Lesson 1 The Heart of Worship


MAIN IDEA: Worship is the key to experiencing God in our lives.

There is a real hunger in the church today—a growing hunger to know and experience God in a personal way. Truth is, we were created to know God in this way—to have a relationship with God. He made us this way because He has desired an intimate relationship with us from the beginning of time.

God Desires a Relationship with Us All lasting relationships are based on mutual interest, trust, and understanding. By choosing to create us in His image—with a mind (the ability to reason), a will, and emotions—and by providing everything we need for life, God created and equipped us for a lasting relationship with Him.

From beginning to end, the Bible makes it clear: God desires a relationship with us. He wants us to know who He is, who we are in relationship to Him, how we should respond, and what we can anticipate in return. We will examine these aspects of God’s desire and plan for relationship with us in greater detail in this class, but for now, consider what these verses tell us:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” John 15:5

“In a little while the world will see Me no longer, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live too. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you.” John 14:19-20

This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given to us from His Spirit. And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. 1 John 4:13-15

These few Scriptures alone leave no room for doubt: God loves us and deeply desires a personal relationship with each of us, and all we have to do is respond! God wants to reveal Himself and His will in every situation of our lives, and as we respond we can experience God each and every day as He works through us to accomplish His will.

Worship Is the Key to Experiencing God A number of years ago, Henry Blackaby and Claude King provided us with wonderful insights and principles on how to experience God and discover His will in our everyday lives. Their bestselling workbook Experiencing God, gave us clear instruction to help us fulfill our purpose on the earth: see what God is doing around you and join Him as He works through you. It all begins with God’s offer of a personal and intimate relationship. And as we respond, we really can experience God!

Experiencing God delivered a tried and proven message for the church, and I’ve seen the results in an up close and personal way. You see, I’ve spent my entire adult life serving in churches, from some of the smallest to the largest churches in America, and I’ve seen many of God’s people embrace God’s mission for their lives—the plans God prepared for them before they were even born. I’ve also seen many, many others miss their opportunity to experience God.

For years I wondered what it would take for more of God’s church—ordinary folks like you and me—to fully embrace His love for us, step beyond our distractions and doubts, and truly join God as He works right where we live. I believe with all my heart that the key to breakthrough, the key to experiencing God in our own lives and having a personal relationship with Him, is found in developing a lifestyle of worship. How would you define or explain a “lifestyle of worship”?

We are His creation— created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1

Worship Is Our Response to God’s Revelation I love “The Andy Griffith Show.” Like so many others, I have learned a great deal about life watching the reruns of this old program. In one episode, Deputy Barney Fife starts dabbling in psychology and decides to try his hand with the town drunk, Otis. After showing Otis a series of inkblot cards and noting his responses, a bewildered Barney covers his lack of discovery from the process by proclaiming, “I hate to think what you just revealed about yourself, Otis!”

Barney didn’t have a clue what those inkblot cards revealed, but our God has given us a clear revelation of who He is and what He has done—and we don’t have to study inkblots to figure it out! Throughout our study, we will use this working definition of worship: Worship is our response to God’s revelation of who He is and what He has done.

[Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Colossians 1:15

Simply stated, we are called to respond to all that God has revealed about Himself and to His never-ending desire to enter a deeper relationship with each of us. Through the ages, God has been in the constant process of revealing His character and essence. Yes, God is mysterious in many ways, but He is never a mystery. He has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself throughout history—including sending His Son, Jesus, into the world—and He continues to reveal Himself today in a variety of ways: God reveals Himself in creation. God reveals Himself through His Word. God reveals Himself through the Holy Spirit.

God created us for relationship with Him and deeply desires to reveal Himself—who He is and what He has done—to us. He has promised to meet us as we worship. In fact, as we understand and embrace all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus, our only reasonable and adequate response is worship. Our response to God always requires faith and corresponding action, yet God never forces us to respond; it is always our choice. How has God revealed Himself to you? What were both the immediate and long-term ways in which you responded to these revelations?

Worship Invites God’s Presence As Blackaby and King emphasize in Experiencing God, God deeply desires a personal relationship with each one of us and is at work around us at all times. Just as God fellowshipped and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, so He desires to fellowship and communicate with each of us. God has promised in Psalm 22:3 to inhabit the praises of His people, and God is always true to His promises. Our worship provides a place of meeting with God—a place for us to encounter His very presence and embrace His invitation to join Him as He works.

As we focus our time and attention on the Lord in worship, proclaim His place of honor in our lives, and thank and praise God for His eternal promises in our lives, we can expect God to intervene in our circumstances. God has promised to inhabit our worship, and He will. And when the King is present, all things are possible!

