Saturday, August 25, 2012


God has granted the opportunity to worship in a few different churches over the last few weeks due to work and vacation and it has been a good challenge for my heart.  Just to clarify here, when I say worship, I mean more than just the music.  Worship as I am mentioning here is the entire service and the interaction before and after.  Let me also mention, that I am not of the opinion that you ought to make your home church one that you do not agree with doctrinally or in the manner of worship.  Satan uses these kinds of things to divide the body of Christ and so, I believe we ought to choose a place of worship carefully based on the truths of scripture and what leads us to love and obey Him more.  Anyway, one of the churches was really not my preference for worship, one of the churches was very close to what my preference is, and another one was a mixture of both.  I knew before I walked into the first one that it was not going to be my preference, so the battle in my heart happened the night before.  I was faced with the question, what is worship?  Can I worship in a service where I don't feel like others are worshiping the "right way"? 

These were all great things to think through.  I have thought through these things several times before, but it was good to battle with them once again.  I came to the conclusion that if I can worship in a secular environment (all of life ought to be worship), then I can worship the One True God in any environment.  Obviously, this church was not a "secular environment", but it was helpful for me to take the extreme case so that my heart would not be distracted by things while at the church.  I didn't have to think about what others thought of me... I didn't have to agree with the pastor... I didn't have to agree with the music... I didn't have to care about what other people were doing or how they were doing it... but I did have to worship!  Worship comes from the heart. 

I'd like to take the time to challenge anyone that may happen to stumble across this to really consider what it means to worship the Lord.  Once that is determined based on the Word of God, my next challenge would be to consider if the local body of believers (church) that you worship with generally help you to worship the Lord from the heart, or if it hinders your worship.  Notice, I did not ask if you liked it.  The question isn't whether or not I like the worship.  The question is whether or not it is worship!  Am I just going through the motions of attending church and singing songs, or am I actually worshiping the Lord in Spirit and in truth?  One question I try to ask myself often is, "God, are you pleased by this?"  This same question can be applied to our worship.  Are we pleasing God or men?  My challenge to you is to take action.  It doesn't matter if "all your friends are doing it"... what matters is that you are worshiping the Lord with all of your heart and that you are being fed and guided by the Word of God through the teaching.  If you need to find a new church home, please do it!  For the sake of your heart, for the sake of your family, for the sake of honoring the Lord, do it!  If you need to bring some things up to the leadership of your church privately, do it!  Why would we wait to do these things when there is nothing more important than worshiping the Lord?  It's not about opinions or preferences, it is about honoring the Lord.

I'd also like to challenge those that are not attending a perfect church (yes, that makes all of us) to give grace to those that are in leadership. There will not be a perfect worship service until we worship Christ for all eternity in heaven.  It is not helpful for us to complain about that one song that was too loud, or that one person that was or wasn't raising his/her hands.  We are commanded to speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in our hearts to the Lord!  Encourage those around you.  Worship is not about me and it is not about you!  It is about the Lord.  Encourage others in their worship of Him.  Sing because He is worthy of our voices raised to honor Him.  You don't have to sound good.  He is pleased when we open our mouths to praise Him.  Do you need to quiet your heart before Him and worship in silence?  Do it!  Pray for opportunities to minister to people in your local body of believers and look for those opportunities.  The sum it all up, worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth because He is worthy of all of our worship and remember that you are not the only one that struggles with this.  Others need encouragement to worship Him from a pure heart.  Part of being in the body of Christ is the responsibility to encourage and exhort others to love and obey Him.  Do it because you love Him!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Out Of Love

I had the blessing of spending the weekend in Colorado. I was working out there on Monday and so my boss agreed to fly me out on Friday afternoon so that I could spend the weekend with a friend before work on Monday. It was such a refreshment and encouragement to me. We stayed up until like 3:45 am one night talking and I was using the words, "my responsibility before the Lord", quite often. I know that as a man, I have responsibilities in different facets of life... responsibilities toward God, to my family, to those in my church, to my boss and coworkers, to my friends, etc. I believe I am to be a man that takes responsibility. However, as we were talking, my friend mentioned that I was focusing too much on "responsibility" and not enough on "relationship". We can easily become people that have "to do lists" in all of our "responsibilities" toward those around us that we lose sight of the core of God's heart toward people--to love them as we love ourselves.

Fulfilling our "duties" toward one another must flow from love. The love of Christ must be what controls us. I fear that over the years, I have focused too much on the "responsibility" aspect of our obedience to the Lord and not enough on our obedience flowing out of our love for Him. Part of this is because I want to get away from the concept of love being simply a "feeling". Feelings come and go. In fact, this evening I had very little desire for the Word. I could attempt to justify it by coming up with some lame reasons for why I may not desire it as much as I should, but lets face it, we can always come up with a "reason" not to love. Yes, I want my desire for the Word to come out of love for the Lord, but sometimes I just need to "do it" even though I don't feel like I love Him as I ought to. Actually, I should always feel that I don't love Him like I ought to, but in my sinfulness, I often think far too highly of my love for Him. I am thankful for grace.

I find that when I do the "loving thing" regardless of how I feel and ask the Lord for help, God grants grace to love more (and feel more loving). It doesn't always start with the feeling, but God often grants the feeling as a result of true Christ-centered love. I spent time in Romans 5 this evening... didn't feel like it at all... but knowing that loving Him is often directly related to my knowledge of Him, I knew time with Him was the loving thing for me to do regardless of my feelings. As I read, I was reminded of the incredible grace of God.

Take a look at verses 1-11...
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
How can I read this and not be filled up with joy in the amazing grace of God through Christ? I was a helpless sinner. Now, I am justified in His sight. He died for my sin. How can my heart not be filled with the joy of my salvation? This isn't like winning a game or something... this is the eternal state of my soul being transferred from eternal separation from God to eternal full joy in His presence!

God, thank You for Your grace and help in changing my heart from a heart that is cold and unloving to a heart that loves You. Thank You for grace to love others when I don't "feel like it" and for granted grace even to "feel like it", though I don't need to "feel it" in order to obey You. You are so good. Your Word truly is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. It is food for the soul that doesn't even realize its hunger. Continue to grant me more desire for Your Word and for obedience to it out of love for You. Fill my heart with the joy of Christ as I sleep, for I know that You give to Your beloved even in their sleep. Thank You for grace. Thank You for Christ.