I thought I could logically justify my faith in God.
You’ll find some Christians who’ll tell you they can do it.
When someone told me my faith was illogical, irrational and unreasonable, I bristled. Or should I say, my ego bristled? I challenged them to prove it.
They couldn’t. (Their emotionally charged reasoning was circular and redundant and they completely ignored me when I poked questions into the holes in their arguments.)
But in the aftermath of those discussions, I discovered I couldn’t disprove it either.
Science and logic have limits. There are some things that can’t be understood or explained (and a definition isn’t an explanation).
Like what causes gravity.
Like human consciousness.
Like quantum entanglement (what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”).
Doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Just means we don’t understand why. Or how.
Somewhere along the way, I forgot that God cannot be completely understood. I forgot that a God I can understand is a God I create. Confine. Any God I can completely understand is limited by time and space and the extent to which I can understand.
Any God who is limited by my understanding is not transcendent.
I was reminded – the hard way – that I don’t want a God I can understand.
It was a season of extreme paradox in my life.
My faith had never been stronger and I had never been more aware of my weakness apart from Christ.
My faith had never been stronger and I had never been more intimately and desperately dependent on the Holy Spirit.
I prayed daily for wisdom and discernment and empathy and compassion. I prayed daily for Him to continuously make me aware of opportunities to be the hands and feet and voice and ears of Christ. Watching and listening for the promptings of the Holy Spirit had never been more in the forefront of my awareness. I prayed not only for the Holy Spirit to prompt me when to speak and act, but when to be silent and still.
I prayed for Him to equip me in what I honestly knew to be beyond my capabilities.
The person who told me my faith was illogical, irrational and unreasonable asked me a simple question:
If God is sovereign, why pray?
You’d think I would have considered that question before, me being all spiritually “mature” and everything.
Turns out, I had never really thunk it through. I had dismissed it, thoughtlessly citing Biblical platitudes like “I pray because Jesus prayed.” and “I pray because the Bible tells us to pray.”
When I finally looked at the question straight on, my entire relationship with God came to a screeching halt.
I couldn’t pray.
I wanted to turn back the clock. To unthink what I was thinking. I wanted the faith of a child.
I wanted stronger faith.
Suddenly and overwhelmingly, I identified with Philip Yancey when he wrote:
“I envy, truly I envy, those people who pray in simple faith without fretting about how prayer works and how God governs this planet. For some reason I cannot avoid pondering these imponderables.”
What was so different about this question this time? It came at a critical juncture in my life. After arguing with God for months, I had finally taken the terrifying step of obedience by sharing something I believe God was revealing to me. Something I tried to ignore. Something I didn’t want to see: That I was part of a church which marginalized grace, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, prayer and relationship with Christ. That we forgot 1 Corinthians 2:2-5 and were ignoring Matthew 28:19.
I was genuinely repentant and prayed desperately for God to bring revival. Heartbroken, I asked for people to pray with me. I was blindsided by how angry people were, how fast and how much they misunderstood what I said and how vehemently they rejected not only what I was saying, but me.
I had argued with God, finally doing what I believed He was prompting me to do and I was faced with closed hearts, closed minds and slammed doors.
So I did what anyone “mature” in their faith would do. I ran into a cave and hid.
A dark cave.
“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:4-9
Go ahead, sing-song it with me.
“Julie and Elijah, sitting under a tree, w. h. i. n. ing.”
and then I couldn’t.
Because God is sovereign and God’s gonna do what God’s gonna do.
And then I prayed because I couldn’t help it.
Because a life void of intimacy with Christ and utter dependance on the Holy Spirit was vastly empty. and hopelessly dark.
I prayed because I couldn’t help it while at the same time believing that praying to a sovereign God who’s working a plan and doesn’t need my help was…pointless.
Not logical. Not pragmatic.
And that’s where faith is required.
And where doubt came in.
I never doubted the existence of God. I never doubted Christ or the Cross or the redeeming power of His blood. I never doubted my salvation.
I doubted the point of me.
