Today I spoke at Bible Study on the subject of worship and what God had been teaching me about it.
First, for a bit of a refresher course of what worship is and why we include it during Bible Study. Worship is about giving God glory – the worth that he’s due. He is our creator, our provider, he sent his Son for us. As recipients of that amazing gift, thanksgiving and gratitude in the form of worship flows out of us.
Worship helps change our focus from ourselves to God. It connects us to God when our hearts are one with his and we are worshipping with our spirit, not just singing. This came to mind last summer when I was singing with my sister during church. As sisters, we have a natural voice blend, and we can harmonize together—so I caught myself performing and NOT worshipping. My focus was on myself and on the gift of music, —but not the Giver. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit caught me pretty quickly and I refocused. God listens to our hearts, not just our voices.
Worship music streams truth into our minds and helps us hide it in our hearts so that we can live it out. In selecting songs every week, leadership provides the theme of the lecture then songs are chosen to reinforce the lecture’s message, to help us “get it.”
God is the creator of all things and the giver of good gifts and one of these gifts is music. Music has a special way of speaking to us—however, we are all unique and certain styles of music are not universally appreciated.
Ethnomusicology and cultural issues
Last spring, I had the opportunity to hear a Wycliffe missionary couple [Tom & Kristy Avery] speak about Ethnomusicology with tribal cultures. As missionaries, they want to reach the people of the world with the gospel and know that music is a powerful vehicle to do that. However, they’ve found that each culture has its own “heart music.” That is, music that is familiar and loved within that culture—that can interact with deeper thoughts and emotions. So they don’t just translate Western hymns and impose them on the people. They listen to and record the local music that appeals to the people then set scripture to music of that culture so that it will speak to the people’s hearts and truly minister. They explain that, “Such music lifts the words of Scripture off the printed page and gets God’s thoughts into minds and hearts.” Note: Tom Avery was promoted—and is now worshipping in heaven. I count it a privilege to have had the opportunity to hear him speak and sit down and speak with him last spring; it made a huge impression on me. A tribute to him is posted on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5Vnu3Rlefs
In many churches, forms of music have become a very polarizing issue. At some level, it seems like everyone is demanding THEIR heart music. The more I study and learn I find that it isn’t about my rights or my glory, but about God’s. Perhaps some of the concepts we’ll be studying later in I Corinthians can speak to these situations. Paul asks believers to defer for the sake of others and to do everything in love. In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul said that he had become all things to all men so that by all possible means he might save some. In I Corinthians 10:33, he says he is not seeking his own good, but the good of many so that they may be saved. It’s difficult, though, because the goal of worshipping together is for each of us to be drawn closer to God, but different styles of music don’t speak to everyone the same way.
With this group, we come from many different traditions and experiences, so we’re familiar with different songs, too. And, if you’re unfamiliar, sometimes it takes longer for the message of the song to connect with you. If you’re not familiar with a song, I would encourage you to try to grasp the truth in its message; the heart of the song.
So, I’ve discussed how God uses music in worship to connect with us and speak truth to us. I also mentioned that worship itself is giving God glory and worth that He’s due. This summer, I read something in the book entitled Captivating, that was a new, yet beautiful thought to ponder—our worship can minister to the heart of God. Wow! Thinking about it that way really clarified the concept of glorifying God and brought the significance of worship to a new level for me. The book gave the example of the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive oil. His disciples thought it was a waste, but Jesus thought it was a beautiful thing and was deeply touched by her lavish gift.
I asked a Bible scholar about this—saying, I want to believe this and it makes sense, but can it be backed up by scripture that we can minister to God’s heart through worship? He said, yes, and as God works things out, he’d just taught a lesson about it and so he sent me the notes. The notes discussed how we can make God happy, take pleasure in us, delight in us, rejoice over us, etc. These ways include our praise and worship of Him, as well as our knowledge of Him, our obedience, and the good things he does for us. As we are in the image of God, we have emotions like Him and one of the things that bring him pleasure and blesses his heart is our worship. He loves it when we offer our hearts to him in devotion.
God desires for us to seek his face, to get to know him, to love and worship him wholeheartedly. He’s calling us, and worship is one way we can respond to him with our whole selves. A friend of mine had a very rough time last fall, yet Sunday morning in the choir, her face was radiant—she forgot about herself and concentrated on Him and worshipped Him! She said it was the highlight of her week—she felt like it was just her and God. As we draw close to Him, he will draw close to us—and cause us to become like him. Psalm 34:5 says, Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that “we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.”
It is an awesome privilege for us as believers to be God’s temple and the body of Christ here on earth. Romans 12:1, encourages us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices as an act of worship and Hebrews 13:15 says to offer a sacrifice of praise.
It is from hearts filled with love for him that worship, obedience, good works, and acts of love flow. We can worship God through all of the aspects of our lives and serve and participate as his hands and feet here on earth. As Christians, we don’t have to earn God’s favor, we already have it. We can live with gratitude and show our adoration in worship to Christ for his sacrifice for us and be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be part of His plan. So, let me encourage you to respond to the call of God to know him and to minister to his heart through your worship.