Whispering Hope – includes the 3rd verse:
Hope, as an anchor so steadfast, Rends the dark veil for the soul,
Whither the Master has entered, Robbing the grave of its goal.
Come then, O come, glad fruition, Come to my sad weary heart;
Come, O Thou blest hope of glory, Never, O never depart.
‘How Great Thou Art’ is a Christian hymn based on a Swedish traditional melody and a poem written by Carl Gustav Boberg (1859–1940) in Mönsterås, Sweden in 1885. It was translated into German and then into Russian and became a hymn.
It was translated into English from the Russian by English missionary Stuart K. Hine, who added two original verses of his own. The composition was set to a Russian melody. It was popularised by George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows during the Billy Graham crusades.
Messiah, George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) Words compiled from the Holy Scriptures by Charles Jennens (1700-1773)
Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Friedrich Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible (1611), and from the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer.
In Part I the text begins with prophecies by Isaiah and others, and moves to the annunciation to the shepherds, the only “scene” taken from the Gospels. In Part II, Handel concentrates on the Passion and ends with the “Hallelujah” chorus. In Part III he covers the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s glorification in heaven.
When King George II attended a royal performance of Messiah he stood up for the Hallelujah Chorus in honour of the King of kings. When the king stood everyone in his presence had to stand. So it became the tradition for the audience to stand up when the Hallelujah Chorus is sung, as millions of us have done in honour of the King of kings.
Chorus — Revelation 19:6, 11:15, 19:16 Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of kings, and Lord of lords
and He shall reign for ever and ever. Hallelujah!
1. Sinfonia (Overture)
2. Tenor Recitative. — Isaiah 40:1-3
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
3. Tenor Air — Isaiah 40:4
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.
4. Chorus — Isaiah 40:5
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
5. Bass Recitative — Haggai 2:6,7; Malachi 3:1
Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; Yet once, a little while and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.
The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: Behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.
6. Bass Air — Malachi 3:2
But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire.
7. Chorus — Malachi 3:3
And He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
8. Alto Recitative — Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, God with us.
9. Alto Air and Chorus — Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 60:1
O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, and be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
10. Bass Recitative — Isaiah 60:2,3
For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
11. Bass Air — Isaiah 9:2
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
12. Chorus — Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
13. Pifa (Pastoral Symphony)
14. Soprano Recitative — Luke 2:8,9
There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.
And lo! the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
15. Soprano Recitative — Luke 2:10,11
And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
16. Soprano Recitative — Luke 2:13
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
17. Chorus — Luke 2:14
Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men.
18. Soprano Air — Zechariah 9:9,10
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee. He is the righteous Savior. And he shall speak peace unto the heathen.
19. Alto Recitative — Isaiah 35:5,6
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.
20. Alto Air — Isaiah 40:11; Matthew 11:28, 29
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; and he shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
Come unto Him, all ye that labour, that are heavy laden, and He shall give you rest. Take his yoke upon you, and learn of Him; for he is meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
21. Chorus — Matthew 11:30
His yoke is easy, and His burthen is light.
22. Chorus — John 1:29
Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.
23. Alto Air — Isaiah 53:3; Isaiah 50:6
He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: He hid not His face from shame and spitting.
24. Chorus — Isaiah 53:4,5
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.
25. Chorus — Isaiah 53:5
And with His stripes we are healed.
26. Chorus — Isaiah 53:6
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
27. Tenor Recitative — Psalm 22:7
All they that see Him laugh him to scorn: they shoot out their lips, and shake their heads, saying:
28. Chorus — Psalm 22:8
He trusted in God that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, if he delight in Him.
29. Soprano Recitative — Psalm 69:20
Thy rebuke hath broken His heart; He is full of heaviness. He looked for some to have pity on Him but there was no man; neither found He any to comfort Him.
30. Soprano Air — Lamentations 1:12
Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto His sorrow!
31. Tenor Recitative — Isaiah 53:8
He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of Thy people was He stricken.
32. Tenor Air — Psalm 16:10
But Thou didst not leave His soul in hell; nor didst Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption.
33. Chorus — Psalm 24:7-10
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.
34. Tenor Recitative — Hebrews 1:5
For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten hee?
35. Chorus — Hebrews 1:6
Let all the angels of God worship Him.
36. Bass Air — Psalm 68:18
Thou art gone up on high, Thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men; yea, even for Thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among them.
37. Chorus — Psalm 68:11
The Lord gave the word: great was the company of the preachers.
38. Duetto for 2 Alto Solos and Chorus — Romans 10:15
How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
[39. Chorus — Romans 10:18
Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world. Not sung in the original performance.]
40. Bass Air — Psalm 2:1,2
Why do the nations so furiously rage together: why do the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsels together against the Lord and His anointed.
41. Chorus — Psalm 2:3
Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.
42. Tenor Recitative — Psalm 2:4
He that dwelleth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision.
43. Tenor Air — Psalm 2:9
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. 44. Chorus — Revelation 19:6, 11:15, 19:16 Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of kings, Lord of lords.
45. Soprano Air — Job 19:25, 26; 1 Corinthians 15:20
I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.
For now is Christ risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep.
46. Chorus — 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22
Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
47. Bass Recitative — 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
48. Bass Air — 1 Corinthians 15:52, 53
The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
49. Alto Air — 1 Corinthians 15:54b
Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
50. Duetto for Alto and Tenor — 1 Corinthians 15:55, 56
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.
51. Chorus — 1 Corinthians 15:57
But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
52. Alto Air — Romans 8:31, 33, 34
If God be for us, who can be against us? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.
53. Chorus — Revelation 5:12, 13
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power to be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen.
