Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Part 5: A Heart of Worship (Back 2 Basics Series)

This is a guest post by Ailie Baumann

A Heart of Worship is More than Songs

I’ve always loved worship. In fact, I’ve sometimes wondered if I’m a bit of a stereotypical Christian because my main choice of music is Christian worship. Regardless, I find that worship is my quickest route to God’s heart. It has a way of ushering me deep into his presence which steadies my heart.
Still, worship for myself and probably many of you remains defined as a church activity. We limit our moments of worship to Sundays and/or Wednesdays while confining our worship to songs. But, God has much more in mind when he created us to worship.

A Deeper Look at Worship

Worship is a heart attitude or position. It entails us taking that stance of one who is prostrate before the Living God. It is an act of purity, faith, and truth. In a place of worship, I lay my heart bare before God knowing that he cares about all the things that are going on in my life. My worship becomes an act of surrender. God, I surrender all to you because I know that you are able and trustworthy. I know that you are faithful. You will not disappoint me.

Through a heart of worship, we approach God’s throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews). We enter into the presence of God. We know this is a God who is pleased with us, whose heart is fixed on our best, and who is our number one fan. In this place, we let go and trust. We know that God is greater than our circumstances. Our worship lifts our eyes off of ourselves and places it onto Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.

Our gaze shifts from despair to hope. Faith rises up, and we find ourselves grounded and secure. We stop partnering with doubt and fear, and we come into full agreement with God’s heart for us and the finished work of the cross.

Worship as a Lifestyle

Worship as a lifestyle is possible. We need to be open to adapting our worship out of the conventional views of worship. These conventional views limit worship to church gatherings and services or the singing of songs.

Is worship singing? Yes, and more. Worship entails dancing, art, service, love, relationship. Worship is any act that brings glory to God and magnifies his name. It could be shouts of praise and declarations. At the heart of it, your spirit comes into agreement with the nature of God. It's an act of pouring out your adoration to Him who is worth all glory, honor, and praise.

In today’s fast-paced life, taking the time to worship God can be challenging if not impossible, at times. So, how do we create a lifestyle of worship?

Here are some of the ways that I worship God while being a busy working mom of three little boys:
  • Worship in the car - Wherever I am going, whether to work, school, shops, or church, I seize the opportunity to play worship music in the car. Here, I can fix my eyes off of my day and onto God. I come as I am with all my stuff, and I lay it at his feet so that I can pour out praise. 
  • Create - As a creative person, I love to engage with God through my creativity. This may be through blessing someone else, coloring in, drawing, painting, crafts, etc. I allow myself to commune with God through what I am doing. It's worship because my heart is completely turned towards him. Sometimes, this has happened while I've been cooking dinner or breakfast. 
  • Sing and Dance - One of my favorite, yet perhaps lease exercised worship ideas is putting my worship music on (often via YouTube) and dancing with my boys. They love it, and I get to model a heart of worship. I have also been one to worship while housecleaning. It may cause a comical scene, yet the joy and freedom this form of worship brings are liberating. 
  • Serving - Every moment I take to serve others unconditionally, I am worshipping God. I am noticing his unconditional love and regard for me and for others. I am entering an agreement with his heart and allowing him to minister to others through me.
  • Make up my own worship - Sometimes I sing my own songs or make my own music. It may not sound like American Idol or The Voice, but that's ok because it comes out of my heart.  This may be in English or it may be in my heavenly language. Whatever shape it takes, I release my own sound of adoration and love to my savior God. 
  • Telling Jesus that I love him – Tell Jesus you love him. Call on his name. This is worship.

What are some of the ways that you love to worship God?

Ailie Baumann
from Johannesburg, South Africa
Hi there, I'm a passionate lover of Jesus, wife, mom of three boys, and author of Pen Paper Paint (www.p3alive.com). I love to share my life and love for Jesus with others in the hopes of inspiring them toward a deeper relationship with him. I want to share the realities that Jesus is intricately involved in our everyday life. I love chocolate, drawing, music, and sushi. My goal in life is to love others wholeheartedly.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Faith in Action: Fasting

Its funny. As I talk to people about fasting, most fall into two camps. Either theyre all in for the benefits of the spiritual practice or they have never tried it.  A few may have dabbled with the idea or have given it a try in the past, but the typical person looks at fasting as something theyll do someday.

There are times in our lives when we feel stuck - when weve tried everything we can to reach a resolution, or to feel healed and whole, or to see freedom from an area of captivity but we dont see change. We begin to lose hope.  Heres the question: Are we willing to step out of our boxes of comfort and try something drastic that may even potentially help us move forward? 

Are we willing to change up our routines and shake up our methods to get out of the mud? What if we introduced a catalyst even amidst uncertainty that it would make a difference? What if, in our desperation, we tried some new thing? What would we have to lose? What might we gain?

