People On An AIRPLANE And People On A Pew Have A Lot In Common–
People on an airplane and people on a pew have a lot in common. Some may doze, others enter into a mindless trance and a few gaze out the window for the entire trip.
Most, if not all are satisfied with a predictable experience. For many, the mark of a good flight and mark of a good worship service are the same–“NICE.” “It was a NICE flight/it was a “NICE” service.”
We exit the same way we enter–unmoved, unchanged, unaltered and we’re more than likely happy to return the next time.
Entering A CHURCH SANCTUARY.
I am a people watcher, at an AIRPORT or in church on Sunday mornings. Looking at the faces, I see a few who are giggly, a couple who are cranky. But by and large… we are content:
CONTENT TO BE THERE!
CONTENT TO SIT AND LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD!
CONTENT TO LEAVE THE SERVICE WHEN IT’S OVER!
CONTENT TO ENDURE!
CONTENT WITH THE MUNDANE!
CONTENT WITH THE “NICE” SERVICE!
IT IS SO MUCH MORE THAN ENDURANCE!
A few, however, seek more than leaving with a wide-eyed wonder of having experienced WORSHIP, rather than merely enduring.
The DESTINATION of WORSHIP to meet GOD:
With any journey there is a need to make preparations. How I remember the camping vacations my brother and I experienced when we were both growing up.
My mom was the most prepared person ever in preparing for a family vacation. Although my dad was too, but not to the extent that my mom would prepare.
Dad would always make sure that the car was packed with what he thought was the necessities: Tent, camping stove, Coleman lantern, flashlights, an axe for chopping firewood, matches, horseshoes… Sounds pretty prepared doesn’t it? Not compared to mom’s standard.
Mom always brought a broom to sweep the inside/outside of the tent; a rake to keep the pine needles away from the eating area and away from the tent entrance. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, a floor mat in front of the tent opening to leave our shoes; stocking feet only inside our tent. Then there was a clothesline…you have to have a clothesline to dry wet wash-rags, wet clothes if it rained or my brother and I fell into the creek (that never happened but just in case…).
MOM was always PREPARED before taking any journey and dad, well… he complained mostly about her exhaustive preparation. I often thought it was never a journey, a trip that mom could enjoy because she was too busy preparing. But mom said, “preparing is what I enjoy; the planning, the excitement of getting ready to go.”
The EXPERIENCE becomes more rewarding rather than merely enduring through it all. We should want a memorable experience in our going and not a boring, mundane remembrance.
What does our Flight Check require?
Solomon, the wisest and richest man in the world writing thousands of years ago, gives pre-flight instructions in order to encounter the God of the universe when we come into His house.
GETTING READY TO MEET GOD!
“As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut! Don’t be a fool who doesn’t realize that mindless offerings to God are evil”
(Ecclesiastes 5:1 in the New Living Translation).
One translation of this verse says, “Watch [GUARD] your feet [STEPS] when you go to the house of the Lord.”
The phrase “guard your steps” means to “proceed with reverence, tip toeing onto the presence of the Lord.” In other words, when leaving your home to go to church, come with care and caution; with dignity and respect. We are to approach King of kings with the same care as Moses did when he approached the “burning bush”:
“God called to him out of the midst of the bush and said, Moses, Moses! And he said, Here am I. God said, Do not come near; put your shoes off your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:4b-5 AMP).
Moses was on holy ground and he knew it! I don’t think my mom ever treated the outside of our camping tent the same way that Moses did, but to my brother and I, it sure seemed like “holy ground”.
My kids, when they were small heard from their parents on several different occasions, “No running in church.”
The sanctuary is a place of reverence.
Physically we may not be running when we meet God but spiritually, emotionally and mentally we are. We often “do church” as many “do lunch”; quite casually and unprepared. We don’t anticipate God’s presence or voice. Consequently, we become unable to experience the presence of God that will stir our souls, change lives and satisfy our hunger for meaning. Maybe you’re thinking right now, I don’t come to church hungry. I mostly come to fellowship with other believers before, during and after church. If that’s what you mean to “hunger”, then I hunger for fellowship. To get away from the rat-race of the workplace. Friend, you need a different attitude; a new attitude of preparation before you leave your house.
COMING TO WORSHIP PREPARED TO WORSHIP:
I’ve adopted some STEPS over the course of last year, preparing myself to meet Father God, Jesus and Holy Spirit. Who pointed the STEPS out to me? I find it amazing how the Holy Spirit uses our spouse to bring attention to something we may be missing out on or have simply ignored. OUCH, it even hurts sometimes.
#1. PRAY before you come being ready to PRAY when you arrive.
#2. SLEEP before you come, staying ALERT when you arrive.
#3. READ the Word before you come, so your heart will be soft when you worship.
#4. COME HUNGRY! COME WILLING! COME EXPECTING for God to speak!
