March 5, 2017
Have you ever noticed that sometimes we do things for a reason, but many times we really don’t know the reason? Sometimes we don’t recognize how our decisions are predicated on past events which we’re totally clueless about.
For example, and I’ll tell you upfront there is disagreement about these facts, but as I did some research, I think there is some validity. So here you go - - -
When you consider the United States space program, especially the space shuttle program, each lift off needed rocket boosters to carry the space shuttle into space. The boosters deliver enormous power - - - -they weigh more than 2 million pounds at takeoff, they produce 6.6 million pounds of thrust. That’s the equivalent of 32 - - - 747's all applying their take-off thrust at the same time! In only two minutes, they carry the astronauts 28 miles away from the earth, spending all of their fuel in the process. (Source: Jim Banke’s article on www.space.com, “Interactive Space Shuttle: The Boosters.” www.space.com/news/spaceshuttles/interactive_sts_boosters.html
But remember, this story is about decisions we make today, based on the past, not knowing the reasons.
The boosters are manufactured and refurbished by a company in Utah, which then ships the boosters to Florida for the space launches via train. So, the boosters must be able to fit on a rail car that travels along railroad tracks. And those tracks are exactly 4 feet, 8.5 inches wide. So, the space shuttle, like those boosters, if you’re going to get that part from Utah to Florida, you’ve got to know that the measurement of 4 feet, 8.5 inches wide is a critically important measurement.
But why would our railroad tracks measure such an odd width?
Historians disagree on this one, but part of the story for some of why our railroad tracks are this measurement is because the English made their tracks exactly that wide. Early on in the railroad industry, we relied on the English about the railroad.
Why did the English make their tracks 4 feet, 8.5 inches wide? Because the English engineers of the 19th century used the standard wagon width that had been used in Europe since the Romans built their roadways, which were 4 feet, 8.5 inches wide.
And why that width? Because, historians say, Roman trial and error found that an official chariot or wagon would work best while being powered by two horses, and those two horses, measured from the back end of the horses - - - - was ideally 4 feet, 8.5 inches.
Are you getting this? Bottom line is this - - - The most impressive travel in all of human history, blasting off from Cape Canaveral, this incredible feat of space travel, is, in effect, affected by the tape measure draped over the rear end of a pair of Roman horses.
You see, our railroad system is based on this, and actually it’s one of the reasons it’s believed the South lost the Civil War. They had 3 different measurements for their railroads.
My point in all of this - - - - the decisions we make today, are often the result of the past. And the decisions we make tomorrow will have a longer lasting impact than we ever could have imagined.
That’s why there’s such a tie between where we’ve been, and where we’re going, and as we’re looking at worship, we need to understand much of what we do is based on the past. Most of what we want in worship is based on what we perceive.
Let me add one other point, I’m sitting at Panera typing this, and there are 2 men, one about 75, who’s a regular, the other is about 45, they don’t know each other, and they are arguing about politics, to the point where the 75 year old says he’s going to punch the other guy, who’s bigger. I’m just smiling and shaking my head as this is going on.
My point - - - we are a product of our past and we come into every conversation, every moment of our lives is shaped from who we are.
We do the same in worship. We come here with certain expectations. But are they really helpful or hurtful expectations about worship?
The psalmist tells us this is Psalm 95 ~
1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.
The psalmist tells us to COME! He does not say “come if you feel like it, come if you’re in the mood, come if you know you’re going to sing what you like.”
NOPE! The command is to come! Come into the house of God and sing for joy. Shout out with joy to God, who is the Rock of our salvation. Sing to Him, giving thanks and praise to God for all He has done in our lives.
It’s a blessing to be able to come into this building so we can worship God! For the most part we come here as one people, yet different people, with different likes and dislikes, different tastes in everything. Yet, we’re here to worship Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Savior! That will always be our unifying factor.
Now, I know there are some people who just don’t sing. And I’m not going to get on anyone who doesn’t sing, because I don’t know your story. But let me tell you one thing about worship . . . And you heard this a few weeks ago and I am convinced this is the key to worshiping God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind and with all of our strength - - -
It’s not coming to church to worship . . .
it’s come worshiping to church.
I really believe that is so crucial for us. If we expect to suddenly turn it on once we walk in the doors, it’s not usually going to happen. If we expect someone else to get me ready to worship, it’s usually not going to happen. If we come here waiting to critique the music, the message, the air temperature, the acoustics, the video, the comfort of the pew . . . then you’ll have a great time, but you will not have worshiped!
That sounds pretty harsh, but that’s true.
Listen to what the psalmist continues with ~
3 For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.
4 In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him.
5 The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
7 for He is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under His care. – Psalm 95:3-7
God is mighty and awesome. There is no other like Him. As we approach God in worship we must do so with respect and reverence.
Everything in all creation is God’s. The land, the water, the sky . . . and ultimately . . . we are His. God created us! We must recognize we are His and it’s our privilege to come here to say thank you, God! Thank you for creating me! Thank you for designing me . . . with all of my blemishes, with all of my sinfulness . . . still Lord, I thank you that you had an amazing plan which included me in this crazy world.
