What a good exercise for each of us to pursue. What does worship mean to you? It’s a personal exercise and a revealing one–even a defining one. Maybe some of my story will encourage you to explore your own thoughts about worship.
I am going to paraphrase Malcolm Smith’s book, The Power of the Blood Covenant, as if it were written about me.
For the first 51 years of my life I lived on the edge of awareness of God. I enjoyed His providential care, but was hardly aware that it was He who cared for me. I was oblivious to the love of God and was unresponsive to His approach.
I was lost but not so lost as to not know that there was something missing. I was existing out on that edge of an awareness of God and I was haunted by the uneasy feeling that He was there and some moral responsibility to Him was demanded. Our race has a memory that cannot be recalled. We have a dream that cannot be remembered of the glory we were created to enjoy and we once had.
There is a longing to be loved unconditionally that cannot be satisfied by another human. We are surprised by unexpected surges of longing within for something above and beyond. It’s a cliché, but there is a hole inside each one of us that is bigger than the universe, and left to ourselves we have no tools for discovering who can fill the hole.
Men and women spend their lives searching for meaning within their magnificent brains, with their intellects and emotions, with their feelings and passions that all exist in the organs of their bodies.
For everyone, the questions regarding the meaning of existence will not go away. Men and women cannot forget the dream [Eden] which they cannot remember.”
What I’ve just read to you was the silent wrestling match I engaged in, off and on, for those first 50 years of my life, even as I grew to womanhood and lived the American dream of life in suburbia, a husband, two kids, nice house, plenty of friends, lots and lots of church work, and what passed for what I considered weekly worship. That is not to brag but just to remind us of the desperate situation I was really in–the unredeemed life.
Thankfully, God was patient and persistent, continuing to reveal Himself to me, and when I finally accepted a little of the light He showed me, He responded by immediately revealing even more light again and again and again – to this day. That in a nutshell is what brings me here 21 years later. (And now I’ve almost told you how old I am.)
Webster’s defines worship as respect, honor, worthiness, reverence paid to a divine being– even describing that respect, honor, worthiness and reverence as extravagant! For 50 years, I enjoyed the thrill of soaring music, singing songs that even gave me goose-bumps, reading words of a liturgy, admiring sunsets and the wonder of fall colors and the soft skin of my babies’ sweet cheeks–but it wasn’t worship. Somehow I believed that these circumstances were due to mother nature, hard work, luck and good genes.
Do you realize that all created things automatically worship God – all created things except humans that is? The roaring sea worships God. The bird calling, the dog barking, the sun shining–all give God glory. Even the rocks glorify God and give Him worship. All these created things automatically behave just as God intended. We are the only ones with a choice.
When I finally made that choice in 1993, worship has not been the same since. I was just 3 years into my marriage to Bill with the memory of our courtship still fresh in my mind. Some of you have heard this before. While we were dating, we listened to lots of music– the old romantic stuff–and it seemed to me I understood the words in a fuller way. It seemed to me that each love song was written just for me–for me and Bill. It was a thrill to hear those familiar melodies and words and seem to understand them more personally and deeply.
And when I entered into my love affair with Jesus, I was amazed at my reaction to singing the hymns and songs that I had loved for more than 43 years. It seemed that each hymn and song was newly written just for me–for me and Jesus. The words leaped off the page and out of my mouth and they touched my heart with new understanding and filled my eyes with glad tears.
It was the work of the Holy Spirit in me. Because of my decision to give my life to God, He gave me spiritual understanding of that spiritual God and of the book He wrote and many of the principles in the songs and hymns we sing. Finally understanding with my mind gave the emotion of worship greater foundation and meaning. There has been no substitute for understanding who God is, what Jesus has done and what it means for my life as I have pursued true worship.
And as if this were not enough, God wanted to show me more. It was life-changing when I looked at my life story in depth a couple of years ago in the class Renee’ and I taught on Ruth. It was hard work. It was a little unsettling but you know what I found? I found God. He was there all the time and I didn’t know it –in suburbia with the station wagon and two kids and the unredeemed life.
The flip side of this is I have realized, still almost daily, who I am. I am not God. I am not in control. I am afraid. I am needy. I am sinful. I am helpless. BUT I am redeemed. I am grateful. I am thankful. I am satisfied. I am blessed beyond all measure. All of this turns me to worship the One who pursued me, who never gave up on me, who longs to reveal Himself to me daily and protects and provides for me.
The more I get to know God, the more I worship. This worship is not only a church thing, although I can worship in church. It is not simply the emotion I feel when seeing a spectacular sunset or a shooting star. It is not even the realization of how blessed I am.
Worship is a relationship.
I know you have all heard that phrase, but let me give that phrase some legs. God is my Friend. That word Friend is a covenant word. You will remember that Abraham was called a Friend of God. A friend is an ally, a person on the same side of the struggle, a reliable supporter and a lover. What a friend we have in Jesus! And He is powerful to save and work in our lives in ways we never thought possible.
A.W. Tozer in his Knowledge of the Holy describes God’s power and presence with these words: .
“He knows all minds and every mind, every spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desire, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven and hell. He knows everything about our lives before we are born. Because of this, nothing can ever come to light in the believer’s life that would surprise God or cause Him to cast her out. No talebearer can inform on us, no enemy can make an accusation stick; no forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to expose our past; no unexpected weakness in our character can come to light to turn God away from us since He knew us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us. Because God is omniscient, every warning He gives needs to heeded because He isn’t guessing what might happen. He knows. When faced with those inexplicable circumstances, we can take refuge and solace in the omniscience of God. Not only does He know what actually happened, He knows what might have happened. He always knows what ultimate good and glory will come from events which we cannot understand.”
Ladies, the more I know about the One I worship, the more there is to worship.
Holy, holy, holy, LORD GOD Almighty . . .
He is not like me. He has always been and forever will be, and I will worship a God like that.
He loved me before I loved Him. He is the only One who is able to forgive my sin and restore me. He is dependable. He is worthy of worship.
He will never change His mind about me. He knows everything about me and He still wants me to know Him. He is worthy of worship.
I can experience His presence in every circumstance of my life. He has all power and ability and He is in control of everything. He is worthy of worship.
This is the God who has revealed Himself to me and made me alive by the power of His Spirit. The more I know about Him, the greater my worship. I have come a long way from just enjoying the melody of a song or admiring a beautiful sunset. I can admire the very One who makes all of it possible and, wonder of wonders, He is making me more like Jesus.
He is worthy of extravagant worship!
Pray with me:
When I come into Thy presence I see the glory of Thy perfections, the throne of eternal and universal empire, the ten thousand times ten thousand who minister to Thee.
Impress my mind with the consciousness of Thy greatness, not to drive me from Thee but to inspire me to approach Thee; not to diminish my confidence in Thee, but to lead me to admire Thy great condescension. Thou hast been mindful of me and visited me, taken charge of me from birth, cared in all conditions for me, fed me at Thy table, drawn the curtains of love around me, given me new mercies every morning.
Suffer me not to forget that I look for yet greater blessings – a hope beyond the grave, the earnest and foretastes of immortality, holiness, wisdom, strength, peace, joy; All These Thou hast provided for me in Christ.
I grieve to think how insensible I have been of the claims of Thy authority, and the endearments of Thy love; how little I have credited Thy Truth, trusted Thy promises, feared Thy threats, obeyed Thy commands, improved my advantages, welcomed Thy warnings, responded to Thy grace; but notwithstanding my desert I yet live.
May Thy goodness always lead me to repentance, and Thy long-suffering prove my salvation.
By: Puritan Prayers & Devotions