Tag Archives: Worship

23. the gift of music

gift of music1

a foundational prayer life

Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees. – Corrie Ten Boom

I once had a Sunday school teacher equate prayer to an invisible phone line that went up to heaven. It was her cheesy explanation of how prayer works. The difference being that there were no busy signals and, with today’s technology, nor would there be warnings of a battery dying or calls dropping.

I can honestly say that I’ve since learned that prayer isn’t like that at all. God does not work that way. He longs for a relationship with each of His children; one where the child is changed.

We’re currently studying a portion of the life of Daniel at my church here in the Twin Cities (Daniel 6:1-17 if you’d like to check it out) and the idea of having a foundational prayer life (living in such a way that my relationship with God is the foundation, the rock, on which I stand) was brought to light for me this past Sunday through the gift God gave one of my closest friends. (Sermon can be heard here, located under “Heroes of Faith: Daniel”.) Through this study on this particular hero of faith, we were drawn to verse 10, which ends with “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”

Did you catch that?

Just as he had done before…

Prayer wasn’t something new for Daniel. Prayer was an act he practiced each and every day.

Just as he had done before…

Prayer changed him from the inside out.

Just as he had done before…

Talk about commitment!

Daniel maintained a healthy fear of God, which kept his fear in the right place. He wasn’t afraid of what this world could do to him.

God never demanded that Daniel get on his knees three times a day. He didn’t have to – it was his delight. No government decree could keep him from praying to [God], loving Him, seeking Him, worshiping Him. He was much more committed to God’s eternal glory than to his personal survival.” – Scotty Smith

For Daniel, prayer wasn’t based on his situation; it was the foundation on which everything else was built. When the situations in his life changed, how he related to God remained constant. It never changed.

Being obedient to God also led to his safety in the lion’s den (punishment for going against the new rule King Darius put in writing). It was through his prayer life that Daniel’s faith was strengthened and he was able to face certain death to proclaim the name of His God. Oh, if I were to be that bold and daring!

Events, people and situations change, but our relationship with God stays the same. – Rick Wipf & Ben Gietzen

We live in a country where we can freely worship and pray. There are countless believers around the world who are persecuted for their faith, even to the point of death, and they never renounce the name of Jesus as Lord. I also know that we won’t have religious freedom forever…the Bible says so. We must understand that culture doesn’t dictate how we live out our faith. We live our faith out based on God. The rest is just the details.

I long for that in my own life: that consistency, both on my part and coming to the full knowledge of how constant and good God is.

Prior to my college career, I used to pray when I or someone else needed something. I also prayed out of habit before I went to bed and before each meal…that was what I was taught and I obeyed because it was expected. Now that I’ve been learning to move beyond the legality of religion and into the freedom of Jesus Christ, I still pray for blessing over my meals – but not all the time. The guilt that used to come with missing it faded away. Instead, prayer is now a constant in my everyday life. I’m constantly thinking about, focusing on and searching for God throughout most of my day. I say most because, yes, I do fall. I get distracted by the millions of things that bombard me: my responsibilities, that text message coming in, an email, the next phone call. Thing is, I get to choose to come back; to reel my focus back to Whom it belongs.

Prayer is of the utmost importance. It’s not an end even though we tend make it one. It’s the primary means by which we communicate to and relate with God. We cannot develop their spiritual life and grow in actually knowing Jesus Christ in a personal and intimate way if we don’t spend time with Him. We are given the ability to overcome temptation and grow in holiness when we continue to come before Him in prayer, day in and day out. And we become more like Him.

Have you ever heard the phrase “you become like those you spend time with”? It’s true. The more time you spend with God, the more you become like Him. Prayer allows Him to change you from the inside out.

Have you ever just hung out with Jesus?

What does that look like in your life?

For me, it’s a continuous conversation that gets picked up frequently throughout my day. It occurs when I first crawl out of bed in the morning and continues when I’m on my way to work. It happens when I’m talking to a distressed caller. I even carry that conversation when I’m at the gym. You get the idea.

