It Is Well

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71fSSTfkgsL._SL1500_Recently, I’ve been blessed, inspired, and encouraged by the new Bethel Music album You Make Me Brave.  In particular, the song “It Is Well” has been reverberating through the pulses of my heart.  It’s an anointed song that God has used to speak peace and calm to the depths of my soul.  Recently during my Sunday School class with my team, we talked about the song story of the hymn “It Is Well.”  After devastating loss of finances, his property, and his daughters, Horatio Spafford penned the intensely beautiful lyrics of this hymn.

In the midst of his greatest loss, he still declared that Jesus was his Lord and the keeper of his heart.  The hymn is a powerful declartion of the Gospel.  Our hope and security is only in the blood of Jesus on the cross!  He declared that death was defeated when He rose again on the third day!  We have this same amazing victory because we are risen with Christ.  “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6

Despite whatever “wind and waves” you are facing today, by Jesus Christ we are able to be steady.  We are able to persevere.  We are able to hold onto faith and not shrink back!  But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:39.  Our souls have been purchased and redeemed by the Great High Priest Jesus Christ.

The new Bethel song says, “Through it all, my eyes are on you… through it all, it is well with me.”  When Jesus called Peter to step out of the boat, he looked at the face of Jesus and had faith to do what He had asked of him.  But then, he began to doubt and began to sink.  What is it today that is taking your eyes off of Jesus Christ?  God has been showing me that it doesn’t necessarily have to be doubt.  People, circumstances, good things, and ministry can even “distract our eyes.”  Will you gaze into the beautiful face of Jesus, be still, and know that He is God?  Will you allow Him to calm your anxious heart?  He is waiting.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus… look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim… in the light of His glory and grace

The waves and wind still know the name of Jesus (See Matthew 8:23-27).  At one word, the storm has to be calmed at the voice of Jesus.  He is in control over your life and wants you to live it abundantly.  Choose to focus on His face, His goodness, and His love for you today.

It is well with my soul.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12 NIV) // Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. (Romans 12:11-13 MSG)

The Heart of Advent: Love Came Down

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love_came_down_by_angelic14-d5mt6pa (1)Love Came Down

Words and Music by Brian Johnson, Ian McIntosh, Jenn Johnson, Jeremy Edwardson, Jeremy Riddle
© 2009 Bethel Music

Verse 1:
If my heart is overwhelmed and I cannot hear Your voice
I’ll hold on to what is true though I cannot see
If the storms of life they come and the road ahead gets steep
I will lift these hands in faith I will believe

Pre-Chorus:
I’ll remind myself of all that You’ve done, and the life I have because of Your Son

Chorus:
Love came down and rescued me, love came down and set me free
And I am Yours, I am forever Yours
Mountain high or valley low, I sing out remind my soul
That I am Yours, I am forever Yours

Verse 2:
When my heart is filled with hope and every promise comes my way
When I feel Your hands of grace rest upon me
Staying desperate for You God, staying humbled at Your feet
I will lift these hands and praise, I will believe

Bridge:
‘Cause I am Yours, and I am Yours, for all my days, Jesus I am Yours
And I am Yours, and I am Yours, for all my days, Jesus I am Yours

Andrea’s Advent Devotional on Love Came Down:

This song is one of my favorites.  Recently, it has become even more well-known because Angie Miller sang it for one of her performances on the TV Show American Idol.  Even though this song is not a “traditional” Christmas carol, I believe it powerfully demonstrates what we are celebrating during this Advent season.

The reason we are celebrating Advent and Christmas is that we are reflecting on the truth that Jesus Christ left His place in heaven to dwell among us.  Love came down.  The Bible says, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8b, NIV).

He is the picture of ultimate Love!  If we want to know what love looks like, we look to the example found in the life of Jesus.  The miracle of the Virgin birth of Jesus Christ cannot be separated from the ultimate purpose of Jesus Christ: to save the world from their sins.  He came to be a Savior.  Love came down.  Colossians 1:15-20 (NIV) says it like this,

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”

Wow!  To me, those verses give us the big picture narrative of what Christmas is all about.  The Virgin birth of Jesus Christ was a miracle in itself, but it is also celebrated in the full purpose of Jesus Christ that 33 years later He would “reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”

This Advent season, our church is focusing on peace.  By being the sinless and spotless sacrifice for us, Jesus made peace between us and the Father.  As we celebrate Advent and Christmas this year, let’s be reminded of all Jesus Christ has done through His birth, life, ministry, crucifixion, death, and resurrection.  As the song says, “I’ll remind myself of all that You’ve done, and the life I have because of Your Son!”  Continually focusing on Jesus is what worship is.

