Yesterday, I posted my thoughts on how God has been using the new series at my church to show me that I still have fears to deal with. The series is called “The Plunge: Faith in Action” and it’s all about jumping in all the way and going deeper with our relationship with God.
I shared how some childhood experiences with the ocean taught me to fear being in the water. So – I took up SCUBA diving to help get over my fear. It worked! When I discovered SCUBA, I discovered a whole new world filled with wonder and awe. But, had I decided to avoid my fears, I would have never have know the amazing world of coral reefs.
Similarly, until I jumped in all the way with my relationship with God, I never experienced the fullness of the miracle of the Creator of all this living inside me. I never experienced the peace that holds me in the most terrifying storm and keeps me calm. I never experienced love as only the One who is defined by love can give. I never felt accepted and cherished just for who I am, and not for what I do or don’t do.
So – how do you do that? How do you jump in? I mean, it’s not like you literally jump in the baptismal pool to experience more of God. Jumping in is an analogy. So, what does it look like to go deeper with God?
Well, let’s start with worship.
Look back at this past week. Ask yourself these questions:
- When did I actually stop what I was doing and worship God?
- When did I stop and thank Him and praise Him for who He is and for what He’s done?
I mean, look around – all creation is crying out to the glory of God, all we can see, and all that’s under the ocean – even in space. God has gone to such great lengths to provide us with not one hundred stars to enjoy – but hundreds of billions of stars – some of which we have yet to even discover. When did you thank Him for the stars?
Every Sunday, I see people come to church and just stand there during worship and praise, all stoic and “reverent”, while a few people around them are singing, clapping, raising their hands – all in worship to God. I know what it is…
If you’re one of those kinds of people, you might be saying, “you don’t understand – I was raised to believe that we are to be ‘reverent’ in church and not ‘act out’.” I understand. I was also raised in such a manner. I was taught that it’s okay to jump and shout and scream at a baseball game, but NOT in church!
I remember being at a church in Waco, TX with my good friend, David. He had been going to this church for a while before I showed up. When the music started, everyone in the place – from the youngest toddler to the oldest blue-haired lady – stood up and started singing and clapping. Many were closing their eyes and raising their hands. This was my very first experience with “contemporary worship” and, frankly, it bothered me very much.
After church, I sat David down on the dingy, orange 70s-style couch in our apartment and gave him a piece of my mind. I told him that I had looked up to his spiritual leadership all through high school, but he had lost his mind and joined some kind of cult. I told him I was disappointed in his discernment and that that church he was going to was corrupting him.
But – I went back. Something about seeing all those people really, tangibly worshiping God, as uncomfortable it was, was very attractive to me. I kept going back.
Then, one evening – I remember standing there as people around me were obviously enjoying their time with the Lord. I was suddenly feeling very left out. I SO wanted to participate, but I just couldn’t jump in. Then, with my hands shaking and my stomach all aflutter, I did it! I quietly raised my hands (not my arms, just my hands) and barely above my belt, but they were raised. I looked around to see if anyone noticed – but they were all too busy worshipping God for themselves to notice what I was dealing with.
The next week, I raised my hands to my shoulders, then one hand above my head. How ‘bout that? Nothing bad happened. Finally, after a few weeks of “testing the water” I went for it. I threw my hands up and closed my eyes, focusing less on myself, and more on the words of the song, singing them to my Father from my heart.
The joy I felt still gives me goose bumps now as I recall the experience. It was indescribable. I had, without realizing it, given God a sacrifice of praise. And, my God responded. The worship times became so alive – so sweet – after that. I wanted more (which ultimately led me on a dangerous trek through the dark waters of emotionalism and manipulation through music – but that’s another story. There is a balance – with God at the center, not us).
Ask yourself these questions:
- What do I think about when I sing to God?
- Am I more concerned with what those around me might think than what my “audience of one” thinks?
- What am I afraid of?
Of course, it’s not just about worshiping in church. Worship is a lifestyle – it’s something you do all day every day, in different ways: prayer, quiet meditation, breath prayers (a great idea from my good friend Hook), your finances, helping others, reading the Bible, working “as unto the Lord.”
Jump in with both feet. Worship Him with all your heart, soul, strength and all your mind. Like me discovering the beauty and awe of the ocean, you may find yourself in a whole new world of sweet fellowship with your heavenly Father.
Tomorrow, I want to put out some other thoughts on what it means to go deeper with our relationship with God. Please feel free to share any similar experiences with worship you’ve had.