Who Do You Worship?

Joshua 24:14-15

“Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

A while back, I was listening to a sermon and the topic of true worship came up. Being raised in church, I have heard many sermons, debates, and deep conversations over this topic and what it means for the different departments in our churches. Conversations and heated debates swirl around with questions like: “Is our music too loud? Should we get lights for the platform? Is our music too soft? Do we need a sign team? How do we reach all of these people in our congregation?” With hearing all of these different ideas, one thought keeps coming to mind: “Who are we trying to worship?” Are we trying to honor and reverence the thoughts and opinions of those around us? Are we trying to honor and give reverence to our God and Savior, Jesus Christ?

Good Ol’ Merriam Webster defines worship as this: 1) “to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power” and 2) “to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion”. The first definition of worship is not something that we, as Christians, easily mistake. Many Christian people honor or reverence God as the divine being or supernatural power. People of the many different religions around the Earth also have a being that they honor or reverence as divine or with supernatural power. Yet, it is this second definition that trips us up. If we switch this second definition: “To regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion” to our everyday usage of the English language, we get something like this: “To consider something or someone with great respect, honor, or loyalty and love”. With that in mind, I must ask this question: “What, or whom receives your greatest respect, honor, loyalty, or love?” I challenge you to stop right now, and make a list, mentally or even on a piece of paper.

My initial reaction creates a list that looks something like this:

  1. God
  2. Those who serve our community (EMTs, Firefighters, Nurses, Doctors, Teachers, the Military, Missionaries, Pastors),
  3. My family,
  4. My spiritual mentors,

Then, as it normally does, my brain begins to question, is this the list that my everyday life supports? Do my everyday actions say that I am loyal to these things; that I honor, respect, and love these groups of people? What gets the most of my time every single day? You see, what we love the most, what we are the most loyal to, what we honor and respect the most, gets the majority of our time.

With this in mind, I revisit my list, and if I am completely honest with you, my list begins to look a little more like this:

  1. Me
  2. My Work
  3. Social Media
  4. My family
  5. God
  6. Church
  7. Those who serve our community (EMTs, Firefighters, Nurses, Doctors, Teachers, the Military, Missionaries, Pastors),
  8. My spiritual mentors.

With many different scriptures, the Bible is very clear about Who we should be worshipping:

Deuteronomy 6:13-14 You shall fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shall swear by his name.You shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you.” Note: here the word “fear” in its original Hebrew  means to “revere”.

1 Chronicles 16:25 “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised: he also is to be feared above all gods.” Note: here the word “feared” in its original Hebrew means to “revere”.

John 4:23 “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”

Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.” Note: here the word “service” in its original Greek means to “worship”.

If worship is defined as honoring or extravagantly respecting someone, and if worship is an act of our love, if the Bible is this clear on Whom should be receiving our worship, and if our time spent is an indication of what we love, then it is imperative that we realize what we are spending the most time on.

I encourage you my dear friend, to really look at where your time is being spent. Who are you worshipping?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Allen Taylor on Unsplash

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Six Minutes to Eternity

I’ve been told this message jumps all over the place, and while that is true, I ask that you stick around. Come with me on this multi-lane adventure, because I promise you the destination makes sense, once you get there.
A while back I woke up too late to do my devotions. Because of my habitual pressing of the snooze button, I had missed my time of praying and decided to pray while I was driving. That week in particular was more than busy. Monday was small group, Tuesday was song practice, Wednesday was church, Thursday was something at school, and Friday I was due to teach a lesson at a church youth event. As the realization hit me that I had yet to prepare a lesson for the upcoming youth night, my confusion of God’s provision was heightened.
“God,” I spoke up, “Why haven’t you given me anything yet?!”
There aren’t many times I here a direct, quick answer, but this one threw me for a loop.
In a thought loud enough to be barely a whisper I heard, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Nearly in tears I asked God for forgiveness. I had been upset with Him because I had expected Him to give the answer when I hadn’t even asked.
Then I asked: “God, this is important to me. I know they only give us six minutes to teach this lesson, but those six minutes could mean someone’s eternity.”
This latter sentence rolled over and over in my mind and wouldn’t let up. Six minutes could mean someone’s eternity… Six minutes.
When I got to work, I spent a few minutes looking up “six minutes”. Why wouldn’t this idea of that specific time frame leave me? What things of importance could you do in such a little amount of time? So I asked Google, because obviously that is the place to go for answers. The following is what Google suggested:

  1. You could run a mile (insert picture of me laughing hysterically, because as smart as Google is, this one, my dear friends, it got wrong).
  2. Go through a drive thru twice… Once again, dear Google, you are misinformed, or we need to switch our food choices because I’m not sure I’ve been through a drive thru in that amount of time… ever.
  3. You could go get coffee down the street! Oh, here is the Google I know. Good job Google! Finally you speak my language. Coffee. Coffee is a good thing.

