Tag Archives: music

Worship Defined

What is Worship?

Though this is not the first post on my blog about worship, this is the first Wednesday Worship post. Because worship music is a passion of mine, I hope to use this weekly category to cover some of the myths and truths about how we do worship in the Church.

BCC Worship prep
Part of worship, yes.
All there is to worship? No.

Since we usually mean “singing and playing music” when we talk about worship, that’s going to be the main focus. But there is much more to worship than just the songs we perform on Sunday morning.

So what is worship?

Merriam-Webster gives a few applicable definitions:

1. reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also: an act of expressing such reverence.

2. a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual

As a verb, it is to perform an act of devotion, honor, or reverence based on the above.

The word comes from the concept of “worth” or “worthiness.” It’s an act that says “You are worth this much to me.”

That goes way beyond mere singing and playing music, doesn’t it?

So, what is worship?

In a way, it’s everything we do, to the extent that we do it for God’s glory. Worship is our expression of God’s worth, of our respect and honor and reverence for Him.

If I do a good job at work because I believe I am to work as unto the Lord, my work becomes worship.

If I bite my tongue instead of biting off my co-worker’s head because I realize that God calls me to forgive others and treat them with love, that is worship.

When we cheerfully give in the offering plate or cheerfully meet the needs of others, we are worshiping God as much as when we sing hymns and songs of praise.

When I have no words to say, let alone sing, and I simply fall to my knees before God, pouring out my heart’s burden of grief or sorrow, that is worship.

Paul tells us that living our lives as sacrifices offered to God is our spiritual act of worship.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1 NASB)

The Messageparaphrase puts it this way:

A Lead Worshiper
Worship is service as much (if not more) than it is singing

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

There’s definitely a place for singing and playing music as an expression of our hearts and of God’s worth. And that will occupy the spotlight in my future posts about worship, because that’s an important part of who I am and what I’m gifted to do.

But I want to be clear from the outset about what worship really is.

Because if you think about it, and you trust what the Bible reveals about God, then there’s a lot more He wants from us than a song and dance at church.

These thoughts make me consider the following questions:

  • In what ways do I enjoy worshiping God?
  • In what ways can I improve?
  • Is there any part of my “everyday, ordinary… walking-around life” that is not placed before God?
  • How can I more fully embrace all that God does for me?

Use Your Words!

Just do it carefully, it’ll be fine!

Sometimes you know exactly what you want to say, but you can’t quite find the words.

(Usually they come to you ten minutes after the conversation in which you wanted to use them.)

Add in a language barrier, and you’re in trouble!

In 14 years living in Japan, I utterly failed at learning to speak Japanese. I say this to my shame. It would have made for so many better interactions with the Okinawan and Japanese people I and my family encountered during our time there.

The one thing I learned to do was to sing songs in church in Japanese. We had a number of songs that had been translated, and we were given the “rumaji” — Japanese words in romanized alphabet, like this:

Shuyo ten wo hiraki ima chiwo yusabiri

I studied Vietnamese (and later Chinese), so I understood the importance of getting the pronunciation right. I learned to hold the ‘n’ the length of an additional syllable, like “te-n” in the example above. I tried really hard to imitate the “r” that sounds more like a soft “d” or “l” (hence the racial stereotypes about eating flied lice and such).

At first, I was nervous. How am I going to sing and not understand what I’m saying? Won’t everyone tell immediately what a pretender I am?

But the chance for our Okinawan and Japanese members to sing in their own language brought them so much joy that I quickly overcame my fears. Maybe I sounded like “Engrish” to them, but they welcomed my attempts and we worshiped together.

My wife and I played a special set of songs for a Women’s Conference, and the first two songs were strictly English. The Okinawans seemed to enjoy it; they clapped, they smiled, they lifted hands, and so on. But when we started singing Matt Redman’s Blessed Be Your Name, I had a Japanese copy prepared. We got to the pre-chorus, and I sang out, “…When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say…”

Shu no mina o homeyo…

There was a visible and near tangible wave of emotional reaction. The ladies’ faces lit up with joy and gratitude at the chance to sing their words, and not the words of another.

I want to create moments like that as often as possible.

At one point, I wrote a song that was popular in our church, but we wanted to make it available to others on the mainland. I was able to find a translator–oddly enough a tall Scandanavian girl named Naomi who spoke fluent Japanese–and we worked together to find the right phrases.

