Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pleasing and Acceptable: Allowing the Word of God to Define the Definitions - Part 2

* Remember to read the previous parts of this series first

Worship (1 of 2)

Nearly every Christian organization boldly extends the invitation for you to "come worship with us this week!" I've seen it on signs, commercials, newspaper ads, etcetera. At the end of bulletins it usually says something along these lines, "We're so glad that you chose to worship with us today!" but is it really that simple? Surely God will accept any worship, right? Could there be more to worship than what we've made it out to be?

We have this prideful misconception that basically says that God had better take what He can get when it comes to worship. Are we really so arrogant to believe that God is in NEED of our worship? You do know that He has legions of angels that worship Him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, right? Yes, He loves our worship, but it is not as if He is incomplete without it. God is holy and only the worship of those who worship in spirit and in truth will make it to His throne, as we're told in John 4:24. To look deeper into what this is saying, I'd like to expound on the original text found within this verse.

"God is spirit (pneuma: a simple essence, devoid of all grosser matter and possessed of the power of knowing, desiring, deciding, and acting; a life giving spirit; the efficient source of any power, affection, emotion, desire, etc.), and those who worship (proskuneo: meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand; reverence; to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence; kneeling or prostration to do homage) Him must worship in spirit and truth (aletheia: what is true in any matter under consideration, opposing to the superstitions of the Gentiles and the inventions of the Jews, and the corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers even among Christians; free from affection, pretence, falsehood, deceit)."

God is a life giving spirit that knows no physical bounds. So, in order to worship and bow in reverence to Him, recognizing Him for Who He truly He is, one must do so as spirit not bound to flesh. This is why we must "walk according to the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16)

It's imperative that we understand that we cannot worship the Lord out of our carnal minds and efforts. Bigger and better praise bands, worship conferences and the latest Christian CD's are not the answer. The Lord will ONLY be worshipped as He desires when His people understand that they must approach Him via the Spirit. Otherwise all is futile and corrupted worship that will never make it into the throne room of God.

So how do we know what is true worship? We see and hear things that look and feel like worship when we go to concerts or sporting events. People will clap for just about anyone doing anything. Is this worship as well? You see, we are created to extol and praise! It is all in how we approach it and most importantly, where our worship is directed.

Do we even know how anymore? It would seem that worship has been so watered down that it has few, if any attributes of what the Word says it truly is to be. There are seven Hebrew words for praise. David tells us in Psalm 119 that he praised and worshipped the Lord seven times per day.

"Todah" - To Confess, praise, and give thanks. "Hallal" - To shine or to rave. To praise or boast. To be clamorously foolish for the Lord. "Yadah" - To revere or worship. To give thanks or praise with extended hands. To lift the hands with praise and power. "Barak" - To bless, kneel or to salute. "Tehillah" - A song or a hymn of praise. A spontaneous expression of spiritual song. "Zamar" - To make music, to sing praise. To pluck or play a musical instrument in worship. "Shabach"- To exclaim or to shout. To laud, praise or commend.

When looking at these, we likely all pick and choose which ones we like or feel comfortable doing, right? I'll "todah", but I surely will not "shabach"! Organized religion has duped Christians into believing that worship is to be some "solemn and holy" event that one dare not get clamorous or out of hand in doing. Some may say you'd just be getting in the flesh! (gasp!) Yes, people have the potential to get all crazy and move from genuinely unfettered into outlandish, but that does not give us license to act like we're zombies. I too often choose the "reserved and silent" option when in groups. Why? There is only one answer, as tough as it might be – I value men's approval more than my LORD's. I say this with a heavy heart because it pains me to know how many times I have not opened my mouth to extol the LORD and speak of His wonderful acts on my behalf. Is He not worthy of all my praise? Is He not worthy to dance before? Is He not worthy of all that I am and could ever express?

Next, we'll take a quick peek into the worshipful life of David and how worship today has been reduced to a song.


Daughter of Wisdom said...

Hi, I've visited many churches that have large, loud praise bands but the congregation just stand (or sit) and watch, as if it were a concert. If you try to sing you can't even hear your own voice, as it is drowned out by the loud music. The only people who are really have a good time are the people "performing" on the stage. I do not think this is what God intended for corporate worship, where members of the "audience" are just spectators to worship.

Harriet said...

If you watch a child when he/she is being joyful (just happy or frequently when they are listening to music),you will see what worship looks like. lol
Arms upraised..bouncing up and down either fast OR slow, or rocking side to side. Sometimes they are laughing out loud.Other times they look solemn; but always, always completely unmoved by the fact that they might be observed. They are in the moment and completely alive.

As we should be.

ESPECIALLY as we KNOW the object of our love and joy!

Joel Spencer said...

Daughter: I too have been to churches with the "rock show worship" (I actually used to love it - it entertained me). Worship is often pushed as part of the wow factor of religious gatherings. Color-coordinated praise teams and 15-piece bands have replaced Spirit and Truth. Emotions swayed by smoke and lights have replaced connecting with the Father.

Although I don't believe it is completely impossible to worship correctly in such an atmosphere, it is definitely challenging because of all the hoopla going on around you.

Harriet: You can sum up pure worship with one line that you said, it is "completely unmoved by the fact that they might be observed". Unconcerned about the response or interest of other men - focused on my LORD alone. Oh how this would change the face of worship as we know it to be.

Frank said...

........but their hearts are far from me..

The act of singing or making music or raising hands is so often confused with worship. Even singing words like, "we worship you" may be done when hearts are far from actual worship.

I have been to many churches where we have been told by the worship team or the leaders to leave all of the thoughts and troubles and burdens of the day outside, and come before His presence and worship Him, ie. worship in a vacuum!

