Month: July 2017
I’m a product of a generation that was tired of boring, dry and rote worship services. Opening prayer, 3 songs, communion, contribution, sermon (a long one!), song, closing prayer…rinse and repeat. Thankfully we decided there has to be some emotion in our worship services. Can’t we lift our hands, go off script, dance, clap, rejoice?! I’m thankful for people who led us out of the idea that worship services should be boring to be pleasing to God.
However, one thing this did to me was that I began to believe that worship was then about a feeling. If I wasn’t moved to tears, dancing, or clapping, it wasn’t authentic. If the singing and music doesn’t give you butterflies and make you jump out of your seat with hands in the air, well then we’re just not worshipping very well. So then worship became more about me and what I feel, and less about what God does and where God is regardless of my feelings. If worship isn’t full of emotions and feelings, does that mean God is any less present? Does it mean that I’m far from God? Does it mean that my love for God has grown weak? That was the implicit message I was getting over time and brought me to jump from one style of worship to another, “looking for God”.
And that leads to maybe the biggest problem with this way of looking at worship; it now requires ministers and worship service leaders to create these experiences week after week after week, and it really isn’t possible. It now requires novelty in our worship services because worship has become more about what we feel and do, and less about God. And makes a lot of people feel like they are distant from God if they don’t have the same emotional response as others. And it makes a lot of people jump from church to church looking for that feeling when it runs out.
I guess what I’m advocating for here is a worship that is less bottom up (from us to God), and more top down (God to us), as James Smith puts in his book You Are What You Love. Whether we “feel it” or not, whether we’re moved with emotion or not, whether that song gave us butterflies and made us cry or not, God is still there. The presence of the Risen Christ is still there in the singing, Scripture reading, praying, and breaking of the bread. Thank God he doesn’t rely on our feelings or emotions.
Thank God that authentic worship is more than a feeling.
There seems to be a trend today of being extremely critical, bordering on complaining, and calling it something like “constructive criticism”. (I’m sure it’s not a trend today, but always has been. I just hear it a lot now.) It’s the people that no matter what you do, how much heart you put into something, how much you care, they always say something like, “That was great, BUT….”. I know for some people when they offer critique, they mean it in a spirit of love and encouragement. But often, when there is always a “BUT”, what was meant as positive critique just comes across as complaining, or being overly critical.
When Scripture speaks of letting no unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, or of our language being seasoned with salt, I’m afraid we have made that too narrow. We use those texts to keep our teenagers from cussing or using language that might be socially unacceptable. While I affirm “clean” language in the traditional sense, I’m more and more convinced those texts also speak to the spirit with which we speak to one another.
So, just some encouragement today to take inventory of your language. I’m doing the same. For every piece of constructive criticism that we offer, we ought to counter it with loads and loads of positive encouragement. Every time we are set to give someone some critique to “make them better”, let’s check if it is truly in a spirit of love, and if it is even worth offering. There are plenty of critics in the world, but not near enough encouragers. I don’t want to be known as the critic. If you think something positive about someone, or something they did, don’t hold it in. Tell them about it.
DISCLAIMER: This post is not in response to anyone or anything said to me. Seriously. It was just on my heart today. Peace, friends.
“Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up…” – I Thessalonians 5:11
Death came to His body, therefore, not from Himself but from enemy action, in order that the Savior might utterly abolish death in whatever form they offered it to Him. A generous wrestler, virile and strong, does not himself choose his antagonists, lest it should be thought that of some of them he is afraid. Rather, he lets the spectators choose them, and that all the more if these are hostile, so that he may overthrow whomsoever they match against him and thus vindicate his superior strength. Even so was it with Christ. He, the Life of all, our Lord and Savior, did not arrange the manner of his own death lest He should seem to be afraid of some other kind. No. He accepted and bore upon the cross a death inflicted by others, and those others His special enemies, a death which to them was supremely terrible and by no means to be faced; and He did this in order that, by destroying even this death, He might Himself be believed to be the Life, and the power of death be recognized as finally annulled. A marvelous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonor and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death’s defeat.
– written in the 4th century by Athanasius of Alexandria in On the Incarnation (emphasis mine)
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
– Hebrews 2:14-15
Sometimes when I speak with Christians, I get more of the sense that the general held belief is that God is the problem. Jesus dies to free us from God, so the story sounds. Jesus dies to win over God. But, the story of Scripture seems to keep pointing to the fact that humanity has pledged allegiance and given adoration to dark forces, to evil, to death, to satan. Evil is the problem, not God. Jesus dies not to win over God, but to reveal the loving and forgiving God. (Remember, Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is the EXACT representation of God.) And evil kills Jesus, not God. God in Christ dies the death that evil humanity pours out to free us from the great superpower that we have given ourselves over to. God in Christ is buying us back from slavery.
God is not the problem. Evil is the problem. Our sin is the problem. Our giving evil and satan rule over our lives is the problem. God in his love saves us from ourselves, from our sin, from our idolatry, from the one who has held the powers of sin and death and kept us in slavery, that is the devil. As C.S. Lewis would put it, there was a deeper magic from the dawn of time of which satan was unaware. The White Witch has been defeated.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. – I John 3:8