Are you ready for your kissing lesson?
If you’re puzzled by that question, you’ll want to read the previous post - Ready? or not? - in which I shared a 2018 admission: I was not adequately prepared to live into a vision of an extended backpack trip with my brother. I lacked supplies, knowledge, and endurance.
That image led us into an exploration of another vision, and the resultant question: am I ready to live into the heavenly worship setting described in Revelation, the gathering of the saints around the throne of God? That is a more humbling admission of being unprepared.
How do we get better at worship? Just showing up with the saints more frequently won’t be enough. As our culture has become more consumer-oriented, so have our worship gatherings. Yes, you may want to be fed by the Pastor’s messages, or to feel the power of the Holy Spirit in the music. But we must remember – it’s not about you. Worship is about giving of ourselves to God, not about receiving what we want.
Since the root of the primary New Testament word for worship means “to kiss”, we are called
to worship God by kissing him, an intentional -- and sometimes communal – display of affection and devotion, worthy of his name and his honor.
Nice idea, but what does that mean? I’m always looking for practical ways of putting legs on lofty concepts, which is why acronyms can be helpful. Here is our KISSing lesson, four ways of making the practice of worship simple and memorable:
K – Kneel
Kneeling is first, a foundational act of alignment. We re-orient the relationship with God; we affirm his honor and his role in all of creation as well as our own.
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
We periodically realign the wheels in our cars. Kneeling in our spirit helps us to realign our hearts, forsaking our idols and our misguided priorities. In doing so, we return again to the one who loves us, whom we have pledged to follow. Whether you bow your head and heart, or physically get on your knees – become familiar with the act. Everyone will kneel before Jesus in heaven.
I – Incline your ear
Listen up! Yes, bring your prayers to God, but be sure to lean in closer to hear from him. If my people would only listen to me; if Israel would only follow my ways…. Inclining your ear is more than listening to a sermon. Come into God’s presence with an anticipation that he will speak: through the reading of his word, through a conversation with another believer, or by an inner prompting from the Holy Spirit. The Lord speaks today, and will speak in heaven. Shema – Hear O Israel!
S – Sacrifice
It’s easy to conclude that the Old Testament practice of bringing a sacrifice to worship is no longer required. But you’re wrong. True, God doesn’t want a ewe, but he does want you.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
God seeks to transform how you think, which means giving up your worship preferences and perspectives to be in line with his. Let’s get practical: Can you imagine critiquing the music that will be sung in heaven? I didn’t think so. So step down from your lofty perch, standing above or apart and analyzing the worship songs and the message. Ask God to help you see things as he does.
God seeks to transform how you live. In Isaiah 6 we read of a time he was given a vision of heaven, with God seated on the throne. Isaiah’s response? The simple statement Here I am. Send me. Sacrificing our abilities, our time, and our resources to God as he prompts us, instead of clinging to them for our comfort – that is the heart of worship. And that’s the path to which Jesus calls us to follow.
S – Sing
Whether you like it or not, singing is the language of worship.
Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord, with the harp and the sound of singing.
We are instructed to use this language, and it’s therapeutic. God designed us in such a way that singing gives breath to our souls.
Yes, I know. Not everyone is blessed with a pleasant voice. But you have been blessed with something else – the device with which you’re reading this article. You have many apps at your fingertips that play your favorite choruses or hymns. Pull one up on YouTube along with the lyrics, and sing along the best you can. You’ll get a new voice in heaven, but this will assist you until that day.
Kneel Incline your ear Sacrifice Sing
We get ready for the vision of heavenly worship by KISSing God.
We kiss God in private, in our personal time alone with him.
But we also kiss God as we assemble with other believers. Over the last fifty years, the people of God have been diverted from this practice by our priorities and preferences, as well as by the pandemic in the last couple of years. We can be thankful for live-streamed services, for sure, and recliners are far more comfortable than rows of chairs. But we must remember that worship is not about our comfort.
Which brings us to the closing question: What will it take for me to get ready for heavenly worship?
To prepare for the backpack trip, I began some activities that I had never done and frankly, didn’t like: exercising regularly and running. I even entered in, trained for, and finished a half-marathon, thirteen miles. It was grueling – but I grew to love it.
Why did I start some new habits? I wanted to look Doug and Ben in the face as we started our hike and say: I’ve been getting ready for this! And I am so excited.
What are you willing to do to prepare for the heavenly worship gathering? Will you begin to do some things that aren’t in line with your personal preferences? Will you practice and grow in your kissing skills?
Yes, you will look Jesus in the eye someday, standing around the throne with believers of every tribe, nation and tongue. How wonderful it will be to say: I’ve been getting ready for this! And I am so excited.
Benediction of Blessing (repeating last week’s)
May God give you the ability to see the biblical descriptions of worship in Revelation as visions of a reality that awaits you.
May God give you the courage to look honestly at your present worship patterns from Jesus’ perspective.
May you sense a compassionate smile on Jesus’ face as you ask him to help you learn to KISS him more thoughtfully.
* The verses quoted in the acronym are: Psalm 95:6-7; Psalm 81:13; Romans 12:1-2; Psalm 96:1-2; Psalm 98:4-5.
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM