My sun porch

My sun porch

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

...the kind of worshipers the Father seeks

"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

"...the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" As usual, when I study or think about a certain verse in the Bible, it leads to more questions. We often talk about how we "find" the Lord, but who is HE looking for?  How does one become that kind of worshiper? What is God wanting to hear in my worship?

I have been thinking a lot about worship lately. I have been working with the kids at my church during KidsPraise to help them learn why we sing worship songs and helping them feel free to sing and dance and clap their praises to God during those songs. It is a struggle as many of the kids say they don't like to sing. Some of them don't follow along because they don't want to look silly. Some of my kids are very young and can't read the words to the songs on the screen. Some of the kids are 4th and 5th graders and it is just not "cool." 

Maybe I am just going at it from the wrong angle. Jesus is saying in the verse above that we are true worshipers when we worship the Father in spirit and in truth. There are have been many interpretations as to what this phrase means exactly. But for me today, it hit me that you cannot force or coerce someone into worship. It must be coming from inside and be honest and sincere. God is not looking for a "follow the leader" kind of worship, but praise that comes from the heart.

And who says that true worship has to come from songs? Jesus said that God is spirit, meaning that He is everywhere and all the time. We don't have to wait for the praise music and we don't even have to be in church to praise God in worship! The child that learns to thank God for his food before eating is praising God in worship. The little girl who thanks God for her Mommy and Daddy at bedtime is praising God in worship. The little boy who gets excited at the thunder and lightning in a storm and exclaims that God is powerful is praising God in worship!

Knowing that God is SEEKING those who are true worshipers makes me WANT to praise him more and makes me respect those who worship Him in different ways. A friend recently reminded me that he was one of those quiet worshipers who didn't raise his hands and shout and clap and sing loudly. He felt that perhaps I was thinking that those who didn't do those things weren't truly worshiping. You know, he might have been right. Because music moves me and creates an opening in my heart for the Holy Spirit, I just assumed that God works the same in others. That assumption was wrong. God is looking for people who praise Him and honor Him in worship that is real and true and comes from their heart. Only God knows what is true for each person.

Today, I praise and thank God for teaching me and expanding my heart. I want to be the kind of worshiper that He seeks every day. I know that God is real and very much alive everywhere around me! I praise Him in this moment with all that is in my heart.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hope springs from our suffering...

"Through [Jesus] we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we glory in our sufferings, because we know suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character and character produces hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." -- Romans 5:2-5

I don't want to steal any thunder from my pastor's sermon yesterday, the topic of HOPE has been on my mind a lot for the last 24 hours.

There is a man who goes to our church and I have known him all my life. 27 years ago, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Tragic, frustrating, frightening and disheartening as I am sure that news was to Larry and his family, he kept plugging on. Surgery after surgery, disappointment after disappointment, he refused to give up on his life and relied on God to see him through and he is still alive and kicking YEARS after that original devastating diagnosis. Larry has been an inspiration to many people of the years, but yesterday, he became an even bigger inspiration to me.

This past fall and into December, Larry had yet another bad spell that left him very near death. Although we were all praying for him, most of us thought that this was finally the end to this sweet man's life. But, in typical Larry style, he just refused to give up. With his family and friends rallying around him, he has bounced back! Even though his doctors said he would never get out of the wheelchair, with the help of his walker, he walked across the stage yesterday morning to sing with the men's ensemble, the Plainsmen. And they sang TWICE! All that know Larry and his struggles were amazed and filled with hope for their own lives. Larry is the perfect example of the Roman's verses above.

Larry had expectations for his life. This brain tumor messed up those expectations and caused suffering his life. He and his family have prayed, yelled, cried and yet fully relied on God to help them through this suffering. Because of their faith, God sent the Holy Spirit to comfort and strengthen them and they made it through each step of this pain. It was not easy, but Larry, his wife, children and now grandchildren have all developed strong character. This character helps them look back at the struggle and see how faithful God has been to them. From this springs Hope. They can have hope in any situation that comes into their lives because they can remember the path that they have traveled to this point. I'm sure it is still not easy for them, but if you look at this family, you will see a lot of strength, a lot of smiling, a lot of laughter and and a lot of love flowing out of every one of them...all because of Larry's brain tumor and his amazing God-honoring life.

My life has it's own struggles, not near as dire as a brain tumor. When I am feeling low and wondering where God is during my time of pain, I hope I can picture Larry, up on that stage, singing his heart out. That picture in my mind and in my heart will give me the inspiration and hope I need to know that God is with me and will allow me to keep pushing and moving forward, never giving up. For without those struggles, I would not know the beauty of God's grace. I can stand in God's grace through my faith. I know that I am not alone in this thinking. What an amazing and inspiring legacy for Larry's life!