Now as you can see by the three things in this list, six minutes is not a lot of time. In fact, if you do the math, six minutes is less than 1% of your day. Yet, this small amount of time, the time it could take you to get coffee, or run a mile, or whatever your thing may be, that time could be used to save someone’s life.
Too many times when God asks us to do something, He asks of us the things we consider small. The things that seem so minute that we mistakenly think they are not worth our time. There is no “little” or “big” thing to God though. In His word, He continually shows us that He uses the things we consider little to perform great miracles. We see Him work in David. I’m sure David could’ve let fear take over. He could’ve said: “I’m not big enough. I’m not old enough. I’m not enough.” Instead though, we see a small, young man defeat a war champion, a giant, with a sling and a few stones. Flip a few books on and we find a young orphan. She was chosen to be the wife of a king, a seemingly flippant king at that. Yet she was chosen, not only by a king, but by The King. He chose her to save her whole country from genocide. Skip a handful or more books on and we come upon a small village that was chosen to be the birthplace of our Savior. I can’t help but wonder how different Christ’s story would have been, if that small village, if that small stable, would’ve said, “I’m not good enough, no baby can be born here”.

1 Corinthians 1:27-28 (NLT)

“Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish… And he chose things that are powerless… chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them…”
Have you ever felt foolish? Have you ever felt like you weren’t good enough, worthy enough of the calling you had received? Has God ever asked you to do something that seemed too big for you to accomplish? I’ve been there. I could venture to say that we’ve all been there. No matter how small or insignificant you feel, God has made you for a specific purpose and NO ONE else can fill that exact role.
Have you ever felt like the calling you received wasn’t good or big enough? Maybe you feel like you should be doing bigger and better things. Yet, God has something “smaller” in mind. Sometimes his voice is hard to hear because he chooses to whisper things and when he asks something small, we don’t think it’s going to make that big of a difference, so we don’t listen. Yet there are so many times he asks something small because he wants to use it in a big way. These small things might sound something like this:

  • “Go sit by that kid at the lunch table.”
  • “Give that teacher a smile, I know they get on your nerves, but they’re hurting.”
  • “Say yes when your little sibling asks to play a game.”
  • “Ask your mom or dad how their day was… and really listen this time. They’re human too.”
  • “Text this person, they need a friend.”

God doesn’t call all of us to go to Africa, He doesn’t call all of us to be Pastors or Worship Leaders. But He does call all of us to something; whatever He has asked of you, no matter how small it seems to be, it’s worth it, and He has a bigger plan.
The call rings out clear. Come. Serve. Be planted where you are. Love where you are. Esther 4:14 says: “… And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
I’ve changed the words just a bit and maybe it’ll help you see how it applies to you, right here, right now:
“…And who knows, maybe you were made (in your workplace, in your school, with your family, with your friends) for such a time as this?”
Photo by Eder Pozo Pérez on Unsplash

A Letter To Me

A book I read a while back inspired me to write a letter to who I was ten years ago. My 14-year-old self was going through quite the traumatic time, as many that age do. I had recently turned back to God from a middle school version of rebellion. I was repentant; worried I had messed up any chances of witnessing to those around me, quiet and worried about every little thing. God and I were closer but I still wasn’t sure what it looked like to serve Him in love; the center of our relationship was solely fear, fear I would miss out on Him, fear I would make Him unhappy… Fear. But still I pressed on. With all of that in mind, I’ve decided to write a letter to Freshman self, and I invite you to come along this journey with me; it may end up more important than you realize right now.

