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Redefining "Charismatic" 5


There are several different Hebrew words for "praise" in the Bible. One of them is halal, which means "to be clear, to shine, to boast, show, to rave, celebrate, to be clamorously foolish," as in Psalm 150:1, "Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; Praise him in his mighty heavens!" (see also Ps. 113:1-3; 149:3). Another one is yadah, meaning "the extended hand, to throw out the hand, therefore to worship with extended hand," as in Psalm 107:15, "Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men." Other biblical definitions for "praise" are: shabach, "to shout, to address in a loud tone, to command, to triumph," barak, "to kneel down, to bless God as an act of adoration," and zamar, "to pluck the strings of an instrument, to sing, to praise; a musical word which is largely involved with joyful expressions of music with musical instruments." So there is biblical justification, or command, for us to praise and worship God in these ways.

Regenerate Charismatics

At last we come to the final camp. This, I believe, is the desired camp for all Christians. Many of us, however, must get past our semantic hangups with the word "charismatic". Hopefully, this post will help. Again, I'm using the term "charismatic" generally to refer to physical and emotional expressiveness in churches and the lives of people who receive the Gospel into their souls. There is a miraculous unity between the body and soul of every human, so that whatever enters the soul affects the body. For some good insight into more specific, modern usages of the spiritual gifts, Mark Driscoll has a great current series of posts on the subject over at his blog.

Regenerate Charismatics have been made alive in Christ through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, and it shows in the way they worship and live. They have thrown off their worldly clothes and have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ. They have taken off the old man and put on the new man, bound no longer by layers of sin, idolatry, skepticism, etc., and free to worship God unabashedly. They are fools for Jesus with lives fully committed to Him. The evidence of their love for God (and His for them) is displayed in their actions, speech, and in every area of their lives, both in and outside the church building.

Now, it has been six months since I began thinking through redefining "charismatic". God has shown me things about the Gospel I never expected to see during this time, the most compelling of which is Jesus' command for us to take care of the poor, proclaiming the Good News everywhere in acts of lovingkindness and justice. In order for us to become more intimate with Jesus in our worship, we must become more intimately involved with the poor, both the physically poor and the spiritually poor, both in and outside the church. It's really hard for me to assert this truth, because it is hardily reflected in my own life. But the truth remains that if our desire is to become true worshipers of Jesus, free in our expressions of love and adoration, we're going to have to live lives of complete surrender and sacrifice to Him.

Worship within a church filled with people fully committed to the mission of God is much like the joy of a reunited family around the table for a holiday feast. Family members listen, love and laugh while sharing with one another life happenings since the last time they got together. They eat, usually gorging themselves with a particularly special meal. No one wants the evening to end, but it must. So everyone goes on with their lives, working, growing, and keeping record of their stories until the next time they get together.

Regenerate Charismatic worship is shameless, passionate, bodily praise of the Creator. We gather as the body of Christ to celebrate who He is and what He has done in our lives, especially the past week of wholeheartedly pursuing Him. We encourage one another with testimony, prayer and song. Under the spiritual authority of our pastors, we are equipped with God's Word to continue in our daily, living proclamation of His Good News. And we rejoice at His Table, His family feast, in remembrance of His annihilation of our sin and His adoption of us as children of God. How could we possibly contain ourselves in the presence of such glory?

Answer: Live a life of half-hearted commitment to the Lord; Serve two masters; Hold onto unforgiveness and bitterness towards family members; Keep your behind in the past; Spend most of your time on personal pleasures instead of building relationships with your neighbors; Sleep; Commit yourselves to regularly escaping to the fantasy worlds of at least five TV shows; View church as another hour of entertainment; Bring your marketplace, consumer mentality into the church; Think of Sunday worship as an academic classroom; Follow the example of hypocritical church leaders. Church leaders: Make fun of other churches and denominations; Set your own church above others in your community in terms of biblical faithfulness, theological accuracy, and spiritual blessing; Always think you are right; Organize as many programs as possible without developing a culture of discipleship and spiritual growth; Spend most of your time preparing for Sunday; Focus on the size of your congregation rather than the lives of individuals and families that are falling apart; Preach our culture's gospel of pursuing happiness; Put more emphasis on the move of the Spirit than on the roles of the other two Persons of the Trinity; Tell lots of emotionally compelling stories instead of God's story; Pursue only what is new, improved, and continually improving; And for heaven's sake make sure you outdo last weeks production, musically and otherwise.

Such is the worship of Regenerate Non-charismatics, Unregenerate Charismatics, and Unregenerate Non-charismatics.

But, oh, to become a church filled with Regenerate Charismatics: people passionately going after Jesus, throwing off their dignified robes with utter abandonment. Imagine how the Kingdom of God would advance on this earth if God's people would stop living double-minded lives and start living lives of complete sacrifice to God, listening to His voice, seeking Him where he can be found, determining in our hearts to commit every breath of our existence to His mission. Imagine what church worship would look like if people came together to celebrate the Gospel after having lived it in all its fullness the past week. I can guarantee that our obedience to the Lord's command for us to "Praise God in his sanctuary!" would come more easily and naturally. Let's face it, we're going to look crazy worshiping a living God that no one can see. Such is demanded of our faith. But how absurd it is for us to worship our dying selves and dead idols! God wants us to have a living, vibrant, passionate, expressive, emotional, prayerful, worshiping relationship with Him. Let us not be afraid of this, and let me be the first to confess my failure.

