Praise Identity.

I enter the church.  I smile and shake hands and tell a joke.  People laugh, we fellowship, and they ask questions as I set up the CD table displaying the products of Anointed Hearts Ministries.  Afterwards, more people file in as we do a quick sound check, adjust levels and volumes, and then take our seats to prepare for the service to begin.  After Sunday School ends, there's opening announcements and opening prayer.  As the chords of congregational songs begin, my mind starts to wander in worry.

Is my clapping alright?  Am I too loud or too soft?  Because if I'm too loud, they might think I'm arrogant and seeking attention.  If I'm too soft, they might think I have no interest in their songs.  And what about actually singing?  If I'm too loud, will it seem like I'm showing off?  If I'm too soft, will it seem like I'm just not participating?  Besides that, how loud is too loud and how soft is too soft?  If I raise my hand in praise, will they think it's just to draw attention to myself?  I don't want to give the wrong impression.  It might hinder my ability to minister.  Am I smiling enough?...

I'm aware that I'm being watched, not only because of my ministry, but because of who I claim to be: a follower of Christ.  Unfortunately, we can allow the expectations of others to cloud our praise and worship.  As you can see, I've been plagued by this multiple times.  So many times, in fact, that I can recite the thoughts that often run through my head.  But I have discovered a truth that I want to share with you, a truth that has changed the way I think during services.

When we begin to seek the approval of others rather than the presence of the Father, it jams up our whole church experience.  Even more importantly, it jams up our relationship with God Himself.

It's ridiculous to aim to please people so much in an environment created for the purposes of spiritual matters.  Just praise God!  He created us individually with unique hearts that were designed to worship Him in different ways.  Although hearts and minds are intended to be in one mind and accord when gathering to praise the Father, that does not mean that unity equals conformity in the house of God.

Think of it like this: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were all beloved disciples of Jesus.  He did not mandate a certain way that they should raise their hands or a certain volume that they should sing.  Instead, Jesus accepted each one with their differing personalities and unique ways of bringing glory to God's name.  He only asked that whatever they did in the name of Jesus, they did it in sincerity and in truth.

Don't lose your praise identity.  Your heart longs to worship God in ways that my heart doesn't even consider, while my heart worships God in ways that might not appeal to yours.  Church is not a building where you're taught how to "properly praise".  Instead, it is a place in each one of us where God blesses our desire to praise Him as long as all is done in sincerity and truth.

"For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." - Galatians 1:10.

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