David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the tag “Worship”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 6: Joy in Worship (2 of 3)

I walked with my face pointed toward the sky and my head stuck in the clouds, barely glancing at the road, hardly checking to see if the dogs were still attached to my wrist on the other ends of their leashes.  The old hymn “I Surrender All” played over and over in my mind, accompanying me in a continuous loop as I walked in rapture and awe of God’s glory.  The flashlight was useless that morning; I walked by faith rather than by sight. The immensity of God’s creation increased the awesomeness of my reality, expanding my view of the unbounded vastness of the universe by the arm of an immense galaxy.  I could feel God’s presence, palpable, real, alive.  I walked in peace, I walked fully loved, I walked aware of His Spirit.  I walked as a speck of dust surrounded by God’s infiniteness.   How could a God that created all of this take the time for me? I wondered.  But He does.  He does!  A great horned owl called out a lonely hoot, hope cast into the darkness, waiting for a reply.  A bullfrog harrumphed its own hope across the pond yawning in the pre-dawn stillness.  I looked up into that depthless spiral of a billion stars and asked “God, teach me how to worship You.”

“This is how,” He replied in my heart.  “This is how.”

To worship God is to express the deepest desires of our being for the Being who created us.  To worship God is to express the deepest respect and reverence for Him, to focus our being on Him with awe, to live for Him, to praise Him because He is who He is: the Great I AM.  “True worship is the acknowledgement of God and all His power and glory in everything we do,” wrote S. Michael Houdmann at GotQuestions.org (http://www.gotquestions.org/true-worship.html#ixzz2oJ1I1kO3).  “Worship is to glorify and exalt God–to show our loyalty and admiration to our Father.”  God breathed life into our spirit, soul, and body, and worshipping Him is the natural outflow of our desire to make Him our focus.  God made us to worship.  God created us to glorify Him.

The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4-6 NIV, emphasis mine).  And through the prophet Isaiah, God told the Hebrews, “’Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made’” (Isaiah 43:6b,7 NIV, emphasis mine).  Indeed, in the first of the Ten Commandments God handed to Moses on Mount Sanai, He commanded the Israelites to worship only Him: “’I am the Lord your God . . . .  You shall have no other gods before me’” (Exodus 20:2,3 NIV).  Our purpose in life is to worship God; He, in response, opens the door to unlimited and everlasting joy; we give Him glory, He gives us pleasure in worshiping Him.  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,” Jesus said, “and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

One of my favorite Bible passages illustrating this truth is contained in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10.  As Jesus and His disciples traveled to Jerusalem for the last time before Jesus’ death, they stopped at the home of Jesus’ friends Mary and Martha.  There, while Martha busied herself preparing and serving the meal to a house filled with guests, her sister did absolutely nothing to help her.  Instead, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, a position of reverence and respect–of worship–and listened to Him.  Finally Martha had had enough of her sister’s seeming disregard for her and their duties as hosts: “’Lord,’” she said to Jesus, “’do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me’” (Luke 10:40 NAB).  I can imagine Martha, cheeks covered with flour, blowing a strand of hair out of her face and pointing at Mary with a wooden spoon, exasperated.

But Jesus refused Martha’s request.  Instead, He replied “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her’” (Luke 10: 41-42 NAB).  Mary had found her true joy while Martha had relinquished her joy to the distractions, expectations, and assumptions of busyness.  I can relate.

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Copyright © 2014 David C Hughes

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 6: Joy in Worship (1 of 3)

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;

    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our

      salvation.

Let us come before him with thanksgiving

    and extol him with music and song.

–Psalm 95:1-2 (NIV)

 

Holy, holy, holy Lord,

God of power and might,

heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

–The Sanctus

 

Being raised in a small-town Catholic community, I never knew worship, or at least I didn’t recognize it and appreciate it at the time.  I learned the traditional prayers, the structure of the Mass, when to kneel, stand, and sit, and the discipline and responsibility of being an altar boy.  I faithfully went to church with my family on Sunday mornings, a practice which followed through my college years and into adulthood.  It wasn’t until I met Mary and we started dating that I had to embrace a new way of looking at and experiencing church.  You see, she was raised sort-of Baptist, and after we got engaged I asked her if she would be willing to convert to Catholicism.

She agreed to start the process, but when she started filling out the paperwork to get an annulment from her first marriage, she slammed on the brakes.  “God and I talked about my divorce and He still loves me,” she told me emphatically.  “I’m not taking this to a panel of people I don’t know to judge that reconciliation.  What business is it of theirs?  This is between God and me.”  She definitely had a different view of God and His mercy than I did!  And from that moment on, I had to give up my regimented thinking about what church was all about and open my eyes to a different way of experiencing God.  As a result, we started attending a non-denominational evangelical Christian church.  What an eye-opener!  I quickly discovered that, at least for me, this is what church was meant to be: fresh, unbridled, dynamic, Jesus-centered, Bible-based, accepting, built on relationships with God and other believers serving each other and the community at large.  I fit right in!  I was finally home!  But worship was still something I struggled to get my heart wrapped around.

One Sunday evening, Mary and I attended New River Fellowship’s “First Sunday,” a monthly night of worship and digging deeper into God’s word.  An integral part of service which Spirit-filled churches like New River have in common is a half hour or so of praise involving talented singers and musicians.  Typically I listen to the music, sing the words . . . and let my mind wander all over the place.  Even after eight years of attending non-denominational evangelical churches, I still didn’t fully get it.  But that night something shifted.  It’s happened before, to a degree, but that night I lifted my hands above my head and closed my eyes during one song–and started crying.  The Holy Spirit overwhelmed me.  He poured into me, embraced me, loved me.  Just for . . . me.  I stood there, hands held high, and received His mercy, His love, His awesomeness.  I opened myself up to Him and He gushed into me.

Soon after, the Spirit told me very clearly to pray for the guy in the chair in front of me.  As we all stood and sang and danced and shouted, he sat with his face in his hand, virtually unmoving.  So, in unquestioned obedience, I knelt down, put a hand on his shoulder, and prayed for him out loud.  I don’t know what was going on in his life, I don’t know what he needed; the Spirit had nudged me to pray for him, so I did.  And gosh it felt good!

The next morning I got up before sunrise, as is my habit, to take the dogs for a walk.  I do my best thinking, praying, and creating in the quietness before the neighborhood begins to stir, enveloped in nature’s inspiration and God’s whispers.  The pre-dawn morning embraced me in stillness and mid-spring warmth as I led the dogs out the front door and onto the sidewalk.  Something–movement, a flash of light, a disturbance–caught my attention, and I turned toward the western sky just in time to catch the green-white streak of a meteor sacrificing itself in the atmosphere for God’s glory.  It was truly a good-morning kiss from Daddy.  Then I really noticed the sky: cloudless, black, painted with countless stars and the streak of the Milky Way running southwest to northeast.  The sliver of a waning crescent moon hung on the eastern horizon.  The Milky Way glowed softly against the inky backdrop, more pronounced that morning than I’d seen in recent memory, reminding me of those photos you see from the Hubble telescope of nebulae and galaxies.

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Copyright © 2013 David C Hughes

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