Tag Archives: God

What Is Worship?

This post originally appeared on The Grit and Grace Project.

Worship. What does that word call to mind when you hear it? The songs that you sing at your church on Sundays? An organ and a choir, donned in jewel-colored robes? Your friend playing an instrument in the praise band? Perhaps you attach the word worship to the entire service on Sunday morning. Or maybe it’s something more.

Worship can actually be something we do day in and day out. It can be a heart posture. It can be an offering of praise. There is corporate worship: what we do when we are gathered together, in God’s name, singing, praying, reading/hearing scripture, receiving God’s word through a gifted preacher, and taking communion. There is personal worship – and it’s much more vague, or all-inclusive, depending on how you look at it. Worship is our response to our Creator, a dialog between us, a celebration on our part of all He has done. Worship is how we ascribe to Him (as it suggests in several psalms, and in 1 Chron. 16) the qualities of such a perfect, loving, forgiving, worthy God.

Worship can be asking Him to open our hearts and minds to be in tune with His will. Worship can be confession, and finding forgiveness. Worship is an expression of awe, wonder, and love. Worship can manifest in many ways; we aren’t all musical. Worship can be resting in His presence, praying continually (1 Thess. 5:17), shouting from the rooftops, or being silent. Worship combines exalting Him (Psalm 99), exulting before Him (Psalm 68:4), and offering our bodies as living sacrifice to Him (Romans 12:1).

Worship is heart work. It isn’t just singing the words, or even raising your hands. Isaiah 29:13-14 says this: The Lord says: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”  The worship God desires from us is communion with him – letting our hearts be open to His bending and rending. He wants to give us His kingdom! To “acceptably” worship Him with reverence and awe should be our natural response (Hebrews 12:28).

So when you wake up in the morning, or as you go about your day today, or when you walk into church on Sunday, take a moment to turn your heart to Him. Take a moment and ask Him to help your every move be worship. Truly ask Him to open the eyes of your heart. Let yourself see His wonders, see how He is working in your life. Thankfulness and acknowledgement of His goodness are acts of worship that you can do anytime.

You don’t need to be perfect.

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

What is your calling? Do you know what the Lord is calling you, nudging you, leading you to do? Or is it someone He’d like you to be, perhaps? Becoming acquainted with the Lord’s call on your life is a messy process, and sometimes it doesn’t yield fruit exactly like we think it will.

God gives us gifts, passions, talents, skills, and desires, and for good reason. Each of those things (and a lot more, too) make us into who we are in Him. He has allowed us to be good at the things we’re good at. He has given us passions and desires so that we may be kingdom-builders and world-changers in our own way. That cliche about how “God doesn’t called the equipped, He equips the called” may actually be as true as it is annoying.

As a perfectionist, I have a disadvantage when I’m asked to do something. If I say “yes” to something, I become obsessed with it. I must do the best job I can do, because I’m afraid of failure. That being said, I don’t say yes to very many things, because if I know ahead of time that I don’t have the energy, time, or skills to do the job extremely well, I’ll just say “no” instead. Even if I can do part of it, or do it well enough, or learn a lot through the process, I don’t want those things… I want perfection or nothing. I want to go 100%, or I won’t start.

But something I’ve had to learn is that not being able to achieve that perfection is okay. Sometimes, what I need more than a perfect product is a perfect process. Or even a messy process to which I’ve given my 100%. My “all” doesn’t always come out perfectly in the end… but God is a miracle worker and can bring it the rest of the way if I let Him.

Did you hear that?

God is the miracle worker. He just needs willing bodies that He has called “able” to do what He is calling us to do.

So when you hear Him calling you towards something that you aren’t sure if you can do, trust Him. If you feel nudged toward a new project, of trying something you’ve never tried before, or an undertaking you aren’t sure you can handle, ask Him to help you do it. You only need to be willing to give Him what you have. He’s got the rest. On a podcast I listened to this morning, the guest referenced something a friend had told her: You just need to take care of the two fishes and five loaves. He will feed the five thousand.

It’s okay to not have everything you need to finish what you’ve been called to start. It’s okay if you can’t see the end to know what’s coming, or if you don’t even make it that far. It’s okay if you only have time to do part of it, or if doing it on top of a hundred other responsibilities means that it takes you a really long time. I might be stepping out on a limb, but I don’t think perfectionism is what He calls us to achieve. There is grace for you to follow where you think He’s leading you, even if there’s a part of you that thinks (or the devil is sneaking in the feeling) that you’re “half-assing” it.

