Posts tagged ‘Love’

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.

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.

The Power of Words: Do You Value Your Words?

Many times we speak words out of our mouths all the time without recognizing the value behind our words.

Proverbs 18:20-21- from the fruit of their mouth, a persons stomach is filled. With the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Basically, the quality of the words that come from our mouths strongly influence the quality of our lives. In Genesis, we see that god spoke things into existence. Thus, because we are created in God’s image, we hold the same creative or destructive power. Many times, we see people who have the truth and stretch the truth cause us to reject the original biblical truth. Our words must line up with what God is saying.

We need to stop trying to get God in agreement with our words, and get our words in agreement with God. When this happens, we have true power and authority. Our words are either agreeing with life, or agreeing with death. So the question becomes whether or not we are releasing life or death when we speak?

1. Our words connect us to God. They have the power to connect God from the spiritual world to the natural God.

John 1:1- in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God.

Psalm 107:20- he sent his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.

Jesus came as the Word to save us from our sins and connect us, but we only truly connect by the power of OUR words.

Romans 10:8-10; 13- the word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart…if you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that god raised him from the dead then you are justified……everyone who calls on the name of The Lord will be saved.

Example:we declare with our words that Jesus is the Messiah and we accept his salvation. Then we are saved and connected to God. We have to speak the words and believe in our heart. Our words place us into right agreement with God.

Matthew 12:31-37- but I tell you this, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks a word against the spirit of God will not be forgiven neither in this age, nor in the age to come. …..for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. ….but I tell you that everyone will be judged for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be judged, and by your words will you be condemned.

Blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is taking what God has done and attributing it to Satan or some other source.

2. Our words connect us to each other.

Proverbs 18:20-21- he who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from The Lord.

There is a reason that this verse is here. Our words connect us also to our spouse or to other people. When we misuse our words, or fail to communicate, the relationship suffers. It gets weak and brittle. Stop speaking death into your relationships, family, health, finances, life. Speak life!!

Be a life speaker! Agree with God’s words and his plans.

Ephesians 5:25-26- husbands love your wives, just as Jesus also loved the church and gave himself for for her that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.

Are we cleansing or corrupting by what we are are speaking? Words can either destroy relationships or restore relationships.

Living in the Zone: Who is First?

The foundation of putting God first is integral to our being able to move forward in blessing, and when we do place Him first, it sets off a chain reaction of His Spirit moving in our lives.

We can say that we place God first, but our actions will really tell the tale.

1 kings 17:8-14- this is the story of Elijah and the widowed woman. God told him to go to Zaraphath. When he got there, he asked for bread and water. The widow responded that she didn’t have them, but only a little flour and oil. She was actually about to prepare her last meal for herself and her son, and then they were going to die. Elijah told her to first make him a cake, then make one for her and her son. He then prophesied that her flour and oil shall not be used up until the drought ends.

This sounds crazy, but the best time to give to God is during a time of uncertainty. The fact is that everything around us is uncertain. The things that really matter are found in God, so we have to trust God to provide. We have to know that God is our provider.

This story is not about God sending Elijah to be fed. God didn’t need this woman to feed Elijah. God had fed him by ravens and angels. God could have fed Elijah through any means. What was really happening was that God was trying to set the widow up for a miracle that she could never have seen coming. He wanted to bless her, but first He had to test her.

Many times, God wants to do a miracle, but we never put ourselves in a position to receive it. The immature Christian says bless me first, then I will give. The mature Christian says that I will give to you first, then the blessings will come.

Gen. 4;2-7- the story of Cain and Abel. Cain presented some of his crops. Abel presented the best of his firstborn labs from his flock. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice, but not Cain’s. God told him that sin is crouching at the door of his heart, and that he must subdue it.

1. The heart of Cain- Jude 11- woe to them for they have gone to the way of Cain….they have run greedily…and perished in rebellion.

Cain was greedy and rebellious. He didn’t want to do it Gods way. When we don’t give God our first and best, we are operating in greed and rebellion. The blessing comes by honoring God to the fullest extent. We can’t live as if we make up our own rules and make up our own salvation. We also have to stop blaming others for our problems. We have to take responsibility for our mistakes.

