Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Are You A Worshiper?

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. But is she actually “worshiping” Him?

The pastor stands on the stage partially hidden by the drum-set as he scans the mega-congregation during the opening songs. 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 the music! It’s like going to a Christian concert every Sunday! Is this church worshiping?

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 mainline congregation opens their service by singing “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 of the 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’re 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
something you physically do.
It’s 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 is expressive, authentic, heart-felt worship directed to God that takes you into His presence.

In the Bible, “worship” is always 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, raise hands, kneel or prostrate oneself before a Superior Being while verbally expressing our reverence to Him. Remember, by definition, Biblical worship is always participative. Look at 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. Worship is 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 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! 2 Chronicles 5:12-14.

Some traditions teach that proper worship can only take place in a clergy-led church service with other believers. So we hire worship leaders, choir directors, priests, pastors and praise bands and then sit back to enjoy the service. In doing so, we have, in essence, “out-sourced” our worship which was never God’s plan for you. 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 praise Him in church, out of church, in your home, your car, your backyard and on your morning walk.

What happens when we praise God and worship Him? An early church father said our relationship with God, “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 to touch and possess us. We are owned by Him. We belong to Him. We are His.  Amen?

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