I would love your feedback on if the intended message comes across cleanly in this 2 minute video.
I just returned from a trip to New York where I was privileged to attend a Hillsong conference. Upon return, the questions are very similar:
“Wasn’t the worship just amazing?”
“That was a completely different experience, wasn’t it?”
“It’s hard to go back to ‘normal’ church after that, isn’t it?”
They aren’t necessarily bad questions. I understand the intent. I would ask the same. But I think it tends to mask an inherent misunderstanding of how worship works.
First of all, I should mention the obvious, and the reason for the questions. It was amazing. It was in the Brooklyn Barclays Center. So several thousand voices were lifted in unison to our God. How could that not be awesome? With such an arena comes logistical niceties. The sound was impressive.
Each time the drums kicked I could feel it in my chest. With a steady beat, it felt like I had an involuntary pacemaker keeping me going. I wondered if, when the next song ended, would my heart continue on its own, or would it just give up and let the sound system do the work for it?
Seeing people throw off man-made divisions in both humanity and in the scriptures and rally behind the name of Jesus alone was something I wont soon forget.
But there is a temptation to think that worship, actual worship… was better, or different, or deeper than it was at any other location in the world at that given time.
The Spirit of God was there. But He didn’t ride on the subway all by Himself. He didn’t hail a taxi. He didn’t descend through the rafters into the midst of a special venue. He wasn’t there waiting on believers to show up.
He walked in through the doors wearing bluejeans, leather jackets, baseball caps, and monogrammed t shirts.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9)
All over the world the Spirit entered sanctuaries, synagogues, churches, living rooms, coffee shops, and with the voice of man praised God the Father and Jesus Christ, our victorious sacrifice. Did it mean more in one location? Was the price of salvation less in Texas? Did the Prince of Peace suffer less for Canadians? Do Egyptians have less to be thankful for?
There is one God. There is one King. There is one Savior. There is one Christ.
He is worthy of honor, glory and praise. It might sound different. It might look different. But the power behind the worship… The impact of the lowering of ourselves while lifting Him up… That happens on another level, and everyone, everywhere has access to that.
Crying out, “God I need you!” means the same in Brooklyn, Nashville, Albuquerque, or on your knees in the closet of your home. It involves the heart. It includes the soul. It’s communication to God bypassing all third parties. The power behind prayer… The awe of worship… the humility of self reflection… the honoring of God… those are tied to the cross.
The cross happened once. It is finished. It does not happen again in Detroit on a Tuesday because someone planned for it to. It’s eternal. It’s all reaching. It’s for everyone. And it means the same everyday. It’s power is not diminishing, nor is it enhanced by the works of man. And how that affects you, is not based on your location or your event, or your titles. It’s only impact is a direct result of your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Was the conference amazing? Yes it was. Will worship be any less next Sunday? Not a chance. The same God, made the same sacrifice with the same Son, and even though I’m a sinful and unworthy person, I will call on that same trinity to accept the gift of forgiveness, adoption, and eternal life with a living God.
It was awesome to see thousands of believers singing to God. In truth, millions do it every day. I love to imagine the angels roaring in cheers over baptisms and souls gained. What I can’t wait for is the worship with all believers united in song. All of us. Together. The whole world over. We don’t need to travel to a sports arena to make this happen. It happens every moment when we reject the flesh and tune in to the Spirit.
It’s nice to have New York experiences. It’s nice to have mega churches. It’s nice to have thumping sound systems. It’s nice to have tons of space for lots of seats. But none of that changes worship. The Spirit doesn’t change with your budget. The Spirit doesn’t change with location. The Spirit doesn’t change to be what we want. The Spirit is ready for worship. Any time you are ready. And the magic… the miracle… the awesome… That already happened. Our thankfulness for it, our praise, it should reflect the gifts received the same every morning day and evening.
The enemy wants you to wait for the right song. He will tell you the building isn’t ready. He is known to whisper about quality, volume, people sitting near you, leadership issues, tittles, and all manor of reasons to not worship. Excuses. Delays. Lies. We have a direct connection to God and a life changing eternal experience awaits our choice to properly use it. Bluntly put, if coming before the Lord and worshiping is a ‘downer’, or it isn’t ‘fun’, or it’s not quite ‘awesome’ enough… you haven’t been worshiping.
