Wineskins Archive

January 22, 2014

Hope Network Newsletter: Worthy (Jul – Aug 1993)

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Hope Network Newsletter

by Tim Curtis
July – August, 1993

NOTE: Rubel Shelly spoke boldly on the topic of “The Priority of Worship” at the Wineskins dinner during the “Church That Connects II” seminar in Dallas recently. He emphasized the need for worship to be the top priority in the life of the church. Noting that we sometimes put other noble causes before worship, Shelly clearly stated that other noble causes find more success and even more nobility following the priority of worship and not preempting it. I strongly suggest you order the tape and let church leaders and members ponder its merit. Order from Hope Network, 12801 N. Central Expressway, Suite 1560, Dallas, Texas 75243.

The following article was submitted by Tim Curtis from Tallahassee, Florida. I read it soon after I heard Rubel’s address, and felt it was timely and relevant, making a case for the priority of worship in each of our lives. Thank you, Tim, for bringing worship close to home. Thank you, Rubel, for piercing hearts and pricking ears. And thank you, God, for revealing more of your mercy so we find new ways to worship, and the opportunity to keep moving the importance of worship back to the top of the list.

– Lynn Anderson, feature editor

17After a few minutes at the table for our weekly lunch together, I could tell something wasn’t quite right. “You seem a little tired today, Mike. Feeling okay?”

“Yeah, sort of; well, not really.” Mike seemed to be entering that zone where you don’t really want to talk about something, but are glad that you can.

“There’s nothing wrong,” Mike said with a sheepish smile. “It’s just that I had the most bizarre dream last night, and I wasn’t able to go back to sleep for a long time. I’m starting to drag a little.”

“One of those dreams where you run in slow motion, or suddenly realize you’re standing in a crowded room with no clothes on?” I joked.

“No, not this time,” Mike said with a real smile. He was relaxed now and ready to tell me his story.

“I know this sounds strange, but I dreamed that I was an old man watching my own funeral. My life had gone on pretty much as I would like for it to. I had enjoyed good health, success in my job; Joyce and I remained close and all the kids turned out great.

“There were a lot of people at the funeral, and they sincerely were sad to see me gone. Friends from church had done just what I knew they would do, or will do someday. They were there for my family, supporting them – I suppose inadequately – but really in the only way people can in those situation.”

As Mike paused while the waitress sat our drinks on the table and took our orders, I wondered where he was going with this. It is amazing how something so brief as a dream can sometimes drag into a long story as all of the sensations are described. But I was intrigued by what Mike had to say, and was glad when the waitress left and he was able to continue.

“I saw all of this for only a moment, because I found myself standing before God in what I somehow knew was the judgment scene. It was weird. I felt both afraid of what he would see as he reviewed my life, but at the same time comforted in his presence.

“He spoke to me, but I don’t remember hearing a voice. I guess I just knew the thoughts he wanted to share with me. I don’t think I’ll ever forget what I heard. He asked me, ‘Did you not bring anyone with you? I had hoped that you would.’”

I was glad Mike did not pause long enough for me to reply. What could I have said?

“I could tell he was disappointed,” Mike said. “He told me, ‘You were in that world for such a long time, as you count time. I brought so many people into your life that I was counting on you to tell about me. I love them too and want them to be with us. Why didn’t you tell them?’

“Dave, I never felt so alone in all my life. I couldn’t answer, all I could do was cry. But he knew the answer even before he asked the question.”

“Wow!” I interrupted. “No wonder you couldn’t sleep much after that. I can imagine how fearful it must be standing before God with such guilt.”

“No, you don’t understand,” Mike said as he leaned forward in his chair. “It wasn’t like that at all. He told me, again without speaking, to come in! I don’t remember any pearly gates or stuff like that, but I knew I was about to enter heaven. And as he took my hand he said, ‘My child, it is the mark of blood on your forehead that gains admittance for all who come into my world. Whether you come empty handed or accompanied by ten thousand others whose souls you have led to me, it doesn’t matter. Because of the blood, I forgive you of all your faults.’

“You see, Dave, I never was really afraid. But my heart felt like it had been sliced open.” I could see how much this meant to Mike when his eyes moistened.

“You know that description of God that Isaiah saw in his dream? Well, mine wasn’t exactly like that, but I felt the same kind of sensations. I can’t think of words strong enough to express it, but I could just feel his majesty and his glory.

“Dave, he deserved more. It’s like I had somehow diminished his pleasure; not his pleasure in me, but HIS pleasure; the thing he most enjoys, by not speaking to others about him. I had hurt him, and even though it was unintentional, I still felt his pain. He was just so awesome that I wanted to be able to increase his joy by pointing others to him. I wanted to be able to present him with such a gift, but I had none. That feeling of disappointment is the last thing I remember before I woke up.”

Mike sat back in his chair, took a deep breath and said, “Strange, huh?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” I replied.

Still a little intimidated, all I could think to say was, “What do you do now?”

“Well, this morning I was speaking with a guy in my office who recently separated from his wife. Neither he nor his wife are totally sure they want a divorce, but they don’t know how to live together either. I was surprised at how natural it was for me to ask him if he was a Christian, and if he thought that would make any difference in his life right now. I have always thought things like that, but was afraid to say anything for fear of driving people like him away. You know, you can go a whole lifetime and never consider the time to be ‘right.’ Well anyway, we talked some more, and he is going to have dinner with us Thursday night, and wants to know more about Jesus.”

Mike paused for only a moment, then said, “I haven’t thought this all the way through yet, but somehow worship seems to have a new meaning now.”

“Worship?” I interrupted, “I thought all of this was about evangelism.”

“That’s what I’m still working on,” Mike said. “It seems to me that the two can’t be separated, or at least shouldn’t be. Coming into the presence of God is…” he hesitated, searching for just the right words, “well, it’s the highest level a person can ever reach. How can we experience God’s majesty, like I did in my dream, and not be moved to share him with others? It seems to be the ultimate act of selfishness to keep him to ourselves. It’s like finding the cure for AIDS or some other horrible disease, but hoarding it to myself.”

Seeing his point, I added, “It may be selfishness, or it might be that a person has just never caught a glimpse of God. I know for a long time I seem to have been sitting through our worship services, but never even thinking much about God. You hear this expression a lot, but at times it really does seem like an empty ritual.”

“I know what you mean,” Mike said. “Empty ritual seldom affects us, much less our relationships with other people. But intimate contact with the Creator of the heavens and the earth gives us something that can’t be kept to ourselves. It doesn’t just give us a message; even more importantly, it gives us a flame.”

As the waitress returned with our meals, I was thankful for Mike’s dream and his sharing it with me. With some measure of reluctance, I said, “I think a lot of people are like me, deep down they really want a greater sense of the presence of God. It’s a little scary for me right now, but I think if this can happen with me, God will change me in some ways that don’t seem possible any other way. Maybe the reason that I, like you, have a hard time finding opportunities to talk to people about God is I don’t very often experience his majesty. Why don’t we talk to some of the folks at church about this, the elders, song leaders, staff, someone. We need to find a way to help us focus on God more during our worship service.”

“Yeah, I think that would be a good thing,” Mike replied. “Although I have a feeling that what you and I bring to the worship experience, whether it’s at church on Sunday morning, or in our own quiet times, is probably the key. But you’re right. We need to make it easier for people to experience God in this way: If our worship service doesn’t do that, maybe we should stop calling it a worship service.”Wineskins Magazine

Tim Curtis

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