Worship With Backbone & Heart

Washing Jesus Feet

Did you know that there are 177,147 ways to tie a tie?

I find that number hard to believe since I only know of one way to do it. 

Yesterday I attended a wedding and squirmed like I did as a boy sitting through mass. Unlike those times, this wedding service was wonderful, so I can't blame the ceremony. It may have been the fact that I feel so uncomfortable when I have to get dressed up. But perhaps I would feel better in a coat and tie if I upped my game and got out of my tie-tying rut. 

When it comes to genuine worship, I know it's not about how I dress or how I feel.

Worship isn't about the inspiring music or the preacher's speech. It's more about how I approach those gatherings, especially about what I bring to the table. 

In this article, you'll find a remarkable story about a woman with a sordid reputation. What she did, she did in a super-unconventional, eyebrow-raising way. People talked and criticized, but God was pleased. It had nothing to do with how she dressed. It was about what she brought and how she approached him.

Here's what happened.

A Woman With Backbone & Heart (Luke 7:36-47)

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

This is a great story and it offers insights into the worship God wants. 

How to Worship With Backbone & Heart

1. Bring Your Blinders

The lady in this story did not seem to care or even notice what people were thinking about her. Her focus was fixed on Jesus. It was like she entered the room wearing blinders, which made her oblivious to the criticisms of others.

God gave horses big eyes set in such a way that they can see what's going on around them. They need this to evade predators. But because they have such excellent peripheral vision, they also get jumpy, anxious, and easily distracted. They need help to remain focused. So trainers will put blinders on them -- small squares of leather that attach to the bridle at the side of the horse's head. Wearing blinders, the horses don’t notice what’s going on around them and keep their eyes on the task at hand.

I’m easily distracted. I could really use some blinders to get stuff done. In a worship service, I find it easy to worry about what those around me are thinking versus the One I came to worship.

In this story, the Pharisees had no heart. They judged this woman's reputation and ignored her repentance.

When you come to worship, do you find yourself looking around at people, at what they’re wearing or doing? Do you sometimes fear being judged by others for how you look or what you wear?

Bring your blinders to church and worship for an Audience of One. Stop worrying about what others think about you or your kids or your body or your car. Worry what God thinks about you and your kids and your body and your car. This focus will free you from distractions and fears and free you to worship God with courage, with backbone and heart.

2. Bring Your Brokenness

I remember an old song Bill Gaither wrote. It said:

“Something beautiful, something good. All my confusion...He understood. All I had to offer him was brokenness and strife, but Jesus made something beautiful of my life."

The woman in this story had lived a broken, confused life. She didn't have the education or status that Simon the Pharisee had. She approached Jesus courageously, with tears and touch and kisses on his feet. All of this broke the rules for how a woman should relate to a man. But what she lacked in decorum she made up for in backbone and heart. "The sacrifices of God are a broken heart," wrote the Psalmist, and it's still true. In another version of the story, she broke the alabaster jar of perfume and it's fragrance filled the room (John 12). 

"The sacrifices of God are a broken heart," wrote the Psalmist, and it's still true. In another version of the story, this woman broke the alabaster jar of perfume and it's fragrance filled the room (John 12). 

As I write this article,  a new school year is starting up. Whether we are students or not, this is a good time to reflect on what we learned in the last school year. For most of us, God's classroom is life and relationships. If you’re like me, you have regrets. You carry some false guilt and some legitimate responsibility for regrettable actions.

Bring you failures, your disappointments, and your tears to God today and lay it at his feet. When we see how forgiven we are, our worship will pour out of a such a heart of gratitude and love that we will not care about what onlookers think. Backbone is born of a grateful heart.

3. Bring Your Best

I watched football game last night and the commentators noticed how a certain rookie was threatening the job of a veteran player. They said that the veteran "really works hard when he's motivated." Threats to our job security can motivate us when we might otherwise get lazy.

It's no different when it comes to worshipping God. 

We can get in a rut and treat worship as an after-thought. Yet when it came to offerings and feasts, God wanted His people to bring the good stuff. A spotless lamb, for example. The best they had.

David said, “I will not give offer sacrifices that cost me nothing.” This lady brought the good stuff. She brought expensive, valuable perfume. Her best.

How about us?

Sometimes going to church can become a mindless routine. We don't think much about it. We pay more attention to our outward appearance than to the condition of our heart. We give our greatest efforts and energies to our jobs, our friends, our romantic relationships, even to our hobbies. Then we drag in our weary bones and ask the band and the pastor to pump us back up. 

That's not bringing our best, it's bringing the leftovers.

Right now, stop and prepare yourself to worship God this Sunday with a whole heart. Offer Him today, the sacrament of this present moment, as a step toward a church experience that is truly heartfelt. There is nothing more precious than your heart and that is the worship God wants.

Think About It...

  • Ask God to give you true backbone to worship Him courageously, without fear of what others think. What difference would it make if He granted your prayer?
  • Ask God to give you a truly grateful heart, aware of how much grace and faithfulness He has shown you. How would you worship if He granted that request?


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