Part I 0:00:06 Sinfony. Grave; Allegro moderato 0:02:58 Comfort ye (Accompagnato, Tenoro). Larghetto e piano 0:05:43 Ev`ry valley shall be exalted (Aria, Tenoro). Andante 0:08:49 And the glory of the Lord (Chorus). Allegro; Adagio 0:11:10 Thus saith the Lord (Accompagnato, Basso). Recitativo 0:12:18 But who may abide (Aria, Alto). Larghetto; Prestissimo; Adagio 0:16:03 And He shall purify (Chorus). Allegro 0:18:12 Behold, a virgin shall conceive (Recitativo, Alto). 0:18:36 O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion (Aria, Alto). Andante 0:21:51 O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion (Chorus). 0:23:31 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth (Accompagnato, Basso). Andante larghetto 0:25:39 The people that walked in darkness (Aria, Basso). Larghetto 0:29:25 For unto us a child is born (Chorus). Andante allegro 0:33:26 Pifa. Larghetto e mezzo piano 0:35:36 There where shepherds (Recitativo, Accompagnato; Soprano). Andante; Allegro 0:36:58 Glory to god in the highest (Chorus). Allegro 0:39:00 Rejoice greatly (Aria, Soprano). Allegro 0:43:00 Then shall the eyes of the blind (Recitativo, Alto). [latter version] 0:43:24 He shall feed his flock (Aria, Alto). Larghetto e piano [latter version] 0:47:26 His yoke is easy (Chorus). Allegro
Part II 0:49:35 Behold the Lamb of God (Chorus). Largo 0:52:04 He was despised (Aria, Alto). Largo 1:00:40 Surely (Chorus). Largo e staccato 1:02:18 And with his stripes we are healed (Chorus). Alla breve, Moderato 1:03:48 All we like sheep have gone astray (Chorus). Allegro moderato; Adagio 1:07:37 All they that see Him (Accompagnato, Tenore). Larghetto 1:08:17 He trusted in God (Chorus). Allegro; Adagio 1:10:25 Thy rebuke hath broken His Heart (Accompagnato, Tenore). Largo 1:12:15 Behold, and see (Arioso, Tenore). Largo e piano 1:13:26 He was cut off (Accompagnato, Tenore). Recitativo 1:13:44 But Thou didst not leave His soul in Hell (Aria, Tenore). Andante larghetto 1:15:47 Lift up your heads (Chorus). A tempo ordinario 1:19:10 Unto which of the angels (Recitativo, Tenore). 1:19:28 Let all the angels of God worship Him (Chorus). Allegro 1:20:48 Thou art gone up high (Aria, Alto). Allegro larghetto 1:23:45 The Lord gave the word (Chorus). Andante allegro 1:24:50 How beautiful are the feet of them (Aria, Soprano). Larghetto :__:_ Their sound is gone out (Chorus). A tempo ordinario [missing] 1:29:20 Why do the nations rage (Aria, Basso). Allegro 1:31:57 Let us break their bonds (Chorus). Allegro e staccato 1:33:34 He that dwelleth in heaven (Recitativo, Tenore). 1:33:46 Thou shall break them (Aria, Tenore). Andante 1:35:57 Hallelujah (Chorus). Allegro
Part III 1:39:46 I know that my redeemer liveth (Aria, Soprano). Larghetto 1:45:10 Since by man came death (Chorus). Grave; Allegro 1:47:13 Behold, I tell you (Accompagnato, Basso). 1:47:12 The trumpet shall sound (Aria, Basso). Pomposo, ma non allegro; Adagio 1:55:30 Then shall be brought to pass (Recitativo, Alto). 1:44:45 O death, where is thy sting (Duetto; Alto, Tenore). Andante 1:57:17 But thanks be to God (Chorus). Andante; Adagio 1:59:13 If God is for us (Aria, Soprano). Larghetto; Adagio 2:03:25 Worthy is the Lamb (Chorus). Largo; Andante 2:04:43 Blessing and honour (Chorus). Larghetto; Adagio 2:06:38 Amen (Chorus). Allegro moderato; Adagio
1. You are invited to join us in your home praying each Saturday night and Sunday morning for your church services, its leaders, and for God to move powerfully among us all.
2. This is my invitation for you to be included among our informal groups of people committed to worship and prayer for at least an hour a week, in addition to church services. You can contact me on email@example.com to be included anonymously. Some people give at least one hour a day to worship and prayer. You may be doing that anyway so you may like to be included in this praying friends group. I love to play worship CDs or YouTube Mix worship as listed below.
Here is an initial list of times people are involved, begun from our Church in Brisbane, to be updated occasionally.
Red – individuals pray and worship Purple – groups pray & worship
Prayer and worship constantly rise to God globally, and we just add ours to encourage one another. I look forward to a time when this simple chart is all red! Overseas friends may like to help us fill in our night hours Brisbane time!
I like to write a brief quote from Scripture daily in my diary in red biro, mostly truth impressed on me by God’s Spirit. It became inspiring journal entries for over 50 years. It’s easy to read through different translations of the New Testament in less than a year, one chapter a day. Or you could read each Gospel in a month, one chapter a day.
There are 260 chapters in the New Testament, so it’s easy to cover that in a year. Each Gospel has less than 30 chapters so it’s easy to read a Gospel in a month, a chapter a day.
There are 929 chapters in the Old Testament. This gives a total of 1189 chapters in the Bible. Psalm 117, the shortest chapter, is also the middle chapter of the Bible, being the 595th Chapter.
You could listen to background worship music for an hour or more as you worship and pray – in your chair or even in bed, with CDs and YouTube. YouTube video “Mix” gives you similar recordings – often a surprise.
