Joy in His Presence

“I remember a pastor rebuking me one time—’You jump around like a rock star when you play.’”

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Check out this awesome video from the boys of For King and Country –Little Drummer Boy. 

I love the energy of these guys- the sheer joy and passion with which they perform The Little Drummer Boy is a delight to watch. It makes me kind of jealous though— I want to be able to move like that again. When I see something like that it makes me look forward to the resurrection when I’ll have a new body, regenerated without all the aches and pains of decades of hard work and play hindering me anymore. I want to dance with joy for my king.

Back when I was a little younger (and still had all my fingers) I used to lead worship quite often and I always loved it, playing my guitar and singing for the Lord. And I always had a blast doing it, especially if I got to play with other talented musicians and when the people I was leading were into it—I always made sure they were. The energy of a room really feeds the soul of a musician—and vice versa.

I remember a pastor rebuking me one time—“You jump around like a rock star when you play.” He thought it was unbecoming a worship leader—that it was prideful on my part. I was like, ‘If you can stand still and play with all your heart for Jesus then your heart is not really playing for Jesus.’ My Jesus brings joy to my heart and when I am giving him the gift of worship, using my gifts and talents for him, that is pure joy. That is a direct gift to him.

I didn’t say that to that pastor, I was busy trying to be submissive. I considered and prayed about what he said, and decided not to change a thing. I was playing for Jesus, not a pastor. I just didn’t play at that church anymore.

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I learned how to lead worship by teaching kids how to worship and if you can engage kids in real worship, then you are a worship leader. And if you bore a child during worship, they are not going to even start to pretend that they care about anything you are doing. Adults will pretend, they will at least stand up and move their lips, kids will poke their neighbor and create their own noise that has nothing to do with what stoic song you may be banging out.

In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

Worship is about coming into the presence of the Lord, a privilege given us by Jesus and one we should not take for granted nor dread. People who dread or fear coming into his presence or who do not believe they are worthy are not going to know how to worship, nor find any joy in it—‘There will be no dancing, no jumping, no drums, no joy. Just play the organ and pass the plate, let’s get this over with, I’ve got football to watch.’

Well Mr. Holierthanthou Worship is not for us, it’s for Jesus, it’s a gift for him. Yet in it, we are always blessed. How can we not be blessed by coming into the presence of the Lord? Which is what we are talking about today; approaching the throne of grace.

Gifts for Jesus

Giving the Lord the gift of our presence, of our time and talents, doing our best for him. I guess that’s why I’ve always loved the Christmas classic The Little Drummer Boy. I always enjoyed teaching it to kids in my children’s ministry years and included it in several kids Christmas programs.  I loved leading the kids in the little drummer boy because it’s a fun song to play on the guitar and I love the message. It just speaks of the approachability of our God. That even this little child with nothing to offer a King—a Son of God, God in the flesh—can come before him and offer what he has and be accepted and welcome.

Now, yes, I know there was no little drummer boy visit recorded in the gospels. But, everything we know about Jesus Christ and his coming tells us that we do indeed have a Lord who is approachable and that all of us, no matter our station in life, can come to our Lord and be welcomed. All were welcomed at the manger and we are all still welcome into his presence today, as long as we are coming with a humble heart and open hands, to give and receive truth.

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At Christmas we celebrate an event that changed everything. It changed the way we approach God and if that isn’t life changing, world changing, then nothing is. If people only spent as much time pondering that as they do worrying about climate change, the world would be a very different place. And, frankly, there is a lot more evidence for the former then the latter.

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Jesus coming allowed us to warm up to God the Father in a way people only dreamed of before and we are the continuing evidence of that. Sinners one and all, living in the grace and love of our Savior.

Jesus’ coming as a man, initially as an infant the very same way we all come into this world, made God approachable. Of course we all might have different circumstances surrounding our births, we might be born in a hospital room, at home, or like my youngest granddaughter, Raelyn, in a car doing 90 down the interstate in the middle of the night on their way to the hospital; certainly not the way they had planned it.

Yet, Jesus, the Son of the most high God, who surely could have planned and ensured his birth in any way he deemed fit, chose to be born in the humblest of circumstances. Certainly a big departure from the grandeur of the temple where people had been going to be near their God. He was now coming to be near his children as a child born to those who were little more then children themselves; Mary and Joseph.

That big scary God that we meet in the old Testament that seemed always having to be straightening people out, whom people feared coming anywhere near—let alone see him—lest they die, was born a tiny helpless baby to a teenage mother in a stable with only lowly shepherds as witnesses.

