If it’s one man I love and respect, it’s our former President Barack Obama. And I’ve come to discover, that when the President of the United States comes to speak, it’s a rare opportunity. So if you desire to be physically present when he shows up to speak, you better get there hours early because of the mass of people that will be there as well! Think about it, it’s hard to find a place to park, to stand, to sit or to see and hear. Yet, if you should happen to be able to squeeze in and find a spot, you still then have to wait until he arrives! Finally, you can hear a ripple go through the crowd as they hang the presidential seal on the podium. Then comes the announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.” Everybody gives him a standing ovation that lasts quite a while, and when the applause dies down, he begins to speak. While he speaks, nobody leaves. In a nutshell, when you go to hear someone important, you don’t just applaud and leave. You stay after the applause to hear what they have to say.
You can find in Isaiah 6 perhaps the greatest worship scene in the Bible. The prophet Isaiah says the following in Isaiah 6:1-4: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw [in a vision] the Lord sitting on a throne, high and exalted, with the train of His royal robe filling the [most holy part of the] temple. Above Him seraphim (heavenly beings) stood; each one had six wings: with two wings he covered his face, with two wings he covered his feet, and with two wings he flew. And one called out to another, saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is filled with His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, and the temple was filling with smoke” (AMP)
This is what you would call true worship! It is getting lost in who He is, and being overwhelmed by His very presence. It is the place where no flesh glories in His sight. It is the place where the true-worshiper dwells.
John 4:23-24, “But a time is coming and is already here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit [from the heart, the inner self] and in truth; for the Father seeks such people to be His worshipers. God is spirit [the Source of life, yet invisible to mankind], and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (AMP)
Here’s the KEY: “…the Father SEEKS such people to be His worshipers…”
Can you imagine something being so important and vital to God that He actually comes looking for it? Well, that’s the power and attraction of true-worshipers. There is something so phenomenal about their worship, that God seeks for, looks for, goes after and pursues them. Which reminds me a lot of ‘new love’. We go so out of our way when it’s new love. The phone calls are never-ending, the flowers flow in constantly, the ‘I love you’s are dear, genuine, passionate and daily, the time together is precious and you never want it to come to an end. You rearrange your entire schedule just to spend a moment with the one you love. You gaze in their eyes, and smile for no reason. You can think of them and butterflies flutter on the inside. You give your everything to them, because you love them. It’s new, exciting, fun, and life-giving. It brings you joy, happiness, contentment, and you can’t stop telling everybody about the somebody that has stolen your heart and refuses to give it back. You want to hold hands all the time, your intimacy knows no limits or boundaries. You want to eat with them, go out with them, stay in with them. All because you love them. And often their response matches yours, because when someone knows just how special, valued, cherished and loved they are, they tend to give even more of themselves in return out of a heart full of gratitude. I wonder what would happen if we would dare to love God like that? What would it be like for our worship to resemble that kind of love in word, thought, and action? Could you imagine how relentless God would pursue us for rendering such worship on Him? If only we would give God even a tenth of what we give to people…Selah…
The God’s Word Translation says, “…The Father is looking for people like that to worship Him…” (GWT). Then the Good News Translation finishes like this, “…God is Spirit, and only by the power of His Spirit can people worship Him as He really is.” (GNT). Which makes me wonder, if we spend no time with God, no time talking to Him and hearing from Him; if we spend no time in prayer, no time in His Word, no time in His Presence, how will we ever be able to worship Him in spirit and in truth? How can we worship Him, by His Spirit, when our Spirit takes no time to learn who He really is? Which is hard to do in an era of the church that is “Praise” focused…ONLY. Now, is there anything wrong with praise? Absolutely not! From cover-to-cover of the Bible will you hear about the praises rendered to our God, and His response to them for He inhabits the praises of His people.
But I’m afraid that we’ve become so Praise-Centered, that we no longer know how to get to the Core of Worship anymore.