Prov 19:3- people ruin their lives by their own foolishness, and then they are angry with The Lord.

Prov 3:9-10- honor The Lord with your possessions, and with the first fruits of all your increases; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.

Ex 23:19- the first of your first fruits of your land you shall bring into the house of The Lord your God.

He wants the first ad best of everything we have.

2. The heart of Abel- Heb. 11:4- by faith, Abel brought a more acceptable sacrifice to God…though he is long dead, Abel still speaks to us by his example of faith.

God deserves the first. In EVERYTHING!

Josh 6:19- but all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to The Lord; they shall come into the treasury of The Lord.

Gen 22- God asked Abraham to give up his first and only son with Sarah.

Matt 6:33- seek first the Kingdom of God……and all these things will be added to you.

1 Cor 15:20- Christ is called the first fruit

Why does God care about the first fruits? God gave us HIS first fruit. He sent Jesus to us. God gave his best, thus He expects ours in return.

First fruits?- our first words every day, the first music we play in the morning, the first thing we read,

Breaking New Ground: Do You Know God’s Greatest Desire?

1. God made me from Him- in Genesis we see that God created some things and made others. He creates things from nothing. He makes things from something. He created the heavens and the earth. He made man.

Gen 1:11- and God said let the earth bring forth grass….and it was so.
Gen 1:20- and God said let the waters abound with an abundance of creatures…and let the earth bring forth every living creature..

God calls things out of something, sustains it by that thing, and returns it to that thing when it dies. He called the beasts of the field out if the earth, he feeds them from earth, and returns them to the earth.

Gen 1:26- -let us make man in our own image, according to our likeness.

We came from God, we are sustained by God, and will be returned to God. Our bodies were formed from the earth, and will return to the earth, but God gave us our spirits. So when we die, our spirits return to God.

Separation from what sustains us leads to death. When trees are uprooted by the ground, they die. When we separate ourselves from our sustaining God, we die. He is our nourishment, our pruner, molder, and life giver. We can never be solo.

Eph 2:1- and you, He made alive, who were dead in our trespass and sin..
John 10:10- their comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.

When we stay connected to God, He continues breathing that same breath of life into us.

2. God made me like Him.

Gen 2:20- so God gave names to all the cattle, birds, and beasts, but for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. Then the rib which The Lord had taken from man, He made into a woman….and He brought her to the man.

God knew the desire of Adams heart was to have a companion. That’s what was missing in his life. God knew this because He created us to be His Bride! The symbolism of Eve is that she represents the companion that we were created to be for God.

He created us with free will, not as robots. Therefore when we willingly come to God, it melts His heart.

3. God made me to love Him.

Satan wants our worship. God wants our love.

Jer 24:7- then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am The Lord; and they shall be my people and I will be there God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.

Christianity is a life sustaining relationship where we choose to love God freely. If we passionately go after God, He will passionately come after us!

Simply put, God’s Love is EVERYTHING!!!

I have been reading Christian Athiest, by Pastor Craig Groeschel of Life Church.tv. The reading has been slow for me, but I think that is purposeful. There are so many good nuggets of thinking and meditating material in it, that to read it faster might be more bad than good. The most recent chapter that I read talked about people who believe in God, but also believe that He could never love them, for one reason ot another. Maybe it’s because of the shame that we carry about our past sins before becoming Christians. Maybe it is because we feel that we are so insignificant. So many times, we attribute human characteristics to God. Think about your childhood and your relationships with your parents, or whatever caregiver you had. Now, think about how you see, view, and approach God. I remember growing up, and even as a teenager, quietly knocking on my dad’s door when I wanted to ask him something.  I didn’t want to bother him, because he was a busy man. Even today, I sometimes fine myself quietly knocking on God’s door, even though we are told to approach Him with courage and boldness. No matter how good or bad your relationship with your parents, I can promise you that there are some aspects of them that have been transferred to how you interact with God. Only the ministry of the Holy Spirit can free us of those chains.

