March 22, 2012

Reason #6 - Because Singing Helps us Express Emotions

The "Why Do We Sing" series continues with reason #6.  We should sing because it is one way to help express emotions...expressing externally what is happening internally.

In Bible times, they had a very set structure on how to worship.  There were guidelines regarding the location, the rituals, the timing and just about every detail that they were supposed to follow.  During the time Jesus was on Earth, however, He proclaimed a new message about worship.  In John 4:21, while talking to the woman at the well, He says,

Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.  But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

There are a lot of profound truths in this passage and some revolutionary thoughts for worship.  “Neither In this mountain nor in Jerusalem” was a reference to how they believed their location was imperative to worship.  But, Jesus is saying that you don’t have to be at the temple to worship.  Instead, there was “an hour coming” (the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection) where we all will have access to God through Jesus.  We can worship anywhere.  And to be a true worshiper, we must worship in spirit and truth.  This is showing that true worship happens through Jesus from our hearts.  We can’t worship simply through external actions or rituals, but instead we must worship with the proper heart attitude.

We have been singing a song by Hillsong called “From the Inside Out.”  It shares this exact same message.  The chorus says,

            And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
            From the inside out, Lord, my heart cries out

Our worship starts in our hearts.  When our hearts are focused on Him, then our outward actions are an expression of what’s happening on the inside.

Singing is one way to have that outward expression of emotion.  Music has a way of touching our emotions and it is a great way of expressing our emotions.

This is one of the reasons I love it when the music matches the message of a song.  “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” would not seem fitting as a violin duet.  It needs a full orchestra with a 30’ pipe organ, timpani, and the works!  But, a song like “I Love You Lord” matches the emotions best when it’s sung with light accompaniment or even completely acappella…“may it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.”  The message needs to drive the music, not the other way around.

When music is mentioned in the Bible it is most often associated with expressing joy. 
Psalm 100:2 says, “Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing.”
James 5:13 says “Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.”

Singing is a great way to express the joy God has placed inside of us.
Singing allows us to combine intellect with emotion.
Singing connects objective truth with our response to it.

If singing is used to express emotion and if our hearts are filled with gratitude toward God, then how in the world could our singing ever be monotone or half-hearted?

We talked earlier about how singing helps us remember and meditate on God’s Word.  When focusing on His Word and all He’s done for us, we cannot suppress our joy and emotions while singing.
What about when you just don’t feel like singing?

Bob Kauflin, the worship leader who I got a lot of this study material from, suggests these three main reasons for a lack of emotion in worship.

First, we may have forgotten that we’ve been forgiven of our past sins.  Worship should always contain the emotion of gratitude.  Even in the middle of the hardest struggles in life, God is still right there with us and we will never lose our salvation. Regardless of what the rest of life brings, we have a reason to sing.  We cannot forget that.

Second, we may have yielded to the sin the Bible calls “fear of man.”  We may ask questions like, “What if people don’t like my voice?”, “How can I raise my hands or cry in public?” or “What would my friends think if I did that?”  Such fears can easily quench our affections.  If our worship is controlled by what other people might think of us, who are we really worshiping?

Finally, we may believe that expressing emotion in worship is wrong.  In a reading of Psalms, you will see many various forms of emotional expression. As the psalmists focus on who God is and what He has done, their hearts and affections are increasingly drawn to Him. The same will happen to us.  If emotions were given to us for anything, they were given to us for God.

While we’re looking at emotional expression in worship, let’s touch on a few other avenues of expression besides singing…

Sometimes we’re full of joy and want to move our body a little or put our hands together and clap.  Sometimes our life is so crazy and we just want to tune out all the distractions, close our eyes, and focus fully on Him.  Sometimes we think about His holiness and we want to fall to our knees or raise our hands to express our humbleness before Him.

Clapping, in itself, does not make you a better worshiper and closing your eyes does not make you more holy.  But, if your heart is overflowing with joy and gratitude and you feel led to clap in praise, then you better clap!  If your heart is overflowing with love to God and you want to tune everything else out, then close your eyes and focus on Him alone.  If your heart is overwhelmed with the fact that even though we’re so unworthy and God loves us anyway, then fall to your knees or raise your hands and worship Him.

Don’t hold back your emotional expressions of what God is doing inside your heart.

Since Madelyn was born, I have been overwhelmed with emotion many times to the point of tears.  To me, it’s still kinda’ weird and I can’t explain it.  Am I crying to get attention?  Absolutely not.  Can I cry on demand?  No.  Does it mean I love Madelyn more than a dad who doesn’t cry for his kids?  No.  It means that my heart is full of love and, for whatever reason, my emotional expression comes through joyful tears.  It is an overflow of my heart.

When our hearts are full of love for our God, there is likely to be outward emotional expression.  Through singing, through clapping, through raising your hands in humbleness, through closing your eyes, or even through tears, we should not be afraid of emotional expression.  But, it must come as an overflow of our hearts.

The Father seeks true worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and truth.

May we be a people who strive to be true worshipers, worshiping Him from the inside out.

March 20, 2012

Happy Birthday Madelyn!

Today is Madelyn's first birthday!  Wow!  As part of her birthday celebration, I decided I should write her a letter.  She is an amazing little girl and I hope this letter can be a special keepsake for us.  I hope you find encouragement through it as well.

Dear Madelyn, Daddy’s little girl,

I can’t believe you are turning 1 today. We are so blessed to have you in our family.

