Thursday, April 28, 2011

Let it Rain!

After two days He will revive us;
   on the third day He will raise us up,
   that we may live before Him.
Let us know;
 let us press on to know the LORD;
His going out is sure as the dawn;
He will come to us
 as the showers,
   as the spring rains that water the earth.

Hosea 6:2-3

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chains Be Broken!

Galatians 5:1, 6-21 (MSG)

1 Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.

6-18My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

19-21It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

I was reading this passage this morning and it just struck me, particularly verses 19-21. The Message Bible just nails it- these are the sins eating away at all of us, churched and unchurched, saved and unsaved. We're all in a sinking ship together. But thankfully, those of us who have turned to Jesus are holding on to a lifeline that can't ever be severed or released. 

At our church, we've adopted the saying "Chains Be Broken" from an awesome Brooke Fraser song called "You'll Come" and the song talks about waiting on God  and knowing that He is rescuing us and is responding to us when we respond to Him. The bridge of the song is:

Chains be broken
Lives be healed
Eyes be opened
Christ is revealed

I think verse 19-21 of Galatians 5 is the perfect list of "chains" we're praying against in our church. We want to see people released from the slavery of these things that are holding them back from a free life lived for Christ. 

I am going to print Galatians 5:19-21 off and post it somewhere where I can see it and I encourage anyone reading this to do the same- this list, though Paul wrote it a couple thousand years ago, is still relevant today- they had the same problems then as we do now, but they also had the same God that we have now! We have access to the same powerful Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead to overcome the chains holding us back and God wants to break them for us, but He wants our hearts to acknowledge these things that are holding us back and willingly shake them loose as He breaks them and then He wants us to run straight to Him, never looking back. Let's pray, as a community, for these chains that are listed in verses 19-21 to be broken, smashed, and destroyed that we might be free to worship our King freely and completely with surrendered hearts and lives, every moment of every day! We declare it-Chains Be Broken!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Altar of Peace

I was reading in a study Bible of mine this morning in John 14. There was an interesting note off to the side about a historical event that had occurred that put Jesus' inspiring words about peace into a new light for me. I am sort of a history nerd (it was one of my concentrations for my education major in college) and I taught Social Studies for a couple years when I taught middle school and loved it. Anytime we can use historical information to gain further context and insight, that's a good thing. 

So here's a brief history lesson for you: 

"In 9 B.C. Augusts dedicated the Altar of Peace in Rome, a marble altar in an enclosure 38 by 35 feet. The altar was decorated with carved garlands and other sculptures illustrating peace and prosperity that Augustus announced as his gift to the world. Jesus announced yet a greater peace from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:27)"

So it stands to reason that people must have been pretty impressed with this giant marble peace symbol. It was probably the talk of many towns. It was something visual, a very literally huge reminder of the "gift of peace" that Augustus promised. If you'd like to read more about it, you can click here:

This picture shows a reconstruction of the altar (the original was destroyed). As you can see, it's an impressive structure- beautiful even in an architectural sense. But looking at it, the word "peace" doesn't really come to mind. So what were the Romans going after when they launched this building process? 

People like believing in and can understand things that they can see, don't they? I mean, we drive our car because we know that our car is in working order when we pop the hood. We like to walk on a bridge only if it's not visibly falling apart. We like to put our kids in swings that look sturdy enough to hold them up. We like to put our trust in things we can touch and see. It's difficult to embrace an abstract concept and put your total trust into that concept.  I think that's why Augustus built this giant marble deal. Peace is a feeling, but he tried to create an object to encapsulate it. We do the exact same thing today. We try to find peace in a myriad of different objects or places. But we can search and search and we will find that anything that is not of God will not bring us the peace we long for. 

In John 14:27, Jesus said "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

This past weekend was just amazing. At our church, Lancaster Community Church, I believe that so many lives were changed. Many people came to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Many more people committed themselves to moving into higher levels of commitment to Christ. There is a peace in my heart  this morning in knowing that Jesus, though He was crucified, which we remembered on Friday, reigns forever in heaven, which we should celebrate every single moment of our lives. There is such peace in knowing that I am loved, I am free from my sin, I am part of an everlasting Kingdom, and that if God is for me (and He is, by the way), then nothing can stand against me. 

