One thing that has changed in churches throughout the past couple decades is the transition from the use of the word praise to the use of the word worship. I know that in all the teams I have led, I make sure to use the word worship when referring to the songs, time, service, etc.
There’s nothing wrong with the word praise, but it’s just a glimpse into worship. According to dictionary.com, the word praise means the act of expressing approval and admiration. It's an act of worship.
Worship is reverent honor and homage paid to God; expressing that He is worthy. This worship does not always come out as praise. When you’re going through a difficult time, you most likely will not be expressing your approval or admiration of God. You’ll be crying out to Him and telling Him your confusion or frustration, but through it all, when worshiping, you’ll be proclaiming that He is worthy even when you don’t understand.
The Book of Psalms gives us this beautiful picture of worship, encompassing every emotion, and every type of worship. The Psalms aren’t just showing admiration, but so many, especially if you’re reading Book One, give us a picture into David’s heart which is full of lament. He seems to go from one trial to the next, but he never gives up trusting God or proclaiming that God is still in control. He continues to worship even when it’s hard to praise.
In addition to the psalms of praise (which we’ll call hymns) and psalms of lament, there are also psalms of thanksgiving, wisdom, and royal psalms. To learn more about these, read the blog 5 Types of Psalms. This variety gives a great picture of worship. God already knows our heart, so we should just come before Him honestly whether it be crying out, declaring His wisdom, or giving thanks.
I want to encourage you to remember these different types of psalms and the different emotions of worship the next time you are in a worship service or listening to a worship album. The songs or prayers may not be all praise and admiration, but will still be a picture of worship!
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
Being a teacher was hard. I was disappointed because I loved working with the high school kids at church and I loved writing and planning lessons. I didn’t expect that most days as a teacher would be a struggle to find joy, a struggle to persevere, and a struggle in wondering if I made the right career decision.
Sometimes, I attempted to vent and talk with people, but they couldn’t really understand. To them, teaching meant a secure job and summer vacation. I just needed to get over it and take the paycheck. Because of this, I didn’t often share my struggles with anyone.
But, God knew. Every day we would have a nice chat. He would listen to my venting and wonderings and I would sit and listen to Him and seek His wisdom and strength. I would grab a blanket, my Bible, and one of my many journals and settle in on the couch and start reading and writing. I know this time in my life is what has made me so passionate about prayer and prayer journaling.
Prayer is powerful. Prayer is healing. Prayer is a sacred privilege of communication with Almighty God. Have you experienced it? Has your life been impacted by leaning on God in any and every situation? (Philippians 4:6) If it has, I want to encourage you to remind yourself of that and not minimize the power and beauty of prayer. Remember, prayer is all about God and the gift of communicating with Him.
Unfortunately, sometimes the word prayer is minimized and misused for gossip or excuses. Have you ever heard someone say, “Did you hear what happened to so-and-so? Did you hear what they said? We need to pray for them.”
Friends, that’s not sharing a prayer request, that’s sharing gossip. In those times, we shouldn’t stop and pray for that person, but rather pray and ask God for forgiveness for falling into temptation.
Another instance when prayer is minimized is when it’s used as an excuse. “I’ve prayed about it and God told me to (fill in the blank).” For example, last week, I prayed about it and God said I should have cake and cookies for every meal (not with every meal, for every meal). If I say, “I prayed about it” that validates it as truth, right? Wrong! Just because you put the word prayer in front of your sentence or desire does not make it true.
The cake and cookies was a silly example, but let’s stick the word prayer in front of a couple other sentences. “I prayed about it and God told me I don’t need to serve,” or “I prayed about it and God said I don’t need to read my Bible anymore.” Honestly, those sound just as silly! Let’s face it, there are some things God wouldn’t say no matter how hard or often you prayed.
My challenge to you is to not only spend more time in prayer, but be more conscious of when you use the word prayer. Don’t minimize its value or sacredness! Be careful if you are sharing a prayer request. Ask yourself if it's necessary to share or if you just feel the urge to share it with someone. (The latter is gossip).
Also, if you don’t want to do something, just be honest with others. Don’t pretend like God told you to do or not do something. Oftentimes, there are many right answers to a situation. Don’t stick the word prayer in front of your decision to gain more clout. In addition, when you’re praying, make sure you are listening to what God is telling you, not simply listening for what you want him to tell you.
If you are someone who struggles to pray, I strongly encourage you to start a routine. Get a journal and find a special place to pray each day. Don’t let anything interrupt that time with you and God!
I had the privilege of running the sound booth last week for our Vacation Bible School, and it was a blast! It was such a joy to watch the kids as they listened to the Bible story, played games outside, and worked on their crafts together. But, the best part? Listening to them worship! They sang at the top of their lungs, danced along, and wanted to be as close to the stage as possible. Such a beautiful thing to witness.
