Christian living, Uncategorized

Is Your Iron Sharp?

I recently noticed something. Something big. Something profound. Maybe you’ve noticed this, too… but are you willing to admit it? I recently noticed that it is REALLY easy to see the faults in others while being completely blind to my own faults! GASP!!! I know! I’m in my upper 30s, I can’t believe I’m just now figuring this out! My guess is that you’re like me. That you’ve known this little fact for a while, but you haven’t really given it much thought.

I’m at home all day with the amazing task of teaching 4 children. Kindergarten, first, fifth, and sixth grade. I correct grammar, math problems, behavior and bad attitudes all.the.live.long.day! And sometimes, unfortunately sooner than it should, I become short, frustrated, and sometimes downright unloving. This goes on for some time before my husband comes home. Then my husband walks in, who knows what kind of day he’s had (I mean, I didn’t even ask) but he says one comment in a grumpier-than-I’d-like way and BOOM! I’m all over him! “Why are you short!?” “Why are you so frustrated!?” “Why can’t you be more loving!?” I promise, I don’t really shout this! But I am so quick to see it in him… why was I so unwilling to see it in myself?

I know I’m not alone. I’m a facebook user. I see the “advice-seeker” who posts an issue they’re having, asks advice, but then immediately turns angry when the advice doesn’t go their way. I even have a secret group of pastor’s wives that I’ll take my issues to. But as soon as one of them says something that requires me to look inward at my own bad behavior, I want to high tail it out of there! I’ve even deleted my posts so I don’t have to deal with it (I mean, let’s get real here, right?). It isn’t easy when we are faced with our own sins.

I googled “Why is it so hard to be held accountable?” You can’t even imagine how many responses I got to that question… NONE! Not one!  It’s rare to find someone who truly wants to be held accountable. We may SAY we want it. But our actions tell a completely different story. I tell my husband many times a year, “Honey, please talk me off this ledge! Please remind me of my goals of being a loving parent in the midst of my knit picking and nagging.” Then I wonder why he isn’t quick to do so after I bite his head off for not agreeing with me that whistling is the root of all evil. (Oh, have I never mentioned my hatred of whistling and how quickly it makes my blood boil in anger??? Maybe another blog post…). We say we want to be held accountable, but we actually hate correction. I believe this to be one of Satan’s most successful tools. If we can fight against correction, we can turn a blinds eye to the sin that is so easily visible to those close to us.

The word “accountability” isn’t found in the Bible. But the concept is all over the place.  In Hebrews the Author says,
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. -Hebrews 10:23-25

The author knows that in order to hold on to our hope without wavering, we’re going to need each other to stir one another up. This is the purpose of gathering together on a regular basis. Our relationships are so important in this process. This is accountability!

To stir up can be translated urge, spur on, or motivate. It can also mean to provoke or irritate. Have you ever tried to cheer up a really grumpy person? It can be downright irritating! It’s not always easy, even when the accountability is coming in an encouraging way. However, this is needed for us to be at our best spiritually. Done right, accountability can be and should be encouraging. The word “encourage” means to call someone to your side in order to strengthen them with your words; it can refer to a variety of encouraging speech: instructing, comforting, admonishing, warning, urging, begging, and consoling. Whatever it takes to pull a friend from the dangers of sin.

I would expect my husband to remove a knife from my hand if I were about to harm myself with it. I would actually feel unloved if he sat back and did not act quickly when he could clearly see I was hurting myself. So why do I feel so attacked when he steps in to lovingly warn me about the sin I’m involving myself in? Done the correct way, accountability should encourage you to choose a more godly path in life. Galatians 6:1-2 says, Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

If God is telling  a person to help restore a friend, He must expect that friend to receive the restoration. Just imagine the change that can come to your life if you’d receive the correction as a blessing instead of an offense. We are to bear one another’s burdens. Why not take some off yourself and let someone help you with it? Sometimes anger is too heavy of a burden to bear, Confess your sins, and let someone pray for you and hold you accountable (James 5:16). Gossip is a hard habit to break. Ask some friends to stop you before you sin against another person, causing both them and you harm. Depression is a dark hole to get lost in, connect with a friend who won’t leave you alone even when you withdraw. Help a friend help you.

