I started 2017 with worship as my word of the year. While others were choosing balance, intentional, trust, focus, and other words worthy of this one word honor, I chose Worship. It’s not that that was a bad choice. It’s just something I truly felt I had a handle on. I understood.
You see I love to worship. I can’t wait to get to church on Sunday mornings and abandon the week’s weights and enter into His presence, thanking Him for the grace He’s afforded to me. Worship music is my favorite genre. It’s what you will hear if you are in my home or minivan. It’s the songs I sing in the shower. So to choose worship as the word for 2017 really didn’t make sense to me. What can I learn about worship? What does He want to teach me about worship?
I wrote the word in big bold lettering in the center of the first page of my new green bullet journal, and then began filling in the things I knew about worship. Prayerfully I considered what I should do with this word: Worship.
My prayer went something like this:
I’m pretty sure you whispered Worship to me, so what do You want me to do with this word? When you said Community, I started spaghetti nights. When you said hospitality, I readied my guest room and opened my home to friends and family. You know I’m kind of a concrete thinker here, Lord. Are you wanting me to get out of my pew? Is this a leadership word, just lead the way into worship? Should I join the choir?
I didn’t join the choir or leave my seat on the pew to be front and center, but I dare say, this already has become one of the most personal and intimate journeys of my lifetime. In continuing to pray for His direction and guidance, wanting a deeper understanding of worship I find myself in depths new to my spiritual walk.
Worship has always been something I enjoy. It’s fun to clap, raise my hands, feel that emotional high. It’s therapeutic. When the tears flow, I release the cares and worries of my week with abandonment. And of course, worship is how we thank God for His blessings and presence in our life. There’s no better place to be than in worship. Give me the old hymns of generations before me, the modern day choruses that simply repeat a single word or anything in between. I am a worshiper! Yes I know that worship is so much more than the choruses we sing on Sunday. But most recently I’ve come to know worship as prayer in its most intimate form. Prayer that connects my heart and soul to my heavenly Father and His heart to mine. True worship changes what we see, what we feel, what we desire, it changes everything. It’s a life lived with gratitude to Him who gives us life. It’s shown through all we do and say. It’s allowing the Holy Spirit to live in you and through you. Every second of everyday, to live and breathe Him, the only one worthy of our worship.
Today I chose a chapter in Stormie OMartian’s book The Prayer That Changes Everything. (Imagine that, I’m reading a book on Worship!) This chapter was specifically on praising Him when you are sick, weak or injured. We read and prayed through scriptures devoted to healing. We worshiped the God who heals because that is who He is. It was a good devotion time with my pencil barely able to keep up with my thoughts. (Yes, I still journal on paper!) Then the question in the study portion took us to Isaiah 58 and ask us what will happen when we observe the fast God has chosen.
First this chapter is on fasting. We just finished a 21 day fast as a church family. Participating in this fast is what brought me to the word Worship in the first place. Then through my prayer group I read in Chronicles about how King Jehoshaphat called a fast for the entire land in the face of serious defeat. Their fast brought them to worship!
So here I am back at a fast while studying worship, reading about a true fast. One that, if I allow it, can alter the very core of me. Not a fast because my church has called one, or because I need to lose weight, or because I want to “please myself.” But an honest evaluation of heart, motives, attitudes, and actions. The type of fast that moves me past me. God’s Word calls it a True Fast.
In the beginning of Isaiah 58 God reveals that His people are walking through the motions of religion. When he doesn’t respond favorably, they ask Him the infamous “why?”, as if He can’t see their heart, He can see right through them. They make their list of all the “I’ve done this and I’ve done that” items and approach Him with attitude. I know how I react when my kids approach me with an attitude, an attitude that reeks.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. 4 What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. 5 You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? NLT
Wow! I can relate. It’s hard to admit but I’ve ask the “whys”, I’ve spewed my list of been there’s and done that’s, I’ve reminded God of what’s fair, and I have showed plenty of “attitude.” This could be the reason the Bible refers to us as Children! Thankfully, God is Father. A good father who has good things for His children. He called them out on the attitude and the motive behind their actions! He let them know that what they are doing is all on the outside. What about the inside? He values relationship! He values our relationship with Him! He will call you out when your motive is self-serving. God wants every part of you, to be your one and only true love, and when given His proper place in our lives He works miracles on the outside and the inside!
Just as you would expect a good Father to do, He doesn’t leave them without direction. Starting in verse 6 he explains his True Fast and its result:
6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. 9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.” NLT
What will happen when you embrace His true fast? When you give all of yourself? When you give Him your devotion and worship? When your heart’s desire is for Him, to know Him and make Him known? It’s in this posture of worship, surrendered to His will and His way – it changes us. His fast places our focus firmly on Him. With our eyes on him, He illuminates everything in His presence. And guess what? He inhabits the praises of His people. When we are in His presence darkness scatters. Light has that property. He is The Light of the World. When we offer Him all we have, all we are, all we hope. When we put our words into actions. When we feed the hungry and help those in trouble He promises water when you are dry, strength when you are weak. He says you will be like a well-watered garden, an ever-flowing spring – fruitful, full of His Spirit, so full that He spills out onto everyone around you.