Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year


Isn't the prospect of a New Year fun?

I love a clean slate... but then, who doesn't?

The past year, with all of it's mistakes and frustrations is behind us.

We are embarking on a new season...a new time.

And, even though experience has taught us that there will be difficulties ahead, we are still hopeful that the hard times we face will be more manageable due to the paths we have walked.

We learned lessons in this past year.

We fought battles...Spiritual, Emotional, and Physical.

We celebrated triumphs and victories.

We loved, we laughed, we lived.

And it was all done by the goodness and grace of God.

As I begin this new year, I have so much on my mind.

But, first and foremost, I want to dedicate this year to my Heavenly Father.

I am His.

I echo the Psalmists' prayer in Psalm 59:10...

I want Him to create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.

Nothing else matters except that.

All my lists, all my goals, all the plans I have for 2015 are nothing compared to this...

That I might know HIM deeper.

That I might serve HIM better.

That I might love HIM fuller.

My prayer for myself, my family, and my friends is this:




Happy New Year, Everyone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why we give thanks...


annvoskamp.com



God is not fair.
And we are blessed because of that fact.

Our Pastor said last Sunday that we should be grateful that we do not get what we deserve.

We choose sin.
He chose mercy.

We choose this world.
He chooses us.

We are unbelievably blessed to have the redeeming power of 
Christ Jesus, our Messiah at our surrendered request.

When we cry,
He answers.

When we fail,
He is faithful.

When we break,
He repairs our souls.

When we look away, ashamed at the mess we have made,
He gently takes our face in His hands and says...

"Then neither do I condemn you...Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:11)

He is faith
when we are failing.

He is hope -
when we are hurting.

He is love -
when we are loveless.

And His love never fails. (Psalm 136)

That is why we give thanks for who He is.












Monday, October 27, 2014

Thoughts on Worship... from a Pastor's Wife



Music.

Church music.

Biblical music.

Can they ever collide? Can they ever unite? Can they ever be the same thing?

I believe they can.  I also believe that one person does not have the answer to the age-old question of which music glorifies God the best.  The only way music can truly glorify God is if the Worshiper is giving praise to God with ALL their heart, ALL their soul, and ALL their mind and strength.  But, I am getting ahead of myself.

Music is in all of us.  Even the most inept at singing a tune can appreciate the feeling that comes over them when the right blend of notes swell into a beautiful crescendo of loveliness.  Add just the right instruments, and you have a recipe for an emotional experience.

Why did God create such a beautiful mode of expression, which has become one of the most divisive parts of life?

Music moves us.

Music removes us from horrible moments, and creates pockets of joy in a dark and lonely world.

Music can sustain the dying soul...leading them into a place of solitude and rest before they take their final journey.

Music can give life to the depressed, the hurting, the ones crying out for someone to understand.

Music can speak the thoughts you wish you could express.

Music is a gift.

So, why have we taken something that God has given to us as a gift, and decided that we know the best way to write it?  We know the best way to play it.  And, we certainly know the best way to sing it.

We have become near-sighted.  We get into discussions about how much we hated Sunday's worship music, without one thought to the words which were lifted up in praise.

I want to let you in on a little secret...

You are not right.

I am not right.

We are not right.

Just because we have a preference in music, does not mean that that preference is the only way that God can move.  It's not as if He shows up only when the strains of an organ float up towards the heavenly realm.

I have been in traditional services, where only hymns dating before 1960 were sung.  And, guess what? God came.  There was a sweet Spirit that came and moved among people and lives were encouraged and changed.

I have been in traditional/contemporary services, where one hymn and several worship songs were sung.  God came.  There was a sweet Spirit that came and moved among people.  Lives were encouraged. Lives were changed.

I have been in modern services, where no hymns were sung.  Instead there was a collection of "new songs" that gave HONOR, PRAISE, and WORSHIP to the God of the universe.  God came.  There was a sweet Spirit that came and moved among HIS people.  Lives were encouraged.  Yes, believe it or not, without one organ, and with drums that rocked the building...Lives were changed.

I have been in services in and out of my comfort zone, and in each situation God was moved to come and dwell among His people.

Isn't that strange?  God doesn't have one particular kind of music He favors.

The truth is, that fact shouldn't surprise us.

After all, He did create a billion different characteristics in people.  He created some to be artistic in different ways than others.  He created some to be thinkers.  He created some to be doers.

