worship: not because I’m perfect…

I am a singer, songwriter, musician, and I’ve been leading/facilitating worship for nearly 30 years (I started out young ☺). Very early on I came to understand and believe that the worship of God is not just the offering up of passionate expressions of song and music (or any other art form, for that matter). It’s not that these expressions are not good, genuine, or valid; they most certainly are. But worship, as I believe the Bible defines it, goes beyond that. The way that I’ve come to explain it is this: worship is a lifestyle. It is the understanding that the total living of our lives is to be an offering to God. This was conveyed beautifully by a friend of mine in a recent post of his:

“Coram Deo

“All of life is lived ‘coram deo’, before the face of God. From the mundane to the profound, from the secret to the transparent, whether we are aware of Him or not, He is present everywhere and sees everything. Nothing is hidden from Him. Therefore, everything His children do can be an act of worship to Him, whether work, play, art, conversation, going on the computer, fixing the car, telling a joke or going to school– all of it can be worship if it is offered to Him and submitted to His lordship.

“Understanding and applying this principle can help us to avoid the hypocrisy that so easily besets human beings, because we tend to compartmentalize parts of our lives into sacred and non-sacred. However, if we view all of life as sacred, we will take seriously God’s call to treat all people with respect and live our lives with integrity.”1

This idea is expressed all throughout the Bible, but there are two passages that really seem to sum it up well for me.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will.”            Romans 12:1-2

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God Father through him.”   Colossians 3:15-17

Now, as a young believer and leader, I had very high ideals about what this meant, how it would play out in my life; but over the years some of my “ideals” have taken some heavy blows, and I’m not always as excited about it as I used to be. Don’t get me wrong: I still believe that worship is a way of living; perhaps more than I ever have. This is the cause of my present conundrum. Somewhere along the way, “life” has happened, and I have not always responded well to it. There have been hopes raised, and then dashed as they came crashing down. There have been broken promises, unfulfilled dreams, and disappointments too numerous to recount. All this couched in what has often appeared to be “the daily mundane”, has served to knock some of the wind out of my sails. Worst of all, though, are the failures of life: the seeming inability to live the Christian life as I thought it should be lived. Aside from, what can only be called, the blatant acts of willful disobedience (don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about), there are the countless instances where I’ve really given my all to do good, only to (in my self-evaluation) fail miserably.

All this time I have still been engaged in leading congregational worship. To be honest, there have been days that I simply did not want to sing any songs of worship; I just didn’t “feel it.” Don’t misread me here. I love to lead worship; I love to engage with others as we together engage the Presence of God. But then there are days… well, I think Steven Curtis Chapman said it best in his song “Moment Made for Worshiping”:

“6:30, Monday morning,
I’m here hiding in my bed;

A song plays on my alarm clock
As I cover up my head.

“And somewhere in the distance, I remember yesterday,
Singing ‘Hallelujah’, full of wonder, awe and grace;
But now I’m just wondering
Why I don’t feel anything at all.” 2

The disconnect between what I do on Sunday mornings and what, sometimes, happens the rest of the week tends to, more than not, work a sense of disqualification in my soul. “Who am I kidding? How can I possibly think I can lead others in worship on Sunday, when my ‘life of worship’ “sucks” during the week!?”

Now before you accuse me of singing “gloom, despair, and agony on me,” let me acknowledge publicly that I recognize that God has been, and continues to be, quite good to me. I am not ignorant of His favor and blessings, and I am very, very grateful. But I must also acknowledge that life for me has, many times, been quite hard, and I quite simply have not done well with it. I am not proud of this, but there it is. Yet in all of this I have come to realize something rather profound. It may shock you to hear me say this at first, but if you think about it you may see the truth of it.

I do not come to God in worship because I am good or right or perfect. Quite the contrary; I come to Him in worship because I am not… but HE IS. It is because He is good and right and perfect… and just and loving and kind… and righteous and holy; it is because He is God, and I am not, that I come to Him in worship.

There is a beautiful prayer/song that captures the essence of this, the knowledge of our desperate need of God’s mercy upon our troubled state.

“Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let Your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

“If You, LORD, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with You there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve You.
I wait 3 for the LORD, my whole being waits,
and in His word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than the watchmen wait for the morning,
more than the watchmen wait for the morning.”
Psalm 130:1-6, NIVUK

This is from one of the Psalms of Ascent, songs that were believed to be sung by Jewish travelers on pilgrimage on the upward journey to Jerusalem. It is a cry for forgiveness, for mercy. It is a song of longing; it is a song of worship.

Now I very recently happened upon a song on the radio that completely captured my heart and soul, because it expresses what I’ve been meditating on so perfectly. The song is entitled How Can it Be? performed by Lauren Daigle. Here are the lyrics to the song in its entirety:

I am guilty
Ashamed of what I’ve done, what I’ve become
These hands are dirty
I dare not lift them up to the Holy one

CHORUS:
You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

I’ve been hiding
Afraid I’ve let you down, inside I doubt
That You could love me
But in Your eyes there’s only grace now

CHORUS:
You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

Though I fall, You can make me new
From this death I will rise with You
Oh the grace reaching out for me
How can it be
How can it be

CHORUS:
You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be 4

Were it not for the incredible love, mercy and grace of God, I could not possibly even hope to be a worshiper of God at all, either on Sunday mornings or throughout the week. It is my desire to give my all to live for Christ to the best of my ability, to make no excuses, to live wholly, holy for Him. But make no mistake: it’s not because I’m perfect that I offer my worship to the Holy One; it’s because HE is: perfect in holiness, perfect in righteousness, perfect in mercy and grace and love.

Forgive me, but I have to join in the refrain: HOW CAN IT BE!?

Endnotes
1. James Ruark, Facebook post; used by permission
2. Lyric to Moment Made for Worshiping, Steven Curtis Chapman; from the album All About Love.
3. Or, “I long for the LORD, my whole being longs…”
4. How Can it Be; words and music by Jason Ingram, Jeff Johnson and Paul Mabury; performed by Lauren Daigle.

© September 2014, Lemuel C. Dees

All Scripture references from the NIV unless otherwise noted.

About Lem Dees

Singer, song writer, worship leader... father, granddad... Lover of, beloved of, Jesus.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Encouragement, Faith, Music, Personal, Uncategorized, worship and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to worship: not because I’m perfect…

  1. James Ruark says:

    Well stated and honest, Lem. That was an encouraging post. Thanks.
    –James

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