BY CAMELA JOHNSON
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Jesus said those words often as He taught the crowds who followed Him. He also told John to write those words in the letters to the seven churches recorded in Revelation.
How often do we read our Bibles and mentally gloss over the words? If we don’t hear the message in the words, we are putting up a blockade which prevents transformation and change.
Your challenge this week is to intentionally “put on your listening ears” during your Bible devotion time.
BY MATT BAYS
Just like any other business, the mission of a multi-million dollar company like Victoria’s Secret is to make more money. But I imagine the people who run Victoria’s Secret hire young interns and say to them, “We are all about providing quality undergarments at competitive prices.” And I’m sure the interns recheck the letter head to make sure they’re not applying at the Playtex: Cross Your Heart Bra franchise.
Quality undergarments? That’s the goal? Because their advertising would suggest a different mission.
I have been doing this “front man” worship leader thing for the past twenty years and I’ll be honest, when I was twenty three I would imagine myself on a very large stage with the pulsing beat of a God-song in the air along with fist pumping teens, single mothers, business men, blacks, whites, believers and unbelievers worshipping full throttle, eye closed, hands raised…and ME leading them. Eventually I’d snap out of my daydream and get back to the reality of my 350 member church, our teenage bass player, 55 year old drummer, and 95 year old piano player.
Today I lead worship with fog, HD screens, video venues, screaming guitar solos and (wait for it)…fist pumping. YES! I’ve made it. Over 5,000 people come through our three campuses each weekend and guess who one of their front men is? Me. But just as the CEO of Victoria’s Secret has left consumers thinking the mission is really about sex and not quality undergarments, I fear I may have done the same, leading people to believe the package we use for worship is the mission, when it isn’t.
During the worship portions of our weekend services I have often been misguided in my desire to see every person with their loving gaze on God – singing with their hands in the air and really “entering into worship.” And when the hands have been raised, I’ve thought, Yes!…this is the goal. This is what we’re after. But it’s not the goal.
Emotion for God does not equal devotion to God.
You already know where I’m going with this. Emotion is not bad, but it can’t be all that we bring…blah, blah, blah. But the devotion part is what kicks us in the teeth every time. Because devotion asks this question, “What sacrifice did you bring?” Uh oh…the hands slide back down, our eyes aren’t closed quite so tightly, and we’re singing a little bit softer now, a little bit softer now.
It is no more believable when a Victoria’s Secret “Angel” is interviewed about the million dollar bra and says, “It provides such great support for the girls” than it is when we stick our hands in the air during worship but offer nothing of significance.
God doesn’t want our lacy panties, our guitar solos, our fog and lights, videos, shorty robes trimmed out in feathers, slick announcements, or sweet smelling sachets to keep things fresh. He wants what is in our hearts…the better angels of our nature that we so easily bring to him in worship and the demons we’ve been wrestling for years.
Maybe worship should be a little less passionate and a little more pragmatic…like attending a 12-step meeting and learning how to quit porn, or receiving the counsel of a professional so that we can finally honor our wedding vows by learning how to cherish our spouse. Maybe worship isn’t singing a song but confessing an addiction.
This isn’t the most popular thing I’ll ever write that’s for sure. And some may even see it as dismissive of worship services, but it’s certainly not meant to be. I just know it’s rude to show up for a party without a gift. And if we continue to believe that our gift is a song…well, would you be impressed? I wouldn’t. I promise you, the host is expecting more.
The only real definition of worship we have to go by in scripture is Romans 12:1, which says “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” Nothing about music, raised hands, or closed eyes in that verse. Point blank, our lives given as a sacrifice is TRUE worship.
The best worship service I’ve ever been to was in my car on the way home from a counseling appointment. There was zero fist pumping. Instead, just as King David did over and over in the book of Psalms, I told God I couldn’t stand how I felt inside. I told him I was so angry and disappointed with my Made-for-TV-Movie childhood. I told him I was tired of doing the same things over and over to ease the pain, and that I couldn’t stop doing those things on my own. That’s what I brought to him. It wasn’t fog, it wasn’t a song, and it wasn’t exciting. It wasn’t even positive, but it was real.
And when I felt him say, “I’m going to help you with that,” and began to see the evidence of his help, my response was worship. Quiet and small…and grateful.
Not for a minute do I think that on a Sunday, with thousands of people in front of me, and with the fog and lights behind me, that something more powerful is happening than what was happening in my car when God whispered, “It’s going to be okay. I have what you need. Let’s figure this out together.”