If God is sovereign, why pray?
If God doesn’t need me, why would He even bother with me? Why did He even bother with me?
And that’s why I say I can’t logically justify my faith.
In my darkest night, when God was completely silent, when the logical, rational and reasonable foundation for my faith was beyond my sight,
I still had faith.
I still have faith.
“…what I testify to is the power of visual art, and especially music…They have the potential to awaken the mind and heart to aspects of God’s glory that were not perceived before. Paintings or photographs of mountains and streams can call forth a sense of wonder and peace. If we are willing to “look along” (not just “at”) these pictures, as Lewis taught us, our eyes will run up the beams to the Original Glory, and the wonder and peace will rest finally in the wonderful and peaceful mountains and streams of God’s power and mercy.
…We must make it our aim that the joy awakened by music be joy in God…Then the effort to delight in God through music will involve a prior shaping of the mind by the Word…Then the effort to delight in God through music will also involve a thoughtful testing after the music has already awakened joy. Is this joy…stirring my desires to know Christ better and love him more and show him to others at the cost of my own comfort? So before and after music has its immediate effect, we pursue the goal that music make us more glad in the glory of God.”
When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy
by John Piper
Lord, thank you for using praise music and my worship through that music to awaken my mind and heart to aspects of Your Glory I had never perceived before. Thank You for the joy it brought and the delight I found in You because of WHO YOU ARE. Thank You for the overwhelming and undeniable awareness of Your presence in those moments. Thank You for helping me to completely forget myself and for moving me into deeper praise, no longer centered in gratitude for Your temporal blessings, but grounded and focused on eternal things: Your Sovereignty, Your Holiness, Your stubborn love for me and my desperate and relentless need for You.
Even though the lesson was one of the hardest I’ve ever faced, thank you for teaching me that finding worship through music wasn’t enough, that it only took me part way. It limited true praise to those brief moments. Thank you for showing me that my dependance on music was quenching Your Spirit. It prevented me from finding joy and delight in WHO YOU ARE in the ordinary, everyday moments of my life. Thank You for the understanding that I can’t find that joy and delight on my own, through my own striving, depending on anything in this world to facilitate it.
Holy Spirit, please bless me with joy and delight, so I won’t be tempted to settle for less by depending on anything or anybody but Christ.
“The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang:
“He is good; his love endures forever.”
Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God”
2 Chronicles 5:13-14 (NIV)
“Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet. Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the Mount I’m fixed upon it, mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer. Hither by Thy help I come.
Oh, and I hope by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home”
sung by Kings Kaleidoscope
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
“…how did the early Christians pray for joy? First, we may assume that they prayed the prayers of the only Bible that they had, namely, the Old Testament. Thus they would have prayed:
“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Ps. 90:14).
“Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice” (Ps. 51:8).
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Ps. 51:12).
“Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us” (Ps. 90:15).
“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Ps. 85:6).
Don’t miss how radical these prayers are. They assume that we are unable to make ourselves satisfied in God. And they assume that God has the right to do it, is able to do it, and does it in answer to prayer.”
When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy
by John Piper
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need
Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV)
“Breathe in me Your life. ‘Til Your love overtakes me
Open up my eyes. Let me see You more clearly
Falling on my knees, ’til I love like You love
Like You love me”
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
“God can do anything.”
Luke 1:37 (NIV)
Lord, I pray for revival, filled with doubt that You will stir it. Not because You can’t, but because You won’t. I believe You can do anything. But I also know You don’t force yourself on anyone. And the people I’m praying for are very comfortable right where they are. They see no need to change. They see nothing wrong except for this Jesus Freak who’s rocking the boat.
So I ask you Lord, not for anything specific, because I have no flippin idea what to ask for. You know. You know exactly what is needed and exactly when. Your plan is perfect. Your timing is perfect. I know You don’t need me, but pray that You can and will use me. I’m asking You – I’m begging You – to move. Move in the hearts and minds of individuals. I pray that they will be DISsatisfied with an assumption of Christ. I pray that they will, from their soul, cry out for Jesus. I pray they won’t be able to stomach any substitute.
