FREEDOM+RESTRAINT-SELFISHNESS=LOVE

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Yes. But what does this mean? Many people sing this song and immediately assume that these lyrics justify complete unrestraint in the expression of their heart in a corporate gathering – freedom to shout, freedom to dance, freedom to clap and sing as loudly as desired. I greatly appreciate corporate contexts where this behavior is valued and expressed. I love clapping, shouting and dancing. What I do not appreciate is mass misunderstanding of the principle of this verse and the implications of this misunderstanding to a corporate body. Without understanding, immaturity and self-seeking fester, and a lack of meekness and love is the result.

When Freedom takes Captives

Many people who clamor for “liberty” are really asking for permission to express themselves.  What they don’t realize is that in their expression, they are often hindering others. They are doing the opposite of serving. In a corporate context, where most of the room is not clapping, not shouting, not dancing, the one who begins to shout, clap and dance in the name of freedom has just robbed the others by calling attention to themselves and distracting the others from communing with the Lord. That person’s freedom has just taken others captive. When our freedom imposes itself on others, we have crossed the line and are no longer acting in love.

Using Freedom as an Anesthetic

Many times, the reasons people start expressing themselves in worship or prayer in an overt way is because they cannot stand the boredom of their own barreness. It is too painful to feel dull, weak and simple. And so they add a little expression, and suddenly they don’t feel so barren. They work up their emotions and enjoy the way it feels to be exhilerated by their own fleshly imaginations. And if they can get the rest of the room to clap, shout, dance or manifest, then they leave feeling like it was a “good” prayer meeting. They don’t feel bored. They don’t feel dull. They don’t feel like they wasted their time. They are missing the point.

Holy Spirit vs. Hype

When the Holy Spirit moves on a corporate gathering, it is obvious because the vast majority of the people respond in a similar way. When only one person or a small group is responding in a particular way, and it is obvious that most of the others are not being touched in a similar way, that person needs to determine if they need to go be by themselves with the Lord. Sometimes the Lord wants to move on an individual and if it is not a corporate move, it is best to remove yourself from the gathering so as to give yourself freely to the Lord and not distract others, drawing attention to yourself. Other times, individuals or small groups express themselves in a particular way because they want to “stir up” the rest of the people. Sometimes these people mistake their fleshly hype for the presence of God. God does not need to use your fleshly expression to stir everyone up.

Innocent Ignorance

This is the person or group who just wants to have fun and assumes everyone else does too. An example of this at IHOP would be the interns who try to get everyone clapping in the Prayer Room just for fun. Each new internship always thinks they are the first ones to think of this hilarious phenomenon. They enjoy their own cleverness and can’t see past the 6 months they are here -they simply relish their 6 months of hijacking the Prayer Room – though they don’t recognize they are doing that, so it’s not as insidious as it may sound.  What they don’t realize is that staff members have been sitting through the obnoxious clapping of interns for 8 years. I’m not bitter, it’s just another opportunity for us to choose meekness and bear with others. 🙂 When it comes down to it, I am greatly, greatly endeared to the interns and so very thankful for their presence in the Prayer Room. They are delightful – obnoxious clapping and all. 🙂

Insidious Incitement

This is the person or group who has determined that they are the “ones” who are going to bring in the presence of God through their behavior. Many of these people are fueled by their own insecurity and need for attention as the “anointed” one or the “spiritual” one. They make a judgement on others, determining that others are not in touch with God. I have seen very, very few cases of this at IHOP – mostly from random visitors who come to “stir us up” and “help” us and leave a few days later.

Insular Intercession

This is the person who is truly lost in their personal experience with the Lord, completely unaware of the possible positive or negative affects of their behavior on others. They are so enjoying the touch of the Lord, or caught up in weeping, and are not wondering at all if others are noticing them. They do not assume that they are being watched and do not hope for others to imitate their example. Nonetheless, this can be distracting. An example of this is the person who enters the Prayer Room and is struck by the presence of God and spends the next couple hours on their face weeping rather loudly during a devotional set as the Holy Spirit moves on their heart. I would not address this situation unless it was a repeated pattern.

