We don't reverence God anymore. I just finished reading the book of Ezekiel and God goes into great detail to explain reverence, holiness, and worship. Not all worship is acceptable, you know. Isaiah 1:11-15, God tells us, "What purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me? I have had enough of your burnt offerings...I do not delight in the blood of bulls...I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; 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 hear..."
Yikes. That's sobering. Yet, we approach God with the same insincerity and slapdash attitude as did ancient Israel. We too, act like any pittance we throw God should suffice, especially if we're not inconvenienced.
Not long ago, I had the opportunity to usher at a Ladies Retreat. In our training, we were asked to make sure no one entered the sanctuary with food or beverages. During one of the sessions, I spied a woman sipping a latte and offered to show here where she could finish it. She paused a moment, then stood to follow me out. She said, "I was going to rebel but decided against it."
I see how we enter the sanctuary to come before a holy God and I am sick at heart. We come with soft drinks, lattes, and cell phones (yes, I've seen people actually talk on them during worship). You mean to tell me that you can't sit one hour without these things? I wonder what these people would do if I behaved in their homes with the same disrespect that they show God. Would they likely have me back?
Picture this. We've just met and you invite me to your home. When I arrive, there's a sign on the door, "Please do not bring drinks into the house." Ignoring it, I walk with a latte, plop down on the couch and kick my feet up on your coffee table. You are watching a T.V. program I don't like so I walk over and change it without asking. I leave used tissues and garbage on the sofa. I see a friend across the room so (with my shoes on) walk on furniture so I can get around everyone and to my friend. When you, the host, have had enough, "You politely ask me to refrain and show some courtesy." To which I reply, "You're mean! I'm never coming here again."
It sounds ridiculous.
Unfortunately, I've seen these very behaviors in many services and in many churches. I was even in one church where a cockatoo was allowed to roam about because the owner didn't want to leave it home alone. Adults and teens walking on the pews rather than wait until an isle is clear. Adults texting and slurping lattes during worship. Adults kicking off their shoes and propping their feet on the back of the pew--and in their neighbor's hair.
Newsflash. Worship isn't for you. It's for God. If you can't do it for Him, show some respect for the furniture at least.
What all of this leads up to is this: our attitude in coming to God, in approaching a holy God, is often sloppy and disrespectful. We lumber in with all the aforementnioned goodies, plop down on a pew, sing a song and expect that God will be pleased with it. Why should He? Do we even consider the Person He is? Do we have a clue what He likes, what pleases Him? Do we care how our thoughtlessness might hurt Him? Are we really saying that we can't sit respectfully for an hour--an hour--without texting our friends, drinking a latte, or propping our feet on the back of a pew? Come on, people. We're not children.
In our minds and in our hearts we must be clear on why we're in church. Be clear on Who worship is for. Be clear that at least for one hour (of 168 hours of the week) we can behave like God matters, like His feelings matter, like we really do love Him.
In discussing this with many church leaders, I've heard a myriad of explanation. Most "don't want to hurt people's feelings." Excuse me? People's feelings? What about God's feelings? If we cared as much for God's feelings as we claim for people, perhaps the Church wouldn't be in it's present pitiful state. He deserves the highest praise, pure praise, praise from a pure and contrite heart.