When God put it on my heart to write a book about worship, I questioned my friends, my family and others how and when they worshiped. "Do you worship the Lord on a daily basis, or just on Sundays?" The answers I received were surprising: One friend said, "Oh, I worship the Lord all the time!" Another commented, "I worship when I'm cleaning the house." Another actually replied, "I worship the Lord when I'm with the children." A gentleman responded, "I worship the Lord when I'm driving in the car." Another commented, "I worship Him when I'm at the office," etc. In other words, the general response I received was "I worship the Lord all day long, no matter what I'm doing."
Now, I understand what these believers are saying-they have an attitude of worshiping the Lord all day long. And that's fine and that's good, but is that really what God means when He says in John 4:23-24, "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth."
In other words, can we really "worship the Lord" while cleaning the house, while being with the children, while driving our cars or being at the office? Is this really what God desires?
This is what Private Worship: The Key to Joy tries to explore. What exactly is worship? How important is it? Do we worship the Lord only on Sundays in church or are we to worship Him privately at home every day? And, if the latter, how do we really do that?
Let me start at the beginning: A few months ago, I was experiencing so many disappointments in my life (those "little foxes" that Song of Songs 2:15 talks about), that I just shut down emotionally. I simply disengaged. It was as if the life in me just drained out. I think our physical body instinctively knows how to defend itself from more emotional attacks, and it does so by simply shutting down and closing off. And that's exactly what happened to me. Maybe some of you can relate.
The problem is that when we shut down like this, we also quench God's Life (in our hearts) as well. I felt as if His Life in me wasn't just quenched or blocked, it was gone completely. The joy of my salvation had completely evaporated. I continued going about my daily business-Bible studies, prayer, fellowship-but it was almost by rote, mechanical at best.
The scary part to me was that I was daily making all the right "faith" choices: I was confessing my sin and self, repenting of those things, giving myself totally over to the Lord and choosing to walk by faith. (I've been teaching these principles and doing them personally for over twenty years.) But this time, something was really very wrong because my feelings were not aligning with my faith choices (as they always have in the past), and the really frightening part was that the joy of my salvation wasn't returning!
No matter how much I prayed, confessed, repented and gave things to God, I remained shut down, with absolutely no joy. I so identified with Proverbs 17:22 which says, "...a broken spirit drieth the bones." In the Living Translation it says, a crushed spirit saps our strength. It's so true: when we are really spiritually depressed, everything in our life is affected. It's almost as if our blood supply is dried up. It frightened me because how can I teach these cleansing and renewing principles to others if they're not working in my own life?
Those who know me well saw right through my forced outward smile and were very concerned. Others saw my grin and were oblivious to my hidden struggle. But I knew something was terribly wrong. Either God wasn't who He said He was, and walking by faith doesn't really work (which I knew in my heart wasn't true), or, He was again "cornering me" to teach me something new. (All of my previous books have come about through personal experiences that the Lord has allowed in my life to teach me His ways. My books are simply a chronology of my walk with Him over the last 25 years.) So I began praying that this might be the case here also.
There's that Word, "Worship"
During the second week that I was in this horrible state of mind, I picked up an article that actually was intended for Chuck, but had mistakenly come across my desk. I casually began reading it over, when one word in the first paragraph absolutely leaped out at me: worship!
The article was entitled, Tired of a Tired Pastor, by Francis Frangipane. This is what I read:
"In the early 1970s, during the beginning of my ministry, the Lord called me to consecrate to Him the time from dawn until noon. I spent these hours in prayer, worship and the study of His Word. I would often worship God for hours, writing songs of Him that came from this wonderful sanctuary of love. The presence of the Lord was my delight, and I know my time with Him was not only well spent, but well pleasing to us both.
"However, as my life began to bear the fruit of Christ's influence, the Holy Spirit would bring people to me for ministry. In time, as more people would come, I found myself cutting off forty-five minutes from the end of my devotional time. On occasion, ministry to people would extend into the night, and I stopped rising as early as I had.
"Church growth problems began to eat at the quality of my remaining time; ministerial expansion, training younger ministries and more counseling crowded the already limited time I had left. Of course, these changes did not happen overnight, but the months and years of increasing success were steadily eroding my devotional life. In time I found myself in a growing ministry but with a shrinking anointing to sustain it.
"One day an intercessor called who prayed regularly for me. He told me that during the night the Lord had spoken to him in a dream concerning me. I was eager to hear what the Lord had revealed to my friend, thinking perhaps He was going to increase our outreach or maybe supply some needed finances. I asked him to tell me the dream. What the Lord said had nothing directly to do with the projects and the priorities that were consuming my time. He simply said, 'Tell Francis I miss Him.'" The author went on to say that he had become so tired and so dry from doing the Lord's work, that he needed to get back to reading the Word more, praying more and worshiping the Lord more.
