Today’s Worship Walk – Tuesday

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“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 NKJV

 

It’s been said that we should watch our thoughts, because they become words. That is definitely true for me. Part of my journey of transformation has been letting go of wordly thoughts and beliefs. The more I have let my mind be changed, the better my words reflect my Lord Jesus. And those words can have power to encourage others in their own walk.

 

God desires our worship. But what does that mean?

41kAt+enL0L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_My book, “Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper, A 30-Day Devotional” and ebook, “Worshipping Like Jesus” offer practical teaching and activities to help you grow in this area!

 

Friday’s Worship Walk

 

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But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.” Psalm 52:8

 

I don’t have any olive trees in my yard, so this oak will have to do. But I think the message can translate! Wherever we reside, our lives can be healthy and fruitful when we look to God as our Source.

Question to Ponder: In what area of your life do you need to trust God more?

 

God desires our worship. But what does that mean?

41kAt+enL0L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_My book, “Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper” and ebook, “Worshipping Like David” offer practical teaching and activities to help you grow in this area!

 

 

Jesus And The Woman At The Well

 

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Hi everyone. This is a talk I’m giving at my church this week. I hope it blesses you!
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

John 4:25-26

Do you like to be surprised? Some people I know think being surprised is fun – it livens up their day. But others react differently. They get flustered or even upset at unexpected moments, even if they are meant to be positive.

Now when we think of surprises, we usually picture a birthday party, right? Or an anniversary party. Or maybe a visit from someone we didn’t expect. We open the door and…there they are! Well, how about surprise worship moments?

You know, it’s important to set aside time each day to connect with God. Quiet time spent reading His Word, praying or even creating art brings Him glory and blesses our spirits. But occasionally God shows up at a time or in a way we didn’t plan for.  

It can happen in the middle of the most normal day. Like the afternoon I started a load of laundry and ended up kneeling by my washer on the basement floor. I was listening to the song “Breathe”, and the truth of how much I needed Jesus hit me hard. I cried out my thanks to Him. That was a worship moment I did not know was coming, and I’m glad I didn’t miss it.

So how do you handle unexpected “God” moments? Do you recognize them when they happen? And if so, do you respond with worship?

I think of the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well in John Chapter 4. She probably started out her morning like so many others before it. She knew her place, and had a routine. She went to the well at mid-day to fetch water just like always. But this day, she had a uncommon brush with the Lord that changed her and her village forever.

When she arrived at the well, she saw a man sitting there – that was unusual. Then He asked her for a drink – that was unheard of, and she reminded Him of that fact. “I am a Samaritan and you are a Jew.” But, amazingly enough, He stayed. The discussion they had was full of twists. This man knew things about her life, like how she’d been living with a man, and the 5 husbands she’d had before that. And maybe strangest of all: this man revealed Himself as the Messiah, the Christ!

How did she react to this unexpected encounter with the Divine? Did she get flustered or annoyed with the interruption to her day? Well, verses 28 and 29 tell us, “…leaving her water jar, the woman went back to town and said to the people ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.”  And she added, maybe with a touch of awe in her voice, “Could this be the Messiah?’

I see this woman as an example of how to be open to worship moments, however and whenever they come. I’d like to think her desire to proclaim and even evangelize about what she’d seen was a reflection of her unique personality and gifts. Her response of worship impacted not only her own faith, but that of a whole community.

I have to be honest, I’m not always gracious when my schedule is disrupted. I need to be reminded that God’s ways aren’t mine – they are better. When He reveals Himself to me, it’s a precious gift. I want to respond quickly with a heart of worship.
So I’ll ask once more – do you like surprises? I hope so. Because God may be planning to show up in the middle of your day sometime soon.

The Challenge of Unanswered Prayer Part 2

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Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Psalm 27:14

My last post ended on a bit of cliffhanger – one that unfortunately lasted about 5 months! I won’t spend a lot of time trying to explain myself, except to say that life (and in my case health) truly did get in the way of doing something I love so much. But I am sorry for letting so much time slip by. I’ve missed writing and sharing, and hope those of you who have so faithfully followed me in my journey will join back up with me now. And so, onward!

As I pointed out in Part 1, the issue of unanswered prayer is thorny for Christians. It certainly has been for me. It’s hard not to get something that I really want, or to be saddled long-term with something I don’t want. And I’ll admit that many times I haven’t been gracious about being in either situation, uttering lots of “God, where are You?” kinds of prayers. Continue reading “The Challenge of Unanswered Prayer Part 2”

Luke 19 & Worship Groups

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As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.  When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:  “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.

Luke 19:36-40

I was doing a study on this passage last night when I noticed something interesting.

