Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Building the C-Word... *whisper*CHARACTER*whisper*

Day 22 of 40! J

Purpose #3: You were created to become like Christ.

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.                      1 Peter 4:12-13 (NLT)

3-5All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.
 6-7When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you're just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you're going to make it, no doubt about it.                       2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (MSG)

Sometimes life just throws a curveball your way.
You think to yourself, wait… I don’t get it. God, this wasn’t supposed to happen this way!
But did He ever say life was gonna be easy?
Did he say he’d never leave you or forsake you?
YES! Never ever will he leave your side.
Sometimes it may not feel like he’s there… but like I said last night, don’t base life on feelings.
One time I was going through something and God felt so entirely distant that I couldn’t see how he was working things out for good AT all.
I was so discouraged that I looked up at the sky and complained, “Even the stars aren’t out!” (stars are my favourite things… the Bible says God just “made the stars also”. As if something so magnificent were an afterthought to the sky. I like to think he made them just to astound us.)
My best friend, Annette, was there at the time – just being the beautiful, encouraging person that she is. She leaned over and said, “The stars are still there… it just takes more faith!”

It’s the same way with God.
We can’t see him… can’t even see him working a lot of times.
During the hardest times in life we can’t even feel his presence.
But He promises never to leave us.

Anything hard that happens in life is a result of his love for us.
He doesn’t want us to stay the same miserable people, so he keeps bringing us hard times to work out all the sinful nature, to trust Him more, and to ultimately become more like Jesus.

Like anything else in life, we can’t do this on our own strength.
We need the Holy Spirit living and vibrant inside of us to be able to get through these trials.
The trials aren’t meant to burn us and make us useless, but instead God intends to refine us, like gold.
When gold is refined in the fire, all the impurities float to the surface and are then able to be taken out. This is the only way to achieve the result of pure gold. And trials are the only way to achieve the pure image of Christ we are called to carry.

Why would we complain about trials as if something strange were happening to us?
All God wants to do is purify us into the beautiful people He has created us to be.

So many times we try to avoid hardships, but it is in that moment of desperation that we find we have nowhere else to turn to except our Heavenly Father.

No matter what you’re going through right now, remember – God has a reason for everything.
Building character is part of the journey.
And we are never alone.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.                      James 1:2-4 (MSG)

In closing… a thought on trials and building character from a beautiful young woman: Ginny Owens.

“It’s never the trial that makes us stronger… it’s what we choose to do with that trial. If we choose to lay that at the foot of the cross and say, ‘Lord, I give this to you.’ And also if you choose to know that He has us exactly where we’re supposed to be.”
                                                                                    - Ginny Owens. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Where is the Love??

Where is the love?

Day 21 of 40 (they say it takes 21 days to form a habit… I think I’m addicted. J )

So tonight I am ending our section on being part of the church.
But … I am NOT ending the part of living it out, merely the reading about it.

Let me ask you a personal question… how do you feel?
Not the “how are you?” that we so flippantly throw around and don’t really expect a genuine answer.
In fact, when we get a genuine answer we’re often shocked and don’t really know how to handle the “situation”… so we quickly change the subject to sunnier skies.
That is, this is the case if you were feeling rotten that day… as most of us do, on most days.
If, on the off chance, you come across someone who is AMAZING! You immediately ask why and they are delighted to tell you. This usually makes you feel equally as uncomfortable as the first!

Why are we so consumed by our emotions?
God created us this way… even Jesus wept on several occasions. His life mirrors perfection, and yet he still knew the grief of losing a loved one. He had to endure hardships of family responsibility – being the oldest and expected to take care of his mother. He saw one of his best friends die.
And later in life, he experienced probably the harshest betrayal of friendship ever known – betrayal unto the most horrible type of execution.

Imagine all of the emotions that consumed him as he hung on that cross to die for you and me.
However, He loved us THAT much that he knew it was the only way… so he gave up how he felt about the matter and turned his heart towards God once again and lived – and died – in obeidience to his Father.