If you find yourself on a constant quest for peace, would you just do me a favor? A couple favors, actually. First of all, pull out your Bible and read it. Start with John 14 and keep going. Secondly, if you're not part of a church, would you just give it a shot? I think you would find our church to be welcoming, very casual, non-threatening, filled with everyday, ordinary people who are trying, just like you, on a lifelong journey to find Jesus. Some of us are running on that journey, others are moving at a snails pace, but we're all moving forward and experiencing the beautiful peace that comes from only one source and that's Jesus. He is truly the author and giver of peace and is more real to me than any manmade attempt at peace that ever was, or ever will be.

 Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Friday, April 22, 2011

Once For All

"He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."  1 John 2:2

This verse has been on my mind and in my heart all week. I think it's only appropriate to share my thoughts today- on the day we set aside to remember Jesus and His sacrifice. First of all, that word "atoning". We don't use it a whole lot in our everyday speech. It means "to make amends for an injury or wrong." It usually refers to someone making their OWN fault or mistake right again. What's so significant about this word is that Jesus never MADE a mistake or had any faults. So why did He have to atone for them? Because He did it for us. For our sins. 

And then here's the part that blows me away- "and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." Did you catch that word "whole"? As in, the entire species, every race, every person who ever lived, every person who will ever live in the future. Every person who embraces Jesus' truth, every person who disdains and refuses it. Everybody. Rich, poor, black, white, young old, woman, man, child, parent, atheist, Bible-thumping Christian...He did it for everyone. And though the world chooses to remain in ignorance of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we MUST remember. We will NOT forget today, or ANY day that He paid the price for our mess. We will remember that when we put our faith in Jesus, the transaction was complete.

If the story ended with the death of Jesus, it would be a pretty bleak weekend. It would be a pretty bleak life actually. But we know in our hearts that He has overcome the grave. In a couple days, we will celebrate that truth. Had Jesus just died and stayed dead, I wonder what life would look like. It seems possible that we would still have some assurance of our sins being covered by His sacrifice. But we would have no hope. No power. No way to know that our futures were bright. I think this is the mindset of some Christians today- they know and understand that Jesus died, but they leave Him in the tomb. They never fully accept His power and live in the hope of the resurrection. Jesus did come back to life. He walked among His followers. It is corroborated by eyewitnesses in the New Testament and was miraculously foretold through dozens of prophesies in the Old Testament. It happened. And because it happened, we can be saved from a life of our sin and our meaningless selves and we can have hope for our present and our future. Jesus did that for us. Jesus did that for the whole world. 

A truth that goes unaccepted is still true, but a truth unapplied is like having a really awesome gift given to you and never opening it. Sadly, most of the world is willfully ignoring the gift and the giver. Most of the world is living either in denial or ignorance of the moment when God shattered the power of death once for ALL people. Do you know that Jesus died for You and that He was raised from the dead in a moment of pure power and victory? 

I'm filled with joy and peace when I say that I have embraced that moment in my heart more this year than any other year. I pray that you will do the same.

"Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered himself."   Hebrews 7:27

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

This Is It

If there was ever a time to throw caution to the wind and throw your hands up in the air in adoration of our risen and reigning Savior, this is it.

If there was ever an opportunity to humble yourself and bow low to the ground in awe and wonder of our living King, this is it.

If there was ever a pivotal moment in your life where you knew it was time to let go of anything holding you back from fully surrendering to God, this is it.

If there was ever an instant to proclaim victory over the enemy, this is it.

If there was ever a week to contemplate ways you can change so that your whole life is one long response to the revelation of our everlasting Father, this is it. 

If there was ever a chance to sing with your whole heart and soul, crying out, shouting out, belting out His praises, this is it.

If there was ever a weekend where the power of God would be undeniably powerful, chain-breaking, heart-healing, life-saving... this is it.

Easter 2011...This is it. 

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; 
Psalm 95:6

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,  that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.
Psalm 30:11-12

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.
Psalm 42:4

Monday, April 18, 2011

Is Someone Cutting Up an Onion in Here?

I am not, by nature, an extremely weepy person. I sometimes crumble and cry out of frustration or worry, but it's rare when I am moved to tears by something positive. Well, yesterday just brought on the torrent of tears... I am all misty eyed just writing this! 

First of all, we had the most awesome service at LCC yesterday. It's difficult to explain if you haven't been there, but from up on the stage, when you look out past the lights, the thing you see is a sea of faces. Usually during the first song, the faces for the most part are just a little distracted- kind of glancing around to see who's at church, or turning off phones, or looking at bulletins. But usually by the second song, people begin to settle in and their faces change. Yesterday, particularly in the second service, you could just see a hunger and a desire for God on the faces of the people. 

