So we worship with abandon

psalm 150

I can hear my son dancing in his carseat as I drive the minivan around town.

He dances with a particular sense of abandon, throwing his whole body into his head-banging, side to side, forward and back.   He snaps his elbows out and pulls his hands to his chest and then kicks his feet.

When he breaks into dancing at home, he does a combination of skipping/leaping/running in circles that is breathlessly exciting.

He is into it.

I know he’s dancing wildly back there in the minivan (as wildly as one can dance when strapped into a 5-point harness car seat), so I pull down my rear-view mirror for a moment to see what he’s doing.

He immediately freezes in mid-boogie and looks away trying not to catch my gaze.

All of that joyful movement stops in an instant and gives way to bashful embarrassment.

My son is a secret dancer.

Even though I never criticize him for it, he has this innate pulling back, an automatic embarrassment that we never overcome no matter how many times I tell him: “It’s okay to dance.”

I wonder if we also are secret-dancers, secret-worshipers, holding back, hiding away, not wanting to look too wild or too ‘into it.’

Like Nicodemus, maybe we clothe our time with Jesus in darkness and privacy.

Even among other Christians, we might pull back.  Don’t get too serious.  Don’t worship too passionately.  Don’t change your priorities too much.  Don’t talk about God too often.  Don’t let the Bible actually change you.

Jesus has a way, though, of busting through all of the layers of propriety and face-saving, people-pleasing, status-quo-following.

No matter how hard we may try at times to stuff our faith into acceptable packages of behavior, God can stir us to abandon.

In Luke 7, Jesus watched as a widow followed the casket of her only son while wailing with sorrow.  Seeing her pain, Jesus responded with compassion, touched the coffin and commanded that her precious son rise up from the dead.

The son sat up and started talking.

We’re told that “they were all filled with awe and praised God.  ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’ This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country (Luke 7:16-17 NIV).

The Message describes the scene:

They all realized they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them. They were quietly worshipful—and then noisily grateful, calling out among themselves, “God is back, looking to the needs of his people!” The news of Jesus spread all through the country (Luke 7:16-17 MSG).

God’s presence, always with us, should awaken the sense that we’re in a “place of holy mystery.”  Yes, God is at work here and we are amazed!

We may begin ‘quietly worshipful,’ but then we can’t hold it in!  We praise God!  We are ‘noisily grateful!”  We tell everyone what Jesus has done.

Just like these worshipers, we shout: “Praise God, He is at work among us!  Praise God, I’ve seen His hand and He’s real, our God is real!!  Praise God, He has not abandoned us, but He is looking after the needs of His people!!”

We all have these moments when we can choose to dance and sing about all that God has done or remain hidden in the shadows as night-time Jesus-seekers too frightened of popular opinion for all-out discipleship.

This was Nicodemus’s choice. He came in the darkness to ask Jesus just what being “born again” really meant.

But later, after Jesus died,  it wasn’t the disciples or the women at the cross who arranged for his burial.

Instead, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body.  He was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders” (John 19:38).

And who was with him?  None other than Nicodemus, who brought about 75 pounds of lotions and spices to anoint Jesus’ body.  Together, they wrapped their Savior with linen and placed him in a garden tomb (John 19:38-42).

Two secret worshipers, frightened of others’ opinions, ashamed to go public with their faith, now honored Jesus with reverent awe and unhidden love.

Suddenly, religious position, public opinion, and power didn’t matter very much.

Jesus had abandoned all for them, so they worshiped with abandon.

Jesus abandoned everything for us also, so we can also worship with abandon!

God is with us!  Jesus is risen!  He is real!  He is at work among us!

 

 

Dancing in Secret

I walked into the playroom quickly this morning, mom on a mission, toys in hand headed for the baskets to put them away, but then I stopped abruptly.

I had caught my toddler dancing.  She was boogieing left and right, lifting legs and arms and grinning.

As soon she saw me, she froze in mid-boogie and dropped her head in bashful embarrassment.

My girl is a secret dancer and a private singer.  In the car, sometimes she forgets we’re there and accidentally starts singing along with her songs, bouncing her head and kicking her legs in time to the music.

But then I watch her for one second too long in my rear-view mirror and she notices that I’m watching and stops.

I’m never critical of her.  It brings me great joy to see her sing and dance with a happy heart.  Still, she has this innate pulling back, an automatic embarrassment that we never overcome no matter how many times I whisper, “It’s okay to dance.  It’s beautiful to hear you sing.”

Some of us are secret worshipers, too.   Like Nicodemus, we meet with Jesus in darkness and in privacy, afraid of what others might say or do if they knew we were pursuing Christ.

Even among other Christians, we might pull back.  Don’t get too serious.  Don’t worship too passionately.  Don’t change your priorities too much.  Don’t talk about God too often.  Don’t let the Bible actually change you.

Jesus has a way, though, of busting through all of the layers of propriety and face-saving, people-pleasing, status-quo-following repression. No matter how hard we may try at times to stuff our faith into acceptable packages of behavior, God can stir us to abandon.

In Luke 7, Jesus performed one of those miracles that amazed people so much they couldn’t just stand around in quiet interest or retreat to places of private praise to avoid shame.

