A Perspective On Worship

If you are a Christian, I hope you read this post; because nobody wants to be bored in Heaven (that will make more sense later).

Let me begin by sharing my background. As a child, I thought "worship" meant singing definitively old songs in church accompanied by a piano, and only a piano. As I grew older I learned some things about the meaning of the word "worship" and began to understand that it could include acts of service, both toward God directly, as well as toward other people. Worship expanded to include a variety of sacrificial acts that were exclusively reserved for God and church-related functions. I grew up in church, so this was pretty well engrained in my consciousness by the time I became an adult. Then more changes occurred.


Substance:



II Samuel 23:15-16: And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the Lord.

Did you catch that? Be honest, if you were one of those three men that risked your life to get that water for your king, how would you have felt? Me? Really mad. Had David lost his mind?

What those men did was offer their lives for their king. They ventured into enemy territory (read the story) for him just to get him a drink of water. That was loyalty that I personally have never seen. That was dedication and devotion to their leader. They wanted their king to know that they would lay down their lives for him. They were giving David a gift of worship. But Dan, they didn't die, so they didn't give their lives. I get it. But they were willing to die. Do you see the substance of worship there? Perhaps this will help. The word worship means "the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration". Synonyms include revere, honor, adore, and praise. David's soldiers expressed deep reverence for him when they fought for that water. They said to David, "David, you are worthy for us to risk our lives for you."

Now you understand what David was pouring out to the Lord. It wasn't water. The water was meaningless. God doesn't need water! It is just as ridiculous for a Christian to think that God needs anything you have--time, money, talent, service, power, intellect, wisdom. Then what is is that God desires in worship? Unfortunately for the people currently going through the motions, He wants exactly what you're not giving Him--a deep-seated conviction in the core of your consciousness that God is worthy of any and every thing He might ask of you. Even if He asked you to rush into enemy territory and risk your life to accomplish a task, you would go in because God is worth it. David recognized what those three men were offering to Him, and David's response was, "No friends, I am not worthy of this, but God is." David is spoken about more than any other person in the Old Testament. For hundreds of years after this man died, God referred back to him as the benchmark for truly loving and worshipping God. I think we could all take some lessons.

Motive:


What if I don't feel like worshipping God? Should I "fake it until I feel it"?


This is a tricky question. There will be times when your body will tell you that you're tired, your head hurts, your stomach is upset, etc. It doesn't mean you can't worship God when you're sick, but you might be limited in what types of physical expression you can perform. Other times you might not feel like worshipping because of a bad attitude. Perhaps bad things have been happening to you lately and you feel that God is not being fair to you. You have downgraded him to "unworthy" status and now if you choose to "fake it", you will not feel it, ever. Some of you might be thinking, "So I just shouldn't sing in church if I don't feel like it?" You can sing, but why are you doing it? If you want God to be pleased (and you not waste your time and energy), you need to start with your heart and let it be filled with God's awesomeness, then worship happens almost effortlessly.


I should publicly worship God (aka "go through the motions") so people think I'm a good Christian.

"Are we happy plastic people under shiny plastic steeples, with walls around our weakness, and smiles to hide our pain?" These lyrics belong to Casting Crowns (@castingcrowns) from the song "Stained Glass Masquerade". How appropriate! Are you going to church and pretending to worship God to impress other people? Shame on you. You have done the exact opposite of what David did. You are, by your actions, saying that God is not worthy, but you are. I wouldn't understand this so well if I hadn't been doing it for years. It's a shame.


Let's look at David again, only this time in a different context:



II Samuel 6:14-16, 20-22:  And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart... Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovers himself! And David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel: therefore will I play before the LordAnd I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honor. (Emphases added)

I hope you read all of that. David expresses his heart of worship toward God with a very outward display for all the people to see. And what happens? His pagan enemies sent him a letter to discourage him and tell him his worship of Jehovah was stupid? Nope. Nope. Nope. His own wife, daughter of the previous king, and woman of Israel despises him, judges him, and then rips him to pieces when he gets home. I think it's safe to say that opposition in the Christian life OFTEN comes from within our walls. If you're reading this and you tend to be the type of person that criticizes other Christians for all the stuff they do that you just "don't get" and seems so "extravagant", perhaps you should take a lesson from Michal and shut your mouth. Pause. I'm not being mean. The Bible has a lot to say about what you say, and most of the time it's something like, "Beware of your mouth because it will get you in a lot of trouble". 