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Proverbs 21 Worshiper (vv. 2-4)


We've all heard of the "Proverbs 31 Woman", the woman who fears the Lord. Well, as it turns out, Proverbs 21 reveals much about the worshiper who fears the Lord, a true worshiper. So today and for the next series of posts I would like to talk about the "Proverbs 21 Worshiper". Let's look at Proverbs 21:2-4.

2. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the heart.
3. To do righteousness and justice
is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
4. Haughty eyes and a proud heart,
the lamp of the wicked, are sin.

The ESV Study Bible comments, “People are not vindicated by their own consciences but by God’s judgment (v. 2), which cannot be averted simply with sacrifices and religious rites (v. 3). The thing most likely to bring divine judgment on one’s head is pride (v. 4).”

Verse 2 reveals that despite our good intentions, believing our actions to be truly good doesn't necessarily mean they are good. God alone judges what is good. So the worship implications are obvious: The Lord searches the heart of every worshiper, and if He does not find denial of self and faith in His Son Jesus at the very core, he does not accept the worship.

Then we see in verse 3 that the evidence of true worship is doing righteousness and justice. This truth has been particularly convicting to me lately. I am finding all throughout God's Word that acceptable sacrifice is going to require leaving the comfortable setting of the local church and ministering the mercy, love and justice of God to the world, especially the poor. This "is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice", that is, more than the small amount of room, time and visible worship we give to God in our lives. True worship has nothing to do with giving God a mere piece of your life. That is proud worship, or false worship.

The truth is that any act of worship, or any action at all for that matter, apart from the work of Christ is wicked and sinful. The false worshiper is proud of his sacrifice and sees it as the part of his life, his attainment, that sets him above everyone else. He even does it publicly so that others can see how "worshipful" he is. And he is worshipful, but only insofar as he worships himself.

Bottom line: If we are going to be true worshipers, true followers of Jesus, we must get off our high horses and surrender our lives entirely to the mission of God (Luke 4:18-19).

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The Over Exhortative Worship Leader


That might have been me this morning: an over exhortative worship leader. In all of my Easter excitement I was ready to lead hundreds of hungry worshipers in exuberant praise. It's easy to lead worship on Resurrection Sunday, right? Our extra large band was all geared up to lead, and we opened with Hillsong United's classic "Glory".

Glory to the risen King
Glory to the Son, glorious Son

Lift up your heads
Open the doors
Let the King of glory come in
And forever be our God

I thought, surely everyone who participates in this song (from Psalm 24) will become as undignified as David was, leaping and whirling before the ark of the Lord. Surely we who live on this side of Jesus' resurrection will go crazy before God on this very special day. Psalm 24 was traditionally sung by the children of Israel to the gates of Jerusalem upon the arrival of the ark into the city. David might have sung this song during the procession recorded in 1 Samuel 6, when he tore off his priestly robes and danced before the ark. We came into the presence of God this morning in our Easter Celebrations. We encountered His glory in an unusually manifest way as we invited Him in.

So when there was virtually no outward expression of praise coming from the worshipers (particularly in the 9:30 and 11:00 Celebrations), not only was I shocked, but I might have tried to take it upon myself to elicit a David-like response. I do think it is good for worship leaders to sometimes lead people in physical expression and/or cognition, but too much of it could be repulsive. I wasn't telling people to lift their hands or close their eyes or anything crazy like that. I was simply hoping that the truths we were passionately declaring in our songs would compel worshipers to show their excitement. The connection was present in many of the regulars, which was encouraging. But many others literally stood still with their arms crossed, mouths closed, seemingly unmoved altogether.

I should have anticipated this. Typically, more spiritually dead people come to church on Easter. The problem was that I wasn't prepared to lead them. My unpreparedness led to what might have been insensitivity in my inter-phrasal comments. The things I say while we're singing are meant to lead people into really thinking about what they're singing. For example, before singing the line "Every knee will bow in heaven and the earth, and every eye will see the measure of your worth," I might say something like, "This is the truth." Or after singing, "Behold the Lamb in heaven! He was dead, but God raised Him from the grave," I might ask, "Do you believe this?" or "Sing it like you believe it." My tendency is: the more spiritual deadness I discern, the more exhortative I become. And physical expression, or lack thereof, is somewhat a measurement for me. This morning I was at least twice as exhortative as usual, which could have possibly been confusing or deterring to some.

I'm not being too hard on myself. I do believe God spoke what he wanted to speak this morning. I believe the Gospel broke through to many hearts this morning, despite what we saw. But I also believe I can learn from this experience, and hopefully be better prepared in my future leading. Most importantly, here is another lesson in simply trusting God to do what He wants to do when we faithfully proclaim His Good News.

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