Thinking of worship in terms of quality is like thinking of God in terms of quality. It’s our direct praise to Him. It’s our level of appreciation for Him. It’s positioning ourselves in the correct place in direct relation to His place. So can He waver in terms of God-likeness? Is God in HD one day and SD the next? Does God sour? Was the cross an 8 out of 10 because it was cloudy and too many people showed up? Very, very bluntly put… worship is either everything we have from us to God all of the time… or its sacrilege.
You want a New York experience? Do you want a Jordan River experience? Do you long for something powerful and life-changing? For most of us, its about 3 feet lower than we stand. Those things happen on our knees… and nothing challenges their ‘amazing’.
I’ve taken the liberty of adding some fun clip art to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. His pyramid explains how we tend to our most basic needs first. Only once we consistently accomplish or attain those needs do we venture up the pyramid. Essentially, you probably aren’t worried about your cousin’s wedding if you are starving to death and you won’t likely have aspirations for winning the Nobel Prize or quarterbacking for the NFL if your life is consistently in danger.
That is a bit of a rough paraphrase, but should suffice for those not familiar with his work. As Christian’s we tend to approach God with the same dissection of status. If our needs are being met, we may very well be more casual and pray shorter less heartfelt prayers.
Try saying these out loud or in your head if you aren’t alone. Say them the way you would in a real conversation with God as though they just happened to you.
“I just stumped my toe!”
“I just buried my best friend”.
Same emotion? Similar tone and timbre? No inflection changes of any kind? I sure hope not. Would anyone dare classify these two types of pain as equal? I fully understand how epic a good toe stump can feel, but it’s short lived and non essential duration can’t compare on any level, scale, or index.
For some of us… most of us at times… we pray based on our experiences. When life is good, we pray good, happy prayers. We may pray in the car on the way to work. We may pray lying in bed tonight. When things get tough, we may phone a friend. We may involve the church.
As issues grow in severity, so do our prayers. And when life comes crashing down on us and utter desperation is taunting us, we grovel at the feet of our Savior.
The goal here is to think about how we pray. If we want our friend healed of cancer, does God get one tenth of our attention while our car barrels down the freeway at 70+ MPH? Is it wrong to pray in the car? I wouldn’t say so. Not all the time. But there is a bigger issue.
If we aren’t careful, our circumstances can begin to dictate our prayer life. And there is one thing that never changes. No matter what happens, how big, or in what form… Jesus will have always died on the cross for us. His sacrifice does not toss in the wind of possible life moments.
Every day, at every moment, during all emotions, God sent His Son. And that deserves worn knees, moist eyes, and heads on the ground. There is a reason so many testimonies begin at rock bottom. That tends to be when we are most able to listen to God. He doesn’t change His tone, but we begin to listen better when there is simply nothing else.
This is a reminder to think about how you pray. How long, how often, how sincere, etc. But more than that… it’s a reminder for those living in that top section of life’s pyramid. Every single section comes with a Savior that bled for us… in our place. We ALWAYS have a reason to be thankful deep down in our shaken core. No matter how good or how bad life gets, the cross isn’t going anywhere… it’s mission is complete. What is your response?
I see a worshiper fall into that eternal space between worlds. As she sings her voice trembles over the notes that her powerful vocal chords effortlessly blew through moments ago. But now, her emotions no longer control her. She has passed through that threshold between worshiping to God and worshiping at God. She invited God’s presence and it consumed her. Hands shaking, mouth quivering, the song continues with new strength and yet with more humble awareness.
Someone gets up from their seat and walks across the auditorium. They want to pray for someone. That person is just over there, so their feet follow their convictions. Uncomfortable, inconvenient, distracting? No, those thoughts never enter his mind. He wants to pray, so he goes and prays. Tapping his friend on the shoulder mere words are spoken before an embrace occurs followed by broken, heartfelt, emotional prayer. Deep prayer. Honest. Cleansing. Godly prayer.
Three families gather around rows of chairs to take communion together. The layout of the building isn’t consistent with what they are wanting to do, but chairs get moved, people step out of the way, and compromise gets them all huddled together to sample a meal of eternal proportions together. Each one bows, prays, and honors their fallen and risen King.
