Updated: May 18
Recently I was asked to bring a five minute call to worship for our denomination's national conference. I have been out of commission for a few months, due to a second entrance into the grandparent's club! Larry and I traveled to BC and the States for a month to celebrate the birth of two precious little cousins, born three weeks apart. In April, upon our return home, I was hit with a second round of Covid, which turned into the long-haul! I do apologize for the extended gap between blog posts. Thankfully, I am getting back on my feet and hope to be fully functioning in the next week or two. There's so much to share with you, and so much I want to hear from you! In the meantime, I thought I'd share an expanded version of the call I'm to bring. Having hunkered down mostly at home the last five weeks, I was grateful to have been commissioned to an upward focus, from natural circumstances to a "divine romance" with the Lover of my soul. I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed writing it:
When my girls were small, we often played a little cassette tape that featured the Donut Man from Hosanna Integrity's Kid Worship. The kids would often go to sleep to the corny little song that went, “Life without Jesus is like a donut; like a donut, like a donut. Life without Jesus is like a donut 'cause there’s a hole in the middle of your heart.”
Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist and cognitive neural scientist, apparently agrees, arguing that we are made for love and born to be addicted to God. "If you don’t fill that hole with worship,' she cautions, 'you will fill yourself with other things." These other things won’t satisfy us but will rob and distract us of our joy and purpose.
So what is worship, and how do we worship?
Psalm 100 instructs us to begin the worship journey with thanksgiving, which opens a spiritual gate into his presence. We step thru this gate as we remember that God has done good, even if life hasn’t. It's often necessary to remind ourselves of how that goodness has revealed itself. Our hearts shift out of neutral into first and second gear; we lift our heads ever so slightly and notice that life is about more than our challenges and struggles, but is full of gifts and treasures just waiting to be discovered.
Moving into third gear, we enter his courts with praise, mindful that what we are actually stepping into is the King's Court, where his rule and reign is acknowledged and his decrees are sent throughout creation. Our praise narrows in to focus on who he is as a person, not just on what he can do for us. He becomes magnified. We begin to understand that the good things he performs and speaks flow out of thoughtful intention, the desire to bless, sustain and be gracious, to share shalom (peace), even in the eye of the storm. He is a powerful God, a mighty warrior who delights in saving and blessing His people, full of compassion and rich in love.
Now our brains are opening up and our neural pathways are firing; we are literally making space in our minds and bodies for God to manifest, expanding our capacity to hold him in the vehicle we call life. We are are united with him and it's full speed ahead.
The Hebrew word for praise is halal, which means to praise with a loud voice and to shine. Look around a robust praise and worship service and you will notice people literally shining as his light floods their circuitry and his Name, Jehovah Nissi (God, our Banner of Victory) descends on their countenances.
What are some of the destinations on this Highway of Worship that we are now traveling on?
In the King's Court, the King reveals himself to us in special ways. As the ancient saying goes, "You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel." Ps 22:3
There may be a meeting of a Commander-in-Chief with his generals, as we, the church, take on the role of the ecclesia, Heaven’s legislative assembly on earth. We declare, decree and strategize, like the warriors of old, who with the high praises of God in their mouths and the two-edged sword in their hands, executed vengeance on the enemy (seen as spiritual warfare, in other words, not performed in the natural). Psalm 149
We agree with God's plans and purposes, shouting, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth just like in Heaven!" We hinder the oppression of Hell as we cry, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Matthew 6:10 & 13 This is known as "worship and intercession.
Another time in the King's Court may look like a big party or dance floor as Jesus pours out the oil of joy and exchanges our ashes for his beauty. Hearts overflow and, like little children, we abandon insecurity and allow our bodies to move to the beat of Heaven’s jubilant drums.
There is one very special destination known as the Holy of Holies. Some would describe it as a shelter, like being hidden in the cleft of the rock.There is a quietness and a deep sense of rest and intimacy. We are content just listening to the sound of his voice and exchanging gentle whispers, while his presence grows ever thicker and sweeter around us like honey. Sometimes our senses become so awestruck that we find ourselves under the weightiness of God's presence, barely able to move or speak, even stuck to the floor for a period of time.
We never know exactly what our encounters with our King and Bridegroom are going to look like, or what to expect on each interaction, for he is full of surprises and his thoughts are far beyond us. It is a romance that often feels like a dance as he moves us from glory to glory, following his lead. The one thing that we can be assured of is that it will always be good, and always full of love and our best interest.
Some may be startled when they realize how happy the King is to see us, amazed that he would take time to be with us. We may not yet fully comprehend that we are the chosen bride he laid his life down for, or realize that he desires that our worship not be a one-way prayer, but a two-way conversation.
Having opened our hearts to his invitation, we should not be astonished or disquieted when he wants to sit down and commune with us. He is like Tarzan, and we are like Jane, the girl he gave everything for. He has much invested in us, and like the saying goes, "Where your treasure is, your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21 Because he has invested in us, we can be assured that we are his treasure, the beloved of the Lord! We expect him to always show up, for he has promised to always be with us. Matthew 28:20 This is what real worship looks like for those who have stepped through the veil, past the outer courts, and into the Holy of Holies.
Brothers and sisters, young and old, let us step past distraction and our own understanding and go through the gate of his presence with thanksgiving, entering into His courts with praise. Psalms 100
Let's keep moving until we reach the Holy of Holies, as we are encouraged to do in Hebrews 10:19-21:
And so, dear brothers and sisters,we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death,Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him.
Come, let us worship and bow down, kneeling before the Lord our Maker. For he, the gracious, loving, magnificent, all powerful, all knowing, all wise, and encompassing One, is our God and we are the sheep of his hand, the people under his care. Psalms 95:6