God usually doesn’t call us to do things that are easy, or done in a short period of time. He frequently calls us to make a decision for a life-long process of learning, doing, teaching, or searching. He calls us to something higher than we would plan for ourselves, though in following His will, there is fulfillment we would never dream possible. If you feel like He is leading you somewhere, changing your plan, pushing you to go the extra mile, then follow Him. I encourage you to pray through it, seek wise counsel, and go out on that limb. That limb is where you may just find the excitement, fulfillment, and contentment you’ve been searching for.

The Vine and the Branches

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

My family has traveled a lot this summer. We also have a large vegetable garden. Those two things didn’t go together terribly well. While we had some friendly neighbors come water in exchange for picking whatever they wanted while we were gone, we still had a few of our plants die, or stop producing earlier than they should have. We also acquired some serious weeds… and I mean REALLY enormous and gnarly ones.

The worst, perhaps, was a vine. Now, I don’t know much about most weeds, but I do recognize most of the common ones I see in our garden. Obviously we try to get them out before they’re huge, but this vine escaped my clippers for long enough to be quite entwined with our okra plants and was starting on the kale. It seemed to all originate from one spot, but it had spread across the ground, and climbed up every single okra plant, of which there are eight, and they’re all taller than me. You can imagine my disdain for this vine once I finally got around to pulling it up and out of the garden bed.

As I hacked away at this stubborn vine, snipping here, pulling there, rescuing my plants from the surprisingly strong vine that had almost consumed them, I kept remembering Jesus’s words from John 15: I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (ESV) Jesus had likened himself to the vine, and the Father to the vinedresser. He likens us to branches, knowing that we may not do anything on our own, if detached from the vine. But stemming from Jesus, being nurtured by his love, his encouragement, and even his admonishment, we are to bear much fruit. In fact, no fruit can be borne if we aren’t being filled by the Holy Spirit.

The more I thought about this strong vine, I noticed the way it had almost lovingly curled itself around each plant, not too tight, but swirling its way up the stalks, around each leaf, splitting off in different directions to leap across to the next plant, and the next. There were also little white flowers sprouting from a few parts of the vine that had been there the longest. This gently flowering vine had made its home, nestled in the garden bed with the good soil I had prepared and tended and watered. The more I noticed the vine’s intricacies, the more I almost began to admire it. You know, if it hadn’t been smothering my beloved (and thankfully resilient) okra.

This strong vine began to serve as an example of how when we allow ourselves to be rooted in something as powerful and good as Jesus, we can be the branches, sent out into the world, lovingly coming alongside others, blossoming and bearing fruit. We can accept and share the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5), those gifts that Jesus has offered, knowing fully that apart from him, we really can do nothing.

Podcasts

Recently, I’ve started listening to some podcasts. I know, I know; I’m a several months (years?) late to that party. With young children constantly around me, it’s sometimes hard to listen to spoken word (you know, something that I actually need to pay attention to if I want to comprehend what’s happening), and that’s most of the reason I’m late to the podcast-listening idea. I can’t just turn one on when I get in the car because I usually have several people communicating wth me at once. I don’t need another voice added to the fray. But I’ve really enjoyed getting recommendations from friends about what podcasts are making them think, which ones are encouraging them, or even affecting heart change. So naturally, I’ve started putting in my headphones a little more often, and, you know, crying while I mow the lawn or fold the laundry. It’s almost like reading a book, but I can work on something else while I’m doing it.podcast

It been so interesting to me how God has ordained things in my life, right down to which podcasts I’m listening to. Ever think He doesn’t influence the small things in your life? Just look for connections between your struggles and an innocent book or podcast suggestion made by a friend. I know He is wooing me through different ways every single day, pursuing me by letting me hear from Him even in the oddest of places.