This is the church. Family. We chose each other when we chose God. Now we live life together. We pray together. We confess to each other. We support each other. We are Christ to each other. We strengthen and encourage. And then we go into the world sharing the amazing love of God to all humanity. The pharisees followed rules and policies. I’ve been to many churches that structured 3 songs, a prayer, a sermon, etc. Jesus seemingly did the opposite.
Not that structure is wrong, but He seemed to always find Himself opposing the religious elite. It wasn’t about the temple, it wasn’t about their status, it wasn’t about their order and structure… and they were deeply offended. But He kept on. Washing the feet of a woman, eating with the sinners, healing on the sabbath, speaking against human created traditions. He didn’t have time for customs, He had a world to save. And while the power comes from Him, He passed that torch on to us. “Go into the world…”.
And I can’t help but wonder, what does God think of this? It’s for Him. His commands followed. His will sought. His name praised. We know He doesn’t puff up or get ego issues. Will this act receive the “well done, my good and faithful servant” we all long to hear? Will He cry? Will He well up with Fatherly pride? I can’t say for sure because those are our actions. Those are the things sinners do when we share in a glimpse of something good and right. But what does an almighty and Holy God do when He is worshiped?
Let me offer something that might not sound right at first. We are who we worship. And by that, I don’t mean we are part of the trinity God-head. I’m not elevating us to equality. But in a different way, we do tend to become like those we cherish. Have you ever noticed you talk like your idols? Does your accent change when you spend a few years in a new region? You’ve certainly heard the phrase, “you are what you eat”? And just like that phrase, I’m not suggesting that we are literal peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the flesh.
But, if that is all we eat, we do take on the attributes of the food. High carbs, high fat, high calories… so are we if that is what we choose to eat. We take on the characteristics of the choices we make. What happens when you switch to lean meats, veggies, water, and fruit? You shed off the old food and become the new food. Fat is lost. Calories are lost. Carbs are lost. Old clothes don’t fit any more. People look at us and say, “WOW!!!!, you look like a different person!!!”
And this is what happens as a result of worship. When we truly worship, we commune with God. We are in His presence. Just like eating the bread and drinking the cup during our Lord’s Supper, we take on the attributes, we consume them. We put Godly things into our lives. We invite the Spirit into our lives. And we change. We start to take on those Godly attributes and before we realize it… impatience is lost. Greed is lost. Pride is lost. Hate is lost. Sin is lost. Our old lives don’t fit us anymore and before we even realize it, people look at us and say, “WOW!!!!! you look like a different person!!!”. And we really are.
We died to our old way of living and now have a new lifestyle that is fully enveloped by Jesus. So, in a way, we are what we worship. To the greatest extent that we fall under grace. We aren’t God… but we are Godly. We aren’t Christ, but we are Christian. We aren’t perfect… but we are forgiven and made right… and that puts us right back at the beginning of this blog… How can we not worship Him with ALL of our heart, soul, mind, body, and spirit?
A relationship with God is not extra credit. It’s not optional. It’s critical to the entire plan of salvation. Don’t let worship be your vocal talent and nothing more. Don’t believe that your extravagant prayers are flattering to God. He wants to be consumed. He wants to be eaten up (so to speak) 😉 If you aren’t getting anything out of church, ask what you are putting into it. If you aren’t sharing with your fellow believers, start today. If you are ashamed or embarrassed to invite people to your family of God that happens to meet in a random building… you might not be the relative you thought you were.
It’s OK to be in these situations… as long as we understand its not OK to remain in them. If you don’t love your church… you have witnessed your first red flag. Start with God, open your honest heart to Him and work your plan and His from there. He gave His Son, our response in worship is our thankfulness for that gift. It CANNOT be stale, uninspired, or Spirit lacking in nature. Worship like we are mere men and women. Worship like we address a God. Worship as though He not only came to us, but He brought an unbelievable gift.
College was fun. I remember days when walking across the campus I felt like I knew almost everyone. I went to a small school and most of us enjoyed large friendship circles. The manner in which we greeted varied from person to person. Hugs, handshakes, high fives, shouts from too far away, running up and scaring the unsuspecting person, waving, etc.
The greeting depended on the person and the mood. With most people, they would ask, “how was your weekend?”. And the general consensus is that they didn’t really want to know but it would be rude not to ask. So the universal answer was, “fine, how was yours?”. They too were obligated to answer in one positive or up beat word and move on.
