Getting Closer To Jesus

 

As many have noticed, we have had sort of a theme in our worship this month.  It revolves around wanting more and more of Jesus in our lives, both personally and corporately as the body of Christ.  This naturally led me to this question:

How do I get more and more of Jesus & how can I get closer to Him?

I have learned that the closer we get to Jesus, the stronger and happier we become. Sometimes in life we may not have that certain someone to encourage and push us forward, but when we experience radical intimacy with Jesus, every aspect of life seems to just fit in and fall into place. Getting closer to Jesus is an ongoing process that involves any number of steps.  Now, I am not claiming to be an expert on the subject by any means, but here are four simple things that the Lord put in my heart:

  1. Spend quality quiet time with Jesus. Quiet time can involve reading various gospel oriented books or listening to devotionals or even Christian music. Just taking some time off to sit and think about certain verses or passages from the Bible would also amount to quiet time. It’s frankly just isolating ourselves from this noisy world and letting God know that we are waiting on him. So quality quiet time would surely make us feel closer to Jesus.
  2. Attend church regularly. This doesn’t mean just taking up space in a pew hoping that Jesus will seep in through osmosis.  We need to be sure that we try to actively engage ourselves in the worship. When songs are being sung, sing along from the heart, when the Word is being preached, we need to listen intently and open our hearts to the message He has for us. Being engaged in church can have you leaving Spirit-filled and closer to Jesus.
  3. Read the Bible. The Bible is the inspired Word of God himself.  Consider, if you will, the following verses:
    1. John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” KJV
    2. John 1:14 “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
    3. Since we refer to the Bible as the Word of God, and the above verses tell us that “the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” & “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” it is my humble opinion that the Bible is a manifestation of Jesus. Keep in mind that I am not a biblical scholar by any stretch.  The way I figure it is the best way to have an intimate knowledge of Jesus and to be as close as humanly possible to Him is to, not just read, but ingest, dwell on, meditate on Jesus, the Word of God.
  4. Talk to Him. The best way that I have found to get to know more about someone is to talk to them.  It is the same way with Jesus.  Jesus is our friend.  No, He is more than just a friend.  We are His family. We should talk to Him like He is in the room with us.  Jesus is always listening and will never leave us or forsake us.  Regular, meaningful conversations with Jesus are the best way to get closer to Him.


More Thoughts On Worship

 

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “worship”?

Unfortunately, for most people that have been raised in a church, the word has become synonymous with singing or meeting together for a service. Since I have been the Interim Worship Leader here at Orchard, I have had a revelation.  I have realized that I am not concerned about what we are singing as much as I am concerned about what we are seeing. I realize that people worship at different levels. If you have not seen the One you worship, then you will always struggle in your response.

11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice, they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever!” — Revelation 5:11-13

I love that this scripture gives us a picture of what worship is like. They are not just singing a song they were taught, but they are describing the One that they are looking at. It’s also a great description of what we should give in response to His greatness. Things like power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and praise. That pretty much means He deserves everything we have.

I had an encounter with God at the age of 26 that changed me forever. God became more than a history book. He was no longer a God that seemed so distant and unresponsive. The God of the universe revealed Himself and everything inside of me changed. Worship was no longer something I could just do, but it was something I had to become.

The word worship can be defined as “worth-ship”. In other words, the daily activity of my life, reveals the worth of the God that I serve. This is why it is so important to be a person of character when proclaiming to be a Christian. The world is watching us and they determine who God is by the actions of His followers. We are the representatives of God on the earth. What do we want people to believe about Him? How much is His image worth to us?

When we choose to love instead of hate, to be patient instead of reacting, to be joyful in times of trials, or to be strong in the face of fear, then our response is an act of worship. Our response reveals His worth.

Challenge Question:

In what ways have your daily responses revealed your own worth instead of God’s? Write down 3 ways you might reveal God’s worth in your daily life.



Thoughts About Worship

 

Thoughts About Worship

Question: “What is the difference between Praise and Worship?  Aren’t they the same?”

Answer: Understanding the difference between praise and worship can bring a new depth to the way we honor the Lord. Throughout the Bible, the commands to “praise the Lord” are too numerous to mention. Angels and the heavenly hosts are commanded to praise the Lord (Psalm 89:5103:20148:2). All inhabitants of the earth are instructed to praise the Lord (Psalm 138:4Romans 15:11). We can praise Him with singing (Isaiah 12:5Psalm 9:11), with shouting (Psalm 33:198:4), with the dance (Psalm 150:4), and with musical instruments (1 Chronicles 13:8Psalm 108:2150:3-5).

Worship, however, comes from a different place within our spirits. Worship should be reserved for God alone (Luke 4:8). Worship is the art of losing self in the adoration of another. Praise can be a part of worship, but worship goes beyond praise. Praise is easy; worship is not. Worship gets to the heart of who we are. To truly worship God, we must let go of our self-worship. We must be willing to humble ourselves before God, surrender every part of our lives to His control, and adore Him for who He is, not just what He has done. Worship is a lifestyle, not just an occasional activity. Jesus said the Father is seeking those who will worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).

