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Monday, June 22, 2009
Is your worship reaching God?

How would you know?

Seriously. . . . . what would be the signs? Please respond in the comment field.

*This is not a right-wrong answer kind of question, but one that is searching for some pondering and reflection. Take a stab at it.


posted by John David Walt | at 6/22/2009 08:31:00 AM



Blogger SarahCatherineNoel said...

I think often, especially during worship services, we connect authentic or powerful worship with a feeling of some sort, not always a high but more like a sense that God is close and is moving. Personally I get frusterated when I am in a funk and feel like I cannot connect to God in this way. I believe that even through my funks that God sees me and my worship. Worship is not about music, song, dance or even feelings, it is about our posture towards God. If we seek God before anything else, that is worship and how can God not receive his child reaching out to him? It is about where our heart is, not what we do or what we feel.

9:50 PM EDT  
Blogger Mark Benjamin said...

So I'll come out of hiding and take a stab at this one.

First, let me just state the obvious - or what should be obvious given the incredible lack of meaning we put into most of our corporate gathering of worship - God is incredibly Kind.

I mean this with all seriousness. I believe that Jesus is trying all throughout the gospels (and today) to reveal to us the true nature of the Father. Or heal our distorted image of God. For example the over-accepting embrace and celebration at the prodigals return in Luke 15, or the crazy farmer who pays people who work an hour the same as people who work all day in Matthew 20. It seems that with God it is impossible to step outside the reach of this love. His nature seems to be "over-accepting."

So call me a simpleton, but I believe when we come to him with any sincerity at all, or even when we come wrapped filthy in a disguised false-self, he seems to delight to reveal himself to those who seek Him. Perhaps there in lies a key ingredient of worship - to believe that He not only wants to, but delights to meet with us. And further, that He not only wants to, but enables us to come in and feast - to participate - to be wrapped up in the Father-Son operation through the Spirit. Even though we don't deserve it. So perhaps even our frail efforts reach God more often than we think.

Secondly, I'd like to speak for a moment about vulnerability. I recently met with a brilliant and beautiful man from Ireland who has a profound gift for leading people in inner healing. I was struck by the simple beauty of a phrase he sometimes asks people when they uncover a place within that needs healing. "Now are you willing to allow the Lord Jesus to come and meet you at that place of need?"

I'm often amazed at how seldom it is that we address real human suffering and need in our places of worship. Why would we be convinced that our trials and suffering matter to God on an individual basis, yet seldom seem to bring our real pain to the real God in the open places of worship? I think our sincere pleas for help do not go unnoticed to God.

I believe there are certain things that move the heart of God (or reach God) in worship (or perhaps endless amounts of things) but let me name a few more...

I believe that when the nature and character of God is revealed in worship in a meaningful way, that God is moved.

I believe when we remember the mighty acts of God, or the Story of God captures our imagination, that the Word becomes living and active in our midst. Take for example what Paul says to the Thessalonians, "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe." (1 Thess 2:13)

Perhaps one of the clearest "signs" of true worship ought to be lasting fruit over time, rather than individual assessment of one worship service . To occasionally stop and ask what is the measure of our worship together? Can we see any lasting fruit here? Are people laying down their lives in love for the world?

Ok, ok, so how would you know if our worship was reaching God? Well, like I've been saying, I believe it reaches God often, and am often more curious if it reaches us? Are we being formed in a meaningful way in worship?

11:54 PM EDT  
Blogger Mark Benjamin said...


So here is where I step out on a limb a little and say that I think experience is very important. I'm a big fan of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral - scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. I believe that we need not shy away from acknowledging a real experience of the Holy Spirit, but must balance our experiences with the witness and accounts to the church across history. As well, we must use our intellect, and we must utilize the Word.

While I do think we have had much abuse & emotionalism around these areas, we can't afford to cast out an authentic Christian experience and witness of the work of the Holy Spirit. Back to Thessalonians for a moment, "For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction." (1 Thess 1:4)

In my opinion, we who hail from more conservative churches have too often gone the route of fearing authentic experience of the Holy Spirit. We often try to have our worship be very relevant, and rational. Very ordered, predictable, and controlled. We therefore, often lose a sense of the awe and mystery that ought to accompany worshiping our creator.

I tend to think we need a little less being afraid of the Lord and a little more fear of the Lord - reverent awe.

