Worship & How to Hear Voice of God- Day 8

04Sep

Worship & How to Hear Voice of God- Day 8

INTRODUCTION

So last week we rounded up the 1st part in the 2-part seminar on worship and how to hear the voice of God.  We broke out into discussion groups to answer some questions on worship and also to ask any questions which had arisen in our minds over the course of the days when we delved into how to become a true worshiper.

 

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Our group was given the topic of “What is Worship” and we came up with the following:

1. Worship is a lifestyle

2. Worship is food for God (we don’t want to starve him)

3. Worship is why I was made

4. Worship is sacrifice of our heart (We give up our hearts’ desires)

5. Worship is kissing the feet of Jesus. (We do this as a sign of            humility and to indicate our close presence to God. Feet are used to walk with God and to spread the Gospel.)

6. Worship is a way of lifting up our heart and voices to God. (When it is both it is most effective since singing is praying twice)

7. Worship is humble submission to the Will of God. (Submission can be proud when we do not genuinely submit or when we focus on the letter of the law like the Pharisees)

8. Worship is life itself. {If you don’t worship, you are dead.}

9. Worship is the master key to God’s heart.

10. Worship is the art of paying attention to the Supreme Being.

11. Worship is everything.

 

QUESTIONS RAISED

1. What are the different ways to engage God?

The speaker referred to a process called spiritual litigation.  Therein, we envisage the presence of God who is the judge, the devil who is the accuser, Jesus who is our advocate and the 24 elders who are witnesses.  We start by asking God for mercy and then we enumerate what the enemy has done in our lives and our responses. The devil then has his opportunity to state his own case against you and then Jesus your advocate states his own case and ends it by bringing the attention to the judge that your sins have been paid by His blood and death on the cross and we are left to seek restoration.

Now imagine doing that each night when we examine our conscience?  Imagine us envisioning this judgement scene and ending the process with a contrite heart seeking restoration based on the blood of Jesus. We can do this when we engage God.

Daniel 10:12 which I had pondered upon brought to mind another way in which we could engage God. Through our ardent desire to seek understanding of Him, God reassures us and reveals Himself to us – “…do not be afraid, for from that first day, when you resolved to acquire understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your supplications were heard…”

The other speaker further elaborated that we can engage God in several other ways such as the following:

  • saying devotional prayers to Him
  • spending quiet time with Him and talking intimately
  • spending time reading the Word of God where rhema will be dropped in your spirit
  • during mass as we concentrate and mean every word we say
  • looking at nature and simply just walking appreciating all created things.

 

2. Why didn’t John the Baptist recognize Jesus until the dove descended at the River Jordan when he had already leaped for joy from his mother’s womb?

The speaker explained the difference between spiritual awareness and the physical encounter. John the Baptist had been baptised from the womb when he had heard Mary’s words – words from she who was full of grace and full of the Holy Spirit.  It was the utterance of Mary’s greetings in Luke 1:40-41 which activated John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb.  He was baptized by the Holy Spirit and this is why he who was baptized from the womb was able to baptize Jesus at the River Jordan.

However, the speaker clarified that this recognition of Jesus from the womb, was only made clear when Jesus manifested in the flesh at the River Jordan. John the Baptist had that special encounter with He to whom he had initially responded; He whom he knew to be his cousin, but in spite of this, He, whom he did not know. This personal encounter in John 1:32-34 is different from that which John experienced earlier from hearing the voice of Mary who was full of the Holy Spirit and who carried Jesus within her – “I myself did not know him, but God, who sent me to baptize, told me, ‘ You will see the Spirit coming down….’ Yes, I have seen! And I declare that this is the Chosen One of God!”

 

3. Why did you say that God is a businessman?  He is more of an accountant.

The speaker explained that it really does not matter what nomenclature you use to describe God – whether it be businessman or accountant.  The point is that God awaits the time when He will call in His investment and wants you to render account for what talents and gifts He has deposited within you.

31Aug

Worship & Hearing Voice of God- Day 7

ENGAGING GOD IN WORSHIP

When I come across the word “engage”, my mind turns to movies such as “Top Gun” where you would see an air force fighter narrowing in on his enemy ready to push the trigger to blast the target or to a “Star Wars” movie where Luke Skywalker or other forces of light would pursue Dark Vader and the other agents of darkness across the galaxies to engage them in conflict or perhaps a “Kung Fu” movie where the referee would shout out “Fight” just before the two opponents are let loose.

To engage…so what does this word really mean? How do we engage God? Do we dare? Is it possible?

The speaker explained that to engage does not necessarily involve conflict but involves being connected to someone. We are called to connect with God beyond the norm and in an EXTRAordinary way.  We are to engage God in order to set God in motion. Well, this sounded strange as I never conceived God as one who simply stood by in an idle manner, but then a verse sprung to mind – Rev 3:20 “Look, I STAND at the door and knock.  If you hear my call and open the door, I will come in to you and have supper with you and you with me.”  Standing is a passive position which often entails a great deal of patience and waiting for someone else to react.  This is why we need to react. God waits for us to react. We need to engage God because without doing so, we do not get the real experience of Him that our soul has always longed for us to encounter.

He explained that most of us have the wrong notion that God is far away from us and so we are hesitant to even conceive the idea of engaging such a supreme being.  As Christians we should rest assured that He is very close to us as assured throughout scripture such as in Psalm 145:18“He is near those who call on Him , who call trustfully upon His name.”  So, all we need do is call on Him and realize His presence because He also promises that He will never leave us in Deut 31:6“your God is with you; He will not leave you or abandon you” which is also echoed in Hebrew 13:5.

He also warned against the wrong notion some of us have that God selectively answers prayers of a select few and even at that, He does not answer all prayers. He encouraged us to have a deep hunger to go beyond our comfort zone and beyond  the norm in our engagement with God in order to dispel these erroneous notions.