In Scripture, praise is usually presented as boisterous, joyful, and uninhibited. God invites praise of all kinds from His creation. Jesus said that if people don’t praise God, even the “stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40). The tone changes when the Bible mentions worship. We read verses like; “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 96:9). And, “Come let us worship and bow down” (Psalm 95:6). Often, worship is coupled with the act of bowing or kneeling, which shows humility and contrition (2 Chronicles 29:28Hebrews 11:21Revelation 19:10). It is through true worship that we invite the Holy Spirit to speak to us, convict us, and comfort us. Through worship, we realign our priorities with God’s and acknowledge Him once more as the rightful Lord of our lives.

Just as praise is intertwined with thanksgiving, worship is intertwined with surrender. It is impossible to worship God and anything else at the same time (Luke 4:8). The physical acts often associated with worship—bowing, kneeling, lifting hands—help to create the necessary attitude of humility required for real worship. Wise worship leaders know how to structure a worship service to allow participants to both praise and worship the Lord. Often, services begin with joyous praise songs and transition to a quieter, more introspective opportunity for worship.

Worship is an attitude of the heart. A person can go through the outward motions and not be worshiping (Psalm 51:16-17Matthew 6:5-6). God sees the heart, and He desires and deserves sincere, heartfelt praise and worship.



Thoughts About Praise

 

Thoughts about praise:

When we praise God, He is both the object and the audience for our praises.  He hears our praise, even though we don’t see Him visually.  We are speaking or singing directly to God as well as about Him.  Because of this fact, words of praise to God are some of the most important words that will ever come out of our mouths.  Praise is not something to ever take lightly.  When our praise for God is genuine, we are expressing the overflow of our hearts and sharing good things about our God.  We are telling or writing or in some other way (music, dance, art) expressing a clear message about who God is and what He has done.  Our praise can be part of a testimony of what God has done, and is doing in our lives.  Praise can be one brief statement, or it can be a more lengthy expression.  We are sharing with others the news that God is good and at the same time telling Him that we know He is good.  We do need to be careful about expressing praise only when something happens that we are happy about.  “God is good all the time and all the time God is good.”  He is worthy of our praise!

All of us have to be intentional about praise.  We have to choose to become people who make a commitment to express praise to God and to others about God.  We have to choose to be both vulnerable and strong in expressing praise to God within the congregation.  We lay aside any concerns about what other people are thinking or doing, and we simply focus on praising God with all of our hearts.  Praise opens our hearts to God as we focus on Him alone.  He inhabits (dwells within, or manifests His presence within) the praise of His people.  It’s so amazing that God chooses to meet us and transform us with His presence when we make the choice to praise Him!

Praise is also necessary for the heart of every Christian even when we are feeling down, disappointed, or crushed by grief.  In the midst of our deepest valleys, we still recognize that God’s goodness and faithfulness are praiseworthy.  Because our praise opens the courts of the Lord, He will meet us there.  When we are willing to give to God the sacrifice of praise, knowing that He is good and merciful even in the midst of our trials or suffering, we give Him an opportunity to minister peace and comfort to our hurting hearts.  No matter what is happening in our lives, our God is worthy of praise!


Singing Can Help Us Express Our Unity

 

Singing Can Help Us Express Our Unity

People sing together in the strangest places. At sporting events, fans sing enthusiastically about their desire to crush the opponent. People sing at New Year’s Eve parties, Christmas time, rock concerts, weddings, and even funerals. When eating out we often have to endure well-meaning but musically challenged servers in restaurants attempt to sing some form of “Happy Birthday” to an embarrassed individual. I always ask myself, “Why do we do this?” It’s not as though anyone thinks this is enjoyable. Do they?

While these events aren’t equally significant, something similar is happening. Our singing tends to bind us together. It’s more effective than simply reciting or shouting words in unison. Singing enables us to spend extended periods of time communicating the same thoughts, the same passions, and the same intentions. That process can actually have a physical effect on our bodies. Scientists have found that singing corporately produces a chemical change in our bodies that contributes to a sense of bonding.

When it comes to the church, this characteristic of singing has significant implications, all of which require great wisdom and discernment. To be clear, Scripture doesn’t talk only about congregational singing. God is honored when we sing alone, when a musically gifted individual leads out in a solo, when a choir sings, or when different segments of a church sing to one another, taking turns. The Bible isn’t specific about exactly who sings when.

But the predominant emphasis of Scripture is believers confessing their common beliefs together. The book of Revelation doesn’t give the impression that Jesus died for independent soloists, people who would sing on their own clouds or in different sections of the renewed earth by themselves. He died to redeem a universal choir.

That means every voice in the church matters. We’re not called simply to listen to others sing — as we are prone to do increasingly in our iPod, Internet-downloading culture — or to sing by ourselves. We are called to sing with others, especially in the context of our local church. The question isn’t, Do you have a voice? The question is, Do you have a song? If you’ve turned from your sins and trusted in Christ, if you’re forgiven and reconciled to God, then you have a song. It’s a song of the redeemed, of those who have been rescued from the righteous wrath of God through the cross of Jesus Christ and are now called his friends. Once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God, and our singing together, every voice contributing, is one way we express that truth.