Here are beautiful worship recordings you could play while you work and pray:
The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26 – Aaronic Blessing)
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known themind of theLord? Orwho has become His counselor?” Orwho has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
A few Bible prayers you can pray as you read.
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Yourname. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earthas it is in heaven. Give us this day ourdaily bread. Andforgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, Butdeliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, And You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:11-13)
Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. 4 Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just [a]when You speak, And blameless when You judge.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. 6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. 9 Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise. 16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise. (Psalm 51:1-17)
Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:
‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against theLordand against His Christ.’ …
Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus. (Acts 4:24-30; Psalm 2:1-2)
At Herrnhut, Zinzendorf visited all the adult members of the deeply divided community. He drew up a covenant calling upon them ‘to seek out and emphasize the points in which they agreed’ rather than stressing their differences. On 12 May 1727 they all signed an agreement to dedicate their lives, as he dedicated his, to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Moravian revival of 1727 was thus preceded and then sustained by extraordinary praying. A spirit of grace, unity and supplications grew among them.
On 16 July the Count poured out his soul in a prayer accompanied with a flood of tears. This prayer produced an extraordinary effect. The whole community began praying as never before.
On 22 July many of the community covenanted together on their own accord to meet often to pour out their hearts in prayer and hymns.
On 5 August the Count spent the whole night in prayer with about twelve or fourteen others following a large meeting for prayer at midnight where great emotion prevailed.
On Sunday, 10 August, Pastor Rothe, while leading the service at Herrnhut, was overwhelmed by the power of the Lord about noon. He sank down into the dust before God. So did the whole congregation. They continued till midnight in prayer and singing, weeping and praying.
On Wednesday, 13 August, the Holy Spirit was poured out on them all. Their prayers were answered in ways far beyond anyone’s expectations. Many of them decided to set aside certain times for continued earnest prayer.
On 26 August, twenty-four men and twenty-four women covenanted together to continue praying in intervals of one hour each, day and night, each hour allocated by lots to different people.
On 27 August, this new regulation began. Others joined the intercessors and the number involved increased to seventy-seven. They all carefully observed the hour which had been appointed for them. The intercessors had a weekly meeting where prayer needs were given to them.
The children, also touched powerfully by God, began a similar plan among themselves. Those who heard their infant supplications were deeply moved. The children’s prayers and supplications had a powerful effect on the whole community.
That astonishing prayer meeting beginning in 1727 went on for one hundred years. It was unique. Known as the Hourly Intercession, it involved relays of men and women in prayer without ceasing made to God. That prayer also led to action, especially evangelism. More than one hundred missionaries left that village community in the next twenty-five years, all constantly supported in prayer.
Every morning, lean thine arms awhile Upon the windowsill of heaven, And gaze upon thy Lord. Then, with the vision in thy heart, Turn strong to meet thy day.
Poem by Thomas Blake
In the early days of his ministry, Dr. Theodore F. Adams vacationed in Wisconsin where he attended an outdoor vesper service led by an Episcopal rector who recited the verse above. Dr Adams never forgot those words. He committed them to memory.
From 1936-1968 Dr. Adams served as senior pastor of Richmond’s First Baptist Church. During that time he referred to this verse countless times as one of his favourites. He even had desktop placards made and sent to every member of the church.
Many readers are aware that the beautiful stained glass windows surrounding the FBC Sanctuary were part of a renovation project initiated by Dr. Adams in the late 1940s, but they may be unaware of the message he left in one of the windows by which we remember him today.
In the commission of the windows’ refurbishment, Dr. Adams’ goal was twofold. The larger windows that surround the balcony were to portray the significant events in the life of Jesus, while those below were to demonstrate how followers could live out Jesus’ lessons in modern times. Each upper window correlates to the one below it and is interpreted there for modern understanding. Each window is also accompanied by a scripture passage – except one.
There are two windows in the church picturing Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, one in the Chapel and one in the Sanctuary. The Chapel window’s focus is on prayer, but the story in the Sanctuary’s window shows Jesus, having been strengthened by prayer, telling Peter, James, and John, “Behold, the hour is at hand—Rise, let us be going.” The light shining on Jesus comes from heaven and affirms Jesus’ declaration that, “Thy will, not mine, be done.”
The Garden of Gethsemane
Bathed in sunlight in the corollary window below kneels a lone figure, praying the very poem that begins, “Every morning, lean thine arms upon the windowsill of heaven.” These verses are not found in the Bible, but send the message that made such a marked impression on Dr. Adams’ life that he was determined it be memorialized in this window.
The Windowsill of Heaven
Could he have guessed that with each reading, those who remembered him would also see him reciting it before a congregation of First Baptist Church members, even today?
In writing about Dr. Adams, Dr. W. Randall Lolley, former pastor of FBC Greensboro, NC, says that Dr. Adams was a man, “who truly perceived the earth as the ‘windowsill of heaven.’ Every person he met, every event he enjoyed, every experience he knew worked ‘inside/out’ rather than ‘outside/in.’”
May we put into practice these words so dear to Dr. Adams.
The phone rang as I sat to type this page. A man from Norfolk Island who had attended a ‘Catch the Fire’ renewal service held at Tingalpa Uniting Church in Brisbane phoned me to say how he was delighted with the meeting. He said “The worship at that meeting rode the wind like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31).
I had the privilege of speaking there, and found (as seems common now) that stories today of God’s current acts continually illustrate comments from Acts 3:19-21 where Peter called for repentance so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. They still do.
The church was full at that meeting, so after extended times of worship and teaching we stacked the chairs at the sides, leaving room for our prayer team from the Renewal Fellowship to pray for all who desired it. Many did. I prayed for minsters and their wives. The Lord seemed to touch many deeply, as he is doing all over the world. The host minister said later that he could not rise from the floor. While there the Lord spoke clearly into his heart, telling him he was loved just as he was, not for what he did, for he is a child of God.
