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Posts Tagged ‘John 4:24’

 

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Most Sunday mornings, I have no trouble engaging in worship. Between the lyrics of the songs, scripture-readings, and the leader’s comments, I’m quickly transported into God’s presence and worshiping with gladness (Psalm 100:2). Sometimes my heart soars to the very gates of heaven and the joy overflows as tears.

But not always. There are other times when my heart seems numb, for no apparent reason. Why is that, and should I be concerned?

Perhaps. If I’ve allowed unconfessed sin to fester, then my connection to God will be negatively impacted.

But what if I have addressed my shortcomings with God, and still feel disconnected? What then?

I need to remember the following:

  • Worship is sometimes an act of the will. “Put your hope in God,” the psalmist said, “for I will yet praise him” (Psalm 42:5). Worship wasn’t meant to be reserved only for moments of elation; it’s a choice. Job is a perfect example. After he was stripped of everything—cattle, flocks, servants, even his children—Job worshiped (Job 1:20). That astounds me.

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  • God isn’t as concerned about our feelings during worship as he is about our sincerity (John 4:24). We can earnestly worship even if spiritual bliss eludes us.
  • God hasn’t promised we’ll always feel his presence. Sometimes he intentionally hides his face (Isaiah 45:15). It’s part of our maturation process that he occasionally allows a bit of distance between him and us.

I remember the first day of kindergarten. My mother dropped me off in front of the school, and told me to go inside to the classroom we had visited.

I would have much preferred if she had walked with me and made sure all was well before leaving me to fend for myself. What if I couldn’t find the right classroom, or the teacher wasn’t there?

But allowing me this bit of separation was part of my maturing process. I needed to learn I could trust Mom’s instructions—even when she wasn’t in sight. (Lest you think my parents were negligent, kindergarten was just inside the school door, to the left!)

In review:

  1. Sometimes worship is an act of the will.
  2. Sincerity is more important than feelings.
  3. Sometimes God distances himself a bit to grow our trust.

But would we be wrong to do what we can to forge a stronger connection to God, and, as a result, engage our emotions more fully?

I don’t think so.

David offers several examples in the psalms, when he expressed his honest feelings of abandonment, depression, dejection and more. He did not end his honest proclamations on a negative note, but concluded with expressions of praise and assurance, which surely impacted his emotions. (See Psalm 77:1-15 for one example).*

 

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We can foster a stronger connection to God, and augment our worship with:

  • Gratitude – Even on our way to church, we can thank him for creation and his many blessings. Gratitude turns our gaze toward heaven.
  • Meditative Prayer – Before the service begins, praise God for his attributes, demonstrated day by day the previous week. Meditation ushers us into the presence of God.
  • Focus – Stay attentive to the words of the music, the scripture, the prayer. Fight against wandering thoughts. “If worship is mindless, it is meaningless” (Rick Warren).
  • Visualization – Imagine God on his throne, radiant with light, majestic and glorious, raised up in the sanctuary. See our resplendent God who is highly worthy of our full attention!

 

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As our spirits become engaged in these ways, the emotions of awestruck wonder, unspeakable joy, and overwhelming love will undoubtedly follow!

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What do you do that helps to connect you with God during worship? Share with us in the Comment section below!

*(No doubt these psalms were not written during Sabbath worship. Surely David worshiped God every day, to his benefit and for God’s pleasure. But that’s a topic for another post!)

(Art & photo credits:  www.ohbejoyfulchurch.org; http://www.bibleencyclopedia.com; http://www.banah.org; http://www.godthetruth.ws.)

 

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The drummer begins a snappy, energizing beat.

The guitarists add moving chords.

The keyboard player joins with a compelling melody and attention-grabbing harmony.

Then the leader of the band enthusiastically proclaims, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! Please stand and join me as we praise and worship our awesome God!”

It’s a familiar scene for those who attend a contemporary or blended worship service.

Have you ever wondered why we are invited to praise and worship? Aren’t the two words just synonyms for each other?

That’s what I thought for a long time.   Then a worship leader explained that the upbeat praise songs we sing first are designed to help us focus on God instead of the many mind-distractions vying for attention.

After a time of praise, he said, we are more receptive to the quieter, more reverent songs of worship. He likened our musical journey to the movement of Bible time worshipers, from the outer courts of the temple to the inner court.

Since then, I’ve learned more insights into the difference between praise and worship. For example:

Praise is an expression of approval and admiration, exalting God for who he is. We praise him for his wonderful attributes, like love, wisdom, power, and holiness. He is certainly worthy of every word of praise we can offer (Psalm 18:3).

But we can also praise people for their attributes. Even the family dog earns praise for being a good boy or girl! Praise is relatively easy to give. It costs us nothing except a little thoughtfulness and a little time.

A close relative of praise is thanksgiving. Just as we praise God for who he is, we express gratitude for what he does.

Worship, on the other hand, is exclusive. God is the only One worthy of our worship (Luke 4:8).

The word, worship, comes to us from Old English: weorth (worth) and scipe (ship). When we express our awe, love, and respect to God, we are proclaiming his worth to us.

True worship also includes humility, honesty, and surrender (John 4:24; Psalm 119:7):

  • Humility as we recognize God’s supremacy,
  • Honesty as we confess our inadequacy and sin,
  • Surrender as we relinquish our wills to his all-wise control.

Worship also draws us closer to God (Psalm 145:18), which is not just for Sunday mornings. Worship (as well as praise and thanksgiving) is designed by God to permeate our every day lives.

It’s as if praise, worship, and thanksgiving are tributaries, streaming together to form one great river. Three becoming one. Not like a braid, with three plaits woven side-by-side but still separate entities. No–a blending together into a whole, the parts no longer distinguishable.

Praise from a worshipful heart—one that is characterized by humility, honesty, and surrender—is the most sincere.

Thanksgiving that celebrates God’s goodness in his actions and praises God’s greatness of character, is the most complete.

Worship that includes sincere praise and complete gratitude is the most beautiful.

 

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Every day, Lord, you manifest your greatness to me. May I be quick to offer you praise, thanksgiving, and worship, because you are worthy of no less. And thank you for the gift of worship, for the overwhelming privilege of basking in your glorious and holy Light.

 

(Photo credit:  www.blog.nextlevelworship.com.)

 

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