© Copyright 2007 by Phil Scovell - All Rights Reserved
65 Learning To Worship By Phil Scovell Many find it difficult to worship God because they don't know how. They don't know how because they've never been taught. Some believe, based upon many church services I have attended, worshipping the Lord is accomplished by raising your hands, praising the name of the Lord loudly, running up and down the aisles, shouting amen until the rafters vibrate, waving flags and banners, pounding on objects which generate a lot of noise, leaping into the air, dancing, hand clapping, laying on the floor, foot stomping, yelling hallelujah over and over again until their tongue snaps off its roller, and generally creating as much racket as humanly possible. None of which, by the way, am I against. If you study Old Testament worship, you will find many such things practiced by the Jews so I am in no way belittling such forms of worship. Moreover, I've done a great deal of what I just described. It is why we do it which causes me to consider the motives. Is the purpose of worship to generate a lot of enthusiasm so the preacher's sermon sounds better or a lot of hyped emotions so we can feel God? Does worship make us a better Christian? What if we don't worship like everybody around us or like the person who is instructing us up at the pulpit? Are we sinning if we don't raise our hands? Is speaking in tongues worship? If so, why do some believe it isn't a gift for today even if the Apostle Peter in Acts Chapter 2 said it was? With all this in mind, let me tell you a true story about how to worship God which likely is rarely considered to be worship. My 75 year old friend, of whom many of you have heard me speak before, picked me up one night for our traditional, waist of time, Wednesday night bible study. I say, waist of time, because we, in that church, rarely studied the bible. Oh, the Bible was preached but it got to a point where it was no longer taught by the pastor. This I never understood because the pastor was a great preacher and he was as good of Bible teacher as I have ever known. However, our Wednesday and Sunday night meetings had decayed into book reading sessions. He would read to us from some famous book that was currently popular among mega churches across the country. Why we couldn't read these books on our own was a mystery to me but then, I wasn't the pastor. This particular Wednesday evening was starting out just like all the other boring Wednesday night bible studies, so called. We had six to eight people who showed up and we met in the basement and sat at a long table. I was dreading the Standard Operating Procedure I knew was about to begin. I also knew that the man who brought me, and with whom I normally rode with Wednesday and Sunday nights, was discouraged. That very week, a friend of the family's son had been run down by a hit and run driver and killed. This man, and his wife, my friends, had lost two sons to similar accidents. One was changing the tire on his car along side the highway when he was struck and killed. The other son, and his fiance where likewise struck and killed as they simply crossed the street as they were on an evening walk together. So, my friend was feeling the grief of the death of his own two boys based upon what had just happened to someone they knew. Wishing we didn't have to sit and listen to a book being read to us, other than the Bible that is, someone made a comment about an animal. I can't remember what it was, I think it was about a pet, but within moments, as the Holy Spirit took over the meeting, everyone at the table began telling stories, some very miraculous, about animals. Some stories were very serious while others were very funny to hear. Soon, a general discussion about God's creation came up and how marvelous God's handiwork was. These two basic themes of discussion continued to expand at such a rapid pace, the pastor never had a chance to crack his most popular book he had been reading. Before long, it was 9 o'clock, the time we normally stopped, and the pastor closed in prayer. Big deal! Walking out of the building, I easily noticed the emotional change in the elderly man with whom I was riding. Walking down the stairs to the sidewalk, he chuckled and said, "Boy, I feel good. That was wonderful." Keep in mind, we hadn't prayed collectively as we often did, we hadn't read the bible, which we normally didn't do anyhow, and the pastor didn't even read his book which we always did. Yet, this man was refreshed in the Lord but didn't know why. I waited till we got into the car to tell him. As I clicked my seat belt in place and my Brother in the Lord started the engine, he said, "You know Brother Phil? I wasn't feeling too well when we came tonight but I sure feel good now." I said, "I knew you were feeling poorly due to the death of your family friend and how you could identify with those feelings but do you know why you feel good now?" "No," he replied as he did a U turn on the side street the church was on and drove up to the corner and waited for the traffic before turning left. "Tell me why?" he asked. "Because," I said, "tonight, we worshipped the Lord." "We did?" he said; puzzled. When I pointed out that all we did tonight was talk about God's creation, I said, "we were magnifying the Lord. Soon the Lord became bigger than our personal problems and that always makes a person feel better to know that he has such a big God that can do anything." He said, "Well, what do you know. That's exactly right. We did worship the Lord tonight, didn't we?" I laughed and said, "We sure did, Brother, and you are right; it was good." If you read the Psalms carefully, and much of the book of Proverbs, you will notice the focus the authors placed on God by circling the wagons, sort of speak, around God's creation. King David was especially notorious for this. Read it for yourself if you doubt the validity of my statement. How did King David magnify God in his life? Just read the 23rd Psalm. One reason why I enjoy our African Gray parrot so much is because he always reminds me of God's creation. Sure, we have dogs. We even have a cat and rabbits and guinea pigs, a couple of turtles, a frog, and a rat; a pet rat, I mean. Most, if not all, of these pets are domesticated. Well, as domesticated as a frog or turtle can be, I mean. The parrot is, too, of course, but he still possessed with the wild nature God gave him. Yes, he bites hard when I stick my fingers in his cage. When we let him out to play on his cage or his fake tree perch, he loves to nibble and bite my fingers. He loves walking up my arm, if I lay it down flat, and crawling up the front of my shirt to stand on my shoulder. He likes pulling my hair, what's left of it, nibbling on my ear, trying to jam his beak down my ear canal, biting my nose, and picking at anything he thinks looks interesting. Then I bend down closer to his cage or perch and he jumps off my shoulder. He is still a wild bird and