We continued to worship late into the night with songs of love and compassion, including some spontaneous love songs. The pianist played harmonies as I read from Daniel 7 and Revelation 7 about the majesty and glory of the Lord. That prophetic music not only magnified the reading and exalted the Lord, but ministered powerfully into people’s lives.
The man from Norfolk Island attends the Uniting Church there, where this kind of worship and ministry has been happening recently this year. They had not seen that since the days the island was founded by the Pitcairn people. The church on Norfolk Island began in such revival. People were regularly overwhelmed by the Spirit then as they cried out to God in their need.
Increasing numbers of people now report on these fresh touches of God and the deep refreshing from the Spirit of the Lord.
Is it revival? Most say, not yet. But it may be the beginnings of revival. Church leaders in Argentina now see revival with thousands upon thousands being saved and filled with the Spirit. They say that many churches had these times of renewal and refreshing for five years with increasing intensity until revival broke upon them.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the Baptist prince of preachers who lived through revival in London in the late 1850s, called it a time of ‘glorious disorder’. Revival is unpredictable. Often disturbing. Like Isaiah in the temple (Isaiah 6) we find ourselves overwhelmed, convicted, aware we are unclean, undone, and needing to be made right with God. Just a small touch of the glory of God is unnerving, and obviously beyond anything we can comprehend or control.
However, we can respond. With repentance. With humility. With unity. With prayer. With love for God and one another. With worship.
New dimensions of worship
Many of us are living through further dimensions of worship now. Some of us began experiencing corporate worship in a structured one hour church service. Sometimes the Spirit seemed to move upon us and the singing would take off, the preaching was inspired, and people responded at the altar call for prayer and counselling. That still happens.
Then we began experiencing more of the Lord’s grace (charisma) and power. We longed for fuller, freer worship. People began composing new songs of worship, praise and response, including Scripture in song. Those songs quickly spread worldwide. As with hymns of earlier revivals, the best remain in widespread use. Others fade away. Only a few of Charles Wesley’s 6,000 hymns still remain, but they are great!
Now in further touches of the Spirit we find some of the new songs and old hymns helpful, but limiting. Increasingly we worship with spontaneity. Harmonies and melodies and spontaneous songs blend with the best of the new songs and old hymns in creative expressions of worship.
This year I was able to worship in many places including the Philippines, Ghana, Toronto, Anaheim, and in meetings in Australia from Perth to Brisbane. Often powerful spontaneity found expression in extended worship. Many times we worship in harmonies and Spirit songs for extended periods.
All the revivals I’ve read about experienced this. We will see much more yet.
This issue of the Renewal Journal explores many dimensions of worship. John & Carol Wimber describe intimacy with God. Geoff Bullock reminds us of our mission. Dorothy Mathieson gives prophetic challenge. Robert Tann and Robert Colman explore healing in worship. Lucinda Coleman surveys the history of dance in worship. Stephen Bryar and Stan Everitt comment on the significance of renewal. I reflect on worship in revival.
Worship God (Revelation 22:9). That command in the last chapter of the Bible points the way ahead for us now, and forever.
Blacker, John. 1995.Healing in the Now. Melbourne: Australian Renewal Ministries.
John Blacker has authored this book bringing together his observations and experience from 25 years of ministering in renewal and healing across the body of Christ in Australia. John has served the church as a Methodist and Uniting Church minister and with his wife Val and son Paul has been active in the work of the Australian Renewal Ministries.
The privately published book gives a solid biblical and practical basis for the healing ministry in the church, and is the kind of manual many church groups find useful for training their people in prayer and counselling ministries.
In addition to John’s valuable insights, the Appendix offers useful articles by others. Paul Blacker writes on ‘Healing Pain and Grief’. Dan Armstrong writes on ‘Healing and Evangelism’. Owen Salter’s positive reflections on ‘The Toronto Blessing’ style of ministries is reproduced from On Being. The articles on worship and healing by Robert Tann and Robert Colman, reproduced in this issue of the Renewal Journal are from that Appendix.
This is a significant Australian book on the practical application of the healing ministry in the life of the church. It is available from Australian Renewal ministries, 1 Maxwell Court, Blackburn South, Victoria 3130. Ph. (03) 9877 0103; Fax: (03) 9877 0106 (G.W.)
Kaldor, Peter, et.al. eds. 1994. Winds of Change: the experience of church in a changing Australia. Sydney: Lancer.
Reporting on the National Church Life Survey of Protestant churches in Australia, this book provides a wealth of valuable insights on the significant trends changing the church in our lifetime.
They survey was completed by over 300,000 church attenders in around 8,000 congregations in August 1991.
Some of its quotable quotes:
‘Around 20% of all attenders at church have spoken in tongues, including 30% of 20 to 30 year olds. Nearly half of those speaking in tongues attend nonPentecostal churches. …
‘One in every eight attenders has switched denominations in the past five years. Around 23% of all switching has been from nonPentecostal to Pentecostal denominations, with 9% switching in the opposite direction. …
‘Australia is a nation of small congregations. More than half have fewer than 50 people. At the same time, most growth is occurring in larger congregations. These are particularly attractive to the post World War II generations’ (pp. viiix).
Chapter 6 ‘A Wind Shift Rocking the Churches: The charismatic movement in Australia’ has special interest for those involved in renewal. Some quotes from that chapter:
‘The charismatic movement knows no bounds. It has had an impact in all denominations, all socioeconomic and ethnic groups, and all age groups especially the young.
‘The charismatic movement has been the impetus for some of the most significant and profound changes in church life in recent times. It has gained increasing importance in a range of churches across Australia.
