Friday, July 30

BlogSwap 3: Open Assignment

As promised, today is the third BlogSwap, so we have a new and exciting guest blogger, Doug McHone of CoffeeSwirls. Why don't you consider participating in the next BlogSwap? And feel free to comment on Doug's post.
Well, since Tim has decided to give us an open assignment in this week's BlogSwap, I've decided to show my ornery side by rebutting one of his posts, namely the post entitled, "Raising Holy Hands." In this post, Tim ponders the raising of hands during singing in a worship service. He doesn't dispute it, he just questions the Biblical nature of it.

Allow me to share an excerpt here with you:
I thought about trying it, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that there was no way I could do it without it being very artificial. Though others may not have noticed this, I knew that I would be so self-conscious of what I was doing that it could not be a real act of worship.

He then asks a few questions.

  1. Why do you want to raise your hands during music? What does it mean to you?

  2. When? When do you raise your hands? The Bible tells men to raise their hands in prayer. Are you able to raise your hands during prayer or only when the music is playing?

  3. Where is the Scriptural proof that we are given license to do so? As a Reformed Protestant I always hold the Bible as the plumb line. If it does not line up with Scripture I can't support it.

Let me pause here to say that I am not a hand-raiser. That is due to my upbringing more than anything. I wasn't taught that it was an empty, outward act or anything. I just wasn't exposed to it growing up. The first time I saw it in a church my family visited, I wondered if the people had some sort of question and were trying to get the music leader's attention, much like school. I realized after a song or two that this was not some attempt to pose a question, and the obvious reason of worship entered my thoughts, so I tried it.

Much like Tim's thought, it did feel artificial to me. I raised my hands briefly in a song because someone else near me was doing so and I self-consciously lowered them, wondering how that action would enhance someone else's worship experience. The service progressed and I never raised the topic with my father.

But what seems uncomfortable to one may not seem uncomfortable to another. Let me share a later church service that caused most of my family extreme discomfort, and even led my grandfather to walk out. The service was held in the gym of the Salvation Army's Camp Mokan, near Kansas City. I don't know who approved the use of the facilities for this church, but I had the impression that my Uncle (who was the camp administrator) knew about the nature of their services and attended there from time to time.

It has been 15-20 years past when this happened, so forgive me if the only memories I have of the experience are the bizarre ones, but they did much more than raise their hands when they sang. There were ladies kicking off their heels and dancing in the aisles. No kidding! They would congregate in small groups, join hands, and dance in a circle with much laughter and merriment. I was astonished!

My grandfather, who was a Mennonite minister, walked out around that time, and in retrospect, I wish I had joined him. My parents were rather strict about me going to church when I was young, and it was mandatory that I suffer through the rest of the display and on to the sermon, which I don't recall. Something tells me it was likely a lot of theologically unsound fluff, but who's to say?

But what if there was some membrane-thin layer of correctness to this practice? What if Psalm 149:3 approves of this practice? I searched around Google for a bit and ultimately ran across a site that tries to promote dancing to the Lord as a way to enhance your worship of Him. Before you get to enraged at my boldness here, let me say that I believe this practice is not one that people engage in to garner the favor of God, but of man. On that site, it says that you don't need any special qualifications or skills to dance for God, but training is helpful somehow. Huh?

Sauntering in circles to the amusement of church members and the indignation of my grandfather is not something that I believe is glorifying to God, but back to the matter at hand. (Play on words there) What about the raising of hands as you sing? Is it allowable, based on Biblical accounts of what should and should not be contained within a church service?

Tim pointed out a verse that shows that that we are given license to raise our hands during prayer, but it is not mentioned for other situations:
1 Timothy 2:8 (NKJV): I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting

I contend that the raising of hands is perfectly allowable during singing as long as you feel led to do so by God. It needs to be a spontaneous act rather than a premeditated showing of your outward faith for others. Furthermore, hand-raising should only be done in such a way that it would not pose a distraction to others and is appropriate only if the song is offered up to God as a prayer. To give a Biblical reference, I offer to you this verse:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV): Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Now I know you didn't see any mention of singing in there, but you did see the commandment (that is, the revealed will of God) to pray without ceasing. Many of the Psalms in the Bible are wonderful examples of prayer, so are many hymns sung in churches throughout the world. I have been deeply moved as I sing "Amazing Grace" and even offered it as a prayer during a church service. I haven't raised my hands to it, but it is my prayer of thanks and adoration to the Lord as I sing it. Otherwise, I'm just making noise.

If it is more than a song, and includes the characteristics of a prayer that moves my heart, doesn't that qualify it for the license to raise my hands, if I feel so led, based on 1 Timothy 2:8?

I believe so.
CoffeeSwirls is the minty fresh blog of Doug McHone, which snaps back wash after wash! Join me as I continually search for my joy on the path of least resistance.

My entry will be posted on On The Door Step.

To view the rest of this week's entries, click here.

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