Some may view this as a waste of time and would argue that you can’t “hear” God talk back to you. I’ve even been asked, “Why risk looking like a lunatic who talks to herself?”

I can’t help but laugh…and not this sarcastic laugh either. It’s the deep, joyous kind of laugh because I know His voice. I’ve heard it. I’ve felt His Spirit stir within my heart and soul.

I’ve leaned in.

Close.

I’ve discovered a thing or two about Him and how He relates to me. 

He greets me with the sunrise each morning, even on cloudy days.

He pours His love over me through His Word with each piece of scripture I meditate on to kick off my day.

He reminds of my purpose the minute I open the daily Scripture emails I receive.

He shows me glimpses of His glory when a cardinal or purple finch lands on my balcony.

He soothes my soul with the whisperings of His Spirit when I am at a loss for words. Have you ever sat in silence before God? Sure, it’s intimidating not knowing what He will do when we drop the walls on the box we tend to continuously put Him in, but in doing so, He moves in ways we cannot comprehend. It’s satisfying. It’s fulfilling.

And more often than not, He speaks to me through the music I choose to listen to; He always has. It’s through songs like “Unstoppable Love” by Kim Walker-Smith, “How He Loves” by David Crowder, “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin and more that make me stop and think. They set my emotions on ablaze; passions stir and the next I know, I’ve got “spirit-flesh” (a.k.a. goose bumps/chills).

And as for the lunatic thing: well, I wish I didn’t have to break it to you, but with the technology of the Bluetooth and smart phones, I’ve seen my fair share of people who look like they’re talking to themselves. I should be able to blend right in! Welcome to the twenty-first century. But then, most of my conversation with God occurs in my mind and in my heart.  And it is my hope that I will choose, starting today, to be more intentional when it comes to my prayer life; to delight in Him always.

How about you? Have you experienced God today? Have you simply knelt before Him in silence, allowing Him to speak into your life; into your heart?

Don’t simply base it on your situation, depending on where you are at in life and what you’re struggling/dealing with.  Actively seek to put prayer at the foundation of your relationship with God. Pray based on where you are in this moment, and the next. Be intentional about making the time to hang out with Him. Is life good? Thank and praise Him! Are things hard? Seek counsel, wisdom and comfort from Him. And sometimes, you may simply need to “be still and know that He is God.” Take delight in your God.

 If what God thinks matters most, then you consult Him most. If what God does matters most, then you ask Him to act first. In other words, you live your life by prayer. – Scotty Smith

Week 46: The Art of Losing Myself

Worship.

I live for it.

I breathe it in.

Not just for anything.

For one thing.

My Savior.

Jesus.

The deeper I get into worship, the more respect I have for the worshipers that went before me and paved the way for what we call call worship today.  The longer I spend in worship and talking to others about it, the more I realize that this is indeed art at its most primal level. Even when we’re going through the hardships that life has a tendency to toss our way.

A friend of mine reminded me of the lyrics of one of my favorite songs (From the Inside Out). Each time I listen to this song, the same lyrics continue to jump out at me:

Your will above all else, my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise

excerpt from “From The Inside Out” – Joel Houston, Hillsong

I’ve heard this song many times before, and each time, those lyrics touch a deeper portion of my soul.  They so clearly articulate what I believe, but never been able to put to words myself.  I’ve had people ask me why I worship, and what I do when I worship, even how to worship.  I’ve never once had anyone ask me about the art of worship. 

As a worship artist, it’s important for me to remember that worship is never about me, my style or the notes or song that comes next. Sure the talent is art, but the true art is allowing myself to be lost in God; not focusing on that moment. The art of losing yourself in worship, as the song alludes to, is a matter of getting your priorities straight first, then simply being creative in His presence:

  1. Put your focus on God
  2. Remember that you are there so others may worship
  3. Be creative and continually put their focus on God

Sounds simple enough, but it’s the creatively part where most people trip up.  Where do you draw the line in expressing yourself creatively so that it doesn’t feel like a performance?  I believe it all comes down to focus.  Performance in church has its place so long as the focus is placed on God, then it becomes an expression of the gifts you were given by God.  When people notice you more than than they notice God, then you need to seriously examine if you crossed that line.

