GPS (grow|pray|serve) from Sunday, October 7, 2018

In response to Sunday’s message, “More Like Jesus: Reverence,” read Hebrews 12:28-29 …

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.”

Questions for GROWTH …

1. In 2016 Psychology Today magazine sought to give its readers several reasons to cultivate a sense of awe and wonder with their article, “It’s Not All About You!” It mentioned the following non-religious sources that highlight our need for awe and wonder.

  • University of Pennsylvania researchers defined awe as the “emotion of self-transcendence, a feeling of admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self.”
  • A popular theoretical physicist wrote: “Awe gives you an existential shock. You realize that you are hardwired to be a little selfish, but you are also dependent on something bigger than yourself.”
  • Social scientists have found that when people experience a sense of awe, they feel more empathetic and more connected with others. One concluded, “Wonder pulls us together—a counterforce to all that seems to be tearing us apart.”
  • Carlin Flora (the writer of the article) writes, “A not particularly religious friend of mine recalls walking down the street when, precisely as the sun burst through the clouds, an organ at the nearby church bellowed out a glorious soundtrack. She was wonderstruck.”

The readers are then asked to rate each statements with a 1-5 score (which is also a good gauge for evaluating our experiences of worship).

  • I often feel awe.
  • I see beauty all around me.
  • I feel wonder almost every day.
  • I often look for patterns in the objects around me.
  • I have many opportunities to see the beauty of nature.
  • I seek out experiences that challenge my understanding of the world.

If your total number is 30 or above, you obviously are someone who experiences awe in your day-to-day life. How did you do?
{“It’s Not All About You!” by Carlin Flora, Psychology Today, March-April, 2016)

2. Pastor Greg asserted that worship is not for our enjoyment and entertainment. We do not worship for ourselves or for others. Our worship is directed to a holy God. God is the audience. In your experience, has American contemporary worship become too focused on self and not enough on God?

3. Hebrews uses two words to describe acceptable worship, “reverence and awe.”

  • The word reverence means “godly care” or “piety.” It acknowledges that we are in the presence of something or someone that requires respect.
  • Awe is associated with “terror and trembling” in the face of danger, which explains the reference to God being “a consuming fire” (see Exodus 24:27, Deuteronomy 4:24, Malachi 3:2).
  • Both of these words should affect our attitudes toward worship and how we prepare for it—how we enter the sanctuary, treat its furnishings, even how we dress for Sunday worship. Worship is NOT a casual act.

To show you how language has changed (and perhaps our attitudes about worship), the word “awful” used to mean “awe-inspiring, awesome, impressive.” Now it means “disgusting, horrible, dreadful and repugnant.” When was the last time you felt “awful” (i.e. reverence and awe) about worship?

4. Pastor Greg closed his sermon with several provocative statements.

  • I find nothing in scripture that says worship should be entertaining and cute.
  • I find nothing in scripture that says worship should involve eating and drinking in the sanctuary unless it’s at the Lord’s Table.
  • I find nothing in scripture that says worship should be funny.
  • I find nothing in scripture that says worship should be casual, laidback and easygoing.
  • I find nothing in scripture that says worship should be one hour or less.
  • I find nothing in scripture that says worship should be planned according to our personal preferences and tastes.
  • I find nothing in scripture that says worship should occur only when it’s convenient for me.
  • I find nothing in scripture that says worship should be a place where people make small talk.
  • I find nothing in scripture that says worship should be comfortable even for the godliest persons among us.

Did you find any of these challenging? Do you disagree with any of them? If so, why?

5. In contrast with the above statements, Pastor Greg said …

  • Worship should make us reverent—even fearful of God’s holy presence.
  • Worship should make us feel uneasy and convicted with our selfishness and sin.
  • Worship should make us surrender our lives to God again and again.
  • Worship should make us sacrifice something we value for Christ’s Church and God’s kingdom.
  • Worship should make us think deeply, pray unceasingly, repent quickly and respond urgently.
  • Worship should also make us joyful and thankful.

Which of these statements best describes your experience of worship? Where do you have room to grow?

Focus for PRAYER …

1.  Earlier in Hebrews 10:15, the writer exhorts believers in this way, “Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Have you been neglecting your participation in corporate worship? Ask God to help you practice the discipline of weekly worship more faithfully even when you’re traveling or on vacation.

2.  Remember that personal transformation and spiritual growth occur when we CHOOSE to respond to God’s grace. If you choose reverence this week, how will you do it?  Again, ask the Holy Spirit to show you specific ways you can worship God with “reverence and awe.”

3. If acceptable worship is God-centered as opposed to self-centered, then denying yourself food, drink, a smartphone or personal comfort during an hour or so of worship is not only appropriate but absolutely necessary! Is there some distraction you need to leave outside the sanctuary in order to more fully give yourself to God during worship? Make this a focus for prayer.

Actions for SERVICE …

1. Various surveys have found that newcomers to a church’s worship overwhelmingly have come because of personal invitation. Who will you invite to worship this week?

2. Weekly worship involves hours of preparation by pastors, administrative assistants, musicians, singers and others. Every worship service is a team effort. You can volunteer to help with Kids Own Worship, ushering, minding the nursery, singing in the choir, reading Scripture, leading the children’s moments, decorating the sanctuary, folding bulletins, taking communion to the home-bound, cleaning up and more! Email your pastors this week and ask how you might be help with our worship services.

One thing more …

“From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3 NIV).

Herman Wouk is a Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Caine Mutiny and The Winds of War. His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants. Wouk’s faith has always been important to him.

He was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal on the occasion of his 100th birthday (he’s now 103). Speaking of his childhood, Wouk was especially grateful for one simple pleasure: waking up to the sunlight streaming through his bedroom window. He said:

“By luck, my childhood bedroom faced the sun. I grew up on Aldus Street in the Bronx, where my family lived on the top floor of a five-story walk-up in an apartment way in the back. Each morning from my bed, I’d see a beam of sunlight dancing through the window. I felt good right away. The morning sun is cheering, no matter what mood you’re in … I do have the same excitement each morning when I see the sun. That sense of enjoying being alive is still very real. When you reach 100, you’re glad you’re alive. Very glad.”