If you missed this Sunday, you can check it out here.
I have discovered a deep appreciation for hymns. Growing up in more of a contemporary environment, hymns help me connect to the past. Amazing Grace gets me every time. Every time I sing that song I feel the heavy presence of Jesus and his beautiful grace over my life.
In worship services, I believe there’s a fine balance between the old and the new. It’s important to keep these hymns close to our heart, but it’s also important to sing a new song to the Lord (Psalm 96:1).
Through the process of selecting worship songs for Sundays, I have come across many wonderful remakes of timeless hymns. Here’s a few I’d love to share with you.
1. Nothing But the Blood – Page CXVI
Download it on iTunes here.
2. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Sufjan Stevens
Download it on iTunes here.
3. In Christ Alone – Owl City
4. Leaning on Everlasting Arms/
Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus – David Crowder Band
Download it on iTunes here.
5. How Great Thou Art – Ascend the Hill
Download it on iTunes here.
“Worship is the opportunity for busy people to touch the eternal, for sinners to glimpse the holy, for broken people to be enfolded in his perfect love. Worship is moving beyond our self-centered lives to meet the one who created us for something better.”
I’ve always liked to sing. As a little girl I’d pretend to be The Little Mermaid in the tub and sing, “Ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah!” That’s translated into my adult life in that you can’t really get me to shut up. One of the most emotionally difficult times for me (and no poking fun at this) is when I have bronchitis during a worship service. I open my mouth, but nothing comes out (or if something does come out, it’s a cough or sandpapery wheeze).
On the other hand there are many people who don’t like to sing. When the music is loud in a worship service they may hum a, “Blessed be the name,” but if it’s a quiet contemplative song, they stand silent. Maybe it’s because they don’t like the sound of their own voice or because they don’t know the song. There are a lot of “maybes,” but the question is, does God want us to sing?
The truth is, I can’t answer that question. I also don’t think it’s a simple yes or no answer. The place to start for us to answer that within the context of our relationship with Christ is with our definition of worship.
Quoting Tara Burke from an article in Relevant Magazine, “The words ‘worship’ and ‘music’ have been tied together so permanently that people think worship time ends when the praise team leaves the stage.” I know you may have heard the phrase, “Worship is more than music, it’s a lifestyle.” This is true, but I’d like to unpack that. Worship is engaging yourself with the Creator. It’s adoration, obedience, faithfulness, passion, and creativity. Worship is intentional and selfless.
I have the tendency to get lost in the music (partly because I want to make sure the right chords are played). When I’m not leading worship and participating in a service, my tendency is to sing every word all the time (I sometimes have to stop myself from singing the Kim Walker “ha-ha’s” in Jesus Culture songs). The downfall is that I sometimes sing just to sing. Not to be heard, but just to sing. I have to constantly remind myself of the deeper meaning behind the melodies and words.
For those that don’t like to sing, there’s the danger of being disengaged with the deeper content as well. When you look at the lyrics, you understand what they mean. However, it’s also important to verbally declare your hope is in the Lord and your love for Him.
Take time to reflect on where you stand as a worship service participator. Pray and ask God to give you the capacity to be engaged in worship.
How engaged are you with the world around you? We have gadget upon gadget to help us “engage” the world. We are in information overload. We know more about people and the world and each other than we ever have, but are we truly engaged? We eat lunch and dinner with friends but while we dine we log more time on our phones checking texts, tweets, and Facebook statuses of friends we barely know or barely see. We are loaded with television, movies, and sports. We are entertained and amused. The reality is that as much information as we have, we are less engaged than ever. We can’t see our friends for our Facebook.
I am not claiming that these social tools are bad, obviously since I am currently using one of these tools to engage, but I am wondering how much our information seeking, entertainment watching, and social media posting is used to keep us one step removed instead of one step closer to our surrounding life. Instead of engaging the world outside we are collecting information to catalog and control the world outside.
