Saturday, September 21, 2013

Finicky Worshipers

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Hebrews 13:15

We like to make worship about ourselves.
We like the warm feeling it gives us when we feel it is being done "correctly". When the words we are singing make sense to our ears, and the music is being played by talented musicians - never out of time, with the perfect crescendos moving the audience in and out of the perfect melodious flow. Music done well is a beautiful thing, don't get me wrong - however, when the music must be "done well" for me to lift my heart in praise, worship has turned into something else other than true worship. When we are too occupied with feeling gratified, how do we focus on gratifying God? When we must be moved to worship, we have turned something that is meant to be an offering into something done on our own terms - no longer an sacrifice. 
Have you ever complained about the music style while visiting a church or found yourself critiquing the way the worship band played a certain song? Have you ever made a remark to your husband, friend, etc. about how the worship team "quenched the Spirit", saying "they should have sang that song longer", etc? I have. 
I have made worship about myself. 
When we stand before God on judgment, will he feel we spent our days in true worship, or will he tell us that we wasted all of our opportunities talking about how it should be done differently? 

To a different rhythm.
With different words.
In different circumstances.
When we feel moved.
When we want to.
God is gracious. He envelopes his children in his Spirit and comes close to us when we worship him, but when his grace becomes a requisite - we've missed it. 
Are we spoiled rotten? 
Since when did something we're commanded to do in all circumstances become something we govern? 
Have we taken advantage of His grace? 
Ben and I moved to a different church last year, a church that has a very different worship style than churches we have previously attended. It has reminded me that worship isn't about my preferences, but about opening my mouth and proclaiming His name. It's about living a life full of service to God. Even if that means it's happening while the drums are not on beat or the words don't move me. Even if I am scrubbing toilets, cleaning up after my children, or doing something I just flat out dislike. 
The circumstance doesn't nullify the command to worship. 
Do you find yourself searching for delightful environments in which to worship Him? Do you wait to feel worshipful? I believe God is moving us to a deeper dimension of praise - one in which we adore him simply because he deserves our adoration. 

Thanks for stopping by! With Love - Shara      

Missional Women

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I believe in the Complete Sovereignty of God

     Upon reading some responses to my last blog, I realized that what I’d said stirred some emotions. (You can view my latest blog, Speaking To Your Mountain Here ) I searched my heart and asked if my fingertips had gone astray when I typed those words, “part of his plan”. After searching, I came to the conclusion that the disagreement concerning those words is most likely due to semantics or theology. Let’s face it, after only two years as a theology student I have come to learn that a lot of theology is semantics. It is Man made beliefs wrapped up in pretty packages. 

             I believe in the Complete Sovereignty of God-

I believe in God’s complete and total sovereignty. I believe that he knows all, controls all, and has power over all. Therefore, if I get cancer - whether the devil gives it to me or God disciplines me with it ( I will share my story in a moment) he is still in control of the situation. Even if he is only allowing the devil to inflict it on me, as in Job, he is allowing it for a reason - a reason that fulfills his plan for my life. Satan’s self-perceived power is a false security. Therefore, in my opinion, when speaking of Father God who controls all (even Satan) “allowing” and “doing” are interchangeable and to argue that would be arguing semantics. 

“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.
    Nothing and no one can upset your plans.
You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water,
    ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’” Job 42:1-2

Our perception of good and bad is clouded by our imperfection. We do not understand with the fullness and clarity that our perfect God does. If something hurts us, it is bad. A few years ago, I became very sick. I laid in bed one day and literally called upon God and asked him if I was going to die. After what seemed like forever filled with the sound of crickets, he told me “maybe, that is up to you.” I was so taken aback by his response, but knew in my spirit what he meant- I believe he gave me understanding. I was being disciplined and it was up to me how far it would go. Now, don’t get me wrong, he knew the end...he knew I wasn’t going to die. But he allowed me to go through the motions - to feel the sting of my sin - and to repent. The cancer that took my reproductive organs gave me something far greater in return - a love for God like never before and a calm in his sovereignty and power. He is my Father - a good father that will discipline his children. Discipline does not feel good- it may appear as things that are “bad”. But HE does it - the Bible says so. 