The exception were your true friends. These were much rarer. When asked how your weekend was, you could freely answer… and then some. And we would often joke about the silly social structure where everyone asked but most didn’t care. My friends and I decided that, just for fun, we would unload all of our deepest, darkest, most terrifying secrets, hopes and dreams on the next person to insincerely ask.
We never did… but we laughed out loud every time someone brought it up. “hey! how was your weekend?”… “sit down, this will take a while… you don’t have any plans, right? Where should I start…” Can you imagine? 😉
How do we greet God? Public prayers are interesting. It seems a very popular opening is the “Dear God…”. Which to me, sounds like a letter. And the last time I used “Dear anything” in a letter the contents were equivalent of a “to whom it may concern” document.
It just doesn’t seem right, if I’m addressing my friend, I would not say, “dear friend” as an opening. I usually just call them by name. Then we get the formal prayers. “Almighty God in Heaven….” Nothing wrong with that either. But how natural feeling is that? Do we greet anyone else with a name, descriptor AND location?
My starting point of choice is, “Father”. But if I’m honest with myself, that stands out too. I don’t call my father on earth, ‘father’… I call him dad. Most times, I just start talking and don’t really call anyone anything.
The point is that I think its a good exercise to think about our relationship with God. In short, have you prepared enough during the good and restful times, that you can communicate properly during the desperate and painful times? Do you struggle sometimes to address Him at all? Perhaps nothing important is going on? Maybe you feel like you bug Him too much? You have already asked for this once before?
The quick Bible reference for today is, “pray without ceasing”. I’m going to take that literally. Your next sentence to God shouldn’t start with a long proclamation and greeting… because you should have been talking to him just a few minutes ago. Building God up is part of any good prayer, but I hope you get the point in that we should always have the phone off hook (so to speak).
I was talking to my wife on the phone. She put me on hold when someone else called and when she came back to me… we just kept talking. She didn’t have to identify herself again or undergo any assumed pleasantries. Is God different? Allow me to share one way that I approach God when things are not going well…
I throw myself at God. Not because I need to. Not because I deduce it logically. But, because it is the only option my body, mind, and soul instinctually know.
Red light and danger signs with alarms start going off… what is our instinct when that happens? I need safety. I need comfort. I need love. I need compassion. I need someone that understands my side… my perspective.
I leap straight up and into His arms and do not let go.
This is like falling to your knees, crying or laughing… You don’t plan on it, you respond to the momentum in your heart.
Do you know what God does when you jump into His arms? He holds you tight and protects you. (2 Samuel 22: 3-4). When you shout God’s name, there is never the chance of an awkward moment where He doesn’t hear you but everyone else does. When you approach with an arm up in the air… He won’t leave you hanging. That is right. I firmly believe God is a high fiving type of Lord. Sacrilegious? Not according to the Bible.
We are made in the image of God. Our traits come from Him. His joy is in us. He went to great lengths to save us. Maybe a high five is too specific. Perhaps He will have a secret handshake involving the chicken wing or a 3 pointer fade away? Silly? I think its silly to think that God loves us enough to give up His Son and then wouldn’t physically and visibly welcome us to the Kingdom with an expression of affection.
In all seriousness, I think the high fives and other expressions will come later. When I first meet my Lord, I believe we are going to hug. We are going to shed tears. He is going to claim that I was worth it, and I am going to thank Him and praise Him.
God is God and He deserves reverence. God is also Jesus. Man. And He understands weddings. He attends parties. He laughs. He loves. He has joy. How is your relationship with Him? I’m not at all asking anyone to drop the reverence from their relationship… but I also think that we are family. Our God Father and Jesus Brother know us on an intimate and personal level. Lets get to know them. Lets speak to them with love.
Lets speak to them often. Consistently. Thoroughly. Without ceasing. Talk to God about your dreams, your sins, your life. Praise Him for who He is and what He has done. And then… talk about basketball. Talk about boys. Talk about women. Discuss politics. Facebook Him. Tweet Him. Instagram with Him. He is most certainly a rare and good friend worthy of your full story.
