Getting Worship Right
C.S. Lewis noted that people who are growing, thriving and loving are the people who praise God the most. People who are stagnant, cranky and self-centered praise God the least. Join us this week as we examine what is needed to live with a worshiping mind.
The word for today is wow.
It’s the same word we looked at on Easter Sunday if you were here for that. We’re going to talk about it from a different perspective today.
Because when we experience delight or wonder or gratitude or just what a miracle it is to be alive, that’s kind of the word that’s beyond definition. — “Oh, wow!”
I wonder if we were all to say what the biggest wow of our lives so far has been, what it would be for you? There would be some amazing stories.
I read one a while ago.
A woman named Mona Simpson was a writer trying to eek out a living in New York City when she received a phone call and learned that she had a biological brother she didn’t even know existed.
He had learned about her, and wanted to meet her. It was like something out of a novel she was trying to write.
They met, and he said he was in technology.
She said, “That’s kind of interesting,” because she used a manual typewriter but she was thinking about getting a computer.
He said it was good she hadn’t gotten one yet because he was going to design a computer so insanely beautiful she would be glad she had waited.
His name was Steve Jobs. It’s a true story.
Imagine you woke up one day and found out Steve Jobs was your brother. That actually happened to this woman, Mona Simpson.
She was stunned by his words, “I’m your brother,” but they were not the most stunning words she ever heard from him. Those words would come later.
And we’ll come back to them.
I was thinking getting ready for this message, “What if wow is built into existence, is built into the universe, is built into reality, and we’re just too jaded, or old in our spirits, or warped by sin, so we keep missing it?”
So many people live like, “God hasn’t really done anything for me today. My job is dull. My car is old. My hair looks bad. My kids can’t get into a good college because those movie stars and CEOs are cheating. I don’t have a spouse. Or I do, but I’m pretty sure I got the wrong one.”
People live as though they have nothing to praise God for, but we live in this universe of light and life that exploded, we’re told, from a singularity smaller than the head of a pin in less than a second — and you’re alive in it.
And this morning you woke up and got another day.
And your heart is beating.
And your lungs are breathing.
And your mind works.
And you have a church.
And you have a God who loves you.
And you have, if you want, a Savior who died for you.
And you have, if you want, the Holy Spirit of God to guide you.
And you have, if you want, a purpose in this life and the promise of heaven in the life to come.
And that’s just for starters. Imagine you woke up and, in fact, the creator God turns out to be your Father who loves you. Oh, wow! Oh, Wow!
There is a producer of wows. There is a wower — and that’s God.
There is a receiver of wows, a wowee, and that’s you and me.
And when a wow gets directed toward God, the word for that in the Bible is worship.
We’re actually commanded to practice worship.
The psalmist puts it like this:
Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; [that is his character and his being] make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. (Psalm 105:1-3)
The Bible is full of statements and commands like this.
I want to say a word about this because in our day a lot of people wonder, “Why? Why would God want people to constantly praise him and worship him?”
That seems a little needy, doesn’t it?
Can you imagine a movie star or a CEO or a politician so egotistical that they want a bunch of people to stand around and tell them how great they are all the time?
People wonder, “Is God like that?”
The great thinker, C.S. Lewis, wrote that before he became a believer this idea of God commanding people to praise him troubled him for these reasons, but then he noticed something about the human spirit.
Anytime we see beauty or excellence or something that is admirable, our experience of it is actually incomplete until we’re able to express our joy.
If we just had to say nothing and just sit on our joy, it would be unsatisfying. Joy naturally overflows into praise. It just wants to.
We say to each other and we love this kind of stuff, “You have to read this book! You have to watch this video! You have to listen to this song! You have to drive down to Big Sur and see the coast right now! You have to try this food!”
Joy inevitably flows over into praise.
Take it one more step now. Let’s say you’re a single man, just hypothetically, and the excellence and beauty and goodness you see are in a single woman.
Who do you want to express your praise to?
This could be why there are so many single men in our church. It’s not intended to be a trick question. The correct answer would be you want to tell her.
You’re with a close friend and you think, “This is a wonderful friend! This is just an amazing person I get to do life with!” You want to tell that friend.
A parent longs to express delight not just about their child but to their child. A lover longs to praise the beloved.
We’re born primed to praise. We’re just that way.
