Looking For The Light When All You See Is Darkness

Looking For The Light When All You See Is Darkness

 
Everyone knows that one person who always sees the bright side. They’re sickening, aren’t they? The ones who pipe up in the dark moments with the obscure silver lining that’s absolutely true and positively irritating? They are unfailingly cheerful to the point of living in denial.
 
It’s true that those overly positive people can make you want to claw your eyeballs out or plug your ears (or at least stuff a sock in their mouths), but the reason they’re so irritating is that we know they’re right. Especially if you’re a believer, you know there’s always a bright side. Now, that doesn’t mean we can’t be sad. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t grieve. But it does mean that grief and sorrow shouldn’t ever get the better of us, because God is stronger.
 
We don’t have to live in darkness, because if you follow Jesus, you can always look for the light.
 
But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.
Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy.
Though I fall I will rise;
Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.”
 
 
What is light anyway? It’s all well and good to talk about light and darkness in symbolic terms. It’s very poetic, but I’m practical. What does it even mean?
 
All throughout the Bible, God calls Himself the Light. Jesus calls Himself the Light. The Word is called the Light. What do all those things have in common? Well, one major thing is that They’re all 100% true. God can’t lie. Neither does Jesus, neither does the Bible. God’s truth is light that shines in the darkest moments of our lives.
 
Even when we’re surrounded by the darkness of fear and uncertainty or loneliness or sorrow or pain, what we need to remember is that all those things will lie to us. Fear and uncertainty tell us we’ll never be good enough. Loneliness and sorrow and pain tell us that this life is all there is. And that’s not true.
 
In those moments when the darkness threatens to overwhelm you with its lies, remember the truth. Let God’s light in. Stop hunkering in the shadows, letting our enemy whisper his devious lies to you to break you, to stop you, to scare you. That’s what he’s doing. Don’t let him.
 
Instead, get up and look for the light. Look at your situation and try to see God in it. If you’re a believer, He’s there. He may not be obvious, but He’s present. He probably won’t be where you expect Him to be, but He’s there. But you don’t have to acknowledge Him for Him to work. He’ll do His part without your knowledge, but if you can see Him, it makes life a lot easier.
 
On one hand, it’s irritating to be around people who always see God working. They just have this cheerfulness that nothing seems to touch. And in some cases, that’s bad, because humans need to feel. We all experience sorrow and sadness, but if we don’t allow ourselves to feel it–to admit to feeling it–and to learn to manage it, we’ll run ourselves into the ground.
 
Even negative emotions have a purpose, and you should never ignore them. Just don’t try to face them without God’s help. You won’t get through life without falling. Everyone falls, but you don’t have to stay there. Get up. Look for God’s light, and don’t stop until you find it.
 
So don’t let the darkness slow you down. Don’t let the lies break your spirit. God has plans for you, friend.


The Beauty Of The Broken

The Japanese Art of Kintsugi

 The Beauty Of The Broken

God never throws away the broken pieces of our lives; He redeems all of them.

Not too long ago, I dropped one of my favorite coffee mugs and broke it into several pieces. I was quite frustrated because it happened to be a sentimental heirloom to me—one that I purchased on our honeymoon twenty years ago. I swept up the shards in frustration and tried to piece the cup back together. That disappointment led me to a discovery into the 500­year­old Japanese art of kintsugi.

In Japan, rather than tossing broken pieces of ceramics in the trash, craftsmen often practice the art of kintsugi, or “golden joinery,” which is a method of taking broken pieces and restoring them with a lacquer that is mixed with gold, silver, or platinum.

The story of kintsugi is said to have begun in the 15th century when Japanese military commander Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke one of his beloved Chinese tea bowls and, disappointed with the shoddy repair job it was treated to, urged Japanese craftsmen to come up with a more pleasing method of repair. Thus the art of kintsugi was born. Collectors soon became so enamored with the new art that some were accused of deliberately smashing valuable pottery so it could be repaired with the gold seams of kintsugi.

As an art, kintsugi will make a mended vessel look more aesthetic and become more valued than it was before it was fractured. As a philosophy, kintsugi treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, something of a redemptive beauty, rather than something to disguise, cover up, or replace altogether. It has similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi­sabi, an aesthetic worldview that sees beauty in the flawed, the damaged, or the imperfect. The idea behind the technique of kintsugi is to recognize the entire history of the object, with all of its cracks and flaws, and to visibly incorporate the repaired fissures into the new piece. It beautifies the breakage and treats it as an important part of the object’s history, thus valuing the fractures instead of disguising them or glossing over them. The process typically results in something far more beautiful and elegant than the original.