Within this account, there were 3 people groups mentioned. Did you see that? And each group did something different in response to Jesus riding the donkey down the road to Jerusalem.

  • People – they spread their cloaks on the ground  for Jesus
  • Disciples – they joyfully praised God
  • Pharisees – they scolded Jesus and the disciples

What a variety! As I thought more about it, I realized that the behaviors of each pointed to a bigger mindset that they held then. In fact, we can still see echoes of them today:

People

They acknowledge that Jesus is important, maybe even accept Him as their Lord. But their worship is polite and from a distance. Why? Fear, perhaps, or an unwillingness to get out of their comfort zone. Either way, the result is a formal, not very close relationship to God that doesn’t have a lot of  impact in daily life.

Disciples

They have taken the plunge, so to speak. Not only do they acknowledge Jesus as Lord, but they spend time learning more about Him and growing closer to Him. Their worship is bold, vocal, and based on knowing who Jesus is and what He has done. And they want to share the good news with the world.

Pharisees

They see Jesus as at the least, bothersome, and at the most, threatening. Believers in God, they also believe in keeping the status quo. Their worship life is static, following long-treasured routines and patterns. This leaves them a bit judgemental of newer ideas, and over time dries up their enthusiasm.

From this, two questions formed in my mind. First, “Which group would I have fallen into back in Jesus’ time? And then, of course, “Which group do I belong to here and now?

Honestly, I fall between People and Disciple. At times I get really excited about sharing Jesus and worshipping out loud. But in other situations I hold back, for any number of reasons. For me, the key to staying in the Disciple category is to keep up my daily disciplines – reading the Word, lifting up prayers and praises, and seeking fellowship with my brothers and sisters.

How about you? Which category do you spend most of your time in?

Random Thoughts?

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Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”               Colossians 3:2

January is here, and with it the first bite of winter weather. I wore 4 layers out on my morning excusion with Marcie, and still shiverred my way through the yard. As I stood waiting for her to sniff over the leaf pile, I couldn’t help but see my breath, which only added to the sense of utter cold.

It occurred to me in that moment how quickly a single thought impacted how I felt. Seeing the steam led to a grumbly “Man it’s cold!”. Saying that made me more aware of the unhappy situation, and I ended up really focused on it.

Joyce Meyer teaches that our thoughts have power. I’m going to amend that a little and say that we can give our thoughts a lot of power. Basically, how we think often has a lot of sway over our mood and attitude. And I wonder – if that works for the negative, as in my example from today, couldn’t it just as easily work in a positive way?

Yes, it can. And the key lies in what thoughts we’re concentrating on. That sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many thoughts we have that we aren’t even aware of. Any one of them, when strong enough or repeated enough, can take root in our minds and then our hearts. This isn’t a random design flaw in us – we were actually created this way.

The more I understand this truth, the more grateful I am for God’s mercy in providing His Word. From promises to proverbs to parables, scripture is filled with things to think about that bring life and joy. So why would I choose the alternative?

 

O Holy Night

nativity_2One of the things I enjoy most about the Christmas season is the songs. Hearing “Santa Baby” over a store loudspeaker starting right after Halloween is a bit much, I’ll admit. But for me, singing carols and songs is a big part of celebrating the holidays.

I decided to do some research into the background of some of my favorite Christmas songs, and it’s been fun to learn more about a couple of them. In the case of one, “O Holy Night”, how the tune came into being is only the start of a very interesting history.

The lyrics were written by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, the resident poet of a small town in France. He had been asked by the parish priest to create something for the Christmas Eve mass. So, he started by reading through the Nativity Story in the book of Luke for inspiration and the words came to him quickly.

Cantique de Noel, as it’s called in French, was embraced by the Church at first, until it was discovered that Cappeau was a socialist. The leadership officially banned the song from services, but the people loved it, and continued to sing it anyway.

The song got introduced to a much wider audience when John Dwight brought the song over to the United States. During the Civil War he worked for slaves’ rights, and so the lyrics “Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother…” caught his ear. The song actually turned into a rallying cry for the North.

Back in France the song became an olive branch of sorts. On a Christmas Eve during the Franco-Prussian War, a French soldier entered the battlefield unarmed and began to sing the song. After he had finished, a German soldier joined him and sang a hymn from his own country. Fighting between sides actually stopped for the next 24 hours to observe Christmas.

When a song touches that many people, it’s because of more than just a pretty tune or nice lyrics. I think the key lies with where Cappeau started his writing process. He didn’t look at his surroundings or even his own thoughts first – he went right to God’s Word. In scripture he saw the beauty and deeper meaning of Christ’s birth. His words reflect the amazing truth of God’s love for men – and that’s why they’ve resonated so much with people ever since.

