Freedom From Sin

I believe that it is God’s desire that we are completely free from the power sin holds over us! We do not have to remain a slave to sin forever. There is freedom. We understand the need to surrender to the Lord, it’s a simple solution, but why is that so hard?

Galatians 5:16 (ESV) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 

I love how the New Living Translations puts verse 17

Galatians 5:17 (NLT) The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.

The struggle we face is to stay surrendered throughout every moment of every day.  To do this we must have faith. If we don’t really believe God has set us free then it is impossible, but God has set us free and it is possible!

I think one key to staying surrendered is digging into His Word and really studying the living Word of God! We don’t like the word “study” because it reminds us of school and work, but the study of God’s word should be something we delight in. I love Psalm 119 because it’s all about a love for the instruction from God!

Psalm 119:1-3 (NLT) Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the LordJoyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.

Don’t you want to be joyful? There is joy in being a man or woman of integrity! It’s so wonderful when who you say you are and who you actually are when no one is around are the same person. It’s such a joy to obey the Lord.

Psalm 119:9-11 (NLT) How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. I have tried hard to find you— don’t let me wander from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

His word is amazing! And it is through His life giving word illuminated by the Holy Spirit that we are able to overcome sin! His word also gives us another piece of crucial advice for walking in freedom from sin.

1 John 1:5-7 (NLT) This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

I mentioned this on Monday in Overcoming Sin, we are NOT in the fight alone. We all want to be strong, but the fight against sin isn’t won by strength, but surrender and that means coming clean. Living in the light is hard because it means all your mess is exposed. It’s a humbling experience, but until it is out in the open it still holds power over you. However, once light is shining in the darkest parts of your life you can truly begin to deal with it and you’re not alone.

The fight against sin is best fought within the context of community and accountability. We all need people in our lives that we can be brutally honest with. People who can ask us the tough questions and pray with us when we stumble.

Maybe you’re thinking that sounds nice, but you don’t have anyone in your life you feel close enough to be that real with. Can I gently encourage you seek someone out. Find a spiritual leader or someone in your church you look up to, someone you know you can trust and ask them to lunch and choose to become vulnerable. You need this. We all need this.

We are sometimes hesitant because we fear judgement. We don’t want to disappoint people, or have them think less of us. Listen, take my word for it as a Pastor, we won’t think less of you, but more of you. It is so much better to humble yourself and come clean than it is to keep on struggling and carrying around the burden of your sin. Bring it into the light and begin to walk in freedom.

One final advice to help in your journey to overcome sin.

Don’t give up.

It doesn’t always happen over night, but if you purpose in your heart to keep studying God’s word. Keep praying and pressing in. Keep being honest with your your accountability partners, you will find strength in the Lord to walk in the victory Jesus won on the cross.

Fighting Sin

Have you ever played a game using yourself as your opponent? Did you win? I bet you won. At the same time, I bet you also lost. This was me as a kid, I would play against myself all the time, but for every W I racked up, I had an equal amount of Losses. The reality is you can’t win a fight against yourself and that is why we so often feel powerless to defeat the sin at war within us.

We too often try to fight in our own power, but is not in our ability to fight sin. It is a battle we cannot win no matter how hard we fight. So how can we win?

Let’s break this down a little bit. We know we serve a triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It’s important we know that you and I are also a triune being, spirit, soul and body.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV) Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The sin battle occurs at the soul level. Most people agree the soul is made up of your mind- the thoughts you think, your will- the decisions that you make, and your emotions- the things you feel. Every temptation you will ever experience comes from one of those three areas.

James 1:14 (ESV) But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

So here is our core issue, our temptation comes from our soul yet so often when it rears its ugly head we try with all our might to will away the desire. We try to force out the temptation by sheer force of will. We might succeed for a season, but no matter how hard we soul will never be able defeat soul.

It’s the same way that darkness cannot defeat darkness. You will never get rid of the darkness in your life by throwing more darkness at it. Yet, even a small amount of light enters the room and the darkness is instantly dissolved.

