image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net
“I really didn’t enjoy worship today.” I used to say this all the time about the church services I attended, especially when I was younger. I believed that the only time I was to worship the Lord was on Sunday mornings, and the rest of the time was Michelle time. Even though I was a leader in my church, I lived my life as if I worshipped my friends, my job and money, and even my health more than I worshipped God. As I grew in my faith, I realized that worshipping God was more than just “enjoying” the service on Sunday mornings, more than just attending church for a few hours each week, and more than just singing songs to the Lord. Worship is meant to be more because it is not meant to be about me. Worship was meant to be about the Lord!
Worship is an important habit to develop if we want to be spiritually healthy. But it’s essential that we remember these three things about worship:
Where we spend the most time shows what or who we worship. This doesn’t meant that if you don’t live at the church, you don’t worship God or that those who work in the church worship God more. It simply means your priorities in life will point to what you truly worship. Is your priority working 100-hour weeks to give your family the best of everything, while neglecting them and your health? Then maybe you worship money. Do you spend a lot of time at the gym because you want to look good for everyone? Then perhaps you worship yourself. Spend all day on social media? You may worship others’ opinions. The Bible warns us constantly against idolatry (Luke 4:8), and it’s easier than ever to become entangled in it. So take an inventory of where you spend your time—what or who do you worship?
Worship is more than just singing. Sometimes, we think of worship as music and nothing more—especially if you are in any way musically inclined. But worship is far more than just music! Worship can be prayer, listening to a sermon, praising God in nature, serving others less fortunate than ourselves, and/or giving thanks. Everything we do can be seen as an act of worship if we live as if we are serving God instead of man (Ephesians 6:7, Colossians 3:23). Worship is defined as showing reverence and adoration towards God, and we can do that simply by loving others. “I’ll bring you more than a song/ for a song in itself is not what you have required/ You search much deeper within/ through the way things appear/ You’re looking into my heart!” (Matt Redman, The Heart of Worship) So ask yourself: besides music, how do you worship God?
Worship should happen both corporately and privately. “Worship isn’t just for Sunday mornings!” I have seen that on church signs and heard it from the pulpit. But it’s true—worship consists of more than just attending a one-hour service on Sunday mornings. True worship of God extends beyond the church walls and into our private lives. We worship with others because we do not want to give up meeting together; we worship privately because we are to continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to the Lord (Hebrews 13:15). Psalm 71:8 says, “My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.” The Psalmist isn’t just sitting around all day praising God; he is declaring the Lord’s splendor to others and by himself as he goes about his day. In the same way, we should challenge ourselves by asking: how can I worship God privately as well as publicly?
John 4:23 says, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” Being spiritually healthy involves worshiping the Lord as true worshipers—those who will worship Him with their time, with more than music, and in private and public.
image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net
I serve the homeless every month with my church. I love doing this for many reasons, but I wasn’t always keen on serving others. I used to believe that serving others meant I could just serve my family, friends, and church community and call it a day. Or that it meant that I could just donate money or needed items and never have any kind of hands-on experience. Then I went on my first mission trip. I took a team of youth to Kentucky to fix up a shelter for women and children. “This will be easy,” I thought. We are just fixing up a house…anyone can do that. But I soon realized that our tasks consisted of more than just painting, gardening, and cleaning. We were to work alongside women and children who had lost everything—they were homeless and hurting, sometimes physically. At the week’s end, one woman showed her appreciation by giving me the boots right off her feet.
Serving others goes is a tricky subject in Christianity, because it entails so many different things we could do! However, here are three things that serving others should do for us if we want to truly reap its benefits:
Serving others should stretch us. Serving our family, our friends, and even people we don’t like is definitely a call that God puts on our lives. We should seek to serve everyone. Serving others should make us uncomfortable. It should put us in positions that we haven’t normally been in, because then we rely on Christ instead of our own strength! I could easily claim that I go home and serve my family by helping my disabled uncle. But that is comfortable to me, even though it’s a pain. What makes me uncomfortable is going to the homeless shelter, traveling to a foreign country to teach God’s Word to persecuted believers, and serving in prison ministries. But those are the exact things we are called to do. Jesus says in Matthew 25:35-45 that when we stretch ourselves to serve others, we are actually serving Him and growing in Christ-likeness.
Serving others should humble us. There are few things more humbling than to accept the gift of the shoes off of a homeless person’s feet. I had thought that I was going to serve others and show them God’s love; but in fact, I was the one who was served and shown the true love of God. It reminded me of the story of the widow’s offering that Jesus noted in Mark 12:41-44. I had gone to Kentucky believing I was giving out of my wealth, believing that my offering of time and talents was pleasing to God—and they were. But this woman at the shelter, much like the Biblical widow, joyously gave to me out of her poverty, insisting that I take one of the few possessions she had. I have never felt so small in light of God’s love. But that is what serving others should do for us.
Serving others should change us. The stretching, the humbling, the discomfort—those are the things that truly change us by decreasing the amount of “us” in us and increasing the amount of Christ in us. So while serving others shouldn’t ever be about us, in many ways is IS about us. It’s about changing our perspective, challenging our ideals, and choosing to trust God. If God’s goal is to remove us (not improve us), then serving others is one of the best ways to achieve that. Jesus put Himself in the servant’s position and encouraged us to do the same to increase the power of the Lord in our lives (Mark 9; John 13; Matthew 23). When we are decreasing self, we give God more room to work and move through us. And nothing could change us more than increasing the power of the Lord in our lives!
