Worship– What Exactly Is It?

We’ve all been there:

Cue music:

Oh, I love this song! I wonder if my hair looks ok? Did I brush my teeth? Oooh, my voice sounds so good today, I’ll sing louder!

How much thought do we give to God, really? Everytime? Do we pay attention to the words we sing?

Are we really worshiping God through music and singing?

As a worshiper, these are things that have been stirring up contemplation in my own heart lately.

The Bible tells us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. It tells us to exhort one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and sing to God with gratitude.

I looked at 71 Bible verses about worship, and out of all of those verses about 10 mention singing.

Not one mentions music.

Am I saying worshiping God with music is bad? Absolutely not– I believe it is genius!

But, what I am saying is– worship and praise are not music. They can be done with music, with singing, but music is not the definition.

I wonder how God sees what we do in our churches we call His house? Does it really honor Him? Does He approve? Does He even like it?

Or, does He see that really, we are doing it for ourselves, at least, sometimes, and only think it satisfies God?

Or, maybe we are missing that whole worhip Him in spirit and in truth, completely.

How do we worship God in spirit and in truth? What would that look like to God? Do we even try to worship Him outside of the music sets and practice times?

What does worship mean?

What does praise mean?

I do believe we all come to a point in our walk with Jesus where these questions burn into our spirit. We think we know, but–

Do we really?

May God grant us understanding, a willingness to learn, along with eyes and ears to hear and see what we might not already, clearly.

Don’t stop the music and singing. Let’s just do a heart and understanding check to see if we are missing something.

What Makes You Feel Loved?

God won’t make anyone feel loved by Him that doesn’t want to.

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There are so many thoughts and ideas bouncing in my head right now, like molecules of water being heated. I have a renewed excitement about this topic because of  nightmare I recently had.

I could easily say much of my past was like a nightmare. Not all of it, I have happy, content feelings and memories, too. But, feeling loved wasn’t descriptive of me for many years during my upbringing, or as a result of my first marriage ending with my being rejected. That was the subject of my recent nightmare. I was trapped in a triggered memory of the sudden cold-heartedness and rejection from my ex-husband, within a deep sleep.

The amazing thing for me is, I had forgotten that feeling completely!

The dream was a near paralyzing experience for me, until my youngest woke me up. Reality soothed my heart, calmed the terror that had re-awoken in my mind.

Feeling unloved is the ultimate torture and torment. It’s cold fingers grasp at our heart and attempt to choke the life out of us.

Feeling loved is like the sun’s light warming your back when the surrounding air is harshly cold.

I have experienced that warming light, when the man I’m married to now proposed to me then traveled thousands of miles to join me in marriage, and his continued acceptance of all I encompass. Faults, mistakes, different views and experiences, he has forgiven me time and again and looked past things my ex-husband and so many other people have judged me harshly over.

Because of where I have been, I am able to appreciate where I am and this gift of precious love I have been given. I get to give it in return, too. That excites me!!

I experienced love’s warming of my spirit as I rejected my old ways and began following the path Jesus trail-blazed for us all. The way to experience His love for us all, is through the acceptance of Jesus and all He encompasses. There is no other way. Once experienced, every myth of God not existing fades into dust. Nothing can compare to that completeness that fills the void deep in our hearts.

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Just as a womb is within a woman that can only feel completed by a baby safely growing within it, there is a place, a void, within our heart that can only grow and be filled by God. To reject God is to seal that void, embracing the cold where His love does not extend.

God won’t make anyone feel loved by Him that doesn’t want to.

This husband didn’t appear to be what I thought I needed, when I met him. It turns out, my initial assessment was wrong. Had I stubbornly followed that instead of giving him a fair chance to show me who he really is, I would have missed out of sharing life with the one who makes me feel loved.

I knew life without God’s love, as well. Had I stuck with my old ways, I would have missed out on finding out the deep reality of the difference His Love makes. I had no idea how cold and empty I was, until I accepted Jesus. It is exactly like night and day.

I feel loved by being accepted. I feel love by being heard. I feel loved by being cared for. I feel love by being forgiven. I feel love by being included. It’s by these that I am confident I am loved. I feel all of these in my relationship with my husband. I feel all of these in my relationship with God.

What are yours? What makes you feel loved?

Mighty Ministry– At What Cost?

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As Christians we each have different gifts and callings from God, some hope to have an impactful ministry that helps or reaches out to others. In Christian circles I’ve overheard someone being given the promise of a “Mighty Ministry”. I have been told that, myself.

What does that even mean?

