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Worship is NOT Singing!

On the wall in the church we attend there is a poster that begins: “Worship is not Just Singing.”

If it wasn’t such an issue for us, we would laugh. But the reality is – we believe this is a big issue in the church today.

It has become as common as dirt to hear people reference singing and worship as synonymous. The reality is, worship is not about more than singing, it is not about singing at all!

This section of Believer’s Forum is about this subject. We will examine the true meaning of worship, looking at the original words from scripture. We will examine the common usage today and look at why the issue is an important one.

We encourage dialogue. It is time to get the church back to a proper understanding of this very important biblical word.

The Worship of Revelation

I decided to sit down and take the time to do a word study in Revelation. As I read through the book looking for each mention of “worship” I also noticed that the word “repent” is used again and again. I’ll look more deeply into that at a later time.

For now, I was focusing on the word “worship.” I found that word 23 times in my ESV version. Here are those locations:

Revelation 4:10, 5:14, 7:11, 9:20, 11:1, 11:16, 13:4 (twice), 13:8, 13:12, 13:15, 14:7, 14:9, 14:11, 15:4, 19:4, 19:10 (twice), 19:20, 20:4, 22:3, 22:8, and 22:9.

22 times the word means this, in the original language:

4352. proskuneó ►

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance

worship.

From pros and a probable derivative of kuon (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand); to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore) — worship.

There is but one verse that differs in Revelation: Chapter 22, verse 3. Here, “worship” means:

◄ 3000. latreuó ►

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance

serve, do the service, worship

From latris (a hired menial); to minister (to God), i.e. Render religious homage — serve, do the service, worship(-per).

I had just been reading in Jeremiah (last week) the following verse:

Jeremiah 13:10 | “This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship (i.e. bow down to/fall down flat before) them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing.”

*Serving and bowing down are linked here.

I was also reading in Luke 4:5-8 the following:

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship (i.e. bow to/lay prostrate before) me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship (i.e. bow to/lay prostrate before) the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

*Again, serving and bowing are linked.

All through Scripture we see “bowing down” and “serving” tied together. They are intrinsically linked and will be a part of our experience, with Jesus, for eternity, I’m sure: along with many other things like work and fellowship, teaching and singing, art and agriculture.

I think it’s interesting to note that Revelation 15:4 and Revelation 22:3 are making a reference to what we will be doing forever, when we are near to God: one is about the ‘prostration position’ (15:4) and the other is about ‘serving’ (22:3). They go hand in hand all through Scripture, it would seem: bowing and serving. This is an image of humility and servanthood, of course.

Now…For a while it has bothered me a bit that the reference to worship includes that statement about a ‘dog licking his master’s hand.’

◄ 4352. proskuneó ►

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance

worship.

From pros and a probable derivative of kuon (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand); to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore) — worship.

“What is that all about, God?” I have asked – many times. No reply. Today, however, (8-12-16) I had some thoughts go through my mind about what this may mean. In our culture it would be a put-down to think that we’ll be licking someone’s hand, right? We are far too enlightened for such a thing, right? We’re a brilliant people! We lick no one.

But. I began to think about how when a master comes home from work, a dog will run up to lick his master, overjoyed that he just came home. “Finally! We are together again!” If we view it this way – as a word picture – it helps to set the image for how we might respond when we are finally face to face with the one who saved us, by a brutal death, from the grips of satan’s lair. Our loyalty will be clear, as a dog’s loyalty is clear to his master. We will know who we are clearly – not through a dark glass but rather, through a clear one. We will be overjoyed – like a dog is overjoyed at the return of his master – that we will (Often? Sometimes?) fall down flat in a prostrate position of humility and gratitude. Some might say that this position of prostration is mental/spiritual: not literal. My opinion is that Revelation implies it is both.

“We’re together! At last! Finally! I’ve waited for so long! Where have you been?! I have missed you so much! I’m complete now! I’m whole! I’m with my ‘Master’!”

In conclusion, I am less confused about the dog reference now: just as a dog is thrilled when his master returns home, so we shall be thrilled when we are finally home – with our Lord and Master – ready and willing to serve Him forever: doing whatever He asks of us, for the betterment of everyone around (because His ways are always best).

