We're Not Alone
Monday, August 10, 2020
I was in a small Minnesota church when I heard her. She played the piano with more trills and flourishes than I'd ever heard before. Visiting later, she said, "The lyrics are not important. It is the tune that makes the song." Some might be really critical of her. But I think critics are missing something. Without making a mountain out of a molehill, why not take time to consider what her motive was. I believe this shows someone who associates worship with what pleases her. She loved using her musical gift to enhance any song sung. Hmm.
Now let's compare the pianist's worship philosophy with a verse in the Bible. "Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvelous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights His heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship." (Romans 12:1, TPT)
This passage exhorts us to seek to delight God's heart which He'll accept as our genuine expression of worship. Do you see the difference? No matter how gifted the pianist's playing was she was focusing her worship more on pleasing herself than the Lord. Our worship is to be focused on what pleases God ~ not ourselves.
Our Lord taught the Samaritan woman (in John 4) that there are several types of worship... as far as people practice... but only one that God desires... and is pleasing to Him. He explained that the Samaritans didn’t know who they were worshiping, but the Jews did know the true God. But the Jewish worship was changing as He said, “The true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24, NIV)
After His resurrection the Lord expanded worship far from Jerusalem into the whole world: “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20, NIV)
Over the half-century I’ve ministered I’ve bumped into others who have a strange variety of worship aberrations. A South African spokesman said “Jesus was good in so many ways but there were others from whom we can gain great spiritual truth and who were great teachers sent from God.”
Since he hosted a podcast that reached thousands of listeners I exchanged emails for a few weeks. Then I emailed John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” I asked him what value was there in involving anyone else, whoever they might be, other than Jesus ~ since He said, “... no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
He replied, “You are misinterpreting the passage.”
Excuse me! I had not interpreted anything, rather I quoted it exactly as it has read for two millennia.
When it comes to worship, Scripture clearly instructs us to worship our triune God ~ Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
A young woman was one of six people leading the congregation in worship music. One thing seemed odd to me: she had bare feet. I asked her why. She said, "Though the congregation joins in our singing, for me it is directed to the Lord. So I take off my shoes because I'm in His presence standing on Holy ground."
I learned in my counseling training a bizarre truth about pregnant, drug-addicted mothers in contrast to pregnant not drug-addicted mothers. When each was asked to draw a picture of themselves as pregnant the non-drug addicted Mom drew a woman with a blimp-sized stomach. The drug-addicted drew a picture of a skinny woman with a basketball-like object out in front of but separate from her own body.
Doctors view this as an anomaly which I used here to illustrate the difference between what God wants our worship to be and what we commonly believe our worship should be.
Too often we picture worship as reaching out to the church audience. When we should, instead, see worship as a united effort of leading all the congregation to the Heavenly audience. The true audience is not the congregation. It is Heaven.
Each Christian must stand on Holy Ground and worship the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This philosophy needs to be ours throughout our Christian walk. If we go backwards into our sinful life’s past practices it is serious business: “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (I John 1:6-7, NIV)
If you carelessly continue sinning without repenting and returning to the Merciful and Gracious Heavenly Father read what you’ll lose in the 11 underlined blue words above. No one on this planet can ever reach heaven if their sins are not purified. Remember, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (I John 1:8-10, NIV)
Sometimes the Holy Spirit allows awful things to happen to nudge us to change our ways. The honest soul will humble them-self in repentance and accept the discipline realizing their Heavenly Father is showing them His love by whatever the trial is. But there are others who become arrogant and so stubborn they carry a grudge against God and any person who tried to help them change their ways.
Marvin had been a leader in the church whose attitude became cynical, abusive and divisive. No matter how many tried to get him to change his attitude and behavior, he simply worsened. The Church took that toughest of all actions. They called a congregational meeting and asked him to repent. Different members stood and told him how much they loved him and begged him to change.
He spat in their faces metaphorically and said he was without blame and all the other leaders were the problem. He spoke grotesque things and sat down. His wife asked to speak. With tears streaming down her face she made a heart-rending plea to him and said even their daughter, who loved him dearly, had a crushed heart because of her dad. He smirked and muttered contempt at his wife for turning against him. The church then took a vote and a little over 90% decided he needed to be removed from the fellowship.
