Monday, June 13, 2011

#234-Domesticating God so that we can be sure we have God.

First first: If we want God to live with us, we must teach him to abide by our routine of life:

Maybe it was a month ago. Maybe more. I don't really remember to remember time or dates these days. The point is, I was on the phone with a friend who requested his name remain anonymous for this post. Beneath the surface.

This mysterious friend, made an observation amongst many others he has made to me over the years, that within Apostolic Pentecostal churches, "the point of worship service is no longer to make you feel the Holy Ghost." But rather, the proper goal for most worship services these days is "to make you feel like you feel the Holy Ghost."

The quote may seem like simple words games, but I would argue the extra "like you feel" is a very important distinction. The point would be that within worship services, pursuit of God and encountering God are no longer the thing pursued. Of course, everyone would say that encountering God is the whole purpose of the worship service (or perhaps it is the more absurd belief that worship service is done to "Lift Him Up!"), but if we take a step back and reflect....we may realize that within some worship services, the pursuit of God has become secondary within the worship service, and replacing the pursuit of God and the drudgery such a pursuit would demand is a new found monster in our ranks: replacing the THING ITSELF (God) with the APPEARANCE of God, and after the fact, we hope that after we have experienced the surface appearance of God in our hearts or with our eyes, we may actually convince ourselves that we encounter God Himself.

In the old days, we assumed that if we were happy, God must be making Himself right at home and thus Himself was happy....

In other words, in the old days, we could speak of old Pentecostal worship services as such: "It looked like an old fashioned Pentecostal outpouring, it felt like a Pentecostal outpouring, and therefore it really was a Pentecostal outpouring."

But these days, we should be saying "It looked like a Pentecostal outpouring, it felt like a Pentecostal outpouring, and therefore we know the worship leaders were really good and the song selection even better."

And thus what we must acknowledge, though we are not ready to most of the time, is that just because we are does not mean God is happy...

And if you question my claim, you are free to rebuttal anonymously below, .... but before you do answer, these questions.... Answer it with thought: Why do we need music in worship service? Why can't we have a worship service in silence? Why is silence so awkward in church? How come we can only take silence when either it is announced by the Pastor that we are about to meditate on the Lord silently, or we have worshiped our hearts out long enough as a church, that just when we get physically exhausted, God has a worshipful rest of silence waiting for us and the exhausted musicians?

Why is God's encounter with us dependent on the songs we play? Why do we have to have music to worship as a church? What if God is talking and we were so busy producing his appearance with our worship music that we miss his still small voice?

The point is we are making a habit of our worship. Or we have been making God a habit for some time. So much so, that without thinking we go through the movements of worship service, thinking that if God is meant to be encountered it must be through our own stage, through our human constructed habits involving music and loud noises, that coincidentally enough, pleases our Westernized, middle class- ears all the more...

Bible Portion for the day:

I Kings 18:26b-29:  Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
 27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

And if our God is the God of Truth as we say. And if we possess the FULL Truth in knowledge and revelation....Then couldn't we say, God's appearances are in a way dependent on how we allow him to appear in our worship services? That is to say, is God, who we know in full truth, limited in some way to present himself in the world by the manor we set forth for God  to appear within our worship services? 

If God wanted to appear in a different form or in a new revelation, He couldn't do it because he is dedicated to us in our revelation of Him. And thus even if He did appear in a new way, we wouldn't listen, because we HAVE GOD in Spirit and in Truth. Thus if there was something new, it would mean that the Truth we possess now isn't the Full Truth. 

But we have the Full Truth! And thus God wouldn't appear in any other way than in the manor He has already shown us....

And therefore, in our worship services, God is restricted to appearing in the manner we set forth. 

God is God. But we are His People. And we have Confiscated His Sovereignty. Unless what we mean by sovereignty is rather that God is free to do all things, and those things he happens to be free to do, coincide with what He has already revealed to us He Will do....

We of course know this is nonsense... we know that we don't have the Full grasp of God even if we tell ourselves we do. Similar the way we don't really dictate God's appearances to us as a Body of Believers, but yet we act out a formula for a worship services that gives the appearance that we are encountering God.

It's not that God is never encountered in our worship services, but rather in the consistency of how our worship services go (slow songs create one kind of atmosphere, whereas fast songs do something else within us), we are pretending like our favorite style of music and worship happens to be God's favorite style of music and kind of worship. Yet we know God is not bound by our ways, and thus He will manifest Himself in ways that make us uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean He's not there.....

If we know all this, the question is, why aren't we experimenting more? Why aren't we trying to realize different forms of worship within our church walls themselves that other people may say works for them? Thus we have unity in our diversity that doesn't pretend that God only appears in our comfortable perimeters to worship...

And if we aren't for this.....then isn't it safe to say we are domesticating God? making him out of our own image? Making God out to be something palatable that is convenient with our own tastes and habits? As much as God doesn't like being made out into an image of human hands, I think it would be all the worse to make God out to be an image in the likeness of our very own image....

If we are to really let God be God, and not just be the God we dictate him to be, this means something quite uncomfortable....

But maybe we do need to release God back out into the wild....or else not only will we die in the process, as the Catholics, and the Jews, and anyone else who closed off God, but perhaps in some way, God dies too..


  1. I agree for the most part with this post. However, I don't think the solution is to necessarily "experiment" either. We already know what we need to do.

    Worship service should be first and foremost, to WORSHIP God. Whether or not God decides to descend is His business, but He is worthy of worship REGARDLESS. Any "feeling" we get is secondary. Having said that, when we worship God with all our hearts, we know that God will descend.