So God delights in it not because God is this needy, empty character who has a low sense of self-esteem and has to have people propping it up all of the time.
Quite the contrary.
In the ancient world, worship generally involved sacrifice, and often people believed that was because the gods needed food.
In fact, for Israel in the ancient Mesopotamian world, most other creation narratives included the idea that the gods created people to raise food to feed them. That’s what sacrifices were about.
Of course, for the God of Israel, that is not the case.
There’s actually a line from God in the Psalms that I love. God says to people, “If I were hungry I would not tell you…”
Like, “If I have an appetite, I have plenty of ways to satisfy it without needing you to do anything about it.”
In other words, God is not needy physically or emotionally.
He delights in our praise because it means we’re awake to all of the gifts, to all of the goodness, to all of the beauty, and to the wonder of what it is to the absolute miracle of being alive.
We all have what might be called a kind of a wow threshold. In other words, the amount of goodness that needs to flow into your life to trigger delight.
Some people go through the day, “Oh, wow! Oh, wow! Oh, wow!” It takes so little to trigger thankfulness and praise in them — a flower, a sunset, a certain kind of food.
Other people get old in spirit and jaded and cynical and self-preoccupied and have not said, “Wow,” for a long time.
Everyone has what might be called a worshiping mind and heart — or a tendency toward gratitude, wonder, praise, and delight; or a non-worshiping mind and heart.
The worshiping mind or the worshiping heart is intensely open to joy, always looking for it, very aware of gifts and grateful for them, quite confident in God, and very humble in themselves; so they’re experiencing things as undeserved gifts on a regular basis and are generally happy.
The non-worshiping mind is just the other way — entitled, self-preoccupied, easily irritated, easily discouraged, and often quite ungrateful about the past, and often quite anxious and non-expectant about the future.
C.S. Lewis noted that people who are growing, people who are thriving, and people who are loving are the people who praise the most.
And people who are stagnant, people who are cranky and self- centered praise the least.
In fact, he wrote:
Praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.
That’s a great definition of praise!
In the time that’s left in this message, I want to talk about how you and I can get worship right.
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is writing to the church at Corinth because they’re having a hard time getting worship right.
He’s writing about the subject of worship, and what I want to do is to put some stakes in the ground today.
I want to lay out some commitments about worship and invite you to make that commitment in your own life and invite us to do that together as a church that worships God.
Alright, here we go.
1. We will gather with the church to worship our God.
Paul says to the church, “Here’s what I want you to do — WHEN you gather for worship, each of you should be prepared with something that will be useful for all. Sing a hymn. Teach a lesson. Tell a story. Lead a prayer. Provide an insight.”
Paul doesn’t say, “IF you gather for worship…” He says, “When.” He assumes it’s going to happen.
So if you’re a follower of Jesus and if Blue Oaks is your home church, I want to call all of us to make this commitment.
When the church gathers to worship God, I will be there worshiping.
I’ll find another time to do emails.
I’ll find another time to crank out more work.
When the body gathers to express our devotion to our Savior, I will be there.
If I’m a parent and I have kids, I will model that for my children.
I will make sure they’re involved in our elementary, middle school or high school ministry where they have someone who is pouring the love of God into their lives.
I’ll make sure they’re showing up to meetings or small groups where they’re being challenged to grow spiritually. I’ll make that a priority.
The writer of Hebrews says:
Let us not give up meeting together, [or gathering together] as some are in the habit of doing. (Hebrews 10:25)
I want to ask you to commit to what might be called a practice.
I know a lot of people travel on the weekends at our church.
If you’re not traveling, and you wake up in your regular residence, and you’re tempted to think, “I could just stay home in my pajamas instead of gathering in person,” — is that a good idea?
No! That’s not a good idea.
If your body is home, we want our bodies here all together.
Another statement from the writer of Scripture is, “God inhabits the praises of his people.”
The idea here is quite profound, although quite simple.
It’s that we’re able to experience God together in a way that we cannot quite experience him separately.
Now, the reverse is also true — you can experience God in solitude in a way that is unique as well. That’s why both are needed.
But when we gather together, someone might come who lost a family member this week.
Someone is depressed.
Someone has a medical report that is real serious.
Someone was betrayed.
