Hope, Healing & Freedom Podcast : Ep 37
What if worship was more than just singing songs in church on Sunday?
Colossians 3:23 from the Passion Translation, “Put your heart and soul into every activity you do, as though you are doing it for the Lord Himself and not merely for others.”
I’m Lee Whitman and I want to talk about worshiping God. I am going to share two experiences I have had that have forever changed the way I worship. In 2006 Cindi and I, along with two of our children went to Baja, Hungary to attend a worship festival. 800 people from all over Europe and the eastern bloc countries came to worship together, even though we all spoke different languages. I went so my wife and kids could experience this festival not really for myself. Up until that point in my spiritual life, I didn’t care that much about the music part of the church service. I came to church to be encouraged by a good message. In other words, I went to church to have my intellect stirred, not to have my heart stirred.
During this festival something happened to me. As I listened day after day to 800 passionate worshippers of God worship in their own language, I was changed. I experienced something akin to the baptism in the Holy Spirit, except this was a baptism into worship. For the first time in my walk with Jesus I was able to express my love for Him from my heart and not from my head. Today I would rather spend time in worship than hear a good sermon. I often weep during worship because I don’t have the words to express my affection and love and gratitude for Jesus and Father God. If you see me in worship today, I am all in. For me it is a total body experience. I would even dance if my knees were better and I had some rhythm. I can no longer just sit and sing a song without my arms being in the air. And this is not some charismatic ritual, it is a very real expression of my love for God. Worship went from being the warm up act for the preaching to the main event.
Story number two happened in 2008. I was sensing that it was time for me to leave the counseling ministry that I had been a part of for 18 years, so Cindi and I rented an office and started doing counseling on our own. As we were in the startup stage of our counseling ministry, I needed to find other income to support our family. The only job I could find in the tough economy of 2008 that would still give me the freedom to develop our counseling ministry was to work at a Mapco convenience store (read gas station). It did not take long for me to recognize that my main job at the convenience store was to sell beer and cigarettes. I will never forget the day I was whining and complaining to God about my job. Here I am a minister of the gospel with a calling on my life to help set the captives free and I am selling beer and cigarettes. What gives God I whined? Then God sent me to look up Colossians 3:23 so I did. It says that in everything you do, do it unto the Lord. “But God I can’t sell beer and cigarettes to your glory.” He said, Why not? Wow, you talk about a paradigm shift, I had a major shift. My upbringing would say that if you drank beer and smoked cigarettes you would go straight to hell! No second chances. Drinking in my church was worse than lying or cheating in business. So to hear God say that I could sell beer and cigarettes to His glory was a mind blower for me. In everything you do that is not sin, and beer and cigarettes in and of themselves are not a sin, do it to the glory of God. In other words, your work is an act of worship.
The Bible is written in two languages, Hebrew in the Old Testament, and Greek in the New Testament. When taken together these two languages and their differing mindsets draw a picture of what God is really like. One testament without the other only gives us a partial view of God. I believe the people who say that we no longer live by the Old Testament are possibly missing some things that God wants us to know found in the Old Testament. The whole Bible is the Word of God.
In Hebrew the word for work is ‘todah’ which means “thanksgiving”. It is also used to describe a thank offering or an act of adoration. The Hebrew mindset is that your adoration for God is not just an intellectual ascent, but it must be demonstrated through your actions. So in the Hebrew mindset everything you do isa thank offering or an act of adoration to God. According to this mindset, work is a form of worship. In fact everything you and I do today, when done unto the Lord is an act of worship. Worship is not just singing songs in church on Sunday. You take Jesus everywhere you go. Everything you do is an act of worship. For the Hebrew, worship had to be a total body experience. It included singing and dancing before the Lord.
The words used in the New Testament for worship carry a little different idea about worship.
Worship in the Greek means:
– to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in a token of reverence
– to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence
– kneeling or prostration to do homage, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication
– to bow before one of superior rank or position
The Greek mindset was often focused on the mind and the attitude of the person. In other words, it focused on the mind. The Hebrew mindset was often focused on the actions involved in the thoughts. It was focused on the heart and resulting actions.