 

1. ISAIAH ENGAGED

Introduction

The speaker then took us through persons in the bible who engaged God and as a result had an amazing experience of Him. Isaiah 6:1-4  mentions the encounter Isaiah had in the year King Uzziah died when he sought God perhaps in consolation over the loss of Uzziah who may have been dear to Him.  Although Isaiah served as a priest in the temple and had prophetic utterances, it was only when he sought the Lord after King Uzziah’s  death that he saw God – “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, the train of his robe filled the temple.”

This encounter with God and the seraphs made Isaiah see how he truly was in his uncleanliness. We have heard of hardened sinners who break down and cry uncontrollably or repeatedly ask for mercy when they encounter God. We have also heard of those who are deemed righteous, who also cry out as they realize their unworthiness before God in their engagement of Him. The speaker advised us to drop our reputation when we come before God because He works with the real you and cannot be deceived.

Upon encountering God, Isaiah had to open himself and it is at this point that we fail to take advantage of the opportunity given to us to engage God. He explained that the devil uses shame to convince us not to open up but we must dig deeper to engage God so He can sanctify us in spite of the expected shame we might face.  As Catholics, we are fortunate to have recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we can confess our sins and be restored with God.  It is unfortunate, however, that even at this opportunity, some people even lie or just go through the motions, thereby missing the essence of truly engaging God. Isaiah 1:18 says “Come, let us reason together. Though your sins be like scarlet, they will be white as snow…”

It is no wonder that the devil is trying to undermine this sacrament and dissuade many from resorting to it.  Can you believe that in Australia, the Church has been subjected to laws which force priests to break the seal of secrecy and removes priest-penitent privilege? The priests there, however, have vowed that they would rather go to jail than reveal what is said to them in confession.

 

Personal Encounter

When you engage God in worship like Isaiah did, you find yourself submitting everything to God. The speaker pointed out that everyone has a skeleton but a singular encounter changes everything, as we do not consider as important, the shame that may ensue from revealing it or we do not feel as attached to it. This led me to wonder whether I had a skeleton in my closet and whether I still do.  Do you? He continued that if we do not have this encounter with God, we should not go ahead with what we think must be done because it is this encounter which strengthens us.

When we engage God, we have a personal encounter and when we have this, we find that our will becomes subject to God’s will. God has said in Isaiah 55, “my ways are not your ways, so our will naturally runs parallel to the will of God. The speaker mentioned that what most of us try to do is to bribe God and negotiate with Him to bend to our will.  However, we see in Isaiah that his will collapsed when he had that encounter and let go of his will leading him to say “Here I am. Send me!”

The speaker went on to explain that God is the master strategist and he is able to catch your attention to engage you.  Think of the relationship between a man who is toasting a lady from across a room. He orders her a drink and send over some food to her via the waiter and perhaps even send a note.  He makes the move and waits, the lady looks at him and then looks away again and then does some more yanga. What happens next? Who is to make the next move? Most men would say it is the lady’s move because they have prepared the ground.

Well, it is up to us whether we want to be engaged.  When we decide to engage God, we should submit our will and we will realize how everything of God’s has a plan and purpose, including us.  He mentioned that most Catholics do not have personal conviction because they do not have a personal encounter and they are simply riding on the conviction of their parents as cradle Catholics, without having their own foundation. He cited the example of Catholics during NYSC year going into oblivion, only to resurface and resume church activities when they return home.

 

2. MOSES ENGAGED

The pursuit to engage God can also be seen in the life of Moses who had been taught about the true God by his Hebrew parents before he became a royal in the palace of Pharaoh.  As Prince of Egypt, however, he knew that there was something different about him but was not aware what to do about this feeling he had. The speaker asked us whether we have felt like Moses in the sense of knowing that there was something that you needed to do but not knowing how to bring it to reality? It is as if God has planted something within you but you are at a crossroad not knowing how it is to come to fruition.

The time for Moses to engage God was in Exodus 3 when God caught his attention using something he would be familiar with – something which seemed like magic – a burning bush which was not being consumed by the fire in Exodus 3:2-3. As a prince of Egypt, he was familiar with acts of sorcery by the Egyptians and God used such a sight to lure him. The speaker stated that God always uses what we are familiar with to catch our attention for us to engage him – Moses saw that although the bush was on fire, it did not burn up, Moses thought ‘I will go and see this amazing sight, why is the bush not burning up’?“.

This reminds me of a discussion I had with fellow committee members of one of our parish programs when I was arguing against the need to always provide food for church events due to additional costs it entailed which I considered unnecessary. However, one member pointed out that our parishioners are lured with food and that most would not come to hear spiritual talks unless food would be served at such.  I was saddened by this reality and hope that a time would come where we will hunger so deeply for the Word of God and to be around those who eagerly yearn for same, that the availability or otherwise of food to be served or not, would be a secondary concern.

He pointed out that Moses ran away from Pharaoh after he realized his murder of the Egyptian was public because he knew that Pharaoh was vindictive and without mercy. Moses became a wanted man and a fugitive until God caught his attention and Moses responded by engaging God.  Isn’t it amazing how God called Moses personally and Moses gave the same reply as Isaiah – “Here I am.” Moreover, God introduced Himself immediately to Moses, thus showing His longing desire and eagerness to make Himself known to us, if only we would engage Him. In this introduction, Moses received revelation on who he was which confirmed why he had always felt different.  Now, what he was supposed to do with this new information as to his identity, was what God would guide him into, by further engagement.

Before God would reveal this, however, he had to instruct Moses to let God of his past and surrender himself to God.  This is seen in Exodus 3:5 where God advises thus: “Do not come near; take off your sandals because the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  The speaker explained that Moses was told to remove his sandals which he had retained as a sign of his royalty and past life.  He asked us what we were still holding on to which God has instructed us to get rid off from our lives?

