God Deserves Worship at All Times

It was, without doubt, the worst day of my life. It surpassed the day I found out I had an incurable illness, it surpassed the day my mom had to have gallbladder surgery, and it surpassed the day my dad told us he had stage 3 cancer. It was a Saturday, and it was the day my dad left. Not just for a quick trip, or even an extended one – no, he permanently walked out the door.

Just a few weeks prior, we were all shocked when he announced that he was resigning from his position as pastor and divorcing my mom. Not a single member of the congregation saw it coming. Unfortunately, neither did any of his four kids, or his wife. Everything I had ever known to be my reality was forever changed. 

This new chapter of my life challenged one of the deepest truths that I have always held dear: God is deserving of worship no matter what is going on in my life. Worship is about Him, not me. And because of this truth, when I think back to the day that my dad left, I can’t help smiling. You see, it was the worst day of my life, but it was also the first time I fully understood the impact of worship.

After my father hugged each of his children, and then my mom, he walked out the door for the last time. Our bodies trembled, tears streamed down all of our cheeks, we clung to each other. We were desperately broken. Then a soft voice whispered in my heart, “Invite Me in.”

The Lord was beckoning me to worship even in the prison of my devastation. When words had left me and my soul ached, I had to make a decision whether or not to uphold what I had always believed. I solemnly lifted my head began to sing. “Holy Spirit, You are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory, Lord, is what our hearts long for… to be overcome by Your presence, Lord.” My family began to lift their voices in accompaniment to my own, the tears still streaming, hands still trembling. We sounded awful as our voices warbled through our tear-thickened throats, but still, I felt an undeniable shift in the atmosphere.

The King, the Comforter, the Prince of Peace had just stepped into our living room.

As we sang, the tears stopped flowing and our voices grew stronger. When the first song came to an end, I began to sing a more upbeat tune, “I’ve got the joy of the Lord falling fresh on me, I’ve got the joy of the Lord, delivering me.” Once again, the voices of my siblings and mom joined in. Before long, we were smiling as the joy of the Lord flooded the room.

On a day that the enemy meant to be the devastation and ruin of my family, God’s peace and love filtered in through the darkness and brought us into a place without fear: the serene presence of His perfect love. Because we wouldn’t let the enemy silence us, because we were bold enough to worship our God who is deserving no matter what, we were comforted in His arms.

It was the hardest day of my life, but it showed me what is truly in my heart. I’m forever changed because of a day that should have destroyed me, and instead grounded me. No matter what goes on in my life, I will always remember that day and what it taught me. This I believe: God deserves my worship no matter my circumstance, and He always responds.

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Why I Love Religion

It really gets under my skin when people say they hate religion or that religion is all bad/evil. I get it, I do. A lot of “religious” people have done absolutely horrendous things in the name of religion. From the Catholic war on Protestants and vice versa, to the Islamic war on Christianity and vice versa, to a million other lesser-known “religious” acts of violence, there is a long history of evil.

So yes, I understand where people are coming from when they say that.

But according to Scripture, those people aren’t truly religious- they’re monsters.

Okay, the Bible doesn’t call them monsters.. but it does call them sepulchers (Matthew 23), which refers to dead things, which means zombies, so yeah. Monsters.

(^That was a joke, I do not actually believe in zombies… even after the stories of people eating other people’s faces that went viral several years ago.. actually.. maybe I do?)

There is a movement around thanks to the video, “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus,” that has captivated a lot of people with the idea that Christianity is entirely relationship-based. I agree with most of what he says in the video, but I can’t get past the dominant theme that religion is evil and anti-Christ.

Several weeks ago, when I shared my heart on worship, I mentioned Satan’s sneak attack method. He proposes a bunch of truth, sneaks in a tiny lie, and we fall for it because the truth blinded us. I can’t help but think about that when I see this video, or when I hear people (with disgust in their voice) say, “I’m not religious, I’m relational.”

Here’s the actual truth: if you have an honest relationship with God, you will become a religious person. Let me explain.

