Saturday, December 29, 2018

Called to Worship.

I know many of you have been waiting to see when I would FINALLY post about November's Call. I hate to keep you waiting, but between the retreat I spoke at, the conference I attended, schooling the kids and prepping for the Holidays, I got quite behind. And, in all honesty, I didn't start researching this Call feeling like I was very good at worshipping, or even knowing what genuine worship ought to look like. I didn't have a lot of direction or even a thought that I wanted to follow or chase down.

I ended up choosing to listen to a few audiobooks before even doing a lick of planning for this post and both have been extremely helpful! This first book is a bit more in-depth, not as "inspiring" really, but it was still very informative and thought-provoking; it's called Worship by A.W. Tozer. The other book I listened to (which was actually the first book I started with) is called The Air I Breathe by Louie Giglio. This book was definitely easier to follow along with and listen to eagerly (my 10-year-old agrees), and it gives a lot of great insights, scriptural references, and questions to ask yourself about the way you are living.

Over all, my study of what it means to worship God didn't change me the way I expected, but I also feel like I want to keep on this path and dive in a bit deeper. I'm not sure what to do next, but I do have some good stuff to share with you in the meantime.

First off, the actual definition of Worship in the Bible was not what I expected.

What is your idea of worship? What does it entail? What does it look like for you on a regular basis?

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

Did you know that worship simply means "to bow down to" or "to kiss the hand of"? Kind of odd, right? I always thought of worship as glorifying God, mostly through singing and praising, but just overall making known the ways that God is above all else. And sure, worship includes those things, but the root of worship is actually a submission, an admitting that God is ruler, King, worthy above all else.

Our church does a fabulous job of naming this kind of stuff about God at the outset of our services, but that hasn't always been the case in the other churches we've attended. The more I thought about this idea that worship is actually submission, the more it made sense. Can we really praise God if we are not fully revering Him? Can we sing of His glory if we refuse to admit His complete control over our destiny? Can we tell others of the way He is good if we do not confess that we have actually chosen our own ways over His?

Worshipping God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) begins with complete submission to Him.

Thank goodness we already covered that in one of our earlier Calls, right? Surely you have it as dialed in as I do (and I hope you can hear my sarcastic laughter through your computer)! Yes, it's certainly helpful that we've already talked about this Call to surrender, but I still need this reminder many times, every day. It is never-ending, and I will likely always need some redirecting throughout my life. But the Call to Worship God is one we don't want to overlook, take lightly, or miss out on the deeper meaning and the deeper riches that come from following it.

We were all made to worship and we all worship something, whether we recognize it or not. Timothy Keller says in Counterfeit Gods that if you want to know what you worship, take a look at where your time and your money go. Where does your mind drift off toward when you are driving somewhere on autopilot? When you are stressed to the max, what do you start to long for? Those are likely the things you've put on the throne above God, and they are what you are bowed down to.

Anything we bow down to that isn't God will ruin us in the end. We will always be searching, always longing for that something to fill us up. But God satisfies us completely only when we are submitted to Him. We don't even need to try and seek out that kind of filling either, it just automatically happens when we finally submit ourselves to the reality that we ought to desire Him above all else. There is no chasing, or striving, no series of hoops we need to jump through. There is just a bowing down before Him that takes the burden of self-fulfillment and endless pursuit off our backs and allows our hearts to be filled with the goodness of who He is.

Romans 12:1-2 is a great place to take a look at what this means for us.

"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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Our worship is not just the time we spending singing God's praises. It is what we do. It is how we live. It is what we give ourselves over to completely. It is the sacrificing of our lives to Him that enables us to think clearly, so that we may see where He is leading us. And it will always be good, right, and exactly in line with His laws of love. 

There are all kinds of actions the Psalms call us to take in our worship, things like shouting, dancing, singing, telling, standing, meditating, walking, stilling our hearts, casting down our idols, and more. But all of these must come from a heart that is bowed down to the Creator. Our spirit must decide what it will do, and if we hope to live a life that glorifies God, we must do what is commanded to us in God's true word. 

In Matthew 4:10 and Luke 4:8, Jesus tells Satan that God has commanded us "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve."

