I don’t raise my hands during worship. Is something wrong me with me?
One night at the church youth leader’s meeting, we were having a discussion about our youth-oriented Sunday night service. We were trying to pinpoint why the congregation seemed so dead, and come up with a solution. Eventually, it was decided that the youth leaders should try and bring life back to the congregation by being more physically enthusiastic in worship. This would be achieved by raising our hands in the air and clapping along to the more upbeat songs. Many of the youth leaders began doing this, and the youth eventually followed, and we had achieved our goal. One youth leader said, ‘I’m so happy. I’ve been praying for this for ages.’
This made me cringe. Is that was a committed follower of Jesus looks like? Someone who raises their hands during worship? Someone who claps along to the music and occasionally pumps their fist?
I didn’t say anything at the time, and I probably should have. I don’t believe that physical enthusiasm during worship is an indicator of how much you love God and the church. I don’t raise my hands in worship, and sometimes I don’t even sing. For a long time, I felt guilty that I did not do these things, but then realised it was silly to allow the opinions of others to influence how you express your joy in God. I don’t have a problem with anyone who has is comfortable expressing themselves physically in worship. I just have a problem when you’re not considered “Christian enough” if you don’t raise your hands.
I don’t raise my hands in worship because
a) It’s uncomfortable. I get worried if the way I’m holding my hands in the air looks retarded, or if I close my eyes too long, I won’t realise the song has ended and everyone will sit down and I’ll still be standing there. I don’t even think about God in those moments, I just wonder if everyone is staring at me. And if they can smell my B.O.
b) I enjoy God without raising my hands. I find Him beautiful, glorious, one-of-a-kind, magnificent, in everyday, little things. Even when my hands are right by sides.
In this case, we tried to fix a symptom only instead of attacking the root cause. I don’t care about worship. You want to change the culture of a congregation? Just preach the gospel. And preach it in it’s rawest, most honest form. Over, and over, and over again.
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Everywhere I go, people, places, and memories try to heap shame on me. We get told directly and indirectly that we are crap. That we’re no good. That we don’t deserve friends. That anger you keep feeding coals to. That bitterness you’re addicted to. Those deviances that keep following you around. Those times, countless as the grains of sand on the beach, that I rebelled against my creator. Today, someone was just looking for an excuse to label me a hypocrite. I should probably just wear it on the chin but it got me thinking.
All these people, places and memories drag us down with the shame we associate them with. They say, ‘How can you be a Christian? You’re so angry. You’re so bitter, hateful and fearful. You have too many anxieties. You’re a hypocrite! There’s so many stupid and wreckless things you have done, and continue to do!’
I am a hypocrite, and everyone else in this world is too, in one way or another. But unlike most people, I have Jesus. And there is no condemnation for me because of Him.
“Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry til you’re better,
You will never come at all.”
– Joseph Hart, 1759
Love your enemies.
Even when they keep acting like assholes.
Jesus said, ‘If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins’. This is a problem because I just want my enemies to burn.
Three thoughts that help me, through gritted teeth, to love and forgive my enemies are:
1. If we don’t love our enemies in this life, we will never do it. Isaiah 66:24 says that in the new earth, we will not love our enemies, but we will look upon them with abhorrence.
2. Revelation 14:13 asserts that the forgiveness of our enemies will not be forgotten.
3. No sin goes unpaid for. Justice is either done on the cross of Christ, or in the future in hell. Romans 12:19 commands us to let God to any avenging.
“Perhaps some have thought, ‘If I could hear so-and-so preach, I should then be able to believe.’ Put that thought away. You will believe in Jesus Christ when the Holy Spirit leads you to see how worthy your saviour is of your confidence.”
– Charles Spurgeon
Freakin’ love hymns
Weary of wandering from my God, and now made willing to return.
I hear and bow me to the rod for you, not without hope, I mourn.
I have an advocate above, a friend before the throne of love.
Oh Jesus, full of truth and grace, more full of grace than I of sin.
Yet once again I seek your face
Open your arms and take me in
And freely my backslidings heal and love the faithless sinner still
You know the way to bring me back, my fallen spirit to restore
Oh, for your truth and mercy’s sake, forgive and bid me sin no more
The ruins of my soul, repair, and make my heart a house of prayer
The stone to flesh again convert, the veil of sin again remove.
Sprinkle your blood upon my heart and melt it by your dying love
This rebel heart by love subdue, and make it soft, and make it new
Give to my eyes refreshing tears, and kindle my relentings now…
“We’ve forgotten about the majesty of the new birth. People just nod their head and say the “sinner’s prayer” and go to hell.”
– Leonard Ravenhill
Look to Jesus
Look to Jesus, and He will save you. You have nothing else to do but look. This thought is deeply imprinted on my heart thanks to Charles Spurgeon, who has the most passionate story of coming to Christ I have ever heard.
I can’t tell you how He will save you or what it will look like when He empowers you to change. It may even be that things get worse before they get better. But I can tell you that He will change you to your very core, and you will just fall in love with Him.
When I think of my own journey, He has always been faithful. In every season, sun or storm. On top of a mountain, or in the heart of a demon-possessed valley.
All you have to do is look.
“The dying, the crippled, the mentally ill, the unwanted, the unloved - they are Jesus in disguise. Through the poor people I have an opportunity to be 24 hours a day with Jesus. Every AIDS victim is Jesus in a pitiful disguise; Jesus is in everyone… AIDS sufferers are children of God who have been created for greater things.”
– Mother Teresa
Look here! Do you see that man hanging on the cross? Do you behold His agonized head drooping meekly down upon His breast? Do you see that crown of thorns causing drops of blood to trickle down his cheeks? Do you see His hands pierced and rent and His blessed feet, supporting the weight of His own frame, rent well near in two with the cruel nails? Sinner! Do you hear Him shriek, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?” Do you hear Him cry, “It is finished!”? Do you see His head hang down in death? Do you see that side pierced with the spear and the body taken from the cross? Oh, look here! Those hands were nailed for you! Those feet gushed gore for you. That side was opened wide for you.
"Look, sinner," He says this morning to you. "Look to Me, and be saved."”
– Charles Spurgeon