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Worship Is….

January 5, 2012 2 comments

“Worship is…
our response,
both personal and corporate
to God –
for who He is!
And what He has done!
Expressed in and by the things we say
And the way we live.”
– Louie Giglio, The Air I Breathe

I wrote this on the car ride from Bloomington to Atlanta for Passion 2012. However, it has not been until this evening that I have had the time (and free WiFi) to post it. The things that I typed on Monday, on the way down to what may be THE best worship conference in the world have only been reaffirmed as I sit here Thursday night to post it. So here goes……

This past semester, I have been asking the Lord to give me a crash course in what real worship really is. I figured if I want to make worship my life, I should probably try to get a thorough understanding of exactly what the Bible says about worship. I mean up until this point, the only real education I have received on worship is what I learn about it through music practices. While that has been really educational, I knew/know that worship is so much more than just playing music and singing some words about God.

So I asked a few of my “worship role models” about some good books that teach about worship (other than the Bible of course). I got a pretty long reading list, which has made up the bulk of my reading time. I have to say, the Lord has been blowing me away.

The quote above is Louie Giglio’s definition of worship. At first I was not a huge fan of it. I thought it was somewhat too broad. However, as I have read more books about worship, I realize how great that definition truly is.

Let me explain.

I think that most Christians would agree that our primary purpose as people/Christians should be the same as God’s purpose. Where some will agree and disagree is what exactly God’s purpose is. Without going into too much depth, I am a firm believer that the primary purpose of God is to bring glory to Himself. I have held this opinion for a while, but as I have been reading Isaiah for the past couple of months I have been convinced more and more of this claim. God repeatedly talks about how He has saved His people not for their sake but for the sake of His name. One isolated example would be Isaiah 48:9-11. I will trust you to look that up if you want. Or you can just trust me on it. Regardless, it is just one of the many times God makes such a statement.

But what does that have to do with worship?

Well at the base, everything we are to do should ultimately serve the purpose of glorifying God. But in our sinfulness we do not have a full knowledge or understanding of who God is. In essence, it is as though someone has knocked on the door to our house and asked us to go door-to-door campaigning for a political candidate who we know nothing about.

This is where worship comes in.

All of the books I have read thus far have said that, in addition to glorifying God, worship is intended to help us get a more full or complete image of the Lord. But what does that mean?

It helps me to think of it this way:

Imagine a big painter’s canvas. But this canvas has these black marks all over it; maybe even some dirt and grime. By every onlooker’s standard it is nothing but trash. This is our canvas before we have asked Jesus to be the Savior of our lives. Then the very second we ask Jesus for forgiveness and to be our Lord, He comes in with a huge paint roller and paints it completely white; white as snow. It looks like brand new.

So now we have this blank canvas. What do we do with it?

We then begin to bring the Lord this canvas in our times of worship. In our times of worship, like Louie said, we are acknowledging God for who He is and what He has done. Look at the lyrics of most worship songs. They usually contain at least one of two things. They are either filled with words that speak to who God is by declaring attributes of His character, or they contain words that talk about what He has done like how He saved us. So as we sing these words, we are affirming with our mouths (and hearts) that these things we are saying to/about Him are true. As we enter into times of worship through serving we are still declaring who God is. We are declaring who He is to others by saying that He is gracious and giving as we extend grace and give of our time, energy, and sometimes money to the people we serve (we cannot limit our times of worship to simply singing a few songs every week).

Regardless of what form of worship we are engaging in at any given moment, as we worship, God raises His brush and paints on our blank canvas. The first thing we should like to see painted on our canvas is the Cross. If it were not for the Cross, God would not even be able to approach our canvas, much less make it new or touch it with a single bristle of His brush because of our sin. But the Cross enabled us to come into communion with the Lord. Therefore, it is the very first thing we should expect the Lord to paint on our canvas. From there, I think our canvases will begin to vary by each individual person. I mean each canvas will, of course, contain a lot of the same elements. But each person tends to have accentuated views of the Lord based on the experiences of their lives. For some, we will see a scene of God being a loving father; maybe because that person’s father failed in the past. For others we may see Him as more of a sacrificial lamb that took a punishment on their behalf because of the intensity of the sin with which they were battling. The new believer may just have a cross on their canvas. Maybe another more mature believer has Jesus hanging on the cross amidst images of their own sin to acknowledge that Jesus has saved them but these sin struggles are still a very real daily challenge. Each canvas is as unique as the fingerprint on the believer to whom the canvas belongs.

But as we continue to engage the Lord in worship more and more, I believe our canvases will begin to look the same. Every time we give our time to acts of worship, be it music, serving others, communion, prayer, fasting, etc. (there are many forms of worship; “Expressed IN and BY the things we say and the way we live”), God will add more to our canvases. Maybe in one worship experience he adds a little bit of detail, kind of like how Bob Ross will add a couple of “happy trees” to his mountainous winter landscape. Maybe other times he adds a major focal piece, like a stream through the center of Ross’s landscape. Inevitably our canvases will have to conform to one image: the true image of the Living God. However, I do not think we will ever really get such a canvas until we are in Heaven gazing upon His face, when all question and room for interpretation are eliminated. God is a god of unity. He longs for ONE body with ONE head. Read Ephesians 4:1-16 to learn more about unity in Christ.

Every single time we engage in worship, our hope and prayer should be that when we walk away we would be able to look at our canvas and see that the Lord has made some change in it, whether it be a big or small change. I believe that if we enter into a time of worship trusting and believing that He will make such changes, then He will. As the Lord works more and more on our canvas, we will be able to look at it and, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, see which areas are more accentuated than others; which areas could use a little more detail. Upon such realizations, we can then enter into worship asking the Lord to help give us more detail, or a better view or understanding, of this area. We may even see the Lord change the surface of the painting altogether. He desires that we have BIG views of Him because He is a BIG God. We may walk into a worship encounter with a regular sized canvas and, after experiencing the Lord, walk out with a image of the Lord that looks like a mural on a city wall. We will begin to see these changes appear if only we ask the Lord for them. As time wears on, we will learn to love and appreciate these changes more and more. We will take joy in something as simple as the Lord proportionally adding a tiny bird to a tree miles away in a Bob Ross painting or blowing our image up to fit on the side of the Empire State Building.

Our image, or understanding, or view, or “canvas” of the Lord that we hold is one of the most crucial elements of our beings. This canvas, as we reflect on it, should do many things. It should excite us. It should bring us to repentance. It should evoke us to action. Maybe it evokes more worship. Maybe we are compelled to go share the Gospel. Maybe we are compelled to go serve the poor. Regardless of exactly what our reflection on our image of the Lord causes to do, the result of each response should ultimately be the glorification of the Name of the God of the Universe.

The one other phrase that has been dominant, and that I did not completely understand for the longest time, was that worship begins and ends with Jesus. To relate this to our running canvas analogy, every painter marks a finished painting with his/her signature. It is frequently a very important mark to identify a genuine from a fake. However, unlike every other painter, immediately after God paints over our dirty, scratched up canvases, he signs His name. In His eyes, we are finished the very minute we ask for a new canvas. But what name does he sign?

JESUS

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