I am not advocating utter Christian liberalism in which anything goes and worship is whatever you want it to be. God makes some stipulations. In the book of Genesis, Cain made a big mistake by trying to worship God his way instead of God's way--bad choice. Later in the Old Testament, several men were severely punished (with death or otherwise) for breaking the rules of worship that God had established. God is not flippant about worship, nor should you be.

Expression:

Here's where the controversy gets sticky. People in China probably have different ways of expressing their worship than people from Northern Europe. People in Africa will have different approaches from people in Australia. God loves diversity (not how it's being used in pop culture today), and Heaven will be filled with worship from every people group and every language (Revelation 5:8-10). Let me explain my goals before I go any further. I am not trying to draw lines or specify how you should or should not worship God. I am, however, trying to share the experiences I have had over the last few years and tell you how they have improved my Christian life.

#1 Spend time thinking about God prior to expressing worship.

This is why pop culture's version of God makes me so angry. He is not a passive-aggressive old man with a long beard in Heaven. Words fail to draw appropriate images of His grandeur. The beauty of His manifestation is similar only to the sparkle of fine diamonds and rubies, crystals and gems. Light is what He is, not what He emits. His intellect is piercing, sharp, and immeasurable, capable of simultaneously threading together all thoughts and events, past and present, occurring and possible without deviating His attention from any detail of the aforementioned. His presence is all-consuming, and the only men in history to see Him directly fell to their faces with no strength remaining in them. He is fierce, kind, tenacious, gentle, charitable, precise, intricate, marvelous, clear, colorful, harmonious, and creative. He creates order amidst chaos. He establishes foundational physical laws of the universe and can at any moment enforce them, bend them, or outright break them to accomplish His purpose. Whether with man's cooperation or utter opposition, He will complete His plan and maintain His place on the throne.

#2 Worship is not limited by space. You can worship anywhere.

Corporate worship occurs in church, but worship was never intended by God to be performed 1-4 hours per week. I worship in my car. I worship when I daydream about God's Creation and the marvels of life. I am almost daily overwhelmed by the seemingly infinite amount of complexity and information contained within organic molecules that constitute living organisms. It's breathtaking. Like David, I think it's healthy once in awhile to get excited about God and jump, dance (yep, I said it), throw your hands in the air, clap, sing, yell, and be a little crazy. Your body was made by him to be happy when it moves. God uses the word dance quite often in the Bible to describe how we ought to respond to Him. Don't let the corruption of dance by some folks ruin what you should be doing. Do I think we should dance in church? I'm not sure about that one. Individual and corporate worship are not the same. I don't have all the answers for every scenario.

As I said in the first paragraph, some of you might equate your church's worship service to what Heaven will be like. You think Heaven might be a little boring, if you're honest. Well, that's too bad. It won't be. It will be exhilarating... and probably quite loud. So sing louder and don't worry about what other people think. It's not about them, or you.

#3 Worship is not only about music.

Show God He is worthy by making a sacrifice once in awhile. Pour some water on the ground (so to speak). Is there something meaningful and important to you? Give it to God. Like the lives of David's three men, it doesn't necessarily mean you will lose that thing. It only means you have released it in your heart and mind and said to God, "You can have it. It's yours." God is worthy for you to give Him your life, your family, your children, your money, your possessions, your time, your intellect, your talents... all of it. And what if He takes it away? You will still have God! Is that not enough for you? Refer to #1 please.

I will end this post by quoting some lyrics from Mike Weaver (@mikedaddyweave). Think about them.

You [God] are glorious, almighty, infinite and holy
Gracious, full of mercy, love without an end.
Magnificent God! Magnificent God!
Our hearts are full of wonder
Captured by your beauty
Falling on our knees we worship you alone
Magnificent God! Magnificent God!

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