BY JACK HAYFORD
A teary-eyed blonde and crumbled buildings.
They seemed to have no relationship, but I couldn’t escape the parallels they represented.
The first was a young woman, a sweet and lovely wife who had come to my office for counsel that morning. The second was the news report regarding thousands who were instantly crushed as buildings toppled from an earthquake in Mexico. The weeping wife poured out her heart that morning in my office. As she talked, I thought of the images I’d seen on television of mourning multitudes digging through rubble. The two disasters had the same root cause–negligence in building standards. Lousy foundations make for temporary homes.
The woman wasn’t whiny or complaining. In fact, she hadn’t volunteered any information that would pin the fault on her husband. I appreciated that: She was entirely ready to accept full responsibility for her situation. But the more I inquired, the clearer it became that whatever her shortcomings, there was a sad, underlying reason for the lack of development in her marriage. The man of the house believed in God but had no pattern whatsoever for worshiping Him.
Oh, the husband had some half-baked notions he would conveniently throw up like a “Hail Mary” football pass when faced with a desperate, need-an answer situation. You know what I mean; it goes like this: “I believe in worshiping God according to the dictates of my own conscience. I don’t think you need to be in a church–I simply worship God from my heart, wherever I am. I think you can worship God as much in the mountains as in town at church. I want to be honest and sincere about worship, and I don’t think people who try to prove their superiority over others by going to church are any better than me.”
And the drone goes on. It’s an empty argument concocted by a mind that has rarely, if ever, taken time to assess the shallowness of its foundational thought. Whatever may be correct in the “straw man” propositions, the basic goal isn’t to assure sincere worship but to avoid commitment.
The Foundational Commitment
Who, how, and when a man worships determines everything about his life. That’s the reason the first promise a man needs to keep is that he’ll be honest with God. And honesty with the almighty God–the Creator of all things, including us; the Giver of all life, including ours; the Savior of all sinners, including us; and the Master of human destiny, including ours–this God–above and beyond all pretenders to His throne–demands attention to His ways of worship. The whimsy and flimsy of human reason, the puff end pride of human arrogance, only need to pass once through the flame of His presence to be shown for what they are: Nothing. And a life built with nothing at its center results in homes and relationships with nothing underneath them. Like the frustrated wife in my office, like the pancaked houses in Mexico, groundless “faith” and lack of commitment to worship result in homes without foundations and relationships without roots. When stress comes, they can’t stand the test.
How can a man find the path to worship that pours substance into him, strength into his life’s foundations, unshakable stability into his marriage, steadfastness into his relationships, and trustworthiness into his work and business practices? The answer is found by beginning where God has always started with men–at worship!
A Timeless Pattern
It’s not as if the picture and principles aren’t clear.
See God introducing Adam to redeeming worship in the garden, after sin had marred that setting and the promise of a Savior was given (see Gen. 3:15).
See God calling Abraham to faith-filled worship and promising to thereby make him an instrument of blessing to all the families of mankind (see Gen. 12:1-8).
See God calling Moses to delivering worship, showing how the sacrifice of the lamb would save enslaved households from death and open a future with meaning (see Exod. 12:1-28).
See God calling Isaiah to purifying worship as the young man stood in the presence of the Lord, stunned by God’s greatness and humbled by his own sinfulness (see Isa. 6:1-5).
See the church born in empowering worship as God’s Spirit began the era of our witness as believers in Jesus Christ–the church praising God and seeing supernatural grace bringing multitudes to
Christ (see Acts 2).
Each of those expressions of worship has a counterpart in a man’s life today. Each has an application that can forge solid “stuff” into the foundation of a Promise Keeper’s life.
1. Redeeming Worship
Redeeming worship centers on the Lord’s Table. Whether your tradition celebrates it as Communion, Eucharist, the Mass, or the Lord’s Supper, we are all called to this centerpiece of Christian
Jesus, the builder of the church, commanded that this regular practice be laid in the foundations of our observance as worshipers (see 1 Cor. 11:2326). The power of the redeeming blood of Christ not only saves our souls, but it is also the foundation of all redemptive, recovering, renewing works of God. 2. Faith-filled Worship
Faith-filled worship calls for action. When Abraham heard God’s voice, he broke with convenience, got up, and went where God said to go (see Gen. 12).
