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True Worship

This morning I experienced something in worship that nearly made me start crying. As a missionary, there are moments that make everything worth it.

As the pianist in our worship band, I have the unique opportunity to not only help lead people into worship in music, but also witness how the congregation is worshiping. This morning as I looked out onto the crowd, my heart melted when I saw two of our contacts singing their hearts out with hands reaching toward heaven.

It would still be special, but it probably wouldn’t have meant so much to me if I didn’t know them as well as I do. They accepted Christ just a few weeks ago, and through the various struggles they have and the things they have gone through, they came to God’s house today and found what they needed. I literally watched as they drank from the well of living water. My heart is filled with joy as I hear someone for whom I have been praying say, “God is changing my life.” I know that the journey to total redemption and healing is still not over for them, but I have to praise God for that moment. I thank Him for doing the work that I cannot do.

In fact, we are seeing stories like this all the time, yet I feel the day is drawing near when God will pour out His Spirit on our church and it will be out of control.

John 4:23 says, “But the time is coming-indeed it’s here now-when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way.”

I am looking forward to the day when this will be said of our church: “‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants – men and women alike – and they will prophesy.'” (Acts 2:17-18)

I am looking forward to the day when this will be said of our church: “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

I am looking forward to the day when this will be said of our church: “Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem (Ambato), bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were healed.”

I want our church to be a place that is full of the Spirit. I want it to be a refuge for those who are struggling, a place of hope for those who are desperate, a place of healing for those who are sick or tormented, a family for those who have none, and a place where needs of any kind are met. I want it to be a place where people can leave behind the past and begin a new story with God. I want it to be a place of redemption. I want it to be a place where everyone finds their calling and lives it out intentionally and powerfully. I want it to be a place where everyone has a place. I want it to be a light to the nations. You see, true worship is so much more than a song. Sometimes it begins there, but true worship is holistic. True worship is all-consuming. True worship is transformational. True worship is total surrender. True worship is coming to Christ and finding so much more than we were looking for.

I think we need to ask ourselves: are we content with a little bit of God? I don’t know about you, but I really want the Kingdom.

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Come Alive

I know that I have been living because I am breathing. I have a heartbeat. I have experiences. I have a story.

However, God’s command over my life today was, “Come Alive!”

There is a part of me deep inside that has been sleeping for all these years. There is a roaring lion inside of me waiting to be let loose. I want to open the doors.

Today there were prophecies spoken over me that answered prayers that I have been praying. God showed me the grand contrast between the person I used to be and the person that I am becoming right now, and the only thing that I could do was give Him thanks.

I want to be like Daniel. I want to be powerful in prayer. I want to be close to God’s heart. Most of all, I want to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. I want to speak with His authority. I want the passion that God has placed in my heart to radiate from me all the time.

I heard the song “Glorious Ruins” this morning for the first time. Some of the lyrics are:

I’ll walk through the fire
With my head lifted high
And my spirit revived in Your story
And I’ll look to the cross
As my failure is lost
In the light of Your glorious grace

Let the ruins come to life
In the beauty of Your Name
Rising up from the ashes
God forever You reign

All for Your glory, God. Today I gave You my shame, my time, and my obedience. There is no longer anything holding me back. The door is standing wide open. Lord, call Your lion forth.

It Doesn’t Matter

Today we had a workshop with our counselor from the States, and it is always a good time to tune in and listen to the Holy Spirit. I didn’t really know what to expect or what I wanted out of today’s time, so I went in with an open mind, though I was a bit nervous. God spoke to me about some things that I totally was not expecting, and I can add that to my long list of things that God is talking to me about right now.

The process of developing confidence in my life has been a long one. I feel like I have been on the journey for quite some time. Give me a pen and a piece of paper, and I can have all the confidence in the world. However, have me talk about my feelings and fears in a group setting, and I am a mess. I didn’t realize how much my body language was giving it away until our counselor pointed it out as I was talking. Although I never gave this much thought before, how I communicate confidence became one of the principal lessons for me today.

Our counselor always says, “Are you open to God writing a new story in your life?” She is constantly urging us to watch our language; to eliminate words such as “Always” and “Never” because they chain us to our past and the way things have been and stand in the way of us being different from this day forward. For example, if I were to say, “I have always struggled to speak in front of people,” she would say, “It has been your story in the past that you have struggled to speak in front of people.” It is true that our stories are changing, and we make decisions as often as we desire to allow God the opportunity to redeem them. How I see myself in God’s eyes is something that I have recently been exploring.

We as human beings rely heavily on our experiences to help us interpret reality and truth. However, experience is not a reliable measure of what those things are. There is no human being alive that is entirely objective. Everybody comes from a point of view that affects their understanding of reality. So then what is reality? What is truth? Some have come up with the theory that there is no absolute truth, but if that were the case, our universe could not exist. It takes far more faith for me to believe that everything is relative than to believe that a solid and foundational truth for life exists. So, if there is a truth and human beings are unreliable at determining what it is, then there must be a measure by which we discover truth and in turn how to order our lives. That measure is the Word of God (the Bible).

I grew up in church and I am sure that I have heard thousands of sermons over the course of my 25 years of existence. As I have been reading the Bible over the past few months, it is amazing to me how over the years I let pastors and teachers influence more of my understanding of the Bible than the Holy Spirit. Now that I am tuning into His voice, the Bible is like an entirely new book to me. I find myself mesmerized by passages that I have read a hundred times, asking myself, “What if I really believed what that says?” I am finding that the way that I have ordered my life and the way that I see myself have been based on something other than truth.

