Tag Archives: worship

The Essence of Worship

It started with a plea. The plea became a rant, which turned into a temper tantrum. Literally, there was foot stomping and everything.

I am not proud of that moment. In fact, I hate it. Everything in my head said to sit down and shut up. But no part of me did that. Not until after I’d stomped my feet and yelled for a minute. Then it was too late. Anger, actions and words could not be undone.

The split second it took me to explode, even for only a minute, put me in a funk for the rest of the night, and I didn’t want to be in a funk. I wanted to be celebrating with my family. I just couldn’t rid myself of the guilt. It didn’t matter that this behavior was unusual. It would be remembered, I was sure, and held against me. And even if not, I wouldn’t forget.

I woke Easter morning still carrying the burden. My heart was still heavy, and I didn’t feel like putting on a smile and pretending to claim victory. I longed for the final resurrection when the full victory of Christ’s resurrection from the dead is finally realized and I will sin no more. I needed the worship service, but wished it was any other Sunday. I dreaded facing all those people in their new, pretty clothes with smiles on their faces and celebratory greetings when I knew I’d be there in the same old clothes wanting to lie prostrate on the floor in grief. I felt the agony of Good Friday hanging heavy over me. All that sin, all that shame, all those dark skies.

I picked up my Bible and turned to Isaiah 53. These verses became a balm even as I read them.

3  He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4  Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5  But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6  All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8  By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9  And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10  Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11  Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12  Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

As I read, the opening verse of the next chapter came to mind, “…break forth into singing…” Break forth into singing? But yes! I can break forth into singing! Didn’t I just read that He had borne my grief and carried my sorrow? Why was I bowed so heavy under the weight of it? It was long past placed on His shoulders! I continued my reading then through Isaiah 54, and the dark skies lifted to the full light of joy.

4 “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced;
for you will forget the shame of your youth,
and the reproach […] you will remember no more.

…with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord, your Redeemer.

9 “I have sworn that I will not be angry with you,
and will not rebuke you.”

10 For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

17 “…you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
and their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.

In His death, Christ bore the burden of my sin and the punishment it deserved, removing even its remembrance. When He was raised from the dead, He raised me from my prostrate state of shame to stand in joyful song before Him. That’s what the resurrection is all about! Christ didn’t stay bruised and bloody, defeated by sin, shame and the guilt of the whole world while I lay sick and sorrowful at the foot of the cross. He rose to life and raised me with Him!

This is the essence of worship – the knowledge of my sin and shame giving way to the wonder that it no longer sinks me to the bottom of the sea (or the depths of hell)! Christ’s resurrection from the dead gives me new life and the ability to stand before Him in victory and sing with the angels “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).

This is every Sunday, every worship service, every song of praise – a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, a death that was mine. I now live the life that is His! “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57). I don’t have to wait for victory.

What started with a plea also ends with one, even as I celebrate. “More love, O Christ to Thee, More love to Thee!” (Elizabeth Prentiss, 1856)


©Erika Rice 2016

Dark Decembers

December a few years past was a tough one for me. I struggled each day to keep my thoughts from dragging me down into a pit of despair. It was a moment by moment battle to fix my mind on things above, the truths that are unchanging, and take them off my pitiable self. Since that is so much more easily said than done, I needed help. I couldn’t allow any negative thought to fully form or it would carry me away. I had to keep returning to the rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:1-3). Music was a balm, though not all music was helpful. My Exalted Worship album (hymns interspersed with Scripture and prayers) was well-played that month. Sometimes I would just reach over and turn on the radio, hoping to get outside my head with some Christmas music. But I was mostly disappointed and aggravated by the Christmas music played on the radio. What were silver bells and red-nosed reindeer, Christmas lights and rockin’ around Christmas trees to me at such a time?

I longed for Christmas songs with depth and meaning. Songs that reminded hurting people like me that Christ brought hope and healing and suffered my anguish to replace it with joy. Joy that would be my strength.  He brought joy! Not just a happiness for the moment, but a resounding heart’s-cry that God is good when all around me is not, when life is a battleground or people fail me. I was tired of hearing more about the superficiality of the season than the deep, abiding truth that Christ came to bring life to dead souls, to pull me from the pit I could not climb out of on my own.

Then one evening as I stood at my sink, a new song came on the radio. It was the first time I heard Third Day’s song “Children of God”. I turned to my kids and said, “THIS is Christmas!” This made me sing. This made me dance. What glorious truth is contained in these words:

Praise to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
Our God and our King, to Him we will sing
In His great mercy, He has given us life
Now we can be called the children of God

Great is the Love that the Father has given us
He has delivered us
He has delivered us

Children of God, sing your song and rejoice
For the love that He has given us all
Children of God, by the blood of His Son
We have been redeemed and we can be called
Children of God
Children of God

A mystery is revealed to the universe
The Father above has proven His love
Now we are free from the judgment that we deserve
And so we are called the children of God

We are the saints
We are the children
We’ve been redeemed
We’ve been forgiven
We are the sons and daughters of our God

“In His great mercy, He has given us life!” “The Father above has proven His love!” I am a saint. I’m a child. I’m redeemed and forgiven! I have a reason to celebrate, regardless of what anyone else says or does. And I can rejoice in Christmas, with or without silver bells and presents under the tree. Christmas runs so much deeper than traditions and tinsel. The hard in life doesn’t disappear because the calendar says it’s the holiday season. I need the knowledge of a solid foundation, an immoveable rock, a fortress in a storm. I need the sweet, gentle hand of mercy, lifting my load, raising my weary head, and helping me to my feet.

That was a dark and difficult December, one I won’t forget. To worship was to live. To exalt Christ was breath. To exalt myself was death.

If you are struggling this Christmas, wishing you had the picture-perfect family gathering, or maybe just someone to love you,  a life with fewer worries or a bit less drama, I encourage you to stop those thoughts dead. Recite Scripture verses and sing praises. Remind yourself of who God is and forget about who you wish you were or think others are. Sometimes prayers are hard to come by, though we know we should be praying; but songs are there for the repeating. Sing a song of life to your soul, a song full of the truth of God’s great character, abiding love, deep compassion, mercy and forgiveness, of His strength and power and gentle, Fatherly touch. This is Christmas! These truths. Christmas is not the time of year or the traditions. It’s hope in the heartache, dancing in the dark Decembers. Not because of ourselves or anyone around us, but because God makes us His children, and there is no safer place to be than in the arms of the Father.

We think Thanksgiving comes before Christmas. But the truth is it’s the other way around. Christ came to our darkness with His wonderful light and brought life to our souls. When our hearts see the truth, we can’t help but give thanks. Life breeds worship and to worship is to live.

Hear “Children of God” here.

Find Exalted Worship here.

Read Psalm 61 here.


©Erika Rice 2014