Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Worship is an Action Word

Dear Friends,

She sits quietly, listening to the relaxing smooth sounds of her favorite worship music. Eyes closed, head nodding in time with the rhythm, a sweet smile on her face. The resplendence of the music is bringing warm, pleasant thoughts and feelings of love for her Holy Father and she weeps. She is feeling connected with God. The music has taken her into the holy of holies. She sits reverently in the Presence of God. Is she worshiping?
The pastor stands on the stage partially hidden by the drum-set as he scans the mega-congregation during worship. His praise and worship band just released their third album and every Sunday the church is packed with a young and excited crowd. Only a few of them are singing. All are drawn to the charismatic lead singer and the band’s rock sound – the guitar riffs and the drum solos. They love their professional praise and worship band. It's like going to a Christian concert every Sunday! Is this church worshiping?

Across the street at the cathedral-sized church, the congregation reverently listens as the 100 member choir flawlessly sings sacred music from the 12th century. In church jargon these are known as "performance choirs." The music is ethereal, elegant and exquisite. Is this church worshiping?

A congregation opens their service by singing two "contemporary" praise songs from the 70's. Some people are quietly singing while others are greeting each other and talking. A woman turns to the back of the bulletin to find something to read. Some older people are shifting restlessly in the pews -- they only sing the hymns. Some younger people are playing video games on their phone. Is this church worshiping?

We can self-define worship to be whatever we want it to be, but if we are relying on our Bible to define authentic worship and allow scripture to provide the framework for a worship service, then the answer to the above scenarios may surprise you.

It might help to separate what is "worshipful" from what is "Biblical worship." “WORSHIPFUL” is a feeling of reverence and adoration. Listening to worship music may engage your senses and take you into a worshipful place in your spirit. So may reading scripture, burning incense, lighting candles, walking into an old California Mission or seeing a spectacular sunrise.

Biblical “WORSHIP” is something entirely different. In the Bible, worship is always participative. It is never passive. It’s not a performance or a programming element in a church service. It's not singing a couple of songs to warm people up for the service that follows. Worship is not seeking a feeling or experience but authentic, heart-felt worship will always take you into the presence of God.

In the Bible, “worship” is an action verb. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word “Shachah” translated as “worship” is used over one hundred times. In the New Testament, the Greek word “Proskuneo” translated as “worship” is used fifty-nine times. Both words mean the same thing: to bow down, kneel or prostrate oneself before a Superior Being. To engage in biblical worship, you must actually be doing something. Remember, by definition, worship is always participative. Read the four scenarios again and ask yourself, "Is this person/church worshiping?"

Worship is not our good thoughts, warm feelings or groovin’ to a guitar riff. It’s using our voice and our posture to express the worthiness of our triune God. "Make a joyful shout to the Lord..Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise!" Psalm 100:1-5 is not an instruction to the priests but to the people. Singing out loud, verbally praising Him, bowing, kneeling, shouting, standing with hands raised– that’s worship! And when we worship, the glory of the Lord will fill the house of God!
“..the Levites who were the singers, all those of Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, stood at the east end of the altar, clothed in white linen, having cymbals, stringed instruments and harps, and with them one hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets -- 13 indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying: "For He is good, For His mercy endures forever," that the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.” 2 Chronicles 5:12-14
Some traditions teach that proper worship can only take place in a priest-led liturgical church service with other believers. But we can't hire a professional priest, pastor or praise band to do the worship for us. God created YOU for worship. “This people I have formed for Myself; They shall declare My praise.” Isaiah 43:21  You were created to worship God and declare His praise in church, out of church, in your home, your car, in your backyard and walking on the beach.

What happens when we praise God and worship Him? St. Bernard wrote that “through desire we already possess the object of our longing.” How much this rings true for us when we express our heart’s desire for the Lord in our worship. We long for Him and reach out and touch Him as we speak forth His worthiness to Him. And in that moment of intimate worship, as we possess the gift of His love, He reaches out and possesses us. We are owned by Him. We belong to Him. We are His.  Amen?

Note: This AMEN Corner is an edited, revised and expanded version of an earlier post.

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The AMEN Corner is a weekly devotional for the family and friends of New Hope Family Church. It is intended for this devotional to be strengthening, encouraging or comforting and your comments too should be for the glory of God and reflect the intended purpose of these posts.

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