What is love?

Part of love is restraining our own freedom for the sake of others. All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. This is true in the way we make personal decisions and also in the way we make corporate decsions. Is singing loudly to the Lord right? Is it beautiful? Is it good? Yes. But is it a loving thing to do in the specific context we choose to do it? This is the question we need to ask. If my praise is distracting and hindering others, I am not walking in love. I cannot point to a Bible verse then because there is another verse that says I am wrong.

What Attracts God’s Presence

So, let us walk in love, and may the presence of God fall on all of us! The quickest way to invite the presence of God in our midst is not by exhibiting fleshly manifestations in hopes that everyone will imitate our futile physical expressions, but rather by choosing meekness, servanthood, and love, restraining our own freedom for the sake of others. The community that embraces that will experience the delight of the Lord and the pleasure of His presence.

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  1. Yet another solid post! I’ll probably pipe in with thoughts on how this relates to me personally, but I need to organize my thoughts first.

  2. yeah. wow. there’s so much in this single post. like idhrendur i’ll come back with my thoughts. just have to really think about it and reread this whole thing. and then reread it again 🙂

    i think about this a lot. like, really often.

    anyways, i’ll be back!

    it is a good post.

  3. emilymea

    I have thoughts to organize too on this topic – perhaps after work tonight I’ll have formulated my response.

  4. standonthewall

    Good post, Molly!

  5. I’ll comment without addressing these stereotypes, since my perspective is outside of a prayer room context:

    This morning I was helping set up chairs and whatnot for the NDOP festivities in front of Independence Hall in Philly. My friends were leading worship and it was pretty cool to be declaring stuff on the founding soil even as the city is in the midst of their semi-annual “equality forum” celebrations.

    My equation for you and the readership is this: Freedom = Slavery.
    This theme has been recurring for months in my prayer sets out here, and I have been begging God for grace to be a slave of righteousness. Interestingly and prophetically, in between our gathering and the Hall, there was a huge mound of dirt and a backhoe earthmover digging stuff up, and a sign that said something like “Freedom and Slavery” – an attraction to a historical site.
    Just my .02, wordy as it is. CBB

  6. David

    I really like your thoughts on “Insular Intercession”, and I agree that it should be addressed if it is a repeated problem. However, I don’t believe that the Lord would make it that way, because He has used it in my life as well as other peoples, and He used it to attract our attention before we were saved.

    David

  7. I really, really love this post… I was both inspired and convicted at the same time. Wow *heheh*

    And the title is beautiful.

    FREEDOM+RESTRAINT-SELFISHNESS=LOVE

    Should be a t-shirt…

  8. Okay – here’s my thoughts.
    I’ll apply this post to myself.

    Like you I appreciate the dancing and singing as loud as you can congregations. Sometimes that feels like freedom, but it’s not always freedom. For example, it’s not freedom when you feel like you should jump as well because others are doing it. Personally, I’m not a jumper, spinner or anything. I just love to close my eyes and sing the song to the lord.

    Have you ever met a Dutch person in real life? Dutch people are really kind, demure, everything is really tight, they don’t show emotions. So in my church there’s no shouting, no dancing. And that is okay with me. I’m Dutch so I have to appreciate that.
    But somehow, that doesn’t feel like freedom. Too much restraint.
    I think this where this verse in song of songs comes from: “Oh that you were like a brother to me who nursed at my mother’s breasts! If I found you outside, I would kiss you, and none would despise me. “

    I agree with you that we should not draw the attention to ourselves. For me in my church that would mean, no jumping or shouting, no one else is doing it and we should be meek and obey the pastor and elders who do not want that to happen.

    I’m not done thinking about this, but it’s a great post!

  9. wow. that looks more like an essay. make it shorter if you want to!

  10. jennerith

    Molly- Did someone bring a sword into the prayer room again and start swinging it around? Yelling at the four corners of the earth?