Maybe they can’t even sing the songs, but you can sing the songs for them.
You can embrace them.
You can see them.
You can pray for them.
You can love them.
That’s one of the main reasons we gather together.
There are lots of ways information can get disseminated, but we gather together to be able to love each other and to love God together.
Your worship will encourage another person’s spirit.
I was talking to someone going through a really deep valley. She said that when she comes to church her prayer is, “God, who can I connect with who needs help today?”
I thought that was so beautiful.
When you give love to someone else, your own heart gets healing. Your own heart gets hope.
The psalmist said this is our aim in worship:
Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious. (Psalm 66:2)
We’re putting stakes in the ground about worship today. One of them is — We will make his praise glorious.
Why should we do that?
Because he’s worth it. He is worth it. He is worth our best praise.
When you’re dating someone, if you’re crazy about them and you say that you will get there at 6:00, what time do you get there? At 6:00 or even before 6:00.
Worshiping God is not a casual thing, so when we gather, come ready to make his praise glorious.
That’s what Paul is talking about to the church at Corinth. “When you gather…” Not if but when, come prepared. Come ready to think about God and to let other people be built up. Come in a spirit of anticipation. I know how trivial this will sound, but come on time.
Now, I know some of you are thinking, “That’s easy for you to say. We have little kids who have to be woke up and fed and cleaned and diapered and changed and car-seated and refereed and it’s impossible.”
I understand. To worship well you may need to give your kids to their grandparents for 10 years or so.
That’s part of what grandparents are for.
All I’m saying is worship is like life — you get out of it what you put into it.
Life is that way. Worship is that way.
Because God is worthy of our best worship, I want to call on all of us to intend to offer him the best and to make his praise glorious because God inhabits the praises of his people.
It will bless other people. And it will bless God.
2. As a church and for each one of us individually, we will offer God mindful worship.
We will not allow our minds to go on autopilot, as they tend to do.
Part of what Paul was correcting in Corinth was people were so hungry for an ecstatic, emotional experience (not bad), but they were after that so much that their minds were kind of going on autopilot.
He said, “You should be spiritually free and expressive as you pray and sing, but you should also be thoughtful and mindful as you pray and sing.”
This is what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:15:
So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, [The idea is very spirited and expressive singing] but I will also sing with my mind.
Worship always begins in the mind because your mind is the only place where you can meet with God.
If you’re going to meet with God, it will be in and through your mind and through your thoughts.
Your mind is the most important thing about you, and the most important dimension of your mind is what your mind is fixed upon.
You can fix it and you can focus your mind on anything.
This is quite amazing about us.
I love the way Taylor Swift put it — “The only interaction you have with reality comes through your mind.”
This is why the mind and what we turn our minds to is the key to our lives.
Actually, it wasn’t Taylor Swift who said that. It was Dallas Willard, but I get tired of quoting Dallas Willard all the time, so I thought I’d just change it up. Maybe Taylor Swift did say it. I don’t know.
The biggest problem we have with our minds is not the knowledge we lack; it’s the knowledge we forget.
This is why a constant synonym for worship in the Bible is the little word remember.
I remember your name in the night, O Lord. (Psalm 119:55)
Because I’m prone to forget it. In the night, I’m prone to remember a lot of other stuff but not your name.
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
Because in the days of your youth you’re kind of prone to forget that.
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits. (Psalm 103:2)
Because my soul is kind of prone to forget all of those benefits, all of those gifts, and all of that goodness.
When Jesus instituted the holiest act of worship in the church (Communion), he said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” because we forget.
Worship always begins in the mind, so I bring God’s goodness, I bring God’s patience, I bring his greatness, I bring his kindness, and I bring his love into my mind.
Sometimes people think worship just means music, but worship is way, way more than music.
Adam and Eve worshiped God way before music had even been invented yet.
Sometimes people think worship means not just music but a certain kind of music. What kind of music do you think is God’s favorite kind of music?
When I was younger, one of the first verses I learned in the Bible was from Psalm 100. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.”
That’s a pretty low bar musically to make a joyful noise. Anyone can do that.
That’s all the earth — all the nations, all the peoples, and all the cultures.
In a different culture, a joyful noise will sound different to me, but I kind of think God loves all kinds of music because he invented it all.