Dear 14-year-old self,

May I start by saying hello. If you don’t believe it’s me, I could share a few secrets that only a select few know. Yet, I think if you look into who you are at your core, you’ll believe every word. You are beautiful. You are wanted. You are loved. You are enough. I know life is hard right now, it is for everyone. It never really stops being hard, you just find better ways to give it to God to handle. I have a few words of advice, and I hope at least one of them sticks with you:

  1. Find your worth in the One Who made you. You can’t find lasting worth in achievement because the minute you fail, so does your identity.
  2. Let that guy go, the one who tries to control you, the one who says you need to lose weight, the one who chooses another girl, let him go. He doesn’t know who he is either. And if God’s plan is for you to marry, He will bring a man to you that will love you as He does. He will bring a man that will treasure you more than you feel worthy of.
  3. Take a risk, try out for the squad, go for a late night movie with your friends, do something; just be sure to make stories that will last a lifetime.
  4. Do everything but don’t forget yourself. You have the time, right here, right now to do whatever you want. Be the secretary of a club, join a team you don’t know if you’ll like, join the choir at church, take a night class for a craft, take up a real hobby. These things aren’t what makes you who you are, but you may find a bit of yourself in one of them. You’ll never know if you don’t actually go.
  5. It’s okay to fail, just learn from it. And if all you’ve learned is one thing that doesn’t work for you, then you’ve done well.
  6. Love well. Love those around you, make them smile, make them laugh, show them the beauty you see in them. You’re good at it. It’s one thing you do that’s as easy as snow falling. It just happens. Let it happen.
  7. And for the love, quit letting others define you. There will always be those who talk; give them something to talk about. There will always be those who hate; give them something that makes them question their hatred. There will always be those who love you with everything in their being; don’t push them away.
  8. Just be you, honey. You are beautiful. You will mess up. It’s okay. You will do great things. Celebrate them. You are determined. You have talents and dreams. Pursue them. Most importantly though, out of any of this, you are loved, created for a beautiful purpose. Be you.

Sincerely,

The 24-year-old version of You
You know, as I look over this little letter to myself, I think of how applicable it still is today. I’m in the beginning years of my career, engaged to be married this summer, and yet those eight things apply to me, here and now, just as much as it ever did. And I have this feeling that they will still apply 10 years from now. So the question is this, what would you tell your 10-year younger self? Go write it… and then do something courageous, take your own advice.

 

 

 

Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash

My Dreams

I was driving in my car the other day, on my way to work, and I decided to spend that time in prayer. I asked God, if He had anything He wanted me to work on or that He wanted to work on within me, to please show me and to start the work… I don’t think I was prepared for when He answered that prayer.

My Saturday morning devotions are some of my favorites because I’m not rushed. I spend as much time as I want reading, journaling, praying, singing, it doesn’t matter how long I spend. But one particular Saturday morning, here recently, God asked something of me and immediately I felt my heart start hurting.

You know those dreams we all have? The ones that we play over in our minds when we can’t fall asleep… The dreams that we perfect over the years of our young lives… I had/have a list of them and it goes a little something like this:

  1. Go to college ✓
  2. Begin my career ✓
  3. Teach in a major poverty area ✓
  4. Travel the world
  5. Write a story
  6. Pay off debt
  7. Have a house of my own
  8. Get my Master’s degree in something
  9. Get married
  10. Adopt a handful or more of children
  11. Live a long life, do well in my career surrounded by my family
  12. Have a great church family ✓
  13. Serve where I am planted ✓
  14. Love well
  15. See the Aurora Borealis
  16. Watch a Meteor Shower late at night
  17. Missions
  18. Become a well-practiced archer

Those are all beautiful things. They are things that I was told I should dream for. Things that they said God would give to me along the way as long as I waited patiently.  

God asked me to change my list of dreams. The things I hope for, the dreams that I have had in my heart since I was young. The dreams I played out with my Barbies… You know, because if it can work in Barbie land then it can 100% work great in my world too (the mind of an 8 year old). He asked me to change my dream to this:

  1. God

He asked to be my dream. He asked me to long to be with Him for eternity, for that to be my one longing. He has asked that all of these earthly dreams be put in their place and that He would be put first. And in all honesty, my heart hurt, because I knew what this meant.

For God to be my dream, I have to lay aside the dreams that lull me to sleep at night. The dreams I journal about, the dreams I pray about, the dreams that have become my idols, they all have to be put away. They’re not wrong, it’s not a sin to dream, but the shelf in my life that they’ve been sitting on isn’t a shelf like I thought it was. Those dreams have taken the throne in my life that only God should sit upon and He has been placed on the shelf meant for my earthly dreams. He is asking to take His rightful place.

