DELIBERATELY PURSUING GOD
THE BEAUTY OF DESCENDING
When we understand that something is evolving we think of development and progression. So our spiritual growth or the “evolution” of our personal relationship with Christ would be another way to explain the process of our Christian maturity. We can visit many different types of churches and see traditions and styles that have been passed along through generations and we should desire to be strong in preserving truth but what we must “untie” is our false sense of dignity. Somehow we must learn how to grow in our knowledge of God’s word without allowing it to inflate our pride to the point we lose our joy of being free. Freedom to do what, some might ask; to express the innocence, sincerity and humility that govern the conscience to live in the delight of liberty. But many will argue, “We are adults and must be act sensible!” Just because we become older in age does not mean we allow the child within us to pass away. One of the worst enemies against the church is this misunderstanding of spiritual growth. The Lord is very disappointed in the arrogance and coldness of churches that think more highly of the concept of dignified religion than the intimate spiritual relationship between The Father and His child.
What does all this talk of being a child have to do with praise and worship? Pull up a chair and think with me for a minute. Children have a clear conscience and do not worry about what other people think. They have not learned about being self-conscious or embarrassed. They respond according to how they “feel.” For example when they are hungry they cry and when they do not want to sleep they cry – and they do not care about how loud or irritating they are. But have you ever thought about the way a child reacts when they are standing at the door and see their daddy walking toward the house? They start laughing, hollering, stomping and clapping – why? Because they want to be close to him, they want him to hold them and squeeze them. They long for the feeling of security, the bond of love, his strength and protection, as his presence brings excitement and joy. So why don’t we act like this in church when God’s presence comes in? (You knew where I was going didn’t you?) I admit there is a difference between the emotional realm and the spiritual realm and we definitely desire the spiritual, but that does not mean we throw our emotions completely out the window. Our deepest expressions toward God are still intertwined in our emotions, including our passion for Him.
As we grew up, we were taught to stop running and jumping on daddy and to become more reserved and dignified. We learned to tone down our emotions and be more in control of our words and actions. We went through a process of transforming from a spontaneous and impulsive child to being more “repressed.” In this development we learned to hide our thoughts and wear a mask that covers our real feelings and protects what is socially unacceptable. We discovered how to go through the motions and how to play mind games and adapt to situations. And when the freedom and transparency is put away we are left with a mechanical robot existence which has a direct effect on how we express our worship. We are afraid to run to Him with open arms in reckless abandonment. We are embarrassed to jump up and down and scream daddy, daddy. Yet, that is exactly what God wants. There is nothing that can describe the feeling that comes from your child being so happy to see you. What joy it is to see their love for you as they stretch out their arms and cry out your name. Likewise our Father is thrilled with our joy for Him and longs to “see” our excitement.
Let’s look at a passage of scripture in I Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Some might think this means to become “dignified” to be quiet and “reserved” in church and in the Christian life. But actually this is referring to the differences in our mortal ability to comprehend the depths of God – and when we will be transformed into our resurrected body in heaven. You must read the verses 10 and 12 that allow the train of thought to flow into the correct context. The Lord never intended His children to become estranged to Him in public or private. There is a difference between man’s “religious piety” and having the revelation of the reverential fear of God’s omnipotence. The enemy wants us to exchange spiritual peace for carnal misery. In Luke 9:26 we are reminded that, “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.”
I have had the privilege of being involved with spiritual music and have experienced many interesting situations. I have come to the conclusion that praise and worship is just as much a place where we go as it is an act that we do. The “secret place” is a spiritual place where we fall at His feet and adore Him. It is the place of refuge where we abide under the shadow of His wings and this can happen whenever or wherever we want. I see people worship in many different ways and the amount of evolution they have allowed to happen in their mind and spirit is directly connected to how free they are to express. How we connect with God in our private time will be revealed in how we respond in corporate worship AND with our daily testimony.
Each week I attend two unique types of church services which are somewhat similar yet contrasting. Church one is a more traditional service where I lead some of the songs along with a full band while the congregation remain at their seat, raise their hands, read the words of the songs on the overhead and sing along. The other service has no one leading, no instruments and no words, just a pre-recorded disc of various praise and worship songs. I have noticed some things that are interesting:
Church one seems to need more encouragement to focus on the Lord. Sometimes if they feel like praising they will respond and sometimes they will not. In this environment there does not seem to be as strong of an expectation or craving. It is more reserved and more selective to the “menu.” Many become dependent on the words of the songs because that is what they have grown accustomed to. Sometimes I wonder if the words about God do not distract from focusing on the Lord Himself. The old idea of holding hymnals also seem to focus on singing the song more than entering into deeper intimate worship.
In church two there is no one trying to prepare the people to praise. It seems the ones who come are so hungry and thirsty they are ready to enter the gates and courts of the Lord instantly. There is an expectation of knowing they are going to “taste” the Lord and cannot wait to be with Him. The moment the song is started the people open up like a flower and begin to drink God’s presence. They do not even care who is singing, what the song is or even if they have ever heard it. All that matters is connecting with God and telling Him in their own words how much they love Him.
In church one, it seems that staying at your seat is the custom and “normal” place to sing and lift your hands. This is fine but does tend to hold down the confidence and freedom that little children have when they run and play. (When it comes to decency and order it seems that praise to God would trump the roar of screaming, jumping and excitement at sporting events.) God is our hero and we should cheer Him with all of our might. Unless of course we are not really getting along with Him or have drifted away in our relationship with Him. If we cannot worship to an audience of one and are not thirsty for His presence, we will be satisfied to just sing a song about Him.
In church two, there is complete freedom to do whatever you feel comfortable with in worship. You can get out of your seat and walk around the sanctuary, pray for others, lay on the floor, wave banners or dance, jump and run. This freedom brings us back to the childlike freedom to enjoy God’s presence. This liberty to have fun without the fear of embarrassment is something very special and refreshing. If we dance around the house or walk down the street singing praises to God we can feel the release of our inhibitions. If we have a merry heart and make melody in our souls throughout the week we will be more likely to enter into His joy in the corporate assembly.
We come to any church – one of two ways. We are either pumped up and looking for Him or looking for Him to get us pumped up. The people that can encourage themselves through the week, who get into God’s word and allow God’s word to get into them are looking for the power and presence of God. Man’s idea of normal church will no longer satisfy those who want to continue to go deeper. God’s idea of “normal” church is to fill His people with His glory! He wants them to know His will and be the channel that allows His power to be made manifest. God’s “normal” is signs, wonders and miracles. God’s “normal” is for His children to walk, decree and release the “halogen” brightness of His love and victory. The evolution of God’s church is moving away from a mundane meeting of focusing on itself to – rolling up its sleeves and extending Christ to the community. The river coming down is the outpouring of the Holy Ghost to prophesy, spread the gospel, heal the broken hearted, set the captives free and reveal the living Jesus to those who desperately need to SEE truth. Going down in God’s Kingdom, (humility) is spiritually going up, (exalted). Spiritual evolution is not ceasing to be a child – it’s learning how to stay one. “Verily I say unto you, except you be converted (changed), and become as little children (humble, trusting, honest, pure), you shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” (Mathew 18:3)