Monthly Archives: May 2011

Week 9: Chill

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
John 14:27

 

Things at my job have been quite a bit intense the last couple of weeks. Imagine anything that go wrong with behavioral or mental health and the repercussions of it and you get the idea. Some blame it on the full moon; others blame it on the world with all its chaos.

Even though we have a constant steady flow of “traffic” coming through the office, I do not want to be the person who hardens themselves against what surrounds them. Christ calls me to be compassionate and filled with peace. Yet, I find it hard to be at peace with so much turmoil – death and destruction – going on in the lives of those I come into contact with on a daily basis, whether I know it or not.

I know and understand the benefits of relaxing for physical and mental health, but how can I allow my soul to relax with all of this could on?

The answer: God’s Word, prayer and accountability.

I’ve discovered that by turning to His Word on the bus ride home has helped. Kudos to whoever came up with the idea for the pocketbook Bible. I’ve had mine for nearly three years and the edges are tattered and torn from the use.

Keeping my team up to date and in the loop on the goings on of my life both at work and at home has helped immensely as well. We’ve been able to gather in prayer weekly and knowing that we continue to pray for one another outside of those get-togethers sooths peace into my soul.

Having that one person or two call, just to see how I’m doing offers so much more. Accountability to God and others is the foundation for freedom and liberty. It also brings growth and maturity with the freedom to be what God has created us for. I’m free from feeling overwhelmed and okay with the fact that I can’t handle it all on my own. I need Him. I need my team; my family of other believers. We need each other.

Week 8: Worship: A Lifestyle

Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin. –William Temple

 Prayer in the midst of any situation does amazing things, including an ego battle. A new friend recently brought me to my knees during worship practice at a local church when she said that we should stop everything we’re doing currently and pray. We needed it.

In a heated moment of argument, leadership clash and tension so thick you could cut it with a knife, the majority of our group stood back as that moment unfolded, hoping that the worst would soon be over. We all wondered how we had gotten here. This was the last place I wanted to be; the last situation I wanted to find myself in. In my silent caution, I felt that I had
failed in bringing God back to the center of this practice when my friend, in boldness, put down her foot and graciously stated that we needed to stop and pray.

The room filled with silence and I literally felt my heart shudder in agreement as His calmness washed over me.

This wasn’t what worship was supposed to be about. It shouldn’t be about our individual agendas, where we think this piece of music would fit or who we think should lead the next song or how it should go. It’s not about who has the best talent or who could possibly be the better leader. It’s not about us.

It’s about God and only Him.

And all too easily, we let our egos get in the way.

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to assist in the facilitation of worship the last eight years of my life. I didn’t have any idea what I was getting myself into when I walked across a dark college campus to Rotunda D for my first CRU meeting. That brisk fall evening, God thwarted my plans and called me to an eternal daily submission to Him in the form of reverent worship. That night borne a new, deep and vital interest in me; an interest to know my Savior on a deeper, more intimate level and a wonder as to what that would like lived out in my life. I was hungry for worship.

In the years since, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to truly worship and through it, God has molded into the woman I currently am. While I cannot go into depth and detail now on all that I’ve learned as it would take quite some time to get through it all, I would like to touch on a few things.

Worship comes in many forms: praise/singing, prayer, giving, serving, living…and so on. I’ve discovered that real, authentic worship is only lived out when a life is changed or transformed. Worship accomplishes this if the person doing these acts isn’t simply going through the motions just so they can check something off their to-do lists. It’s hard to change focus in our American can-do culture. God requires surrender and He asks that we give Him three things: body, mind and will.

God asks for my body. The body of a Christian is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and is to be used as a tool by God (Romans 6:13). According to Warren Wiersbe, author of Real Worship, “worship must not stop with a personal mystical experience. It must lead to a practical ministry experience, what we do with our bodies brings help to others and honor to God.”

God asks for my mind.  Worship also involves discernment. One author states “all Christian worship, public and private, should be an intelligent response to God’s self-revelation in his words and those recorded in Scripture” (Dr. John Stott). The Word of God comes with the power to renew and transform us.

God asks for my will. Christianity is centered on the will and not feelings. Christian love isn’t primarily a feeling; it’s an act of the will. It’s what we do, not how we feel.

Worship is about being in awe of the One who created me and what He did for me…not what I can do for Him. Without that wonder, I become a slave. With it, I am free. I am able to live in such a way that transforms everything I experience while I am being transformed by the only One who can transform. This realization then posed the question that if God is infinite,
how can I even express my praise in words as I am severely limited in comparison? After much prayer and study of scripture, I’ve since learned that in God giving Himself in human form crossed that bridge. He expressed divine thoughts in a language that we can understand.

God has taught me a great deal about submission. Being the oldest of four, I naturally want to lead. During the last several years, I’ve had the privilege to be on a several different worship teams – through CRU, my home church and Oasis, the latter having changed leadership several times. Yes, God calls us to submit to Him. But I’ve discovered that not only must I submit
to Him, but I need to submit to the worship leader and following his/her lead.

It’s not enough to sing on Sunday morning “This is my Father’s world” and then live the rest of the week as though I am in charge. I’ve come to understand what it means to live my life in such a way that exalts Him daily, not just on Sundays or at weekend services. It occurs daily. Worship is a lifestyle. He’s tested me and molded my gifts into what they are currently.
Now that I think about it, He’s still testing and molding me…all the time. I have found joy in the fact that this won’t end until I breathe my last in this world. It’s a humble place to be.

To be transformed, we have to spend time with that person or thing that has the power to influence you. God has more than enough of that power. Worship requires that we hang out with God. Are you willing to set aside your differences, your agenda, to do that?

