“Worship and Contemplative”
Pt 3 of Series, “Spiritual Pathways”
November 8, 2020
Alright, we are in week 3 of our series called, “Spiritual Pathways.” I want to keep that definition before you;
We are looking at 7 Spiritual Pathways. Again, they are:
7 Spiritual Pathways
|Intellectual||You experience God better by learning more about Him|
|Relational||You experience God better by being involved in significant relationships|
|Serving||You experience God better by helping others|
|Worship||You experience God better by expressing and celebrating your love for God|
|Activist||You experience God better by working for a cause and achieving change|
|Contemplative||You experience God better by being alone with Him for significant periods of time|
|Creation||You experience God better by experiencing the world He made|
So, you have had opportunity to take a Spiritual Pathways survey on our website at risenchristfamily.com and then go to the Resources pulldown. Or, maybe you are just guessing at what your pathway is. Let’s do an informal survey now. Let’s see a show of hands. Who has the Intellectual Pathway? Who has the Relational Pathway? Look around. Who among us also has your Pathway? Maybe you could get together. Wait, you Relational Pathway people are already doing that. Who has Serving? (I don’t see you people watching on Facebook raising your hands. Come on, which are you?) Worship? Activist? (There, I see some over there on Facebook who are Activists. No, you are changing your mind.) Is your Pathway Contemplative? Or, Creation? Good. I am glad we are getting a handle on our spiritual pathway. So far, we have looked at the Intellectual, Relational, and Serving pathways. Today, we will look at Worship and Contemplative. Let’s dig in. Let’s begin with the
- Worship Pathway
Midway through Jesus’ 3 year ministry on earth, there is this other-worldly episode where Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on a mountain and he was transfigured. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that, “His face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as the light.” There was this voice from heaven that said, “This is my Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” Peter, James and John were watching this and I can’t help but think that they were on their knees and what they were doing was worshipping. I mean, if you see Jesus standing in front of you all gleaming white, I bet you’d be on your knees worshipping, too. You see, we are called to worship.
Throughout the Bible, we see that God wants His people to worship Him. In the Old Testament, from the 12 tribes of Israel God set aside one whole tribe, the Levites, to be the worship leaders for the people. They were in charge of the tabernacle worship, performing all of the sacrifices. If you needed a bull sacrificed, who ya gonna call, no not the Bullbusters, but the Levites. Later, King David told the Levites that they needed some music in their worship. He told the Levites to appoint, “singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals.” (1 Chronicles 15:16). They led the worship. Isaiah had a vision of a holy God and dropped to his knees in worship. And, if you want an example of worship that will be going on in heaven for all eternity, read Revelation 7:9-10;
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God,who sits on the throne,and to the Lamb.’” Revelation 7:9-10
God wants His people to worship Him. If you don’t like to worship, you might be in deep do-do because according to these verses, you will be doing it for forever. How can you stand before a holy God like Isaiah did and not worship? How can you experience the unconditional love of our Savior and not have your heart moved in worship? You see, worship is directed upward. It gets us way beyond the consumer mentality that only asks about worship, what’s in it for me. Worship gives glory to God. God wants His people to worship Him.
But, those with the Worship Pathway take worship to a whole new level. You have a deep love for corporate worship. You are the ones moved deeply by the music. Your heart opens up and you come alive when you hear yet another powerful hymn or song and you belt it out at the top of your lungs, that is until we all had to wear masks and sing only at a conversational level. You are the ones who hope the music portion of the service would go on for hours. You could do without the sermon. As the preaching the sermon, I don’t think I like you Worship Pathway people. In worship, you draw closer and closer to God. You actually expect Him to show up.
