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After The Storm

So, we had an interesting mini-tour experience this past fall, right around the time of Hurricane Michael; which hit the pan-handle of Florida.  We were scheduled to both lead worship and perform in Thomasville, GA, Chattanooga, TN; and Tallahassee, FL.  As we watched the weather, we saw how Hurricane Michael hit near Panama City, right before our last tour stop in Tallahassee area, and right after our stop in Thomasville. How crazy!  We were very close, but missed it! Our friends in Thomasville, GA were ok thankfully.  We then headed up Friday to Tennessee, and performed live at Cambridge Square in Chattanooga, and we had a great time seeing lots of friends and family.  I even got to share about the songs and a little gospel message to wrap up the night.  Then, after double-checking that the church in Tallahassee was ok, we found they were very eager to see us, and didn’t cancel us coming, so we still kept the plans for the week to head down to the panhandle of FL.  Nevertheless, that’s when things began to get really interesting….

That Saturday, we headed back down through Georgia, and of course Atlanta, where traffic is always a beast.  This time, we watched a wreck happen in front of us, as I decided to take a detour West of Atlanta, through the western part of GA, instead of straight down I-75.   But that was a mistake.  Although the roads were scenic through the countryside, we began to notice the street lights were out, and no gas stations were open.  Then we drove through countless small towns, where the Hurricane had come through.  There we passed by collapsed roofs and downed trees, as well as over power lines!  Luckily the roads were still passable, but no gas stations of course!  I had forgotten about the path of the hurricane, and by that time we were getting low on gas!  Finally, after much prayer, we ended up coasting into Tallahassee with a few miles to spare.  After 3 gas stations, we found 1 in town that had gas — we had just made it!

Next, we drove to the hotel to stay for the night, only to discover that they had given up all of our rooms to the electrical workers, of which there was an army of them all around town. Luckily, the hotel down the street had 1 room left! So we took it!  With a couple of us on the floor.  As we checked in and I reached to lock the door in the van, my key broke off in the key hole!!! So crazy… We ended up fishing the other end out, and then placing it in the ignition, and using the other half to turn it — just enough to be able to start the van!  Needless to say, we were ready to have a great day the next day, because we had gone through some tough circumstances the previous night.  And it was an awesome experience with our friends that next morning at Promised Land Church, where we got to encourage many folks who were refugees from the storm a few towns over.  It was  awesome to provide a song as an anthem for not only our own experiences, but the lyrics were speaking to those who went through the hurricane — we debuted our song, “Storms” that morning, which is about God being our rock during times of stormy seasons of life.  The lyrics of the song are simple:  “I will trust in You, Lord; I will trust in only You; You are my shelter in a time of storm.  Jesus is a rock in a weary land, a shelter in a time of storm…”  The song “Storms” draws influence from an old hymn, “Shelter in a time of Storm”.

And I think that’s something to be reminded of.  When unforeseeable circumstances and hardships come your way — not ‘if’, but ‘when’ they come — are you prepared?  Friends, there is not really much you can do in certain times of our life, when things collapse around you and when troubles wash over like a tidal wave.  The ONLY hope we have is in Jesus, as simple as it sounds.  There is hope in the one who made the very seas, and is a steady rock when things become shaky.  Psalm 91:1-2 says:  “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'”

I am grateful that I can REST in the Almighty, who sees beyond what I see and failures and circumstances — even though we may go through tough times and face trials, He sees even my potential and always provides a way out and strength to rise above all situations.  Consider taking hold of that promise today, of which goes way beyond our own capability.

Broken Down! A Life Of Sacrifice

In between working on new music down here in Orlando, FL area, I have been performing a little here and there on the weekends! I really enjoy times to connect with people, and share the songs I feel God has given me, as well as tell my own stories through song.  Now this past weekend, I had lined up 3 days of performances.  The first and second night, I was able to play a cover-song set (mixed with original songs), and hang out with the non-church going crowd. These types of shows are a public audience, and a great chance to connect with people who probably aren’t Christians, and even interject some testimony and God-truth between songs, and stories behind songs!  These nights are sometimes tiring (playing for 4 hours straight), but also fun and worth it because we feel called to connect with public audiences, bringing a positive and uplifting atmosphere!

            

After Saturday evening, I packed up and then headed to Tallahassee area to lead worship for some dear friends of mine at Promised Land Ministries in Crawfordville.  It was only then, in the middle of the night on deer-lined backroads that my ever-faithful White Chevy 15-passenger Van started to make some rough noises.  I decided there was no place to stop along the way, and I was halfway through my journey, so I powered through, and was able to make it to the destination by the grace of God!  That morning, was a powerful time of worship and I got to share more songs, despite the 4 hours of sleep!

For the morning, our word was “God can use the broken to accomplish His purposes…”. And that is how I always see myself, someone broken, but eager to make room for the Holy Spirit to use me and access more of my life.  I know there are so many things I am incapable of, and that’s why I need Him!

I left on my way after church and not too far down the road outside of Tallahassee, my faithful van finally gave up.  I think it’s the transmission, so I could go no further.  Thankfully we have been blessed with AAA services, so I was able to get it towed back home.  This was a longer day than expected (from Tallahassee to Clermont, FL, around 3 1/2 – 4 hours), but I was blessed to have a great companion tow-truck driver, Chris, who we chatted about life and I encouraged him to seek the Lord, and even got to pray with him! It was a great time despite the circumstances!

