Simplifying Christianity

We humans tend to complicate every aspect of our lives, especially God.  We want the best worship experience and an emotional message on Sundays.  We overthink God by our works.  All our lives most of us are told that you must be in church and studies to have God in our lives, which in fact, is not true.  Hear me out, I am not saying that church is not important.  I am saying God is more than a church service and group studies.  He is simply about relationship.  He does not want us so busy trying to figure out who He is that we have no time to personally have a relationship with Him.

For the last year, I have been going to one church to another trying to find the perfect setting — is the worship spiritual enough or is the message convicting to bring me to the altar.  I was looking for emotion rather than God Himself.  I was so insecure that I needed to be convicted to speak to God for forgiveness.  And when restlessness and discontentment came over me, I moved on to another church.  Through all the confusion, I caused more chaos in my life.  I caused more disappointment of what the church should be — to my preference.

A few months ago, I decided to temporarily stop attending church and have church at home.  Every Sunday morning and Wednesday night I would listen to a podcast from my iPad and worship God in my own living room. I spent daily in prayer.  In just a month, God showed Himself to me with simplicity and love.  It is not required to do works to find God’s love; He is love, and He only desires relationship with me.  When I complicated God, I was miserable.  The standards I put on myself only made me feel more inadequate.  It was only when I simplified the way I approached God is when I found the true God.  A God who is not demanding but unconditionally loving.  A God who is all comfort not judgmental.  A God who makes me whole when I feel incomplete.  God is complex in so many ways, but when it comes to a relationship with Him, it’s simple: Love God with all her heart and live a life abundantly in His love.  Love God and be a Disciple.  Simple as that.

We need to stop representing a demanding God who is false and scary.  We need to start showing others that God is all about the heart.  He is all about love.  We do not need an emotional message on Sunday to convict us of our sin, but a message of truth.  We do not need to a worship service to sound like a professional concert, but to worship God in purity.  We don’t need an in-depth message every week to tell us who God is; we need to experience God ourselves through group Bible Studies and an individual prayer life.  If we want a relationship with God, we need to pursue Him at church, at home, in our workplace, and with our family and friends.  God is everywhere!

When you seek God in simplicity, you will find His joy and His peace.  When you pursue Him with all your heart, you will find the true God that you have been looking for.  It starts with you — not the church or others — YOU!

Life…Disappointment…Hope

Life…
It’s exhausting at times
It’s hard at times
It’s lonely at times

Disappointment…
Tells you it’s not worth getting back up
All hope is lost
Convinces you to not even try again

Hope…
Renews your mind
Gives you the courage to stand strong even when you are tired
Reminds you that you are stronger than you appear

My life has been a roller coaster in the last ten years.  There has been much heartache and hurt.  I have been hopping to one church to another to only find more hurt and rejection.  Since December I have been in three different churches to only have the same results.   I started to question my faith, and what I believed.  Last Sunday I was singing a song about God’s goodness, and I wondered if I believed the words that I was singing.  I was so discouraged and tired that I wanted to quit church completely.  I left in tears wondering if church was even for me.  I told myself that, “I was a Christian, and I am supposed to be in church.”

In that moment, I realized I was going to church because that is what you do as a Christian.  I was going out of duty  and not out of passion for God.  I decided to re-evaluate my heart and to see whether or not my faith was wavering.  I found that yes I was tired to church, but my faith was strong in the Lord.  I have just attend churches that was not allowing God to lead.  I was seeking the wrong kind of churches.  And, deep inside, I did not want to quit church, because I was defeated.  I felt more alone than ever and church is about fellowship and God’s love.

Life was never meant to do alone.  So…I looked searched online for churches in my area.  I came across one that really drew me in, and I attended this Sunday.  Not only do I have a Women’s Bible Study to attend on Wednesday, I have two coffee meetings in the next few weeks with some women I met at the church.  I felt like I belonged and that I was welcome.  No one pushed me to do anything I did not want to do.  I felt home for the first time in a decade.  My disappointment turned into hope.  My loneliness turned into meeting other Christian women who understood my hurt.  Yes, I am tired, but I am strong.   The devil wants to keep kicking me to the ground in defeat, but the Lord wants me to stay strong in Him.  As long as I keep my eyes focused on Jesus, I will have the strength to find hope again in church.  Not because I am supposed to attend church every week, but because I want to attend church and worship God with other Christians.  I want to attend church, because my heart longs for fellowship with other believers.  My flesh may be weak, but Spiritually I am strong.