Your Mommy picked the name Madelyn and it fits you perfectly. It’s so cute and so are you! I really wanted your middle name to be Joy because I had a feeling you were going to bring so much joy to our lives. But, I had no idea it would as much as this! Your beautiful smile, your adorable giggles, and your sweet personality have brought us amazing joy every day this year.

You have also taught me to experience a new kind of love. I never knew how much a daddy could love his little girl until I met you. I love you just because you’re you and nothing is ever going to change that.

Your Mommy and I pray for you every day. We pray that you’ll keep growing strong. We pray that one day you will understand the love that God has for you and that you will ask Him to come into your life. We even pray for your future husband, that God would be preparing him to take care of you one day…in like 40 years!

I love seeing you when you wake up in the morning all full of smiles. I love seeing you throughout the day as you observe and explore everything around you. I love holding and dancing with you as you wind down and get ready for bed. Sometimes I wish the rest of the world would just stop so I could just hold you all day long.

Your Mommy and I have also learned to love each other more because of you. Besides our love for God and each other, there is nothing that compares to the love we have for you. And we want to be the best examples that we can for you. As you grow up, we want you to know that we are always here for you and you can talk to us about anything. We’ll mess up, so you better be ready for that. But, we will always try to do our best to take care of you and teach you in a way that honors God.

Happy Birthday Madelyn! Your Mommy and I love you more than you can imagine!


March 15, 2012

Reason #5 - To Help Express Worship and Adoration

The word worship has been defined in many ways.  My favorite definition says, “Worship is honoring God by focusing our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection on Him.” 

Franklin Segler (in Christian Worship) says that “Worship defies definition; it can only be experienced.”  But he goes onto say how the more we understand worship, the better we will experience worship. 

When looking at a Biblical definition of worship, I found some interesting surprises.  I never realized there are actually several different Greek and Hebrew words that got translated into the English word worship.  I have honestly been intrigued by this study and have been digging deep into this lesson specifically.  I want a better understanding of what it means to worship God. 

As we discussed in the last lesson, there are many examples in the Bible of singing praise to God.  But, there are very few regarding singing worship to God.  Obviously these are very closely related, but a deeper look at worship shows us that singing is only a small part of what worship is all about.

In all the original words that got translated to worship, the ones used most often really give the picture of “bowing down in reference.”

Let’s look at a few of those examples.  In 2 Chronicles 29, there is a great passage about how Hezekiah restores worship in the Temple.  This passage goes through the whole process of burnt offerings and how they incorporated music into the time of worship.  Then in verse 30, it says, 

King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to sing praises to the Lord with the words of David and Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped.

Another great passage on worship is Psalm 95:1-6.
            Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord,
            Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
            Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
            Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
            For the Lord is a great God
            And a great King above all gods,
            In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
            The peaks of the mountains are His also.
            The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
            And His hands formed the dry land.
            Come, let us worship and bow down,
            Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

In that Psalm we are told of God’s greatness and that our response should be to worship and bow down.  In a very similar format, I love the way the song “Cannons” (by Phil Wickham) presents this.  The chorus of that song says,
            You are holy, great and mighty
            The moon and the stars declare who You are
            I’m so unworthy, but still you love me
            Forever my heart will sing of how great you are

In that chorus, the first two lines declare God’s holiness.  Then, in light of His holiness, we immediately recognize that we are so unworthy to be in His presence.  But since He continues to love us, we must worship Him and declare that “forever my heart will sing of how great you are.”  I love that message. 

We see the word worship in the New Testament referring to “bowing down” as well.  In Matthew 2:11 we read about the wise men coming to see baby Jesus.   It says,

After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.

Revelation is another good example.  It is filled with pictures of heavenly worship. Revelation 4:10-11 says,

The twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power.”

 So far we’ve seen a very strong theme of recognizing God’s holiness and bowing down in worship to Him.  While that is the definitely the biggest use of the word worship in the Bible, let’s look at another example of how the word worship is used.  This comes in Romans 12:1.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
This verse has led us to the quote, “Worship is a lifestyle.”  That is completely true.  We should worship God through every area of our lives.  However, I want to point out that the Greek word translated to worship in this passage is a completely different word than the ones translated to worship in all of our other examples in this lesson.  The first word means more of “bowing down in reverence.”  This word translates more to mean “habitual service” or “duty”.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this; I just want to clarify the differences between these two definitions of worship.  Our lives should be filled with habits of service to God.  The way we go through our daily lives, the way we treat our families, the way we act at work, or the way we respond when people upset us, are all ways to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God.  We must be thinking about Him all the time.

The reason I wanted to point out this difference is because a lot of people say that “worship is a lifestyle” and, without meaning to, they belittle the other definition of worship.  Yes, I hope we are serving and worshiping God all throughout the week.  But, we must take time to stop, rest in His presence, focus our heart’s affection, focus our mind’s attention, bow down, and worship Him.

Let me point out too that you can’t have one of these types of worship without the other.  If you come on Sundays to “worship” but ignore Him the rest of the week, you’re not truly worshiping Him.  It’s just a show.  And, if you think you can “worship” Him throughout the week, but never come to church, you’re missing a big part of His plan for you.

This study honestly surprised and challenged me.  I expected to find more examples in the Bible of singing worship to God.  But, the main thing that I was reminded through this study is that singing is just one way to express our worship.   It has to go much deeper than that. 

Worship is a lifestyle and should be reflected in every area of our lives.

Worship is also an action of reverently bowing down in His presence.  It must include times where we stop our hectic activity, rest In His presence, focus our heart’s affection and our mind’s attention completely on Him.  Singing, while it’s definitely not the only way, is a powerful tool to help us do just that.