Notice how different these views are about worship, yet when put together, they give us a more accurate idea of the worship that God deserves. Worship is the attitude of falling upon our knees and placing our foreheads to the ground in total reverence whether we are singing and dancing before Father God, or when at work, or just when we are going about our everyday lives.
For many of us worship is what we do for 20 minutes on Sunday morning in church. But according to the Biblical concept of worship it is much more than that. Worship can literally be everything we do. We can carry our attitude of worship toward God into our family times, into our times of recreation and socializing, and into our workplace. In my job at the Mapco convenience store I made it my goal to be the best employee I possibly could, not for the praise of my boss, but unto the Lord. That was an act of worship. Yet worship is also the time in church and out of church when we abandon ourselves to “kiss the hand” of our Jesus and Heavenly Father out of reverence for them.
Romans 12:2 captures this for us. It says, “Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice,acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
Presenting all of ourselves to God is part of our worship. That is why worship is more than just singing songs. It is a complete giving of ourselves to Jesus, Father God, and the Holy Spirit. This passage in Romans 12 goes on to say, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” He says that part of our worship is to work with Father God to have our minds renewed to the truth. That is one of the life changing parts of RTF ministry. We help people break off the ungodly belief that has been formed by being conformed to the pattern of this world and ask Father God for His truth. And when that truth is believed and is integrated into a person’s life, they are transformed by the renewing of their minds. It looks like the Apostle Paul understood RTF!
Let me go to one more verse before we close this podcast. That verse is John 4:23-24 that says “From now on, worshiping the Father will not be a matter of the right place but with the right heart. For God is a Spirit, and He longs to have sincere worshippers who adore Him in the realm of the Spirit and in truth.”
Cindi and I get to travel on behalf of RTF, so we visit different churches. We have been to churches that have excellent music. The musicians were very talented and the person leading the ‘song time’ was an amazing singer. The problem was it was not worship. There is a huge difference between wonderful music and worship. We have also attended events where the musicians were less than stellar, and we worshiped. How can that be? Isn’t good music equal to good worship? According to John 4 the answer is no. Worship is not about being in the right place and having the best music and most talented singers. Worship is about the Holy Spirit living through you and connecting to the Spirit of God. As believers we have been given the Holy Spirit to live in us and through us. Worship is allowing the Holy Spirit to use our mortal bodies to express our love and adoration to Jesus and Father God. Sometimes we do that through singing. Sometimes we do that through being quiet. Sometimes it is through our work. The key is back to Colossians 3:23, “In everything you do, do it unto the Lord (as an act of Worship).”
Before we close today I want to mention one more thing about the style of musical worship that we like. Each of us has been imprinted with a style of worship. We tend to be drawn or you might say we like the style of worship music that we have been imprinted with. This imprinting makes it very difficult for you to be able to enter into another musical style of worship. Because we travel, we get to experience different styles of worship. I have to admit, I like certain styles more than others. But when you allow people to worship in their own style and it is spirit led, it is quite amazing.
We attended Azusa Now in 2016 in Los Angeles, California. It was a gathering in the Los Angeles Coliseum of 65,000 people to worship and pray for a revival like the Azusa Street Revival from the early 1900’s. For the first two hours of this stadium gathering there was good worship, but you could feel that the worship was not being energized by the Spirit. It was sort of flat. Then a group of Native Americans came on stage and started into Native American worship led by twenty drums with Native American chants. It was nothing like I had ever heard before in my life. The stadium was set on fire. The Holy Spirit fell on that crowd and never left the rest of the day. These Native American believers in Jesus were worshiping in their own style and the Holy Spirit was ushered into that stadium.
I tell that story to say to some of us need to get used to different styles of worship because when we get to heaven I can only imagine what it will be like. Every tongue and tribe and nation will bring their own style of worship. But I guarantee you it will be an amazing experience.
Let me encourage you that the more freedom you get in Christ, the deeper you will be able to enter into worship.