Touching Heaven, Changing Earth (Part I)Posted on March 30, 2011 at 10:00:44 am.
Worship. What is it? What should it be? What should happen as a result of worship?
Ask these questions to the average believer in your churchâ€”how would they respond? Their answers might surprise you.
In reality, worship remains that mysterious weekly activity that so many American Christians drive to or participate in on Sundays. However, many people in America report that their times of worship are not really meaningful; in fact, most surveyed report that they rarely experience any significant sense of the presence of God during worship.
If such reports are accurate, then, sadly, too many people are entering our well-planned worship services without encountering the God of the Scriptures.
Biblical worship is an encounter that results in personal transformation. These four biblical stories demonstrate what I mean by worship as transformation:
The first is an all-too common story: family turmoil, deception, a forfeited, then stolen inheritance. The thiefâ€”a younger brotherâ€”runs for his life from an older brother bent on revenge. While running to safety, he stops to rest â€œat a certain placeâ€ to sleep. During the night, he has a Spielberg-type dreamâ€”ladders suspended between heaven and earth, angels ascending and descendingâ€”during which God makes the identical promise to him once made to his grandfather.
When he wakes up, astonished, he says, â€œGod was in this place and I didnâ€™t know it!â€ His stopping place, his sleeping place became a holy place. The deceiver, supplanter, and runner became a worshiperâ€”transformed by an encounter with the living God.
The key character in our second story, from Exodus chapter 3, is nearing 80 years of age now. His former life is 40 years behind him. Handling the family business and raising a family is his life now. Memories are all that remain of a regal past. Every once in a while, the face of a murdered man returns to himâ€”the reason he had run away 40 years prior; only the bleating of sheep are able to pierce such moments and assure him that he stopped running long ago.
The man is Moses and today, â€œat a certain placeâ€ in his business-related travel, he sees something heâ€™d seen many times before in the desert of Midianâ€”a burning bush. The intense heat of the day, he assumes. But this bush isnâ€™t burning up! Coming closer, Moses hears the voice of the one his mother had often spoken of so long ago: Yahweh. In contemporary language, God says, â€œThis is a holy place. I am the God of your past, present, and future.â€
Moses has an encounter of dialogue, not monologue, with God that begins with â€œfind someone elseâ€ and ends with â€œOkay, Iâ€™ll go.â€ This murderer, this runner, becomes a delivererâ€”transformed by an encounter with a living God. Mosesâ€™ response is, â€œIâ€™ll go!â€
Our next story, from Isaiah chapter 6, involves a desperate prophet. His nation has abandoned God. Judgment is on the horizon. The leaders of the people are all corrupt. Justice no longer exists. Youth are wrongly exalted; women are proud and seductive. People are proud of their sin, arrogantly justifying their actions. Property foreclosures are rampant; unscrupulous people are personally benefiting from their loss. Alcoholism is out of control; even the land has become unproductive; the widow and orphan are forgotten. Godly leadership has vanished. Evil is called good and good, evil. Godâ€™s word is continually rejected, reviled, and despised. To make matters worse, the king has died. National grief and personal grief engulf him. Things couldnâ€™t be worse or get worse, it seems.
Isaiah goes to the temple to plead his case. There â€œat a certain placeâ€ he sees the Lord, high and lifted up, unshaken by Isaiahâ€™s concerns. There he sees himself, and finds an unexpected destiny. A grieving, angry prophet becomes a worshiperâ€”transformed in the presence of a sovereign, living God. Isaiahâ€™s response is, â€œHere am I, Lord; send me.â€
Our final story, found in John chapter 4, features a woman with a past. She is half Jew, half pagan. A Samaritanâ€”hated and avoided by Jews. Marriage and commitment have not been kind to her; she is a 5-time loser. So she lives with a man who is not her husband; the possibility of being rejected once more by a man is her daily reality. On a day like many other days, she comes to a familiar well to draw water, a well named after Jacob. But on this day, at â€œthis certain place,â€ Jesus is thereâ€”a male, a Jew, the Lord.
Amazingly, He speaks to her! She didnâ€™t know that He felt an urgency to come. There, He engages her in a dialogue about worship, a topic she had heard much about all her life. But her ideas about worship and her remaining years were transformed by her encounter with Jesus. Her response is to go and tell someone about Him.
Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, and the Samaritan woman each encountered a living God and, as a result, their destinies were altered forever. Because they touched heaven, their lives on earth were changed. Even more, those they touched were changed. The transformed became agents of transformation.
In Part II of “Worship: Touching Heaven, Changing Earth” Pete Sanchez discusses the Psalms as a model for worship, and worship’s transformational power.Â Click here to read Part II of “Touching Heaven, Changing Earth.
Want to know more?Â Check out the Integrity Worship Institute training curriculum for worship leaders, pastors and worship team members!
Pete Sanchez, Jr. is vice president and dean of Integrity Worship Institute. Used by permission, Â© 2000, Pete Sanchez, Jr.