“Tune My Heart”

           I have been thinking.  Having been a Worship Leader, I realized that we could get away with a lot in the first song each Sunday, if I really wanted. Very few would even notice.  People are coming in late, trying to settle their kids, silencing their phones, checking their phones, wrapping up conversations, or just generally disoriented.

            The truth is many of us walk into worship not quite ready to worship. We need a little time to center and focus ourselves. Some of us are frustrated with our kids. Some are disheartened about our work. Some are stressed about the demands of school or the deadlines of our jobs. Others are depressed or apathetic about life. Yet others are fearful, distraught, or mourning. Weekly worship calls us back into a story with the emotional highs and lows of sin and salvation, so we all need to recalibrate.

            The beginning of worship is a critical moment when we release everything else demanding our attention into the capable hands of the very One we are preparing to encounter.

Tune My Heart

            Some historic hymns seem to run on an endless tank of fuel. No matter how many times we sing them, they speak to us, stir us, and lead us to worship. “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is one of those hymns for me.

Come, thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace.

          Tune my heart. It’s like guitar in its case, or left out on a stand, it’s not the same guitar. When it is picked up a few days later and strummed, it’s out of tune. Because of forces inside (wood, tension, aging strings) and forces outside (temperature, humidity), a guitar left alone will always fall out of tune.

The same phenomenon happens in our hearts. Between Sundays, we get knocked around, and the forces inside and outside of us — our sin, others’ sin, and the fallenness of the world — send our hearts in all kinds of directions. When we come back to worship together, and the Holy Spirit begins to strum the strings of our hearts, we hear dissonance. Hearts always require re-tuning.

            Because this kind of calibration is critical, but can be difficult, consider a few tips for how to prepare your hearts well for worship.

Worship starts before you enter.

            As many have said before, we don’t enter into corporate worship and begin to worship. We come into the space already worshiping. Our hearts have been loving and desiring in all kinds of directions this week. The first step is to simply recognize and confess that fact, praying that the Holy Spirit would increasingly narrow the gap between the worship offered on Sundays and the worship offered Mondays through Saturdays. The worshiper who grows in orienting their heart toward God Monday through Saturday (whole-life worship) will find themselves more calibrated for Sundays (gathered worship).

Center your heart before worship.

            Before a worship service, all of us can do things that make entrance into worship easier. We can meditate on a verse or two in Scripture or pray through a psalm. We can listen to music that stirs and orients our hearts. Perhaps just ten minutes of quiet is what we need. Certainly turning our phone to “do not disturb” (or even off) can be a helpful, intentional practice to calm our frayed, distracted minds.

Arrive early.

            Few things make it harder to fully engage in worship than arriving just on time or late. Arriving early gives us plenty of time to find a place to sit, and then center our hearts through the word and prayer.

            We’ll also have a chance to prepare for worship by greeting others. Some people think the only way to prepare for worship is to quietly pray and ignore everyone else. That’s a one-dimensional way to approach worship. Because worship is both vertical (us and God) and horizontal (one another), greeting the people worshiping next to you is a wonderful way to calibrate your heart for corporate worship.

Make the most of the first moments.

            Jump into the deep end. Let the call to worship and the opening hymns or songs flood your mind and heart. Sing loudly, breathe deeply, feel passionately. Sometimes, participating physically actually leads our affections to engage spiritually. Recognize that the opening of worship is meant for our calibration, and let it prepare our hearts to worship.



Pure Worship

Going organic has become all the rage now.  People are more than willing to drive the extra mile and pay the extra money for it. The dictionary defines organic as “constitutional or inherent in the basic structure of something; fundamental.”1  So those who take those extra steps to get it want to be assured of getting a product that is as close to nature as possible from a source they trust. They also, more than likely, handle it in such a way as to protect its purity.

This got me thinking; “What if we applied this “organic” concept to our worship – what would it look like? How could we have worship that’s pure, untainted – as God intended?”

Organic worship would be a worship that is grounded and nourished in the Word of God.  It is where we experience His love, learn His ways, and discover His purposes. It’s where we hear the story of His pursuit of us and His call for us to pursue Him.  It is also where we learn how to live a life that is pleasing to Him.  Allowing the Spirit to guide our day-to-day life, including our worship.

