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I'm not a big football fan, but when I do watch football, particularly England games, if they score (if!) there is something unstoppable in me that makes me jump up and scream and celebrate.
I believe there is something God-given in all of us that wants to celebrate and idolize. Just look at the state of television at the moment. Put eight whacky people in a house together, watch them act like idiots for a few weeks and when they finally leave.......hey presto, instant celebrity! They are treated like gods for a few weeks, screamed at by a load of people desperate to celebrate and idolize. It’s not just Big Brother - there are tons of shows like this, even one about reality hairdressers! Why do these shows work? In part it is probably because of our morbid fascination to see a person make an idiot of themselves, but I think mostly because the world is desperate for an idol.
As Christians we should be outdoing this false idol worship with our passionate heart-and-soul worship of The True and Living God. To go back to the football example, I jump up and shout and dance when a small victory like a ball being kicked into a net happens! How much more should I celebrate with all of my strength the ultimate victory that took place on a Cross? Mark 12 verse 30 says, “Love the Lord your God with all Your heart, soul, mind and strength, this is the greatest commandment.”
In Old Testament times worship was a costly sacrifice. It was an offering to God, for God, and nothing was expected in return. People would offer the healthiest and fattest of their stock for sacrificial worship. The place of worship was a temple exactly paced and measured to God’s specific standards and requirements, even down to the length and type of curtain material! The sacrificing of food or livestock was to be carried out by a chosen Priest who was not to have a trace of sin in him. He would even have a rope tied around his leg so that if he had unknowingly sinned or become unclean and entered the Holy of Holies he could be dragged out when he died! God rightly expected to be worshiped and it always involved a cost or sacrifice.
Skip forward to New Testament and a new covenant has been made. The curtain has been torn in two, we can now enter freely into Gods presence and we are now all priests because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the Cross. Isn’t that amazing? But with this new covenant did God’s character change? Does he care less about his people worshiping him? I don’t think so. I think God is as jealous for our worship now as he was in Old Testament times. I think it is us who have become slapdash and carefree in our attitude to worship.
Romans 12 verse 1 says we are to “offer our bodies as living sacrifices, Holy and pleasing to Him”. 1 Peter says, “We are a chosen people a Royal priesthood”. So as priests we are now called to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to Him in worship. I think this means we serve others sacrificially as acts of worship, but I also strongly believe that we are called to offer our whole bodies (mind, heart, strength) in our times of worship when we gather
together. Just as Old Testament worship meant a sacrifice of the best of their crop or livestock, New Testament worship should mean we offer the very best of ourselves in our worship on a Sunday, in our small groups, and in our individual worship times.
I think about years gone by when believers would gather together in grand churches and incredible Cathedrals with lofty ceilings and beautiful stained glass windows. Just being in a place like that would enough to inspire worship or think of Glory. Then you add the voice of a choir singing as one with beautiful harmonies, and the sound of an organ pumping out melodies that echo and reverberate around these magnificent buildings built as worship to God, and Wow! How could you not worship Him?
Then I think about where we meet, in an old school hall in need of a lick of paint and a band trying to make rock music sound worthy of the greatest being that has ever lived or breathed! This is where we must use our minds; this is the part that involves sacrifice. Instead of thinking about what a bad week we have had, or critiquing the style of worship leading, or the choice of songs being used (Surely no-one ever does this!), let’s try instead to fix our thoughts on Him. Imagine Jesus seated next to his Father with the heavenly creatures, powerful Angels and Saints and Elders doing His bidding, all gathered with one intent – to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Try and imagine the face of our Father with rivers of love flowing from his eyes. Not condemnation for us as we deserve, but forgiveness and pure love like we have never known before. It is overwhelming, life changing. We are now in a far better place than the grandest Cathedral - we are in a place called the Kingdom of God, worshiping him with the whole of our minds.
It is not false or wrong to do this; read Revelation, this is truth and it is good for us. God gave us powerful imaginations as a gift, let’s use them for His Glory. The story of Mary anointing Jesus with expensive perfume is an excellent example to us of how to worship God with our minds. She thought about this act of worship before she carried it out. The perfume was worth about a year’s wages and in those days for a woman to pour perfume on a man was a controversial thing to do. She knew all this. She had thought about the sacrifice involved both financially and for her reputation, but she carried out this amazing act anyway, and it is still being talked about to this day.
Let’s worship God with all of our minds. Let’s look at the words we are singing and reflect on who He is and what He has done, not get caught up thinking about work or what is for tea later!
To worship God with our bodies also involves a certain amount of sacrifice. To raise our hands is an effort and a humbling thing to do. I want to remind us why we raise our hands. There are several reasons I raise my hands in worship: sometimes I raise my hands in submission or surrender; sometimes in awe; sometimes to receive; sometimes just as my children raise their arms to me - helpless and needing to be held by me. This is my response to my Father in worship. As a worship leader there is nothing more encouraging than to look at a sea of hands raised to God in adoration. I am convinced that God is very happy about it too! There are lots of obvious ways of worshiping God with our bodies: raising hands, kneeling, dancing, singing and shouting to name a few. They all require sacrifice but I strongly believe that if we grasp and embrace these in our corporate worship times that true worship in King’s Arms will increase and gain strength and this for the glory of God.
A great place to practice growing in worship is our small group or smaller settings like prayer meetings. It can be daunting the first time we step out in worship in a Sunday meeting; I remember when I raised my hands for the first time I was terrified! Small groups are a great place to practice, learn and observe. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, “Why do you do that?”, “What is going on when this happens?” Feel free to ask worship leaders questions too, this is part of a worship leader’s role; leading people in worship can involve explanation. Don’t just do something because you see someone else doing it; find out why they are doing it. Worship is a response to God’s character and His actions and we should worship from our heart but also with our minds.
To worship our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength will involve sacrifice. Just as in Old Testament times it cost the best of their stock, our worship should cost the best of ourselves.
We are all individuals and have different styles, tastes and opinions but as one body let us agree on this: that no matter how loud or quiet, no matter what style or what worship leader - our God, the only God, is so very, very worthy of the worship of our hearts, souls, minds and strength.