This basically means that we worship or bow down for the duration of the singing, but pick up our burdens again when we leave. Jesus has thus not become Lord of any more than the songs, and he is has not been given Lordship of the problems.

For myself, I cannot truly worship God without declaring Him Lord of all that I am and am involved with. This includes all my successes and all my failings. If I remain lord of my problems rather than Jesus, how does He reign over them? How have I worshipped Him with my whole heart if these areas are excluded?

I delight in making ALL that I have and all that I do bow down under HIS reign and Lordship. Everything that I am concerned with is constantly presented this way, this gives me the clear sense of merely being His "understudy" as I walk this life.
This has nothing to do with music or singing, however I also love to worship Jesus with song, alone or especially with my wife. We rarely attend church these days, the constant compulsory entertainment just gets in the way of the worship and listening to Him.

NINA said...

Joel, I am getting so tired of these religious pep rally's I could vomit! I live in Baltimore City where we are known to have churches on every corner. I get disgusted as I drive down city blocks to see large churches face to face with small ones jammed in the middle of row houses.The worst part about it is that the neighborhoods are not getting better and the crime rates are still high. There is something wrong with that. Believers should not separate into cliques according to church style preferences like sororities that are only open to those who have pledged, while the world is dieing around them. Where is the discipleship? Then, when you enter these clubhouses its like a pep rally. Every "church" thinking of a gimmick that will make them stand out amongst the rest. They move by tradition and stick to the "personality" of that "church" and leave no room for the move of God.

I went to a church on Saturday for a concert to support my sister's singing group. I was disgusted! First of all, I made the mistake of bringing my son. This concert was a "praise" concert but I should have found out who they were praising before I took a minor. LOL Man, they were humping and wiggling and then when the keyboard player played a chord everyone jumped up; and so it began... The worst was when the homosexuals got up to sing and started with their "unique" form of "praise" as the audience edged them on like circus acts. Joel, these guys had on tight pants and shirts and right there in "the house of God" they just allowed themselves to be exposed as they acted like females. They did not even attempt to cover there nakedness. We left as soon as my sister's group was done, but I felt so bad to have exposed my "SON" to THAT. I prayed for covering because as children their spirits are vulnerable. But the worst part about it is when my 10 year old son looked at me and said, "Mom I think those guys were faggets or something cause they were acting like girls. It seemed kind of like they were disrespecting the house of God didn't it?" Out of shame I couldn't even reprimand him for using such a derogatory term, also I really did not want him to take my rebuke as a suggestion that these people were not in error. All I could do is tell him that the correct term is homosexual. But it was still bad that he had to witness this on a pulpit at church because that sort of contradicts the fact that their actions were in error. Children expect to learn the "right" thing in church if nowhere else.

This is why there is limited deliverance and an absence of signs and wonders in the churches. The church has lost its power. And you know why, because all power comes from God and there is no God in the church. It's a shame when people have to stay away from the church to find God. The thing I hate most are the churches with the big pictures of the pastors on the front; and if the wife is kinda cute, they'll throw her on there too. Answer me this. When did worship have to do with us? It's not about us. Why are people's faces plastered on the front of God's house? I wish I could find just 10 people with a heart for pure worship. This is why I read your blogs, not because I always agree with everything you write, but because you understand relationship and you have a heart for worship. It comforts me to know that there is someone out there who understands reverence. Sorry for the long comment. Just had to vent.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Hi Joel, I get your point in this blog article. Worship should be expressive and joyful! I totally agree. I am sorry if I sounded a bit critical of how others worship, but I myself prefer an participatory worship style where the congregation/audience is involved vs the passive worship style where you just watch others on stage worship. The Bible says,

"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness, come before his presence with singing" (Psalm 100: 1-2).

"Praise ye the Lord, Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmanent of his power...Praise him with sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord" (Psalm 150: 1, 3-6).
It seems like God likes lively worship. He likes it when we find joy in His presence. Hey, don't be afraid to express your praise and adoration to God in worship! I belong to a church that encourages and (expects) congregational responses to worship. One should not be made to feel embarrassed to shout out "Amen" and "Praise the Lord". We should not be embarrassed to dance before the Lord. We should not be embarrassed to lift up holy hands to the Lord. If angels who are in the very presence of God cannot cease to praise Him vocally, why is it that we mere mortals are so hesitant with our praise?
"And the four beasts(angels) had each of them six wings about him; and they wre full of eyes within; and they rest not day and night saying Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Amighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever; the four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Revelation 4: 8-11).

"And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having everyone of them harps, and golden vials full of odours,which are the prayers of the saints. And they sung a new song...And I beheld, and heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever" (Revelation 5: 8,9a,11-14).
Wow! What a scene in heaven! Let's just praise the Lord.

Joel Spencer said...

Frank: You make a fantastic point my friend. Very well said. Our worship must be ongoing in every circumstance. We too often are challenged to "enter into worship" which immediately compartmentalizes it.

I choose to walk in worship, not pop in and out during service times. Thanks for sharing!

Joel Spencer said...

Nina: Nina, Nina, Nina. ;)

Sounds like you experienced a typical rock show worship band to me. (Girl jeans and tight shirts is mandatory.) While I don't get hung up on what people wear, I surely understand your concern in this case.

I believe it is getting easier with each passing moment to distinguish the true Body from the over-hyped superficial one. So many young people have been sold a "fashionable worship experience" instead of the real. May the LORD reveal His acceptable worship.

Daughter: Amen. Worship is not passive! Worship cannot be performed for us. Worship originates in the hearts of those who worship in spirit and in truth. LORD, teach us how to worship as You deem acceptable!