If you want to see lasting change happen in your life, practice the spiritually healthy habit of serving others. Get yourself out of your comfort zone and into a place where you truly have to depend on the Lord’s strength and power! You won’t regret it!
image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net
Everyone has an exhorter friend: the guy that everyone loves; the chatty Kathy that is the “life of the party.” Exhorters are people people: they communicate well, have a large network, and are skilled at creating and sustaining relationships. They open their hearts and lives to others and use practical application to help others grow. Everyone loves the exhorter, and the exhorter loves everyone (mostly because they don’t like being rejected). And the exhorter’s primary motivation is encourage, comfort, and counsel others, becoming all things to all people in the good sense like the apostle Paul.
Because their motivation gives them incredible leverage in relationships, exhorters must learn to use their gift to produce long-term life changes, not just short-term changes that produce no real change. We can help our exhorter friends to stay on the lookout for several snares of their gifting:
Being masters of manipulation. Having such a great rapport with others can tempt exhorters to use their gift to control others. This is especially clear in the immature exhorter, who will win the trust of others and then use it to their own advantage. I had an exhorter friend who loved being the center of attention; however, after she gained your trust, she would use her perceived “power” in her relationships to alienate those by whom she felt threatened. Exhorters must be vigilant that they do not use their gifts for manipulation but instead remain godly and trustworthy for use by God.
Living in denial. Exhorters sometime have difficulty accepting personal responsibility for their own failures. Here, the master of manipulation can try to dominate even God Himself. The same exhorter friend who was a master of manipulation struggled with seeing her own faults, even when pointed out in love. Exhorters must learn that “living off their personality” is not what God has called them to do; God has instead called them to flow in the power of the Holy Spirit, which means admitting their wrongs and confessing them to receive forgiveness. (If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9)
Relying on their own understanding. Exhorters who experience success in comforting and encouraging others may begin to lean on their own understanding of others’ problems and issues, instead of the Holy Spirit. They may begin to apply non-Scriptural principles to a situation or try to simplify a problem with an easy solution. Exhorters must remember God does not always give cut and dry answers, and most importantly, that they must rely on the Holy Spirit in times when understanding is limited. (Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5)
When walking in fulfillment, exhorters are destined to have influence over great numbers of people, like the apostle Paul did. As a part of the body of Christ, we can help our exhorter friends to avoid traps that can lead them away from God’s calling on their lives.
What positive traits do you see in your exhorter friends? How can you encourage them to avoid the pitfalls discussed above?
Meister Eckhart said, “No one can know God who does not first know himself.” In order to start knowing ourselves, we have to know what motivates us. We can better understand how we’re wired and motivated by discussing the seven spiritual gifts from Romans 12:6-8.
The first gift listed in Romans 12:6 is the motivational gift of prophet. Prophets see and speak truth, as directed by God, to correct what’s wrong and build up the church. Prophets use Scripture to show wrong motives and actions in others. The main motivation for a prophet is TRUTH. They live and breathe truth. They are bold, fearless, opinionated, not intimidated by the unknown or change, verbally expressive visionaries, and see things in black and white, right or wrong. Honesty, integrity, and transparency compel prophets. They are not just opinionated and judgmental about others; prophets are hardest on themselves, especially when they fail or sin. Prophets tell things like they are and are usually the first to speak and share their opinion.
image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.com
Instead of blogging on the characteristics, it’s more important to focus on how the church can show acceptance to prophets. Knowing your own gift is important, but equally important is to understand all the gifts and how they work together to be the body of Christ. Here are four important ways to receive the motivational gift of prophet.
Understand that beneath their sometimes harsh exterior, prophets do love. They may not show mercy, gentleness, or sensitivity when they are speaking truth, but prophets usually speak truth because they want what is best for others and for the church. They may value truth over relationship, but that does not mean they do not need or want relationships with others. Love them in return!
Respect the truth prophets present, even if their method is negative. God has gifted prophets with the ability to see truth. There is usually valuable truth in what the prophet has said. Like the old saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” don’t throw out everything the prophet says just because they lacked gentleness. Pray for discernment about the prophet’s words!
If you want mercy, don’t go to a prophet gift—go to a mercy. Prophets need encouragement, mercy, and understanding, even though they may not give it in return. That doesn’t mean prophets are excused from being merciful or gentle—I am always trying to grow in these areas! However, mercy is not the prophet’s main motivation, so seek out the gift of mercy when you need mercy!
Tell prophets when they are offensive, hurtful, or causing conflict. God will often use others to correct prophets when they are wrong. In addition, as a prophet gift, I really appreciate it when people are honest with me about my actions. I want that feedback so that I can improve myself and walk in maturity in my gift. Help prophets grow by being truthful with them in return!
Prophets, like the other gifts, are integral to the body of Christ. Receiving them as important pieces of the puzzle is critical as the church becomes the bride God intended!
Do you know any prophets? How do you receive them in your life and church?