How to use your hands in worship

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Today's message is called - would you say it with me - "How to use your hands in worship." Now, the thing of it is, we use our hands everyday in every way. Think about it a minute. You get up in the morning, you wash your face, you wash your hands and you apply makeup, then you go and cook something for breakfast and you eat it with your hands and you go to school, you carry your books in your hands, you adjust your backpack. When you get home you might reply to an email. If you're at home, you plant a garden. We do everything with our hands, don't we? I mean our hands and arms and whole bodies are used all the time. In addition to hands doing things, we can actually send messages to one another just with our hands. We do this all the time.

Now, I'm going to try something. I'm gonna send you a message and then you reply to my message. Are you ready? If you're ready say "amen." What did that mean when I put my hands to my mouth and extend my hand to you? [Pastor blows a kiss and congregation responds with similar kiss] That's a little kiss. That's good. Okay what does that mean? [Pastor waves to congregation] It means hello. Wave to the neighbor, wave to everybody. We all know about that one, what about this one? [Pastor touches area of heart - one member in congregation says "heartburn" and everyone laughs] This is not heartburn. What does this mean when I do this to you? [Pastor folds hands across chest and congregation responds with "you're my pal"] Pal, brothers, love you, a lot of little things like that, we are together.

We can even send messages when we're driving. This actually happened to me and Linda Bewley and Ginny. We were coming back on the 5 Freeway and we were in the diamond lane and we had just finished a real spiritual four-day convention called "Kids and Discipleship". The Lord is good and we were driving along and a motorcyclist came beside us and he wanted to greet us with us hand. He didn't use all of his fingers, he only used one. We understood the message, but we didn't know why, so we were kind of saying, we didn't get it, but what really, really was amazing to me is how tall a finger can look when you have a glove on. So whether you're watching sporting events or whether you're at home or at the stadium, when your team gets a touchdown, what do you, Gustavo? Everybody go like this [gesture]; that's a touchdown. Now, if you're watching soccer and you score, what do you do? Go like this "Goal"; that's what the announcer does, but we don't sit there and say that was good, oh yeah, I'm excited, I really like it.

We use our hands for everything, so I want to talk to you about a topic that I haven't talked to you before, but when I talk to you about using your hands in worship, it's just as though I'm talking to you about, love your neighbor, love God. How many times have you heard me say, let's read our bibles. How many times have you heard me say, go home and pray, let's have devotion, things like this. This is just one of those topics. Now, in today's study, we're gonna look at some scriptures on how hands are actually used. We're talking to God about lifting hands to God in prayers. And you know what's interesting is that the bible can tell us if we're lifting hands like this [gesture] or if you're lifting like this [gesture]. See what I mean. So there are three or four variations on the theme and I think that that's good, because lifting hands is such a personal and private thing and it's something that you do because your heart is telling you to do it. Now, I want you to know; "oh the pastor is gonna want us all to raise our hands;" no, I'm not; no, no, no, no. You shouldn't raise your hands in the worship service until you know what it's all about. You've seen me; I've raised my hands a lot over here and you see me raising hands a lot, because every time when I'm in this service, I'm gonna raise my hands like this and I'll say let's have the benediction. And this is indicative of the blessing; this is the blessing that God wants to give to all of us as we leave, so you see me raise hands. You also see me raise hands if I'm baptizing somebody. I'll go like this, you know [raise hand above head]. The person is holding my hand, I have a handkerchief here, the person stands right next to me, I raise my hand like this. This is symbolic of the descent of the Holy Spirit, God's blessing on the person. We think nothing of that. In fact, if I didn't raise my hand when I did a baptism, the people would go, why didn't the pastor raise his hand, what's the deal? We get used to it, don't we?

The other thing is that we're not only gonna talk about raising hands, using it in worship, but think about this. We use our entire body to worship God. We came in here, you sat down, you may have bowed your head in prayer. When we sing, everyone stands up, so we're standing up and we do this because we believe we're in God's presence and when we're in God's presence I'm not going to be seated, are you? I'm gonna stand up because it's just out of respect and reverence to him. And then what we do when it's time to pray, we kneel down and pray, don't we? We might fold our hands like this or we might put our hands together like this; we close our eyes and bow our heads. Do you bow your heads when you pray? I do. And we do that as a way of signifying - it's almost natural, isn't it, as you bow your head when you pray. I just can't help it. There are times when we can pray, we can walk and have your eyes opened and pray, but many times we bow our heads. This whole thing about hands in worship and body in worship are things we are already familiar with. We already know about them, we do them and we participate in them, so this is just another lesson. And I want to use the scripture to show you the reasons why this is a biblical thing. Just relax, okay relax; "oh pastor, I don't want to raise my hands." Okay, don't raise your hands, don't do it.

