How are you? No, really… how are you? Take you pulse….In what state is your life tonight/this morning?
· Some of you are weary, tired, and care worn
· Some of you are in deep and abiding pain
· some of you are out of whack, out of sorts, irritable and confused
· some of you are cantankerous ,cross, critical, contentious
· some of you are bored and directionless
· some of you are lonely and a little lost
· some of you are in deep reflection at a crossroads of your life
This is why it is very, very good that you have prioritized this moment in time to sit among the people of God in corporate worship. Worship is essential to the soul – to a human life.
It is more essential than you’ve thought, bigger than you’ve been making it…more awe inspiring, life shaping and heart healing than you have imagined. In this 4 week series I want to make a compelling case for you to make corporate worship a driving value of your life. To convince you to put it on your calendar in pen, to become a person or a family who commits to the Way of Worship.
· I want you to be able to say …”This is what I do as a person. I am a person who gathers every week with the people of God to worship. I do corporate worship not 1 out of 4 weeks, not 2 out of 4...but every week unless I'm sick or my arm is falling off. Even if this true we'll give you some duct tape.
· To be able to say “we are a family who goes to church every weekend. There's no equivocation. Traveling sports teams don't trump worship. Catching up on Work does not trump it. Family from out of town doesn't trump it. Party the night before doesn’t trump it. Colts game doesn’t trump it. Busy week ahead doesn’t trump it. Not even exhaustion trumps it. It's that important to us.”
And I’m going to tell you why worship should be a priority of your lives… 4 reasons over the next 4 weeks…
Last week - Corporate worship reorients you from yourself and your pain to your great and powerful God.
Grab head and turn.
Magnus Deus--the great God (transcendence)
“More spiritual progress can be made in one short moment of speechless silence in the awesome presence of God than in years of mere study” –A.W. Tozer.
Corporate worship reorients us away from our pain, our anxiety and depression, our petty self-centeredness and our sin unlike anything else on this planet.
Nest week - Corporate worship allows you to enjoy the community of the passionate people of God.
Communitas Dei --- the community of God
Final week - Corporate worship launches you out into the wildness of the mission of God.
Missio Dei--the mission of God
Today - Corporate worship invites you to experience deeply the presence of God who dearly loves you.
Coram Deo--in the presence of God (nearness, intimacy or immanence )
Worship opens the door to the Coram Deo – the nearness of God or intimacy with God which contrasts with the transcendence.
As with transcendence the Bible is packed with references to God’s immanence, closeness…presence…intimacy with God:
"I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15
· note both in one verse...the enigma which is God. (transcendence and intimacy together) There is no other religion that worships an intimate God.
You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book? Psalm 56:8 NASB
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 double reference - Jesus and God himself
God is present. God is intimate. God is near. Coram Deo
Why is practicing the presence of God so important?
What is it about focusing on his nearness – intimacy with the God of the universe – that is so life altering?
The presence of God melts hard hearts and revives dead hearts.
You ask then how I knew He was present, He is life and power, and as soon as He enters in, He awakens my slumbering soul; He stirs and soothes and pierces my heart, for before it was hard as stone, and diseased. - Bernard of Clairvaux (12th Century)
This is the mysterious power of worship...how many people have told me of dissolving into tears in the middle of a corporate worship moments. Not because it was a beautiful song or dance or sermon but because God was intimate...near...present.
The presence of God does something to my self-image...lets face it we are more insecure than we’d like to admit. Intimacy with God gives me my identity as one who is beloved.
God’s voice is an intimate voice. It comes from a very deep place. It is soft and gentle. We have to hear that voice and to claim for ourselves that that voice speaks the truth, our truth. It tells us who we are. That is where the spiritual life starts - by claiming the voice that calls us the beloved. - Henri Nouwen
Some of you have not been loved well…either in family of origin, or in your marriage or in life in general…corporate worship of the intimate God helps us here the deep, soft, gentle voice that says I love you…you are my beloved.
These are just a few of the reasons among others we do what we do at Grace to create environments in which you can experience the intimate presence of God. And this desire has led us to some important values:
RELEVANCY: we want what we do to feel like it makes sense to you personally In other words it must feel personal and you must relate to it. We want to break down barriers and excuses for people to be able to relate to God and the Bible. It affects every expression of art , our music and our preaching. We want people to say – yeah…that touches me where I live.
