Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lost in Praise

Have you ever worshiped God so completely that for the moment nothing else matters? Much Christian "worship" is so monotone and unemotional that outsiders and insiders alike joke about the "frozen chosen." There is no shortage of church services where a single spontaneous "Hallelujah!" would get a person thrown out for creating a disturbance. One such person is said to have protested, "But I was just rejoicing that I've found the Lord!"

The usher replied, "Well, I'm sure you didn't find Him here!" Indeed, one wonders if God is as bored by some church services as the congregants apparently are.

Whatever the origin of the idea that worship must be super-dignified, it isn't recent. In 2 Samuel 6:13-22, King David was so full of praise for God that he expressed it physically, dancing about "with all his might" (v. 14, NIV). Latter-day disco dancers and break dancers probably could have shown no less enthusiasm. Presumably God was pleased; but not everyone was. When David got home from the celebration, his wife greeted him with a sarcastic scolding for his "vulgar" behavior.

Even if our temperaments or church traditions aren't conducive to exuberant physical worship, surely we can occasionally allow God's greatness and all He has done for us to overcome us with awe and gratitude. Too few of us regularly know the joy of becoming so lost in prayer or song that minutes and hours fly past unnoticed; we're more likely to keep checking our watches and to grumble if the sermon doesn't end on schedule.

If we find ourselves regarding church and Bible reading as dull obligations, and our prayer lives are virtually nonexistent, maybe it's because we are in effect hearing God's Word with deaf ears. Have "God created the heavens and the earth" and "Jesus laid down His life for us" become mere religious cliches in our indifferent brains; or do we ever stop to consider how wonderful such truths really are? Those who not only read Scripture, but make its real meaning the primary focus of their thought lives (cf. Ps. 1:2-3), rarely find worship boring or difficult.

In Heaven, we will worship God forever--and enjoy every bit of it. Why not start practicing right now?

To sing the songs of pure praise of God
And to lose yourself in the joy;
To pray with no sense of the passing hours,
And no wandering thoughts to annoy;
To set aside even your pet concerns,
And to see only God Himself:
This is surely to worship in spirit and truth,
To seek God and forget all else.

But weak mortal minds will fall ever short
Of the Heavenly realms' ideal;
Some earthly concern always will intrude,
And diminish our spirits' zeal.
It is only through Christ and His holy blood,
That was spilled for our own poor sake,
That we ever can hope to behold our Lord,
And of worship to Him partake.

So fill up your mind with His Holy Word
And be ever seeking His will;
Think on His great works and His mighty deeds;
Bid your wandering thoughts be still;
And remember above every other thing:
It was He alone Who found you,
So place none of your faith in your own soul's strength,
But in He Who alone is true!

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