The power of the full story of the Gospel is that Jesus came down to earth to dwell among us… Emmanuel… ultimately, in order to rescue us from our sins and eternal separation from God the Father.  He is our Rescuer!  He came to set us free!  That is the miracle of Christmas.  Love came down.

“Love came down and rescued me, love came down and set me free.  And I am Yours, I am forever Yours.  Mountain high or valley low, I sing out and remind my soul that I am Yours, I am forever Yours.”           

Worship as a Way of Life

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living-sacrificesContinuing on from the last post, I also wanted to share about chapter 7 of The Air I Breathe by Louie Giglio.  This chapter is entitled “Worship as a way of life.”  As I’ve been reading, this theme really encapsulates the theme of the entire book.  As I started reading the very first chapter of this book, God brought to mind Romans 12:1-2.

The title of Romans chapter 12 (NIV) is “A Living Sacrifice” and the Bible says in the first two verses,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

In response to this, Louie wrote, “Paul was saying, if you’ve seen mercy… if you’ve seen the cross… then offer all of who you are to God in response to all that He has done.  In God’s economy, worship = serving, worship = life.”

In chapter 6, Louie talked about developing a heart of gratitude in response to who God is, what He has done, and because of the gift of His Son.  This chapter is taking it one step further and saying that what God has revealed to us about Himself is beyond our words of gratitude.  Louie wrote, “What we can do in return – and must do – is give Him everything we have through a life of service to Him and to those around us.  That’s what we mean when we say worship is a way of life.”

Words come easy, talk is cheap.  Singing words to God can also come easy.  But are we really following through with what we say with our lives and actions?  A “life of service” means that we become a living sacrifice to God with how we live our lives.

Louie wrote, “But God isn’t honored by words alone.  Like any of us, He’s moved by words that are authenticated by actions.  When it comes to worship, it’s the total package that matters – what you say, how you say it, and whether you mean it.  And our words mean most when they’re amplified by the way we choose to live our lives when we are faces with various opportunities and temptations.”

God looks at the heart.  He sees how we live our lives daily and can see if what we sing on Sunday mornings is actually lining up with how we live.  There is a warning for us to live out what we’re singing.  In Isaiah 29:13, The Lord said: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”  Your life is the offering, your life demonstrates worship, your life demonstrates being a “living sacrifice.”  

Louie wrote, “Somewhere in the modern culture we’ve become confused, thinking that worship and songs are one and the same.  In other words, we thing singing songs = worship AND worship = singing songs.”  But a song isn’t enough.  The cross demands more.  We need to lay our lives down before this gracious, loving God.  Although it may not come easily, we must be living sacrifices.

Infinitely Awesome — Intimately Approachable

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10000+Reasons+Live+matt_redman_10000_reasonsWe’ve been continuing our Worship Arts Small Group journey over the past several weeks and God has been revealing to us some amazing truths through Louie Giglio’s book The Air I Breathe.  It is a small, light read but jam-packed with perspectives about worship that will knock you off your seat and maybe mess with your head a little bit (in a good way, of course!).

Tomorrow, we’ll be going over chapters 6 and 7, so I wanted to spend some more time today reflecting on what we’ve been learning and to prepare for our time together tomorow morning.  I’m also dog-sitting for 3 dogs, so I’m sort of stuck on the couch and holding the fort down!  I’m staying at a house in Huron with a beautiful view of the lake.

Chapter 6 is entitled “For Who He Is, For What He Does.” In this chapter, Louie described that God is infinitely majestic and awesome, yet intimately approachabe.  Our God created the heavens and the earth… He is a great, majestic, matchless, creative God!  And yet, He calls us into deep relationship with Him.  He is intimate and approachable.

The Bible says in Psalm 113:5-6 (NLT), “Who can be compared with the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high? He stoops to look down on heaven and on earth.”  God is not distant from us and He longs for us to spend time with Him.  The psalmist David wrote in Psalm 139:3 (NASB), “You [God] are intimately acquainted with all my ways.”

One of the main points in chapter 6 is that we must have a balanced perspective of God’s character when we worship.  He is infinitely awesome and we stand “in awe” of Him for His majesty, but we can also draw near to Him because He is intimately approachable.  He is our Abba and when we cry out to Him, He hears us!

Another main point of chapter 6 is that your worship matters to God.  Louie wrote, “God is constantly surrounded by heavenly throngs and endless praise, yet He says to you and me, ‘I know your voice, even the thoughts of your heart.  And your worship – your arrows of affection – reach my heart and mean something to Me.’ ”  God created us to worship Him and be in relationship with Him, so He knows when we do this, we are fulfilling our greatest purpose in life.

