The Heartbeat of Worship

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ

Ephesians 4:11-12

My apologies for being out of touch once again. When it comes to running places, this is the most hectic season of my life to date. My older daughter is on the homecoming court for her school, and this is HOCO week. Such events are brand-new to this recovering introvert who never so much as attended a high school dance.

And let me tell you, when you live 30 minutes from the school and 30 minutes in the opposite direction from a collection of stores with the appropriate semi-formal gear, it is no joke getting this craziness wrapped up. Especially when one of your kiddos is so small that only 1 in 100 dresses fit her, and only about a third of those meet dress code…

But you’re not here to read about the crazy. Let’s talk about the Word, shall we?

Our pastor once made mention of the weekly worship services as a sort of pulse of Christianity, and the idea has resonated with me since. It’s a beautiful picture, really – the gathering together of believers to worship and encourage one another followed by the sending out into the various arteries of the world until we are once more drawn together again and the cycle repeats.

It all came together in a profound way for me this past Sunday as the pastor spoke about our identity in Christ (an excellent message, by the way, for anyone who’s struggling with identity issues of any kind. You can access it here.)

Just as there’s a purpose to our physical heartbeat, there’s a Divine purpose for this rhythmic flux of gathering in and sending out.

The gathering of the Church is meant as a time of worship; of refreshment, equipping, burden sharing, repentance – you name it. All that “churchy” stuff is supposed to go on during our meetings.

But primarily, the worship services are for just that – worship.

It’s where the Body of Christ comes together to worship the Lord who set them free. We sing. We serve each other. We hear the Word and exposition on the Word and we internalize it. We share one another’s burdens. We confess our sin to each other and pray for each other. Or that’s how it should look, anyway.

All of these things – song, teaching, confessing, praying – serve a purpose. This is where we are equipped to do the work God sends us out into the world to do. We learn and grow in Him. We cast our burdens on him.

We leave behind our junk – confessed sin, burdens for others, sorrow, shame. We pick up a fresh insight from the Word of God, a new sense of purpose or direction, or some encouragement to strengthen us. This we take out into the world around us to share.

It’s the pulse of Christianity. The heartbeat of the Body of Christ.

We are the blood in those vessels, surging outward to bring the message of hope and grace, the insight and encouragement we’ve received from our gathering to a world starving for the Bread of Life.

From them, we acquire burdens and sorrows and are drawn back into a gathering once more, ready to share these burdens and lay them at the feet of our mighty God. Once more, we take our nourishment – the Living Water, the Bread of Life – and we are again sent outwards to those who wouldn’t hear the Gospel otherwise.

This is the rhythm of Christian life as it ought to be. The great pulse of Hope and Love. It’s the purpose of meeting together and growing and loving, working through difficulty and learning together. Our corporate heartbeat.

Let’s not neglect it, brothers and sisters. The world outside the heart of Christ needs to hear the message of hope and forgiveness in Him. Let’s be diligent to bring it to them…

Wisdom Seeker: Day 31

Proverbs 31

Well, we’ve reached the end of Proverbs and the final day of my semi-sensical ramblings. I’ve enjoyed this exercise and it’s definitely helped me think through the wisdom found in Proverbs as well as practice writing whether I love what I have to say or not… So thank you for putting up with me!

Now, on to today’s thought:

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:30

The final proverb has good advice for young men and for young women both. Definitely read it all. What I want to focus on today, however, is the second to last verse.

I am 45 years old. As I write these words (a day early due to an extremely early cross country race on Saturday), my youngest – my baby – is 15 years old.

Fifteen years ago, I gave birth via C-section to my last child, a young lady who attempted to come into the world feet first and so defied my plans of natural child birth. She’s been her own person ever since, and I love her tons. She is a rare and unique delight – as are all three of my children.

Thinking back, fifteen years ago, I was still young. My body looked completely different. My face bore less wrinkles, my head boasted more hair (and none of it gray), and my energy still kept up with the the daylight hours.

Now, youth is fading – fast! I don’t struggle with weight like some women my age do, but I still struggle with the arrangement of the weight I have being entirely different from 20 years ago. The scale reads the same but the clothing from then does not fit the same.

TMI for you fellas here, but I seem to be nearing the finish line as far as the capacity for childbearing goes. I am not young anymore.

But I am more joyful than ever before in my life. Finally, I have a stronger grasp of the extent of God’s grace. Finally, I feel the burden of having to be and do to be lifted. All I have to do is follow Him. That’s it.

It’s not that I feel I’m above the laws and commandments – far from it! The longer I’ve walked with Yeshua, the more I’ve loved Him. The more pain I’ve suffered, the more I’ve appreciate the pain He chose to suffer for me – on purpose.

And the more I love and appreciate Him, the more I find that to obey Him IS joy.

Charm? Not sure I ever had much of that. Beauty? If I had it, it’s definitely fleeting – and I see it fleeing faster and faster these days!