Lastly, I want to make a comment on our apparent dis-ease with silence and solitude. I will turn to a quote in an interview with Brennan Manning where he was asked why he thinks most Christians in America understand God's love conceptually and not experientially. He responds, "to maintain and sustain the awareness of God’s loving presence, the awareness that right this moment as we’re talking, that each of us are being seen with a gaze of infinite tenderness. I think the reason that so many of us Christians don’t—are not aware of that is because we decide the price is too high and the cost, of course, is silence and solitude where we just show up, shut up, and our prayer becomes primarily listening."

And because it is now obvious to all that I read 1 Thessalonians today I will end with this..."Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thess 5:16)

11:55 PM EDT  
Blogger John David Walt said...

is that THE Mark Benjamin??? ;-)

12:16 PM EDT  
Blogger John David Walt said...

Sarah-- "it is about our posture towards God," it's interesting that many of the words for worship in the Bible are related to posture.

and mark-- i most resonate with your response having to do with whether people are actually doing something in love for others. i guess for me that's my answer--- the only way to know my worship is reaching God is to live a life of self-giving love.

is it sincerity-- the mark of whether our worship reaches God? Can't sincerity be quite self deceptive masking a self-indulgent sentimentality? again-- how would I know my worship is reaching God-- if I feel sincere about it? i'm not convinced.

two people can go through the exact same motions-- have the same basic feelings and be at opposite ends of the spectrum as relates to a virtuous life--- can't they?

maybe this is not a helpful question.

but these are ultimate kinds of dynamics that I believe are at the very heart of worship--- ones worship leaders must be attentive to or at the very least curious about. that's what I appreciate about these posts.


10:08 PM EDT  
Anonymous Rahel said...

I had to think of these verses from Amos 5:
21 I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. 22 Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them : neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. 23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. 24 But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Hm...yes that's also my answer :-)
I believe when we constantly press forward in our walk of righteousness our worship will reach God. And on this way we can make mistakes, but it must be the attitude of our hearts to stand up again and go on pressing forward.

5:48 PM EDT  
Anonymous Rahel said...

Oh, I forgot a part.
I wanted to say, that if we do so, we can -know- that our worship reaches God. Then it's less of what we feel in a set worship time, but it's the faith that it is so.
The signs we see in our daily life...when we act righteous.

2:19 AM EDT  
Blogger ode2immortality said...

Psa. 51:16-17

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

-That's my contribution. Lot's of good stuff, especially from Mark The-Internet-Recluse Benjamin!

3:21 PM EDT  
Blogger D. said...

I will also come out from under the rug on this one.

The first thing that came to mind is that every form of worship is liturgy, the work of the people. While this can be interpreted many different ways, I would say our worship, our liturgy, our work is reaching God when it is reaching others. I do not mean this in a hyper-evangelistic sense, but in the everyday, being-Jesus-to-people sense. If our worship is reaching God, then God will in turn be sending the Spirit to reach us so that we can reach those the Father so longs to include in the Divine Embrace.
I think we quench the Spirit when we leave a worship where God is reached and reaching, and then fail to engage in the liturgy of life.

4:35 PM EDT  
Blogger Kendra said...

My favorite moments are when God responds in a personal way by answering prayer in ordering events, meeting needs, showing me truth. When this happens, I know my worship is reaching Him because I can grasp that He is responding to me. His calling for me often means adjusting to new places and being apart from family. So it's extra special when He pauses to look me in the face, in a sense. Recognition. Affirmation. Value.

But I like that we mentioned serving others, too. In those moments, He meets their needs. When your heart and mind are wrapped around that, He looks you in the face at that moment, too. He sees just as closely because you are concerned for someone else's needs as if they were your own. And you feel flattered in the same way as if He did it for your needs.

That's as deep as I get tonight. Probably the result of watching Princess Protection Program on Disney. Cheese in, cheese out.

10:42 PM EDT  
Anonymous Dawn Windle said...

I believe if we worship Him on a daily basis in everything that we do...we will reach Him! We will start being more God-centered rather than self-centered.

During worship services, I believe we will know because we will not leave that service unchanged. True worship ushers in the very presence of God and in the presence of God...troubles vanishes and hearts are mended...we won't leave the same way we came in if we truly worship God Almighty with every thing that we have!

