True Worship?

What do we see as worship? Do we see the fast songs as praise and slower songs as worship? Is this the only worship we experience or take part in? Are we missing out on true worship?

Worship is not limited to songs and times with music within our church services. It is beautiful to be in a service and experience the powerful and important times of worship. These are needed in our walk with God and it is vital that churches include these times during services. Worship though is not only these times.

William Temple describes worship in this way,

“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God; The quickening of our conscience by His holiness; The nourishment of mind with His truth; The purifying of imagination by His beauty; The opening of the heart to His love; The surrender of will to His purpose – and all this gathered up in adoration with the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable, and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centredness which is the original sin and the source of actual sin.”

So should our worship be a ongoing, continual event? I think it has to be. If God loves and desires us to be in a continuous attitude of worship and it is evident in our lifestyles, hobbies, relationships and friendships, then it must be a constant in our hearts. Everything we do and say should be showing our worship and love of God. God sees our hearts and minds, which no one else can see. He can see how we worship and how we love.

2 Chronicles 16 v 9, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him”

How amazing is it that God is loyal to those who love Him in all circumstances and desire to do His will. Worship is the start.

Volunteering

“Thriving churches have a culture that honours and celebrates their volunteers. Their volunteer teams are characterised by camaraderie, fun and mutual respect. However, experience shows that this does not just happen. The key leaders must build it into the culture of the church.”   Steven Matthew.

Churches across the world are full of loving volunteers that give willingly their time, skills, experience, money, emotions, energy, love and loyalty to their congregations and the building up Gods people and churches in their areas. They are priceless and a necessary group. This army of people are in many cases what keeps the church going and without their support and energy working tirelessly in the background most Pastors and leaders would not have a church to go to. They are indispensable. And they are amazingly awesome!!

How does our church honour these wonderful people? How are they encouraged to keep going when they are tired and feeling unloved? How do we thank those who are the backbone of all we see happen on a Sunday and throughout the week? We need to be as committed to this group as much as we are committed to any other mission we have. These amazing people make the impossible possible by their giving to God all they have. We are on the receiving end of their support, but know they do it for the Lord of Lords.

We need to celebrate involvement and those who give all and give a little.

The Calvary Road

Roy Hessian says in his book The Calvary Road:

“The outward forms of revivals do, of course, differ considerably but the inward and permanent content of them all is always the same – a new experience of conviction of sin among the saints; a new vision of the cross of Jesus and of redemption; a new willingness on man’s part brokenness, repentance, confession and restitution; a joyful experience of the power of the blood of Jesus to cleanse fully from sin and restore and heal all that sin has lost and broken; a new entering into the fullness of the Holy Spirit and of His power to do his own work through His people; and a new gathering in of the lost ones to Jesus.”

Revival is taking place in pockets all over the world and each one is different in how it starts, how God’s touch fall, how many are saved and complete in Him, country, people group. There are so many variations of the same thing, but a true revival or renewal will see many or all of the content that Roy Hessian talks about. It is the same God and same Spirit that fell on Abraham, on John the Baptist, on Elijah, on Jesus at His baptism, through Jesus on the cross. He never changes, and salvation and reconcilliation will always come through Christ and His saving blood.

Quality not quantity?

A very sad and unfortunately normal fact for the Church in the Western world is that it is not growing, and so many churches are closing, being demolished, or being turned into nightclubs or trendy apartments in cities. This is something we should be very concerned about, and we should be being proactive in dealing with head on. How many church mission statements cover this rising trend by saying they are looking for “quality and not quantity” in their congregations.

Acts 2 shows us the wonderful Day of Pentecost, and the growth of the early church was not just in the amazing numbers, but geographically also. The Gospel didn’t just stay in Jerusalem, it went throughout the world within a few years. By the end of Acts, the Gospel had hit most of the Middle East, and even Europe and possibly England itself. What would have happened if the first church had the same attitude as we seem to have in the 21st century? It is possible it would have been a short phase and just fizzled out before the disciples had died.

A healthy church is a growing church, not just in growth of numbers, but spiritually as well. It sees its congregation growing in their walk, in their life and as they change and grow, they spread the wonderful good news of the Gospel to all they meet and live with. They live and relate in different ways to those around them, to the point that people know there is a difference to them, a feel that only knowing God can bring.

A church that only looks inwardly, that only wants to stay as it is, is destined for self – destruction. It cannot sustain itself. It becomes burnt out or it could only take one major incident that could split the congregation to the point of closure. A church cannot survive without growth, or any imbalance in how it is lead or taught.

Teaching and preaching is what we in churches do. That is part of our roles, all of us. Older, mature brothers and sisters mentor the younger spiritual members. Leaders bring teaching and leadership that gives the congregation the strength and confidence in God to go out and live the Gospel and new life they have. We all have a role of some sort of evangelism. I believe there are those with specific evangelism gifts by the Spirit, but we all have a role of evangelist when asked about our beliefs. We have the job to pray and bring those around us before the Lord, to bring the Gospel to them. How are they going to know about the new life God gives if we dont show it, live it and tell them the why and how? Don’t leave confusion of preaching christianity and then not living it. It brings words like hypocrisy into minds where there should be a wanting to know more. It is a sacrifice, it is laying down our lives to God. Its how we live for God. Its a change that happens inside when we truly understand what He has done for us and what He has saved us from.

