Monday, April 25, 2011
Growing up, this was common place in our home. My mother was very thrifty with food, and never let any go to waste. She told me that she had learned this from her parents who had weathered the storms of the Great Depression. Food was expensive, so my grandparents had a large garden and several milk cows to provide for their needs. My grandmother was the queen of "canning", and her entire basement was filled with shelves of canned vegetables and fruits. I can remember marveling at the bounty in her basement. The same was true in our home. My mother learned how to can, grow a garden, and save pennies wherever she could. While we did not suffer the severe hardships of the Great Depression, our family was supported by one income for many years, so we had to be good stewards of what we had.
While leftovers can be a tasty time-saver, eating the same thing over and over again can become monotonous. Just as children complain about the repetition on their plates, I wonder how God feels about the leftover worship and faith we present Him with at times? We all know how we sometimes just go through the motions at church. Our bodies are present but our hearts are far from Him. We smile, we nod and maybe we even say "Amen" during the message, but all we are giving to Him is our leftovers.
Isaiah confronted leftover worship as he spoke prophecy to the people of Judah. While they were outwardly obedient to the Lord, their hearts were far from Him. In chapter 2 verses 11-15 Isaiah says: "What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations -I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. when you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you, even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood." What God desires from His children then and now is a heart of obedience. One that delights itself in His presence.
We could have perfect Sunday School attendance and be in church every time the door is open. But if we just go through the motions and give God whatever is leftover from the busy week, then we are no better than the people of Judah or for that matter the Pharisees of Jesus' day. Anybody can follow a cook book religion and look good outwardly, yet this is not what God desires. He wants our true worship and obedience that comes from sincere love. So, how can we prepare our hearts to offer fresh praise?
Before we got to work each day (whether at home or in the office), we need to stop and read His Word. It is our food for life, and we need to chew upon it throughout the day. His Word will change our minds and our hearts so that our worship is genuine and fragrant before Him.
We also need to find time for prayer. Scripture tells us to pray without ceasing. Talking to God about all the concerns of our life allows interaction that we desperately need. Running to all our friends will not produce the answers we need for the critical decisions that are before us. God tells us in James 1:5 that if we lack wisdom we should ask Him for it. He will provide for us the direction we need. I find myself praying as I go to work in the morning and throughout the day when situations arise. It is a blessing to know that I can do this. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross tore the curtain that separated us from God. Now we have access to the throne room itself. Why would we not enter in and talk to the Lord of our lives?
Finally, we need to sincerely spend time readying our hearts for worship services. We must put aside the thoughts of what we need to accomplish in the next few days. Park the golf cart, put away the fishing rod, shelve the projects, and empty our hearts of all the busyness. Listen to songs that glorify Him, spend time in prayer and ask Him to speak to our hearts. Then, we can go to worship ready to lift His name on high. It is not about us receiving. Worship is all about Him and as we lift Him up, we also will be lifted. He dwells in the praises of His people. This is how we can live Easter and Christmas every day of the year. Then, our faith will be a fresh offering to the Lord rather than a stale leftover.
Leftover food has its place especially in our current economy. However, just as God's mercies are new every morning. so our worship, our faith and obedience need to be fresh every morning as well. Let us be a living sacrifice that is pleasing and fragrant to the Lord who redeemed us rather than stale leftovers. Selah!
How do you prepare yourself for worship? What do you do to keep
your faith from becoming leftover? Please share your thoughts on this