Christianity 201

March 24, 2019

True Worshippers

But the time is coming–indeed it’s here now–when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.
 -John 4:23

About a dozen years ago it became obvious that a certain tribe within Christianity was attempting to have proprietary use of the term ‘Gospel.’ It appears in the names of their churches and organizations and in the titles of many of their books. They’ve done everything but trademark it, and if they had their way, Gospel™ would be the way we would see it. The implication is that their take on the gospel is the gospel and nothing else.

Another similar phrase is “True Worshippers.” When I Google it, the first few page results tended toward a particular doctrinal stripe (with a few Jehovah’s Witness articles thrown in for good measure.)

The opposite of true worship, or genuine worship of course is false worship.

We’ve frequently linked to the writing of Shane Ildeman and we’ve frequently linked to the bloggers at Charisma News, and today’s article combines those two sources. Click the header below to read at source.

God Recognizes False Worship When He Sees It—Do You?

“It is appropriate to ask whether there is much genuine, deep, heartfelt worship in our churches. In many evangelical churches people do not truly worship God. … If genuine worship is lacking in our churches, we should ask how we can bring ourselves to experience much more of the depth and richness of worship, which is the natural response of the believing heart …” (Wayne Grudem).

Dr. Grudem is spot on—many who attend church are not worshipping God, they simply go through the motions. But what is genuine worship? Worship is a combination of attitude and acts focused on reverence to God. The Hebrew meaning denotes a “bowing down, or prostrating oneself”; it is a posture reflecting homage and reverence toward the one true and living God. If there is a problem with worshipping God, the problem isn’t with God; the problem is with us. Worship serves as the thermometer of the heart by measuring our spiritual condition … are we hot, cold or lukewarm? Granted, worship isn’t necessarily measured by actions such as jumping up and down; it’s measured by the condition (temperature) of our heart—is it rejoicing for joy and breaking and submitting to God?

Sadly, many confuse false worship with genuine worship. According to numerous theological resources, false worship is when an entity, person or object is worshipped instead of God—our passion for “something” outweighs our passion for Him; it draws us away.

Most don’t have idols on the shelf because they are parked in the garage. We don’t pay homage to a statue in the living room because we are memorized by a 44″ box affectionately known as “the entertainment center.” We don’t sacrifice things on the altar, but we do sacrifice our time (and time with of our children) on the altar of misguided priorities.

Of course cars, televisions and the Internet are not evil, they are neutral; but it is our love for them that tilts the scale away from God. We find hours a day for entertainment, but have little time to worship. Do we honestly believe that this misapplication of priorities doesn’t affect our spirituality? Think again.

False worship also includes inappropriate and improper acts supposedly directed toward God. Many simply go through the motions at church. They attend as if they are doing God a favor. The heart is not engaged and the soul is not lifted up … they are bored.

Here is a test to measure the spiritual condition of the heart: Do we want the worship time to hurry and finish? Are we dreading another song as our eyes glance at the clock? Do we come late to miss the boring worship? If so, I would seriously encourage heart examination.

I am not suggesting that if the worship seems dead it’s our fault … not all of the worship taking place is heartfelt and Spirit-led. There is dry formalism and dead ritualism taking place in the church today. Many sing “about” God but they have never truly experienced Him—head knowledge without heart knowledge.

He is the Creator of heaven and earth. He is not a cosmic force, universal love or a doting grandfather, He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We must worship Him. He created, redeemed and saved us. One of the countless hymns states it well, “O’ the Blood: washes me; shed for me … what a sacrifice that saved my life, yes the blood, it is my victory!”

Luke 19:10 records, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” John 1:29 passionately declares, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” And 1 Peter 2:24 reminds us that “He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” These facts demand worship. Many go ballistic when a favorite team wins, but appear handcuffed and bored in church. How sad.

Worship must be a priority. This is not optional, it’s vital. “Therefore I desire that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands …” (1 Tim. 2:8). We cannot live like heathens all week and expect heaven to fall during worship. We cannot fill our mind with darkness all week and expect the light of Christ to shine during worship. We cannot worship ourselves and things all week and expect to turn our affections toward God on one designated day.

Worship is a lifestyle! Worship and holiness are interwoven. 1 Peter 1:16 says, “Be holy, because I am holy.” Holiness is not a strange, outdated word. Holiness is being set apart or separated from anything that causes us to sin, whether mentally (in what we think) or physically (in what we do). Holiness begins in the heart: “The Holy Spirit is first of all a moral flame. It is not an accident of language that He is called the Holy Spirit, for whatever else the word holy may mean it does undoubtedly carry with it the idea of moral purity” (Tozer).