I serve many things over God on a regular basis. I serve my own desire for rest, despite knowing that God has the power to give me the energy I need for the tasks I am currently avoiding. I serve my own desire for approval from others, despite knowing in my head that none of it actually matters. I serve my own desire to enjoy the pleasures of the earth (seemingly to an unlimited extent, as my wanting appears to have no end), despite knowing that eternal treasures are the only "things" I ought to be consumed with gaining. 

I don't know what you are currently serving. And I can't tell you what dealing with all of this will look like in your own life. I can only give you guidance on how to approach your current state of heart and encourage you to ask God for the willingness to let go of the things you are choosing to serve before Him.

As with most of these Calls, I see a willing spirit as the best tool for growing in our ability to worship well. So here are the questions I am asking myself to help keep me on the path toward glorifying God in my worship.

1: Do I want to submit to God's commands?

This is often a hard pill to swallow. Am I willing to respond in gentleness, like I know God desires? Am I willing to give generously, like the Bible commands? Am I willing to be wronged, in order to show my trust in God's timing and justice? Am I willing to love others and give myself to them without a guarantee of service or love in return? Questions like these help reveal to me what I am clinging to and what I am refusing to lay before God. It helps me see where my heart is not aligned with His will.

2: Am I willing to take action?

If you have grown up in the church or been a Christian for many years, it's easy to know the right thing to do. Heck, even many unbelievers use the moral compass God gave them to try and discern what is right and what is wrong. But it's a WHOLE other thing to actually follow through on that knowledge. When I take the time to consider my own level of willingness to participate in God's commands, I can more clearly see my own selfishness, my own desire (or lack of desire) to worship Him the way He calls me to. Our worship is action, not just in words and song, but in the daily bowing down to what He says is right and wrong.

3: Am I recognizing God's authority and control over all of my circumstances?

This is the final, authoritative question for me. When I really step back and consider God's place in the universe, it becomes very apparent that my plan to do what I want to do is rooted in complete foolishness. If the One who created all things, who orchestrates all of my circumstances for the good plan He is working out, if He tells me I need to stop chasing the temporal things of this world, why on earth wouldn't I listen? The root of this problem is that I honestly think I know enough to work out my own plans. It's completely ridiculous, but it's true. 

When we stop to see God's complete authority and control over the entire globe, the entire galaxy, and everything that is beyond, we can more easily bow down before Him. If we want to worship Him well with our lives, with more than just our mouths, then we absolutely have to experience the truth about who He is personally, regularly, and honestly. If you don't really believe that He has your days numbered, your hairs counted, your situations covered, you will never submit to Him the way you need to, the way that is best for you. 

Worship is about so much more than singing, dancing, clapping, and speaking about who He is. 

Worship is about living out who He is. 

So who is He to you? Is He the ruler over all? Is He the good Father that all of scripture tells us He is? Is He the author of all beauty, of everything that is good and wonderful? If you don't believe He is, then you are missing out, and you will never be able to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

While over the next month or two I will be posting here on the blog a bunch, I'm still not quite finished with our Called series. I'm going to participate in a daily writing challenge, study up more on our final Call, and start to press into the submission of myself to the things God is calling me to right now, but I hope you will take the time to remember who God is. That was our first Call last January - to Know God. Knowing Him better will enrich your life and enable you to do anything He calls you to. 

You MUST know Him better if you hope to follow Him more closely, to hear Him more regularly, and to worship Him well. Head back to my posts about Knowing God here and here. Soak in all He wants to tell you. Question your motives, ask Him the hard questions, ask yourself the hard questions too. He loves you perfectly, and you need not fear where any of it will take you. 

I will be here on the blog more in January, posting more day-to-day ramblings, trying to make a habit out of writing more regularly, without fear or worry over how it all turns out. This is part of my spiritual worship: submitting to what God is telling me to do, submitting to the desires He is placing in my heart. I hope you'll tell me what you think, what questions you have, or answer any questions I have for you! This has been such a year of blessing for me, and having so many of you here reading and participating in this has given me more than I can even repay. 

I pray that you worship God well, and that you find the courage to surrender all of yourself to His good plans. I pray that you meet Him, know Him, and exude His goodness your entire life long. 

Talk soon,