10:24 AM EDT  
Blogger Team Reporter said...

Perhaps the other side of the discussion is not only about what I do but about what He has done and, dare I say, His service to us! In other words, ultimately, worship is not about our posture or anything about us, it's about Him, the objective reason we express our hearts and employ our bodies.

"Is my worship reaching God?" could also be discussed in the reverse - is Christ reaching me? He came to serve and give his life as a ransom for the many. Yes, we come to the Throne of Grace not to do anything but to receive the mercy and grace we need. We can also honor Jesus when we stop trying to "GIVE Him all the glory" and just receive the glory he now shares in his Ascension, his magnificence, ruling over the cosmos.

Perhaps stunned by his majesty would be appropriate but doing anything in that stunned state would be missing out. There can be lots of law mixed in with our worship: I will, I bless, I praise. Also, there must be an acknowledgment of receiving ... isn't this the message of the Eucharist? Receiving his Body and Blood. Wow, now that's worship! Thought not entirely complete, this is an often neglected perspective in our performance-driven church.

Love all of you out there who are being sought after by the Source of all Love, Glory, Honor, Power, Might and Dominion. As Mendy Smith sings, Come to Jesus! Keep on comin'!

5:06 PM EDT  
Anonymous Dawn Windle said...

I don't know if I agree with you at all team reporter? I guess I will have to study 'worship' a little more.

It is like you are contradicting yourself...you said it's about Him, but how can it be about Him when we are receiving? Worship in the dictionary says, "adoring reverence or regard" AND "the object of adoring reverence or regard" AND "a title of honor used in addressing or mentioning certain magistrates and others of high rank or station". THOSE ARE NOUN USAGES. NOW FOR THE VERB USAGES "to render religious reverence and homage to" AND "to feel an adoring reverence or regard for".

In my own studying of 'worship' it is TO the object of our affection NOT us receiving from the object of our affection

Like JD said, it is not a right or a wrong comment....I will just have to do more studying for myself...maybe I am missing something....

12:15 AM EDT  
Anonymous Dawn Windle said...

JD will you please comment on Team Reporter's comment? What is your take on it? What have you find in your study of 'worship' or experienced?

12:17 AM EDT  
Blogger John David Walt said...

ok-- so i think you all are closer than you may realize in your thoughts. you seem each to be looking at a different side of the same coin.

worship is about an exchange for sure-- a divine-human exchange of love. there is no reciprocity though.

yes-- we come to give, but only because we have been first given to.

i agree that there is no higher, clearer and yet mysterious revelation of the reality of true worship than the Eucharist itself.

there is a sense in which our worship is both to God and from God. the Spirit awakens us and incorporates us together into the Body of Christ and animates our praise.

rather than giving and receiving language, or being-doing language, i like to think about worship in "beholding & becoming" language.

make sense? and thanks so much for the wrestling here. it's really refreshing.

8:07 AM EDT  
Anonymous Dawn Windle said...

Thanks JD! Yes that does make sense! I appreciate this comment, because it makes a person dig deep in thoughts and in their experiences. Hopefully there will be many more of these. May God bless you abundantly!

8:54 AM EDT  
Blogger Team Reporter said...

Beholding and becoming is wonderful description of encountering this Marvelous Light, our Lord Jesus. My input on 'receiving' was intentionally offered due to the lack of understanding and incorporation in common Protestant worship modes, new and old.

Think about Jesus' response to Peter about his resistance to the Lord washing his feet. There's something much deeper here than mere externals. Again, Jesus didn't come to be served but to serve. Most of us don't see him as the present Servant King in his Ascension - our Great High Priest. His work of redemption continues to be an act of the highest service ... washing us, cleansing us, forgiving us, sanctifying us, etc.

We must receive this via grace through faith. A mere performance-driven response would be similar to Peter's refusal. We all want to do something to repay such great love. In order to give anything in return, we must first receive. We love because he first loved us.

Here's where the sweet smelling savor begins to arise ... upon receiving his daily mercies (which is an act of honoring him as Lord, Savior, Great High Priest), we return bodily and verbal thanks, praise, adoration ... beholding and becoming.

Just a few more thoughts before I'm off to work! Thanks for the dialog. Behold and Become - love that Pauline view of gazing and reflecting his beauteous glory.

9:07 AM EDT  

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