Our minds really cannot fathom what it will be like to be near LOVE and PERFECTION for all of eternity. What we do know, from Revelation, is that there will be no more tears – no more pain – no more death. And that won’t be because of anything we have done. It will be because of the Triune God who willed this all to happen before He set time in motion and placed humans inside His time table.

Knowing more fully what we have been spared from: Humility and Servanthood will be in order – and we’ll happily and joyfully, willingly oblige.

The Wise, Wise Men

The Wise, Wise Men

After going through the nativity story with our kids, in Scripture, I remained on the ‘wise men’ (in my thinking).

Scripture tells us that these wise men (we are never told how many) followed a star, found Jesus… and what did they do upon seeing him? Before offering selective gifts they bowed down.

Matthew 2:11 states: “And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”

If you look at this verse from the Greek, you see that what it means is this: “and they fell down and prostrated themselves before him.” So really – it’s less accurate to say that they bowed down and more accurate to say that they fell flat out on the ground in a prostate position of complete submission and humility. They face-planted it.

I have been thinking about this quite a bit, in light of the fact that I have 4 children of my own. The idea that someone would follow a star in order to find a baby, to fall flat on the ground before him, is quite preposterous. A baby is dependent on the grown-ups! Not the other way around! Who, in their right mind, would hurl themselves to the ground in order to bow before an infant? People, back then, would sometimes bow to those in authority positions: like kings. But to a baby? A newborn? It’s ridiculous.

I’ve often heard people refer to the multitude of angels that praised: that’s wonderful and special! In my mind, that’s less awe inspiring than what those wise men did. What’s out of the ordinary, in my mind, is the idea that grown men would fall to the ground before an infant who could neither walk, nor talk, nor rule, nor reign.

Yet.

How absolutely absurd would you feel crouching to a baby as though he were God? I would feel like a fool. If Rick saw me do it, he’d think I’d lost it for good and he’d encourage me to seek professional help. And yet these wise men did just that: they crouched, as though to God Himself!

Because they knew.

He. Is. The. One.

He, this newborn in-the-flesh-deity, was the one to submit to – to lower themselves to. Only the spirit of God could have revealed such a thing. And to think they listened and obeyed!

Oh… to be so wise.

May it be for us as it was for the wise, wise men. When the spirit of God reveals truth, may our ears be open to hear and our hearts be responsive to obey. May our feet take us where the spirit leads and may our bodies respond when the spirit of God brings us low and calls us to submit.

Amen.

Why were we created?

Lately, we’ve been hearing Christian songs (for our kids and also for adults) talking about how “we were made to praise.” In other words: our purpose in being created was to praise God. While I fully agree that we ARE to praise God, I have wondered about this passage:

Luke 19:37-40 | As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (ESV)

Bottom line: God doesn’t need us to exist in order to be praised. He can make the rocks praise Him. Even inanimate objects can offer Him praise. So there’s got to be more to us than that. Ephesians 2:10… “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, FOR GOOD WORKS.” The original word translated as “workmanship” is actually “poiema” which means “poem.”

So we are God’s POEM – created for good works.

How cool is that?

I recently read Mr. Stanley’s October 2016 “From the Pastor’s Heart” newsletter and it helped to put all of this into perspective. Have a read!

Elijah and the Party of “One”

I was thinking earlier about a favorite story of mine from the Old Testament so I decided to read that story again. I enjoy writing my thoughts out about some of these stories so I’ll do that and if it interests you, feel free to keep reading.

The story is from 1 Kings 18. It’s about Elijah, the prophet of God. In the story, there’s a show-down between God’s prophet (Elijah) and the prophets of the god Baal (a false god – an idol). Baal had 450 prophets who did the bidding of their false leader. That’s what I’d call being outnumbered, eh? One against 450. False teaching always gathers a larger number of followers. Keep that in mind (it will serve you well).

So these prophets are called out to prove that their god can send fire down upon an alter to burn up a sacrificial bull. Elijah will do the same: he will call upon HIS God (the One True God of the universe) and they will see who gets an answer. The prophets of Baal cut up the bull and get it all ready. From there, they begin to call upon their god (like a séance). They limp around the alter endlessly – the original root for that word (limp) would be something like “dance” or “leap.” So here they are, dancing and leaping and attempting to conjure up their false god to send fire down to the alter. Come on, god! Hear us! Do as we say! We are dancing for you! We are leaping! We are crying out! They even cut themselves to offer their own blood to their god. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. No word. No fire. No nothing. Because Baal isn’t real. It’s just a false god they serve; a god of their own imaginations.

