Today I have just migrated all the books, videos and tapes (yes, we still run VHS here) onto a bookshelf I bought for £10. It needed scratch polishing  and a clean but it’s fine. The £10 but splendid TV cabinet is next! But not until next week – I have worship material and equipment to deal with for Uttoxeter this coming weekend.

I have been thinking rather idly about the peculiar phenomenon of how different segments of a congregation just step into worship so easily and why others – in particular – seem to start up in worship but do not appear to move from “square one” when it comes to progressing into intimate worship, even over many years.

I stress the word “appear”, because I cannot know for sure. some seem to sit stock still, apparently untouched by what is going on around them or even resorting to chattering during worship – which is annoying for the worship team because if one person is chattering then someone else is distracted out of worship, not to mention the disturbance to other people it causes. I also strongly believe that although the Spirit forgives this behaviour, I cannot help feeling that his Holy brow is furrowed when this happens.

This is where I’m coming from when I say “outer court” or “inner court”, or “Holy Place”. We have been anointed by the Spirit of God, made righteous by His blood and therefore have full access into the Holy of Holies – just as the priests did in the Old Testament days. The priests however could not simply stroll into God’s presence like you would approach a travel agent’s desk. There had to be a process of preparation beforehand. It’s the same for us. In formal gatherings of worship, you have to “praise your way into the presence of God” as Hugh Jackman said at the House of Victory Church the other week.

God is as Holy now as He was back then and must be approached with reverence and awe (I am strictly observing the act of communal worship here, not our personal one-to-one dealings with Jesus in our personal lives). Our progress into the Holiest place (let’s call it the worship approach) affects different people in different ways. Some are visibly ecstatic, others go quite and gradually head for the floor. Speaking for myself, I feel as though someone’s pumped a party balloon up in my gut then filled it with lead…I can only surmise that this is the Spirit’s presence sitting heavily with me. It really feels like something very heavy and powerful wants to burst out of me by way of Holy Ghost power. A couple of times I had difficulty playing; maybe next time I’ll stop and see what happens!

But what about those who appear to be indifferent to what is going on around them, even when the call to worship and the worship approach is clear? Who seem to give up at the edge of the inner court and decide to chat to someone during worship (about what? What could possibly be more important?)

I am not criticising anyone because it’s quite plausible that even if someone appears to have the motion of a statue during worship, it does not necessarily mean something isn’t going on. I am probably one of those people, actually.

I would like to suggest that you ask yourself hypothetically: Where am I in the courts of praise? Am I in the outer courts, hearing and watching the worship from afar? Or even sitting against the wall in my priestly robes discussing the day’s news with someone else because I do not ‘feel’ able to approach the Holy Place any closer? Or am I in the inner courts – where the presence of God can be felt, but not encountered (something else to ponder there, but I’m not going into it here). Or are you able to complete your ‘worship approach’ and enter into the Holy of Holies?

It’s not by anything we do or anything we are, as we owe Him our very breath and being…but it is entirely because He desires us to be there and furthermore has enabled us to be there through the sacrifice of His Son.

If someone is trying to distract you from worship for no reason other than trite conversation or observation, politely ignore it! We all agree that the devil wants to halt worship wherever he can because if a church isn’t worshipping, it’s dead in the water. Practice the art of your approach into the Holy of Holies. God waits for you there.