Featured image is of the Christian band “Disciple” taken from the web.
I came across posts by Lance when they passed through my reader. I was intrigued and went back to some of his older posts. While I’ve not yet met Lance, he and I have similar stories in that our respective parents divorced when we were teenagers. But God. God pursued me ( and He does with you as well ) and my brother and we came back to the Lord, mostly because of the church ( and the pastors) that we worshipped in. Lance has a similar testimony, (click on the link and read it, it’s worth the time). In this post Lance writes about what worship means to him. I hope to show you that worship is a daily experience. One that you choose to praise Him. To love Him. To honour Him. To turn your eyes to Him and watch the miracles happen when you put Him first.
Lance is a 30-year-old
Christian writer who resides in southern California. He enjoys reading and weight-lifting during his leisure time, but he flourishes the most with the support and brotherhood of his closest friends at his church
When he feels God moving him to write, Lance is excited to share with others what God is teaching him about life, and is impassioned to share his faith experiences with the world through his blog Lance Price Blog 2017.
A lifestyle of worship.
First, I just want to send a very gracious thank you to Vanessa for having me guest post on her blog. This is truly a privilege and an exciting experience to share with a different crowd and to write about something new. Thank you, Vanessa, for having me here!
RELIGION, RITUALS, AND A DISTANT GOD
Worship had no meaning or place in my life until I was 28 turning 29, when I had a more firm understanding of the importance of surrendering myself to praising the God of my faith. But let’s backtrack to gain context.
In the Catholic church I was raised in, worship meant singing along to sonorous organ music following the lead singer on a podium in the front with a microphone. The song lyrics held no meaning for me; I didn’t understand the significance of the words being sung since no one ever spoke about faith. Growing up, I was deeply exposed to the strictured vernacular of religion, meaning, I was brought up having the emphasis of repentance, shame, and the lifestyle of rituals and performance thrown on me—instead of the radical message of hope, rebirth, and the challenging but prolifically joyful news of the Gospels. Because of this, my understanding of worship (rather than obligatory sing-alongs) was poorly educated, spiritually-speaking. Needless to say, I was not drawn into the atmosphere of worship and it did not bring me closer to a distant God who apparently wanted nothing more from me than my guilt.
By the time I reached middle school, I had no understanding of Jesus beyond the “thees” and “thous” of the Bible being used at my school. More importantly, I had absolutely no interest in learning, since my middle school years directly followed the trauma of my parents’ divorce in the fall of 1999, and my grandparents’ death a month later (a few weeks before Christmas)—both of which transpired at the end of my elementary school experience.
RED & KORN
During the 7-8 year interstice of blunt atheism and agnosticism which immediately ensued, I drove myself as far away from worship, church, the Bible, and Jesus as I could. At 16, I discovered the Nu Metal Rock band called Korn, and around that same time, Red—two rock bands; one very dark and heavy, the other heavy and yet Christian.
Red’s first album, “Innocence and Instinct,” caught my attention instantly, before I even knew they were Christian. I found their songs to be emotionally fitting for my place in life, and a few years later, when I discovered their Christian background, I realized how their music had been a form of worship all along. Years later in 2015, on their most recent album, “Of Beauty and Rage,” their song “Take Me Over” is one of my favorite worship songs. Exposing myself to the heavier and more raw nature of such artists as Korn, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, and Lamb of God (before finding Christ) opened me to connecting with heavier Christian music. For this reason, even current day, I worship less with artists like Chris Tomlin and Jeremy Camps, and more so with artists such as Red, Fireflight, and Love & Death (with Brian Welch from Korn); who are heavier in sound but Christian in message. However, I do love songs such as Elevation Worship’s “Come to the Altar,” Jeremy Camp’s “Jesus Saves,” Hillsong’s “Forever Reign,” and Chris Tomlin’s “Our God.” God speaks to me with strength, joy, hope, courage, and deep love with these songs.
THE ACT OF WORSHIP
What remains inarguable is the way God works uniquely in each of our lives. While God used Korn and Red with me, He might not use them with someone else. He may use classical music or rap, or He may not even use music at all. I don’t believe Christians are restricted to only listen to Christian and Gospel in order to have an open, receptive, praising spirit; however, I would warn against believers listening to rock (or any music) with the intent of worshipping the art of music rather than the art of God. The difference is in separating the worship of God’s love through these artistic conduits of expression rather than worshipping the people who create it.
