“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
It took me totally by surprise. I’m used to billboards advertising churches – “Come worship with us!” But this one was different. The church name was displayed prominently at the top (not so unusual) but at the bottom, in big bold letters were the words “Voted Best Place to Worship 2022.” That was a new one.
So I wondered: voted by who? Their own members? Isn’t there a Bible passage about that? Something along the lines of “people who measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves are not wise” (of course there is – 2 Corinthians 10:12). Might there be a cadre of people whose job it is to visit houses of worship to see which is best? (I’m new to the area so maybe that’s a thing here.) What were the criteria for making this judgment?
We need to be careful with this. Worship is all about the exaltation of God. When God’s people live holy lives, then gather to praise God, listen to God, talk to God, and remember what God has done for them (which leads back to praise), that’s worship. It’s not about “place.” Through all this, I may be encouraged, renewed, motivated and instructed, but worship is not about what I get. Worship is about what I give and specifically, about what I give God. The most important thing about it is whether what we offer pleases the Lord. He is not required to accept whatever we offer (Isaiah 1:10-15) and if our text passages are any indication, what gets our vote probably isn’t getting His.
And His vote is the only one that counts.
[Note: essays on every chapter of the Bible may be accessed by going to www.amazinggraceinternational.com/blog. The on-going articles in this space are meant to supplement those and follow along with our daily Bible reading schedule, found at the calendar tab on this site.]
Noah comes out of the ark and the first thing he does is build an altar to God. Abraham builds an altar at Shechem, between Bethel and Ai. He builds another at Hebron and still another on Mt. Moriah. Had we been alive then, we could likely have traced Abraham’s travels just by the altars he builds. He “calls on the name of the Lord” and “worships” and from his example, his servants learn to pray and worship – as does his son.
All of this seemingly Abraham does on his own, without prompting from the Lord. He does it because God is great, and his greatness deserves recognition and honor. He does it because God is gracious, and his graciousness deserves gratitude and praise.
We should remember this. I read far far too often the comments of Christians who call us to “get out of our churches and into the world.”
No no no. A thousand times no. Don’t buy this shallow mindset.
We spend nearly every waking hour in the world. While we are there, let us be lights in the darkness, salt of the earth and the pillar and ground of truth. May the world come to see Christ through us. It’s what Jesus calls us to.
But let us also take time to step out of our world and into the Divine Presence through worship. It’s in worship we are reminded of our place. It is in worship we are reminded of the divine order (and it is why worship assembly often adheres to rules foreign to the world – reminding us of the way God made things). It is in worship we are reminded of God’s care for us, and in worship we openly and unreservedly remember, thank and praise God. Think not that all of life is worship. Abraham would not have agreed. While all of life should honor God, there comes a time to separate from life’s busyness and commune with the Lord. May our lives be tracked not just by the services we render, but by the worship we offer.