Why Worship?

“What is the difference between worship and all other music?”

This blog is born out of a question I received from a young lady a couple weeks ago. I had just finished explaining that I don’t include music on my playlist if it’s not worship. “What’s the difference?” Surprised by her confusion, I spent several weeks considering her question.

Before the bulk of my post, I want to encourage those who are reading this. The odds are, if you’ve opened a blog post about worship, you are interested in worship. I see many worshipers on Sunday mornings who are completely after God, overflowing with an eagerness to praise Him, and I have no doubts that the desire runs through us all. After all, we are designed to bring Him glory (Isaiah 43:7). It’s weaved into our very existence.

Whether you are starting or continuing to grow in your knowledge of worship, I hope this post encourages your inherent desire to bring Him glory.

  1. Worship Is Conscious

It’s Sunday morning, right on the dot of service time. You walk into the sanctuary as worship begins and start singing along with the rest of the congregation.

Why?

If we don’t understand who God is and what He has done, what is the distinction between singing along with worship and singing along to Top 40s radio? It’s karaoke. We’re doing it because it feels good and everyone around us is doing it, not because we want to express our adoration for our God.

I encourage you to read Psalm 103. This scripture is certainly not the only one from which we can gain insight about why we worship the Bible is replete with reasons to glorify God but it’s a good start.

Let all that I am praise the Lord…. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases…. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things…. The Lord gives righteousness  and justice to all who are treated unfairly…. The Lord is compassionate and merciful…. The Lord is like a father to his children…. Let all that I am praise the Lord” (NLT).

From Psalm 103 alone, we are reminded that God is forgiving, redeeming, merciful, loving, righteous, just, and compassionate. What wonderful reasons for God to be worshiped! The first step to true worship is understanding Who we are worshiping and why.

Once we understand why we worship, we can move to establishing our focus.

  1. Worship Is Outside of Us (Inward-Focus)

Worship is not about us. I realize this statement sounds obvious, like “Tell me what I don’t know,” so let’s dig in a bit. Here is the same sentence stated several ways:

  • Worship is not about self-reflection.
  • Worship is not about how the song makes us feel (what we get out of it).
  • Worship is not about our personal style or what “touches our heart.”

Inward-focus contemplates the effects worship has on us, asking questions like, “What do I want to receive from worship today?”, “How do these words make me feel?” and “Do I look engaged enough in worship?” These questions are not in themselves wrong; worship does affect us emotionally when we receive from God. However, in the midst of worship, they are a distraction from our true purpose.

Many worshipers, including myself, have experienced moments driving home after a service and thinking, “I just didn’t feel worship today.” Disappointment from a lack of personal impact is the red flag of inward focus. When we’re focused on God, solely on God, worship will not disappoint.

We don’t lose depth when we shift our focus; we multiply it! We don’t lose out on a relationship just because we don’t approach worship as a two-way street. The Bible is clear that God desires a relationship with us (Acts 17:27), and He will give all He has for that relationship (Ephesians 5:25). Worship is our time to reciprocate love in our relationship with God. Out of His total love for us, we receive comfort, life, and strength in worship, but the blessings we receive are the byproduct of our true worship, not the purpose.

It is precisely because we are taking the focus off of ourselves and putting it on God that we can experience life-giving worship. Philippians 4:8-9 says it all:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

When you meditate on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, the ultimate result is that “the God of peace will be with you.” God is everything good! He is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy! Meditating on Him, beyond ourselves, results in His peaceful presence.

  1. Worship Is Beyond Our Environment (Outward-Focus)

Worship is not about the atmosphere. Outward-focus means constantly digesting the world around us how it looks, how it sounds, how it meets our needs, etc: “That guitarist looks too crazy” or “This would look way cooler with more lights and a fog machine” are thoughts indicative of outward focus.

Let’s revisit the Biblical definition of worship:

The primary word for worship in Hebrew is shachah [shaw-khaw’], which means “prostrate (in homage to royalty or God): bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence.” Even translated into the three Greek words, Proskuneo, Sebomai, and Latreuo, the term retains a definition of deep reverence, deference, and awe — face-down emotions. Bow. Fall down. Prostrate.

Have you ever tried to check out the room around you while lying flat on your face? Experience tells me it’s very difficult. True worship isn’t easily distracted; it’s a “facedown” expression. True worship is humble and so completely concentrated on God that it actually distracts us from the world around us!

Worship Is Upward-Focused

Worship is entirely about God. Worship is about what He feels. What He gets out of it. What touches His heart. Worship is not about any of us or the distractions around us (I hope I sound redundant at this point). Really, the list of what worship is not about is so long because the list of what worship is about is so short. There is only one name on that list, and what a deserving name it is!