Life happens, but it does not mean you have to live in defeat.  Get up, Dust yourself off, and Stand strong.  Hope for what’s to come!

 

Lacking Nothing

As we begin a new year, we look back on what we accomplished in the previous year.  We go down our bucket list and realize that we did not accomplish everything that we hoped we would.  We beat ourselves up for what we lacked rather than what we accomplished.  The truth is, what we accomplish on earth will one day fade away.  It is not permanent.  Yes, we have desires and goals that were not met and will carry over into the new year, but it is not worth stressing over, because God already knows our needs and wants.  We lack nothing in Him.  Let me say that again: We lack nothing in Him.  God is our everything!

I recently heard a song called, My Everything, by Gateway Worship.  It is a beautiful song that captures who God is in our lives.  The lyrics are a love song to God.  When you hear this song sung over you, you cannot help but fall to your knees and praise God in full surrender.  The chorus says that,

You’re more than just a song
You’re more than just a whim
You’re more than just a passing fantasy
You’re My Every Way
You’re My Everything

Take a few minutes to read these lyrics slowly aloud.  God is more than just rescuing us from our troubles.  He is more than granting our every wish.  He wants a relationship with us, no matter what is happening in our lives.  As the song continues, it declares that,

I want to be with You
I need to be with You
I long to be with You, precious King
So with every day, Lord, in every way
You’re My Everything

This song cries out to God for an intimate relationship with Him.  The lyrics express the wants and needs to be with God.  We feel the yearning and passion as we read these words above.  In this song, we are saying, “You are My number one in my life.  God, You are important to me, and I want to experience You completely.”

In another song called, “So Will I (100 Billion X), written by Joel Houston Benjamin Hastings and Michael Fatkin, it declares everything God created by speaking it into existence.  The lyrics begin with,

God of creation
There at the start
Before the beginning of time
With no point of reference
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light

And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praise so will I

In this song, we proclaim who God is by His creation.  We are His creation, and because He created us, we lack nothing.  We may be waiting for a prayer to be answered, but, in Him, we lack nothing.  God provides our every need.  If He can speak anything into existence, then He is choosing to wait for His perfect timing to answer our prayer.  In Ecclesiastes 3:1, it states that “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11 declares that, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”  BUT, “do not grow weary” while waiting, because “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31).

Year 2017 may not have brought you everything you wanted and desired, but, remember what you accomplished and praise God for your successes.  I encourage you to never get discouraged while waiting, because God is preparing you for what’s to come.  In Year 2018, continue to believe in miracles.  Never lose the desire to dream big!

 

Change Is Hard But Necessary

As we grow in Christ, God continues to remold us and reshape us into something new.  In life, change is necessary to pursue new opportunities.  It is not always easy nor is it always voluntary.  Change happens no matter we like it or not.

Currently, I have been put in a position to seek an involuntary change.  I did not realize what I was leaving behind until I took the first steps in a new direction.  But, at the same time, I cannot return to what was.  Change is a must.

I find that with change there is a moment when we grieve what was left behind as we gradually adjust to the newness of life.  There are exciting moments and sad moments blended together.  Even though a new adventure is exciting, it comes with the unknowns — the awkwardness.

The Bible tells us change is not to be feared. Deuteronomy 31:6 says for us to “be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”  God is with us and guiding us on where we should go.  We need to put our trust in Him and take another step forward into the unknown.  Jeremiah 29:11 declares that “‘God’ know[s] what [he is] doing.  ‘He has’ it all planned out — plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”

When change occurs, we become anxious.  Our emotions are scattered.  Our old life seems to be fading away with every step we take.  What was familiar is not familiar anymore.  Philippians 4:6-7 tells us not to “fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”  The Bible instructs us to pray instead of worry.  It also tells us to praise God through the difficult times.  He will see us through every situation.  

God says to “forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history.  Be alert, be present.  I’m about to do something brand-new” (Isaiah 43:20)  As we embrace the new and leave behind the “old”, we will see God working in our lives like never before.  We will have a closer relationship with God during the journey.  We will become stronger as we walk into a new chapter of our lives.  Yes, it may be scary but, the end result is worth it.

(Scripture – The Message Version)

 

What Is A Blessing?

