Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pleasing and Acceptable

Pleasing and acceptable.

In my home, my thought life, my worship...It's how I want to be found in the eyes of God.

But my heart still fights the desire to hear, "well done" from my peers, my family, you know "man". It doesn't raise it's head often, but when this old stronghold comes up, I know I can either go straight to God's word, OR I can self-destruct. The choice is mine.

For three weeks now, God has been placing scripture in front of me. Each verse connected to the previous, expanding on a theme that I began to have a burden for five years ago.

Worship. Pure, pleasing, and acceptable worship.

Last week as I was preparing for Sunday,(I was covering piano for my vacationing friend.) God continue to remind me just how serious He is about our hearts being clean when we come to worship.

I was, dealing with some frustration, hurt and just plain anger towards a specific situation. All that junk was distracting me and I kept going back to the verse God was using to reignite this passion for properly positioned worship.

It's in Amos 5. I know, Amos?. Yes. Amos. In verses 18-27 God is reminding his people that all their religious behavior does nothing to bring them closer to him. He LONGS for and desires their total devotion. AND, he wants that devotion to be evident by their character. HIS character lived out in their daily lives. With that short explanation, here are the verses that jumped off the page to me.

I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
(Verses 21-23 ESV)

Kind of cuts deep doesn't it.

If my heart is not completely devoted to Christ...

If my character does not point others straight to Him....

If my daily actions are no different than those that do not know Jesus Christ....

My worship is noise.

That was a wake up call for me. What came next was work. Lots of time working through that frustration and hurt and anger. Confession of sin that I had not been quick to confess. (Why? Because that would mean I had to admit I was wrong. See that pride?)

Romans 12:1-2 seem to keep coming to mind. Here it is from the Message.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

As hard as that was, I had to grin at the very first song we sang on Sunday. "Sold Out".

My favorite line in the song is this.

My heart is fixed, my mind's made up
No room, no vacancies, I'm all filled up
His Spirit lives in me and that's the reason - I'm Souled Out.

I've been challenged to start each day with a Sold Out mentality. A fixed heart and a made up mind to worship my Savior each day. In the daily chores as well as my spot in the alto section on Sunday morning. To live confidently that His approval is all that matters.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Gal. 1:10

(If you need a little jumpstart go here and listen to the first song from Sunday morning. Just hit play. It's right after the video. I promise it will encourage you.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Friday Night Deeper Still June 2011

I have sat with this computer on my lap and stared at the blank screen several times over the last week, trying my best to share what all God showed me at Deeper Still, but nothing.

Don't misunderstand, God spoke. He seared some things into my heart. But the road to Deeper Still was a hard one.

The Sunday before, Chad and Chloe along with a large portion of our Karate Demo team headed to Alaska for a week of sharing Jesus through backyard Bible schools during the day and karate demonstrations during the evening. It was exciting to hear what God was doing. Several came to know Jesus as Savior that week. I can't tell you how excited I was to get the nightly text with words like "27 for Jesus tonight". It was worth that "ding" at 3:30 A.M. :)

Emma and I enjoyed our week with some family and Friday morning, we headed to Louisville for Deeper Still. We had a great trip up, met up with Rachel and headed to eat lunch. We were enjoying lunch and being together, but each one (Emma included) eager for the Friday night session to begin. That was when Chad texted me to say please pray. It was the first of a few texts that were short and to the point. One of the team members "H.", a retired man who lived to go on mission trips and serve Jesus, had died early that morning.

The team was not aware of this yet and I knew my husband was doing his best to hold it together. I was thankful for the ladies at lunch who began to pray.

As the Friday night session began, my body was in Freedom Hall, but my thoughts and heart were in Anchorage, Alaska wanting to comfort my family. As Kay Arthur opened the Word of God (and taught HARD) God reminded me that I was there to meet with Him. I asked Him to help me focus and He did.

If I had to give you a "One Thing" from Friday evening's session it would be that we don't have time to just play at studying God's Word. It's time to get serious and KNOW it, and then LIVE it. Thank you, Mrs. Kay, for pushing me to go deeper and to love God with all my heart, soul and mind.