‘One of its key characteristics is that it is in flux: small meetings grow to mega churches, others flourish for a period and then disappear. Change is rapid, even unpredictable; the movement shows no respect for institutional boundaries. Denominations of all shapes and sizes, and waving a wide variety of theological banners, are having to respond in some way. … ‘NonPentecostal tongues speakers are not just concentrated in a few charismatic congregations but spread widely. …
‘There is a relationship between attitudes to speaking in tongues and involvement in congregational life. Those who speak in tongues are more involved, tend to feel a greater sense of belonging or have roles in the congregation. They are also much more likely to feel they are growing in their faith. … ‘Likewise those who speak in tongues are more likely to be involved in evangelistic activities, feel they exert a Christian influence, be happy to talk about their faith or invite others to church. In contrast, they are less likely to be involved in community groups. …
‘It is important to recognise the scale of its impact beyond the Pentecostal churches. Even allowing for Pentecostal groups not involved in the survey, nonPentecostal tongues speakers account for a third of all attenders. Nearly all denominations contain a significant procharismatic sector’ (pp. 7489).
The book, of course, ranges much wider than these issues. It is highly recommended for leaders in churches to become aware of the sweeping changes we are now living through and contributing to. [G.W.]
Kaldor, Peter, et. al. eds. 1995. Views from the Pews. Adelaide: Openbook.
Some general comments covered in this further book by the National Church Life Survey team:
Most church attenders are satisfied with the leadership in their churches, but about a quarter of them think their leaders are out of touch with people in the pew. Pentecostals generally see their minister as the one who provides the vision for the church, but this is not so in some denominational churches.
Pentecostals generally reject liturgical frameworks in worship, such as vestments, prayer books and set liturgies, and a majority of worshippers in mainline churches do not find them helpful.
Generally tongues speakers in all churches have a more literal interpretation of the Bible and hold to more traditional moral values and beliefs. Charismatics in denominational churches and Pentecostals rate highest in having an experience of God which involves healing, believing in evil spirits, and in Bible reading. Answers to prayer seem to be evenly distributed across all groups!
Again, this is a useful book for church leaders to increase awareness of the attitudes and trends in the congregations of all Protestant churches. [G.W.]
Norling, Alan. 1994. Jesus the Baptiser with the Holy Spirit. Sydney: Alken Press.
‘At last a book on the Holy Spirit that is Christ centred!’ comments Brian Willersdorf. ‘Allan Norling has made a most valuable contribution to the subject of “Being baptised in, of, by or with the Holy Spirit” … Allan talks of a “new approach” to the subject, but all he is doing is cutting through the accumulation of church cultures and attitudes to present a well written approach to what the Bible has to say about being filled with the Holy Spirit.’
Described by one writer as a multiwave approach to the subject, this book describes being baptised in or with the Spirit as on going encounters of Jesus with and in the believer.
Allan Norton, summarising his approach, says ‘The “baptism with the Holy Spirit” is shown to be a repeated experience in the life of a Christian believer. Jesus will be seen to be more personally, actively and intimately involved with us in every detailed piece of authentic ministry. We will become aware of Jesus working with us, baptising us afresh with the Holy Spirit, each time He uses us in ministry.’
The book provides an evangelical approach to the mystery and majesty of Jesus’ impact in our lives through his Spirit.
Available from the author, PO Box 219, Beecroft, NSW 2119, Australia (G.W.).
My childhood years were influenced by an orderly and conservative Anglican tradition. Signs and wonders were not for today and any who spoke in tongues were considered extremists belonging to a strange cult. You could imagine the furore when the assistant rector spoke in tongues!
I was converted in 1966 and commenced attending the Salvation Army in 1972. At that time I gave little or no thought to the charismatic question, except that I noticed in my occupation as a funeral director that services conducted in Pentecostal churches were joyful.
My first serious encounter with the charismatic issue occurred during our first appointment in 1980. The Salvation Army was invited to share in an interdenominational campaign, with the key evangelist and speaker an Anglican priest. He was the rector of a rapidly growing church, contrary to the declining trends of other Anglican churches.
A team accompanied him and, as an ecumenical community, we welcomed them at a special tea. I spoke with several team members. One spoke to me concerning my own conversion and then asked me the question, ‘Have you been baptised in the Holy Spirit?’
I had no idea what she was talking about and felt most indignant. My enthusiasm for the campaign dwindled because of the charismatic tone of this group.
As the week went on, I noticed a freshness and vitality about their Christian faith that I had rarely witnessed. They had something I didn’t have and I reacted with anger. I sought to find fault with them, an attitude which they responded to with love and humility.
I believed that divisions were caused by charismatic people. It was bad enough that the Anglican church had been infiltrated. Imagine my horror when I learned that there were charismatic Christians even in the Salvation Army!
In 1987 we reluctantly accepted an invitation for our corps cadets (youth Bible group) to lead a worship meeting at a neighbouring corps which had a strong charismatic flavour. Much to my surprise, the meeting was a delight to lead. The same freshness and vitality that I had witnessed in 1980 was present in that meeting. There was a real body ministry present in that corps.
I returned later to our own corps and sat in on a meeting. The contrast between the two congregations was clearly evident and for the first time I was confronted with the question I had so long wanted to avoid. These people whom I considered so strange had something that was lacking in my own Christian life and ministry and in the lives of Christians in general.
The years following were difficult for our family. By the end of 1990 I was broken both spiritually and emotionally. Yet again I was requested to lead a meeting of worship in another corps that had a charismatic emphasis. I had never felt so hypocritical in my life. Here I was leading worship of a group of people who had a love and passion for God that was absent in my own life.
