DANCE AND THE DISHES: Delighting in Jesus in the Midst of Daily Duties

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I was a new mom, thrilled with the gift of a baby daughter and filled with vision for raising her unto the glory of God. I couldn’t be more thankful for her life, and the privilege of being able to stay home to nurture her and the other precious children the Lord would give in time. Yet I was also coming to grips with how dramatically my life had changed. My growing responsibilities at home made it necessary to rearrange my schedule and scale back on some of my favorite activities. Some of the highlights of my days were to attend prayer meetings where I was able to worship and seek the Lord with my entire being through the Word, song, and dance. The reality of Psalm 149 filled my heart with great joy!

“Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation…”

 One evening I had been looking forward to attending a prayer meeting all day. However, I must have had an extra full day because once I had put my baby down for the night, an extremely large pile of dirty dishes lay glaring at me from out of the kitchen sink. I knew what my responsibility was…what would honor my husband, care for our family, and thus glorify God. The dishes had to be done and the prayer meeting missed. I knew that my service mattered to God, no matter how small and mundane. He had been showing me that through his word for several years, preparing me to be a wife and a mom. What I was not prepared for was how he would encounter my heart through his word while I was doing the dishes!

As I was scrubbing and rinsing, thinking about how much I wished I could be at the meeting, the verse from Matthew 28:20 began to resound through my spirit, “And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” It felt as if one of the lightening bolts from the throne of heaven (Rev 4:5) must have struck my heart, and I began to weep. The revelation that Jesus was right there with me while I was doing the dishes overwhelmed me! As awesome and right as it is to gather with other believers to seek the Lord in prayer and worship, it was just as right that I seek him with all my heart in the hiddenness of my home, in the midst of my daily duties. He was with me!   He is with me! He will always be with me…to the end! He is worthy of all of my love and life in the great and noble tasks as well as the small and mundane ones. I knelt down and repented for all the times I had despised the daily duties of life as a wife and mom rather than used them as opportunities to encounter and praise Jesus. I acknowledged that one day in his courts is truly better than a thousand elsewhere. (Ps 84:10) Wherever I am, because the spirit of God is dwelling within me, can become the courts of the Lord where I meet him through his word and delight in the joy of his presence! As waves of mercy and joy washed over me, I got up and began to dance and sing. I sang the scriptures that the Lord had brought to mind. I put expressive movements to the songs and verses, and I had a truly glorious time! Every few twirls, I got some dishes cleaned, and by the end of the time, not only was the kitchen clean and put in order, but my heart was freshly cleansed and rightly ordered as well. Ten years later, I can truly say that chore time at my house has never been the same! Yet, I don’t always feel overwhelmed by revelation of the love and glory of God. I can still be tempted to see my ever- increasing (now that I have five children) daily duties as drudgery. In these moments, as the Lord gives me grace to fix my mind on his glorious word, to open my mouth and begin to sing his wonders, and to move my hands and feet to express the joy of my great salvation through Christ, the joy of the Lord floods my heart and strengthens me with grace for another round of laundry, dishes, wiping, and working….not to mention the eternal work of loving my husband, children, and neighbors for his glory!

I know that I am not alone in the desire and struggle for delight in the midst of duty. Gloria Furman has written two books recently, Glimpses of Grace and Treasuring Christ when your Hands are Full that have encouraged my heart to continue to press on in this regard. In addition to singing, dancing, and praying Scripture, I also find that my spirit is strengthened with grace in the middle of routine tasks when I listen to Christ centered, Bible based sermons and meditate/memorize scriptures that speak to the anxieties and concerns on my mind. There is nothing more thrilling than growing in the knowledge of God! The command of the Lord in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!” has become a compelling invitation to delight in the living God in the midst of all the diverse moments of my days. He has turned drudgery into dancing to the praise of His glorious grace!

 

 

Sanctifying Dance for the Glory of God

 

In his 2013 national conference message, What God Made is Good–and Must Be Sanctified: C.S. Lewis and St. Paul on the Use of Creation, John Piper expounds on 1 Timothy 4:1-4.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in the later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

As Piper expounds, “The issue is: How are we to experience the material creation (which of course, includes our bodies, and everything we encounter with our five senses) in such a way that God is worshiped, honored, loved, and supremely treasured in our experience of material creation?” In 1 Timothy 4, the specific things being addressed are food and marriage (sex), but the foundational revelation by which they are interpreted is clearly meant to be applied to a much wider range of our interaction with the world around us. As Piper says, “this world and every pleasure in it is designed for the worship of the true God.” Thus it is of vital importance that we give thought to how then, in fact, we can engage with every particular aspect of God’s creation for His glory. This essay provides an introductory overview of the way expressive movement (dance) can be sanctified for the glory of God.