I do not worship Him because of what He
will do for me, but because of what He is to me.

Warren Wiersbe

Week 7: Acts 2 Fellowship – Hello My So-Called Social Life

There are many things which a person can do alone, but being
Christian is not one of them. As the Christian life is, above all things, a
state of union with Christ, and a union of His followers with one another, love
of the brethren is inseparable from love of God. Resentment toward any human
being cannot exist in the same heart with love to God. The personal
relationship to Christ can only be realized when one has “come to himself” as a
member of His body, the Christian fellowship.

– William T. Ham

 

Acts 2 introduces the start of the church and they did everything together, as a community of believers. Part of our strength as Christians can be drawn from that. We wouldn’t survive if we were to go through this life alone. There would be no accountability. There would be no fellowship. There wouldn’t even be weekly gatherings on Saturday evenings or Sunday mornings. Can you imagine a world without that?

It scares me to say that I can…in some ways, at least. Prior to moving to Minneapolis, I lived in Sioux Falls, SD. Sure, there are plenty of churches and one only has to choose from the plethora available and just go, but it wasn’t the same as my home church in Brookings, SD (over an hour away).

For three years, I attended Bible study through what they called life groups at one church in the area and attended services at several others. And yet, I never found that sense of onnection; of the fellowship and community of believers that I had in Brookings. Perhaps it was because God had blessed me immensely in taking me from a place where public education and living in the world but not of it were seemingly frowned upon to a community where love abounded, no matter your story, what you’d done in your life or where you came from. Or maybe it was because He had opened my eyes and my heart to what following Christ really meant based on His Word and any other location would pale in comparison.

Sure, I could have traveled the 50-60 minutes to church every week and stick around for Oasis in the evenings, but it wouldn’t didn’t make sense financially to go there during the week for Bible study and any other social events that brought that sense of community. Living outside of that was not the same and I felt isolated. I missed my group of friends; I missed digging into the Word with other believers on a deep level and being real with accountability partners.

I found myself seeking that fellowship in Sioux Falls and missing home in Brookings more and more with each passing week. I knew that my soul longed for that fellowship and my heart longed to trust in that group. I lived a spiritually dry season during that time, even though I was fed regularly and was still actively involved in Oasis back in Brookings – a young adult/college ministry and had been for six years prior to my moving to Minneapolis.

Within the last several days, the rest of the team moved up from Brookings and are now settled in Blaine, just across from Kingswood Church (in the parsonage). We’ve discussed starting a new Bible study on the book of Acts in light of the fact that we are here to plant a new church. It only made sense to study the beginning of the church and what it meant to be a community and true body of believers according to God’s holy Word, right?

Acts 2 records five things that kept the early church together and strengthened them:

  1. They continued together in one accord.
  2. They all preached and taught the gospel exhorting people to believe.
  3. They had fellowship together.
  4. They practiced the ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper – together.
  5. They prayed – together…as one.

The first group of believers stayed together. They met together. Part of the strength of the church is that they meet together. That simple act bonds believers and serves as a source of ersonal support. In Hebrews 10, we see how the Lord combines church attendance with holding fast the profession of one’s faith. Meeting together serves the purpose of lifting up and encouraging one another in our daily walks with Christ. This is also the reason the church is called the body of believers. A body is, after all, a unit. When one part suffers, the rest suffer with it. When part rejoices, all rejoice with it (1 Corinthians 12).

They all taught the gospel and it was believed by all. They all believed the Bible was the true Word of God and devoted themselves to the teaching, doctrine and fellowship of that Word.

They had fellowship, as one unit. The basis of their unity was Christ and this continuously brought them together. One commentator defines fellowship as “the expression of genuine Christianity among the members of God’s family.” That fellowship includes love and acceptance. All insensitivity, resentment and judgment must be replaced by love (agape). This type of love brings a feeling of family…God’s familyand this type of relationship/fellowship with one another requires concern and spirits of restoration (Galatians 6:1-2), confession and forgiveness (James 5:16) – bearing one another’s burdens, encouragement and availability (Hebrews 10:23-25), and informality and flexibility (Hebrews 13:1-2, 14-16).

The first group of believers practiced and observed the Lord’s Supper and ordinances as a group, just as most churches do today. Think of where we get the term communion
from. That first group of believers prayed as one just as we should pray as one too.

In looking over that list, that was something I had in Brookings and it excites me to no end to know that God has blessed with that fellowship again.

Week 6: Goodbye, for Now

Don’t be afraid to keep moving on.
For what was before, now has gone.
God wants to accomplish so much more,
But we need to move forward in the Lord.
~ M.S. Lowndes, Based on Isaiah 43:18-19

 

A few days ago, I said my farewells to some dear friends back in Brookings, SD. I moved to Minneapolis in March and am just now returning to the city I now call home after spending a bittersweet weekend in Brookings, SD.

Going back was good, in many ways. I was able to get closure and see some friends who have become dear to my heart during the last six years of the ministry we were all a part of. aturday evening was spent just hanging out. We played games, caught up and just talked until late in the evening.

I played during the morning’s church service and was honored to be a part of the commissioning for the Vine. It was strange, how I felt, given that I had been in the cities already, paving the way, so to speak. That was hardly the case. Being up front again was enjoyable, but unnecessary. I didn’t feel the want to be up there that I always had when I had lived in Sioux Falls/Brookings. It was time for God to use someone else and time for me to move on.

The same went for Oasis that evening. Through it all, I was able to close that door on my life and move forward to continuing the next chapter. I can’t wait to see all that God has in store for us!