Let Us Worship – Part 3

This is part 3 of a series of posts about worship. The first post as a general introduction about Worship and the second covers the first 3 verses of Psalm 145. In this post, we’re examining verses 4 through 7 of Psalm 145.

Our Worship Is Expressed By Our Words & Actions

While worship begins within one’s mind, it becomes expressed by what is said and to a degree what actions one engages. Notice all the speaking verbs in verses 4 through 7 of Psalm 145.

One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts. I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, And on Your wondrous works. Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, And I will declare Your greatness. They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, And shall sing of Your righteous.

– Psalm 145:4-7 NKJV

“Praise,” “declare” (twice), “speak” and “sing” are all used to indicate how worship is to be expressed. Even the word “meditate” in verse 5, is often translated as “speak.” It conveys the idea of speaking on something you’ve been thinking over. This isn’t an off-the-cuff expression but something said after giving it some thought.

            The term in verse 7, “utter” or in some versions, “pour forth” means to “bubble up.” Here David describes praise as just bubbling up or coming to the surface of someone. It is a natural expression of worship. This is how we are to express worship. It is vocal and it is a natural occurrence.

            Most of us have to work at worship. We’ve been so used to worship only being a church thing, we rarely make worship a natural part of our conversation. We don’t think (meditate) on worship which allows us to speak about it with meaningful insight. We walk into our Sunday gatherings without much thought and expect to sing some words on a screen, written by someone we don’t know – and that’s only if we like the music.

            David is telling us worship must be something we think about. Something we express and something which bubbles up from us. When we’ve made worship a priority as the first three verses of this Psalm indicate, the words and actions of verses 4 through 7 become a habitual part of our character.

            In the 2011 movie, Iron Lady, Margret Thatcher tells her doctor, “Watch your thoughts, for they will become actions. Watch your actions, for they’ll become your habits. Watch your habits for they will forge your character. Watch your character, for it will make your destiny.” I think King David would agree. To be a person of worship – and remember the Father is seeking such to worship Him – it begins with your thoughts and words.

Advertisements

Let Us Worship – Part 2

Psalm 145

King David had his faults. He was not a perfect man as there were plenty of things he did wrong. But understanding worship is not one of those things. David knew how to worship. The fact an imperfect man understands worship should be encouraging to all of us as Biblical worship does not require perfection from the worshipers.

This Psalm might be the go-to place within Scripture to heighten our understanding of worship. Interestingly, the word “worship” does not appear within its’ 21 verses, but it is treasure for us about understanding worship. This simple Psalm can be broken down into four sections, each identifying a specific characteristic of worship.

Our Worship Is Evidenced By Our Attitude

David begins by displaying his attitude. Remember, this is the King of Israel, the most powerful person of ancient Israel. No doubt being told on a daily basis how great he is by those serving him, it would be easy to assume a magnified sense of self-worth. Yet here is the King, understanding his position relative to God’s.

I will extol You, my God, O King; And I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever.  Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable. – Psalm 145:1-3 (NKJV)

There are a number of attitudes David displays in these verses but the first one is his Humility. The King is referring to God as his King. Rather than listing out his accomplishments or service to God, he begins by centering his worship on God alone. He is completely submitted to God and humble before Him.

I am afraid part of the carnage in the Worship Wars over music styles the past few decades has been the concept of worship being one’s preferred style of music. We’ve even developed a specific genre of music labeled “Praise and Worship” as if the style of music defines worship. Worship has moved into an entertainment realm where how the music makes me feel is of highest importance.

David expresses nothing about himself in these verses. He is completely humble before God. I am convinced humility must be the main ingredient in worship. It is the basic flour upon which the bread of worship is created.

Humility is also evidenced by the last phrase of verse 3. “His greatness is unsearchable” is a hard phrase to translate from Hebrew into English. The word basically means, “beyond my ability to understand.” David’s claim is God’s greatness is beyond his limited knowledge. In spite of David’s inability to fully understand God, he still trusts Him and acknowledged the LORD is worthy of praise.

