Thursday, April 14, 2011

Genuine Worship

Fight the night, run to the Light
Lord, You're the only thing to me that's real tonight
You know me better than I know myself

Oh, the blood of Jesus shed for me
What a sacrifice that saved my life

Let hope rise and darkness tremble in Your holy Light
Jesus, our God, great and mighty to be praised

Jesus, worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us!

HeartSong chapel was this past Tuesday these are some of the words from some of the songs we sang.  This was a chance for us to show the rest of Cedarville what we do, to play for them some songs from our new album, and to praise and worship our God together.  This whole experience has been very emotional for me; I went from being pretty upset at the end of our final rehearsal to being so overwhelmed with joy by the time the chapel was over. What a crazy couple of days it has been!

The day before our chapel we met at 2 to set up the stage for our sound check at 4.  Set-up went so much faster than we thought, so I was able to make it to my 3:00 class.  Sound check/rehearsal needed to start right at 4 and end right at 5 for a variety of reasons, but of course we started a little late.  I actually had to leave at 4:30 to teach a piano lesson, so I ran to grab the music for "Better Than" for one of the other keyboardists to play for sound check.  Teaching that lesson was a bit distracting just because I would have rather been out rehearsing (even though I do love teaching!), and it didn't help that we could hear them rehearse through the walls during the lesson. :)

When I got back at 5, they were done rehearsing music, but we still needed to run through transitions and all those types of logistics.  But to my frustration, I walked back into rehearsal to Jim scolding everyone for not being focused, to not taking our rehearsal time seriously.  For some reason, I got really worked up and upset when I heard that.  I thought, here I was having to miss rehearsal and wishing I could be there and focus only on HeartSong, and there were some people who were unfocused and showed that they would have rather been somewhere else.  I was still thinking about these things during the HeartSong CD listening party, and even later in the evening during our last concert for the Concert Chorale.  But my sister cheered me up when she came to spend the night in my dorm, and we had a great time being goofy together and watching my roomie roll her eyes at us.

The next morning my team met a little before sound check to run through "Better Than."  After that all the teams had our final sound check and some great prayer time to focus our hearts before chapel started.  And the chapel service went great!  All of the songs sounded "CD-quality" according to Jim; even our impromptu service change by adding a song at the end went smoothly!  After chapel I got to have lunch with my family before my next class.

But that afternoon I couldn't shake those thoughts I had Monday night.  I sat down after class with my computer and blogged about it.  About a paragraph in I realized that I probably would never publish that post, so it turned more into a private journal entry.  I wrote and wrote until I had before me a huge mess of unorganized emotions that I desperately wanted somebody else to see and understand.  After finishing that post, I felt almost as upset as I had been the day before and couldn't get my act together to concentrate on my homework.  I e-mailed a copy of the unpublished post to Jim asking him to read over it, telling him that before I publish it I wanted to make sure he was okay with what I had blogged about HeartSong.  But now that I think back on it, I realize that I didn't want him to just "okay" that post or make a couple of changes.  What I really wanted was an excuse to talk to Jim, to let him know how I was feeling and to be able to talk through those feelings with him.  I didn't start feeling better until Jim e-mailed me back to set up a time to meet on Wednesday to talk through my post together so that he would have a better idea of where I was coming from.

After about an hour of talking with Jim (which still didn't seem like enough), I felt a little silly for what I had said in that blog post.  I was complaining about what I saw other people doing on HeartSong; I was condemning them. But how often do I do the same thing?  How often am I unfocused in rehearsal or unappreciative of the time I have with my teammates on HeartSong to worship our God together?  What right do I have to be upset about what I see in others if I'm not willing to admit that I do the same thing myself?  It's easy to condemn others; it's harder to condemn myself.

My talk with Jim kept coming back to talking about grace.  We had some good discussion about two different responses to grace.  First, there is an attitude that says, "Since it's inevitable that I'm going to sin, I might as well embrace the sin and just keep getting grace."  Romans 6:1-2 asks this same question: Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  The answer: "By no means!  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?"  Another attitude toward grace says, "I messed up again. I can't stop sinning; there must not be any hope for me."  Romans 5:1-2 had a good response to this; it says, "We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand."  We can only know the true feeling and meaning of grace when we can embrace both a deep desire to be like Christ and a realization that we will consistently come up short.  That is when God steps in and bridges the gap, giving us way more grace than we could ever need, no matter how much (or how little) we have sinned.

Talking with Jim was also a great chance for us to get to know each other better.  He mentioned to me that he always thought I was the type of person who communicated more efficiently through writing than verbally, and that that must be why I am so quiet all the time in HS meetings.  After talking with me, he realized that the opposite was true; I would much rather communicate with people in person, talking face-to-face, complete with all the inflections and facial expressions that come with that.  Every time I write a blog post, I reread it to make sure that it sounds like me, that I don't use any idioms or phrases I wouldn't use in real life, and that what I say comes across exactly as I'm thinking or feeling.  The problem with the post I sent to Jim was that I didn't do that; I didn't double-check that everything I said wouldn't be read the wrong way.

The heart of what I really wanted to address was the idea of worship. Sometimes I think that all of us in HeartSong spend too much time worrying about the music and the ministry and not enough time worrying about whether or not our focus is remained fixed on Jesus.  We talk about what makes a good worship service, making a list of things like atmosphere, moments of silence, Scripture, familiar songs, or any number of things.  But honestly, we don't really need any of these things to genuinely worship God. Worship doesn't equal music; worship is lifting up the most important thing in our lives.  Worship could be sitting quietly in the dorm reading the Bible, or sitting in the basement of a store with 5 other people praying silently because praying out loud or singing might get you arrested or executed, or offering a friend a favor or committing to pray for them, or getting our homework done early so we can get enough sleep so we can have energy the next day to serve our God even better.

But because worship is something we do all the time, we could also worship anything and everything but God.  Worship could also be checking our phones or Twitters all the time, or spending every spare moment with our boyfriend/girlfriend, or becoming engrossed in our work and in getting stuff done, or even sending out tons of encouragement cards so that maybe at least one person will thank you for it later.  Worship could also be worrying about the service order or the atmosphere or the transitions so much that it takes any energy away from worshipping the One we are singing to in the first place.  It's humbling to think that at every moment I am worshipping something, and that in most of those moments it is not God that I'm worshipping.

Wednesday night in our all-teams meeting Jim talked more about worship, showing us different places in the Bible that talk about worship.  A lot of these stories didn't even involve music!  And one story, about David curing Saul of his demons, involved music but not worship.  Worshipping our God should start with humility; it is a response to His grace and is made evident through our obedience to Him.  Maybe it was because Jim and I had just talked about this issue earlier that day, but I was alert and paying attention for most of the time (which unfortunately doesn't always happen for me).  I think that hearing this perspective on worship, remembering that worship is not equal to music, was good for all of us to hear.  God's grace is here for all of us who would accept it, and when we do we respond with genuine worship, living out the Gospel through our lives and through our music.

"HeartSong Ministries exists to communicate the livable reality of the Gospel as seen through genuine worship."  This is our prayer: that God would continually give us grace so that we can live out the Gospel and serve Him in genuine worship, whether it's through music or in another way.  I am so in awe and so thankful for the opportunity to be on HeartSong and pray that God would save me from ever taking it for granted, and I pray that as four of our teams travel this summer, God would work in us and through us in such a huge way that our only response is worship.

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