Another main point Louie Giglio made in chapter 6 is that we always have a reason to worship God.  In addition to God’s character (He is infinitely awesome and intimately approachable), we also worship Him for all He’s done.  Louie wrote, “It’s the potent combination of these two kinds of praise – praising Him for who He is and what He has done – that cause worship to always be an option for us, no matter what.”

1.  We praise God for who He is.
2.  We honor Him for all He has done.

Louie wrote, “Even if God never does another thing for us, should we cease to worship?  Of course not – not when we remember that He’s already done through the gift of His Son.”

3.  We thank God for the gift of His Son.

These are three reasons why we worship God, but there are even more than 10,000 reasons that we could find to worship Him.  Let’s develop hearts of gratitude and thanksgiving!  There’s so much to celebrate.  “All of my life, in every season, You are still God, I have a reason to sing, I have a reason to worship!” -Desert Song

The Wonderful Cross

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crossgloryI can’t tell you how much I’ve been loving our Worship Arts small group time on Sunday mornings. Our team meets in the Green Room after sound check, and we’ve been enjoying growing closer to God and each other! Community is so important – we can’t do life alone!

I’m still in awe of chapter 4 from last week in The Air I Breathe by Louie Giglio.  At the end of the chapter, he began taking worship again back to the cross.  This is the heart of worship… where the relentless pursuit was completely demonstrated in action!  The perfect, matchless Savior laid down His life for us.  Louie wrote,

“No one took Jesus’ life.  He laid it down, willingly satisfying the wrath of a Holy God.  He chose the cross in order to demonstrate that God was both loving and just.  He gave His life so we could receive ours back again.  Men may have driven the nails through His hands and feet, but He died because God was sacrificing His only Son.  The cross was the way to open the door.  The cross was the only was rebels could ever truly worship again.  It’s the place where true worship begins.”

I was totally amazed in how Louie highlighted the reaction from a Roman Centurion in Mark’s account of the Crucifixion.  As he was standing there doing his job, Jesus took His last breath.  As Jesus died, the heavens grew dark and the earth shook and shuddered with awe.  At that moment, the Roman soldier who had beaten Jesus himself was compelled to proclaim, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)

How amazing!  This supposed enemy and mocker of Christ was the first of many to have his eyes opened to the relentless pursuit and radical love of Jesus.  And he responded in worship.

You see, worship doesn’t start with us.  It starts with the example on the cross of Jesus relentlessly and radically pursuing us with His fierce, wild love.  Worship, then, is our response to God.  He initiates, we respond.  He unveils, we respond.  He loves, we love in return.

Paul wrote this well in Romans when he admonished, “Give yourselves completely to God since you have been given new life.” (Romans 6:13b, NLT)  You see, worship is our relentless pursuit and radical response to what God has done – and is still doing today!  He is constantly speaking and revealing His radical love to you – if you will only lean in and listen.

In chapter 5 of The Air I Breathe for this Sunday, Louie wrote, “Unless we see God, we cannot worship Him.  Worship is what spontaneously flows out of us when we come face-to-face with Him.  It’s the natural response to all of who He is – our un-calculated response to all He has done.”

This Sunday, our worship team will respond to this radical love by singing the song The Wonderful Cross arranged by Chris Tomlin for offertory.  Our Generation Praise Choir will sing at the foot of the cross next Sunday.  What a beautiful picture to see those worshipers at the best place… right near the cross.  This is the symbol of our Savior’s love where history was forever changed.  The veil was torn.  Ephesians 2:13 says it like this,

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Each day, stay amazed at the wonder of the cross – and respond in worship!

Audience of One

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worship1I’m coming back to the heart of worship and realizing again that I only sing for an Audience of One – my Jesus.  In being a worship leader, I constantly receive comments about the music.  While it’s easy to be swayed back and forth by human “opinion,” I’ve learned that listening to my Father’s opinion is most important.  God spoke this clearly to me through His Word when I read this verse:

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” -Proverbs 29:25

That verse struck me because as much as I want everyone to like me and for everyone to like what our worship team does every Sunday, if I lift my cup to them for approval, the Bible says it will prove to be a snare!  The only way I can stay secure is by looking to my Abba Daddy for direction and trusting in Him.

