Years ago, in the late 90’s, Matt Redman wrote a song called “The Heart of Worship.” CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International) as of 2022 had this song in the top 100 songs in Canada, US and United Kingdom. Redman said the song was written following a time in their church when the pastor said, “There was a dynamic missing, so the pastor did a pretty brave thing,” he recalls. “He decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season, and we gathered together with just our voices. His point was that we’d lost our way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.” “When you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?” The lyrics of the song he wrote are “When the music fades all is stripped away and I simply come longing just to bring something that's of worth that will bless Your heart. King of endless worth no one could express how much you deserve though I'm weak and poor all I have is Yours every single breath! I'll bring You more than a song for a song in itself is not what You have required. You search much deeper within through the way things appear You're looking into my heart, yeah. I'm coming back to the heart of worship and it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it when it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus.”

        Today we are talking about stripping away praise and worship as we know it today, even the voices (a cappella). I have always thought this was an interesting song to be singing and yes, we sang it. Before I go on, yes, I did look into Matt Redman but didn’t spend much time. It doesn’t take long to see his connections, one is with Bethel Redding, California and Bethel Music and Vineyard. He did a podcast with Jeremy Riddle who was at Bethel Redding and both had a connection to Vineyard and Riddle is now Dwelling Place (was Vineyard Anaheim – John Wimber) worship pastor. I looked to see if there was recent repentance for their involvement with those groups but did not see anything. As we talked about yesterday, we must make sure who it is we are worshipping as we prepare to meet our God. If we are worshipping the wrong God and refuse to repent, Romans 2:5 “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” As you look at the lyrics of this song, the song gives you the answer for the church to get back to the heart of worship but then as the charts show, it is just another song added to all the others. “I'll bring You more than a song for a song in itself is not what You have required.” So, let me write another song??? Today worship is basically music and some do it really well, that people worship. The problem is music can be highly emotionally charged and many will say surely the presence of the Lord is in this place because of it, but is He. God said to Jacob Genesis 28:13 “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. 16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” One observation I made over the years was tempo usually made the hands go up, people bounce no matter how deep the song was, but take a deep slow song and the hands of praise didn’t go up, though not always the case. If the talent is there, most worship in churches have become concerts where every Sunday is like going to a concert. Then those musicians / churches sell their material from music to books, and it is big business. 

        It was interesting how this song became a hit as a song when it was talking about not bringing a song to God. As we will see in a moment there is nothing wrong with music to God as it is all through scripture but due to the desolation of the church, praise and worship music isn’t really what we should be focusing on at this point and the music itself is worshipped. This is a proper time, and then yes praise the Lord. Psalm 147:1 “Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” Now go back to Jonah and his proclamation in forty days you will be destroyed and picture yourself being told the same thing. Jonah 3:4 “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.” Then the king said, 8 “Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” Can you imagine at that point, when they were about to be destroyed, the king calling delaying his call to repentance and calling upon his minstrels for a time of praise and worship? The church is in the same position this king found his city in. The way music has evolved in the church and the importance it plays needs to stop, so it seems best to set it aside and return to focusing on God’s word. Having said that there can also be a problem with people infatuated with dynamic speakers, certain churches they follow and fall into the same trap. Many people think since they speak well, they must speak truth but that is not always the case. While many of the Psalms were sung, today our focus is on stopping what the church now calls worship and getting back to offering our lives as worship and committing wholeheartedly to God. Ture praise and worship will follow albeit from a different heart.

        As the church sits in desolation, praise and worship as we know it today is not on God’s agenda as He is looking at your heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” God also tells us quite specifically that He is not interested in our music as much as people think He is. We are told Isaiah 1:2 “Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! For the Lord has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. 3 The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. 7 Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire. 11 “The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. 14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!” Amos 5:21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” Today, praise and worship is more for the participants than God. Good worship is how a church is often judged and people flock to the churches who do it well but as we just saw, that is not what God is looking for. Our songs in this state of rebellion are a stench to God. So yes, God wants more than a song, He wants your heart. He wants your total submission.

        Don’t get me wrong, I love praise and worship music. I too have purchased from these artists hours of music over the years. At our house church and even before, every Sunday artists from around the world would lead worship at our church. Okay, not actually in person, but the music we bought and played at our house church. I followed the format of a service that most people follow and even though since covid we don’t have a house church, I too would shut everything down musically as I have been talking about. Covid showed the powerless church and was a perfect time to start over, yet churches sprang to life and continued going down the same path as before, except many realized that they didn’t really need to go to church Christianity continues to decline. I think everyone loves music, each with their own preferred musical genre but music is what we have come to know as worship. Giving our lives as worship is something altogether different As Malachi said, Malachi 3:7 “Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ 8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” God requires our life as our offering yet people struggle just to give God back some of the time and money He has given them. Today as for generations people go to church, sing, listen to preaching, repeat. At this point it is wrong and yes, it is more than just the music that has to change. 

        The church needs to get back to the heart of worship and stop entertaining the masses. I believe that all the instruments need to be put away. If you are using a fog machine for effect (that should never have been used in the first place) it needs to go along with all the props like lighting and other special effects on the stage. All the fancy sound equipment and the musicians themselves (no offense). Even the importance of the stage as our worship is not a performance. The same with the soft piano or guitar in the background during prayer or speaking. If it is a cappella, it needs to go to. It all needs to go and return to God’s word with humbled and repentant hearts just like the Ninevites because we will meet our God and we need to be ready.It is not that music is wrong, it is because we are desolate and should be desperately seeking God and pleading with Him to return to us and shine His face on the church. When He does, then we can praise Him, but it will be different as we will worship in Spirit and in truth. We need to return to the word of God. Even the pulpit needs to go. It is only somewhere to set the bible. While some got their idea of a raised pulpit as we see in Nehemiah even its importance may need to go and get back to focusing on God’s word and fearing HIm. Nehemiah 8:4 “Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. 5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.” Today, the pulpit is mostly symbolic, as the word of God has been set aside. It does not represent God’s word especially when the gospel is not preached. 

        This is a complete stripping down before God. There is also much more that would need to go other than praise and worship as we know it. First is the idea that church is a building you go to once a week. Spending millions on buildings used one day a week (Sunday gathering mentality) for the most part, one hour service mentality that needs to go. The people are the church and yes people gather, but the gathering is not how it should be as entertainment of the masses has taken over. Then there are things like the coffee and snacks, the theater set up, assigned parking spots for staff, selling stuff/ merchandizing. Since most people still attend service at least once a week there is a lot that would need to change. I have seen so many churches where people trickle in late, and music is even played for that very reason. Ushers should close the doors when the service starts. Get there on time like most people do for everything else! Some even play secular music in their services. I remember one church I saw playing the rolling stones basically as a call to worship. One writer said “More and more churches are playing “secular music” in their services. It’s happening both with the live band on stage, and in the background music. What was once unthinkable to many is now a common place in churches all across the Western World. What’s going on? Why is this happening? Should we be worried or is it no big deal?” If we even have to ask that question you know the church is in trouble. They say they are trying to reach the world but in fact they are the world, and it is a stench to God. They are trying so hard to not offend the world but instead they have offended God. 

        On and on the list could go as the church needs a massive makeover led by Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did this at the temple. Mark 11:15 “On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.” Malachi tells us Malachi 1:10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty.” Today those doors are the buildings we call churches. For the really brave, shut everything down completely and put out a sign that says “closed for renovations!” Yes, people will leave and be offended but this is about getting back to the heart of worship and you will find those who truly want to get there. It is God we are to worship, not ourselves. As Paul said Galatians 1:10 “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

        This is serious and if the church does not change directions, the lives of many will continue to be lost. Ezekiel 33:11 “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’ Joel says Joel 1:2 “Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors? A nation has invaded my land, a mighty army without number. 13 Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar.  Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God. 14 Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.” Shut down the church as we know it and call a sacred assembly. Joel 2:2 “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand— 2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. 12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”

        This is what the Ninevites did, and they were not even God’s people, but they listened and feared God. King Manasseh one of Judah’s worst kings, repented and returned to God. 2 Kings 21:9 “Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites. 12 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13 I will stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab. I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and give them into the hands of enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their enemies; 15 they have done evil in my eyes and have aroused my anger from the day their ancestors came out of Egypt until this day.” 16 Moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end—besides the sin that he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” 2 Chronicles 33:10 “The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. 12 In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God. 15 He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. 16 Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel.”