Embarrassing.

Elijah mocks them: Where is your god? Maybe he’s tired – maybe he needs to be woken up. He watches them behave like fools for a long, long time, likely feeling a bit entertained by their attempts to ‘bring their pretend god to action.’

They finally cease their séance and Elijah steps up. This one guy – to their 450. He prepares his bull and even has them pour water all around it and all over it (three times): showing that it would be harder for his sacrifice to be burned up. He speaks on behalf of God and then the Lord sends fire down, burns everything up, and boom. Game over. No dancing needed – no hooting and hollering – no conjuring up the Holy Spirit (as some Christian churches are doing today) – no hoopla – no cutting himself – just words of authority, spoken on behalf of the God who told him to do this.

And there-in lies the key. He didn’t call out these false prophets based on his own desire to have a show-down and prove his super-duper faith in the Lord. The Lord asked him to do it and he obeyed, in faith.

Application: What is the Lord asking of you? Will you obey, in faith?

A Look at the Word “Repent”

I continued my research in Revelation tonight (8-16-2016) by looking at the word “repent.” I noticed that it was used again and again and I wanted to know what the word looked like in the original language (Greek).

I found the word “repent” 12 times in my ESV translation. Each and every time it means “Metanoeo.” This comes from “Metanoia.”

After seeing how often the word is used in Revelation, I can see that this is a word that matters to God.

If you click over to view the commentary on the word “Metanoia” you’ll see that it’s really not a good option to translate that as “repent.” In our culture we think of “repent” as saying, “I’m sorry. I did a bad thing.” Metanoia, on the other hand, is much more. Here is what one scholar said:

• Metamellomai/μεταμέλλομαι is, for example, the Greek verb translated in Matthew 27:3 as Judas “repented himself” after he saw Jesus being led away. Metamelomai denotes “painful sorrow” or “remorseful regret.” Metamelomai is the equivalent of the words Repent or Repentance.”[9] The biblical scholar A. T. Robertson adds the comments that Judas had only sorrow and regret and “mere sorrow avails nothing unless it leads to change of mind and life [metanoia].”[10]

When I taught the kids about the word “Metanoia” (during VBS) I explained it like this: that we were going left and we turn and go right. We were in the darkness and now we are in the light. We were going one way and now we are going another.

It’s a complete change in direction and in our thinking and not a mere, “Sorry, God.” It’s going from hating God to loving Him. It’s going from loving sin to hating it. It’s going from living for the darkness to living for the light. From serving the world to serving the Kingdom of God. It’s the difference between black and white.

In conclusion – it would perhaps be wiser to use the word “Metanoia” each time we see “repent” in Revelation (or, if we must have an English equivalent, “turn around”). What God is looking for are people willing to turn from the left – to the right. From night – to day. From ‘self’ to ‘selfless.’ From darkness – to light. From the curse – to the blessing. From lies – to truth.

A complete and utter change of mind and change of direction in their living patterns. To be able to say: “I was blind…but now I see.”

Devotional: Worship God in Spirit and Truth

Recently, I was thinking about Romans 12:1. It states: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” In this particular verse, the word ‘worship,’ when peeled back, means “reasonable service.” (In the original language) Worship and service are intrinsically linked. When satan tempted Jesus he asked Jesus to worship him. Jesus replied that we should bow down (worship) and serve God only (Luke 4:8). Jesus linked bowing down and serving and that hasn’t changed today. Those who bow down to God will willingly serve him and those who serve him should willingly bow down. We see a literal bowing down happening throughout Scripture again and again and namely in Revelation. So this matters to God. It matters to Him that we understand His heart and what He wants from us, if we are to be in right relationship with Him.

People often say that they want to “worship God in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24) and they link this to singing. In fact, the term ‘worship’ in that passage is linked to prostration – complete and total submission before a Holy God.

Here is something I typed up a few months ago after doing some research:

John 4:23-24 “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers (from the original text: From proskuneo; an adorer) will worship (from the original text: From pros meaning to fawn or crouch to, i.e. literally or figuratively – prostrate oneself in homage – do reverence to, adore) the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship (same word in the Greek) him. God is spirit, and those who worship (same word in the Greek) him must worship (same word in the Greek) in spirit and truth.” (ESV)

*Based on the original text, then, John 4:23-24 might also be written in the following way:

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when adorers of God will bow down and prostrate themselves for the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to bow down and adore him. God is spirit, and those who bow down and prostrate themselves before him must do so in spirit and truth.”