I just saw an article about a worship leader and his wife who lost both of their children in a car accident that defied odds. As I was praying for them, those words came to my consciousness: Mighty Ministry. I looked at them, analyzed them against the situation, and then I put them on the back burner.

Certainly God takes what we go through and turns it around. I have no doubt God can use this to mold and shape a ministry that will touch the hearts of so many lives…

But, before that, what about the couple who lost their children? What about their injured hearts as their children’s lives– the hopes and dreams they had for their children– were ripped away from them on earth?

I’m hoping and praying a loving, warm, compassionate community reaches out to this couple, demonstrating God’s heart to them. God knows how it feels to lose His beloved child. He gave His Son to us all, to die for us. Do we think about how that must have hurt God to go through. If anyone understands, it is God.

I’ve been surprised by the number of times someone has endured a terrible hardship that the Christian community’s response is a pat on the back, a hug, a few delivered meals… then the expectation that God will do the rest. It’s between them and God. They have God, so they don’t need anything else.

God made people to need people. He made us to be vessels for His compassion, strength, love, and wisdom. His Holy Spirit guides us and helps us to be useful for His purposes.

Sometimes His purposes are to show all of His characteristics to the hurting, the lost, the laborers for His Kingdom on earth, the meek, and the humble. Even those who are in the beginning stages of a Mighty Ministry.

We should put off jealousy, judgment, criticism, and excuses so we can put on The Lord Jesus Christ.

That in itself is the unrecognized Mighty Ministry God has for every one of us.

 

 

 

 

 

How Can We Identify With Jesus?

A woman sat at His feet and poured her very best, most expensive bottle of perfumed oil over them. She had just finished washing them with her tears and drying them with her hair.

Another woman had been talking with Jesus at the one well everyone in that area had to use, then ran through her town, shouting with happy excitement. He was a stranger to her, and political correctness would have Him not even acknowledge her. He knew things no one could, and told her He knew she was living with a man she was not married to as well as how many times she had been married before. Even with that knowledge, He still talked to her, told her how to get Living water.

A man, cursed with life long blindness, looked around with a new perfect, clear view. Jesus had just picked up some dirt, spit in it, and rubbed it over the man’s eyes.

Jesus grew weak after walking through a crowd of people. Why? Because of one woman, compelled by desperate belief in the miraculous healing that coursed through Him propelling her to humbly, quietly just touch the hem of His robe. She didn’t want to disturb Him, but knew in her heart of hearts He could fix what money and doctors could not.

Most often we look into the recorded happenings of Jesus with the expectation that we can identify with the ones who interacted with Jesus. We expect that Jesus will identify with us, after all He left perfection to be born as we are, and live as we do.

How can we identify with Him? How many times have we experienced anything like He did?

We expect we should be the focus of His attention, that He can understand us and make excuses for where we lack. We expect that He will reach out to us with love, kindness, healing, forgiveness and understanding.

Jesus told His friends, the ones who followed Him and half-heartedly listened to His wisdom and truth, that one who broke bread with Him would betray Him. We always look at Judas as the betrayer. He sold Jesus out for 30 silver coins. But, what about Peter? Peter also betrayed Jesus, and throughout recorded accounts, Jesus felt a closeness with Peter that He did not feel with many. Yes, Judas betrayed His life, but Peter betrayed His heart, His loyalty, His trust. Can we identify with Jesus? Or do we most often put ourselves in the shoes of Peter, with all our explanations and excuses for His behavior? He was afraid for his life, after all.

And Jesus was dying on the cross in Peter’s place as Peter denied knowing Him 3 times.

Jesus made it clear that if we deny Him before men, Jesus will deny us before His Father.

I think it’s pretty clear: that is a touchy area with Jesus. He has made His terms crystal clear: if we sincerely value Eternity with Him, we need to cling to Him, no matter what. Eternity with Jesus is the reality that needs to remain the focus and purpose of our earthly lives.

As the saying goes: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” _ C.T. Studd

It seems apparent to me, a big chunk is missing from American Christianity– identifying with Jesus. Our culture is so far removed from everything His life on earth was immersed in. His Heavenly mindset. We worry about the things He told us not to worry about. We place vanity above sacrifice. We love ourselves far more than any of our neighbors. We let money be our “master”. We think more highly of ourselves than we ought, about our “rights”, our “privileges”, what we “deserve”.

If we ever identify accurately with Jesus, we will come to that sobering realization– what we have deserved was exactly what He took in our place.

Death on the cross.