God’s Word is also where He reveals His purpose for us.  It is where we can learn from the first worshipers.  We can hear their hearts and see their faith.  It is also where we get a glimpse of His amazing response to their worship.  If we take in all that His Word teaches us regarding worship, we won’t want to just settle for anything less than what He desires.  The attitudes of ignorance, apathy, or callousness would be wiped away.  We will come to the realization that, a focus on ritual, self, or anything else other than our Almighty God just work.  We will not want to “go through the motions” anymore.  Once we get a taste of true, organic worship, and realize that it is so much better and accomplishes so much more, nothing else will do.  We will not get hung up on the things that do not matter or that seriously hinder us.  We will just want to get to the feet of Jesus.  Remember – the WORD is ALIVE! (Hebrews 4:12) It pierces our hearts. It diminishes the glories of this world and raises the glories of our King – giving us a greater passion to worship Him!
 
“What is the cost?” you may ask.  It does cost a little more.  If we haven’t had to go the extra mile to get there, chances are it is not organic. True worship involves sacrifice.  Once we understand the value of true, organic worship, there is no cost too high or sacrifice too great.  We know that He alone is worthy!  We know that His sacrifice was far greater.

“How do we pursue this organic worship?”  Here are a few steps that will help:

  1. Do our homework: Know what the Bible teaches regarding God, your relationship to Him, and worship.
      1. “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” 1 Pet.2:2 NASB.
      2. “O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill And to Your dwelling places” Psalm 43:3 NASB.
  2. Pay attention to the source: Allow the Holy Spirit to reign in your life and trust His guidance of your worship.
      1. “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” Romans 12:1 NASB.
      2. “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” John 4:23-24.
  3. Don’t taint it: Pursue a pure, singular focus on God Almighty in worship.
      1. “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD And righteousness from the God of his salvation” Psalm 24:3-5 NASB
      2. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” Romans 12:2 NASB.
      3. “For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” Philippians 3:3 NASB
  4. Pay the price: Sacrifice the time and attention necessary to pursue an intimate relationship with God and to worship Him.
      1. “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” Hebrews 13:15 NASB.
      2. “Willingly I will sacrifice to You; I will give thanks to Your name, O LORD, for it is good” Psalm 54:6 NASB.

1 – https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/organic

 


My Relationship With God Is Cold

My Relationship With God Is Cold

 

“How did you get close to God again? I’m not sinning, like doing drugs or drinking or swearing, but I get mad easily and don’t feel that connection with God. I just want my relationship with God back.”

If you are a mature believer, questions like this may be familiar. Here is an answer that has worked for me.

Do what the early church did.

42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42 NASB

  • Devote yourself to the apostles teaching — study the Bible regularly
  • Devote yourself to the fellowship — don’t go it alone. We need one another. We need the accountability of the body and we need to share our time and stuff with one another in sacrificial ways.
  • Devote yourself to the breaking of bread — again, we need to worship the King together. We need to remember the sacrifice of the cross together with other believers.
  • Devote yourself to “the prayers” — the text and most modern translations say “prayers” not “prayer”. The plural is important. Most scholars will say that the meaning is not just to “saying your prayers” or praying and talking to God regularly. The plural has a very specific referent. Either it means the 3x a day pattern of Jewish prayer in the first century or, and more likely, it means they devoted themselves to the prayer book of the Old Testament, the book of Psalms.

My own experience is, that when my walk with God has grown cold or lukewarm, doing these things restores my passion and appreciation for the wonders of the gospel and the beauty of my Savior.

Give it time. Doing these things is not a shot of adrenaline. They are exercises for your spirit and will “pay off” over time (just like physical exercise) as you continually make the “devote yourself” investment.

Ask yourself this question, what commands of Christ am I not doing that I know I ought to be doing? Why this question?

Look at John 14:21

21 He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” NASB

Jesus ties further revelation of himself, greater intimacy with himself to our obedience to the commands he has given us.