March 10, 2019

Why You Shouldn’t Say, “Let’s Have a Worship Experience”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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NIV.1Kings.18.36-37 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

Each section of the book The Jesus Way by the late Eugene Peterson deals with the different “ways” of living that some choose, including Old Testament characters such as Abraham, Moses and Elijah. The study of the text is most thorough, but in each section, Peterson breaks away from the text long enough to provide contemporary application. He minces no words in his concern over the state of the modern church in the west, particularly in North America with which he is most familiar.

The study on Elijah’s showdown on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal yielded these comments:


“Harlotry” is the stock prophetic criticism of the worship of the people who are assimilated to Baalistic forms. While the prophetic accusation of “harlotry” has a literal reference to the sacred prostitution of the Baal cult, it is also a metaphor that extends its meaning into the entire theology of worship, worship that seeks fulfillment through self-expression, worship that accepts the needs and desires and passions of the worshiper as its baseline. “Harlotry” is worship that says, “I will give you satisfaction. You want religious feelings? I will give them to you. You want your needs fulfilled? I’ll do it in the form most arousing to you.” A divine will that sets itself in opposition to the sin-tastes and self-preoccupations of humanity is incomprehensible in Baalism and is so impatiently discarded. Baalism reduces worship to the spiritual stature of the worshiper. Its canons are that it should be interesting, relevant and exciting – that I “get something out of it.”

Baal’s Mount Carmel altar lacks neither action nor ecstasy. The 450 priests put on quite a show. But the altar call comes up empty.

Yahweh’s altar is presided over by the solitary prophet Elijah. It is a quiet affair, a worship that is centered on the God of the covenant. Elijah prepares the altar and prays briefly and simply. In Yahwism something is said – words that call men and women to serve, love, obey, sing, adore, act responsibly, decide. Authentic worship means being present to the living God who penetrates the whole of human life. The proclamation of God’s word and our response to God’s Spirit touches everything that is involved in being human: mind and body, thinking and feeling, work and family, friends and government, buildings and flowers.

Sensory participation is not excluded – how could it be if the whole person is to be presented to God? When the people of God worship there are bodily postures of standing and kneeling and prostration in prayer. Sacred dances and antiphonal singing express community solidarity. Dress and liturgy develop dramatic energies. Solemn silence sensitizes ears to listen. But as rich and varied as the sensory life is, it is always defined and ordered by the word of God. Nothing is done simply for the sake of the sensory experience involved – which eliminates all propagandistic and emotional manipulation.

A frequently used phrase in North American culture that is symptomatic of Baalistic tendencies in worship is “let’s have a worship experience.” It is the Baalistic perversion of “let us worship God.” It is the difference between cultivating something that makes sense to an individual, and acting in response to what makes sense to God. In a “worship experience”, a person sees something that excites him or her and goes about putting spiritual wrappings around it. A person experiences something in the realm of dependency, anxiety, love, loss, or joy and a connection is made with the ultimate. Worship becomes a movement from what I see or experience or hear, to prayer or celebration or discussion in a religious setting. Individual feelings trump the word of God.

Biblically formed people of God do not use the term “worship” as a description of experience, such as “I can have a worship experience with God on the golf course.” What that means is, “I can have religious feelings reminding me of good things, awesome things, beautiful things nearly any place.” Which is true enough. The only thing wrong with the statement is its ignorance, thinking that such experience makes up what the Christian church calls worship.

The biblical usage is very different. It talks of worship as a response to God’s word in the context of the community of God’s people. Worship in the biblical sources and in liturgical history is not something a person experiences, it is something we do, regardless of how we feel about it, or whether we feel anything about it at all. The experience develops out of the worship, not the other way around. Isaiah saw, heard, and felt on the day he received his prophetic call while at worship in the temple – but he didn’t go there in order to have a “seraphim experience”.

At the Mount Carmel Yahweh altar things are very different. Elijah prays briefly. The fire falls. The altar call brings “all the people” to their knees. They make their decision: “Yahweh, he is God; Yahweh, he is God.” And then the rain comes.

