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Worship Matters     APRIL 2022            

A year ago, last April, I started writing the first “Worship Matters” article. From now on, these articles will not come out monthly, but more periodically, and hopefully will feature guests and other leader’s thoughts on worship. The question I tried to answer in April 2021 was, “How can I worship when I don’t know the songs?” In case you’re curious, the three-part answer involved points such as: focus on the words and on the Lord, listen to new songs, and it’s all about the heart. A year later, I would add that new songs are given to us by God to bring joy, teach us something about Himself, and speak to the times we are living in.

God graciously gives us a fresh insight into the unique issues and circumstances of the day through songwriters. Led by the Holy Spirit, Christian songwriters are able to put into words and music a perspective from the heart of God that can help us understand and wrestle with what we are walking through. By fixing our eyes on what He’s done, on who He is, and how He is leading us through His Word, believers are strengthened and encouraged as we worship.

This leads to a question I started asking in our worship and tech meetings over two years ago.

“Is worship for God, or for us?”

Attempting to answer this question has resulted in some thoughtful conversations with friends and fellow worshippers, and inspired a few deep dives into Scripture and various books on the subject. Does God need our worship? He certainly seems to require it, even to the point of command. 1

Chronicles 16:29 reads, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”

The Psalmist says, “Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” Psalm 100:2

And Jesus tells the woman at the well, and all of us: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” John 4:23-24.

In thinking through this question of who and what worship is for, I have come to at least one conclusion. Worship, like pretty much everything else God asks or requires, is more for our sake than His. We are taught, uplifted, encouraged, made brave and hopeful, drawn near to God, able to lament or praise, given new understanding, and bonded together with other believers through corporate worship. The list goes on. Our heavenly Father knows what we need, and delights in giving good gifts to His children. At the same time, the Almighty, all-sufficient Creator inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3) and seems to take joy in our worship. Therein lies the mystery.

What do you think?

My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:7b

Pam Graham    worship@prairietab.com 

2 Comments


Vernon Charter 7 months ago

Hello Pam. Thank you for your thoughtful and sensitive comments this month, on the shape of worship in our church life. I agree, as you say, that worship is both for God's glory and for the worshipers themselves. And I wholeheartedly agree that authentic worship is a source of immense blessing, healing and satisfaction for true worshipers. But I still maintain (I think on solid biblical grounds here) that the ultimate aim of worship is to glorify God. I understand why you say that "worship is more for our sake than His", and I rejoice in the fact that it is one of God's most generous gifts to us. But knowing the treachery of my own heart, I have such an inclination to start from the gifts, and in doing so, to make worship an idol. And I fear that this impulse may still be at the heart of a lot of evangelical worship today, especially in the "church growth" movement.
Having said all that, here's the dilemma I face. Sometimes I find myself so hesitant to seek my own good that I find myself in a legalistic struggle to avoid idolatry, as if I can overcome the flesh through my own efforts (like the Pharisees). Here's what I think is a starting point to resole this dilemma. I start by acknowledging before God the corruption and selfishness of my heart, even in my worship. and that I cannot change that through my own efforts. But I'm holding onto the truth that Christ's sacrifice is the basis of our freedom. I don't have to start with feeling that freedom. I begin to enter worship confessing all my failures and wrong motives, but pressing forward into obedience and seeking God's glory. Yes, it could be an instantaneous release, but most often it's a process that I must repeat over the long haul, and that as I persevere, day in, day out, week in, week out, this process establishes a growing desire for God's glory and my ability to proclaim his glory--and yes, to experience the freedom to worship in all the human realms of joy, freedom, lament, peace, patience, and devotion that God has called us to. I think that's the kind of rhythm that brings together God's desire to be glorified and the satisfaction of our hearts for the living water (John 4:10-14 & 7:37-39).
Does that ring true? Or am I missing something? Thanks for the invitation to respond!

Still seeking his kingdom and righteousness,
Vernon

Vernon


Pam Graham 7 months ago

Hi Vernon! So great to see your response here. Thank you for writing. I think you have explained this very well, and it definitely rings true. Worship itself if not the goal, but glorifying and giving honour to God. Thanks again for your meaningful and thoughtful response! I hope to have many more such conversations as we wrestle with the how and why of worship. Blessings to you.

In Him,
Pam

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