We’re sitting in room 320 @ the Hilton. Josh, Sean, and I are getting ready to break down this evening’s session. Josh wanted a night off from blogging, and thought it would be clever to have me blog our experience. However, after the experience, it is going to take more than a typical blog to wrap this one up. So, rather than just a report, we felt it would be interesting to take the next couple hours or so to collectively share the experience through our conversation.
The night was introduced by Bob Kauflin that the session was going to be a little different. It was going to be more of a “workshop”. The title was “4 Concerns that the Psalmist had that we should have as well”.
JP: I want to confirm Bob’s character, his understanding of the scripture, his commitment to the truth, his love for worship leaders, his love for the local church. On and on I could go. What this guy wants to teach me, I’m open to. I respect. Not just some yahoo off the street. He’s lived it, seen a lot, studied the scripture, etc. If I’m sitting at home and I hear the following things, I’m not going to put much weight in it. But with the respect I have for this man and his dedication to truth, I’m going to pay attention.
Concern 1: What do we do with our bodies in worship? (10:49pm)
Undoubtedly clear from even a casual reading of the Psalms: There is clapping, shouting, dancing, bowing, raising arms, etc. as an act of natural response to God. We wholeheartedly affirm/agree with this. Having shown us that, Kauflin challenged us as leaders and worshippers with a question along the lines of, Are there any of these expressions that you have never expressed in your worship, and why? If the answer is NO because of how I’ll be perceived or NO because I’m not sure if it’s right, then during the next Psalm I give you freedom to step out and respond however is natural.
We sing “Oh Happy Day” by Tim Hughes, during which the room began to worship with singing, dancing, jumping up and down, clapping hands, bowing, arms raised, you get the point. Essentially in responses found in the Psalms.
(Enter Josh starting to type because Brian can’t keep up with me talking)
Sean Knisely loved it. He felt more engaged with God through not only worshipping with his mind but also his body. This freedom wasn’t emotionalism, it was a natural expression of his feelings for Jesus.
Brian completely failed. He hates God. He hates moving his muscles. In fact he hates all physical matter. He has become a Gnostic. [Ok, that’s a joke from Josh. He didn’t feel that way, but he did fail]
Brian did feel he failed because rather than focusing on God, he felt intrigued by what others were doing. Not as a judgment, but as a curiosity. Also, he felt a little bit like he was being manipulated to do something that wasn’t natural to him. He knows that wasn’t what was intended by the leaders. But it felt as if he was being told, “the Spirit is moving now, so show it.” So he began to close his eyes, however, and focus on the words and worship. He began to sway and sing which was a “relatively charismatic” response. [And then he spoke in tongues…sike]
I’ve been in environments where people worship through dancing, shouting, clapping, etc and felt at ease being myself which was clapping, swaying, and singing. I felt completely natural with that response.
Concern #2: What do we do with our minds when we worship God? (11:45pm)
Bob then stopped our singing and went to the next point, which was that we need to think about what we’re singing and respond with our minds what we’re singing. He showed us through the Psalmist’s use of the word translated Selah in our Bibles. This word most likely means pause, stop, or think about that. It was very likely a signal as well to the choir director to go into a musical interlude for the singers to do that. So that’s what we did on the next song. We sang Psalm 100 and after each line, we selah’ed (is that a word) we paused while there was a musical interlude and he invited us to sing a response to God as we thought with our minds about what we just sang.
Brian thought that it was counterproductive to what a Selah should be. If a selah was a reflection on what we read and sang then we should be given the best opportunity to reflect and with over a thousand people audibly responding it was very hard to keep your thoughts. I agree with that. Although I love the idea of a musical interlude and time of reflection and thinking and the leader using the selah as a time of instruction. Sean felt it was a great way for the leader to elaborate and teach throughout the song.
Concern #3: What do we do with our trials when we worship God? (12:22am)
So we sang a song in a minor key called “Out of the Depths”. Bob reminded us to think of Christ who suffered the worst trial of all. As leaders we can’t avoid the presence of trials. Everything isn’t all happy and fake. We have to deal with all of the emotions when we worship. Not just the Happy Day song, but also the Out of the Depth song.
Concern #4: What do we do with evil when we worship God?
This is Sean writing now, as Josh brushes his teeth at 12:26am. This last part was great, as David Powlison (who brought the message in the morning) came back up to explain how we should respond to the presentation of evil and judgment in the Psalms (but it’s pretty deep and hard to explain, so bear with me as I try). For example, Psalm 137 says something about the blessing of smashing enemies’ babies against a rock (wow). So, there are two wrong reactions, he said, both resulting when we place ourselves outside “the problem of evil”: We can be self-righteous, saying “Save me but let my enemies die,” or we can be overly nice and pretend that these Psalms are overly primitive and barbaric as if no one deserves this kind of punishment. We should instead see ourselves inside the problem of evil (in fact, part of the problem).
A cool quote: “The anger of God at evil is one of his excellencies.” God has promised to destroy evil. Jesus burned with anger against wrongdoing just like he wept for the world’s misery. The Psalms contain pleas to God, asking him to destroy evil. Powlison explained that the context is important, though: The ones the Psalmist is asking God to destroy are described as: Liar, accuser, betrayer, malicious, killer, deceiver, destroyer, etc. That’s Satan (and his children who are in his image). The one praying is described as: Victim, sufferer, the poor, righteous, God-aligned, etc. This represents Christ as he suffered evil in this world. He himself said that the Scriptures (which, then, meant the Old Testament) were about him. The Psalms are about us and our feelings, but they also show Christ.
So just like Christ hates evil, we should hate evil, but we’re part of the problem as sinners, so that complicates it for the Psalmist to ask God to destroy evil. However, Jesus drank the “cup of wrath” reserved for the wicked in Psalm 75. Now, while part of God’s wrath is the “repent and turn to Jesus or you’ll go to Hell” kind, a huge part of his wrath that we easily overlook is actually our hope. Since we’re not condemned anymore, and we’ll be set free when temptation and evil are removed from the world, his wrath against that evil will be a wonderful thing that sets us free, and we can hope in that. In the Lord’s Prayer there are examples implied of this: for God’s name to be hallowed, he has to destroy everything that defames his name. For his kingdom to come, he has to destroy all the pretend kingdoms that are alive now. For his will to be done on earth, and to keep us from temptation, he has to destroy evil and the sources of temptation.
So there’s this weird conflict now, because we are both commanded to “love our enemy” and to “hate evil.” In Exodus 34, God’s described as being slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and a forgiving God, “but who will by no means clear the guilty.” Both mercy and justice are right there. We should be the same way, slow to anger, full of steadfast love, full of forgiveness, but hating evil. We should pray for God to destroy evil but to transform evil people if that’s his will (if they won’t be saved, then they should be destroyed… still sounds harsh maybe). So the application to our worship is that we’ll see God in a bigger way and love him for his justice and for his mercy.
I hope this made sense to you all and helped in some way; we all loved it. Let’s love good and hate evil, like Jesus. Let’s not just be “nice,” let’s be godly; let’s admit and embrace that evil has to be destroyed. Let’s hope in God’s ability to destroy evil and bring us to his perfection. Let’s also be stunned by his insane love, by the fact that he chose us out of this evil world to know him by his mercy. We would never have picked him on our own; we were part of the problem, but he brought us to himself.