The Giving of Worship

worship-psdWorship is about giving.

What are you willing to give?

What occupies your mind and heart?

Worship isn’t about a specific time slot, a day of the week on your calendar.

Worship isn’t about attending church.

It’s daily and constant.

It’s a willingness to give.

It’s what occupies your heart and mind.

What is it?

Because we all worship something.

Living the Good News

We boil it down to the basics: Love Jesus. Help others love him, too. But we have different approaches:

  • Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.
  • Help people. And if you can’t help, at least, don’t hurt them.
  • Give what you can, and you will receive more. Helping others achieve their dreams will help you achieve yours.

Ocean-Water-Background-Tumblr-3We like to boil things down to the simplest form. We like quips that affirm and encourage us. If it sounds good, we think it is good. If we can’t readily see how something contradicts Scripture, we assume it’s consistent with Scripture. That’s not always the case. We have to know Scripture well in order to find what is consistent and what isn’t. In many cases, we can find or recall a verse that supports just about any perspective we want. That approach only affirms us; it’s not a reliable approach to a faith-filled life. That kind of life requires humility, which we don’t always like because it makes us feel vulnerable and gets us out of our comfort zone.

Vulnerability and discomfort often describe living out the gospel, too. We prefer living out and sharing the gospel in more comfortable and convenient ways. Lifestyle evangelism—living out the good news in our everyday lives—is an excellent approach to sharing Jesus with others, because we have established influence on those in our immediate circles and regular routines. However, we can sometimes fall back on a distortion of lifestyle evangelism as if we’re falling into a comfortable couch. It feels good. We don’t have to do much more than what would be doing otherwise. We just continue living our lives and let God use everything we do and say. He’s powerful enough to do that. We can trust Him to work in our and others’ lives.

But our motives matter. If we simply want to boil down how we share faith in the simplest approach, how humble can we possibly be? Evangelism becomes more about us than others, and that’s not true evangelism. God won’t always have us go out of our way, but he will always have us set aside our way for his. The two sometimes coincide, but we should never settle for starting with our own way and trying to rationalize God’s support for it. Instead, we get to know him well and check with him every step of the way so that there is less of us and more of him.

Living the good news doesn’t always have to be difficult, but when it becomes chronically easy, we need to question our efforts. If we’re never outside our comfort zones, it’s as if we recline on the couch and expect God to use us where we are, bringing people to us. Instead, we have a responsibility to GO, to get off the couch and move about the neighborhood and engage the world. It’s not just want we do for others but how we live life with others.

Consider the words we often use in front of “church”: at church, in church, my church. Is it your church or God’s church? If it’s truly God’s, you’ll spend as much or more effort to “go” than to convince people to “come.” The church’s reputation outside the walls will be more radical and relevant than what happens inside. You’ll invite God to clear out any hypocrisy or self-centeredness as an individual and church family by living faith-filled lives outside the walls of a building. The good news is simple in truth but takes intentional, humble, authentic, sacrificial effort every moment of every day.

  • It requires patience with the person who opposes you.
  • It requires kindness for the person who offends you.
  • It requires gentleness when you confront someone.
  • It requires love when you’d rather retaliate.
  • It requires faithfulness when you’d rather give up.
  • It requires self-control when you’d rather do things your own way.

Stay Home from Church

I don’t recommend it often, but as I sat across from a friend and heard her declaration, I knew exactly what she meant:

Sometimes I need to stay home from church to be with God.

I’m a strong advocate of being deeply invested in and belonging to a local church body, not for legalistic reasons, but because God does His work among His people. He brings us together, so we form a whole, complementing each other. We learn from each other through cooperation and conflict. We work through our faith, getting to know God better, as we trust His leading in our relationships, service, and worship. He disciples us as individuals and as a whole. We miss His will and blessing when we disengage.

But we also need solitude with Him. We need His perspective, especially when we sense there is too much noise around us. We need His clarity. That doesn’t mean we selfishly disengage because we’re uncomfortable, inconvenienced, or irritated. Staying home from church isn’t about getting away from something as much as it is an intentional pursuit of Someone.

When done for the right reasons, out of a right relationship with God, staying home from church can be filled with His presence and blessing. Be guided by discernment, not guilt. Be bold in responding to His prompting. It’s not always what we expect.

Seek and savor His presence, no matter where you are.

Serve Even When It’s Hard

“I just can’t commit right now, because I’m just not comfortable with people depending on me.”

It’s not that I don’t understand the person’s response. It wasn’t the first time I had heard it. But after hearing it several times (across time), it struck me as odd. After all, people already depend on her. She is married, with kids, and a job. And I’m confident she let them down at times. We all do.

I think what she really meant was, “I’m worried about letting people down. I’ll feel like a failure, and I just can’t handle that.” Maybe particularly at church? I mean, don’t we all want to be reliable members of the body of believers around us? God says we’re all members of the same body and we all need each other. Maybe it’s just safer to step back and let others overcompensate for us. But that’s not the model God gives us.

If we don’t live up to our own expectations or even someone else’s, it doesn’t mean we’re not living up to God’s. At the very least, our shortcomings definitely don’t surprise Him. Neither does our hesitation…or our laziness.

Whatever it is that is getting in the way of serving, we need to get beyond it. We cannot say yes to everything, nor should we, but we also shouldn’t say no because of our own insecurities. All we have to do is offer everything we have, even our insecurities and weaknesses. That’s all God asks.

It is enough.

Because God is enough.

The Words Weren’t True, But They Had Power

“Everything that goes wrong in this church seems to have your name attached to it.”

The words stung. I knew they weren’t true. I knew they were being spoken from a place of hurt during a rough season in this person’s life, including challenging situations at church.

I knew the words weren’t true, but they still entered my ears, my mind, and my heart.

