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So the first reason I ever went to youth group was to meet boys.  Yup, seriously.  I had moved from a little town called Gore where they wear purple work shirts and close the curtains and use words with extra RRRRRs where I went to a school with 350 kids, guys and girls, from year -13.  We moved to Blenheim and my new school had 1500 kids… only girls!  Culture shock!

I was in my classics class one day and the girl next me just turned and said “do you want to come to youth group on Thursday night?”  Literally my first response was “are there boys there?”  She was like “um yeah”.  And so I went.

The first time I went I had no idea what was going to happen.  What did they even do at youth group?

So I was a little bit unsure, freaked and awkward when they said they were going to have worship.  Worship was something you did at church, and this youth group met in someones house, and it was something you did with an organ and hymn books.  That was my limited understanding from my limited knowledge of church.

A guy grabbed his guitar and prayed, “hey God……”  and then began to play.  People closed their eyes and raised their hands and I was like okay, different.

This was like nothing I had seen before.  It looked like for these people that worship meant something to them, that they connected with it, that it was meaningful…. Instead of boring and irrelevant.

In that moment it was like my eyes were opened that God was really really real.  And that I could know Him, that I must know Him.

 

It’s really important for us that you know the WHY behind we do some of the things we do.  Esp when it comes to the important things like worship.

You might be like me back in the day and are totally new at the whole youth group church thing.  You might have no grid for what we are doing.

Or you might have grown up going to a different church with a different style.

Or you might totally get it and be like my youth group – for you worship is about connecting with our amazing God and you make the most of the opportunity to encounter Him.

 

Tonight no matter who you are and where you are on the scale of worship – new or pro – tonight I want to encourage you to take the next step and to let you in on some of the really amazing stuff that God does in us and to us and through us because of worship.

 

  1. Worship Changes Your Brain and Changes Your Life

Take your hand and hold it out

Take a walnut with no shell

Place it here

That’s your thalamus where your sense of self comes from

Take an almond

That’s your amygdala that’s where fear and aggression come from in your brain

Roll your hand up and over

And that is the limbic system of your brain.

Now take 4 sheets of notebook paper and crumple them up and wrap them around your fist

That’s your neocortex

Up front 30% is the prefrontal cortex that’s where we get logic and reason, decision making.  Did you know your prefrontal cortex wont be fully developed until you are about 25!

Over here by your thumb on both side you have the anterior cingulate cortex which is where we get affection and love and friendship and cats on the internet

Back further above your ears you have parietal lobe which help you know that there are things around you, location of stuff

 

Stuff happens in our brains when we worship God.  There have been neuroscience studies that show through brain scans that people who worship God for real have a different brain than people who don’t worship.

Insights into how the brain works have gotten much more sophisticated in the last decade thanks to the emergence of new tools to image living brains. We have machines now that let us watch living brains in three dimensions without surgery or autopsy. This technology allows brain scientists to study believers as they pray, meditate, worship and experience God.

People who regularly focus on God’s love through prayer and meditation change.  Our brain changes.  The experience less stress, and they even experience a reduction in blood pressure. Their prefrontal cortex, the part of their brain associated with focus and attention, becomes more active over time, helping them avoid distraction and be more intentional.

They also have more activity in their anterior cingulate cortex. That’s the part of our brain associated with love, compassion and empathy. Focusing on God’s love makes us more loving and less angry. It’s easier for us to forgive ourselves and others.  In fact it acts as a buffer between that fear centre – the amygdala – and the prefrontal cortex – to help us be more resilient and brave.

Here’s something else cool…. When you know that God is loving and kind the anterior singular cortex lights up and they experience love and grace for themselves and God and others and when they frequently worship their thalamus becomes asymmetrical which means one side is bigger and they see the world as more hopeful and loving – it changes your brain!  Experiencing worship as a connection to a loving God reduces anxiety, depression, and stress, and increases feelings of security, compassion, and love.

 

Another cool thing….  The parietal lobe shuts down when you pray and worship – its like you leave the location you are in and takes you to another place… interesting!  Even more interesting is that this ONLY happens to real Christians when they pray – they have scanned non-Christians and atheists and nothing happens in that zone of the brain.  But for Christians there is a brain connection with God!