that alone always makes me think of God and how He is the creator of all things. So what am I doing, you may ask, when I am thinking this way? Yes, that's right. I am worshipping my Creator. No, I am not worshipping the bird; I'm worshipping the bird's Creator who just so happens to be my Creator as well. I'm even weirder than just that. I talk to the parrot, his name is Chester, and I tell him about God and that He, God, created him and made his nice feathers and his beak so hard that he is able to crack nuts opened to feed himself. Now, I know some are thinking that this bird doesn't know any such thing. I believe he does. I believe he is in touch with the Creator more than I am so I talk to Chester about it all. I said I was weird. How do you learn to worship God? The best way is to pray. How do you pray? You sit in a chair quietly, or kneel in front of the couch, the settee if you live in England, and you wait before the Lord silently. You push away all the thoughts of the world when they try to come regardless of what they are. No, I didn't say you attempt to empty your mind; that's a form of meditation which isn't wise for anyone to practice for any reason. Why? It leaves you exposed and unguarded. Just pushing away worldly concerns, however, isn't meditation; it is active concentration. It is mental adjustment which allows for your mind to focus on more important things. This takes practice. The worldly problems love to crowd our minds with worry and doubt and unbelief and fear and guilt and shame and frustration and stress, and a lot of other such things. No, you don't need to picture the cross in your mind, or what Jesus may have looked like, or Heaven, or focus on a burning candle, or anything. You simply exercise discipline over the thoughts that are trying to commandeer your mind and emotions. Then, as the things of the world begin to fade and drift out of focus, you do one thing and one thing only. You listen. For what? You listen for God. If you are born again, I guarantee you will eventually hear Him. Oh, maybe not at first because we carry around a large amount of doubt and unbelief in our thinking and we feel its effect deep within our emotions. If you continue doing what the Bible calls, "Be still and know that I am God," (Psalm 46:10), you will soon begin to, not only worship the Lord in your mind, but in your spirit where the Holy Spirit dwells. You will also begin to hear God. Maybe not in words or pictures but you will sense His presence in a way you likely have never experienced before. Then what happens? You will begin to worship Him for who He is. Who is He? He is God; your Creator. When I do this, I wait until the things of the world grow dim in my thoughts. Based upon circumstances, this might take a little longer than what feels comfortable. The more we pray this way, on the other hand, the quicker the worldly things begin to drift away from the forefront of our minds. At this point, I often begin to just randomly think of God's creation. Think about His eternality and how He has always been and always will be. Consider the creation of the universe which is without end or containment. He created the universe as a reflection of His nature. Eventually, as you attempt to get your thoughts around these humanly impossible things, you will settle on Jesus and who He is and why He wants to be in your life. Why will you defer to Jesus instead of God? Because, you, nor anyone, can comprehend God. Jesus, who is God, became a man for 33 years so He could identify Himself with us as His creation. Now we can identify with Him because He became like us to make that possible. Now do you understand why Jesus came to earth? He came for you because He wants to get to know you in a very personally intimate way which words cannot describe. I still find Christians uncomfortable with this type of prayer and worship. In my life, I have read dozens of books on meditation. What I am describing as prayer is nothing like eastern meditation techniques. I know I am repeating myself but that isn't prayer and it isn't worship so don't do it. If you have trouble with this, go back and read the Psalms, especially those of King David, and you'll see exactly how David focused on God, His nature, and his creation. There is one other way of achieving this form of intimacy in prayer. It is called, singing. It is quite simple and the New Testament is in no way silent on this subject of worship through singing hymns and songs and spiritual songs. Singing, by its very nature, causes the world to fade and our minds and emotions to focus on the Lord. Instant worship! I want to tell you about one of the bravest men in the Bible. His name is Elijah. I say, his name is, because, Elijah never physically died. He was miraculously and spectacularly carried into Heaven by God and there was an eye witness to confirm it. Long before this miraculous home going, Elijah experienced some amazing things through the power of God. But, since he was only human, he also became fearful and scared and frustrated from the stressful activities of the ministry. It gets worse when the wife of the King puts out a contract on you to have you killed. So, Elijah did the only thing he could think to do. He ran for his life. During his flight, he ended up in a cave. God did something quite humorous. He asked Elijah a question. "What are you doing here, Elijah," God wanted to know. Well, Elijah hawked up this bilge, which is another way of saying he coughed up this theological garbage, about how he was the only person left serving the Lord (he didn't know about the other 7,000 people the Lord already had working for Him at the time) and that, dad gum it, the queen was trying to have him killed. God told him to go out and stand on the mountain. Something mighty unusual happened as Elijah made his way out of the cave. God passed by, the Bible says, and the wind that was generated was so powerful boulders split in half. Now, I've been through Wyoming many times but I have never witnessed a wind so powerful and so strong that it could split big rocks in half. Yet, the Bible says, God was not in the wind. Odd, you might say. After this big God generated wind storm, there was a massive earthquake that rattled Elijah false teeth. Again, the Bible says, God was not in the earthquake. Finally, there was a fire. Now, stop and think about this. Elijah is hiding out high up in the mountains where not much is growing. Yet, we are told there was a fire. Were the rocks on fire or what? It kind of makes you think that way. Still, the Bible says, God was not in the fire. Then, the Bible does say, God spoke to Elijah in that same small still voice and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" You can read about this in First Kings chapter 19 if you doubt my interpretation. So what do you suppose Elijah learned about worshipping God. Being on the mountain isn't what's important. Hearing God's voice is. In fact, it is all that is important.