What if fasting were that thing? Would you try it?

Fasting is an expectation set in Scripture, just like prayer. The Lord Jesus used the phrase When you fast (Matthew 6:16-18). He did not say if you fast. He used the word when. Its not a new-age mystical approach to spirituality. Its not a way out there approach to building faith. Fasts dont have to last for 40 days. They can involve just one meal or many. A fast doesnt require that you do nothing but pray for the duration of the practice. Go on about your normal routines except for eating and pray as you feel those pangs of hunger.

Theres a bit of a gray area as we talk about fasting - were not to broadcast our participation or shout from the rooftops to all who may hear, Im fasting today!  As much as is possible, fasting is to be done in secret according to instructions in Scripture. Its why, I think, some may feel a bit hesitant to talk about it. But Jesus talked about it, so I believe we can too. Our aim through the discussion is to encourage others in a fast, not try to determine when theyre fasting or cause them to participate openly.

Meet Sheila:

Im thankful for Sheila McIntyre who was willing to have the conversation with me. Shes a public high school teacher in New York who felt the Lord prompting her to understand the importance of the practice. She responded to His nudge. After a three-day fast she noticed that her heart and soul felt much more spiritually receptive and embraced the practice.

I pray that youre inspired and encouraged by Sheilas experience as she shares them with us.

Me: Can you describe your fasting process?

Sheila:  Knowing when to fast, for me, is based on a prompting in my spirit from the Lord. I start thinking about fasting and it continues on my mind--it then becomes something I know I should do. My fasts generally last a day, but they have extended longer (two days and three days). I fast from food. Usually, the first day or so is hard; every time I start thinking about food and feeling hungry, it reminds me to pray and ask the Lord for help. I take that time to praise Him and pray for the thing(s) I am fasting about. So the hunger pains remind me of praying to the Lord about the things I am fasting about. As the fast goes on, my prayers become more focused, and I feel a deeper and sweeter connection to the Lord.

Me:  When did you begin to fast and what was your motivation?

Sheila:  It was probably a year or two ago when I really started to fast. I had deep needs in my life that I really wanted answers for. Fasting was a way for me to show the Lord that I really wanted those answers.

Me:   What's the biggest blessing that you feel fasting adds to your walk with Christ?

Sheila: I have a deeper and sweeter relationship with the Lord, and I feel more in tune with Him. 

Me:  Is there one thing (or several things) that have helped you develop this Spiritual Discipline?

Sheila:  Reading and listening about fasting as well as prayer has helped to develop this spiritual discipline. 

Me:  Why would you encourage others to take part in a spiritual fast as an ongoing practice to draw close to God?

Sheila:  Fasting can be tough for us humanly speaking, but the way I am drawn close to the Lord there is no other substitute for. Additionally, those needs that I have had that seemed to have no answers, after fasting about them, I saw progress in them.

Me:  Is there anything else you'd like to share about spiritual fasting?

Sheila:  It is truly a discipline but like all things in life that require discipline, it pays huge dividends. You don't have to start of big--even fasting for a half a day or even a few hours is a place to start at--what matters is your heart before the Lord and why you are doing it

Again, I’m grateful that Sheila was willing to share her heart. Fasting isn’t an easy practice, but it’s immeasurably valuable. It’s the kind of experience that is hard to put into words and only by doing can we fully understand its value.

If you’d like to read more about the practice of spiritual fasting, this post may offer some insight. I also recommend the teachings of Tony Evans that you’ll find here

Your Turn:

Where do you land on the idea of fasting?  Have you tried it? Do you think you may try it “someday?”

If you’ve participated in a fast, what benefits did you see? Would you do it again?  It’s not easy, but is it valuable?

We’d love to talk more. Please leave a comment below or let’s continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter. Or you may visit us and subscribe to our newsletter at  www.strengthenedbytheword.com

Be Strengthened Today by His Word,
Psalm 119:28


Today's interview featured Sheila McIntyre:

I'm Sheila McIntyre, a born-again Christian who truly seeks to serve and please the Lord. I have been called to teach in the public schools (high school level) and enjoy teaching business/computers. When I am not teaching, I truly love to beta read new Christian books (to help with editing and content), and blog reviews for them as well for other books I have read. While my husband and I don't have any children, we do have five fur-babies (kitties) that keep us very busy!

Cathy McIntosh is the author of Victorious: Finding Triumph When Hope Seems Lost. When you can’t see God’s activity in your situation, you might begin to feel hopeless. You’re tempted to doubt His care and involvement in your life because He feels so . . . absent. Victory feels elusive as if God intends it for everyone but you.

But God is never absent. He is as involved in your life today as He was when He protected Queen Esther and the entire Jewish nation from annihilation, and He will bring victory.