We cannot defeat sin on our own, but the moment we surrender and let the Spirit of God work within us it has to leave.

Zechariah 4:6 (ESV) Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord

As with all things in our faith, it is only by the power of God that we overcome. We will never be strong enough to overcome the enemy.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

I love that! God’s power works best in my weakness! Another way to put it would be His power is demonstrated most clearly in the context of my surrender. When we think about the winning team, it isn’t usually the team that lifted their hands in surrender. Yet, for you and me to win the war with sin we must surrender, that’s our starting point.

To win the battle we must give up the battle. We can’t win, but God can’t lose. Battling sin requires a shift in perspective. We must move from trying to be strong, to depending upon God’s grace to strengthen us to the point of overcoming.

Tomorrow we will attempt to discuss how to obtain freedom from sin, but for now I pray we would learn to truly surrender to the Lord and seek to be empowered by His presence to overcome the temptation within us.

The Veil of Sin

Have you ever said something only to later learn what you said was incredibly misinformed? A few years ago I bounded into the church office and everyone in the room was somber and instead of finding out what was going on, I spouted out, “Who died?” A church employee had died that day and I felt horrible for what I said.

To unknowingly say or do something wrong is an awful place to be in. However when sin is left unchecked we ultimately find ourselves in a situation where we don’t even know right from wrong anymore. I feel like that’s what happened to Samson. 

I love the story of Samson! His sheer strength and destruction of his enemies makes me feel a certain level of adrenaline. Like I too could take the jawbone of a donkey and slaughter an army!

Without going into too much detail, Samson pretty consistently did things he really wasn’t supposed to do. From eating honey out of a dead animal, to marrying foreign women, his eyes seemed to be constantly drawn toward the forbidden.

And things for the most part worked out ok for him. Even though his disobedience got him into some sticky situations, God used those situations to hurt the enemies of Israel.

This is where deception really starts to play it’s game. We sin, and it seems like there are no consequences. Sometimes we don’t experience immediate consequences to our sin, but prolonged disobedience always has consequences.

Samson’s disobedience finally begins catching up to him with the famous story of Delilah. Over and over she asks him for the secret of his strength. Over and over Samson lies only to find that Delilah tried to trap him by doing the very thing he had said and setting the philistine’s upon him. Of course Samson easily defeated them.

Why did Samson go along with this? Was he so cocky that he found it funny? I honestly don’t know, but eventually he got tired of her games. Tragically instead of fleeing from her enticing words, Samson told her the secret of his strength was in his hair, and just like before she did what he said and set the philistines upon him. Only this time his strength had left him and he fell into the hands of his enemy

Judges 16:20-21 (NLT) Then she cried out, “Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!” When he woke up, he thought, “I will do as before and shake myself free.” But he didn’t realize the Lord had left him. So the Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes.

I think this is one of the most tragic verses in the Bible. He didn’t realize the Lord had left him.

This is exactly what happens to us. We allow little areas of disobedience in our lives and if left unattended to, they grow and little by little our heart falls away from God, until one day we realize we can’t feel His presence at all and we wonder what happened.

The philistines gouged out Samson’s eyes, but he was spiritually blind, long before he was physically blind. (we will talk more about spiritual blindness next week)

Are there areas you might be blind in today? Maybe there are some things that you’ve allowed in your life that at one time you would have identified as wrong, but now you’ve become ok with. 

I pray today that the Lord would reveal areas of compromise and ignite a passion inside of you to live a life of uncompromising conviction. Let’s burn out all the things that even slightly distract us from our pursuit of God.

I know I have some work to do in my life, let’s move forward together and pursue Jesus with unbridled abandon!

The Deceptiveness of Sin

I like to think of sin as a weed growing in the midst of a beautiful green lawn. It springs up seemingly overnight and spreads quickly. Sometimes we try to pull it out, but it grows right back unless we dig down and pull it out at the root. So what is the root of sin?

I think sin is rooted in two things, selfish ambition and deception.

