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                Several weeks ago, Jennifer and I went to a concert. It was not just any concert, but a performance by Chris Tomlin and Matt Maher. It was awesome and blew us away. It also had something a little different than most concerts I’ve attended. During the middle of it a preacher (Darren Whitehead) came out and shared a sermon with us. It was over the seven Hebrew words used for praise (worship) in the Old Testament. I had never heard them before, so it was very eye-opening.

                The most remarkable thing about the words for praise is that they are all active words.  In praise and worship, we are to celebrate, to be clamorously foolish (Hallal), we are to throw open our hands in worship (Yadah), to extend our hands in thanks for things not yet received (Towdah), to shout (Shabach), to kneel down (Barak), to play an instrument or sing joyfully (Zamar), and to sing hymns of the Spirit or praise (Tehillah) - (https://www.aglow.org/images/leaderDev/seven-praise-words.pdf). In praise and worship, we are to be actively involved in lifting up the glorious name of God for what He has done for us, what He is doing for us, and what He will do for us.

                The preacher spoke about the first time he went to a church that had real, active praise and worship, it freaked him out. I understand that. The church I grew up in did not do any hand raising or get too excited. The deacons might occasionally throw out an “amen” if the preacher made a point that we really agreed with, but not much more than that. It was always a little shocking to go someplace new, where people really got into the worship. Outwardly, it always felt wrong, but inwardly I knew that they were doing something that I truly longed for – being free to let God know how I really felt about Him. This is what the heart of really worshipping is – letting God know what we think, believe, and experience about Him. The Old Testament writers understood that worshipping God meant not being comfortable, but being honest.

                Our worship must be honest adoration. It must come from the place inside of us that understands that we were once both dead because of sin and slaves to sin. This truth is crushing and takes the joy out of living. The Good News of Jesus Christ brings us to true life and frees us from the bondage of sin. This truth should set our souls and hearts on fire. It should push us to move away from what is comfortable and to what is right. The truth of the Gospel should make us tap our toes, clap our hands, lift our arms, and sing as loudly as we can. We have been freed. Free people live like free people and they sing like free people.

                We are God’s people. We are his redeemed. We are under the blood of Christ. Now it is time that we proclaim God’s praises. If you are redeemed, then you know that God is worthy of your praise. It really should not be that hard. I know that I have no problem declaring the praises of many other things (take for example my beloved Dawgs – I can easily spend an hour telling you how great they are.) The praise to the one who saved us should flow so easily from us. It should be like breathing. Breathe in – proclaim God’s goodness. Breathe out – declare His awesomeness. It needs to be that easy for us.

                I believe that a church should be the most exciting place on Earth (even more than Disneyworld.) Nowhere else does one find true freedom. Our church should echo with the voice of a hundred lifting our great God. Arms need to be lifted, hands opened to God, and voices rising to the heavens proclaiming what has happened to us.

                Imagine what Sundays would feel like if we truly praised God (and yes, I do believe that there is clearly time for quiet reflection and remembrance. Worship does include time for quiet and time for loudness. There is absolutely no hostility between the two, nor should there be in a church.) If our hearts were set to worship as the Psalmist of the Old Testament led their people to set their hearts, we could not wait to get to church. We would get up earlier and prepare beforehand. We would invite as many people as possible to share in our joy. This only happens when we open up to Him and get out of our own way. It also opens the Heavens and the Spirit pours down upon us.

                Our goal should be to worship as God intends us to. Our goal is to bring the same level of excitement to worship that we bring to a hundred other places that does not mean as much as the church does. If you are willing to be free in your worship, I promise that God will be free in sending His Spirit to dwell with us. When we lift Jesus up in our praises, other people will respond, and want to be a part of what is happening.

MJ

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