    I think you hit it dead on that worship services can "make you feel like you feel God...." You also talked about the *good old days* of God's outpouring during worship services. I believe you nailed it when you said we are too concerned with the "appearance" of worship. I will add that music these days is TOO professional, TOO practiced, TOO perfect. We have put TOO much of SELF into it, and as a result taken TOO much of the glory. And that in a nutshell is why we don't have the *old fashioned outpourings* we used to have. (In my opinion).

    In the old days, the charismatics used to use OUR songs in their worship services. These days, we use the charismatics (or should I say the EMERGENT's) songs. I realize the songs themselves aren't so much the issue, but in using "their" songs, we have also borrowed "their" worship style. And "their" worship style is classically......feigned AND showy. ('s true. I've seen enough Hillsong-type videos to make me puke.) As well, the NEW music is very oriented to make US feel good, and less about God's sacrifice, God's Name, and God's blood.

    We don't need get rid of music in our worship services. We know how scriptural it is. We just need to get rid of SELF. Yes, we need to practice, but by golly, we CAN sing a song that is less than perfect. Like they did in the "good ole' days".

    That's my two cents.....

  2. Darla I must say that the comment that worship music is "TOO professional, TOO practiced, TOO perfect" is in technical terms "baloney". I will agree that "We have put TOO much of SELF into it" is sometimes the case. Here is why I say this.

    Music is an offering, it is sacrifice and it must come from the heart. Whether we spent 10 hours or 10 minutes rehearsing, it is the heart by behind our worship/offering that God see's, so whether the music is good or bad, if your heart isn't in the right place, God will not accept our offering (Cain and Able). Music also does not have to be last minute and thrown together to be worship unto God and anointed; this notion of it needing to be last minute to flow under the anointing, really means that we don't think God plans ahead and knows what He is doing.

    As a Music Pastor I plan my sets 2 weeks in advance. I start putting songs together I have been worshipping to and feeling in my spirit during my time with God. One week before service I have a final set list posted for everyone to rehearse 1 week ahead of time. When planning I consider how will the music go together, flow, I ask if the words minister to people in the season we are in and the vein the Pastor is in, is it easy to sing to, will I get the greatest number of people to connect and worship…

    Planning ahead lets me get into the flow of what God is doing, without waiting to the last minute and throwing it all on God. God is not a last minute God, He makes great plans for everything He has done and will do, which is why He knows what He will do in advance and if we tap into that, we can minister more efficiently rather than waiting until the last minute for Him to pull our fat out of the fire.

    I love your comment that "we have put too much of self…"; I agree 100%. Worship needs to be Jesus focused and centered. I think we often spend too much time talking between songs (the sneak-a-preach) and it loses the flow of worship (save it for the preaching). We need to be less concerned with being impressive and pressing ourselves into the worship, and take the focus off of us and put it on Jesus.

  3. I agree, Aaron, that being too practiced doesn't necessarily promote "self".......but I still definitely think it makes it easier to. That's all. It is all about balance. I lived for God in the "old days" when song services were just thrown together....(really, in comparison, we DID have stronger moves of God....???)...but there were times it was hindered because of the all the mistakes made. What I don't like about it now is that if the worship leader actually felt to change a song at the last does occasionally happen.....hissy fits are thrown. Literally.

    That is why I think is a whole lot easier to have more of "self" involved in over-practiced music.

  4. Darla, we have to be careful not to blame things for conditions of the heart. We should always deal with the issue by overcoming it, rather than creating a scapegoat and never dealing with the sin and living under it. The issue/sin would be pride and pride (self) will manifest itself in humility just as it will in anything else. This goes back to changing our thinking, by renewing our by the spirit and overcoming worldly thinking. When this is done, it doesn't matter if its last minute, rehearsed for weeks or whatever because a heart free of self and worldly thinking will focus on Christ.

  5. I had a big long rambling comment until I got to the end and I realized the last part is all I want to know about.

    What did they do "back then" during those days when people shouted their hair out, and they stayed at church until midnight and carried people out speaking in tongues. What's changed? The people who speak of those days, speak of them fondly and they seem to miss them. But where did we go wrong? The older ones who remember those days, aren't exactly still worhipping like they say people did back then. Did they not pass something on to us? Did they pass it on and we dismissed it? What is it...what are we missing? Can we bring it back?

  6. Amy.....I'm not sure I have all the answers to the questions, but I certainly have opinions. For me, it's not just music that has changed. It's prayer, and more specifically, lingering in prayer. I think what we battle in the church (in general) is a reflection of the current issues in the world. We want instant gratification in prayer. We want MORE glory in OUR accomplishments. We want perfection in music. Everything we have changed reflects on wanting more without paying the price for it (like prayer); wanting to appeal too much to visitors (taking the place of wanting to please God) - and please don't misunderstand that statement; and a bigger fight than ever with "SELF".

    The good news is this: There is a huge sweep of old fashioned revival sweeping North, lingering long and laboring in prayer; killing the flesh-type services that have helped reap a harvest of new souls, as well as miracles and healings.

    Because we are getting back to basics.

  7. From what I have read, the question of "what happened to the old time religion" had started by the 1950's; not long after most of the first generation of Apostolics passed.

    I worry that it may be that we try to engineer our relationship with God. An "if I do X He will do Y" mentality. Trying to understand God to survive Him better, is one thing; trying to understand God to manipulate Him, is anther.

    At some point we started trying to bring people closer to God (a good thing) by selling His power. But God is not a commodity. As C.S. Lewis writes "He is not a tame Lion."

  8. This is something I have wondered at for years. Great post!