Worship is the total response of our whole being to the revelation of God into our life.
God's initiative in revealing Himself leads to our response in worshipping Him.
- Mike Robinson (Barnabas Network - www.barnabasnetwork.com)
the total response - not just words & music - not just Sundays - not just church
of my whole being - thoughts, emotions, body, spirit - head and heart
to the revelation of God into my life - through His Word, His people, His Spirit.
One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. - Psalm 27: 4 NIV
It's Sunday morning. You've had a terrible week. Today you've already lost your temper and yelled at your spouse, your children, your cat, and the other drivers on the road. Somebody else's child is screaming on the other side of the church. You really don't like the person sitting in front of you. The worship team starts to play (too loud as usual) and it's your least favourite song in the world.
Now you have a choice to make. Will you worship? You have many options. You can leave the room, you can sit and sulk, you can focus on all the things that are upsetting you, you can be angry because they are distracting you from worship . . .
. . . OR you can focus on the One who deserves your worship.
The Lord says,
Will you worship
Will you bow down
Before your Lord and King?
Will you love me
Will you give me your heart
Right here and now
Make the choice . . .
Making the choice is where it all begins. Will you worship?
by Kelly Carpenter
Wired to Worship
The Westminster Confessional states this: The chief end of man is to worship God and enjoy Him forever. Our intended design was to have unbroken communion with God whereby we would worship and enjoy Him forever.
Of course, the fall of man changed all that. We became darkened in our understanding of who God is. Yet, because we are "wired to worship" there will always be objects of our attention and affections. And if it isn't the true God, then it is some god of our own making.
One can't turn on a television without being bombarded with the world's gods. We idolize entertainment personalities, sports heroes, political figures, famous preachers, and the list goes on.
We allow ourselves to be shaped, influenced, and motivated by those people or things that we give our affection to.
At some point, we discovered the true God, and we soon learned that we are to worship Him alone and turn away from all the little gods we have allowed to influence and define us.
Our Concept of God
Once we have figured out who the One True God is and have decided to worship Him, our lives can come into proper order and we should be able to worship Him in spirit and truth.
Not so fast. Do we truly understand this God that we worship? Yes, we do, to a certain extent. Part of our journey is to come to a greater knowledge of Him. But our understanding also includes many misconceptions of who God is. Part of our learning process is to unlearn our misconceptions of Him.
I believe that how we worship is based upon our conception of who we worship. In other words, our conception of God will drive the way we worship Him. Let's explore some of the common conceptions and misconceptions of God and how that effects our worship.
God as Tyrant
Some people think that God is angry at them all the time and just waiting to pounce on them when they make one little mistake. They are more familiar with the God of judgment than the God of mercy. This thinking can go back to a tyrannical authority figure in a person's past, or an angry and abusive father. But it can also stem from a lack of understanding about grace.
Regardless of the cause, this concept of God can cause us to live in a cycle of guilt and condemnation.
How does this effect our worship of Him? We are afraid. We cower before this big angry God, feeling totally unworthy of Him, painfully aware of all the ways we have let Him down. If we don't experience His touch, then we figure that we probably didn't deserve it. We may not attempt to draw close to Him, but rather wallow in our shame, because we think God wants us to feel miserable about our shortcomings.
God as Aloof
Remember the song that went, "God is watching us from a distance...". This expresses a philosophy called "Deism" which believes that God created the cosmos, set it in motion, and then walked away from it all. God is not directly involved with His creation, so it's up to us to sort it out. Surely we who know Christ don't view God this way. Yet if we are honest with ourselves, we would see all the ways we keep God at arms length. We run to Him when we get into trouble or calamity strikes, but if life is going smoothly we assume that God doesn't want us to pester Him with our little trifles.
How does this affect our worship? If we think that God is unconcerned with the details of our life, then we can view worship as a "take it or leave it" proposition. I may not be in the mood to worship or God doesn't seem very near at the moment. It's no big deal. God is too busy to be interested in whether I worship Him or not. He expects us to grow up on our own. All this sentiment is a waste of His and my time.
God as Familiar
On the other end of the spectrum is a God who is all too familiar. Yes, Jesus can be, among other things, our friend. Yet, sometimes we take this too far. We think of Him as our "buddy" Jesus that we keep in our pocket for good fortune. He makes sure we get those good parking spaces and he makes the sun shine today just for us.
The all-too-familiar God evokes worship that is devoid of reverence and fear. The familiar God makes it too easy for us to treat that which is sacred as profane. Our very relationship with God is sacred, yet we dirty it if we tolerate sinful behavior in our lives and think that God is going to gloss over it because He is our buddy.
