What Worship Means to Me

credits: harold.lloyd/flickr
credits: harold.lloyd/flickr

During our opening time on Tuesday Mornings this Fall, we will  be having a series of guest speakers address the topic “What Worship Means to Me.” If you missed this week or had to come in late, I know you will be challenged by these words from Renee Meyer.

I have a LOT of thoughts about what worship means to me, but since this is our BIBLE STUDY, I thought I’d start with what the Bible has to say about WORSHIP.

It would be so fun to dig deep and study all the Word has to say on this topic together. But we don’t have even a smidgeon of the time we’d need for that, so I’m going to share the highlights of my study, and then, my thoughts.

I started with a little word search, and through the magic of the internet, read through a list of all the places where worship is described or commanded in the Old and New Testaments.

Some observations:

First: I  noticed the word for “worship” is regularly combined with several other words and concepts:

  1. “Worship and bow low”
    • For example, in Exodus 4:31 “… when they heard that the Lord was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.”
    • This tells us there was a physical element to worship–a body piece. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be a hand raiser, or that the only way to pray is on your knees or prostrated. BUT it does remind us that throughout history, God’s people have used physical positions to demonstrate heart realities. Including a physical element to our worship can be very meaningful.
  2. Worship and serve
    • Deuteronomy 11:16  “Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them.”
    • There is an active element to worship, an element of service to what or whomever is being worshipped. If you worshipped Baal, you served Baal. If you worship Yahweh, then you served Yahweh. Worshiping God and serving God go hand in hand.
  3. Worship and sacrifice
    • 1 Samuel 1:3 (Regarding Elkanah and Hannah, the prophet Samuel’s parents) “Now this man would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh…”
    • This was religious service, doing one’s religious duty. It was public and regulated by tradition. We might consider public displays of religion and worship governed by religious tradition negatives, but both have been elements of the worship of God’s people throughout history and can be meaningful elements of worship.

Second, in the context of the cultures in which the Bible was written, worship was the natural response to kings and deities. Worship is what is due a God or King. When people saw God, they fell on their faces and worshiped. Worship is the natural response to God’s character and position.

Finally, we have a choice of who (or what) we worship. Nearly half the OT references to worship were commands or reminders not to worship idols or lesser gods.  We CHOOSE who or what to worship.

None of the verses on my list really defined what worship is – and the actual words literally translate along the lines of “to kiss the hand (of a sovereign.)” So I checked a couple of Bible dictionaries. My favorite Bible dictionary has a note in its definition that I found really helpful:

 The worship of God is nowhere defined in Scripture. A consideration of the verb shows that it is not confined to praise; broadly it may be regarded as the direct acknowledgement to God, of His nature, attributes, ways and claims, whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving or by deeds done in such acknowledgment.

Worship is something we do in response to the truth of God’s character–together and on our own. But worship is also a way of life, an attitude of the heart, a responding to God in all the parts of life.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

According to this verse, my worship is to offer myself. My whole life is on the altar. My whole life is His. That is my worship: The offering of my very SELF.

To flesh that out in practical terms, I made a list of “What worship means to me…”

Worship is… singing and saying truth to myself and to God, with others and by myself.

Worship is… believing God, trusting Him.

Worship is… living under God’s authority. I believe this is not merely about obedience, but also implies BELONGING. He is over me because I am HIS. I belong.

Worship is… being honest with God, living a confessing life, responding to the Spirit’s conviction.

Worship is… being who God made me to be, rather than comparing myself to others. Embracing who I am, rather than trying to be someone else.

Worship is… sharing His heart, letting His love invade my own, even when I’ve been hurt, or find others difficult to love.

Worship is… embracing His will. Whether that is marriage or singleness, motherhood or barrenness, loneliness or a crowded life. It is worship when I embrace my circumstances, welcoming them because He is WITH me.

Worship is… loving the hurting, the outcast (because Jesus says when we serve the hungry, the lonely, the imprisoned, the least of these, we serve Him.)

Worship is… serving God and others.This is going to look different in different seasons… but as Jesus people, we worship God by SERVING. Serving those we work with and for, serving our families, serving whomever is in front of us is a form of WORSHIP.

For those of us who are mothering littles, for all of us who have menial tasks, I would love for us to think of those things as WORSHIP. That doesn’t mean I need to try to FEEL worshipful cleaning up poop or whatever – but I can recognize that when I serve others, I AM serving Christ. I can make it my act of worship to serve whomever is in front of me– the Son of Man came not to be served, but to SERVE and give His life as a ransom for many.

To sum up: For me, worship is saying yes. It is living my yes to God.

I thought about ending there. Giving you a card to write down what your YES to God would be this week. Because saying YES to God is where life is found. But I feel like, as women, we are very quick to turn things that are life-giving into SHOULDs, and adding them to our “try harder” list.

I don’t want you leaving this morning with another “should” about worship – I should try harder to have an attitude of worship; I should say yes to God more; I should try to worship as I’m cleaning toilets…or meeting with that grouchy client…or taking that boring seminar. I should… should… should.

I think our issues with worship go deeper than that, actually.

Remember what I said at the beginning? Worship is the natural response to deity. It is the natural response to the truth of who God is and what He’s done.

If I am not worshiping God, it is because I am not seeing Him clearly.

We don’t worship God because we don’t know Him as He is – or because, without realizing it, we’ve believed things about Him that aren’t good or aren’t true.

So when we feel the Spirit nudging our hearts in the area of worship, let’s not respond by should-ing ourselves. Let’s not try harder. Instead, let’s ask Him to reveal Himself to us more deeply, more fully. Let’s ask to KNOW Him better. We can ALL know Him better.

As we spend time in the Word and in our Bible studies and in corporate worship and in living our lives in this creation that reveals Him…let’s make those things a treasure hunt. What if we were on the lookout for reasons He is worthy of praise? Reasons He is worthy of adoration? Reasons He is worthy of worship?

Deeper worship requires deeper love. To worship IS to love.

The Lord of the universe is infinitely worthy of our love. Let’s be watchful for reasons to fall more deeply in love with Him.

What if that were the GOAL of our Bible studies? Not to know more, or to be better people, but to LOVE Him more today than we did yesterday? There are unending reasons to love Him more. Are we looking for them?

That’s what I’d like for us to do for our offering today. I’d love for each of us to write out the top reason (or reasons) why we are in love with our Jesus today (give examples– He is my Shepherd…He SEES me…He is healer…He never leaves me).

We’ll leave those as our offering of praise to the Lord. This is our act of worship.

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