        The church needs to fear God once again and return to God’s word and repent as Manasseh did and as Josiah did. Josiah said 2 Kings 22:13 “Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.” 2 Kings 23:25 “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.” When you read 2 Kings 23, we see a blueprint for the church. The first step 2 Kings 23:2 “He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. 3 The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.” Nehemiah 8:3 “He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” Then as we read through what Josiah did, these words are key; remove, did away, burn, ground, scattered, tore down, desecrated, broke down, pulled down, smashed. The church needs to turn from its wicked ways. Setting aside the music part of worship is just the beginning of the return to true worship as we will need to do the same with doctrines, theology and other gospels / doctrines of demons. If you are willing, follow in Josiah’s steps. The church needs to show God it is serious and will turn away from their own ways. Leaders can’t fear if people will leave or if people will be offended or they lose their jobs but as Luke said Luke 6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your  name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. 26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.” Close the church for renovations. Yes, many will leave if they’re not serious about preparing to meet their God but those who are serious will return to God and God will bless those who seek Him. Leaders can’t be afraid of offending people, Jesus wasn’t. Don’t fear if you are thinking this way, you are not alone. Paul said Romans 11:2 “Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? 4 And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.” Even though most in the church today have bowed a knee to Baal, there is a remnant who has not.

        As I said earlier there is nothing wrong with music, It is just in this state of desolation the church is in that is the problem. It gives people a false sense of God’s presence. After a good worship set people will say they could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit yet God calls it a stench. It is better to humble ourselves because we realize that God has turned His face from us and we desperately need Him to return to us. We are told Zechariah 1:3 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.” When we do, then we can praise. When David first tried to bring the ark to Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 6:3 “They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it.” Everything was going perfect. 5 “David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.” What a glorious event and then 6 “When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.” David was afraid of the Lord that day.” For three months the ark did not come to the city of David, but God blessed “Obed-Edom the Gittite and his entire household.” 

        When you look at Chronicles, we are told why this happened to Uzzah. David understood everything they did was wrong. 1 Chronicles 15:1 “After David had constructed buildings for himself in the City of David, he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. 2 Then David said, “No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, because the Lord chose them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister before him forever.” David then explains their disobedience to God’s word. 12 “He said to them, You are the heads of the Levitical families; you and your fellow Levites are to consecrate yourselves and bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place I have prepared for it. 13 It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.” 14 So the priests and Levites consecrated themselves in order to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. 15 And the Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the Lord.” Now God would be pleased with their worship. 16 “David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their fellow Levites as musicians to make a joyful sound with musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals. 2 Samuel 6:14 “Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. 16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.” Yes, people will despise you for your commitment to God.

        When we return to God’s word and follow His commands, then God will be pleased with our praise. When Solomon brought the Ark to the temple, 2 Chronicles 5:12 “All the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives—stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. 13 The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:1 “When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. 3 When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, 14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.” We desperately need God to fill us again. This time it is not the building that will be filled, but each of us who are the temple where God wants to dwell. Ephesians 1:9 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” When we once again worship in Spirit and in truth, as we have been directed, our praise will be heard by God, and it will no longer be about ourselves. The power of His Holy Spirit will fall upon us once again and the church will go to the ends of the earth in the power and authority that Jesus gives us. Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” When the true gospel is proclaimed once again, then we can praise once again but when our hearts (Jeremiah 5:22 “Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord.  Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it. 23 But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts; they have turned aside and gone away. 24 They do not say to themselves, ‘Let us fear the Lord our God) have turned back to God, then we can truly praise the Lord God Almighty our Sovereign King. Then as Paul says Colossians 3:16 “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Paul said Ephesians 5:18 “Be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Psalm 150:1 “Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. 2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. 3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, 4 praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, 5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. 6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.”