The KJV version of the Bible references “religion” or “religious” in six verses.

“Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.”

-Acts 13:43

In this verse, Paul and Barnabas persuaded religious people to continue in the grace of God, as in “keep doing what you’re doing because you’re on the right track.”

“Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.”

-Acts 26:5

The context for this verse is Paul speaking to other Jews. Please notice he didn’t say “my old religion,” but rather “our religion,” as in “still practiced religion.”

“For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.”

-Galatians 1:13-14

In this verse, religion is shed in a negative light, not because of the religion itself, rather because of the actions Paul took in the name of religion. As I mentioned before, it is because of people’s actions that religion is generally regarded with disdain, and such was the case in Paul’s time.

“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

-James 1:26-27

This is the final passage of Scripture that references religion. Here, religion is regarded as something good, something righteous, unless it is done wrong. This verse speaks out against those evil acts done in the name of religion and then goes on to define what religion actually is.

The key difference between oddball “religions” that primarily use religion as a cover up for horrific acts of violence or use it as a method to make money off of people with guilty consciences and true religion is relationship. Relationship builds the desire for a walk of integrity, a walk full of good works, a walk in religion. Relationship and religion are not contrary to each other; they complete one another.

Don’t just take my word for it, let’s look at that verse again.

 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

– James 1:27

This Scripture is pretty straight forward- religion is good because at its root, it is loving and caring for people in need and staying separate from the world. All of this is the direct result of having a relationship with Christ.

The true tragedy is when people do things in the name of religion and cause a hatred for God because of it. Paul addressed this very thing, people trussing up religion and then acting against it, in Romans 2.

Now if you call yourself a Jew, and rest in the law, boast in God, know His will, and approve the things that are superior, being instructed from the law, and if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light to those in darkness, an instructor of the ignorant, a teacher of the immature, having the full expression of knowledge and truth in the law— you then, who teach another, don’t you teach yourself? You who preach, “You must not steal”—do you steal? You who say, “You must not commit adultery”—do you commit adultery? You who detest idols, do you rob their temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? For, as it is written: The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.

-Romans 2:17-24 (HCSB)

The issue is not with religion itself, rather religion that is participated in entirely for the sake of desiring to be superior to those around you. Evil done in the name of relationship is the result of putting the cart before the horse.

Your walk with God must start with a relationship, it must start with a sincere desire to please Him, to separate yourself out of the world for Him, and then true, pure, undefiled religion will begin to form.

For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and true circumcision is not something visible in the flesh. On the contrary, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heartby the Spirit, not the letter…

-Romans 2:28-29 (HCSB)

Once that circumcision of the heart takes place, when you have cut yourself off from the world and attached yourself to Jesus, then you will find it in yourself to love the people in need and to care for them. It is that love (relationship) that will define you as His, and it is your works (religion) that will build up your reward in Heaven.

He will repay each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality; but wrath and indignation to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth… affliction and distress for every human being who does evil… but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does what is good

-Romans 2:5-10 (HCSB)

What are your thoughts on religion vs. relationship? Do you agree that they are hand in hand? Please keep your comments kind. 🙂

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You Can’t Hate Your Brother and Call Yourself a Worshipper

Today’s post is part two of the lesson I taught in my church’s youth class a couple of weeks ago. As I mentioned last week, after teaching the lesson, I still felt the burden to share and to give a warning to my generation which is why I decided to post about. I gotta listen to IT, remember?

In case you missed the post I’m referring to, let me explain:

I was invited to teach on the subject of worship. This is something I’m extremely passionate about, so I didn’t struggle to come with a bunch of thoughts. In the first post of this two-part series, I talked about how terrifying some of the quotes I found in my research were. In this post, I want to talk about how raw and cutting the Scripture is and what it has to say about worship and love.

Betrayal is everywhere. It’s a bitter knife to the gut every time and leaves us hurting, angry and numb. Strange how you can feel both hurt and angry and numb all at once, isn’t it? The desire to never be hurt again creates a numbing barrier between our heart and the outside world.