Being held accountable isn’t always easy. It isn’t always comfortable. It isn’t always painless. We are called to admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). Admonish isn’t a pleasant word. It means to warn or reprimand someone firmly. Firmly, not harshly. As grown adults (and I guess even as children), we don’t like to be told what to do. Somehow we thought that when we became adults we could do whatever we wanted and no one could tell us what to do! And yet… The Bible tells us that we should admonish one another. I’m sure many of us read that and allow it to give us permission to rebuke others. That’s easy. But what about when you’re the person who needs the rebuke?

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17). Are you sharpened or do you live in a dull state with no desire to live up to your full potential? Try cutting a tomato with a dull knife. It’s a mess. And so is life when we refuse correction. Would you take this sharpening journey with me? Ask someone to hold you accountable. Tell them to be loving, but to correct you on the sin you’re struggling with. And then actually receive the correction. Pray over it, and make the necessary changes in your life. Don’t let your pride ruin your walk with God.

There is no need to be around toxic people who correct, rebuke, and admonish out of mean spirits and divisive intentions. There are people like this lurking behind every corner. They are not there to encourage you, but rather point out your faults, push you down, and walk away. Search for those with their hands outstretched in love pulling you up. Choose a person that loves you, and loves what God could do in your life. Ask someone to come along side you  in order to strengthen you with their words. And then pray for the humble spirit to take their encouragement and grow closer to God.

 

Church is a great place to find this kind of friend. I’d love to invite you to visit us on Sundays at 10a at Crossroads Church in St. James, MN. 721 Weston Ave. Make plans to visit with a friend, I’ll save you a seat!
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Uncategorized

My evolution of Worship

When I made the decision to follow God, to live for Him, to allow Him to guide me, I learned right away that worship was a powerful thing. At the age of 13, I could feel that wonderful, yet very powerful, Holy Spirit at work during the worship aspect of Church. Sometimes it was warm and comforting, other times it was a heavy weight on my shoulders. I learned very quickly to enter in, or get out!

At age 13, worship was a learning process for me. I was learning how to listen to God. I was learning to follow His prompting. I was learning what to do with all the emotions that ran through me during that time. (When we youth pastored, we often saw teens that suddenly had to use the restroom in the heaviest part of worship. This was their physical bodies being uncomfortable with what their spiritual bodies were encountering. They were learning.) I either worshipped, or I would walk out.

At age 16, I became a worshipper. I no longer counted down the minutes until the song service was over, instead I was free to raise my hands, or lower my head, or fall on my knees, however the spirit led. I loved every note, I loved singing and truly worshiping. I would grow with each church service as I really listened to God speak to me. I felt called into ministry not during a sermon, but during the worship time.

At age 20, I attended a Christian College. I loved chapel services. I set my work schedule around the chapel services each day. The service was 40 minutes long. That left about 15 minutes designated to worship. I learned at this time to enter in quickly. I learned that if I wanted to gain the benefits of true worship, I could not wait for the perfect song sung by my favorite worship leader. I had to walk in, begin to sing to God and enter in. I never felt like it was enough, but I learned quickly to get as much as I could out of worship in the little time I had. It was at this time in my life that in the midst of worship God spoke to me and shone a supernatural light on a gorgeous man pacing at the altar in prayer. The lifeline that God had established between me and Him during worship was used to show me the man I would marry. (unbelievable, yet SO amazing!)

By age 24, I had allowed myself to get too dependent on songs, great singers,  and “the right atmosphere” in order to enter into worship. I got bogged down with ministry, busy with work, weighted down with the things that come with life. I still worshipped, but it wasn’t the same. I walked through the motions, had few breakthroughs, and didn’t anticipate it as much as the 10 years prior.  I would have never known this was where I had allowed myself to fall had it not been for a church that loved worship. Pastor and I had taken a new youth pastorate and the church was a church of worship. I felt myself starting all over. I had to relearn to worship. I had to learn how to let go and surrender and allow God to take over. I had to learn that worship wasn’t just about me. It was about us! About God and me! I had to relearn the convicting power the Holy Spirit holds. I had to relearn how to deal with that conviction. I had to learn again how to enter in no matter what the circumstances. Oh, how I praise God for teaching a forgetful student. I believe that church, and their obedience to God, and their openness to worship SAVED MY LIFE!

