Heart In Action

I grew up in an environment that placed emphasis on being right with God, but little emphasis on what that looked like interacting within our world. The extent of impact from my point of view was, “tell people about Jesus.” Should we tell people about Jesus? Yes! Unequivocally, yes. However, I believe that is not the full extent of how the gospel affects our actions. 

My understanding as a kid lacked balance, what I saw demonstrated was that your prayer life was more important than the way you treated people. How you lived was only important in that you did not sin. In fact, abstaining from sin was far more important than anything else going on in the world. I was told Jesus is the solution to all the problems of the world, but never taught to get involved or to help be the solution, only to pray.

So, when you think of living the Christian life what do you think of? Do you have images of church services, singing worship songs, prayer meetings, bible studies, Christian fellowship? Those are certainly a part of the Chrisitan life, but is that the extent of the images you have? Is your mind also drawn to images of meeting needs, helping the poor, standing up for the oppressed, fighting against injustice?

I confess, too often my mind has failed to connect the second part to my faith and I fear I am not alone. Your prayer life is important. Living a holy life, free from sin is important. However, what good are your prayers and righteousness if it doesn’t drive you to take action? Is your faith only about YOU avoiding hell with no thought of the state of the world?

In the book of James he is incredibly clear that faith without works is dead, yet the message I was drawn to is that it doesn’t matter how much good you do if you don’t have a relationship with God. Now don’t get me wrong. That statement is true, but it’s unbalanced and incomplete. Out of our relationship with God, our lives should produce many good works.

Too often the world doesn’t know we are Christians by our love and the works that love produces, but by our political stances, our boycotts– honestly I’m pretty sure the church invented cancel culture– our condemnation of sins and our fight to protect our rights and religious liberties. Again, I’m not suggesting all those things are unimportant, but is it building God’s Kingdom?

We often uphold “truth in love” and “wounds of a friend” to attack those we disagree with, but the reality is we do not love them and they are not our friends. Is it possible we have a reputation for being bigoted and hateful because… we are? Do you really show love to all people? Or rather could all people feel that love from you? I can certainly remember a time in my life when I would have said, I love gay people, but they would have felt no love from our conversation. I was too afraid of affirming sin to truly demonstrate love for a gay person.

We live in a world full of political causes and stances. As a church, we tend to pick one or two and ignore the rest. I’ve seen people shamed for supporting causes other than pro-life, as if supporting something else means you don’t support life. I believe God gave us a voice and we have a responsibility to use that voice. To actively show love to our world and stand up against injustice, whatever form it takes. To reach out to the poor, the downhearted, the outcast. To actively meet the needs in our community. To live wholeheartedly for Jesus. To demonstrate to the world the love that God has for them.

I’ll wrap this up with a couple of scriptures to think about.

Psalm 78:34-38 (NLT) When God began killing them, they finally sought him. They repented and took God seriously. 35 Then they remembered that God was their rock,  that God Most High was their redeemer. 36 But all they gave him was lip service; they lied to him with their tongues. 37 Their hearts were not loyal to him. They did not keep his covenant.

Amos 5:23-24 ( NLT) Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.

God isn’t looking for lip service. God isn’t looking for a good church service. He is looking for people to stand up for righteousness. To truly represent Him in every corner of the earth. To have a heart for God means to have a heart in action. Let’s pursue a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus. Let us spend time in His presence and may we take His presence with us everywhere we go. May the world come to know Jesus because of how we live our lives. May we actively demonstrate His love to the world, heart in action.

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!