Psalm 89:15-17 (NLT)
Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation. They exult in your righteousness. You are their glorious strength. It pleases you to make us strong.
Tonight there will be a youth worship night at our church. I cannot help but think about the last one a few months ago, and how it changed my life. One night. A handful of people. An encounter with my Amazing God. It was a divine appointment. One arranged by my children but clearly at the direction of the Lord. Racing home from an appointment in Gainesville with our son, just in time to grab everyone and head to the church. The day was triumphant. Our son’s port removed. This would mark the end of a long and painful journey. But rather than feeling overjoyed and excited, I was overwrought and exhausted. Years of painstaking ups and downs had left me dry and thirsty. The drought in my soul was impacting my life more than I would ever imagine or disclose. I felt a need to be at this service. I had no expectation other than to sit in the Presence of God. Just sit there. I needed to feel His Love and His Peace saturate the dry bones covered by a smile. My faith was intact. My hope alive. But me, the person who lives this life, empty and broken at the end of this test. I needed the Lord that night more than I realized and in His Faithfulness – Jesus met me right there.
It would be different if I had not been in church or had a daily routine of Bible study and prayer. I attempted obedience and was committed to a following Christ. Worship is more than that. It is not the same. Worship is never something we do. In fact, it has nothing to do with us at all. Worship is solely focused on the identity of God. Praise is reserved for all the things that He does. It is an act of gratitude. When we step into worship though it is all about the Lord. It is because of Who He is. It is because of His Unfailing Love. (Psalm 5:7-8; Psalm 48:9) The night of worship with those young people so openly and blatantly pouring their hearts out before God would change my life. In those precious moments, chains began to break and fall off. Weariness was filled with renewal and restoration. This would be the night that I walked back to the Altar of my God to pick up the Sword of His Spirit and Shield of Faith to go out and slay more giants. To take the land, free captives and tell others of His Great Love. It may have all been an inward change but the outward results are remarkable. In just an hour or so, God put everything into perspective. He set my feet on higher ground. He righted my way. Restored my heart. Renewed my spirit. All because I answered the joyful call to worship. One moment in the Light of His Love will change us forever.
John 4:23-24 (NLT)
“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Her reputation well known to God and man, the woman was just going about her daily routine when she encountered Jesus. I am sure that she loved the Lord even in her used and broken state because the conversation was well-versed in godlike tone. However, religion locked her out of the Presence of God. It told her like the women in the town that she was not welcome nor invited to experience the Goodness and Greatness of God due to her sinful condition. Yet, it is clear she wanted an intimate relationship with God. She now stood face-to-face with the Living God. He would tell her the secret to worship and in that moment His Identity would be clear to her. She left that place to tell others of Him.
In those moments of conversation, there is a message for all of us who want to worship the Lord. True worshippers will worship in Spirit and in Truth. Spirit and Truth are the only things that will allow us past the curtain to come boldly into the Presence of the Living God. I believe that kids and young adults enter this place more easily as they are not yet tainted by life experiences so that reach out with honesty and a lack of reserve to test the reality of a Living, Loving God. Without pretense they step out of their comfort zone to step right in while our generation those who have lived a while stay in the background bound by all those things that keep us from freely and completely worshipping the Lover of our Soul.
His Spirit identifies us as His Children. The Holy Spirit in us is constantly working to change us into the perfect creature and marvelous masterpiece that God designed us to be. He molds us and shapes us chipping off the worldly influence and social restrictions put on our relationship with God. In such a condition, we are now free to become who our Creator made us to be and live in unity with Him. His Spirit helps us in our weakness. It tells us all about Who He is and His Great Love for us.
Truth is the Word of God. God’s Word is the foundation of our faith. You either believe it or do not. I think if people would read the Word of God and view it as black and white eliminating the highlight gray areas man put into place, our worship would hold power in our life. Entrance into His Presence is paved in faith and confident hope that God is exactly Who He claims to be and so is Jesus – His Son. With the Spirit to guide us and the Truth as a foundation, we can now enter worship right, ah not so fast.
Psalm 15 (NLT)
Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends. Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lord, and keep their promises even when it hurts. Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever.
