You have heard me tell you, worship must come from a true place—even if it’s small. From a place of knowing, of believing, of standing on truth: you are loved, you are loved, you are loved. All other worship is false. All other worship is hollow.
So much worship I do not recognize at all, at all.
You can only worship what you love, what you know, what you care about more than anything else.
How can you worship what you don’t know? How can you love what you have not experienced? You worship what you have heard. You worship what you have felt. You worship what you have seen—not with your eyes, but from your heart. Your heart. Your heart.
Let me tell you what worship is: it is the give and take of love. It is the receiving of what I give you and giving it right back to me. I love you. I love you. I love you. Worship is receiving this love and letting it grow inside you. It is letting me love you. It is letting my love fill you. It is letting my love flow through you. I love you. I love you. I love you.
You give what you receive. You receive love from love. And when love is received, it can’t stay in just one place. It is an action. A reality. An existence beyond you and completely part of you, too. For I am for you. I am in you. I give. I give. I give. For I love. I love. I love.
Now to receive love, you must want it. You must accept it. Not that you are loved less if you don’t accept it. But to worship—to turn around and give back to Me what you have been given—you have to know who and whose you are. You are loved. You are loved. I love you. You are loved. I am love.
There are many counterfeits to worship. There are many distortions of love. They lurk in the shadows, camouflaged by urgency, desperation, loneliness, sorrow, fear. You are lured to worship what does not give you love in return. And how can you adore and pour out love to something that doesn’t give you love first?
I am not saying worship is reciprocal—that you can only worship what worships you. I am saying that worship is an act of love. And worshipping what cannot love you is nothing you should worship. Worship the One who can love you. Worship the One who can pour into you. Worship the One who sees you, who restores you, who redeems you, who brings life to you, who knows your name and dances in celebration for you—you who were lost and who is now returned, returned, returned!
You are mine. You are loved. I love you. I love you. I love you.
There is nothing you lose by worshipping me. I give you more love. The love you have only grows and grows through your worshipping of me.
Come close now, daughter. Come close now, son. You are my song. You are my symphony. You are my beauty. You are my masterpiece. Come closer. Come closer. This is worship. Oh, how I love it. And love grows. It grows. It grows.
Pouring out the love God has poured into us. Back and forth. In and out. Neverending. That’s how we are made to live. That’s how we are made to worship. It’s an exchange. It’s always an exchange. He loves us; we love Him back. He speaks to us, protects us, rescues us, surprises us and blesses us; and we receive all that love and give it right back to Him—through worship. He gives us peace and joy and purpose and significance; we receive it and love Him back—through worship.
That is how it’s supposed to work.
But we can mess it up. Like when we begin worshiping things and ideas and images—wealth or success; control or comfort. A larger bank account, maybe; a larger balance in a 401(k); a certain job, perhaps; a particular title or promotion; the right home in the right neighborhood; kids doing well in school or in sports; or maybe just looking like we have it all together.
But things and ideas and images cannot love us back. So when we worship them, there is no exchange. We try to pull from them protection and rescue, peace and joy, purpose and significance—but they cannot deliver.
When we give our our time and energy, our worship and devotion, to things and ideas and images, we receive little or nothing in return. Because they have no life in them, they cannot give us life.
But what they can do is crowd out God. When we devote too much of our lives to these other things, they crowd out His love. When we become too focused on status or image or security, we inhibit our ability to receive God’s love. And we find ourselves depleted. So when we try to love Him back, when we try to worship Him, we have little or nothing to give.
Until we stop. Until we allow ourselves to rest. Until we turn our gaze from our idols and back toward God, the true source of life. And then . . . and then the marvelous exchange begins once again.
Let’s pray the same prayer that David prayed in Psalm 139 :
God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart.
Examine me through and through;
find out everything that may be hidden within me.
Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares.
See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on,
and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways—
the path that brings me back to you.
And, now, let’s ask this question of God and then listen to His still, small voice:
What am I giving my worship and devotion to, other than You?
Father, I need your help. I confess I’ve worshiped things other than You. But I want to turn back to You, now. Help me turn. Help me begin again.