Today our counselor said something that sent a shock wave through my life and gave me a call to action. This is what she said: “It doesn’t matter what your belief is about yourself. God wants to speak through you. It isn’t about your preferences; it’s about an honor and a responsibility. You’ve got to let the light shine. To whom much is given, much is expected, and we don’t know how much time we have to do it.”

Does it get more humbling than that? The word that God gave her for these two days was “obedience”, and I realized that in this area in my personal life I was falling short. There are things that God has been telling me to do that I have been putting off by claiming a myriad of unimportant excuses. He showed me today that it just doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what is standing in the way. It doesn’t matter the reasons for not dropping my nets and running after Him with everything I have. It doesn’t matter at all what I think about myself or how I think I serve the world best. What matters is my obedience; my whole-hearted and recklessly abandoned obedience. God help me, because I think I am in over my head. All that He is asking of me is just too much for my mind to handle, yet if I want to follow Christ, this is the path. It is His strength, not mine. It is His understanding, not mine. It is His will, not mine, and I am finding that His plans are infinitely better than mine. Yet He is always pushing me far beyond what I think I can do, probably because He knows that in Him I can do far more than I think I can do. It doesn’t matter what I THINK I am capable of doing; what matters is what God KNOWS I am capable of doing.

So as much as I can today by the grace of God, I choose to obey. I choose to finish this blog post that terrifies me. I choose to put myself out there, knowing that things might get a little messy. Our counselor said today that the person standing on the mountaintop takes far more bullets than the one hiding in their bedroom, but that God will bless the one speaking boldly for all to hear. I want God’s blessing more than I want safety. I want to live His adventure story more than I want to walk the path of my fear. There is no middle ground. So I will say it again: As much as I can today by the grace of God, I choose to obey. I choose to focus on the things that really do matter and enter into this process of holiness with Him.

The Great Teacher

As missionaries with Extreme Nazarene Ministries, our greatest job is to work ourselves out of a job. We are to develop leaders who will do what we do and so much more. As part of this plan, this morning I had the opportunity to begin piano lessons with one of our up and coming leaders. As I began to teach the most basic concepts of piano, God spoke to me in a very real way.

I have played piano for about 19 years, and though I in no way claim to be a great pianist, I have learned many things throughout my time tickling the ivories. It is not often that I have to think about how to explain where middle C is, or why it is important to know that; or what is a flat and how to explain the difference between an eighth note and a half note. As I was teaching these basic concepts to my student today, it made me reflect on all that God is trying to teach me in my devotional time with Him.

In the grand scheme of my relationship with God, I am in many ways still trying to learn the basics. Sometimes it is easy for me to relax a bit and think, “I’m doing pretty well. I learned something today,” and just leave it at that. However, today as I was teaching these concepts to my student, I recognized a deep yearning inside of me to teach her everything I know. It was hard to settle myself down and be patient with the location of middle C and the major and minor chords when I knew there were so many more things to playing the piano than this. I wanted to fast forward to the point when she will start learning how to invert chords and play by ear with the other instruments. I wanted to watch her play solo music during the invitation to receive Christ.

As I recognized this desire in myself for my piano student, it made me wonder how much more God longs to take us deeper. I wonder how many times He has been anxiously waiting for me to move beyond the location of middle C in my relationship with Him so He can show me more profound truths. Like the student who only practices for a few minutes a day slowly improves her skills, if I am only spending a few minutes a day in prayer and seeking God, I will only slowly improve my relationship with God. What revelations and inspirations am I missing out on by thinking that I am doing a “good enough” job?

As I was doing some homework for my pastor’s wife today, one of the references was Daniel 10:11: “And the man (angel) said to me, ‘Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.'” Later on in verse 12: “Then he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.'” Daniel had been fasting and praying fervently for 21 days when the angel arrived. The angel said that he had been sent immediately, but was detained by a battle waged between the demons and the angels in the heavenly realms.

There are several things that I take from this. First, how fervent are my prayers for the people I am ministering to? Second, are my prayers important enough to call the attention of the enemy? Third, do I truly believe that my prayers are heard in heaven? I have always imagined that God hears my prayers, but in the story of Daniel it sounds like the angels are also witnesses to them as well. Finally, have I earned a reputation of integrity before God and have I drawn near enough to Him that I could have angelic revelations such as the one that Daniel had? Does God trust me with His plan for His people? God revealed to Daniel many things about the future because he was faithful to grow to a level of spiritual maturity in which God trusted Him with the very secrets of His heart. If I am stuck at simply learning what is in the Bible, I am missing out on an intimacy that would not only change my life, but also the lives of many other people. I hold within my hands a responsibility that is much bigger than my meager story.

I realized today that the Great Teacher wants me to take my relationship with Him much more seriously. I have been seeking Him, but He has opened up my heart to seek Him much more. There isn’t anything that I wouldn’t give to know Him more. I want to go to the depths with Him. I want to know what it is like to enter into a whole different realm with Him than seems possible or real at this point. I don’t want to be satisfied walking away from my hour with Him in the morning feeling moved by the Spirit and convicted of a couple different things. I don’t want to be satisfied with memorizing simple passages of Scripture. I want to know God as He really is. I want my prayers to change the world. So I give my time – all of it – to the Great Teacher. May I be a faithful student.

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