I remember, this is amazing too - I was in the ministry for say about 10, 15 years, something like that and I began to study this thing about hands in worship and body in worship, positioning, things like this and why we do things and I started thinking about this thing about hands. And as I looked at it and studied it, I thought, friends, this is completely biblical, this is totally biblical and I want you to know one thing, if you choose and if you decide that you'd like to raise your hands to the Lord, this is a church that you can do it. You have complete freedom to do it in here. Remember, you can't be forced to do it and you shouldn't do it, but if you don't feel God sort of helping you in this area and move, because before your hands, you've got to raise your heart. I'll talk about that in just a minute, but I remembered that when I first studied about this. It's one thing to go home and study about a topic. It's another thing to implement it and actually do it, so what happened was, I was at another church, not here, and I'm studying about this and I thought, my heart was being lifted to the Lord and I just felt "oh Lord you're so good, I just want to open my hands to you." It's like a surrender. There are several things you're looking at. I'm surrendering to you Lord, or this is my prayer and I lift my prayer to you God, or this is my heart. Some of people have come today and you're carrying a heavy load. You're carrying a heavy heart. Whether it's about your own personal life, whether it's about job, finances, health and again this is about what you came with; place it on your hands, give it to God. That's what this is about, it's not just a mechanical, boom.

You know, raising your hand like this can become formal and it can just become kind of rote memory. There is nothing behind it. Some people just go like this all the time [raising hand]. They sing, boom, their hands go up. "What does it mean?" "I don't know." Their hands just go up, so that's wrong. What's the deal on that? You've got two ends of the spectrums. "Oh I love your Lord", and "oh I love your Lord." So what's important, it's not whether you do it, whether you do raise hands or you don't, what's important is what is your heart telling you and how is this related to your worship. See what I mean? So there are a lot of factors involved here in this.

Anyway, when I started studying, I was convicted on this and I would be up in the front, like I am, normally here and at first there was a choir and some people up here singing and there were musicians and I would go like this [raise hands] and I did that because I felt self-conscious. "Hey, I am the pastor of the church, they're gonna see me all the time anyway. I'm up here, I'm running around, I'm preaching, teaching, everything, but when it comes to raising hands I felt odd, I felt self-conscious, I felt shy, I felt "is everybody gonna think I'm weird." And they go, well that's no different than any other day, so I decided I'm just gonna have to raise my hands when I sense God prompting me and when I feel like this is something that I want to express my love to God. It's not mechanical. It's not a matter of "yes I raise my hands or don't raise my hands." That's not the question. The question is, is my heart in tune with what God is doing in my life and if this is an expression of it, then that's the way to do it. See what I mean? Just like when you pray, there are times when you want to hold hands like this or like this or like this or you may just open the palms of your hands like that and you pray and say God help me. And those are all expressions. It's the same thing as when I go like this, when I give you a little sign like that, I'm expressing my love and kisses to you. If I go like this to you, it means you're my man, you're friends, and we love one another, things like that. If you're sitting there, man I can't do this, relax. Turn to your neighbor and tell him "relax." Okay, that's good. Don't relax too much, because I forgot to tell you this part.

I'm gonna invite the band to come up here with me in just a minute and we're gonna sing a song and I want you to do this [raise hands]. Some of you might be thinking, "Oh pastor, I've thought about that, I've thought about raising a hand." Some people go like this [made gesture]. Have you seen this? They'll raise their hand to the Lord and especially singers. Singers are up here singing and praising the Lord and if you watch them on television and if you come to the Boonstra meetings at the Shrine auditorium, you will see the singers go like this [gesture] and they'll sing and they'll go "We love you Lord" [gesture]. That is exactly what I'm talking about. They're not performing. When you sing a song in faith to the Lord, it comes from the heart. This is not about being paid for it. That's kind of where I'm going today. Are you all with me?

Would you take out your sermon notes, please? Here's what we're gonna do. We're gonna start with scripture and here's our first scripture and your first fill-in. Would you read this with me, please? It says this: "Lift your heart to God first then your hands." So it says lift your what first? Your heart to God first and then your hands, so there is a particular order that this is done. Like I said, we can't say the worship service has ended, you go home, you go hey God how did you like me today? I went like this [gesture], how was it? How do you like it God? God would say "what?" It's not that God would give me kudos for raising my hands. No, he doesn't. The Lord reads our hearts, doesn't he? He reads our heart and God does not look on the exterior, but he looks on the interior and that's where this really comes from. If you came with a burden or if you came with a joy or a concern, those are the kinds of things that are lifted in your prayers and that's how your hands are used in this particular instance. Do a heart check right now. Think a minute about what are you feeling right now toward God? How do you feel toward the Lord? What do you think of God? We pretty much know how God feels about us. Don't we? There is no question about it. He died for us. We just celebrated Easter, so his love for us, that's not in question. The only question is, how do we feel about him? So just do a little heart check right now and think about it. How do you feel about God? What do you think?

