Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
1 Chronicles 16.29
Somewhere today a pregnant teenager will feel seething stares of disapproval as she walks into a sanctuary. A middle-aged woman once shunned by her church will bravely return, only to find it won't forget what God's forgiven. A gay believer seeking guidance and fellowship will watch his hopes shriveled by scathing condemnation. Somewhere today thousands of ostracized and alienated people longing to worship a loving, merciful God will encounter attitudes and invective aimed at keeping them from His table.
The majority will allow hostility and inhospitality to drive them away. Some will never enter a church again. Others will look for a more accepting, wholesome place of worship—a true sanctuary for their souls. A slim minority will ignore contradictory behaviors and mixed messages to train total attention on their Creator and Redeemer. They possess a rare, invaluable gift each of us should ask to receive. They’re endowed with vision to perceive the splendor of God’s holiness despite every shameful frailty and failure exhibited in His house. Their singular devotion to Him makes for exquisitely beautiful worship.
Churches—and the congregations inside them—function in various of ways. They’re community halls where people extol shared beliefs and institutes of spiritual advancement. They’re rest stops for weary hearts, hospitals for wounded spirits, clinics for worried minds, and pantries for weakened souls. They’re lighthouses for those drifting in darkness and havens for those who find their way to shore. They’re symbols of Christ’s resurrection and monuments to His death. And when they open for worship, they function as payment centers to settle accounts with God by repaying His kindness with our praise.
“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name,” reads 1 Chronicles 16.29. “Bring an offering and come before him.” Glory offered to God is our currency of worship. We come into His presence to express gratitude and praise to Him for being unlike any person or power in our lives. Every thought, word, song, and gesture reflects Psalm 86.10: “For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.” Our minds center on one question and answer: “How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.” (Psalm 116.12-13) Much as we forget everyone in the bank when we’re at the teller’s window, we forget who’s around us while offering God praise. We don’t worship to be favorably seen or accepted. Our sole concern is having God favorably see and accept our praise. Thus, in terms of who or what surrounds us, beautiful worship must be oblivious worship.
Perceptive worship is also beautiful. It’s keenly attuned to the purity of God’s love and concern for us. We offer praise because that’s all He asks and all we can give. Nothing we possess is anything He needs. Worship steeped in the perception there is none like Him opens our minds to know His completeness. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made,” John 1.3 tells us. He is all in all—encompassing everything in His boundless existence. Perceptive worship envisions His fullness as everything we need, everything we seek, everything we love, and every delight we enjoy. When we release our minds and spirits to see God as He truly is, worship becomes a transporting experience that removes us from human imperfections and cares by lifting us into His perfect presence and power. Sharpening our abilities to perceive God’s majesty and might is how we take full advantage of 1 Chronicles’ injunction to “worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”
Somewhere today a pregnant teenager will enter a sanctuary feeling nothing but God’s presence. A shunned woman will return to her faith community and find His holy splendor. A gay believer will delight in the guidance and fellowship he receives by seeing the fullness of God. Somewhere today thousands of previously ostracized and alienated believers will bask in Divine love and acceptance. In return for God’s merciful kindness, they will give Him glory due His name, coming before Him with offerings of praise. Their worship will eclipse any ugliness circling around it. May all of our worship be just as beautifully oblivious and perceptive.
“There Is None Like You”—a song of oblivious, perceptive, beautiful worship.
(Tomorrow: Good Fear)