The reason why we often do use music in worship is that worship begins in the mind. True worship always must begin in the mind, but then it can’t just stay there. It spreads into my whole body including my emotions.
To reflect on God without worshiping God is not to reflect on God because he’s so wonderful.
I got to go to a Chicago Bulls basketball game when I was 18 years old, the year Michale Jordan won his first Championship.
There was a moment in the game where Michael Jordan seemed to carry the entire team on his back. He scored every point on offense for like a 20 point run. They were playing the Detroit Pistons who were a very rough group at the time. They won the NBA finals for two years in a row before that year.
Michael Jordan was getting knocked down by Bill Laimbeer left and right, but he couldn’t be stopped.
Everyone in the crowd was singing, “Make a joyful noise to Michael Jordan, all the earth.”
Worship is to ascribe worth — “Worthy is Michael Jordan, worthy to receive our praise.”
You see, to worship God is to ascribe worth to God.
How much worth?
How worthy is God?
“You are worthy.” This is the great cry of the entire Bible. This will be the great cry of eternity.
This is what gets expressed in the book of Revelation:
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things,
Every moment, every gift, every bit of wonder, every bit of joy, and every bit of beauty if we only taste a tiny little bit of it right now.
and by your will they were created and have their being. (Revelation 4:11)
They keep living just because of you, so we will worship God with our minds and our whole beings. We will do this. I will do this.
3. We will offer God worship as a way of life and not just an hour a week.
The main problem with worship at Corinth was they were more concerned with having a personally satisfying worship experience.
The big deal there was the gift of tongues, this kind of ecstatic prayer language.
And Paul said, “That’s great.” Paul did it himself, but they were more interested in that than they were in actually loving and helping people.
In other words, they disconnected their worship experience from their actual lives and relationships, and that’s a bad thing.
There’s a very simple counsel from Scripture about how to begin to incorporate praise into your constant, ordinary, moment-to-moment, everyday life.
The psalmist says:
Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)
Everyone can taste, can’t they?
I broke my jaw when I was younger playing basketball and had to have it wired shut.
I went three weeks without solid food. I would drink protein shakes and Jamba Juice.
Then I realized I could taste things like mashed potatoes and gravy by mixing them up enough that I could drink it through a straw.
Oh, wow! Oh, wow! After not eating solid food for a couple weeks, mashed potatoes and gravy tasted so good.
It turns out tasting is not automatic. It turns out it’s not something to which I am entitled and over which I am in control. It’s a gift.
The sun comes up. It did it again.
The smile of a friend. You didn’t create that person.
Clothes to wear, maybe, and food to eat, maybe, and a bed to sleep in, maybe.
Other people do not have them not because I am more deserving than they.
Taste and see.
A job to work at, maybe, and how we complain!
A healthy child, maybe.
The Scriptures to make us wise.
The Holy Spirit to live in us and to inspire and enlighten us.
The life in the teachings and the presence of Jesus Christ to be our friend.
Taste and see. Taste and see. Taste and see.
It is a gift, but you have to practice.
So put a stake in the ground now. — You have to learn how. You have to wake up. You have to taste and see that the Lord is good.
4. In worship, we choose joy.
In worship, we will choose joy. We will live in joy.
Paul was in trouble. Paul was in chains. Paul was facing death when he wrote these words.
“Rejoice in the Lord occasionally.” Is that what he says?
“Rejoice in the Lord when something really goes your way. When you wake up looking terrific, your hair is fabulous, you get a raise at work, and you win the lottery.
Rejoice in the Lord always.
Says Paul who knows all about suffering and pain and hardship and loss and death.
Then, just in case someone didn’t understand that he meant it, he says:
I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
This call to joy from a good and powerful God runs all through Scripture.
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad. (Psalm 96:11)
One day, the trees of the field will clap their hands. I’d like to be there for that.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11)
Taste and see. Taste and see. Taste and see.
Let me ask you. How much does it take? How full does your cup have to be for it to produce joy and delight in you?
There’s a Volkswagen commercial I just love right now because of a little girl laughing. I want you to see it.
Video: Volkswagen commercial with little girl laughing
I was reading an article this week that said the average 4-year-old laughs 300 times a day.
The average 40-year-old laughs four times a day.
What happens to us? Does the world become less beautiful?