Here's the scripture that comes from the book of Lamentations and Lamentations was written because the Jews wanted to go back to their city of Jerusalem into their country and they lamented and they cried and wept and this is one scripture out of that lamentation. Would you read this with me? It says this: "Let us examine our ways and test them and let us return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven." By the way, I limited myself to the number of scripture I'm showing you on this, because we'd be here all day if I showed you all the scriptures on lifting of hands, because truly and truly, when you study the Old Testament and the New, this is how they pray. No question about it, it's pretty clear. They would lift their hands [gesture] like this in prayer to God. Remember you're lifting different things up in these hands. You're saying, don't be angry, don't strike people and don't hurt people with these things. Things like that. Use your hands to pray with and we'll talk about that. So, we're to lift our hands to heaven, it says, but first what do you do? You got to lift your heart up. The heart's got to be involved in this. It has to be. The prerequisite to lifting up a hand is the answer to the question. This is the question you have to answer. Are you willing to allow your feelings to mingle with your thoughts? Seventh Day Adventists are really, really good about thinking. This is how Adventists go. "Yeah, man we know the state of the dead, the second coming, we know the love of God, we know who God is, we know the bible. You want to take us on? Come on.

We are cerebral, we tend to think things through and don't get me wrong, we have wonderful doctrines, but the way we talk about them and portray them really belies what's in our hearts a lot of times, so it's not what you know, it's who you know that matters, because Christ is our savior and if Christ is in my life it's really gonna show in the way I present myself to you and what I believe. So we need to let some emotion out; some feelings. Now, somebody is going "pastor, we don't believe in feelings, we believe in principles." How many of you have heard that before; just me? Well love is a principle. Did you all know that? Even if you don't feel like loving somebody, you love them. And you know what, that is not gonna cut it with Ginny. If I say to Ginny, I love you and she looks at my eyes - in fact she's looking at my eyes right now - and she knows what I'm saying. You can say what you want, right? But we know what you mean. Isn't that true? I'm gonna test this on you. Do you all love one another? Is there anyone in here who doesn't love one another? I only saw one hand so far. Pretty good. You guys getting nervous? Turn to your neighbor and say "I love you." Gustavo and Lourdes, you guys don't count. No kissing in church. Okay, you can kiss, go ahead. But you know when we say we love each other, what speaks more to you? The eyes, the face or the words. What's more important? The words, the expression or the intent? It's in it. You need the words, right? You got to have the words if you just go [gesture] with the kind of "I love you puppy-dog eyes" - you give him the eyes. Okay, that's good, but everybody is going "she give me the puppy-dog eyes, man" but if you say I love you with the puppy-dog eyes, now we got it. So what I'm saying as a pastor, I've been through all this. Remember I can't preach this until I get it first. It's not just enough to know your bible, to know God's word. The word gnosis - it's not enough just to know - we have to love. We got to love people and we got to love God.

Now, let me show you where this is coming from. When I'm saying we got to have some feeling in the church and some emotions in the church, this is where I'm coming from. Would you read this with me? "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength." If you have your sermon notes, please underline or circle those words, because I'm gonna go back to those. I want you to know that in biblical interpretation one principle is this: when you find a list in the bible like saying hello to Susan and Joy and so and so, the first one named is the one that is most important. That's consistent in the bible. They always name in a list, the primary one first. In this list, is listed the heart. There are four things listed: heart, soul, mind and strength and they're in a particular order. The heart comes first. Why would that be? Why would the heart be first?

