Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Heartfelt Worship

"The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.""
Isaiah 29:13

What is the first thing you think about when you wake up? I would have to admit that most of the time the things I think about when I first wake up are the things that I am struggling with, things I enjoy, or things I need to get done that day. Sadly, those thoughts preempt my thoughts of God. It is only occasionally that I wake up with a Bible verse, a praise song, a hymn, or a God-centered thought running through my mind and believe that in my sleep I had already entered the presence of God. Most of the time I have to work to draw my thoughts away from life issues to focus them on God, so I love when I find myself already there. I hope as I continue to study and learn about God that He will more and more consistently occupy my thoughts whether I am asleep or awake.

In our culture today we can easily be considered fanatical if we get emotional about God. It is okay to get about hobbies and sports. But we have have been called to love the Lord with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. That means God wants our passion, too. It’s not enough to praise God with our mouths as that honor is given with empty words. He wants our love and passion for Him to rise up from the very depths of our souls. 

There are two Biblical examples that explain what I mean. The first is the passion King David felt when his infant son became ill. He was told by a prophet that the child would die. So, David fasted, prayed, and wept before God, hoping the baby might live. His servants were so afraid of David’s emotions, they thought he would kill himself when they told him the baby had died. David didn't, he got up, bathed himself, and He worshiped God. The passion David felt as he prayed and fasted for his ill child is the same passion God wants from us. The worship born out of David's passion is the kind of worship God wants from us. I had a friend who lost a six-month-old baby and I watched as she and her husband worshiped God in the midst of their deep grief. While their emotions were the most raw, there was something more beautiful and real about their worship than I had ever seen in anyone. The thing the farthest from their thoughts were rules about worship and emotional expression. They simply poured out their hearts to the God they served.

The other example of passion in worship was when David exhibited a worshipful heart was when the Ark of the Covenant was returned to its rightful place in Israel. It meant God could dwell among His people again. David was so excited he danced before the Lord in front of the people in his kingdom. At the time it wasn't considered dignified for a king to do so and one of his wives harshly criticized him. In spite of her criticism, his heart was so full of joy he could not contain it.

I realize I am so fortunate to have the Holy Spirit, because it means I live continually in the presence of my God. I can sing, dance, laugh, and even weep with my whole heart before God at any time. But I ask myself, "What does it mean to worship God from the depths of my heart?" Sometimes I think, the longer I have been in church the harder it has become. In church, I've gotten into the habit of worshiping a specific way and have realized often that the familiarity is a breeding ground for me to simply go through motions, without fully engaging my heart. To honor God from my heart I need to be aware of my own heart and lay it bare before Him as imperfect as it is. That would include a confession of my tendency to hide pride, coldness, and unforgiveness. It would include an admission of how much I need Him. It would also include coming to him humbly to allow His holiness to expose my sinfulness so God can cut away all that is not holy. It would include standing in awe of His greatness.

When I realize I am coming to God as one merely going through the motions, I confess it to Him. He can expose what stands in the way of my being passionate about Him. I can ask Him to reveal Himself to me as I read His word. I recount past experiences with Him in the same way I would at a family reunion. I have a friend who was struggling in her relationship with God and I asked God to remind her of a time she had enjoyed God and had been passionate about Him, longing to live whole heartedly for Him. And God did it! It was not long before she was telling me she longed to be back to that place of heart-felt worship.

In closing, let me ask if you are laughing, singing, or dancing before the Lord today is your heart truly in it? If you are at a place in your life that you are weeping, is your heart in it? If you are serving faithfully, is your heart in it? If you are praying daily, is your heart engaged in it? If not, reflect on the cross a moment. Every sin, whether by thought, word, or deed, was paid for on the cross so we might be healed and enter a love relationship with God whose very character is love. His love is the type of love that demands a response from our hearts not merely our mouth. How are you responding to God today?


Father, I pray each of us would love, trust, and serve You whole-heartedly. Help us to be focused on You in our worship and not a bunch of man made rules and regulations. Give us hearts that are sensitive to Your truth and to Your Holy Spirit that we might respond from the very depths of our souls. Let us enter our worship of you with all that we and with hearts laid bare before You. Please let your holiness and Your goodness lead us to repentance and purity. Please help us be humble and gracious like You. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!