4 Ways Worship Has Nothing to Do with Church

Did you know that church services and everything we do in those services are not necessary for worship?  Did you know that even if you were stranded on a desert island with only a box of Wheaties and a plastic shovel you would still be able to worship just as deeply as you do every Sunday morning in your comfortable seat at your favorite church?

Tiger Woods Box of Wheaties

We humans get very attached to things.

Not long ago a staff member at church told the story of how a family came to church early to get a seat.  As the family was standing and talking, someone else came up and said, “That’s where I usually sit,” pointing to one of the family’s reserved seats.

When the family pointed out that many seats were available right around them, the person said, “But I always sit here.”

We laugh, but you know that each of us also has our own area where we like to whine and say, “But I always (fill in the blank).”

Worship ultimately has nothing to do with the things we hold so dear.  Here are four ways worship transcends the boxes we create for our worship experiences:

  1. Worship begins with gratitude.  Every time you thank God for something you are worshipping him.  All good things come from God, said John the Apostle.
  2. Worship is a heart response to the gift of God.  No particular posture or physical symbol or music required; just a heart responding to God.
  3. Worship grows from a relationship with God.  In the beginning God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden.  This was pre-sacrifical worship, pre-Christ, pre-everything we try to cram into a worship service.  God wants you to know him and rely on him.
  4. Worship is loving your neighbor.  We honor God by loving and caring for those we meet on a day to day basis, regardless whether or not they are loveable in our perspective.

While projection and music and offerings and prayers and preaching all help us to worship, those things are not the essence of worship; they are tools.  Let’s not worship the tools; instead let’s dig to the root of things and worship Christ.

What things are you attached to that weaken your worship?

A Question of Gratitude

The other day as I sat around the table with my parents, boys and girlfriend we asked our now-traditional mealtime questions:

1. What was your best thing today?
2. What was your worst thing today?

Afterwards I asked all of us a question, and this is the question I pose to you now:

In this season of giving gifts, what is the best gift you received this past year?

My Top Five Reasons to Be Thankful

Few things can change an attitude or brighten a day like gratitude.  With Thanksgiving Day dawning in just a few hours I thought I would share what I am most thankful for.

I am thankful for the grace of God.  So many times God has enabled me to get through difficult times, provided for me in lean times, and given me healing when I did not know how to ask for it.  Lord, thank you for the strength and life you have given me.

I am thankful for my dad.  This fall dad had open heart surgery to replace a valve and fix five blockages.  Many people simply find out their father has had a heart attack.  By the grace of God I was spared that tragic news and given instead a dad who is stronger than ever and who has a new lease on life.  He has also not lost his wacky sense of humor and ability to give wise advice.  Dad, I love you.  Thanks for sticking around.

I am thankful for my girlfriend.  Being able to spend Thanksgiving with your best friend and girlfriend is pretty special.  She is gracious, loving, supportive, a thinker, a learner, a good listener, playful, serious when it’s needed, a wonderful speaker, a confident leader, my closest friend, and, most importantly, mine.  Thank you, sweetheart, for blessing me this holiday season with your friendship and your love.

I am thankful for my family.  Whether we are discussing my two boisterous, fabulous boys, or my sweet sister or generous brother, I consider myself blessed.  Thanks, Isaac and Timothy, for making me a better person and for teaching me how to laugh.  Matt and Shelli, thank you for blessing me with the best family I could wish for.

I am thankful for work I love.  I am entering the holidays employed full-time in the work I love most: worship leadership in partnership with quality leaders.  Thank you, Covenant Life, for giving me a place to lead and grow.

Many do not have easy lives this holiday season.  I am thinking in particular of those still struggling in Sandy’s wake.  If you are dreading the holidays, I encourage you to find one thing for which you are grateful.  I may not have been in your place exactly, but I know that in my darkest hours I could always find at least one thing to be thankful for, and I was better for it.

What about you?  What are you grateful for?

One Step to a Better Attitude

I have been reminded in the past few months of how difficult it can be to maintain a proper attitude in life.  Our own experiences and the news provide plenty of opportunities to be negative and down in the mouth.

Yesterday I was laying stone and another worker taking a few minutes’ break came up to watch.  He began to complain about how the owners had asked him to do some completely unrealistic things simply because they have too much money.

To his credit, what they asked was a bit loony.  They wanted to put air conditioning ducts in the porch outside. You know how your mom always told you to shut the door because she did not want to be air conditioning the neighborhood?  These people wanted to have that set up permanently installed in their porch outdoor kitchen.  Rightly so the company refused to do it because the cool and warm air together would create condensation leading eventually to mold and liability for the air company.

Stepping back from the crazy nature of it all, however, I have to ask, “What did it matter?”  My dad has a saying.  “Maurice, it all pays the same.”  If the owners want us to tear down what we built because they don’t like it after all and we get paid to put in the replacement, what does it matter?

The final analysis has to do with attitude.  In masonry, as in ministry, we are in a service industry, and people are going to do unusual things.

The man watching me had a negative attitude because he had to remove what he had installed and place it somewhere else.  The truth is that he was getting paid to install the same equipment twice in the same home.  isn’t that like the double bonus zone or something?

Gratitude.  We need gratitude.  Your attitude is up to you and no one else.

And so today I am going to practice my own form of gratitude, because I constantly need to adjust my attitude in the positive direction.

My divorce.  Here is my best opportunity to be negative, but I am going to be positive about it.

1.  Because of my divorce I have learned to know myself again.  Five years ago I had a much harder time expressing my emotions; now I am much more in tune with myself.

2.  Because of my divorce my relationship with God has gone to heights I never experienced before.  When you hit rock bottom you can either wallow in the seeming absence of God or cry out like never before.  God answers.

3.  Because of my divorce I can relate to people better than ever before.  The world is broken, and 50% of people inside and outside of the church are divorced, and most of the rest have experienced some other kind of brokenness.  Leading out of my brokenness has enabled me to connect much more effectively with people from the platform and throughout the week.

4.  Because of my divorce I have been forced to think creatively about my future, and the results have been unpredictable and refreshing all at the same time.  This blog, writing poetry, pursuing my doctorate this fall, private teaching and mentoring have all come to fruition because I have been forced to think differently.

5.  Because of my divorce I have been learning how to watch for God to open doors rather than trying to make things happen.  Everything I am now is a result of God opening doors.  I’m excited about what he is going to do next.

6.  Because of my divorce I understand more completely what it means to be a partner in a marriage.  The hours of counseling opened my eyes to the false ideas I believed about being a spouse and made room for the right ideas and beliefs to grow.

7.  Because of my divorce I am learning more clearly how to forgive.

I could go on for a while here.

Divorce is not God’s plan.  Period.  But we are fallen people, and when we sin and make bad choices or simply are oblivious God shakes us up so we see things clearly.  Then he takes us right where we are and walks through it with us, still loving and caring for us, and makes us better people than we were before, if we allow him.

At first I was choosing to be grateful.  Now I truly am.

Where do you need to improve your attitude by choosing to be grateful?