 

In  fact, science suggests that not only does prayer and worship reduce stress and anxiety, but just 12 minutes of worship per day may slow down the aging process.

 

 

  1. Worship Changes The Way You Think

 

Have you ever noticed how songs get stuck in your head?

And you can’t get rid of them.

Like jingles or pop songs or even the cutesy songs you sung as a kid.

 

 

We store hundreds, literally thousands, of songs in our memory vaults, ready to be accessed at a moment’s notice.  Music not only is enjoyable – or is meant to be enjoyable – but can help us remember things too.

There are even songs for memorizing the periodic table and you can learn how to speak perfect English on youtube through songs…

When we sing the words go in – more than if we just spoke them.  It’s like music is the hook.

 

So when we sing in worship we are singing words about who God is, how great, how good, how powerful.  We are singing about how He forgives us and sets us free.    We are singing truths about Him.

 

And those truths, those words in song, help us remember who God is.  It’s like a 3 minute theology lesson and sermon wrapped around with a beat and chords.  That you’ll remember and sing in the shower the next day.

 

Worship reinforces what matters most, reminds us of truths we forget and renews our desire to live what we believe. Rick Warren

Worship helps us remember the truth of who God is and what He does.

 

Have you ever had a moment in a worship song when you really pay attention to the words and realize that its really going in.  That the words really connect and are personal.   Worship is rewriting things in your heart and yes your brain.   It removes the lies we tell ourselves and replaces them with truth.

 

Or have you ever had a moment when you’ve been going through something and suddenly a worship song pops into your head and it reminds you that God is with you and that everything is going to be okay.

 

 

  1. Worship is more than Singing

 

Okay the singing thing.  I found it really strange the first time I had worship at youth group back in the day.  They were singing.  In a living room.  And not everyone could sing but they sung anyway.

 

So why do we sing?  What’s the deal?

Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. (Psalm 96:1–2)

Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! (Psalm 47:6)

In just four verses we’re commanded to sing seven times.

All told, the Bible contains over four hundred references to singing and fifty direct commands to sing. The longest book of the Bible, the Psalms, is a book of songs. And in the New Testament we’re commanded not once, but twice, to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to one another when we meet (Ephesians 5:19Colossians 3:16).

Did you know that God himself sings? In Zephaniah 3:17 God exalts over his people “with loud singing.”

But worship is more than singing.  You can sing the latest pop song and it will do nothing except make you feel good.  But worship does something.  It changes our brains and changes the way we see the world, as we said before.  But the most important thing that I want you to really catch is that it creates connection between us and God.  That is the most important thing about worship.  That is why we have worship as a key part of HKC because we want you to know God and know that He loves you and that He is good and great and glorious.  We want you to know His grace and love, not just here on Friday night but every day of the week.

 

Worship is that connection point – its like it opens the doors to help us see God clearer, to feel Him closer and to become His friend.

 

Worship heals us from the inside out.  Sometimes I come to church and I can feel like I’m carrying the weight of the world.  I’m stressing about this thing or another thing.  My mind is

 

Hey – at the school I went to in Gore they raised chickens, at the school, and then for a fundraiser and as part of the agriculture class, they cut their heads off.  At school.  Like where we could see.  And yes, chickens can run around without heads.  So not cool.

 

Anyway, sometimes I come to church and my heart is broken and I’m feeling down and in worship it is like God sings His love song to me and lifts me up.  He puts me back together and helps me remember it’s going to be okay because He is with me, He makes the darkness tremble, He silences fear.

 

This is why it is so important that we all take that time to worship on a Friday night.  Why it’s important we focus and don’t distract others.  Everything might be sweet in your life – great, thank God for that one.  But your friend might need Jesus.  They might need to feel His presence and be reminded of those things.   They might need to worship.  They might need to come and it’s like we come right to the feet of Jesus and He wraps His arms around us.

 

 

When Paul and Silas worshipped in the prison their chains fell off.

When King Jehosaphat faced an army of hundreds of thousands they worshipped and sent the worship team in first and won an amazing victory.

After great battles Moses and Deborah held praise parties.

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