WHY WORSHIP WORKS

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25)

We need to worship, every week. There’s something powerful in gathering with others to honor God. Worship unites us and draws our eyes from the cares of this world back to God. Worship is inspiring, and everyone needs encouragement because this life is tough. Maybe you are in a season of adversity; God never promised us a problem free life, but He did promise to be with us, no matter what we are facing.

So let’s run into God’s presence.

Developing the habit of corporate worship is difficult, especially in our over-busy world. There is always another excuse to stay focused on our own problems and agendas. Worship takes commitment, but it’s worth it because God does something amazing in our hearts when we come together in His name.

When this world is gone, all of our achievements will disappear. Everything we have accumulated will not last. However, our devotion to God will last into eternity.

Seek Approval From Others

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

Why do we work for the approval of others?

One reason is that the results are immediate.
Irrational fathers and nazi English teachers aside, it’s easy to earn acceptance from others. The recipe is simple: Tell them what they want to hear, laugh at their jokes, and agree with everything. Avoid conflict, neglect some details if they are too prickly, never correct.

Lies become “white” and our friends become many.

Of course, these friendships are shallow. They don’t last and neither are they satisfying.

Our craving for acceptance comes from corruption of our need for community. We are made for relationships, we are better together! But we need true connections not a comfortable crowd. Sugar is not sustenance. The health of our relationships is nurished by the meat of honesty and trust.

We were also created for significance, everyone matters because God created all of us to make a difference. There are no second string scrubs on God’s “team.” True significance only comes from serving. Sin twists our desire into a close counterfeit, which leads to seeking significance in the approval of others.

Seeking approval from people never ends. It’s a pit that’s never filled and beast that’s always hungry. The mad dash on the hamster wheel leaves us feeling isolated and insignificant.

Yes, we must do whatever we can to be at peace with everyone we know.
Yes, we must live as salt and light, and impact others for Jesus.
Yes, we must become all things to all people with the hope that we might “win” some.

But only after we’ve loved God first. And most.

I am what I am because…

“But by the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

Consider, for a moment, about what defines you. Think slowly and honestly. Who are you? What milestones in your journey have led you to this place?

The issues surrounding identity do not only belong to the young. Although it is doubtless that adolescence is the crucible in which we discover and define our character and values. As we get older, while our soul’s shape may be cast, the work is not yet finished. We face a life time struggling against the world, defending who we are and what we want to become.

In our moments of victory, what is our strength? In our moments of defeat, what kind of doubts and regrets erode our confidence?

Paul knew the secret to the spiritual life: it begins with God’s grace, a power for transformation that the world can never offer.

Grace is free, but it isn’t forced. It can only be accepted, and that takes humility. God is moving in our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not—and he is constantly working to draw us closer to him.

We let many things define us: son, daughter, father, mother, friend… We may see ourselves as successful or a failure… The enemy will do anything to keep us distracted from the truth.

What we do and who we are, if it’s not firmly build upon his grace, we will never become the person God intended.

Paul knew who he was, and how he got there. What must we surrender so that we might confidently affirm, “By the grace of God, we are what we are…”?

 

let your gentleness be evident to all

There are some verses we love because we already do them well. We remember these scriptures, and when we are humble, we thank God for his blessings.

Some teachings we hate, because they challenge the very core of our brokenness–time and time again. When we are humble, we ask God for his strength. For me, Philippians 4:5 falls into this second class:

“Let your gentleness be evident to all.”

Some people are naturally gentle, sometimes I envy them, because I am not. My friends wouldn’t call me diplomatic. When I chose against humility, my confidence turns into arrogance–and gentleness flees the scene.

What hope do I have to change? How can I transform and renew my mind to become more like Christ? The context provides every clue we need:

Joy leads to gentleness. Anytime we are feeling less than joyful, gentleness begins to disappear. The springboard into joy is thankfulness. There is so much we can be thankful for! The resulting joy makes it easier to be gentle.

God’s presence leads to gentleness. When we focus on our own strength, we forget God. Our desire for control–to set the world “right” in our eyes–leads to forcefulness rather than gentleness. When we surrender our strengths, submitting them to God’s purposes, gentleness abounds because our efforts are more about faithfulness to the God who is near.

Peace leads to gentleness. When we are anxious, our fear makes it difficult to be gentle with others. Prayer releases this pressure into God’s hands.

When I fail to be gentle–with everyone–its usually a breakdown in one of these areas, and I reflect on the following:

  • Have I lost my joy?
  • Am I still focused on God?
  • Have I lost my peace?

 

finding God

It’s not really difficult to find God.
The difficulty lies in deciding to look for him.

