worshiping God in spirit & truth

24 03 2010

I decided to continue to dig into John 4:22-24 so today is John 4:23:

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.

What does it take to be a true worshiper?

You have to worship in spirit and truth, but what does that require of us?

Truth is pretty clear: Psalm 119:160 says, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Worship must be according to Scripture and must be in Jesus.

Worshiping in spirit seems more mysterious. First, if we are to worship in spirit we need to be alive in spirit, meaning we must be born of Spirit. Though we are born human, our spirit is dead until it is born. This occurs when we believe in Jesus. If we never choose Jesus as Lord, then we will never be able to worship in spirit.

To be honest I don’t really have any concrete idea about how to worship in spirit. When I think about spiritual gifts they seem to happen by the will of God. When I think about learning in our spirit, it happens because the Holy Spirit teaches us. So, worshiping in spirit probably depends on the Holy Spirit working in us and through us.

I know I tend to worship in spirit more and more, but I can’t say that I did anything to make it happen. If there is anything under my control for this it first came from a dependence on God to work in me and to teach me about worship and to ask Him to make me a better worshiper.

The next part I notice from this passage is that the Father is seeking people who worship Him in spirit and truth.

This part sounds kind of like 2 Chronicles 16:9, “The LORD’s eyes keep on roaming throughout the earth, looking for those whose hearts completely belong to him, so that he may strongly support them.”

If the Lord is looking for people whose hearts are completely belonging to Him, then being a true worship would be part of it.

For a while I’ve been thinking about why it is important to worship correctly. I think is seems reasonable to say that being a true worshiper is part of being completely belonging to God. Therefore, being a true worship will allow God to strongly support us.


if worship sucks, it’s because of you

18 11 2009

OK, I know some people who probably hate my title because they think “suck” is a bad word, but that is part of the trick. I want you to read what I have to say.

To be honest, I’ve been a little disappointed in my corporate worship experiences recently because it hasn’t been up to par.

Worship has been really good over the last year, year and a half, maybe two years…? Consistently the presence of God is felt. Some weeks are better than others, which is to be expected.

But over the last few weeks it has seemed to be a little flat. Here’s the deal, if we don’t buck the trend we will have a great sounding band, but God won’t be there in the way He has and that’s no good.

So, I’m contemplating what can be done to help us all worship better.

Here is where I think the problem lies: we think worship happens to us and that worship is on our terms.

I know we try to tell people that they can worship in whatever way they feel they need to, but what if they don’t even know how they could/should worship?

To be honest a vast majority of my worship experiences have not been good. And if my experience is reflected in any part by the people who come to the gathering, then we have an uphill battle.

We can’t just tell people to worship in a way they feel led. What if they don’t even know how to feel led?

Do they even know why they should worship?

So here is a call to all worshipers: know who you worship and why you worship.

I think the biggest reason why worship stinks is because people have no idea who they are worshiping. This is our Creator! The one who has always been. Never has anything existed that was not created by Him.

When we are about to meet some human that is amazing, whether it be someone who is exceedingly successful, has skills that seem beyond human, or has beauty that makes us melt, we get nervous. I am not sure about you, but for me I actually rather stay away.

But these people are nothing compared to God. God is the one from who all these people were dreamed of and created.

We are trying to approach a God who’s glory is so beyond us that He has to protect us from it or else we’d be eliminated from all existence. When Moses asked to see God, God protected Moses from seeing the full glory of His All Glorious Back Side! Exodus 33:18-23, read it:

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

Visualize it. You are Moses and you know God better than anyone. You get to converse with God very clearly (Numbers 12:8, Deuteronomy 34:10), and the Messiah is compared to you (Acts 3:22). You are a big shot in God’s eyes. (Well… as big as a human can get in His eyes) As good as you are, you are only allowed to see the back of God after He has walked away from you.

I’m not saying I get God better and therefore I’m a better worshiper. What I’m saying is proclaiming accolades to God should come from an understanding that THIS IS GOD we are encountering!

