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I recently wrote about worship after reading a couple of articles concerning this topic in Christianity Today. I continue to think about this subject as I believe that worship should be at the center of every Christians life. I have read three accounts in Scripture that have informed my worship and hope that they will do the same for you.

The first example is in the last book of the Bible – Revelation 19:4,5.
Here we see the heavenly beings bowing down and praising God. Here are two things Christians should do in their life of worship.  The first is bowing down. When a person bows before another, he or she is showing respect, acknowledging supremacy, exhibiting humility and submission. We should worship God, not only with our minds and spirits, but also with our bodies. Physically bowing down before the Sovereign Lord helps to transform our hearts and minds to Christ and his will. Sadly, most Christians rarely if ever now down in worship before almighty God. That described me as well, until I began studying the Bible and what it says about worship. Now I regularly bow down when I pray.

The heavenly beings  not only bowed down, but they also praised God.  Many people think worship and praise are the same. They are closely linked, but are not the same. Praise for God is the result that flows from a life of worship; a life of submission to God lived in genuine trust that He loves us and wants us to be happy. Our hearts are full of joy living in right relationship with God and man, and our lips can’t help but praise the Lord!

The second example is found in the first book of the Bible – Genesis 24:26,27.
 Here, Abraham’s servant has had his petition to the Lord answered favorably. He was on a mission to find a wife for Isaac, and he found one. Interesting enough, his reaction is exactly the same as the heavenly beings: he bows down and praises the Lord. He is not in the immediate presence of God, yet he has humbled himself before the Almighty, has trusted that the God of Abraham loves even Abraham’s servant and will be good to him and thus his prayer is answered. God showed up for him in his time of need and he bows down and praises God.

My last example of worship is the first time that the word worship is used in the Bible – Genesis 22

It is in a story that is important to all three major religions in the world: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. We can all learn a great deal about what It means to truly means to worship God from this story.

Abraham is told by God to take his son, his only son, the son that he loves, Isaac, and offer him as a burnt sacrifice to the Lord. This is the son of promise that Abraham waited 25 years to be born to him and Sarah. Finally Isaac was born and the elderly couple laughed like crazy to see the incredible gift God gave them in their old age.  Surely they doted on him, and spoiled him and loved him a lot. Maybe too much, which is why God asked this unimaginable thing from Abraham.

Abraham gets up early the next morning and heads off with Isaac (who was in his late teens or early twenties) and two servants. He is heading out to a place that God would show him. It took them three days to finally get to the mountain on which he was to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering. One can only imagine what was going on in Abraham’s head as they took the long journey.

Abraham said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”(Genesis 22:5)

WE WILL WORSHIP. That’s what Abraham said. That’s what Abraham had on his mind. Not music. Not a joyful celebration. But obedience to a God who had shown Himself faithful time after time in Abraham’s life. Worship, for Abraham was trusting in a good God, who always kept his promises, even when, by all outward appearances, it seemed that God was not going to show up. God always showed up. Now Abraham was climbing a mountain, carrying fire, and beside him, Isaac, carrying the wood that was intended to burn him up as a sacrifice. Abraham was planning on worshiping God. He was planning on God showing up, somehow, some way, even if it meant bringing Isaac back to life, as the author of the book of Hebrews writes. Worshiping God is living a life of faith, pleasing God because we believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Sometimes that is not easy, as I am sure Abraham was thinking as he put the wood on the rock, and then placed Isaac on the wood and bound him. Just as he was about to plunge a knife into Isaac’s heart, God showed up. The LORD spoke to Abraham, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12)

I think this story shows us the heart of true worship. Obeying God. Trusting God. Believing that God loves us and wants us to be happy, even in the midst of great trials and testing; in external difficulties and internal anguish, we can worship God with all our being, knowing that God will show up. Just like he showed up for Abraham’s servant who found a wife for Isaac. Just like he showed up for Abraham on the mountain. And one day, all those who worship God in spirit and in truth, will join the heavenly beings and bow down and praise God, forever and ever, amen.

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When you think of “worship” what comes to mind? For many Christians, “worship” is that singing thing that happens at church before the sermon. But that may not be the heart of worship, especially when you look at what the Bible has to say about it.

I recently read two articles about worship in Christianity Today magazine that opened my eyes to some aspects of what it means to worship God, and reinforced some thoughts that I have been having about it. Below are some quotes from the two articles. I hope they speak to your heart as much as they did to mine.

The first article is called Worship God at All Times. If Necessary, Use Music.

To be human is to worship. (Check out Psalm 150:6)

Not only is music rarely associated with worship in the New Testament, but the Pentateuch is altogether silent on music associated with tabernacle worship. All of this highlights our skewed preoccupation with and conflict over music, and raises serious questions about our understanding of worship in the first place.

(The Hebrew word for worship) refers to a physical gesture of prostration out of respect and homage before a superior. We cannot speak of biblical worship without starting with this physical gesture of submission and homage before God the Father and Jesus the Son.

Paul’s instructions concerning “speaking to/admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:15-21,Col 3:12-17) occur in the context of appeals to let all of life – rather than just worship services – be the context of worshipful living.