God as Accountant
Then there is the God who is keeping score. There are spiritual laws that God and man are bound by and can be set out in a series of formulas. We do this and God will do this. We do that and God will do that. We've got God figured out because He has made it very cut and dry about what He expects from us. And we apply this thinking to worship as well. We enter through the gates of thanksgiving and into the courts of praise--or is it the other way around? We better get this down. We don't want our worship to be invalidated.
Like God-as-tyrant, we have this feeling that unless we've got everything right then our worship will be unacceptable to Him and we won't experience His presence. However, if we have gone through the checklist and determined that everything is okay with God, then we expect that God is going to come through for us in our worship times to bring His blessing and His presence. After all, we've done everything necessary to earn it.
God as High King
Stephen Lawhead is one of my favorite Christian authors. In his trilogy "The Song of Albion" he describes the mythological otherworld of ancient celtic lore. A place where the sky is bluer and the grass is greener and life is more vibrant than in our own world. He describes the main character meeting the High King of this realm.
When the bard (i.e. priest) finished, he took his place at the right hand and a little behind the king’s chair. The horn sounded again and Meldryn Mawr himself appeared, a very Sun King: his clothing was immaculate, and his countenance brilliant. He wore a crown, which appeared to have been made of oak-leaves and twigs dipped in gold. His dark eyes scanned the throng before him, confident and wise. The force of his presence filled the entire hall, drawing all attention to him; I could not look away.
Imagine being in the presence of such a High King. Would you not be filled with wonder and awe? Fear and trembling? The author describes how warriors would swear fealty to the King. They would lay their head upon the king’s chest. This reminds me of the disciple John, resting his head upon Jesus’ chest during the Last Supper.
Here is a picture where devotion and dedication is expressed in an intimate manner. The High King of Heaven is worthy of all honor, praise, and devotion. In contrast, we are unworthy. Yet instead of being unapproachable, He accepts our allegiance through an intimate expression. He has allowed us to become citizens of the Kingdom of the Universe.
How does this image of God affect my worship? I am awestruck by His beauty, His radiance, His majesty, His perfection, His sovereignty, His unlimited love…and the list goes on forever. We see just a part, through a mirror, dimly, and yet this is what we see. Imagine when we are face to face with our High King. I only hope that we will receive the gift of expanded language so we can come closer to describing Him as He Is.
God as Father
It was Jesus who first referred to God as "Father". And it was Jesus who painted such vivid pictures of this Father-God, the most memorable of which is the story of the Prodigal Son. Here we see the father always looking down the road, longing for his wayward son to return. We see his outstretched arms when his son finally comes home. We see the redemption and the celebration.
We are told that as earthly fathers know how to give their children good gifts, even more so will our Heavenly Father lavish His wonderful gifts upon us, not the least of which is a token of the God-head Himself, the Holy Spirit.
For God to be our Father, we must recognize that we are His beloved sons and daughters. This brings us both privilege and freedom.
How does this affect my worship? I can be a child who delights in his Father. I can sit in Daddy’s lap. I can know His protection, feel His nurturing, and learn from His wisdom. I can rest assured that I will never be abandoned or abused I am safe and secure. I am the apple of His Eye. As a little child blesses her earthly parents with a crude crayon drawing, I can bless my Heavenly Father with my feeble tokens of worship. He delights in me.
A Child of the High King
I love to put these two images together: God as High King and God as Father. The truth is that He is both of these things to us. We are beloved sons and daughters of the High King of Heaven. We honor Him, we revere Him, for He is the King. Yet we are close to Him and enjoy His tender love, for He is our Father.
I want to live for this King. I want to be obedient to Him. I want to please Him in all that I do. He is worthy of all that I have to give.
God as Redeemer
These are but a few negative and positive concepts of God; the list is by no means complete. But we can’t forget the God who so loved us that He gave His only Son so that we could enter into eternity now. We can’t have a relationship with the King of the Universe without our Kinsman-Redeemer. God is a God of justice but He is also a God of mercy.
As I come before my Father, the High King of Heaven, I must not forget the price He paid so that I could have the confidence to enjoy His presence. We stand before Him as beloved sons and daughters who have been saved from the fire of eternal separation from Him. My heart is filled with thanksgiving and profound relief that I have not been abandoned to a life without Him.
So the next time you engage in worship, please consider who is this God we worship. Do we worship Him in truth? Pray that God will open the eyes of our hearts so that we may see Him better; and see more of who He truly is.
by Kelly Carpenter
Spring has finally sprung in our corner of the country. My wife and I took an early evening bike ride through our neighborhood. The trees have started to leaf and plenty of blossoms abound. As I was coasting down a gentle slope, I let the sweet wind overtake my senses. I delighted in this moment-this little gift from the Lord, and I thanked him for it.
