Summary: We are called to worship God however, whenever, wherever. Loving God with all of being including all of our mind means engaging in a variety of worship activities.

Into the Heart of Worship

Matthew 22:23-40

September 6, 2009

This morning we are going to do something a little different. Today’s worship consists of a theme: worshipping God: however, whenever, and wherever.

I’ve been studying the effects that God has upon the brain. Specifically, neuroscience is finding meditating especially meditating on God actually changes your brain. Now science has shown a strong correlation between spiritual beliefs and practices and the benefits upon our bodies: lower blood pressure, longer life, etc. One study at least has shown that people who attend church regularly live longer than those who do not. Is it a cause and effect? Well maybe people who live longer choose to attend church regularly. But recent studies in neuroscience lead me to believe that there actually may be a cause and effect instead of just a correlation.

Scriptures tell us to worship God with ALL of our heart and ALL of our mind. We would be mistaken to conclude that Jesus was talking about the brain when he was talking about the mind. We now know that within our brains lies the logic and emotional portions of our being. Our literal heart really is just a muscle that pumps blood.

But what I find interesting is that within our brains there are different areas. Some control logic and understanding. Others deal with emotional reactions. Others help us process what is real or at least what seems to be real. And our spiritual and religious practices stimulate different portions of the brain. For example, meditation stimulates the thalamus while decreasing activity in the prefrontal cortex. The result is that we get sense of rest and peace while God and God’s activities become even more real. So the more we mediate, the more real God becomes to us.

Some activities stimulate our logic functions and develop that portion of our brain. Other activities like repetition especially repetitive meditation can stimulate our anterior cingulate, which helps us become more compassionate and empathetic for others.

So this morning, we are going to try to stimulate different portions of the brain. We are going to have communion. Tactile worship and meditation definitely engage our senses in a way that make God more real. We are going to sing about worshipping in the best times and worst times with a song called “Blessed Be Your Name.” No matter what comes our way like Job we can still praise him

We are going to worship God with an ancient hymn. In fact it is the oldest hymn that we have the music for. It is a song how all of creation worships God so therefore we should too. It is called All Creatures of Our God and King. We are going to remember the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus in “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High.”

We are also going to do some repetitive singing, which we don’t really do. Here we can embrace worship in the moment. It is where we focus on a word or a few words stimulating our brains differently in a form of meditative worship. It allows us to look past the logic of the prefrontal cortex to embrace the heart or affective feelings of being in God’s presence.

Some of you might not like this. It might seem awkward. Worshipping in the fashion sometimes takes practice just like meditation and contemplation. The point is worship the Lord with ALL of our mind and ALL of heart and ALL of our being. So I ask you during these times to let go, open our heart, and allow God’s Spirit to fully join with yours. Close your eyes. Raise your hands. But above worship the Lord with everything you have.

With this in mind, I want to teach you a real easy chorus that we will use in a little bit. The words are: “Let it rain. Let it rain. Open the floodgates of heaven. Let it rain.” It comes from Malachi where we are challenged to bring in the whole tithe to God’s sanctuary. It means give God your full worship and hold nothing back and see if God doesn’t throw open the windows of heaven and pour out His blessing and glory upon His people. It goes like this…

Part II

One of the toughest things to do is to worship the Lord with everything you have and everything you are all the time. In fact, it probably is impossible for us on this side of eternity even with Christ. Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Notice that they run hand in hand. Joy. Prayer. Giving Thanks. In all situations give thanks. In every circumstance be full of joy. In the good and bad times, pray. This is God’s will. In the desert places and when it hurts to give God your offerings, bless God’s name. Worship God. But sometimes it is so hard.

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