You’re Believing Three Lies About Worship.

You’re believing a lot of lies about worship. At least three of which are extremely common. I grapple with these, myself. Nevermind that I’ve been walking with the Lord since 2001. This great, mysterious, and awesome God—in the deepest sense of the word—deserves my sincerest reverence and undivided attention. And I know that!

In a world where reverence—the heightened awareness of God’s majesty—is almost nonexistent, I am ever-conscious of this Holy King before Whom legions of worshipers array themselves, prostrated before His throne! Maybe it’s this vivid picture that makes me feel so small.

But here’s the kicker: He’s Daddy. Jesus bought me and adopted me into the precious, inner circle, the FAMILY of the Most High (Romans 8:15). With the knowledge of His holiness, reverence and sonship should be held in tension, but I’m doing doing something wrong.

I’m believing three lies about worship; and you are too.

Lie #1. I have to be presentable. This is going to sound ridiculous, but I don’t know how many times I have sensed the Spirit of God beckoning me to enter into His presence, but I think to myself, “I need to take a shower first, and then comb my hair and brush my teeth. Then I’ll be ready for His presence. Sadly, so many times after I reach a point where I feel presentable, the moment has eluded me and I eluded the Father’s call.

The Truth: There is a mostly-beautiful reason that we feel the need to dress to impress the King of Kings, which is the desire to give the Lord our best. Excellence. Esther is a prime example of tenuously preparing for her audience with the king. (Esther 2:12-13)

But there is also a sinister idea at play: our awareness of our unworthiness will see to it that we never have an audience with the King. Hebrews 4:16 tells us to enter with boldness into His presence. The days of cleansing ourselves to be presentable to the Lord are over. The blood of the Lamb has made us as desirable as we’ll ever be to the King. He sees a child whom He longs to love, not a homeless vagabond to shoo away.

2. I have to want it. I’m cringing right now as I reflect on the hundreds of opportunities of worship that I’ve missed simply because I didn’t like the song. But that’s the problem isn’t it—that we whittle worship down to tempos and tunes? Opportunities for worshiping the Lord are often sullied for lack of desire.

The Truth: Worship is rarely preceded by strong desire, but strong desire is the fruit of presenting ourselves as living sacrifices. (Romans 12:1) I won’t always be “in the mood” to worship the Lord, but thankfully, my soul doesn’t get to call those shots.

3. I have to feel something. This lie is characteristic of our generation, which attributes value to its affect on our five senses. We sometimes expect goosebumps or angelic lights, only to walk away wondering, “Were you paying attention to that, Lord?” The Kingdom of God is an upside down Kingdom, where, in seeking the eternal, we gain the temporal necessities for the journey (Mt. 6:33). It’s upside down in that the servant of all is the most esteemed (Mk. 9:35, 10:44). It’s upside down in that power follows faith, and not vice versa. (Mk. 16:17)

The Truth: The Lord deserves our worship whether we feel something or not! When you come away from pouring out everything to the Lord and feel empty, continue to sow into your relationship with the Lord. Galatians 6:9 promises us a harvest if we don’t grow weary! Earth’s gravitational pull resists Heaven’s summons, but as we continue to sow into our love relationship with the God of Heaven, He receives His glory and we are made more and more into His likeness.

Don’t stress about your imperfections. Don’t worry if you don’t have the burning desire. Nevermind if you don’t feel something in that moment. Just take a deep breath, burst open the doors, and jump into His lap. He’s going to love you.

What Jesus Taught Me About Expectations by Bryan Earls

In paraphrasing Richard Ellis, Pastor of Reunion Church (the Word FM 100.7), so often we as dads reflect the rules to our children that we believe God has of us. Pastor Ellis describes how, men especially, transfer their view of God’s expectations of them to their children. Children look to their parents and their Dad as a reflection of their Heavenly Father, God.

What a responsibility.

I have frequently screwed up because I do not always have a good view of how God thinks of me and what he expects from me. Focusing on achievement, rules and fear of failure has often driven me to distraction in my own life.