Almighty God, I’m begging you for a miracle, no matter what it looks like. No matter how much it hurts. Because You are my comfort, my peace, my strength and my hope. I trust You, even when I don’t understand what You are doing.
“He [God] specializes in solutions that have no explanation other than Him.
Don’t get discouraged by the long, unyielding situations in your life. God has solutions for them. He may not have revealed those solutions yet – He let many people in Scripture endure long periods that required faith and patience – but He is never late with His answers. Wait, believe and hope. Nothing is impossible with Him.”
The One Year Experiencing God’s Presence Devotional: 365 Daily Encounters to Bring You Closer to Him
by Chris Tiegreen
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself…When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?””
Luke 24:27, 30-32 (NIV)
Lord, please open my eyes. Please open the Scriptures to me. Please teach me how to encounter Christ in every corner of the Bible. I can’t do it on my own. I desperately need your Holy Spirit to help me decipher what I read, but I also need teachers and books and other resources to point me to Christ in every measure of your Word. PLEASE Lord, don’t ever let me passively use or numbly accept others use of Your Word only as supporting material for moral living or motivation for charitable service – without an unmistakable declaration that apart from Jesus Christ, moral living and charitable service are empty, temporal pursuits. Please Lord, never let me settle for an assumption of Jesus. My desperate prayer is that I would never forget that JESUS is the single common thread that runs through every book of the Bible. Lord, never let me forget that without JESUS, the Bible is just a historical document. I want to see Jesus in Scripture where I’ve never recognized Him before. Jesus, please show me YOU. Please help me point others to You.
“ABOVE ALL, PREACH CHRIST…I got lost in the details of the text and didn’t have time for the most important part. In the mail came a letter from this lady saying, ‘I could have heard that message in a mosque.’ Ouch. Sometimes the best input doesn’t come in the easiest packages, but she was right. Nobody needs preaching that gives the testimony of God but doesn’t scope down to the Son of God and the gospel. That’s gotta be in our messages somewhere every week, that God loves fallen people, that they can be saved from their sins and find the hope of eternal life through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. If I never get tired of preaching it, God’s people will not wear of rejoicing in it.”
Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for. What Every Church Can Be.
by James MacDonald
“Chains be broken. Lives be healed. Eyes be opened. Christ is revealed.”
You’ll Come by Hillsong United
In Kari Jobe’s album version of Revelation Song, the fourth verse builds and the word “mystery” is held for about 18 seconds. (It starts at the 4 minute mark)
I couldn’t do it.
And I really, really wanted to do it. For over a year, the worship leader didn’t even go near it. Then, one night at rehearsal, when I didn’t know it was coming, we held it out the extra beats.
I was hooked.
I rehearsed the rest of the week, and that Sunday, just before we were supposed to lead Revelation Song, the pastor lost track of the fact that we had one more song to do and began speaking.
It was scheduled again on a week with a guest worship leader. It took me THREE breaths to get through it. THREE.
I had taken it to my vocal coach and worked on it for weeks. No matter how hard I worked, no matter how many times I vocalized and repeated those particular voice lessons along with a CD, I couldn’t master those stupid 18 seconds. I achieved a whopping 50% success rate. On a good day.
Time and time again, I ran out of air after 15 seconds. If not sooner.
I took Revelation Song to the recording studio and was relentless. In the end, I was able to hold it every time, but only by holding my hands straight up in the air as far as I could reach. Whether it was physical or psychological, I seemed to make room for more air that way. But I held it. Made me lightheaded every time. And it had no building power. It actually got softer.
A thought occurred to me and I pushed it aside. For two weeks, I ignored what I believe now was God trying to tell me something.
Finally, two days ago, I told God that if I was trying to hold “mystery” out of pride, I wanted to fail.
Haven’t held it since.
Of course it’s possible that I’m freaking myself out. But more likely this is an ego smackdown straight from God. This is one of those failures I can’t overcome by working harder. Have to let it go. Counter-intuitive.