At the end of the day, worship is not for me or for others, it’s all for Jesus.  Despite our prefences, pleasing His heart is most important.  It is for Him and not for us!  It’s all about Him and not about us.  Rick Warren, in his book What On Earth Am I Here For? said it like this, “Worship has nothing  to do with the style or volume or speed of a song.  God loves all kinds of music because He invented it all – fast and slow, loud and soft, old and new.  You probably don’t like it all, but God does!  If it is offered to God in spirit and in truth, it is an act of worship.”

In John 4, Jesus made it very clear what the Father wanted.  He said, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” -John 4:23-24

To worship in spirit and in truth is what we must do.  That’s what pleases the heart of God!  Worshipping in Spirit means that our hearts are engaged in worship and that we are relying on the the Holy Spirit.  Worshipping in Truth means that our lifestyle matches our words.  We practice what we preach.  It also means that we worship and live by the Word of God and are not swayed back and forth by human opinion.

I can’t say that I’ve always gotten it right.  But today I’ve made a resolution to worship in truth by trusting in God and looking to Him as my Audience of One.  I know His Word proves to be true: “but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25b)  

The Lord is always concerned about the position of our hearts, our motives, and our thoughts more than our musical gifts.  Fan into flame the gift of God – His Spirit within you.  He’s concerned if our hearts are engaged and if we’re being genuine.  In The Air I Breathe, Louie Giglio wrote, “God doesn’t require ornate or elaborate expressions of worship.  When we talk to Him, we don’t have to use super-sized church words.  The worship He’s looking for is spiritual and true.  Genuine.  Authentic.  Worship from the heart.”  May we truly worship in Spirit and in Truth for an Audience of One – Jesus Himself!

His Presence is the Prize

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air i breatheHello!  I haven’t blogged in a long time, but recently I sensed the Lord prompting me to start up again.  I’m so excited and look forward to sharing with you what He has been teaching me.

Recently, I started a Worship Arts Small Group with my worship arts ministry.  In the past, we’ve done Pure Praise and Following the River.  We meet on Sunday mornings in our Green Room after our sound check.  I have a coffee pot to brew fresh Starbucks, we listen to the new Hillsong Glorious Ruins album, we catch up with one another in fellowship, and we are studying the book The Air I Breathe by Louie Giglio.

So far, I have really loved this book.  The tagline is “worship as a way of life.”  Louie Giglio writes, “We are all worshipers… of something.  But are we spending our lives and filling our days with what matters most?  What captures your time and attention?  This book awakens us to the reality that worship is more than service on a Sunday.  It’s every moment reflecting God’s glory and grace.” 

Last week, we went over chapter 3 entitled “Why Worship Matters.”  Simply put, worship should matter to you because it matters to God.  The part that stood out to me the most was when Louie Giglio wrote this:

“And you know what is really wild?  This massive God, who has never known any shortage of worship, wants to be worshiped… by you.  Right now.  God knows who He is.  He knows what He’s worth.  And He knows the best thing He can give us is Himself.  So in calling us to prize Him above all else, God is both gaining the praise that is rightfully His alone and causing us to gain the greatest treasure we will ever know.  God is not an egotist seeking more than He deserves from us.  Rather, He is God, choosing, in worship, to reward us with Himself.” (p. 30-31)

Don’t waste your worship.  You were created to worship so you will always worship something.  If you don’t choose to worship your loving Creator God, you may end us worshiping yourself, relationships, money, work, shopping, food, or anything else that seeks to exalt itself on the throne of your heart.

Guard your heart.  You have “one brief opportunity in time to declare your allegiance and to unleash your affection.”  Don’t waste your worship and beware of other alternatives that distract you from what your soul is made for… where your soul finds its rest… where your soul finds true, lasting satisfaction… in Jesus.

aslanLast week, I was watching The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis on TV.  For CS Lewis, he symbolized distractions and temptations with delicious “Turkish Delight.”  It was a trap for poor Edmond and the enemy is only trying to trap you by distracting you from truly worshiping Jesus.  Although “a thousand other people can do the work, give the bucks, fill the gap… no one else can give God the unique affection that only you and He can share.”  Guard your heart.

“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” Song of Songs 8:6

In our Worship Arts small group, we talked about how we can define what we really worship by what we spend most of our time doing or where most of our thoughts go.  You see, we can say “I only worship Jesus,” but what are your actions?  Where do you spend all your time?  What do you really think about all the time?  It’s a test for each of us.

We become what we worship.  Take a quick inventory of the things on the throne of your heart.  If you want to become more like Jesus, keep your worship focused squarely on Him.  Your heart is made to worship Him… and His presence is the greatest prize you will ever receive.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.  I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11