Almost a desperation. 

What a beautiful place to be- in a state of sheer desperation for God. When we break through to that stage, that's when God begins to move and break the chains. It was all I could do to not get caught up just staring into the crowd, at the faces of so many dear friends of mine, or faces of dear potential friends- there are so many new people I haven't met yet! Watching people seek and find God is an amazing experience. And that's what went down at LCC in many lives yesterday. So LCC was a beautiful place to be in the morning.

Then I played trumpet in a cantata at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Lancaster with a large orchestra. These people are good! The string section just always blows me away. Prior to the performance as they were just tuning up, I started feeling this beauty stirring in my soul. The sounds being produced, though seemingly discordant and jumbled, were absolutely stunning to me. And then the conductor called us to attention and a 60 member choir and large orchestra began to musically tell the story of Jesus' death and resurrection. It was heavenly. I had the thought- only God could have invented something so awe-inspiring as music. It's absolutely amazing that He has given us such a gift. And I am wired in a way that I have always perceived and processed music emotionally. It's almost like my language. There is not a moment in the day when a song isn't going on in my head. I asked my husband if that was normal the other day, but I think we've all come to the conclusion that I'm not normal :) That's a good thing though.

So even though I was blown away by the strings and the swelling voices of the choir, one little girl's pure innocent voice singing a solo that concluded the cantata just about did me in. She sang:

Come walk with me
Into the world
As we tell The Story through our lives
Though the road we travel will not end
Walk with me 
As we say Amen

And then this morning, the Pastor whose church I attended from Middle School into college- his mother passed away today. He told on Facebook of how she, in her 70's taught a Bible Club in a housing project until the group she was working with made her quit because of how dangerous the area was. She loved working with children and telling them about Jesus. As I was reading his status update about his Mom passing, I thought about what an awesome week it is to die if you're a Christian.

 I mean, think about it. We try on earth to pull off these impacting, powerful Easter celebrations at our churches, but this lady is going to spend Easter (if they even have a specific designation for Easter in Heaven- it's probably more like an everyday event to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus), right there worshiping the risen and reigning King of Kings! The picture in my head of all the people in heaven gathering around our loving Savior, singing out to Him and seeing His nail scarred hands reaching out, beckoning them to celebrate and adore Him just caused me to lose it. My kids are looking at me like, what in the world is WRONG with this woman? It's just Jesus. He's causing me to completely unravel and break down the walls we build up around our hearts. 

I hope you are encouraged and inspired to dive into this holy week with the realization that Jesus died for us and for His glory and He now lives and reigns on high in glory so amazing --we can't begin to fathom it. And what really chokes me up is that He's also, right here, right now in our hearts, showing us that He is our Way, our Truth, and our Life. 

May we all be open to Him this week and every week. 


"And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him." John 12:24-26

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Forget About God's Will For Your Life

The Francis Chan, Forgotten God study my LCC Small Group is doing is so powerful. We have one more week of discussing it and I have to admit that I'm a little sad to see it go. But the lessons learned and the changes made in my own heart have been incredible. I was reading last night in Chapter 7 of Forgotten God and it really impacted me strongly and I hope that by writing it here that it can impact you as well. The whole book is awesome, but Chapter 7 alone is worth the whole $14.99. Seriously, it's probably worth way more than $14.99. Here are the two parts I read that really impacted me:

"I think a lot of us need to forget about 'God's will for my life'. God cares more about our response to His Spirit's leading today, in this moment, than about what we intend to do next year. In fact, the decisions we make next year will be so profoundly affected by the degree to which we submit to the Spirit right now, in today's decisions. To be honest, I believe part of the desire to 'know God's will for my life' is birthed in fear and results in paralysis. We are scared to make mistakes, so we fret over figuring out God's will. We wonder what living according to His will would actually look like, and we are scared to find out. We forget that we are never promised a twenty-year plan of action; instead, God promises multiple times in scripture never to leave us or forsake us. "

This is so freeing for me- I think we've all heard this and we understand it, but do we believe it? Do we live by this principle of seeking after the Spirit today and knowing that God's purpose and plan will be revealed as we take an active, participatory role in our ongoing relationship  with the Spirit? And if you're tempted to believe that this active, participatory role is difficult or part of a "works theology", you couldn't be further from the truth. Because the flip side of this action we take to constantly respond to God and work on problem areas in our lives, is that His Spirit will be the source of power to do it. As Chan states, "We work out our salvation as God works in us." 