Glorify God in your Body

In the good purpose and design of God, we have been created as embodied souls.  In this life our bodies can not be separated from our spirit. Because of sin, the separation of our body and spirit is a reality at death.  Yet this separation is only temporary!  One of the glorious truths of the gospel is that Christ, in taking on human flesh forever, will redeem and resurrect physical bodies, transforming the saints into the likeness of His glorified body.  The significance of Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, having a body for the rest of eternity should not be underestimated! Throughout Scripture, we are commanded to honor and love the Lord with all that we are, including our bodies. God means to have the fullness of his children worshipping him in the beauty of holiness.

1 Cor 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.”  

 Deuteronomy 5:6, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”

Romans 12: 1, “I appeal to you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

There are many varied and beautiful ways we can fulfill this call to love, worship, and thus glorify God with all that we are. Dance, as an expression of our love for Jesus, is one such way. There are as many ideas of what is meant by the word “dance” as there are people in the world, but what I am talking about is not a specific style of dance or movement. It is not something only those with years of training can do. The broad definition of dance I am working with is movement that is expressive of the heart, usually accompanying music and/or rhythmic lyrics.

Worldly Dance versus Godly Dance

In much of our culture, dance is synonymous with sensuality and is thus notoriously frowned upon and forbidden by many Christian churches. One only has to flip through TV channels or browse the internet to see dancing figures promoting countless products and promises of fleshly enjoyment. It is easy to see how Satan has used the sensual delights of dance to turn hearts away from the true God so that people look to a creature for the satisfaction of their souls rather than the Creator. The Bible also reveals several examples of dances that were acts of idolatrous worship (Exodus 32) and wicked manipulation (Mark 6:22). Expressive movement is a powerful way to testify to the reality of what is happening on the inside of us! It is no surprise then, that among unbelievers, sinful desires are often made shockingly evident through dance. When the lusts of the flesh are reigning supreme, a dance can unleash great wickedness..such as took place leading to the execution of John the Baptist (Mark 6). This power to both reveal and allure hearts has caused dance to be feared and often condemned over much of the history of the church.

But it need not be so! Dance itself is not inherently evil. Yes, the Deceiver has almost entirely stolen and corrupted its use for his own evil desires across the earth, but he is not the one who created the body to leap when the heart is joyful or sway to the rhythms of music. Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. God created dance as a way to express the heart and delight the soul. This is a gift of His common grace to all mankind. Too often people have “delighted” themselves in a dance of darkness, spiritually speaking. Yet, God designed it as an instrument of the praise of His glory.

Psalm 149:3 “Let them praise his name with dancing.” Psalm 150:4 “Praise Him with tambourine and dance..”

The first heart-response to the incarnate Son of God recorded in Scripture was a dance that took place in the hiddenness of the womb when John, filled with the Holy Spirit, leaped for joy at the presence of Jesus (Luke 1:44). In fact, John the Baptist’s life begins and ends with a dance! In the end, the joyful dance of John triumphed over the sensual dance that prompted his execution. John’s great joy in the presence of Jesus will have no end whereas the dance of his enemy has been forever exposed in Scripture to be a weak and futile, momentary attempt to thwart the purposes of God. The dance of the redeemed, as it flows out of genuine joy in Jesus and a desire to see him exalted should cause the enemy to tremble and flee, rather than the church fleeing from all physical expressions of worship. Dance is a gift from God to be received with thanksgiving. It is one of the most powerful expressions of joy the Lord has given us! What then are the implications of loving a God in whose presence is fullness of joy?! (Ps 16:11) Is it any surprise then that Biblically, dance is associated with victory, joy, salvation, healing, restoration, and praise?

To reject dance entirely is to follow the same trajectory as those in 1 Timothy 4 who were forbidding marriage and food under the auspices or religious asceticism. It is taking what God created good and calling it in every form wicked. Piper in his teaching makes note that, “Satan uses both sensual indulgence and abstinence to turn hearts away from the true God.” The one thing the enemy does not want is for the gifts of God to be used in a way that glorifies and honor God. In his attempt to mar and steal the glory of God, Satan would rather us idolize God’s gifts or reject them completely. Forbidding dance entirely, while making it seem easier to restrain fleshly indulgences, actually inhibits the full glory the Lord desires to receive through what He has made.