    You are intensely inisightful my friend. I am at work and can’t comment fully, but what an excellent group of points. You’ve made me think, and I love that!

  11. Molly Mo,
    You are quite eloquent! And well-spoken. I love reading what’s going on in your head. . . and your heart! 😉

  12. benjaminwood

    @ Kristine – it is not Molly Mo, It is MOMO!

  13. Steven Chudy

    “What is love?”

    I submit then, that a guitar solo or any other accentuated (especially in volume) melody that deviates from the established flow or progression of the song is outside of love.

  14. Thanks for this post. I, too, love freedom in worship. I’ve been in services where the Spirit moved in such a way that there was a great deal of rejoicing, dancing, waving banners, etc. (And I often join in!) Unfortunately, I’ve also been services where there was this kind of activity that was stirred up by people, sometimes pastors. I’ve come under condemnation for times when I was “too quiet”. I’ve had hands laid on me in prayer because I was “not getting it”, because I was in a quiet place with the Lord and others were jumping and shouting. (The assumption being that I was not “free” because I wasn’t manifesting.) It is such a blessing to hear another side to the issue of “freedom”. This is just another reason to love IHOP!

  15. hey just a seperate note off topic. a while ago i asked u to pray for me that i would get a job, well… i start wednesday. :o)
    so thanks for praying. hee

  16. benjaminwood

    The question “what is love” was posted, and i have an answer…

    What is love, baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me.
    What is love, baby don’t hurt me, no more.

    Whoa, whoa a whao wa oh o.

  17. jennerith

    Lots of comments with no responses…is that outside of love?

    what is love…
    love is a battlefield!!!*insert ripping 80’s style guitar solo..*

  18. Hey, did you know MOMO is a book? By the same guy that wrote The Neverending Story. 🙂 Just an FYI that might be TMI. Or. . . not. . .

  19. Love the post; love the resulting conversation between all the commenters … but no response yet from the Mosack? Weird … I know she still walks among us, for I saw her in the prayer room yesterday.

  20. Yeah I was thinking the same…where is Mosack???!!!

  21. “In a corporate context, where most of the room is not clapping, not shouting, not dancing, the one who begins to shout, clap and dance in the name of freedom has just robbed the others by calling attention to themselves and distracting the others from communing with the Lord”

    I’ve been the stuffy guy who got upset by people acting like this, so I don’t mind saying, I was wrong. I think you are off base here. For centuries the worship demanded by God required dance- and now as good protestants (especially us Baptists) we look down on anyone who dares to dance in church.

    We have let our cultural beliefs trump biblical understanding. Such should be avoided- and must be consciously avoided.

  22. hmm interesting, but what about how times of co-operate dance start? i mean when i was on FITN me, cj and a friend shaklee all started dancing at the front. a little while later and everyone was at it.
    admitidly the worship team carried it, i suppose if the worship leaders had gone against it – it would have been a different case, but there are always cooperate times of dance/clapping etc lead by just a few. maybe some people are over the top in the flesh, but to a degree couldnt that be God using them to rub people up the wrong way? iron does sharpen iron after all. whatever you think is justifiable in a very holy sounding way. which can be something we always need to lay down. you don’t need to dance to be free. but if you never dance well.. yeh. i’m ranting, i’m on a pepsi overload *sugar*
    love to you all

  23. Well…I’m back. Sorry! I was kidnapped by some Swedish gnomes. Thankfully they let me go when I told them I simply had to get back because I had a bunch of faithful readers to respond too. Whew. Don’t worry, I’m okay now.

    Great comments, everyone – a nice conversation to come back to. I’ll comment back on a few that seem to warrant comments:

    Retroman – hope your deal was fun! Sounds cool. By the way, you might like a book called “The Burden of Freedom” by Myles Munroe.

    David – I didn’t understand your comment about Insular Intercession, but I would like to. Care to clarify? Sorry I’m a little slow to understand…

    Ruth – I appreciate your description of a typical Dutch person. Great thoughts!