I think if we have an intimate understand who we are worshiping, then a lot of other things take care of themselves.

When we understand who God is then we understand why we worship, which is simply because He is.

Now, this get’s me to the issue of worship being sub par.

We need to honor God. He deserves more.

This is why sitting in worship is generally an action of the sub par worship performance. (I say perform because we as a body of believers are performing for God.) When is sitting ever an action of honor? If you have an example please tell me.

I discussed it before, but honor is usually demonstrated by standing or bowing.

To give you some context to think about let me tell of my heart for the University of Arizona football team.

I like the team. I went to the school, but I’ve never been to a game.

A radio talk show discussed why more people don’t go to the game. I’ll tell you why I don’t go. Because I’m lazy, and I don’t want to spend the money.

Making the game an event in my life takes work. If I really wanted to show dedication to the team, I’d show up, dress crazy and lose my voice every week.

I don’t, because I don’t care that much. If I wanted to show the team how much they mean to me I’d do everything I could to get in their faces and tell them I really appreciate them.

In a similar way worship is our way to give back to God.

We probably haven’t broken down in our minds that a church gathering consists of receiving and giving. The teaching is for us to receive something from God. Tithes and offerings are for us to give back, and worship is for us to give back.

I think our mindset is that we do church, and don’t see it as a receive and give with God.

When we worship we need give by putting forth a worthy effort. It won’t always be easy. Most of the time it probably won’t feel overwhelmingly worshipful before we start.

Worship is something we do toward God; it is not something God does to us. We are responding to who God is. God’s awesomeness demands we put forth a strong effort.

We make worship good or bad, not God. Will you put forth the effort to make it great?

This means we don’t always get to worship according to how we feel. Sometimes we just have to choose. Choose wisely.

the post-modern problem in worship

30 09 2009

I am pretty much over the whole anti-post-modern dialogue at church. My perspective is that moderns and post-moderns are no closer philosophically to the truth of God than the other. They both have problems, so why not just leverage the strengths and compensate for the weaknesses.

I think it would be beneficial, though, to address the problem with post-modernism in worship.

If you watch this clip from Return to Source: Philosophy & the Matrix you can get an idea of what the problem is.

Starting at the 1:02 mark (the section ends at 1:57) Frances Flannery-Dailey retells the beginning of Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation, in which he utilizes a Borges fable to make a point.

The story is of an empire that makes a map so detailed it covers exactly the real world. As the story goes the map degrades, which represents the fall of the empire.

In this story the real world holds primacy, and the map is secondary.

Baudrillard takes the idea and flips it. For his illustration the map endures as the real world rots. His point is that now the “maps” of our lives have primacy and the real has become irrelevant.

Sheryl Crow’s lyrics from “If It Makes You Happy” reflect this state of life

If it makes you happy
It can’t be that bad
If it makes you happy
Then why the hell are you so sad?

The bottom line is that lives are no longer being based on reality. The reason life still hurts is because reality hurts.

How does this relate to worship?

Worship usually is leveraged through songs which when done correctly are a representation of the real – Scripture backed truth.

What happens when people start to base their beliefs off the songs and not an encounter with the Truth?

Fyodor Dostoevsky is credited with saying

At first, art imitates life. Then life will imitate art. Then life will find its very existence from the arts.

We can apply this to worship in this way: “At first, worship is rooted in a true encounter with God. Then an encounter with God will be rooted in worship. Then our relationship with God will find it’s very existence from worship.”

Is it a real relationship with God if worship is what makes our relationship with God? Worship is an interactive response with God for who He is and what He has done.

Worship as the base for our relationship with God is like physical intimacy without the relationship. Intimacy without relationship, while fun is ultimately hollow.

The problem with post-modernism in worship is the predisposition to allow the reflection of the truth and the associated experiences as truth themselves.

God’s truth should hold primacy while worship should be a reflection; it should hold a subsequent position in our hearts.

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.