He created a million different forms of beauty in this world.  He created flavors of food that are so delicious and intense.  Then He created the flavor that would be created when someone puts two flavors together!  He is a creative God, with a beautiful sense of artistry.

Why then, can't we accept that He most likely enjoys a HUGE variety of musical styles?

Instead of fighting about which one He prefers, why don't we figure out a way to compromise?

I get it -  You have your favorite tune.

I do too.

However...

You are not right.

I am not right.

We are not right!

No one has a monopoly on God's mind.

The Holy Bible says that King David was a "man after God's own heart."  Then, it gives the reason...because David loved God's law. When we sing and meditate on God's law, on God's love, and on God's sacrifice day and night - HE loves it! Our God LOVES it when we bring a sacrifice of praise and lay it before His feet.

If that praise offering is accompanied with only a piano and organ, or even acapella, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that He most likely LOVES it.

If that praise offering is accompanied with a full worship band, praise dancers, and artistic worshipers, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that He most likely LOVES it.

What matters is not the mode of worship, but if the worship and praise is SINCERE.  If someone is living a lie all week, and then comes before a Holy God and offers an insincere offering, will God come and move in that person?  Well, God could certainly use the words of a song to speak to that person.  But, if that person is not willingly being emptied of themselves and giving God their everything, then...No.  I'm afraid not.

But, when people who are surrendered to God come before Him with a praise offering...He is honored.  He is glorified.  He is exalted.  It doesn't matter which instrument was used.  He. Is. Praised.

And for those naysayers who believe that drums, cymbals, and marraccas could never glorify God... I have some verses to share with you. (Psalms 150:4, Psalms 98:4-6, II Chronicles 15:14, II Samuel 6:5, Psalms 68:24-25).  I Chronicles 15:16 says... "Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy."

Sounds of joy...

Do our worship services sound joyful? Do they bring a smile to our faces? Do they put our eyes on the ONE we are giving praise to?

On another note...If you appreciate the percussion section when you are attending a [enter your preference] concert, or a beautiful choral experience, then maybe you need to rethink your opinions on "beat."  What makes that different than a worship band?

Why is it okay to have your eardrums practically blown out when you are listening to your particular style of music, but when it's out of your comfort zone, you can't handle it?

And, those of you who prefer only modern worship music... Why?  Why can't you appreciate the incredible depth that accompanies the hymns?  They are incredible resources to those of us who want to know more about the God we serve!

Let us all examine our hearts.  Let us all examine our motives.  Let's get on the same page when it comes to this.

Let's recap:

You don't care about the sound, the cymbals, or the singing when it's your style.

You do care about the sound, the cymbals, and the singing when it's a modern "rock" style.

You roll your eyes when the worship leader begins to lead out in yet another song from before 1935, and jump up and down when he leads you in a song that repeats one line 50 times.  Hmm...



God can work in different cultures, in different methods, in different styles.

Let's let Him work.  Let's get over ourselves. Let's give Him the greatest gift we could give Him...

A unified church, who understands that we won't all appreciate the same kind of music, but we should appreciate the Giver of the different kinds of music.  And, in doing so, we find ways to climb up to common ground and enjoy worshiping God together.

What if, instead of fighting over which side had the most spiritual worship music, we put our time and energy into what really matters... Lost People.  Each one has a face.  Each one has a name.  Each one has a story.  Do we even care about them?  Or, are we so caught up in how the worship band sounded Sunday to think about ways to engage a lost generation.

Church shouldn't be about you. Church shouldn't be about me. We are the Church, so can we please start acting like it, and leave our selfishness at the door?

It's time for the church music war to end. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

I will make all my mountains a road...





Thus says the Lord:
“In a time of favor I have answered you;
in a day of salvation I have helped you;I will keep you and give you
as a covenant to the people,to establish the land,
to apportion the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’They shall feed along the ways;
on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them,for he who has pity on them will lead them,
and by springs of water will guide them. And I will make all my mountains a road, and my highways shall be raised up. Behold, these shall come from afar, and behold, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syene. 


” Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing!For the Lord has comforted his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted.

Isaiah 49:8-13


"Patience can be acquired only through just such trials as now seem unbearable. Go back; submit thyself. Claim to be a partaker in the patience of Jesus. Meet thy trials in Him. There is nothing in life which harasses and annoys that may not become subservient to the highest ends. 