It was not until Moses had gotten rid of the last remnant of his former life as a prince of Egypt, that he was able to get a new encounter with God where God revealed Himself to Moses not only as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, but also as “I am who I am”   Perhaps WE are the obstacle to having a personal encounter with God. We seek to engage God but we are still holding on to our past and unwilling to come out of our comfort zone.  We are unwilling to surrender to Him and engage Him in true worship. We may need assurance and God is aware of this so he gives Moses miraculous powers and signs in Exodus 4:2-9 assuring him that He will be with him.

The speaker stressed that Moses engaged God because he deliberately sought clarification by asking three times.  First he asked God who he should say sent him and God replied by giving him a new revelation of Himself.  Then he asked God what would happen if they did not believe him and God replied by giving him miraculous powers,  Then finally he asked God how he would speak since he was not eloquent and God replied that he would inspire Moses on what to say.  We must be very certain when we engage God to ascertain what our mission and purpose in life is in order to distinguish it from a mere passion which we might have.  This intense engagement led Moses to inform his father-in-law of his resolve to return to Egypt to free the Israelites.

 

CONCLUSION

Upon analyzing the lives of Isaiah and Moses we see how their lives were interrupted and transformed as they engaged God.  This interruption is necessary in order for you to have an encounter with God.  This is also seen in the lives of the disciples such as Peter who was going about his daily living fishing but when he was called, he abandoned his livelihood and family and followed Jesus.  The interruption of Peter eventually led God to use him to convert over 3000 souls in Acts 2:14-41. This same Peter is the key stone upon which the Catholic church was built and through which it spoke and continues to speak by virtue of the apostolic succession and tradition.

Are you prepared to be interrupted? Are you prepared to engage God? I was meditating upon this and came across Isaiah 55:6 which says “Seek Yahweh while he may be found.”  This struck me because it suggests that there will come a time when some of us who haven’t already, will finally decide to seek and engage God BUT He will be concealed from us!!  There will come a time when we will seek God but we will not be able to find Him.  Similar to when you decide to switch on your bluetooth device and indicate whether you want it to be discoverable by all devices.  God has always been discoverable and has made and is still making Himself discoverable for us to tune into His frequency.  However, can you imagine if you delay to engage Him and when you eventually do by switching on that device to connect, you find that there is nothing there?!!

May we be ever conscious of our need to engage God in worship, to bring us into a personal encounter with Him which our souls yearn to do each day.  In Jesus name we pray. Amen. 

30Aug

Worship & Hearing the Voice of God – Day 6

INTRODUCTION

The speaker started Day 6 asking us a direct question – “What problem do you think you have to solve in the church?” He explained that God is showing you the problem not to complain about it but to solve it! This might be through prayer or may be through more concrete steps. My mind immediately went to the seminar he gave on “party spirit” which was dividing not only Christendom but also our Catholic Church.  This tendency to form cliques in the church and not participate in the programs of the other group because it was different or merely because you were not a member has seeped into our community. We have forgotten the essence of being one which was Jesus’ earnest desire in John 17:11 echoed by Paul who pleaded in 1Cor 1:10 “I beg of you…to agree among yourselves and do away with division; please be perfectly united with one mind and one judgement.” Indeed we must do away with inter-society pettiness before we can even key into the broader ecumenism movement.

This is also seen in the ideology of some of us who consider themselves more spiritual than the other or those who term others as “holier than thou.” There was a time when this phrase used to bother me until I came to realize that the person who considered such a person to be “holier than thou” was the one who had the inferiority complex.  We are indeed called to be holy and whether the person who sees this, considers it as a show of arrogance or pride is entirely the person’s problem. Only God truly knows the intent of the person’s heart and quest to be holy, so do not be deterred if those around you consider you such. Instead, be encouraged and pursue holiness even more fervently.

The speaker also encouraged us to tell others when things are not going well in order for it to be corrected.  He warned us against being self-conscious and not speaking up since they may be truly unaware of their actions or omissions. This reminds me of James 4:17 which states that “anyone who knows what is good and does not do it, sins.”

We were also urged to be guided by the Word of God to correct others and I think this is the most difficult aspect of correcting others due to its sensitivity.  Sometimes your correction may come off as arrogant which may or may not be the other person’s projection of their inferiority complex or simply due to their unwillingness to be corrected.  To avoid such impressions, Paul advises us to correct in love as seen in 2 Timothy 2:25“…kind to all, always teaching and patient with those who do not understand and gently correcting opponents…”

 

UNDERSTANDING POWER OF WORSHIP

The speaker referred to Psalm 22:3-4 to explain that God is closer than we realize because He is “enthroned, the Holy One, the praise of Israel.” He pointed out that for every problem encountered, there is a solution nearby and referenced Exodus 15:24-25 where the Israelites grumbled upon reaching the bitter waters of Marah The people grumbled against Moses…Moses then cried out to Yahweh who showed him a piece of wood, and when he threw it in the water, the water became sweet.”  The solution to the bitter water which they could not drink was in the form of wood nearby but their grumbling cost them something.  They were made to REMAIN in the wilderness and not cross over into the Promised Land.

He explained that apart from every solution being available to us when we worship God truly, we must also encounter the breakthrough power of God called dunamis.  This power is prayed for by Paul in Ephesians 1:19 which is a dear verse to me -“…may you understand with what extraordinary power He acts in favor of us who believe.”  Extraordinary power…this is what God gives us as we worship Him.  This dynamic power is like dynamite and we all have it ready to burst forth within us.  He stressed that it differed from inertia which was the usual energy, since we need to activate this power to enable it become extraordinary.