First Church, Church First?

I love reading Acts, and learning about the first Church and how they lived and interacted with each other and those who came against them. Most of the early years had believers who had followed Jesus during his time on earth, or who knew him throughout his life and even those who had never met him but knew of him. It was an exciting time for the Apostles as they watched their new baby Church growing each day with converts whose life was transformed by the name of their beloved Christ. They were strong and dynamic leaders who did not shy away from discipline and teaching. There was structure and community and they each devoted themselves to knowing God more and more and encouraged their congregations to do the same. It would be unusual for a believer not to want to know more, not to want to grow and mature.

Acts 2 vs 42 – 47

Fast forward 2000 years to the Church of God today. I know many who would love their churches to be more like the church of Acts, myself being one of them. I know its not possible, and not because I dont think we can do it. We are a different generation and its a completely different world now. The first church was the benefit system for a start. It was a hard life for those who were orphaned and those who were widows. There is a safety net today that was not there then. It does not mean we don’t have an obligation to still look after these precious people anyway, but we don’t seem to think we have to. I know many older people who are using Food Banks while they are members of a church. Why? Because we dont think they are our responsibility anymore. They are. We are still a community whether we lived 2000 years ago or in the 21st century.

The church described in Acts was a healthy growing community. It was devoted to God and each other, devoted to prayer and fellowship. Church is like an organic mass of people. It needs things to grow, it needs structure and support. It got that from prayer, Gods living water and teaching. Strong leadership but not to the point it was suffocated and its voice was drowned out. We need exactly the same things to grow today. We are no different in these ways than then, even if our world is a very different place to live. We might not be able to be the church of Acts in many ways, like living as a community, but we can still care and love each other as Christ loves us. How unlike those in the world around us would we be if that is the attitude we took. If we stop being so concerned about how we look if we pray for our friends and family, the shopkeeper who is having a bad day, the officer handing out parking tickets, the guy who serves our coffee in the cafe. We would start to see change and would be known as a Christian without having to say anything because we would be so different and it would make an impact.

Living Stones

The Church of God is built of us all, we are the living stones held together by the mortar of Jesus Christ. We are a family of stones, all connected by our Lord. A family of believers who are here because the first Church who walked the Earth with Jesus, gave all they had and all they were to make sure that the Good news and the Gospel of Jesus was spread across the entire world. They died for their belief, gave up all they had, their families, homes, jobs, the lot. They wanted to make sure that until the day their Lord came back to Earth, the message He sent them out with never faded or died with Him. They did their utmost, and we are here today in the 21st Century still with His Gospel. If we sit and think of all the years the same message has been the same, how it has changed the world and peoples lives as it passed from one year into the next, we would be there for a while. Our Church family, our spiritual relatives, were martyred and tortured to make sure we go to heaven with them. They were so brave, and lived for their Lord. What about us? Will the message of hope be the same message in 100 years? How about 500? What would we give up to make sure more people go to heaven with us? Would we give our lives, desires, families, to make sure we save as many as we can? What will it take from the 21st century believers to make sure Christ is known throughout the world?

Living stones are connected and a community. It doesnt matter the miles we are apart, even if we are on separate continents. We are all motivated by the desire to honour, love and live for our Lord. He has saved us from horrors we could never describe. He has saved us from ourselves, our sins, the sin of human nature that is opposed to God. The separation that was created with the first sin has been bridged for us. That sacrifice is the most precious gift we can ever be given. If we don’t do anything else in this life, we need to make sure that is the one thing we pay attention to and accept. We learn dependence, on God and each other. We belong to a safe community that has unity in the Lord who it loves. We learn to be cared for and learn to be who we were intended to be before sin and separation pulled us away.

1 Peter 2 vs 5 “You also as living stones are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.

Come let us go up

Isaiah 2 vs 3. “Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths”.

I have already looked at Haggai, and bringing timber to build the house of the Lord. This verse is for when our house is built, our home for our Lord.

The House of the Lord was on a mountain, Mount Zion, and will be there in the Millennial  Kingdom of Christ. As in Israel today and the Old Testament, the Temple of God is high up. To get there, you travel up the mountain. The Temple was a beacon, a light of God’s glory. All could see it and could worship God with sacrifices and drink offerings. The City where God dwelt was sacred. It was where the King of Kings was, where the King of Israel of God lived and worshipped. This city was the most important city in the Old Testament life and worship of those who loved and lived for God. They travelled regularly there to worship and offer gifts to the Lord.

We are the Church of God. We are the beacons now, the Temple. We are to live God-centred lives as a community of believers and lovers of the Most High God. It is through us that the Church grows, through us bringing the Gospel of Christ to others and seeing salvation happen around our local communities.