~Eugene Peterson

February 24, 2019

Worship Should be the Moment-to-Moment Practice of our Life

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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We’ve introduced well over a thousand different writers here, but our Sunday Worship feature has helped me personally to keep finding so many great writers online. Michael Wilson, who writes at Mustard Seed Faith is originally from Virginia, and now lives in Changchun, China. I encourage you to click the title below and read this at source, complete with pictures. Then take some time to look around the rest of the blog.

How do You Worship God?

Is worship learned or is it something that you just do naturally? Does it require a certain feeling or emotional state? How do you worship God?

By worship, we assume you are referring to the practice of Christians singing praise music during a church service. Obviously, worship is a much broader concept than this narrow definition, but many Christians have come to see worship in this limited context.

Scripture, on the other hand, defines worship as obedience. For example, Paul defines worship this way:

Romans 12:1 (NKJV)

Living Sacrifices to God

12 I beseech (urge) you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable (rational & Spiritual) service.

Notice that Paul doesn’t define worship as having anything to do with a mood or a feeling. It certainly isn’t focused on singing or music at all. These types of “worship” are merely outward expressions of our faith and love for God, and though they may have some value, they are not the substance of true worship. True worship is obedience to God through His Spirit and His word.  How do You Worship God

Furthermore, our feelings and mood are counterproductive when trying to establish appropriate worship practices. Instead, we are called to praise and worship the Lord despite our circumstances. For example, Paul praised the Lord for hours after receiving a beating and while chained in a dark jail cell (see Acts 16). If worship were conditioned on emotion and feelings, Paul would never have found a reason to praise God. Similarly, the writer of Hebrews instructed:

Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV)

15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

Our understanding of praise or worship shouldn’t be merely a form of musical celebration contingent on having the right mood or emotion. The Bible says true worship and praise is rooted in a life of obedience and is a continual activity.

We can find a good example of this distinction in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. The prophet Samuel admonished King Saul with these words:

1 Samuel 15:22 (NKJV)

22 So Samuel said:

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.

Worship in that day took the form of burnt offerings and sacrifices given in the temple, and Samuel asks the King is it better to perform worship (i.e., to offer the sin sacrifices in the temple) or to obey the Lord? The answer is clear: it is better to obey God than to offer Him sacrifices. God’s first and highest desire for His people is that we obey Him. If we fail to obey Him but come to “praise” Him in “worship,” we are hypocrites.

Israel was once guilty of approaching God in worship with hearts that did not obey Him, and about those people, the Lord said through Isaiah:

Isaiah 29:13-14 (NKJV)

13 Therefore the Lord said:

“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,
14 Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work
Among this people,
A marvelous work and a wonder;
For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.”

God promises a great judgment against Israel for their conceit and hypocrisy.

Likewise, we today must be aware that how we spend our time singing or praising God’s name in a worship service is important only if it is preceded by a life of obedience and service to Him.

If a believer is living a holy and sanctified life in obedience to the Spirit and the word of God, then such a person is also likely to find it easy to express their love and praise for God in a worship service, just as they do on a continual basis outside the church building. Their praise will come naturally from the Spirit’s leading.

Conversely, if a Christian is not accustomed to walking with the Spirit and seeking God’s counsel in His word and if they don’t make a practice of worshipping as a daily (if not hourly) activity, then they will find any expression of worship difficult, including the kind that takes place on Sunday morning.

There is nothing magical about worship (setting aside supernatural manifestations of Spirit) because it should be the moment-to-moment practice of our life. When we attend a church service, we don’t come to “worship.” According to Scripture, we gather together for the purpose of serving and encouraging one another, learning God’s word, and lending our voices to public confession, prayer and praise of God. These activities are made meaningful to God when they are done in a true heart that desires to know and obey God through His word. Taken together, this is true worship.


“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”

 

December 2, 2018

The Other, Wrong Type of Worship

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:06 pm
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“Two kinds of religion exist in our world: Religion A and Religion B. The first is “faith” in name only (2 Timothy 3:5). It’s the outward practice of Christianity without genuine faith in the living Lord.

Religion B, on the other hand, is a life-transforming, destiny-changing experience. It’s a definite commitment to the crucified and risen Savior, which establishes an ongoing personal relationship between a forgiven sinner and a gracious God.

Are you bogged down in the empty ritual of Religion A? If so, you must receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Then make sure your relationship with Christ is growing deeper and more vital every day.” – Vernon C. Grounds.

Due to an unforeseen hospital trip, this item arrived online about 90 minutes late. Nothing had been scheduled so I went to the one website that is always a rich storehouse of material, DailyEncouragement.net by Stephen and Brooksyne Weber. Click the title below to read at source and then, if your unfamiliar with the work, click on some current devotionals. This was originally published on their site in 2013 and is appearing here for the first time.