The speaker also mentioned that when we worship God all the problems that surround us melt away as seen in the confusion which erupted in the camp of Israel’s enemies in 2Chron 22:20 As they began to sing their joy and their praise, Yahweh threw the invading armies into a panic and completely destroyed them.”  When we worship, we cease to remember our problems and receive God’s blessings.  He reminded us that God’s blessing is for the world and that when we have problems, our first solution should be to praise and worship him and that we must use the blessings that will follow for the world and not hoard it for ourselves.

 

CONCLUSION

He recommended that we read a book by Marlin Carothers called the Power of Praise and tap into this dunamis power obtainable from worship. He also issued a serious warning against those who do not raise their children as they should and teach them how to worship God. He asked what would become of the next generation and whether we would be able to sustain the legacy which was passed unto us by our parents. To be honest, I honestly couldn’t answer that and resolved to continue to give God the best of my worship while seeking to make my children an arrow in my quiver as mentioned in Psalm 127:3-5.

May God help us all to connect and draw continuously from this dunamis power that is made available for us in the true worship of God. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

27Aug

Worship & Hearing the Voice of God- Day 5

INTRODUCTION

The speaker started out by telling us of his friend who is fond of praying these words: “Every spirit of witchcraft against my life should fall down and die.” I have always been uncomfortable with such prayers but this was put it in another dimension for me.

First of all, he pointed out that spirits of witches and wizards do not die and asked us if we had ever been to a funeral of a spirit.  Rather, the spirits are cast to wherever you cast them.  He then asked us who we considered a witch or wizard and that we should be careful of praying such because we could be wishing death unto ourselves.

It is interesting to note that the popular reference of Exodus 22:18 of “suffereth not a witch to live” differs from the earliest English translation of the bible (Dhouay Rheims) which refers to wizard and not witches –  “Wizards thou shalt not suffer to live.”  Whether it be a witch or wizard, suffice to say that the message is that their life should not be spared.

The speaker explained that witchcraft or sorcery includes the manipulation of someone to give or do something contrary to his or her will. It also includes the disobedience of God’s will. So anyone who manipulates someone in this regard or disobeys God is a witch or wizard and according to the prayers of his friend, should die.  Deuteronomy 27 which lists out all the curses against those who disobey God is very sobering, especially Deut 27:26 which says “Cursed be anyone who does not affirm the words of this law by putting them into practice!” By the time, he had finished explaining this, we were all reflective and wondered whether we were indeed witches or wizards and whether those who uttered such prayers knew the possible effect of their words.

I myself started to wonder how we hinder our progress by the words we utter out of ignorance. It was this ignorance of scripture that he started talking about in his discussion with us on the things which hinder worship.

 

1. IGNORANCE OF SCRIPTURE

We are all familiar with the bible passage that “my people perish for lack of knowledge” in Hosea 4:6.  Indeed such reference to knowledge is littered all over the bible as seen also in Job 36:12 “But if they do not listen, they go to the grave: knowledge would have saved them.”  The speaker stressed that if we do not read the Word of God, we cannot know the mind of God which would be a great shame because all God needs to tell you is within the bible.  He cautioned us against accepting anything said outside the Word of God by anyone, no matter how anointed the person may appear.

He urged us to go the extra mile to dig deep into the word and referred to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7-12 where he assured us to ask, seek and knock. He explained that this invitation was about spiritual hunger and the levels one is prepared to climb to encounter Jesus. I pictured myself as an archaeologist on an exhibition, excavating expectantly in search of some hidden treasure. We must expect to encounter Jesus in the Word as we read it.

The Word of God is this hidden treasure as seen in  Matthew 13:44-46 and we are the archaeologists digging deeper into the Word and not simply reading the logos of the Word which would be akin to merely asking. We are to strive to get revelation from the letter of the law and text of the word and this rhema is only achievable if we seek as Jesus urges us to do.  I assume that the third level of hunger is in the knocking which is akin to the actual performance of the Word derived from the rhema and the actual daily living in the power of the Word.

The speaker mentioned that this encounter with the Word should be like the encounter of those with Jesus in John 1:35-50 who called Him various names. I was thinking about that today and the various names which Jesus and indeed God is called when it dawned on me that the variety of names is perhaps because of our spiritual levels and the vastness of the nature of God.  We are able to pick out a part of His personality and call Him that, depending on the situation in which we find ourselves. For John, Jesus was the “Lamb of God”, for Andrew, Jesus was the “Messiah”, for Philip, Jesus was “son of Joseph from Nazareth” of whom Moses and the prophets wrote and for Nathanael, Jesus was the “Son of God.”  Have you encountered Jesus?  What do you call Him?

The speaker went further to say that we cannot worship God meaningfully if knowledge of the bible is sparce and scanty and we cannot know God if we don’t read the bible. He cited Luke 24:16 when the disciples on the road to Emmaus could not recognize Jesus.  This was because their problems were overwhelming them and they were crowded with the situation of life.  He explained that they were disheartened and the road to Emmaus symbolized a road back to their former life and their backsliding into the world.

How many times are we like these disciples where we fail to see Jesus who is right within our midst? We do not know Him.  We do not know His voice. We are not used to His words.  We are left disheartened and backslide but there is a saving grace – the Eucharist. It was when Jesus broke the bread that they recognized Him and had that encounter.

He referred to the attitude of Catholics towards scripture when they receive Holy Communion and stated that one cannot be sick and receive Jesus in communion and yet remain the same because light and darkness cannot abide thereafter as they do not mix. This made me frown a bit as I was trying to reconcile how those who were sick were still suffering from the same infirmity in spite of their daily reception of Holy Communion. However, that would lead us into the realm of why God allows people to suffer which was not the focus of the speaker who simply wished to highlight that a fundamental obstacle to worship is ignorance of scripture which is key to recognizing and knowing the mind of God and God Himself.

