Well, we’re continuing with our exploration into what our vision statement means for us as a team. Let me remind you of that vision statement:
To be a team of authentic worshippers who are known for loving God, loving people and serving our church with passion and excellence.
We have started to look at the different aspects of loving people and on Thursday I had the opportunity to talk about one of the topics which is closest to my heart – worship and justice. This is an area which I have been journeying in; trying to learn and understand how these two concepts are so intrinsically linked. What I have come to realise is that they simply cannot be separated. Let me explain a little more.
When we worship God not only do we honour and praise him; we also get to know him. We get to see his character – his love, grace, mercy – and also his justice. He reveals to us more and more what is paramount in his heart, and through his Spirit he gradually (and sometimes not so gradually!) changes our hearts to be more like his.
Did you know that after idolatry, justice has the most coverage than any other topic in the New Testament. Did you know that 1 in 16 verses in the New Testament and 1 in 12 verses in the gospels refers to justice? If you take away justice, all you’re left with is a bible full of holes.
So how is it that some churches have gone for such a long time completely ignoring this aspect of God’s character which is given so much air time in the bible? Well, I guess we can only speculate, but I am so pleased that I am in a church that embraces justice in many ways.
In Isaiah 58 we get a glimpse of how passionate God is when our acts of worship to him are not reflected authentically in our lives. In this passage they are talking about fasting but I’m sure it’s not too far a stretch to assume the same would be said of people offering musical worship. There’s almost too much in this chapter to quote it directly, so I encourage you to go and read it yourself, but let’s just say that God is not best pleased with a people who offer their act of worship whilst being money-focussed, abusive, neglecting of the poor, insular and inauthentic. I love the last part of this chapter…
‘If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, if you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down and out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadow lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places – firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild foundations out of the past.’
WOW!!!!!! How cool is that. What a promise!!!!!! I challenge you to take this seriously. I’ll bet there are a number of people who feel like a great big pile of rubble, and you’re not sure many people would refer to you as a ‘gurgling spring’. Well maybe it’s time to take your eyes from your own pain, and let them rest on someone elses. Please believe me, I don’t say that lightly as there are some situations in people’s lives I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy – but maybe this is the key to unlock your life. Maybe if you take a time to ‘spend yourself’ on behalf of someone else, and do it for the right reason; maybe God will see the shift in your heart and maybe bless you in ways you never thought.
Back to the links with worship….. Our God is a God of love and justice. Not only to the poor financially but to the poor in spirit, in mind, in heart. To those who are abused in whatever way, to those who have borne the brunt of a mis-use of power, to those whose lives are on a downward spiral, To those who live in the darkness of situations and to those who live in darkness of unbelief. As we get to understand this aspect of God’s character our hearts as worshippers should be stirred to action, but also stirred to share the message that God has called us to get off our backsides and do something. HANDS AND FEET PEOPLE!!!!!! We are God’s one and only plan for this world. You are the answer, You are the solution to the problems you see around you.
Let’s never be like the poeple in Isaiah who profess one thing with their mouth and have an entirely different thing dwelling in their heart. My prayer is that God would grip your heart as you worship him. That you would first of all realise what a treaure you are to him, how loved and how precious. But also that you would be stirred to take that message out to the least and the lost. That you would do it through your attitude to people, with your words, with your actions, with your wallet – with whatever it is you have at your disposal.
Spend it, and spend it well.