false worship can teach us about true worship

26 08 2009

One of the problems with finding a definition from the Bible on “worship” is that there is no verse that says, “Worship is…” In order to build a good argument to support my definition I will write a few blogs on specific words translated “worship.”

(I must add that recent discussion has made me reconsider my definition, and I will add another post with changes to the definition in the near future.)

The first word I will break down is the Aramaic word sĕgid. It is translated “to worship or honor” and is only found in chapter three of Daniel.

Interestingly, chapter three is about false worship, but the image is very clear.  NASB, ESV and NKJV translate the word “worship.” Most instances in this chapter are connected with other words “fall down and worship” or “worship/serve your/my god.”

Serving someone often places a person in a humble position. It also communicates that the person or object is worthy of being served. Falling down before someone is a helpless position and communicates that the person may have control over the prostrate one.

The motivation for worship was was out of fear from being punished by the ruler. Can we say they had a heart of worship? No, it was more likely just an act of worship.

Daniel 3 shows connection between worship with servitude, and giving honor and respect. Also as we read verse 12 the act of worship was a specific action. It was not a lifestyle.

What we learn from this passage is that worship includes an act of submission.


did we just sing the same line 20 times? didn’t God get it the first time?

19 08 2009

I’ve had discussions about how some songs repeat the same lyrics over and over. My first thought is that the writers are lazy. The second thought is one shared with me, “Didn’t God hear us the first time?” Why would we need to say the same thing over and over again?

Here is an example of why I feel like songs used in worship get a little ridiculous with repeated words.

If you just want to see the lyrics here they are:

And He set me on fire, and I am burning alive.
With His breath in my lungs I am coming undone.
And he set me on fire and I am burning alive.
With his breath in my lungs I am coming undone.
And I cannot hold it in
Remain composed.
Love’s taken over me
So I propose the letting myself go.
I am letting myself go.

You are my joy.
You are my joy.
You are my joy.
You are my joy.

And He set me on fire, and I am burning alive.
With His breath in my lungs I am coming undone.
And He set me on fire, and I am burning alive.
With His breath in my lungs I am coming undone.
And I cannot hold it in and remain composed.
Love’s taken over me and so I propose the letting myself go.
I am letting myself go.

You are my joy.
You are my joy.
You are my joy.
You are my joy.

I need to catch my breath, I need to.
I need to catch my breath, give me a moment now.

You are my joy.
You are my joy.
You are my joy.
You are my joy.

I’m laughing so hard
And I’m laughing so hard
And I’m laughing so hard

I first must disclose that I often don’t get David Crowder’s lyrics. I know his lyrics are very image driven and I don’t connect with them well. Second, I really like the sound of this song, but I am always disappointed by the lyrics.

What does this song say?

It talks about what God has done for him. Not bad… that idea can be used in worship. What has God done? God set him on fire. People can get me pretty fired up too. What might stand out is that God provided a love that overtook the singer. That’s not a bad idea, but they are concepts without concrete actions. What if the person (not David Crowder) singing the song has all the same feelings, but they are not really God initiated or founded? The song becomes empty.

The breakdown of the song’s lyrics might seem a little off focus from the title of the post, but it is connected.

We started talking about why we would ever repeat lyrics in worship songs if God gets it the first time. The first repeated line “You are my joy” is an expression of reaction to God, not a characteristic about God. It’s not bad to repeat the line, but I’d prefer more lyrics about why God is my joy. Remembering why elevates the source over the experience. (If you have studied post-modernism, which I won’t go into, then you will understand why this is important. If you really want to know more the easiest and most fun way is to watch Return to Source: Philosophy & The Matrix on disc 8 of The Matrix Trilogy box set.)

The next repeated lines “I need to catch my breath” and “I’m laughing so hard” are just lyrics describing an experience and nothing about God, which I would propose is better left out of a worship song.

The most important question is not the function of repeating lyrics, but if it is biblical.

Read Revelation 4:8-11

8And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”

9And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”

We see that the four creatures never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” They say it day and night. In conjunction with this the twenty-four elders fall down every time saying their own line when the four creatures do their bit.

