Help! My Son Is In A Worship Camp

During the old testament days, when people sought the presence of God, they brought with them their offerings. It was always something physical, something that you can see, touch, smell, hear and taste. There were grains, cattle, oil, incense, etc. In Exodus 25:2, God orders Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give.” Yes, God expects us to bring him an offering, but it is not the offering itself that he is after, he is after the heart of the one who brings the offering. Remember Cain and Abel’s offering? Is the heart of a person in accordance to what God expects of him? Does God get to see obedience of heart in his people?

Disobedience to God’s ways separates people from God’s presence. We all know this from Adam and Eve. A sense of deep respect, awe and fear of God keeps people closer to his presence. The closer you are with God, the stronger is your love, obedience and loyalty towards him. Abraham was once asked to sacrifice his only heir as a burnt offering. He saddled up a donkey, took two servants and his son Isaac and went on a three day camp. On the third day he asked his servants to stay behind so that he and his son will worship God on the mountain and they will come back. This is the first time in the Bible the word worship is mentioned. Abraham went to worship God with a sacrifice walking and talking innocently beside him. Was God really after a dead burnt Isaac or was he after Abraham’s heart of obedience?

When we are willing to sacrifice or kill our future that we hold so dear for ourselves, then we are ready to worship God. This requires an obedient heart that does what God says without any argument and opinion. Look at the blessing that Abraham received because of his obedience: “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Genesis 22:17,18. When we worship God the right way we will see nations transformed.

Our oldest son is in a summer worship camp that goes on for four and a half days. There is singing and music with some preaching and prayer in between. Sometimes the music is great during ‘worship time’, fast rhythm, loud guitar, everyone is turned on and the worship rocks. It feels good, you sing and swing at the same time. You actually even feel like you have worshiped God with all your heart, might and soul and strength. Then comes the mellow phase of our ‘worship time’. The music gets slow and the good feelings changes to piety, repentance, and sometimes even self pity. To round it all up at the end, there is another song with a cool beat, to get back to the party feeling. We call this worship! What credit is that if we worship God according to the flexibility of our emotional moods? Even unbelievers do that in their music shows! Moses and the Israelites sang song to the Lord when they witnessed their enemies drown in the see and yet they themselves were spared. Their emotion of joy was expressed in singing and dancing. Few days later with that same mouth they grumbled against Moses. In spite of experiencing the miracles of God first hand, in spite of meaningful singing and dancing, their hearts were still far from God. God wanted their obedient heart, not their emotional feelings. If you listen carefully to me and do what I say, pay attention, keep my decrees, I will not strike you like I did to the Egyptians. Exodus 15:26

King David was a man after God’s own heart. Not because he could play well the harp or sing a thousand songs or even compose music, but he knew the sacrificial worship that God delights in. He was willing to sacrifice his position, his riches, his Kingdoms, his music, his everything just to dwell in the presence of the Lord. Better is one day in your court than a thousand elsewhere! Sacrifice everything else in order to hear God and do only that which He says, that is the heart of a true worshiper. David’s heart was steadfast in God. He disrobed himself in front of God. he was willing to become even more undignified than that, he was willing to be humiliated in his own eyes. He pleased God by displeasing himself. That is why he could sing and make music with all his heart and soul and mind and all that is within him.

When God became a tradition to his own people, he spoke through his prophet Isaiah saying how much he hates their appointed feasts and evil assemblies and camps and conferences. It has become a burden that he is weary of bearing them. The multitude of your sacrifice makes no sense, all the meaningless words with and without emotions, slow and fast rhythms, I have no pleasure in them. Stop trampling my courts, in other words stop warming up your pews! Don’t spread out your hands in prayers, because I hide my eyes from you. even if you offer many prayers I will not listen to you. You have not learned to do what my heart is after. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land. But if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. Isaiah 1

God saw that his people cannot worship him through their own deeds, so he sent his Son to the cross as a sacrifice and earned all the worship that he needs through the obedience of his Son. Jesus became the sacrificial worship of God. This is my son in whom I am well pleased. Jesus obeyed God in every way. He said only what he heard his father say, he did only what he saw his father do. He came down to show us how to worship God by living it everyday here on earth. He obeyed God in every step, even unto death. This kind of obedience to God – sacrificing everything, family, job, hobby, desires and dreams at the altar to ash and obeying (doing) only what God says to you is the profound act of worship that pleases God. If we are followers of Jesus, we got to follow him the same way He worshiped his Father- through sacrificial obedience!