I do fear the Lord, though I prefer all the praises to go to Him. He is worthy!!

Wisdom Seeker: Day 30

Proverbs 30

Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

Proverbs 30:8-9

Have you ever thanked God for affliction and trouble?

It’s a sincere question. Think about verses 8-9 of today’s reading. The author asks God to keep him in a state of in-between. He asks for neither enough wealth that he has no worries nor poverty where he has nothing but worries.

Not many of us in America fall into the second category. Oh, we may have our share of bills and not quite enough to pay them, true. But few of us have ever been tempted to steal just to fill our empty bellies.

To get to that point of need you’ll have no electric bill nor water bill to trouble your mind. No cell phone or internet service to speak of, so if you’re reading this, you’re not that poor. To face starvation, it’s doubtful you’ll have rent or a mortgage. If you have any of those things, you have something you can trade in or sell that would purchase a few decent meals at least.

It may seem counter-intuitive to actually thank God for hardship, though. After all, would you rather thank Him from a position of unshakable financial security?

I’m sure. Yet for one thing, there is no such thing as unshakable financial security. Not to mention I know of no soul so pious that it isn’t prone to relying more on it’s bank account than on God.

But that, my friends, is a dangerous place.

It’s best if we have enough difficulty in life to remind us of our need for God. The problem with wealth is that, too often, it begins to own us. Like the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22, we feel so secure in our stuff that we hesitate to leave it behind for the lasting riches found in Christ.

When I think of this thing in terms of eternity – of the fleeting nature of health and wealth in my present state, of the rapidity with which all my earthly security can come crashing down due to an accident, diagnosis, or natural disaster – then yes, I can thank God for adversity.

For me, chronic pain has taught me more about His goodness and mercy than life as a healthy billionaire ever could. And I am thankful.

Lord, thank You for loving us enough to keep us dependent on You. No matter what life may bring, keep our eyes turned to You and our hearts inclined to loving obedience to You, amen.

Wisdom Seeker: Day 29

Proverbs 29

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.

Proverbs 29:25

Today, I’m in a bit of awe over the mercy of my God. It’s difficult to explain, but suffice to say that the last 2 days saw me in the middle of a migraine. And joy. Crazy, inexplicable joy.

I could only feel thankful that my Lord suffered pain on purpose to pay the penalty for my sin. I, however, deserve worse than pain yet I have the end of pain to look forward to for all eternity. I think I could write a book about the joy and still not fully explain it.

To bring it to today: Verse 25 of this proverb is true – fear of man certainly lays a snare. I spent much of my adult life captive to it. Fear of man – fear of displeasing others which led me into either codependency or a weird sort of rebellion against that tendency that only led me to reject possibly decent people in favor of people I had no genuine concern for.

Even as a new believer, I felt more concerned with pleasing other Christians than I did pleasing God.

In truth, it took pain before I could listen. God provided me with a gift – pain that shackled me, limited what I could do. Then, finally, I learned to look to Him alone. I learned to ask, “No matter what anyone else thinks, Lord, what is it You want me to do?”

It’s been the most liberating change of my entire life except for the moment when I was liberated from my sin by putting my trust in the sacrifice of Yeshua Messiah – Jesus Christ.

Sometimes my obedience to God displeases other people. But as long as He is pleased, I no longer mind. I feel compassion for the others and I pray for them, knowing that God desires them, too, to feel the same freedom.

And even better, I find it’s harder for others to displease me. When they do, I remind myself that I’m not the one they need to fear, anyway. That, too, is freeing.

There’s a bit of it, but there’s such a gratitude in me that I really can’t express it all. I need to give a bit of time to my current writing project, then prepare to celebrate the youngest’s 15th birthday tomorrow.

Wishing you joy and peace in Christ today!

Wisdom Seeker: Day 28

Proverbs 28

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Proverbs 28:13

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper…

It doesn’t always seem like that, does it? There are times when it seems like people who hide their junk get away scot-free and go on to do just fine. Especially if they are already wealthy.

The thing is, though, it just isn’t true. Who knows the destruction a single secret sin can wage within the human heart? Even if outwardly they do seem to be all smiles and handshakes, what darkness eats at them inside like a cancer? What is it like to be all alone in the dark of night with nothing but self and sin?

Well, I’ve been there, and it wasn’t pretty in my case. It drove me to greater depths of escapism until I finally realized there is no escaping – only continuing to hide ineffectively or facing my sin head-on and confessing.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:8

I chose confession, and as scary as it was at first, it was freeing. Truly, honestly freeing.

No secrets means no foothold for the accuser to hook his stupid little chains of guilt and shame to. No secrets leads to genuine repentance and to humility – to understanding that I am no better than the most vile sinner alive, possibly much worse.

And best of all, no secrets means no sin can keep its grip on me. It’s public, it’s exposed, and it’s days are numbered.