Because most dance in this world is not God-glorifying worship, it can be genuinely challenging to see how it can truly honor the Lord. In order to glorify God and not self, it must be sanctified. In fact, the dancer must be sanctified, body, soul, and spirit. The distinction between the essence of worship and its expression in dance is crucial to understand to this end. Piper’s definition of sanctifying something is, “setting it apart as a means of expressing the infinite worth of God.” Godly dance requires a heart submitted joyfully to God’s Word and a desire to see Jesus exalted above all. He is after worship in spirit and truth (John 4), and this is therefore the primary litmus test as to whether our dance honors Him or not. It must be flowing from a heart that has truly encountered the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ through His Word and is responding in love to Him on the basis of that glorious revelation. No matter how beautiful or graceful, a dance that is not from this place does not honor God. The movements themselves are worshipful only in as much as they are a genuine expression of the affection, adoration, and desire of our hearts for God. Integrity requires that a dance for Jesus is but one small piece of an entire life lived for the glory of God. When this is true of a person, expressive movement offered, in the beauty of holiness, as a testimony to the very great Salvation He has worked on their behalf, magnifies Christ.

Dance was Designed to Glorify God

The primary purpose of dance as revealed through Scripture is to declare the glory of God. This glorious purpose can be seen in the following three passages: Exodus 15, 2 Samuel 6, and Luke 15. In Exodus 15, Israel had just been stunningly delivered from Egypt and led across the Red Sea on dry land. Moses led the people of Israel in a triumphant song of praise to the Lord declaring his glory, honor, and power revealed in the mighty salvation He had worked on their behalf. Miriam then took up her tambourine and led the women in a dance to this magnificent song of deliverance. It was a fitting response to so great a salvation! Throughout the Old Testament there are references to the dances of the Israelite women being a sign that the Salvation of the Lord has come to His people. (Is 52:7, 1 Sam 18:6, Jer 31:4, 13)

Women are not the only dancers in the Bible. Several of David’s Psalms refer to dancing, (Ps 30:11, 87:7 149, 150 among others) and his own famous dance is recorded in 2 Samuel 6. “And David danced before the Lord with all his might.” He responded with unrestrained joy at the ark of the covenant being restored to the people of God. This was a remarkable response to the Presence of God returning to his people. As he faced the derision of his wife Michal, David revealed that it was the Lord’s presence and approval that was the motivation of his extravagant display. As a man after God’s heart, through the anointing of the Spirit, he had written Psalm 16:11 testifying to fullness of joy being found in the presence of the Lord. His mourning had been turned to dancing because the Lord had restored Himself in the midst of his people.

The New Testament reinforces this connection between dancing, joy, and salvation in the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. When the lost son returns home and is restored in the loving presence of his father, a celebration including music and dancing was the appropriate response. In Luke 15:32, the father says, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

The Gospel is the Reason we Dance

If rejoicing with song and dance was called for at the Exodus, the return of the Ark, and the return of the prodigal, how much more fitting is it among the church of the living God! For, we celebrate a much greater exodus from sin and death and have received salvation unto an eternal inheritance! (Colossians 1:12-14) We have the presence of the Holy Spirit, not in a box behind a veil, but on the inside of us! (Ephesians 1:13-14) We have been adopted and welcomed by our heavenly Father though we were far off and hostile to Him. (Galatians 4: 4-7) All of this was accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf for the glory of God. We should dance like no other people on the face of the earth!

The Dance of Faith

Truly, no matter what our circumstances, even when we face hardship and persecution, we have a reason to dance! Jesus in fact calls us to rejoice and leap for joy when we are persecuted (Luke 6:23) because the greater reality of our lives is that we are blessed by God. A dance of joy to God in moments of great trial testifies to the One who has the weightier word over our lives. Because nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Rom. 8), nothing can separate us from our joy. No one can turn our dancing to mourning! This does not mean that we will not mourn at all. We groan for the fullness of redemption to be revealed, and we are called to weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15) But, our mourning does not have the final word! It is temporal. It is filled with hope. Even as we pour out our souls to the Lord with tears, we can set our hearts on the truth of God that is revealed in his word about who He is and the glorious greatness of His promises…such as the psalm that those who weep in tears will reap with shouts of joy! (Psalm 126:5) As a response to such a word, we can dance. Such a dance of faith speaks volumes about the worth of Christ. It is a testimony of His sweet sufficiency in all things…of the joy of His presence…of His mighty Salvation! It is a sight that might even bring our persecutors to repentance. Who else, but the children of God, would dare to dance when facing great trial?

