By Teresa Metzger
Worship is our goal for every day, but the Lord’s Day presents us with special opportunities.
Life is often lived segmented into neat little boxes we construct for ourselves. We have our work box, family box, sports box, entertainment box . . . and all of these fit into a larger, “secular” box. Many activities make up our secular lives. Then we have this much smaller box labeled “sacred.” Into this box we put our church attendance, Bible reading, praying, and service. Our sacred box takes up much less time and space than our secular box, but that’s OK because we are sure God understands.
But when we come across a verse like Romans 12:1, which says, “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship,”* we begin to understand that in God’s eyes, our little sacred box is not enough. All of life is sacred! From God’s point of view, there is only one box. All of life is worship!
Worship of any kind has an amazing power to transform us. We become what we worship. Our character is shaped by what we worship. If we worship money, we become greedy. Those who worship power become ruthless. People who worship themselves become arrogant and selfish.
God knows this because he made us. That’s why he told the Israelites to “have no other gods before me.”
Jonah 2:8 says, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” They give up what God intended them to become.
Isaiah 45:5 says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.” Only the great I Am deserves our worship. Worshipping him makes us who we are supposed to be, who we were created to be.
Worship is a verb! We must act in order to worship. Worship is something we offer to God every minute of the day by how we live our lives.
But that doesn’t mean Sunday worship shouldn’t be something special. Just as earthly parents enjoy having all their children with them at home at the same time, God is blessed when his children gather in his presence. And when we come together, our worship can be a verb.
Søren Kierkegaard reminds us that the congregation is not the audience in our Sunday services. God is. He is watching, seeking those who will worship him in Spirit and in truth. We, the congregation, are the active participants, the worshippers. So, what should we do?
Realize that worship is not about what we get out of it, but what God gets out of it. So in a very real sense, it really doesn’t matter if we like the music or the message. It doesn’t matter that things aren’t quite to our taste. Worship is not good or bad based on what we like. Worship is acceptable to God based on the offerings of my heart to him. God wants to connect with our very essence. The packaging has very little to do with our heart connection to God.
Sunday morning worship begins on Saturday evening as we start to focus our attention on God. Ask for clean hands and a pure heart to worship well. Ask for words and thoughts that are acceptable to God.
Life is usually lived on the parallel tracks of bitter and sweet. Even in the toughest of times, God gives us blessings. Acknowledge those blessings and thank him.
See God for who he is. Look beyond what is seen on the platform into the spiritual realm. God himself is watching to see the worship we offer. In your mind’s eye, look and see Almighty God. See him high and lifted up. See him surrounded in rainbows of light and clouds. Hear the praise of heavenly beings. Just imagine. . . .
Listen for the voice of God. Revelation 1:15 tells us the voice of God is “like the sound of rushing waters.” His voice is full and resonant. Psalm 29 tells us the voice of God is powerful and majestic. And those who hear his voice cry “glory!” God is speaking through the music. He is speaking through the message. He is speaking during Communion. Listen for his voice. Listen for his direction. Listen for his encouragement. Listen to what he says. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Be still and listen.
In one English translation of the Bible, the word sing is mentioned 139 times. God likes singing!
God himself is a singer. “He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). How amazing! Can you hear God singing? If God himself sings over us, is it any wonder he would like to hear us sing back to him?
Use the words of the songs to acknowledge him and praise him. Let the words become prayers. Let the words be our praise. Singing allows us to actively participate in worship. Offer God your heart through the singing. Our singing brings delight to our heavenly Father!
Clapping is an expression of joy and approval to God for all he is doing. “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy” (Psalm 47:1). When we clap during the music, we are participating in the joy of worship. When we clap at the end of a song, it is not to express approval to the band, but to express appreciation and praise to God.
Lift Up Holy Hands
“I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing” (1 Timothy 2:8). Participate in worship by lifting up your hands to express praise. Lift up your hands to seek God’s blessing. Lift up your hands to surrender. Lay your palms upward to symbolically receive what God has for you.
Pray for those who are entering the building. Pray for those who are seated around you. Engage your mind while others are praying. Consciously agree with their prayers before God. Express your agreement with a nod or verbal expression.
Every good and perfect gift we possess comes from God. God asks for and expects to receive gifts from us. Presenting our tithes to God allows us to acknowledge the goodness of our heavenly Father because all we think we possess comes from God. And thank offerings are the “above and beyond” gifts, a way to thank God for an answer to a prayer or any good thing we have received from him.
We truly participate in worship when we partake of the Lord’s Supper. We can “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). We picture Jesus and his sacrifice for us. We see his resurrection. We reflect on Jesus’ love for us. We reflect on his return for us. We are still. We listen. We express our grateful hearts to God in prayer and prepare ourselves for a life of active worship in all the days of the week to follow.
*All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©1984.
Teresa Metzger serves as executive director with River Hills Christian Church in Loveland, Ohio.