I've led worship in some capacity for the past twelve years, and it always fills my heart to hear the kids worship whether it be at kids' events or during the regular worship service. No shame. No fear. I love it!
I think the most beautiful thing about hearing the kids worship is when we let them sing worship songs without watering down the Gospel or discounting how much they really know. Sure, the songs they sang last week were upbeat, had crazy hand motions, and train whistles throughout, but the kids were singing about how "the same power that rose Jesus from the grave lives in them." The kids didn't just learn some fun songs, they learned some biblical truths.
A few years ago, I heard of someone who said, "Kids need to learn the Sunday School songs from the past!" (i.e. The Books of the Bible, Father Abraham, I'm in the Lord's Army). Wait, what? So, you're saying that kids need to learn memorization tools and songs that can barely be traced to Scripture over modern worship songs? (Yeah, yeah, I know I stepped on some toes with that answer, but seriously...)
Parents and grandparents, my challenge to you is let your kids worship! Turn on the Christian radio, teach them hymns, let them be in the Sanctuary worshipping with the rest of the family, and evaluate what kind of worship you are pushing them towards. Sure, they can learn the kiddie songs too, but are they learning songs that teach them about the heart of God and teach them truths about Him? They are not the generation of the future, they are the generation of now! Let the children worship!
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7
As I'm writing this, there are about fifteen days left of 2020. Hooray! There are no promises that things will be easier at the beginning of next year, but won't it feel good to just be done with 2020? But, I want to encourage you to not waste these last few days! It might be tempting to write them off, knowing that the holidays will be different than any other year, or maybe you're disappointed as you look back and see all the goals that you didn't reach. Keep going strong!
When I was a teacher, one of my mottos at the end of every school year was "Finish Well." i was always exhausted after teaching for so many months with only a few breaks, and the end of the year meant finishing grades, cleaning the classroom for the summer months, finishing the yearbook, graduation, and more. I didn't want to do anything except relax, but I had to get things done, and I wanted to get them done well!
Maybe as you look back at 2020, you see all the bad, all the negativity, but take some time to focus on the positive things that happened. There has to be something good that happened in your life. You may have to dig deep, but look for the good.
As you look back, you may also see goals that you didn't reach. I know I set goals last January that with the stay-at-home orders, I honestly could not achieve. But, don't dismiss your goals! You have a few days to start on them or simply put them on your list 2021.
In a few months, let's look back at 2020 and say, "we have fought the good fight, we have finished the race, and we have kept the faith!"
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
So, you're sitting in your kitchen, and your friend comes over. You want to be a good hostess so you offer her a cup of something cold to drink. You open the cupboard, grab a clean pitcher and a glass, and start to pour, right? No. First, you have to fill up the pitcher with water, ice, and maybe even some iced tea or drink mix, and then you pour. This is pretty obvious. If you didn't do this, you'd just be giving her a glass of air. So, why do we try to pour ourselves out in serving before we fill ourselves up?
Serving is good. Helping others is good. But, you can spend sixty plus hours of your week serving and helping without spending a minute of time in prayer and in God's Word. Anyone can serve. Anyone can donate money to a good cause, but if we're serving for serving's sake, we're missing the point.
In the story of Mary and Martha, it says that preparations had to be made. Jesus doesn't say that serving and preparing were bad things to do, He just says that the better thing to do, the best thing to do, was to sit and spend time with Him. Martha was so worried about getting everything done, but don't you think if she were to sit with Mary and listen to Jesus for awhile, that He would be faithful to help them get everything done? All the preparations would be made, and they wouldn't be embarrassed or lacking as hostesses? After all, he fed thousands with minimal food and had some to spare.
If we serve or help others, we should do it because it's the right thing to do, but we should also do it to point them to Christ and His unconditional love for them. If we're not taking care of ourselves and our spiritual growth, it's going to be really hard to speak truth when the opportunity arises.
On the other hand, if we're filling, filling, filling, without ever trying to pour ourselves out in serving others, we're growing closer to God, but we're missing one of His main points in loving others. We're learning, but not applying. We need to find the balance between serving and seeking.
As you examine your life, here are some questions to ask yourself to see if you are keeping a good balance. Some may be a little difficult to digest, but we need to be honest with ourselves.
As I'm writing this, we're in the middle of a pandemic and everything is weird right now, but I want to encourage you to not use this as an excuse. Honestly, your balance of serving and seeking may be a little off right now, but take some to examine and see if you can fix it at all, if needed. Stuck at home a lot? Listen to sermons, read your Bible, spend time in prayer. Ready to put some serving back in your life? Start small. Find a simple, uncompromising way to serve yet stay safe and healthy. Trust me, there is somewhere you can serve if you just look!