Week One: Overview and Introduction
This study is the first of three written with a focus on the preparation of the Bride of Christ, and is intended as a foundation to its sequel, titled “Secrets of the Bride”. The third study in the series is titled “The Revelation Revolution”, and is meant to offer a closer look at what the book of Revelation means for us today. Whether you are a new believer and are hungry to understand basics of getting started in your journey with God, or you are a seasoned believer looking to revisit foundations from years past, I pray you find this series encouraging.
I was raised in church and considered myself a Christian at the time, but have to admit it was not until my mid-twenties that I fully began to recognize Jesus as my Lord and my Sovereign, worthy of all my worship.
Being raised in church, I tended to see “church” as a social activity and God as someone who was there to take me to Heaven when I died. As I grew older, like so many others, I began to make “relationship with God” all about serving Him rather than knowing Him.
“Come to Me” (Matthew 11:28) is all He requires. Easy-peezy, right? Except we often find ourselves doing a million and one other things to “fix” whatever it is first, making “coming” to Him our last resort for whenever we became “more presentable”. What changed for me? I got hungry! I decided I was no longer willing to allow my hunger for the word to be choked out by the cares of this world, and was going to WILL myself instead to spend time with Him every day. In other words, presentable or not, I was coming to Him!
“There must come a time in the lives of mature believers when we are awakened to holy fervency. When we cry, “God, I’m tired of serving you from a distance. I don’t care what it’s going to cost me. I want to be wholly yours in the deepest part of my being.” -Mike Bickle, Passion for Jesus
Christian Author A.W. Tozer once said, “to have found God and yet still pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love”.
Imagine you are standing on a beach that overlooks the ocean. In your hands you have a thimble. With it you bend down and scoop in water from an incoming wave. Gleefully you hold it up, point towards it and exclaim “I have the ocean”!
If we were to think about the ocean as representing God (who He is in all of His beauty and splendor, all there is of Him to know and love), and the thimble as our capacity to contain Him, we begin to get a tiny glimpse of how deep, how wide, and how great He truly is. Just when we think we are filled to the brim with Him, He invites us to turn our eyes upon the ocean of all that He is, and says “child, there’s plenty more where that came from. Let me expand your thimble”!
Looking back over the events of my life, I am grateful to have learned that God never freezes us in time (neither in low moments of weakness or high moments of adoration), that He is already intimately acquainted with the final version of us, the final outcome of who He is developing us to become – and the secret is out – He loves us still! He does not lack patience when it comes to His work within us or our unity with Him and with others. Being outside of time, He has the unique ability to see us at our weakest and lavish love on us regardless, because He sees our desire towards Him in the process of our journey, and He loves the YES in our spirit! We can be confident He will complete the good work He started in us.
This study is for anyone who desires a more intimate relationship with Him. While we focus on cultivating a heart of worship individually, we will also explore what this means as part of the Church body, and preparation of the Bride of Christ collectively, as well as how we can help others to cultivate and develop that same intimacy, unity, and passion.
We are all Esther (Esther 4:14). We all know the verse that says, “I know the plans I have for you” (Jeremiah 29:11). What we don’t often think about is that Satan knows both of these verses too. He knows his days are numbered, and he knows what happens when we choose to accept our commission and follow our calling, and this, my friends, causes him to tremble!
Q: What is worship to you?
Q: Based on your definition, how often do you worship?
Q: When you imagine God, how do you visualize Him?
Q: How do you feel about God? Does He feel distant or close?
Far too long many believers have held a personal image of a distant God who is good only occasionally and under certain conditions. This changed for me personally as I began to recognize Him for who He was and respond to His calling me into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him than I had in years past. In turn I began to see the beauty of my own story and journey with Him and how it aligns to His larger purpose, slowly learning to fully trust in His plan for my life, regardless of the ups and downs, moments of revelation or long periods of doldrum. I can look back now and see where my emotions began to heal and mature. The more I became secure in His love for me, the less I react and respond emotionally to circumstance.
My goal for anyone who works through this study is the same, to become so captivated by His beauty and splendor that fear and insecurities are overcome by desire to know Him on a more personal level, and partner with Him in ways we cannot even begin to imagine possible. I believe as we see God’s incomparable worth in relationship to everything else, more and more we begin to say a resounding “YES” to the Holy Spirit’s work to cultivate a heart and lifestyle of worship within us and bring us into unity with our Triune God.
Worship, simply put, is the art of decreasing myself and my focus on me in order that the Holy Spirit can increase Christ and my focus on Him. (John 3:30), therefore allowing me to recognize and adore God for who He is.
As part of this study I encourage you to purchase and read a book written by Mike Bickle, titled “Passion for Jesus”. In the book, the author mentions three dimensions or elements of the grace of God:
Here’s what he says about them:
- Some churches emphasize awe and trembling. Historically, holiness-type churches have focused on the greatness of God, often leaving little room for rejoicing and affectionate worship.
- Others concentrate on rejoicing and blessing. Some of today’s charismatic churches have focused on the authority of the believer and the privileges we have in Christ – to the exclusion of His awesome majesty and judgement.
- Still others are committed to affectionate intimacy with God with a passionate response of love toward Jesus.
Q: How about you? Are you committed to one dimension, but not the other two? Are two of these dimensions developing in your relationship with Him, but not the third? Perhaps you’ve experienced all three. Take a moment to reflect on this.
Maybe you’ve only seen a God who judges the rebellious. Maybe you walk before the Lord in faithfulness and reverential fear. You’re good at trembling, but you’ve never seen a God in whom you can rejoice.
Q: Does the thought of “Kissing” God leave you a little uncomfortable? If so, why?
About kissing, the author explains:
“Perhaps you’ve never known a dimension of intimacy and affection, and the thought of kissing Christ is a little uncomfortable to you. The idea here is not so much physical kissing. It refers to our souls being stirred by Jesus.
God has fashioned the human spirit in such a way that we need all three dimensions – trembling, rejoicing, and kissing – in our relationship with Him. The Lord wants to intertwine these three dimensions in you. He wants to bring a threefold response forth by the Holy Spirit.”
I believe all three are critical elements in the overall worship experience. In the history of the church, it is the third is one that has had the least focus. Within the last few decades, however, there is evidence of a growing passion for Jesus among His people. I pray this study ignites a desire in you to cultivate that passion, that oil of intimacy, within yourself, and then through prayer and sharing with others to participate in ushering it in on a larger scale.
SONG: “Behold ”