"Worshiping the Lord more?" I thought for a moment, "Do I really worship the Lord? I know I pray, I know I praise and I know I read the Word, but do I really worship Him?" My mind continued to race, "How is worshiping God any different from praising Him or from blessing Him? In fact, what does it really mean to worship?"
The rest of the evening, I continued this line of personal questioning. "Is worship something we do just in church on Sundays, something we do all day long (at the office, in the car, etc.,) or are we to personally worship the Lord in some special way daily at home? And, if that's the case, how exactly do we do that? These questions plagued my mind all night long. How would you answer these questions?
The next day, I was in the office with the head of our prayer ministry and, unexpectedly, she showed me a letter from a woman who was concerned about her daughter losing "the joy of her salvation." As I read the letter, the Lord totally convicted me, because that letter perfectly described my life at that moment!
Many things had happened in this young woman's life (just like they had in mine) that had left her almost "shell-shocked." The mother wrote that her daughter "is there in body only, but with absolutely no emotions and no joy." And, of course, that was exactly how I felt! She said it was tearing her family up because none of them were able to minister to her. Then she closed her letter by saying, "Please, can you help us..."
I left the prayer office in total shock, because I knew exactly what that young woman was experiencing. "How Lord," I thought, "how does one restore his joy?" No matter how hard we try, I know it's impossible to change our own feelings. There's no way we can manufacture them, hype them up or counterfeit them. "So, what is the answer, Lord?" I walked away from my friend's office feeling totally helpless and even more confused than ever, with all these unanswered questions racing in my mind.
The event that finally put everything into perspective, and sparked a whole new level in my spiritual walk, happened later that night. After dinner, I sat down to finish my Bible reading and I happened to be in Luke 4, which talks about the three temptations of Christ. As you may recall, Christ's rebuttal to Satan in the third temptation is that we should worship and serve the Lord only: "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." "Wow!" I thought, "There's that word worship again," which automatically propelled the same line of questioning:
"Lord, do I worship You? I know I praise You; I know I pray to You; and, I know I read Your Word, but do I really worship You?"
God's answer to me was almost audible, "You don't even know what worship means, and that's why you have no joy!"
My mind raced. "What are You saying, Lord? Worship and joy are linked? How?"
God began to lovingly unfold His wisdom to me. He first showed me that yes, I had been praising Him; and yes, I had been confessing and repenting my sins; and yes, I had been reading His Word. But, after I did these things, I would get up and go about my business, without so much as a thought about worshiping Him. Oh yes, every once in a while, I would raise my hands in church, or fall on my face to pray for something specific or cry if I heard a moving tape, but He showed me that I had never really entered into worshiping Him and adoring Him on a daily or personal basis. The truth was I didn't really know how!
As a result of all of this, I had lost the joy of my salvation and my spiritual strength had evaporated. "[Only] in [Christ's] presence, is fulness of joy," Psalm 16:11 tells us.
Course of Action
God has called me to be a teacher and I absolutely love the "treasure hunts" He puts me on. After the above encounter with Him, I got out every book, every commentary, every Bible translation, every Bible dictionary and every concordance that I could find about worship and about joy. The first night, I literally stayed up all night, lost in my quest for understanding. I was determined to find out what He meant when He says, "Worship me." How are we supposed to worship Him? And finally, how is joy tied to worship?
I was aware of Psalm 16:11, but I never thought about worship as being the "key" that opens the door to His presence. In other words, that being before Him in worship leads to His presence and thus, the fulness of joy. I never put these things together. This also brings Nehemiah 8:10 into better perspective: "Joy is our strength." What this means is: without worship, we will not be able to attain His presence; and, without His presence, we will not have any joy; and without joy, we'll have no strength. Our life's blood will dry up, and we will wither and die spiritually.
Look at the body of believers today. As a whole, we are joyless, powerless and loveless. Why? Because we are not worshipers! We don't worship the Father in spirit and in truth. In reality, most of us worship other things. We have given our heart to other people, careers, sports, fame, wealth, etc.
Worship is what distinguishes the Church from the world. When we worship, God's presence ceases to be something we only talk about and, instead, becomes a personal experience out of which we build an intimate relationship. In other words, worship is an experience by which we touch the unseen. It's not only the doorway to God's Love, but also to His revelation and His joy. Thus, worship is really the single most important thing a Christian can learn to do, because it's the "key" to His presence and thus, to joy and strength.
Well, after my encounter with the Lord, I was hooked. I was determined, at all costs, to find out what authentic worship really is; how we are supposed to worship; and, when we are supposed to worship. Private Worship: The Key to Joy will attempt to explore some of the incredible things that the Lord showed me and how they are changing my life...