It isn’t difficult to draw this analogy to one of the most fundamental calls you and I face every week: the wake-up call to gather with the people of God to worship Him. Listen to the call: “Let us not
give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).
There’s no escaping the fact that worship gets intensely practical at this point. It takes place (1) at a certain time, (2) at a certain place, (3) with a certain group, and (4) for very certain
reasons. Try and spiritualize it anyway we please–or try to scorn “church” as traditional, ritualistic, passe, or boring–still the Bible lays down a mandate: Don’t forsake it!
Yes, it costs inconvenience of schedule, preparation, tolerance, and grace, plus the humbling of ourselves. We need to get up, get going, get there on time, get a right attitude, get with the program,
and get ready to receive from the input of others (who sometimes don’t fascinate us all that much). The fruit of this commitment is the laying of strong foundations of practical faith–the real faith that follows God and affects others around us, as Abraham’s did. 3. Delivering Worship
Delivering worship is that which frees a man from bondage, liberates his family to its greatest possibilities, and opens the way to the future without the entanglements of the past. That’s what
happened when Moses submitted to worship.
This type of worship was revealed most dramatically in two events that occurred within days of one another: the Passover in Egypt and Israel’s passage through the Red Sea. The story that unfolds in the first 15 chapters of Exodus hinged on a private encounter between Moses and God Himself. What resulted was a man’s household being set free and his own life finding its intended destiny. Walk through it with him.
I. God calls a man into His fiery presence (see Exod. 3:14). We should put away idle notions that worship can be tamed to our own tastes. The man who fears drawing near to the flame of God’s Spirit at work will never experience a complete burning away of fear and pride.
2. God calls a man to remove his shoes (see Exod. 3:5). The issue wasn’t bare feet but the removal of one’s own self-fashioned support. In other words, God wanted of Moses and desires of us a will to put nothing of our own creation between ourselves and Him. And standing barefoot in the rocky terrain of a desert, as Moses did, will cause a man to walk more cautiously before God.
3. God calls a man to know His heart (see Exod. 3:7-8). Notice how it was in God’s presence that Moses reamed of God’s gentle heart, loving concern, compassionate nature, and desire to heal and deliver. You and I need to be in His presence for the same reason. My family–yours, too–needs a husband and dad who is regularly being imbued with God’s love, understanding, and gentleness.
4. God calls a man to leadership (see Exod. 3:9-10). For Moses, the call was to lead a nation, whereas your call and mine will likely be less visible. But make no mistake, we are leaders! And there is no avoiding the fact that people around us will be affected by whether or not we accept our call to God’s purpose in our lives.
The bottom line of this whole encounter is how God showed Moses the way His purposes would be fulfilled in him. We read it in Exodus 3:11-12: “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, ‘I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”‘
Moses’ response was as incredulous as yours or mine would be: “Who am I?” In short, the man was saying, “Hey, God, I know You’re mighty, but I don’t think I could ever become what You’re saying I’m to become.” God’s answer was terse and direct: “You shall worship God on this mountain!” It was stated so briefly as to pass notice and put so simply as to defy belief. God was saying, “The answer to your question ‘Who am I?’ is in your worshiping Met You will find who you are when you know who I am!”
Chuck was a hard-nosed guy, a tough, hard-hat type to whom worship seemed more suited for women and children. Sam was a business executive in many ways the precise opposite of Chuck except for his conclusions about worship. They exemplified what I’ve found to be the most common presumptions by men who think worship too mystical, too holy, too “beyond” for them.