WHOLE PERSON: For much of the 20th century, protestant worship was dominated by an approach which focused almost exclusively on the intellect…the mind. Butwe believe that humans created in the image of God are equally comprised of the emotions and the will, our worship seeks to engage with and speak to all three. The environment of a worship experience—including its music, message, and complementary creative elements—is designed, developed, and delivered to test the mind, touch the heart, and tug at the will in an unapologetically purposeful and powerful way.
We want you to learn, feel and be motivated by the Coram Deo – the presence of God.
And, again, I think corporate worship is worthy of a sustained commitment on your part… not just dropping by but determining by an act of your will to engage every single weekend … sometimes experiencing the magnus dues and sometimes the Coram Deo…sometimes the majesty and others the intimacy.
…But for the rest of the time I don’t want to explain how important it is I want you to experience it yourself…don’t want to talk theory…I want us to feel the presence of God.
So I want you to grab a bible and turn to One of the most intimate things ever written between a man and God:
Written by the Shepherd King David – one of the most intimate poems ever penned between God and a human being
I don’t want you to learn anything today…I want you to feel it… listen:
1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. 5 You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Ø “there was never a time in which you were unknown to God and never a moment when you were beyond his observation.”
o the word “searched” in Vs. 1 comes from a word that means to dig…to mine…to search for precious metals
§ God digs down intothe deepest part of you – that part you are even unwilling to acknowledge
Ø “God gives laser-like attention to every single act…every single word … every single step
o He is there when you go to that website. He is there when you lost your cool. He is there as you thought that thought....yeah...and yet he loves you.
There’s nothing you can do to make God love you more and nothing you can do to make him love you less.
o I love that phrase in Vs. 3 – “he is familiar with all my ways”
§ He knows me…and I feel liked not just loved.
Ø God is pursuing you. Constantly.
o Vs. 5 – hemming in – image of a hunter stalking his prey.
o Vs. 7-9 – picture of constant pursuit. He is the hound of heaven
(Francis Thompson – early 20th century poem)
Ø God touches you. Vs. 5 – you have laid your hand on me. Vs. 10 – you hold me fast. Rather than me talk about it…look at these images.
(Use those images of God and the hand here)
11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
“The darkness will hide me” … some of you are in the dark.
o Circumstantial Darkness - Pain, brokenness
o Self-imposed darkness – Dark of your own doing –
§ Sin cover up
§ Theological antagonism – atheism/agnosticism
Stop for a moment…you who are sitting in darkness. Listen again to Vs. 11-and 12.
· Close your eyes…See the light coming over your soul
· Feel the warmth of his presence.
Your darkness cannot hide you from God
Even in the your dark night of the soul he was and is there.
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Tell me…how do you feel about yourself? When you look in a mirror what do you see?
Ø too fat? too thin? too short? too tall? Too old, too young
Ø not pretty? a failure? Have you lost what you used to have?
Ø unlovely to others?
Understand this…get this in your heart…
Ø God created you as you are and he finds you lovely and wonderful.
Ø two phrases stand out to me… Vs. 13 – inmost being Vs. 15 – my frame
o my inside and my outside – both woven by God (intimately crafted)
Understand this…you have a handcrafted destiny. A calling.
Ø all the days ordained written in a book
Ø Eph 2:10 – you’re a God’s masterpiece created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepare din advance for you to do.
Stop again…Is it not stupendously mysteriously wonderful that the transcendent God is as intimate as all this?
David has three reactions to worshipping the Coram Deo:
One: 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.
Ø Awe and love
Two: 19 If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men! 20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? 22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
Ø Anger and frustration when he realizes how others feel about the God he loves
Three: 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:1-24
Ø Submission, humility and confession
Here then is one of the most potent results of corporate worship.
Once you have experienced the intimate nearness of God or once you have experienced the awesome majesty of God there is only one appropriate reaction:
Ø passionate, loving, humble repentance
Corporate worship invites you to experience deeply the presence of God who dearly loves you.
…and once you do…you are changed so deeply that sometimes you don’t even recognize who you have become.