“...because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son."  Hebrew 12:6 

There are many instances in the Bible that God caused things that we define as "bad" upon his children. He denied Moses’ entry into the promised land as punishment for defiance. He took the life of David’s newborn son because of David's sin. He denied Paul the removal of demonic affliction (his “thorn”) because he wanted Paul to understand the power of his grace, and he states that the man who was blind from childhood was blind in order to bring glory to God upon his healing later in life. 
I am not opposed to differing opinions in theology. Much of my schooling consists of debate. Differences in beliefs and debate causes us to reach deep inside and wrestle to determine what we truly believe. It’s a good thing. One of my favorite quotes goes like this:

"Intellectual integrity requires you to set aside your presuppositions long enough to see them for what they really are." 

     We all have presuppositions. You could call it intellectual baggage. If I could only state one thing that I took away from studying theology, it would be that I know beliefs are stuffed into a tiny box that was constructed of my environment, heredity, upbringing and words that I've heard. All I can commit to knowing is that I believe God is 100% in control. My fate it 100% his decision. I submit to this and find freedom here. 

Love y'all! 

Monday, September 2, 2013

In Jesus' Name: Speaking to your Mountain


     What is your mountain? What is standing in your way? Fear? Sickness? Depression? Addiction? We all have mountains that park themselves in front of us without any intention of moving and cause us to be stuck, to some degree, from moving forward. They stand there, looming over us, taunting us and we've no power against them - no power to make them move. Or do we? Do we hold the power to move our mountain or better yet to make it crumble? Is that our place or is it playing God, just foolishness and vain?
     A few days ago, a friend of mine sent me a picture of a page in a book she is reading. She asked me to read it and tell her what I thought. The text spoke about speaking aloud to your circumstance, in this particular case in the book it was Cancer, and commanding it to leave, in Jesus' name. This was a new concept to her, young in her faith, and she felt she'd been praying incorrectly up until now - not speaking directly to her hinderances. Basically her question is the same question many Christians have asked - how much authority do we have when we pray.
     I often think about these kinds of questions from the perspective of a parent-child relationship. You know the scene - the class bully is picking on a kid and the kid says, "I'm gonna tell my dad and you'll be sorry!" Well, I think it's kind of the same way with Christians - God's children. When the enemy, our bully, is coming at us - we remind him who our dad is! And how do we do this? We use the only name that brings us access to God - Jesus.
     Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6 

     We feel perfectly safe doing this because just like the bullied kid's dad says to him, "you tell me if someone hurts you and I'll take care of it", our Heavenly Father has given us permission to use his name. 

     "And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; ... they      will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." Mark 16:17-18 (emphasis mine)

     Not only has he given us permission to do this, but if you read this verse closely it says that casting out demons and healing the sick will "accompany", or go along with, being a Christian. They should be a natural occurrence in the life of a Christian as a sign of who you are - of who your daddy is! We don't have to deal with demons and the mountains they manifest in our lives! The devil knows we've been given authority over him but just like the bully on the playground, the enemy knows he can beat you up for as long as you let him - and he will, for:

    "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" 1 Peter 5:8

     Now, are all uncomfortable things caused by the enemy? No. Sometimes the cancer is part of God's plan. Sometimes the financial distress is pruning. We will not be able to tell every problem or seemingly bad thing to take a hike. How will we know the difference? We must use grow in discernment. I've heard it said, and I agree, that the best way to know what the enemy looks like is to know what Father God looks like. The more time we spend communing with Christ, the more we know him. We recognize the scent of our daddy's cologne. We know what his hugs feel like, what his discipline feels like and when the enemy comes around - we know he's not our dad! That's when we exercise the authority he's given us - in his name - and speak to our mountain! 

     Do you have a mountain that you need to speak to? If you are a Christian, you do have authority over it, in Jesus' name. If you do not have a relationship with Christ, then please know that you Christ is waiting on you - waiting to set you free and give you power over the things you wrestle with. Call out to him!