Even though I knew the context in which the words were spoken, and I was able to let go of every other word-dart thrown at me during that conversation, that one sentence stuck with me. I caught myself second-guessing my leadership decisions, filtering and re-filtering my words before speaking, carefully choosing which ideas to share and what discussions to emphasize, especially when this particular person was involved in any way. I didn’t want to give her any more ammunition.

But I already had. I had given her some power in my life that I didn’t need to relent. I knew what she said was untrue, but I went on the defensive, avoiding words and situations instead of living offensively. I don’t mean offensively as in aggressively attacking. I mean simply moving forward. I didn’t want to offend her, but I didn’t need to avoid her and her allegations either.

To be honest, those words were said in such a heated moment that she probably doesn’t even remember them. It wasn’t as if it was characteristic of her. Why would I isolate something in her life? In fact, isn’t that what she had done with me in some way?

Perhaps I should thank her. After all, the second-guessing, filtering, and carefully choosing that I consequently did wasn’t all bad. It was good exercise in discernment and patience. It probably helped some relationships and interactions, not to mention my patience and humility.

No matter what, there is always something to learn in every situation. I’m thanking God for His reminder…and I’m moving on.

How to Complain about the Church

churchcomplaintsDo you have a complaint about church? You don’t like the type (or volume) of music, the (lack of) dependability of a staff member or volunteer, the teaching style, small group availability, lack of attention to children’s ministry (or any other ministry), opportunities for service throughout the community and world.

You get the point. The thing is…what the church does isn’t nearly as important as what the church is.

Together you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of that body. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

If you’re focused on what the church is for you, it’s time for an adjustment. The church isn’t about you. Yes, you are part of the church, and you’re an important part, but you’re important for who God says you are within the church. Your preferences and comfort aren’t the primary concern.

When you complain about something or someone, who are you harming the most? You might rationalize you’re helping because you might be fixing a problem or challenging someone to grow, yet changes from complaints are rarely constructive or long-lasting unless there co-exists an intentional discussion about and relationship of growth and accountability. Hitting someone or something head on rarely has the same effect as walking alongside.

If you have a complaint, consider how you can change more than how much you can change something or someone else.

Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)

When they continued to ask Jesus their question, he raised up and said, “Anyone here who has never sinned can throw the first stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Instead of focusing on how something or someone else needs to change, invite God to invade your life and change you. You might think someone else isn’t where they are supposed to be right now, but are you? Don’t answer that question by yourself. What would God say?

If the something or someone you want to change so badly still needs your help when God’s done working on you, you’ll be even better equipped to do so. Most important, you’ll rely on him for the strength, wisdom, and compassion to do so.

The Lord says, “I will make you wise and show you where to go. I will guide you and watch over you. So don’t be like a horse or donkey, that doesn’t understand. They must be led with bits and reins, or they will not come near you.” (Psalm 32:8-9)

When You Trash the Church

trash“When you trash the church, you trash Jesus.” (Aaron Brockett)

Are you an offender?

Even if you rationalize you weren’t trashing the Church (with a capital “C,” the overarching Church that Jesus established) or that you’re just admonishing the local church because of bad behavior that needs to be addressed, you might be an offender. Even if you rationalize you’re not trashing the church, just admonishing individuals, you might be an offender. After all, individuals make up the church, and individual churches make up the Church. Anything that offends or goes against the Church, offends and goes against Jesus.


Yes, that means when you talk about someone without going to her or him to find out the truth, choosing instead to trust your “reliable source” who conveyed the information to you. Or when you assume what someone’s intentions were. Or when you’re ready to set someone aside, shove him out the door, or throw virtual stones at him (often from the back side, because you’re too timid to stand and look at the person face-to-face when you do the stone-throwing).

You might rationalize you’re just “upholding biblical standards.” After all, you’re family…all in the body of Christ…so you need to take care of the body. Yes, you do, but sacrificing a member of that body isn’t caring for the body. Putting yourself under the authority of Jesus, and being intimate enough with him to know how to handle the person, relationship, and situation the way God directs you to handle it is caring for the body. When you harm someone in the body, you’re disrespecting Jesus. When you disrespect Jesus, you harm yourself.

Not harming someone isn’t the same as walking around putting on masks of niceness pretending everything is okay. That’s not consistent with Jesus either. Because we live in biblical community with one another, we are often expected to confront one another. Yet too often in the church, we mishandle confrontation and accountability. We handle things the way we want, the way we’re most comfortable handling them. We talk behind someone’s back, rally support from others, and question motives (except our own). We claim to live a faith without shame yet shame others. When we’re faced with information that possibly puts a chink in our stance, we refute it. We determine we’re right and no one can tell or show us differently.

What about Jesus? How much do you really trust him?

Do you trust him enough to carry the burden you’re carrying around? Enough to forgive the offense? Enough to put down the stones you’ve been throwing? Enough to rely on his courage to face someone? Enough to listen to someone with respect and patience? Enough to set aside your own preferences and assumptions?

Look Jesus in the eyes before you throw another stone with your actions, words, or thoughts. Are you willing to throw the stone at him?

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he went back to the Temple, and all the people came to him, and he sat and taught them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. They forced her to stand before the people. They said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught having sexual relations with a man who is not her husband. The law of Moses commands that we stone to death every woman who does this. What do you say we should do?” They were asking this to trick Jesus so that they could have some charge against him.

But Jesus bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger. When they continued to ask Jesus their question, he raised up and said, “Anyone here who has never sinned can throw the first stone at her.” Then Jesus bent over again and wrote on the ground.

Those who heard Jesus began to leave one by one, first the older men and then the others. Jesus was left there alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus raised up again and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one judged you guilty?”

She answered, “No one, sir.”

Then Jesus said, “I also don’t judge you guilty. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.” (John 9:1-11)