I’ve always pictured Jesus sitting on a throne during worship, taking in the praise with his eyes shut. But I wonder if instead, his sleeves are rolled up and he’s ready to go to work. Maybe he’s waiting on us to stop affirming who he is, and instead trust in what he can defeat, which is death – his own, and ours.
If worship is only songs, guitars, organs, choirs, tears, hands raised and eyes tightly closed, then I have to be honest…I don’t have much to offer. But if it’s presenting myself as I am – if it’s being willing to sacrifice my demons – if it’s bringing something that’s broken before God that I can’t seem to put back together on my own…then believe me, I’ve got all the worship in me that I’ll ever need.
If you like Matt’s thoughts, check out his blog at: www.mattbayswriter.com
by Monica Taylor
Life goes so quickly. We start out as children having fun, trying to learn how to handle life; and then we become young adults, making our fair share of mistakes, but inevitably learning and living our lives. As adults, we find that we reminisce about how great it was being a child or teen, having small or no responsibilities, while enjoying life and the small treasures that seem to be everywhere we looked. Now, we look in the mirror and find that the face in the mirror bears a resemblance to the youth we once were, and instead possesses a slightly less exuberant look, possibly even reminding us of our own parents a little more than we care to admit.
I say this not to be morose, or to leave you feeling sad about life. I say it as a reminder to enjoy whatever stage you find yourself in and to seek God’s will in your life. And no, I am not Pollyanna or an older facsimile of her. I am instead a lady who has lived a lot of life and expects to continue to enjoy even more of it. My words are a reminder to myself as well as to each of you that each of our lives encompass both positives and negatives. God did not promise us this life would be filled with flowers and smiles each and every day. He did say, however, that “…in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (NIV Romans 8:28)
God is in the business of “taking care of things” if we let Him. His ways are so much better than ours, and He alone knows the ending – the perfect ending to your life story. I know He has mine planned.
I pray that you allow Him to help you find your true life’s mission, the one He called you to before you were even born, so that you may enjoy His daily blessings and truly know when you look in that mirror that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, He loves you, and He is working good through you each day, month, year and season of your life. May God bless you richly in His love.
by K.Paul Maurer
Have you ever met someone that just seems different? You know – a “good” different in a serene, peaceful kind of way? They aren’t acting like everyone else. They don’t seem to be rushing around distracted by all the worries of what’s to come or what was just left behind. It’s almost as if they have something that no one else does.
Honestly, these people seem somewhat few and far between. Recently as I was trying in my heart and mind to grasp what it means to live a life that says “thank you,” I realized that it’s more about what you see rather than what you don’t see. In another words, living a life of thankfulness for me is about wanting what’s around you – wanting what you have rather than always being trapped and distracted by what you’re trying to gain. Appreciating the circumstances of the day seeing them as a fresh bouquet of opportunities to live and laugh and love.
I know this probably sounds silly to some. But honestly, what if we really lived this way? It reminds me of the verse in Colossians 4:5 that says, “Make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” If we really wanted what we had in every given day (notice the word ‘given’) and saw it as a chance to receive once again a day of opportunities to respond with thankfulness, I honestly believe that our world would quickly become a brighter place. And can I just say where there is light, there will also be found hope and life!
The reality for me is that the more I can get myself to a place of wanting what I have, the more likely I will not fall to the distractions of what the world tells me I need. The more I can see that my life can and should be a thank you song for our Lord Jesus, the more I will position myself to have a heart, mind and body that can stand out from the world.
Doesn’t being different sound like a better way to live? By the way, if we want what we have, we will see what we’ve already been given all the more. Our homes, our cars, our pantries, our families, our education, our neighborhoods, our churches, our safe road systems, our police and fire-firefighters, our neighbors, our trash collectors, our street cleaners, our grocery stores that always have food, our fresh water that comes right out of our faucets, our clothes that are dry and warm, our daycare systems, our air conditioners, our comfortable furniture, coffee, electricity, fresh unpolluted air, freedom, our Bibles, our spouses, our leaders, our kids, our healthcare, music… and the list keeps on going. What would you add to this list? Is your day – and for that matter, your thoughts – more consumed with what you don’t see or what you see? I sure hope that I can live today, tomorrow and even next week with a resonating “thank you” echoing in and through my heart and life.
Father, may my life carry an aroma of thanks pointing people right back to your goodness, your gifts and your love. Amen.