If King David didn’t have God all figured out, how can we conclude we do? How many times have you gone to Him with a list or suggestions about how He should run things? Or get upset because He didn’t take your advice and things didn’t work out as you wished. Humility trusts Him, even when you don’t understand.

There is another attitude displayed by David in these verses. Notice his use of the words “I will” and “everyday.” Determination or Persistence are on display as David is so committed to worship he makes the declaration, “I will” four times in these few verses. David will not be knocked off course as he is determined or committed to praising God. Further, he is not limiting his time with God to just a Sabbath Day or once-a-week event. This is something we will engage in “every day.”

This is harder to do than most of us think on first consideration of the idea. Making Him our first priority every day is not a simple task. Try this little experiment; make your first conscience thought in the morning worship. Before your feet hit the floor and before your mind begins to mull over all the tasks you plan on accomplishing, take just a few seconds and worship Him. You made it through another night – worship Him. Make it the FIRST thing you think about. You will find out after just a few days how hard this is to do. We are so wired to think of us first and what we need to do and where we need to go. Use David’s determination and persistence and say “I will” worship you.

Our worship is evidenced by our humility.

Let Us Worship

Worship is a term thrown around within our evangelical world but the word’s exact meaning can be somewhat vague and hard to nail down. The entire service might be designated as worship as in the question, “Where do you worship?” Worship may be considered something only done at a building, often being referred to as a “house of worship.” But for many people, the word worship is an event. A point in time of our church services featuring music. This can be most any type of music. However, the music will vary between each body of believers as to what music is acceptable and considered worship and what is not. The idea of worship is forced into a narrow funnel of being music which a group of people like. This limited understanding of worship, is unfortunate. I maintain, most church attenders have little understanding of worship and therefore rarely experience it as it is described within Scripture. 

In our English Bibles, the first time the word “worship” occurs is in Genesis 22. This is where God has commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. He is told to take him to the area of Moriah and “offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2b ESV).

Abraham, Isaac and his two servants launch their journey the next morning. One their third day of travel, Abraham sees the place a distance way. He tells his servants to wait there with the donkeys while he “and the boy will go over there and worship and will come back again to you” (Genesis 22:5).

When we study this passage we most often focus on the last phrase as it displays Abraham’s confidence in God’s plan. Even with sacrificing his son, Abraham fully trusted God’s promise of his descendants coming through Isaac. But I am interested in his comment to the servants. “(we) will go over there and worship.” Music isn’t mentioned in this passage and this event doesn’t happen in a church. Yet worship was said to occur.

The first appearance of the word “worship” in the New Testament is found in the opening pages of Matthew. Starting in verse 1 of Chapter 2, the wise men or magoi, from the East enter Jerusalem. They consider the city to be their final destination on their quest to find a new born Jewish king. They state, “Where is He who has been born ‘King of the Jews’ for we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him” Matthew 2:2 NKJV).

Upon the realization the child’s birth was prophesied to occur in the small town south of the city, they made their way to Bethlehem. Guided once again by the star they are directed to the exact house of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. No longer an infant, He is referred to as a child or what we might describe as a toddler. The wise men, upon entering the house, “fell down and worshiped Him.” Once again, there is no indication of music being part of their activities.

These are just two Biblical examples of worship where the presence of music is not indicated. But there are other times when music is mentioned. The dedication of Solomon’s temple in 2 Chronicles 5 and the account of Paul and Silas in Acts 16 as they were confined within the Philippian prison come to mind.