I told two other people on the worship team this ugly little truth and one of them immediately came back with this verse:
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”
Colossians 3:5 (NIV)
ouch. That’s kinda harsh, dontcha think?
I like this one better:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
Isn’t that prettier? I told my husband that it kinda felt like putting lipstick on a pig. His response?
“It’s a cop out if you ask me.”
Ugly but true.
Colossians 3:23 is a goal. Something to strive for. Colossians 3:5 is about acknowledging sin. Big, fat, ugly, lipstick covered sin. And who wants to see that? I certainly didn’t.
So ugly I didn’t even want to put that pig picture on this post.
But there it is.
I’m leading Revelation Song on Sunday. And I’m planning on taking a breath in the middle of those 18 seconds. If God doesn’t think I’ve been humbled enough, I asking him to make me need TWO.
This post was originally published on March 9, 2011. I was reminded of it yesterday.
Went to bed thinking about the elements of an atmosphere conducive to worship.
Woke up thinking about what I can do to help a congregation experience deep worship and praise.
Something’s been on my mind. While rehearsing a song for praise team, someone referred to it as a “solo.”
Oxford defines “solo” as:
noun – a piece of music, song, or dance for one performer
adjective – for or done by one person
It’s been nagging at me.
From the depth of everything I am, that’s the last thing I want to do on Sunday morning when I sing with the praise team.
I always call it that. Not praise band or worship band, but praise team. Sometimes worship team.
Oxford defines “team” as:
noun – two or more people working together.
verb – come together as a team to achieve a common goal.
That’s the way I think about it. We’re a team. We have a team leader, and it ain’t me. I follow the direction of our worship leader and when it comes to serving with him on the team, I trust his judgment, respect his decisions and sing harmony when he’s singing melody. Even so, sometimes I sing the lead on a song. Doesn’t make me the team leader, just means I’m singing the melody on a particular song.
When that happens, I refer to it as leading a song.
I’ve never referred to it as singing a solo.
Oxford defines “lead” this way:
verb – cause (a person or animal) to go with one, especially by drawing them along or by preceding them to a destination.
noun – the initiative in an action: others followed our lead.
Some might say I’m splitting hairs; that it’s just a subtle difference in terminology, a tomato/tomahto kind of thing.
I view it as a HUGE difference, especially as it relates to my attitude and motivation. When I’m leading a song, my primary goal is to lead the congregation in worship. I want to facilitate a shift from the distractions and overwhelming challenges of every day life to a focus on the hope and peace and joy of worshiping God. My primary goal every Sunday morning is to bring each individual person in the congregation with me as I focus my heart and mind on worship. My consistent prayer is that the Lord would bless my service and help me to reach that goal for Him.
The word is still nagging at me.
I don’t want to sing a solo.
Some of you know I record once a month. The deadline to submit my accompaniment track and lyrics is usually the week before the recording session. The problem is, I’ve been recording for nearly two years, and I’m running out of “good” tracks. Lately, it’s been a real struggle to get my track in on time because I’ve been having trouble picking songs. If I do find a song I like, more often than not,
a track doesn’t exist (tracks are made for POPULAR songs only)
the only track that does exist is one I can’t get a license for,
the track isn’t in a good key for my range
the track sounds like Ross from Friends recorded it using only a synthesizer
the track has absolutely no dynamics and/or the tempo would put a hyperactive child to sleep
the track sounds too much like the original recording (I want to cover a song, not mimic a song.)
the arrangement is too “busy.” (I like me some acoustic guitar.)
When I really get stuck picking a song, I cheat and look at the praise team set list for the Sunday following the recording sessions (which are usually scheduled on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon). If I pick a praise team song to record the same week the praise team is leading it, I figure at the very least, I’m getting in some extra rehearsal on one of the songs for that week.
Combine my recent song selection challenges with all that I’ve been dealing with this month, (Check out last week’s post entitled “taut-adjective-emotionally-or-mentally-strained-or-tense” to see what I’m talking about), you can probably understand why I hadn’t scheduled myself to record in February.