For God to be my dream, I have to be content with not having a house of my own. I have to be content with singleness being my life for more than a “season”. I have to be content with not furthering my education or adopting children. I have to be content with serving Him and only Him in whatever way that looks like. When God is my dream, those earthly dreams become ways that I can serve God, instead of ways that God can serve me since I do “good” things.  

I’m finding out what it looks like to have God as my dream. Where my prayers go from “God show me how to live this life, here are my dreams, fulfill them please” to “God show me how to live a life that is honoring to You, guide me in the ways that honor You, where do You want me to serve You today Lord”…

You see, dreams aren’t the problem. Where they sit in your priority list is the problem. Often times, we can find God’s direction in certain dreams we have. When your heart longs to do something, to serve a certain people group, to go somewhere, through prayer and fasting, you may find that those certain dream were God-given. However, there are many times that we put all of our dreams on a pedestal and become entitled. We think that if we do our devotions, serve at church, and place God in a proverbial “center” of our lives, then He MUST give us our dreams. We make a checks-and-balance with God. I serve at church, You give me a husband. I pay my tithes, You provide me the house I want. God is not a Coke machine.

My heart hurts less as God becomes the center of my life. I realize that the dreams I must let go of are not the glorious things I put them up to be. They would have disappointed me. Compared to a relationship with God where I am all in, those dreams are so small. In light of eternity, those dreams mean nothing. When you delight yourself in the Lord, He becomes your desire.

Insomnia, a Blessing in Disguise

12:00 AM is not the time I usually plan to be productive. I’d rather be asleep in a room that feels like an ice-cube, listening to a fan, wrapped in multiple blankets, dreaming of the beach. Alas, my plans, or should I say my plans being unused and thrown away, seem to be the prime time for God’s lessons. While I do not believe God causes all of my plans to be thrown down the drain, I know He uses each detour for my growth. The smallest things seem to impact the biggest areas in my life.

There have been several times, too many to count to be quite honest, over the last two years of my teaching career that I have fallen asleep on the couch before 8 o’clock. By the time I wake up and walk to my bed, my brain sometimes decides that sleep is not on the agenda. For most of my life, when I could not sleep, I would get on Facebook or Instagram, and lay for hours watching videos mindlessly; filling my mind with things that was not helpful in life and complaining continually about how I could not sleep. I don’t know how many hours I have wasted doing just that. Then, one day I had a different idea. Instead of just laying in bed for hours, I decided to get up and make some use of the time. I cleaned, reorganized things, spent time with God, and blogged. It’s funny how such a little change can impact your life.

As I look back over these little hours of insomnia, I cannot explain how much it has actually helped me. Insomnia, for me, happens when I am busy beyond all compare and I have no time for the little things like cleaning and organizing. More often than not, insomnia happens when I have been so busy that my priorities get all out of whack and I am desperately needing time with God. Now I cannot say whether the insomnia is something God has caused or just something He allows, but what grace He has shown me through it. Grace to catch up on things, to spend time with Him, to breathe and relax.

I am becoming thankful for the insomniac nights. It’s not that 10:00-11:30 or 1:00 in the night hours is my favorite time of day, nor is it my ideal time for any of the said activities above. However, it is a quiet time of the day, it’s a time when it can be just me and God. It’s a time when I can be really productive and get a lot done in a short amount of time. It’s not ideal, but God has shown me a way to be thankful for it. God truly can use anything for the good.

Dear First Year Teacher

First Year Teacher,

I know you’re excited and scared. That’s okay. Many people have made it through this first year, and you will too! Here are a few tips I have learned over this last year, I hope it helps.

