Leave Your Poker Face at the Door

When we gather in weekend worship, we seek to commune with God. But unlike your private devotions, corporate worship is about worshiping God together.

Sharing our mutual love for God in the assembly is one of the great blessings of covenant life. And as we shift our Sunday morning mindset from first and second person singular (I and you) to first person plural (we and us), it impacts how we participate.

Bad Poker Players

One of the things we tell our worship team volunteers is that “bad poker players” make great worship leaders. That’s a bit of a strange sounding analogy, but if you’ve ever lost the remote control and were left watching a poker tournament, you’ll know that part of the skill in that game is concealing emotional excitement or despair. A bad poker player would grin and fluster over the royal flush in her hand, signaling to the opponents, “Watch out! This is a bad bet.” A bad poker player reveals on her face the hope (or lack thereof) in her hands.

But the church holds something infinitely more exciting than ten-to-ace, suited. We are given the keys to the kingdom and million-to-nothing odds that our risks for the gospel are ultimately profitable. As we gather this weekend to look — not at playing cards — but to the word that unveils what great and certain hope we hold, we have a reason to smile. But at church, unlike in poker, our joy does not hang on our ability to conceal our excitement. Rather, it is actually multiplied as we encourage one another with our radiant faces.

Those who look to him are radiant,
And their faces shall never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:5)

Don’t buy-in to the gamblers ethic that your gains diminish if you blow your cool. Rather, rejoice in the assembly of the righteous, and encourage one another with your thinly veiled exuberance. To be clear, I’m not encouraging us to a fake, contrived glee. Frankly, you need not manufacture a happy face when you see promises like “the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, indeed I have a beautiful inheritance” (Psalm 16:6). But don’t feel compelled to hide it, either!

And since not all of us will see as clearly all the time, your enthusiastic countenance serves to remind of our great hope.

Fighting Together for Better Vision

The fight of faith is a fight for spiritual sight. We arrive to corporate worship with all kinds of blinders to keep us from seeing the truth clearly. One of the reasons we are told to meet together regularly is to prevent the deceptive blindness that comes so easily in isolation (Hebrews 3:13; 10:24–25). But those of us who have been given a measure of victory can strengthen one another with renewed sight resulting in hope-filled countenance. That was how Jesus charged Peter:

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:31–32)

It seems that Peter will be equipped to strengthen his brothers through the sifting and his turning. So, the contagious enthusiasm that builds up the Christian assembly does not pretend nothing has gone wrong, but rejoices that mercy has been displayed (Psalm 34:5–6)

Renounce cryptic and private worship that conceals our hearts.

So as we gather in the context of real relationships to sing praises to the Savior, strive after a transparency of countenance that helps lift the blinding fog of despair and hopelessness. That transparency can be expressed differently in our contexts, but renounce cryptic and private worship that conceals our hearts. Look to Jesus, our great and kind redeemer, and ask the Father that he would increase appropriate affections by the Spirit. Worship with the assembly, and leave your poker face at the door.