Becoming in Worship

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“A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will [come] out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson was a pastor in a Christian church early in his life. He then lost his wife and began to pull away from the church. Eventually he spearheaded the Transcendental movement in the 19th century. I wonder at what point in his life he wrote this.

I have read this quote many times and each time I am struck by how exactly right it is.

We all worship something.

What we worship determines who we are.

I especially love the last line…what we are worshipping we are becoming.

I pray that is true of me.
I believe that is the true goal of

worship:
To become more like Christ.

If we are not becoming more like Christ …
we probably should be asking the question …

what are we really worshiping?

Worship Changes Everything – A Book Review

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As a female worship leader, I have long been a fan of Darlene Zschech.  I have followed her music and writings for many years and am thrilled with her latest book, Worship Changes Everything.  In my opinion, this is her best work yet.  The central theme of the book, to me, seems to be that worship should permeate every area of our lives: our families, our work, our thoughts, our actions, etc.  Worship isn’t simply something we do once a week at church, but it should be a way of living that leads us into the very presence of God.  Darlene uses tons of scripture and quotes from other Christian leaders, which I feel adds greatly to her book.  This book is beautifully written and is also very accessible to the reader.  I found myself underlining things I would like to use as I lead worship at my own church simply because the words are so right and true and pretty.

The book is broken up into two parts: The Heart of Worship and The Hands of Worship (which is three times as long as the first part).  The Hands of Worship section includes areas like money, suffering, marriage, children and even how to worship in the wilderness.

As a worship leader, it’s important to me that we remember that worship is about so much more than just music.  This book not only teaches the true meaning of worship, but it gives practical and thoughtful instruction on how we are to live a life of worship in every aspect of our lives.  I very much appreciate and highly recommend this book.

 

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note: I received a copy of this book through Baker Books Bloggers.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

Learn to do Good. Seek Justice. Help the Opressed…

I read this passage today in my quiet time.  I can’t get it out of my mind.  I know that it’s just sitting there waiting to mess me up entirely.  I hope so.  I can’t wait for God to mess me up.  Here’s what it said…

“Wash yourselves and be clean!  Let me no longer see your evil deeds.  Give up your wicked ways. 

Learn to do good.

Seek Justice.

Help the opressed.

Defend the orphan.

Fight for the rights of widows.

Come now, let us argue this out, says the LORD.  No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it.  I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow.  Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool.  If you will only obey me and let me help you, then you will have plenty to eat.  But if you keep turning away and refusing to listen, you will be destroyed by your enemies.  I, the LORD, have spoken!”

Isaiah 1:16-20

The Lord is my Maestro

In my Thursday morning bible study, we are studying the Psalms.  Several weeks ago, while studying Psalm 23, we were challenged to create our own psalm.  It took me several weeks, but I finally did.  I know it’s a little cheesy and I am a rhyme-er, so it mostly all rhymes.  But – here it is nonetheless:

     The LORD is my Maestro, I will sing for Him alone.

     He fills me with joy and excitement as He lets me play my part,
     He rejoices over me with singing, and puts His music in my heart.

     He stirs my soul and pulls out the innermost parts of me,
     So that I can play a part in His majestic symphony!

     Even when life is hard and I’m stuck in a minor key,
     I know He’ll lead me through it with His perfect melody.

     And when no one cares or understands the songs I choose to sing,
     He lovingly reminds me that I’m singing only for my King!

     As God allows, my lifesong will proclaim His Holy Name,
     And then He’ll fly me up to Heaven where I’ll worship with the saints!

How He Loves

The song, How He Loves, by John Mark McMillan has had an enormous impact on me these last few months. We’ve sung it at the Edge a few times and I’ve been told that it has affected many of the students as well. I absolutely love this song. For a million reasons. I love that it is grounded in biblical truth. I love that it is real and raw. I love that it came out of real life experience and real emotion. But mostly I love that the author wasn’t afraid to be real in the lyrics. He wrote exactly what he felt like he needed to say. I love that.
When I write songs, most of them come directly from my journal. Many of them are what I was saying to God, or what God was saying to me. They are usually very personal. This song is so very personal. Not just to John Mark, but to me, and to so many people all over the world.
I think that the Gospel message can really be summed up in the words to the chorus of this song:

He loves us, Oh how He loves us, Oh how He loves us, Oh how He loves!!

I also really love the (controversial) lyrics in the 2nd verse:

Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way…(He loves us!)