That word… I don’t think it means
What you think it means.

A lot of songs get translated, but the words don’t always match up to the original, or in the effort to make a perfect translation, too much gets shoved into the timing of the music.

Naomi talked about how a lot of translated songs bothered her, because the two sets of lyrics really didn’t communicate the same message.

Ours did.

It wasn’t possible to get a word-for-word translation, but I had Okinawans tell me, “I was really happy to hear that the English and Japanese matched up so well.”

When I studied Chinese Mandarin, I had an idea for a song, and again I aimed to get it right. I love singing in another language, providing people the opportunity to worship in the familiar, in what they understand.

This is our Savior and King, the righteous Lamb of God slain for us.

This is our God, who calls us to Himself and makes our relationship possible.

This is a message I want to get right in any language.

我的神 / Wo de Shen (Link to SoundCloud where you can listen to the song)

你是我的神
在你的面前
因你的伟大
我只好跪下
你不但是神
也是我的王
你让我过来
因此我崇拜

耶稣 哦 耶稣
神的公议羔羊
耶稣 我的救主
你是我爱的王

Lord, You are my God
Here before Your face
I can only kneel
Because You are so great

Not only are You God,
You also are my King
It’s You that I revere,
for You’ve called me to draw near

Jesus, oh Jesus
Righteous Lamb of God
Jesus, my Savior
You are the King I love

You Stoop Down

Ever thought of a piggy-back ride from the Creator of the Universe?

Let strong arms and steady shoulders lift you higher than the level you’re used to

There’s a verse in Psalms that talks about God’s gentleness and humility making us successful. There’s something powerful about the thought of Him lowering Himself in order to pick us up and bring us up to a new level. That’s not pride speaking; it’s not saying, “Look at me, I’m awesome, I’m important, God is lifting me up.”

God is the One choosing to do the lifting. Not me.

It’s not about my merit; it’s about His grace.

“You protect me with your saving shield,
You support me with your right hand,
You have stooped to make me great.” Psalm 18:35 NCV

I wrote a song based on that last phrase, called You Stoop DownThe link brings up a SoundCloud window with the music.

You stoop down to make me great

This I cannot comprehend

God of heaven and of earth

You chose me as Your friend

 

You stoop down to lift me up

This I cannot understand

Exalted over all the earth

You hold me in Your hand

 

Jesus the humble King

You gave Your life for me

To give me hope

Now I will sing

Of all You’ve done for me

 

You stoop down to save the lost

Redeeming people with Your blood

Reaching out to sinful men

To bring us near to God

 

You stoop down to meet with us

As we sing our songs of love

Simple though our praise may be

It’s You we’re singing of

Rain Over Me

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
Reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the Lord,
Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12 NJKV

Rain Over Me – SoundCloud

I was playing Hide and Seek with my kids the other day. They’re quite talented, but I excel at cheating. While I was counting, I kept messing up… skipping numbers, counting past the agreed upon number, forgetting what number I was on.

That way, I got them to talk and tell me I was doing it wrong.

And them talking told me roughly where they were hiding.

Jonathan is the sneakiest of the bunch. Deborah and Justin do pretty good at hiding, but Jonathan–it’s like he can fold himself up into a little cube and hide anywhere. He’s a ninja.

True story: When he was seven years old, we had the following conversation:

“Dad, I think I want to be a scientist who studies rocks when I grow up.  …or maybe a ninja.”

“Jonathan, that’s really neat. But being a ninja is hard.”

“I think I’d make a great ninja.”

“Really? Why is that?”

“Well… Ninjas have to be good at climbing, and I’m great at climbing. I climb the trees around our house better than any of the other kids.”

I knew this to be true.

“And ninjas have to be good at sneaking, and I’m great at sneaking. I was hiding in the bushes right next to my friend, and he didn’t even know I was there!”

He thinks for a moment.

“Ninjas have to be good at martial arts, too. I have to work on that.”

Back to Hide and Seek… Jonathan lurks in a cabinet. Jonathan climbs up on the shelves above the refrigerator. Jonathan squeezes himself into a small cabinet at the bottom of our entertainment center. It’s ridiculous how easily he hides anywhere he wants.

Then it’s my turn to hide, and I decide to have some fun. Justin (our seven year old) is now the “seeker,” so I make it easier on him. I try stuffing myself into the cabinet where Jonathan hid. Sadly, I’m a little pudgy compared to him, and so try as I might, I can’t quite fit in there. My head is sticking out.