The art of worship requires you to balance the natural tension of performance (“look at me”) and presentation (“look at Him”).  The art of losing yourself in worship requires to you to keep one eye and ear on the physical world around you while getting as deep into God as possible through worship.  The aim here is to connect the two together.  Connections require constant attention, otherwise they fall apart.  What is worship for some people, is a distraction and a struggle for others.  You need to be able to respond to the needs of the physical environment around you while responding to the spiritual promptings of the Holy Spirit so as many barriers to worship are removed as possible.

Even the best worship leaders need to practice this continually or risk losing perspective on the environment around them.  This is living art at it’s God-given best.  God rewards the faithful who use their gifts wisely and sacrificially.

I’m Not a Christian but I’m Coming to Your Church This Sunday

I received this article by Thomas Weaver in my inbox this morning and thought it was a rather great read; something to keep in mind not only this weekend at church, but every week:

Okay, I’m not a Christian, but I’ve finally made the decision to come to your church this Sunday. Don’t expect much from me though. If something comes up, I might not, but right now, I’m planning on it. I feel like I need to go, but I’m not sure why. I want to tell you a few things about myself before you meet me.

1.  I’m not going to understand religious language or phrases so be aware of that when we talk. I don’t understand slain in the spirit, God is moving in me, covered in the blood, I need to die to self, you just need to be in the Word, what you need is a new life, etc. If we have conversation filled with religious talk, I’m probably not going to understand half of the words…and maybe think you’re a little crazy.

2.  When you ask me how I’m doing, know that I don’t trust you. I’m probably going to lie and tell you I’m fine. It’s not that I don’t want to tell you; it’s just that I come from some pain and am not sure if I trust you yet. How about you tell me your story first? If I like you and get the vibe that you’re not trying to capture my soul or anything, I’ll tell you mine.

3.  I’ve got pretty rough language, and I can be bitter and angry about some things. If I sense in you a mindset of superiority, I’m out. If you are just waiting for your turn to talk instead of truly listening to me, I’m not going to be interested. Don’t expect me to be exactly like you.

4.  Don’t make a big deal of introducing me to everyone you know. I understand a couple of people, but please; don’t set up a welcoming line. I’m just there to check it out; I need a bit of space.

5.  I’m going to be looking for genuine interest in me. I don’t want to feel like your personal salvation project or be a notch on your “I saved one” belt. If this Jesus is who you say he is, then I’m looking forward to seeing him in you. That’s how it works, right?

6.  I’m going to have questions. I need truth, not your preferences or your religion, so can you just tell me what the Bible says?

7.  I need to feel welcome. Is there a time limit or something on my visit before I’m supposed to feel unwelcome? I mean, I’ve been to other churches, and there seemed to be a push for me to make up my mind or something. How long until I’m unwelcome?

Thanks for hearing me out. I’m pretty sure I’m going to come this Sunday. But I might not.

This post was originally featured on The Resurgence.

http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/157233-i-m-not-a-christian-but-i-m-coming-to-your-church-this-sunday.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily-Update

Day 16: Wise Men Still Seek Him

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones . . . A discerning man keeps wisdom in view but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.” (Proverbs 17:22, 24)

Wisdom is a divine gift that is acquired by “seeking” Wisdom is the ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on the knowledge and the understanding of the heart. Biblical wisdom comes from humility in our reverence to God. They who are wise are seeking to follow and obey.

Would you consider yourself wise?

I myself haven’t been asked that question in my twenty-six years in this world…I’ve been called a wiseacre, but don’t consider myself wise. Would you?

In the biblical sense of the term, God calls His children wise…wise beyond human understanding.

