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Read and discuss the following statement. Do you agree or disagree?

For my part I believe that the worship of Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, is the greatest calling and No.1 priority of the Christian Church. Yes, even before evangelism! Even before social justice. Worship must be given the highest place and everything else will flow from worship. Any faith community that will give itself to worship that honours the Lord will increasingly experience the activity of the Holy Spirit.

THE FOCUS OF WORSHIP

"I didn't get anything out of the worship time today."  Over the years I've heard people make that statement (or something like it) more times than I care to remember. I guess (if I have to be truthful!), I have uttered the same sentiment (complaint?) more than once in my life.

What we don't seem to understand is that worship is not primarily for us. Worship is for God. The real question is "What did God get out of our worship?" In saying that, I am not suggesting that there is no benefit that flows to us. Of course there is! But that benefit is a by-product, not the primary focus or goal.

One of the great outcomes of true worship is that we are delivered from the deadly pre-occupation with ourselves and our needs. The focus is shifted to the person and presence of the Lord God. The question concerning what we got out of worship becomes irrelevant the more we focus on the Lord.

As best as I recall, there are only two times in the New Testament where God is said to be seeking something. In Luke 19/10 He is said to be seeking the lost. In John 4/24 we are told that He is seeking those who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

When we realize that God actively seeks those who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth, suddenly this question takes on a whole new meaning, "What does God get out of our worship?" In some ways that question is unanswerable. How do we measure God's response? Unanswerable or not, it's a question that keeps the focus where it ought to be and minimizes the self-centredness that so often robs worship of its dynamic.

Maybe that points us towards the answer to that otherwise unanswerable question. We know God is pleased with our worship because His Spirit becomes increasingly active in our midst and there is an empowering that takes place in the Church.

Why do I believe in the priority of worship over all other Kingdom activities?

In short, it's because of what I see in Scripture.

1. The Exodus began, not with Moses confronting Pharaoh, but when Moses worshipped in response to the revelation of God. The victory flowed out of worship

Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.....the LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people...... So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."  (Ex 3:5-10  NIV)

2. The conquest of the Promised Land was achieved, not because of Joshua's clever battle plan but because Joshua first bowed his head and his heart in worship

As Joshua approached the city of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man facing him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you friend or foe?" "Neither one," he replied. "I am commander of the LORD's army". At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. "I am at your command," Joshua said. "What do you want your servant to do?" The commander of the LORD's army replied, "Take off your sandals, for this is holy ground." And Joshua did as he was told. (Josh 5:13-15)

3. The ministry of Isaiah began in worship as the Lord revealed His presence. It did not begin with Isaiah deciding what should be done, by whom or when.

In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Hovering around him were mighty seraphim, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with the remaining two they flew. In a great chorus they sang, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty! The whole earth is filled with his glory!" The glorious singing shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire sanctuary was filled with smoke. I heard the Lord asking, "Whom should I send as a messenger to my people? Who will go for us?" And I said, "Lord, I'll go! Send me." (Isa 6:1-4, 8  NLT)

4. The impact of the Day of Pentecost did not come first and foremost because of Peter's preaching. It began with the Holy Spirit coming in power and with 'declaring the wonderful works of God'. Sounds like praise and worship to me!

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them..... Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!  (Acts 2:1-11  NIV)

5. It was while the Church at Antioch was fasting and worshipping that the Holy Spirit spoke and Paul's first missionary journey began.

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.   (Acts 13:1-3 NIV)

6. Heaven reflects the mind and heart of God. Jesus taught us to pray that God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The priority of heaven is the worship of God.

Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty — the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come." Whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the one sitting on the throne, the one who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one who lives forever and ever. And they lay their crowns before the throne and say,"You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created."  (Rev 4:8-11 NLT)

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