At times, I also lack direction in my own life and wander aimlessly when I forget that the emptiness within is only filled by Jesus. As I see my children exhibit the same behavior, I tend to overreact because their actions stir the disquiet of my own soul.

There is such a push in our Christian circles to push our kids to “be good” and “do right.” Obviously, as followers of Jesus, we are to identify with acts of righteousness and avoiding evil. But a focus on performance distracts from Jesus and His gospel of forgiveness of sins through his death, burial and resurrection. This is counter to our culture’s values.

Jesus spoke in his famous sermon that those who “blessed” are those who:

1. Are poor in Spirit

2. Mourn

3. Are meek

4. Hunger and thirst for righteousness

5. Are merciful

6. Are pure in heart

7. Are peacemakers

8. Are persecuted because of righteousness

9. Are insulted, persecuted and falsely spoken evil of because of Jesus. (Mt. 5:3-11)

Jesus spoke against the religious who, in their own view of God, made up rules for humankind to follow to be “OK” with God. Because they did not see how God saw them, they needed more rules in order to be “OK”

When I say we are trying to make our children “be good”, I am talking about the rules they must follow in order be viewed as “OK”. Outside of the list that Jesus provides us, we can tend to tack on rules for our kids that are not on His list. That’s where we get in trouble. (I am not saying that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in His entire teaching is on how to act, or His rules for living…) Outside of the list that Jesus provides us, we can tend to tack on rules for our kids that are not on His list. In my effort to make good little children, I may actually teaching them to trust their own works, not Jesus. God is interested in our heart attitudes. As I struggle to work out my own salvation and relationship with God, I am bringing up children of my own, as my dad did.

What Jesus Taught Me About Expectations

“God is interested in our heart attitudes.”

I now have so much greater respect for how hard it was for my dad to try to reflect what “truth and justice” were to me.

I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

If I can only teach my children the overarching character of the love of God, perhaps I’ll make it as a father.

What Are You Magnifying?

Rebuilding Ruins

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (NLT)

When you read this verse, does it encourage you or make you a little nervous? You may read this and be like, “Oh wow. That’s encouraging. Thanks, Jesus, for telling me that I’m going to have many trials on earth. Just what I wanted to hear!” OR you may read this verse and think, “Hallelujah! Jesus has overcome the world! I don’t need to worry no matter what is going on in life. Preach it, Jesus!” Which one are you leaning towards currently?

What we magnify, we empower.

I want to encourage each of us today that it’s all about where we choose to place our focus. Whatever we focus on (magnify) we empower. Let me give you a personal example:

I struggled with fear for the majority of my life. I would sometimes hear a sound or wonder if I remembered to lock the door. I would focus on those things and let my mind wander until my thoughts were consumed with fear. I “dealt” with it by checking the door or by praying, “God, remove this fear,” or by quoting scriptures while still thinking about the fear (great idea, huh?). Here’s the problem: I wasn’t conquering fear, I was feeding it. My focus was still on fear, hoping it would leave, rather than changing my focus. I magnified fear in those moments, therefore giving fear a stronger grip in my life.

Then there were other times that a fearful thought would come up, but rather than giving in, I would focus on something else or I would begin worshipping Jesus. I would think about some of His great attributes and thank Him for who He is. Before I knew it, fear was gone as I had magnified Jesus and therefore given Jesus a stronger grip in my life. I changed my focus.

I have overcome the world.