The Bible speaks of many wise men and women who sought after the Lord. Men such as Enoch (Genesis 5:22), Noah (Genesis 6:8, 22), and David (Psalm 23:1). Women such as Ruth (Ruth 1:16) and Anna (Luke 2:36-37). There are those like Nicodemus (John 3:1-2) who acknowledged the goodness of the Lord in spite of their own lack of faith and sought to know more of Him. Then…there were the wise men who came from the East to see the King of Israel after His birth.

But…the wise men? They weren’t called wise because of the knowledge they possessed or their stature in society. No. They were wise because of who they sought, how and what they gave and by how they lived and listened to God.

If we are to be wise today, we must still seek Jesus; seeking Him with all that we have and are, much like the wise men who came from the East.

The Wise Still Come: In verses 1-10, we see these men (no number given…we assume three due to the number of gifts presented) setting out on a journey (a lengthy one) to follow a star that had been prophesied…that it would rise in the East. Upon arriving in Judah, they followed the direction of the star to the place where the boy Jesus was. These men were willing to follow/go wherever necessary to see the Lord. Are we willing to make a similar sacrifice in our own lives? Do we trust in His Word in such a way that we will alter our course when necessary?

The Wise Still Worship: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2

Many today think it an awful thing to travel a bit to attend worship service (harsh, but true). For these men, it was a lengthy journal (probably many months…possibly a couple of years), not a jaunt around the corner. We’re not sure what they knew about Jesus, but they had studied the scriptures and knew that it was worthwhile to seek out this King. Their main goal was to come and worship.

When they finally arrived, they fell at His feet and gave gifts in abundance…items that were not cheap – gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Are we willing to be like these wise men? Are we willing to go the distance; to do whatever it takes when it comes to our relationship with God? Are we willing to freely express our worship to Him, not caring what the world around us thinks? Do we truly know Who the Lord is and why He is worthy of worship? Are we willing to make the sacrifice?

The Wise Still Give:

Let me pause a moment to mention the symbolism in these gifts:

  • Frankincense represents the death of Jesus. In His day, incense was burned as it was believed that it carried prayers to heaven, the sweet aroma that was pleasing to God. In a similar way, Paul teaches in Ephesians (5:2) that we are to be an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma, signifying the connection between the death of Jesus and frankincense.
  • Myrrh represents His burial. In John’s gospel, Jesus’ body was anointed with myrrh for His burial, fulfilling the prophecy in Psalm 45:6-8.
  • Gold represents His resurrection and just as gold neither rusts nor shows any signed of aging, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

These wise men freely gave and, as I mentioned before, these gifts were not cheap. It also wasn’t common for men of a high rank in society to bring gifts for someone beneath their status. Jesus was a child, He was a King, and so they honored Him with these valuable gifts from their own respective countries. Likewise, we are also called to bring gifts to the Lord.

In Romans 12:1, Paul pens that we should give our bodies to God because of all He has done for us; that they should be a living and holy sacrifice  – the kind that He would find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. We need to give Him our most valuable possession: our lives.

The Wise Still Listen:

Recall what Herod had told these men: They were to return once they found the place where this King lay…so he could come worship Him too. This was part of Herod’s plot to kill the threat to His kingdom…and in turn, these men were forewarned by an angel of God to return to their homelands another way.

It’s wonderful for us to have made the effort to assemble in worship.
It’s great that we are attentive in seeking and pleasing God.
It’s appropriate that we offer everything we are.

But it’s not enough.

It’s not enough that we reserve all of this for Sunday mornings and holidays. We need to be in a constant state of worship; giving our all every single day that God has given us.

When we depart from the assembly and fail to heed the divine instruction on our way, in every single portion/aspect of our lives, the rest is for nothing. Serving Him is not just when we gather for worship. Consider how the lives of these men were changed after their encounter with Christ, the King. In the same way, our lives should reflect the time spent worshiping God in every area of our daily lives.