There’s a wonderful new emphasis in many places today on praise and worship. And I for one certainly recall it being called “devotion”. You see, it was the time in my former church where the Deacons and Deaconesses led in prayer, praise and worship and testimony service. It was a time when the people made the Lord the focus, when it’s so easy to forget Him, and we finally take time to forget ourselves instead and experience just how big God is. People from all over the sanctuary would share what the Lord had done for them and their loved ones, their health, their employment and marriage etc. It was wonderful, encouraging, empowering, motivating, faith-building, and inspiring. We would sing, and clap and dance, and holler. We would give God our best and noisiest praise! It was sort of our standing ovation for God! Much like the preparation for when the President is about to enter the room and speak.
Unfortunately, however, far too many of us leave after the standing ovation, not realizing that it’s only the beginning. Yes, Praise went forth and Worship went forth, but now God wants to say something; He wants to speak to us. But how can we hear Him if we leave, or tune out after the praise break stops? How can we hear Him over all the clapping, hollering, high-fiving, and ‘tap and tell your neighbor’? How can we hear Him while we’re so busy running, jumping, leaping, dancing, spinning, shouting and falling out? Is anything wrong with any of that? No, not in and of itself. And if that was the conclusion, it would be fine. However, it’s not, it’s only the beginning. Because after the ovation dies down, after the applause stops, His voice speaks, and that’s the most important part of it all. And when you realize that it is, you began to prepare yourself to hear the Lord speak.
Isaiah 6:5 says this, “Woe is me! For I am ruined, Because I am a man of [ceremonially] unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (AMP). Worship is supposed to lead to Repentance. When you are in the Presence of the Lord, you should see His holiness and the sin that you have not dealt with. You need to make things right with this awesome and holy God. Worship that doesn’t lead to cleaning up your sin is just dead-end applause, and we should not leave until God has spoken. Worship should remind us that we’ve sinned, it should convict us of our unrighteousness when we realize just how righteous He is. It should uncover our unholiness when we realize just how holy He is. Worship should challenge us to change for the better. Worship should remind us that although we serve an awesome, loving and kind, and generous God, He is also Holy.
“because it is written, “You shall be holy (set apart), for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16 AMP);
“Strive to live in peace with everybody and pursue that consecration and holiness without which no one will [ever] see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 AMPC)
This is how vital holiness is! We are to be holy, because He Is Holy and Without Holiness, No One Will Ever See Him! So, when we worship God, it is a time of preparation to hear from God. We enter that place of holy worship where we acknowledge that we are unclean and need to be bathed in His presence. We need to be made right. We need to begin again. Start afresh, start anew. We need to reevaluate ourselves, our attitudes, our speech, our thoughts, our deeds, our motives and intentions, our desires, our longings, our heart. Because we need to hear Him, we have to come close to Him, and have Him cleanse us and position us. Praise is wonderful, it gets us to the door, thanksgiving opens it up, worship allows us to enter in, and holiness allows us to stay in preparation to hear God speak.
“Then flew one of the seraphim [heavenly beings] to me, having a live coal in his hand which he had taken with tongs from off the altar; and with it he touched my mouth and said, Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity and guilt are taken away, and your sin is completely atoned for and forgiven.” (Isaiah 6:6-7 AMPC).
A lot happens after the initial cries of “Holy, Holy, Holy”. Just as a lot happens prior to the President speaking. There’s a Process before the Proclamation. Isaiah didn’t get happy just because of who he was around (the angels, or for us it’s other church folks). He didn’t even get happy because of the ovation and applause (“Holy, Holy, Holy”, or for us it’s our Praise). But Isaiah declared his sin, I’m unclean and unholy. But since I’m in your presence and have the opportunity to hear you speak, I’m not stopping here, I’m not staying here, I’m leaving here changed and better. And the very thing he declared was unclean (‘I’m a man of unclean lips’), the angels touched him and gave a new declaration, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity and guilt are taken away, and your sin is completely atoned for and forgiven.” And what happens after he confesses and gets cleaned up?
Verse 8 says, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (AMP). When we see our sin and receive God’s forgiveness, then we should see the people who don’t have a Savior yet. Our heart should ache for those who haven’t seen the King. Worship is not just getting a good feeling because you got close to God. When you see the Lord, it will help you see the lost people who haven’t gotten close to Him yet. Worship that is really worship will lead to repentance and then to evangelism. Unfortunately, we get so lost in what we desire the Lord to Personally do for us, that we assume, when we’ve received what we asked for, then that’s it, I’m good, the day is done, we can go home now. Not so! We don’t get to God, get what we can get from God, then go home. We get in the presence of God, so we can repent, change and get something to give away to somebody else.
