With summer winding down we gathered again this morning for a time of worship and fellowship this 12th Sunday after Pentecost. Pastor Brad and his family were back from a Colorado camping trip and ready for the fall kickoff of a new Sunday school season coming soon. Rally Day will be Sunday September 13, with additional information to come.
Brad began by promoting his theme, based on Exodus 33, that it is not success or security or freedom that matters most, but having God's presence in our midst, whatever our circumstances.
The worship was contemporary and meaningful this morning. Brad read from Psalm 84 to set the tone. "How lovely is You dwelling place, O Lord." After the offering he also read John 6:56ff.
During the prayer time we remembered many needs in our church family. Several anniversaries were also mentioned, including Borndals (29), Newmans (30) and Olsons (52). Following two more worship songs, Pastor Brad took the pulpit to deliver today's message.
Brad said his theme this morning would essentially be this: what does it mean to be a worshipping community? Today's message began with Exodus 33:1-6.
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, 'I will give it to your descendants.' 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way."
4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 5 For the LORD had said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites, 'You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.' " 6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.
God has made an offer to His people, and when you think about it, He has given them everything they could have ever wanted, freedom from Egypt, guidance, success, protection, and now they were about to enter a homeland flowing with milk and honey. "But I will not go with you." God says in verse 3. In other words, "You get everything you've always wanted, but you just won't have Me."
Many churches would actually accept this. Not Israel. They wanted God's presence.
Have you told God that above all else you want to live in His presence? Do you want to live day by day, moment by moment in the presence of God?
This is not mindlessness, which is so very common. For example, have you ever read a page in a book and when you got to the bottom of the page you didn't know what you just read?
After a humorous personal anecdote Brad admitted that he doesn't always live with God's presence, sometimes rushing through prayers in order to get to other things he wants to do. He emphasized that we can't allow ourselves to live a life of mindless drifting.
This led us into Jacob's dream in Genesis 28.
After Jacob had left home he stopped for the night in a certain place. While sleeping he had an incredible dream of a stairway leading to Heaven, with angels ascending and descending, and God, looking down upon him from above, blessed him. Brad noted Jacob's response. "Surely the Lord is in the place and I did not even know it!" Jacob understood he was in the presence of God, and exclaimed, "How awesome is this place!"
What Moses and Jacob had, God wants all of us to experience, to see and know God's awesome presence in this place.
We're not to be just spectators either, Brad urged. He then gave an overview of a typical Sunday morning service here, and how we can get more engaged and experience more of God through our worship.
Usually there is a somewhat festive mood in the sanctuary with hugs and warmth. As we settle, we need to take a moment to still our hearts, prepare our hearts.
Prayer time is for all of us. Use that time for personal prayer, he said. It is not spectator time.
In the passage from Exodus 33 we see Israel gathered at the Tent of Meeting, but only a few enter in. Our worship is for all to participate in.
Did you know there are 41 Psalms that command us to sing to God? This is why singing is a part of our worship. The offering is also a part of our worship. As we give we can also be praying that God will do something great with this gift. And even announcements give us an opportunity to pray.
And when we learn together, that's an act of worship. Moses tells God he wants to know more about Him. It is a desire we can all have. And right now God is longing to reveal Himself to you. At the climax of this story in Exodus, after Moses had seen God like he never had before, it says he bowed his head toward the earth and worshipped. Moses poured his heart out to God.
Well, we're going to do that right now... Be open to God speaking to you, and as Moses did we're going to respond to God.