 

2. MARITAL DISHARMONY

Now this second obstacle to true worship of God struck home for me. All marriages have their fair (and unfair) share of disharmony and the speaker held nothing back as he chastised both husband and wife in maintaining discord.  He urged spouses to kill whatever discord may exist between them before they enter into the presence of God as echoed in Matthew 5:24“leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with your brother and then come back and offer your gift to God.”

The same then can apply to non-marital relationships. Indeed, how can we worship God truly if we harness bitterness and there is discord with another person, be it your spouse or not? He stated that we should not try and deceive ourselves when shortly after we have an argument with our spouse, we take up the bible and start to read or start singing worship songs. What kind of worship do we think we are offering to God at that point truly?  Personally, I can testify to being miserable, as in truly miserable, when this happens to me. I struggle with connecting with God and my worship is far from what I know it should be.

God instituted marriage and wants everyone to live in peace so we should not allow discord to come in between our worship of Him. This would entail not only dying to self, but also being the fool to actually mean and say “I am sorry” first even though it is not your fault.  This made me cringe as I am sure it made others, because this self-giving may need grace for some…a whole lotta grace!

The speaker then put a whole new spin on Ephesians 5:25 which made me smile not necessarily because it favored me but because this interpretation of the verse came from a man. He pointed out that when Paul said “husbands should love your wives as Christ loved the church,” it meant that if your wife cooked soup and put too much salt therein, the husband should simply eat the soup and take the blame for its over saltiness.  He explained that this is how Christ loved the church. He took the church’s blame seen as sin and placed it upon Himself so  husbands must do the same.  Can you imagine your husband saying “Thanks for the soup. It had too much salt in it but it’s probably because of something I did or didn’t do so it’s ok. Thank you nevertheless!”  I think I would just pass out there and then!

He then addressed the part of submission by wives and urged the wives to continue in this self giving since it takes extraordinary love for a woman to submit.  Not only does a woman decide to abandon her own agenda and way of doing things, but she abandons her name, goes through the travails of childbirth and after that too, the children she bears do not take her name, but that of the man also.  This was the first time I had heard a man actually empathize with what wives have to go through. Indeed it takes EXTRAordinary love to submit and this is why wives must always tap into the grace of God and seek to know His Word in scripture to worship him fully.

 

3. HIDDEN  & UNCONFESSED SIN

Another barrier to true worship is when you don’t confess your sins immediately the Holy Spirit convicts you.  So what happens to those who are not moved or not aware of the Holy Spirit’s conviction I wondered?  Well, I guess that is another situation altogether. Those who are fortunate to have this spiritual barometer, however, must not allow their conscience to be dulled if they are to engage in true worship.  The speaker mentioned that we all have sin as Paul mentions in Romans 3:23, but we should go to confession as soon as we are aware of this dent to our spirituality in order to obtain peace:

“… all have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God; and all are graciously forgiven and made righteous, through the redemption effected in Christ Jesus.” 

The speaker then gave a short story of how the devil can tempt us in subtle ways to rationalize sin away and keep such hidden and unconfessed. He gave an instance of a contract given to him to purchase some musical equipment which involved the client giving him some money for hotel, feeding and transport as well as the maximum cost of the equipment.  He had not stayed at a hotel as provided and had not eaten out since he had lodged with a friend and he had found a cheaper way to transport himself and also found a way to make great savings on the equipment he was to buy.  As a result, he had stayed within the budget given and had made significant savings.  The dilemma he faced, however, was whether these savings were to his advantage or whether he would have to reveal the savings made to the client.

I personally have been faced with such a dilemma and it is even more difficult when you have been given money by a company which has already entered it into their books as being already expensed.  However, the speaker stressed what we all know deep down – that God is interested in accountability.  After much struggle on whether to confess the savings to the client or to use it for his much needed rent which was due, he sought the counsel of his wife who advised him to declare the savings. He eventually did and surprisingly, the client collected the money saved and turned around, only to return it to him saying “God has blessed you.

Wow!  What a risk!  Sometimes, God simply wants to test you to see how faithful a child you are and how sensitive you are to the spiritual barometer He has placed within you which others call your conscience. How alive you are to your conscience truly depends on how often and promptly you confess your sins. As a devotee to Mary, we are encouraged to go to confession at least once a week and not less than twice a month in order to keep our conscience alive and I guess render true worship to God. Indeed in the Litany of the Holy Spirit, we ask the Holy Spirit to inspire us of the horror of sin. When the thought of committing any sin at all horrifies us, we are guaranteed to give God the type of worship He truly deserves as we would seek to avoid sinning at whatever the cost.

 

4. PRETENCE OF BEING SOMEONE ELSE

The speaker mentioned that he was discussing with a priest in Lekki who had stated that he had observed that everyone in Lekki is living in pretence.  At first, I took offence to that statement. After all, I lived in Lekki and I was not pretentious but then he later explained that most people were living above their means.  I found myself asking myself whether I was such person and starting reviewing my children’s school fees, housing, cars and the like. My review had to be kept on hold as I listened further to the speaker who delved deeper to point out that some people would do whatever it takes to meet up and thus be someone who they are not.

He invited us to examine ourselves to see if we really are who we are when we come into the presence of God.  He urged us to be sincere with ourselves and score ourselves since the worst person to lie to is actually ourselves.  This pretence reminds me of the hypocrisy which Jesus rebuked amongst the pharisees and scribes and the countless woes he levied on them in Matthew 23:13-37 – very intense and very scary stuff which should put us in check and guide us on how to truly worship God.

 

5. UNBELIEF

The aspect of unbelief is a distinct hurdle for me. I sometimes find myself questioning  whether I have enough faith and trust in God or whether I am just being realistic.  But what is realism really? The speaker stated that the fear to stand on God’s promises for Him to provide all things in your daily life is unbelief and greatly hinders worship. How much really do you trust God? Now, that does not mean that you simply fold your hands and do nothing but rather, you do your best and leave the rest to God.  This is why I admire the Opus Dei philosophy of St Josemaria Escriva– whatever you find yourself doing in life must be done to the best of your ability because in doing such, you are worshiping God and serving Him.