Serving The Living And True God

You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9,10).

We often visit a blog that chronicles the persecution scores of Christians presently face, especially in the Muslim countries. It keeps before us the reality of hardship that many live with as they hold on to their Christian faith. It’s a powerful antidote to keep us from whining about those matters which are often rather miniscule problems and also provides perspective about the importance of religious freedom.

The Thessalonian believers had “turned to God from idols.” Likely the idols that Paul referred to are our stereotype image of idols; figures fashioned with wood, metal or stone. But in turning to God the Thessalonian believers turned from worthless, lifeless and powerless idols “to serve a living and true God”. That’s the healthy norm in genuine conversion!

Essentially an idol is an object of worship, or that which we attribute worth to. Worship is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something.

The Apostle John ended his first epistle by calling on his readers to “keep yourselves from idols.” Today in our modern western world idols may be fashioned differently than the idols mentioned in the Bible but they’re still very much present. We have them in abundance and in such variety that, should I begin to list them, it would result in too lengthy a message. In addition, an object that might be an idol to me may not be so for you, and vice versa.

An article on worship states: “In modern society and sociology, some writers have commented on the ways that people no longer simply worship organized religions, but many now also worship consumer brands, sports teams, and other people (celebrities).” (I would add; some worship political figures.)

Genuine conversion involves turning away from any idol that competes with or robs our heart’s affections from the one true and living God. We make this turn “to serve the living and true God.” Everybody is serving someone or something.  Genuine conversion involves devoting ourselves fully to the living and true God consistently and faithfully.  Are you doing so?

And to wait for His Son from heaven.” Clearly at the heart of Paul’s preaching was a reminder that, as we serve God during our earthly journey, we wait expectantly for the return of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Precept commentary states,

“To wait for the Lord’s return is a sure characteristic of a true believer. The present tense can be rendered ‘keep on waiting’. Waiting for the return of their Lord and King was their lifestyle, the habit of their life, the truth that colored all their daily activities and afflictions.”

Whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus.” In our daily encouragement messages this week we are studying texts that reference the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A careful reading of the entire New Testament following Christ’s resurrection reveals how often the Scripture writers refer to the resurrection thus teaching and reinforcing it. On the whole we may not consider the focus of our daily Scripture portion to be on the resurrection but it certainly is foundational.

Who rescues us from the wrath to come” I am giving a lot of consideration to this phrase “the wrath to come”. Some commentators feel it is the general wrath in the sense of eternal punishment, others consider it a specific period of wrath in the tribulation period. As I watch events taking place right before my eyes I really wonder if we are entering into a period known as the Great Apostasy as expressed in 2 Thessalonians 2. There is such a rapid hastening in discarding time honored Biblical teaching.

Genuine conversion involves expectant waiting for Christ’s return as our heart’s affections are heightened to things above instead of being bound to things below. Are you looking up expectantly as you live out your Christian life down here below?

Daily prayerFather, we’re reminded through the writings of the Apostle Paul that our lives are observed by those who see us day in and day out. What a wonderful change comes into our lives as we surrender our hearts to You, the living and true God. And yet we must be on guard so that worthless idols do not win our affections; otherwise the light of Your Son Jesus will be diminished in our hearts and thereby, our witness. No person or object is of greater worth than that of Your Holy Spirit Who resides in our hearts and prompts us to lift our eyes toward our heavenly redemption that is drawing closer every hour. Thank You for saving us from the coming wrath when Your judgment is poured out on those who do not believe. In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

 


 

September 9, 2018

Psalm 23 Readings

by Ruth Wilkinson

“An hour is coming, and is already here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and Truth.
The Father wants such worshipers.”
~ Jesus

 

To worship “in truth”, we must know who it is we worship.

So who is he?

He is our Sustainer.
The one who provides what we need, who carries us when we’re weak, who comforts us in our dark times.
Who helps us to understand our past, to live well our present and to have faith for our future.


The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes green pastures,
He makes me lie down in them.

He calms and quiets the waters,
He leads me beside them.

He carves out the right paths
and guides me along them for his name’s sake.

Even when the path goes through the darkest place,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

For ever.


Heavenly Father,

Thank you that you come alongside us, bringing your comfort for our past, your peace in our present, and not only that – but your hope that we will live this life to the full, and come out the other side alive.

