On August 21, 1983, I walked into the single adult Sunday School class at First Baptist, Augusta. The teacher was Joyce Smith who I married less than a year later.
When I met Joyce, I was in a bad way having lost my church, my ministry, and my family. I was broke and broken. I didn’t have a car. Didn’t have a job. Was homeless and had to move in with my mother at age 32.
I really wanted to ask Joyce out for a date. I mustered all of my courage and said, “I’d like to take you out and get a cup of coffee, but you’ll have to pay for it!” To my great surprise and delight, she accepted.
I got a job selling cars and began on Labor Day. I thought that if a preacher can do anything, he can talk. I told the manager that he wouldn’t have to worry about me missing Saturdays because I wouldn’t get drunk on Friday nights. He hired me immediately!
But, I didn’t sell many cars. I found out that I couldn’t sell a heater to an Eskimo. Moreover, my mind wasn’t on selling cars. It was on Joyce.
On Saturdays, she would stop by and visit me at lunch. I lit up when she pulled into the dealership in her hot red Chevrolet with her little girl in the front seat.
The more I was with her, the more I loved her. The more I loved her, the more I knew her. The more I knew her, the more I wanted to be with her.
Love is a many splendored thing.
Love is nature’s way of giving,
A reason to be living,
The golden crown that makes a man a king.
We celebrated our 29th anniversary in July. It seems like only yesterday because I love her more now than I did then. Love grows in richness, depth, and power.
I am in awe of her. I have tremendous respect for her because like me, she had come through the fire too. She is lovelier today than she was then.
Worship is like that. It’s like falling in love with God. Love comes from God through Christ. because God is love (1 John 4:7,16).
We then are enraptured by the beauty, grace, and compassion of the Lord. His attributes attract us to Him, and we fall in love with God.
He accepts us even though we are broken and broke. He affirms our worth by going out with us, and paying the bill to enjoy time with us - even paying with His blood, sweat, and tears.
That first date with the Lord is so sweet and special, we want to meet again and again and a love relationship is born and grows and grows.
The more I am with Him, the more I love Him. The more I love Him, the more I know Him. The more I know Him, the more I want to be with Him. The more I am with Him, the more I grow in His grace and knowledge. We become one with Christ like a husband and wife become one. He in me, and I in him.
The more I trust Him, the more I love Him
Nothing good for me He'll deny
The longer I know Him, the better I can show Him
I couldn't stop now if I tried
It gets sweeter as the days go by
It gets sweeter as the moments fly
His love is richer, deeper, fuller, sweeter
Sweeter, sweeter, sweeter as the days go by.
The Lord is altogether lovely and his holiness is beautiful. When Rev. Charles Kingsley, a faithful English pastor in the 19th century, had only but moments to live, the curtains were pulled back for him to see as he never saw before. He managed to whisper in his last few breaths, “How beautiful God is. How beautiful God is" and then drifted away into the mighty arms of Jesus. What a sight to see the Lord in all of his radiant, beautiful splendor!
We get a glimpse here. It is like seeing the majesty of the Rocky Mountains rising on the high plains while you are many, many miles away. The closer you come to them, the greater they appear until you are finally in the midst of them. All you can do is stop and just look up at their power and majesty, their glory and magnificence, and their beauty and power. It’s an incredible, worship-like experience.
And here, we get but a glimpse. Heaven is in the distance. We can see it from afar but each day brings us closer and closer. The closer we come to it, the greater it appears until like Charles Kingsley, we look up and behold the beauty of God who fills heaven with His power and majesty, glory and magnificence, and his beauty and power.
Let the mountains echo their praises. Let the mountain brooks cascade into a melody of glory. Let the fields and meadows in the valley, the jagged rocky crags, and blue serene lakes below cry, “Glory and honor and strength to the One who lives forever and ever.” Honor and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are His.
Let us give to the Lord the glory due to his name, bring an offering, and bow in humble worship to Him. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth” (Psalm 96).
