I have a distinct memory of the first time I heard Chris Tomlin’s song, “Holy is the Lord.” Though this was a dozen years ago, my memory is distinct because my attitude was so poor in that moment. As we sang about standing and lifting our hands, and about bowing down in worship, my jaw clenched and my body froze. All around me, people’s physical expressions mirrored the lyrics that were on their lips. But I was rigid, indignant that I would not be told how to worship with my body. How could a dictated posture truly be sincere? Isn’t God only concerned with the posture of my heart?

Fast forward a few weeks, and there was that song again! This time, my self-consciousness trumped my indignation. What would people think if I didn’t lift my hands with everyone else? Reluctantly, one hand raised (first just above waist level, then a bit higher). Though pride was a poor motive to lift my hands that day, I discovered something significant: hand raised, my soul also lifted toward Heaven a bit. Bowed low (though not all the way to the floor…let’s not get too radical!), my attitude humbled somewhat. In essence, it seemed that my actions led my soul to worship, if only slightly, that morning.

Over time, as I became increasingly acquainted with God’s Word, one thing that became apparent to me was that physical engagement just might be significant after all. Throughout the Psalms, a variety of physical expressions are invited, to help the worshiper express God’s worth. Though not a comprehensive list, among them are: clapping (Psalm 47), lifting hands (Psalm 63), bowing and kneeling (Psalm 95), standing (Psalm 119), lifting up eyes (Psalm 121), and dancing (Psalm 149-150).

The Apostle Paul exclaims a powerful Doxology in Romans 11: 33-36 (NIV):

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Immediately after this bold exclamation of praise, Paul writes:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Godthis is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1NIV)

Paul’s position is that all worship is holistic; He clearly states that we are to offer our bodies to God in worship. In this one admonishment, he contradicts the Gnostic teaching that the things of the physical realm are bad. Their view was that the things of the spirit needed to be separated from the evil of the body. But Paul wrapped up body and soul together, encouraging holistic, incarnational worship.

If you wonder whether your own heart might be led to worship by physical postures, perhaps you might try this exercise:

Choose a familiar worship song.
……..I suggest Laurie Klein’s “I Love You Lord”.
Sing it through several times, using different posture every so often:

…….*  Sitting
…….*  Standing, hands up, face up
…….*  Kneeling, with head bowed

Try the exercise again with another song or hymn. I suggest Weeden & Van de Venter’s “I Surrender All”.

Did you notice whether changing your physical posture had an effect on your heart’s disposition? (Please comment on your experience below!)

A dozen years ago, my attitude kept me from raising my hands. Today, raising my hands (or kneeling, standing silent, or lying prostrate) are sometimes significant catalysts to my soul being led Heavenward. It would be simply untrue to say that I am always prepared to worship my God. When the drudgery of the day or a negative circumstance tempts me not to engage with the Lord, I choose to offer my body, a living sacrifice, to enter in to worship. In these moments, as I offer my humanness, my heart disposition is led by my physical posture.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
(Helen H. Lemmel)


Finally, I wanted to share this video from aman who has a family that is integrated.  Still limited by their individual backgrounds and experiences the lessons he presents here may or may not be relative to other people’s experiences.  We are all different and we are all limited by our own environment, experiences and relationships.  We just need to learn to meet people where they are and respect each other.  

TEDx Talks
Nov 4, 2014
This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Are we in a post-racial society? Do we want to be? Anthony Peterson, an African American, draws from current research and from conversations with his Anglo American grandchildren to address truths about race in 21st century America. Anthony Peterson is an African American Army brat who calls Hawaii home. He has lived, studied, written about, and taught about cultural and racial realities. He has developed and facilitated diversity training for corporate and church leaders. His degrees in psychology and religious education add to his perspective. Anthony continues work as an educator, writer and editor in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife, Laura. They count six children and nine grandchildren. About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)


Nine Postures of Worship

postures of worship

It’s captivating to read through the Psalms and see the variety of ways in which David worshipped. When we pause to ask ourselves what we are doing during our worship times today, we are often faced with several questions. How do we worship? What are we able to do and still be reverent before the Lord? What is God’s desire for our worship? Does God give us the right to pick and choose how we worship? The Psalms have given us nine different postures of worship: heart expressions, not actual postures. These expressions stem from David’s desire to worship the Lord wholeheartedly and without reservation. Oddly enough, these postures of worship are not foreign to us, but we fail to practice them in our corporate worship for one reason or another.

Listed below are the nine expressions of worship that we will focus on in this article. They can be broken down further into three physical expressions.

Nine Postures of Worship

1 – 3: The Spoken Voice

  1. Speaking – Psalm 34:1 says, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.”
  2. 2. Shouting – Psalm 27:6 says, “Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.”
  3. 3. Singing – Psalm 47:6 says, “Sing praises to God, sing praises to our King, sing praises.”

4 – 6: Our Physical Posture

  1. Bowing – Psalm 95:6 says, “Come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”
  2. 5. Standing – Psalm 119:120 says, “My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.”
  3. 6. Dancing – Psalm 149:3 says, “Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp.”

Our Hands

  1. Playing Instruments – Psalm 33:2, 3 says, “Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.”
  2. 8. Clapping – Psalm 47:1 says, “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.”
  3. 9. Lifting Hands – Psalm 63:4 says, “I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.”

None of these postures of worship are foreign to us. They may be foreign to our present worship experiences, but not to our culture. When there is a wedding and the bridal march begins, what do people do without thinking twice? They stand in honor of the bride and groom on this special day. When a man asks a woman to marry him, he gets on his knee to propose to her. Why? Because he wants to show her that this is an important event and that she is being honored as someone very special.

Dancing plays a part of our culture in that it expresses celebration, intimacy, and individuality. We clap with enthusiasm for everything that pleases us. Musicians will play their instruments for hours on end with no one listening. Speaking doesn’t need to be mentioned at all. Have you ever been to a ball game where the parents of the players were present? If so, you’ve experienced shouting at it’s best. Singing is done by the talented and untalented alike, and is often done in cars, showers, and on stage. We are a musical people. Lastly, we look at lifted hands. In sporting events or competitions we see this quite often. Whenever a player scores a basket or touchdown the hands go up. It a natural response to an amazing task performed.

Why share all this? We know it, right? Yet, we fail to exercise all these in public worship. David used these expressions because he wanted to worship God with his entire being. His heart was to worship the Lord with everything he had, and he held nothing back in his worship. He wanted to share with us his heart and desire to worship, and he wanted us to enjoy pleasing the Lord through God’s creation…our bodies and souls.

What else can we learn from David? He not only practiced these expressions regularly, he didn’t really care what others thought about it. Even his own wife thought he was nuts and yet, God thought enough of it to call him “a man after His own heart”. Who is our audience? Who is it that we are trying to please in worship? It better be God. Is He pleased with our worship? I hope He is with mine.

I challenge you to seek the Lord in these expressions. Ask Him what He would have you do in your times of worship. Is your heart moved to dance before the Lord and yet you choose to sit? Are you moved to get on your face before the Lord and yet stand because you are afraid of what the person next to you will say? Remember worship is not about you, and it’s not about imitating your neighbor. It’s about letting the Lord lead you to worship Him in a manner that He desires and that we need. What benefit could we possibly gain from kneeling before the Lord? How about humility? What could be gained from shouting to the Lord? How about boldness to speak His name in public? What could we learn about lifting our hands to the Lord? How about submission to Him? James 4:6 tells us, “But He gives us more grace. That is why the scripture says: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

For more on this topic please visit John’s article:

STOP Bowing and Kneeling White People: You had best Repent for the Abomination!