Think about that- if you were God and were coming to earth in the flesh so that you could make yourself known, would you make such a low profile entrance?  Probably not, but our God was not coming to impress, scare or smite the slacker, quite the contrary- he had come to be with those who thought themselves unworthy. He became one of us so that he could die as one of us, for each of us, so that we would never again fear to come into his presence.

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Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb 4:16

Glory

“Any good artist who has learned his craft well, whether it’s speaking, singing, playing or acting, can bring out whatever emotion they desire to fit the agenda at hand.” 

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 I am the Lord, that is My name;
And My glory I will not give to another, Is 42
:8

Glory, a fleeting thing that much of the world seeks. It can be called fame, popularity, stardom, and it seems a strange phenomenon, that so many seek it—live for it and will do anything to attain it. I think that’s why social media has taken off—if gives everyone a potential platform to become somebody—internet fame—and the glory we suppose it will bring.

Any Warhol famously said back in the 60’s, I believe, shortly after he got famous for painting very large pictures of canned food— “Everyone has their 15 minutes of fame.” I think even he realized how ridiculous it was that people would make such a big deal out him for painting Campbell soup cans and Ketchup bottles. I think about that often when there are people who are suddenly all over the news or TV and radio and then they’re gone, never to be heard from again. Their fame might last years, or a day or two—15 minutes.

Glory is fleeting, and dangerous. But that’s a topic for another day. I want to focus on the Lord’s glory, the source of true glory and the only one worthy of that glory. I wonder how often the lust for glory interferes with the work of the Lord in the church? How many times God wanted to reveal his glory, but could not or would not because the one seeking to release it was doing it for their own advancement? Or he was not given any room to reveal his glory because of all the noise being generated by the artificial glory being conjured up by the techno wizardry of the modern church?

It’s something I know I have to always be on guard about in my own heart. God will not be eclipsed. As soon as we get in the way of God’s glory, he just moves somewhere else. We try to keep it simple here in our church. For one thing we can’t afford a lot of gadgetry, but it’s more than just not overwhelming the senses with sights and sounds, it’s keeping Jesus the main thing—”Jesus Christ and him crucified.” That has always got to be the core of our message because aside from that it’s just entertainment and manipulation.

In the words of Hank Williams JR. “Can you make folks cry, when you play and sing, can you moan the blues, have you paid your dues, can you bend them guitar strings? . . .Cause let me tell ya boy, If you’re big star bound let me warn  you it’s a long hard ride.” 

Any good artist who has learned his craft well, whether it’s speaking, singing, playing or acting, can bring out whatever emotion they desire to fit the agenda at hand, but only God can change hearts and set the captives free. Church is not theater, church is a place to gather with the saints, to be fed, to be encouraged, strengthened and challenged, and most importantly, a place to worship the God of creation, to hear his voice, to feel his touch and to see, hear and feel his glory revealed in us, those he has called.

Otherwise it’s just us, and we will get on each other’s nerves and let each other down— guaranteed. But it’s not just us, is it? So let’s keep praying for the glory of the Lord to be revealed more and more in our churches, and in our lives—expect it.

For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Mat 18:20

Expect Jesus to show up

We’ve read the stories of revivals past where God healed and delivered and actually saw the Shakina glory fall and encompass a crowd. We have witnessed sporadic healings ourselves even here, yet we often assume it’s just hit and miss and it must have been the prayers of someone else, maybe the person next to me… but still, we don’t expect a miracle.

I think maybe we expect Jesus to show up, but we don’t count on it. We still put the pressure on ourselves to pray right, to preach right, to worship right—intensely enough, spontaneously enough, to have our hands in the right place or whatever. We think we need to somehow conjure up the Lord’s presence.

We don’t conjure anything; witches and mediums do that. And we don’t manipulate emotions; actors, singers and poets do that. We simply need to invite the Lord and expect him to show up. Not just to watch, but to participate and even help. It’s not the words, the motions or the music, those are more to get us to focus on recognizing the Lord’s presence. The Lord shows up when he sees that our hearts desire him to do so. And that we expect it, not because of who we are, but because that’s who he is.

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On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” . . . John 2:1—3

Notice it doesn’t even say here that Jesus went to the wedding or that he was at a wedding. Just that there was one and that Jesus was invited. That’s all John needed to say, the fact that Jesus was there was just assumed then—he was invited so of course he was there. It was expected.

And, by the way, he just happened to turn the water to wine, saving a family severe humiliation—since he was there anyway.

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