To throw the broken pot away is to destroy its unique story. To repair it the kintsugi way is to continue its tale of adventure, triumph, and redemptive beauty.
 
The world is full of people with broken hearts, broken spirits, and broken relationships. We see damaged goods all around us. And we see it in ourselves when we are courageous enough to go there.

In fear of rejection, we’d rather cover up the damaged parts of our lives and work harder at putting our best pieces out front for others to see. We feel ashamed of our weaknesses and fear that if people really knew us they wouldn’t have anything to do with us. This is because we are keenly aware that we live in a culture that rejects broken things too easily rather than one that embraces the value of damaged goods.

Think about some of the cracks and fractures in the lives of the men and women God used throughout the Bible: Moses had a speech problem. Jonah was self-absorbed. David was an adulterer and a murderer. Samson was a womanizer. Rahab was a prostitute. The Samaritan woman had a whole string of divorces. Zacchaeus had engaged in extortion. Peter was hotheaded, impulsive, and temperamental. Naomi was a bitter widow. Elijah was suicidal. Leah wasn’t attractive enough. Joseph was abused and abandoned. Jacob was a liar and a schemer. Martha worried about everything. Timothy had an ulcer and Noah got drunk.

What’s significant is that none of these things defined these people. What defined them was their relationship with God. But what I love about the Bible is that it doesn’t omit their weaknesses and their failures when it describes their victories. Just like in the art of kintsugi, the broken pieces weren’t something to be thrown out, they were a part of the whole redemptive story—one that God gracefully wrote despite their flawed personalities, their broken humanity, and their obvious weaknesses.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul was struggling with an antagonizing “thorn” in his life. We’re not sure exactly what it was but we do know that it bothered him so much that he pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away. But the only response he got was: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” That response caused Paul to become good with the weaknesses in his life because he realized that Christ would be glorified in all of them. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV)

There is truly a beauty waiting to be discovered when we begin to realize that God is using everything in our lives, including our brokenness, our pain, our failures, our weaknesses, our fractured relationships, our shattered dreams, our disappointments, and our cracked personalities, to bring about a very, very, beautifully redemptive story. He assuredly is making all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)

Remember that as you take time to abide in Him today.



3 Things Christians Do That Non-Christians Despise

3 Things Christians Do That Non-Christians Despise

By Carey Nieuwhof

                Spend two minutes talking to almost anyone outside the Christian faith and you’re almost certain to hear a list of complaints they have about Christians. The problem has been around awhile.  As Mahatma Gandhi famously (and sadly) said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” He’s not alone. The problem with many non-Christians isn’t that they don’t know any Christians. The challenge is they do.

                So what gives? Many Christians would tell you we have an image problem: we’re treated unfairly, we’re being persecuted, or we’re just badly misunderstood. I’m not so sure. It’s not so much that Christians have an image problem. It’s far more likely that we have an integrity problem. Do we get misunderstood on some issues? Of course. But that’s outside our control. There are more than a few issues entirely within our control that give us a bad name with people outside Christianity.

                Here are 3 things Christians do that non-Christians despise.

  1. JUDGE:
    1. It doesn’t take long for non-Christians to tell you how much they hate the way Christians judge other people. Another two minutes on social media will reveal Christians and preachers condemning unchurched people for their sexual habits and preferences, life-style choices and even political views. I doubt this is what Jesus had in mind when he gave his life in love for the world.
    2. Disclosure: without the mercy and intervention of Christ, I’m very judgmental. And years ago, I realized how devastating judgment and criticism can be to others. So I’m waging a life-long battle against it. Confessing it, repenting of it almost daily.
    3. I realized years ago that very few people get judged into life change. Far more get loved into it.
    4. It also occurred to me that the presence of judgment almost always guarantees an absence of love. Think about it through the lens of your marriage, a friendship or even someone you work with: it is virtually impossible to love someone and judge someone at the same time.
    5. But wait, you ask: what if they’re making a mistake and I need to correct them?
      1. First of all, look at your mistakes and the depth of your sin, and deal with your issues first. In the process, you’ll encounter a loving God who forgives you despite your rather egregious sin.
      2. And having been loved, you can love others.
    6. I try to remember this rule: If I’m judging someone, I’m not loving them. You can’t judge someone and love them at the same time. What would happen if Christians stopped judging the world (isn’t that God’s job?) and started loving it instead? I believe that’s what Jesus did.

