Why, hello people I love.
Has anyone told you today that you are amazing? No?
You're amazing! You are the bomb dot com and I am so glad that you are here! Lately we've been covering some pretty heavy stuff and you guys have been great! I've loved hearing your feedback and words of encouragement. You'll never know how much it means to me.
This post is a little bit different. Almost a month ago (where has July gone?!) I was at the beach and some time to sit on the beach and just listen for God's voice. It was an incredible experience. Maybe one day I'll share more about that but for now, here are just a few things the ocean taught me while I was there:
1. We're drowning in an ocean of grace and it's the only thing that can save us.
We are all sinking into a bottomless, limitless, unrelenting ocean full of grace and we're hopeless. There's nothing we can do to stop it. We can fight it for all of our lives and stay as close to the surface as possible but it will kill us. Until we stop fighting the grace that wants to drag us deeper into its being, we will be missing out on the greatest gift that was ever given to us: Jesus Christ. Stop fighting. Drown in this ocean of grace because it truly is the only thing that can save you.
Drag me deeper and deeper, Lord.
2. Being still and silent is sometimes more necessary than pretty words.
I have found that people don't always need you to have a response when they're unpacking their struggles for you. Sometimes, they just want to unpack and need you to listen. It's surprising how much you can learn from what is being said (and not said) by just listening.
Sometimes words aren't necessary in prayer. Sometimes we need to sit down, shut up, and open our hearts and let Christ intercede on our behalf. God knows what's in our hearts and once we are still and quiet enough to be open and vulnerable to Him, He will fill you, comfort you, sustain you, strengthen you, give you hope, give you life, and just be your God. He's so amazing and beautiful and wonderful that it makes my soul sing.
3. All of nature has a song. Some voices are louder than others but every voice and every song worships and edifies the Lord God Almighty.
The ocean has one of the most powerful songs on the entire planet. It's beautifully dangerous and incredibly profound for several reasons. It listens and obeys the Lord without questioning Him. When He says, "Tide, it's time to come in." The tide comes in. There are hurricanes with waves and winds that seem to be out of control but in reality, each wave and each gust of wind has been intentionally commanded and unquestioningly obeyed. The ocean's unwavering obedience is it's song and it sings day in and day out without dependence on how it "feels." Feelings are fickle and regardless of how we feel, God more than worthy of our worship.
4. The waves are a perfect representation of God's vast power and unbelievable restraint.
This is a big one. The ocean is so big, so wide and so deep and is easily a representative of the width, depth, and greatness of the love of Christ. It also is a representative of His strength and grace. The tide only comes but so far and even during hurricanes and tsunamis, the waves are only so strong and come so far inland. At any moment, God could command the ocean to flatten us all and the ocean would obey. Are we forgetting that God flooded the earth? Yes, He promised He would never do it again but it doesn't mean that He couldn't.
If you ask me, we're no better than we were in Noah's day and God could definitely "teach us a lesson" but He shows us so much grace over and over again. We're still here. We woke up this morning and our hearts are still beating. THAT is amazing grace.
5. The tide comes and goes but the One who makes the tide stays forever.
There is something so fascinating about the tide to me. It comes in and goes back out but only at certain times of the day. Sometimes in comes in quickly but lingers when it goes out and other times it's the opposite. The waters of the ocean are constantly changing but God, who made the ocean and commands the tide, remains constant. We can always count on His consistency and His love. Those two things are non-negotiable.
6. What I look like doesn't matter to the ocean. Who I am doesn't matter to the ocean. Where I've come from and what I've done doesn't matter to the ocean. All that matters is that I'm there.
At the end of the day it doesn't matter what we look like, where we come from, or what we've done. Christ accepts us as we are. He died for our best days and our worst days. You don't have to get your mess together to come to Jesus. Come to Him broken, hurting, and all bent out of shape. He wants to fix it. He died to fix it. When Christ looks at you, He doesn't see the mess that you're in. He sees what His perfect, redemptive work looks like in you. He knows what the end result will be and loves you even though you ain't there yet. If that's not reason enough to abandon everything you've ever known and follow Him, then I don't know what is.
7. My heart's desire is for my worship to be like that of the ocean's: constantly moving, always singing, all-encompassing, never worrying, and self-abandoning.
I want my worship to always be growing and to never stop. I want my worship to be so much a part of my every day life that corporate worship is just icing on the cake and not the sustenance of my worship. I want my heart to be so full of Christ's love and grace that there is no room for any kind of worry, anxiety, or nervousness. I want my worship to be an exact mirror of Christ's life: a willing and obedient servant, even to death. I've got a long way to go but we're working on it.
