True Worship

“I am a most noteworthy sinner, but I have cried out to the Lord for grace and mercy, and they have covered me completely. I have found the sweetest consolation since I made it my whole purpose to enjoy His marvelous presence.” —Christopher Columbus

Kikwit 1935

Shiny Shoes on Dusty Paths, Volume 1, Chapter 24: Floppy Shoes with Startling Strength

“In spite of repeated treatments at Kikwit, Mary’s health continued to deteriorate… aggravated by oozing eczema on her feet, hands and head… frustation increased for Mary as she was unable to perform tasks expected of her… When the family back home realized that Mary was in no way improving, they suggested we return to America to recuperate. This was a severe blow. We wanted so to give ourselves for Africa…

“With sadness we faced the task of packing while questions poured into our minds. Why, after waiting so long to reach Africa, were we so soon being torn away. Eventually our hearts filled with confidence knowing that God, who had brought us to Congo this first time, could bring us back.


“After difficult farewells, Mr. Janzen took us to the Kikwit trading post. There we boarded a palm fruit boat to Leverville… where the Lever brothers operated a mill for palm oil…called H.C.B. (Huileries du Congo Belge). We waited in Leverville for a sternwheeler oil carrier to take us to the capital of Léopoldville (now Kinshasa).

“Most of the employees of H.C.B. were English-speaking people from either Britain or the Gold Coast (now Ghana). We stayed in quite a comfortable, furnished house… Ladies brought tea trays with assorted cakes and cookies. Others came just to be friendly…

“Some of our callers from the Gold Coast were Christians and they asked if I would conduct services. They constructed a makeshift church that looked like a large booth with bamboo poles and palm branches on top. In that simple construction God made His presence sweet through the joy of worship… After the service several people made requests for baptism. So with joy, I conducted a special service by the river’s edge.

“Mary and I were overjoyed at the response of these enthusiastic people, so hungry for knowledge of God…

“A lad came by one day with vegetables to sell. Immediately we began talking about eternal things which he was quite open to discuss. He listened carefully as we explained God’s grace in offering pardon for all our sins. When he understood that this free gift was being offered to him, he wanted to accept on the spot.

“Later the missionaries at Kafumba wrote that he’d come to the mission station with a clear testimony and asked to be baptized. A month later, after becoming critically ill, he left this life to enter the presence of the God of all grace.

“The delay in Leverville came to an end with the arrival of the stern-wheeler. So much had happened in those days that had drawn us close to the people. Although  we’d looked forward to moving on, we now felt twinges of heaviness. Saying ‘good-bye’ in any language is one of the hardest phrases…

Joanne’s Comments:

If we were to assess the aspects of worship in that little congregation at Leverville we might consider first of all the building—a crude structure erected only for the purpose of protection from the blazing hot sun. The scene strikingly contrasts that of the original temple in Jerusalem completed about 960 B.C. Yet Solomon, in his prayer of dedication stated, “Who is able to build him (God) an house, (for worship) seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him? (2 Chronicles 2:6).”

The music was also incidental. There were no instruments available, unless perhaps a homemade little hand-harp, and no doubt they sang the unfamiliar songs off-key, but with all their hearts. Entertainment had no part in it.

Undoubtedly they also had a collection or offering. This is the least commented on aspect of worship today though it has strong biblical support and is a critical test of the sincerity of one’s heart. We in the west have much to learn from believers in third world countries who are the most generous of all people and who make of the offering a joyful celebration of worship. For want of money they might bring chickens, eggs, garden produce, or any item precious to them. The beloved Chinese preacher Watchman Knee once wrote, “Every Lord’s day when we put the money in the offering plate, we should put ourselves with it.”

Prayer was also an essential part in connecting with the Almighty and most important of all was the preaching of the Word of God.

There’s still another aspect of worship often ignored and that is godliness or holiness. Some churches—especially in Europe—have painted on the front wall of their places of worship the words,“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2). Holiness is an inner reflection in a man or woman of a holy God. It begins with an act of faith whereby God through the Holy Spirit takes residence in a life and like a tree planted by a source of water takes root, shoots branches upward and blossoms with a heavenly fragrance (see Psalm 1:3). Non-believers are thus incapable of true worship.

In light of the above, it seems to me that worship is a 24-hour-a-day, 365 days a year mindset and lifestyle.

Since the Word of God forms the essential element of that growth some time must be set aside each day to take it in. In my case, and prior to my marriage to Frank, I had learned the absolute imperative of having a daily quiet time with the Lord before facing the work-world—in my case the mission headquarters and other assignments.  I had discovered that, without that connection I often fell prey to the evil inclinations of my own heart and to those unexpected and subtle attacks of Satan. Sometimes a specific passage read that morning held the wisdom necessary for some decision, or provided courage or encouragement for the tasks expected of me, or affected my attitude. When required to give counsel to others often the advice came from those moments in the sanctuary. When I slept in or got lazy I noticed a distinct heaviness, impatience, lack of discernment and discouragement hovering over me.

Following my marriage to Frank we went through a trial and error period until we settled into a pattern that works for us and our present life-style. Each of us maintains our own personal encounter with the Lord. I, as an early riser, prefer the crack of dawn while Frank prefers an afternoon break time. But each morning, after breakfast, we meet in our living room for a joint time of worship through Bible study and prayer. Since both of us are lovers of historical research, cultural backgrounds, as well as personal application, we keep Bible helps at close range so that if something isn’t clear to us we search out answers. What blessed discoveries have been made in these times together that we respond to in prayer for ourselves and others. Often songs come to mind that we find ourselves humming the rest of the day

Sunday is the day when it all comes together in a delightful medley where we join our weekly worship to that of a whole congregation. There too, the Word of God is central, while music, prayer, giving, and fellowship bring it all together into a joyful crescendo of praise.

Like many In these days of church change, we have been thrust into a whirlwind of confusion for which we have prayed earnestly for guidance as to how or how much to adapt and where to draw the line. Consequently we have chosen the type of music that is separate from the world and where words are clear, God-focused, reverent, and Bible-based. They might go way back to composers of Old Testament times clear down to our own. Preaching must also be centered on God’s Word. There is no need to go into more details as there are many fine web sites out there that present the variables that we ourselves have found helpful such as “The Sensitivity of True Worship” and also the very short and to the point treatment of Jack Marti where he suggests testing worship in the throne room of God.

The following old song is one of my favorites, and I think it’s a fine description of true worship.

“All for Jesus, All for Jesus!..

All my thoughts and words and doings,

All my days and all my hours.”

—Mary Dagworthy James (1810-1883)

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