Adding insult to injury Marvin set out on a most unwise course. He made picket-like signs and picketed the church Sunday after Sunday. His wife and daughter were too embarrassed to continue attending the church with him out front picketing. Having only one car his hatred was so intense he drove them clear across town and dropped them off across the street from the new church and returned and continued picketing the original church.
Then it happened. Just like the Scripture says, “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.” (Proverbs 29:1, NKJV)
As winter snowflakes drifted onto the frozen ground Marvin drove his wife and daughter to their church and let them off across the street and headed back to continue his picketing. After the service was over he drove to pick them up. But a fire truck was on the scene and as he drove up an ambulance with lights and siren sped off.
Marvin recognized one of the firemen and asked him what happened. Try as he could the fireman stammered in a broken choking voice and finally got it out. “It was your daughter. She was struck crossing the street by a pickup that slid on the icy road. I’m sorry Marvin... but she didn’t make it. The ambulance is rushing your wife to the trauma center because she tried to pull your daughter to safety and she fell and broke her back.”
How sad must a story be to cause us to always yield to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It would be good if we would pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalms 139:23-24, NASB)
Marylou had lived a tough life before she became a Christian. She had been known to have a horrible temper, nasty tongue and slept around. But when the Lord grabbed her heart she repented and was immersed and rose to be a changed woman. She was a joy just to know and she became a very good example to younger women and mothers in the church.
I can't recall how many years had come and gone but news reached my ears that she had slipped back into some of her old ways: sleeping around, temper tantrums and filthy speech. Then one morning Marylou came forward at the Invitation. She expressed sorrow, repented and asked for prayer. We were thrilled to witness her turn around and the congregation hugged her and prayed for her.
About three or four months later Marylou erupted into sin again. Sadly she had increased the extent of her sin. She blew up at her husband and threw a cup of boiling coffee in his face. When he was released from the hospital he was afraid to return home and stayed with another family in the church.
Marylou was now the talk of the town. Her testimony was gone and would have been laughed at if she’d tried. It seemed, she just couldn’t give anywhere close to a 100% to the Lord. A number of us really poured out intercessions for her. A few months came by and unexpectedly she came back to church. Once again she came forward asking for forgiveness and prayer.
Though we were pleased to have her return, my mind was suddenly filled with a verse. The Holy Spirit pulsed a message. He spoke through my lips to Marylou: “Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of repentance.” (Matthew 3:8, ASV)
She was stunned and then wept. “I don’t understand why I’m doing all these horrible things. I really want to change.”
After an extended period of counseling and re-examining her conversion Marylou was finally able to recommit to the Lord and live a life pleasing to Him.
"Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes." (Romans 12:2, TPT)
At age nine, Bob Cain was so musically gifted he joined the school band playing trombone. As his teen years began he loved rock and rhythm and blues of the day. He dreamed of being a star. He advanced to leadership of the band. Plus he was such a gifted orator he became an emcee hosting famous people. Then he advanced to the Miss Alabama Pageant which he hosted for ten years.
He married Penny and the duo bought a Supper Club in Birmingham in which famed artists performed. Bob and Penny frequently performed at their own club and at other famed venues. But something was missing from their lives. Selling alcohol and hosting partying crowds began to gnaw at their souls.
Feeling pulled by the Holy Spirit the couple repented, closed the club and pondered their work options. As the Spirit so often does He made the choice very obvious. Bob's natural gift was music: playing and singing and his sweet wife was a perfect partner.
A lifetime Christian friend urged the pair to produce a Christian album in their blooming new faith. Bethany Records produced it and it was titled, "New Song" to celebrate their renewed hearts.
But the Spirit was just warming them up. Legendary Jake Hess heard their album and was so impressed he shared it with Bill Gaither. Bill reached out to Bob and Penny and invited them to sing with and become part of the Homecoming Friends' videos. Bob sang in ten of the Gaither Homecoming Videos before succumbing to cancer at age sixty-one.
What a Wonderful World
Don't miss his closing remarks.
Maybe realizing the truth in the lyrics of a new song will help us release some of our anxiety, discouragement and fearfulness. After all...
“We’re Not Alone”
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