All sin stems from selfish ambition. Sin started wth selfish ambition when Lucifer decided he should be God and got thrown out of heaven. It grew in the garden of Eden with deception as the serpent deceived Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit.

I want to look at the very first King of Israel, King Saul and see how selfish ambition and deception played its part in losing his kingdom to David.

One early misstep of Saul is found in 1 Samuel 13:8-14. His armies are preparing for battle and they were instructed to wait for Samuel to perform the sacrifice, but Samuel didn’t show up and Saul took matters into his own hands.

There will be times in life when we will feel like God hasn’t shown up, it is in those times we must remember to wait on the Lord. Do not rush into action! Be patient.

Saul sacrificed the offering himself and as fate would have it, right as he was finishing Samuel comes into the camp and sees what has taken place. He confronts the king, “What have you done?!”

Saul is quick to defend himself, “You didn’t arrive when you said and I didn’t want to lead the men into battle without first asking for the Lord’s help, so I did what I thought was right.” Verse 13-4 tells us Samuel’s response, 

1 Samuel 13:13-14 (NLT) “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.  But now your kingdom must end…”

Saul’s reasoning was sound, I read Saul’s thought process and I’m like, “Yea, that sounds good.” But Good is often the enemy of God. Human reasoning leads to deception when we should just trust in the Word of God.

Saul is again deceived in 1 Samuel 15. God had given Saul specific instructions and he again disobeyed the Lord, but again when he was confronted Saul defended himself and his actions as right and pleasing to the Lord.

1 Samuel 15:13-15  When Samuel finally found him, Saul greeted him cheerfully. “May the Lord bless you,” he said. “I have carried out the Lord’s command!”

14 “Then what is all the bleating of sheep and goats and the lowing of cattle I hear?” Samuel demanded.

15 “It’s true that the army spared the best of the sheep, goats, and cattle,” Saul admitted. “But they are going to sacrifice them to the Lord your God. We have destroyed everything else.”

God wasn’t interested in Saul’s sacrifices, he was interested in His obedience, but Saul was deceived and it cost him his kingdom. What if Saul had acted in humility and repented before the Lord? Instead he doubled down on his wrongful action and guarded it as right.

All throughout Saul’s story he is deeply deceived. Even though God told him that he would lose the Kingdom and another would be made King, Saul still found himself controlled by a strong and selfish desire to hold onto power and make his son the next king.

1 Samuel 18:13-14 David continued to succeed in everything he did, for the Lord was with him. When Saul recognized this, he became even more afraid of him.

 At this point Saul’s heart has become completely ruled by deception and selfish ambition. He no longer desires to see God’s will succeed. He is afraid of David because God is with him. Immediately after this Saul attempts to have David killed in battle.
The deception keeps getting worse. In 1 Samuel 20 Saul confronts his son Jonathan, who was fiercely loyal to David. “Jonathan, my son! As long as David lives you will never be king!” Jonathan questioned why David had to die and because of Saul’s deep deception he attempted to kill his own son.
When we hold onto selfish ambition rather than letting go in surrender and submission, we become more and more deceived.
Psalm 111:10 (NLT) Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!
We must lay down our own desires and submit to Jesus as Lord. When we obey we grow in wisdom, but when we choose not to obey we decrease in wisdom and deception creeps in.
I want to encourage you today to examine the motives of your heart. Are you fully driven by a desire to please the Lord in all things or do you sometimes find that you’re still attempting to do things your own way rather than relying upon His divine direction?
It is never too late to become a person fully submitted to the Lord. Let us daily decide to lay down our lives for the sake of His truth. God’s way leads to peace, joy and hope. Our way ultimately leads to dismay, deception and death.

Overcoming Sin

This week are going to examine this thing called sin. Why? Because it’s real and we all deal with it in one form or another. It’s an infection and there is only one cure, Jesus.

I don’t believe there is any shame in confessing our sins. After all, who among us is not guilty? Your sin isn’t so unique and horrible that you should hide.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV) No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.

In fact, Every man except for the first man Adam was born into sin, so there is no need to hide and pretend as if you have no sin within you.