Thank you that you, when the dark road is the right road, you never leave us alone, give us strength to keep on going and not only that – but to stand, to walk, to run toward the gates of hell and, no matter what defenses they throw up against us, no matter what attacks – not only to survive, but to overcome.

Thank you that you battle in this world against sin, hunger, fear, enslavement, loneliness, revenge and not only that – but you choose us to do battle in your name.

To walk in your footsteps, to follow your voice and to be your hands and feet, to be bold, be strong, be courageous and to be yours because as long as we are with you, you are with us.

Thank you.


We’ve looked at Psalm 23 before:



For Psalm 23 in all English translations at Bible Gateway, click this link to get to verse 1, and then change the very last character in the URL in your browser to move to the multiple translations of verse 2, etc.

August 5, 2018

Teach Me: A Worship Liturgy

a worship liturgy by Ruth Wilkinson

Jesus said,
“A time is coming and is already here,
when the true worshipers will worship the Father
in spirit and in Truth.
The Father wants such worshipers.”

Paul reminded us,
“Brothers and sisters,
I urge you by the mercy of God
to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God.
This is your spiritual worship.”

Father, I want to worship you in spirit and in truth.

Teach me to live my life in acts of worship —

Teach me, like David, to sing freely, to dance without shame,
to call out boldly, “Sing to the Lord all the Earth!”

Teach me, like Solomon, to give generously out of my abundance and my security
to point people toward your Name.

Teach me, like Paul and Silas, to faithfully speak about you,
even when running away is the obvious thing to do.

Teach me, like Elijah to take a stand in the face of my enemies, calm and courageous,
saying, “Today let it be known that You are God and I am Your servant.”

Like Isaiah, teach me to lament my inadequacy, my sinfulness, my fear,
and to be ready to be forgiven.

Like our sister the prostitute, teach me to humbly pour out gratitude,
because my many sins have been forgiven and I have reason to love much.

Teach me, like Ruth, to move forward, walking away from what’s comfortable,
saying, “Wherever you go, I will go. Your God will be my God.”

Like our sister the widow, teach me to give what I can’t afford to give,
when it’s just the right thing to do.

Like Mary, teach me to obey when I don’t understand,
to trust you for the consequences, to say “May your will be done.”

Teach me, Father, to surrender my physical life as my spiritual act of worship,
holy and pleasing to You.



To read all of Ruth’s readings here at C201, click this link.

September 24, 2017

Sunday Worship

Worship is not Something We Experience

NCV I Kings 18:36 At the time for the evening sacrifice, the prophet Elijah went near the altar. “Lord, you are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,” he prayed. “Prove that you are the God of Israel and that I am your servant. Show these people that you commanded me to do all these things. 37 Lord, answer my prayer so these people will know that you, Lord, are God and that you will change their minds.”

[full passage in NCV]

Several years ago I took some time to really drink in and absorb the book, The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson (Eerdman’s) and spread the reading out over several weeks, which is really what I needed to take it all in.

Each section of the book deals with the different “ways” of living that some choose, including Old Testament characters such as Abraham, Moses and Elijah. The study of the text is most thorough, but in each section, Peterson breaks away from the text long enough to provide contemporary application. He minces no words in his concern over the state of the modern church in the west, particularly in North America with which he is most familiar.

The study on Elijah’s showdown on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal yielded these comments:


“Harlotry” is the stock prophetic criticism of the worship of the people who are assimilated to Baalistic forms. While the prophetic accusation of “harlotry” has a literal reference to the sacred prostitution of the Baal cult, it is also a metaphor that extends its meaning into the entire theology of worship, worship that seeks fulfillment through self-expression, worship that accepts the needs and desires and passions of the worshiper as its baseline. “Harlotry” is worship that says, “I will give you satisfaction. You want religious feelings? I will give them to you. You want your needs fulfilled? I’ll do it in the form most arousing to you.” A divine will that sets itself in opposition to the sin-tastes and self-preoccupations of humanity is incomprehensible in Baalism and is so impatiently discarded. Baalism reduces worship to the spiritual stature of the worshiper. Its canons are that it should be interesting, relevant and exciting – that I “get something out of it.”

Baal’s Mount Carmel altar lacks neither action nor ecstasy. The 450 priests put on quite a show. But the altar call comes up empty.