Unfortunately, in the believer’s case, this barrier also comes between us and God.

I’ve talked in the past about the importance of forgiveness. It’s not a new concept to us and most believers are familiar with the verse that says “… if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15 ESV). I think, deep down, we always want to forgive each other, but what if we don’t follow through?

Until I started studying for this lesson, I never really put together the pieces of the salvation puzzle regarding worship and forgiveness. Now that I get it, I’ve noticed a new depth to my worship, a new charge or spark or fire. I’m in a new realm when I lift my hands and heart to the Heavens.

I want that for all of us. But it’s hard to get and, worse, hard to keep. Let me explain.

Worship is adoration.

That’s what makes it different than praise. You can praise someone you don’t like, all you have to do is compliment them. You can’t worship someone unless you adore them. It’s beyond pleasant words or action, it’s an all-consuming love. So consuming that it results in action.

You’ve probably heard it said that “worship is a lifestyle.” This simple phrase bears a much weightier truth. True adoration evokes consistent action.

When you fall head over heels in love, what do you spend your time doing? When I fell in love with Mr. MTBR (this is a reference to my work-in-progress memoirs which none of you but myself will get.. sorry 🙂 ), it looked something like this:

  • Wake up, remember last night’s conversation with Mr. MTBR, say a prayer for him and wonder how his day will go
  • Work, get a text or call from Mr. MTBR, commence daydreaming about the next time I’ll see/talk to him
  • Lunch break, drive home and hear a sappy love song or quote on the radio, smile to myself thinking about the memory of Mr. MTBR it sparks, whisper a quick prayer that his day is going well
  • Back to work, wonder every time my phone buzzes if it’s Mr. MTBR and if we’ll get the chance to catch up on the phone before bed, per sort-of-tradition
  • Off work, head home to eat dinner and watch Netflix then take off to spend time with friends or go to church, all the whilst wondering what Mr. MTBR is doing with his evening
  • Get ready for bed, text Mr. MTBR to see if he’s up for a chat, he usually is, hang up and fall asleep daydreaming about the possibility of the word “future”

Now that was a sickeningly sappy version of love. I didn’t mention the parts where life got really hard and he came through for me, or the parts where it got worse and he didn’t, but I loved him all the same. Love is more than a feeling, it’s a commitment and you choose to be in or out of it.

Anyway, the point is, love evokes action and thought. It’s not something you feel once a day or week or month. You think about the object of that love throughout the day. Now this kind of love, human love, is built on the concept of equality in worth.

Worship takes it a step further. It’s only in existence when you are less worthy than the One you’re worshiping. That knowledge creates an obsessive and extreme adoration for the One who is higher, which evokes action. In other words, when you truly adore God (that One who is higher), you spend your day constantly loving Him and reverentially loving on Him and therefore, your lifestyle becomes one of worship.

Worship and love have a lot more in common. Have you ever noticed that when you love someone and get in a fight with someone they care about, it affects your relationship with them? Things become stilted and awkward, you have a harder time relating to one another. Once again, it’s the same thing with worship.

Worship connects believers to one another. It is key in revival, not just because of how it evolves our relationship with the Object (a word which here means “Incredible, All-Consuming Spiritual Force that gives life to all and can take it away with a single thought”) of our worship, but also because it unites us together. When all of us are not thinking of ourselves, rather the God of the world, we are focused in mind and purpose – we are in one accord (Acts 2:1-5).

There is no more pure unity than in when we come together in worship. Take a moment to reflect on the times you felt closest to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Was it around the altar?

There is something about worship that causes us to forget ourselves and finally think of others first. When you realize that you are nothing in comparison to the One whom your heart adores, it’s easier to let your pride and ambition go. It’s easy to love one another, but sometimes hurt creeps it’s way into the picture.

Continue reading “You Can’t Hate Your Brother and Call Yourself a Worshipper”