That’s why we must worship through the good times and the bad—when we’re waiting for God’s merciful touch in our circumstances and when we’re standing in awe of His power at work around us. Worship invites God’s presence, enabling us to experience God in our lives.

God’s Word is filled with example after example of those who responded to God’s revelation with worship and experienced Him. You’ll find their names throughout Scripture—names such as Abraham, David, Daniel (and his friends), Mary, Joseph, Peter, Paul, and so many more. As we study together, we will soon understand how absolutely vital worship was in their lives. These great Bible heroes had a clear revelation of God—of who He is and what He has done. They responded to that revelation with worship, and they experienced the presence and power of God in their lives. Their lives are confirmation: you and I can experience God in worship!

Psalm 22:3 is a cornerstone verse for our study. Many times it is helpful to look at a passage of Scripture in different translations to fully grasp the meaning of each word or phrase.

•   Thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Psalm 22:3, KJV
•   You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel. Psalm 22:3, NKJV
•   You are holy, O You Who dwell in [the holy place where] the praises of Israel [are offered]. Psalm 22:3, AMP

Let’s take a look at the meaning of several key words in that passage from the King James Version, the New King James Version, and the Amplified Bible. Holy— sacred, spiritually pure, sinless, deserving deep respect and awe Inhabit—to live in Enthroned—placed on a throne and exalted

Our God does indeed deserve our deep respect, awe, and worship! And He has promised His holy presence as we worship. Simply put, our worship expression creates a “place” for us to encounter and experience God.

As we study together, you will be encouraged and released to offer up your own unique expression of worship—an expression of appreciation, adoration, desperation, and expectation that is reserved deep within you for God and God alone. Whether your worship tradition includes three verses and a chorus, liturgical litanies, a capella hymns, banners and dance, or loud, exuberant praise, God is waiting to hear from you. And as you respond to His great love and sacrifice for you—whether you are worshiping corporately or in the privacy of your own home—you will experience God. He is ready, willing, and able to meet you right where you are as you enter into worship.

LESSON 1 REVIEW • What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful? An example is, “Worship is my response to God’s revelation, and He always wants me to know Him more intimately.” • Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response. For example, “Lord, I want to know You more—I want more revelation of who You are—and I commit to listen for Your voice more intently throughout the day.” • What does God want you to do in response to this lesson? For example, “He wants me to really focus on who He is and what He has done as I am worshiping—to change my perspective.”

Class 1 “The Heart of Worship”

“The key to experiencing God is developing a lifestyle of worship.”

Let’s begin to connect with this class by considering the following questions:
• What is the largest event or gathering of people in which you’ve participated? What impact did it have on your life?
• What worship experience was particularly meaningful to you? It could be a sermon, a great song, the Lord’s Supper, a baptism, or a music event. What made that worship experience so meaningful for you?
• When you think of worship traditions, which ones do you most easily practice (singing choruses, responsive reading, lifting hands, etc.)? Why do you think that is?
• What is your background as it relates to worship music: traditional, contemporary, blended, or something else altogether!
• What are you hoping to learn or experience through this course?

Watch and listen as Mike Harland sets the stage for our study on worship by explaining “The Heart of Worship.”

Engage by reflecting on the following questions from the Word of God and Mike’s message:
• Read Matthew 21:9. Do you think these words shouted by the crowd were authentic worship words? Why or why not?
• Name the seven words from the “hat rack” that Mike described. Which of those words are you most excited about studying?
• Read Colossians 3:16. Which of the activities listed in this verse do you think we would typically characterize as worship?
• Mike makes a comparison between a football game that he attended and a worship event. What similarities do you see between the two and what concerns do you think that raises for us?
• In the video, Mike describes worship as “the key to a lifetime of experiencing God”? Do you agree or disagree with that statement? Why?

Father, thank You for who You are and all that You have done for us. We do want to experience You for our entire lifetimes. Thank You for giving each of us unique expressions of worship and for being present when we worship You. We pray that we will experience You this week in a way that brings about real change in our lives and glory to You. Amen.

Think about any terms or concepts that are new to you for this class.
• Worship is our response to God’s revelation—who He is and what He has done.
• Worship is the key to experiencing God in our lives.
• Worship is our only reasonable response to God’s revelation.
• We are free to worship God because of Jesus’ sacrifice.
• When we worship, God has promised to be present.
• Learning to experience God in worship is a process that can be aided by seven simple words: Creation, Grace, Love, Response, Expression, Presence, and Experience.

Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16

Welcome to the Course


“An hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him.” John 4:23

There is a deep and growing interest in worship these days, and that makes perfect sense. After all, worship is the primary reason we gather as the body of Christ each week. We gather to focus our attention and energy on giving glory to God; and when we do, we encounter God in powerful, life-changing ways. As a result, we are challenged and empowered to join God as He works in the world.

There are many forms of worship and certainly many different styles of worship. The body of Christ is a broad and diverse family, and the form of our worship can often cause confusion and division. God is never the author of confusion, and His Word gives clear guidelines that empower and liberate all believers in their own worship expression. Authentic worship is simply a genuine expression of praise, adoration, celebration, and thanksgiving to God in response to who He is and what He has done in our lives.

Seven Words of Worship explores what this means for us as the body of Christ and as individuals, including how we may pursue authentic worship—not only in our weekly worship services but also in our everyday lives. Over the course of the study, you will be introduced to seven simple Words of Worship that can serve as a guide for knowing and experiencing God. As you apply these teachings in your own life, you will be inspired and equipped to develop a lifestyle of worship, which is God’s desire for every believer.

We are passionate about helping individuals and congregations develop a consistent lifestyle of worship. As you increase in understanding of who God really is and what He has done in your life, consistent and fervent worship will be your natural response. And as you worship, God will inhabit your praise and impact your circumstances.

You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Psalm 22:3

Our Threefold Purpose
Seven Words of Worship is indeed a course initiated by God and birthed through years of effort by my coauthor and friend, Stan Moser. Although this is a collaborative work, I (Mike) will serve as the “voice” throughout this study, representing our collective insights that, we hope, will accomplish our threefold purpose:
• To help you gain a clear revelation of God and His desire for worship to be the focal point and passion of our lives (Rom. 12:1);
• To give you a solid understanding of the biblical foundation that leads us to become true worshipers (John 4:23-24); and
• To encourage you to enter into increased freedom in your worship expression as you respond to God’s revelation (2 Cor. 3:17).

I will meditate on Your precepts and think about Your ways. Psalm 119:15

About the Course
To achieve these goals, we will present some simple, foundational truths about biblical worship in a format of five short lessons for each of eight classes.

Each lesson combines Bible study and biblical narratives with real-life stories and practical application. The practical application questions and activities are in bold print. Please don’t skip over these questions and activities. They are designed to help you clarify, process, and apply what you are learning.

Another important personal-application tool is the Daily Review. Here you will be asked to review the lesson and pray, asking God to identify for you one or more statements or Scriptures from the lesson that He wants to make a part of your understanding and practice. The same three questions will help you to complete this process after each lesson.

Keep in mind that there are no wrong answers to this personal-application process. As God uses the lessons to draw you to some personal revelation or interaction, pray about how He would have you respond. Though you will sense a logical progression in the material, you also will revisit some core concepts along the way, exploring them from different angles and considering subtle nuances in order to maximize understanding and application. You’ll encounter several key Scriptures more than once along your journey to reinforce biblical truths central to our study and to help hide God’s Word in your heart.

Consider the following suggestions for making your journey through Seven Words of Worship more meaningful:
• Trust the Holy Spirit to be your teacher. Ask Him for guidance as you seek to gain greater biblical understanding of authentic worship and develop your lifestyle of worship. Open your mind and heart in ready obedience to all He will teach you.
• Be consistent in your personal study. A lifestyle of worship is a radical change for many, and diligent attention to the Word of God is the key.
• Take time each day to express your worship and appreciation to the King of kings! If possible, begin or end your classes with a time of worship.
• Before beginning each class, pray for revelation and breakthrough.
• Be sure to read and meditate on each Scripture. After all, this is a Bible study!
• Take time to respond to each practical-application question and activity (printed in bold).
• Record the statements or Scriptures that were most meaningful to you, as well as how God is calling you to respond. When God speaks, it is important to record it.
• Write down questions that arise during your study. Then, as the study continues, watch for God to provide the answers.
• Share one revelation or new understanding with someone. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and share freely with others what the Lord is teaching you about worship!

Our Hope and Prayer for You
As you make your way through the study, our hope and prayer is that you will be filled with a refreshing and clear perspective on authentic worship and challenged to fulfill God’s desire for you to lift your voice and your life as an expression of worship. Here are two biblical promises to encourage you:
• God has promised to inhabit our praises.
• God rewards those who diligently seek Him.

Focusing on these promises will help you begin each day with the expectation that God desires to meet with you and reveal Himself more completely to you.

As you believe and receive God’s great and precious promises in your life, you will encounter Him and experience Him in ways you can only imagine right now. You really can experience God in worship!