Yahweh’s altar is presided over by the solitary prophet Elijah. It is a quiet affair, a worship that is centered on the God of the covenant. Elijah prepares the altar and prays briefly and simply. In Yahwism something is said – words that call men and women to serve, love, obey, sing, adore, act responsibly, decide. Authentic worship means being present to the living God who penetrates the whole of human life. The proclamation of God’s word and our response to God’s Spirit touches everything that is involved in being human: mind and body, thinking and feeling, work and family, friends and government, buildings and flowers.

Sensory participation is not excluded – how could it be if the whole person is to be presented to God? When the people of God worship there are bodily postures of standing and kneeling and prostration in prayer. Sacred dances and antiphonal singing express community solidarity. Dress and liturgy develop dramatic energies. Solemn silence sensitizes ears to listen. But as rich and varied as the sensory life is, it is always defined and ordered by the word of God. Nothing is done simply for the sake of the sensory experience involved – which eliminates all propagandistic and emotional manipulation.

A frequently used phrase in North American culture that is symptomatic of Baalistic tendencies in worship is “let’s have a worship experience.” It is the Baalistic perversion of “let us worship God.” It is the difference between cultivating something that makes sense to an individual, and acting in response to what makes sense to God. In a “worship experience”, a person sees something that excites him or her and goes about putting spiritual wrappings around it. A person experiences something in the realm of dependency, anxiety, love, loss, or joy and a connection is made with the ultimate. Worship becomes a movement from what I see or experience or hear, to prayer or celebration or discussion in a religious setting. Individual feelings trump the word of God.

Biblically formed people of God do not use the term “worship” as a description of experience, such as “I can have a worship experience with God on the golf course.” What that means is, “I can have religious feelings reminding me of good things, awesome things, beautiful things nearly any place.” Which is true enough. The only thing wrong with the statement is its ignorance, thinking that such experience makes up what the Christian church calls worship.

The biblical usage is very different. It talks of worship as a response to God’s word in the context of the community of God’s people. Worship in the biblical sources and in liturgical history is not something a person experiences, it is something we do, regardless of how we feel about it, or whether we feel anything about it at all. The experience develops out of the worship, not the other way around. Isaiah saw, heard, and felt on the day he received his prophetic call while at worship in the temple – but he didn’t go there in order to have a “seraphim experience”.

At the Mount Carmel Yahweh altar things are very different. Elijah prays briefly. The fire falls. The altar call brings “all the people” to their knees. They make their decision: “Yahweh, he is God; Yahweh, he is God.” And then the rain comes.

~Eugene Peterson

October 14, 2011

I Don’t Want To Spend My Whole Life Asking, “What If I Had Given Everything?”

First, here’s a piece I wrote in October, 2009 at Thinking out Loud:

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

Matthew West Something To SayI’ve been aware of this song for some time now, but it really hit home a few weeks ago when I attended the installation service for a local pastor and he asked his worship team to perform “The Motions” by Matthew West from the album Something To Say; also on the album WoW! Hits 2010. In an industry where songs come and go, it’s a song that’s gaining momentum week by week.

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

The song has haunted me since that morning. If that pastor means what that song says — he wants God’s all-consuming passion inside him — there is nothing that he and his church can’t accomplish in the years to come.

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

What’s true for that pastor is true for all of us. What might we feel at the end of the ride called life if and when we realize there’s so much more we could have done? So much time that could have been better spent? So many resources that could have been put to better use?

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

Matthew West invited fans to comment on his website as to how the song has impacted them. So far, over 2,870 comments! On the HearItFirst.com website, you can select a video where Matthew tells the story of 18-year old Ryan from Oklahoma, a young man who posted the lyrics on his Facebook page and asked his friends to hold him accountable to that song; just before he was killed — the same day — in a car accident. The song became the central theme for his funeral.

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

Here are the lyrics:

Matthew WestThis might hurt, it’s not safe
But I know that I’ve gotta make a change
I don’t care if I break,
At least I’ll be feeling something
‘Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
“What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?”

No regrets, not this time
I’m gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me whole
I think I’m finally feeling something
‘Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life

‘Cause I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
“What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?”

Take me all the way (take me all the way)
Take me all the way (’cause I don’t wanna go through the motions)
Take me all the way (I know I’m finally feeling something real)
Take me all the way

Here’s the song on YouTube including clips from Matthew’s (ouch!) vocal surgery:

The Motions (Matthew West) video

Why did I write this post today? Because…

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

Here are two versions of the song, both of which document a fairly rough period in Matthew West’s Life…


“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”