Monday, August 17, 2009

four qualities of worship

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i preached yesterday about a topic that i'm very interested in and passionate about: worship. i could seriously preach for weeks and weeks about this topic, but i only had one week for this, so i focused on 4 characteristics of good worship.
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first, our worship should be authentic, not obligatory. that is, our worship shouldn't be centered in our sense of duty or ritual alone, but out of a sense of a real desire to attribute worth to God. that is what worship literally is: worth-ship. it is glorifying God; saying to God, "you are God, and i am not." our worship, whether corporate or personal, ought to come from our very spirits (Jesus said in john 4:23-24 that real worshippers worship in spirit and in truth). sometimes we go through seasons of our lives where we function solely out of discipline, but even then our worship shouldn't come from a place of obligation. we should want to worship. and if we don't want to, we should ask God to help us want to. and we should do whatever we can to get out of our rut/routine, trying new ideas and patterns and places and styles. we should be intentional about trying to worship God instead of half-heartedly dedicated to following some routine.
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second, our worship should be active, not passive. living in an entertainment culture, we are quite simply used to 'watching.' we watch tv. we watch movies. we watch you tube videos. and when we come to church, we bring this mentality with us. we expect to watch. we expect to recieve some kind of blessing or encouragement or spiritual fuel to get us through the week. and while those are all great by-products of good worship, they aren't the main purpose, nor are they even indicators of good worship. worship is about what we put into it, not what we get out of it. the same goes for our private worship. we sit and we pray and we read the bible and so forth and we get so hung up on what we are or are not getting out of the experience. and if we aren't experiencing what wee want, we so quickly abandon our efforts. but we have it all backwards. our worship is about what we can put into it, not what we get out of it. the psalms urge us again and again to praise the Lord. this is not a spectator sport. this is our responsibility: to worship God as active particpants, not passive observers.
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third, our worship should be attentive, not divided. to illustrate this, i share with you a common occurance from our house. as we are putting our kids to bed, we always say a prayer, and not just for us but for others we know who are sick or who have needs. and often as we are saying this prayer, our children are not giving it the attention we would like. for example, as we were recently praying for a kid with cancer, jack vocalized his main concern at the moment: "daddy, why did t. rex have such short arms?" nice. way to pay attention, jack. but wait a minute: doesn't this describe you and i, too? aren't we soo easily distracted? don't we have a problem turning off the tv/radio/cellphone/computer/ipod/whatever noise you are addicted to? how insulting must it be to God when we can't even focus our attention for a few minutes!
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finally, our worship should be awesome, not casual. here i am not referring to our dress or to a particular style of music, but to our hearts. i believe we are way too casual when approaching the throne room of the King of all creation. think about moses at the burning bush. God said, "take off your shoes man, this isn't your normal encounter." when we engage God, we are dealing with sacred space, and we ought to treat it as such. when we approach God with a ho-hum attitude, the same way we appoach the cashier at wal-mart, we do a disservice not only to God, but to our own experience of worship. we would do well to remember our rightful place in the worship relationship.
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i hope something here speaks to you as you move forward in your journey of worshipping God. if you've gotten stuck in a rut, get out of it! start worshipping the living God in spirit and in truth!

1 comment:

cathyq said...

Some good thoughts on worship Greg! I particularly identify with the active/passive idea and the attentive aspects. Coming from a Pentecostal background, I guess I have always felt the need to participate in worship, whether it is praying out loud, walking to the altar rail for prayer, or just singing out loud and joyfully, I want "to" worship, not just watch it. As for attention, well, I am as guilty as the next person with my thoughts drifting to my "to do" list and other concerns. I think I have the additional problem of having my husband be the pastor, so the tendency to "tune him out" is even more of a temptation for me. I find that taking notes during the sermon helps to keep me on track and focused. Sometimes I even copy down the sermon scripture as it is being read to focus my attention. Unlike Jack, I don't have questions about t-rex, but wondering what I am going to serve for lunch is just as distracting!