To use music as a means of bringing praise to Jesus, we remain in a posture of worship. But the moment we feel we must turn on music for the purpose of reminding us of God, it is then that not only have we changed the nature of our actions from worship to ritual, we have also supplanted our faith in Christ with the belief that only music can bring us close to God’s presence. This lie destroys the blessing of worship by indicting our souls with a lack of trust in God. In other words, to “need” music in order to worship changes the message we send to God from that of praise to that of fear. We are afraid if we must use an instrument in order to find God’s presence, when His presence is within us already. If we ritualize music in order to sing God our praises, then we are no longer worshipping God; rather, we are using a powerless tool within the subtext of a spiritual-less routine, lacking the merit for glory.
WORSHIP AS A LIFESTYLE
Worship as a lifestyle is not at all like worship as an event. Attending Sunday service to be “revved up” is basically the equivalent of attending a Christian rave party: Church becomes the meth served through the expectation that mere attendance will inflate our spirits with holiness. While spiritual music is meant to complement the posture of humility and surrender in praising God, it cannot be the sole reason we attend church each week. When this happens, worship becomes a ritual or routine instead of a mentality. The difference is how a ritual doesn’t involve giving praise to God, but rather, placating our repetitious need for continuity. To live in worship of Jesus means committing ourselves to His command to love others (even strangers) by speaking truth and acting in reverence of Him through the love, forgiveness, and compassion of our words, time, and generosity.
I will admit this is hard for me to do, so I empathize with those of you who can admit to finding this a harder reality to encompass. For many of us, going out of our way for a stranger as an extension of our love for Jesus is sometimes like having our parents ask for something in need at the worst possible moment: While we are willing, we are also hesitant to follow through on-command. However, Jesus calls us to be obedient and authentic, and I believe even taking the time to slow down and become in touch with our hesitant spirits is better than saying no and walking away to avoid the inner conflict altogether. I believe Jesus recognizes the stuttering and stammering heart of the individual before it acquiesces and that He gives mercy to the final surrender; whereas I believe He does not give mercy to the individual who blindly denies His call out of stubborn disobedience.
To reiterate, worship as only sing-along songs during a once-per-week service is not worship, but an act of the extracurricular and the religious. In other words, if we leave worship in the church building, we express ourselves to be as secular as an unbeliever who ignores church altogether. If we are not treating worship as both a communal expression of our thankfulness for God’s goodness in our lives and the lives of others—as well as a daily habit of loving others in reflection of our love for Christ—then we are abusing the purpose of worship and undermining the meaning of giving Him praise for our lives.
MOVING FORWARD WITH PURPOSEFUL DISCERNMENT
I hope that by reading this, we are able to understand more clearly the role music plays in the life of a Christ-follower, as well as the intention behind our actions. We are not banned from enjoying other types of music (non-Christian), but the intention of our heart behind the pleasure received from music is what divides the end result between worship and ritualistic action. Our past also does play a part in the way we view and receive how music influences our spirits, but this doesn’t change the intention behind the way we treat music when we are intending to give ourselves to Jesus. In other words, there are no excuses; either music helps bring us closer to God, or it deters us from extolling His sovereignty, provision, and goodness. When we can accept this blunt-edge truth, we can finally see the line drawn between an act of selfish repetition (ritual) and a selfless act derived from the desire to please the One who gives us all that we have. Truly, there is much to be thankful for, and worship is our extension of acknowledgment to God, saying: “Thank you, and praise you God, for you are always good and you always love me! Thank you for all that you are, and all that you’ll always be. I praise you for your glory and your provisions, and I ask for the humility to never forget that all I am comes from you. Thank you, Jesus! Be glorified!” To Jesus be the glory and honor and praise forever and ever!
THANK YOU FOR READING!
Again, I would like to express my gratitude to Vanessa for having me guest post on her blog! I was very humbled when she asked me if I would do this, and I hope by writing this, I have helped others see worship in a new light which before had not yet been realized. May we all be blessed as we praise God for His goodness through His son, Jesus Christ! May we carefully discern our reason and purpose for the music we listen to, as well as the actions we take when we move into the world—where our faith is tested and challenged by those who have yet to receive God’s grace and thank Him for the gift of open eyes and softened heart. This truly is a blessing of its own worth praising Jesus for all eternity. Be lifted up, readers, in Jesus name!
I really hope you were blessed by Lance’s post. I have to admit that I’ve never heard of these Christian heavy metal bands!! Not my style, but they may be quite a few of you that do like this music. Lance sent me a suggestion and I’m going to add that song to this post. It’s called “Radical” by a group named “Disciple”. See you next week,