So… let me ask you a personal question.
How do you feel?
What emotions are dragging you down?
Is there something over the last 3 weeks – since I’ve started speaking out and writing on these topics from The Purpose Driven Life – or perhaps even further back, the Holy Spirit has been nudging you to deal with emotionally.
To pick yourself back up.
Say to yourself, yes… I will follow Jesus.
Yes, I will.
I can’t live without him.

Perhaps there’s a person you need to talk to… but you don’t feel like it.
Perhaps there’s something God is asking you to DO… or something you need to deal with personally. Or a habit you finally need to kick.
But you don’t FEEL like it!

Do you think Jesus FELT like being tortured?
What if he had – and we know he had the power to do so – what if he had actually asked to be taken off that cross. To not endure the torture and the ridicule and all the pain and emotional trauma.
What if he had simply – not felt like it.
And yet, his love kept him.
For some reason, He passionately loved us in spite of our imperfections.
He LOVES us!
His obedience made him turn aside from his feelings and go through with everything God had planned for him.

Let me ask you another personal question…
How do you feel about your church?
Do you only go when you feel like it?

There are so many things God asks us to be obedient in – out of love, not legalism.
And one extremely important one is this: Loving his bride – the Church.

Will you focus on unity in your church that God has chosen for you to be planted in?
Will you passionately love the church – in spite of her imperfections?
Will you honour your Pastors as the God-appointed spiritual leaders in your life?

Will you be obedient in this small way and love your church the way the bible says?
Or do you simply – not feel like it today.

Perhaps Love is not a feeling…

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 4:7-8 

Monday, February 27, 2012

3 R's - Relationship Restoration and Reconciliation...

Day 20 of 40! (halfway mark! J

Relationships are always worth restoring.

Ok. So we’ve established the importance of church family, how much we need community, and how we need to be an example to people of God’s true love in human form here on earth.
But that still leaves us wondering… what about the days we drive eachother crazy?
What about those times when our relationships with our church family are put in jeopardy. Those days when we’d rather be anywhere and with anyone else…
Those are the days when God steps in with Paul’s words to the Philippians…

If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
 5-8Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

 9-11Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:1-11 MSG)

(I know, that was a lot of Bible … but I literally couldn’t leave any of it out!)

Putting yourself aside isn’t easy.
Like Rick Warren talks about in today’s chapter, it takes a LOT of spiritual maturity.
But by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do this.
We can live in unity with the entire Body of Christ!
No more silly fights… be slow to speak and slow to become angry.
No more offenses… live harmoniously, always esteeming others as better than yourself.
Live like Jesus… in complete obedience to what the Father wanted Him to do.

You know, sometimes we get so caught up in the “who said what” of a situation and how we can fix this on our own strength. And we forget that all we simply have to do is let the Holy Spirit change our hearts in the situation.
What does Jesus have to say about restoring friendships?

This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Pretty straight forward.
And believe me, I’ve tried it.
The biggest blessings in my life happened right after I went to a friend and made things right with him/her… it’s not just a suggestion.
God loves when His kids take the initiative and go make things right with someone.
It’s a picture of Jesus’ love for us, really.
If He loved us and forgave us, the least we can do is love and forgive our family, friends, enemies, etc.
It’s not a suggestion… it’s a requirement.   
Jesus said:
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

He loves when we seek restoration and unity in His church.
So… where should we start?
Don’t wait… life’s too short to wait. J

Sunday, February 26, 2012

They'll know we are Christians by... L-O-V-E!

Day 19 of 40…

I love how this 40 days of purpose/blogging has taken me through the chapters on Church Family right smack on top of the week my beloved churchy celebrated our 27th anniversary! J
No such things as coincidence when God is involved, that’s for sure.

Today’s chapter was on cultivating community.

Community is a wonderful thing. Having people that do life along with you is beautiful and a great source of accountability. People who care about your life and where you’re headed.

James 3:18
The Message (MSG)
Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honour.

You see, it ain’t all fun and games.
God knew we’d have to work hard and trust Him to stay true to each other.
But let me ask you this… when you go to work, what do the people you work with say about churches?
Do they say people are always fighting… They say it’s just a bunch of rules and regulations... A breeding ground for hypocrites?  
See, the reason we need to live out our purpose of living as people formed for God’s family is because every other person in the world NEEDS to know what exactly that looks like!
How will they know without our example?

