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Tuesday
Apr262011

Distracted With Much

It was once a staple of our public prayers – we petitioned God to help us during the worship assembly to dismiss temporarily the cares of this world. No doubt, God was listening, but so was the tempter, also keen on employing technological advances and cultural opportunities to serve his cause. Even a meeting house without windows is wide open to the distractions and concerns of the world beyond its walls. Our thirst for communication and connectedness will not even permit us to go an hour or two without interrupting the flow of worship to plug in and catch up.

I. Worship

    A. Praise for God

        1. our God deserves our worship because he is awesomely all-powerful, but also because he is benevolent and merciful

        2. our God is the creator of the universe, of the things that most people choose to worship, whether the constellations of the Hellenists, the statuary of the Canaanites, or the pride and possessions of our contemporaries

        3. we worship Jesus Christ, who is our savior and the one who gave all for us upon the cross (Philippians 2:9-10, 3:3)

        4. for us, that tends to be limited somewhat to the things we do in a setting like this, but when people had physical access to Jesus Christ, they not only worshiped him by listening to his teaching, but also by bringing him gifts (see Matthew 2:2) and kissing his feet (see Luke 7:45)

        5. in the New Testament, four words are translated as “worship,” but each has a unique connotation in the original language

 

    B. Word Study

        1. proskuneo (προσκυνέω pr. pros-koo-neh'-o, Strong’s #4352): “to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence … among the Orientals, esp. the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence … in the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication;” probably derived from a compound which literally means like a dog licking the hand of its master

        2. sebomai (σέβω, pr. seb'-om-ahee, Strong’s #4576): “to revere, to worship”; emphasis is on the attitude of being God-fearing

        3. threskeia (θρησκεία; pr. thrace-ki'-ah, Strong’s #2356): “religious worship … esp. external, that which consists of ceremonies … religious discipline, religion;” the focus is upon the forms of worship, which are just as important as the spirit

        4. latreuo (λατρεύω, pr. lat-ryoo'-o, Strong’s #3000): “to serve for hire … to serve, minister to, either to the gods or men and used alike of slaves and freemen … in the NT, to render religious service or homage, to worship … to perform sacred services, to offer gifts, to worship God in the observance of the rites instituted for his worship;” here the focus is upon the priesthood of all believers, serving God without the need of an intermediary, especially through song, prayer, and communion

 

    C. True Worship Requires Concentration

        1. think about the various tasks or jobs that require intense concentration to complete – brain surgery, watchmaking, meat cutting    

        2. they require concentration to do well, to avoid making mistakes, to be acceptable and successful; worshiping God might not seem to require that level of attention, but that just indicates the problem – boredom, apathy, ritualism, distraction

            a. the danger in a fairly static program of worship is that people set their minds on autopilot and merely go through the motions of worship without much active thought

            b. in the process, the worship is drained out and what is left is meaningless noise or silence

            c. the process can look accurate even as the meaning is missing because the worshiper does not have to pay attention; “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

        3. what concerns us is the biblical certainty that not all worship is acceptable to God, just because the worshiper is sincere or emotional or adhering to the proper ritual: “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).

        4. our worship requires more concentration than we sometimes allow

            a. “What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also” (First Corinthians 14:15).

            b. “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11).

            c. “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (First Corinthians 11:27-29).

 

II. Cares of This World

    A. Dismiss Them

        1. worshipers have always struggled to focus their minds upon the worship in front of them, to be actively involved without allowing their minds to wander outside and ahead to the cares and concerns of everyday life

        2. we have always had to pray about and fight the urge to ponder lunch, tomorrow’s workload, the football game coming on television any minute, and scores of other concerns, large and small

        3. we like to think of this meeting house as a refuge, expecting to be separated for a few moments from all the diversions and disappointments that belong out there, but times have changed and the freedom of our minds to wander has been augmented by a distracting misuse of modern wireless technology, bringing the concerns of life front and center, requiring immediate attention, often from people who have no interest in the solemnity of the worship hour

            a. years ago, the only telephone in the meeting house was connected to the wall in the foyer and it seldom rang during the worship assembly unless there was an emergency

            b. now, there are almost as many phones as people and it seems like everything that happens is just as urgent – emails must be read and answered, text message correspondences must be maintained, Facebook statuses must be updated, football scores must be monitored, world news must flow

            c. rarely does a day go by that somebody’s phone does not chirp, but even more rarely is there anything urgent about its message

        4. in the early nineteenth century, William Wordsworth wrote a sonnet called, “The World Is Too Much with Us,” and at the risk of sounding like a Luddite, his fatalistic argument against materialist progress sounds very prophetic; it reads in part:

 

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

 

    B. Thorny Soil

        1. Jesus taught a memorable parable about the potential for different kinds of material weeds to choke and kill the power of his word in the soil of people’s hearts (Mark 4:14-20)

        2. in the third type of soil, we find the danger of distraction – the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, the desire for things other than God’s word

        3. so much of our worship is identified with that word – we sing words and pray words, we listen to a sermon composed of words, of allusions and quotations from God’s word

        4. if we are allowing worldly concerns and diversions to distract us from worship, then the soil in our hearts is developing a rather thorny problem

        5. the problem, according to the parable, is that these distractions stunt our spiritual growth and prevent us from reaching maturity or being fruitful, even if we keep on occupying the same noisy pew

 

    C. Martha, Martha

        1. the matron saint of distraction, of course, was Martha (Luke 10:38-42)

        2. Martha was not distracted in a church building by someone responding unfavorably to her Facebook status, but she was distracted from the teaching of Jesus by matters of inferior importance

        3. her sister, whom she considered irresponsible and unhelpful, had made a better choice by turning off and tuning out the cares and concerns of this life

 

Conclusion

No one is more enraptured by the uses of modern technology in the church than am I. I have made use of the Internet, YouTube, podcasting and streaming video where I thought it was beneficial. I even preach with an iPad instead of a paper and leather Bible and I assume that when I see you holding your phones in your hands during worship that you are using a Bible application instead of your own softbound editions. The challenge, however, is to keep the focus on the Bible, in whatever form it takes, on the worship that requires our attention, and off the cares of this world that would divert our attention and limit our growth.

 

Questions For Review

  1. Why does God deserve our worship?
  2. What message does our divided attention send?
  3. What is the comprehensive meaning of the four Greek terms?
  4. What kinds of things distract us from worship?
  5. How do they figure into the thorniness of our soil?
  6. What did Jesus want Martha to understand?
  7. How can we learn to focus better in a chaotic culture?

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