They are His mountains. He puts them there. 

We know that God will not fail to keep His promise." 


- Excerpt from "Daily Streams."

Saturday, July 5, 2014

You Make Me Brave





I want to share the lyrics to a new favorite song of mine. God is calling me to a place far away from my comfort zone. I am counting on Him making a way for me.  I know He can make me brave, and I know all glory will go to Him.


I stand before You now
The greatness of Your renown
I have heard of the majesty and wonder of You
King of Heaven in humility, I bow

As Your love
In wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us 
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You've made a way 
For all to enter in

I have heard You call my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So, I will let You draw me beyond the shore
Into Your grace, Your grace

As Your love
In wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us 
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You've made a way 
For all to enter in

You make me brave
You make me brave
You called me beyond the shore
Into the waves

You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now 
The love that made a way

You make me brave
You make me brave
You called me beyond the shore
Into the waves

You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now 
The promises You've made

As Your love
In wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us 
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You've made a way 
For all to enter in

This song is from Bethel Music, and can be purchased on i tunes, or here

Listen to the song here

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I have enough time.

Time.

We say it's precious. We complain that we don't have enough of it. We beg for more of it.

We fill our days from beginning to end with all the events that we either believe to be, or must feel are important. Whether that event is our job which pays the bills, our child's sporting events, or our favorite tv show, it somehow manages to use up a few of the minutes we have been given by Almighty God.

Has anyone else looked over your calendar of scheduled events for the week and said, "How?" 

  1. How will we fit it all in?
  2. How will we keep our sanity?
  3. How long can I keep up with this schedule?
If Ecclesiastes 3:1 says that there is a time for every matter under heaven, then when is that "me time" I keep wondering about?

I would venture to guess that most of us spend plenty of time on "me," and by me, I mean...me, you, moi.  Now, if you are a person that has 10 kids, takes care of a sick relative, plants a garden, volunteers 2 hours a week at church, makes cookies for your neighbors, and gives your spouse a 30 minute foot rub at the end of every day, this post is NOT for you.

This post is for me, for the ones who have plenty of time, and yet still complain that they don't.

If we have time to surf the internet, write a blog post, keep up with facebook, attend 2+ sporting events a week, watch 2 hours of tv, and still go camping on the weekend, I think we might have more time than we pretend we don't have.

I'd say it's a matter of misplaced priorities, but that's just my humble opinion. (cough)

I amaze myself when I say I have no time for... (enter important work for the Kingdom of God), and yet somehow in the same hour, I find myself discussing my latest creative endeavor with a friend.  I found a whole afternoon for that one, but serving at a soup kitchen..."sigh," I just don't have time. 

Now, some of this is in jest.  I realize that there is nothing wrong with creative projects, or tv watching, or kids' soccer, or, or, or... 

There is nothing wrong with so many things that we allow to fill our days. But, maybe we need to look at our calendar with fresh eyes.  What if we filled in the best things in the boxes that represent days, and then penciled in the good things that we all love so much.

What are the best things, you might ask?

The best things are those things which last forever. They are also the things that God focuses most on in His Word.  A few things come to mind...

Loving God, loving your neighbor.

Luke 10:27 gives us insight into what is most important to God: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."

Oh yeah...that.

"Honey, should we go to church this weekend, or stay at home, grill steaks, watch too much tv, and wallow in our selfishness?"

Oh, I can hear it now... "Church doesn't save you.  It's not religion, it's relationship. They just want my money anyway!"

Well, if you love God with all your heart, soul and strength, you might want to learn more about Him, His Word, His people, His church... 

Oh, you don't? Hmm... Enter Matthew 7:21: "Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of Heaven."  Just because you say you love Jesus doesn't mean you really do.  What do your priorities say about your love for Jesus? What are our actions telling the world what we really think?

If our schedule is so busy that we don't have time to help people in need, our schedule needs tweaked.  
  1. Our kids don't have to play a sport every single month of the year. 
  2. The world will not end if we do not watch our favorite tv show or news program.
  3. Pinterest will not cease to exist because we did not pin any images in the last week.
  4. Facebook...oh Facebook.  There is so much to say.
  5. We don't need to (enter favorite way to pass the time), if it interferes with helping those whom God loves.
James 1:27: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

This is another verse that talks about God's priorities.  To be honest with you, this whole subject has been frustrating me lately.  I don't know how to do the most important thing.  I don't know what to do. I don't know when to do it.  If loving God, loving my neighbor, caring for orphans, and others in need are what is supposed to be occupying my time, what is the best way to accomplish that?