1 John 1:8 (NLT) If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.

We have to confess and bring our sin into the light. If we keep our sins veiled in darkness then how can we break the power of it? As Christians we are called to live in the light and what association does darkness have with light? None. In fact where there is light, darkness cannot exist, so by holding onto our sin we are keeping the holy light of God out of that part of our lives.

James 5:16 (NLT) Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

I believe this is so powerful! We are not called to be broken rafts trying to stay afloat by ourselves. We’re called to live in community. We need each other to be held accountable and to encourage each other in our pursuit of right living.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT) So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

You might be thinking, I’m not saying anything ground breaking and that’s ok. My intent with this blog is not break new ground, but reveal the truth of God’s word.

So why do I feel the need not only to talk about sin, but to devote an entire week to the examination of sin? It’s important and it’s not talked about very often. We might hear some preachers condemning specific sins, but I’m less interested in specific sins than revealing how all sin affects us spiritually and why it is so important that we put aside our sinful ways and pursue holiness!

As with anything in life, if we lack understanding, we fail to see the truth of how it affects us. We fail to see the purpose and importance of diligently fleeing our sin and selfish ambition and we become comfortable with it in our lives, falling prey to sin’s powerful deception.

It affects every part of our life. Sin hurts us. Always. Many times we don’t see the affect right away, so we figure it’s ok, but it’s not. We must diligently pursue Jesus and flee from sin.

The good news is that we know the victory over all sin has already been won through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross! His love for you is ever lasting and never failing!

Even if you’re struggling, be encouraged, not condemned. There is freedom and if you hang in I believe God will lead you to it. The purpose of this discussion is to reveal how sin works, so that we might unlock the power of God to break the hold.

I pray this week that you will discover a new level of freedom and victory in Jesus.

A Moment of Honesty

I’m not perfect. In fact, I’m far from it. I have a sincere desire to purse Jesus and do His will, but I haven’t always made decisions that reflect full submission to His Lordship. In fact this is an area I’ve struggled with pretty consistently for years. Especially challenging for me has been learning to really hear His voice in the midst of a thousand other voices.

Three years ago I was so convinced I was hearing God’s voice, leading and direction, but things didn’t play out as I expected and I was left with two options. Either I can’t hear God’s voice at all or God’s plan for that time in my life was different than I thought it was. I believed it was the latter, but my emotions told me it was the first.

In a way I gave up. I didn’t stop loving Jesus, but I did disengage. I stopped believing I could ever truly hear His voice and direction for my life. I made several decisions during this season that weren’t necessarily bad, but weren’t based upon prayerfully following the leading of the Lord.

I tried to do things my own way.

That’s never an easy thing to admit is it? It happens all the time. We all have moments when we boldly jump into a decision without considering the direction of the Lord. The true test comes once we realize that we stepped towards something God didn’t intend. Sometimes we double down on the wrong direction and just hope God can make something good of it. 

He can. 

However, the best thing we can do is take a step back and put our whole life on the table in front of the Lord and say, “Ok God, what is Your will?”

The struggle I ran into is that I’d gotten so used to doing things my way, I couldn’t recognize His voice. It was no longer familiar. I reached out and sought advice and counsel from many different sources.

In difficult decisions we should always seek the peace of the Lord. God’s voice is always assuring and His direction is accompanied by peace. Even when the decision in question is challenging,  hard to follow through and will lead to all kinds of mixed emotions, deep down in the presence of Jesus we can have peace.

That doesn’t always make things easy, but this is where Faith in the Lord and the willingness to obey Him comes into play. What’s most important to you? The plans we laid or obeying the Lord? For me, I know I want to be in His perfect will at any cost.

I’m still working on learning to truly obey Him and hear His voice. Some of you reading this today might relate in my struggle to hear God’s voice. If that’s you, can I encourage you to keep at it. Keep reading the Word and spending time in prayer. Prioritize God over all else and I promise, you will learn to recognize His voice. He is active and wanting to speak to each of us, leading us and directing us down paths of promise.

