most tumultuous way with floods, cyclones and earthquakes. Our family was not directly affected by these extraordinary run of events, however it did feel like our year commenced with the bass player and drummer not playing the same groove. Add to this the exertion of completing and submitting a doctoral thesis and the result is “I’m Exhausted!”
Relatively speaking I understand that I exist in a world of luxury compared to world standards. I don’t have to line up in queues to receive my single meal of the day or walk seven kilometers to obtain unclean water to drink. Nevertheless I currently feel like I have done ten rounds with a heavy-weight boxer who has seen no reason to be merciful on my bantamweight frame.
Actually I can really relate to the story of Elijah when he flees Jezebel (1 Kings 19:1-18). Elijah had just been a key player in revealing God’s awesome power to Ahab (1 Kings 18) and in doing so found that he was physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted. You’ll be happy to know that I have not slain any prophets of Baal in recent months, but the final stages of the doctoral submission process have left me seeking the quiet solitude and shade of a Coolabah tree:
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And be hold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” (1 Kings 19:4-5)
Exhausted, Elijah lays down and goes to sleep. In stark contrast to much of the modern ‘faith teachings’ that circulate today Elijah is at the end of himself and simply unable to administer any ‘up-and-at-em’ attitude to his current state; so much so he falls asleep. Notice that it is while he rests that God ministers to him by sending his angel. Mathews writes,
The angel of the Lord strengthened him with food, and he journeyed forty days and nights to a cave at Mount Horeb. It was upon the same Mount Horeb, another name for Mount Sinai, that the Lord had revealed Himself to Moses (see Exod. 3; 19). Elijah complained that the Israelites had abandoned God and that he was the last prophet of the Lord. But Elijah was mistaken. God brought in succession a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire to ravage the mountain. But the prophet did not hear God in these events. Instead, Elijah heard the Lord in a small whisper. By this the prophet learned that sometimes God works in quiet ways. (p. 143)
When we are at the end of ourselves we can lose perspective. Elijah had lost perspective, believing that he was the only prophet left; but God graciously corrected him. Not only did the Lord reveal the existence of seven thousand other prophets (physical assurance), He revealed Himself (spiritual assurance). God knows what we need and when we need it; even if we are incapable of seeking or requesting it for ourselves.
Exhausted? Find yourself a tree and allow the God of Elijah to minister to you…you’ll be in good company; I’ve already pulled up my tuft of grass and lay down.
Mathews, K. A. (1998). The Historical Books. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary: Simple, straightforward commentary on every book of the Bible (D. S. Dockery, Ed.) (143). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
For some time I have been troubled by my ‘well developed’ orientation of self in the arena of worship. This stance of self has been brought about firstly by original sin, but is fuelled by modern culture which unashamedly embraces the notion that the individual, me, is the most important person in the world. I constantly, to my shame, succumb to my own egocentric desires for self gratification in worship – more regularly than I would like to admit. To this end I suspect most of us are like the rest of us…in a constant battle to maintain a God focus in our worship/lives while “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5, ESV).
We know about the ‘worship wars’ that rage in the modern western church today, but do we take time to consider the impact of this war on civilians – average church going folk like you and me? The battle is often fought on the ground of ideology, but the impact is observable in the lives of Christians practically.
Worship practices that only evoke good feelings and thereby foster a character that seeks instant gratification might be enormously successful at first, but the costs, though not immediately obvious, may be high. The very methods that attract crowds might also prevent the development of habits of reflection and learning. A focus on self and feelings limits the nurturing of a godly and outreaching character. (Dawn, 1995, p. 111)
Now before you jump to the defence of contemporary church liturgy or alternatively, haughtily thank God that he has not made you like other men (Lk 18:11), i.e. Pentecostal; consider that the same heart attitude that causes one man to over indulge in his own emotional experience also leads another man to lean on his own understanding – revelling in his mental aptitude towards the ‘more weightier’ things of God. Both position themselves as self first, God second.
We cannot assume we know how to approach God…If we assume that we know how to approach God, then our own preferences, predilections, and cultural biases will be major sources from which we draw when we ask the question, ‘How should God be worshiped?’ (Lawrence & Dever, 2009, p. 232)
If only we had to engage in this skirmish 1-2hrs a week on Sunday morning! No. The conflict continues, or should continue, into our everyday life; at work rest and play. Kent Hughes (2002) in Carson’s Worship by the Book states, “Under the new covenant Christians are thus to worship all the time – in their individual lives, family lives, and when they come together for corporate worship. Corporate worship, then, is a particular expression of a life of perpetual worship” (p. 140).
Essentially…and it is good to be reminded, “Worship is not about us” (Kimball, 2004, p. 228). Carson (2002) orientates us in our expression of a life in worship to God. He writes, “We should not begin by asking whether or not we enjoy ‘worship’ [emphasis in original], but by asking, ‘What is it that God expects of us?’ That will frame our proper response” (p. 29). Whether you engage in emotive worship (contemporary) or cerebral worship (traditional), or even if you believe you have struck the perfect balance of both, our focus should not be centred on Christ as if we are the point from which to orientate; moreover our worship should be found in “Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live” (1 Cor 8:6, NIV).
Carson, D. A. (2002). Worship under the word. In D. A. Carson (Ed.), Worship by the book (pp. 11–63). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Dawn, M. J. (1995). Reaching out without dumbing down: A theology for worship for this urgent time. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Hughes, R. K. (2002). Free church worship. In D. A. Carson (Ed.), Worship by the book (pp. 136–192). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Keller, T. J. (2002). Reformed worship in the global city. In D. A. Carson (Ed.), Worship by the book (pp. 193–249). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Kimball, D. (2004). Emerging worship: Creating worship gatherings for new generations. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Lawrence, M., & Dever, M. (2009). Blended worship. In J. M. Pinson (Ed.), Perspectives on christian worship: 5 views (pp. 218–268). Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers.
Muehlenberg, B. (2008). On christian leadership failures. CutureWatch. Retrieved from http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/08/23/on-christian-leadership-failures/