I think there are a few options. First of all, give your best to God. Second, give your best to your spouse. Third, give your best to your children. Fourth, give your best to the work of God.  These are the things that we should be placing first in our lives.  All the rest is just extra.  All the rest should be secondary.

And, putting your kids first does not mean giving in to every single whim they have.  It doesn't mean purchasing things you cannot afford to make them happy for 5 minutes (or even 5 days). It doesn't mean taking them on camping trips when you could be serving together and leading people closer to Jesus (although there is nothing wrong with the occasional camping trip!)  You put them first when you meet their needs with Jesus' help, teach them about Jesus, show them Jesus through your life, and allow them to witness you being Jesus to others around you. 

I used to wonder how I could possibly help widows and orphans. Actually, I wondered how I could help anyone in need.  I just wasn't sure how to go about it.  

Most of all, I've been staying in my favorite corner of my comfort zone, unwilling to feel that twinge of fear that creeps in when I do something new.

I have a couple of thoughts on this.

We should be doing what we can, when we have the opportunity.  When we hear of a way that we can help, we should be prayerfully asking God if we can fill that need.

However, did you realize that God put the church "together" in part to meet needs like this?

Did you know that when you volunteer 2 hours a month cleaning toilets at your church, it frees up money that would normally go to a janitor, so that said money can go to lift up those who have fallen? (At least, that's how we operate at our church).

Did you know that when you give $8 a week (price of two over-priced lattes) to a pregnancy center, you are enabling people that God has equipped to provide necessary services to babies that need to remain alive.

Did you know that when you give up $15 of your grocery budget each week to pay for a few items that your local rescue mission needs, you are caring for your "neighbor."

It's really not as hard as we say it is.  If each one of us would sacrifice (is that even the correct word in this scenario?) in these small ways, lives could be impacted!  I mean, it's almost laughable to call 2 hours a month volunteering, and less than $25 a week donated, a sacrifice.

And these are only a few ways that we could have an impact. 

I believe that if each one of us will prayerfully proceed in the areas that God has given us passion for, great things can happen.

I am praying that God gives me clear vision...His vision, for what He wants me to accomplish.  It's all for Him anyway.  My entire life is a result of His grace, love, and blessing.  Is it better for me to spend a little extra time on the "interwebs," or spend that time praying with a friend in need, organizing a "food blessing" for a widow in need, making a meal for someone who is sick, or donating time and money to church/organizations who are busy with God's work.

This post is the result of God's convicting work in my own life.

I'm getting out of my comfort zone. 

I have enough time to do what really matters, and I'm going to do it.









Monday, June 23, 2014

Seven



Purchase here...


I am currently engrossed in a life-changing book.

I could not tell you what will happen as a result.  I have no idea what is next.

For some time I have been praying for ways to be more intentional in my walk with Christ.  It's not enough for me to be a "good church girl," or a "good Pastor's wife."  I want a rock solid faith that reaches out further than my home.

I do believe that my first responsibility is to the family God has given me to nurture within my four walls.  But, I long for a faith that must go...must go to those around me and share compassion, love, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Wouldn't you believe that God led me to this book.  I ask for something deeper, something richer, something more meaningful, and God replies, "Read this, and hear what I have to say."

I'm listening.

I made the mistake of starting this book late at night when I should have been sleeping.  The introduction alone gripped my attention, and aided in prying my sleepy eyes open.  I was convicted after reading the first few pages.

Consider this passage from the introduction:

Jen Hatmaker writes, "...the Holy Spirit leveled us and laid our motives bare, we turned into crazy people, yada yada yada... we started a new church centered on justice... Our adventure in relearning the essentials of faith, Austin New Church, has been on the ground for two years.  It's a little faith community that has, quite simply, changed my life.  Our mantra is "Love your neighbor, serve your city."  Taking a cue from Francis Chan, we take the Scripture 'love your neighbor as yourself' seriously, and we give away half of all we receive.  We won't spend more on ourselves than our poor neighbor... we won't buy carpet at the expense of orphans.  $10,000 for a new parking lot could fund a hundred thousand tree seedlings to reforest Africa's decimated land and stimulate their local economy.  It's kind of a no-brainer."