It would have been the first time I had missed a month since I began recording. I knew I was available for the recording session itself (the first weekend in February), but I honestly didn’t think I had time to prepare for it in the weeks prior. Then, in the middle of last week, I got a call asking if I could fill an open recording session on Saturday from 5pm to 9pm.
I said yes. Sometimes singing in a recording studio for hours is like free therapy.
The only problem was that I had absoflipinlutly NO idea what I was going to sing. The days ticked by. nothin. I’m desperate, so I check the praise team set list for the weeks near the recording session. My next praise team lead is “O the Blood” – which I just recorded in November. So, that won’t work. I check the next week’s set list. Not up yet. Every day, I check the set list. Not up yet.
No easy way out this time.
Finally, I ran out of time. The track and lyrics were due last night, this morning at the latest. And I had to be downtown on client site at 9:30am, so I had to get this DONE before I left house. I went to bed last night with no song selected. I had no plan. I was praying that God would smack me in the head with a song title.
So, this morning, my alarm went off and the very first thing I heard was the introduction to Natalie Grant’s “Your Great Name” which I absolutely LOVE and have been wanting to learn. But seriously. It’s NATALIE GRANT. Have you heard this song!? The ending needs POWER.
Me, arguing with God before I even get out of bed: “no. way.”
God: “Trust me.”
Me: “I can’t do it.”
God: “I can.”
Me: “I have no doubt that YOU can, but I don’t have time to nail that bridge – and that last chorus – AND the harmony AND the background vocals. In FIVE days. It’s too much, too fast. I can’t do it.”
I laid there in bed listening to every. little. detail. of the song, thinking: “No. I can’t do it. Not in FIVE days. Not if I’m gonna do it right. My expectations of how I want it to turn out are too high for FIVE days. It’s too hard to learn in five days. And I don’t want to record it before it’s ready.”
I could almost hear God say, “okay. Then do this:”
And the VERY next song was Mighty to Save.
I came in on the wrong note, but it fit, until midway into the verse, then it was glaringly obvious I was off.
Let the season of doubt begin.
After that, I had no confidence that I could come in on the right note. How could I have started on the wrong note and not even realized it? What if I did it again? How do I recover the song if I come in on the wrong note during worship? The music director offered to play my note on the flute for me. It got to the point where I believed I couldn’t do it without her.
I hated that.
I was determined to break my need for this crutch. I bought the Hillsong version of the song, with the guitar intro. I completely stopped listening to the piano version, even going to the extreme of turning off the radio if it began playing.
I was able to begin on the correct note without the flute playing it in the background. I led the song multiple times over the next few months without a problem.
So what was different about the last time I sang it?
After I came in so effortlessly at the beginning of the pre-service rehearsal, we added keyboard to the intro and rehearsed it again after everyone else had gotten there.
I couldn’t find the note. Actually, I have no idea if I could or couldn’t find the note, because I didn’t try. I just said, “I don’t have it.”
Me and “Mighty to Save.” We have a little history.
Nonetheless, after I got the kids off to school, I sat down at the computer and searched all my “go-to” track making companies. piano. piano. piano. piano. huge band. overwhelming electric guitar . . . and something new. An acoustic arrangement. It had an extra bridge and two extra choruses at the end, but the arrangement was good. Then the company’s website decided to hang on the payment screen. 20 minutes later I abandoned the purchase and looked for it on a third party seller site. Score. At 9:05am, I called my client and told them I would be late, took another 20 minutes to pick a key, uploaded the track, emailed the lyrics and I was DONE.
Drove all the way to the client site doubting my choice.
Of course, when I got home and checked the praise team set list for the following week, you know what was on the list.
Mighty to Save.
I have no idea if I can get the intro right without wasting everyone’s time in the recording session. But God can. And now he has a week of intensified rehearsals to do it.
Now I have to pick a song to record in March. Wonder if it will be “Your Great Name.”