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.

Pumpkin Spice and Jesus

On September 1st I made my students look at me with questioning eyes because of my excitement over it being the first day of the first month of fall. I’m pretty sure they questioned my being an adult because of how excited I got. I love fall. I love the leaves changing colors and falling to blanket the ground. I love the smells of bonfires and the cheers of football games. I love a good cup (or two) of hot apple cider. I even love the storms. The fall festivals that have too many people and too many delicious calories. The extra layers of clothes that cause one to feel comforted. The windows open on a windy day and laying on the couch with a blanket has been the source of some of the best naps I’ve ever experienced. The pumpkin pies and family gatherings. The corn mazes. I love the color pallet of fall, the deep hues, rich in color. Seriously, it’s all just wonderful.

Most of all though, I love how my life happens in fall. As a teacher, summer is my time of adventure, I get to go anywhere, do anything, try everything I want, without worrying about my students and the lessons I need to plan. But summer is not my season of rest. Don’t get me wrong, my spirit feels rejuvenated and relaxed after a good summer. However, fall is the time when everything slows down. The students get into the routine of school again; all the beginning of the year, school craziness, calms down, and I get to live in this beautiful life God has called me to. In the fall I’m surrounded by responsibilites, lesson planning, church events, and spending time with family and friends on the weekend – a very scheduled life. There is something very sacred about this time of year though. A time when everything quiets down with a hum of life around it. It is easy to feel mundane when you see yourself doing the same things over and over again, if you’re not looking for the joy. There’s joy in doing the same things over and over again because you become consistent, well-practiced in what you do. There’s joy in the quiet moments you sip on pumpkin spice lattes with a friend. There’s joy in the crowded fall festivals and letting yourself eat a goodie you usually would refrain from. There’s joy in cheering your students or children on in their favorite sport. There’s joy in the marshmallows and bonfires, sitting surrounded by people you care about.

God created us to live a life here on Earth and while we are to live with eternity in mind, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy this life. There is a tactic that the enemy sends our way. The enemy wants us to believe that we cannot enjoy this life because it will mess with our eternity. This enemy wants us to be so consumed with worry over eternity and what we can do for it that we forget the simple things.

I struggled with this for such a long time. I was not secure in my place in Christ. This insecurity caused such turmoil when I realized I had been enjoying life in things that were temporal. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved by God’s grace. God’s grace is not something that just stops. it is renewed every morning (Lamentations 3:23). My friend, if you have given your life to Christ and have accepted Him as your Savior, you’re living eternity already. You are already living a life for Jesus, using your time to worship Him through the tasks that even seem mundane.

There are seasons when God will call you to adventurous things, things that are scary and maybe even life-threatening, but fall reminds us that God also calls us to seasons of rest and enjoying this life He created. God created us to live, to show joy in our everyday lives. To live with the peace that we are saved. That peace and joy will shed light into the people around you. They will ask why you can enjoy life so easily. And God’s love is the answer. Living everyday life with the joy of Christ, with the peace of salvation, is a great testimony for the people around you to see.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Realize that Christ is your security. He has created you to love through the things you do each day. You can worship Him through your actions: having coffee with a friend, giving your best at work, loving the people around you. You are in this season for a reason, and it is a chance for you to grow.

Here’s The Truth

With everything going on around the world, I feel the need to speak life. I know we each have our personal hurts and problems we face in our day to day lives. With everything going on, I know a lot of people are hurting and feel vulnerable because their hurt is out for everyone to see. The hurt is amplified all around us. No matter what you are going through, let this life be spoken into you. These are truths.

  • Your cries are heard

I Peter 5:7

“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

1 John 5:14-15

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

  • You are seen, your good parts, the parts that hurt, all of it.

Proverbs 15:3

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

Job 34:21

“For His eyes are on the ways of man, and He sees all his steps.”

Psalms 33:13-15

The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.”

  • You are not alone

Deuteronomy 31:6

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

1 Samuel 12:22

“For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.”

  • You are loved

John 15:9

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.”

Ephesians 2:4-6

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raise us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus.”

1 John 4:7-8

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Here is the thing, my friend, you are loved, you are seen, you are heard, and you are not alone. I know life hurts. I know some nights you cry yourself to sleep. I know you fight and sometimes you cannot fight anymore. I know because I do too.

I felt the need to write all of this in mainly scriptures, because my words can encourage, but His Word can heal. His Word is what can provide peace. His Word is love. If you skipped over all of the scriptures, I ask you to read this last one. Know that you are precious in His eyes.

Psalms 139:13-16

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were not of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!”