My life has become so centered on materialism.  I never intended for that to happen.  I never intend on staying in my nice little comfort zone.  This kind of selfishness can creep in so slowly that we don't even notice it taking over every part of our existence.

I grew up so simply.  I was a missionary kid with just enough, but never alot.  We lived a life of service.  I'm used to pushing out of my comfort zone.  And yet, I know there is so much more.  I want God to use my humble attempts to make much of His name.

People are hopeless. People are dying. People need the Jesus that lives in my heart.

How can I continue to allow my pursuit of the "perfect life" get in the way of introducing the world to a "perfect God?"

The back of the book describes what Jen Hatmaker felt compelled to do which led to the writing of this inspiring tale.

"Food. Clothes. Spending. Media. Possessions. Waste. Stress. Jen and her family would spend thirty days on each topic, boiling it down to the number seven.  Only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in seven places. Eliminate use of seven media types, give away seven things each day for one month, adopt seven green habits, and observe "seven sacred pauses." So, what's the payoff from living a deeply reduced life? It's the discovery of a greatly increased God -- a call toward Christ-like simplicity and generosity that transcends a social experiment to become a radically better existence. 7's funny, raw, and not a guilt trip in the making, so come along and consider what Jesus' version of rich, blessed, and generous might look like in your life."

Sounds extreme, doesn't it?  It's such a different version of "fasting" than I had ever heard of.  I've made it to month 3 (Possessions) in my reading.  I have been challenged, convicted, and changed already.  God is using this book to shake my materialistic mindset up.

I'm thankful for God's redemptive hand in my life.  His love and faithfulness is ruining me for the ways of this world.  His ways are higher...

All praise to His name.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Wait. Think. Pray.

The other day I was searching Pinterest for some "color scheme ideas." Interestingly enough, a pin that was "out of place" caught my attention, and I found myself in a whirlwind of contemplation.   My first impulse was to hop on over to Facebook, and share my intense disgust concerning this pin, and what it represents. But instead,  I waited. I thought. I prayed.

Would this be helpful?  Would it actually make people think?  Would it ostracize certain friends?

I waited. I thought. I prayed.

*But people need to hear my opinion on this issue, I argued with myself.  Some people probably just don't realize this is a problem!

Wait. Think. Pray.

One of the problems with social media these days, is that it tends to squelch "real conversation."  So many status updates you see are filled with questions or thoughts that should be shared in the context of an actual dialogue.  There should be eye contact.  There should be back and forth discussion. There should be prayerful caution in how to approach difficult subjects.

Proverbs 21:23 reads, Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.

I wonder how many times I could have taken that advice. Um, Yeah... Not even trying to count.

Proverbs 15:4 reads, A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.

Wait. Think. Pray.

Sometimes it's not the subject matter that is the problem, but rather the amount of grace involved in sharing the subject.

As a woman who is passionate about teaching others truths about God's Word, I can sometimes forget one simple thing... the "why."

Why am I so compelled to share my opinion on social media?  Is it necessary? Is it helpful? Is it worth it?

Have I spent as much time praying about the situation as I have formulated the perfect status concerning it? Probably not.

I write this as a caution to myself.  

I felt God whisper to my heart that morning, "Wait. Think. Pray."  I want to remember this.  If I haven't spent time in prayer about a controversial subject, then why would I "preach" about that subject on social media?

My desire is that I will spend more time in prayer, and less time creating purposeful "opinion pieces."




But no human being can tame the tongue.
James 3:8a


* This post in no way refers to posting opinions on Political or Religious issues.  I am referring to personal opinions about matters that could hurt people on my Friend List. I realize that there are writers out there who spend their days constructing opinion pieces on social issues.  This is not what I am addressing. 


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Before the throne of God above














Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea:
A great High Priest, whose name is Love, 
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on His hands, 
My name is written on His heart; 
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair, 
And tells me of the guilt within, 
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died, 
My sinful soul is counted free; 
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise the One, 
Risen Son of God! 

Behold Him there, the Risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless righteousness, 
The great unchangeable I am, 
The King of glory and of grace!


One with himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high, 
With Christ, my Savior and my God
With Christ, my Savior and my God


Charitie Lees Bancroft