Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Jonathan Edwards

When God created Adam and Eve, he created them with bodies to move, minds to think, and hearts to feel. Your body, intellect, and emotion make up who you are as a person, and God wants all of you involved in life with him.

Having confirmed that the Colossians were risen with Christ Paul told them, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2). This focus of emotion and their intellect on heavenly things would have an impact on the actions of the body. Specifically, sexual immorality, slander, and lying would be put to death.

A little later in that passage, Paul instructed the Colossians that their singing involving the body, should teach and admonish engaging the mind; all the while, expressing gratitude in the heart (Colossians 3:15-16). Paul told the Corinthians who seemed quite happy to engage the spirit as they spoke in languages that no one present understood, that they would do better for themselves and others if they would pray and sing (bodily functions) with both mind and spirit – intellect and emotion (1 Corinthians 14:13-17).

John Ortberg and Pam Howell wrote about Scarecrow Worship (worship without a brain) and Tin Man Worship (worship without a heart) in the article "Can You Engage Both Heart and Mind?" [Leadership (4-1-99)].

If we lean, as a group, toward one of these kinds of worship, it is toward the Tin Man Worship. We do lean. And, it’s important to note that we don’t lean toward a worship disengaged from emotion because we can demonstrate from scripture that it is supposed to be that way. We lean that way because of our church history. Those through whom we trace our spiritual background did what we do; but not all the way back to the first century. God has called us to engage the heart.

Jonathan Edwards wrote in his Religious Affections, “That religion which God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull, and lifeless wouldlings raising us but a little above a state of indifference.” Wouldlings is a word coined by Edwards to refer to weak drives to do those things which a Christian has said he “would” do. Weak inclinations are to be replaced with a fervent spirit. So he continued, “God, in his Word, greatly insists upon it that we be in good earnest, fervent in spirit, and our hearts vigorously engaged in religion: ‘Be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord’ (Romans 12:11).”

It’s time for us to create a better balance of worship. We have excelled in worship with mind and body. Let’s now excel in worship with mind, body, and spirit. That’s all of who you are! That’s Life at Work!

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Heart of Worship

Sunday morning I'm starting the series "Back to the Heart of Worship." I wrote this article for our bulletin as prep for that series and Sunday's sermon.

I'm coming back to the heart of worship,

And it's all about you;

It's all about you, Jesus.

I'm sorry, Lord for the thing I've made it.

It's all about you;

It's all about your, Jesus

(Michael W. Smith- "Heart of Worship")

    It's easy to see the loss of proper focus in the Israelites as they made idols for themselves at the foot of Sinai. The idol was their focus. It's easy to see the loss of focus in the people of Judah as they quit just long enough to offer their sacrifices at the temple. The temple was their focus.

    It's pretty easy to see the misplaced focus of the Corinthians, too. Some of them gathered early, without the rest, to eat the Lord's Supper. They ate to their fill, they drank to excess, and they despised the poor. Their focus was on their little group.

     Others focused on themselves. Worship was a talent show. It was a contest for bragging rights. It was a time for self-promotion, putting down the others, interruption when necessary, and disruption for the sake of being noticed. Their common Lord was insignificant. Greatest gifts – now that's a topic of interest.

    Graven images would be quickly noticed and punted around here.

    But for the rest of the misplaced focuses aforementioned, there is call for caution for us. There are a few of us who will steal, murder, commit adultery – or commit our "lesser" sins – throughout the week believing that our time in the building appeases our righteous God. That's not a perfect parallel to Judah's total miss of the heart worship, but it's close enough.

    I don't hear anybody among us arguing that their talent for singing is more important than another person's talent for publicly praying; but that doesn't mean that there are none of us who focus on ourselves or on our own little group of friends rather than focusing on the Spirit, the Lord, and God (1 Cor. 12:4-6). Those who give more can think less of those who give less; and vice versa. Those who have been around forever can believe that they are more important because of their tenure. Those with more public roles can believe that their work is more significant.

    Let's get back to the heart of worship. God wants his will for worship to become our will for worship. That's Life at Work!