A widow walked behind a funeral procession, following the men lifting high the casket of her only son.  Seeing her pain, Jesus responded with compassion, touched the coffin and commanded that her precious son rise up from the dead.

The son got up out of that coffin and started talking.

We’re told that “they were all filled with awe and praised God.  ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’ This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country (Luke 7:16-17 NIV).

I love how the Message describes the scene:

They all realized they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them. They were quietly worshipful—and then noisily grateful, calling out among themselves, “God is back, looking to the needs of his people!” The news of Jesus spread all through the country (Luke 7:16-17 MSG).

When was the last time you saw God active in your life and were filled with awe and holy fear?

His God-presence, always with us, should awaken the sense that we’re in a “place of holy mystery.”  Yes, God is at work here and we are amazed.

We remove our sandals like Moses, in reverence that this is Holy Ground, made holy because God is here.

But then, overcome by awe, the people “praised God” and “noisily grateful,” they told everyone what Jesus had done.

They didn’t stay silent and keep the good news to themselves. They didn’t nod their heads in modest approval, but refrain from emotion and exuberance.

No, they shouted: Praise God, He is at work among us!  Praise God, I’ve seen His hand and He’s real, our God is real!!  Praise God, He has not abandoned us, but He is looking after the needs of His people!!

This was their message as they traveled through the country.

This is our message, too.
He saved us.  He is saving us.
He redeemed us.  He is rescuing us.

He is with us.  He has not abandoned us!

We all have these moments when we can choose to dance and sing about all that God has done or remain hidden in the shadows, night-time Jesus-seekers too frightened of popular opinion for all-out discipleship.

Nicodemus had this choice, too.  He had come in the shadows of  night to ask Jesus just what being “born again” really meant.

But when Jesus died and his disciples had scattered, it wasn’t the faithful women who remained at the cross that arranged for burial.

Instead, A man named Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body.  He was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders” (John 19:38).

And who was with him?  None other than Nicodemus, who brought about 75 pounds of lotions and spices to anoint Jesus’ body.  Together, they wrapped their Savior with linen and placed him in a garden tomb (John 19:38-42).

Two secret worshipers, frightened of people, ashamed to go public with their faith, now honored Jesus with reverent awe and unhidden love.  Suddenly, religious position, public opinion, and power didn’t matter very much.

Jesus had abandoned all for them, so they worshiped with abandon.

Scripture doesn’t tell us how Nicodemus and Joseph reacted when days later they learned that the grave clothes they had wrapped around Jesus’ body were folded in an empty tomb.

I bet they told everybody what God had donehow they knew for sure He was dead.  Hadn’t they wrapped his body?  Hadn’t they touched lifeless skin and moved a corpse into a grave?

Jesus had risen indeed!

I bet they danced and sang loud and didn’t care any longer who was watching.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.


Bad Dreams

” The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life.”
Psalm 42:8

The other night I was startled awake at 3 a.m. by a child’s nose touching my nose and two eyes staring intently into my sleeping face.  Then, in the loudest whisper possible, my daughter announced, “Mom, I had a bad dream!”

We can write nightmares off as a “kid thing,” but in the darkness, when we don’t have the busyness of the day to distract us, our fears can overpower us and our thoughts run wild.

In the daytime, I’m fairly good at “taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV).  I know the Scriptures and God’s promises to provide for me, to care for me, to help me, to be with me.

But at night, my defenses are down.  So, it’s easy to lie awake pursuing “what if’s,” prepare speeches, imagine conversations, and make plans.

That’s why it’s not surprising to me that when Nicodemus came to Jesus to ask questions about his faith, “he came to Jesus at night” (John 3:2, NIV).  I know Nicodemus wanted to hide his interest in Jesus from the other Pharisees, but I also wonder if something else was at work.

Could it be that Nicodemus tossed and turned at night, wondering who this Jesus was?  Could it be that he couldn’t stop the questions and just wanted some answers?

I’ve been meditating this week on Mark 6:45-52.  In that passage, Jesus had sent the disciples away on a boat while he went off by Himself to pray.  It says: “Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land.  Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them.”

This is the second of two occasions where Jesus calmed the wind and waves for the disciples.  This time, the event is miraculous even before the storm is calmed—-because Jesus “saw them.” He saw them in the middle of the night, from the other side of the shore, even with the wind and waves at their worst.

He saw them in the darkness.

Not only did he see where they were on the sea, but he saw the horrible storm they were facing and he saw their every effort to overcome it.  “He saw them straining at rowing for the wind was against them.”

When things are dark for us—either literally at night when we’re tossing in bed unable to sleep or just in times when we can’t sense the Lord’s presence or light in our circumstances—He sees us.  He knows everything we are facing and all of our efforts to overcome.  He knows what thoughts steal our sleep.

For the disciples in that storm, Jesus’s presence alone brought them peace.  He walked to them on the water and comforted them, saying: “Do not be afraid.’  Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased” (verses 50 and 51).  It didn’t take magical formulas or even speaking to the storm.  Jesus was present with them, and the tempest ended.

It is the same with us.  No matter our storm or the darkness we face, we can have peace in His presence.  As the Psalmist wrote, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8, NIV).

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King