Look at Galatians 2:20

20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and a]the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” NASB

Live your life by faith not by how you feel.

Train your heart to act on truth revealed not how you feel in the moment.

Finally, check out your love life?

Read Luke 7:38–50, especially verse 47.

47 For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” NASB

“He who is forgiven little, loves little.” Whenever I, or any of us, forget how much we have been forgiven our faith will become stale and inconsequential to our lives; but when we go back to the cross, when we spend time meditating on how much we have been forgiven, new springs of joy will begin to arise in our hearts.



UpSide Down

Upside Down

“2020 will be known as a year of disruption. A global pandemic has monopolized our attention, blanketing media sources. Countries have spent weeks shut down, and COVID-19 brought travel to a halt, shuttered business, and consumed the attention of the medical world. A rapidly spreading virus truly has ‘turned the world upside down.’ Acts 17 uses that phrase as well but in a positive sense. Paul and Silas were preaching and ministering in the city of Thessalonica, to great success. Persecuted, their detractors said, ‘These that have turned the world upside down have come here too.’ (Acts 17:6 NKJV.) Against the backdrop of this pandemic, missionaries around the world continue to minister, bringing grace and mercy to a hurting and spiritually hungry world. They are turning their communities upside down by living out the gospel, being ready to give an answer to those with questions about their faith.”  
 
When minister Rev. Charles G. Finney began his evangelistic meetings in 1830 in Rochester, New York, so many came to Christ that bars closed, Sunday was a quiet day of rest, churches were full and crime diminished. One local historian recorded that “Rochester was shaken to its foundations.” It was a ‘world-turned-upside-down’ Holy Spirit happening.
 
When we hear and read about such occurrences we tend to think that such times are for mission fields and third world countries somewhere else, but from God’s perspective the whole planet is a mission field and the US is no different than Ghana in His eyes. This is a source of hope, because it means that the same Holy Spirit who is turning communities upside down elsewhere can also do it here in the US. God knows we need it at this time in our history.
      
Reflective question:  Will you believe that if a pandemic can turn the world upside down so can the power of the Gospel, and pray to that end for your community?
 
Reflective Scripture: Acts 4:31 – “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the word of God boldly.”


Are There Ways To Worship God Other Than Musically?

 

“Are There Ways To Worship God That Do Not Include Music Or Singing?”

When many of us hear ‘worship God’, we equate it to corporate, musical worship in a church service. While this is an important aspect of worship, it is only one of many ways we can ascribe worth to God.

Romans 12:1 “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

God desires that we give Him our full attention, adoration, and time. Everything we do in life should be an act of worship to Him because of all He has done for us.  In John 4, Jesus calls us to “Worship in Spirit and in Truth.” Jesus tells us that we are to worship the truth of who He is no matter where we are and no matter what we are doing.

While there are many ways to worship God outside of musical worship, let’s look at three key ways we can worship God with our whole lives: prayer, service, and giving.

Prayer

Prayer is very important to God because it is a way for us to love Him back through communication. Chronicles 16:28 says, “Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.” God wants us to directly come before Him and recognize all He has done for us. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to never stop praying. This means that we should be constantly communicating with God in prayer throughout our day.

Serving

This not only includes how we serve in our church, but how we serve people outside of it. If we are followers of Jesus, we are following a Servant. Galatians 5:13 commands us to serve one another in love. When we choose to intentionally love and serve other people, we are also loving and serving God. Always be looking for ways to serve more in our church, community, and family.

Giving

There are countless Bible verses about how we give; but they inherently have the same message: Give to others because God gave to you. While giving financially is very important, money is not the only thing that we can give. We can also give of our time and our talents. Regardless of what we are giving, here are three tips to help us give well:

  • Give Sacrificially
  • Give Regularly
  • Give Proportionately

God has blessed us with many things, so He is pleased when we turn around and give to others. It doesn’t matter how much money, time, or talents we have, we can all give something. Only we know how generous we can be with the things that God has given us.

You can worship God with your life in these ways, as well as countless others. If you are unsure how to worship him throughout each day, begin by asking in prayer.