As we can see, based on the Greek, this is not about singing. It is about submission and a giving up of control. I believe that God would like for us to admit, in humility, that we are not equal to Him. We are not on equal footing nor do we have the power that He has, the intellect that He harnesses, or the knowledge that He maintains: keeping things in balance and motion at all times, from every angle. He doesn’t want to force us to admit this: He would prefer that we circumcise our hearts and allow Him to bring us down to a lowered place of humility: ready to bow and serve.

And then He can raise us up.

James 4:10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (ESV)

1 Peter 5:6 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” (ESV)

Matthew 23:12 “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (ESV)

May we pray, this day, for the gift of humility so that God can raise us up, in due time, to serve Him: to love God above all else and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Amen.

Devotional: The Art of Neighboring

Our pastor recently presented a sermon series titled: The Art of Neighboring. It brought to mind Exodus 20. God starts out by saying, “I am…” (verse 2) and ends with “your neighbor” (verse 17). If you read the ESV version like me, it will end with “your neighbors” (plural).

So simply put, the entire grouping of Ten Commandants fits inside the words: “I am your neighbor/s.”

Think about that for a moment. What if God WERE your neighbor? Would you behave differently? We likely all would, right? If we believed that God was right there, next to us, we’d probably be quite loving, helpful, kind, gracious, quick to forgive, and generous. We might bake for God, offer Him gifts, mow His lawn or sweep His patio, watch over His place if He went on holiday, and so on. We’d go out of our way to be a good neighbor if God lived beside us.

Perhaps if we consider that everywhere we go is Holy Ground, because God is everywhere, we can consider that God is in fact ‘our neighbor.’ Made in the likeness and image of God, each human is ‘our neighbor,’ and when we view others this way, it changes the way we relate to those around us (in person or online).

May we pray this week for the ability to see that God, being everywhere, is ‘our neighbor.’ May that influence and impact the way we relate to those around us as we intentionally move in step with the Holy Spirit.

Give God all the Praise and Worship?

Lately, I hear people saying, “Give God all the praise and worship.” It’s sort of becoming a catchy phrase, I think. “God gets all of our praise and worship!” I’ve been pondering this and so I dug a little bit into what this statement implies.

In Revelation 19:10 we see John falling down to worship at the feet of an angel. Here, worship (as usual) means “bowing down” or “prostrating oneself before someone of honor.” So the angel replies by telling John to get up – to worship God. It’s a powerful statement of: “Don’t do that! I’m not God! Get up! Worship (bow to) God!” In other words, even an angel who dwells near to God, is not worthy of this position demonstrated by John. So stop it. Get up, man. That position of submission is for God!

Here is the verse:

Revelation 19:10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (ESV)

So we can gather from that verse that God does indeed get all of our worship (our bowing down). Praise, on the other hand, is different. We see in Proverbs 27:2 that God tells us to allow others to praise us – not our own mouths – but the mouths of others. Here is that verse:

Proverbs 27:2 Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips. (ESV)

Praise, in Proverbs 27:2, in the original language, is “halal.” This means: A primitive root; to be clear (orig. Of sound, but usually of color); to shine; hence, to make a show, to boast; and thus to be (clamorously) foolish; to rave; causatively, to celebrate; also to stultify — (make) boast (self), celebrate, commend, (deal, make), fool(- ish, -ly), glory, give (light), be (make, feign self) mad (against), give in marriage, (sing, be worthy of) praise, rage, renowned, shine.

From this we can see that praise is something we can share. It’s not saved for God alone. We are not told in Proverbs to say, “Stop it!” if someone praises us. It states, “Let another praise you.” This is saying that it’s okay. We need not get upset or stop it (nor are we to seek it). This is quite different than the response of the angel, to John, who stated, “You must not do that!” (In regard to worship.)

Can you imagine a world in which we did not praise others? If we never told a friend that their singing was beautiful, or that their cookies were amazing, or that someone did a fantastic job on their garden? Can you imagine if we never ever shared this attribute of God with those around us? “Sorry. I cannot offer you words of praise because I give them only to God.” Close your eyes for a moment and imagine such a state of being: withholding praise words from others, always, every day, forever.