Worship Him because of His greatness (1 Kings 19:9-18), strength (Joshua 6), faithfulness (Genesis 21:1-7), power and creativity (Genesis 1), justice and forgiveness (John 8), protection (2 Kings 6) and worthiness! Worship God with shouts of Joy (Psalm 95:1), with psalms of praise (Psalm 95:2), with deepest awe (Psalm 5:7). Bow down before him (Psalm 95:6), sing to Him a new song (Psalm 96:1). Worship Him with all of your honesty and the depth of your being (John 4:24).

I have one primary request to end this post: in all you do, do it to the glory of God. Authentic worship the kind of worship that ushers in the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit is the result, not the catalyst, of an authentic life. When we are truly devoted to God’s glory, both inside and outside of the sanctuary, there is nothing that can stand in the way of honor, unity, and excellence in our worship.

Let’s focus on pleasing the Lord and directing all of our worship upward.
 
-Catherine Lexvold, Worship Leader

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I Am

“I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you.
I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.
Let those who are wise understand these things.
Let those with discernment listen carefully” (Hosea 14:8-9 NIV).


God declares in Hosea, “I am…” for those who are heavy laden with sins. He declares hope to those desiring to release their sins, receive His forgiveness and offer up praises to Him. God not only declares that HE IS the God who answers your prayers and cares for you; He also affirms that He will heal you, love you, not be angry with you, refresh you, cause you to blossom like a lily and grow deep roots, make you as beautiful as an olive tree and fragrant like a cedar, and cause you to flourish!

What great promises we have, displaying His loving kindness and mercy to the lost, the backslider, and the hurting. Those who will choose to look to God for shelter and give Him praise as Lord of all receives the great power and joy of becoming eternally fruitful in life, as we stay connected to Him.

Here in Hosea, God’s love points us to the future coming of Jesus and forgiveness we receive through Him. The New Testament (NT) goes on to make approximately 122 references to who we are “In Him” or “In Whom.” As you personalize these statements from the NT, God provides us our own “I am” statements.

As He says “I am” and declares who He is to us, He opens our eyes to who we are. Now as children of God, made right with Him through Jesus, we can boldly declare “I am” all He has paid the price for me to be through faith in Him. As you read and meditate on the statements below, may you rejoice in your new identity in Christ and receive His love in abundance!
 
I am loved by God. (John 3:16)
I am delivered from the power of darkness through His Son. (Colossians 1:13)
I am able to love others with the love of God. (Colossians 3:14) 
I am called with a holy calling, according to His purpose and grace through Christ. (2 Timothy 1:9) 
I am healed by His stripes. (1 Peter 2:24) 
I am increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10) 
I am giving thanks in everything. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) 
I am sharing Jesus with others. (Romans 1:16) 
I am complete in Him. (Colossians 2:10) 
I am surrounded with His favor like a shield. (Psalm 5:12) 
 
-Pastors Shaun & Amy 

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The Power of Praise

We can learn so much about having an effective marriage and family from observing Christ’s relationship with the church and the church’s relationship with Christ. In the Book of Acts, Chapter 16, we find the account of Paul and Silas being thrown into prison. It tells us in verses 25-26, 
 
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 
 
At this point of great trial and affliction, Paul and Silas chose to respond through prayer and praise! This was truly what Psalm 116:17 calls offering to God “…the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” It isn’t that God needs our praise at times of trial and despair in our life. We need to praise Him in order to get our mind off our circumstances and on God’s ability to show up on our behalf. When Paul and Silas did this, they were not only loosed from their chains and jail cell, but all of the prisoners were loosed also! This shows a very important spiritual point; our praise has the ability to not only set us free from the power of darkness, but others as well. 
 
We find another account of the power of praise in 2 Chronicles 20:21-22: 
 
And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went our before the army and were saying: ‘Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever,’ Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. 
 
Praise is powerful! Praise breaks the strongholds of the enemy. God was able to move on His people’s behalf to defeat their enemies because they put their faith and trust in Him through praise! God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He will show Himself strong on our behalf just as powerfully today when we praise Him and even more so now because we have a covenant though Jesus. 
 
When we are in a difficult situation, whether it be marriage, children, or anything else, we can praise Him because He is faithful! We can praise Him because Hid mercy endures forever! After we pray faith-filled and Holy-Spirit-led prayers over our situation, we can praise and thank Him that He is going to to take what the devil intended for our harm and turn it around for our good and His glory (see Romans 8:28). We can believe God that when the dust settles, we will still be standing and we will be all the stronger in our walk with God and in our relationships. 
 
David was called a man after God’s own heart, and we see why in the book of Psalms. He was constantly praising God. In fact, Psalm 119:164 tells us that he praise the Lord seven times a day! If something bad happened, He praised God for being faithful and merciful. If something good happened, he praised Him for the good. 
 
No matter what, David was always praising! He even said when he was going through a great trial of affliction, “But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more” (Psalm 71:14). In other words, the devil just couldn’t shut him up. He was determined to praise no matter what! You know, you just can’t keep a man like that down. One way or another he is going to rise to the top because God inhabits the praises of His people. God will do the same thing for us. Our praise to God has the ability to completely turn a situation around. As Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.
 