Seek Him first.

O, come let us adore Him
O, come let us adore Him
O, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Text: Matthew 2:1-12

Week 14: Anointed

Have you ever considered yourself to be anointed? Have you bought into the idea that only certain individuals could be anointed…not you?

I used to think that. Being anointed, in my mind, went along with what King David went through. “You anointed my head with oil…” I used to think that being anointed only applied to those listed in the Bible, specifically the Old Testament. Prophets, priests, and objects were anointed for varying purposes throughout scripture. A different picture was painted for us when Jesus came in the New Testament.

1 John 2:27 reads as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, you remain in Him.

We have been anointed, but with what? Looking back through scripture, I came to stop at the story of Jesus’ baptism.  During his baptism, He was anointed by the Holy Spirit that descended as a dove. Jesus was washed in baptism and was anointed with the Spirit of God. Jesus then stated to His followers that He would send the Holy Spirit who would teach us all things.

A close friend of mine commended my God with a simple statement about how His anointing had fallen on me. This had happened shortly after a time of worship at church and the statement left me humbled in the eyes of a holy God. I was reminded that my gifts are not about me. They are about Him. He freely gave them so that they could be returned in full and used for His greater glory.

I was left thinking, Me? Anointed? I hadn’t thought of myself in that light prior to that statement. God’s Spirit opened my eyes to the fact that I was indeed anointed, by Him, so that I could enter into Christian ministry while in this world. It meant that I had been enabled, entrusted, and empowered to accomplish God’s will. So have you.

In searching through scripture and researching a few other articles, I’ve found the following passages that draw attention to what we’ve been anointed to do.

1 John 2:27 – To be able to discern truth
1 John 5:6 – To testify of the truth
Romans 8:39, Ephesians 6:18 – To be able to pray
Romans 8:4 – To live a righteous life
Ephesians 3:16 – To be strengthened with the power in your inner being
Romans 8:9 – To live in joy
Romans 15:13 – To live in hope
1 Corinthians 12:4 – To receive spiritual gifts
Galatians 5:22-23 – To bear spiritual fruit

This anointing opens our minds, teaches us, guides us, calls us to pray, empowers us, and enables us to be strong Christians. It also enables us to use our gifts and talents to His greater glory. And it can only be attained through the cross on which Christ gave His life in sacrificial love for all of us.

Do you believe that you’ve been anointed to do His work?

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

God Moments

Ever have one? They seem to happen in the blink of an eye. If you try holding on, you might discover that there is no stopping time. And, if you’re not paying attention, you just might miss it.

Those moments tend to take my breath away. You are left; your soul raw and this feeling of awe and wonders seeps into the very core of who you are. Words cannot define that
feeling or that moment.

Prior to my move, I found myself at my aunt’s work place: a day services center for both adults and children. Since I hadn’t packed clothing to paint in (I was in town on business and brought attire to go out in), I opted to check out their piano; all the while praying that it would not make my ears bleed the moment I touched it.

Slightly out of tune, it would do. My eyes scanned the room as my heart sinqued itself with God’s (or at least strived to). I saw one of those glass enclosed bird cases in one corner…it was full of beautifully colored birds, silent as could be.

I cracked my knuckles, placed what little music I had brought with me (along with a few blank pages, just in case) and started to play.

Before long, the intro passed and I started singing. Next thing I know, those birds
were singing along.

I felt like a Disney princess for all of 15 minutes. You know, the one that sang
and the birds sand with her? Was it Cinderella or was it Aurora from Sleeping
Beauty? Or both?

I had to stop playing just to listen to them. In that moment, the music wasn’t about me
or the birds. It was all about our Creator and His magnificence. His glory. His
righteousness.

Psalm 8 reads:

 O LORD, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the
earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.

Out of
the mouths of babes and infants
you have
founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to
silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of
your fingers,
the moon
and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are
mindful of them,
mortals
that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than
God,
and
crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the
works of your hands;
you have
put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also
the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the
sea,
whatever
passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the
earth!
Isn’t He great?