The Lord has given us so much. The big things, such as His great plan through the sweep of history, the gift of His Son, our adoption as sons and daughters in His family, the incredible riches of our glorious inheritance. The little things, such as the blossom-scented breeze, a timely letter of encouragement from a friend. And the things in-between, such as our families, relationships, jobs, and all the ways we have been provided for.
When we gather together in worship, it seems to me that there is so much that we have to be thankful for--that we can praise God for. Yet, I am grieved at how disconnected some people are from this truth by the looks on their faces on Sunday morning, emotionally detached from everything. Occasionally, I am tempted to stop everything and yell, "Don't you people get it?". This would not be a very encouraging thing to do, so I do what I can through modeling worship, singing and speaking prayers, and exhorting them to draw these "bulletin readers" in.
There is another group of experienced worshippers that I think of as the "professionals". Experienced worshippers have this tendency to rate the worship experience. "Wow that was really hot. God showed up BIGTIME!!" or "Ooo.. that was really pathetic". What is our criteria when we measure worship? Is it how much God "showed up"? Is it the percentage of people still on their feet at the end of the worship set-with their hands raised? Is it how well the band played and the singers sang? Was it the level of "anointing" the worship leader displayed while navigating through the set? Is it how big the smile is on the pastor's face? Is it how many "Wow, worship was awesome!" comments the worship leader receives?
All of this leads me to the question: What do we expect in worship?
How would you answer this question? There are variety of answers. I have been in the Vineyard now for over 15 years. Typical answers I hear from those in the Vineyard tradition is that we expect to experience the "manifest" presence of God in our worship and that we come to connect with Him. Many times we do experience His love, His touch, His healing, and so on. Sometimes we don't.
I think it is a good thing to expect a visitation from the Lord in our worship times. But is that the reason why we worship?
Let me turn the previous question around. What does God expect in worship?
I really appreciate the story behind Matt Redman's song "The Heart of Worship". The nutshell of the story is that their church, Soul Survivor (in Watford, England), was going through a dry period, and it dawned on them that they had become "connoisseurs of worship, not participants of worship", almost as if worship itself had become the object of worship, instead of God being the object of worship. They repented in a drastic way and Matt wrote "I'm coming back to the heart of worship, and it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus".
I believe that sometimes we have been guilty of making the experience of worship the object of our worship as opposed to making God the object of our worship. I think that us "experienced" worshippers can be in as much danger of "not getting it" as the bulletin readers.
So, what is worship? What does God expect from worship? And, what should we expect in worship?
One answer is from the church tradition that states: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. This is a simple yet powerful way of stating what our whole purpose of existence is. There have been entire books written about this, and scriptures abound in supporting this whole concept. Simply put, I believe that we were created to worship God. The two most prevalent Greek words for "worship" in the New Testament are latreuo which means to "render honor" or to "pay homage", and proskuneo which means "to kiss the hand" or "to bow down". Notice that these are verbs, we are the initiator, and they are about giving, not receiving. I appreciate how John MacArthur, in his book "The Ultimate Priority", puts it: "When we talk about worship, we are talking about something we give to God. Modern Christianity seems committed instead to the idea that God should be giving to us. God does give to us abundantly, but we need to understand the balance of that truth-we are to render honor and adoration to God. That consuming, selfless desire to give to God is the essence and the heart of worship."
I think that when a person first discovers worship, we understand that it is a response to God for what He has done for us and what He is doing in us-we have gratitude in our hearts. We come to bless and honor Him. God meets us and blesses us with His wonderful presence. But what I have observed is that after a while we get hooked on the experience of God's presence in worship. Now I believe that the presence of God is a wonderful thing, but I don't believe that that should be our only motivation for worshipping Him. Our motivation should be to give to the Lord, not receive. We come to bless Him, praise Him, minister to Him, touch His heart, and lift up His name. When we do that we honor and reverence God; the latreuo and proskuneo of worship.
A helpful analogy is the sport of running. Running is something I have done off and on over the years to help lose some weight and get my cardiovascular system in shape. Many people get into running to achieve these benefits. However, after running a certain distance, the body releases endorphins into the bloodstream and once it hits the brain, we experience what is called a "runner's high". It's that feeling for an hour or so after exercising that "life is wonderful". There are some people who run solely out of the motivation to get the "runner's high", and this is usually involves running longer than is necessary to simply achieve cardiovascular fitness. What once started out as a desire to get fit has become a quest to get high.
What once started out as a response to God's goodness by desiring to bless and thank Him has become a quest to get high on His presence. Now, again, I think it is wonderful to "bliss out" in the presence of the Lord. But, what happens when He doesn't manifest His presence in this way? What is our reaction when God apparently doesn't "show up"?