Their faith was fresh and enthusiastic. That day was 7 July 1991 and later that evening I knelt down in our sitting room and asked God to make me clean. He answered my prayer! The purity and cleanliness of the Holy Spirit flooded through my innermost being to every joint in my body. I wanted to get up and skip and dance. I loved God and I loved everything around me.
That night I was baptised in the Holy Spirit. Almost overnight I found myself on the other side of the charismatic fence and the question took on a new dimension.
The division is sad and I am not so naive as to suggest that charismatic Christians have not contributed. However to blame charismatic people almost exclusively is, as I have discovered, inaccurate and untrue.
Many non‑charismatic Christians have claimed to be made to feel inferior, confused and hurt and I don’t doubt this to be the case.
The other side of the coin has been feeling shut out; accused of having an experience of the devil; being told I am a ‘weirdo’ ‑ and I have even had invitations to lead worship mysteriously withdrawn.
The charismatic question is more than simply the unwanted intrusion of charismatic Christians into the life and style of a non‑charismatic church. If we look at it in that light we tread on very dangerous ground as we are effectively limiting the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Every denomination has charismatic Christians who speak in tongues. So if we are serious in wanting God’s kingdom to be advanced, rather than divided, we need to understand the charismatic question rather than simply condemn it.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is one that raises many issues, such as full salvation, sanctification, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. The title we give it is not important; the experience is important.
All four Gospels record the promise that Jesus will baptise with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). Jesus himself promises that we will be baptised in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5), a promise not limited to the believers at Pentecost (Acts 8:17; 9:17; 10.44 and 11:16; 19:6).
Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the activation and release of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer (Acts 1:8). The disciples received the Holy Spirit on the evening of the resurrection day (John 20:22). Likewise we too receive the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion (Romans 8:9; Galatians 3:2; 1 John 3:24). However, the Holy Spirit’s release in our lives, although possible and in fact desirable at the time of our conversion, is quite a separate experience.
Scripture indicates that the release of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer may be at the time of conversion (Acts 10:44) and also on later occasions (John 20:22; Acts 2:1‑4; 8:12‑17; 9:3‑19; 19:1‑6).
The founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth testified to this fact in a letter to Dunedin Hall corps reproduced in a Christian Mission Paper in 1869:
I desire to give a few brief practical hints, and, first and foremost, I commend one qualification which seems to involve all others. That is the Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Ghost. I would have you settle it in your souls for ever, this one great immutable principle in the economy of grace, the spiritual work can only be done by those who possess spiritual power.
I would not have you think that I imagine for a moment that you have not the Spirit. By your fruits I know you have. No men could do the works that are being done in your midst except God was with them. But how much more might be done had you all received this Pentecostal baptism in all its fullness!
Experience in the last 300 years, with various revivals, testifies to baptism in the Holy Spirit being a distinct and separate experience and together with signs and wonders has been a common part of revival.
It is interesting to look at the growth, in the last 90 years, of the Pentecostal/charismatic churches which give particular emphasis to baptism in the Holy Spirit.
In the early part of the 20th century 34.4 per cent of the world population were practising Christians. Of this number 3,700,00 were Pentecostal which was less than one per cent of practising Christians.
In 1995, 33.7 per cent (over 1291 million) of the world population were practising Christians. However, significantly, of this number over 460 million (approximately one third) were Pentecostal/charismatics. Between 1980 and 1995 the worldwide number of Pentecostal/charismatic Christians rose from 158 million to more than 460 million (Statistics from David Barrett in World Christian Encyclopedia and annual reports in International Bulletin of Missionary Research).
In his book about religious beliefs in Australia entitled Many Faiths One Nation, Ian Gillman observes that in Australia the Pentecostal movement grew by 200 per cent between 1972 and 1984. He further noted that the growth in Pentecostal/charismatic churches between 1976 and 1981 was 87.9 percent, which is 75 per cent higher than the nearest traditional denomination.
These trends, I imagine, would be similar in other countries. As we ponder on these figures of fruitfulness for the Kingdom of God, the words of Jesus (Acts 1:5) promising the baptism in the Holy Spirit for all believers, need to be understood and appropriated.
Perhaps the most critical point is the assertion by many Pentecostals that the initial sign for being baptised in the Holy Spirit is to speak in tongues. From a biblical perspective, I believe there is overwhelming and compelling evidence that in the early church, the initial signs of baptism in the Holy Spirit was to speak in tongues (Mark 16:17; Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6).
Two other accounts do not directly indicate that they spoke in tongues ‑ Acts 8:17; 9:17. In the first account something observable happened, even though not the signs and wonders which occurred earlier in Acts 8:6,7.
According to many reputable Bible scholars this observable sign was speaking in tongues. In the account of Acts 9:17 when Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit, although it does not say specifically that he spoke in tongues there and then, we do know that he did speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18).
With this Biblical perspective, what about today? Is it possible to be baptised in the Holy Spirit and not speak in tongues? My own opinion is an overwhelming Yes!
Many Christians, spiritual giants with powerful ministries, have never spoken in tongues. I personally did not receive the gift of tongues until some months after the experience of baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Michael Harper shares this view and gives three reasons why people baptised in the Spirit may not speak in tongues:
Firstly, not knowing: I did not know how to speak in tongues. In fact, I believed the Holy Spirit spoke through me. I often had the urge to praise God with strange syllables but stopped myself because it wasn’t what I believed was speaking in tongues. When I finally discovered that I had to speak, the unknown language flowed.
Secondly, fear: unfortunately tongues has been misused in the past as was the case with the Corinthian church. This has caused genuine fear in some people.
Thirdly, prejudice: some are blatantly against speaking in tongues. They hear negative things about it and so are brought up, as I was, to reject it.
I would add a further reason and that is there are many who are not personally opposed, and are happy for others to have the gift, but don’t wish to appropriate it for themselves.