I have feint memories of what my mom did to bring me to church prepared. This took much thought and work before leaving the house. I was young, fidgety, and had issues with attention. I never really saw the work that went into her preparations, but I enjoyed the fruits of her labor (which sometimes was real fruit). At various points of the church service different things would make their way out of the bag. Raisins, grapes, the universal staple… animal crackers. Sometimes it was crayons, sometimes markers, but the activity book always had places to draw. She always knew what to bring and had just enough to get me through the service… so that everyone else could get through the service.
Now that I’m 40, I guess its time to make my own preparations for church. I’ve noticed that we all prepare for church differently. I’m going to point out 3 styles I’ve witnessed (I’m sure you have seen others).
The first group shows up to church empty handed. No Bible, no bag, no books. They pull out their phones, but they don’t have Bible apps or study guides on their phones! You might wonder if they would have come at all if some reason hadn’t dragged them or forced them in some way. Worship starts and they seem somewhat attentive. They may even join in at some point, but with a massive asterisk if they do… It’s not their job to worship. They showed up, and they expect the church to do its job and either worship for them, or create worship in such a way that it involuntarily jump starts their soul into worship without their consent. These are the parents that expect school to raise their children. Trainers must teach their pets and almost everything in life is someone elses fault. They will come to church, but whether they worship or not is the church’s responsibility.
The second group fully intends to experience God, but they don’t always manage to catch Him while He is there. They will sing, pray, listen. But they have to get warmed up. The right songs at the right beat, with the best prayer might just work. Its usually a slow build, but they will get there most of the time. The big difference between the first group and this one is that this group really wants that experience, it just doesn’t always happen. This group will say things like, “I just didn’t feel it that time”. Or, “ohhhh, I got that warm fuzzy worship feeling this time!”. If they don’t experience this good feeling enough, they may start to look for another church home or complain about the song choice, praise team, preacher, etc. Similar to the first group, they may blame others when church feels ‘boring’.
The third group will approach worship like my mom did with me (only perhaps, the more grown up version). They will wake up in the morning with worship in mind. They will pray. They will pack. “What should I bring to worship?”, this group will ask. Bible (or hip phone app), pen and paper for the sermon outline, breath mints for hugs and close prayers with their brothers and sisters in the Lord. Seriously? Why not? Its this type of thinking that allows for the final ingredient. God? Check. Here He is. And then they leave home en route to the church building. This group knows that the house of God is not the church building. They start the day off in preparation of worshiping God and they bring Him with them. How much sense would it make to have a party honoring someone and you don’t invite the person being honored?
This group shows up and has a servant’s heart from the first handshake with the door greeter. They aren’t just ready to start worship, they already have been. And so they interact with family rather than church going acquaintances. They see visitors as potential in-laws (the good kind) rather than strangers fighting for the back pew. And when all are seated and the first word spoken… you are already there: engaged with God, your Father, ready to praise Him for what He has done… and maybe even work out some issues between the two of you.
Worship isn’t something that happens to us, its something we do. It’s an act. Its a verb. It’s a sacrifice of time, emotion, honesty, confession, repentance, acceptance, and so much more. It starts the moment you wake up in the morning and greet your God and, quite honestly, it should finish when you say ‘good night’. If you show up to church and the last time you spoke to God was the last time you were at church… you don’t have the relationship that God wants to have with you.
I had some animal crackers very recently. You never grow out of them. They taste plain at first (no chocolate, no toppings, no fillings, just… animal shapes and carbs). But they are a necessity. They filled a void in my stomach and kept my mind where it belonged. Today, Jesus fills a void in my soul and keeps me close to God. I couldn’t imagine trying to go to church without taking Him with me. Without first talking with Him in the morning. Reading His words, and possibly even singing along the way. He is the reason I go to church, how could I leave Him behind or expect someone else to bring Him?
Worship is intentional, purposeful, specific, and directed straight to God. It’s personal between the two of you. It’s not passive, and it’s rarely done with dry eyes. Even more so, it also involves a community of believers… and if they aren’t seeing genuine Christians delivering worship to a beloved Savior, then I start to understand why they don’t want to be a part of the church.
This phrase conjures up for me chants of the masses. I think back to high school where rebellion to be different was so popular, everyone looked the same. Be different!… just like everyone else.
Resistance certainly has its place in all cultures, but I fear that a great many have lost the ability to know when its useful.
There have been news reports of children calling 911 on parents for taking their Xbox away (1). Where did they learn that behavior? Probably from the parents who called 911 on the fast food restaurant who didn’t get their order right (2).
