ON WORSHIP: a summary

I love to watch the sunset from atop Blevins Gap in South Huntsville, & I know that others here hike those trails because I’ve seen the Instagram stories! But, have you ever wondered why are we so moved by a beautiful sunset? Or how many of you have ever stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon and actually felt significant in comparison? 

If you’re like me, you arrogantly marched to the canyon’s edge, then dropped to your knees to cling to the earth. It is beauty of that magnitude that just inspires awe. Yet even beauty like this doesn’t fulfill. First, we are awestruck, but eventually we find ourselves looking for the next hit of adrenaline. We book a trip to another natural wonder we’ve not experienced yet..& we will be awed, then again we will forget.

The excitement of seeing the Grand Canyon wears off – I look back at old pictures & I’m unable to connect with more than just a fraction of that initial impact. I don’t feel that same fear… it’s just a vague memory of a feeling I had. 

It’s like when your favorite new record releases – the one we’ve waited on for weeks – eventually it loses its edge, and we are waiting on another that we’ve heard is coming out next month. How fickle! If I seek fulfillment and joy in music, I will always be disappointed.

You will never be fully satisfied with your friendships. That fishing or hunting trip, or your gaming platform, or even that new sports car cannot give you ongoing happiness. 

Here’s a bomb for Christians, since we tend to make a big deal about marriage; you will never be wholly fulfilled in your marriage – & if you TRY to find ultimate fullfillment there, you will likely find yourself profoundly disappointed.

Your soulmate was never meant to fulfill you. But someone is.

And when I was feeling pretty insignificant and small when looking over this ‘grand canyon’, there’s more: if you went to your nearest beach and began to count individual grains of sand, and continued until you had counted every single grain of sand on every beach on Earth, it wouldn’t even come close to equaling the number of stars in the universe. Yet God made, named, and sustains each and every one of them.

I was listening to a podcasted lecture not long ago about quantum physics… did you know that if you truly quantify all that makes up an atom – you know, atoms, the things we’re made of – it’s almost entirely empty space. Man, that’ll make you believe in a God – I’m almost entirely nothing, BUT YET I’M HERE…standing before you! It makes one feel incredibly small, & like a walking miracle, all at the same time.

You are one single person, living in an average city, in an average-sized state, located in a relatively larger country, on an average sized planet, circling a fairly insignificant star, floating in space with 150+ billion other stars in a small corner of our average little galaxy, which is only one of among 150+ billion others. Even still, the God – who created, named, and sustained every star – strangely enough, cares about you. That is your Heavenly Father! Can a God so powerful, who is yet concerned with even the death of a sparrow, not take care of you?

Can He not keep His promises?

He promises that if you seek Him, you will find Him, and the more you seek Him, the more you will desire Him, and the more you desire Him, the more of Himself He will give – and with that, “all of these things will be added unto you.

You’ve never seen a painting more beautiful, or heard music more enchanting – you’ve never tasted any food that is better – God is the artist, and we all simply work with what He’s given! 

I can worship that God. As excited as I can get about a new music release, surely I could get excited about the God who spun the universe into being? As much honor as I give to the President of the United States, surely I can honor the one true King more? As much as I love my own imperfect Father, I can at least love God with as much dedication. 

We are to worship God with all that we are for all that He is!

But I’m just laying the groundwork! We haven’t even talked about what worship is! 

How we respond to God is worship – worship is whatever you and I do that tells the world and God how valuable He is. Of course that is far more than just singing a song on Wednesday night or Sunday morning – in fact, it is possible to worship God and not sing a note. 

However, we are a people who, in order to fully experience truth, need to live it – and singing is the overflow of that lived life – singing is a bubbling over…and overflow of thankfulness to God.

According to Luke chapter 10, in his telling of the Good Samaritan parable, Jesus asks, ““What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?” The answer he received, and approved of: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, AND love your neighbor as yourself.”

THAT IS WORSHIP: loving God with your heart, mind, soul, & strength – that’s RESPONDING to God with your EMOTIONS, your THOUGHTS, your ACTIONS, & the Biblical idea of “soul” is “everything that makes you, YOU” – so the call to worship, & the Christian life itself is LOVE GOD WITH ALL THAT YOU ARE… & that next part, “love your neighbor…”, we’ll come back to this verse later… but consider this…

Here is the challenge I challenge myself with: do whatever you must with your BODY, to get your HEART to respond emotionally, to what your MIND knows intellectually so your SPIRIT can receive it fully. Turn watching the eclipse, or any unique, awe-inspiring event, into an act of worship! Speak praise outloud! We do that at sports games, don’t we – I mean everyone else saw the touchdown too, but here I am yelling “TOUCHDOWN”, & I’m turning to the others in the stand – we make it REAL TO OURSELVES by saying it outlaid! Also, Raise your hands! Tell those around you HOW AWESOME GOD IS to have created such a thing! This is the first and greatest commandment: love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. That is genuine worship, and our great God is worthy of nothing less! 

So, what does this look like? Well, worship expresses the value of God… I guess the question is, how should we do that?

Well, what makes you feel valued?

Gifts? A phone call? Has anyone ever sung – or better yet, written – a song for you? Single guys, that’s a GREAT dating tool – trust me!

However, writing your lady a song will not carry a relationship.

Let’s say that someone wrote you a song, but then hit on your best friend? It doesn’t matter how memorable the hook, or how sweet the lyric – you’d despise that song. There is more to feeling loved – to being praised – than simply being sung about, or to. That goes not only for us, but also for God. God made you a worshiper, and as much as He may be blessed by your songs, they don’t mean much if the rest of you doesn’t joyfully come with them.