I learned more than I expected from this one search. Maybe I’ll expand this into a mini Bible study for next year’s Advent season.

What’s your favorite holiday carol or song?

 

Morning Stretches

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The first thing I do every morning is a quick assessment of how stiff my joints and muscles are after a night in bed. Then I launch into a set of stretches to warm up. Today started out no different. But as I wiggled my fingers, an unexpected prayer popped into my head:

“Father God, let my hands do work for you today.”

I smiled a little at how cheesy that thought sounded. But then another one came while I did some jaw-loosening movements,

“Let my tongue speak things that will bless you today, God.”

I started to suspect that these “popcorn” prayers were not coming from me. Maybe they weren’t so cheesy after all! As I continued through my routine, I kept my ears tuned for more, and I wasn’t disappointed –

  • With my shoulder rolls came: “Let me not take on burdens that aren’t mine to carry.”

I’ve got a tendency to carry other people’s problems on my own back. The load gets awfully heavy. Better to let God show me how to help someone without becoming too caught up in their life.

  • With my arm raises: “Let me reach for You today for what I need.”

It’s easy for me to seek out the opinions and advice of other people. That can keep me from receiving God’s wisdom. Better to lift up a prayer and wait for His perfect answer.

  • With my neck turns: “Let me look for You wherever I go.”

I sometimes attempt daily life all on my own. It isn’t long before I feel lonely and worn out. Better to include God in my plans and decisions, so I can walk with more confidence and peace.

  • And you can probably guess what went along with my eye exercises: “Let me look on wholesome things.”

I don’t always monitor what I’m watching or reading carefully enough. And those outside influences truly can bring me down. Better to take a moment to make sure than an article or show will add value and build me up.

Along the way, I was reminded of the book of Ephesians in the Bible. The last part of chapter 6 is known as “The Armor of God” section because Paul connects the different pieces of a warrior’s armor to attributes that belong to Christians. The first verse in that passage says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His might power.”

However I think of it, the bottom line is that I have to connect myself to God each day – it’s His power that carries me through. By the time I finished my stretches this morning,  I felt a lot more equipped for the day, both physically and spiritually.

What’s your way of connecting with God each day?

The Battle is the Lord’s

As I was out with the dog this morning, the song “ The Battle Belongs To The Lord” ran through my head. I think a combination of physical and emotional struggles brought it to mind. I’ve always found comfort in lyrics like,

When the enemy presses in hard do not fear;

The battle belongs to the Lord

Today as I hummed my way through the verses, the words led me to think about how God can and wants to handle our battles. Specifically, how He wants me not to fight my own battles, but to lean on Him. The Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe will use that power to help me – that’s a spirit lifter right there.

But then a further thought hit me: God has known every battle I’d be facing from before I was born. He knows the resolution of each struggle and how He will lead me there. Plainly put, God’s got it covered! God declared this truth to His young nation of Israel, and repeated it often.

For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”                              Deuteronomy 20:4

So, what’s left for me to do? Trusting in my Heavenly Father. Simple, maybe, but far from easy for me. Too often I make my own battle plan instead of waiting on His. Then, full of myself, I grab whatever weapon I can find in the moment and rush into the fray.

Things turn so much better out when I let God be the commander, and give praise for His presence on the front lines of my life!

And we sing glory, honor,

power and strength to the Lord!

 

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I love hearing other people’s stories. On visits to my mom’s relatives when I was little, I’d sit around various dining room tables just to listen to them swap memories. Being shy, I savored the chance to sit and quietly soak in a part of their history.

As an adult, I often start conversations by asking other people how they are. And I really want to know. Sometimes they’ll go beyond the quick answer and share what’s going on in their lives. Whether I hear more of the up-to-date or of the past, I feel blessed to be allowed into their world for that moment.

I’ve worked on writing my own personal history. It’s a lot of work, both mentally and emotionally. But I think it’s really important to acknowledge even some of our own stories.

Why? For a few reasons:

  • To understand ourselves: why we do what we do
  • To realize the uniqueness & value of what we’ve gone through
  • To acknowledge all that we’ve survived!
  • To be able to bond with others

Once we have those stories ready, there’s great power in telling them. Think about how sharing our experiences:

  • Forges and fosters relationships that add to our mental, emotional and spiritual health
  • Encourages, teaches and challenges others to grow
  • Offers support to others who might feel alone in their struggles, problems, and fears

Have you written out any of your story yet? If not, think about it – your history could actually improve someone’s future! More on this coming up soon…