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Honoring the Lord With Unpleasant Praise

I found myself thinking last night about differences between expressions of praise and worship that are beautiful and crafty, and those that are clumsy and seemingly uninspired. Naturally I’m drawn to the former forms of worship and sometimes tolerate the latter.

I can appreciate well-executed art, especially if it’s godward. I love to hear a good Christian band get in a worship groove. I’m moved by well-crafted essays or poems that explore the grace of God and how fathomless His great love is in spite of my sin. I can’t help but think that Handel’s “Messiah” is the pinnacle of worship.

But then my thoughts go back some 15 years to a weekend retreat I attended during my days in undergrad…

Uncomplicate Your Praise

A group of us from the college InterVarsity group were out of town together, spending the night in a church. Bedding and backpacks were spread throughout the sanctuary and adjoining classrooms; friends were gathered here and there to talk about the Lord, or about football. It was fairly late and I had already crawled into my sleeping bag. A friend was reading her Bible a few sleeping bags away, and began singing quietly. Her voice was sweet, but painfully out of tune. As she continued singing gently her adoration to the Lord, I was moved by her simple faith and honesty and tender passion for who the Lord was and what He’d done for her. And 15 years later, I still remember the time I drifted off to sleep in the presence of pure grateful out-of-tune worship.

And that makes me want to reevaluate my criteria for “good worship.” Scripture speaks of a “joyful noise,” and how it’s good to make one. The heart of worship is more significant than the tone of worship.

I’m reminded of something G.K. Chesterton wrote a century ago: “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” It’s better to make a fool of yourself engaging the Lord than to play it cool and remain disengaged.

And I’m reminded of a song Chris Tomlin wrote a few years ago, “The Way I Was Made,” which includes the lines:

I want to live like there’s no tomorrow
I want to dance like no one’s around
I want to sing like nobody’s listening
Before I lay my body down

True and Passionate Worship

An out of tune melody, an awkward moment of grateful sobbing, a simplistic song, the seemingly purposeless pouring of perfume on Someone’s feet… can all honor the Lord if the heart is true. Beautiful, intricate works of art may honor the Lord, yes, but a grateful heart poorly expressed pleases Him no less than Handel.

May I look to engage the Lord more truly and passionately, at the expense of my being seen as credible or sophisticated. And may I not be so quick to look down on others’ godward expressions just because I happen to find them unpleasant.


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