The English word “worship” is a combination of the words “worth” and “ship”, which works much like “Lordship”; it means to proclaim or display the great value of someone or something. However, the word we translate most often as “worship” from the Bible is “proscenia” a word that literally means “to kiss the feet of…”. And in Jesus day, people didn’t wear shoes – at best, sandals – and since bathrooms weren’t readily available, the dirty streets were where many people did their “business”. Those dirty feet are the ones we’d drop to our faces to kiss without a second thought if we found ourselves face-to-face with the beauty of God.

There is a far less-than-subtle difference between me speaking highly of someone, as our weaker English word suggests, and bowing to the ground to kiss their feet when they enter the room. The first doesn’t cost me much, really. The second: I am humbly throwing my whole self out before another – displaying that they are my everything, and presenting myself to them for their use and service. Biblical worship is a BIG DEAL.

The whole drama that is the Bible is a story about worship.

A few months back I preached through Psalm 66 here at CrossPointe because, as a Worship Pastor, this is ONE OF MY FAVORITES! “Shout for joy to God, all the earth; Sing the glory of His name;Give to Him glorious praise!Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!’” (Psalm 66:1-3a)
Read it aloud in monotone. It’s not right, is it? That’s not how it’s read – you don’t read it – SHOUT IT! Think on this: the book of Psalms is an ancient liturgical book – a collection of hymns & poetry for the purpose of aiding God’s people in worshiping Him as He ought be worshipped. And here God’s directions for worship are SHOUTING! Do we do such a text any justice to read it dully, without emotion? When your favorite sports team scores the winning goal, or your favorite band closes the show with that awesome sing-along, is your response, “oh…yay”?

Check this list of Scriptures out, & you should grasp what I’m meaning…these are the words we translate as “worship” or “praise” in the Bible… this is a list of responses that honor God with a full-life, “all-in” response;
Isaiah 29:23 – “(they) will stand in awe of the God of Israel”; Psalm 9:2 – “I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.”; Psalm 71:23 – “My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.”; 2 Samuel 7:18 – “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, ‘Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?’”; Psalm 47:1 – “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!”; Exodus 34:8 – “…Moses quickly bowed his head towards the earth and worshiped.”; Psalm 5:3 – “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for You and watch.”; Matthew 26:39 – “And going a little farther he (Jesus) fell on his face and prayed…”; Psalm 149:3 – “Let them praise His name with dancing, making melody to Him with tambourine and lyre!

That is just a tiny sampling, but  it shows one thing clearly: worshiping God Biblically is multi-facetted, and ENGAGED. I’ll summarize this list: hands raised in praise, hands raised in surrender, laying facedown, dancing in celebration, kneeling in adoration, shouting in triumph, playing an instrument to God’s glory, overflowing in songs of praise, a position of prayer/trust, or even laying down your life. THIS IS WORSHIP. Did you hear that – one of the words for worship simply means putting yourself in a position where you have to TRUST GOD! That’s worship! And yet there is no Biblical directive to worship the Lord by sitting in your chair disinterestedly, or going through life thinking God’s an interesting idea, but not a person worth your all. I’m sorry, but it’s just not there. And if we think God is so boring as to not deserve all that much of us, it’s our picture of God that’s broken, not God himself. God…is worth… it all

I imagine a few of your know of the band the Who… I don’t pretend to know where Pete Townshend’s faith is today, but when he was walking through a time of deep seeking, & wondering about who God is he penned these words; “I’d gladly lose me to find you. I’d gladly give up all I had. To find you I’d suffer anything and be glad. I’d pay any price just to get you. I’d work all my life and I will. To win you I’d stand naked, stoned and stabbed. And I’d call that a bargain – the best I ever had.” This isn’t a Christian song or a Christian band by any means – it’s a man acknowledging that IF GOD IS REAL, He’s worth laying it all on the line for. That’s worship, folks. That is recognizing the value of something, & going for it, full force.

And this is why any band or choir that I’ve ever worked with already knows what I’m going to say next: do whatever you must with your body to get your heart to respond to what your mind knows so your spirit can receive it fully. What you DO as an act of worship, directly impacts what your heart FEELS, bringing to bear what your mind KNOWS upon everything that you are! That is the first and greatest commandment; “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, & strength“, BUT… that next line: “and LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.

Many Bible-believeing scholars believe that the best translations of these ideas are CONFLATING the two halves of this verse… what I mean is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, & strength BY loving your neighbor as yourself. I can’t say that I’ve landed there myself, BUT I think it is safe to say this: if, when we leave the building we call ‘church’, & are BEING the church…OUT THERE…I think it’s safe to say, looking at how this is worded, that if we aren’t loving our neighbors, that the first part about loving God is entirely in-question. That’s because the whole story of the Bible is one of God making man imprinted with His image, & even when that image is broken & defaced, it’s still there, albeit imperfectly, & that means how we respond to our neighbors – yes, our family; yes, our fellow church members; yes, those who live near us; YES, those we try to not make eye contact with at the stop light; YES, how we respond to those from the opposite political party; from the RELIGION we’re most uncomfortable with…how we respond to those broken images of God that we encounter daily, is how we also, deep down, respond to God.

Man, that’s heavy. That’s why we have to turn to Jesus again & again, because we constantly get worship wrong, & that’s what life’s about: worship. When we FAIL TO WORSHIP, Jesus stands in our place. Jesus is OUR ULTIMATE RESPONSE TO GOD. So in every moment we need to lean into Him.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, & love your neighbor as yourself.
Respond. Don’t withhold any of yourself from Him.

THAT. IS. WORSHIP!

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