I tried to do things my own way rather than letting God’s voice lead my life. I let other people tell me what God was saying, and while other people can confirm what the Lord is speaking to you, we must listen to the voice of the secret place.

I believe the Lord is leading me into a new season of my life. For 8 months now I have been consistently pursuing the Lord in a way I hadn’t for a long time. I believe I am learning to hear His voice again and more importantly obeying that voice.

This learning process is part of why my blogs abruptly stopped. I know I had just barely even started this blog, and I stopped. I found myself in an unexpected season where I was empty, broken and needed to fill up on His Word. I lacked motivation and inspiration to write, but I kept my prayer time and Bible reading consistent.

I guess today my primary message to you would be that obedience to God is the most important thing. Prayer if not coupled with action, leads to complacency. We must act in a way that pleases the Lord.

Next week we will spend some time looking at sin and the result of disobeying the Lord. I hope you’ll join me as we explore the stories of King Saul and Samson and learn some practical steps we can take to overcome sin.

Thank you for reading!

Encountering God

If someone came up to me and tried to convince me that grass is really purple and has always been purple there is a high possibility I will look at them and laugh at the absurdity of their claim. Why? I know that grass is green, not because someone told me, but because I have witnessed grass being green my entire life. It has always been green. My knowledge is founded upon years of experience.

Now if you wanted to convince me of something scientific on the molecular level, true or not, I would probably believe you. Why? I have zero experience studying this area of science. My only knowledge is predicated upon what others have told me, which isn’t that much.

What is the foundation of your knowledge of God? Have you dug into scripture to find out what the Bible really says? Have you experienced and encountered the very real presence of God? Or is your faith based entirely upon the words of a pastor, teacher, friend or family member?

My dad often used to teach us that If you convince someone with an intellectual argument alone, then they can be unconvinced by a better intellectual argument. Many people are constantly back and forth on their beliefs based upon the most recent logical sounding argument they heard.

However, as Leonard Ravenhill said, a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. If you encounter the supernatural power of God in your life then no one will ever be able to convince you that God isn’t real! Why? You know Him! You’ve felt His touch and seen Him at work in your life.

How do you approach evangelism? Too often I feel like we are trying to appeal to people on a mental and logical level, and while that might sound nice, ultimately it falls flat. People need to encounter God’s love before they will receive that knowledge.

I believe this is why the expression, “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care” rings so true. People are more open to what you have to say, if they have experienced the genuineness of your love for them and by extension God’s love.

Reaching people for Jesus is first and foremost a supernatural effort. We cannot accomplish this task in our own strength. Evangelism starts with prayer, not with a well crafted argument. Invest your time in praying for souls, your friends, family and even people the Lord might bring in your path.

Actively seek to meet needs in the lives of people, to show them how much you care. Don’t be afraid to pray for people and give God the opportunity to demonstrate His power in their life. People don’t need an argument, they need to encounter God.

Remember it is not our job to convince people of the truth, rather our place is to be a witness to what God has done. Salvation is a supernatural event and is always caused by supernatural effort. God is the one who draws people in and bears witness to the words you share. The Holy Spirit does the convincing.

I will close with this. In John chapter 4, when Jesus encountered the woman at the well (The same woman from “Am I Thirsty?“) and told her all she had done she went into town and told everyone to come and meet this amazing man. Many people came to meet Jesus and the truth of their experience is found in verse 42

John 4:42 (NLT)  Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”

The woman’s testimony peaked their curiosity, but their own experience with Jesus cemented their faith. The world does not just need knowledge of God, they need to encounter his presence.

Let’s do our part and be the body Christ, let’s take the presence of Jesus to the world.

Sunburnt

A few Saturdays ago I went to an event and I found myself sitting directly in the Florida sun for about half an hour. The problem? I’m as fare as you can get and extremely prone to sunburn. That day it just didn’t dawn on me that I would be in the sun, and I found myself burnt. It was a moderate burn, not nearly the worst I’ve had, but most people looking at me just see my surprisingly red face and assume it is one of the worst burns ever.