We're a team. But we seldom see it that way, because we try to lead God around like a stubborn dog on a leash, rather than letting go and seeing where He will lead us. 

Chan also writes about this in Chapter 7:

"Nowhere in Scripture do I see a 'balanced life with a little bit of God added in' as an ideal for us to emulate. Yet, when I look at our churches, this is exactly what I see: a lot of people who have added Jesus to their lives. People who have, in a sense asked Him to join them on their life journey, to follow them where they feel they should go, rather than following Him as commanded. The God of the universe is not something we can just add to our lives and keep on as we did before. The Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is not someone we can just call on when we want a little extra power in our lives. Jesus Christ did not die in order to follow us. He died and rose again so that we could forget everything else and follow Him to the cross, to true life." 

I pray that we all throw out our ideas of having things all together before we fully pursue life with God. I pray that we stop trying to make God do things our way or leveraging His glory to get what we want or think we're entitled to. I pray that we let go and let God do what He does best- be God. 

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Worship Matters Part 2

Here are some more reflections, direct quotes, etc. from the book "Worship Matters" by Bob Kauflin.

So they feared the LORD but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away. 2 Kings 17:33

Our hearts are so divided. Even when we have those rapturous moments with God and feel like we really have it together, it's too easy to fall back into our old ways. We are so pulled and persuaded that there are other ways to find joy and peace in our lives that do not include, or hardly include a life with Jesus. This is false. A complete lie straight from the enemy. The "heart" chapter in the book really opened my eyes to this. If we want to worship in "spirit and in truth" as stated in  John 4:23, our hearts are going to require some attention.

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.
John 4:23

"We fear the Lord externally doing all the right things on Sunday morning- singing, strumming a guitar, lifting our hands, yet actively serve false gods throughout the week. We profess to love the true God, but actually love false idols. It's a condition that God, in His mercy, is committed to changing." Bob Kauflin

"The Lord sees and judges the heart; He has no regard to outward forms of worship if there be no inward adoration, if no devout affection be employed therein. It is therefore a matter of infinite importance to have the whole heart engaged steadfastly for God." Isaac Watts

About the time that I lose a sense of awe for who God is is about the time that my heart is invaded by other things trying to take God's rightful place. Andy Stanley often says "Vision leaks" to encourage leaders to stay focused on their mission and goals. I think awe and reverence leak too. Often. 

How do we combat this? Psalm 26:2-3 says "Prove me, O LORD, and try me;test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes,and I walk in your faithfulness." We have to ask. We need to be reminded of our heart conditions on a daily basis- an hourly basis if needed. God cannot be put into a box six days of the week and pulled out on Sunday like a forgotten toy. If we want to change and grow, we've got to put in some effort and develop routines that will bring us closer to the Savior.

I am so bad about this. I was waking up really early for a few weeks after the Summit and just spending some time in the word and in prayer. Well, then I got sick and started sleeping in because I needed my rest (legitimate excuse). But then I got better (excuse gone). And I still have been sleeping in (trapped in a bad routine). I then have to cram some time with God wherever I can fit it during my day. It's not that the desire is not there it's just that the effort is lacking. Maybe it's shocking to see a Worship Director write that, but it's the truth. I'm human and I am thankful that God knows my heart, but I also want my actions to match what my heart longs for.

All of us have a choice to make. Sometimes the choice is easy, but more often than not, it's hard. Worship God? OR Worship myself, or things, or someone we love, or an idea, or a dream we're chasing. Time is so variable and out of our control, so we must make the most of what we've been given and work on reversing the divisions in our hearts. Now. I know I felt so convicted while I wrote this that I'm going to set my alarm for early tomorrow morning as soon as I'm done publishing this blog! Desire comes easily, effort does not, but we must remember that it is part of our human condition that "God, in His mercy, is committed to changing."Praise God for never giving up on us! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

