“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that confess his name.” Hebrews 13:15 NIV (emphasis mine)
As a Christian, hearing the term “praising God” is nothing new. And hopefully all of us participate in this act. As a worship leader, this is something that resonates with me on my many levels. But I have been noticing a trend that I would like to speak to…
I’m sure many of you have seen the ARTICLE that spread around Facebook about this issue in our churches. Now, people are raising good points about some of the shifts that are happening in churches but I still feel we are missing the mark and not really getting to the heart of the issue.
The truth is, taking away the lights and set design won’t make people sing more. Just having people with passion but no talent, won’t help and will most likely distract people from engaging. Turning the overall volume down won’t solve the issue either. Singing only hymns and having acoustic sets isn’t the answer to the issue. All those things are really a matter of preference and don’t really speak to why people aren’t singing.
Singing in church actually doesn’t have much to do with your worship team, worship leader, or location. Singing has nothing to do with whether it’s a hymn or hillsong tune. And singing has nothing to do with it being acoustic or electric. We like to make it about those things…but it is really not.
Singing (or praising) is a choice! And ultimately a matter of one’s heart.
I think the heart of this issue we are facing in our churches is that we, as christians, are just a product of our culture. We are consumerists, and operate based on convenience and that, unfortunately, has become our largest basis for making decisions.
God didn’t say “praise me when you feel like it” or “when you’re happy and have energy…praise me” He didn’t say, “when life is good and all your things are in order, feel free to praise me then.”
The verse above says let us continually offer a SACRIFICE of praise! Praising God therefore has nothing to do with our convenience. Praising God has nothing to do with the volume of the sound system or how many lights are on stage; whether it’s acoustic or electric or whether your worship leader is a hipster with a v-neck.
Praise is sacrificial. We do it out of obedience and to honor our Savior.
So next time you are in church and the worship starts…think about Hebrews 13:15. Next time the worship team plays that song AGAINNN…remember it’s not about us. It’s not about the song, the series, the lights, or the set design…
It is about Jesus and choosing to praise his name.
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” Luke 16:10
I’ve been circling back to this verse a lot lately. I can get in a trap so often where I just want to fast forward to the big. I’ll be working on my day to day and have thoughts like, “when’s my big break?” “When will my time come?” “I wish I was here by now.” I wish I made…” etc. I’m sure we have all had those thoughts. But if we just stay in those thoughts, we are really missing out.
The truth is, it is all about the small things. This verse isn’t talking about occupations, or even necessarily what you are doing…It’s not saying, “put your time in as a janitor and pretty soon you’ll be CEO.” What this verse is really getting at is character development. Whenever I’m reading Scripture, I ask myself, what is God after? Knowing that God is after our hearts can help shape how we receive some of these verses.
God wants us to be faithful in the little things because He knows that the little things actually are the big things. And as we journey in this life and are faithful with what God has given us and called us too, our platform can expand and increase. We can be handed greater responsibilities. God will give us greater things to be faithful with.
Today, think about the little things in your life. Think about the things that God has called you to and what He has given you. How is your attitude in your job? How much time are you investing in your relationships? Do you honor your leaders and bosses? It’s easy to make this a verse about doing things, but it’s not. It’s about our character…our hearts.
Be faithful in the little…those are the big things.
Sometimes we need a reminder of even the obvious. Here a reminder of what binds us all.
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.
“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” Mark 8:35-37
This verse helps put in perspective what truly is of importance in this world. Jesus share, really, the reason for living. At the end of the day, this life and the things in it are temporal…they will fade away and won’t ever be able to truly satisfy us.
So what’s the point if we gain the whole world but lose our soul?
It is about our souls. Our bodies won’t last. Our souls, however, last forever. Knowing with absolute certainty the state of your soul and where you will spend eternity can give you unbelievable peace of mind. There is no fear of death or of what comes next. You already know…and it’s really good. So essentially we need to protect our hearts because the real question is:
Is anything worth more than your soul?
