Look Full in His Wonderful Face (Sept – Dec 1994)

By Matt Dabbs

by Jeff Nelson
September – December, 1994

The first time I heard someone say, “I’m looking for ‘in-your-face worship’!” I was startled. I have great respect for the person who said this but I thought the terminology was too strong for reference to a holy encounter with God. I know that someday we will see him “face to face,” but to put eyes, ears, and a mouth on Yahweh at this time seemed offensive to his deity. The words sank in, though, and I have pondered them many times since I heard them. Has God ever suggested that he wants us in his face when we worship so we can look each other in the eye? Has God come close enough for us to envision his face? He probably would have our undivided attention and the encounter would certainly make a remarkable impact if we knew we were making eye contact with the Holy One of Israel.

Our worship team was on a retreat recently and I stumbled across a scripture that so vividly brought this image to life that I can’t stop thinking about it, or talking about it. The retreat was a transforming weekend of worship. We had been trying to clear our schedules for some time and finally landed on a date that most of us could attend. We were at a ranch in East Texas where the only audible sounds were those God made through nature. The beautiful, tall pines surrounding a serene lake stood in awe of their Creator. No city noise, no phone calls, no deadlines, no clock-watching. A time set aside to do nothing but let God speak. And speak he did.

We covered all of the agenda items that I had planned, such as learning new songs, discussing our theology and journey of worship, talking about what a worship team should and should not be, etc. We felt God’s presence in all that we did, but as our mouths began to close and our hearts began to open, his presence and voice became much more obvious. We sat outside at night and gazed at the vibrant stars that are washed out by the city lights where we live. We worshipped and shared with each other for hours. I told the story of my journey of worship, about the freedom and closeness I have found when no man-made restrictions are present. I asked each member of the worship team to tell of his or her own journey. For some it was expressing gratitude for the new-found freedom; for others it was the frustration of searching for that freedom. Others talked of the fear of releasing the comfort of traditional worship for something unknown to them. The moments were pregnant with meaning as both hearts and tears flowed freely.

Oh yes, the scripture! It was 2 Chronicles 7:14-16:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.

It was a familiar passage that I had read many times and heard used as a prayer scripture for the nation, but I never saw this certain phrase jump out before—“seek my face.” Wow! He does want worship to be so close as to experience not only his presence, but his face. So, a worshipper longing for “in-your-face worship” no longer seemed offensive or intrusive. It seemed appropriate. And more than that it seemed invited and welcomed.

As I let the entirety of the verses sink in, I realized this was solid worship theology. Contemplating one phrase at a time, I saw a pattern laid out here that, even though I didn’t realize it, has been the foundation for the most meaningful moments of worship I have ever experienced. Too often, I have given man credit for establishing such an effective order of events to encounter God in a transforming way and now I see that it was His idea all along. We just experience the blessing when we land on such a solid pattern for worship. Look how God instructs us to approach worship. He makes it conditional for our sake. If we will, he will. If we do our part, then he will do his. And what he will do is exactly what we need. He makes some profound implications through some very simple concepts. Children understand these conditional suggestions. They modify behavior very effectively. Look at the jewels seen here as each phrase is isolated:

If my people, who are called by my name… This identifies who we are. We must approach worship knowing who we are and to whom we belong. God has laid his claim on our lives, and we now wear his name. We are the set-apart people, the God-fearing Christians under the lordship of Jesus Christ. I want to be known by no other name than his.

Will humble themselves… Trying to enter worship with a heart full of pride is a sure way to strike out. No worship will travel to God or from God unless the worshipper’s heart is in a humble state.

And pray… We don’t just stand before God and say, “OK, God, here I am. I’m doing what you told me. “I’m talking to you. Now do your part.” Prayer is the language of communication that establishes a real relationship with God, who greatly desires the nearness of his people. Prayer is the avenue of communication once the heart is humbled. The prayer of a heart full of pride goes no farther than the roof. But the prayer of a humble heart echoes through the chambers of God’s heart for eternity.

And seek my face… This is the most revealing aspect of God’s desire for our worship. He doesn’t say, “Seek my hands,” or “Seek my heart,” or “Seek my feet as you bow before me.” He says, “Seek my face. Look me in the eye. Get in my face so we can see each other.” He wants intimate worship. He wants eye contact. And you know, when looking eye to eye, you cannot tell a lie. When you are looking in his eyes you will be able to tell God nothing but the truth, either about him or yourself. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” He wants your complete attention when you are involved in worshipping him.

And turn from their wicked ways… Worship offers the transforming power of changing something from the way it is to the way it should be. As we’re in the midst of face-to-face worship, he asks us to turn, to repent, to confess, to allow the evil in our lives to be changed by him for something he can make good. We cannot experience life-changing worship and continue to live a wicked lifestyle. Turning is prerequisite for the next step.

Then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin… What a cleansing thought! When we accept his prescription, forgiveness is the natural result following confession and repentance. What better state to live in than to be forgiven! But wait, there’s more.

And will heal their land… Does this mean if the ground is not fruitful God will supply the missing nutrients? I don’t think so. I believe he means in general that which needs healing will be healed. My tendency would be to rush to the promise of healing every time the clock strikes “worship,” but God knows for our own good we must not jump to the “pot of gold” without first experiencing the rainbow. We allow his journey to unfold. We join him and find ourselves different, more pure, more like Jesus—healed, after being lost in him. A promise of healing is there for every believer when his blueprint for worship is followed. Wow!

Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place… I wonder if we have so ritualistically approached worship from our pious perceived doctrinal accuracy that we actually offer a “freeze-dried” worship service to a God with closed eyes and ears. My prayer is that our worship will invigorate our spirits so that the eyes and ears of God are opened wider than ever. What a comforting thought to rest securely in knowing his eyes and ears are attentive to our prayers.

I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever… How many idols that crowd out the Name who established the temple do we drag into worship? Pray for His Name to be so highly revered that false gods are checked at the door and forgotten once his Name is lifted above all others.

My eyes and my heart will always be there… There aren’t many constants in this life. But one thing I know: The Lord is in His Holy Temple. No evil force or act of congress can remove him. Even more exciting and yet a protective responsibility: He has told me my body is also his temple. Does that mean that this pattern is not only a foundation for corporate worship, but also for the worship that daily occupies my heart? His people answer with a resounding, “Amen!”

The spiritual renewal that is spreading across the globe is only beginning. We have only seen the tip of the iceberg. The more receptive we are to what God is doing, the more iceberg we will see.

On our retreat God reminded us that the iceberg is enormous, but he will continue to reveal if we are spiritually ready to receive. Later in the weekend we took a walk down to the lake, and I told everyone to take their Bible and note pad. I asked each person to find a place by themselves and spend some time in the Word and personal prayer and meditation. Then, as they felt the time was right, I asked them to write down what they believed God would say to them about their journey of worship if he were actually writing. After a lengthy period of time, I called them to a nice green, grassy area near the shore. The mood was quiet, yet full of contained emotion. I think each of us knew we were taking another tiny step toward spiritual maturity. We shared our thoughts and words and prayed for each other at the completion of each one. The time that we allowed for intimate worship took us to depths unknown by the hurried heart. In these moments, seeking God’s face was not an abstract assignment but a concrete reality. I want to share a few quotes from the hearts of our worship team as they sensed God’s personal touch.

    • “There is so much about me that you don’t know. Your eyes see only what is directly before you. I want to lead you into new dimensions of who I Am. You are beginning to taste a very small part of me through worship. My people through the ages have poured their souls into worshipping me… the great I Am. When you open your spirit, your mind, your soul to me in praise and worship… I can begin to fill your life with who I Am… lover, friend, Counselor, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Redeemer, Savior, Omnipotent. You like to travel in realms you can see… where it is safe… please come to me in worship and we will journey the road together hand in hand.”
  • “I want you to listen; don’t say anything. Your intentions are loving and good. I love you. As you continue your journey, let me help you with some ideas that will allow you to experience me in a way you have never thought of before. I want you to slow down. My words to you teach of love and peace, and you can’t do that as well at the speed in which you live and think. Surround yourself with my people, they will help you. Allow yourself to be accountable to them. Tell them your weaknesses. Talk to me, on your knees, that helps your spirit and attitude, search yourself, and understand that I am in you.”

 

  • “Start being yourself more, my child. I am the flawless Creator. I am God. I made you and I long for you to be fully you. I long for your personality to flourish and be nourished and glorify me.”

 

  • “I will never leave you or turn away from you. I know you feel like I’m far away, but I’m not. I’m waiting patiently for your return with arms opened wide. Please don’t turn away. I love you, and I want to spend time with you and I want you to spend time with me alone to get to know me more. There’s so much I want to show you, so much I want to tell you, if you will let me. I want you to worship me with your whole heart—a heart free from worry and pain. Please don’t worry, because I will take care of everything.”

 

  • “Worship is a way of life. You used to think worship was just what you did at church. I’m now telling you to express worship in a new manner—joy, happiness, and even physical worship. Until this year, you didn’t know about a physical side to worship. You sat solemnly on the pew and worshipped only from your mind. I am now showing you how to express worship physically. Worship is praising me—bowing down before me. Jumping and clapping with me as you sing a song. Talking with me in quiet prayer, weeping. Worship is showing your emotions. Worship is kneeling your body and heart to me and surrendering yourself to me. Worship is finally letting me take care of you.”

 

  • “Worship me the way nature does. Not by putting up barriers, or worrying about who else is around you. Flowers bloom, trees grow, and rivers run all of which glorify me by doing what I created them to do. Come and worship me with a pure heart. Trust me to remove the things that do not belong. And my Holy Spirit will make your soul bloom and grow until, just like the rest of my creation, the beauty that glorifies me cannot be hidden.”

 

  • “How I love to hear you sing praises to me! I created you for that reason! When you were in your mother’s womb I gave you a precious gift… I put music in your heart and on your lips! And then I waited. I’ll never forget the first time your tiny voice sang of my name… ‘Jesus loves me, this I know…’ The angels joined in with you on that day. I do love you, child. There is so much that I have to teach you, so many ways I want to fill you. I sing over you every day—beautiful melodies full of the message of my love for you. I’m waiting for you to hear my song. If you will just listen and draw near to the voice that you hear. My arms are stretched open ready to hold you close. As you seek to know me, I will reveal myself to you most in times of worship. And I want you to know that you have no restrictions… I give you total freedom. All I want is all of you.”

 

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Surely the presence of the Lord was in that place the weekend of our retreat. We now pray for and anticipate “in-your-face worship.” We want to see God and experience his presence to the fullest. He has never put the restrictions on worship that we have. He is always ready for us. Are we ready for him? Through His Word, His Spirit, and His Presence we have so much to learn and experience. He is the Master Teacher. As a teacher or parent would say when wanting to get a point across, “Look at me when I’m talking to you.” His eyes are always fixed. They don’t wander. His gaze is upon you. Where is your gaze?

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth
will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Helen H Lemmel © 1922 Singspiration MusicWineskins Magazine

Jeff Nelson

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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