August 28, 2016

Jeremiah 10:5 “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm
nor can they do any good.”

Reading this immediately brings to mind the many Japanese festivals in which portable shrines are carried through the streets by masses of men in loin cloths. (My hometown of Fukuoka has one such that is the largest tourist draw in the country, called Dontaku.) That in turn brings to mind the Catholic festivals in many countries in which statues of saints are carried through the streets. The Lord through Jeremiah is pointing out the foolishness of such things, but that brings out the basic nature of the vast majority on religion of all sorts: it is human activity to make people feel good in some way. Religious activities can be fun and they can help people forget their day-to-day troubles, but when they are man-centered they are essentially worthless. It is only when our focus is on our Creator that religion starts to make sense. We aren’t to forget the people around us; Jesus said the 2nd greatest commandment was very like the 1st. (Matthew 22:37-40) However, if we don’t have our vertical relationship to God right, we won’t get our horizontal relationships to people right either. Some people discount formal worship, pointing to such passages as, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) However, if our motivation even in philanthropy ignores God, the end result is worthless. We should love and do good for our neighbor because we love God. Too many people treat church attendance as just another obligation or social function. To quote Jesus, “They have their reward.” (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16) Those who worship the invisible, living God need to do so in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)

Living in Japan most of my life I have seen all sorts of worship, but some of the false worship I have seen has been in churches (and not just in Japan). Too many people forget why they come, or never really knew in the first place. Warm human fellowship is important and is a powerful draw to bring in those who don’t yet know Christ, but if our church experience stops there, we might as well go to a social club of some sort. Today I am not the one speaking the message, which is a reminder of how things are for the church members. I need to be just as focused on God today as I am when I am seeking to speak out what He is saying to His people. From late next month I will have four weeks in a row of attending other churches, which will be further training in true worship, since it will be in largely unfamiliar situations. I need to worship in spirit and in truth indeed, not just privately but in corporate settings as well, so that God may receive all the glory.

Father, I didn’t expect this Word this morning. Thank You. Help me worship You indeed, wherever and with whomever I am. Help this church worship You even in my absence, so that they won’t have their expectation of worship tied to me. May we all grow in worshiping You in spirit and in truth, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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