“Here am I, Lord. I will go for You into the lives of the people around me who have yet to see the King as I have.”
You don’t get clean just to brag about your cleanliness. You don’t get clean just to hang around other clean folks. You get clean so you can go to them that are still in the filth of their sin, and you tell them I know a Man that can clean your sin better than Tide can clean your laundry!
You don’t just go into God’s presence to applaud, to run, jump, leap, spin, dance, shout, and praise, though that’s a great place to start. But you go to worship and repent, to receive forgiveness, to be cleansed and changed and to hear Him speak and then to act on what He says!
Think about this: Can you imagine traveling hours to hear the President speak, stuck in traffic, struggling to find a place to park. Then getting on a long line to be security cleared. Then to hear all the chatter from everyone else speaking all at the same time. Then to find you a little spot to try and see and hear him. Then to hear that he’s about to enter in, he’s announced and introduced, you clap and scream and get so excited. And then he comes in, and all the cheering gets even louder. He’s at the podium, then the applause dies down, and finally you get to hear him speak, BUT he just walks away without a word spoken…how disappointed would you be?
Well, on the reverse side of that, that’s where a lot of us are. We go through all we go through to get to church. Find parking, find somewhere to sit, then there’s the music, the clapping, dancing, praising, and then the mouthpiece of God gets ready to speak and we’ve completely checked out of service! Imagine God’s heart break that you don’t mind applauding Him, you just don’t want to hear from Him! Well, that’s not the purpose. We have to find our way back to what’s important in our churches. And it’s not how awesome the choir is, how amazing the music is, how high the anointing is, how fancy the footwork is. None of that has value. We need to enter in with thanksgiving and praise. But we also have to find our place of worship and repentance. So that we can be honest before God, confess and be cleansed and changed before God. Then we can clearly hear from God. And then we can take what we’ve heard from God and share it with others. Don’t lose the core importance of the Presence of God. It is not to tickle your ears or your fancy, it’s not hearing what you want to hear, it’s not about houses, cars, land, money, promotions and new spouses. It’s about becoming a better believer and person as a whole. It’s about spending so much time with God that you finally start to sound like Him, walk and talk like Him, think and act like Him, ultimately to reflect Him.
Enjoy service, enjoy the praises rendered to our God. Give Him the standing ovation and applause you freely give to the President and more so. But remember, if people can stay after the applause to hear what a ‘mere man’ has to say, surely we should stay after the applause (physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally) to hear what God has to say don’t you think? With that said, don’t become so entertained in church, that you leave unchanged! Don’t get so lost in the Noise of Praise that you can’t find the Quiet of Worship!
Example: 1 Kings 19:11-13, “So He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by, and a great and powerful wind was tearing out the mountains and breaking the rocks in pieces before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind, [there was] an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, [there was] a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, [there was] the sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard the sound, he wrapped his face in his mantle (cloak) and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (AMP)
The Contemporary English Bible says it like this, “…Finally, there was a gentle breeze, and when Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his coat. He went out and stood at the entrance to the cave. The Lord asked, “Elijah, why are you here?” (CEV)
There was a Powerful Wind that tore out the mountains and broke rocks in piece; There was an Earthquake; There was a Fire… In short, there was a lot of Noise and a lot of Action to Be Seen and Heard…but the Lord’s voice wasn’t in the verbal noise or the visible action! And truth is, our churches have become quite noisy and visibly active…Selah…However, the Lord’s voice was in “the sound of a gentle blowing…” if you weren’t quiet and still, you would never hear it or feel it. Makes me ponder if the church needs to quiet down and learn to be still just a little bit more? Maybe, just maybe, we could sense, hear, see and feel the actual presence of the Lord.
Church, praise is not the only order on the menu of the day. Now, I know praise is more like the steak, potatoes, chicken and rice on the menu. However, worship is more like the vegetables, something that’s so much better, and healthier for you. Does it mean steak is bad? Nope, but it will be better with the balance of broccoli. And with such a simple, childlike analogy, our praise is more well-balanced WITH our worship. Applaud the Lord, but when the applause dies down, worship and listen to what thus saith the Lord.