1 John 3:16
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

Our society is based around unfaithfulness.
We see it everyday.
I’ll spare you details, but I’m sure you can come up with a few.
We’re all guilty – that’s why Jesus had to die.
We can’t point fingers without feeling that twinge of guilt.
If we truly Love each other as brothers and sisters in the church, we should make an effort to consciously stand up for each other and build each other up daily.
Think of that one person who drives you up the wall… or maybe it’s two or three.
Does God love them? Did He make them in His own image? Did Jesus give His life’s blood for them too?
Then who are you to judge?
It’s only by His grace that we are saved, loved, and restored into relationship with Him.
Grace… think about it. J

How can we love them though?
On my own strength it’s impossible.
Only by His strength.
Only by the Spirit of God indwelling us and working through us, can I love people the way God loves them.
This is my purpose in life, to bring glory to God by loving people.
Everyday I have to ask Him for strength.
Paul knew what he was saying when he wrote to the many churches. Encouraging them to rise up and change things so the world would know they were Christians by their love for each other.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, this and so much more is possible.

Real fellowship with our church family comes through a right relationship with God and the Holy Spirit empowering us to love each other!

Today my love for my church family is renewed because of a reminder of who we are as a church and the firm foundation we’ve been building the last 27 years. J
God’s church is meant to be a beautiful reflection of his love for his people… and my prayer is that wherever you find yourself tonight, your love for the church will be recommitted and that the Holy Spirit living in you will empower you to love them for the rest of your life.

Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT)
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tender-hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

How God chose my church - Day 18 of 40

Day 18 of 40…

Romans 12:4-6
New Living Translation (NLT)
Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you.

God chose my church for me.
Literally… I wasn’t looking for these people, God just put me right there with them.
Anyone who knew me then and still knows me now, often say what a difference that church family has made in my life.
God knows what He’s doing and He has all my steps planned out in front of me.

He knew what He was doing when he made my sister meet Pastor Jan Finochio in the gym that May… He knew what he was doing when I first set foot in that little church on a Sunday morning and fell in love with the place and the few amazing people I met… and He definitely knew what he was doing when he cancelled my plans to go to college out East, and threw being an intern into my lap about a week later. Thus, beginning the 2 most amazing years of my life.
Got to know incredible people who have been and still are here for the journey of life – the destination: Heaven.
We can’t get there without having this amazing fellowship to encourage eachother on.
We need eachother’s encouragement – not just on a Sunday, but everyday of the week.
As we continue to build our relationship with Jesus, He continues to build our relationships to eachother.
That’s why we need the body of Christ – Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

God is good.
He knows what he’s doing.
You can trust him with your future.

My story is only one of many stories moulded, shaped, painted, or even refined by a beautiful Jesus who so desperately wants a close relationship with His people.
His second desire is to see us love the church in the same way that He does.
For all of eternity. J

One last thing, tomorrow I get to go to this lovely Crossroads Community Church that I call home.
I get to be part of an incredible worship team that loves God and puts His glory first.
I get to be there early and stay late and be part of something bigger than myself… something that is going to impact this area, this nation… probably even the world!
I get to go to church tomorrow and love Jesus by loving the people He has placed in my life.

Tomorrow I get to say Happy 27th Anniversary, Crossroads… and then fellowship (in the biblical sense of the word) with people young and old who are called to love the church, just as I am.

This is one of the greatest purposes of my life.

Wishing you all a beautiful Sunday! J
Crossroads Fall 2011

Friday, February 24, 2012

Short, sweet, and bruised...

Day 17 of 40

I wish I could take a lot of time and expand on my thoughts on chapter 17 tonight... Talking about the body of Christ is something I am incredibly passionate about.
However, I had the klutziest moment of life today and took a nasty fall resulting in bruises up and down my legs and a very sore back as well as a headache...

Also, Rick Warren sums up pretty much everything you need to know about the church and why it is important... I encourage you to grab your copy of The Purpose Driven Life and read this one for yourself!
SO worth it. Trust me. :-)

But just to reiterate my thoughts from last night...
Here is Love, vast as the ocean.

So even when life knocks the wind out of your sails... even when life gets you all bruised up and exhausted and covered with snow...
Just keep remembering how great how wide and how deep His love for us really is.

Romans 8:38-39
New Living Translation (NLT)
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I had a talk with Jesus today... Day 16

Day 16 of 40

Matthew 25:34-40
Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:
   I was hungry and you fed me,
   I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
   I was homeless and you gave me a room,
   I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
   I was sick and you stopped to visit,
   I was in prison and you came to me.'
Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'

            - Jesus -

Jesus is the ultimate picture of Love.
Today I was thinking about Jesus and talking with him as I did things around my house.
I was listening to the song “I see Jesus”, sung by Kim Walker (also mentioned on day #12) and I suddenly felt his presence so much (remember, worship him and he shows up… really incredible).
I felt like he said to me, “Michelle. I could have chosen not to go to the cross. But then I thought of you, and I knew I had to. Even if it had only been for you, I still would have gone.”
Wow. How can a girl respond… except by loving him and wanting to do anything for him.

“With one breath He could’ve spoke to end it all,
But instead He cried ‘Father forgive them’.”
                                                - Kim Walker – I see Jesus

During that moment it was as if I could see Him on the cross and I wondered why there couldn’t have been an easier way to save us… but with his “Even if it had only been for you”, I knew that it had to be that way. He could have spoke one word and just gone straight back up to heaven. But what of the people He loved? Even if he could have saved his disciples and anyone else right then and there (but from a justice point of view he still would’ve had to take THEIR punishment, because they were sinners too)… He looked ahead. He saw a future of people He wanted in heaven with Him someday, and He knew He had to die.
After all, He loves YOU... and you weren't even born yet. :)

John 15:13
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

What is your response to this?
Does it tug on your heart a little?
Does it make your eyes water?
I hope this message of love moves you to action.
Because, you see… its like in the verse I opened with.
Love is not love unless it moves us to take immediate action.
It may look crazy to everyone around you! Even some of your closest friends may not understand…
Who in this world is God calling you to love?
It may even just be for a moment… bringing a smile to a stranger’s face in passing… giving money to that person God has laid on your heart.
Or it may even last for a lifetime.
How does one lay down his life for his friends?
Die to your selfish desires and start getting out there and sharing His love across this globe.
Love Revolution. J
Even to the least of these…

Crossroads Haiti Trip 2011

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Family time on steroids!

Day 15 of 40... 

Purpose #2 - You were formed for God's family! 

Ephesians 1:5

New Living Translation (NLT)
5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 

The family of God is so much more amazing than I ever imagined. 
Think about it. You're taking SO many people from all these different places in life and all different nations and cultures and blending them into one huge family. 

I never used to think much about it. 
Church was just something that happened every Sunday at 11:00 and it was over and we were out of there by 12:30... maybe 1 if we talked for a really long time. 
It wasn't until I was an intern at Crossroads Community Church that the real meaning of Church family started to sink in. 
I didn't choose my church, God did. 
From day one, it was all God that got me there and it is and always will be God that keeps me there. 
But somehow, within those walls, I've found a family. 
I have Pastors who look out for me, spiritually and in so many other ways as well. The Pastors are like having a Dad away from home, so to speak. 
Their wives are amazing "mothers" to anyone who needs good counsel. 
I have adopted aunts... sisters... brothers... and everything in between. 
We are a community of people who are all seeking the same thing - to build the Kingdom of God and encourage eachother along the way. :) 
Every Sunday is like the whole family coming home for dinner... it's like family time on steroids. And you really never know what's gonna happen!
(No joke! On New years day this year, we even got to witness a real live proposal! Yep! My friend Nathan proposed to my friend Kayla right on stage. Now there's a couple that believes in including your church family in absolutely EVERYTHING!) 
Lets just say Crossroads Community Church is NEVER boring! 
And anyone who thinks church is boring, I dare you to come check this place out. (2 services 9 & 11 am. - Harriston, Ontario. Beside the water tower.) 

In this next section of The Purpose Driven Life, we will get into a lot of aspects of church that I can get very passionate about. 
Should be an interesting week. ;) 

For tonight, rest in this thought - I was created for the purpose of being placed in a family. 
It's not something we decide for ourselves... even if you think you chose your church, you probably didn't. 
Proverbs 16:9
A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps

One last story to set the stage... 
When I was a little girl and all through my teenage years, my Dad always said something I still hear ringing in my ears every day of my life... 
Anytime we left the house to go out with friends or anything he would say: 

Think about it. 
I am a child of God. 
I am part of God's family. 
I am part of the Body of Christ. 
I am His beloved child. 
He has great plans and purpose for my life. 

Who are you? 
You are His. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Transparent Worship Pt.2... It is well, no matter what.

Day 14 of 40

“When you feel abandoned by God, yet continue to trust him, you worship him in the deepest way…”
- The Purpose Driven Life – 
Chapter 14 – When God seems Distant -

I feel I must continue on last night’s thoughts… but to those who are hurting in this world.
It’s not always an exhilarating feeling to worship Him with everything.
Sometimes it costs something.
Sometimes it hurts.
Sometimes you don’t think you can do it.
Sometimes you don’t even know if you can make it through.

There was a specific time in my life, not very long ago, that I had to learn to worship God no matter what my circumstances were.
No matter how hard.
No matter how much it hurt.
And no matter what the outcome would be.

Last spring my family went through one of the hardest times in our lives.
My little brother, Danny got really sick.
(for more specific details to his illness read HERE)

I remember one dark night when I was home alone, I got a call saying Danny was worse.
He hadn’t eaten in 2 weeks and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the skinny little boy with Cerebral Palsy. He couldn’t even sit up in his wheelchair anymore. He was just a thin, transparent little guy in a hospital bed.

That night will probably be remembered as one of the hardest in my life.
I didn’t know what to do.
I didn’t want to go through this.
It was too hard. It hurt too much.

During this time I found out first hand that “Church Family” meant literally.
There was one amazing woman who held my hand through that dark night.
Deb Jensen, I can’t begin to describe how amazing she is. J

That night I e-mailed her because I just couldn’t do it anymore.
She said something I’ll never ever forget.
She said, “Michelle. I know it’s hard and I know you feel like you can’t go on… but something you really need to do is go upstairs to your piano and worship God. This might be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but you HAVE to do it. You have to be able to tell God that no matter the outcome of this, it will be well with your soul.”

That was the night God taught me that no matter what was going on in life, whatever circumstance I’d find myself in, I would learn to just lose myself in His presence.
See, a funny thing happens when you worship.
It’s like God shows up and fights the battle for you.
Try reading 2 Chronicles 20… here we find a story of a King who was up against a lot of major armies in the world at that time.
BUT… when he sent the worshippers out into the battlefield FIRST, that was when God showed up and killed all their enemies

No, it doesn’t mean that your circumstances will go away.
But remember the peace we talked about yesterday? The real pearls… not the fake ones you cling to.
Peace comes… and Joy.
Only in His presence can you finally feel that empty space filled with something that will last.

One last story before I leave you tonight.
Take a penny (I know you have one lying around somewhere).
Hold it about a foot from your nose.
Now focus on it as if it’s the only thing in the room.
All you can see is the penny!
Now try focusing on something that is beyond the penny. (maybe a person?)
Now can you see the penny?
No. It’s as if by focusing on something larger, then penny does not even exist.
It doesn’t matter.
Oh it didn’t go away, but your focus changed.

That’s exactly like the things in your life.
When you focus on your circumstances, they completely consume your life.
Your vision goes only as far as they do.
However, if you look beyond the circumstances and focus on Jesus…
Well, then your circumstance is just… a penny! J

It may not go away. But your focus has changed.
God showed up and is fighting your battle for you.
You can sleep easy knowing that He is in charge and He will carry you through this.
Even if you can’t feel Him right now or even understand what He’s doing, He is still there.
Trust Him.