Many people think a blessed person is someone who has it all — lives in a big house, drives an expensive car, has the best job, and so forth.  This way of thinking is distorted.  If we see a blessing just as material things then we miss a blessing in our lives, because we compare our lives to others.

The word “blessing” means “a favor or gift bestowed by God or the invoking of God’s favor upon a person.”  It also is defined as “approval” and “good wishes” (www.dictionary.com/browse/blessing).  A blessing comes in many forms.  It can come directly from God.  Or a blessing can come from family members, friends, or complete strangers through God working in them.

Before Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, the world was full of chaos and hate.  After the hurricane, we saw people working together.  Complete strangers risking their lives to save others.  As Christians, we need to be watchful on how we say we are blessed.  I am guilty of this as well.  I said, “I was blessed to have minor damage in my home.  A home I can still live in after the storm.”  But, we all have to understand those who have lost everything due to the storm, they are still blessed.  God protected their family, and, in the past three weeks, people have seen complete strangers help them rebuild their home.  In Philippians 4:19 declares that “MY God will supply every need to yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  In Isaiah 41:10, God says “fear no, for I am with you; be no dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  “And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).  I encourage everyone who is going through hardship to declare these Scriptures over your life.

Many who have lost their homes have asked, “What shall we eat?” “What shall we drink?” What shall we wear?” (Matthew 6:30-33).  They have lost all their belongs.  They have lost all their food.  They only have the clothes on their back.  But, be encouraged today.  God clothes you every day with His blessings and righteousness.  Churches and business have opened their doors to give food, clothes, furniture, and toiletries to those in need.  God put it on their hearts to bless you with items that you have lost.  It may be heartbreaking and difficult to ask for help, but never turn down a blessing.

There may be some who are too broken to see God’s blessing in their lives.  And, that is okay.  Having any kind of loss is devastating and finding hope again may take time.  Sometimes all we can do is get on our knees and cry out to God for help.  Through prayer we all will find “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).  Psalm 144:2 is a prayer of declaration in time of need: “He is My steadfast love and My fortress, My stronghold and My deliverer, My shield and He in whom I take refuge.”  This Scripture not only gives you hope again, but it also gives you renewed strength through Christ.  Matthew 5:4 states the “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Let these words wash over you and remind you that you are not alone.  God is ALWAYS with you.

And, always remember that a blessing is not all about material things.  A blessing is simply God loving on us through a prayer being answered.  His continuous protection over your life and family.  A blessing is helping people in need.  We are blessed every day through Christ.

 

Worshipping Through Scripture Series – God of Second Chances

In Luke 15:11-32, a son decided to selfishly take His father’s inheritance for the desire to live a better life.  In this parable, we learn that the son had to shamefully come back home, because he realized his life with his father was better than living on his own.  It was better than living in a pig sty for food and clothes.  He left his father’s house with money and returned home with only the shirt on his back.  He had nothing to give but himself.  This story is filled with bad decisions, regret, prayer, and a father’s love.

Many Christian artists have written songs about the prodigal son, and the love that the father showed upon his return.  Laura Story, a young Christian artist, wrote a song called, “Prodigal”, and in her song she tells a story of a father who is desperately awaiting for his son’s return.  The father used to go to the ballpark every day, but, since his son’s disappearance, he prays on his front porch, rocking in his chair, wondering where is son is.  “He is watching, and he is hoping” and “though his eyes are weary, his arms are still open” as “his prayer so softly spoken” begging his son to “come home”.  The father “longs to see his face in younger skin running down the driveway again”.  The father is crying out to God saying, “It was just a disagreement.  Why did my son leave?”

An American Christian rock band, 7eventh Time Down, wrote a song referencing the prodigal story called, “The One I’m Running To”.  It tells about a married couple with three children struggling to pay the bills, and they are both working multiple jobs to make ends meet.  The financial situation is putting a strain on the marriage and their family.  Their faith is running low, and they need of a miracle.  During the middle of night, exhausted from crying, they get on their knees declaring that they will never run from God, but run towards Him.  They know He is their “only Hope who satisifies [their] heart[s]”.  They know deep down that God is “everything that’s good and right and true.”  Their faith keeps them strong in their circumstances.

Another popular rock Christian band named Kutless wrote a song called, “Come Back Home”.  In this song, it is encouraging the prodigal to come home.  It challenges the person who is lost and reckless, to find freedom in his or her situation.  Just like in Luke 15:20-21, it tells the prodigal to “come back home” because “I’ll be running out to meet you”.  In this parable, the father forgives his son and runs toward him with open arms.

