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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hard Worship (Worship, Part 5)

'Father Lopez Statue' photo (c) 2010, Cliff - license: it's hard to worship God.

Sometimes I'm tired when I get to church. Sometimes I had a hard time with my kids right before we got there. Sometimes I had a tough day at work before an evening service, or a tough week of work before a Sunday morning service.

Sometimes I don't like the songs the worship leader chose. Sometimes I don't know the words very well, or I don't like the way the song is written, or I don't care for the rewrite.

Sometimes the bass guitar is too loud, or I don't like the voice of the person who is leading a particular song, or the guy standing right behind me is singing really out of key.

Sometimes there are a lot of people and I feel crowded. Sometimes there aren't very many people and I feel self-conscious. Sometimes it was hot outside and I feel a little sweaty - sometimes it's too cold inside and I just want to put on my jacket and put my hands in my pockets.

Sometimes it's hard to worship God.

But sometimes, it's easy to worship God.

Sometimes I feel good when I get to church. Sometimes every song is one of my favorites, the band sounds good, the singers are showing us how it's done, they're playing them in my key, and I couldn't be happier if I was in the front row at a Chris Tomlin concert.

Sometimes it's easy.

But then I start to wonder: am I really worshiping God they way I want to? Really communing with my Savior? Really reaching my heart out to him? It can actually be pretty easy just to enjoy singing for singing's sake, like singing along at a Beatles concert, but never actually open your heart to God.

And sometimes, when it's so hard to worship that you feel like you might have turned into that stone statue up there, although you may not feel good or you may be distracted by any of a zillion little things, you may be doing your level best to stretch your heart out to touch God.

In the one case, you can think you succeeded in worshiping God when you actually haven't. In the other case, you may feel like you've been an utter failure at worshiping God, but God may be saying "Well done!"

My perspective on musical worship services has been the same since I was in college. I attended Oral Roberts University (which is a great school... look into it if you're a high schooler!) and was required to attend chapel services a couple times a week. The music could tend to be repetitive. Sometimes it seemed like the chapel band only knew about five songs, and we sang them again and again, every service, the same arrangement, even the same order. I'm sure it wasn't actually like that, but it certainly seemed like it! It got a little monotonous, and after a while I found myself sort of checking out during the music part.

Then one day when I was sort of standing there watching, maybe even rolling my eyes a little bit, I could sense a small voice inside of me saying something like, "Your worship doesn't depend on what song is playing."

That was a revelation to me, and like an explosion or like a blooming flower, the whole concept began to open up and expand until it filled my whole perception of what worship is all about. Worship is NOT about anything going on in the physical world. Worship is all about what is going on inside your heart. Suddenly I realized that I could worship God, and sing that song I was bored with, and my worship could be pleasing to Him!

So when it's hard to participate in the physical part of worship, or when you kind of don't feel like doing it, do your best. This is God we're talking about here. He created you, He gave you life, and then when you threw it away, at tremendous cost to Himself He bought it back for you again. All worship is, is taking the time to love God. If you don't feel like it but you do it anyway, that's worship. And if you do feel like it but then you're just expressing enthusiasm for music or happiness with your life - well, maybe it's worship or maybe it's not. In those situations when participation is easy, sometimes real authentic worship is not.

But no matter if you feel bad or you feel good, authentic worship is always possible. So do it. Love Jesus back! You do know He's loving you already, even right now as you read this, right? Worship is just reciprocating that love from deep down in your heart. Sure, you should sing, you should raise your hands if you like, you should dance if you are so inclined. But while you're doing that, don't forget to worship God.

After all, it's not so hard, is it?

I hope you've enjoyed this week worth of blog posts about worship! I actually did not start out with much of a plan in mind, but I did know that I had a few things to talk about, so I decided to go the mini-series route and see what happened. As it turned out, some themes did emerge. Here's the rest of the series, in case you missed it:

Disobedient to the Songs - in which I confessed that sometimes I don't do things I am singing about
Oddly Sexual - in which I explained that Jesus is not our girlfriend, but we are His (sort of), so using relationship metaphors in worship is not creepy
Hand Raising Styles - in which I worried that a comedy bit by Tim Hawkins has the potential to distract people from worship
Sloppy & Wet - in which I threw my hat into the ring on a controversial lyric in a popular worship song, and then said it doesn't matter anyway

Take a look at all four of those, if you haven't already, and then sound off in the comments section of any or each. And don't forget to add your comments to the discussion about this post! Just find the link that says "COMMENTS" or "POST A COMMENT" and click it to tell me what you think!

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