This life puts so much emphasis on its “things”. It’s about what your status is, who you’re voting for, how much money you have, what car you drive, the stores you shop in, how many things you have. But what really does that do for you after this life? You can’t take any of it with you. And from what I’ve heard, the wealthiest people in the world, are also some of the most unhappy people. So “things” don’t equal happiness. Things will fade, break, and let you down.
But God asks us to lose our lives for his sake…And in that, we’ll gain it back for eternity with him.
So, is your soul worth just things? Or is it worth eternity?
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23
“Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!’” Lamentations 3:21-24
The first 20 verses of this chapter open up the author (probably Jeremiah) essentially explaining all the ways in which he has been hurt and wronged. He has felt betrayed, has been physically hurt and abused. He has felt alone, depressed, helpless and devastated. He has felt mocked and with a sense of peace. He has gone through some intense suffering. He ends verse 20 saying, “I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.”
Can anyone relate?
Of course we can…this is how life goes sometimes. It will kick us down and cast us out. It will mock us and take away our peace, joy, and strength. Ultimately, life will never truly fulfill us, never meet our needs, and never come through for us in our most desperate times of need. Life will let us down.
But here’s the turn.
In verse 21, he says the most powerful word to me in the whole chapter…
Yet changes everything.
Yet offers hope. Yet doesn’t set absolutes about your situation, instead it offers a more objection description of what your going through. And this is what happens in the verses above.
He still dares to place hope in that reality that Gods faithful love never ends. That his mercies never cease, in fact, they are new every morning.
That’s the truth you need to take from these verses. That though you may be going through pain, God is your strength. Though you may be experience sorrow and frustration, God is your joy. Though you may be feeling lonely, lost, and bruised…God is faithful to be your hope, comfort, and source of love.
God promises to never leave you, never forsake you, never steer you wrong, and never change how much he loves and cares for you.
Choose to use “yet” today in your circumstance. Dare to hope in who God is.
“But I called on your name, Lord, from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried, ‘Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!’ Yes, you came when I called; you told me, ‘Do not fear.’” Lamentations 3:55-57
“Praise the Lord! He is good. God’s love never fails. Praise the God of all gods. God’s love never fails. Praise the Lord of lords. God’s love never fails.” Psalm 136:1-3
Thank God for His love this morning. It is easy to forget how much he loves us. It’s a love that we can hardly fathom. Sometimes the hard thing about Christ’s love is that fact that we don’t deserve it. We live in a culture where you have to do something to deserve something. Everything is based on our performance. But not with Christ. We will always fall short, never measure up, and forever miss our mark. And when we compare that type of “performance” to the earthly standards of love… well no wonder we feel like throwing in the towel. We would be an outcast.
But that’s the beauty of God’s love. His love for us isn’t based on what we do, it’s based on what He has already done! His perfect love won’t change or run out because He is perfect. He won’t fail us because he simply can’t.
Be encouraged today that NOTHING can separate you from God’s love.
Because it is not based on your efforts but Gods. He will never give up or quit on you. Never.
Jud Wilhite in his book, Pursued, puts it like this:
When you doubt and struggle, when you falter, when you fail and fall into sin, when you lose your temper and say things you deeply regret, when you give up on yourself, when you do the same sin for the 337th time, when you quit rejoicing in God, when you fail to love your family, when your friends give up on you, when your family gives up on you, when you fail to see how your life will make a difference, when you feel worse now than when you first came to faith, when you’ve quit…God won’t quit on you.
Today, think about Christ love. Focus not on your faults and failures but on his deep affection for you. When you get your focus off yourself and on Christ, that’s when change can happen…that when healing can come.
God won’t quit on you. He pursuing you today.
“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39
“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6
Here is a quick reminder to us all to remember that our faith, our belief in Jesus Christ, is about our relationship with him. It isn’t about a book of rules that we have to follow in order to win a prize.
We have been saved by grace through faith, and God even gave us the faith to believe so we can’t say that any of our works saved us. Don’t fall into the trap of making Christianity into a bunch of do’s and don’ts. Christ brings freedom, joy and peace…not oppression. (Of course, as we begin to know and understand who God is, we will naturally become more like him, resulting in doing and not-doing certain things.)