Worship – Love – Laughter – Faith – Life

I’ve never considered myself an expert in any of these subjects, and yet my life is full of them. Blessings abound in the gifts I’ve been given (worship), the family I will always call home and the friends that I can be myself with (love), the ability to take it as well as I dish it out and see humor in daily life (laughter) and deeply rooted confidence and trust in something I can’t see (faith).
 
I firmly believe that God uses daily experiences to teach us more on each and we choose to come out stronger or weaker because of it.  Lou Holtz once said, “Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how your respond to it.”
 
Think about it.
 
It seems that when just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, He usually comes back with a “Ahem, I don’t think so!” in the form of the proverbial two-by-four smacking you in the forehead…or sometimes by allowing you to walk into that tree or fall into hole in the ground, all the while thinking, “I so did not see that one coming!”
 
Strange how life works, isn’t it? I’d like to share a few thoughts on each – it may be long. Here goes:
 
 
Worship

It’s amazing and inspiring to think about how much the worship industry has boomed in the last couple of decades. Partially because of bands like Petra and the Newsboys and partially because of a newer generation, Christian music isn’t like what it used to be. I recently listened to a pastor at a local church talk  about these changes, and honestly – it’s a good…no great… thing!
 
I once read that music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul. It can come in any form – from the birds singing outside your bedroom window, greeting the dawn on some early spring or summer morning to that hard metal rock stuff, where you can’t understand a word that the artist is singing/saying (it’s almost maddening!) – and it can be used to reach a wider audience. Music, in and of itself, is not evil. The words, if any,
are what can classify a song as unfit for worship.
 
Be thankful to live in a country where we can freely play an instrument within the confines of our homes, on some random
street corner or on a stage somewhere and not live in fear of losing life over it. Yet, I find myself wishing that were not the case.
Imagine how much more we’d appreciate being able to worship. Would we take it for granted as we do now?
 
Worship shouldn’t just be reserved for Sunday mornings. As God wishes to have a personal relationship with Him, why not start
each day by saying good morning to Him first. Read from His Word before skipping off to work. Learn to love and live the way Christ did. Each action, each word, each movement was done in adoration of His Father.
 
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Love

God calls us to a live of love.
Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. Hard to do, but not impossible.
The Bible also states that the world will know we are His by our love for one another. In every quote and definition I’ve come across, nothing defines love more than 1 Corinthians 13. Sure, it’s used at weddings, but it should be used and followed in every aspect of life; in every relationship.

~ Love is patient. Do you run at the first sign of a bad temper? Are you easily annoyed by inept clerks at the local grocery store, distracted or reckless drivers, or grammatically incorrect co-workers? Have you ever thought of being capable of calmly bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance as patient? We’re not perfect. We weren’t created to be. Learning to love in spite of one’s faults is truly a life-long lesson.

~ Love is kind. Kindness is more than being nice to someone. It’s our response to being patient with those around it. Ephesians 4:2 reads, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”
 
~ Love does not envy. Envy is destructive, on so many levels. It is selfishness that tears at the very foundation of any relationship. When jealousy is exhibited, we are telling that person that we don’t believe them and that we really don’t care for them. Jealousy shows our own insecurities. It brings no good or joy to your life or those around you. James 3:6 states that “whenever people are jealous or selfish, they cause trouble and do all sorts of cruel things.”
 
~ Love does not boast; it is not proud. We’ve all experienced them – those people who can’t resist telling others how WONDERFUL their lives are; how ______… (you fill in the blank). I once read that it is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without you help (author unknown). Boasting has a tendency to raise the one boasting up while putting those around them down.  Pride, on the other hand, should not be confused with what you feel for doing a job well done or what you feel for your family. The type of pride God is referring to here is the type that comes from being too self-absorbed (having an inflated ego). It’s being stubborn; refusing to talk things through or be reasonable. There isn’t room for love or for God in that.
 