As the dances of the children of God reflect their joy in God, they must be radically different in spirit than the dances of the world. They should be childlike, not caring about the approval of man but delighting in God. They should be humble and modest, aiming to draw attention to Christ and not to themselves. They must be pure. Above all, they should be passionate and extravagant! By this I mean that they should communicate that there is no greater joy, no higher good, no one more worthy than Jesus Christ than to receive all of our love and life.

Incorporating Dance into Corporate Worship

Dance, because of its nature and history, should be incorporated into the life of a local church in the context of much prayer and careful, Bible based wisdom. Psalm 149 and 150 which both call forth dance as a legitimate way to praise the Lord are in the context of the assembly of the godly. In fact, most references to dance in the Bible are in a corporate setting, though not a social one. This is no light or flippant thing. It is not about being cool or culturally relevant. It is not entertainment. It is about the testimony of Jesus going forth for the edification of the church and the salvation of the lost. In the context of a corporate worship setting, careful shepherding will be required by the elders of the congregation that the purity and focus of the worship service stays fixed on Christ. Great safety for the flock of God will come when clear guidelines, Biblical teaching, and intentional discipleship regarding expressive movement are given to the church as a means of grace, facilitating true embodied worship unto the glory of God. It is my prayer that as dance is sanctified in the midst of God’s people, it will be increasingly seen and embraced as a gift of God, a means of grace given to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

Jesus Sets Captives Free!

This past week I had the privilege of leading a team of dancers to minister at The Next Door ministry in Knoxville.  We went as part of a larger team from Fully Alive Ministries and Christ Church Knoxville to lead a Bible study for women who are in desperate need of having their lives restored and set free from great bondage.  My wonderful mom-in-law, Kathy Tarr, passionately and tenderly spoke the heart of God over them from John 4 which tells of Jesus and His encounter with the Samaritan women at the well.  As we worshipped over the Word and in song, I could see hard hearts being softened and blind eyes being opened.  If Jesus loved and transformed a woman such as the Samaritan, living a life of great sin and shame, surely there was hope for them too, I believe many were thinking.  In fact, it was what I was thinking too, as the gospel of Jesus Christ pierced my own heart afresh.  The truth that Jesus set His affections upon me and gave Himself for me, not because of anything in me, but while I was full of sin and hostile towards Him (Ephesians 2) overwhelmed me anew with the glory of His great love and mercy.

Truly Jesus came, and continues to come by His Holy Spirit, to fulfill the words of Isaiah 61, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of prison to those who are bound, the proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;  to grant to those who mourn in Zion–to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;  that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”

After the testimony of Jesus had gone forth in song, Word, and testimonies of salvation, our little team of dancers stepped forward to minister a song by Matt Gilman,  Every Captive Free whose lyrics draw from this very passage among others.  In the dance, three women are covered with black blankets with words of bondages written on them such as depression, addiction, immorality, anger..etc.  A dancer representing the Spirit of Jesus comes out and one by one begins to set these women free.  As each woman arises, she begins to dance the same dance of freedom over the others that are still bound as a picture of the beautiful ministry of the Church as the body of Christ to proclaim His glorious gospel.  Truly our own hearts were encountered by the love of Jesus for these women, even bringing several of us to tears while we were dancing.  At the end of the dance, as a call to turn from the their life of sin and receive the free gift of eternal life in Jesus was put forward, the great majority of the women responded to His invitation.  There were many tears, many smiles, many hugs, and resounding songs of praise going forth from that home that night.  Jesus was setting captives free!

The Postures of Praise

I came across this blog post today by Sam Storms.  I appreciate his perspective on the engagement of our bodies in worship.  He specifically focuses on the lifting of hands during worship, but his reasoning applies to the many other Biblical postures of praise including dance.  You can read it here: The Postures of Praise by Sam Storms

All my springs are in You

Psalm 87:7  “Singers and dancers alike say, ‘All my springs are in you.’”