 

I love the way God can cause things to interact though, because in our Wednesday Bible Studies we have been doing Forgotten God, by Frances Chan. Last night’s study dealt with how much God desires us to have a deeply personal and intimate relationship with Him, one that goes further than us calling Him by his formal name. he wants a relationship with us that involves us knowing Him the way a child knows his or her loving father, can calling Him as such. It’s the Holy Spirit that calls out through us to Him as Abba, or Daddy. As we were talking about all of this last night, and how the Holy Spirit shows us in our lives and ministers to us through every instance to show us how much God loves us, I had a hard time holding back tears. To think that God, Elohim, Yahweh, this same God who is above all, yet IN all…that He loves me renders me speechless. And yes, I have had real issues in believing the depth of God’s love for me in the past, because I couldn’t see how God could love someone who sinned as deeply as I have in the past, and sometimes still today. Why would I ever be worthy of God’s love? How could I ever be worthy?

 

And Craig Groeschel and Frances Chan both talk about how we think that we can earn God’s good graces by going cold turkey from our sin for a time, then thinking that we can approach God for a relationship after we have been “clean” for a particular amount of time. But see, that doesn’t work, because we always fall right back into that sin or more sin. Furthermore, our sin is not the point. God does not focus on our sin. He focuses on US. His love is so much greater than wanting to condemn us for every wrong thing that we do in life. His love is so much stronger than the weakness we exude in our times of falling away.

 

The story of the prodigal son really moves me like nothing else as I get older. The image of the father running out to meet the wayward son as he returns to ask if he can merely be a slave- how is that not us at some point? We sin and come back to God as a last resort, expecting God to treat us with contempt and scorn, to shackle us and make us to menial labor around His house. Yet when we lift our heads, tears staining out face, our shame causing our shoulders to buckle and lean; we look up and see not merely God, but ABBA running as fast as He can to meet us and lift us up! We feel His arms around us, squeezing us tightly and spinning us around over and over again. This is the love of our Daddy! Just typing this gives me goose bumps.  We can never truly comprehend the love of God, but He just asks us to accept it and believe in it!

 

There is something incredibly freeing about accepting God’s love. It frees us from the weight of expectation and the fear of failure. How many of us would have better lives if we weren’t consumed by wanting to make our parent’s proud? The fear of failing people drives us to do the most insane things, which are often to our detriment. And God presents His love to us in the form of Christ, who died for us while we were yet sinners. Do you understand the magnitude of these words? While we were yet sinners, while we ARE yet sinners, Christ died back them for each and every instance of sin and shame in our lives. Christ died way back then so that we would be covered for the rest of our lives. The Bible says that Love covers a multitude of sins. Guess what, that love is spelled out clearly in the blood of Christ. Every drop cleansed every sin, every detracting thought of doubt and self- image. Everything that Satan and our flesh would use to pull us away from HIM, Christ tethered Himself to us, refusing to let us go! He loves us! He loves us! He LOVES US!!!

 

So, what does this mean? It simply means that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. It doesn’t matter what was in your past. Embrace the fact that God can make you a new creation. Embrace the fact that he WANTS to make you a new creation. This life changing message of love via the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the sacrifice of Christ has to be internalized and accepted as true within us. Our minds can not comprehend this, but it will bear such powerful witness in our hearts if we allow it to sink in.  So I would like to ask anyone who reads this blog today to do 2 things. I normally don’t do this, but I just feel lead.

 

  1. Share this blog posting with at least one person. If you feel lead to do more, bless you. It’s not about getting my reader counts up. It’s about getting the truth out. The world would have us believe that we are insignificant, unimportant, nothing special, because of one reason or another. God is screaming from the heavens that we are SIGNIFICANT and WORTH EVERYTHING! This is the truth that we need to be shouting as well.
  2. Stop and pray that God’s love becomes real in your life, and the lives of those whom you share this with. Pray for a relationship that goes beyond formalities. Pray for a relationship where you develop your own intimate time with Abba. Even if it ends with you calling God Provider, Healer, etc, this needs to be a personal relationship. As big as God is, He desperately wants to know everything about you and become your ALL.

 

Thank you for reading today. I’m so excited about God’s love, and I’m so excited about what He will do in our lives as we live in His love.