But the point of Hide and Seek is to be found. That’s part of the fun.

In his book, God Chasers, Tommy Tenney writes about hide and seek with his daughters (if memory serves). And he equates the game of hide and seek to our relationship with God.

There are times when we seek God but He seems hidden, far removed, silent. Tenney talks about how he stays hidden while his daughters are enjoying the game, but there comes a point where they become desperate. Maybe Daddy has really left. Maybe he’s not here anymore. Maybe I’m all alone. 

Their tears start to flow and their laughter turns to crying. And the heart of the father is stirred to make himself known, to burst out of hiding and rush to the child, to catch them up in his arms and reassure them that “I have been here all along. I would never leave you nor forsake you.”

Tenney talks about that cry of desperate need and how it catches the Father’s heart and, in a way, commands His attention.

Can you imagine God that way? Can you see the loving Father who sometimes hides His face? Can you picture the tug on His heart when we become desperate and cry out for Him? Can you see the “Hider” turning into the “Seeker” as He rushes to scoop us up and reassure us that all will work out, everything will be fine? Can you hear Him whisper, “It’s okay, I am here. I never left you, even though you didn’t know where I was.”

Hosea 10:12 was a theme verse for our church back in 2001 (if memory serves).  We really focused on the thought that God is out there just waiting to be found, and as we live out righteousness and experience His lovingkindness and mercy, as we break up the hard ground of our hearts in our desperation for Him, we can trust that He will turn and respond to our cries. He will come and rain down His righteousness upon us.

“Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you.”

“Seek the Lord while He may be found.”

“It is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness upon you.”

We seek God, calling out to Him… until we discover He is coming toward us — the father running out to meet the prodigal child — ready to embrace us and pour out His love on us again.

I always want to surrender to that love. I always want the “ground” of my heart to be broken up, softened, ready for His work. I always want Him to come and pour out the rain of His Spirit over me.

Rain Over Me

You are all I need

Jesus, You’re my everything

You’re the One I’ll seek

For all my life

 

Your all-sufficiency

Answers my dependency

Your unfailing love

Is now my life

 

I will seek You with the rising sun

And serve You till the day is done

Jesus, every day I’ll praise Your name

I will follow You in righteousness

To know Your lovingkindness

Seeking You until I catch Your heart

And You rain over me

 

Rain over me, rain over me

(repeat)

 

Seven

No, I’m not thinking of the Brad Pitt / Morgan Freeman Seven(or Se7en, as it’s apparently called on IMDB)… although I do like that movie.

Justin doing… yeah, I don’t really know what that is, but he does it a lot.

I’m thinking of this crazy guy…

Yesterday was Justin’s 7th birthday, and we got to celebrate with some presents from his grandparents and from us. We also nommed some cake and ice cream, and I also had time to sit and think about Justin.

More than any of the others, Justin is our “Family Circus” child. By that I mean I can picture him bouncing around and running around leaving some little dotted trail over furniture and walls and fences and cars as he unleashes his pent-up energy upon our neighborhood or house (or both).

But as is typical of children this age, he is serene while sleeping, and you can almost picture the glowing gold halo over his head.

Yeah, the one that morphs into horns and a pointed tail as soon as he wakes up.

I stopped in his room before going to work on Friday, to wish him happy birthday and spend a few minutes with him. Then I came home to ambulances and crashing and running around and insanity.

Then I added to it by giving him cake and ice cream and Lego sets.

But sure enough, bed time rolled around, and again, the spiral of destruction stops, the horns vanish, the halo reappears for a brief moment, and he crawls into bed, wrapped up in his blanket, grinning at the thought of playing Lego Batman 2 on the Xbox in the morning.

I played around on the piano a bit, trying to capture some of that transition throughout the day. I think the middle part could stand to be much more frenetic, to be true to the source of its inspiration. But I’m content with how it turned out.

Back to his birthday…

Justin’s favorite

He is absolutely insane about Angry Birds, so we got him some pencil toppers with his favorite bird. That present was the distraction, because he could see that one through the bag when we brought it into the house a few weeks ago.

I don’t know why Justin latched onto Angry Birds, but he sure did. I think he has them bouncing around in his head, smashing through ice and wood and stones, and crushing green pigs. I mean, it’s his favorite thing, that’s cool… but it goes from “I enjoy this hobby” to “I can talk about nothing else” most days.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?”
“I don’t know, Justin. Why?”
“BECAUSE ANGRY BIRDS.”