ImageSprings are a place of refreshment and life giving sustenance.  They are a place where we drink deeply and are satisfied. Without them, we would die.   In our convenient and comfortable modern society, we can simply turn on a faucet and choose to remain blissfully unmindful of the horrible fate that would await us if our access to a water source was removed.  However in many places in the world today, and certainly in ancient times, this reality was ever before them.  Most of the day was spent searching for, drawing, carrying, and purifying water just to stay alive.

In many places throughout the Bible, the presence of God is described as a spring or fountain of living water.  In this, He is declaring that He is the source and joy of our life and that without Him, we will surely die. It is the grace of God when we say with the psalmist, “My soul longs for you as the deer longs for water…” Yet how often we forsake Him!  Jeremiah 2:12-13 says, “Be appalled, O heavens, at this;  be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils:  they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” We are often deluded into believing that the other things and people we look to for life, joy, and pleasure will satisfy our souls.  In reality, they lead only to empty brokenness and death.   God alone is the only true source of life.  Wonderfully, the life He promises is abundant! Psalm 36:8 describes the goodness of those who look to the Lord, “They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.  For with you is the fountain of life….”

Singing and dancing, in conjunction with music, are two significant God given expressions of the heart. In many cultures, they are not separated into distinct forms.  They simply have one word that means “musicdance”.  In complementary ways, song and dance reflect the feelings, thoughts, and passions of our lives. They were also created to powerfully move and minister to the hearts of those who are listening and watching.  All of the cultures of the earth are fascinated with music, song, and dance. When they do not honor God their influence spreads great spiritual darkness.  Yet, God created and gave us these powerful expressions as a way to experience and express the glory of communion with Him.

Our singing and dancing testify to our own hearts and those around us who and what the source of our life is. If we are drinking polluted water from broken cisterns, our songs and dances will evidence such by expressing sin in a way that draws others hearts away from God to ourselves.  John the Baptist lost his life as a result of this kind of wicked dance. Yet he who lost his earthly life due to the power of a dance unto destruction, began his life with a pure and holy dance declaring with great joy the testimony of Christ’s coming by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Luke 1:44 speaks of John in the womb when Elizabeth encountered Mary as she was pregnant with Jesus, “For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”  John’s prenatal leap testified to the worth and joy and meaning of our Savior’s coming.  This is the essence of dance that brings honor and glory to the Lord…it declares the glory and supremacy of Jesus Christ.

Spurgeon in his commentary of Psalm 87:7 says

“Where God is there must be joy, and where the church is increased by numerous conversions the joy becomes exuberant and finds out ways of displaying itself. Singers and dancers, Psalmists and pipers, united their efforts and made a joyful procession to the temple, inspired not by Bacchus, or by the Castalian fount, but by draughts from the sacred source of all good, of which they each one sing All my springs are in thee.” (Treasury of David)

Thus this is my prayer…Oh Beautiful Jesus, in whom is all my delight, may I drink deeply of you and be filled continually with great joy.  May the song of my heart and the dance of my feet be an overflow of the abundant life you are causing to spring up within me.  I often feel in worship as if my heart might explode if I did not have the gift of expressing it back to you in a dance of my strength.  May my dance ever and only draw hearts and minds to you and not to myself.  May they look at my exuberance and grace and passion and see not only the joy of a sinner redeemed, but the Worthiness of my Great Savior!