I dreaded going to church the next day because I knew every conversation would revolve around my burnt face. Reactions questioning why I didn’t where sunscreen, giving me instructions on how to avoid getting burnt and how to care for my horrific skin. One person even asked if I know what aloe is, saying if I use aloe I won’t peel at all! That’s just not true for someone like me, it helps, but not so completely. My response to this person was, “I’m not hispanic like you!”

I kept having to tell people, I KNOW ALL THIS, I just didn’t realize I’d be in the sun, it caught me off guard!

There are times in life when we feel like we have all the answers and, at least for me, it is incredibly frustrating when people are trying to give you answers you already know! But for all that frustration and for all my knowledge there is one fact I cannot change.

I got a sunburn.

That fact alone means I either still have more to learn or I need to do a better job of applying what I have learned.

It’s easy sometimes to neglect the application of lessons we’ve learned through the years. Especially when it comes to spiritual matters. Life gets busy, there’s so many things to do, we push aside our spiritual health, our times with Jesus, our Bible reading our prayer time. Other times we just get lazy, and watch tv instead of doing the thing that would really benefit our soul.

I am reminded of one of my go to scripture verses.

1 Peter 5:8 (NLT) Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

Stay alert! That’s a simple idea and scriptures like this fill us with a kinetic energy, we feel fired up, ready to charge into battle. There is a good chance when you’re in that state that the enemy isn’t gonna even try.

The enemy is described here as a lion. We know lions are fierce, they’re the king of jungle! However, most of the time a lion isn’t looking for the strongest in the herd, he isn’t looking for the toughest fight. He is looking for those who are weak.

When we allow ourselves to neglect our spiritual life, the things we’ve always known we should be doing, we weaken ourselves spiritually. We are lulled into a false sense of security, or distraction by the busyness of life and before we know it, the enemy strikes. Maybe it’s a sin issue that creeps back up and suddenly you find yourself again bound to something you thought you were free of. Maybe you suddenly sink into an emotional pit and feel powerless to climb out of it.

We must stay alert! Apply the principles you’ve learned. Don’t fall into neglect.

Ecclesiastes 12:1 (NLT)  Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.”

Perhaps you are in a place today where you’ve already fallen victim to the lion. Maybe you’re not who you know you should be, but you’re struggling to find your way back. Today I would encourage you, don’t wait for your emotions to change, don’t wait for you to “feel” christian, don’t wait for the motivation to come. Dig deep and begin to pray. Get away from everything else. Turn off your phone. Get alone with Jesus.

It is never too late do the things you know you should be doing.

The Response

The music is playing, everyone around you has their hands lifted, but you don’t feel anything! Is there anything more frustrating than sitting in the middle of a worship service and finding it so hard to enter in? I know I’ve been there, everyone seems to be riding some amazing wave of worship and I somehow missed it. We think, “there must be something wrong with me.”

It’s not that we don’t love Jesus or desire to worship Him, but sometimes we struggle to enter in. It’s ok, you can be honest about it today. There are mornings when we go to pray and we feel as though our prayers are hitting the ceiling and falling to the ground. I don’t have the magic fix or solution to make you always feel connected to God’s presence all the time, but there are some changes in our thinking that, if we can adopt, will help.

We must remember worship is never about ourselves. It is not about our feelings. It doesn’t matter if we feel connected to God or not. Worship is always a response to who God is. Always. If our worship is coming from any source other than a response to God Himself, then we’ve had a misfire.

When we realize worship is a response and cannot be conjured from some emotional state then we understand that our emotions are not a necessary component for worship. Yes, we can worship even when we’re not feeling it.

I am hugely inspired by Psalm 77. In this Psalm Asaph writes from a place of great pain and frustration. I don’t know all the historical context or the specifics of his situation, but I can absolutely relate to the frustration and feelings of abandonment that he is experiencing.

Psalm 77:1-2 (NLT) I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted.

This man is desperately seeking the Lord. He is pursuing with a passion that many times we do not possess. When was the last time you were so desperate for a touch from God that you prayed through the night, refusing to relent until you received?