 

  1. BE HYPOCRITICAL:
    1. There’s a word for Christian who say one thing and do another. The word is hypocrite. It’s far easier to call someone else a hypocrite than it is to admit you’re one.
    2. The truth is, that as much as I hate it, I’m a hypocrite. My walk doesn’t always match my talk. That’s why I don’t have a fish on my car. When I’m in a hurry and my natural impatience surfaces, the last thing some person God loves needs to see is a Christian cut him off. Of course, it’s worse than that. I’m not always a loving husband, kind father, steadfast son, patient boss, or even compassionate friend. Like you, I’m a mixture of good 
    3. What did Paul say? Nothing good lives in me. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:18). That could be a life-verse for me. Well, actually, it kind of is.
    4. Sanctification is a process that never ends. I am not who I want to be (yet). I am not who God wants me to be.  But I’m different. I’m changing. And Christ is at work in me. I believe that’s the reality for every person who calls Jesus Savior.
    5. So what do imperfect Christians do? I mean just deciding you’re not going to make mistakes never keeps you from making mistakes. I think the answer is simple: you watch what you say. Don’t pretend to be something or someone you’re not. I find the more humility I add to my words, the smaller the gap is between who I am and who I say I am.
    6. When you admit your shortcomings, you build a bridge between you and others. Owning your sin is different than living in it; confession is never an excuse for complacency.
    7. So, what do you do if you live in the tension between what you usually say or want to say and what you do? I think you change both. You change how you live through the power of Christ day by day (getting better), and at the same time, you change how you talk about your faith, yourself and how you live (adding more honestly and humility to your words).
    8. Want a quick fix for hypocrisy? Accelerate your walk. Humble your talk. Nothing closes the gap between word and action faster than that.
  2. STINK AT FRIENDSHIP
    1. Friendship is hard. We all have ideas of finding the perfect friends with whom we’ll never disagree, share 1000 common interests and ride off into the sunset with.
    2. Well, very few human relationships ever work that way. Even in marriage, the best marriages are almost always ones in which people have overcome deep and real obstacles to find a powerful love that’s far deeper than emotion.
    3. Perhaps the first obstacle between non-Christians and Christians is that relatively few Christians actively pursue meaningful friendships with people who don’t share their faith. Between churches that offer programs 5 nights a week (leaving little time for Christians to make friends outside the church) and Christians who are afraid of the world, many Christians don’t pursue authentic relationships with non-Christians. Which means much of the interaction non-Christians have is situational and observational rather than truly relational. They observe Christians in life and at work, notices traces of judgment and hypocrisy and draw all kinds of conclusions. I get that.
    4. But Jesus went so much deeper than that. Jesus pursued friendships with people who were different than him. Whose lifestyles were far different than anything God had in mind for them (or for people in relationship with him). Yet Jesus was their friend. He went to their house for dinner. They traveled together. They shared moments and meals and life. It scandalized the religious leaders of Jesus day, and sadly, when it’s practiced authentically, it still scandalizes most of us today.
    5. Think about it. When was the last time you hung out with a sex-worker? When was the last time you had someone who’s not your skin color, not your political persuasion and doesn’t share your value system over for dinner, or when was the last time you broke bread with an addict (who’s not in recovery)?
    6. Often when Christians do pursue ‘friendships’ with people far from God, it’s more of a project than it is a friendship. But people aren’t projects; people are people. People can smell it a mile away if you see them as a project, not a person. Even as you think about expanding the ministry of your church, if you see people as a means to an end, that’s a problem.
    7. Which leads us to another tension in our friendships with those outside the Christian faith. Some Christians do have a relationship with unchurched people. So: how exactly do you talk about faith? Great question!
    8. Most of us swing to one extreme or the other: either we always talk about faith, or we never talk about. Both are mistakes. Always talk about faith, and you’re turning the relationship into a project. Never talk about, and you miss the most important thing in life.
    9. Real friendships always drill down on real issues, and few things are more significant than the meaning of life. How do you talk about? Naturally, organically, in the context of your story is a great place to start.
    10. Real friendships are like that. Want a simpler place than that to begin? Try this. Just like the person. As much friend Reggie Joiner says, people will never believe you love them if they feel you don’t like them.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Anything you see that people who are not Christians despise about Christians?  If you’re a Christian, what helps you overcome these issues, and what other issues do you struggle with?



When Times Are Tough

When Times Are Tough

Many of us may be feeling oppressed these days.  With the global pandemic, hurricanes in the Gulf, and all of the unrest and division in our country; it is hard not to feel overwhelmed.  There is great news.  We have a place of security and safety we can run to.  Actually, it is not a place.  It is a person – Jesus Christ!

