The Worship "Experience"
For several months now, I've been pondering worship. What IS worship? How does it "work"?
Sometimes I think we get too hooked on music as worship. In other words, we get so caught up with music being worship that we forget that music is not the only form of worship.
Worship isn't and shouldn't be limited to music. Music is an expression of the soul, yes, and is an integral part of worship (I'll talk more about music in a bit). But there IS more.
Our whole lives should be lifted up in worship to God. It is not sufficient merely to worship God in some ways, some times, and with some of ourselves. God is worthy of our ALL. Remember...Christianity is not just a Sunday thing. Nor is it just a music thing. Nor is it just a set of doctrines. Nor is it just a tithe of our money.
Christianity, my beloved, is something that demands our entire life. God doesn't just want us to tithe our money and tithe our time for Him. Our tithe is but the tip of what God wants from us.
God doesn't want tithing people--he wants people sold out for Him. He wants people who have committed their entire lives, goals, aspirations, dreams, wants, and needs to Him.
This morning I took a walk through the woods. I was starting to sing "We Fall Down", when I tripped over a root and almost fell. I jokingly asked God if he had tried to trip me, and that he'd better watch out or I'd really fall down.
But then I thought about what I was singing: "We fall down/We lay our crowns/At the feet of Jesus."
It struck me that so often, when we sing this song ( for those of you who have sung it, anyhow...and for the rest of you, my point isn't limited to this song), we often just sing without thinking deeply about the words.
Sure, we fall down. Yeah, we lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus. Now let's get on with it and sing "Holy, holy, holy."
No, no, dearly beloved! We FALL DOWN. Lay our crowns (our pride)...lay our LIVES...at the feet of Jesus. And we CRY, "HOLY is the Lamb."
Can we truly be worshipping God if we sing this song and not mean what we say? This morning I went to my knees (and no, you don't HAVE to fall down...but I have observed that often our outward expressions reflect our heart...if you're unwilling to fall to your knees...ask yourself why) and laid my life at the feet of Jesus. And I cried "Holy, holy, holy!"
We lay our lives at the feet of Jesus when we worship. Our life is not our own--why do we persist in trying to hold onto it?
Why do we cry, "Fill me, Lord!" but then tell Him to stop part-way through?
Worship is the baring of one's heart to God. Sometimes I just lay in bed, crying to God. Sometimes I take a walk and just pour out my heart to God.
I'm reminded of something Lewis said in The Four Loves: "Man's love for God...must always be very largely and must often be entirely, a Need-love...Need-love...makes a main ingredient in man's highest, healthiest, and most realistic spiritual condition."
Often, our greatest love for God is manifested when we admit our greatest need for God.
And worship is often the expression of this need and God's fulfillment. Just think about it...most worship songs (if they are truly honoring to God) either acknowledge our need for God, tell of His meeting our needs, or both.
The thing to remember in worship is that true worship is focused on God. God is not our God--He is God, and we are His people. We don't own God--He owns us.
And there are several "arenas" of worship, so to speak. When our lives are lifted in worship to God, it will inevitably show up in all the various arenas of our lives. But several different expressions of worship are--personal worship (singing, reading scriptures, praying, and various other expressions of the heart), corporate worship (singing, studying together, praying, encouraging and loving one another), in "public" life (witnessing, being a light, praising God publicly). And that's just the start--please don't limit yourself to what I've touched on. I've barely scratched the surface. You can worship God in MANY ways.
I would like to share a few thoughts on music, as it's a controversial topic in many circles.
The biggest split seems to be between the "Hymns" crowd and the "Contemporary" crowd. Of course, there are mixes of these crowds. But yet it still is a big division. Many people argue about music.
Someone from the Hymns-only crowd might argue that these new songs are merely secular in nature and do not glorify God, while someone from the Contemporary worship crowd might argue that hymns are stiff and stifling to true worship. And there's people that believe anything and everything in between.
I think the key is asking ourselves the purpose of using music in worship. Why use music at all? What is special or different about music?
When we're considering music in general and not speaking specifically about worship-oriented songs, I think we can easily recognize that music is an emotional medium--but beyond that, music reaches our very soul, which is why music can be so powerful.
When we consider music in general, I think we could safely conclude that good music is such that edifies us.
But what about worship? What makes good worship music?
Barring some considerations (such as theology or focus), perhaps what makes good worship music is US. Are we truly worshipping through the song? Or are we just mouthing the words and enjoying the tune? Or--what's worse, I suppose--mouthing the words and having a distaste for the whole thing.
I would venture to say that WE make worship music worship. It is the attitude of worship that makes worship truly worship, not the vehicle.
For example, there is a "secular" (the artist is secular, at any rate) song by the Los Lonely Boys called, "Heaven." The chorus of the song asks, "Lord can you tell me/How far is Heaven?"
That song touched my heart. That's what I want to ask. "Lord, how far IS heaven?"
Now, see, someone else could listen to that song and think, "Oh, that's just a secular song."
For another example, I shall take the song, "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever", perhaps one of the most overused and abused worship songs--the chorus, at any rate.
Has the song been overused? I would probably say so. However, does that mean it is no longer useful? Can we no longer worship while singing it?
I must admit that sometimes, I just sit and sing the chorus of this simple song, and mean it with my whole heart.
That, dearly beloved, is worship.
And perhaps I would add that maturity lends a broader eye to this area. If you are truly mature, will you get hung up on all these divisions and prejudices? I think the Lord has been touching my heart in this area, because I struggle a lot with pride and prejudice (which is why the movie is soo appropriate for me... ). He has been convicting me of being prideful and judging harshly in this area, when what I need to be doing is examining my own life.
Am I truly worshipping when I'm just being critical about how someone else worships? Can I judge their heart? Judge by results. Do they vibrate with God's love? If so, it is likely that their worship is genuine, for worship and love are inexplicably bound up in each other.
But do not be overly concerned with their worship. Examine your own life. Are you truly worshipping? Is your worship genuine and honest? Seek to worship God in everything you do.