That all being said, I’ll tell you about these podcasts I’m checking out. I started with The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. She brings another person (often one of her friends) onto her show and they talk about real life and I have LOVED it. It’s often a faith-based writer or speaker and I can get choked up just hearing them have real conversation about their lives. It’s so fun listening in on a conversation that feels like it would’ve happened the same way, even if they weren’t recording. After I blasted through several episodes of Jamie’s show, I got turned onto That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs. She has similar guests and conversations, but she has a cool perspective, too. Basically what I’ve realized is that these two hosts are writers, they have writers on their shows frequently, and I am totally inundated with books I want to buy/read because of it. And these aren’t usually novels that I can get on my Kindle and just blast through in a few days because they’re easy reads. These are the sort of life-changing books that I want to dig into. I want to have my own paper copy because I like underlining and circling and reading them again and again. For instance, I’ve already ordered Annie’s Let’s All Be Brave and one of her guests’ (John Mark Comer) books called Garden City. I want to hear the Lord speaking to me, I want to learn about Him and others’ experiences with Him and His goodness. Wouldn’t you?

Now don’t think I’m all crazy – I don’t necessarily think that God ordained these people to say things that are meant just for me. But I do think that there is knowledge we can glean from hearing about others’ journeys. I think we can hear from God when hearing someone else talk, teach, preach. I think we are more in tune to His voice than we think, but we often don’t give Him the credit when He speaks to us through the words of others.

Do you have any podcasts that you think I’d like? Please comment with them! I’m LOVING listening to them!!

Musings About Prayer

How do you pray? How often? Whose words do you use – yours? The Bible’s? Those of a trusted pastor? These are questions I struggle with every time I try to pray. I think all answers are valid, and ones that I haven’t thought of are, too. I think prayer is something that evolves as your relationship with the Lord evolves, and that’s a good thing.

I find that oftentimes, when I remember to pray is when I am asking for something. I’ve just heard that someone is sick or hurt. I’m having a hard time being patient with my kids. Or, I’m praying to stave off difficulties or issues in an upcoming situation. Either way, I’m asking the Lord to do my will. Or asking Him to help me with something. Or I’m just plain hoping that His will and my will are the same.

Why would I ever put the Lord in a box like that?

I am all about giving the Lord my honesty: all of my feelings, my fears, my hopes. He’s a big God, and he can handle those things. I can pray continually – without ceasing! (1 Thess. 5:16) – and I can pray about anything and everything (Eph. 6:18). But what I want to pray more often is for HIS WILL to be done, not mine (1 John 5:14). I know He has a plan more wonderful than I can imagine, and while it seems trite to only pray for that, that’s what He loves to hear! “I trust You! Your plan is perfect! I want for me and mine what YOU want for me and mine!” There is nothing greater we could tell Him than how awesome He is, and how we trust Him.

In alignment with praying, I think that worship (all kinds of worship!) can be prayer, also. Taking the sacrament is an act of prayer, communicating with God, a covenantal practice. Musical worship can be prayer; the words and melodies sung and played are indeed a prayer, especially when we know we need to connect with God but don’t necessarily have the words we desire to say.  I love James 5:13 – “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” Prayer and praise often go hand in hand. Don’t just pray when you need something (I’m talking to myself, here!) but also pray when you are happy, pray when you are sad, mad, glad, tired, and full of joy. Pray without ceasing, depend fully and always on the Lord.

For me, to pray without ceasing is an act of submitting my will, my words, my actions to Him. This is me saying, “Lord, I can’t do this (anything!) without You.” I know I’m flawed, I’m a sinner, I need and desire His grace and mercy. As in Psalm 40: Come Lord, and pull me out of the muck and the mire; set my feet on solid ground.

Some Thoughts on Evangelism.

Evangelism is something that used to scare me. In my youth, to me it meant that we would go around handing out gospel tracks, or randomly starting conversations with people, so that we could pray with them, hoping to lead them to Jesus. It had less to do with fostering a love of Jesus or a desire to worship him, and more of a way to get another tick on our evangelist’s counter.

As you might imagine, this didn’t work very well for me.

As an adult, the word still scares me a little bit, because I don’t quite know how to put my feelings into words. The scars are still there from my misinterpretations as a youth. But there is so much hope, for me and for you, to be able to overcome the scars of myself and others, and continue on into the love of Jesus in a true sense, and then share it with the world.


Recently, during my quiet time (I’ve been studying through the Psalms, in case you didn’t know) I was convicted as I read Psalm 71. I’ll put the part I’ll focus on here so you don’t have to look it up…

Psalm 71:14-18
But I will hope continually,
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.

Well, I have to begin by saying that the psalmist surely stirred up some excitement and laid a healthy burden on me to share more of the Gospel. Our mouths should tell of His righteous acts and deeds of salvation! We should proclaim His wondrous deeds and His might! It not only encourages our brothers and sisters in Christ, and not only spreads the truth of the Gospel to all ears, but it fosters our believing but sometimes wayward hearts by proclaiming and declaring what we know to be true.