If worship as we know today has to do with singing and dancing, shall we stop for a moment waving our colorful glittering banners to find out what Jesus said about music and singing as worshiping God? He is worth way more than our emotions and singing and dancing. Father sacrificed his Son Jesus not so that we could sing week by week and get our emotional tank full. No, He offered his son Jesus as a sacrifice so that we in return out of his mercies will offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is our spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1.

Worship is a spiritual act, not words or music to words. It is a doing! It is sacrifice. It is death to one’s self, one’s own future. When God saw that his people do not keep up to His word, he sent The Word in a human form. He sacrificed his own son Jesus in order to get back a people of his very own. Denying all that we are and all that we own and identify with, and then stepping out to follow Him without questions to the very end will lead us to be true worshipers. Worship has to become our lifestyle.

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3 comments

  1. Hi!

    To begin with, I want to clarify that you are absolutely right about the beef of your message: that worship is a spiritual act. And I pray that on that camp your son would not only learn to appreciate this, but that his heart would become even more responsive to God’s heart and that God would make obedience to His will in his everyday life his first nature.

    On the other hand I want to express that in my own opinion you may have overstated your case. I do understand your indignance about the issue. Yet, I would not say that it is *not* words or music to words. Namely, it can be. Remember Heman and Asaph.

    What do I mean by this? The question is simply, how does the spiritual act manifest itself. If can – and often has – become practical reality in the form now referred to as “worship (music)”. But to think that it would be merely this is utter blasphemy. Worship as a spiritual act has to take form in nearly every creative (and quite a few non-creative) means possible, starting from mathematical formulas (e^i*pi = -1 is my favorite. Don’t mistake me, mathematics is creative: 50% theorems, 50% proofs and 50% sheer imagination.) all the way to helping people in need, to teach the people of God to know Him better, to spreading His unfailing love, to being obedient in every aspects of ones life. And so on.

    The key here is to remember what comes first. If *we* start to praise and worship, it’s wrong. If it is God, who pushes and calls us to it, it is right. In that case to “worship” is to be obedient. In that case we are not serving our own emotions, but we are offering them – and our heart and our very being – got God. And in any other case we should not be worshiping at all.

    (The same applies more or less to everything. After all, it is the difference between walking in flesh or living by the Spirit.)

    Therefore it is not the music and emotions we need to look at these situations, but the hearts and minds of the worship leaders. Those, who understand that God is the origin and initiator of worship, and that our acts – like worship – are not even response, but fruit of that relationship, and act and teach accordingly, are OK. Those who focus on music instead, are dangerous.

    Therefore, worship is a spiritual act that needs to take place in our everyday life. To think that it is limited to some forms – like music – or occasions – like camps – is to deceive ourselves and to sin. But likewise it’s unwise to think that they would *not* be useful for true spiritual worship. It may be that, too. Done right, these camps can boost us to focus on God and obey Him in our everyday lives and to surrender to Him with our whole beings.

    Finally, you don’t have to agree with me. I reserve myself an irrecoverable right to be mistaken. Just wanted to share my 2 cents in the sincere hope that they would be of any help.

    1. Hi Tuomas,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I totally agree with you and that is exactly what I try to communicate here.

      In the New Testament, since Jesus has appeared once for all to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself, we don’t need anymore burnt offerings or grain and incense and other OT offerings to worship God. I find these two verses (the only two verses about singing in gatherings) in the NT quite interesting when compared to ‘worship’ that we are used to today with musical instruments in our Churches .
      Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, Eph 5:19
      Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God, Col 3:16.

  2. This has been my heart for a couple of years now. God told my wife and I to throw out our worship CD’s and DVD’s as most of them were rock concerts. I HAVE found that getting to know God is intimate and heart wrenching and not hipe.

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