God Doesn't Call the Qualified, He Qualifies the Called

*This is the same post that appears in the LCC devotional for this week- so if you've read it on Facebook already, then this will be a repeat for you. Also, wanted to clarify- in my first draft, I had spent some time in the first paragraph talking not only about the disciples, but also about writers of the gospels and the apostle Paul. As always, I had written WAY too much :) So I had to cut back, and when I did, I neglected to edit the line that lists "physician" as one of the occupations of the disciples. I was referring to Luke, who actually was not one of the original disciples, but shortly after Jesus' death became one of Paul's travel companions. He is believed to have also written the book of Acts and when combined with the book of Luke, his writings comprise a quarter of the entire New Testament. Scholars say that his Greek was the best of all the writers of the scriptures. Luke emphasized joy, prayer, and the Holy Spirit more than any other gospel writer. He recognized the connection between the three and their importance.  So, when I state that the disciples came from all walks of life and listed physician as one of the occupations, though Luke was not an original disciple, he certainly was a very diligent student of Jesus' life, seeking firsthand accounts and recording them beautifully for us to read thousands of years later. I just wanted to clarify. 

"God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called" is one of my all-time favorite quotations.

When you look at the twelve men who Jesus called to learn from Him and go through life with, the disciples, we can see this idea really comes into play. The disciples were average guys—nothing special. They came from all walks of life, from simple fishermen to a physician to a despised tax collector. The world did not deem them as a force for change, but Jesus saw something in them. Even though they were a little rough around the edges, He knew they could do it!

When He called, they answered. Each of the twelve men gave up life as they had come to know it to follow Jesus.
The night before Jesus was crucified, He was with these dear friends. He humbly washed their feet, they ate their last supper together, and Jesus gave them His final words. So many amazing things were spoken that night, and can be read in John, Chapters 13-17. It's well worth the time to read. Out of the many precious, final statements Jesus made that night, I want to focus on John 15:16-17:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

He chose them. He believed in them. He did not choose them based on their own skills or power, but rather on their willingness to follow and be empowered by Him. He appointed them to carry His message to the world and their mission was powerfully accomplished!

He didn't begin with the most educated, most spiritually fit people He could find. Instead, He wanted willing hearts and open minds. He wanted people who had room to grow and change. He wanted them to work hard and actively live out His love and teachings.

Do you realize that Jesus has also chosen us? His call has not changed—He wants us to know that we belong to Him. He wants us to live lives that reflect His glory, asks us to produce lasting fruit, and desires that we love one another.
It seems like a daunting task, but He's given us all the power and strength we need to live as His chosen people! Just as He was confident that the disciples would be able to carry out His plans, I believe He is confident that we, by the power of His Spirit living in and through us, can do the same today.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Clean Up

Monday, Monday, Messy Monday. People dread Mondays for many reasons, most of those reasons being work related. For a stay-at-home Mom, Mondays are not any different from any day of the week, but in my case, Monday is always very messy. I have this little rule that I've made and hold tightly that states: "Mom will NOT clean anything (unless it's an emergency hazardous spill or something) on Sundays." It's a rule I have come to love. Well, I love it on Sundays, but by Monday morning, it becomes quite apparent that I took a day off. I look around at my house, dirt all over the wood floors, dishes piled on the counter, dirty laundry tossed in a pile on the bathroom floor, and it becomes very clear to me that I have a lot of catching up to do. That's what I have against Mondays. 

I used to be a very neat-freak kind of person. The kind of person who, if there was a small foreign object on the floor in front of the television, I would have to move it before I could focus on what I was watching. I used to wash each dish before it had touched the countertop for less than 5 seconds. But then I got married. Jarrod means well, he really does, but let's just say we have different standards of cleanliness. And then I had kids. Two boys to be exact. Let's just say I have had to do a lot of adjusting to what my idea of clean is. Jarrod's very wise Grandmother has a saying that her house is "Clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy." I have put my insatiable desire for cleanliness aside and now choose (or make myself) live by that motto. Seriously, life is no fun if you're constantly worried about the mess. Life is messy. Kids are messy. Especially boy kids. Many of you Moms (and Dads) out there know what I'm talking about- it's like your kids are in a room alone for 2 minutes and it goes from organized to chaos. They're like locusts, I tell you. Going from one room to the next to seek and destroy. They're like enemies of tidiness, assassins of orderliness. I am now to the point in my life where I can roll with the tide of the constant mess and deal with it with the "help" of my children... but then all Mom's know that the "help" kids give cleaning the house often makes it worse- but they are giving their best effort and learning in the process, so we sigh as they, while sweeping, knock over a potted plant with the end of the broom and as the dirt crashes to the floor we count to 10 and say, "That's ok...accidents happen..."<sigh>.