~ Love does not dishonor others. It does the opposite. Gossip is one form of dishonoring another believer or person that
comes to my mind.
 
~ Love is not self-seeking. Love does not insist on doing things its own way. It is instead prepared to give up for the sake of others, even if it means giving what it is entitled to. Jesus called us to deny ourselves, to take up the cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23). Love cautions us against making our self-seeking the ultimate goal of our lives. We should be seeking to serve others in the most effective way.
 
~ Love is not easily angered. Self-control communicates love. Love requires that we not accuse or blame others for the way we feel. It requires that we keep ourselves from saying something hurtful and unnecessary. Remember, moments of irritation come with life on this earth, but love does not need to cease when they come.
 
~ Love keeps no record of wrongs. Simply put…but harder to accomplish without the help of One greater than all we see. Love doesn’t hold grudges. Holding a grudge divides relationships and has the power to destroy them. Love lets the past die. It sees to wipe the slate clean and to start over again. Easier said than done. True love is the power to forgive, to tear of the score card, and leaves the final accounting to the judgment and mercy of God.
 
~ Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. Love looks past the fault and sees the need. And it takes that extra step. Love finds that spark and uses it to ignite something so much more glorious than any of us could imagine. Love always protects. Love throws a cloak of silence over what is displeasing in another person. We have a tendency to protect ourselves when it comes to our own disappointments and failures. But what about those we see in others? Love is supportive of others when they are weak. Rather than delight in their weakness or failure, love brings forgiveness,
hope and healing.
 
~ Love always trusts. Love isn’t gullible or easily tricked. It never loses faith. Take Jesus for example. He lived out His live with positive faith, not fear. He had enough faith to die for us so that God’s good purpose could begin to come about in us.
 
~ Love always hopes; always perseveres. Love can endure all things. It refuses to see failure as final and it lasts. Love never fails. Isn’t it comforting to know that God’s love never fails? If it had, you and I wouldn’t have the freedom to have that relationship with Him.
 
In looking at what love is, I’ve come to “see” a few things about this place I call home. We live sheltered lives in America and, according to some; one would have to go overseas to a third world country to
make a difference when that is not the case. It starts here. It starts now. It starts today — in your own backyard.
 
Do you know the neighbor who lives across the street? The single mother trying to make ends meet just so her kids would have a roof over their heads? How about the guy in the cubicle next to yours at work? Does he go home to nothing? Or the family down the street? Mr. Smith lost his job just before Christmas and they may be losing their home.
 
Start there.
 
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Laughter

I’ve been told that I laugh way too much. Why; when there is humor to be found in many things? God has a massive sense of humor. Why shouldn’t I? I sometimes find myself pondering the thought that He was laughing the day I was born. A self-proclaimed klutz and titled Walking Lawsuit – so lovingly coined by my college roommate – I’ve discovered that life is far too to take it too seriously. Why not laugh when biffing it in the parking lot or face-planting into the door…as long as I’m okay, right? Why get all worked up over being dyslexic when it comes to speaking at times? Or reading for that matter? I’ve also found that laughter, outside of mathematics, is one thing that all nations have in common. Laughter brings joy to all who exercise it.
 
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Faith

Believing in something that cannot be seen may seem radical to some. I once heard that faith is like the wind. You can’t see it but, oh boy, you can feel it. It’s a deep sense that He’s there. God blessed me with an amazing upbringing that I, mostly, wouldn’t trade anything for. Both of my parents believe and instilled that faith in me, starting the day I was born. I used to read stories
from a children’s picture Bible (still my favorite book to this day) and I attended a Christian grade school up until 8th grade. Memorizing scripture really does wonders on the heart and I find myself recalling a lot of those words when I desperately need them even as an adult. What do you put your trust in?
 
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Life…
 
is short. Live a life of worship, from sun-up to sun-down. Love with
everything you have and as if you’ve never been hurt. Laugh at the little things (and often). Finally, believe with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.