When life brings you heartache, and the road gets tough, it’s easy to sometimes get wrapped up in worry and anxiety; and forget that God works through us and despite our circumstance.  He often uses the broken-down parts of life to reveal Himself, that’s often where I see Him work.  But what about when things are going great?  Well, I believe one should always be ready to give, even when we don’t feel ready.  There are a couple scriptures in Psalms that talk about being broken and ready to give our lives as a sacrifice (offering) to Him:

Psalm 51:17    My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise

Psalm 34:18   The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and saves those who are crushed in spirit

In Hebrew, the word “sacrifice” is  PACACH – (Heb)= to pass over, spring over, to skip, to limp, to be lame, a sacrifice

So God is near, perhaps all the more in our brokenness (failure, unworthiness, being incapable).

And in the New Testament, Paul declares:

Romans 12:1-3 (New Living Translation (NLT))

12 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Through the curveballs of life, God sees our struggles and our broken-down seasons.  And He even welcomes us closer all the more into His arms through that state of living — He sees that as costly and a sacrifice that we are making.  So I choose to continue to go and give for the sake of Him, through the little sleep, exhaustion, and car- trouble — and despite the circumstances I’m dealt often, I have great peace in knowing He walks with me and meets me there; ready to lead me on into the next season, with all that He has for me!

 

What Is Worship? – Pt. 1: How Will You Respond?

What is ‘WORSHIP’?

Pt. 1:  “How Will You Respond”?

There is a movement of praise expression (I will write about this later in the next article), based upon the Hebrew words for our English word “praise”, found all throughout the Old Testament.

Take for instance, “I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭63:2-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I love this, because it inspires us to engage with God on a mental level, Soul/Spirit level, as well as Physical level!  In the church we are seeing more and more freedom to express this type of praise expression (lift hands, sing; ‘praise’ in this passage means ‘to kneel’ — ‘barak’), and more freedom in our communities and Kingdom culture means more room for the Holy Spirit to work!

However, does it just end there?  Many believers are satisfied with just a couple songs on a Sunday morning, and then head out to lunch — and although they engaged in “Praise”, is that truly “Worship”? For me, I believe it is just the beginning, and also evidence by a life already  engaged in Worship unto God.

To me, worship isn’t just a song, or an act; or even just a ‘lifestyle’ choice — although all the above are aspects of worship.

Biblically, worship is:

——— THE POSITION I TAKE ———-

Matthew 18:4
Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)
“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (KJV)

My position, if I want to enter in the Kingdom Of Heaven is first and foremost a stance of HUMILITY. It is SERVICE — ‘God, how can You use me? ‘

“Tapeinoo” (Greek) — “Humble”
to make low, bring low, to level, reduce to a plain
metaph. to bring into a humble condition, reduce to meager circumstances
to be ranked below others who are honoured or rewarded
to humble or abase myself by humble living
of one’s soul bring down one’s pride
to have a modest opinion of one’s self
devoid of all haughtiness

The word worship, in the New Testament is most commonly translated to the Greek word, “Proskuneo” —

  • PROSKUNEO (Greek):  
  • to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence
  • among the Orientals, esp. the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence
  • in the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication
    • used of homage shown to men and beings of superior rank

 

  • Ultimately, how we Worship is evident by our response to the presence of God

For you, is it a humble response? Or do you go through life feeling ‘entitled’ for something? I’m afraid God doesn’t owe us anything at all, although He gave us everything.

My ideal position in God’s presence is to:  DISPLAY HIS WORTH – and NOT MY OWN

  • Expressions of Praise are merely a result of a life lived in worship, like a blossom on the branch of a tree
  • MY LIFE (all Mind/Soul/Body) IS DESIGNED TO REVEAL MY POSITION IN CHRIST — 
  • I was created with the capacity to reveal the nature of Jesus in all of me – which is HIS GOODNESS AND WORTH and not my own
  • My heart was created with a deep longing to respond to the nearness of God

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:22‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Because of the position Christ took for us, being lowered and offering His life, my soul cannot help but express the worth of that gift by giving my life to Him.

Godly Worship is an AWAKENING TO MY POSITION OF GOD-CENTERED LIFE

I cannot exalt myself, and expect to call that ‘worship’.  Nor can I engage simply one part of my life — eg.,  lift hands in an act of praise — and expect that is enough worship.  Many times I find myself being the focus throughout the week. The world says:  ‘exalt yourself’, ‘treat yourself’, ‘YOU deserve it’…..and a lot of times I engage in that, without realizing it.

In today’s world, we have a problem of “self-exaltation” more than ever.  Most people don’t see that as a problem.  In fact, through much of life self-promotion is highly recommended and encouraged.  But for the believer, if I cover the earth with my self, then it veils the Goodness of God (the Gospel), for those who are perishing.

1 Corinthians 1:18 — “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

The cross represents how God laid His own life down.  It also represents how we lay our own selves down, in order to follow Christ.

Matthew 16:24 — “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me…'”

So in choosing to serve Christ, the more emphasis we put on our own desires and our own ways, and choose ourselves, the less the world can see Christ in us.  Jesus bids us come and die to self, in order that we may truly live! Because a life spent in worship to ourselves, ends up in meaningless pursuit.  God, I choose to surrender and declare, “I am Yours”!

Let us pursue His presence in all that we do and are!!

 

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