Because of Him, we no longer deserve that, because He broke the curse of death that was on all mankind until God rose Him up from the grave on that third day.

We have rights because Jesus made the way for us to. We have rights because God created us to have them. We are given privileges through what Jesus has done on our behalf. Because He is mediating on our behalf even now as He sits at the right hand of God the Father, we now have God’s favor on us. It’s never been in and of ourselves we’re granted the abilities to become privileged, or have them bestowed upon us.

It should be a constant sobering thought as we ceaselessly pray, that as we enjoy our lives, many in other countries are being called upon to be martyred.

Not because God demands that of us, but because of that friendship with Jesus. Because of that loyalty to Him.

Because He first loved us.

Because He willingly took the punishment death had planned for us.

How can we possibly say we can identify with Him in that? No one has ever done such a selfless thing. No one has ever loved those who hated Him while He was taking our punishment from death, a punishment He never should have been given. He never once stepped into the realm of sin. He stayed outside of it, demonstrating for us how walking with God helps us also to step outside of, to stay outside of, the realm of sin and of death.

Jesus took the sting out of death that robbed mankind of eternity with God. He took it, and He now has control of that. He has set the standards. He told us that when we go to God through Jesus, we can live in Eternity. When we allow Jesus to rule and reign over our lives.

He is no dictator.

He is kind. He is generous. He is beautiful. He is loving. He shows mercy and forgiveness, consistently.

I would much rather trust Jesus with the keys to death and Hell, than the devil. Satan has our best destruction on his mind, consistently, constantly.

Jesus has our best interest at heart.

Mom 139: New Parent’s Translation

They have searched for me, my kids,

they know me well.

They know when I sit down, and when I get up to clean;

They perceive my need for time alone from afar.

They discern my going shopping and my lying down for a catnap;

They are familiar with all my habits.

Before a word is on my tongue,

they interrupt and make me forget what I was going to say.

They pull at my hem from in front and behind me,

Their hands are always on me.

Such attention is overwhelming for me,

Too much for me to process all at once.

 

Where can I go from my children?

Where can I go to flee from the kids?

If I go in the bathroom, they are there,

In the middle of the night when everyone should be sleeping, they are there.

If I get up early, they are there,

Try to sneakily eat chocolate behind closed doors, there!

Even there, they beg!

Their hands trying to take it from me, making me feel guilty.

If I say, “Surely I can have privacy in the darkness

and the quiet becomes peace around me,”

the night will be full of interruptions;

because the darkness means it’s time to play.

 

They were created in my inmost being;

I am the mother in whose womb they were knit.

I praise God because they were fearfully and wonderfully made,

His works are wonderful!

My frame was not hidden from their kicks

when they were made in the secret place,

when they were woven in the depths of my girth.

Their eyes saw as their hands punched me;

all their days were written in their baby book

hopes and promises before they came to be.

How precious are their words, and their silence!

How vast is the sum of their joyful noise!

Were I to count them, it would require I could concentrate…

I’m sure their questions have outnumbered the grains of sand–

when I’m awake, they are always with me.

 

In game and play, they slay the zombies.

They pretend to kill the monsters and vampires.

While at church they sing Jesus Loves Me;

they are learning of His precious Name.

Do I not get angry with those who are mean to them,

and abhor those who bully or reject them?

I have nothing but disdain for adults who dismiss them;

I count them as missing out on great opportunities.

My kids have searched through my stuff, and they know what I love;

they test me and cause anxious thoughts.

They push buttons of offensiveness,

but I love them, that’s my way, and it’s everlasting.

 

 

 

 

Perspective

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This is my 3 year old’s toy tornado.

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This is my silicone funnel that I bought at the 100 Yen store.

Perspective.

Perspectives are like opinions: everyone has one.

Like noses.

My perspective comes from a different view of life than yours does. My experiences factor into it.

My age, where I have lived and traveled.

The jobs I have worked, the people I have associated with.

My choices, my successes, my failures and my mistakes.

The societal standards for “normal.”

The media sources I pay attention to.

Those all factor in to my perspective equation.

Perspectives are molded over time, and it seems like sometimes they can become the opposite of what they once were.

We don’t even realize something is molding or shaping– let’s just be real here and say manipulating– them at times, when we aren’t paying attention.

One of my favorite phrases is, “Gain some perspective.”

How do we gain perspective? Is it something we can buy? Can we take it, or make it, or create it out of nothing?

How do we grab hold of perspective?

If I look at every person’s situation and assess they should have the same outcome I have experienced or heard about, then I have super limited perspective.

