Numbers 14 records a sad day in the life of the people of Israel. God judged them for their unbelief after hearing the spies’ report of the Promised Land. God says that for every day the spies explored, the people would wander in the desert. Joshua and Caleb would be the only ones able to go into the promised land.
The judgment of God is bad enough. But then the people decide that to demonstrate their repentance by taking matters into their own hands: “Here we are. We will go up to the place that the LORD has promised, for we have sinned.”
Repentance is a good thing to do when you’ve been confronted by God. But they presumed that God would bless their efforts. “But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed out of the camp. “ (Numbers 14:44)
The results? “Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them and pursued them, even to Hormah.” (Numbers 14:45)
How frequently this happens in church. Instead of seeking God’s guidance in decision-making, oftentimes we make a hasty decision and ask God to bless our plans.
Even our repentance is to be according to God’s leading. I recently heard of a pastor who confessed a private sin from the pulpit and went into way too much detail. Several people were deeply hurt by the confession of his sin — one in which they were not personally involved. In an effort to obey James’ instruction to confess our sins to each other in order that we be healed (James 5:16), he wounded other people. Even in repenting from sin, we must not presume that God will bless our plans to “make things right”.
Application: Is there a decision you need to make or a sin you need to make right? Proceed with caution.
A couple of weeks ago, I was blessed to serve on the ministry team on one of Fellowship of the Sword‘s Quest. One morning, I gave a quick overview of the postures of worship from the Old Testament. Even though it’s a Christian event, we don’t talk about where we go to church — it helps to keep out debates about our differences, in order to capitalize on our similarities. Too often, we are know by our denomination (i.e., a math term for “division”) rather than our love (John 13:35). But I digress.
As I later reflected on this brief teaching, I was struck by an arresting thought … which I’ll get to in a moment.
Think about the last time you went to a concert or sporting event (or watched one on TV). What did you see?
I saw people reaching out to the performer as he walked across the stage. I heard lots of shouting and singing while the band played musical instruments. Backup singers swayed to the music. Dancers danced. Fans threw their hands up in the air when their team scored the winning touchdown. Lots of smiling. Lots of laughing. Lots of fun!
Regardless of their favorite sport or type of music — regardless of their favorite team, band, or artist — everyone at the event responds with spontaneous outward expressions of excitement.
The only times people don’t show their excitement at these events are:
1.When there’s nothing to get excited about. I remember when I wasn’t a Tarheels fan and they went into a “Four Corners” stall (in the days before the shot clock). Who wants to see five guys toss the ball to each other, with no intention of taking a shot? There’s nothing exciting about that!
2. When people don’t have “skin in the game”. For instance, I find it difficult to get excited about hockey. The same for baseball. I might go if someone I cared about was taking me. But I wouldn’t be there for the event. However, put me in an arena watching the ‘Heels play basketball… well, that’s another story!
Now think about the last time you were in church. What did you see? For some of us, it’s been a long time. But again, I digress.
I saw people sitting when they were supposed to, standing when they were supposed to, and singing when they were supposed to. No spontaneous outward expressions of excitement.
I get the fact that each of our divisions, er… denominations have different customs. Some sit. Some stand. Some kneel. But how often are there spontaneous outward expressions of excitement in our churches?
Perhaps the reason why there are no spontaneous outward expressions of excitement in church is that there is nothing to get excited about. Predictable order of things. Predictable music. Predictable preaching. In a word, it’s predictable.
Or, perhaps there is something to get excited about, but we don’t experience spontaneous outward expressions because we don’t have “skin in the game”.
The bottom line is this: our spontaneous outward expressions of excitement reveal the value we place on what we are doing. They reveal the state of its worth. “Worth-ship” is the basis of the word, “worship”.
Now to my arresting thought:
How dare we give less to an Almighty, All-Sufficient, All-Sovereign, All-Satisfying God?
So how do you worship?
If you don’t already get Os Hillman’s email devotionals, subscribe you need to. This one just arrived in my email box.
“Then the angel of the LORD ordered Gad to tell David to go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. So David went up in obedience to the word that Gad had spoken in the name of the LORD” (1 Chron 21:18-19).
In 1857, an American businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier was sent out by his local church to begin a noon-day prayer meeting on Fulton Street, right around the corner from Wall Street in New York City. A simple prayer, a willing heart, and an act of obedience resulted in city transformation throughout the United States.
However, at that very first meeting, no one showed up in the first 35 minutes. But Jeremiah waited. Gradually, six people wandered into the room at 35 minutes past the hour. Six months later, 10,000 people were meeting for prayer throughout New York City. This led to one of the greatest spiritual renewals in the United State’s history.
What would have happened if Lanphier had decided to abandon the idea after 30 minutes?
In a small, darkened room, in the back of one of New York City’s lesser churches, a man prayed alone. His request of God was simple, but earth-shattering: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” He was a man approaching midlife, without a wife or family, but he had financial means. He had made a decision to reject the “success syndrome” that drove the city’s businessmen and bankers. God used this businessman to turn New York City’s commercial empire on its head. He began a businessmen’s prayer meeting on September 23, 1857.
The meetings began slowly, but within a few months 20 noonday meetings were convening daily throughout the city. Thousands met to pray because one man stepped out. This was an extraordinary move of God through one man.*
It only takes one man or woman who is willing to be obedient to be used by God to impact a workplace, city, or even an entire nation. Simple obedience can lead to things you cannot imagine. Are you willing to be used by God?
*John Woodbridge, More than Conquerors: Portraits of Believers from All Walks of Life (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), p. 337.
A friend posted this blog. He makes a great point about worship.
Unfortunately, many (most?) in the church miss the point that worship is the key. It’s isn’t just something that you do at the start of a church service to prepare you to hear a sermon.
Worship is the starting and ending point.
It IS the church service.
Our vision is far too limited. All too often, we think that our purpose is to evangelize … or to grow our church larger … or to defend the Bible … or to fight a moral issue … or to ___ (fill in the blank).
Worship is Key.
Worship is key to building the Kingdom. And it’s all about building the Kingdom. Yes, evangelism, church growth, defending doctrines, and fighting moral issues can be parts of building the Kingdom. But evangelism, church growth defending doctrines, and fighting moral issues are not, in and of themselves, building the Kingdom of God.
It’s all about building the Kingdom. And worship is key. Building the Kingdom of God flows out of worship.
Worship isn’t part of building the Kingdom of God. Worship is key to building the Kingdom of God.