At age 26 I found myself and my worship loving church under attack. Our worship was being threatened. It was a time in my life where I fought for my worship time. I moved my physical body away from those who would not allow my spiritual bodies to be moved. I pressed forward even when the circumstances were purposefully attempting to hold me back. Worship became a lifeline, a sacred time, something I NEEDED to fight for.

At age 29, I had a 2-year-old and an infant and worship was not an undivided event any longer. Our church at the time kept the kids in the worship service. So Pastor would be on the stage leading worship, and I’d be cuddling a baby while chasing a 2-year-old. Life wasn’t easy, church wasn’t easy, and worship wasn’t easy. I had to worship differently. I had to find time at home, in my car, late at night, or in the few minutes where my son was building with bibles beside me and my daughter was fast asleep in her carseat. It wasn’t ideal, but I craved worship.

Now, at a (VERY) young age of 35, I find myself at our very own church, where my FOUR children are now sitting beside me as we worship. I’m a seasoned worshipper. I’m an educated worshipper. I am a lover of worship… yet, I am a distracted worshipper. To put into perspective of what I mean, this is how my worship experience went today… First song, I was snapping fingers on one hand with another hand raised in worship. I was shushing in between my words of affirmation to God. The 2nd song, I had my 2-year-old entertained, my (soon to be) 4-year-old looking for ‘Rs’ in the Old testament, my 7-year-old sitting at the end of the pew, and my 8-year-old beside me and I got one whole song to myself. I cried for it had been so long. I closed my eyes (with an occasional one eye opened ), asked God to speak, and reminded Him how much I love and adore Him, His presence, and the life He’s blessed me with. I was able to raise both hands, let loose and sing my heart out (oh, I’ve learned by now that if I want to sing loud, I should! God loves it, and worship is for Him, not the people in the pew in front of me!). It was heavenly. By the 3rd song I was giddy (it’s amazing what a 3 minute uninterrupted corporate worship time can do to a person). I was on such a “super”natural high that I continued worshipping as my 4-year-old applied fake fingernail polish on each of my fingers, blew them dry, then proceeded to put on tons of pretend makeup all over my face (which she also blew dry with her mouth). But oh, how heavenly it was to close my eyes, give God my attention in church. I loved it. My fake makeover and my spiritual one! By song 4, my 2-year-old was screaming because the 4-year-old walked in his row and touched a car. The 4-year-old was upset that she couldn’t play with his cars and my worship experience was over.

Worship evolves. It won’t always be the perfect scene, the number one song, sung in the perfect pitch. But it’s always available. I worship while loading the dishwasher. I worship in my shower, where kids can not come in. I worship in my bed that last 5 minutes before I drag my tired body out of bed. I let the vacuum stand alone for a bit while I step back, raise my hands, and pour out my worship on an almighty God. I worship in my living room with my 4 tiny worshippers. We dance, hold hands and shout the lyrics. We worship.

Don’t let life get in the way. Don’t let circumstances keep you away. Even if you have to worship with one eye open… just worship.
We love that our kids get to be a part of worship. I’m watching my 8-year-old enter in in his own special way. I get to see my daughter when she feels that spirit lead her. They are beginning their worshipping journey. And I pray they will write their own worship story, for worship is a lifeline. So, find some time, a quiet corner, or just set out to worship even through your distractions. Just Worship!

Simply_Worship

For the purposes of this post, I am using “Worship” with the meaning of the song related part of a church service. Yes, I believe that worship comes in many forms. When we read our Bible, when we pray, when we tithe, when we listen to a sermon we are worshipping, but I am specifically speaking about the song portion of a service.