Worship comes from an authentic life. As Jesus addressed the Pharisees regarding religion and tradition that violated God’s Commands, He said this to them – “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.” Sadly, in many ways, this is the condition of the modern church. Worship has become a show, production or presentation. Our worship has in some ways become pagan (Deuteronomy 16:21-22) as we allow other gods at our altar rather than stripping all away to worship God in His Holiness alone. (Psalm 29:1-2) The blameless are not sinless people but those who choose to set aside their sin and follow Christ. Daily. Moment by moment. It is to respect that He is God and we need Him. Though we are invited to enter His Courts with thanksgiving, praise and boldness, it does not change His Character. He is still the One and True Sovereign God, Supreme Authority and Creator of All. Every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord no matter if they choose to come now or stand before Him later. He is an All Consuming Fire. His Passionate and Unfailing Love just as unrelenting as His Justice. Sometimes we forget relegating God to just another idol in our life. He is the One True Living God. He loves you. He loves me. He is still holy despite His Choice to love and give grace to a sinful people. We must worship Him as such.
The early church lived a life of worship. They sold everything they owned and shared everything they had with each other. They worshipped together every day. They met in homes together to take communion and shared meals with times of fellowship. All praising God and goodwill together. And every day people were saved because of it. (Acts 2:45-47) An authentic life. We can have it. It begins when we surrender all we are naturally, physically, emotionally and spiritually to the Lord to the point it impacts every attitude and action in our life. This is to live by the Truth that we know and begin to worship the Him in Spirit and Truth. I know that we have found a church like that. One that desires to live in the Presence of God with every mission and motivation to be one with Christ. How about you? This kind of the church that will become the Body of Christ. It is not based on religion, tradition, or doctrine but on the one premise to know the Living God and worship Him completely. The bodies of believers that tears down every wall between themselves and the Living God to live at His Altar until He comes. These will be the churches that experience revival during these last days. Acceptable worship rises from an authentic life not because we tried to push our way in but because a course has been set to live in His Presence.
Acts 17:22-34 (NLT)
So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone. God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.” When they heard Paul speak about the resurrection of the dead, some laughed in contempt, but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.” That ended Paul’s discussion with them, but some joined him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the council, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
To worship an unknown God…one whom you worship without knowing. Is it really possible to surrender your life to a god who you do not know? Not really. We can try to stand on the fringe of worship, obedience and faithfulness and reach into the Presence of God to pull out what we need, want and desire. But that is not worship at all. Worship is not about taking something but giving everything to the One who loves us most. To approach the Altar of God with an expectation to get something we want, need or desire is not worship. Yes, God says to ask for those things but if our intent is worship it is not the time or place.
Praise is reserved for another time as well. God does more good in us and our life than our finite human wisdom can ever comprehend. Things we do not know and cannot see. Again, we should live a life of praise. When our purpose is to worship, it requires knowing Who we worship for that is the sole purpose of it. We worship God for who He is! We bring nothing in that moment except ourselves presenting all we are to God in His Presence on His Terms.
Paul told them not to make God as an idol designed by a craftsmen – you may be thinking that you would never do such a thing. Well, we build boxes for God every day that allow Him to operate in certain portions of our life but keep a tight rein and control on such activity. We pick and choose the verses that will apply to our life. Ignore the nudges and direct leading of His Spirit. Yet rush to the altar calling it worship rather than robbery which is what it comes down to. We want something from the Lord but do not want to surrender our life to achieve it. If the God relented, He would not be worthy of our worship because He would accept less than our best giving us a substandard as well.
The council ended Paul’s speech laughing in contempt. I know that not everyone will understand these words about worship today. Some will think I have lost it. I have. I have no desire for anything less than all of God. I am searching for more of my life to carry to the Altar tonight during worship. I am no longer dry and thirsty. I am hungry. I want all of the Lord to infiltrate every facet of my life. I have no regard for what anyone thinks about it. I am with David today and have a feeling my worship will be quite undignified. I don’t want to be the one who discovers worship when every other knee bows and tongue confesses because I believe there will be many Christians who discover that their worship was not that all those times before. I want to hear the words, “Well done!” I want God to know me as a child who frequents His Presence living in that place. Then it says, “But some joined Him and became believers.” I believe this will happen tonight in our little church whose foundational pursuit is to live an authentic life. To worship God in every way and live in His Presence every single moment. Today I will seek the Lord. I will attempt to lay every sin and burden before Him now. I will ask the Lord to examine my heart and remove any offensive thing. So when I enter the church for a night of worship – it will be just that – all to Jesus I surrender – all to Thee I freely give.
Psalm 100 (NLT)
Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.