The speaker went on to explain that what most of us do is we try to help God when we cannot see the results of what we have asked of Him. He gave an example of corn which is yet to sprout but under the surface, it is growing by spreading its roots and being entrenched.  This subsurface work is often not seen by us so we devise a plan B when our plan A which is God, does not appear to yielding much.

Then he said this which hit home – “it is an insult!” Huh? How was having a plan B an insult? After all, aren’t we always advised to be ready and to make alternative plans? Yes we are, but this is different I realized. This was us having the audacity to assume that what we had placed in the hands of the Almighty God was not working!!  This was us saying after we have given our problems to God that we would still help Him carry it just in case.  Yes, it was an insult to God indeed and not only that, but an abuse to His invitation given to us in Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest…”

He then referred to worrying which plagues many of us and led us to Philippians 4:8. He advised us to fill our minds with what the bible said we should and that anything short of this would be a barrier to true worship and constitute unbelief: “…fill your minds with whatever is truthful, holy, just, pure, lovely and noble…”

 

6. LACK OF ORDER IN TIME & SPACE

Order has always been my thing. Perhaps that is why Catholicism appealed to me even in the racy environment of university where anything seems to be allowed. There is a splendid order, discipline and black and whiteness to Catholicism which seems to mirror how the universe was created and God’s preference on how things should operate. The speaker touched on the need for order to truly worship God. SinceGod is not a God of confusion” as said in 1 Cor 14:33-40, I guess it only makes sense that He would appreciate such.

Have you ever gone to a monastery and participated in the liturgy of hours or heard the chants being sung?  The synergy of the voices and the harmony of it all elevates you in worship. The speaker stated that harmony must exist in music and this is oh so true!! Music without harmony is simply noise since music is an organized sound. Sometimes the unsynchronized clapping and shouting can introduce some elements of erraticism  better appreciated in another environment.  Do not get me wrong, I am an ardent clapper but it must blend with the time and the environment and this is what the speaker meant when he said that lack of order in time and space can hinder worship.

He also urged us to grow from setting aside time of solitude each day  with God to setting aside a particular time of the day each day to meet with God. This growth from general quiet time to covenant time would mean that God would wait for you at the specific time set aside to be with Him each day. Since God deals with His people based on covenants, the speaker stressed that we be orderly and coordinated since this would greatly assist our worship of God.

 

7. STARTING WORSHIP SERVICE LATE

Coming to mass or religious programs late was also mentioned as a hindrance to worship.  This can also be extended to when you agree to meet with God at a set time but end up keeping God waiting or we decide to attend a church program but come late.  Some of us try to explain our lateness away by saying “better late than never” or make ourselves feel better by logically saying that “at least we came.” Do you think God needs you to keep the appointment you made with Him?  It is as if you wish to see the President of Nigeria and you waltz in late after securing the time and place. What do you think would happen then? Would you keep him waiting or worse yet, will you even keep your boss at the office waiting?  However, it suits you fine to keep the King of Kings and of all creation waiting for you?

Our parish priest has said time without number that coming to mass late is not acceptable especially when we consider that the priest is already at the altar when you stroll into the church and that everything in mass from the entrance hymn to the liturgy of the Word and Eucharist is ordered to introduce and ease you into worship.  He also pointed out that not only do you hinder yourself from worshiping from the start, but you also hinder others from worshiping who may actually have come early, but you distract them by constituting a distraction as you wander around or try to find a place to sit among the pews.

He referred to some who actually go late due to the need to ensure that they look their best for church and jokingly mentioned that the mirror was an obstacle to worship. Although he was referring to ladies and their obsession with beauty and makeup or making their hair look just right, I know of men also who dote over themselves to ensure that they look their best and are wearing the right outfit and shoes before they leave the house and they too may change countless times as the minutes tick closer to the start of mass. He cautioned against this form of idol worship which would obviously hinder true worship of God.

 

7. NOT EATING AT THE BANQUET

When the speaker mentioned this obstacle to worship, I initially thought he was talking about eating food at church but he was referring to something much more serious. He was talking about going to mass and being called into God’s presence, only to refuse to eat when He invites you to join Him in His banquet. It was then that I cast my mind to etiquette class and the rule that you accept whatever is being placed before you gracefully.  So here you are, invited to eat by the God of creation and you refuse to eat. What an insult! He asked what could possibly excuse us from not partaking in the banquet?

Well, as a Catholic, we have always been cautioned that we should not take communion unworthily or if we are not prepared, right? In fact, the speaker even referred to the elaborate preparation that needed to be done by the Levites as seen in Leviticus 16. So, why was he bashing us on not partaking in the banquet? He explained that not partaking in communion at mass is a sin in itself since we have no reason at all not to be prepared. He stressed the availability of confession and the need to come early before mass to contemplate and confess your sins.

I once had a discussion with someone who had not taken communion for years and his excuse was that he didn’t want to take communion unworthily but I couldn’t get my head around it.  I mean, you would go to mass and stay on your seat simply watching as others would go and receive Jesus at the altar. Do we not know that communion is our spiritual food and it is from there that we derive our strength and are refreshed?  Every day without it, makes us weaker and weaker, makes our consciences duller and duller and makes us more exposed to the whims of the devil. Paul exclaims  in Rom 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from the love of God so we have no excuse not to be prepared to receive Communion as confession is readily available. If we only knew what we were denying our spirit, we would feel the excruciating pain as it longs to unite with Jesus and we would not go a day without receiving the body and blood of Christ.

