THE WORSHIP FOUND IN THE PROCESS

ImageAs a worship leader, I’ve had many different internal experiences while leading worship. I’ve had nights where I feel like I failed afterwards, and nights where I’m on the verge of tears because of the love I felt in the room, pouring out to God. And I’ve reflected on all of this. I’ve reflected on what happened during the day when I have a bad worship experience, as well as a good, and I’ve recognized something that, like worship itself, is bigger than singing. I have found that whenever I’m able to lead a worship session – whether it’s with 100 people or ten people, the worship is always easier when I’ve been living truthfully that day. It’s always easier when I’m living as a human, rather than trying to live as God himself. It’s always easier when I’ve spent the day worshiping God for continually renewing me and refining me, and it’s always more difficult on days spent focused on being a ‘good Christian.’

 I think as Christians, far too often we worry so much about being seen as good people that we forget to live like actual good people, and instead end up living a life focused on ourselves, and worried about where our evil desires are going to lead us next. This is an ironic problem to have, because when we worry about looking like a ‘good Christian,’ we end up worrying about ourselves. And being a Christian is the exact opposite of that. Being a Christian is living a life where you are never focused on yourself, and always thinking about everyone else. When we have to think about being a “good Christian,” we usually end up being a bad one, because we end up living a life focused on the person Christ has transformed us from rather than the person Christ has transformed us into. We end up living a life where we’re so aware of ourselves, and how many times we’ve failed to be good, and how many temptations the devil is putting in front of us each moment, that we ignore the world around us, and the good people in it. We fail to recognize that these people around us every day are people who are equally as good as us, and equally as loved as us, and there is a God who longs to rescue them just as He rescued us. We fail to recognize that Christ lives in us and through us, and in turn we fail to take confidence in this fact. Instead, we live as if the devil has control of us, and we have to constantly look out for the next sin he’ll force us into.

Let me ask you this: Have you ever worried about sinning when you’re thinking about someone other than yourself? I’m not talking about when you’re thinking about what someone else can give you. I mean actually, truly thinking about them with God’s interests in mind. Have you ever sinned while taking a genuine interest in other people?

Have you ever sinned when you’ve thought about not sinning?

What are you doing to keep realizing you are already someone Christ has made good?

One of the best prayers we can pray is to ask God to continually refine us and match our mind with His, because as we pray this, we can take confidence that God is doing it. We can begin to live outwardly instead of live focused on the turmoil within, because we can take confidence in the fact that God has done what He has said He’s done: made us a new creation.

Pray for constant oneness with God. Pray for His mind, and as you grow more and more in Him, you may find you also grow more and more interested in others, and less worried about yourself and your next failure. And as we take the notice off of our own imperfections and brokenness, we may find ourselves more able to help people in theirs.

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I’m not sure we’ve realized . . .

Simply love.

This is the Gospel defined.

The older I get – the more interaction I have with God – the more I recognize the faults of humanity-defined Christianity, and the more I am taught Christianity is a simple definition. The more I recognize the attempts the church makes to earn it because of the denial to just simply receive. We even do it with good intentions, saying things like, “faith is shown by deeds,” yet changing the definition of Paul’s words to mean “If you don’t do good deeds, you must not have faith.” We believe in God’s grace, we sing about it in songs, and we even thank God for it when we do something stupid. But our minds are programmed differently.

Time for a reprogramming.

It’s not in our nature to just simply accept. We’re not taught to be given something without giving something in return. Human relationships are often defined by give and take. We’re given to, we give back. We feel loved, we show love. Christianity isn’t like this – at least not consciously.

Christ asks for nothing in return. Nothing we can possibly do can be done to earn what He did. And He knows that. He knows that the more we try to do good deeds, the more we look at ourselves and rate ourselves based on those good deeds. He knows the more we try to not to bad deeds, the more we think about bad deeds, and the more likely we are to do them.

The truth is, there is no checklist in gaining acceptance or overcoming temptation. Because checklists say the wrong thing at the top: “Here’s how you do it.” Nothing in Christianity can be accomplished with the right motives if we write out a list of how “you” can do it. Because the word “you” is not the word “him.”

This is where love comes in.

The more focused on God I become in life, the less I consciously try to have an impact for Him, and the more impact I have, because the more I fall in love with Him. Look at all the greatest evangelists you know. How many of them have testimonies full of failure sin and destruction, only to reach a point where they realize God forgives? I find myself jealous of “born again” Christians sometimes, because they’ve been through the worst of the worst, and fall deeply in love with God when they truly realize that He forgives and the past has been erased by His blood. They never have a moment where they can take Christ’s actions for granted. They never have a moment where they’re doing it for approval.

They never have a moment where they worry about being a “good Christian,” because they realize there’s no such thing. There’s only a good God. And there’s only one response to His goodness – unbridled, passionate love. They’ve recognized that they’re story has a joyful ending, and they don’t understand how they can’t share that ending with people whose story might be in conflict.

If you’ve experienced the source of Joy, why haven’t you told anyone yet?

I’m not sure many Christians have truly experienced The Source. I’m not sure many Christians have moved past the stage of “good Christianity” in order to recognize the good God behind the to do lists. I’m not sure many Christians have changed the heading on their checklists from “how you can do it” to “because He did it.” I’m not sure many Christians are doing it because they love Him, and want to get to know the One they love. I’m not sure many Christians have realized the dysfunction found in a relationship centered around giving to the Lover rather than loving the Giver.