THANK YOU, LORD!! So, we come here and we are reminded that we should bow down, we should humble ourselves because we are not God, God is God. He is our Shepherd, we are simply His flock, His people.
That’s why we come here to worship! It’s to give thanks to God. It’s to cry out to God for help when we are hurting. It’s to join together with our brothers and sisters in Christ, in what we would call the fellowship of the saints. You and I coming to together to celebrate the promise and presence of Christ. We sing, we praise, we cry, we hug, we shake hands, we give of ourselves in what should be one of the most intimate times of the week . . . worship!
It is so vital that we would be willing to take the focus off of ourselves and focus only on Him. He alone is Creator, Almighty, Redeemer, Lord, the Lord of Hosts, the God of the heavenly armies, our Rock and our Salvation, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, Abba, Father. We worship God because He alone is worthy of worship.
You and I are not worthy. No athlete, no musician, no actor or actress, not even your spouse or children, or parents are worthy! We’re all sinners . . . we’re all in need of a Savior . . . in need of a God who loves us so much that He sent His Son into this sin-filled world - - who became sin for you and I so we could ultimately stand before God whiter than snow, because Christ took on that sin for us!
That’s why we’re here. So when we walk in the doors on a Sunday morning, we should walk in worshipful and worshiping. When the music starts in the prelude, the conversations should stop and we should be at worship! Our hearts, spirit, mind and whole being should focus on God.
“But pastor I need to catch up with my neighbor. I love them so much, and I haven’t talked to them since last Sunday!” So, let me tell you this, and I’m going to step on toes right now! I just want to warn you . . . if you love your pew neighbor so much - - get ready for it - - why did you wait one entire week, 7 days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes to catch up with them? Why didn’t you call them on Tuesday to check on them? Why not talk during the week and build up that friendship?!
How honored that neighbor would be to know they were thought of and you took the time to contact them. You never know what develops from that relationship. What if we were all doing that during the week? Not to gossip, but simply a quick call to love our neighbor? Can you imagine the love, the fellowship, the power, the grace, the testimony to the world about the love we have for one another? Can you imagine what the church would look like if this really, really happened on an every week basis?!
We come together to worship God, to meet God Almighty. God, the Creator of the Universe, the One who sustains our lives, our Redeemer and King, He’s here with us - - right now - and He wants us to experience His power and presence.
And, as we move through this experience of worship, we are called to respond to His presence and power.
But response is not just singing a hymn, not just saying a creed, not just saying a prayer. Response, from the very beginning of worship to the end, must be a powerful inner experience of actually being in the presence of God. When we sing a hymn or pray, or give an offering, we aren’t just singing or saying words, but expressing ourselves, giving ourselves to God. The end of verse 7 of Psalm 95 is so stark and revealing as we are reminded . . .
Today, if only you would hear His voice, – Psalm 95:7
Ah, what a statement! What a reminder! What a command for you and I. If only we would listen to the call of God and hear His voice.
So, we come here and we bow down and we worship the King of kings and LORD of lords. We submit ourselves to Him, and respond to Him with praise, adoration, thanksgiving, celebration and yes, even tears, grief and an admission of our struggles.
William Temple was a bishop in the Church of England in the early 20th century. He said this about worship ~
"For worship is the submission of all our nature to God.
It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness;
the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His beauty;
the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose; and all of this gathered up in adoration,
the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin."
In the course of worship, God will change our hearts if we will step aside and let Him. The ultimate sacrifice that we can make is to give up the control of our lives to God and allow Him to make us into what He wants us to be. It is to set aside all of our selfishness, ambition, and pride and admit that He is Lord of our lives. Going all the way back to week 1, when we read these words from what Paul said in Romans 12:1 ~
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
We are to sacrifice ourselves in worship. This IS our act of worship. Will you acknowledge – will you admit your need for the Lordship of Jesus in your life?
Worship is not about wars and getting our ways, worship is about honoring, praising, glorifying God with all of our love, through giving Him all of our heart, spirit, mind and body!
Truly, until you come to Jesus, you cannot worship. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) We offer at the end of every service the opportunity to give your life to Jesus during the singing of an invitation hymn. I urge you to come to Him today just as you are.
We can talk about tradition. We’ve always done it this way! We can’t change the way we worship.
But friends, we do much of what we do, simply because it’s always been done that way, and it’s not to say we’re changing who we are. My entire point of all I said is this . . .
Worship is not about tradition. It’s about coming into this building or going wherever you are and opening your heart to God, submitting to Him in this act of worship. It’s coming to worship, already worshiping!
If we are really ready for worship, then the people will be excited to experience Christ. They’ll do it with their whole heart, soul, mind and body. We’ll tell the world about what’s going on in worship, we’ll be different people all the time and the world will never be the same again . . . why? Because our attitude, our mindset, our heart, our spirit, was ready to experience the presence of God in this great moment of worship!