Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Chance To Follow

For the last 18 months or so, I've spent every worship service I've attended with an instrument in my hand, either leading or supporting.  Sunday mornings...Wednesday nights...leading the congregation.  It's what I do, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  Sometimes when we do what we do, we can forget what it's like to be on the other side of things.  We forget about the feeling of letting everything fade in the presence of God as we offer our worship to Him.
Tonight, I had a rare experience.  "Before The Throne"...what we call the praise and worship service at Calvary Chapel Houston.  We have 2 bands there. The "Larger Than Life" (LTL) band that plays on Wednesday nights, in which I play drums, and the "Call To Worship" (CTW) band that plays on Sunday mornings.  Once a quarter, one of the bands plays for the all-music service, and this time it was the CTW band's turn.  I must confess that a lot of times, when I'm not playing on a Wednesday night, I'll take the night off and spend it with my family.  This week I went to the service, offering my ear to the sound team, and whatever else was needed.  I was in support mode...I was there to work, to facilitate, to help get things done.  The service started, and I was up in the sound booth, watching and listening.  By the third song, I felt the overwhelming need to go down into the sanctuary and sit in the service, something I hadn't done in a really long time.
I  felt awkward, walking down the darkened aisle, looking for a seat.  My home is on the front, playing.  I grabbed an aisle seat and sunk down into it.  I knew all the songs, having played or sung them all before, so the words came to me out of habit...almost mechanically.  And then I closed my eyes.  That's when it happened.  My analytical eyes were ears, always listening for what could be tweaked, stopped hearing the band, and started hearing the worship going on around me.  The music changed from instruments and speakers to the combined voices of all the saints around me, singing and crying out to God.  The peace that washed over me was amazing.  I was following the worship team to God...they were leading, and I didn't have to.  I found myself in a place I haven't been in a long time...being ushered into the presence of God by people like me who do what I do.
As I write this, I feel renewed...energized...restored...focused.  I think all of us who facilitate worship need to find opportunities to be led into God's presence in worship.  Those of us who lead need the chance to hand the controls over to someone else from time to time so that we can come to God not as a leader, but as a follower, without having to worry about the sound, the chords, getting the breaks right, all that technical stuff.  Tonight was a truly incredible night, worshiping God.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Reverence in Worship

One of the things I like to do in my mind is to take a hero of faith like Moses, Abraham, or King David, and put them in a modern situation. For example, I may imagine the Levites, whom God chose to be the priests in the desert tabernacle, sitting around before a worship service complaining about their monitor mix and the lousy job the sound guys are doing...ok, take a second to visualize that one...I'll wait...
Or, King David, as he was writing the 23rd Psalm, lamenting over the fact that he could do so much better if he had that Taylor harp, as opposed to the Yamaha. Whenever I find myself or others acting 'out of whack' in what is supposed to be a God-centered activity, I do this.
I read a quote the other day that caused me to use this technique:
"The first element in worship is adoration. The Hebrews expressed this by their posture and not alone by their word. For they prostrated themselves before God. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. They did not come with an easy familiarity into the presence of God, but were aware of his greatness and majesty, and came with a sense of privilege to His house." H.H. Rowley"Worship in Ancient Israel"

We should regularly take a step back and look at ourselves as we participate in worship.  Whether we are a participant, or a facilitator, our attitude during worship should be one of awe and reverence before the throne of God, and not a posture of folksy familiarity that too often permeates the environment of worship times these days. For facilitators (musicians, leaders, sound and lighting techs etc.) this should include preparation and rehearsal times.  Let's use our rehearsals as an opportunity to get our hearts and minds in tune and worshiping together as well as our instruments and technology.  If we spent as much time and attention preparing our hears and minds for worship as we do our monitor mix and instrument settings, the results would be unbelievable.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Regret...Despair...Reminders of the Past

     We can't change ourselves. We are helpless to make any sort of difference in our own lives, helpless to try and change the way we think, the way we feel, to erase the scars from the wounds we have inflicted upon ourselves.  Only God, who created us, can make that kind of change.  Only He can alter the very nature of His creation.
     We wake up every day to a world filled with reminders of all the things we've done that we regret, all the bad things we've ever experienced.  A day can start out full of hope and gladness, only to be suddenly derailed by a random glimpse of something that stirs a memory...then wakes up an old feeling...that creates ripples of sadness and despair...despair for our sinfulness, despair for our inability to escape on our own. 
     We can wallow in our despair, feeling helpless and hopeless, and let it pull us downwards and backwards toward what we used to be.  Or we can immediately cry out to God, and shout our desperation to His listening ears, even though we feel like our souls are being torn and crushed beyond even His ability to repair them.  God hears the cries of His children, and He answers the prayers of the righteous (Prov 15:29).  We are made righteous by Christ's work on the cross (2 Cor 5:21), and so He does hear our cries, and will deliver us from what we perceive as hopelessness.  And in our regret for the past, we must realize: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Rom 8:1)