Worship is so important it is the topic of a conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman. The story is found in John 4 where they speak of where one is to worship. She says the Samaritan leaders teach they were to worship on Mount Gerizim, yet Jewish leaders indicated they were to worship in Jerusalem. The response of Jesus is quite telling as He said,

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. – John 4:23

This passage reveals how vital worship is for one to have relationship with God. Jesus said the Father is seeking such people to worship Him, those who worship Him in spirit and in truth. I am not completely sure what worship is as defined by Jesus but I maintain worship is more just a segment of our Sunday services lasting 20 minutes as we stand and sing a few songs.            

If we look to the Scriptures for some guidance I think we can begin to clear away the clutter of buildings, stages and music tastes. The Psalms are an excellent place to invest some time into understanding more about worship. While there are many Psalms you can study on this subject, I have found Psalm 145 to be an excellent source for worship.

Over the next few days, I will be examining Psalm 145 and exploring the lessons taught by King David about worship.

Today, June 18

It was six years ago today, I received a phone call informing me our youngest daughter Sandie had taken her own life. At that moment, my wife and I entered into a strange fraternity – parents who have lost children. Our area of the group is a sub-set of parents who lost a child due to suicide. It is a hard place to be and it is difficult for people who have not experienced this type of loss to understand.

I am no expert on grief or death. Nor can I make the claim the loss of a child to suicide is harder or more difficult than other losses people experience. All I can speak about on this subject is what I know. But I do know, this was – and still in many is – quite a rough road.

It has been six years and while the initial wave of grief has subsided, it still resurfaces itself on certain occasions. The grief is not nearly as intense as it was in those first months but it is reappears none-the-less. Sometimes those occasions are random and just happen, while other times I can anticipate them. Today is one of those days. It is June 18.

My point of this post isn’t to make you feel bad for us. God’s mercy and strength have sustained us. I could give you many examples of how we experienced His comfort over these six years. You don’t need to feel bad, but you do need to hear something. Don’t be afraid of hurting us or hurting anyone who has suffered a loss. Whether it was the death of a spouse, sibling, or child, making a point to remember our loss goes much further than pretending it didn’t happen.

It doesn’t have to be much, just a quick note to say, “Hey I know today is kinda rough, I just wanted to let you know I’ve been thinking of you” carries considerable weight.

At the end of yesterday, one of my co-workers gave me a pack of coffee flavored M & M’s. There was no note, no long winded explanation, no Bible verse, just a brief comment as she headed out the door, “Since I will not be here tomorrow I thought you might want these.” The simple act of a pack of M & M’s encouraged me in a profound way. This is how to minister to someone whose has experienced a tough loss years ago. Just acknowledging her death and our pain in this day is so encouraging.

Not everyone responds to grief in the same way and I do not claim to be any sort of expert in this field. Yet from comparing notes of other people who have experienced the loss of a child, this acknowledgement of our loss goes a long way, especially on this day – the anniversary of their death.

Here a just a few quick points about grief:

  • Don’t stay away. Don’t pretend our loss didn’t happen. Don’t ignore the day. You don’t need to do something elaborate, just let someone know you remember – let them know you care.
  • WARNING!! Do NOT say “I know how you feel.” NEVER say that – because you have no idea how they feel. Each death is unique and each person grieves differently. But you can acknowledge the day for what it is. A reminder, a yearly marker of a deep loss.
  • Cut us a break that day. Let us cut out of the office early. Don’t quiz us too hard on why we’re more melancholy than usual. We’ll be fine – just probably not today.
  • I really don’t like to lie so be careful about asking me “How are you doing?” unless you really want to hear a potentially difficult and emotional response. I’m probably not “fine” today. It’s better to just say, “Hey, I’m just thinking about you today. Can I get you a cup of coffee or something?”
  • If you sense someone might want to talk about their loss, just listen. Say nothing. This isn’t the time to interrupt someone saying “that’s just like my friend’s situation……. blah, blah, blah.”  They will tune you out and shut up. The conversation will stop right there. Say nothing – just listen. We really don’t expect you to have answers. We just want you to listen.

