Glory All Around You
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)
Don’t let your worship decline to the performance of mere duty. Don’t let the childlike awe and wonder be choked out by unbiblical views of virtue. Don’t let the scenery and poetry and music of your relationship with God shrivel up and die. You have capacities for joy you can scarcely imagine. They were made for the enjoyment of God. He can awaken them no matter how long they have lain asleep. Pray for His quickening power. Open your eyes to His glory. It is all around you.
I was flying at night from Chicago to Minneapolis, almost alone on the plane. The pilot announced that there was a thunderstorm over Lake Michigan and into Wisconsin. He would skirt it to the west to avoid turbulence. As I sat there starting out into the total blackness, suddenly the whole sky was brilliant with light, and a cavern of white clouds fell away four miles beneath the plane and then vanished. A second later, a mammoth white tunnel of light exploded from north to south across the horizon, and again vanished into blackness. Soon the lightening was almost constant, and volcanos of light burst up out of cloud ravines and from behind distant white mountains. I sat there shaking my head almost in unbelief. O Lord, if these are but sparks from the sharpening of Your sword, what will be the day of Your appearing! And I remembered the words of Christ: “As the lightening flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in His day.”(Luke 17:24)
Even now as I recollect that sight, the word glory is full of feeling for me. I thank God again and again He has awakened my heart to desire Him, to see Him, and to sit down to the feast of Christian hedonism and worship the King of Glory. The banquet hall is very large,
David in writing Psalm 8 opens with the words, “O Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth.” He pens this psalm describing the wonder of the God of the universe. He describes the incredible beauty of nature and all of creation. Then he pauses to ask a question.
“O Lord, our Lord, How majestic and glorious and excellent is Your name in all the earth! You have displayed Your splendor above the heavens. Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, That You might silence the enemy and make the revengeful cease. When I see and consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have established, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of [earthborn] man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. You made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, How majestic and glorious and excellent is Your name in all the earth!”
“When I see and consider Your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have established,” he says, “What is man that You are mindful of him?”
I remember standing at the bottom of Niagara Falls some years ago awestruck at the power and force of the millions of cubic feet of water constantly falling over the falls. The sound was deafening so that even standing near you couldn’t hear or be heard. As I stood there in abject amazement and wonder, I heard the Lord say,” This is nothing in comparison to the outpouring of My grace, mercy and love upon you every day!” O Lord, how excellent is your name above all the earth!
Again standing outside one night in Kenya when it seemed that the heavens touched earth and the stars were so bright and close and it seemed to be hundreds of them sprinkled over the night, this same wonder filled my soul. As I thought of all the stars and galaxies spread throughout the universe and here I was, this small human in the midst of the vastness of creation, I though of David’s question. “What is man that You are mindful of him?
This is the heart of true worship. Worship comes not from some choreographed ritual that involves the brain but not the spirit and heart. Worship comes from the wonder of being considered by the Creator of the universe as we behold the vast display of God’s handiwork in comparison to tiny us. Worship comes from a heart so filled with awe and gratitude that this Creator would even notice us much less send His Son to die that we might live with Him. Worship comes from the slave who was being sold on the auction block of the world that was bought with a great price, the precious blood of Jesus. Worship is never something to satisfy the desires of a human but to honor and glorify God to the fullest expression.
We read that the angels worship God as they behold all His glory and splendor. We understand that one day we will join them and the host of heaven around the throne in worship. Yet those angels do not know redemption, do not know the incredible love and mercy of God demonstrated in His Son. They only see it given and the joy of God as those feeble weak humans receive it and they must wonder why those humans are so feeble in expressing their gratitude and awe-filled worship upon receiving such an unspeakable gift.
I truly believe that if we ever comprehend to any degree this unspeakable love and grace bestowed upon us that we will be like David when the Ark came home. We will be so overjoyed, so overwhelmed, our hearts will be so filled with awe, that we get beside ourselves and literally lose all our dignity and reserve and with all our being, we will worship. We will lose our fear to dance with all our might, to shout the praises of God with more passion that we could ever muster at a sporting event. We as the host of heaven would fall on our face before His presence and lift our voices and cry, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!”
The apostle Paul, writing to the Philippians puts it this way:
“But whatever former things were gains to me [as I thought then], these things [once regarded as advancements in merit] I have come to consider as loss [absolutely worthless] for the sake of Christ [and the purpose which He has given my life]. But more than that, I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled]. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him [believing and relying on Him], not having any righteousness of my own derived from [my obedience to] the Law and its rituals, but [possessing] that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; so that I may attain to the resurrection [that will raise me] from the dead.”
Worship exudes from us when we see the incomparable Christ in all He is and realize that everything else in comparison has no value. Paul says, “I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having any righteousness of my own derived from the Law and its rituals, but that which comes through faith in Christ.”
Here I am almost 42 years later in my journey with Christ and I am still overwhelmed and amazed that God would choose such as I. I have heard people talk about burnout in ministry and I’m sure it happens. I’ve heard people say that gathering with the church has become boring and a duty or obligation. I’ve seen people go through the motions of ritualistic church services with little or no enthusiasm and sometimes it is obvious that they would rather be elsewhere. I’ve observed that often individuals check out, doze off and become easily distracted during the preaching of the Word. I recognize that all this happens. I know there are those who say they don’t feel they can have a church experience if they are not in a sanctuary seated in their exact place in the pew. Other may say that they can only connect with certain songs or certain activities. I even hear pastors and preachers bemoan the fact that they have to struggle through another sermon preparation and deliverance. I know that all these things occur and I will frankly say that over the years church structure and church people have not always been great. There have been times when I have thought and said to myself, “I don’t need this hassle.” And I confess that every time those feelings have come is I have acted like Peter. Instead of keeping my focus on Jesus, I began to focus on the wind and waves of things around me. But when I refocus and fill my screen with Christ in such a way that nothing else is in view, my heart is filled again with this overwhelming gratitude and I know that I am blessed beyond measure so I forget where I am and what’s happening around and I worship with my whole heart.
So in these days of adversity and challenge, I call us to a new and living way, the way of unrestrained worship. Let us choose to consider the Lord and all He’s done for us. Let us remember that He has delivered us and redeemed us and that we are His. Let us know that He is not ashamed of us and neither should we be ashamed to express our love for Him, openly and publicly. Let us change our expectations about our gatherings as a church. Let us gather asking ourselves how we can worship and glorify God rather than our normal question of how does this gathering meet my need or desires. Let us not be driven by ritual but let ritual take its proper place as only a tool that assists us in our worship. Let us transform from human preference to God preference. Let us lay aside every weight, every hindrance, every fear and all shame or embarrassment that limits our worship expression. It will be amazing to see what God will do in and through any church that chooses the worship of the exalted Christ above and other thing. The church that makes worship its priority will be a church that attracts and influences the people of its community, thereby carrying out the Great Commission.
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
We know that it was Christ lifted up on the cross that draws all peoples to Him and it is Christ that is lifted up in our worship that still draws all peoples to Him.
Finally we know that it is God who meets our every need and that it is in His presence we find that source. I leave us with a radical thought. It is impossible to be in the presence of God and remain the same. Every encounter with God leaves us different. So if we see the need for change, then we must invite the presence of God into our hearts and into His church. We do that through worship.
“But You are holy, O You who are enthroned in [the holy place where] the praises of Israel [are offered]. In You our fathers trusted [leaned on, relied on, and were confident]; They trusted and You rescued them. They cried out to You and were delivered; They trusted in You and were not disappointed or ashamed.”
Dr. John Thompson