We are excited to be able to present this 7 part series by Wayne & Libby Huirua formerly of the Praise & Worship Group Parachute Band. He & his wife Libby lead worship at Equippers Church in Aukland, New Zealand. This will be a great church building resource. We pray that it provides a great understanding of worship as we draw closer to him.
FOUNDATIONS 1: Wayne Huirua
The massive increase of the worship music industry in recent years has led to a perceived redefinition of the term ‘worship’ – particularly amongst younger churchgoers. The very thing designed to help us focus on Christ can itself easily become the focus of our attention. It is important therefore that we establish a correct definition of worship and it’s purpose within the church, so we may ensure our focus remains on he alone that is worthy of all worship – The Lord Jesus Christ.
1. At the heart of worship is SACRIFICE
Genesis 22: 1-12 The first mention of the word worship in the Bible relates to the story of Abraham and Isaac.
Vs 5 “Stay here with the donkey”, Abraham told the young men, “and the lad and I will travel yonder and worship and then come right back” (TLB)
God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, his son through whom God had promised an entire nation! Nearing the end of his life, obedience to this command meant sacrificing not only his son but also his hope for the future, his dreams, his desires, his entire existence – in short, all that he held most dear. To his servants, Abraham describes this decision to obey and sacrifice simply as worship.
This story illustrates a most important principle: at the heart of worship is SACRIFICE. What greater sign of devotion can we give to the one we adore, than to sacrifice that which is dearest to us? For Abraham it was his beloved son Isaac, a great sacrifice indeed for any parent. However the Lord does not require anything of us that He himself has not already given.
John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only beloved Son…”
Years later, God went through the same anguish that Abraham went through but where Abraham was spared the final act, God carried it through to completion. He actually did sacrifice his son therefore we can be assured he understands the gravity of that which he asks of us. He also knows that for us as humans, the process is not complete without struggle, for how worthy is our sacrifice if it costs us nothing! God is not disappointed in us should we struggle with something he asks of us; he expects it of us as human beings. It is the end decision that counts. Christ Himself struggled intensely in the Garden of Gethsemane, “If it be possible, take this cup from me.. but then in one line, summed up for mankind the definition of true worship and wrote the greatest worship song ever written., yet not my will but yours be done” (Matthew 26: 39).
His final decision was to give Himself fully to the Fathers will trusting in His eternal purposes. Surely this is the heart of true worship. Following His example, we surrender ourselves in faith as an act of worship to God.
Romans 12:1 “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship”.
2. An expression of emotional intimacy
In the New Testament, there are seven words used for worship. Most of them are used only once or twice. One of them is used 66 times. It is a word that means ‘a very intimate gesture’. It can be translated, ‘to come toward to kiss the hand – a token of reverence’.
Worship is not just cold blind devotion to a non-personal God; it is a perfect blend of reverence, fear, sacrifice, obedience and emotional intimacy. Several times in the New Testament the Lord refers to us as his bride. It is the perfect analogy to describe our relationship with the father. A marriage has, at its foundation, principles of commitment, loyalty, trust, destiny and indeed sacrifice, but it also has the other side, the side that involves the emotions, feelings, affection and adoration. It cannot be based on feeling alone but without it lacks fire, passion and motivation.
This side of our relationship with God is often downplayed, sometimes even scorned, but it is absolutely essential, even commanded!
Matthew 22:37 “Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment’”.
Worship is the intimate expression of our love for Him. We can view this aspect as the romance of our relationship with him.
God’s purpose for us is to have an intimate, loving relationship with Him. Our response to God, in light of His desire for us, is our worship to Him. It suddenly becomes so much more than just singing and music, but the very outworking and outpouring of every aspect of our lives.
These two definitions of worship are both essential in our walk with the Lord. Sacrificial devotion and service, along with intimate loving adoration.
Herein lies the reason we use music and other emotional tools. To help develop this emotional aspect of our relationship with the Father.
Emotion plays a big part in our relationship with God. Let’s not try to deny it by declaring it ‘non-spiritual’ and therefore unreliable and useless, or be irresponsible with it and try to make it the basis for our faith, but like all things, bring it into submission to the Lord and use it to bring glory to His name.
Worship incorporates both sacrifice and emotion. With this in mind we ask ourselves two questions:
1) Does our worship ultimately help lead people towards greater sacrifice of their lives to God?
2) Does our worship communicate effectively in the emotional realm?
These two questions will guide us as we seek to improve our structures, our teams, our skills and ultimately our worship.
3.Music: an emotional tool
1) Just as romance in a marriage must be developed and maintained, so also the emotional intimacy between God and ourselves can and should be developed and sustained. One of the many tools we use to help us with this is music.
2) People are more likely to make changes in their lives if they are moved emotionally rather than intellectually.
3) Music is a powerful and effective tool to be used as part of the larger vision of the Church, to draw people closer to the Lord. We need to be realistic and intelligent with our strategic use of music.
4) Music is amoral, in other words it can be used for good or bad purposes. It is an emotional tool, not a spiritual one, even though we know it can lead to a spiritual result. The spiritual effect depends more on our motive and heart and purpose for using it, than the music itself. Perpetuating a wrong belief can lead to unnecessary fear of secular music or unjustified laziness in Christian music.
5) 1 Chronicles 25 tells us of the story of David setting up the Temple Music.
vs 7 “Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman reported directly to the King. They and their families were all trained in singing praises to the Lord; each one – 288 of them in all – was a MASTER MUSICIAN”
Music is an emotional tool and because of this, it is subject to such things as SKILL, FEEL, TASTE, OPINION and CLICHE. If it does not move the listener emotionally, there is no point in using it.
6) God responds to hearts reaching out to him. Our hearts are helped to do this with the use of emotional aids like music. It is our feelings and thoughts toward God that is the substance of our worship. We choose to use music to help us but the responsibility is ours. Our worship leaders and teams are there to help us but they cannot be held responsible if we do not worship.
7) Sometimes we are tempted to come into a time of worship with the expectation of getting a nice warm ‘buzz’ or ‘spiritual fix’ for the day or week, and if we do not experience this we are disappointed. Surely we would be better to judge a worship time by how God feels at the end of it, rather than how we feel. Do we enter into this time with the focus on getting our own needs met or genuinely to worship the Lord? Our needs are not the focus, but in God-centered worship, we find they are met as a by-product of keeping our eyes off ourselves and onto Him. As the Word assures us “If you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you” (James 4:7)
8) Despite our circumstances and situations, He is God and deserves to be worshiped and exalted for no other reason than He is worthy of it!
Although it seems unnatural to put aside ones feelings when experiencing difficulties I believe nothing touches the heart of God more than the self-less worship of His children in the midst of trial. It moves Him to compassion because to do this requires faith and God always responds to faith. Again, our worship becomes an act of sacrifice.
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