King David is a great example of someone who probably had the Worship Pathway. He wrote psalms and poetry to God, played the lyre and expressed his delight in God through music. You remember that on one occasion, he stripped down and danced naked before the Lord. You people with the worship Pathway, you keep your clothes on, will you? (Oliver Smith our worship leader has the Worship Pathway. He is a 21st Century Levite. I am all the time trying to keep him from sacrificing a bull on our altar. You can just sense in Oliver and Rachel and Linda that when they sing a praise song, they really mean it. Their hearts open up to God. They are literally singing to God. What great examples they are for the rest of us.) Now, there are some
First, do keep your clothes on when you worship. No, the real first caution is;
- Be sure that worship is more than feelings
Listen, I love music. I have been a musician almost my entire life. I can hear a great classical piece and be moved to the core of my being. I can hear a modern day worship song and have my heart set on fire by the melody. Even though music is so very powerful, even though the hills are alive with the sound of music—golly, they should have made that phrase into a musical. Oh, they did—even though the melody can touch us to the depths of our being, worship is more than feelings. There is an object which is the focus of worship and those with the Worship Pathway know that full well.
If you have the Worship Pathway, you need to be sure that it isn’t all about the feelings you get when you hear that melody. Just because you feel good in worship doesn’t necessarily mean you are worshipping. You need to be sure your worship is directed to God. The music must open you up to God. You are singing praises to Him. Let the music move you to know that God sent His only begotten Son to be our Savior. Direct your focus on the cross, where Jesus gave His innocent blood, where He suffered and died for you. Let the music return you to what Jesus said in John 3, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” or to what Paul said in Ephesians 5, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” or to what Jesus said in John 13; “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Let the music, let the worship, take you to the cross where Jesus gave His all for you. Let the worship move you to know He did that for you. Be sure that worship is more than feelings. A second caution is;
- Don’t always be looking for the next high in worship
This goes along with the previous caution. There are times in worship when my spirit just soars. It is a spiritual high. But, don’t expect that at every time of worship. And, don’t think the worship was bad because you didn’t get that high. You see, that makes your worship a consumer affair. “The organ (band) didn’t move me like they did last week. Last week was a 9.8. Today, just a 7.5.” Your worship is less about what the organist or the band did to move you and more about your heart and how it is directed to God.
- Be careful not to judge others who aren’t as expressive in worship
You might look around and see other people just standing there while the music portion of the service is going on. They aren’t singing or anything. They are just standing there. Don’t judge them. Don’t think that their level of spirituality is not nearly as deep as yours. They may have a different Spiritual Pathway. Now, what are some
- Ways to grow
- Sing it out
Rev up your Worship Pathway. If, because of Covid, you can’t really belt it out here in church, let your spirit sing. What comes out of your mouth can be just a tiny portion of what is going on in your heart. It is only a small piece of your love for God. So sing it out. Rev up your worship.
- Find new ways to worship
Make your car a worship center. I’ve seen people with the Worship Pathway just riding around in circles. They have nowhere to go, they just hoped in the car and had the station set to K-Love and they are singing their heart out to God. They are worshipping God as they drive. By the way, if you are worshipping while you are driving, it might keep you from getting angry at that guy who cut you off. You are not going to drive along singing, “Joyful Joyful we adore Thee, God of glory Lord of…” what are you doing you, jerk. No, your worship might help curtail those outbursts. Find new ways to worship. Worship in your car. Worship as you vacuum. You’ve heard, “Whistle while you work”? Well, whistle to God as you work. Put the earbuds in and sing along while you rake the leaves. Find new ways to worship.
- Stretch yourself
Experience God in ways other than corporate worship. Sometimes worship God without music. Engage in a discipline of study. Include formal and structured religious observances as well as unstructured ones. Serve God in concrete ways as an extension of your worship.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1
Expand your view of worship. A mom caring for her children in a Godly way is an act of worship. A worker working for a company to the glory of God is an act of worship. Stretch yourself. Alright, while we still have time, let’s move to the
- Contemplative Pathway
Now, first, I just like the word itself. Is it Con-tem-pla-tive (emphasis on the 3rd syllable) or con-temp-la-tive (emphasis on the 2nd syllable)? I like contemplative (emphasis on the 2nd syllable). It sound more ethereal, which is kind of what I think of when I think of you Contemplatives. You are ethereal.
Many times couples come for marriage counseling and a husband will recite a long list of things he is doing for his wife including holding down 2 jobs, building a new house, and buying her everything. However, the wife complains that what she desires more is for her husband to simply stop a few moments and give himself to her. Sometimes God sees us rushing about in our lives and He says, “If only they would stop a few minutes and give themselves to me.” Someone with the Contemplative Pathway understands that all too well.