The answer to my question is, in the bible the heart is the seat of the emotions. The bible talks about the heart, the interior, the bowels. It's talking about how we feel. How you really feel about something. First of all, love is a principle, isn't it? It is true, because we are supposed to love our enemies, right? So if there's a principle of love, we believe that. That's true, but I want to ask you something. Can I have some emotion and feeling in love? I only have five yeses, because can you imagine me saying to Ginny, I love you, with no feeling, I would go ‘Um, that doesn’t feel good.” You know what I’m talking about; so the bible expresses it this way, when you love God, here’s what worship is about. When we are in worship like we’re doing today, worship is really loving God and you go how can I love God, I can’t even see him. Yes you can. You see him in the word of God, through the life of Jesus Christ and through people who have God’s love in their life. Throughout the bible you see that, so when you come here and we sing about the Lord, you want to think in terms of “that’s the God I love, I love that Lord, I love him.” And so your words and your songs now have emotion in it. I really love you God. You know “I love you Lord and I lift my voice”, like that. You really love the Lord, because you can sing “I love you Lord and I lift my voice” what does that mean? Just words, but then it goes, love the Lord with all your heart and soul. Now, the word “soul” – don’t get messed up on that word – that word means your life; who you are, the person. So it’s love God with your heart, with your life, your personality, who you are as a person, your mind and then your strength. That means your body, so you get your body into it. That’s why we stand to sing; that’s why we kneel for prayer; that’s why we fold our hands; bow our head. All of those things are part of bringing our strength into loving God.

Remember I told you before that at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem we see the Hasidic Jew going like this [gesture] or they go like this [gesture] and they’re reading their bible and they’re loving God with all their heart, mind, soul and body. That’s what they’re doing. That’s why they do that. I really admire these guys.

Let’s go to the next thing here. Now we want to sing a song. Let’s have the band come up. Now these words “Change me, break and rearrange me, come and make me holy just like you. Change me, cleanse the self that drains me. Bathe me in your mercy and make me new.” In this particular praise song, this is a reflection on who we are and we come in here and really and truly you start to think about who God is and who we are and you come in here and your head gets a little bit lower, because you’re going “Lord, how can you love me? How can you really and truly die for me? Look what I did this week and here I am at church today. Look what I did; look what I didn’t do.” So this song is about change me and break and rearrange me. This gives you an opportunity to talk about yourself as you worship God. You want to be changed? You want to be like the Lord? Let’s stand up; let’s sing together.

[Song: Change Me]

We have one more brief point and we’ll bring the band back. How is singing for you like that? I think sometimes if we talk about things like we are as a family and we talk about why we do things, it builds a platform upon which you can stand and, of course, our platform is the rock Christ the Lord. He’s our platform and so we’re learning together and no one’s forcing anything. Please don’t be under any pressure. Don’t be forced to do anything like this, only if you feel God’s call you to do it, but if you feel like this is something, like a little raising your hand or something, this is the place to do it in.

Now, let’s read this together. This is point number two, this is the last point. Here it goes: “Lift your hands as a gesture of praise and prayer.” You’re lifting your hands in praise and sometimes just praise you Lord and I just lift my hand to you; also this is where the Lord God – one of his names is the banner– is like our banner and people have done something like this. That’s a variation. I’m just showing you as a little variation but it’s a way of sort of waving, kind of like a wave offering to the Lord, that somehow that thought was important in their relationship. I want to show you a scripture now, and this scripture is really neat. It’s gonna be three verses in a Psalm. It’s a worship song, they call the song of assent. In the evening they would have worship at the temple, so this is an evening worship and after the worship is over, what happens is, the people say to the Levites who are leading the worship, keep raising your hands and praising God all night. Keep doing that and they sort or shout out – it’s kind of like being on the sidelines, “hey shoot the basket and do something.”

Let’s read this together. Look what it says. Now, these are people who are talking to the Levites. “Praise the Lord all your servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord.” Stop right there; see what I mean. See that introduction. They’re saying, all you ministers, all of you who are leading us, like the all the pastors that are up there leading, doing different things and all the people who are helping. Let’s go to the next line. It says: “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. May the Lord the maker of heaven and earth bless you from Zion.” Zion is wherever God is at. Wherever God is at, that’s Zion, okay. It could be city, it could be in heaven, but that’s just a word that they use in that way. Here, the people are saying and they are shouting back to the Levites who have just led them in worship and the people are going home and the people are leaving and saying, you ministers who are ministering in the house by night, lift up your hands in praise in the sanctuary. Keep praising God all night. That’s what this lifting up of the hands is. This is an indication of praise going this way. And you know that at the temple mound – we’ll go there someday – and when you go there you’ll see that this temple is big, it’s huge, and at this time there were rooms that the Levites would come to and they would stay in. They would stay there all night and maybe a couple of days depending on who is on duty and they would be there performing their duties for the Lord. And part of that was prayer and praise and that’s what this is about.

