He is More
After awakening this morning I began praying as I often do in the morning before I get out of bed. When I said 'I worship You' to God, the thought began to circulate again in my mind, 'What really is worship?' This curiosity to explore, understand and really experience genuine worship is something that has still remained largely unsatisfied in my mind for years. Though I believe I do know much more about what worship is and looks and feels like than I used to know, somehow I sense I am still possibly missing to a great extent grasping the real essence of how to enter into really life-transforming, genuine worship that will connect me deeply with the heart of God like I was designed to experience. I feel the need to again explore this more intentionally and not just settle for what I have already heard from others or even what I have already gleaned from my own observations over the past few years.
I want to not just know about worship, not just understand it better intellectually and be able to describe it from many directions, but far beyond that I want to actually be able to release my own heart to do what it probably knows how to do intuitively in the kind of worship that God designed for me to experience in His presence. My heart, like everyone else's, is designed to find its highest expression and joy in living in tight connection with the heart of God and to find its ultimate fulfillment and satisfaction in interactive communion with Him and others who are in harmony with Him. But how do I get there from here?
I again review some of the things I have learned and observed about worship to see if what I know may give me clues as to more that I have not yet really thought about clearly. I realize that this is involving my left brain maybe too much which is not the part of me that has the real capacity to worship like I need to, but then I am left with only my left brain to be the translator attempting to condense the impressions it can detect from the much deeper levels of my right brain and my heart where the real experience has to take place. So I suppose that writing this down and exploring it as best I can is at least better than ignoring it altogether.
Some questions keep coming up in my pursuit of knowing and experiencing real worship that still haunt me. Years ago I became aware that my heart was very out of touch with what most people call worship because my heart was not allowed to express itself like it was designed to do. Legalism, fear and inhibitions had all formed a heavily guarded prison that kept my heart firmly out of sight and out of commission to a large extent. But over the years God has been breaking the bars of this prison one by one and is working to set me free to enter into that knowledge of His heart that I was designed for and that will create an atmosphere in which it can thrive.
I have learned to some extent anyway, that unless my emotions are allowed to have a much more central role in worship that it will be impossible for me to really experience what I desire and need. At least that is part of the conclusions I have come to in the past. I know many would disagree with that, but I am convinced that if my emotions are locked out of my worship that I am left with the kind of religion practiced by those Jesus talked about that were very active in religious activities but whom He didn't know in the day of judgment. For the kind of 'knowing' He referred to in that parable of the sheep and the goats was the kind of knowing like lovers have for each other that is so intimate and even sometimes erotic that they end up creating a baby out of their experience.
That is the level of worship that I sense still mostly escapes me. The kind of postive worship experiences that I have experienced on occasion thus far I might compare to slight flirtations with someone I don't have much acquaintance with yet. To move from eying a pretty woman from a distance to having a deeply bonded relationship with her at the level described above is an analogy that I feel parallels what needs to happen in my worship relationship with God. I feel like even in my most passionate moments of worship that I believe have been tastes of true worship that I have experienced once in awhile in my life, these have only been just fleeting glimpses of what I believe God desires for me to experience in a far deeper bonding with Him.
I suspect that the things that block me from moving into this intimacy with God much sooner are the many distractions designed to prevent just such a relationship from forming. The world is so full of counterfeits to siphon off my heart's attentions and offer me proposals of pleasure and assumed satisfaction from every possible angle, and if I allow my attention to be consumed with them there is very little left over to focus on entering into that much deeper level of bonding that is needed to connect with God's heart in genuine worship.
But with that, questions of imbalance, extremism and fanaticism immediately jump to my attention. I have learned that it is not healthy to become a hermit or a monk to try to isolate one's self totally from the world in attempts to become 'holy'. While that is true, at the same time there is validity in the need to eliminate a great deal of the entertainment and distractions of this world that so consume my time and attention and affections that I do not have enough of my heart usable to effectively experience real worship with my Creator and Savior.
I am living in a transition time, what is often called a time of probation, in which I must be moving closer and closer to the kind of priorities necessary for anyone to live in intimate fellowship with the powerful, life-changing presence of God. Living in the presence of God more requires continual reanalysis and reexamination of my priorities and activities and assumptions. I have to be willing to challenge and challenge again what I believe and to allow the Spirit and light of God to penetrate ever deeper my assumptions about reality, to reveal what is valid and what is counterfeit. This is the process called sanctification. But it is also the process of falling deeper and deeper in love with the One who is the ultimate lover. Yet right now I still feel like I am just a distant admirer with insufficient loyalty.
I go back and remember some of the worship experiences that had a deep impact on my perceptions in the past. I still believe that they very likely played a part in what will emerge as genuine worship for me in the future. But I also sense that very often there is a constant danger that I must not ignore, a danger of letting the formulas or the emotions and traditions created by such experiences to become the object of worship itself rather than keeping my attention focused on the heart of the One I am seeking to know. That does not mean I should avoid all those activities or emotions for they are sometimes excellent vehicles for carrying me closer to the object of my affections. But it is too easy to fall in love with the limo rather than the God that the limo is supposed to be taking me to meet.