When our purpose is to love the Giver, it makes it a lot easier to truly love everyone He gives to. Because along with giving life, He also gives His heart in exchange for ours – and His heart is one of love. And when He overtakes our old hearts with His, we become givers as well.

All because He gave, and we simply accepted.

LESSONS FROM A BROKEN MIRROR

“There has never yet been a saint who has not lived a maimed life initially. Yet it is better to enter into life maimed but lovely in God’s sight than to appear lovely to man’s eyes but lame to God’s.”   -Oswald Chambers

When we look in the mirror, what do we see? Do we see a ‘good person,’ or a man or woman living a ‘good life?’ We’d probably say so, but we shouldn’t see these things! Rather, we should see a life of repair. A life broken. We should see the ugliness inside ourselves, and the beauty of Christ through His never-ending work in us. We should be in a pursuit to see less of us and more of Him, and as we begin to see Christ, and accept His gift and love given to us, we can begin to see His plan for us and His purpose for us. And that purpose is ultimately to restore us to beauty – a beauty we cannot achieve on our own – because as we are restored by Christ, it becomes more and more obvious to the world who is doing the restoring, and our lives begin to accomplish the ultimate purpose: to bring Him glory!

The greatest amount of beauty in us can only be found by reflecting Him throughout our lives and towards others, and our life purpose should be pursuing that beauty in total disregard of the world’s opinion or persuasion.We are to live life thankfully broken, knowing the only One who can use our brokenness! A shattered mirror is only as useful as what the person looking into it sees. Do you see a purpose behind your brokenness, and a pursuit towards repair? Or are you too busy praying for God to repair the mirror, unable to notice what God can use it for?

“. . . what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour?”

But for this purpose I came to this hour.

“Father, glorify Your name.”     -John 12:27-28

Through our sorrow, and the moments we need repair, let us not ask God to fix us. Rather, ask Him to use us to glorify His name!

J. & the Talents – The Chase

This is a song I wrote about a week ago, called The Chase. It’s about how we as humans so often try to run away and hide from God, and live life according to our own terms, yet realize that God never stops chasing after us, even in our brokenness and denial. He is the god who loves us enough to repair us, but ultimately the choice is up to us if we accept His repair or not. The lyrics are posted below, and I hope you like it.

Can this mercy unearth me, a puddle wash me clean

Can this world see my stains I’ve hidden underneath?

You are the God who sees all things, I hope you don’t see everything

I’m but a soul with reason to run, You chase me with your mercy

Chorus

I’m running away, but you won’t stop

I fall to my knees, Caught in your love, My God

I feel your grace pursue me, yet I hide from you

If I can’t face my own fears, then how can I face you

Why do you cahse a broken soul as it runs from loving you

Chorus

Chorus 2

You took my shame, you healed my pain

What did I do to deserve this love, Oh God

Outro

Lord, let your mercy unearth me, your grace wash me clean

(© Joel Helenbolt)

KEEP YOUR HEAD UP

We are a humanity defined by our brokenness.

In my mind, realizing our brokenness is the biggest step in living a Christian life. Without recognizing our brokenness, we never will come to view Jesus as anyone other than a Hebrew teacher who was killed by the Romans. We will always hold the view of Jesus as ‘a good guy’ or ‘someone to look up to,’ but we will never acknowledge that He was also a savior, because we’ll never truly believe we are people in need of saving.

Without seeing ourselves as broken, we can never see Him as the only one able to repair us.

I have a few over-simplified views of what a Christian is compared to a non-Christian. My biggest idea is that a Christian is simply a person who has looked at themselves and noticed their brokenness, while a non-Christian is someone who has looked at themselves and looked past their cracks. A Christian has simply recognized a crack for what it is – no matter how small and insignificant it may seem – and found that Christ is the only one with the ability to repair those cracks. A non-Christian may have noticed their cracks, but go about repairing them only with temporary fixes. Not until a person recognizes their brokenness as well as the only way to repair it can they truly understand what Christianity is, which is repair through relationship.

Repair through relationship. This is the entire basis of Christianity, and one of the giant aspects of Christianity that people misunderstand. Christianity is so often viewed as legalism, or as ‘follow the ten commandments or off to hell you go,’ when in reality it’s less about obeying commands and more – in fact, entirely – about God’s grace for the times we disobey. The key is in seeing how God can use His grace to show us Himself, and as we discover more about Him, the more traits we pick up from Him, which can slowly repair our brokenness.

Remember back to your childhood. There was always that one person growing up that you wanted to imitate – whether it was a grandparent, parent, brother, uncle, or friend. You always saw this one person as the person who knew how to navigate life, and believed that if you wanted to navigate it well, you’d just do what they were doing. This is our relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the one we long to imitate – the one who lived life the right way. He is the one we want to model ourselves after – and we must be so focused on Him that we completely lose sight of ourselves, going about doing as He has instructed and taught us to do no matter how well or ill-suited we feel we are in His area of calling.

The key to living a Christ-centered life is simple – keep your head up. With your head up, you lose sight of yourself, and only see that which is in front of you, which is Christ. Although this is simple, it is not easy. You will get tired and weary, and wonder what your body looks like. But the moment your head begins to drop down is the moment you begin to see more of yourself and less of Christ, and the moment your focus begins to shift from Him to you. The more that focus shifts, the easier it is to completely overlook the power He has given you and see yourself again as broken, even though He now sees you as repaired. As you look towards Him, let Him tell you how He sees you, rather than feeling the need to look yourself. To Him you look new, and your brokenness is replaced – but if you look for yourself, you will always see the brokenness that once was.