Praying abundant blessings over you, 
Shaun & Amy

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Don’t Build a Case Against Yourself

The most important battles we will ever face in life are within. One of the greatest of those, is what you decide to believe about yourself. God has already decided what He believes about you. Jeremiah 29:11 tells you: “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Many people go through life thinking defeated thoughts about themselves. They build a case against themselves in their own mind of reasons why they can’t succeed. This mindset holds them in a prison that only they can make the choice to unlock and be freed from. Don’t allow yourself to hold a magnifying glass up to the problems you see within, while looking through a microscope at your gifts and strengths.

What you currently have become, good or bad, is largely due to what you have believed about yourself and the world around you. Don’t think about all the reasons you can’t do something that’s in your heart to do; instead find the reason why you can. Great things are achieved by people who believe that God is bigger than their current circumstances.

What you focus on will direct your outcomes in life. That’s why God wants us to have vision and put it in writing. Then keep that vision before you daily. As Zig Ziglar once said, “You can’t consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself.”

Through Jesus, God’s Word, and His Holy Spirit, the Father has freely given us every tool we need to be a success in life. Now we just need to believe it, receive it, and daily learn walk it out. Do you believe what God says? If so, then you must also choose to believe what He says about you. “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world” 1 John 4:4.

God does have a good plan for your life. We challenge you to write down three of the God-given dreams He has put in your heart, as well as scriptures you can meditate with them. Then read these dreams and scriptures aloud each morning. When you go to sleep at night, picture them happening. Start believing that you can because God is bigger than any obstacle you face. When you pursue His plan for your life, He delights in helping you!

May 2018 be a year of great completion and manifestation of dreams for you! Remember as you go throughout this year, both faith and fear will try to sail into your harbor, but only allow faith to be the one to drop anchor! We are excited to hear about the great things God does in and through you this year!

Shaun & Amy

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It’s Pronounced /yes/

Before I became the Youth Director at High Point Church, one of my dreams was to someday be an English professor at a private university. I adore words — how they sound, how they change meaning within varied settings, and how linguistics across cultures affect our understanding of the world around us. Helping people understand words is my passion, from ironing out their pronunciation to conveying their consequences across contexts.

Amidst words like Worcestershire, colonel, and defibrillator, I find that one of the hardest words to say in the English language is one of the shortest. Similar to war, forgive, love, and mercy this word bears considerable consequences:

Y – E – S

So short yet often so far from our first response. Challenging yes, there is an even shorter word in English that is very easy to say:

N – O

Physically, NO is much easier to say than YES. The soft consonant /n/ literally requires less work than the the palatal /y/ and hard consonant /s/. This is the reason why no finds its way into the most-frequently-used-words list of many toddlers’ vocabularies, even before other simple words like dog and ball. No is simply easier.

There are plenty of instances in the Bible where people found no easier to say than yes. After studying several of these instances, I narrowed down three approaches that we take to the word no, some of which are quite subtle:

  • No (Jonah 1:3)
  • I’ll do it later (Luke 9:61)
  • I’ll do it, but in my own way (Numbers 20:7-12)

Note that the 2nd and 3rd phrases do not include the word no — at least not spelled out. Without the direct word no, we can fool ourselves into thinking that later or yes, but in a different way are actually variations of the word yes. “Well, I told God that I would do it, just not now” or “just not the way he suggested.” It’s not a suggestion. God does not need your advice on timing or style. He knows what he asks for, when and how it needs to be done, and why.

Sociologists tell us that even the most introverted people will influence over 10,000 people in their lifetime. That’s likely around 9,000 more people than each of us know by name. The reason we can each influence so many people is chain reactions. What you say or do to one person influences how they act towards the next person, and how that person acts towards the next, on and on through a seemingly endless chain of people.

Who could possibly track all of the changes your present actions will have on the last person on the chain? I could maybe guess how what I say and do will influence the person next to me, but only God can comprehend the whole picture. That is why it is vital that we respond obediently to God’s direction.

Unlike the word no, with its manifold methods of delivery, there is only one way to say “yes” to God. Y-E-S. There is no qualifier, excuse, or adjustment. He knows the timing, the style, and the effects. All you need to know is how the word is pronounced.

If you ever feel an urge to do something beyond your comfort zone, and you are confident that the urge is from God (and consistent with His Biblical standards), remember Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Don’t let your limited vision for the outcome prevent you from obedience. There is a PLAN in His request, for your good and for the good of those you will influence.

If saying “yes” is ever so difficult for you that you cannot get it past your lips, here are some Bible verses that you can study to help get the words out. I encourage you to dig into the testimonies behind them and the outcomes of each instance of submission to see what kinds of incredible things happened as a result of YES.

  • I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands (Psalm 119:60 NIV)
  • Then Mary said, “I am willing to be used of the Lord. Let it happen to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38 NLV)
  • Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42 NIV)

-Catherine Lexvold 


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