The First Testament perspective, which consistantly emphasizes that living faithfully throughout the week is a prerequisite to acceptable liturgical worship. Picking up the motif of worship as an audience with God, Psalm 24 asks, “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?” This is a metaphor for “Whose worship will be acceptable to God?” The psalmist says nothing about music or the quality of any other element of liturgical performance.

Performance of worship rituals is meaningless and even repugnant to God if the worshiper’s life is not an expression of devotion.

True worship involves reverential acts of submission and homage before the divine ruler in response to his gracious revelation of himself and in keeping with his revealed will.

(The article above is from Daniel I. Block’s book For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship and reprinted in CT)

The quotes that follow are from an article titled The Temptations of Evangelical Worship by Mark Galli.

The Westminster Catechism says our chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

True worship is to seek justice for the oppressed. But in the end, ethics never replaces adoration in the prophets but is seen as a necessary complement to true worship.

It is a constant temptation (for worship leaders) to replace God with technique, to seek not the Holy of Holies but mostly devotional exhilaration.

When we sing asking for God’s glory, we are not asking to know the fear of God and the humble suffering that life in him entails. No, if we’re honest with ourselves, we mostly want a good religious feeling, We really aren’t interested fully in what God’s glory is and what it might do to us.

As much as worship leaders strive to keep their egos in check, they are the first to admit that the very ambiance of contemporary worship makes it nearly impossibel for people to not think of them as rock stars – of worship, yes, but rock stars nonetheless.

Rethinking how we do worship begins, then, with keeping the focus on God as he is in all his complexity (not how we want him to be) from beginning to end.

The quotes above gave me a more informed view of worship and caused me to rethink what true worship of God entails. Hopefully we can all move from the limiting and constricting idea of worship as something that happens only on Sunday mornings and incorporate it into every aspect of our lives. Let’s make worship a lifestyle that impacts every moment of everyday, rather than a once a week event. That’s the way God created us because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

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At the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico, where I live and serve, we have church services every Wednesday and Sunday.  We frequently sing a song in Spanish that says, “No hay lugar mas alto, mas grande, que estar en los pies de Cristo.”  Translated to say, “There is no place higher or greater than at the feet of Jesus.”

 Every time we sing that song I think of Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  She always seems to be at the feet of Jesus.  The first time we meet her she is at the Masters feet listening to him teach.  The second time we encounter her she is prostrate at his feet telling him that if he had been there, her brother Lazarus would not have died. Shortly after that she is on bended knee before the Lord,  pouring expensive perfume on his feet.

I think that these three instances of Mary at the feet of Jesus can teach us something important about our relationship with Jesus.

First, we need to spend time at Jesus feet listening and learning from him.  I love the whole Bible, but when I read the words of Jesus, it’s something special.  It’s no mere human being talking, but it’s the Christ, the Son of the living God, who is talking.  Jesus, fully God and fully man, who came down from the realms of Glory to be among us and teach all humanity the Truth.  When Jesus speaks, I listen! 

To sit at Jesus feet and listen, spiritually and symbolically means that I humble myself.  I realize that I don’t have all the answers and HE does.  I do not stand before him, and look him in the eye as an equal, but I place myself at his feet, acknowledging that I, like Mary, am simply searching for the truth about God, about the world, about my life and living in right relationship with God and others.

Second, we spend time at the feet of Jesus when we are despairing, depressed, confused, frustrated; at wits end and at the end of our rope. That’s the condition Mary was in the second time we find her at the feet of Jesus. Her brother, Lazarus, was dead.

She had sent word to Jesus four days before, telling Jesus to come quickly because Lazarus was deathly sick. Jesus waited two days before leaving for Bethany. By this time Mary’s brother was dead. Mary falls at Jesus feet (when he finally arrives) and certainly, with confusion and heartache in her voice she exclaims (accuses?), “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32)

We, like Mary, can safely fall at Jesus feet when we are disappointed in him, when we are confused about his will, his plan, his purpose for our lives. When we feel he has let us down. When we thought we had the God Thing all figured out, and then life throws us for a loop. Those are times that Jesus welcomes us to bow humbly at his feet so that he can lift us up and make everything better. Like he did for Mary by raising Lazarus from the dead. He may not raise our loved ones from the dead, but he will resurrect our hopes and faith and love.

Third, we go to Jesus feet when we we are full of joy and to happily, extravagantly, worship him. The next time we see Mary at the feet of Jesus, she is adoring Jesus and giving him her best. In the chapter after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, we encounter a joyous Mary, with awe in her eyes at the Lord, and a jar of expensive perfume in her hands. John 12:3 says that “Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume, and poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair.”

It’s natural and fitting that we too should worship at Jesus feet, pouring out to him our best gifts, our time and talents and treasures. We do this because all that we have he has given to us. Every pleasure, good feeling and wonderful event we experience in life is from our good, good God; our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. Because of him we have the best; forgiveness, salvation, redemption, and freedom. Why wouldn’t we pour out the best of our lives in glorious worship at the feet of Jesus?

There is place in most of our hearts that wants to experience the best, go to the highest place and attain the greatest of what life has to offer. Let us learn from Mary, that the best place we can be in life, the highest place we can ascend to, the greatest joy we can acquire, is found at the feet of Jesus.

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