Both Chuck and Sam became part of our monthly men’s gatherings where I had prioritized three things: (1) forthright, no-games-played worship, (2) honest, say-it-out-to-someone sharing in prayer, and (3) straight-from-the-shoulder, Bible-centered, practical teaching. I watched them, just as I’ve watched hundreds of others, break free through delivering worship. Guys who break the sound barrier and sing from the heart (no matter how bad their voices); guys who kneel humbly with a group of men, lifting their voices in concerted prayer; guys who express their surrender to the Almighty as Paul called men to do with upraised hands (see 1 Tim. 2:8) these guys change!
4. Purifying Worship
Purifying worship comes from a man’s waiting in the presence of God. Whatever may be said for the essential place of corporate worship in the church, there is still no substitute for private worship–meeting God alone.
Isaiah’s record of his face-to-face meeting with the living God relates how ashamed he became of his impurity: ” ‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For
I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips”‘ (Isa. 6:5). In short, “God, I’m stained, and I work in an atmosphere cluttered with foul mouths and ungodliness.” Sound familiar?
However, I’ve met thousands of men who have surmounted the power of personal and societal uncleanness, of profanity, of mental impurity or foul habits. And they didn’t accomplish it by the grit of self-imposed efforts at stringent discipline. They found purity through the power of being in God’s presence!
Listen to Jesus’ words: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt. 5:8). Check this closely, because too many read this text to mean, “Everybody who’s perfect will arrive in heaven some day.” But Jesus wasn’t talking about purity in ritual terms. He was talking about the fundamental definition: Purity is “that which is undiluted by other substances.” Now, join that to the place Jesus pointed at, to the heart of a man–that’s where God seeks undiluted commitment.
So what does it all mean? The answer is in what Jesus did and didn’t say. He didn’t say, “Blessed are the pure in mouth . . . hands . . . mind . . . feet.” No. Christ calls you and me to come, candidly and with a heart fully opened in worship, into the privacy of His presence. Then something will happen: If we bring our whole heart, without restriction or reservation, we will see God!
That, my brother, doesn’t mean you or I will have a phantasmic vision of heaven or see fleecy clouds with angels flying. It means we will become candidates for seeing God’s nature take over our lives, God’s hand provide for our needs, and God’s grace work through our touch, words, and witness. We will see God. It’s the privilege of the purified, not earned by accomplished holiness but realized through the total devotion of a man’s heart at worship.
5. Empowering Worship
Empowering worship emerges from that quest for God that receptively opens to the fullness of His Holy Spirit. Acts 2 is a case study of men who had walked with Christ coming to the moment when they were filled with His Spirit and power. It happened in an atmosphere of worship.
The record of Scripture is expanded by the record of history; men who worship become men of spiritual power. It isn’t because they have a mystical experience but because they are filled with the mightiness of Jesus. Their power isn’t in self-gratifying displays of personal accomplishment but in humble service, faith filled prayer, and their availability to allow the Holy
Spirit to deliver His gifts through their lives.
Worship also sustains this divine empowering. Being filled doesn’t guarantee being full today. That’s why the apostle Paul commanded, “Keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 5:18, my
literal translation). Then he prescribed the way to such sustained fullness: “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). There it is, put as clearly as possible: Worship sustains Holy Spirit fullness. A life of power is maintained by a man’s daily spending time in God’s presence–praising Him.
Present Yourself to God
No text in the Bible makes it more clear:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom. 12:12)
Those pointed words call for a man’s entire being–body, mind, emotions, spirit–to be presented to God in worship. The result is transformation from world-mindedness to Christ-mindedness, and proof of the will of God–which is demonstrated and verified in his life.
The infusion of this kind of “stuff,’ into a man puts substance in his character, concrete in his family’s foundation, holy steel in his soul’s strength, and weight in his person and presence. The Promise Keeper’s first priority is worship. For in meeting the Almighty, the foundation for all of life’s “promises yet to keep” is laid in the unshakableness of His being. It’s the strongest place any of us can stand.
And we stand best when we’ve first reamed to kneel: worshiping.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM SEVEN PROMISES OF A PROMISE KEEPER, AND PUBLISHED BY FOCUS ON THE FAMILY, 1973, PAGES 17-23. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.