Here is a nice little quote from Jud Wilhite’s book, Pursued: “The religion approach to Christianity says, ‘Read the Bible so that you know what to do.’ The relationship approach says, ‘Read the Bible so that you know who God is.’”
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:8-10
“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5: 2-5
I love this passage of Scripture. Our faith breeds joy! From joy comes confidence and trust and endurance. God wants us to be so confident in his love for us, and so confident in the hope of our salvation, that we can rejoice even in the midst of storms…that we can have joy in the middle of life’s trials.
The truth is, this life will have storms. (Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows…John 16) So I think we need a bit of a shift in our thinking. I think we need to stop tiring ourselves out trying to always avoid storms or ignore them when they are around. (Not that we should be looking to set ourselves up for them either) There will be storms, we know that, so we might as well learn how to not only endure through them, but flourish in them.
This only happens we can put our hope, our trust, and our confidence in Jesus. We can rejoice in our trials because of the confident hope and trust we have in Him. He gave us his Holy Spirit to prove how much He loves us and to fill our hearts with that love.
“Every part of this plan,” David told Solomon, “was given to me in writing from the hand of the Lord.” 1 Chronicles 28:19
In 1 Chronicles 28, we have the story of when God gave David the instructions to build the temple. The plans, of course, were to be handed down to Solomon, who would actually be the one to build the temple. As he was explaining to Solomon the instructions in great detail, he said that every part of the plan was given to him from the Lord.
That’s a great little sentence.
That led me to the thought that God gives us specific plans for our situations. And upon further consideration, I think the better stated truth is that, God gives us the exact instructions we need.
Think about that.
When God talks to us and tells us something, it may not always seem very specific in the sense of being overly detailed. However, it is specific in the sense that God specifically gives us exactly what we need to hear from Him.
I love that.
God knows our needs. He knows the areas in which we need to grow and develop trust in.
This gives me confidence in following the plans and callings on my life. I can trust that God gave me those instructions and that, since they are His, I will be successful in them.
So today be encouraged. Whatever God is saying to you, you can trust that he is giving you exactly what you need and that your victory rests in the Lord.
“The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.” Psalm 118:14
Take that to heart today.
Whatever you are facing, whatever trial is at hand, start to lift up praises to God. Allow his strength and peace to fall on you and your situation. Give control back to God, and trust that he will deliver you.
Start singing…find your strength and your victory!
Praising God is an essential aspect of our Christian walk, it is something that we should do out of obedience to Christ and out of the overflow in our hearts. In the good times, on the mountain tops, praising God seems easy and effortless. But what about when the storms are all around you? When you are facing trials, do you find it more difficult to worship and praise God? Sure. I do too. But the truth is, amazing things can happen when we are obedient and praise God through our trials. It is a major faith builder to praise God through storms…let’s look at some.
The story of Paul and Silas is a great example. One day they were out preaching the gospel and on this particular day they were in a marketplace and met a fortune-teller who was essentially taunting them. Finally, Paul had enough, and cast out the spirit. However, this did not go over well with the fortune tellers bosses since they wouldn’t be able to make any more money off of her. And this is where we pick up the story:
A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.
Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”
The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God. Acts 16:22-34 [emphasis mine]
Wow, what a story! Makes you rethink your issues and realize that we don’t always have it all that bad. Now, I would suggest to go back and read on the lines that I made bold. There is a reason why I wanted those to stand out. There is an incredible thing that happens when you praise God through trials. Think of these men. They were severely beaten, falsely accused, and imprisoned for no good reason. Yet, while in prison, they prayed and worshipped God! They were obedient and worshipped God through their storm…and what happened?
Their chains broke off!
Apply that to your life. When you praise God through your trials, your chains will fall off. Praise God.
But there is something else that is unbelievable. If I ended this post here. It would be good enough but Re-read what I made bold, “the chains of every prisoner fell off!” Wait, what?!
When you praise God through your trials, not only will you experience freedom, but so will those around you!