On Saturday, during the panel discussion, Mrs. Kay made the comment that "There is no retirement in time of war." God had given us an example of that. "H's" life was an example of that. He served Jesus up until the moment of his last breath. I pray that the day I take my last breath, it will be while I am serving Jesus.

Chloe, H. and W. sharing Jesus with some beautiful children.

This photo is a more accurate portrayal of our team. :) I think H. would love for you to see them like this.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Preparing for Deeper Still

Emma and I, along with my mom and Nikki Poppins, are leaving Friday morning to meet up with a few thousand women in Louisville for the final Deeper Still. To say I'm excited to see some of you there is an understatement. :) I can. not. wait. to hug some necks and see some sweet faces. However, I would be lying if I told you I wasn't a little nervous.

At the December Deeper Still in Birmingham, God began to prepare my heart for a process. A process that would be long, difficult and at times make me question if I really believe Him to be faithful.

On that Friday evening in December, Kay Arthur ask us to be willing to pray "God, whatever you say to me, I will do." (I shared more about that here.)

I learned quickly that if you pray that with a sincere heart, God may ask you to do something that seems a bit..well...lifechanging.

On that Saturday morning, God confirmed my theme verse for 2011. Isaiah 45:3

I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

I really thought that after several difficult years, 2011 would be the year that we would begin to see the treasure from that difficult season. That has happened, BUT.

God had us walk a road that we would have never chosen on our own. In the last six months, we made the very difficult decision to sell our home. God was in each and every detail.

It has been a wild ride that ended last Friday. Six months to the day from that Friday night in Birmingham.

On Friday, June 3 Chad and I sat across the table from the new owners of the house we had built. We cheerfully signed the closing papers and handed over house keys and garage door openers. We walked away confident that we had done what God had told us to do. I can not even begin to express the feeling of freedom we felt leaving that attorney's office.

Has this process been hard? Yes. At times it felt like it would never end, but God.

God has been so faithful to guide us step by step through this process. His Word came to life in a new way. We can look back and trace His handiwork.

So, we closed on Friday. On Sunday, Chad and Chloe left with our karate team on a mission trip to Alaska. They are having a blast and God is doing some neat things up there. :)

In two days, we will be sitting in Freedom Hall in Louisville, celebrating what God has done and asking Him to speak to us again. I know He has plans and a personalized message for each one there.

For me, I'm thrilled to experience this with my Mom and Emma. (It will be their first and last Deeper Still!)

I'm excited to see so many of you.

But most of all, I want to hear God. I can not wait to open God's word and hear what He has to say to us. (But yes, I'm a little nervous!!!)

This is the verse that I have been thinking about as I prepare for Deeper Still.

Psalm 119:114

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.

Because I believe that verse, I can confidently pray "God, whatever you say to me I will do."

I know those are dangerous words, but I know I can trust Him.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Get Out of the Road!

I've been talking to my 8th grade girls about listening for God. My heart wants them to grasp that they CAN hear Him speak to them. Last night, we focused on one verse, Psalm 46:10.

You know it. "Be still and know that I am God." (NIV)

We looked at two other translations. One was the NASB:

"Cease striving and know that I am God."

I liked that one, but The Message really hit me between the eyes.

"Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God."

This is the translation I will be concentrating on for the next two weeks.

This morning as I was getting dressed, I thought about the first part of this verse. "Step out of the traffic". A command and a warning that I need to pay attention too.

My "traffic" may not be a physical threat, but spiritually speaking, the "traffic" (activity) of life can bring major trauma to my spiritual life. I have got to watch where I'm stepping and avoid stepping into the traffic of life.

Stepping out of the traffic removes distractions and allows us to do what the second part of that verse says. "Take a long, loving look at me, your High God."

He really is more beautiful than we can imagine. More faithful than we can comprehend. He is holy and just and at the same time, approachable and tender.

So this summer, I am getting out of the road and settling into a study that I know is going to challenge me and I pray change me. I'll be walking through it alone. Scratch that, I will not be alone! The Holy Spirit will be busy teaching.

I am excited to see what happens when I take a long loving look at my most High God.