Christ Exalting Dance: a Key for Today

Christ Exalting Dance is for Today

Dance as praise and worship is something God is calling His people to enter into today.  Some hold that because dance was often mentioned in the Old Testament in contexts of the people of God offering sacrifices, it has passed away with the sacrificial system at the cross and resurrection.  There are several passages that speak of the Israelites rejoicing at the feasts and celebrations at which they did offer sacrifices according to the law.  The sacrifices were necessary to draw near to God.  A significant part of what was being celebrated in the dance, music, and Psalms was the reality that God had drawn near and blessed them with His goodness.  In Nahum 1:15 it says, “Keep your feasts, O Judah..”  This word for feast in Hebrew is ‘chagag’ which means to dance in a circle.  This passage and others as well as several historical sources paint a picture of celebratory movement being a characteristic aspect of how the people of God observed these sacred celebrations. All of these sacrifices and feasts did in fact find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.  But it is important to remember that the value of this system, according to the New Testament, is to function as a shadow that points us to the reality and substance that is in Jesus. That means that the glory and joy in God that the Israelites celebrated through dance as they feasted and offered sacrifice was pointing toward Christ, though they could not see the full reality of what they were  proclaiming. But this does not argue for the irrelevance of the dance under the new covenant. In fact, it suggests the opposite. Since the Israelites were called to dance even in the shadow (Ps 149:3, 150:4), how much more should the people of God now, Jew and Gentile alike, rejoice in the substance who is Jesus!  How could our praise diminish and the fullest expression of joy given to us by our God be forbidden? Yet so many of God’s people in Western culture are stuck in immobility during praise and worship because of this wrong understanding among others.  Things that were themselves a shadow, like animal sacrifice and the Levitical code have passed away.  Hebrews 8 among other verses makes this clear.  Hebrews 8:6 says, “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better (New Covenant) promises.” But the substance of our salvation can still call forth the same response. What a glorious salvation and deliverance the sacrifice of Jesus has bought for us!  It is greater than the deliverance of the children of Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea described in Exodus 15.  After they safely passed through the waters, Moses sang and Miriam led all of the women of Israel in celebrating such a mighty salvation through song and dance (v20-21).    Colossians 1:13 testifies to the reality that if we are in Christ we have experienced a greater deliverance and salvation than that. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  How much more worthy is Jesus of the dance of our hearts as the deliverance he has accomplished for us is greater and eternal!

Dancing in the Image of God (Part 2)

What emotion do you think of when you picture God?  I believe too many people do not picture him with any emotion at all, or they picture Him full of anger at all of the wrong things they have done.  Jesus as fully God and fully man came to reveal the heart of God to us.  Colossians 2:9 says, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily..” Yet as we saw in Part 1 of Dancing in the Image of God, the Bible says that Jesus is the most joyful man who ever lived.  In Hebrews 1:9 we are told that Jesus was anointed with joy more than all of his companions.  Psalm 103:8 tells us, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”  His steadfast love is not only faithful and enduring but full of passion. One can not read the gospels without seeing Jesus full of emotion.  Love stronger than death was motivating His desire to fulfill the Father’s will as He agonized in the garden before his impending crucifixion.  When Jesus was lifted up on the cross, the full extent of the love of God was revealed.  He turned away the wrath of God from those who put their trust in Him as he lived and died to pay for sin and grant  His righteousness.  This was the plan of God from eternity past to have a purified people, a Bride, that would reflect His glory and participate with the Trinity in intimate fellowship.  Is 62:5 says, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”  The Lord is full of delight over His chosen people and desires for his heart to be seen and known.  Psalm 104:31 says, “May the glory of the Lord endure forever;  may the Lord rejoice in his works.”  The Hebrew word for rejoice in this passage means to ‘jump for joy.’  Rejoicing is a visible expression of joy.  It is something that can be seen!  We were made in the image of a God who expresses Himself passionately so that what is in His heart and mind can be made visible.  In Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke while on the the earth, the words for ‘dance’ and ‘rejoice’ are synonymous.  Luke 10:21 speaks of  Jesus rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, and throughout the New Testament, the disciples of Jesus are called to rejoice in the reality of the Kingdom of God.  The Greek word used in many of these instances is ‘agalliao’ which means to jump for joy.

As mentioned in Part 1, our dance was created to be a reflection of one of the ways we are made in the image of God.  It is little wonder that when something exciting happens to a child they don’t have to be told to jump for joy.  It is a natural expression.  Not to jump is a behavior that has to be learned!  In some places in our own culture, it is still acceptable to rejoice in this way.  For example at a football or other athletic game, when someone scores a touchdown or makes an incredible play they often jump up and down and dance.  Everyone cheering for that team is on their feet jumping and screaming with excitement.  We were created to respond with everything we are when something or someone thrills our hearts.  It is our culture that most often teaches when and how it is appropriate to respond with such authenticity and unrestraint to what we are feeling. While culture has its place, it is the Word of God that should reign supreme in training us to respond rightly to our emotions.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 says, “There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”  This passage makes it clear that there is a place and time in the human experience to enter into the full range of human emotion and express it accordingly before the Lord. Psalm 62:8 says, “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”  May we be strengthened with grace to bring our hearts to the Lord in both sorrow and joy, weeping and dancing.  May we know the fellowship of the Lord Jesus in these places of deep emotion, understanding that He created these capacities for feeling and expression within us that we might reflect and respond to the glorious revelation of Himself.