    Jennerith – there haven’t been any more sword-swingers lately…thankfully.

    Chudy – only if it deviates in a bad way, i.e. discordant, off-key, etc. Sometimes deviation is just the thing needed to boost me up!

    Jennerith – I suppose you are right! My lack of response could be titled as unloving. Sigh. 🙂

    Kristine – No I did not know that and you have just made my day. I will read it – I bet it’s JAWSOME.

    Totaltransformation – I agree with you on this:
    “We have let our cultural beliefs trump biblical understanding. Such should be avoided- and must be consciously avoided.”
    But…I think you might be misapplying it. I could be wrong. The way I see it, in our present day, God does not require nor demand a certain style of worship except that it be in spirit and in truth. To say that one style or the other is right or wrong should never be the issue – the question should be, “in the context I am in, what is the most loving thing to do?” It seems to me that maybe you missed the part of my post where I said that I greatly appreciate corporate contexts where this behavior is valued and expressed. I love clapping, shouting and dancing. I am certainly not “looking down on anyone who desires to dance in church.” I think you’re taking that part of my post out of context. I’m talking about the person who does not consider others in the way they worship corporately.

    Aaron – great question. I agree. There really is no other way for it to start except that a few begin. Everyone is not going to simultaneously at the exact instant start clapping, dancing, or singing. (Though during the outpouring around 1994, I saw many instances of simultaneous manifestation.) In this post-revival season however, it happens with a few who start it (either with genuine or not-so-genuine intentions). That’s just life in the natural world.

    The fruit is usually seen in how the majority respond, though that’s not always an accurate litmus test. If everyone joins in, I think it’s fair to say that there is real life on it. Though, even if there’s not an increase of the Holy Spirit’s presence, if everyone decides they want to dance and shout and clap, there’s nothing wrong with that as long as it’s not unloving. But consider the situation where a few who are determined to stir up the others start hollering and leaping and making a ruckus and no one responds.

    And yes, I think God uses us to sharpen others. I would hate for someone’s religious pride or fear of man to be protected by the points in my post. On the other hand, in your own words, “you don’t have to dance to be free.” Consider the context where day after day, for a period of several years, a group of people who want to dance and shout impose their dancing and shouting on an entire congregation of people. Let’s say this congregation was already pursuing and walking in freedom, but simply did not desire to express that freedom through dancing or shouting during that time. The ones who try to get everyone to dance and shout become grating and oppressive, really. That particular congregation does not need to rubbed by others in that context. A place like IHOP is especially unique in this matter, because we are in prayer meetings most of the week, as opposed to one corporate gathering on a Sunday morning. You try to dance and shout at every prayer meeting and you’ll be in puddle on the floor about 8 hours later. And then try to do it again the next day and the next, and the next, for years. It’s a marathon pace at IHOP, not a Sunday morning sprint. (Nothing’s wrong with the Sunday morning sprint, they’re just different contexts and need different applications).

    The other danger is thinking you are free because you danced and clapped and shouted but you leave the prayer meeting with your heart still locked up against the person you refuse to forgive. Or, the other unfortunate disadvantage to routinely looking to celebrate during a prayer meeting is missing opportunities to mourn and travail. Sometimes the Spirit wants to lead us into the pain of His heart but we’re too busy trying to have a good time at the prayer meeting. That breaks my heart.

    Wow. I guess I should’ve just written that as a follow-up post, it was so long. 🙂

    I LOVE YOU READERS!

  24. She’s back! Wondering what happened to you. Thanks for the book ref. CBB

  25. Gnomes…I should have guessed. *shakes fist*

  26. jennerith

    It’s the swedish ones that really get you too…
    *also shakes fist*

  27. One of them was probably the Travelocity gnome. I never did like that guy …

    On a more serious note, good follow-up points. What would you say to people like me who never manifest, even if we wouldn’t mind manifesting? Is there such a thing as too much self-restraint? When revival comes here, I don’t want to stand there and say thoughtfully, “Hmm … interesting … this is kinda cool …” while people around me are falling down and getting healed and seeing angels and stuff.

