When raised on the mission field chances are you either hear your dad preach every Sunday or, if you are like me, you hear him preach and lead singing every Sunday. Lucky for me my dad is not only an excellent public speaker, but a very gifted musician. My best memories of my daddy are not only listening to him lead singing, but watching him sing. You see, he doesn’t just pay attention to the key signature and notation, although he knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t just wave his arm around and mark time. He believes what he sings, and you can tell by watching. His heart is in the music. His heart is in worship. There is no where that my daddy would ever want to be, than singing his heart out to his heavenly Father. I love him for that example.
Now, if you are going to be a part of the Hale family (my family of origin), you must sing. That doesn’t necessarily mean you must sing well, although I’d say most every one of my relatives can sing beautifully or play an instrument or at the very least pretend (like my Uncle Richard). Music, and the appreciation thereof, is a big part of family life and memories for me. I’m trying to pass that love down to my children.
My husband’s first awkward encounter with a Hale music-fest was while we were dating. Bless his heart, he tried. He must love me, because that man sat through duets of A Closer Walk with Thee, trios of the Ivory Palaces, and my dad’s relentless music education till my sweetheart was red-faced, exhausted, and certain he had entered the twilight zone. He had to know the truth about us though before the wedding certificate was signed and the bank accounts merged.
In my family we sing. We sing, and we love it. It is a little weird to the outsider, but we accept our weirdness with pride and beautiful harmonies. For this reason, our worship in song is more than a big deal to me, it is my edification, my weekly renewal. Just as I watched music breathe life into the relationships within my family, I believe music can breathe life into the body of believers and unite one hundred different souls into one glorious chorus.
Growing up in the faith, having opportunity to live in six states, and sharing in communion and praise with my European friends, I have witnessed a lot of variance in worship styles. I have preferences because I am who I am. I don’t think you can separate someone from their worship preference any more than you can separate them from their eye color. I will confess that I get homesick for my preference sometimes, and I grumble. I also confess that my surroundings often dictate my worship behavior which, personally, I believe is much worse than grumbling about my preferences.
Today we sang a song in praise that touched my heart, My God Reigns. The chorus of this song speaks to a worship without shame and shouting to proclaim that God indeed reigns. The verse of this song claims that there is no other place that I’d rather be than in worship with the Father. I wonder how often that is true with believers like me, the life-ers.
I’m going to be really open here and say that I bore easily. Routine is comfortable to me, yet mundane. Life seems to just plod by and if it gets too repetitive I stop thinking about intentionality or purpose. My mind drifts and I get easily frustrated and malcontent. God forbid that Sundays fall into a miserable monotonous purposeless routine!
I understand that worship is a week long function. We worship God in all we do every day, which is why how we live is so significant. Because, after all, how we live reflects the Father. I believe with all my heart that worship is a daily occurrence.
However, often we lose sight of the vital significance of corporate worship and praise. In the biblical texts the pattern of the people in the Old and New Testament was to set aside a specific time to worship God with physical acts of worship. The old law of sacrifice is a physical act of worship and renewal. The Lord’s Supper, in the new law, is another physical act of worship when a body of believers come to praise and remember the Son. We have examples in scripture when the first century church came together with the purpose and the intent of worship.
There is a time for corporate worship and it is not meant to be our leftovers. Rather, corporate worship should be our first fruits of the week. It is not only a time of mutual edification. It is more importantly a time of love, praise, and thanksgiving to our Creator. He doesn’t need our worship for even the rocks cry out to proclaim Him. He deserves our worship. We offer Him our best, not our routine.
You see, worship acts as a horizontal edification tool when the vertical praise to the Father occurs. People who are invested in worshiping the Father are an encouragement to those around them. If you are missing the vertical, you are probably missing the horizontal. And unfortunately, if you are missing the horizontal, it might be time to ask some hard questions about the vertical. I believe this is God's plan for worship; to be praised and to encourage those in praise.
Here’s the heart of the matter: God wants your heart. He wants you to give all you have. Just like you want your kid’s attention sometimes; GOD wants your attention, and your reverence, and your praise. He doesn’t want your “just a minute” or your “when I’m ready” or your “I don’t feel comfortable”. He wants your heart, your whole heart.
Music has this uncanny ability to draw people out when they participate fully. I believe primarily God chose music for this reason as a means to worship. Ask any soprano; music is an intimate thing. I studied classical voice for eight years and taught for three, and I promise you that the voice is the most intimate instrument. I think that is why God loves it so much when we sing. It is an intricate part of who we are and singing out often requires our submission, our authenticity, and our vulnerability. When we reveal our heart to God in worship, He is set high above in our submission. He is compassionate and nurturing in our authenticity. He is all-powerful, almighty, and triumphant in our vulnerability. What you may think of as scary, lonely, or embarrassing, God sees as beauty and wonder. He sees your heart.
My questions for you today are these: Have you let routine dictate your heart in worship? Have you let a legalistic past determine your commitment to attending corporate worship? Are you fighting to maintain control or are you submitting authentically your vulnerability to God the Father?
My God Reigns.
There’s nowhere else that I’d rather be
Than dancing with You as You sing over me
There’s nothing else that I’d rather do
Lord than to worship You.
So rejoice, be glad, rejoice, O my soul!
For the Lord, your God, He reigns forevermore!
I rejoice, for my God reigns!
So, rejoice, be glad, your Father and your Friend
Is the Lord, your God, Whose rule will never end!
I rejoice, for my God reigns!
My God reigns and I dance the dance of praise!
My God reigns with a shout I will proclaim!
“My God reigns,” and I worship without shame!
My God reigns, and I will rejoice, for my God reigns!