Let’s talk for a moment about “proclaim” and “declare”. As a worship leader, sometimes I am moved during a song to encourage the congregation to proclaim or declare some of the lyrics we’re singing. There’s a slight difference between those words, and so it’s important to do both, sometimes. To proclaim is to announce something openly, publicly, and officially. To declare is to solemnly and emphatically say something. Another definition even says to reveal one’s intentions or identity. To proclaim the righteousness of fearsome and loving God, and the salvation attainable through Christ Jesus are things that should be proclaimed, shouted from the pulpits, platforms, and rooftops. To declare that death has been defeated, and that we are made new in Christ is a truth that can reveal our identity, and alter our intentions.

So as I read those verses of Psalm 71, and then read them again, and then prayed them then and there over my life and my vocation, I was convicted. I was reminded that we, as followers of Jesus, are called to live by his example, which was indeed proclaiming God’s righteousness and mighty acts, proclaiming His wondrous deeds to every generation and all those to come. In one of the books I’m reading (Lioness Arising. Lisa Bevere. Find it. Buy it. Devour it as I have done.) she encourages us to use our circles of influence to share God’s truths and Jesus’s words. While I’m on the platform, every Sunday, worshiping the Lord, and hopefully bringing everyone in that journey alongside me, I have even more opportunity than I allow myself (or at least remember that I have) to actually speak Scripture and truth into the congregation. I have this very site where I share funny quips from my kids and what we ate for dinner last week, but I shouldn’t neglect the possibilities this site provides for the sharing of God’s Word. I have family members, friends, acquaintances, and sometimes strangers that I can come alongside and encourage, pray for/with, and speak truth into. Why should I be scared of being an evangelist? Why should I be nervous to do what Jesus did?

Light in the Darkness

This morning, as I started to read my devotional and get into the Word, I realized there was a common theme of my study today. Doubtless, it’s a common theme throughout the Bible in general, but it seemed like today in particular I was being bathed in the concept of “light”.

The two scriptures that I wrote out in my journal (above, and yes, please excuse my writing mistakes, ha!) are two that I’ve heard before. They are familiar, and sometimes that means they get a little stale… not because they lose their meaning, but because we get desensitized to their power. So today, as I read them anew, I prayed to not be desensitized to the Word of God.

The Bible has innumerable passages about light. Some are just brief mentions, some mean “light” in the natural (sunlight, moonlight, firelight) and some mean “light” in a spiritual sense. Here, and in most cases, Isaiah refers to Jesus… Jesus has come. He is our light. He appears over you in His glory. I love that the heading for Isaiah chapter 60 is “The Glory of Zion”. Metaphorically speaking, the glory of God in the man Jesus has come to earth to bring healing and hope and LIGHT.

I always love the tension between light and darkness in verses like this. Darkness cannot exist where there is light. It is IMPOSSIBLE. Where there is a light, especially a light as bright as Jesus, there can be no true darkness. There are shadows, but no impenetrable darkness. Moving forward to John 1:5, I love the different words that are used in the second half. “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” That’s the most common word, but in some other translations (overcome was in my ESV) we see comprehended, understood, apprehended, and extinguished. This light, the light that  shines straight into our own personal darkness, and also the same light that shines into the darkness that seems to run rampant in our world, that light cannot be understood, or fought, or dampened, or extinguished. Put simply, that light won’t be put out. It will triumph over the darkness. It has already done so!

One last little piece that was a huge encouragement to me was Isaiah 60:3: Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. My prayer and the prayer of many fellow Christians is that our world leaders would be leading in a God-glorifying way. That they would love as Jesus loved. That they would come to the light, and the brightness of His dawn. Isaiah was a prophet. He speaks words that are coming true and have already come true. We pray for our leaders to be in tune with how God is leading them, changing them, and shepherding them. We cannot possibly know or understand God’s will and the way He works, and this discourages some. But take heart: His light permeates the darkness, it won’t be extinguished, and He is already playing out the victory that He has won. He’s been working on this since the beginning of time! Trust Him to see it through.

Isaiah 9:1-7 (ESV)
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 
The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
    and the staff for his shoulder,
    the rod of his oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
    and every garment rolled in blood
    will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[d] his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called[e]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.