Monday, October 15, 2007

uncomfortable worship

This one officially takes the longest blog award. Put your feet up…

Here’s the question I’ve wondered about: in heaven, would I feel any of the restrained feelings I have here about expressing worship? Even when some of us say that worship is not our primary pathway to connecting with God, I wonder: is that an option? And if I make the case that a particular style of worship (pop band, four chord songs, repeating lyric lines, etc.) is not the particular method that floats my boat, then what is it that would make me throw my hands up, sing at the top of my lungs, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” and then fall on my face? Apparently that’s what’s happening there according to John the Revelator. And is it really that I struggle with what my pre-Christian neighbor would think if they stumbled into a setting like that with me, or am I afraid to admit my self-consciousness…or even my lack of faith, because Jesus is here now and I rarely do that even at home alone?

The topic of worship forces a lot of dross to the surface. And there just isn’t enough time on the weekends to tackle not only the theology of worship but the internal emotional and spiritual wrestling that takes place.

In Vineyard seminars on this topic, we used to teach that there were three primary words used for describing worth to God: worship, praise and rejoice. As I understand it, each has three to five different expressive Greek or Hebrew words. We can create a continuum, perhaps somewhat arbitrarily, of the full spectrum of expression that God gives us to use.

At one end, the word we translate worship may have more to do with quietness or stillness. There may be bowing involved. The most commonly used Greek word in the New Testament is proskuneo—it literally means to kiss or to come close or come toward and kiss. It’s a submissive expression of intimacy.

Along the arrow we come to the expression praise. In the Old Testament alone, there are at least three different Hebrew words each with different meanings that we simply translate as praise. There is the word halal, the root word of hallelujah. It means to brag, or to boast. Another word is yadah, meaning to worship with your hands extended. The psalmist talks about lifting our hands in His name as an act of worship. As I mentioned this weekend, in the New Testament, Paul said he wanted people everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer. My friend Dan Cox brought a coworker to the Vineyard who asked, “Why do some people raise their hands?” Dan told him they have to go to the bathroom.

Still another Hebrew word translated as praise is zamar. That literally means to strike a stringed instrument with your fingers. If that’s not a case for a Les Paul in church, I don’t know what is. It obviously suggests we’re to have music involved with our worship.

Lastly, we have the expression rejoice. There are lots of Hebrew and Greek words translated as rejoice, but they mostly mean to shout, jump or dance. It means to take full expressive pleasure in God. My oldest daughter was in Rome when Italy won the World Cup: imagine that scene. I saw a game show where a struggling single mom and her six kids won an all-expense paid vacation and a new car. They went crazy and started crying and jumping and screaming and hugging each other. The weekend we announced the total pledged for the Luke 4 Challenge was like that: jumping-and-shouting excitement. Rejoicing is electric, unrestrained joy.

Now if we were honest, we could write on either end of the graphic: “I’m comfortable with this” and “I’m not so sure about this…this borders on weirdness.”
Tell the truth: where are you on that spectrum?

When Jesus quoted Isaiah and said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me,” that can go either way. And I get nervous.


  1. I'm on the Worship/Praise side of the continuum. I can lift my hands and close my eyes singing to my Father. Just Him and I.

    I'm running with a group that are often 'slain in the Spirit' at various churches we attend. Seriously, it's like Binny Hinn "let the bodies hit the floor" up close and personal.

    When we're at these churches I step out believing I'll have this Holy Spirit encounter and truly 'hit the floor' but it hasn't happened yet. My friends are on the floor and I'm still standing...feeling awkward.

    I believe in this Holy Spirit encounter and want to experience it personally like Saul on the way to Damascus (minus the going blind part). But since I have yet to experience this does that mean my heart is not right or somehow I'm restraining it from happening?


  2. Dave,

    Thanks for a fantastic message this weekend. I was floored by what you said about worship as a lifestyle and how we need to take the gifts and talents God gives us and begin to take risks and integrate them with balance and focus towards expanding the kingdom—not just in marketing a new brand of cat food. I just finished watching a pretty good Nicholas Cage movie called “Next” based on the Phillip K. Dick short story titled “The Golden Man.” The plot follows a prophetic man hiding from the world in plain sight as a two-bit magician in Las Vegas. I won’t ruin the plot for you, but essentially as he turns the corner and decides to be a living sacrifice he uses his gift for the good of the community and that gift becomes more intense and accurate. He is able to work with law enforcement with tactical precision. Wouldn’t it be cool if we had that type of synergy in the church?

