In a recent sermon about the early Christians in Acts, my pastor touched upon the importance of maintaining the wonder and joy of our salvation and our God. We should, he reminded us, feel free to express those emotions in a church service—not in a way that would draw attention to ourselves and detract from the message, of course, but as believers did throughout Scripture.
And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. – Nehemiah 8:6
Many congregations today still lift their hands, and others even clap in praise.
O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph. – Psalm 47:1
I’m a fairly private person, so you won’t find me lifting holy hands; but there have been many times I have been moved to tears by a song or sermon.
Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord. – II Chronicles 34:27
Last Sunday, a little guy in my class at church was having trouble sitting still and not speaking out of turn. I encourage interaction in my class and enjoy my students’ comments and questions, but this little one couldn’t seem to remember to raise his hand before blurting out whatever was on his mind. He’s a sweet and bright child, but I finally had to sit him in the back row, all alone, to help him remember to speak only after I called upon him.
The class speaker for the day was a wonderful man in our church who rotates teaching the main Bible lesson with me. As he began teaching, I sat in the back with the chatterbox to keep him company (and help keep him quiet, if need be). Not to worry. He sat quite still with a serious look on his face, absorbing the lesson, which was about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Every now and then the little boy would start to call out, but then he’d catch himself and sit back, subdued.
But as the speaker got to the story’s climax and said, “Lazarus, come forth!” my seatmate couldn’t hold back any longer.
He began to clap. Quietly, and just a few times, and then he grinned up at me. I grinned back and gave him a thumbs-up.
What a reminder that was for me to maintain a childlike faith and joy in Jesus! Though I’ve heard and taught many Bible stories throughout the years, I don’t want to take my God for granted.
He does deserve our praise, and applause, and our hands raised to heaven.