If this consumerist escapism is as deeply engrained in our cultural worldview as I think it is, I wonder how much it has transformed our ideas of our worship of God. Has our worship and relationship with God turned into an opiate? Has our faith withdrawn us from society, caused us to disengage from our neighbors? Has the practice of our faith simply been a trade in of one coping tool for another? Or does our faith in Christ and Christ’s work in us result in something more.
Karl Marx said the following:
Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.
Is he right? Is religion the “opium of the people?” I wonder sometimes if Christian worship on Sunday mornings in western culture has become what I like to call “worshiptainment.” I wonder if Christian small group studies have diminished into surface self-help psychology. What Marx observed was people using religion to disengage the world around them. The people were overwhelmed by the injustices and hardships of their circumstances that faith became a mental coping mechanism that helped them “hold” on, until they were dead and in “heaven” as they understood it.
I believe this approach to the Christian faith is not what God intends. Ephesians 5:1 says,
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
To be like Christ is to do the things Christ did and does. God became flesh. God engaged the world, he did not withdraw. The letter to the Ephesians was a call to community in Christ for the sake of us being united in God and united in one another. (Ephesians 1:10). Paul goes on to outline the main places this mission is played out; marriage, parenting, and work. The over all mission is to engage one another in acts of love in service in all parts of our living as grounded in Jesus Christ.
If our worship withdraws us from life, we’ve missed the point of worship. Do we need a break from the destructive forces of the world? Yes. Did Jesus withdraw to be alone with God? Yes. But these were all done with the purposes of continuing engagement with the lives around us. Worship without mission is pointless and mission without worship is powerless.
This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Church, the day the Holy Spirit filled the lives of the disciples and all those who came to call Jesus as their Lord. Pentecost is the day that God empowered people to go on mission into the world to reveal the hope of the Gospel of Christ. Pentecost was the act of worshipping God, being commissioned by God to engage the world with his love, and the gift of the power to do so.
Today we stand with that same mission, promise, and power. We do not become Christians to escape hardship, but to engage hardship with the power of God.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In Christ we are more than those things that seek to conquer us, or degrade us, belittle us, and devalue us. In Christ we are given mission to move into the world in strength, to no longer have to disengage the world. We have nothing to fear, but can face the fears of the world with power and love. In Christ we can be change agents in the world we live. It’s not just a possibility, it’s a calling and mission given to us all.
As you prepare for worship this Sunday, look over these verses above, read through Acts 1 & 2, and Ephesians. How does your worship of God transform your life? Are you engaged in the world with the power and love of Christ?
Your kids are great and all, but my kid is awesome… and for no better reason than she is my kid. I love my kid and nothing can change or take this love away. Every now and then I will ask her if she knows that I love her while I am tickling her. The other day I decided to ask her if she knew “how” I loved her. She answered, “you love Mommy!” I said, “Yes I do and that is one way that I love you, but there are other ways too.”
I went on to tell her that I love her by playing with her, and taking care of her, and buying her toys. She perked up at that one. I told her that I loved her by feeding her, putting her to bed, and reading her stories among others things. I explained that there are many ways that I love her. I then asked her if she knew how she loved me.
What does a child of this age do to show a parent they love them? She can’t take care of me. She can’t protect me. She can’t buy me toys or feed me. I sat there for a second after asking the question and then told her how she loves me. I told her that she loves me by trusting me to take care of her and provide for her. She loves me by the excitement she shows when I come home, by inviting me to play with her and her toys. She loves me by depending upon me and desiring my attention. She loves me by responding to my love.
There is nothing we can give God to earn his freely given love. There is nothing we can give him that he needs. But he delights in the fellowship of our play, our laughter. He delights in the invitation to our mundane and sacred living. He delights in our trust and reception of his guidance and love. In this kind of love there is nothing on our part to “prove.” It is an action that requires no scheming. It is a love that requires us to be still and know that he is God.
With no anxiety to prove that God loves me and that I love him, it certainly opens up room for me to love others. Sydney was right; I do love her by loving her mommy. That’s also how I love God.