What it boils down to, in my mind, what is worth resisting? As a Christian, I’m allowed to have my own political beliefs, agendas, and deep rooted opinions. But the follow-up question is inevitably, what is worth resisting? In other words, what do I want to be known for?
Do I want to be the guy who got fired because I couldn’t stand bad coffee in the break room any longer? I could be like Seinfeld and refuse to tolerate women who eat one pea at a time. Over every little injustice that creeps into my life, I could stomp my foot and strike up the Twisted Sister song, “We’re Not Gonna Take it!” For myself, I want to be known for my Christianity. So instead of taking up the flag of tax reform, I don the banner of Christ. I still vote for the tax reform I want, but its not the most important issue in my life. Its not what I want to be known for when I’m gone.
Can I stand up for myself? Yes! When? That is what I find so critical today. When should we choose to ignore versus fighting back for a fundamental right? And these questions seem to swirl around the issue. But they all paint the same picture. Can you function in a world where you don’t always get your way? Is resistance always making its way into your vocabulary? Do you have to think for a moment to consider all the different things you fought against?
Perhaps we should all ponder what matters in life? What defines us? Who do you want to be? What gets in the way of your dreams? What stops you from being a complete version of you? Maybe those things are worth opposing. Instead of letting world news be your buffet of resistible offerings, choose for yourself that you will define the true you, and then only focus on what matters most when taking a stand.
Far too many have confused ‘getting my way’ with ‘taking a stand for the good cause’. Some of us need to grow up. More of us need to know up. We need to learn about ourselves and finally decide who that person in the mirror needs to be. Don’t let the world define you. Knee jerk opposition is just that. Define yourself, and then you can make your own memorable and lasting impression on the world. Don’t be the girl who makes her life’s work protesting the removal of the McRib. (3)
- Child calls 911 after parents take away Xbox
- 911 call over drive thru order
- Facebook page of McRib protest
O come O come Emmanuel.
This song begs a simple question. What do you mean when you sing these words? For some, they are asking God to hurry the end times. To allow Jesus to return to earth as prophesied. Others believe that our God is supernatural and that He can intervene today. They believe that prayer works and when you ask God to do something, He is able and actually WILL do things. A third group will sing the words and not give them much thought. To them its a pretty song, or perhaps they think they are singing on behalf of someone that lived during the days of Jesus.
When I sing these words, my soul leaps. It’s as though I was lying dormant, choosing one boring, meaningless task after the next. And then I chose this one… to call on my Savior. And the response within me is, “YES!. Finally! This is exciting. You have called on the power of the living God. Oh, how I can’t wait to see what is going to happen next. Do you realize He can do ANYTHING!”
I have to confess that there are times where I have “worshiped” and never thought to ask Jesus to be a part of it. I just did what i wanted my way. Or I just followed others in their plans. These words are a request. We are asking the Lord to be a part of what we are doing. We can worship a God who is far off in heaven. Or, we can invite Him to join us and worship a present God in the moment.
This may make some people uncomfortable. They worship a God that they believed healed sick and rose from the dead, but don’t believe He can do the same today. They find Him bound by scriptures and willfully helpless to answer our call. They pray prayers asking God to heal the sick but don’t actually believe He has the power to do so. They believe they were baptized by the Holy Spirit, but don’t believe that He lives within them. And while I don’t want to tell anyone that they are wrong in how they worship…. I can’t help but ask the questions… mostly, why?
Why sing to a God that won’t answer? Why pray to a God who doesn’t listen? Why worship a God that lies dormant? Why quote scripture that promises answers to prayer when faith and belief in that promise are lacking?
When my friend said, “come here”. It wasn’t a philosophical quandary. It was a request. When we ask Jesus to come visit with us… why doesn’t it mean exactly what we sing? Can’t it?