It's 2015. There is a whole lot of icky, yucky, mess going on right now. There's a lot of crazy things happening in the public eye and so many heartbreaking things going on behind closed doors. But no matter what seems to be happening in politics or public relations or whatever strikes your fancy, there seems to be a never-ending debate about corporate worship in churches.
Allow me to drop a truth-bomb on all of you right now.
This debate will never end.
The older generations don't like praise and worship. The younger generations don't like hymns. I am almost 100% positive that when my red hair is replaced with gray and white, I won't like whatever the young whipper-snappers in the church are singing. And it won't matter.
I think the reason why this is such a hot topic (people get really heated when you bring it up) among Christians is because we have lost sight of what is truly important when we sing in church: true worship. That is something I think we all can agree on.
I was recently listening to a sermon on worship when the pastor made the comment, "Worship is not a means to an end. It is the end....There is a vast difference between worshipping TO God and worshipping FOR God. God does not need our worship." (Bill Johnson of Bethel Church)
I think Pastor Johnson brings up a very valid point about corporate worship in churches today. Our worship has shifted from being focused on worshipping God for what He is and who He is to worshipping God because we need to worship Him so we can be filled. If we are all being completely honest here, we are all guilty of this.
But who cares, right? Who cares what I or Pastor Johnson or anyone has to say? What does God say about worship?
"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."
Worship is not something you come and do on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights and then leave. Worship is a lifestyle and our worship of our Savior flows from our hearts. If our hearts are clogged with mess that we see on TV, movies, social media, or whatever, ultimately the flow of our worship will be affected. So guard your heart from junk because it affects the lifestyle of worship. Lifestyle. Not activity. How do we do this? What does this look like?
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about these things."
Our worship begins with our thoughts. Our thoughts need to be focused on the things that bring God glory. So yes, this does include what you listen to on the radio, what you watch on TV, what you read, who you surround yourself with...the list could go on. Your mind should constantly be heavenly minded.
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
So what on earth does all this have to do with what we sing on Sunday morning? Nothing. This has everything to do with your worship throughout your week when your feet aren't in a church and your bottom is not in a pew. Before we can even discuss what worship should look like on Sunday mornings, we have to talk about what your worship looks like throughout the week. Guard your heart, be heavenly minded, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, and rejoice always.
"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."
I pick up three major points when I read this:
1. Shout for joy, worship with gladness and joyful songs.
2. Check your attitude at the door - enter the house of the Lord with thanksgiving and praise only. (That means no gossip, no,"I wish so-and-so was here. He/she really needed to hear that sermon this week/last week," no, "did you see what she was wearing?" NONE.)
3. He is good and His love and faithfulness endures forever.
"Praise the Lord, praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and the lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with strings and pipe, praise him with the crash of symbols, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord."
Four points this time:
1. Anywhere is acceptable to praise the Lord how you choose: his sanctuary, the heavens, anywhere under the heavens.
2. ANY instrument is acceptable and pleasing in the eyes of the Lord. Any volume of any instrument is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord. This includes drums. This also includes drums being played loudly. This also includes guitars and organs at any volume.
3. If worshipping the Lord makes you want to dance, then dance before the Lord. Who am I to say you can't worship in that way?
4. Just praise Him. Who cares if it doesn't sound good? Who cares if it looks different than the person standing next to you? I know God doesn't care. All He cares about is your heart. You may think you sound like a dying duck but if you heart is in the right place, it is the most beautiful sound to the ears of the Lord.
"'I tell you,' he replied, 'if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."
The worship of King Jesus is so important to Him that if we don't praise Him, the rocks will. He is so worthy of our praise and so much greater than any song ever written, any performance, any worship set, and any argument about the "worship" that the rocks are not too lowly (or too proud) to praise Him.
This part of our walk with Christ is so important that if we miss this, we miss all of it. Worship is not for God. We worship TO God and in our daily worship, He comes in and changes our hearts to look more like His. Worship changes our lives in every way. It changes our outlook on life, it changes our thought life, it changes the way we treat others, it changes the way we treat ourselves, it changes everything.
It breaks my heart every single time I see hateful words being thrown around about hymns and about praise and worship because at the end of the day, is it really that important? Do the songs we sing at church for half an hour twice a week really affect our walks with Christ that much? I pray the answer is no. I pray that this little corner of the internet has clearly demonstrated that worship is not just Sundays and Wednesdays but an everyday lifestyle. I pray that we can put aside our differences and realize that church is about coming together, worshipping the Lord together, lifting one another up, and then going out and making a difference. We are the salt and light of the world; we don't need to take this lightly.
"The Lord says, 'These people come near me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.'"
May our hearts be closer to Him than ever before. May our worship be more than a song that we sing. May a rock never cry out in our place.
I am currently a teacher and life-long student of Scripture learning more about life and Jesus's marvelous love and boundless grace.