Do you know someone who has experienced a loss of a spouse, sibling, parent, or child? My guess is you do. Find out which day is especially rough for them. When that day rolls around, just acknowledge their loss. Cut them some breaks that day and be encouraging.

Today is June 18. I’m probably leaving work early today. We’re likely heading over to a favorite spot of ours on Lake Erie and just reminiscing. We’re probably shed a few tears, but we’ll laugh some too. Sandie had such a sense of humor. We have many pleasant and funny memories of her. We’ll watch the waves and listen to them crashing onto the shore. Maybe later, we’ll get some ice cream. My wife and I have a pretty good support system of friends who look out for us. I have an understanding group of co-workers who will give me plenty of grace. It will be a hard day – but it will be a good one too.

My wife and I have learned to lean on each other over the years and we know it is best to experience this day with as much life as we can put into it. We will probably end the day better than we began it. God’s grace and comfort will come through again and we will experience Him in an even deeper way.

Now I must face the day one step at a time. It’s June 18.

Praise

Many years ago I remember sitting in some grammar class being taught simple lessons about writing a story. Getting down to the basics, a story presenting these main ingredients: Who, What, When, Where Why, and How. After spending some time in Psalm 96, I think it can be looked upon in this same grouping.

Who – verses 1-3

In the first two verses, we are told to “Sing to the LORD” three times. We are to sing a “new song,” (vs 1a), everyone on earth is supposed to join in (vs 1b) and our song is to “bless His name.” Then in verse 2 we are to “Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.” Finally in verse 3, we are to “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.”

There are two “who’s” in those verses. First, we are a “Who,” as it is said we are to “Sing,” “Proclaim” and “Declare.” Next we have an unlimited potential audience since we are to speak “among the nations,” the second “who” of this passage.

Why – verse 4-6

He is “Great” and “greatly to be praised.” God is to be praised because He is unlike all other gods. They are nothing but idols. I like how the ESV says “worthless idols.” And just so we understand, we are told the “LORD made the heavens. Honor, majesty, strength and beauty are all found with Him. That’s why He is to be praised and why we are to proclaim His greatness among all peoples.

How – verse 7-9

How are we to give praise to God? We’re given some instructions: We are to give Him “glory and strength.” I think that means our best, not the left-overs after we have given everywhere else. Further told we are to give an offering. It is to be done in “holiness.” I don’t think this means sinless perfection, but it does mean I am in submission to His will in my life and I am walking in obedience as best as I know how. I’m also supposed to “tremble before Him” which means I respect Him to such a high degree that I am approaching Him reverently.

What – verse 10

In one verse we are told what we are to say. Our message is to have these three elements:

  1. The LORD reigns! – He is sovereign and ruler over all.
  2. The world is established, it will not be moved. – The world will not spin out of control because He is governing it. This is true on the macro level and it is true on the micro level. Your world may seem chaotic at times, but He still is in control.
  3. He will judge all the peoples of the earth righteously. – At some point, He will right the wrongs, He will correct all the injustices and He will judge all people.

Where – verses 11-12

These three verses are the most beautiful of this Psalm. His praise can be found everywhere and even His creation praises Him. We can look all over nature and see His marvelously works. While some may discount these verses as hyperbole from an overly emotional poet, the model of praise can be found from His own creation. Where can we praise Him? We can take our cue from the heavens and earth being “glad.” We can hear the “sea roar” and the fields being “joyful” along with everything in the sea and fields. Finally, even the trees of the woods rejoice before Him. We can find praise and offer Him praise anywhere.

When – verse 13

“He is coming” says the psalmist. He is coming to judge the earth so the time for praise and declaring His greatness is NOW! We can’t wait anymore but we must carry out His command and praise His name.

Praise Him. Find time in your day to incorporate Psalm 96 into your life. Praise Him and tell of all His marvelous and wondrous works. Look at the seas, fields and forest and see His beauty there. And praise the LORD.

Blessings my friend!