What if children are right? What if existence itself (your life right now) is a God-created miracle filled with so much wonder that gratitude and delight could be running through us like blood in our veins.
And it is our sin, and our fear, and our lack of faith in God’s ultimate power that makes us old and sad and ungrateful and withered in our spirits?
Maybe that’s why Jesus said, “…unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Oh, wow! You and I are headed for eternal joy…
“You are worthy! You are worthy! You are worthy!”
Taste and see.
You and I are headed for eternal joy that is so powerful that the laugh of that little child is just a tiny little glimpse of it.
I wonder if you’ve made the choice to become like a child that Jesus invites us to.
Part of the deal about worship is we all worship something or someone. To be human makes that inescapable.
You will give your ultimate allegiance and your ultimate devotion to something.
It might be money.
It might be a job.
It might be your appearance.
It might be your reputation.
You will on purpose or by accident… for better or for worse.
I want to challenge you today to offer your ultimate worship to God because your biggest wow moment (whoever you are and whatever impressive things you have done) lies before you.
I mentioned earlier Steve Job’s most amazing words came later on in life, his sister said.
He was, like all human beings, a mass of complexities with amazing gifts. He could also be a difficult person.
He suffered through cancer. His biographer writes that he went through 67 nurses to find three he liked. He was a guy with high standards.
When they brought him an oxygen mask, he loved beauty of design so much that, even though he was deeply sedated, he ripped the oxygen mask off because he said it was too ugly for him to wear, and they had to bring him five options of oxygen masks for him to select one.
After he died, his sister, Mona (the one from New York), told this story at Stanford Chapel at his memorial service.
She said, “At the very end, as his breathing was becoming labored, lying in that bed, his family was gathered around him. He looked at his sister, and he looked at his children, and he looked at his wife, and Steve Jobs, this amazing life, spoke one last time, and he said, ‘Oh, wow! Oh, wow! Oh, wow!’ Then, he died.”
We don’t know what the words mean.
We don’t know if he was thinking about what was behind him with that extraordinary life or about what was before him.
We don’t know if he was being grateful or fearful, or if he saw something that no one else around him could see.
We just know his last words were, “Oh, wow! Oh, wow! Oh, wow!”
What I do know and what Jesus taught is that your ultimate wow lies before you.
Your final moment will come, and then the moment after that, and I hope you’re ready for that moment.
If you’ve never committed your life fully to Jesus, I want to invite you to do that today.
He lived to teach and show what life with God could be like in a human being.
“These things I have taught you that my joy might be in you,” he said. Then, he died uniquely on a cross for the forgiveness of the sins of the human race.
Then, he rose again for the promise of your hope (yours).
If you want to, you can confess your need for him, for him to forgive your sin, and make him your Savior and your friend.
There is no bigger wow moment for us as a church than when someone does that.
In fact, not just us, but Jesus says there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents. That’s the word of Jesus.
When a sinful human being humbles herself or himself, confesses their sin, receives forgiveness, makes Jesus their friend and forgiver forever, and crosses over from death to life, all of heaven says, “Oh, wow! Oh, wow! Oh, wow!”
God the Father himself says, “Oh, wow! Oh, wow!”
I want to invite you to your biggest, “Oh, wow,” moment this day.
And in a few weeks, after we move into our permanent home, we’ll be celebrating baptism.
You can email me and let me know you’d like to be a part of that. We will cheer you on.
I want to give all of us a moment to respond. I’ll ask the team to come back out.
In thinking about worship and expressing our hearts to God, I was reading last week about the difference between saying to someone, “Love you,” and “I love you.”
“Love you,” is often said in kind of a casual conversation or maybe between casual friends. I had a friend say it to me recently, but it wasn’t a real intimate statement.
“I love you,” is in a different category. “I love you.”
I can still remember the day when I said those words to Kathy for the first time.
This week, someone was actually telling me about a time when they were asked, “Have you ever said, ‘I love you,’ out loud to God?”
She said she had never said those words to God out loud, and so she did. It was kind of a vulnerable moment. It was kind of intimate.
She said that when she did her whole relationship with God changed.
“I love you, God. I love you, God. I love you, God. You are worthy.”
I want to give you a chance to say that to him today out loud. “I love you, God.”
Let me pray for you and then the worship team will lead us.
Blue Oaks Church