Fit to Praise

“I’m gonna let go, really worship, letting my dance come forth… Dance! Da-ance! Let the Spirit move you, dance! Da-ance! Holy Spirit in you, dance!” (lyrics to “Dance” by Jesus Culture)

About two months ago, I split my original blog up into separate topics based on the advice of some fellow writers. That way, a reader knows roughly what to expect when they go to the blog.

But I can’t split my life up into neat sections quite as easy as I can the blog. So sometimes there’s overlap, and this is one of those moments.

I write a blog about fitness, or more accurately, my struggles with fitness and diet. Several years ago, I was a contracted Spin instructor at the base gym. I peppered my music set lists for exercise classes with driving Christian songs that were mostly well received. Even now, these songs make up a big part of my workout playlists on my iPhone.

Most worship albums have at least one or two high energy high tempo numbers that can be a fresh addition to a cardio routine or jog on the track.

And why not? Exercise can be an act of worship. In the military, it’s part of my job, so it’s one way I can demonstrate excellence based on my desire to please God. “Whatsoever you do in word or deed, do it as unto The Lord.” (Colossians 3:17)

Exercise improves physical health, of course. But it also relieves mental and emotional stress, giving a healthy outlet for frustration. Why not incorporate a spiritual component and get my mind on the things of God while “beating my body into submission” at the gym? (see 1 Cor 9:24-27)

Still, I assume I’m preaching to the choir. If you like to work out, and you like Christian music, then no doubt some of it finds its way into your playlists.

Listening to worship music can also trigger spontaneous moments of response to God’s goodness. I came home from the gym tonight and figured out my dinner plan. I got it started cooking, and decided I wanted to keep moving, keep working out a bit. So I started doing aerobics in my kitchen, with high knees, cross-steps, ski jumps, grapevines, arm motions, short jogs… it was great.

(I made sure no sweat dripped into the food.)

David Crowder Band’s Our Love is Loud came on, and I wanted to sing along. Why not? I’m hearing and singing “We lift our voices, louder still, can You hear us? Can You feel we love You Lord, we love You, we love You…” while lifting up my hands for the added aerobic difficulty. Why not consciously lift my hands each time as an expression of praise while working out?

Let the Praises Ring came on after that, with its verse: “Oh Lord, my God, to You I give my hands. Oh Lord, my God, to You I give my feet. Oh Lord, my God, to You I give my life.”

As Paul said to the Athenians,

for in Him we live and move and exist. (Acts 17:28 NASB)

So I’ll worship on the stationary bike, I’ll worship as I walk around the track, I’ll worship as I dance around the kitchen.

Because worship has to be a part of my life too, and as I said before, it’s very difficult to separate everything out into nice little compartments. That’s an exercise in futility and a game I don’t want to play.

So what songs jump off the worship albums into my gym set list?

(Note: I didn’t choose the vast array of Christian rock/pop/alternative/metal music that is also perfect for a workout. I specifically wanted to look at worship songs.)

Dance and Holding Nothing Back by Jesus Culture

God’s Great Dance Floor and Sing Sing Singby Chris Tomlin (the latter song off of Passion: God of this City)

Let the Praises Ring and Salvation is Here by Lincoln Brewster

Our Love is Loud and No One Like You by David Crowder Band (among others by the same band)

We Shine and All Because of Jesus by Fee (particularly the version of We Shine off Passion: God of this City)

All I Do and Take It All by Hillsong

Happy Day by Tim Hughes

Let Everything that has Breath by Matt Redman

So Good to Me and Freedom by Darrell Evans

Live God Loud by Acquire the Fire

How about you? Are there any worship songs in particular that get your feet moving? Let me know in a comment, please. Maybe I can add them to my playlist!

Dance Central

So X was about worship leaders, Y was about ‘you,’ as in all of us in the congregation as individuals, and now Z will be about God.

Ok, Z and God don’t really combine well.

But Z goes well with the prophet Zephaniah, who gives us a powerful image of God.

The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17 NKJV)

Maybe it sounds sacrilegious, but God goes nuts about you and me. The word for “rejoice” there is also translated “exult,” and it has as part of its meaning the act of dancing with joy. It means to spin around, caught up in powerful emotion.

God celebrates us. He dances over us. He rejoices, He gets wild with gladness. He belts out songs of victory.

Chris Tomlin has a new song called “God’s Great Dance Floor” that I was sure I hated at first. “What is this?” I asked. “Is the church a club now?” And then I listened to the words, and I thought about Zephaniah and the promise that God dances over His people with a love that never stops loving us, no matter how far we run, that never gives up on us and looks always to the future, not the past.

Can we see that? Do we sense The Lord our God in our midst? Do we feel the power and presence of The Mighty One? Can we glimpse God-of-the-Universe doing a jig at the thought of us?

For me, I have to admit, I rarely can picture this. I have a hard time taking hold of this love and internalizing it. I don’t always feel “dance-worthy.” I’m the ashamed wallflower at the prom, the ugly and unpopular one, on the outside of the party.

But God rushes over to those of us on the outskirts and tugs at our arms, smiling wide, eyes bright. He dances when we would not, when we can see nothing worth celebrating. We dance, because He does. We love, because He loved us first. We rejoice, because He rejoices over us and gives us reasons for joy.

Picture David in the Old Testament, dancing and celebrating the return of the Ark to the people of Israel. Everyone holds David in high regard, as a mighty man of war. “Saul has slain his thousands,” they sing, “and David his ten thousands.” This strong warrior is still able to cut loose and express joy in front of the people, even at the expense of his reputation. “I will become even more undignified than this,” he says when challenged. His God is worth celebrating.

God never calls us to do what He would not. He always gives us an example to follow, at His own expense. And so we see God Himself in this word picture, The Lord of Hosts, the Mighty Warrior – and He is willing to become undignified by dancing and rejoicing over what the world says is nothing of worth. He is willing to set aside glory and leave His honor behind in order to reach out to the nobodies and the ne’er-do-wells.

Heads down, staring at the floor, we know what we’re worth… or rather what we’re not. But God extends a hand nonetheless, tapping His foot, brimming with energy and passion, ready to explode into motion, all to express one core foundational truth:

You are My special treasure, My prize, the one that I love.

That’s worthy of a few twirls, isn’t it?