But what about those whose consciences are seared, who seem to feel no guilt or shame and hid their sin only because it’s not – yet- socially acceptable? Especially those who are rich beyond imagination and live seedy, secret lives behind closed doors. Aren’t they prospering?

Well, in a sense. But would you believe it if I told you that all the wealth of this world is illusory at best? It’s insubstantial. Transitory. It can be gone in a flash.

And some day, sooner or later, the grave will claim the wealthiest and most powerful members of humanity. At that point, their fame, fortune, and power will mean exactly squat. Not a single penny can pass from this life to what lies beyond the grave.

If that person has left their lives in the mastery of a secret sin rather than surrendered to the Lordship of Yeshua Messiah (Jesus Christ), I’m afraid they will not prosper. Over the unfathomable stretch of eternity, all thoughts earthly prosperity will fade from even the strongest memory.

So if some secret sin has possession over you, friend, confess it. Certainly confess it to God, if possible, confess it to a friend you can trust to help you and hold you accountable not to fall back into it. Then pick up a Bible, explore the Scriptures, see what true prosperity looks like.

It will blow your mind – that I promise. In Christ, we don’t find a comfortable and easy life on earth. We find something better!

Joy – real joy that no circumstance or suffering can steal away.

Hope – a hope for future prosperity that makes this world’s wealth look like cheap, tarnished gold paint.

Peace – the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding.

Love – the breathtaking and undeserved love of the Creator God, more fulfilling than any created thing, more intoxicating than any substance, more profound than the most powerful human emotion.

And God. Best of all, you will find God and discover that He truly is enough.
You’ll find genuine satisfaction and rest for your soul.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Revelation 22:17

Wisdom Seeker: Day 27

Proverbs 27

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Proverbs 27:6

There’s quite a bit of wisdom in the reading today, as usual, but verse 6 is the one that stood out to me. Why? Well, I guess because I have been blessed with true friends – friends who are more concerned with my eternal good than my present comfort. Friends who will not hesitate to speak difficult truths if I need to hear them.

They are not harsh or hateful -far from it! But I greatly appreciate people who are unafraid to tell me I have broccoli in my teeth. How much more, then, when they are unafraid to point out where my feet have strayed from the Way?

Thank You, Lord, for friends who love You enough and love me enough to keep me accountable to You on this journey! They are a gift I am definitely grateful for.

How about you? Do you have friends who will say the hard things? And are you humble enough to receive it when they do?

I know that part is hard – I struggle with it myself. But I’ve asked the Lord to keep me humble and teachable, and He is always faithful to answer. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel the sting of a well-placed bit of conviction. It simply means I can see the need for it, repent, and move into that sweet spot of joy and gratitude.

He will do the same for you. All you have to do is ask … and cooperate. It’s worth it.

Wisdom Seeker: Day 26

Proverbs 26

For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.

Proverbs 26:20

I’m on the downslope of this little exercise, so in a few more days I will go back to posting once or twice a week. Good thing, too, because cross country season is ramping up and what with hauling kiddos around (which I LOVE!), my part-time job, ministry activities, regular mom stuff, and my much-neglected personal writing projects, time is becoming shorter…

Speaking of short, I haven’t much to say today. Just a quick thought on verse 20. Christian brothers and sisters, want to know how we can contribute best to promoting peace on social media?

We can refuse to add fuel to the flames.

The thing is, there’s a time and place to engage in debate. We need to stand for truth – absolutely! I never hesitate to post difficult truths on my personal internet space (that being here, of course), and I will speak them in face-to-face contexts when I feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do so.

However…

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all that noise? Well… from what I’ve seen and experienced, adding my $0.02 to the general ruckus does nothing more than keep the anger stirred up. I’m not likely to convince someone from the safety of my computer keyboard.

Besides, in most of the social media arguments I’ve seen, people are far too busy hammering out their opinions in capital letters so vehement that I feel I need to dodge the virtual spittle.

Adding to that simply isn’t helpful. If there’s a wrong that needs to be addressed, better to take the offender out for coffee and attempt to rectify or clarify the situation face to face. It’s more Biblical that way as a first step, for one thing.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

Matthew 18:15

“But the sin wasn’t against me,” you say? Or maybe, “I don’t actually know the offending party well enough to meet them for coffee.”

Well, then, even better that you keep your thoughts to yourself. If you don’t know them well enough, your words will literally do nothing to help. And if the sin isn’t against you, it may not need your defense.

There are occasions where another person may need defending, but on such occasions, there are ways to word your defense so as to calm the fire rather than feed it. Be sure your remarks are life-bringing, true, and peace-promoting. Avoid inflammatory marks like you avoid the flu in it’s season.

Don’t forget that we are Ambassadors to our King and our heavenly Country. Let’s represent Him well.

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,

2 Timothy 2:14-16