I woke up this morning to what looked like a tornadic event in my great room and realized what I was going to be doing today. Silas, age 4, was outside on the front porch making a "campsite" (i.e. another mess for later). He asked me to pleeeeease come out and play camping with him. I said, "Honey, Mommy has a giant mess to clean up in here." And he said "You don't have to clean it up, just leave it there." The thought did cross my mind. What would happen if I just left it there. Pots, pans, dishes, silverware on the counter. Dirt, dead ladybugs on the floor. Toothpaste goo in the sink in the bathroom. A heaping pile of shoes that were casually kicked off to the side of the front door last night. I am ok with ignoring things like that on Sunday, but I can't let it go for too long. It's just part of me, part of what I see as my job as a mother and wife- to make sure that my house is tidy. So I said, "Silas, I just can't walk past this any longer. It has to be cleaned up. Now. As soon as I'm done, I will come out and play with you, but right now, I have to deal with this."

As I was cleaning, I was thinking and praying. Our hearts are a lot like a house, in fact, our bodies are a home for the Holy Spirit of God. All it takes is one moment to fall back into a sin or destructive behavior. Just like I take a break from cleaning on Sundays, sometimes we take a break from being vigilant against the enemy. We put our guard down- we watch that extremely violent movie filled with filthy language, we go ahead and do whatever it is we do- "just this once won't hurt". But it does hurt. We accumulate sin and we hoard thoughts that are not of our own creation but that of Satan. We cling to our stubbornness, pride, anger, judgmental attitudes, addictions- and then we reach a breaking point, sort of like my Monday mornings. We look around and we don't even recognize the environments of our hearts. And then the clean up begins. We have to deal with the mess.

 When you take a break from cleaning, as I've learned, the work is doubly hard the next day. Kind of like vacation laundry. Isn't that the worst? You have all these great memories and feel relaxed on your ride home from the beach and then it hits you and strikes fear into your heart- VACATION  LAUNDRY!!! NOOOO!!!! Sometimes the mess sneaks up on you and you're caught off guard. Sometimes, you have known it was there in the cobwebbed shadows of your heart and you just chose to ignore it. Some of us just have a few areas we're working on right now and we're being really diligent to change by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and with us. Others have a Monday-sized mess to deal with. But the best part of a messy heart is that we don't have to do all the work- it has already been done for us. Jesus put sin to death once and for all when He took up the cross and sacrificed Himself for us. All we have to do is ask for help. He knows what messes are lurking within us and wants to be the master organizer of it all. Some of the cleaning process is painful and we have things we don't want to let go of. But He promises greater things to replace those sins we're gripping. 

So today, think about the state of your heart. Is it a mess? Have you let some things slip by, seemingly unnoticed? What areas do you feel that you need to ask Jesus to help you tackle first? He knows a thing or two about cleaning up...just take a look at the scriptures below and see for yourself. As you meditate on them, I pray that God begins to stir up your heart and that you might turn over all your junk to Him. He loves you as you are, but wants you to be the person He has in mind.

I always tend to think in songs- this song is lyrically perfect regarding this topic. I have loved it for years (it's an older song) Give it a listen if you have a chance.

Hebrews 10:22
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Luke 6:45
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Psalm 32:3-5
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"—and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore ... let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress...

Psalm 51:10
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Worship Matters: Part 1

I have been reading THE best book about Worship Leading that I've ever encountered, called Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin. My next few blog posts will be sharing what I have learned from his book. Some of it is direct quotation, some of it is my summary or what applied to me in particular. I hope that everyone, worship leader or not, can gain some valuable insight from what I share.  Even if you are not a musical worship leader, you are still leading worship on a daily basis in every single action, every single thought, every single emotion that you display. People are watching. We all need to realize that every believer is a "worship leader" to everyone within their sphere of influence. I love the quote- "Lead worship at all times; when necessary, use music." So in all that we do and with all that we are, let's lead worship today and let's start thinking about what makes a good worship leader.