APPLICATION

We all relate to one of these songs that tells a story of broken people who simply Jesus.  Maybe you are the one waiting for the prodigal son or daughter to come home.  Or the one struggling to keep your faith in a difficult situation.  Or the one who is the prodigal child struggling to return home.  No matter which story relates to you the most, it is never too late to pray for God in a hopeless situation.  It is never too late to come home to a Father who loves you unconditionally.  The Father’s arms are opened wide desperately waiting for your return.

The Father is answering your prayers in His perfect timing.  If you are the father on the porch praying for your son or daughter to return home, keep on rocking.  If you are the child who needs to make the journey home, take the first step in the right direction.

Worshipping Through Scripture Series -Being An Overcomer Through Christ

As Christians, we live in a world filled with chaos.  Every day we put on our Armor of God and fight the battles of this world.  With God on our side, we face “giants” with confidence and come out as winners through Christ.

There are several characters in the Bible who have fought and defeated giants.  One of the characters is named David.  In 1 Samuel, chapter 17, David fought and defeated a giant named, Goliath, with just a sling shot and a stone.  His story encourages us to stand strong on the battlefield, no matter what we are facing.

Two Christian artists, Francesca Battistelli and Blanca, wrote songs based off this Scripture to encourage Christians to not give up in the fight.  These songs remind us to stay on the battlefield and to trust that God will come through for us.  Francesca Battistelli wrote a song in 2014 called, “Giants Fall”.  The song is written in honor of a young girl, at the age of 11, who wanted to start an organization called, “Project Yesu”.  The purpose of the organization is to minister to girls and women in Uganda.  When the artist read her story about being mocked by others and being told she was crazy to start an organization, Battistelli was inspired to write a song to encourage all of us to be bold and courageous for what we believe in.  It’s never “too late” or “too far” to turn away from sin and walk with God (prodigal son, Luke 15:11:32).  We are never “too small” and it’s never “too hard” to go after our dreams (David and Goliath, 1 Samuel 17).

In the chorus, it states “don’t you be afraid of the giants in your way [because], with God you know that anything’s possible” (Referenced: Matthew 19:26; 1 John 4:18).  The chorus continues to encourage us to stay in the fight with boldness and bravery and watch the giants fall.  “With childlike faith” (Matthew 18:2-4), mountains will move and miracles will happen (Hebrews 11:1; Matthew 17:20).

Blanca, also wrote a powerful song in 2015 called, “Greater is He”.  She wrote the song in honor of her mother being diagnosed with cancer.  The artist was inspired by her mother’s courageous fight to live.  The song lyrics expresses the struggles we deal with on a daily basis.  It starts out saying, “I face a giant in over my head.  Help me to look up [and remember to] take a deep breath” (Referenced: David and Goliath, 1 Samuel 17).  These lyrics are a prayer to God desperately crying out to Him to be present in our circumstances.  I imagine this artist face down on the floor crying out to God for a miracle for her mother.

In the chorus, Blanca declares who God is through Jesus’ miracles.  She states that her family have faced “an ocean [with] waves raging (Psalm 89:9, 93:4; Mark 4:35-41) and, with faith, they have “step[ped] out on the sea” to meet Jesus (Matthew 14:2-23).  The song continues on to proclaim God’s name.  We can face anything “in His name”.

APPLICATION

We were all made to be warriors through Christ.  The songs mentioned above are powerful and will lift our spirits when we are discouraged and feel defeated.  The lyrics and the meaning behind these songs come from the heart of these artists.  Battistelli and Blanca both wrote songs through inspiration of others.  They were inspired by someone else’s strength while going through hardship.

These two songs declare who God is through Scripture.  Just like David in 1 Samuel 17, we have our own battles to fight and win.  The lyrics remind us to stay strong in the fight and always have God by our side.  Philippians 4:13 states that we “can do all things through Him who gives [us] strength.”  I encourage you to put on your Armor of God and run onto the battlefield to face your giants.

OTHER REFERENCES TO LOOK UP

  • Joshua 24:14-18 (Joshua’s Story) – “Every Giant Will Fall” by Rend Collective, The Promise land.