#5. COME ANTICIPATING for a memorable experience in communing with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
LISTEN to God:
One man said that he and his wife had words but he never got the chance to use his. I think God often feels the same way.
When flying, I feel for the Flight Attendants as they share instructions before the plane takes off. The attendants are explaining how to use the seat belts, where the exits on the aircraft are, how to use the seat cushion as a floatation device and…how to put the oxygen mask to your face if needed.
Yet, most people on the plane, are talking, reading, looking out the window, getting stuff out of their carry-on luggage.
Those flight attendants know how God feels, when His people come to church.
WHEN WE SHOW UP AT CHURCH:
After making a mad dash from the church parking lot, many times World War III has just occurred, between spouse and children in the car that morning. A few choice words are said under our breath to the guy who cut us off in traffic five minutes after leaving our home. We casually stroll into the sanctuary to find our seat and find that someone else is already sitting there. We start looking around next, to see who is present this morning and then proof-read the bulletin for typos. We find pastor-notes in the pocket of our bibles to make the grocery list or to-do list for the upcoming week. After all, it has been a long, busy past week and I don’t have time. We sing a few songs wondering why, why, we didn’t sing any songs WE preferred. Before we know it, the service is over but our minds have been on a mini-vacation; we…were not LISTENING!
Solomon Offers/Further Instructions (Ecclesiastes 5:1b-2 NLT).
“As you enter the house of God, Keep your ears open and your mouth shut! Don’t be a fool who doesn’t realize that mindless offerings to God are evil.”
Think about Solomon’s STRONG WORDS, his instructions in giving your thinking to what, where and why you are going to church in the first place.
When we come to worship, we come to meet not a “person”, a group of Christian buddies but the LIVING GOD! Who has one agenda to meet with us!
Let Him do the talking. God wants to communicate with us. Conversation is a “dialogue” and not a “monologue.” Sometimes in the morning hours while praying, God’s Spirit whispers in my ear, saying “God can’t give you an answer to your requests when you are doing all the talking.”
Solomon instruct us in not to be rash with our mouths and on earth; and “let not your heart be hasty to utter a word before God. For God is in heaven, and you are on words be few” (Ecc. 5:2). The statement made in verse 2, is a statement of perspective, not of distance.
God is in the realm of the eternal.
He hears the inaudible and sees the invisible; God penetrates that which is inaudible to human ears and peers into what’s invisible to human eyes.
Here’s Solomon’s point in this Scripture passage:
1. God is God and we aren’t.
2. God is in heaven and we are on earth.
3. God is Lord and we are His servants, His disciples here on earth.
As we make our preparations to WORSHIP on whatever day of the week we so choose, we approach God with a positive of humility. We bow before Him [physically/spirituality or both]; we fall down before Him.
An Example of Isaiah’s Experience in God’s Presence:
“IN THE year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1 NIV).
To see God reigning in POWER, WISDOM and LOVE produces only one response–AWE!
TAKING GOD SERIOUSLY:
Solomon concludes his instructions on WORSHIP in Ecclesiastes 5:7:
“For in a multitude of dreams there is futility and worthlessness, and ruin in a flood of words. BUT [reverently] fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is].”
To FEAR GOD doesn’t mean to dread in terror. It means holy awe and respect for we are to take God seriously.
I once glanced at the back page of a local newspaper which had a list of churches. It included their addresses, their times of worship, their religious affiliation and their pastor’s name. As I looked closer, I noticed one particular church had advertised one of its worship services with the following statement:
Casual Worship at 9:30 AM
I know they were trying to communicate their worship service was casual dress and informal. But Solomon’s writings and I believe, all of Scripture teaches, nothing is casual about worship. Far too often we take JESUS just a little to lightly. We approach King Jesus in triteness with too casual fashion. We think of Jesus as our “buddy” or “pal.” But this is the eternal God of the universe, who has claimed our lives because He placed eternity in our hearts. We are to approach Him with ALL respect and ALL reverence.
Lets Stop Playing Games With God On Sunday Mornings!
We might try the approach of “fake it until we make it” with others, but God sees us as we really are. Make no mistake: God loves fun and laughter from His children. He delights in people who have a sense of humor. BUT WORSHIP is serious business, even as we approach the physical structure, our churches down the road: to WORSHIP with RESPECT and with AWE as we enter the building.
WORSHIP IS NOT AN ENDURANCE CONTEST:
It should be a marvelous adventure. We get excited to take our family to a Family Theme Park or leaving on a jet plane to see family in Texas or a RV camping trip along a rushing river. That same preparedness, that anticipation, that experience should be likewise in the presence of the King! It’s not business as usual but a wonder-filled ride; a new dimension of your life. It’s not a mundane trip but a memorable flight. And on that journey, our reaction will not be simply, “nice service this morning”…”nice trip”. But rather in the words of a child who is flying for the first time, “AWESOME!”