Another very contentious issue is whether tongues is universal for all Spirit‑filled Christians? I believe that tongues, although not appropriated by all Spirit‑filled Christians, is an available gift. I base this on a number of reasons.
Firstly, it is a glorious gift that deepens prayer life and relationship with the Lord. I have also witnessed many answers to prayers in tongues. I find it difficult to believe that God would give such spiritual benefits to some and not to all.
Secondly, speaking in tongues and praying in the Spirit are clearly identified as the same in 1 Corinthians 14:2, 13‑18. There are a number of references in Scripture to ‘praying in the Spirit’ and each appears to point to a universal use of tongues, for example, Romans 8:26; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20.
In the book of Acts where believers prayed in tongues after being filled with the Spirit, it does not say some prayed in tongues. It is more probable that all prayed in tongues.
Thirdly, the main biblical objection to the universal use of tongues, it is claimed, is found in 1 Corinthians 12:10 – ‘to another, speaking in different kinds of tongues’. On initial reading this would appear to be the case. The argument hinges on the different Greek words use for another.
In this passage the word ‘another’ appears eight times, but it translates two quite different Greek words. The Greek words are allos ‑ meaning ‘another of the same kind’ and heteros ‑ meaning ‘another of a different kind’. So the passage reads: ‘to another (allos) the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another (heteros) faith by the same Spirit, to another (allos) gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another (allos) miraculous power, to another (allos) prophecy, to another (allos) distinguishing between spirits, to another (heteros) speaking in different kinds of tongues, to still another (allos) the interpretation of tongues.’
For all gifts, except faith and tongues, Paul uses the Greek allos. For faith and tongues he uses heteros. No one would suggest that only some have faith because the gift of faith is different. Similarly, we cannot claim that because heteros is used, the gift of tongues is only available to some.
Likewise, there are two kinds of tongues. C. Peter Wagner describes these differences as private tongues and public tongues. Private tongues is a personal prayer language, whereas public tongues, which 1 Corinthians 12 speaks about, is one which can be used publicly with accompanying interpretation.
Finally, the aspect charismatic people must beware of is spiritual pride. We have been saved, and are what we are, purely by the grace of God and none of us, charismatic or non‑charismatic, has anything to boast about (Ephesians 2:8,9).
A timely warning was given by Charles Widdowson:
Don’t go overboard with the power and the gifts at the expense of the person and the fruit. I want to underline that in the early days of the charismatic movement in the late sixties and early seventies, all you heard about was the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. We heard very, very, little, comparatively, about Jesus and love. Now that has been balanced, I believe. We’ve got to keep our eyes on Jesus. We have the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is love and nothing of the power is to be exercised apart from the fruit of the Spirit which is love.
I endorse these remarks. Any gift possessed and exercised without love amounts to nothing, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13.
Something of William Booth’s own attitude to gift of the Spirit can be gauged from the following letter, published in The East London Evangelist, 1 April 1869:
Letter from William Booth
TO THE BRETHREN AND SISTERS LABOURING FOR JESUS
in connection with the
Dunedin Hall Christian Mission, Edinburgh
BELOVED FRIENDS ‑ Though I have not been privileged to see you in the flesh, yet I have heard with great thankfulness from time to time of your work of faith and labour of love: and I rejoice greatly in the abundant blessing granted to your labours, and bless God for every brand plucked from the everlasting through your instrumentality. I earnestly pray that you may be made a hundredfold more useful in the future than you have been in the past. The work in which you are engaged is the most important that can engage the attention or call forth the energies of any being…
Success in soul‑winning, like all other work, both human and divine, depends on certain conditions… If you want to succeed you must be careful to comply with these conditions…
I desire to give a few brief practical hints…And, first and foremost, I commend one qualification which seems to involve all others. That is, the Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Ghost. I would have you settle it in your souls for ever this one great immutable principle in the economy of grace, that spiritual work can only be done by those who possess spiritual power. No matter what else you may lack, or what may be against you, with the Holy Ghost you will succeed; but without the Holy Spirit, no matter what else you may possess, you will utterly and eternally fail.
Many make mistakes here. Aroused by the inward urgings of the Holy Spirit, they endeavour to comply with the call which comes from the word and the necessities of their fellow men; but being destitute of this power, they fail, and instead of going to the Strong for strength, they give up in despair. Again aroused, again they resolve and venture forth, but having no more power than before, they are as impotent as ever. And fail they must, until baptised with power from on high.
This I am convinced, is the one great need of the Church. We want no new truths, agencies, means, or appliances. We only want more of the fire of the Holy Ghost. …
O what zeal, what self‑denial, what meekness, what boldness, what holiness, what love, would there not be? And with all this, what power for your great work? The whole city would feel it. God’s people in every direction would catch the fire, and sinners would fall on every side. Difficulties would vanish, devils be conquered, infidels believe, and the glory of God be displayed…
You do desire to see signs and wonders wrought in the name of Jesus. To see a great awakening among the careless crowds around you…
This baptism then, is your first great need. If you think with me, will you not tarry for it? Offer yourselves to God for the fullness. Lay aside every weight…
Hold on! Though your feelings are barren, your way dark, and your difficulties be multiplied, steadily hang on the word of God.
Expect the baptism every hour; wait if he tarry. ‘This kind goeth not forth but by prayer and fasting’; and the Lord whom you seek shall suddenly come to his temple.
I have more to say to you, but must wait another opportunity. Yours in the fellowship of the Gospel.
These are strong words. Every Christian today needs this baptism in the Holy Spirit. We must, if we are serious about the kingdom of God, teach this to our people and pray for revival power to return to our church communities.
