(Scripture References from the NIV)
We are living in a time where there are so many negative issues confronting us every day that it can be difficult to cope. This tends to make us look at things thru dark-colored glasses, so to speak. That view can then shade our attitude causing us to feel down, depressed and very serious about everything. Can you remember a time as children when we viewed everything through rose-colored glasses? We were carefree, happy and optimistic about life. I believe that is the way we are intended to live. Not in denial about reality mind you, but staying strong in our faith that everything can work out in the end. Maybe we should strive to release that inner child within us, put on our rose-colored glasses and move forward with our lives. I believe this is particularly true of our spiritual lives.
Have you ever been in a church service when children have been at the front of the church to perform and/or sing? You will almost always have at least one child (if not more) that is totally uninhibited and will joyfully speak or sing louder than everyone else. They will smile, they may gleefully jump around, and they may raise their arms loving the moment. When this happens, it normally will warm the hearts of all that see it. People will smile, maybe even chuckle out loud at the pure joy exhibited by the child. This leads me to ask, should this behavior be reserved for just those special occasions? Should it be only for children? What did Jesus have to say about it?
Matthew 18:1-3 says: “’At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’”
Jesus Himself is telling us that he wants us all to be childlike. So that we are clear about it, what is the definition of childlike? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary it is: “Resembling, suggesting, or appropriate to a child or childhood – especially marked by innocence, trust, and ingenuousness – childlike delight.” Some other words and phrases I found that described childlike were: “simple, unsophisticated, without airs, open, uninhibited, natural, spontaneous, down-to-earth.” I really liked what the Urban Dictionary says: “Someone with innocent spirit who loves to have FUN!!!” And, importantly, they continue: “Note: being Childlike is NOT being CHILDISH.”
First, I believe that Jesus is saying that he wants us to come to Him and His word with a childlike trust – with pure faith. If we cannot study God’s word wholly trusting it, how can we ever fully institute it into our lives? How can we ever expect it to have enough impact on us that we can live the lives we are intended to live? We need that pure faith.
Second, I believe He wants us to delight in His word – to find not only the “shall nots” to guide our lives, but to pay attention to the “shalls”. (Believe it or not, there are a lot of those in the Word.) God does not want us to be downcast, feeling guilty and unhappy. He wants us to live good, fulfilling, joyous, FUN lives! He wants us to be “without airs, uninhibited, spontaneous”, etc. He wants us to be uncomplicated and to not become cynical.
When I first started attending some services where people would respond verbally to the pastor/teacher (i.e., “Amen!”, “Preach it!”, “Yes!”) it was a surprise for me. Having grown up in a mainstream denominational church, you did not normally have that going on. Then during the worship time, I started to notice people raising their hands. This was another new thing for me. I did not really understand it and was much too reserved and “proper” – too “adult” – to do such a thing. As my deeper walk with Jesus progressed, I grew accustomed to the verbal feedback and actually had an appreciation for it; but, I could not bring myself do it – eventually that changed. Nor could I ever consider raising my hands during worship.
At one meeting I attended there was instruction on praise and it was explained why people raised their hands. They shared scriptures and the person speaking asked who would like more from the Lord in their lives. Naturally everyone responded that they would. They explained that if this was something new and maybe uncomfortable, to just think of your raised arms as a funnel for God to pour more of Himself into your life. Another comment that I heard, maybe at this same meeting or possibly at a different one, the example of why we might want to raise our hands was this – if you have someone come up behind you and put a gun at your back to rob you, what is the first thing you likely will do? You will raise your hands – you will surrender to them to possibly save your life. Who better to surrender your life to than God? So, when raising your hands, just picture yourself surrendering to Him while He pours out His love and blessings into your life and “robbing you” of the negatives in your life.
Zing! Those words all reached into my heart and mind. At first when I self-consciously started raising my hands I would make it up to about waist level. Gradually I felt more comfortable going a bit higher until I experienced the joy of raising my arms and hands to fully praise and worship. I could feel the joy of God fill my heart as I pushed aside pride and fully loved and worshiped Him.
