It was our first time in Arizona. My family and I had stayed in Flagstaff the previous night and arose bright and early that morning for the next leg in our journey. We had packed up the Aerostar and set out across the country, on a journey of discovery and fun. Our daughter was 11 years old and my mom and stepfather traveled with us as well. We can recount many memories from that trip in 2000...laughs we had, funny things we teased one another about, seeing landscapes that we had never seen before. The beauty of New Mexico was amazing. The heat and barrenness of the Mojave Desert were awe-inspiring. We have talked of this trip many times over the intervening years with fond memories and laughter. This particular day, however, stands out in my mind with special significance.
Having left I-40, we were making our way up highway 64 toward our destination. We passed through the little town of Tusayan. By area, it is the smallest town in the state of Arizona, with only 144 acres, or .225 square miles. The town boasts a population, according to the 2010 census (when it was incorporated), of 562. I mention this little town because it stands in stark contrast to the destination to which we were traveling.
As we rolled into the national park, the foliage and terrain of the area were unique in this high desert Kaibab Plateau. Our anticipation of our destination made our hearts beat a little faster in our chests and we searched for glimpses. Traveling along a park road, we caught a slight glimpse, but the full view of this, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, would elude us until we had disembarked from our vehicle and walked the trail among the trees.
Then it appeared. As we approached the rim of the canyon, the immensity of this vast river gorge overwhelmed me. My emotions caught in my throat and my eyes scanned the view to try to take it all in. Frankly, it was difficult to fully grasp what I was seeing. The Grand Canyon is grand indeed. That day, as we walked along the rim, stepped out onto an observation point with a clear floor, looked into the vast 6,000+ feet drop from rim to floor, I immediately thought of the greatness of the God who created the earth. We drove to the east, around the rim of the canyon, until we came to a place where there was an observation tower. From that vantage point, we watched a thunderstorm, lightning and all, make its way across the canyon in the distance. It was truly an awesome sight to see. No words can do justice to what I experienced. You had to be there...I was...and I worshiped.
Have you ever been in that kind of situation...an experience that was so moving and impactful in your life, but, as you tried to describe it to others, you were at a loss for words? You have probably said, "You just had to be there." I think I've had several of those experiences over the years. I've found myself in experiences that have moved me to turn my eyes to the God of the universe and...worship.
What do you think of when you hear the word, "Worship?" For many, it may bring images of Sunday gatherings at church, singing in a congregation, or maybe rituals that are meaningful in turning our hearts toward God. I would challenge you to consider a much broader and, frankly, more biblical view of worship. The Scriptures teach us that worship begins with a presentation of ourselves to God in service...a daily abandonment of our will to His and a seeking of His will in each of the moments of our day. The words of Romans 12:1-2 put it succinctly..
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
So...we are taught that the true way of worship is to give ourselves as an offering to God...daily. As we do so, our "living sacrifice," made holy by the blood and sacrifice of Christ, is received by the Father as worship...the kind that really matters. It matters because it leads us into the process of transformation...in our actions and our thinking. It opens our hearts and minds to know and follow the perfect will of God...that which is good and pleasing to Him. In turn, we explore the journey of His purpose in our lives and that brings great joy to us. I know because I've been there, and I've worshiped.
So, the next time you find yourself in a place that captures your attention...something about God's creation, a critical turn in life's road, or maybe just a conversation with a friend over coffee...abandon yourself to God in that moment, worship Him, allow Him to work in you and through you to fulfill His "good and pleasing and perfect" purpose. You will be there...and you will worship.
“I have one desire now – to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.” ~Elisabeth Elliot
Have you experienced one of those "You had to be there" moments? Where was it? How did God speak or impact you? What did you learn about Him, and about yourself? Comment about your experiences. Like and share as well to get a conversation going.
This morning, my wife, Cindy, and I were sitting on our patio, enjoying the morning breeze and a few minutes together before starting our day. As we sat there, I read aloud, the first chapter of a new book written by our Teaching Pastor, Robert J. Morgan, entitled The Jordan River Rules. We bought the book in order to read it together as a part of our devotional time. The subtitle of the book is, "10 God-Given Strategies for Moving Forward." The first chapter begins to unfold Rule #1: Realize God Means for You to Move Forward. As I read this section of the book, it quickly became apparent to us that we had lived out exactly that, about which Rob was writing. As he discloses his transitions of life and the challenges they have presented for him, upon finishing the read, we too, began to list the changes and challenges we have experienced as a couple, over the past three years.
To say the least, these fifteen changes that took place over the period of three years were extremely impactful. Every one of them, most of which were challenging, and some which had the potential to destroy life as we knew it, included the most difficult things Cindy and I would ever face. The words of God, spoken to Joshua, remind us that these challenges and changes, while difficult and potentially devastating, were opportunities for us to experience the leadership and powerful grace of our Lord.
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Pastor Morgan instructs us that God leads us in stages, in steps and in person. Cindy and I certain have experienced that truth over these past few years. Frankly, we've seen it over the course of our lives, but most intensely in this small sub-section of our journey together. He led us into the stage of relocation and new connection with a community of faith. He led us step-by-step, as we placed all of our trust in His faithful guidance and provision through very uncertain times. He led us in person, as we worshipped and spent time before him in prayer and spiritual communion. The bottom line...He was faithful...and continues to be. Like his words to Joshua, He promised, "...I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." God is faithful. When you face the most difficult and potentially devastating moments of your life, God is there in the midst of it, and He has promised to lead you into the next season...He will never forsake you.
We laid everything in God's hands. We abandoned our solutions and our expectations and learned to trust God on a level we had never done so before. When you have everything you've come to lean upon and expect as the norm, taken away from you, the realization becomes clear that God is the only faithful rock upon which you can depend. In those early weeks of the "new norm," Cindy and I adopted the hymn, "Great is Thy Faithfulness" as our theme. We determined that we would start each day in prayer, even before rising from our bed, and we would sing that hymn together, tears filling our eyes. It wasn't just empty words...it was the truth we were living each day. We were trusting the One who was faithful to meet our every need and lead us to the next step in His plan. Were we in this situation because my own making? Yes. But that didn't stop God from having a plan for us, despite that reality. All we had to do was trust Him and let Him take the lead. He was faithful and He remains so unto this day.
The closing paragraph in that section of Rob Morgan's book says it well:
Prepare for what God is preparing for you. Your next stage in life is God-planned. The One who knows the way through the wilderness also knows the way into the Promised Land.
How has God shown His faithfulness to you? What wilderness has He led you through? Maybe you find yourself in a valley now and need to trust the faithfulness of the Savior. Comment your experiences and even ask for prayer, if needed. Share the post as well, to encourage others to join the conversation.
With over forty years of ministry experience, Randy Kinnick continues to live a life of pursuing the purpose for which he was created. Whether teaching God's Word to adults, coaching youth and young adults in finding their purpose, or caring for the hurting and abused in Southeast Asia, the adventure has taken him around the world in ways he could have never dreamed. The adventure continues!