It’s pretty much like that all day long.

He also loves Lego, and there’s a red Ninjago ninja named Kai that apparently is the coolest thing ever. Justin has been asking/begging/pleading for the Kai’s Motorcycle set for quite some time. For a while, it disappeared off the local shelves, and that worked out really well for keeping him in suspense. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to get it for your birthday, Justin. The stores don’t have it.”

The ninja in question

Then we stopped by Target with him one day and they had about 80 of the sets on the shelf.

Still, we were able to sneak it past him by getting it on a different trip to the store while Deborah stayed home with the kids, so at least it was a genuine surprise.

He was ecstatic opening his presents, and Jonathan (11 years old) was picking on him, mimicking his outbursts. Jonathan’s too old to be all crazy about Legos or Angry Birds or any of that. You could almost hear the smug thoughts in his head: “Haha, look at the little brother freaking out about his favorite Lego set. Isn’t he quite energetic? How quaint.”

Justin ran off to put together Kai’s motorcycle, and came back with the included ad for other Ninjago sets, screaming, “AAAAH! They have a two-headed Lego dragon with THE GREEN NINJA!”

Guess who was rushing, wide-eyed, to take a look at this Lego set, and who flipped out when he saw that it was really a four-headed Lego dragon. “That set has Lord Garmadon and his son Lloyd Garmadon, who unleashed all the snakes. Look at that! They made a four-headed dragon out of all the other dragons, and it’s the Green Ninja’s dragon! That’s soooo cool!!!”

Four heads! Green ninja! $225 on Ebay!

Yeah, who’s laughing now, bud?

Hint: it’s your Mom and me.

Back to Justin…

Justin’s favorite thing from his grandparents is this realistic model ambulance toy with lights and sirens and all that a seven year old needs. He was driving that all over the place when I got home from work.

Yes, my parents got him noisy toys for his birthday.

On purpose.

I have to figure out what I’ve done to offend them. (kidding)

I Know

http://soundcloud.com/sonworshiper/i-know

Two people are essentially to blame for this song’s existence.

C. J. Monet has really been entertaining me with his music (hence the techno style to this track), and Pastor T. J. Cristobal preached a great sermon on Ephesians 6:10-18 at church today.

Our identity is a crucial component of how we live our lives, how we decide our course of action, how we evaluate what’s going on around us. Our perception of who we are and what we’re worth dramatically affects how we interact with everyone and everything else. “Perception is reality” is a common enough expression, and I don’t use it to mean that if I think I see a pink elephant, there must really be a pink elephant. I use it to mean that I will respond to what I perceive, what I see, what I understand… not necessarily to what is actually true.

For Christians, this “perception” may be found in answers to questions like these:

Am I a sinner? Or am I a saint who struggles with sin?

Am I a failure? Or am I an overcomer who sometimes fails?

Am I worthless? Or am I the object of the affection of the Creator of the universe?

Am I unlovable? Or am I precious enough that God Himself would die for me?

(I’ll add a caveat, lest we Christians get all presumptuous and puffed up in our recognition of God’s love toward us. All those other people out there in the world, the ones our community sometimes wants to judge and protest and so on–those people are just as much the objects of God’s love as I am, and it’s my job to communicate that to the world, because the One I claim to follow “did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). So yeah, don’t forget that part of your identity either.)

What have you discovered about who you are? What have you learned about what you were meant to do with this life? I know whose I am, and I know who’s in me.

You’ll say that I am weak, that I’m not worth a thing

You’ll say I should give up, that there’s no chance for me

You’ll say that nothing’s changed, that I am still the same

I say that Christ is in me and there’s power in His name

The old is gone, and the new has come

My victory is won by all that Christ has done

 

 I know whose I am

and I know who’s in me

I’m not who I was

’cause Christ has set me free

I know what He’s done

And how He’s changing me

I know the Holy One

And what I am called to be

Jesus, I am Yours, I am Yours

Jesus, I am Yours, I am Yours

 

I am called, I am chosen, I am loved, I am redeemed

I am free from condemnation, rescued from my enemy

I am purchased by my Savior, who lives inside of me

I am dead to sin, I am secure in Christ my hope of glory

The old is gone, and the new has come

My victory is won by all that Christ has done

 

No matter what the world may say

No matter what the world may do

My identity and destiny are only found in You