Renewal in the Church
by Stan Everitt
Lieutenant Colonel Stan Everitt wrote as the Divisional Commander of the Salvation Army, South Queensland Division.
God’s Holy Spirit is being
poured out upon his people
‘In the last days I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.’
I am not sure if these are the last days, but I know God’s Holy Spirit is being poured out upon his people, bringing new life to the individual and eventually to his church.
Looking back on thirty years in ministry, there is no doubt in my mind that we have entered a time of spiritual renewal which, I believe, is but the beginning of a mighty worldwide renewal. As I see it, the priorities of many Christian are moving on to Bible study, prayer, and concern for the unconverted. This is happening amongst my own people as they become aware of the fact that the promise given so long ago is for each of them as individual people.
The testimony of a new Christian strengthened my belief that the Spirit of God is at work when I heard her say, ‘Knowing nothing about the Holy Spirit, I was nevertheless made aware of a new overwhelming sense of God’s presence, bringing a peace that I have never known before.’
While the organised church becomes more and more caught up in discussion on doctrinal matters and liturgical processes, individual church members are responding to the challenge of the Holy Spirit to strengthen their own faith, and in doing so, being able to communicate better with needy people in the community who are hungering for the Word of God.
As a believer, there is no doubt in my mind that the true worldwide church of God (whatever tag sections of it may wear because of traditional and doctrinal stances) will never be abolished. The true church in many developing countries founded upon the risen Lord is growing by thousands every day and is yet to have its more glorious era, as the name of Jesus is uplifted.
Although there are signs of corporate renewal, most churches in the so-called western countries, particularly in Australia, have become so much like the organised religion of Jesus’ day that our effectiveness in the community is minimal.
One gets the feeling that a monumental percentage of the clergy’s time is spent on administration and, in the light of eternity, things that are so insignificant. This is at the cost of deepening one’s spiritual life and the pastoral ministry to our people and the needs of the community.
All is not lost, I believe, but it seems that in so many places the individual Christian, often without any help from the pastor or priest, is setting the pace in areas which should be the concern of the organised church, and areas in which Jesus would be ministering if he were here in person.
In conclusion, I make a plea that we, as church leaders, might humble ourselves in God’s presence, and pray that the promise made so long ago might become a reality in our lives, making us more dependent upon the Holy Spirit than upon the organisation and ritual of the structured church of the ’90s.
Several decades ago, A. W. Tozer said, “Worship is the missing jewel in the Christian Church’. In some ways things have changed since Tozer wrote those words. Over the past 25 years the Holy Spirit has been renewing his church in a remarkable way and bringing Christians everywhere a new understanding of the meaning and importance of worship. We have a way to go though, if we are to follow the words of Jesus to ‘worship the Father in spirit and in truth’.
Our primary task in life is to worship God. Deep within everyone there is an urge to worship. It was placed there by God. If we do not worship the Most High God, then we will worship ourselves, or an extension of ourselves, for we MUST worship.
Our greatest challenge is that we intellectualize God. We allow him access to the mind, but steadfastly resist any approach by God to our emotions or our bodies. Why do we find it difficult to express ourselves with our emotions and bodies in worship? When sin came into the world through Adam and Eve, so did embarrassment, self-consciousness, wrong kinds of self-awareness, lust, and so on. When Jesus died on the cross, he died for the shame which put us in bondage to self-consciousness. Only through him can we experience total freedom in our emotions and bodies.
William Temple, the great Anglican theologian, said, ‘Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose’, and I would add ‘and the surrender of our bodies to his total freedom’.
We are the ones who prevent God working in his wholeness in us. True worship can only take place when we agree to God sitting not only on his throne in the centre of the universe but on the throne that stands in the centre of our heart.
The work of Christ in redemption has one great end – it is to save humanity and restore us to the joy of knowing true worship. Adam and Eve enjoyed that when they walked with God in the cool of the Garden before the Fall. Our major problem when it comes to worship is our sinful self-centeredness. Sin consists in maintaining self in the centre of our lives, the place that God actually reserves for himself. When God no longer occupies the centre of our being, then we become the centre – we become god! And that other god is called ‘I’.
Invaded by God
Unless the central core of our being is invaded by God and maintained by him, then there can be no proper object on which to focus our worship. Many of us are caught up in an inner fight with ourselves because we never understood that to become the person God wants us to be, we must stop fighting ourselves, and surrender to God. Then he can come in, take up his rightful place in the centre of our lives, and rule and reign as Lord. Unless we surrender totally to God then the inevitable result will be inner conflict and disharmony. Our human ego functions best when it functions in harmony with God, for, left to itself it becomes a dangerous and damaging force.
What does God require? The answer is quite simple, and yet so deeply profound – self-surrender. This is the joyful exchange of an egocentric, sinful self for a God-centred self made whole. It is in fact a swap – our life for his and his life for us.
Romans 12:1 says, ‘Therefore, I urge you … in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
We need to exercise our will in deciding to accept the freedom Jesus offers. He never makes us feel silly or proud. Satan’s insidious voice speaks to our fallen nature, the part that feels silly and proud. We need to resist him and claim our victory in Christ.
Then, when we learn to express ourselves to God, with body, emotions, mind, will and spirit, we will enjoy a continuing, freeing experience. We don’t stifle our emotions; then they don’t get bottled up inside. And we begin to gain more confidence. Our self-image benefits and we become more aware of others. Jesus takes us out of our self-awareness, and we reach out to others, to communicate with them and be more sensitive to them.
Remember that our healing starts with our personal time with the Lord. It’s there that we can be free with God alone and after spending time alone with him, we can become more free with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Both are essential to know complete healing. Worship then becomes our whole life, involving all our being.
Paul summarises this well in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, ‘May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.