 

CONCLUSION

The speaker ended by saying that the things he had mentioned were not exhaustive and prompted us to identify other things which prevented us from engaging in true worship.  He stated that God teaches us by using everything around us which may include our children, animals, nature, those engaged by us and the like and it was up to us to avoid any obstacle which denies us from making worship meaningful.

Almighty God, we worship You for who You are and the mercies You have shown and continue to show to us. Help us to pull down all obstacles which hinder our true worship of You and teach us how better to worship You as You truly deserve in Jesus name we pray. Amen.

25Aug

Worship and Hearing the Voice of God – Day 4

BENEFITS OF WORSHIP

Why worship God?  What an odd question that seems but, even Peter to whom the revelation of Jesus was given asked what he would gain in following Jesus as seen in Matthew 19:27“You see, we have given up everything to follow you. What then, will there be for us?”

Deep down, we all want to know – “what’s in it for me?”  When circumstances seem like they would over flood me and walking the righteous path seems daunting, I am led to question and ask myself what really is the gain in following Jesus. Does that make me selfish? I hope not.  It just makes me human and when God reassures me as He did Peter, I promptly ask for mercy for that moment of weakness. Yes, even John the Baptist had such moments of doubt as seen in Matthew 10:2-3 “When John the Baptist heard in prison about the deeds of Christ, he sent a message by his disciples, asking him ‘Are you the one who is to come or should we expect someone else’?”

So really what is the gain in worshiping this God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; this Trinitarian God who is 3 persons in one?

 

GAINS OF QUIET TIME WITH GOD IN WORSHIP

The speaker stated that the more you come into the presence of God, the more you drown out the crowd and all the voices which come along with the crowd. You are able to IDENTIFY the separate voices and obtain the Word of God during this period of solitude. It is this Word of God which is the sword used to slay vices and all the works of satan.  The “sword of the spirit” in Ephesians 6:14 is the only offensive weapon in the armor of God which we are called to put on to resist the devil. It is no small feat that this weapon is given to us and made sharper as we spend time in solitude with God.

He explained that to be delivered from vices and evil spirits is one thing, but for this deliverance to be maintained is another issue as seen in Matthew 12:43-45 which talks of that evil spirit when driven away, returning with seven others if it finds the house from which it was driven, empty and clean. He pointed out that nature abhors vacuum so the sword of the Spirit is that which should occupy you if you intend to be free permanently from your vices and the clutches of the devil.

This worship of God in solitude with Him brings about not only spiritual deliverance, but also healing and revelation of mysteries and secrets to those whom God loves. Amos 3:7 talks of God not doing anything without revealing it first to His prophets:

“Yet Yahweh does nothing without revealing His plans to his servants.”

This is a verse to which I clung when I was pregnant. I wanted to know when I would give birth and I kept on reminding God of this Word as the delivery date drew near. After all, through my baptism, I was a prophet of God and I served God the best way I could. I wanted Him to speak to me or through someone else to tell me when I would give birth.  I became so frustrated when I couldn’t hear Him and those I asked would look at me blankly.  I had no information whatsoever but it was only after I gave birth that I realized that God had been telling me each day what day it would be. I had an application on my phone which I looked at daily which counted down the expected due date. Guess when I gave birth? On the expected due date.

This revelation of things to come can also be seen in what led Abraham to intercede for the city of Sodom in Genesis 18:17 whence God said “Can I conceal from Abraham what I am about to do?”  Moses would not have been able to save Lot and his family through intercession if the destruction of the city was not revealed to him. And why was it revealed to him? Because he was a worshiper and he could tap into this gain made available. 

 

1. WORSHIP GETS HEAVEN’S ATTENTION

The speaker stated that worship is a passageway into God’s court. Recent daily mass readings have been on the visions of Ezekiel and I have no doubt that he was a true worshiper. Ezekiel 43:4-7 shows Ezekiel being transported in a divine vision into the very presence of the Almighty God into the inner court. –   Psalm 100:4 says that we are to “enter his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise.

He explained that worship makes a way in the heavenly realms which are closed by principalities who seek to prevent the outpouring of God’s blessings upon you.  Such forces are seen in Daniel 10:13 which talks of the Prince of Persia who had resisted for 21 days, the blessings from the prayers which had already been answered from reaching Daniel. Since Daniel was a man who knew how to worship, a pathway was created for him to access his blessings as it cut through the heavenly realms.

The speaker stressed that worship is the passport and the visa into heaven where God inhabits. We are called to renew our passport and visa which is done by bearing fruit as we partner with God and avoid distractions which may be as unassuming as leaving our mobile phones on while we worship. As we spend more time in worship, we attract more of God’s attention, as He increasingly  opens up the heavenly realms for us to tap into the blessings assured.

 

2. WORSHIP GLORIFIES GOD & RELEASES RESOURCES

This glorification of God is a familiar benefit which I have come to associate with worship as we sing hymns such as the “Gloria” and “Alleluiah” in church. However, the other benefit is one I had not given much thought. Resources are released when we worship? What kind of resources? Every good thing and every thing we could possibly need for the journey ahead. My mind turned to material resources but I had to restrain myself since God gives us what we need and not necessarily what we want. Rest assured though that his Word in James 1:17 holds true – “Every good and perfect gift comes from above from the Father of Light, in whom there is no change or shadow of change.”

The speaker pointed out that when we are focused on walking WITH God, and not necessarily for Him, we can be assured that He will pour out His blessings and resources upon us and we know that He has plans only for our good as seen in Jeremiah 29:11 so it is a good deal indeed – “For I know what my plans for you are, plans to save you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and to give you hope.”

 

3. WORSHIP STILLS THE WANDERING MIND

The wandering mind….ah yes, that!! It reminds me of a Femi Kuti song which talks about wondering (amongst other things) called  “Wonder, Wonder.” Why does our mind wander whenever it is time to worship God? It is at that time that we start to wonder about all sorts of things and are tempted with distractions.  However, the more we persevere in worship, the more our mind gets stilled as God inhabits our thoughts with every effort we make and every invocation of the Holy Spirit to assist us to focus on worship.

