The other day I did one of the most painful things an artist can ever do. While I was in my office I pulled out my guitar and my favorite worship song. I practiced it a few times then I hit record on my phone. I knew that the sound quality would not be the best, yet I was trying to catch the heart of my worship, not just the sound. As the phone’s red-light flashed telling me it was recording, I sang and played with all my heart unto the Lord. I played all the dramatic nuances of the song, I even went into open worship and then back into the chorus of the song. Finally, it was done. I pushed the stop button on my phone and there was only a moment of hesitation. Should I play it or not? What if it is horrible? I ultimately pushed play and listened intently to the song. It can only be described as a valiant attempt of a beautiful song. The passion and heart was the best part of the recording. As I listened to myself I came face to face with one of my many short comings: I cannot sing, at least not in a way the human ears find pleasant. I know that the Lord only requires what Psalm 98 calls a “joyful noise,” but people are far more critical. I feel the truth Adam Jones spoke when he said: “I’m my own worst critic”.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in what the world sets as the standard we forget who determines reality. We get so focused on what the world dictates as success we lose sight of what God is up to. However, God’s word is powerful and challenges us to make a choice. We can either be conformed to the pattern of this world or be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The scripture says: “With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity. (Romans 12:1-2, J.B. Phillips New Testament) What strikes me in this paraphrase is the way Phillips highlights the distinction between the world squeezing us into a mould and God re-moulding us from the inside out. The world is oppression, God is transformation. The world is outside pressing down, God is inside expanding our maturity when it comes to life and especially when it comes to worship. What really matters is when we come face to face with our short comings: are we going to let the world squeeze us or are we going to let the Lord expand us?
I decided to hit play once again, this time I was not listening for all my failures. This time I was listening to areas where I could believe God for a miracle! This time I chose to lay myself on God’s altar. When we choose to allow God to open our eyes to true reality we are upon His altar; He changes us from the inside out! The world will never stop trying to press you into its mould, so our spiritual location matters. We must decide whose side we are going to be on in the eternal shoving match: on God’s altar or in the mould of the world. True spiritual worship is more about the location of the sacrifice than the sound the sacrifice makes. Yes, we must strive to become better! Yes, we use tools such as audio recordings, video recordings, and critical observers that will help us improve. These are great tools to help us refine and grow so we play and worship skillfully. However, the sacrifice should never come off the altar, not even for improvements! Once we are off the altar the pressure of this world makes it hard to get back on. So may you be transformed from within as you willingly choose to keep your life upon the altar of God.