  1. Don’t let anyone quench that hunger to make a difference.
  2. Keep the enthusiasm. You’ll need it to push through the hard days.
  3. Never forget that the children know a great deal more than the world gives them credit for. Learn from them each and every day.
  4. Take the time to know them. They can turn your world upside down.
  5. On the days they say they hate you, or their actions tell you so, it’s going to be okay. I promise you that. Your mistake today will NOT make them failures. It does not make you a failure either.
  6. You have wonderful ideas. Yes, some of them will fail miserably; others will blossom into something you’ve never dreamed.
  7. Listen to the wisdom of others; the veteran teachers have some wonderful stories to tell.
  8. There are some things you will have to learn on your own and that’s okay.
  9. It’s just your first year honey, breathe.
  10. Take a day for yourself when you need it. Your mental, physical, and emotional health are all more important than turning in grades, or having perfect lesson plans. No, this doesn’t mean to call in sick all of the time, but it does mean that sometimes you miss a deadline, or the lesson is the bare minimum. You CANNOT give those kiddos what they need when you starve yourself all of the time.
  11. With that said… give those kids all of the love you have. I promise you they will give it back one-hundred times over.
  12. Be silly with your class. If you teach younger grades, take a recess time and play with them, or walk with them. Let them see you as a person (within the professional boundaries needed).
  13. If you don’t already have a de-stressing hobby, get one. You need something you can do that will distract your mind from teaching and help your body relax. Some great ideas are as follows: exercising, painting, blogging, writing, reading, coloring, or sewing. There are lots of great ideas out there, just find something. Finding something that you can throw yourself into, other than teaching, will help keep you from burning out.
  14. For goodness’ sake, shut your door and teach!

 

Love,

A Second Year Teacher that is still learning too!

Missions – Not What I Expected

I felt the call to be a missionary when I was 11 years old. I didn’t know that one way God would have me fulfill that call would be through teaching until about four years ago. Maybe one day I’ll travel around the world teaching the Good News. But right now, this is where I’m planted, to be the light to my kiddos in this broken system.

I remember it clear as day. I was eleven years old, sitting in my room at my desk. I know that year I received the Holy Ghost, but I don’t recall whether this moment happened before or after that time. Anyway… I was sitting at my desk looking at the corkboard hanging on the wall. I had pictures of friends and family, a few pictures of artists I loved listening to, you know, the typical pre-teen room display. Also on that corkboard was pinned a picture of a world map. It was there to remind me to pray for our missionaries. That day though, I just sat there, staring at the map. I felt something in me shift. I didn’t know the details; I had no idea what it meant. All I knew was that I was going to be a missionary. It was my calling to work on the mission field.

Fast forward to college; since that time when I knew my calling, sometimes it was placed on the forefront. It was all I looked at. However, other times I placed it in the background, basically forgetting it existed. I didn’t know how it would all play out and it scared me (still does sometimes). Almost every time I heard a missionary speak, or someone speak about missions, I would cry. I would listen to their stories and plead with God, asking, “WHEN IS IT MY TURN?” Then I would look at my life and feel like it didn’t measure up to the calling of a missionary. Do I really have what it takes? Does my life show Jesus to those around me? Am I doing this right?

After five years, I graduated college with a degree in early childhood education. I earned my certificate to teach the littlest of littles. I had no idea that this would be my first mission field. You see, I had these ideas in my head, ideas that kept that missionary calling fire in my heart going. But I don’t know if those ideals really meet where I’m going. Then again, maybe they do. I listened to life stories of missionaries; I studied their lives, I heard them preach at church. They all came from foreign lands, places where they had to give up everything and move off; they preach the gospel on the streets, some hide, preaching quietly to a group hoping the government won’t catch them, they live life with different people groups, loving, serving, teaching, sacrificing, feeding the hungry. And while my heart longs to travel, I haven’t heard the call to go live in another country just yet. I have heard the call though, offering me a job at a local school; where within the last five years free-and-reduced lunch has went from 5% to 75%; a place where children come in, in defense mode, because they stayed up all night to their parents fighting; a place where children come in, nearly starved for food just as much as for attention; their needs unmet to the point of desperation. I did not see this as a mission field. It did not even click until I read a blog post about teachers being missionaries.

Because my ideals were so focused on living in a small hut in another country with barefoot children running around, I neglected to see the children in front of me. I didn’t hear their cries, their pleas to be fed spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Whatever your calling may be, missions, preaching, teaching, mentoring, singing, translating, etc., please realize that the foundation of that ministry may look nothing like you think. You may be called to be a pastor, and right now all you are doing is scrubbing toilets. You may be called to lead the worship team and right now you are only singing in the shower. I’m here to tell you, it’s okay. I know it may seem like God took you on a detour and left you; I promise you He will never leave you, nor will He forsake you. This road that appears to be destitute, it’s part of your journey. A beautiful part. This is part of your calling. I would be willing to bet, if you are following God with all your heart, compare your calling to what you are doing now, they’re connected somehow.

If you still don’t know your calling, don’t lose hope. Live life as it is right now. Don’t rush it. Let God do His work; in His timing everything will fall into place.

Right now, small town USA is my mission field. In a broken world, every country needs missionaries.