“…I have overcome the world…”

“Well that’s all fine and dandy, Hannah, but how do I change my focus?” I am so glad you asked! I like to ask that as I’ll read/hear something encouraging, but it leaves you hanging and doesn’t tell you how to apply it! Here are some ideas:

  • Fix your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2)     – When ungodly thoughts pop in your head, begin magnifying Jesus. Close your eyes, picture Him, look into His eyes filled with love, tell Him you love Him, thank Him for loving you, thank Him for always being with you, etc. Give it a try!
  • Let His peace guard your heart and mind (Philippians 4:7) – Whenever something happens that would normally cause worry, fear, frustration, or whatever it may be, PAUSE before you freak out and thank the Holy Spirit for His peace. As a child of God, all of His fruit (love, joy, peace, etc.) now lives in you and you can walk in that, which is way more enjoyable than freaking out.
  • Remember His faithfulness (Deuteronomy 8:11-18) – The Israelites were told to remember how God had taken care of them in the past. As we     reflect on God’s faithfulness in our lives it give us hope knowing that whatever the situation is, He will continue to be faithful. He has never failed and never will.

Now, let’s read that scripture again: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

We have the choice to either focus on (magnify) the trials/sorrows that may come as a result of living in a fallen world, or we can choose to focus on (magnify) Jesus, the one Who has overcome sin and reigns forever!

Where’s your focus?

Encouraging Discouraged People

I’m writing this in the most uncomfortable chair in my house. Because the alternative is my couch, and the couch is a banquet hall for a dismal existence. (If that’s the only banquet hall that you grace with your presence.) Sitcoms and rom-coms are fair-weather friends, but they don’t join you in the trenches when you’re face is in the dirt.

You see, I’m writing this blog post as a way of burning the bridges of complacency. I’ve been on a journey for nearly a year to start this blog and inspire the uninspired, lost, and confounded. Why? Because discouragement, that’s why. I hate it. Discouragement, while a horrible companion, has a way of making you take radical steps to get away from it.

In this journey lies a tension, though—between red-eyed expectancy, teeth-gritting fury, and recklessly hope-filled action. If you’re reading this, chances are you suspect you’re discouraged, or you need help encouraging discouraged people. Take it from a recovering discouraged person.

Here are five symptoms of a discouraged person.

1. A discouraged person is cynical. People bound in discouragement don’t like platitudes or patronization, but they also have a way of writing off genuine encouragement.

2. A discouraged person is without hope. To someone who is racked with discouragement, they just can’t see a way past their season or situation. Everything is bleak.

3. A discouraged person confused. Discouragement clouds the mind. It obstructs the clear and concise direction that the individual possessed before the discouragement. He or she begins to question if the present path is the right path or the wrong one. A lot of times, discouraged people can’t clearly articulate the source of the frustration.

4. A discouraged person is static. A discouraged person is petrified and unable, sometimes unwilling, to move. Discouraged people may feel uneasy to take action because they’ve been burned before and may feel a little overly cautious.

5. A discouraged person is emotional. A lot of times, a discouraged person may be on the brink of tears or outburst. Oftentimes, he or she will stifle all emotions until reaching a breaking point.

What do you do, then? What advice is there for encouraging discouraged people? What if you yourself are locked into this pit of discouragement?

First, remember that you’re not. You’re not locked into your present season. It just may feel like it. Remember the principle of seasons in the Bible, in Ecclesiastes 3:1: “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.”

Next, worship the Lord. Paul and Silas worshiped locks off of their prison cells in Acts 16:25-26. Worshiping the Lord re-aligns us in Him. It positions us to look to Him and honor Him as He deserves.

Pray. Don’t withhold the urge to vent to the Lord. King David’s Psalms seem pretty confrontational. He understood that he was looking from limited, finite vantage point, but that didn’t stop him from begging the Lord to help him to see from Heaven’s point of view—and for Heaven to intervene.

Know who you’re dealing with. Remember that God “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” (Ephesians 3:20) In other words: He can turn this all around in the blink of an eye.

Listen. The under-appreciated sibling of prayer is listening. Ask yourself five questions like these: Why am I discouraged? What do I want? Does God want it for me? What or who is keeping me from having it? Is there anything I can do or does it require an act of God? If it does require an act of God, then “Psalm 37:5” the heck out of it! (Commit it to Him, trust Him, and watch what He does.)

Discouraged person

You’re not who discouragement says you are.

What have you found to be true in seasons of discouragement? What tips do you have for encouraging discouraged people?