Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.
Psalm 150

Worship is the one universal and unchanging commandment to the creation. Worship existed in heaven before the physical universe was created, and it will continue for eternity after this universe passes away. We, the creation, were made for the pleasure of him who created us.

In the church, we often confuse music for worship. Even in this, we find all sorts of impediments to worship. The sound is too loud. The song is too slow. The instruments are fighting for tempo. The music is too high. The leader didn’t pick the songs we like. That baby is crying again.

Add to these external distractions internal ones. I didn’t get enough sleep. I have work to do. I don’t want to miss the game. I’m mad at my spouse/children/boss/neighbor/…

And, if we dare to be truly honest, we hesitate to draw close to God because of our own unworthiness. It’s hard to praise God when I’ve been looking at pornography the night before. Or when I know that I’ve been defrauding my employer by not giving a full day’s work for the pay. Or when my selfishness has hurt the people I love.

But if we take a step back, and re-examine what worship is, there is a simple solution to all of these issues. Worship can be expressed through music, yes. Music is uniquely able to give voice to our emotions and to stir our hearts to express what might otherwise be inexpressible. Yet worship is more than music in the same way that poetry is more than words.

A dear friend and mentor suggested that, “Worship is the overflow of a heart that comes before God, expecting nothing.” Take a minute and ponder that. So many times we come to God with our Christmas wish-list of things we want him to do for us. Even godly things, like asking him to protect our children and to give us the strength to resist temptation. But if our interaction with God is based solely on what he can do for us, then it is self-serving and inverted. We are basically god, commanding our pet genii to do our bidding.

No, worship happens when we see God for who he is, and marvel. We experience his limitless grace and mercy and are speechless. We ponder his faithfulness in the face of our faithlessness and we are undone. We realize that he has given so much, done so much, is so much that all we can do is… worship.

So what do we do with all the impediments listed above? Get over yourself. It’s not about you. It doesn’t matter if the external environment is sub-optimal. God is worthy of your worship no matter what. Got things on your mind? Change your focus… it’s not about you. Wallowing in your sin? Come to the cross and be forgiven. And worship.

I can’t sing (melody) with many of the songs that are sung in our church today. Part of me longs to let my heart soar with the high notes that sound so good on the radio, but which just can’t come out of my mouth. Many times I can pick out a lower harmony, but somehow it’s just not the same. Frankly, I’m more likely to come into the presence of God in worship when I’m silent, and focused on him. Yet, one morning I heard God tell me “play the instrument you have been given.” So I sing the low notes and try to create harmony that is pleasing to the (my) ear, and hopefully pleasing to God.

Robert Gelinas suggests that the church should be like jazz. Different instruments interact, opposing and resolving, syncopating, handing the melody back and forth. Not all instruments are created equal. The sax and the trumpet seem to get more glory, but you can’t play jazz without a string bass. Each has it’s place in creating the tapestry.

One of the instruments I’ve been given is the ability to write. This blog is me, playing for the glory of God. It is he who puts the words in my head, he who helps me craft them into coherent thought and write them down. In giving this back to him, for the edification of his saints, it is worship.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Romans 12:3-8

What instrument have you been given? Are you playing it? Are you playing it for yourself, or are you playing it for the Lord?

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord!