Posts tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Evolution of Praise

First off, allow me to say that however one chooses to praise God is not for me to judge. I love watching all kinds of praisers. It’s all beautiful to me. This post, however, is just a look at my own evolution as a praiser and lover of God, because the way that I give myself to Him now is far different from where I used to be.

I grew up in a Missionary baptist church. I loved it for what it was. I accepted salvation there. I was baptized there. I preached my first sermon there. That church gave me my formative development as a person and as a Christian. I still consider that my genesis. I heard many types of preachers there. There were the fiery ones, the expositive ones, the quietly effective ones, etc. We sang hymns, and had a church choir that actually had SATB voices, with people who knew the technical aspects of beautiful music. SO we praised God with polish and refinement. There was no lifting of hands, merely a quiet reverence for God.

This was fine with me, because at that point in my life, I was not fully committed to God, and so I figured that singing my best was the best way that I could give God praise. Going to churches with “free praisers” scared me. I thought that “those” people were absolutely out of their minds. My friends and I would make fun of people who danced and lifted their hands. We were bougie. “Look at that woman shouting!” “Look at that old man doing that jig!” We were ignorant. We barely knew God. We had no knowledge of the Holy Spirit. We served God out of a duty to the church.

When I got married, I moved over to my wife’s church. We would visit there frequently while we were engaged, and this church was in the midst of a powerful revival in the Holy Spirit. Even while I didn’t understand what was happening around me, I knew that even the air was different. The music was catchy, with a great beat and some great vocals. The singing, while not always pretty and refined, was so sincere. The people clapped and sang at the top of their lungs. This was a raw atmosphere. People danced and passed out. The Pastor of the church walked on the pews when he got “happy” during service. Sometimes, (EGAD), he didn’t even preach and the people just sat moaned for God. What was this? It wasn’t until I joined the church and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit that I really began to understand what praise was. Even then, I praised God out of my emotion. I would dance and do a high step. I would clap and shout. Deep inside of me though, something was missing. I knew it, but I so enjoyed praising in that atmosphere. Man, just thinking about it makes me smile.

When my wife and I moved to the church we currently reside in, something strange happened. Over the last 7 years, I have received training in the knowledge of who God is, why He is so worthy of my highest praise, and how to let go. I’ve spent time in the word with God. I have encountered a God who had been a distant relative before, but has not become my closest friend. I have experience God in ways that I never would have imagined, and He has completely shattered everything that I thought that I knew about Him time after time after time. With each “rediscovery”, I have felt my level of exuberance in praise increase. I have gone from standing completely still and lifting my hands, to jumping up and down like a wild man, crying out so loudly that I can barely sing, dancing on stage. I have gone from being reserved and wondering what everyone else was doing, to closing my eyes and becoming “undignified” in the presence of my God.

One of my favorite stories about David is when the Ark of the Covenant came back. The Bible talks about how David took off his clothes and dances in his skivvies in front of all of his subjects and the people of Israel. When his wife questioned his sanity, he proudly declared that he would become even more undignified, because God’s Presence returning was worth every celebration…and more. Now, David was a king. He went hard for God in front of everyone without a single ounce of embarrassment. He knew that he was celebrating for an audience of One.

And this is where I am right now. The God that I now know is simply too good for me to sit still. I know Him too well now to just give Him a cursory nod and keep on moving. I choose to exhaust my limbs and move my body, I choose to offer up my voice with all of it’s imperfections and cracks. I choose to not let singing the wrong notes bother me. I choose rather, to focus on Him, knowing that He inhabits my praise, and while it is not perfect, it is all for Him, and Him alone.

Simply put, as I’be grown in Him, I’ve grown in my willingness to give Him my all in praise. I do know this, though. However you choose to praise God is a praise that God accepts willingly from you. You don’t have to imitate anyone else. All He wants is a praise that comes from your heart, and however that looks for you, if your heart is engaged, God is pleased.

Have a great evening! Be blessed, peeps.

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Follow the Leader

It’s been hard for me to ever think of myself as a leader. I have never thought that I had the “it” factor that great leaders possessed. I don’t have what I consider to be an electric personality. I’m not an extrovert, preferably a wallflower rather than the life of the party. It’s not that no one ever told me that I could never be a leader. In reality, I’ve been told all of my life that I had the potential to be a great leader. Others saw it in me, but I just could not see it in myself. Part of the reason was that I was comparing what I saw in others to what I did not see in myself. It seems that God has really been deconstructing my own self image here lately. A good friend of mine, Dan Clark, once told me during a breakfast meeting that I should embrace the things about myself that I did not do well. At that point, I didn’t really grasp the power of what he was saying. I figured that because I didn’t do the things well that I saw other great leaders do well, I could never be a leader; not even considering becoming an effective Pastor. Our series in church has been dealing with breaking bad habits and cycles in our lives, and the last 4 weeks have dealt especially with breaking the spirits of comparison and poor mental workings. As a result of really allowing these things to sink in, plus having some real eye opening time at our staff meeting over this weekend, I am beginning to see the uniqueness in the way God has created me to lead. It doesn’t look like my Pastor in many ways, any Pastor that I’ve ever sat under. It doesn’t look like our Youth Pastors, or anyone that I see on television. I’m me, and in the past I’ve spent so much time ripping myself for NOT being the people whose lives I looked up to and admired. However, instead of focusing so much on my weaknesses and deficiencies, I am really beginning to see how my strengths can be used by God to be an effective leader.

I have always wanted to be a leader, but the issue has not been with what I was created to be, but rather how I saw who God has created me to be. In the light of respecting and esteeming his creative work in constructing me, I think that I am beginning to understand myself in the way God intended for me to be. Quirks and all, I think I’m actually an ok guy, and I’m growing to be an effective leader as well.

“Helping” the Helper?

Something interesting happened to me last night. I was journaling, just free writing about things that were weighing on my mind. Something else had come up, and in my venting, I wrote about how useless I felt, because I was having to add more to the “prayer pile” of things that we absolutely need to happen in our lives. Thinking about it now, it’s rather laughable. But, I was writing these things down, and really, in my emotions I really felt helpless…and I felt like there was something wrong with me for not being able to help God with the things that we need. I’m a helper. It’s my nature, but as it translates to my relationship with God, my journaling allowed me to see in the past, I’ve really tried to help God be God as it relates to the things that happen in my life…often to dire results. See, what I understand is that when we say we are helping God, we are really taking whatever burden we had released to Him, back onto ourselves. In a sense, we are telling God that we are more adept at handling the issues in our lives than He is, and as I think about the mounting list of things that we are really believing God for, if I’m honest, there is nothing that i can do about any of those things. Thus the helpless feeling.

Here’s the kicker…..there is something about realizing that God is the only one who can fix a situation, or answer a desperate prayer, that puts you right in the sweet spot of His will. The only help that God requires of us is to have faith, and be obedient when He tells us what to do. There is nothing we can do to help God move further along, faster, in His will for our lives. This truth is something that we tout quite often, and quote in our churches, but is it really something that we constantly act upon? I don’t. It’s hard. I see our needs. I know how the odds are stacked up against us. I know how many attacks have come our way since we made the conscious choice to trust God for the things that are deep in our hearts.  You see your needs, and no doubt you have ideas of how those things can be fixed. In truth, though, would your ideas really fix the entire situation or only muddle things for your future?

Our prayer pile is HUGE. It is GINORMOUS! It is so large that just looking up at it makes me shake, but the beautiful thing about that bountiful mountain of needs is that we have to look UP. It is forcing us to look past it’s peaks into the Heavens where my Abba resides and stands ready to move in His timing according to His process and will. He knows what we need, and no matter how big and important these things are to us, they are infintismally small and easily doable for Him. We just have to wait. And believe.

 

And stop trying to “help”.

A Year in Reflection

So where do I start. I haven’t blogged in a long time. This has been some kind of year for my family. My first year teaching. My wife switching school districts. My daughter switching school districts. My middle son starting public school. My youngest switching to a new sitter. We find out we’re having baby number four, Zyla. We are asked to serve on our church pastoral staff as Outreach Pastors. I preach TWICE at church, and really get involved in Wednesday night class discussions. Yes, there has been so much to report. However for the purpose of this post, I really want to focus in on my experience as a first year teacher.

Today was the last day of school, and while outwardly I was happy that it was coming, because I was ready for a break, in my heart, I knew that I was not ready to let these students go. In truth, I loved them…hard. I gave them all of me everyday for every class period of the past 8 months. I began to know them, what made them tick, what made them smile and laugh. I strived everyday to make each student laugh at least once. Sure, my antics could be chalked up to being new and inexperienced, but I choose to think that they are just a part of my makeup that God gave me specifically for this task. And as I look at all of the letters that I have received from students and the messaged from parents, I just sit back and wonder “How?” How could a guy who up until two years ago barely liked children have fallen this in love with a profession that he previously despised? How was it that I cared so much about these kids? How did I let them into my heart? How was it that my classroom, a classroom with a man who really had no idea what he was doing, become a place where kids felt safe telling me their secrets and confiding in me? How’d I even get this job? lol. My students proclaim me a great teacher, but I know better.

God is truly great. It was only by His Spirit that I made it through this year. In every instance, God gave me the words to speak, whether in correction, or encouragement. He helped me navigate all of the emotional swings of these 13 and 14 year old students. I prayed for them. They ate in my class. We pranked each other. Students who weren’t even mine were attracted to me. I know it wasn’t me that they were attracted to. It was God. They saw God in me, and while some of them don’t know that specifically, it makes me so happy that I was able to be Jesus to these kids every time they saw me.

And so, as I watched them leave today, my eyes were dry, but my heart cried a bit. 8 months. Everyday. Now, nothing. It’s sad, but in my heart I really feel that the work that God wanted me to do with them was done. Now I have to trust Him to continue it as they head into high school. In truth, these students aren’t really mine. I was simply someone God placed into their lives at this junction to steer them towards Him as much as possible, and plant seeds that will hopefully bloom into success and a relationship with Christ. But, I love them just the same. They will forever be a part of my heart, a part of me.

My heart is full today. Thanks be to God for this wonderful year. I’m praying for many, many more as He grows me professionally and spiritually to be a lighthouse in the classroom.

Change Your Sound pt 5

Psalm 16:11- in your presence is fullness of joy

Acts 3:19- repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be washed away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of The Lord.

We need the presence of God, because it brings fullness of joy and refreshment. This is why we need to change our sound, so that we may experience the manifested presence of God.

Isaiah 6:1-4- in the year that King Uzziah died, I saw The Lord, high and exalted. Seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above Him were seraphim, each with 6 wings: two covering their faces, two covering their feet, and two for flying. And they were calling to one another: ” holy holy holy is The Lord Almighty…..”

Three things happen when we are in Gods presence

1. We see how BIG God is. –

2 chronicles 26:14-15 describes how good a king Uzziah was. He was skilled creating ways to help his armies. Thus, his fame spread far and wide.

At the end of his rule though, full of pride, he walked into the temple of The Lord, and begins to burn incense to The Lord. The priests freaked out and tried to stop him, but Uzziah didn’t listen. He felt like he could worship God however he wanted. Immediately, he broke out in leprosy. He saw his mistake., and was declared unclean. So he had to live the rest of his life away from the people.

This is often true of us- that we think we can worship God however we wish, instead of by the statutes that God has given us. We should be humble before God. Our hearts should be in the right place. In worship, God doesn’t judge our sin. He judges our hearts.

So, Uzziah died, and Isaiah goes into the temple to mourn him. But in the midst of this, He saw God. While he thought Uzziah was big, He realized at that moment how BIG God really was. He saw the majesty and splendor of His glory. This is why we need to be in church. We constantly need reminding of how BIG God’s presence is. This is why Satan fights us so horribly on Sunday mornings. He needs us to stay away from seeing The Lord. When god is showing up in our services, we too will say that “we have seen The Lord. ” If he can keep us from the presence of God, he has done his job well. We can’t let him win.

2. We see how small we really are.

Isaiah 6:5-“Woe to me,” I cried, ” I am ruined! For I am unclean, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, Lord Almighty!”

In God’s presence, we see how small we really are. We see every area of our lives for what it really is. Once we see god, though, our problems become so small. Our concerns shrink. In this scripture, we see the angels declaring how holy God truly is, and we see just how unholy we really are. We can’t become holy by ourselves either.

In Rev 4;8- John has a vision of the living creatures, again, declaring God’s holiness.

Psalm 22:3- “but You are holy God.”

It’s ok for us to see our sin and imperfections when we are in God’s presence. He has no issues with our sin. He DOES have an issue with someone who is not upfront about their sin.

When I’m in God’s presence, my eyes are open to the things God wants to change my life.

3. We see how GOOD GOD is.

His very nature is His goodness.

Isaiah 6:7- then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hands, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it, he touched my tongue and said,” see, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

in His presence, we see our sin, but we also see His goodness, and how His grace has atoned for all of our sin and imperfections. He purges our sin. He strengthens us to be holy. He is not trying to make us feel guilty, but He wants to shower us with his goodness.

Psalms 103:12- as far as the east is from the west, so far Has He removed our transgressions from us.

Our redemption and atonement is not based on our performance. It’s based on His goodness and His love. We can only experience God’s grace when we humble ourselves.

Isaiah 1;18- come now and let us settle the matter, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be as red as crimson, they shall be like wool”

Old Memory, New Desire.

I remember it clearly.

 

That morning, as a minister on staff at a the church that I had grown up in, the very same church that I preached my first sermon in, I told the new pastor that I was leaving the congregation. Looking back now, I didn’t do it right, but that’s not the point of this post. I remember the very first time that I felt the Holy Spirit stirring my heart as we sang a hymn that I had sang all of my life without any emotion whatsoever. I remember fighting back tears, not wanting to look dumb as I sang along with the church choir in my very best operatic voice.

I remember that Sunday, because I had long since recognized that I needed something more. I needed what the people in my wife’s church had. I didn’t just want it. I NEEDED it like a crack addict fiends for that next hit. I had to have it. And so I remember. I remember burning rubber after the service was over, eager to get to the my new church home. When we got there, the Pastor was still preaching. I don’t remember what he was preaching about. It doesn’t even matter. All that matters is when he made his appeal, I remember being so worked up, that I jumped from my seat in the back, and with a vise grip on my wife’s hand, drug her to the front of the church. I wonder what I must have looked like…a man in a suit with the ugliest face EVER! i didn’t care. I wanted what they had. I wanted to know WHO they danced and sang for. I WANTED the Holy Spirit! It was the first time that I had ever felt driven to my knees by the power of the Holy Spirit. I felt hands on me, and I heard people praying, but none of it even translated into my shaking body.

When I rose, I had a new church home. In the days, weeks, and months that followed, I began reading everything that I could find on receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I prayed for it constantly, not quite having it register that it happened from the moment I asked in faith. Whenever I felt the Lord speaking a word for someone, I never hesitated one time to give that word to that person. Most times, it was spot on! I was on a high. i was young, dumb, and full of a desire to please God. My praise went from listless notes to shouted voicings of adoration. My worship frequently involved tears and bowing low in the presence of God.  Every spare piece of change I had went towards buying books that i thought would help me understand what was happening to me. I watched TBN and TCC, and any other thing that i could that i thought would help me become who God was creating. The other young ministers who were along with me…we were so on fire! Those were the days. I think back to those days, how we didn’t want to pastor. We just wanted to work. We just wanted to touch lives and allow God to rock the world of everyone that we met. We frequently laid hands on people. We felt like we had a movement that was centered on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that was being revealed to us.

Fast forward to today in service. My Pastor continued his series on “Changing Your Sound”. He focused on worship. And while he said many things, there was one thing that stood out to me. It was in Luke, I believe, where the story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet appears. She worships Him in the midst of men who felt like she did not belong, because of her sinful past. Yet, she worshiped Him with her tears, her hair, and her oil. My Pastor mentioned the fact that the disciples weren’t even worshiping Him at that moment. They had become a little too familiar with Jesus. They had been walking with him for a while now, and had seen Him do all manner of miracles, and preach the most profound messages ever. Jaded? maybe. Callous? Possibly. Either way, they knew Him. The Pharisees thought that they knew what “good living” was. They weren’t worshiping Him. This woman, this harlot, came in and showed them what true worship was. She probably had heard of this man, Jesus, but she didn’t “know” him. But, she worshiped him.

The memory above came flooding back to me. I want that. i need that overwhelming desire back. We get so wrapped up in wanting to know God’s will. Sometimes, all it takes is just to remember that first moment of need for God. Sometimes, all we need is just to remember where He has brought us from; how His blood has cleaned up the wretched messes that we were, and sometimes are. I was convicted on how I have focused on the wrong thing..made mission the main thing, when just worshiping Him should have been. In truth, I have no mission unless He gives me vision. And how can He give me vision without spending real time in His presence to just know Him more?

Lord, don’t let me become so familiar with you that I become callous to Your presence, and forget what I was created to do. I pray that everything in my life concerning you would become fresh. I pray that my heart would be fresh and raw, exposed, and transparent. I pray that my jealousies, ambitions, pride, Lord anything that I would even THINK that i could boast about, I pray that it would be washed away. Make my worship new. Make my need for you new. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Change Your Sound pt 3

Gen 4:2-8- now Abel kept flocks and Cain worked in the soil. In the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to The Lord. And Abel also brought an offering…..the Lord looked favorably upon Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. the The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Now Cain said to he brother Abel, “lets go out into the field.” while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Worship revealed our moods. We can never enter into the presence of God without our true selves first being revealed. When He casts the mirror back upon us, then He begins changing us into His image.

Last week, we learned that Leah named her kids the way she did because the wanted the attention of her husband, but when she named Judah, it was because the wanted Gods attention. What she didn’t realize was that she already has His heart and love.

In the same way, we see this week that God had already put in place a way to worship Him. It wasn’t a way to earn His love, because He already loved us fiercely. But Cain doesn’t bring a blood sacrifice, which was required. He brings fruits from his field. This indicates the struggle of man with worship.

Thus, the question is asked..” will we worship God His way, or our way?” God has instituted ways in which we should worship Him. It may look differently, but the heart of it is the same. There must be some sound associated with it. When Paul and Silas were in jail, they began to sing and make a sound while they were chained. First their chains fell off, and then e doors opened in every cell.

Your praise not only sets you free, but helps set others free around you. Paul and Silas praised, but everyone was set free! Our praise is NOT simply for us. It can inspire others to worship freely.

Just because we call ourselves a church doesn’t mean that God is here. There must be a sound for God to inhabit. If there is no praise going forth, then this is not a holy place!

Just because you give it to God doesn’t mean that He has to accept it. He accepted Abel’s offering, but rejected Cain’s. He requires our best. Sometimes our best is a struggle. Other times, we give God our leftovers and wonder why we don’t see a return. God deserves far more than just our leftovers. Give God everything that you have in your heart to give!

God doesn’t reject us. He rejects what we bring Him. He rejects our leftovers. Cain didn’t bring God what He wanted because it would have placed him outside of His comfort zone. It would have stretched him. He was a farmer, not comfortable with animals. Fruits were easy for him. But worship is not a personality issue. It is an obedience issue. Too many times, we just bring God what is easy.

There should ALWAYS be a sound of praise ready to come out of our mouths.

2 main things happen when we praise.

-we are set free
-we kill our pride.

It’s easy to let emotions take us into praise when things are going great. If the week is good, we have our praise music going and we are in a zone. You’re in the zone.

James 5:13- is anyone among you in trouble?…..let them praise.
Psalm 42:3-5 – my tears have been my food all day and night, while people say to me all day long, “where is your God.” These things I remember as I pour out my soul; how I used to go into the house of God under the protection of the mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why my soul are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and My God!

The sound of our services should never change! In good, PRAISE Him. In bad, Praise Him. This is why we were created.