There is so much more for me to learn about worship. Another danger is sense is that in learning with my head many facts and important truths about real worship that my left brain will begin to set up rules and regulations restricting my heart's ability to worship spontaneously in widely varying circumstances. When worship becomes too narrowly defined, as only happening in a certain place and/or a certain time under certain conditions, then again my heart is prevented from experiencing very much of the real deal. For worship is far broader than what most people think of and is actually far more pervasive all throughout our daily lives than most realize. It is false religion that has led us to believe that worship must be limited to times and places and organized atmospheres with certain prerequisites in place.
Given that, is it true then that worship may have different levels or different intensities or multiple modes of expression that are all legitimate but not all equal? Worship is such a broad term and yet very slippery when I try to really get a better handle on understanding it. I know that I can't figure it out simply by trying to analyze it, but on the other hand if I don't spend focused attention at least once in awhile intentionally seeking to grasp it more clearly it will continue to elude me to a great extent. It seems that only those who catch the passion of desiring to know God's heart with a passion that becomes unextinquishable – those are the ones most likely to be rewarded with deeper revelations of God and more privileges for intimacy with Him. I want to be part of that group – lovers pursuing His heart and learning to live more consciously in His presence all of the time.
As part of this stirred around in my head this morning soon after I got up, it occurred to me that this is the core of the words lingering from a song in my dream, 'He is more...' I couldn't remember most of the other words, but the essence of those initial words seem to hint at the potential relationship that will result from intentional worship. The more my heart is allowed and encouraged to exercise its natural abilities to worship in ways that God designed for it to, the more its obsession will be to know God's heart and seek His face continually and spontaneously. As my passion for knowing God increases my interest for less compelling things will weaken and begin to atrophy. And isn't that the way God intends for all of us to come back into full fellowship with Him anyway?
Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, I worship You knowing full well that I hardly even know what I am talking about when I say those words. Worship is something ultimately that You have to do from inside of me as I allow You more and more space in my heart and soul to freely dwell inside of me. I again invite You in and give You full and unlimited permission (to the extent that I know how anyway) to move in and take up full residence inside of me. I increasingly desire to know You and the power of Your transforming love inside of my heart. I want to experience the healing and the restoration that can only occur as You are allowed full access to the pain and the deep wounds in my soul. Keep drawing me ever more intensely and mentor me in Your ways and Your will.
Worship involves loyalty.
Worship involves heart connecting.
Worship involves the deepest affections of a heart liberated to find fuller expression and strength.
Worship involves two-way communication and reciprocal affections that create bonding.
Worship involves and requires respect.
Worship involves growing appreciation for the value of the one being worshiped.
Worship rearranges priorities and interests.
Worship creates trust because when I worship the ultimately trustworthy One, faith springs up spontaneously.
The object of my worship (and there can easily many of those, more than hardly anyone suspects) is found in where my heart looks for my sense of value and identity. That is why worshiping anything less than God, the One in whose image I am created, is demeaning and degrading and an affront to the One who loves me.
It is an unavoidable principle that one always gravitates toward reflecting whatever or whomever it is that they worship. My values, my priorities, my tastes and affections and interests increasingly mirror those connected with the objects of my worship.
If I want to get clues as to what I might be worshiping secretly (even secret from my own awareness), I can get hints from the way I treat those around me. If I find myself afraid of what people think about me and try to manipulate my reputation, very likely I am to some extent allowing those people to be sources of my sense of value and identity. And any source that I rely on to determine my value and identity is in fact a god in my life. By recognizing the effect that this relationship with others has on me I can begin to see how much I am in a sense worshiping them. I may have little awareness that this is happening in me, but the more I am aware of the dynamics of what worship really is, the more I realize how much worship is woven through all sorts of areas of our lives without our even knowing what we are doing.
God wants me to have no other gods ahead of Him because only He can relay to me my true value and my real identity that even I don't know much about yet. Can I receive affirmations of value from others? Yes I can, and maybe in some sense they may act as lesser gods for me in that respect. But God insists that I must keep Him as the supreme object of my worship, looking primarily to Him to discern my true identity and value and never allowing any other source of any kind to rise in my priorities above my dependence on Him.
In this respect, it appears to me that possibly the highest god on our priority list is the one who receives the worship of our hearts. All the other sources or gods may not receive the honor of being worshiped, but the 'top god', the one our heart at its deepest level looks to ultimately to define ourselves is the one who receives this spiritual connection and the honor of worship. That would make sense in the light of the first few commandments. While recognizing that God has allowed in His plan for others to be channels through which we can also receive His blessing and a sense of our worth and identity, we must always keep in mind that the real source is Him alone. But that is another topic for another discussion that I will not launch into at this time.