“The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble;” Psalm 9:9 NASB

What is a stronghold, exactly?  According to Webster, a stronghold is defined as 1) a fortified place; 2) a place of security or survival[1]. Jesus is our stronghold! When times are tough and we feel overwhelmed, Jesus is right there with us.  He is in those times of trouble with us and will help us come through the tough times.               

Did you notice the verse said, “times of trouble”, not just “time of trouble”? It’s because tough times come to us several times during our lives – it is not just a one-time event. Wouldn’t that be wonderful, if we only experienced trouble once in our lifetime and never faced it again! Unfortunately that’s not how this fallen world works. Trouble can come to us daily, and even many times a day. Trouble often comes unexpectedly, and at times it seems to be waiting for us around every corner.

Times of trouble come for all of us – no one is exempt- but when these times do come, we are not at their mercy. We know that He is also our stronghold, our refuge at all times.  Jesus does not  pick which troubles He will help with. He is a refuge to us each and every time we face trouble.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the things going on around you? Are you facing financial difficulties, relationship issues, feelings of depression and hopelessness?  There is a place of refuge, a stronghold you can run to for help. Jesus will make His presence your place of refuge. Go to Him and find help, safety, comfort, strength, guidance, whatever you need to make it through these times.  You can’t seek His help too many times! There is no trouble too small for Him! It doesn’t matter how many times you go to Him because He wants you to come to Him.

So, again, if today you are in one of these tough times, remember you have a stronghold- Jesus!

 

[1] Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Stronghold. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved September 21, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stronghold



What Would Jesus Do?

            Do you remember the “WWJD” bracelets of the 90’s?  Those letters stood for the question: “What Would Jesus Do?”  Thirty years later, some think the answer is rioting, looting, and burning.  A tweet from comic book artist Dean Trippe equating the violent riots to Jesus overturning the tables in the temple has gone viral and is (for some bizarre reason) gaining a lot of traction among Christians.

            To make his case, Trippe referenced the accounts in Matthew 21:12-13 and John 2:13-17. When Jesus arrived at the temple in Jerusalem, he found it in bad shape. Money-grubbers had overrun the house of worship and turned it into a marketplace. In response, Jesus drove them out, saying, “My house will be called ‘a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

            There is no similarity between that and the violence happening today.  The comparison is ignorant on a number of levels.  Trying to compare Jesus pointing out and removing the corruption from His temple to what is happening today shows an ignorance of what the Bible teaches completely.  He is God and has every right to clean His own home. He didn’t violate anyone’s rights. It’s Jesus’ house He was cleansing!  The idea that we could then turn that into looters going into other people’s houses and businesses and destroying them is absolute insanity and it shows a total ignorance of the biblical worldview. It was His house. 

            When we see people, that profess the name of Jesus, inciting riots and looting and trying to help with that and trying to put a Christian veneer over it, it breaks our hearts.  God abhors racism and His Word is very clear about victims’ rights.

            The only answer is Jesus!  God is holy; we are sinners. We are rebels against a holy God. We deserve hell. And all these things we see in our nation right now is an expression of the evil and wickedness that comes from within people’s hearts. It’s coming from deep down within and the only escape from that is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

            Would you join with us in praying for a spiritual awakening and revival in the hearts of His people?  Here is a list of Specific Prayers For Revival and Spiritual Awakening:[1]

  1. Ask God to bring deep conviction of sin, spiritual brokenness, a holy fear of God and genuine repentance among His people. There will be no revival without these elements and only God can produce them in His people. After all we cannot program or work up genuine brokenness and repentance. (2 Corinthians 7:10)
  2. Pray for deep cleansing, genuine repentance, and spiritual power to engulf pastors and Christian leaders. Revival and spiritual awakening are extremely unlikely without a mighty move of God in pastors and Christian leaders. Renewed pastors are absolutely crucial to a move of God in our day! (Ephesians 6:14-20)
  3. Pray for God to bestow spiritual hunger in His people and draw them to fervent intercession. God has to grant people the genuine faith and the fervent desire for prayer. With all our promotion and programming, we cannot “produce a genuine prayer movement. (Philippians 2:13)
  4. Pray that God will bring loving unity in our churches and a deep harmony between our churches. Many churches need healing among members and many churches need to stop competing jealously with other churches. (John 13:35)
  5. Pray for God to fill His people with a passion to see people saved. (Only God can give a genuine burden for souls.) Until God’s people intensely pray for the lost and do aggressive soul winning revival will tarry. Be sure you are constantly praying for many lost people by name. (Romans 9:1-3)

[1] https://www.absc.org/articles/10-specific-prayers-for-revival-spiritual-awakening/



“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.”


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