Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I've Got Style

As I continue to read in Isaiah, it continues to amaze me. I have to be honest in saying that this is the first time in my life that I have spent this kind of time in one section of the Bible. Typically I would read and continue to move to the next chapter and I might spend a couple of days on the same passage but to spend over a month of just a few chapters has been an incredible thing. This past Saturday I added chapter 58 to my study and the timing of the subject matter could not have been better. Chapter 58 talks about fasting and the kind of fasting that the Lord desires. Recently I talked to the teens about really praying for the youth ministry and to look for those who were missing and let them know that they were missed, to invite their friends to church, to really look to change our group and to start with prayer. In staff meeting this same approach is being done in challenging our people to pray in June, connect in July and serve in August. So with all that being explain let's move on to what God shared with me on Saturday as I sat at a scenic overlook read my Bible and was amazed and worshipped in God's amazing creation of the beautiful Ozark mountains.

In chapter 58 Isaiah is sharing this message from God about the people fasting and praying and what was happening as they did. They were fasting and praying yet there was no change in how they were living their lives. They still took advantage of their workers and had this air of because I am fasting and praying I deserve God to hear me and give me what I seek. In fact 58:4b says, "You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high." WOW!! What an incredible statement. So that got me thinking. Fasting and prayer are acts of worship. It's giving up of self to see God glorified. Worship is something that we as humans and especially children of God were created to do. So often we get into these worship wars over style of worship. Traditional, contemporary, liturgical. Praise choruses, hymns, no music, lots of music, chanting, etc, etc, etc... As I read this chapter it began to dawn on me that there are two styles of worship but it is not what we think it is.

Style 1. It is worship where it's all about us. We are not truly worshipping God. We arent allowing the glory to go to Him. We aren't changing the world we live in through worship. We are doing it more out of habit or to put on a show. This style of worship is heartless, passionless, and selfish. The goal is to look good or be comfortable in what we do. We pray the same prayers, we sing the same songs, we go through the motions without ever stopping to consider what needs to be happening in and through our worship. That is style 1 and according to 58:4 we think God hears it and is moved by it?

Style 2. It is worship that is all about Him. We begin by truly putting the Lord of Lords before everything else and we lift up all glory to Him because it is truly due to Him and Him alone. When we worship the way He has instructed us to the world is changed. In 58:6-14 it goes on to explain what will happen when we truly fast and pray and worship. Change comes to the world. The chains of injustice are loosened. The oppressed are set free. The hungry eat. The poor are housed. The naked are clothed. The family is restored. And God hears our cries. This style is one that is defined by a heartfelt, passionate, selfless pursuit of the face of God. Not for what He can give to us but because we long to seek His face. Nothing else matters but the things of God and if something is bothering God it bothers us. Regardless of the song we sing or dont sing. Regardless of the type of music. This is a lifestyle that is comfortable worshipping because it is what we do daily. This is style number 2 and God is deserved of this and this alone.

So there is a style war going on in the church. But it is not over the type of music. If the war becomes about this then it has become style one and both "sides" are wrong. But if worship stays in style 2 where God is glorified the type of music wont matter. It doesnt matter what songs we sing. We could sing twinkle twinkle little star and because our heart is so consumed by the things of God we would become lost in worship. Certainly there are preferences and that is fine. I prefer one style of music over another. I prefer certain things. The problem is when our preferences become more important than who it is all about. When we prefer one thing over another and so because of that we "can't" worship. We should be able to worship in all things. We are called to be a people of worship and to live in a style of worship that transforms our lives as well as our world. Worship should no longer be focused on the song style but on the giver of the song. Scripture tells us that there is "nothing new under the sun." That means every song that we sing has been sung for eternity already. The angels have been rejoicing God with praise choruses, hymns, chants, etc... since they were created and so there is no "new" worship songs. This idea that one type of music has a "holier" meaning is lost. In now way is this meant to bash what some would call traditional or contemporary because there are those on both sides who think the same way. They think and spout off that their style is true worship and that the other is not. When really both are worship its the state of the heart that determines the style.

My hope and prayer is that whoever reads this blog would be challenged to look beyond the type of music and to see which of the real style of worship they are about. This worship war over style has much more eternal implications than the "war" we tend to focus on in church. When we fight the traditional worship war over "styles" unfortunately both sides have already lost and Christ is not the focus the type of music becomes what is being worshipped. Great hymns become meaningless in God's ears. Great choruses fall flat and don't reach the altar of sacrifice. It's fine to have preferences. It's those differences that allow us to paint such an incredible tapestry of worship that is beautiful because of the differences. Just don't let those preferences become the object of worship. Well until next time,

I am outie 5000,


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