Let me show you this. Let’s read it together and then we’ll talk about it. “May my prayer be set before you like incense. May the lifting up of my hands be like an evening sacrifice.” Now this one is really nice, the one I just showed you from Psalms. That one had to do with lifting hands for praise so that has to do with praising God. This one here has to do with prayer. May my prayer be said before you like what? Incense! Remember when I had the incense up here a few weeks ago, a few months ago, I don’t remember, and you could see the smoke going up like this and the incense was kept burning in the temple 24/7 because that represented the prayers of the people to God and God’s intercession for us. Here, this person is saying, “May my prayer be like an incense that’s going up to you God and may the lifting up of my hands be like an evening sacrifice” so there were two sacrifices every day in the temple. One in the morning – there was a morning sacrifice and come sundown, there was an evening sacrifice. And when I lift up my hands it’s like an evening sacrifice. And so it’s like saying, I’m surrendering to you God, I now give my body, my mind and my heart, my whole life, everything to you God and I lift it up to you. So the lifting up of the hands becomes an outward and physical gesture of the interior person of what’s really happening in my heart and so it’s lifting up my hands saying, oh God just take my hands, take my heart, I lift up my prayer to you.

Does this help? I hope that I’m explaining this in a way that is helpful to you. Again, I want you to just relax. No one should lift a hand in this church or anywhere else unless you’re prompted by God to do it, but you should know that it’s very biblical that you have freedom to do it here and you can experiment as God allows you to do that. I want to say again, I am not shy person, I’m really reserved. You’ll probably say, “oh you’re not reserved.” Yes, I am. You see, you have reserve and then you have outgoing – I’m reserved, what do you think Ginny is at? Outgoing! If you guys are having a party, Ginny says let’s go to the party. What do I say? No, I want to stay home and read my book. Boring! Ginny goes, no we got to go the party. I go “okay.” That’s what reserve means, so I think we’re all different. Some people go: I can raise my hands all day. Okay that’s good, that’s because you’re an extrovert, but some of us feel a little more intimidated and I want you to know that it’s not really about whether we are extroverted or introverted. It’s really not about that. It’s all about feeling the sense of God’s presence and love in our lives. A way of expressing our interior love for God in raising our hands; quite different you see. So you need to do it on your time schedule and feel relaxed. Just turn to your neighbor once again and say: “Relax.” You’re gonna get another opportunity.

We’re gonna sing another song and I want to ask the band to come up. We appreciate the band so much, don’t you? Let’s give them a hand. We appreciate our band members and everybody’s. Excelente! Please look at the words with me as the band comes up. It says: “Jesus, we come before you now as an offering of praise: so you who are coming; you, me, we are offering of praise to God. And now it says: “We bow before you Lord.” Now here’s what I want you to do. I’m gonna do this; I’m gonna bow before the Lord. I’m gonna go like this [gesture] because I’m using my body. Now look, think about it. You guys bow anyway. Every time we kneel for prayer, do you bow for prayer? The fact is, if you were standing and I say let’s bow our heads, we do this all the time. You’re just not used to thinking and bowing in this way when these words come, so it says we come before you now as an offering of praise; we bow before you Lord to you our voices raise. Go to the next line. It says: “Jesus we lift our hands to you, in unity we pray.” This is a prayer. “Humbly at your throne to you our voices raise.” If you would like to experiment with raising hands when it says that, try it. Please stand! Let’s sing this together.

[All sing: “Jesus we come before you now”]

Lord God, we do raise our hands, our lives, our voices to you, because you said we are to love you with all of our and all of our soul, all of our mind and all of our strength. We want to do that. Lord some of us are just learning. Some of are in spirit and truth. Some of us are just in wonderment, but Lord all those things, wherever you’re at, we want to thank you for that Lord and may we not force anyone here. May we be people who want to worship you and love you and respect each other. So bless each one today, Lord and thank you we pray in Jesus name. Amen

Okay, we’re almost done. Just sit down for a couple more minutes. This is my final scripture. This comes from the New Testament, I Timothy 2:8 and would you read this with me? “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger or disputing.” We so often lift our hands up in anger, disputing, things like that and what Paul is saying to Timothy is part of what the church practice will be is to lift up holy hands in prayer like this. If you have a dispute, we need to resolve it and move on as Christians to keep loving one another. These are some of the scriptures now I want to teach you and show you in your bibles and I have a couple of questions for you to think about this week. Would you read this with me? “Would you be willing to look up the scriptures used in today’s message?” Would you? I want you to check them out yourself and look and be convicted in your own heart. Would you read this? “Would you be willing to pray about this topic this week?” Would you pray about it? Just say Lord what would you want me to do and at home, oftentimes in the morning when I’m having worship, I just hold my hands [gesture] like this when I’m praying. Just do this and it just becomes a kind of natural thing for me to do. I’m just giving you some ideas. There’s nothing wrong, it’s completely biblical. And finally, would you read this with me? “Would you be willing to carefully consider how your hands are used in worship?” That’s all, just consider it and see what God speaks to you.

Let’s bow our heads.

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