There we go, a biblical reference to repeated lines. Though, it might not all be in one song, it’s all day and night long.

What makes this different from the song we looked at? These are qualities about God. They contain words describing God, His character, and what He did. The lyrics are not about us.

There is a song that has repeated lyrics that moved me.

It is Jeff Deyo’s “You Are Good” and the lyrics are:

Some would say that You cannot be found
And some would say that You are far away
But I know You’re the God who lives in me
And I know You will always have my heart.

‘Cause You are good
And Your love endures forever
You are good
And Your love endures forever
You are good
And Your love endures forever
You are good, you are good.

You are the only One
You are the One that I desire
You are the only One, my King.

We see two repeated lines, but the one that grabbed me was, “You are good and your love endures forever.” It describes a quality about God. In this we declare a truth about God to God.

There is a reason why the repeating words moved me. In repeating the lines over and over God showed me a different quality about His love. Not only does God never end in quantity, but it never ends its flow toward us. No matter how much we mess up God’s flow of love toward us will never end.

The repeated lyrics musically represent truth just as in Psalm 136. Because the repeating lyrics make it feel like it never ends, we are reminded that God’s love never ends.

So, what my answer to the use of repeated lines in a worship song?

There is scriptural precedent for saying the same thing over and over, and repeating the same line can be a creative tool to communicate truth.

moses bowed in worship, have you?

12 08 2009

Having rows of chairs in church can cause a problem.

Why? You can’t bow.

Earlier I did a post on standing in worship. In my research, though, I found more about bowing down than standing in worship.

We find many instances of people bowing in worship. Genesis 24:26 and Exodus 34:8 show that worship and bowing are connected actions.

Just as standing is a position of honor, so is bowing. I was once told that this is a position of submission because the ruler over you could place his or her foot on your neck, thus rendering you helpless. I’ve never tested it out.

There isn’t much to say. Just do it. Personally, I found it rather odd when I first tried it. After I passed the weirdness, I found it really did help place me in proper perspective toward God. There truly is something about worshiping with our physical bodies as well as with our mouths and hearts.

old school is not good for church

5 08 2009

The movie has nothing to do with the post. The name fit, that's all.

If the songs you sing in church haven’t changed in a while it might actually indicate a serious problem.

Old songs are a part of the church history and Christianity is an ancient faith. Scripture tells us to remember the past.

Deuteronomy 32:7 – Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you.

Psalm 77:11 – I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

Psalm 143:5 – I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.

Now, look up “old” and “song” and you will find:

Why doesn’t <br> hold up in the html code in WordPress? I had to play a trick so it looks right.

Why doesn’t <br> hold up in the html code in WordPress? I had to play a trick so it looks right.

Exactly.  You won’t find anything.

But if we look up “new” and “song” and you will find:

Psalm 33:3 – Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

Psalm 40:3 – He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

Psalm 96:1 – Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!

Psalm 98:1 – Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.

Psalm 144:9 – I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,

Psalm 149:1 – Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!

Isaiah 42:10 – Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants.

Revelation 5:9 – And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

Revelation 14:3 – and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

The reason for new songs can come from two sources. One reason can be that God seems so amazing that one song about Him does not satisfy our urge to worship Him. A second reason is that we have learned something new about God, or He has done something new for us that we are compelled to worship Him about this new thing.

If God’s greatness is immeasurable then the amount of songs should likewise never end.

I couldn’t find where Scripture celebrates singing of old songs, but some people latch onto old songs with all their life. There is nothing wrong with singing old songs, but having no new songs shows something: there is no growth. Growth will result in something new.

A growing tree will continue to sprout new branches.

A dying tree looks the same until decay is evident.

Yellowstone - Dead Tree

Refusing to let old songs fade into the distance is placing a creation over the Creator.

We should remember our Creator and His works of old; but old school music is often about our nostalgia and our comfort.

Worse of all reliance on old school music could mean that we have never experienced anything new from or about God that compels us to sing a new song.