He is praying, but he’s not receiving his answer, and he is dealing with some very real doubts, the kind you and I wouldn’t dare to voice.

Psalm 77:7-9 (NLT) Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion?

He is about ready to give up. There has no worship left inside of him. He has lost hope, but then he does something amazing.

Psalm 77:10-13 (NLT) And I said, “This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.”  But then I recall all you have done, O LordI remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works. O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you?

He begins to remember who God is and the mighty things He has done! He begins to recount the story of God rescuing His people from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea. As he dwells on God’s mighty works, all of a sudden worship springs forth from his song “your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you?”

This is something we can absolutely replicate. Instead of letting our mind build frustration due to a lack of an emotional response, let your thoughts dwell on the Lord and the victories He has brought you in your own life, or your friends and family. This is one reason why it is good to have a journal so you can look back at spiritual victories and begin to worship.

One of my favorite worship songs is “Great Are You Lord by All Sons and Daughters, it proclaims to the Lord, “It’s Your breath in my lungs, so I pour out my praise.”

When we struggle to come up with a reason to praise let us remember we have breath in our lungs. God breathed His Spirit into us! He is our very source of life!

Let us worship Him today, for He is good!

When Nothing Seems To Change

Have you ever received a promise from God and felt excited, “This is it! Things are finally gonna be different this time!” Then looked at your life and realized, nothing has changed. Your circumstances are exactly the same. How many times have we taken our eyes off of the promise and placed them on our surroundings.

Often we are like Peter in Matthew 14 who took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the waves. Up until that moment this man was literally walking on water. That had to be a good feeling, but the moment he took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the storm and the waves, he began to sink. Thankfully Jesus was there, just like He is in our lives, to catch him before catastrophe hit!

Do you remember Hannah in 1 Samuel ? She was miserable! She couldn’t have children and her… What do you call your husbands other wife? Her name was Peninnah and she ridiculed Hannah and made her feel terrible. Every year they would journey to offer sacrifices and every year Hannah would grow more despondent, she couldn’t even eat she was so broken.

Her circumstances had left her humiliated, feeling worthless. So she went to the Tabernacle to pray. She was broken and crying before the Lord when he priest Eli approached her and said what any good priest would say, “Stop drinking woman! You would come here totally wasted?! What’s wrong with you?!” Those may not have been his exact words, but the sentiment is the same.

Hannah explained her situation.

1 Samuel 1:15-18 (NLT) “Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. 16 Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”

 “In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.”

 “Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.

The priest told her God would grant her request and she believed him. This is faith in action. She wasn’t supernaturally impregnated in that moment. Her circumstances didn’t change just because Eli, a priest with notoriously wicked sons, told her it would all be ok. I am sure Peninnah didn’t suddenly decide to close her mouth. Yet Hannah had faith.

We know she had faith, because she got her appetite back and was no longer sad. We know the story, she eventually gave birth to Samuel and the amazing part of the story is she kept the vow she had made to the Lord to give the child back to Him.

Now as a man, I am not a mother, nor do I have children, but I can imagine the difficulty a mother would have of giving up her son to live in the temple and serve the Lord. This was her only son, and yet she was faithful to her vow. She obeyed the Lord. When Samuel was old enough she brought him to the temple and he lived there and served the Lord.

This woman had faith in God. And I believe it was because of her obedience that God blessed her far beyond what she had asked.

1 Samuel 2:21 And the Lord blessed Hannah, and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters.

This wasn’t part of the deal. God didn’t bring out a contract for Hannah to sign that stipulated, if she obeyed He would bless her abundantly with five additional children. I believe those children were God’s way of honoring her faith and obedience. She gave up her son even though she had no guarantee of other children.

Is there something in your life today that God is asking you to give up? If there is, I would encourage you to stop putting it off, and obey the Lord this very day. Trust Him enough to know that His way is better than your own way. It may be difficult, but when we fully surrender to the Lord and obey God to the fullest, He is faithful to bless us far beyond what we even asked.