    With that said, I have to own up that I have had difficulty in my own application. I have put God in a box when it comes to my gift. It looks like precognition when I use that gift every day on my job, but I hide in plain site in other settings. A good friend called me on that this weekend during the 4WARD outreach Saturday when we paid random motorists $1.00 just for letting us wash their cars. She asked if I was okay when we were sitting around eating pizza afterwards. I said, “sure, I ‘m fine.”

    “Are you lying to me?”

    “Just a little bit.”

    How could I tell her that God had been toasting my cookies all morning for just keeping my head down and scrubbing wheels to avoid direct contact with the drivers when I should have been talking to drivers and giving out words of knowledge with some of those one-dollar bills? I am pretty good at scrubbing tires, but I am even better at power encounters. I should have been doing both. Fast-forward to Sunday morning. I get even more floored by your message. The ultimate came during segment two of your worship talk this weekend. You were talking about corporate worship and how we need to be polite to those around us and think about the right place and right time to release the other gifts—we don’t want to stumble others, especially those just trying to get up the nerve to sneak their toes into the water. During that time of worship I had a sensation I hadn’t felt in years. My tongue tingled. My lips went numb. I felt an utterance coming on, but shut it down—right or wrong—and I sat down rather than loose the word God gave me. The word still resonates with me two days later. Maybe others will connect with it too.

    Maybe this is a better place to say it, especially given the title of you blog:

    “I have called you to two things: WORSHIP and COMPASSION. You call this season rediscovering your DNA. I call it coming home. I am your Father. I am standing at the end of the drive way and see you coming as you finally find your way back to the home I made for you at the corner of Worship Avenue and Compassion Dr. I lift my robes and dance down the driveway to meet you. I am pleased at your return beyond your understanding. I can’t wait to embrace you and take the rings from my fingers and put them on yours. During your first prodigal travels, you learned to be generous with what I gave you. You may have misspent that inheritance, but it was not a complete failure. You were generous with all you gave away to others, but you did it to mostly to make people like you. You thought I gave you your entire inheritance and were almost reluctant to come back to me and thought you might sleep with the pigs for a while until I could look at you again. That is not my way. I have been waiting for you to find your true place in my house all along. Now that you have relearned what the real treasures are and what you are to do with them, be ready to be astounded. Watch what happens when you use your real inheritance to gather people to my kingdom!”

  3. I know that my first comment was a bit long-winded, but I forgot to answer the question you asked in your blog, although I sort of hinted at it. I am still down in the worship end of the spectrum--quiet and stillness is my friend. Oddly enough, during that same worship time this past Sunday God gave me a bit of a playful nudge. I was starting get annoyed with folks around me during that song that includes the lyric "make a joyful noise unto the Lord." They were hooting and hollering like they were at a rodeo. Just as I was about to frown (with my hands up and still worshipping I should add) God gave me one His spiritual shoves in the shoulder:

    "Why are you getting mad at my kids having a good time in my presence? Besides, I have seen you at a Bengal’s game. You get way louder when you cheer for them--and they kinda of stink right now. Maybe you should show some praise for Me?"

    By the way, I have heard some people describe God's voice as being like James Mason--why do I always get Denis Leary?


  4. Awesome word, Ken.

    I thank God we have a pastor who is concerned for and watches over the souls of ALL who come- one hallmark of a true pastor.

    I'd like to share a piece of my journey in regard to worship. About 11 years ago, we wandered into VCC lost, hurting, desperate- for what we didn't know or understand. I would notice those around who worshipped with passion. Although bordering on weird, I still saw what I intuitively knew was earnest seeking after God. I also saw what I now know was the glory of God shining on their faces. I was desperate, whatever they had, I wanted.....

    When the Lord revealed to me that worship is a weapon against the darkness within and around me, I got serious in this pursuit. The demonic strongholds were vicious, yet they are and will continue to be broken in His Presence. Thank God the battle is His.