Remember, it is the true worshipers that God is seeking for, looking for and pursuing. Those whose worship continuously goes off on His radar. These are the ones God goes out on a man-hunt for. He tracks them down. He desires them; longs for them; is drawn to them. So, a good question to ask yourself is: “Does My Seeking God in Worship Move God to Come Seeking After Me?” That’s the kind of Worship you should be after, the kind that causes God to come after you! A Real Encounter With God! One Where You See God; You See Yourself as He Sees You; and Then You See Others in Outreach!
Therefore, today, let’s start fresh. Let’s set the stage for God’s entrance. Praise Him, Thank Him, Glorify Him, Exalt and Extol Him, Speak Well of Him, Applaud Him. But then ask Him to prepare you through confession, repentance, forgiveness and cleansing to enter His presence to Hear Him speak. And when He speaks, listen and obey.
Remembering that Isaiah SAT until he was SANCTIFIED and then SENT.
Your process will be the same. And when God sends you, it’s not for your glory, your name, your reputation, your self-promotion, the people’s applause and approval or exalting your gifts, skills, talents, or anointing. No, you’re sent on assignment to lead others into the same process as you’ve experienced. Your purpose is the discipleship of others. Bring people into the Kingdom, even if they don’t come into Your Church. Their Soul, Not Your Seating, is What’s Important to God and Should Be Just as Important to Us, His People, His Church, Given His Charge and Commission to Complete. Keep that in mind as you renew your mind regarding Praise and Worship and making sure that it’s not a performance or show but that it becomes your very lifestyle.
People of God, whatever you do, Don’t Miss What Happens After the Applause! Experience One Real Encounter With God and You’ll Want an Encore!
1 Samuel 3:10, “Then the Lord came and stood and called as at the previous times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”(AMP)
James 4:8, “Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your [unfaithful] hearts, you double-minded [people].” (AMP)
Psalm 24:4, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to what is false, Nor has sworn [oaths] deceitfully.” (AMP)
John 10:27, “The sheep that are My own hear My voice and listen to Me; I know them, and they follow Me.” (AMP)
Psalm 96:9, “Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; Tremble [in submissive wonder] before Him, all the earth.” (AMP)
Psalm 29:2, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty and majesty of His holiness [as the creator and source of holiness].” (AMP)
“True worship always brings you into a right relationship with God.” (Author Unknown)
“Worship that is pleasing to God, radiates throughout a person’s entire life.” (A.W. Tozer)
“Worship, it’s not about you, it’s all about Him being worthy and you being unworthy.” (Author Unknown)
“An encounter with God marks you, and makes you hungry for more of Him.” (Jenn Johnson)
“Worship is a lifestyle. What you do throughout the day is your act of worship to God.” (Patrick Mabilog)
“Worship is an act of war against the enemy of our hearts.” (Holley Gerth)
“Worship is so much more than the songs that we sing on Sunday morning. It is the life that we live the rest of the week.” (Author Unknown)
“In the case of Jesus, He is infinitely admirable, and our admiration rises to the most absolute worship.” (John Piper)
“True worshipers believe they are the Temple of God in which the Father dwells and from which they worship the Father. They are not just instruments in God’s hands, most importantly they have a relationship with God and so they are no waiting for that special time or place or call to do anything, worship is their lifestyle.” (Justice Kojo Bentil)
“Such true worship will stand the test of Christ’s great principle, ‘by their fruits you shall know them.’ It sanctifies the Christian’s life and makes them walk with God, lifting them above fear and love of the world. It enables a Christian to show God to other folks. Such worship comes from Heaven, and has the mark of God upon it.” (J.C. Ryle)
“God is looking for worshipers not professional musicians.” (Author Unknown)
“Work becomes worship when you dedicate it to God and perform it with an awareness of His Presence.” (Rick Warren)
“A man can no more diminish God’s Glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ an the walls of his cell.” (C.S. Lewis)
“In true worship the Father must be first.” (Andrew Murray)
“It is imperative that the Christian, at the beginning of his pursuit to understand what true worship is, gets it clear that the object of our worship is to be God and God alone.” (R.C. Sproul)
Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].” (AMP)
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