Thursday, December 07, 2006

Is Worship Truly Worship If Your Heart Isn't Stirred? ...

Again apologies for the rare entries. This is due to the continued lack of internet connection at home - although this should be ending soon. I have recently signed a contract with Orange broadband and am moving into the realm of wireless! Blogs from the bath ... there's a new one. However this time has been useful to remind me that blogging on this site is something I do - it isn't who I am.

I had an incredibly interesting and stimulating coffee this morning with a friend. The question that was the object of our discussion was: "Is worship truly worship if your heart isn't stirred?". The context of this question was that we were asking questions as to why the church my friend attends doesn't see much in the way of spiritual gifts shared in the corporate body (although theoretically the gifts of the Spirit are welcome). Our discussion ranged back to the early charismatic days of the 1970's and we wondered why women generally took the lead in bringing tongues, interpretations, prophecies and words of knowledge and men hung back. We asked the question: "How do you know the Holy Spirit is truly actively present in the church if you don't see spiritual gifts being brought?". (By the way lest anyone think that I am of the opinion that the Holy Spirit only really came down to the church post-Azusa Street, I have been fascinated to read this paper by Sam Storms showing how spiritual gifts have never been truly absent from the church). Which is how we got onto the whole exhilarating topic of worship.
Dr Sam Storms wrote; "We must be careful lest we become so infatuated with the internal experience of nearness to God that we forget the external work of the cross on which it is ultimately based". I am not sure if that is the imminent danger in some of the churches that I am connected with. I fear that we have become so concerned with the eternal foundation of the Cross that we are in danger of despising the potential of the internal experience of nearness to God. Is this just as dangerous a situation in which to be in as the one that Sam Storms warns of? Is cerebral coldness (Dr Lloyd-Jones called it 'dead orthodoxy') just as dangerous a place to be as charismatic excess? I suspect it is. How much do even charismatics today know of the place in which the Psalmist could cry out; "As the deer pants for the water so my soul LONGS for you?".
Or do we leave the church semi-satisfied because even though the Presence of God was not tangibly evident during the worship - still the sermon was quite good and we filled another few notebook pages?
My friend and I didn't really answer the questions we posed ourselves. I could do no better than to recall the outstanding sermon on worship that Greg Haslam preached at Christchurch, London when Scott and I went to visit. He taught so powerfully that worship actually isn't really worship unless it costs something expensive. I asked myself then, "What has my worship ever really cost me?".
The thing to rejoice in however comes from Rob Rufus's reminder at "Together on a Mission 2006". He said; "The empty Cross and the empty Tomb are the generators of power today!". In other words the resurrection of Christ made the coming and residing of the Holy Spirit possible. Let's never ever take Him for granted! He is present where He is welcome and allowed to move. Are we ready for God to come down during our time together on Sunday? Are we ready to hear Him speak? To act? To move as He will? Are we ready for the turning of the tide? Are we prepared to turn our planned agenda for the worship over to Him? Are we prepared to relinquish control to Him (because after all it's His decent order we are commanded to ensure!)? I'm so impatient for God. I remember Terry Virgo saying: "I HATE CHURCH THAT ISN'T CHURCH!". In other words - if the Holy Spirit isn't tangibly present, is it really church we are doing? Or is it a social club with nice lunches and friendly chats?
I don't know when I will next be able to post a blog so here are some links to previous posts that are relevant to what's been on my mind today. Like my dear friend Sheila - you can do some catching up!
"Our Message is this: The Dead are Being Raised!" - in this post I argued that an exclusive focus on the Cross to the neglect of the Resurrection robs us of power in our Christian life. "If Christ had not been raised ... our faith would be in vain!".
"The Great Work is Done!" - this prophecy of Terry Virgo's at Brighton 2003 is the most all-encompassing definition of the Gospel that I have ever heard. Christ died - yes. But He has been raised! He has ascended on high and has been enthroned and crowned with glory and honour! Therefore ... we must go to the nations. Distant shores and the islands will see our light!
"A Discourse between Bishop Earl Paulk and Dr Ern Baxter" - a transcript I did of a discussion concerning the "Neglect of Resurrection". Ern Baxter argued that there is no "functional dynamic in the Cross ... the bottom line of Christianity ... is the outpoured Holy Spirit".
"What is wrong with the Christian Church today?" - Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave his answer as to what is still wrong with us as a body of believers. We have got our understanding of the baptism of the Holy Spirit wrong.
Until next time! xx


Don said...

Welcome back, Dan! Excellent post!

Sheila said...

The thoughts you and your friend discussed over coffee, and your words here are eerily akin to the sermon my husband preached just this morning. (I'm typing this on a Sunday evening...)

He said we've treated the Holy Spirit as though He were an option - much like in our automobiles (pay extra for leather? Or stick with cloth seats? Which one?) instead of the indispensable God that He is. My husband even went so far as to preach that we are IN the "age of the Holy Spirit", and most are not discerning the time. His text was out of ....(oh, I forget)...where Paul said, I think in Timothy, that in the end days, perilous times will come. BECAUSE....(we expect to hear intimations of wars and rumours of wars) will be lovers of self, etc. etc.

And he landed on the last characteristic of perilous end times...when men "have an appearance of Godliness, but deny its power."

He said that if we are not being filled daily, it is because we are not asking for it....daily! He said that he'd never meet any man for coffee who did not call and invite him. He will rather be about the business of taking care of the needs of those who contact him and speak with him and invite his help. He asked, "What are the chances that I'll just show up when you need me if you don't ask? The Holy Spirit is a PERSON, and He awaits you to acknowlege your need and ASK for His help, His filling, His movement in your life."

Many were in tears at the thought of how we've grieved the Holy Spirit.

Good to see that you are going to be back soon, Dan!