    Yup, my warfare mentality trips me up sometimes. I thank God for the balance He brings in the place of intimacy. Bowing. Stillness. Seeking to know who we are as His Bride is vital. I'd be nuts without this grace.

    Whether we are singing, strumming dancing, bowing or shouting- you're so right, Dave, lets seek to do it before an audience of One. Val

  5. An aside....

    We were just talking about the Prodigal Son parable in our Lose It For Life group last night. In a DVD teaching, Steve Auterburn pointed out something awesome about Rembrant's portrait of this parable. If you look closely, you can see that when painting the hands of the Father, Rembrant depicted one feminine hand and one masculine hand embracing the prodigal- representing compassion and strength/protection. Google "Rembrant's Prodigal Son" and check it out! Val

  6. Worship = your way to express to God he is great.

    So why is it that we have to be conscience about newcomers?

    Why is it that all the churches I have gone to, they have a certain style but not individual styles? Are not all people different? Therefore we have our own way to express worship to God?

    Why do I care if I do not jump and down, or get slain in the spirit, etc .. whatever everyone else is doing or not doing?

    Can I just be me?

  7. Anonymous -

    Good questions. I don't know the answers. I do know when I first came to the Vineyard I was taken back by the casualness of the atmosphere. The music hooked me before anything else. If I would have come in and folks were jumping around and/or fainting I would most likely not have come back because I would have been creeped out.

    In regards to being slain in the spirit I'm still researching this. While I trust my friends and mentors it has yet to happen to me. I don't feel I must have this experience to fit it nor will I "fake it to make it"...but if it's from Him I want it...if it's not I don't. I'm praying for discernment to know what's real and what's not.

    I love music...all kinds. When I listen to worship music I do worship my Father and feel it. I have yet to run around, jump or faint at the Vineyard. I have been more 'out there' at live concerts Third Day, Crowder, etc. There is something about corporate worship in a coliseum that ignites passion to worship.

    Hope you feel free to be yourself.


  8. I don't understand why you more or less forced people to raise their hands. That is between each individual and God. Everybody worships differently. Give me some meat and potatoes from the pulpit. That sermon seemed lame to me.

  9. great stuff to wrestle with...thanks for that dave...


  10. When I first heard the sermon this sunday, I was angry. Why does it MATTER how I worship? You know, God made me unique and however I want to worship should be okay.

    But I realized there is a difference.

    A very big difference between being afraid to praise however I want, for fear of how other people will perceive me, and respect for others' comfort level.

    When we praise at the Vineyard Celebrations, its a commUNITY. If how I am worshipping distracts others, makes them question how genuine I am, and stumble over the reality of God's presence, then there is a problem with "however I feel like worshipping"

    I think we forget or unfortunately do not to care how our actions do indeed affect others. That is a breakdown in our society.

    I really appreciate this series, I am learning and growing so much! God is good to us all. OH PRAISE HIM!

  11. I agree with Beth. I was not angry like she was in the beginning, but I do agree with her realization. There is a difference between holding back, not worshipping as freely as we should...then the other end of the spectrum is going overboard and doing things for show instead of for the right reasons.

    Along the same lines as another blogger "trigger effect" said, if we can jump out of our seats, shout, clap our hands, smile, high-five each other over the Bengals scoring a touch down...a team of sports players who haven't done much for us in our personal lives, then we should be doing the same (even more but certainly not less) for the God who created birds, grass, trees, flowers, mountains, rivers, PEOPLE, animals, etc...

    Some people even paint their faces, wear Bengals jerseys, throw tailgate parties and drive to "away games" to support their team. What do we do to ENTHUSIASTICALLY support and celebrate our God?

    I admit that I am one of the ones who does not raise my hands or close my eyes or anything during worship time at VCC. I sing most of the songs while I'm standing up and that's about it. Occasionally I clap. It is difficult for me to express myself without being self-conscious. But now that Dave brought it up, I will try to work on it. :)

  12. I must confess I sometimes struggle with giving God his time and space in my life and allow for deep forshipful praise. this weekend and wednesday night was really great for me. i hope it continues to grow that way.

    Why is it so hard to just express Love to the father, less excuses and debate. makes me wonder if God should do the same when he wants to bless us, Like hold back debate it and ask "what will the universe think". (Matt 10:32-33) seems we find all kinds of reasons not to give God what is truely His.