Whereas to experience God more deeply, Intellectuals want to know more about God, Worshippers want to sing to God and Relationshippers experience God more deeply with other people, as a Contemplative, you simply want to adore God. Do you know what happens when a Contemplative meets a chatty Relational type? They get married. Reflection comes naturally to you. You love uninterrupted quiet. You simply want to sit in God’s presence. You groove on Scriptures like;
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Psalm 42:1-2
“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched landwhere there is no water…3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you… 5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;with singing lips my mouth will praise you. 6 On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night...8 I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63:1-8
Time is one of the wonderful gifts we give back to God, to spend time with him and as a contemplative, you want to give God plenty of it. When an activist says, “I’ll call you back” that means they will call back as soon as they get home if not sooner. When the contemplative says, “I’ll call you back,” it means they will do it before they die. You see your relationship with God as a transforming friendship. Heaven and hell become less as places and more of descriptions of communion with or separation from God. And, as we have been saying about all of these pathways, this is the way you experience God better. You don’t just love quiet and solitude for its own sake. It is how you experience God better.
An example of the Contemplative Pathway may be Mary, the sister of Martha. You will recall that Jesus visited the home of these two sisters. While Martha was in the kitchen preparing a meal, Mary sat at Jesus feet. She just wanted to be with Jesus. I have said before that my vision of heaven is just being with Jesus. I don’t care what we are doing, but just to be with Jesus will be the best. In this life, I have trouble doing that. I’ve got to be doing. In my semi-retirement state, on a day off, I am usually up before Nancy. By the time she gets up, I maybe have refinished 3 projects, done my devotions, read the news, eaten my breakfast and have the entire day planned out. Then Nancy comes into the kitchen and I am ready to go, go go. Nancy is ready to sit, sit sit. Where Martha was doing, Mary was ready to sit.
- Be careful of the tendency to avoid the demands of the world.
Contemplatives can become ascetics. You may want to go off in your own little world. You can put off daily tasks so that you can spend time in solitude. You can retreat to your own inner world when friends, family or society disappoint you. You might forget the mission of the church. God calls the church to be in the world, not of the world. But, God does not call the church to shun the world and retreat from it. The mission of the church demands that Christians go out into the world to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to it. Be careful of the tendency to avoid the demands of the world.
- Never see your contemplation as a way to get God to love you
Martin Luther fell prey to that. Before he came to understand the Gospel for his life, he thought that by going off to the monastery, by depriving himself of interaction with the world, that somehow, God would have to love him. He did these things to get God to love him. Don’t think that your times of prayer and contemplation will get God to love you because He already loves you with and incomprehensible love.
- Work at not allowing contemplation to become selfish
It is too easy for the contemplative to concentrate on their relationship with God to the exclusion of others. It can become an, “It’s all about me” exercise.
- Don’t think your contemplation is better or worse than any other pathway
Resist the temptation to consider your times of private prayer and solitude as better than the more public acts of ministry performed by others. And, resist the temptation to consider your times of private prayer and solitude as less than the more public acts of ministry performed by others. Finally, here are some
- Ways to grow
- Rejoice in your Contemplative Pathway
Set aside those times to be alone with God and act on what you hear from God in silence. Work at being, rather than doing.
- Reflect on any sins that plague you
Gary Thomas, in his book, “Sacred Pathways” (pg. 190) writes; “We cannot gaze on the glorious face of God while lusting in our heart after the world’s sinful pleasures.” Reflect on those sins, repent of them and confess them so you can return to worship God.
- Stretch yourself
Go in the opposite direction. Work at doing rather than being. Choose a regular place of active service. Connect with those who have an activist pathway to get you out of your prayer closet and into the world.
So, is your pathway a Worship Pathway or a Contemplative Pathway? I urge you to figure that out, revel in whatever Spiritual Pathway you have and let that lead you into a deeper and deeper relationship with God.
In Jesus’ name. Amen