There are many scripture references in the Word about the raising of hands both in the Old and New Testaments. I am sure if you have studied the Word at all you have seen examples of leaders raising their hands as a way of giving blessings. It was done as an praise offering as in Psalm 63:4 where David says: “’I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.’” And, in Ezra 8:6a it says: “Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, ‘Amen! Amen!’” Sometimes it was sacrificial as in Psalm 141:2 where David says: “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” 1 Timothy 2:8 gives us insight into the proper attitude of our hearts when we lift our hands in praise saying “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.” One of my favorites though is simply stated in Psalm 134:2 “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.”
At one point in my life – probably about 44 years ago – there was a group of us in our traditional Methodist church that started a weekly Bible study group and one of the topics of study was praise. Soon, all of us began to more freely worship with our hands raised during worship time at church. I soon truly sensed a deeper and more meaningful experience in our church services – an experience where I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit there in a more powerful way each week. For example: I sang in the choir and we would wait in the hallways on both sides of the front of the sanctuary to enter on cue singing our preamble and file into the choir loft. One such morning as we entered the sanctuary, I noticed a very strong, beautiful fragrance as if the whole room was overflowing with roses. I asked those on each side of me if they smelled roses. They both responded that they did not. I looked around and there were no roses in the vases on the altar that morning. I heard a whisper in my spirit that what I smelled was the presence of the Rose of Sharon. I cannot tell you what the sermon was about or what scriptures were read or what songs were sung that morning. But I can tell you that I still remember that the service was full to overflowing of the Spirit of God.
Another time we were visiting some of our friends in Lubbock and attended worship service with them at Trinity Church. Every time we attended services there, it was always so uplifting and full of joy. This particular morning as soon as we entered the sanctuary, I sensed the feeling of a light, fog-like cloud. (Easton’s Bible Dictionary when defining “cloud” says: “The word is used as a symbol of the Divine presence”.) I felt like the arms of God just enveloped me. It was another morning of meaningful, wonderful worship and teaching – I definitely felt that Divine presence. I mentioned this sensation to our friends that were members of the church and they told me that before the services people would join together in the sanctuary to pray and worship the Lord and ask for the Spirit of God to dwell there in a powerful way. Obviously their prayers were answered and the worship was blessed.
When I think about how some people freely participate with raised hands in worship and some do not, I am reminded of the very old Life Cereal commercial. The first little boy looks at a bowl of cereal and says “What’s this stuff?” His brother says “Some cereal, it’s supposed to be good for you.” The first boy pushes it over to the second saying “I’m not gonna try it.” The second says “Let’s get Mikey.” The first enthusiastically says “Yeah!” The bowl is pushed over in front of the youngest brother (Mikey) and one of them says “He won’t eat it, he hates everything.” As Mikey digs into the cereal and begins to enthusiastically eat it, the second brother says “He likes it! Hey Mikey!”
Verbally agreeing with a speaker and the raising of hands during worship, of course, is a personal decision. Doing either does not make someone more spiritual. Not doing either does not mean you will be damned. But I would just urge you to throw off the adult constraints we tend to put on ourselves, relax and slowly wade into the possibilities that can await you. Just try it – like Mikey – you might like it!
When we join in sincere praise and worship of God, His Holy Spirit joins with us more powerfully. Our hearts open up in a way that allows us to receive His blessings more freely. We need to stop being self-conscious, shy and cynical. We need to get our eyes and our minds off the cares and the problems of the world and just focus on God. We need to let His peace wash over us, putting our hearts and minds at ease. We need to let the joy of the Lord fill us, leaving our inhibitions behind – the inhibitions that tell us to only stand, sing, sit, speak – to be reserved – to be “adult.”
We need to release our inner child!
Written by Karran Martin
January 12, 2019