What has worked for my life isn’t going to work for everyone.

My mold, it won’t fit you.

Your mold, it will never fit my personality.

The ideas you value, they might not be what I value, and vice versa.

But, if we let that become an obstacle instead of exploring the differences and learning from one another, we lock ourselves into an unhealthy mindset.

We all have something we have passionately poured ourselves into. A job, a ministry, children, marriage, relationships, writing, artwork…surviving life

We have a perspective and opinions on how best to do things.

When our perspective and opinions don’t fit someone else, we get frustrated, and criticize that they aren’t doing it “right.”

They are weak.

Idiots.

In reality they are unique.

That’s the way we should look at people, the perspective we should gain– grab hold of.

We should dig a little deeper, and learn from their perspective.

But. Then we would have to stop talking, and…

Listen.

And that’s a bigger, time-consuming challenge than we often want to take on.

So, we wallow in our perspective, and we criticize those who don’t do things our way.

We hold our outward view with the opinion that grabs our perspective, and we misjudge what we won’t take the time to explore.

We get lazy. We get presumptuous.

We get mean.

Then we become unapproachable.

Our perspective becomes the guide we follow for our lives and interactions with others.

It becomes our ineffectiveness and lack of communication catalyst.

We stop valuing individuality, and start embracing a conformist view.

Our perspective still changes us, while it remains the same. It molds us into someone we never thought we would choose to become.

It seems the mistake we often make  is to allow our perspective to become our guide.

Maybe, just maybe, learning from other people’s perspectives is one of the keys to walking in freedom.

Some people are afraid of perspectives that differ from theirs. They don’t want to look at things they disagree with, don’t want to find the heart in the middle of different.

They don’t want to care about the reasons.

It’s the middle road that takes us to the higher grounds of life, I believe, many times.

The middle ground is hearing the heartbeat beneath all the noise, emotion and turmoil.

Find the heartbeat, and you’ll grab hold of perspective.

That’s what God hears. He doesn’t look on the outward appearance and distance Himself from us. He doesn’t see the yuckiness, the clutter, the faults and failings– the sin– and turn away from us.

He figured out a way to dive into the ugliness, and retrieve the beauty.

He sent His own heartbeat in to find our heartbeat.

He embraced the human perspective, individually and collectively.

Shouldn’t we strive to do the same?

 

 

 

Undercurrent

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We live in an “arms-length-away” society. There is an invisible barrier of protection we keep around us called “space.” We invite some people in to a closer distance, but not…

too…

close…

In our space, we have an image we put up, like a projected force field. It’s part of the barrier we keep up in order to protect ourselves from displaying our vulnerabilities. Our failures. Our imperfections. That image blurs the lines of reality to those we don’t invite past it.

We hide ourselves in it.

Our image we maintain shows what we want people to see. Self reliance. Self esteem. Self confidence.

Self.

It allows us to be in a cocoon of acceptance, socially. It allows us to hide behind pretensions and judgements we have about ourselves and about others. We can be liked, and appear to conform to standards of the boxes society dictates we should all fit within. We can keep those who don’t cocoon themselves in at a greater arms-length-away from us.

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I have no doubt John the Baptist was held at arms-length-away from many in his society. I mean, he lived in the wilderness. He ate bugs with honey. He stood by that river, just waiting for people to baptize. He recognized Jesus immediately, and begged Him to take over his God-given ministry, but Jesus recognized the call on his life. Jesus didn’t tell him all the ways he was doing things wrong. Jesus didn’t criticize John for putting people off with his bug eating ways. Jesus embraced John, and He encouraged John to continue his ministry. He allowed John to baptize Him.

Jesus didn’t keep John at arms-length-away.

The woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, she invaded His personal space. She touched His feet with her tears and her hair. Can you imagine everyone’s reaction to this societal misfit, this outcast? Can you imagine anything like that happening today? This was a woman who was so grateful for being forgiven, so deeply thankful for being accepted and valued , that she gave her most expensive possession to be used to wash the feet of the One Who gave her Good News. Jesus didn’t cringe. He didn’t get prideful and verbally attack her. He didn’t get embarrassed and try to silence her or have her removed from His presence. He didn’t chastise her for her appearance.

The religious leaders did.

Does our cocoon of societal acceptance keep us from recognizing the calling God has placed on others who don’t follow our ways, look or act like we think we would if we were them? Are we focused on what we judge as being wrong?

Are we a slave to society?
Do we serve Self? Or do we serve God? It doesn’t seem like we can serve both 100% at the same time.