by Anita Wansley
August 13, 2006
Early last spring I attended the Gulf States missions rally. People from many of the churches from the conference attended making the group a diverse collection of people. The pastor of Amor Viviente spoke and his son-in-law led the praise and worship times. This time of gathering was a worship experience that God used to get my attention and listen to Him about this topic of worship. Here in this gathering, people who experienced great loss, people who didn’t know each other, people who came with their own expectations together focused on God, truly worshiped God, and were blessed by His Spirit.
As weeks went by this topic of worship kept creeping up in my prayer times. As I would walk my dog in the morning and pray for specific things my mind kept going to worship. What did He want from me? When I thought of worship I thought of singing—okay, but not leading, right Lord. When I thought of worship I thought of planning church services—okay, but I am really busy with other responsibilities, Lord. What did He want from our church? We’ve got a great band for our singing time. We’ve got great pastors who preach and lead the services. We have people who honor God and worship with their everyday lives. What is it, Lord?
Well, I am learning about how God speaks and I am just beginning my journey on this, but what has been made clear to me and I have put into my faith is that if God keeps bringing something up- –it is not my imagination. God speaks, God prompts, God leads and I better pay attention. So here is what I have been learning about worship and I hope that His spirit will speak to us and guide us into more meaningful personal and corporate worship.
What is worship?
So what is this thing called worship?
A dictionary definition is “to show profound religious devotion and respect to: adore and venerate (God or any person or thing considered divine): To be dovoted to and full of admiration for: to have or express feelings of profound adoration.”
Here are two other definitions I found to be helpful in expressing what worship is:
Olive and John Drane stated, “Worship is all that we are, responding to all that God is.”
James Greenwood is quoted saying, “Worship is the attitude of someone who has had a first hand experience of God.”
Worship is more than merely singing during a Sunday morning service. Worship is more than doing an act of service out of reverance to God. Worship is more than showing up for church. Worship is more than acknowledging God’s presence. Although all these activities may be part of worship I think God is calling us to a new experience of worship. He desires us to fully worship Him, to experience the “fall on our face, kiss the hem of his cloak, be consumed by his awesome goodness,” kind of worship.
Why Do We Worship?
I had this sermon on my mind for months. When I agreed to do a sermon then I really went to town in preparing for the last several weeks. I researched, I collected quotes, I gathered scripture. I had my folder brimming with information, my notebook filled with thoughts and outlines. On Tuesday Mary went down for her nap early and I had a good chunk of time to work on this. I spread out my papers, opened my Bible, and starting typing. Then the phone rang. It was Sharon calling to stop by for a little while. Even though I looked forward to a visit from a friend I worried about all the prep time I thought that I had. We ended up having a wonderful visit.
The next morning I decided to wake up an hour earlier to work on the sermon again. I woke up early (not an easy task these days), made my decaf coffee, spread my papers out once again and started typing. Two minute later I heard Mary crying and walking out from her bedroom. As I went to get her and rock her I thought Good grief! When can I get this done? Hurry, Mary, go back to sleep. Then it hit me, God was trying to tell me something. I took time to pray and sang a song. (to myself, wouldn’t do that to my family at 5:30 in the morning).
In all of this was God’s message in worship: It was like he was asking me: where was His spirit? Where was my relying on Him? He wants me/us to focus on Him and allow His spirit to move. He wants us to shake off our agenda and be about His business—this business of worshiping him, loving him with all our heart, mind, and strength. Oh, the quotes I found were good. The scripture was His word and guided me. The researching was helpful. But God wanted me to give Him my time first. He wanted me to worship Him, acknowledge Him first. He wanted me to rely on His spirit not my abilities or my comfort with preparation. He wanted me to recall His goodness and faithfulness and once again trust Him. And in doing this then I would be worshiping Him and discover the reason for worship.
What does this mean for our worship?
This past Wednesday during bible study we evaluated Jubilee’s call as listed on this banner. We were to make a snack mix …well you just had to have been there…if you weren’t you missed some great marshmellows, whoppers, peonuts, and raisins snack mix. Anyway, there was much discussion as to how our church is doing on this goal of worship. There were persons who pointed out that we as a church are doing acts of worship through our nurturing, serving and evangelizing. There were persons who pointed out that we did a good job of being here on Sunday morning. I agree whole heartedly, but I wonder if God is urging us to the next level, the next step. I wonder if He longs for more from us.
What will it take to be free to worship, to not only allow but embrace God’s spirit moving in our midst?
The song that says, “Shake off those heavy bands, lift up those holy hands” came to me when I was trying to get Mary back to sleep that morning.
What are all the things that distract us from worshiping? What are the things that keep us from fully participating in Sunday school, from singing and praising God, from really listening to the sermon, from hearing God’s scripture when it is read? What are the things in our daily lives that prohibit us from times of worship?
The bag illustration:
Pan and tool–—our responsibilities
Toy, diaper–—our families
Mirror—–our inhibitions, self-doubt, our identities
Bag of rocks—–our issues, our hurts, our past, our doubts
What if we set all these before God and could come with open hearts, minds, hands to feel God’s spirit move in our lives, in our times of corporate worship? What could God have in store for us?
He wants to pour out His spirit among us.
Psalms 22:3 says, “God inhabits the praises of His people.” He dwells with us as we praise Him. When we choose to praise God even when we don’t feel like it or it makes us uncomfortable God comes close to us. We can then choose to recall His faithfullness, His power, His goodness and can re-focus our lives. We can allow the holy spirit to work in us.
What does worship mean for us personally:
Jim Murdoch in an article cited Matthew 22:34-40 as maybe the key verse to worship.
1. Worship must be an attitude of mind and heart
2. Worhsip too must bear fruit in our love toward God
3. True worship will involve all that I am responding to all that God is
4. True worship should enable me to live differently in this fallen world
5. True worship will lead to glad service for the glory of my Master
What is it that God wants from you, from our congregation in worship? Psalms 95 says:
Come let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout aloud to the Rock of our Salvation. Let us bow before him with Thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. Come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our maker for he is our God and we are the peole of his pasture, the flock under His care.
Let us close with a time of worship together and listen to what God is speaking to you. As we worship together may you lay the things down that distract you, may you recall God’s faithfullness, may you feel God’s spirit inhabiting your praise and drawing you close to Him.