True Christianity, living for Christ, loving others, having faith, is not religion. We have a relationship with God and He relates to us as His Children. It is this that makes us different. Our God wants to relate to us, to know us fully, to adopt us as His children and give us an inheritance with His true Son Jesus. No other religion in the world has this beautiful relationship to offer. That is the difference that we need to show those who are desperate. Those who have no one. Those who need love. Those who have no purpose. A life of love and acceptance is there ready waiting for them, but what are we doing to show it to them?

If we are the light on the hill, a city shining, what are we showing? Are we showing discord, unforgiveness, dislike, disdain? Or are we showing others love, joy, acceptance, hospitality? Do we love everyone who happens to step through the door of our churches?

I want to go up to the mountain of the Lord. I want to sit at His feet and just be. With Him. He is my groom, I am His Bride. The Church is the beautiful bride. She is the most beautiful bride the universe has ever seen. I dont want to go with stained gowns, with an unloving attitude to others. I want to see my Church family be the very best they can be for their Groom as well.

We are building a Church of people. Millions of us all worshipping and praising God together. Lets keep bringing our timber to the House and keep building a House for God that grows and gets more beautiful every day. This is how we make ourselves ready for Him.

Bring Timber

Haggai 1 vs 8 “Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured.”

God was talking to His people about getting on with building a house for Him to dwell in, with His people around Him. They had got distracted by their own affairs and had neglected the work that had been started on the house for God to dwell in. They were acting selfishly and were disobedient to what God had told them to do. To make it even worse, they tried to tell God that He was wrong and made up their own prophesies to compensate!

Haggai 1 vs 2 “The people are saying,’The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.'”

God wanted the people to see that the house of God was needed. To see that the place to worship God was necessary. It had to be part of their lives and they needed somewhere to honour the God of Israel.

Haggai came back from captivity in Babylon with those who were rebuilding the Temple. He was there and could see how difficult and almost impossible it was for the people of Israel to rebuild the beautiful Temple Of Solomon. Even when they all decided to build a much smaller Temple, it seemed an impossible task to them. They managed to get the foundations and low walls built but then stopped all building for 14 years! This is when God spoke to Haggai with 26 words over 5 days. He told them that they were suffering loss of crops, money and food because they had stopped working on the House of God.

God is not worried about the size of the house. He is worried about your heart in the house that is built for Him. God fills His house with His glory, and He dwells in the house with His people worshipping Him. We are not more “godly” because we build a house for God. We put our lives right in the sight of God as we build His house, and then we become more and more Christlike, more”godly”. We try to make ourselves look better by how big our churches are, or how much they do on a Sunday. We have to put God first, get our hearts in the right place first with God, and then we will see blessing upon blessing in what we do for Him.

Haggai’s message comes through all these years later. If we are trying to make our lives more comfortable, and forget building the church of Christ, we will hit problems and difficulties. If we put God first and make sure our hearts and minds are fixed on Him, He can use us in amazing ways. Life is not about what is in it for us, it is about living for God, and living right.

Building the Church of Christ is not easy. Reaching the lost is hard work sometimes, and can feel we are not really getting anywhere. God never said it would be easy, but that we don’t give up. The finished product is a house He loves and takes pleasure in. A house that He can call His own, and that He dwells in. Since Christ, we are the church. We are the building. God dwells in us and through us. We honour God by our lives, and keep going up the mountain and working on the timber of peoples lives to bring more and more into a right relationship with Him. This is how we now “build church.”

Let him go?

So my youngest son started his Secondary school this week. He looked so smart and grown up in his uniform, and I thought about how this was the uniform that he may wear for the rest of his life. Jacket and tie is the uniform for many millions of office and professional workers just in this country alone. So was it right that I was so emotional and felt such a big wrench in my body that I could actually feel going through me as my child/growing boy/young man walked into the school gates for the first day of the next 5 years of teaching and GCSE work? Am I holding my child back by not wanting him to grow up so fast? Should I be this emotional? Am I able to let him go enough to explore the new world of big school and not let him feel the fear I have? Do I trust God enough to keep him safe emotionally, physically and mentally for the pressures and pleasures he will face?
I truly believe that my God has both of my children in His amazingly gentle protective hands. I know there are a lot of people praying for them, who love them, and who look out for them. They do have a support network and not just from their physical family, but from their spiritual family. I know that its not just me placing my son before God in prayer and making sure he is kept there safely. I cannot express how reassuring it is to know how many people love my little boy that much, that they spend time with him, they give time and energy to him to make sure he knows how he is loved. It is priceless and I cannot tell them enough how much we appreciate it.
So with all that knowledge, can I let my son give me back the apron string I have made him keep hold of? Can I unravel it so that he can go become the person he is made to be? The feeling of being lost is mine to deal with, not his. He won’t see tears, but only support for the big weeks he is having. I have to let him go and be a guide when he needs one, to be here at all times. He is still a child and will always be mine, but he has wings to stretch out, feeling his surroundings as he goes. I am very proud of him, and that will never change because I know God has him close to Him, in His hands, in His heart.
I can let go.

The Perfect Body

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