When I was in college, a couple friends and I wrote a couple songs, recorded them onto an album, and called ourselves The Modern Nomads. Most of us didn’t have a future in music, and the future of the band was uncertain anyway because we were all about to graduate and disperse all over the world. But it was fun and we loved it while it lasted.
One of my favorite moments was when we played our first concert ever as a band (unless you count the NCC Easter Eggstravaganza). It was at AU during Welcome Week, and a crowd of eager freshmen waited to hear what the indie college music scene had to offer. Before the show started, we were so stoked to share our music and play for a crowd of people we didn’t know. I remember the butterflies in my stomach, and I couldn’t keep myself from smiling. We were doing something so cool!
That show was the most pumped up I think I had ever been. I played better than I ever had before. Sweat was running down our faces from playing so hard. We were so happy. It was like an adrenaline rush.
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As a worship leader, I’m realizing I rarely offer that same energy to the Lord. How often do I start sweating because I’m just playing so hard during worship? How often do I get butterflies before I get to lead others in praising Jesus through music? How often do I offer God all my energy in worship to Him? At that concert, I was performing with what the Bible refers to as my first fruits, but I find that I often worship God with my leftovers.
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The prophet Malachi spoke a word from the Lord to the Israelites about worship and what they had been giving to God. In chapter one, Malachi warns them that they are breaking their covenant with the Lord by offering Him blemished sacrifices. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were to sacrifice a perfect lamb, their best in the flock, to atone for their sins. They’d been doing this for generations, but they had started bringing blemished sacrifices. They no longer thought it was necessary to give God their best, so they just gave Him the ones they didn’t really care to have anyway. Malachi basically asks if they’d give these sacrifices to their governor, and he answers by saying, of course not! But then why were they offering it to the Lord?
For me, if all of AU were watching me perform some of my songs that I wrote, would I not practice and come extra tired and just give 50 percent of myself? Of course I wouldn’t. I’d give it everything I’ve got and bring out my best stuff. But then why won’t I do that for my Savior and King?
I think it’s easy for us to make ourselves believe that God is far away, that He’s just this entity-thing hanging out somewhere kind of watching over us but not really caring. We might never actually say that out loud, but if we think about it, I think that’s sometimes where our hearts are at. We often lose sight of how personal He is. We lose track of the love He has for us or the grace He’s shown us. We forget how much He’s saved us from and how much He provides for us. When we do that, we worship with just our leftovers. We find in us no desire to give Him our first fruits. Our prayers are empty, we tithe our money after we’ve paid all our bills, we only spend the extra minutes in our day in His Word, and our worship is merely Christian karaoke.
Malachi reminds the Israelites, and us, that God wants all of us. He wants and, more importantly, deserves our first fruits, not our leftovers. He deserves my absolute highest praise, not just the extras that I find lying around after I’ve already given everything else away.