It’s a sad and dreary thought, right?

Now: we are not to put the praise of man over our need for God. We are not to make an idol of the praises from others. We must care, first and foremost, what God thinks of us and not what others think of us.

That said…

Simply put: God gets all of our worship. Praise is an attribute that God allows us to share.

*If you see this differently, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Devotional: Meditation In, Not Out

Recently, my husband Rick saw a notice on the apartment complex bulletin board, asking for help. A local resident needed someone to get the mail each day (because this person is housebound). Rick replied saying that he/we would do it. Sometimes I go and I stay to chat with our neighbor while Rick gets the mail from the box. One afternoon Rick and I both stayed to talk for a bit. Our new friend mentioned meditation and retreats that help a person to “empty their mind.” We shared that in Christianity we would teach that meditation is about what you put IN – not what you take OUT. Our new friend agreed and explained that in Judaism they recite the “13 blessings” to fill the mind with positive blessings.

We went on to discuss our agreement that emptying the mind is not safe nor wise. Filling the mind, however, is quite beneficial. In the web development world some folks have a saying that goes like this: “The solution to pollution is dilution.” In other words, if your website is filled with poor articles and articles that are not great for your SEO, it’s more important to begin writing good content than it is to delete all of the bad content. You can delete SOME bad content but the main focus should be on writing GOOD content that Google will respect and pick up on. Get busy working on the good rather than focusing on the bad.

The same might be said of the mind. If we fill our minds with Scripture, the bad will be diluted. It is of less value to sit around attempting to empty the mind and of more value to focus on filling it with *good* content that over-rides the negative.

May we pray this day for the desire to read Scripture on a regular basis so that our minds will be filled with God’s truths, promises, and goodness. May God’s words flow through our minds like a river – day in and day out. May Scripture over-ride the negative thoughts and desires that we have inside our minds so that when those negative thoughts and desires do pop in, they are easily pushed away as God’s words come streaming in to conquer the darkness. Amen.

Psalm 1:2 …”but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (ESV)

Psalm 77:12 “I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” (ESV)

Devotional: Let’s be Perfect

Below is a devotional that I jotted down for our Bible Study wall on Facebook. Sharing here for anyone interested.

Monday’s post: Let’s be Perfect

Last week I dug in to James 1:2-4 a bit, looking at the original writings. That helped me, as I think we get confused about what “perfect” means in Scripture. I think sometimes we assume that it means “sinless.” Here, in James 1, it means “mature in mental/moral character.” That’s very different than thinking we’ve achieved a level of sinlessness – like Christ. If we assume we have reached a level of sinlessness, we can just ask our families to clarify that, right? (wink). “Ahh…remember when you gossiped about the neighbor? Remember when you yelled at me? Remember when you cursed because you stubbed your toe?” “Oh…right.”

Here is what James 1:2-4 states:

James 1:2-4 | “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials (temptations) of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (patience). And let steadfastness (patience) have its full effect, that you may be perfect (mature in mental/moral character) and complete (entire/whole/perfectly sound), lacking in nothing.” (ESV)

This might also be written, then, in the following way:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet temptations of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces patience. And let patience have its full effect, that you may be mature in mental/moral character and perfectly sound/whole, lacking in nothing.”

Basically: This patience that is produced through trials (temptations to yell, argue, react in anger, cheat, scheme, lie, deceive, control things – whatever the case may be) will render a strong moral and mental character that creates a wholeness inside us: so that we lack nothing, character-wise, to live for Christ.

I believe that the best way to grow this patience, inside us, is for us to lean on the strength of Christ. “Jesus: I cannot do this on my own. In my sinful nature I would be impatient, explosive, irritable, grumpy, mean, spiteful, ….. (insert your word here). However, with You living inside me I can call on Your strength to overcome. Please take my impatience and give me Your patience. Please take my anger and give me Your contentment. Please take my hate and give me Your love. Please take my irritability and give me Your gentle spirit. Please take my unclean thoughts and give me Your pure thoughts. Please build patience inside me as I lean on You to overcome the struggles of my heart: that I may be mature in mental/moral character, lacking nothing! Then I will be free from the things that bind me, able to serve You and to know the will of The Father, living by The Spirit of God. Amen.”