Psalm 121 (NLT) 
I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth!
He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
 The LORD himself watches over you!
The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Transparent worship... part of my story.

Day 13 of 40…

I must say, Day 13 (The Purpose Driven Life – by Rick Warren… for those of you just popping in for a read of my blog) was definitely my favourite so far. J

I’m might get a bit transparent with you in tonight’s blog. Partly cuz I’m over-tired, and partly cuz I’ve just had a good talk with Jesus and my heart is full of Him.

So much in this chapter mirrors my life so far.
God has really taken me on a journey in worship.
I used to think the word “worship” was just a type of song… a slow-ish song. And “praise” was a faster song. Both sung at church, without much thought that went in to the words.
Part of me thought that, anyways. But there was another part of me that disagreed with myself and what I saw displayed in church life around me.
Perhaps it was because my roots were from a church unlike the one I had found myself in. Kids always, for some reason, seem to get back to their roots at some point. This is why – often – a child who is raised in Sunday-school, and then grows away from that as an adult, is more likely to return to church later on in life, than a child who wasn’t raised in church.

I was definitely a church girl all the way through… but the kind of churches displayed different characteristics. Not wrong, just different.

Now back to worship… I remember one of the first times I started waking up in regards to what worship really was.
It was at a youth retreat when I was 18.
I had laryngitis… yup. Couldn’t speak a single word above a whisper!
Not the best way to go to youth camp with all your friends you wish you could talk to.
That was the fall God started shaking my world up a little. You know, those times when you feel like God is trying to blow all the stale rituals away and bring you in to that uncomfortable area of surrender?
Our guest speaker came up to me and introduced himself and his wife (I didn’t know that they were to become some of my favourite people in the world, awesome role models, and great friends who would pray me thru some hard times)
I managed to croak out something about having laryngitis and how I was sad because I loved singing the new songs we always learned for camp.
He laughed and said, “you don’t have to sing to worship God!”
So profound… and I wonder if he knows that moment changed my perspective and set the stage for the years to come.

Fast forward a few years to the painful times…
A heart’s cry from a place where I didn’t know which way He wanted me to go. Just knew life had to change because it wasn’t going in God’s direction at the time.
A desperate cry from a dark crevice of my life… God, what do you WANT from me??
Came the whispered reply.

He picked me up in His loving arms that day and literally carried me to an oasis in my desert.
A home I didn’t know could exist.
A place to sink my dry and brittle roots deep into and find life.
A life filled with worship.

I don’t just mean music.
I mean an entire life of obedient, life-giving, worship to a God so powerful that He deserves so much more than just my Sunday morning congregational expressions.

The thing about true worship is that it must remain longer than just the 20-30 minutes of splendour on a Sunday morning.
It must consume your life.
Whether it means you giving of your time, energy, and resources… or even just flipping on that favourite CD and getting lost in His presence.

He literally wants EVERYTHING!

Is there a space in your heart that’s locked up or hidden from sight that He’s asking for?
So many times I’ve had to open up all over again and give God more.

Worship, a life of spirit-filled, and truthful worship means we give more… out of love for Him.
God gets the most pleasure out of the little things you choose to sacrifice.
It will come at the most inconvenient times… the times you don’t feel like praising God.
The times when life seems too hard to bear.
That’s when He’ll show up and ask for more.

It’s like the little girl who adored her cheap, dollar-store pearl necklace so much that she didn’t want to give it up.
Her daddy had to ask and ask and ask… until finally she gave her daddy the fake pearls that she loved so much. With tears in her eyes she gave them up… for him.
Her daddy smiled through his own tears and said “thank-you”… then he pulled out of his pocket a velvet jewelry box.
He had just been waiting for his daughter to give up her fake pearls, so he could give her the real thing!
Inside the box was a string of gorgeous, authentic pearls.

What are your fake pearls?
Are you withholding true worship from God?
Don’t waste another second!
His love surpasses everything we can imagine and He’s just waiting for you to give up the temporary loves you’re clinging to… so He can reward you with the real, gorgeous, authentic pearl of His peace and love. 

Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.