Why Worship Matters- Chapter 1 Insights

Worship matters to God because He is the one ultimately worthy of all worship. It matters to us because worshiping God is the reason for which we were created. And it matters to every worship leader, because we have no greater privilege than leading others to encounter the greatness of God. That's why it's important to think carefully about what we do and why we do it. And if you don't feel adequate for the task, you're in the perfect place for God to use you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lives Under Construction

My husband, Jarrod, and I have been completely engulfed in home construction over the past 5 years. We bought our beautiful, wooded property 10 years ago and had a small house built that we knew we would be able to add on to later. Prior to the birth of our first son, Silas, we knew the time had come to add on to the house. With a limited budget due to the fact that I had stopped working to be a stay-at-home mom, we knew we would have to take on a lot of the work ourselves. So, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. We devised our grand home plans and thought it would be a piece of cake to carry them out. We hired a builder to do all of the foundation and structural work, but then it was our turn. We had to learn how to do everything else: plumbing, wiring, insulating, drywall, metal roofing, siding, window and door installation, flooring installation, kitchen installation…you name it, we learned it! We had two children during all of this, plus Jarrod worked full-time! I  tell you all of this not to pat ourselves on the back, but to say that prior to actually beginning the work, neither of us had done more than put together a wooden bookshelf out of  a box from Wal Mart- and we HAD to use the directions just to do that!  

What we took on, looking back, was nearly impossible. But we were determined and willing. We learned a lot of things as we built our house. Jarrod quickly picked up a lot of skills (and new tools!) I learned about hard work and sacrifice, patience and teamwork. When we have a calling in our life to do something, though we may feel completely unprepared, after going through the process of learning and doing, we become qualified. But we have to be willing and we have to jump in and give it everything we've got.  In the same way, in our relationship with Jesus, when we first devote our lives to Him, we think it's going to be simple and are eager to begin. But  challenges come and we begin to doubt whether or not we have what it takes. But Jesus sees something in us that we don't see- He knows that we can do it! By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can carry His message, we can live out a life that pleases Him, we can love others. He's not expecting instant perfection any more than Jarrod and I expected our house to be finished instantly (although that would have been nice). He expects us to simply follow Him, and He will give us the endurance, patience, and power we need. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Slaves or Sons

Our Small Group is reading the book "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan. It is really amazing. A life-changing book for sure. I think all of us in our group can agree that the book, which we had been reading during Matt Johnson's series on the Holy Spirit at LCC, really opened our eyes to the fact that we do tend to ignore the Holy Spirit. Some of us even had wrong ideas of Who the Holy Spirit is and what His plans are for our lives. I can say over the last 8 weeks of our study and the LCC series, I have sat week after week and watched and listened to my dear friends change and grow. I know I have grown too. 

One of the parts of our study for last night's meeting was discussing the concepts of slaves and sons. 

Romans 8:15 says:
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

This verse is just full of good stuff. In it, we see that upon receiving Christ as Savior, we are welcomed into the family of God- we belong to Him, no longer slaves to ourselves or the sins of the world. The differences between slaves and sons are so significant:  Slaves feel mistreated and unworthy of living to their full potential. Sons are treated with benevolence and look forward to a full, productive future. Slaves have no confidence in approaching their master. Sons can approach their fathers with confidence, knowing that their best interest will be considered. Slaves feel trapped and continue on day after day, never working to their full potential- just doing enough to get by or stay alive. Sons have freedom and thrive in that freedom- looking forward to each new day as a chance to explore, to do more, and enjoy life. 

We discussed all of this last night. It's awesome to think that by the power of the Holy Spirit, and through the shed blood of Jesus, we can be free sons and daughters of God. Before knowing Christ, people are in such bondage. They plod trough their days addicted to self and unlimited sins,  just trying to survive- unconfident, uncertain of the future, not recognizing their worth. After coming to Christ and living in His power (the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead lives in us, by the way), we have the freedom, the empowerment, and the motivation we need to live a full life, satisfied in the love of the King of kings. 

We are truly children of the Most High God. Sometimes we forget as Christians though. We forget WHOSE we are. This past Sunday, leading worship, I felt really strongly that people needed to be reminded of this and we sang 3 simple words, over and over " WE ARE YOURS". We do belong to Him. He has adopted us in and we have every right and privilege to approach Him with boldness and confidence, knowing that everything we bring to Him will be treated with benevolence and mercy. So today, may we all remember that we belong to Him. We are no longer slaves to anything but His love and glory. He wants us to thrive and be free!

 Lord, thank you for making a way for us. We do not deserve to be called your children, and yet You are so merciful that You wouldn't have it any other way. You want us to be confident in our salvation and in our relationship with You. Help us to remember that we are Yours forever and You are forever our God. Fill us with boldness- let our hearts beat as Yours today- we want to care about the things You care about and love the people You love in this world. Thank You for freedom- we accept it as a gift and embrace it completely. Amen.