I believe that worship is not about God's presence as much as it is about our presence. A good worship service has less to do with whether or not God showed up as much as whether or not we showed up. We are the giver in this transaction. God is the audience. The reality is that God is always with us. His presence is not the issue. Are we always present with Him?
It's up to us whether or not we will delight in the Lord. It's our choice. When we choose to delight in Him, bless Him, touch His Heart, and so on, then true worship happens.
Because worship is a choice we make or not make, the issue of sincerity comes up. What if we don't feel like worshipping God? I am not proposing that we force ourselves to sing certain songs, adopt certain physical expressions, and in general "fake it". But if we don't feel like we can worship God, then we need to take inventory of what is going on in our heart and make the right choice about how to approach Him in honesty from whatever place our heart is in. I love Craig Musseau's song "I Pour Out My Heart" where he writes "I pour out my heart for I know that You hear every cry--You are listening, no matter what state my heart is in…"
Since worship is about what we give rather than what we get, and since it appears that some people, including ourselves at times, just don't get the picture, how do we get to the place where we are making the appropriate choice to delight in, bless, and exalt the Lord? I have three suggestions:
First, we need to recognize that worship is a lifestyle and not an event. An event mindset is one where we come to church and we expect God to show up for us and give us whatever we feel we need to make it through another week or to the next meeting. I know people who are "conference junkies" who go from conference to conference to get their next renewal fix. On the contrary, the Lord calls us to a daily lifestyle of devotion. He calls us to walk with Him. He calls us to "offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is [our] spiritual act of worship." (Rom 12:1) We make the choice to be continually present with Him. If we make worship our lifestyle, then we come to our meetings prepared to give instead of expecting to receive. Worship becomes about our giving to God, not about His giving to us.
Secondly, we need to look at ourselves honestly and determine whether we are in this thing called the "Christian Life" for ourselves or for God. Sure, we signed up for God's Kingdom when we came to know Him. But do we really live for His glory, or do we exploit the inherent benefits of the Christian life to better our own condition? If we look at ourselves honestly, I believe that the only proper response is to develop a lifestyle of daily repentance. That's why Jesus commanded us to "take up [our] cross, daily". We need to realize that self-enthronement is a beast that needs to be taken to the cross daily. And then we need to remember that we are sinners saved by grace.
Thirdly, once we realize we are sinners saved by grace, we are then reminded of how much God loves us, and what He has done to prove it, His only Son sacrificed for us. This produces in us an "attitude of gratitude". We can't stray far from the Cross before we start to become like spoiled and petulant children. We stay close to the Cross and we can't help but be filled with gratitude. When I am ever aware of how much I have to be thankful for-the big things, the little things, and those in-between-I can't help but come to the Lord with a desire to thank Him, bless Him, touch His Heart, and praise Him.
Let's all stay close to the Cross and pass the message along.
Throughout the Bible, acceptable worship means approaching or engaging with
God on the terms that he proposes and in the manner that he makes possible.
It involves honouring, serving and respecting him, abandoning any loyalty or
devotion that hinders an exclusive relationship with him. Although some of
Scripture's terms for worship may refer to specific gestures of homage,
rituals or priestly ministrations, worship is more fundamentally faith
expressing itself in obedience and adoration. Consequently, in both
Testaments it is often shown to be a personal and moral fellowship with God
relevant to every sphere of life.
- David Peterson in ENGAGING WITH GOD: A BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF WORSHIP,
Apollos, 1992 (1999 reprint), p. 283. David Peterson lectures in New
Testament at Moore College, Sydney, Australia. He is the author of HEBREWS
AND PERFECTION (Cambridge University Press).
[Take a look at Romans 12:1-2 and see what the Apostle Paul says about
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- The Greatest is Worship
- Making the Connection
- All for One, One for All
- Worship 101 - Recovering the Priority of God
- Ten Ways To Worship Without Music
- Teaching Worship
- Loving the Lord with All Your Heart
- A Call for Mentors
- Worship Leadership
- Defining Worship
- How To Lead A Worship Team
- Expressions of Worship
- Learning to Wait
- Definition of a Worship Leader
- Thoughts on Worship Leading
- A Biblical Philosophy of Worship
- Steps To Equip Leaders To Equip A Team - (which reproduces itself)
- 24 x 7 Worship
- Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs
- Foundations for Worship Ministry - Choosing The Right Tools
- Prayer - The Foundation Of Worship Ministry
- Evaluating Songs for Corporate Worship
- Questions for Evaluating Corporate Worship
- Other Worship Articles
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