-jm

Prayer Changes You

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, And You are exalted as head over all.
Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might;
in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. – 1 Chronicles 29:11-12

While reading through the life of David is 1 Chronicles recently, I found myself intrigued by his prayer in Chapter 29. Starting at verse 10, I noticed how David uses the words “You” or “Yours” in prayer.

The King has been forbidden by God to build a permanent home for the Ark of the Covenant, but he is allowed to begin acumination of building materials for the project. After the King and the people of the nation donated an enormous amount of gold, silver, bronze and iron, David offers a prayer. Rejoicing in wiling and loyal heart of the people, David “blessed the LORD before all the congregation of the people.”

The focus of his prayer was not surrounding himself or the project they were beginning to embark upon. The focus of his prayer was God Himself. This was a God-centered prayer. From verse 10 through 19 no less than 27 times, David refers to God in his prayer. “You” and “Yours” dominates these verses. The King of Israel, is offering a God-centered prayer as opposed to a self-centered or problem centered prayer.

Our prayers can be quite revealing. Prayer reveals what or who we are focused upon. It is easy to allow ourselves to come before God with a list of things we want Him to do for us. Listing out in great detail our problems and how we’d like him to arrange things. But that is a self-centered or problem centered position. God needs to be the focus of prayer.

This is harder to do than one may initially believe. We are so prone to think of ourselves first. We seem to enjoy informing Him of our needs and expecting a divine submission to our demands. We even tend to measure the faith of people by how successful they are in receiving what they prayed for. But it seems to me from this passage – and plenty others – faith is the ability to pray in a God-centered manner; making God the object of prayer and not ourselves.

I have often heard the phrase “Prayer changes things.” As a general rule I agree prayer does change things but most often I have found prayer changes me. My outlook on my situation becomes different. I take on an attitude of trust and humility when I become focused on Him. A God-centered prayer highlights His glory, His power, His sovereignty and concentrates on His will.

A God-entered prayer still can include petition for His intervention in a situation. God-entered prayer can ask for healing, protection or provision, but a God-centered prayer is not demanding or arrogant. It is focused on trust, humility, thankfulness and submission.   

Yes prayer changes things, but God-centered prayer changes you.

Effective Faith

I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints,that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. – Philemon 4-6

The brief letter of Paul to Philemon is an often overlooked passage of Scripture. In all my years of attending church and being in Christian media, I doubt I have heard a message from Philemon more than a handful of times. Unfortunately, its brevity may be associated with its importance to modern believers. Yet, I have found this epistle written from a prison in Rome, to an individual in a church hundreds of miles away, to be one which speaks to us about the practical application of our faith.

The church of Colossae met in the home of Philemon (vs 2) as it seems Philemon and his wife Apphia opened up their place for the saints to gather there to worship. They must have been wonderful hosts as in verse 7, Paul tells them “the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you.”

Paul speaks of the “effective” faith on the part of Philemon, yet there is no indication Philemon was the leader. He and his wife served as the hosts of the church. They were faithful in doing the role God had for them. They were effective or productive in serving Him.

Too often people think it is only the person who have the title of “pastor” are serving God. Pastors or ministers of a church are put on a pedestal and thought of as being the only ones capable of serving. They are the only people who are devoted to Jesus in full-time ministry. Yet, Paul is indicating in this passage how Philemon (and his wife) are serving Jesus, by their service to others. They are so diligent at it, Paul describes their efforts as being “effective” faith.

The term used here, most often translated as “effective” means productive or energetic. There is considerable activity being generated and it is being put to good use. Philemon isn’t just making noise or wasting time, but he is serving God because “the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you.” His faith is effective.

The challenge to me – and I think to all of us – let’s make sure our service to God is like Philemon’s. make sure we are effective or productive. We don’t all have to host a church in our home, but we all have some part to play. All of us have something to do. We all are to be effective, productive, full of positive activity as we serve Him and others.

What has He called you to do? Where is your faith effective?