Monday, June 1, 2009

The Motions

Since I've started to understand what an actual relationship with Christ is supposed to look like, I've had a few opportunities to share my faith and new things I've learned about that relationship. All of those opportunities have been very easy and not at all aggressive. I don't know if aggressive is actually the right word. Maybe there was more passion for what was being said on my side, than on the other's side. At any rate, the conversation was usually very mild, with little opposition to what I was saying.

Not the case last Thursday night. I actually had the opportunity to defend and share my faith. It was rather odd, because the person I was defending my faith to is a friend. He wasn't attacking my faith, but the amount of passion that he argued with was like none I'd ever actually dealt with in regards to religion. I will say that he attends my church and although he is not "religious" he does appreciate the messages that Jeff preaches and is willing to consider much of what he hears. He has a lot of questions and some deep convictions, but I would worry about him if he didn't question. When God gets him to come home (notice I said WHEN), he'll be a strong man of God. At the end of the night he told me he loves me and we were good. I actually think God set that situation up with a friend to throw me off. Like He was saying, "Things won't always be sweet when you talk about Me." But I also think he picked my friend to have this exchange with to make it safe, kind of a practice run of sorts.

There was a lot that he brought up, but one of his biggest complaints was with how worship is conducted. He argued that if singing at church was intended to be worship to the "one and only God" (he did the finger quotations thing), everyone at church should be on the same page and not be singing off key, especially if you're on the stage. He said something to the effect of, "If you are going to worship God, (emphasized) I MEAN - THE GOD, then everyone should be on the same page, the same rhythm and do it right, even the band. Otherwise, it's not worship." He continued by saying that it was somewhat hypocritical to be singing off key, not even following what was on the screen and really think that because you put your hands up, that you're worshiping God.

With that said...I think Element's Praise team brings the heat every time they play, I love'em. You can tell Adam (Blog love HERE) gets on stage every time with the intent and desire to chase after God's heart.

I really felt ill prepared to defend some of the points that were being made. But I put my trust in God and a lot of stuff, some I don't even remember reading or hearing necessarily, came running out of my mouth. I tried to explain the relationship part of Jesus, we talked about the Church being "intolerant", and a variety of other topics, but when the music thing came up, I was floored. I thought, "Seriously? This is your big issue with church, the music?"

Our conversation at that point turned to talking about worship being more than just singing at church. It's about the way you live, the time you spend with God, the rejoicing in Christ in the light and dark times. But it did get me thinking about worshipping in my daily life and it made me think of the song "The Motions" by Matthew West. Matthew West talks about not spending our life asking, "What if I had given everything, instead of going through the motions?"

So that begs the question, "If I don't feel up to worshiping or 'off', shouldn't I just not do it, instead of going through 'the motions'?"

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not going to win the next season of America's Got Talent or American Idol with my singing. So for all I know, my friend may have very well been speaking of me, although he didn't say that. Without even getting into the deeper parts of worship, i.e. the way you live, time spent with God, etc., worship at church has nothing to do with the actual verbal singing or the hand movements. There are sometimes during worship that I don't even sing. Sometimes I simply stand there, listen to what's being said and pray. Sometimes I raise my hands, sometimes I don't. There are even sometimes that I don't feel "it", when it comes to worship. In the past if I felt "off", I would go to church, stand and sing and still raise my hands. I would simply, go through the motions. Now, I'm not content with that. This last Sunday I felt "off" at the beginning of worship, but not by the end. When I go to church, I always pray for the Holy Spirit to move and worship with the full understanding that I am worshiping a God that glories in my praise and I have an absolute expectation for God to show up.

I think sometimes, regardless of how you feel, even if you feel "off", you need to understand one very important thing with regards to worship: It's not for you or anyone else, but GOD! I don't concern myself with anyone else during worship, except my Lord. There are times that I don't hear anyone but me. I try to always sing just as loud as God wants me to, without regard for how excruciating it may be for the person standing next to me.

When I feel "off", I still sing and still "go through the motions", but my intent is not to show everyone I'm a "good Christian", its obedience. God wants that obedience and discipline. Even if you have a bad day, God is still there and wants you to talk with Him and sing praises to Him. He wants to comfort us; he wants us to delight in His comfort. That is done through our praise.

Sometimes we assume that God will understand that we're having a bad day, that's why I didn't read, pray, praise, _________ (you fill in the blank). God is worthy of our praise ALL THE TIME, regardless of the day we're having. Who are we to take away and withhold that praise from a God that pours out His perfect, undeserved love on us? The real answer is we're no one, we have NO right. But the better answer is, to God we're everything, important enough to die for. How can we have a bad day and as Mercy Me says it, let "circumstance possibly change who we forever are Jesus?" In Psalms 84:4 David acknowledges God promise that if we live in God's house ALWAYS singing His praise, what joy we will have.

I think Matthew West is saying is even in the midst of everything, he wants his worship of our mighty God to be real. Even if you feel "off" you can still offer real worship without "going throught the motions". Worship is between you and your Lord. It doesn't matter how you feel, what anyone else is doing or what anyone else thinks about how you sing/dance/raise your hands/etc. God is God no matter OUR circumstances. What matters is that you ALWAYS sing His praises. Then no matter how you feel, He will make sure you have joy (that's different than happiness and another blog for another time).

Always Singing His Praises,
Bruce