Our eternal goal is to be with God. If you believe in the Bible, you know we are partly connected to Him already. Made in His image (gen 1:27). Filled with the Holy Spirit (acts 2:38). And, sanctified to be with Him. Asking Him to join us in worship… I would claim that is where worship starts. The birthday party begins with the lights off and all of the guests hidden. The actual celebration happens when the guest of honor walks through the door and we all yell “Surprise!”. What an odd party to have if the person wasn’t even there yet. Why should worship be different? And do note that it is a celebration. Come, o Come, Lord. We want to honor you. We want to worship you. We have so much to be glad for. Honor us with your presence so we can say thank you.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee
I love this part because its straight forward and yet its not often we consider the flow of worship. From our soul directly to God. This speaks to me as I have a history of including middle men in the process that were never intended to be there. My prayers are tailored to those present. My singing is hushed for fear those around might hear how God forgot to bless me with any semblance of vocal talent. My contribution is folded and concealed.
Its not about the habits, some may actually have merit. Its about the awareness. Its about the presence of our hearts and minds. Are we thinking about the pitch, the tempo, the crying baby, the order of worship… Soul to God cuts out all of this and gets right down to business. This verse reminds us that we need spiritual binders. This is what horses wear so that things that happen around them, in their peripheral vision, don’t distract them from their responsibilities. It physically blocks line of sight so they stay focused on what is directly in front of them.
God Should be directly in front of us. And we should be singing TO Him. Not about Him, we have already welcomed Him, invited Him to our worship. If we sincerely meant that, wouldn’t it be horrible to invite God to a time and place where we are concerned about what others think? Where we hold back our emotions and give God a half hearted, location awareness offering. Don’t read into this disorderly worship. God can be praised by the masses in orderly worship. It’s our hearts that give us away when our minds are in other places during this time.
Soul to God. I’m a visual person, so to me it looks like this: Soul —> God. We don’t have to ignore our fellow Christians during worship. We don’t have to exclude them. Worship was designed, I believe, to build up both God and Church. We don’t worship because we want to be built up, but it happens during the process when we worship to build up God. Our praise for Him tends to have a healing effect. (but this is a whole other issue). The power of this line of text is simple. Your worship is your offering to God. How much do you want to give? Do you remember what happened to Ananias and Sapphira? They kept a portion for themselves. Just as they were expected to give all they had financially, we are expected to give all that we have in worship. Some of us have become very good at tithing 10% effort, or 10% volume, or 10% listening.
Engaged directly with God you can give a true offering of self.
Fall on your knees. (O Holy Night)
Have you ever tried to fall on purpose? Most of us spend a great deal of effort to stay… up. Falling, in most cases, would be painful, embarrassing, and possibly costly. If I were to kneel right now, I would first look for a pillow. At my age, kneeling gets painful after a short time. I would also slowly lower myself to the ground, grabbing surrounding structures for support. You would definitely hear a grunt or two as I made my way down. Why? because the last thing I want to do is fall. And of course, I would need help to get back up.
Kneeling, is an action. Its a choice. And its also a process. Even the young and healthy will knee methodically. Falling is a response. The body no longer has control any more. If it did, the default reaction is to try and remain up. The mind checks out and the soul takes over. The overwhelming emotion in the correct placement between God and man has a cause/effect relationship. It is not logical. It is not fair. The sacrifices made are not fathomable. But when we place ourselves as we belong at the feet of Jesus and the story of His life and sacrifice hits deep within our soul our body reacts accordingly. We fall. Its overwhelming. Its unbelievable. Its insurmountable. And when we finally align our hearts with God’s good and perfect will we know our true place.
We are the saved. We are the free. We are loved. And we can’t physically stand when the reality of such power harnessing so much love hits us. To fall on your knees is to say, “I give up… everything!”. There is one thing I need, and it is a desperate need. I need Jesus in my life. Everything else is useless.
Falling to your knees is crying’s bigger brother. Most of us don’t choose when we cry. There are a few good actors that can flip that switch, but for the rest of us, its an emotion that comes when prompted by our surroundings. A sad movie, a heartfelt song, a devastating situation. Tears come without our permission based on how we perceive the situation at hand. The phrase, “uncontrollable laughter”, or “uncontrollable crying” has merit. We don’t control those things. They are responses, not thought out actions. Falling to your knees is a response. In the frame work of worship, its the bodies way of saying, the heart, mind, and soul are where they belong right now.
Disclaimer: If you don’t fall to your knees… don’t read anything into that. But imagine the spiritual and emotional state of someone who does. Stand before the real throne of God, and not an empty one. Imagine your reaction to Him. Accept His sacrifice. Accept His love.
Invite God, praise Him directly and genuinely, and then respond to His presence in your life. This is worship to me.