God’s love for us through Christ and our love for Him forms a bond that is never broken - not even in death. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Nothing! And who would want to separate from His love anyway?
I would be a fool to separate myself from Joyce and her love for me. I would be a bigger fool to separate myself from God and His love for me.
Love brings about a transformation. Whether it is romantic love that grows into marital love or divine love that brings new birth and grows and develops within and without us making us fully alive like Christ, love transforms.
John the Baptist expressed the transforming power of love like this: “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease. He that comes from above is above all” (John 3:30-31).
John had been losing power, prestige, and status. People once flocked to him to hear his message of repentance and to be baptized by him in the Jordan River. John’s disciples didn’t like it when they saw their leader’s influence wane as the crowds decreased around John and increased around Jesus. The popularity and prestige of John’s disciples were tied to their leader. If he went off the approval charts, they did too.
John the Baptist could have smoldered with resentment and jealousy. He could have challenged Jesus and criticized him to win the crowds back to himself. But he didn’t!
Pointing his disciples away from himself and to the Lord Jesus, he told them, “He must increase; I must decrease.”
Worship is the outflow surging out of our love for God. It’s not about me. It’s about Him. I want to please Him. I want to praise Him for God inhabits the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3).
To worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness puts the me in me in perspective. It’s like being in the middle of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. They made me feel mighty small. Mighty insignificant. If anyone goes out there on their high horse, they come down a few notches, At least I did.
Worship is like that too. I feel mighty small surrounded by the majesty of God. Surrounded by His grace, mercy, power. Worship keeps me from thinking too much of myself. I look up and see that Jesus is my everything,
The Spirit of God fills our hearts with His presence, love, and grace. It is emotional when we love.
I never will forget the Elvis experience I had in Mobile, Alabama. Yes, I said experience and not concert. It was emotional for me and even more so for many girls and women who rushed down to the front of the stage and flung themselves at their idol. They screamed, cried, reached out for him, jumped up and down, held their arms in the air, and some fainted dead away. Yes, fainted but Elvis’ staff was prepared. There were men there to catch them before they fell on the hard floor and injured themselves.
Worship is always emotional. Our worship of God is emotional. Heartfelt religion the old timers called it. I have been in prayer meetings, small groups, and worship services where there was shouting, singing, crying, and yes, fainting. We call that being “slain in the spirit” when it happens.
Our posture is an act of worship too. The Episcopal Church has prayer benches. The whole congregation pulls out their prayer bench and kneels during the pastoral and Lord’s prayer. Some churches have a prayer altar where people can kneel at the front and pray. Kneeling, standing, arms raised, even jumping up and down are all postures of worship. Not only is our spirit affected in worship, but our bodies are too. It is a total experience - mind, body, and soul.
Sometimes worship posture is quietly sitting. That’s how most of us Baptists worship.
Meditation is worship too. For example, the Quakers sat and waited quietly for the movement of the Spirit. Sometimes, a congregant would be filled with the Spirit and speak, or sing, or pray, or quake (shake). Sometimes, they’d all sit there for a time and then dismiss and go home. Meditating quietly on the Lord is worship.
Worship can be alone with God. Just me and Jesus. “Early in the morning talking it over, me and God. Late at night talking it over, me and God. You could say we're like two peas in a pod, Me and God” (Josh Turner).
Worship can be with families, friends, in a group, and in church. It is our response of the love relationship we have with the Lord. It is a beautiful thing. His garments of love cover us. His grace fills us. His light guides us. His power humbles us and gives us courage.
May the beauty of the Lord, our God be upon you: confirming you, and affirming that you are His and He is yours (Psalm 90:17).
O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing God's power and God's love;
our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.
Fall in love with God, and worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
You write such captivating stories to illustrate each message. I sure enjoy the reading. Lately in meditating on the love of God, it has dawned on me that He reveals His love for us best through those He brings into our lives. We love because He first loved us; His love fills us to overflowing into each other's hearts. What a beautiful thing! Never mind denominational differences when we are one in the Spirit of God's love! Thanks for sharing your parables!