Worshipping through Scripture Series – Introduction to Worship

Worship is described as “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.”  Worship “is where life meets ultimate reality…A place where we sense Eternal Significance and realize that we were created to ‘live our lives to the full’…in the presence of the God who loves us more than we could ever imagine” (Author Unknown).  It is “an expression of our hearts toward God as shown through song and praise as we worship Him, we are drawn into His presence and experience His touch in our lives” (Author Unknown).  As you can see, worship has many different levels and each of us experience God differently through praise.

In the Bible, Psalm 150:6 declares that “everything that has breath praise the Lord.”  Psalm 95:6 invites us to “bow down in worship” toward God and “kneel before [Him as our] Lord [and] Maker.”  1 Chronicles 16:23-25 tells us to “sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim His salvation day after day….For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise…”  In the book of Psalm, David was known as a true worshipper.  He proclaimed in Psalm 103:1 to “praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His Holy Name.”  David praised God with everything he had — his soul, heart, and mind.  He would praise God “all day long” (Psalm 71:8).  David even praised God through the troubled times.  Psalm 143:6 states that David “spread [his] hands to [God]” and, in desperation, said “I thirst for You like a parched land.”  The Psalmist was always worshipping God, no matter what was going on in His life.  We can learn from David on the importance of worship and how to truly live it out in our lives.

Worship lyrics is not just words on a page we sing to; it is the Bible put into song form.  Many Christian artist have written hymns and worship music by using Scripture or stories in the Bible for their lyrics.  When we worship, we are singing the Bible out loud.  We are proclaiming the Word of God without even realizing it.  Think about it!–That is what worship is all about!  It is all about praising our God for who He is with every breath we take.  Worship is powerful and transforms our lives as long as we see it for what it really is.

In the next five blogs, I will be breaking down hymns and worship songs to further explain what worship means on a deeper level and how to live it out in our lives that will change the way we see music.  Worship can and will transform our lives the more we understand the songs we sing in church, in our home, and in our car.  I encourage all of us to be like David, and praise “God with all [our] heart, [our] soul, and [our] mind” (Matthew 22:37; Deuteronomy 6:5).

Captivated By God’s Presence

Captivated is defined as “to attract and hold the attention or interest of, as by beauty or excellence; enchant.

When you think about being captivated by something or someone, you are mesmerized and in awe of what you see and feel.  Nothing else around you matters!  Your focus is on the object that put you into an awe state.

Imagine yourself laying on the beach and the sun is setting.  The waves are crashing in, and you hear the birds singing in the wind.  You stare into the sky watching it turn beautiful colors – green, blue, purple, pink.  You watch as the sun lowers towards the ocean, and you see the sun’s reflection coming off the water.  You become mesmerized by the scene in front of you.  It is so beautiful it doesn’t seem real.  You are in a dream-like state!  You are in awe, and you feel overwhelming peace surrounding you.  You slowly inhale and exhale to fully take in the serene moment.  You feel a longing to never leave that place.  Nothing else matters in that moment!  You are captivated by unexplainable beauty.  God’s beauty!

Now, imagine yourself in a quiet place with God.  It can be in your home, in your church, or even in your car.  You have your eyes closed, and your breathing is slow and steady.  There are no distractions.  It is only you and God in that moment.  You start singing a soft hymn/worship song to the Lord.  You begin to feel His presence all around you.  You are captivated by His touch, His love…His presence.  You are overtaken by who God is in that very moment.  You start crying in His presence, and you fall to your knees.  You want to be wrapped up in the presence of God.  There is no other place you want to be.  You are in a precious moment with Jesus!  You crave more of Him!  You never want to leave this place.  All you want to do is sit in God’s presence and soak up everything you can in that moment.  You are captivated by God’s love!  You are captivated by Him!

In Psalm 27, verse 4, it says that God is beautiful: “to gaze upon the beauty [the delightful loveliness and majestic grandeur] of the Lord.”  The sunset at the beach and spending time in God’s presence can be described with such beauty.  God made the sunset for us to see beautiful things here on earth, to see His creation first-hand.  God made worship beautiful and intimate with Him!  These two things that I described above are real, and we need to not take them for granted.  We need to see how God sees!  We need to feel like God feels!  We need to be constantly in His presence!

When was the last time you spent time with God?  When was the last time you allowed God to overwhelm you with His presence?  Have you ever experienced His love? This week, I encourage you to take time out of your busy schedule to sit in God’s presence. To feel His love that He has for you each and every day!  To feel His touch to know that He is near you!  It is the most captivating moment you could ever experience!