  28. @Jenn: Being one of those people myself, I would point out two things:

    1. God can take care of that in his timing. While I’m pretty much always the guy standing 12 feet away from the exciting stuff, God also took me through a two year season where I was the crazy wardance worshipper guy in the middle of things (with, you know, 8 feet of empty space cause people were afraid to be next to me).

    2. Being the calm one, you may well be absolutely important to the craziness. God pointed that one out to me last summer.

    @Molly: Off topic here, but you should go to my latest blog post and take the quiz. I’m really curious as to who you’ll be. http://idhrendur.blogspot.com/2007/05/quiztastic.html

  29. Robin Hoke

    Very thought-provoking. And good for some heart-searching.

  30. Retroman – you’re welcome!

    Idhrendur and Jennerith – thank you for shaking your fists at my nemesis. It makes me feel loved. 🙂

    Ducky – I think Idhrendur had great responses to your questions. When you’re in that type of situation, don’t try to make anything happen, but don’t resist anything either. Focus on loving Jesus and what happens, what happens. Like Idhrendur said, sometimes it’s important for some people to not be manifesting so that they can be aware and helpful. Also, let’s remember that the point of revival and manifesting is to get people saved, delivered, or recommitted. There is nothing intrisically valuable about falling down or seeing angels. The holy laughter that began in the 90’s was basically God’s way of getting people drunk and happy about God so that they would follow Him the rest of their lives. It’s good to feel God, but not feeling Him doesn’t mean you less spiritual than others. Actually, the ones who get touched more are usually the ones who need it more. Catch my drift? But, again, it’s not a science – the Holy Spirit can do whatever He wants.

  31. benjaminwood

    Wow, no comment on my strange “What Is Love” song. i am surprised i would have thought your head might have been bobbing or something when you heard it. “Boonce, Boonce, Boonce, Boonce”

  32. Well, I had already thought of that when I titled that section, so I was already with you, bud. I did like your Woah a woah o ah woahs at the end. 🙂

  33. @ Idhrendur and Molly: Thanks for your comments … I’ll have to think about that some more.

  34. I had more thoughts here, but to keep them organized, I’m writing them up in Word first…which means it’ll take even longer to post.

    I have a background of coming from places (and existing in places) where worship is barren, and there isn’t freedom. Often, it takes one or two people being crazy (from a place of freedom and love), and yes, distracting others, to change the atmosphere over a group. This was actually documented (by me, admittedly) and confirmed within the Campus Crusade group at my school.

    And towards Ducky: I want to add that while what I said before is true, there also are times where you do have to force yourself to respond before you feel anything. The physical response (be it bowing, or raising your hands, or dancing, or whatever) will stir your emotions up.

  35. It’s true that manifesting in these ways doesn’t make those people more spiritual than others. And I would never want those sorts of experiences to replace my time in the Word and in prayer. Like you said, “There is nothing intrinsically valuable about falling down or seeing angels.” I agree … but it would be nice if that happened to me once in a while.

    I often have to drag my eyes away from the people dancing up front or manifesting in the back. I force myself to quiet my heart, to lift my hands, and to tell the L-rd I love Him. Sometimes I hear a small whisper in return, and my heart moves a little. I value that tiny movement. I don’t want to despise small beginnings. I also don’t want to rate my experiences against whatever is happening to the guy who’s shouting and hopping up and down in the next row.

    But sometimes when I see people worshipping in freedom, I get offended in a different way: I feel left out. I let myself believe the lie that G-d loves those people more than me because of whatever experience they are going through (or seem to be going through). I intellectually know that the L-rd does different things with different people’s hearts in His perfect timing and leadership. I need to get that reality in my heart and trust that some day I will go through a season of freedom. Until then, I guess I will keep giving people tissues and making sure they don’t fall down.




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