“…seek and you will find…” (Matthew 7:7)

Devoted in prayer

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)

I love these simple instructions for prayer. Prayer doesn’t have to be elaborate for it to be effective. What does it mean to be watchful? Here are some ideas:

  • Watch the condition of your heart. (Proverbs 4:23)
  • Watch for the temptations in your life. (Mark 14:38)
  • Watch for where God is moving so we can keep in step with the Spirit. (Jeremiah 2:8, (Galatians 5:25)

Take a moment and express your gratitude to God: get a pen and paper and thank God for at least 30 blessings in your life. Share 2 or 3 with a friend and on facebook, thankfulness is contagious!

Three Benefits of Temptation

“..temptations are often very beneficial to us, even though they are troublesome and grievous, for in them we are humbled, purified, and instructed.”
Thomas à Kempis. “Imitation Of Christ.”

HUMBLED — Temptations move us to greater dependence on God because we cannot stand up under them without divine power. Worldly successes can lead to a stronger sense of self-sufficiency (believing we don’t need God) and superiority (we believe we are better than others). We do not need to fail and fall in order to be humbled. Temptation–the moments we come face to face with the real possibility of our disobedience–provides  the opportunity to humble ourselves.

PURIFIED — Temptation brings to light the darkness within, and when we stand up strong, in the strength of Jesus, the shadow disappears. Temptation is impurity leaving our heart, in the wake we can choose to let it back in or cast it off. Our hearts more pure and less divided when we successfully resist temptation.

INSTRUCTED — Our brokenness has left us separated from God and his wisdom. We are woefully ignorant and our foolishness is multiplied because we are usually unaware of our need for wisdom. There are some truths we can only learn while struggling against temptation.

 

When we next face temptation, let’s ask the Spirit for his strength, and be encouraged by the new growth available to us.

shaping your leadership culture

Recently, our staff had a conversation about what it might look like if we were more aware, accepting, and welcoming of our visitors. I captured the ideas, refined them a little, and then got feedback. We wanted to make an impact beyond the staff, so after a discussion with our key leaders, we challenged everyone–staff and key leaders– to walk through the same material with the people they are leading.

Our goal was to teach our leaders and equip them to teach others.

It takes a lot to shape a culture, this is simply one small way of many. If you’re interested, you can find the document here: loving outsiders. Lemme know in the comments if you end up adapting it to your ministry, and how you made it better!

Trust: A Conversation with my oldest son, Max

After church last weekend, I asked my oldest, “What did you talk about at church today?”

He’s 11 … so I want to have the appropriate expectations for his response.

More importantly, he’s a human, so I don’t want church to become a meaningless ritual. My goal: I want our conversations to be as natural as possible. The last thing I want is for him to learn how to regurgitate all the right Christian answers because I’m forcing questions down his throat.

He was quiet for a moment … about to give up and say “I don’t remember.” And then, in the last instant he says triumphantly, “TRUST! We talked about trust!”

It was my turn to be quiet, and then I ask, “Awesome. So what is the definition of trust?”

It was the right question, even though I didn’t have an answer—I didn’t have a definition, I had examples of trust, but not the essence of it. However…

I’m fine with this. I don’t need to look like I have all the answers—I’d rather have as many answers as possible and be honest about my ignorance rather than working hard to keep up the appearance that I Know Everything.

I don’t only ask a question if I have the answer…if Max didn’t have anything I was ready to say, “I’m not sure either… lemme do some thinking and I’ll get back to you.”

Max responded, “I don’t remember, all I remember is that we talked about trust…”

In that moment I came up with an answer… or, as I choose to view it, God gave me an answer. If he gives us words before our persecutors, then surely he gives us words when we stand before our children.

So I say, “Trust means giving away control. Anytime you trust something, you are letting it have control over some area of your life.”

He was wearing his favorite shirt, so I continue, “What are you trusting that shirt to do? Why do you wear it?”

“I’m trusting it to keep me warm. And it would be weird for me to be at school without a shirt.” Giggles ensue, as he pictures himself walking around school without a shirt…

“What do you trust your Football coach with?”

“…”

So I said, “You trust him with your time … and you trust him to teach you football … and to make your team into a good team… And you trust that it will be fun. Does this make sense?”

“Yea.”

It comes our quiet, slow. It was the cadence of new understanding, new possibilities, new connections…

“So when it comes to God, why is trust important? Why would they talk about trust at church?”

“I’m not sure.”

The moment was over. So I said the only possible response. “That’s ok. At least we know what trust is. What is trust?”

“When you give something control.”

“Awesome, how many times did you fart in church today….?”