This puts a whole new perspective on going through trials and storms. Maybe God allows us to go through certain seasons not just for us, but so we can help others experience the freedom they need.
Whatever you need freedom or deliverance from today, praise God through it. Watch your chains fall off and then listen for those around you who find freedom as well.]]>
“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1a
It is very easy to feel insignificant in a culture that pours so much focus, praise, and attention into titles. The easiest way to find a title, is your job. We exalt and idolize certain jobs because of their titles. This inevitably leads to people feeling forgotten, unimportant, and embarrassed if their title doesn’t include: President, CEO, PhD, Director, Manager, Executive ____, etc. But honestly, it doesn’t matter.
God doesn’t judge, measure, or grade you based on your job title, or if you even have a job. That is not where your identity comes from. He has already given you one title that you should put your focus, energy, and attention on, and that’s being his child. That is your identity! Being a child of God carries certain responsibilities and how you fulfill and carry out those responsibilities is what God deeply cares about.
Also, we all have something that we dream of doing. We all have that dream job, career, goal, vision, or plan for our lives. For some, you may want to paint, sing, write, blog, travel, be a missionary, start a cupcake business, counsel women, be a dancer, and the list goes on and on. But how many of you are doing those things now? How many of you feel stuck in that gap of between having to do what you are doing now, and figuring out how to get to what you feel called to do?
This time in-between or waiting period can feel like forever. It is sometimes frustrating, miserable, draining, and will teach you lots of patience. But I have come to learn that patience is not a punishment, but a gift. We aren’t always ready when we think we are. Our timing is not God’s timing.
What you are doing today is not your identity; and your current job does not truly define who you are.
Continue to be faithful in your obligations and your callings. God has a purpose and a reason as to why you are where you are. Don’t give up. When the time is right, God will provide everything you need to transition you from your day job to your dream job. But don’t lose your hope. Don’t lose your passion. Remember where your identity comes from. Be the best employee you can be, but remember…
]]>“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” ~Matt. 25:21
What is your favorite thing about church?
And on the flip side, what is your least favorite thing about church?
Life has a way of repeatedly making us aware of the fact that we are not in control and that no matter how great of people we try to be…sometimes when it rains, it pours.
So how is life for you right now?
Are you tired? weary? Do you have some anxiety? Do you need a breakthrough?
We will all experience and be in those places at some point in our lives. As Christians, however, although we don’t experience emotion any differently than any one else, we are able to have a much different perspective on our situations.
My perspective has shifted lately on what it means to bring my “requests” to God. And by that I mean the type of prayers that we often pray sound like, “Lord, please give me peace. Lord please, I need hope.” Or, “Lord, I need you to heal my body. Lord I need a breakthrough.” Do any of those sound familiar?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with praying those prayers, but ultimately it’s about where our focus is. I’ve realized that prayers like that for me were about this “thing” that God was giving me. Like, “Lord please give me healing.” Almost like give me this ethereal object/concept called healing. But I feel like God has showed me to not pray for some object or concept that I think he is laying on me, but instead to be praying to a God who IS healing.
We pray and worship a God who doesn’t just give hope or peace, but a God who IS hope and peace.
Do you see the difference?
This recently played out in my life when my wife and I were getting ready to move back home from Nashville. We were both hitting a lot of dead-ends and wondering if we had heard correctly on moving back at all. But during my quiet time with the Lord one morning, I was praying for a particular outcome to happen for my wife and me. The Lord gently told me, “Stop focusing my prayers and attention on outcomes or a particular path. He said, “You just wholly focus on me and I will worry about your outcomes!” I decided to listen and made a distinct shift in my relationship with Him. Literally within about a week period after that, Abby and I both had doors opened to us that ultimately led to each of the jobs that we have now. God is faithful.
So today, if you a breakthrough, healing, hope, etc. Know that God doesn’t just give those things. He is those things. So focus on and worship Him. He is worthy. He is faithful.
“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:7
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 1:2
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.
The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like…
…The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything that art or science can devise.
Do you agree? How do you view God?]]>