I honestly hate that there are so many churches that feel that they need to change the lyrics of the song in order to make it more ‘comfortable’ for the congregations. I hate that we feel that we have to make the Gospel more ‘comfortable’ for people. I believe that Christ’s birth, death and resurrection were anything but comfortable. I very much believe that they were very messy and uncomfortable (you might even say kind of like a ‘sloppy wet kiss’). I wish that we spent less time worrying about offending people with the message of Christ and more time worrying about people dying without Him!

In regards to the controversial lyrics, John Mark had this to say:

“The idea behind the lyric is that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of
earth converge in a way that is both beautiful and awkwardly messy. Think
about the birth of a child, or even the death of Jesus himself. These miracles are both incredibly beautiful and incredibly sloppy (“gory” may be more realistic, but “Heaven meets earth like a gory mess” didn’t seem to have the same ring). Why does the church have such a problem with things being sloppy? Do we really think we’re fooling anyone on Sunday morning, especially God? Are we going to offend him? I mean, he’s seen us naked in the shower all week and knows our worst thoughts, and still thinks we’re awesome. What if we took all the energy we spent faking and used that energy to enjoy the Lord instead? That could be revolutionary!”

If you haven’t heard the song yet, check it out here.

Hypocritical Worship

“I hate all your show and pretense – the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies…Away from me with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.”
Amos 5:21, 23-24

God was talking here to the Israelites who were, according to God, extremely unjust and wicked. They were lying, cheating, oppressing the poor. He called them hypocrites because they talked about worship and sacrifice, but they ignored the injustices happening among them. In these verses it is obvious that these injustices and the lack of righteous living were absolutely essential to worship. They could not worship God on Sunday (or Saturday actually, right?) and act like everyone else the rest of the week.
When our life outside the church walls doesn’t match our life inside the church walls – When we say we love Jesus, but can’t love our co-worker or neighbor – When we promise to follow His ways, but ignore the hurting or needy all around us – our worship becomes hollow. It becomes useless to God. Worship is, after all, more than music – it’s about obedience. I have heard worship defined as “our response to who God is and what God has done.”

I do think it’s interesting that in these verses he specifically talks about music. Have you ever been singing a song on Sunday morning about the amazing grace of Jesus Christ when you realized that you are still angry at your spouse for something that happened earlier that day or even that week?? I have. Have you ever sat in the middle of the worship service and been annoyed or even angry about the odd outbursts of someone who may be new to church and God and who is quite different than the people you normally see come through your church doors? Guilty.

God doesn’t care at all for offerings of worship that aren’t backed up by our lifestyle. He isn’t interested in hollow worship. He isn’t pleased by singing hypocrites – no matter how beautiful we think we sound.

If we seek to worship God, we must also seek His justice. If we seek to worship God, we must also share His grace. If we seek to truly worship God, we must stand up for what is right (no matter what people think of us).

I’m reminded of a song I’ve loved for a long time called Stand by Susan Ashton. Here is my favorite part…

In a moment of truth at the top of the will
I open my arms and let go of my will
And stand with my face to the wind
With the storm beating down
On this sacred ground
If I stand, for the graceI have known
For what I believe
Then I won’t stand alone – no I won’t stand alone.

The Heart Factor

I’ve been blogging since May of 2005. Crazy, right? I was reading back through some of the very first blogs I wrote and came across this one…I figured since I have pretty much all new readership (is that a word?) I would re-blog one of my very first blogs…

I have just started reading a book called “The Sacred Romance” by Brent Curtis and John Eldridge and had to share a piece of it with you: “In the end, it doesn’t matter how well we have performed or what we have accomplished – a life without heart is not worth living. For out of this wellspring of our soul flowers all true caring and all meaningful work, all real worship and all sacrifice. Our faith, hope, and love issue from this fount, as well. Because it is in our heart that we first hear the voice of God and it is in the heart that we come to know him and learn to live in his love.” It is often interesting to me, although not suprising, that when God is trying to tell me something He will continue to tell it to me in as many ways as possible until I get it. Well, God – message received.
In the beginning of the book I am reading, the author mentions that all of us – no matter our relationship with Christ, are always wanting more. More love, more emotion, more meaning – More Heart. I can definitely relate to the desire for more out of life – as I’m sure you can. I have been overwhelmed with the feeling lately that there is so much more than I am getting. I seek God – but do I seek Him hard enough? I praise God – but do I praise him often enough? I worship God – but do I worship with ALL of my life, or simply with my song? I have to confess that everything I could ever give would never be enough. So, how do I get more? I’m not exactly sure. I suppose that just knowing that there is more will force me to seek harder and praise more often and try to learn how to worship with everything that is me. At least I hope that is the case.