This is my most recent song fetish. I can’t get enough of this song. I played it frequently for my 9th graders the last year right before Acts class, so now it reminds me of spontaneously worshiping with them before we studied the Bible. Just LOVE it! Have a wonderful Friday and spend your weekend worshiping the Lord in whatever you do.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me- watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~Jesus
I have to admit, this passage appeals deeply to me. I AM tired. I AM worn out. I AM burned out on religion. It’s like he’s talking directly to me! I want to live in the unforced rhythms of grace.
For me, grace has been a learning process. It’s not always been something I have valued. I have learned how to have grace with myself and my failures, and by the same token, to give grace to others. The burden of religion that I placed on myself was ill fitting and heavy. I had to be perfect! And if I wasn’t, no one else must see it! Perfectionism is a heavy burden to bear.
Thankfully, that’s not where I am anymore. Do I have it all down perfectly? No, but I’m learning to live freely and lightly, comfortable in my skin, not overly caught up in my successes or failures. I’m not always at peace with my daily cycles of work and rest and learning from God and applying to my walk. But I see improvement. I suppose that before I can extend grace to others, I have to first learn to cut myself some slack. And for me, that is a very difficult thing to do. I need Jesus to teach me the unforced rhythms of grace.
So yesterday was Sunday. Normally my family and I head to church together, but this Sunday my husband was out of town with the only car that would fit all the kids. So we stayed home and I searched on line for a church with live streaming of their service. I found one that I have watched a couple of times, though I had never caught their worship time… their song service. I won’t tell you which church I watched, but it was a very trendy, young Evangelical congregation. Every woman on the stage wore thigh high boots and too much make-up. Every man wore a shirt at least one size too small for his belly… one guy was wearing skinny jeans. *shiver* But I guess that’s cool now? I don’t know.
Anyhow, I found it extremely hard… no impossible… to actually participate in this worship experience because I was totally distracted by the “Concert Effect” of what I saw on the screen. The colored spot lights swirled, the audience bounced together with hands raised, the pretty people on stage hammed it up with very dramatic “worship” movements. The cameras zoomed in for close-ups of the singers and musicians. The quality was as good as a music video! It felt inauthentic.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a Pentecostal Christian (I guess in America the lines between Pentecostal and Evangelical are sufficiently blurred so as to confuse even those of us that GO to church regularly). I love an emotional worship experience. When I worship, often I do it with my whole body. I participate in the moving of the Holy Spirit. So don’t mistake me, I enjoyed this musical experience, but I just couldn’t worship with it. It felt more like a Christian Rock Concert- like a show.
So I just want to throw this question into the void: What is the difference between a modern day Worship Service and a Christian Rock Concert? I am interested in your input here, Dear Reader. I would like to hear from both Christian and Secular readers. What is your opinion of the image of the modern church, as you see it? Are you comfortable here, or like me, do you feel like an outsider watching from a computer screen at home?
A long time ago in Ancient Babylon there were 3 Hebrew teenagers. Now because we aren’t in Ancient Babylon I’m going to take some artistic liberties and give these boys modern names. Let’s just call them Chad, Mike, and Ben. They were captives serving the King of Babylon. They were chosen to be servants instead of being killed because they were smart, good looking, and came from noble families back in Israel. They should have show gratitude to the King for sparing their lives. Instead, they refused to eat the food he sent from his own table because it had been sacrificed to idols and that was morally repulsive to a Hebrew. For their moral courage, God gave them knowledge and understanding of all kinds in addition to favor with the King. They were given important government jobs in Babylon.
Time passed, and one day the King of Babylon got a wild idea. He constructed a huge golden statue of himself, set it out on a plain, and required everyone to come and worship his statue. He ordered everyone, “When you hear the band start to play music, bow down and worship my statue.” Chad, Mike and Ben knew that this was wrong. So when the music started and everyone dropped to their knees there were 3 boys left standing. The King called Chad, Mike and Ben in for a talk. “Now because I like you boys, I’m going to give you a second chance. When you hear the music, bow down to the statue. Come on guys, be team players, you’re making me look bad. Just bend your knees, that’s all I ask. Otherwise I’m going to have to throw you in a fiery furnace in front of everyone just to show who’s boss. Then what god will rescue you from my anger?”
The boys replied, “We don’t need a second chance. It will be the same as before. We only bow to the God we serve. And he is able to save us from your hand and the fiery furnace. But even if he doesn’t, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods or bow to your statue, O King.”
That pissed the King off in a big way! He ordered the furnace turned up seven times hotter than usual. It was so hot that the soldiers ordered to throw the boys in the fire dropped dead from the heat. These three boys fell into the flames, bound hand and foot.
Suddenly, the King jumped to his feet in amazement. He shouted, “Hey! Weren’t there three guys that we tied up and threw in the fire? Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods!” So he called them out of the fire. When they walked out alive everyone crowded around them to examine them. There was not a hair singed on their heads and they didn’t even smell like smoke! The King burst out in praise to God, the God who rescued Chad, Mike and Ben. And he ordered that everyone worship the one true God too. The End.
Here’s my point in telling this story. Very often we pray that God would rescue us from the flames of whatever trial we are facing. But sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes God wants us to go into the fire. Sometimes God wants to rescue us IN the fire instead of rescuing us FROM the fire. But there is another option too. Sometimes it is God’s will that we die in the fire. The history of the world is full of people who have died for their faith, martyrs. And Chad, Mike and Ben were OK with any of those 3 final scenarios. Any of them. They said, “Even if God doesn’t rescue us, we will still worship him.”
So yes, God can rescue you FROM the fire. He can meet you IN the fire. Or he can ask you to DIE by fire either physically or metaphorically. It’s his choice. Are you all right with all of those choices? Would you stand firm in your commitment to God even if it looks like it’s not going to have a pretty ending? Is God still worthy of your worship even if he doesn’t answer your prayers like you wanted him to? Walking through the fire could be your finest moment with God, because he won’t let you go there alone. If he calls you to the fire, he will be with you. He promised.
So today I was having one of my “what the heck am I doing with my life?” moments. I was capsized by jealousy and envy. The “praise of men” was looking very tempting to me. I have many friends who are very successful by the world’s standards, and so often I feel like I’m just lucky that everyone in my family is wearing clean underwear today! I’m a mom. I’m a wife. Yeah, I’m a missionary too, but all those things just feel so insignificant compared to what my friends have already accomplished. This jealousy was really eroding my self esteem- big time! I was pea green with envy.
I decided to go for a walk with my ipod and try to talk with God about this. This jealousy and envy made it hard to think clearly. So I asked God to affirm me, to encourage me, to lift me up. But I felt God tell me to lift HIM up instead. So I scrolled through my ipod menu to a favorite playlist and I started to worship God as I walked along. Suddenly I started to see things from a new perspective. The green haze of envy began to clear and I saw things as God wanted me to see them.
It doesn’t matter what others are doing with their lives- I am lifting Jesus up. I’m being obedient to what God has called me to do right here and right now- I’m lifting Jesus up. The focus really shouldn’t be on my accomplishments anyways, I’m just here to glorify God. My obedience glorifies Him. My worship lifts Him up. That is my purpose in life- to lift Him up. So I guess I AM fulfilling my purpose, I am doing what I was made to do. It’s not about building a name for myself, it’s about building up the name of Jesus. That’s how God measures my success- by how much I lift Him up.