We must be calm in God’s presence and yield all to Him in worship, for as Ecclesiastes 9:11 says “the race is not won by the swift…for favor and misfortune overtake them all.”

 

4. WORSHIP STRENGTHENS PERSONAL ALTARS

This aspect of erecting altars is something which has always appealed to me.  The practicality of doing such has always been a challenge for me, however, so I would dismiss it saying that it was a thing of the Old Testament.  I had been cautious until someone called my mind to the boldness of Hindu workers or Buddhists who erect altars in their office.  So why was I hesitant to do same in my office space?

The speaker urged us all to raise an altar in our homes since it would be a place of contact with God. He mentioned a vacant house for rent he had visited where he could identify the prayer room due to the presence of God in the place. This was also same in a movie I watched called the “War Room” where an area of the house was identified as one filled with the Glory of God.  The woman had made this place her prayer closet and had erected an altar therein.

We all need such a place. Just as God would meet with Adam and Eve at a specific place in the garden, we too must have such a place and designate a time to be in solitude with God. I have heard of people whose contact with God may not be in such a practical place for an altar to be erected. God may choose to visit some people in the kitchen or bathroom and it is at that place where they hear Him most. I have two friends who commune with God when they are in the shower and the day’s messages and instructions are downloaded from there.  In such cases, we must rely on the grace given to us by virtue of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which makes us mobile altars.  More so, the grace given to us as Catholics as we rededicate ourselves at daily mass and receive Communion, through which God takes up residence within us.

He referred to the plight of Gideon who was key in destroying the altars of the idols that his father had worshiped in Judges 6:28, but failed to destroy the idols in his heart. How many altars have we destroyed, only to erect others which are not fit for God?  Gideon had simply raised another altar by molding the gold of the Midianites into an altar in Ophrah and this error of his in Judges 8:27 cost him the death of his 70 sons and eventually wiped out his lineage.

 

5. WORSHIP BRINGS DOWN THE PRESENCE OF GOD

For those of us who were at last year’s Unusual Praise or the Mid Year Praise 2018, we can testify to this gain. The atmosphere was electrifying as worship provided the master key to unlock heaven. God cannot help but come down HIMSELF when we worship Him in truth.  Where there is the presence of God, rest assured that the celestial court is present and imagine how electrifying the atmosphere would be indeed! I have tried singing worship songs severally during my quiet time and I cannot explain the feeling which consumes me.  For some people, goosebumps start appearing while for others tears of joy roll down their cheeks while still for others a weakness overcomes them and an indescribable peace – the presence of God!

 

6. WORSHIP RELEASES MYSTERIES

Daniel was called “man loved by God” in Daniel 10:11 and I have no doubt that he too was a worshiper. This devotion to worship gave him deep insights and revelations into the mysteries of God and such is our gain if we too engage in worship of God.  When we worship God, it is as if God enlightens our inner mind to understand and gives us spiritual eyes to see what would ordinarily be hidden from us.  We are given the mind of Christ as mentioned in 1 Cor 2:16 and are thus able to download deep revelations and mysteries of the Most High God.

 

7. WORSHIP CEMENTS US & UNITES US

The speaker referred to one of my favorite chapters in the book of John to explain that worship is a cementing force which unifies us in the Spirit of God. John 17:21 was instrumental in the start of my walk with God. Jesus prayed “may they all be ONE as you Father are in me and I am in you” and this lies at the heart of being a disciple of God.  We all know that a house divided against itself will eventually fall and we even use it in our everyday parlance over the unity of Nigeria – that “united we stand and divided we fall.” So why are we so surprised at what is happening in our society today?  How united are Christians?  That is even going too far – how united are Catholics within a parish?

The speaker gave an example of a ministration he went for wherein it was necessary to conduct a deliverance of a lady.  Unfortunately, due to the conflicting instructions to the demon possessing the lady, the demon simply stayed.  It was only when there was one person leading the deliverance that the lady was freed and the deliverance finally ended.  We must be united in our attack against the evil one, knowing that it is satan’s strategy to divide the children of God in order to gain ground and cause havoc.

He mentioned a fast spreading cancer plaguing the Catholic church calling it “party spirit.” He explained that this evil spirit was dividing Catholics within parishes by pitching those who are in different societies or ministries against one another.  Those in one society or ministry would refuse to go to an event being organized by the other because they were not part of them and some societies would even make it difficult for others to join them or benefit from what they are gaining as members.

How on earth can we unite Christendom if we cannot be united in a small Catholic parish? Everyone in the hall could identify with this and it has been my mission to remind us of the essence of our worship – Jesus who is the center of it all.  Truly, it is only when we refuse to be divided that we can rise above our personal and collective challenges.  Jesus prays to the Father in  John 17:23 saying “I in them and you in me. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity.”

The speaker stressed that the government of Nigeria or corruption is not Nigeria’s problem – it is the church.  He complained that we are busy building churches and have abandoned discipleship and referred to the plight of Ephesus mentioned in Revelations 2:4. Indeed they had forgotten their “first love” since they were focused on building churches and not men and as a result Turkey is now 99% Muslim and the church now a museum.

He called upon us to worship God in ONE voice which leads one to be in ONE accord.  By worshiping God in ONE VOICE, our spirit in united in God and once we are united, the devil has already lost the battle wherever and whenever he seeks to sow discord.

 

CONCLUSION

The worship continues, brethren.  So let me ask you one question – why would you NOT worship God? There is absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

May God keep us ever focused on Him and pour out the gains of worshiping Him upon us, as we strive to be true worshipers in Jesus name we pray.  Amen.