That One Time I Didn’t Go to Church

Today marks a somewhat strange and surprising milestone in my life. This is the first Sunday ever that I have not been sick, and still voluntarily decided not to go to church.  Because truthfully, today is one of those days where instead of being “led in worship”, I really needed to find it on my own. I didn’t feel like celebrating this morning; I felt like being quiet.

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve just been a little “off” the past couple of weeks.  One thing that’s tricky about being a Bible major is making sure you don’t forget the purpose behind what you’re doing.  It had been a while since I’d read my Bible just to read it.  And because I’ve been in frantic finals week mode, I knew that going to church this morning would make me feel resentful.  Turn in paper, get an A.  Go to church, get an A.  It would be somewhere else I had to go, something else I had to do, to punch the ol’ time card and say that I went.  Plus, a good friend was in town this weekend, and we’d made plans to get lunch together.  To be able to do that, I would have to go to early service.  And since most of the people I know go to second service, would there really be all that much community?  No.  I would sit there alone and not be able to muster up the energy to sing after 6 hours of sleep.

After the hustle and bustle and stress and frustration and confusion of the last couple of weeks, I really just needed to be alone with God to refuel.  And honestly, it was the best thing I could have done.

Instead of getting up at 7, I slept until 9.  And here’s what I did.

First, I spent a few minutes journaling and praying.  Then I listened to Fire Fall Down by Hillsong United and Give Me Faith by Elevation Worship.  And then I got on youtube and watched Lifehouse’s Everything skit and cried.  Feel free to take a couple of minutes to watch it yourself, if you haven’t.

The end of the skit reminded me of a Scripture in Colossians about God making a public spectacle of the powers of darkness, but I took a little journey through the Bible to get there.  First, I read the crucifixion account in Luke through the lens of the skit, which made me approach it in a whole new way.  That led me to Psalm 22, and then I went to Colossians where the verse was, and ended up reading the whole book.  There was a lot that really stood out to me today, but two passages in particular:

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” –Colossians 1:22-23.

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” –Colossians 2:13-15.

The contrast of these two verses really stood out to me.  Christ made me holy, without blemish, and free from accusation.  But he made the powers of darkness disarmed, humiliated, and defeated.

I feel like I’ve been in super defensive mode lately, but what am I fighting?  I am not my enemy.  Other people are not my enemy.  Finals are not my enemy.  The real enemy has already been vanquished, and God finds me beautiful and perfect.  And that’s what I found worth celebrating today, in my pajamas, in my bed, without any grand instrumental worship or a message from a famous guest speaker.  Just me and God, and a quiet reminder of what this is all about.

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choir!

Choir at Grace Chapel is:

  • Not having practice this week due to sickness and everything still coming together perfectly at the last minute because
  • GOD SHOWS UP
  • Looking over at Jonathan’s contagious smile and not being able to stop smiling/laughing with legit joy at the way he leads us in worship
  • Seeing my church family totally engaged in worship: eyes closed, hands raised, rejoicing in the love of their Creator
  • BEING totally engaged in worship
  • Following the Spirit’s lead, even if it means singing a song we haven’t practiced or going overtime by 10 minutes
  • Community amid diversity
  • Hanging out in the consecration room eating breakfast together
  • Sharing tic-tacs after breakfast, before second service, because we all have coffee breath
  • Chilling with cool guys like David who play a turquoise electric guitar
  • Having a choir director who is not afraid to leave the choir to go pray with someone who needs it and
  • Being totally fine because it’s really more about the Spirit anyway
  • Those moments when the drummer and guitarists start having a lot of fun, and you can’t help but laugh because they are so enjoying the gift of music that God has given us
  • Passionate
  • Joyful
  • Spirit-led…ALWAYS

I love my church. So much.

If you wanna listen to some awesome live worship music, check out today’s video at http://gracechapel.net/teaching/?p=detail&id=377.

Published in: on November 11, 2012 at 10:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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God was moving yesterday.

It seemed like everywhere I turned yesterday, God was moving powerfully and making His presence known… and there are no deadlines in His schedule. Yesterday at Lipscomb chapel, President Lowry gave an altar call, and people started coming down to the front to pray with faculty members. We went past our dismissal time by 20 minutes, but even when we were dismissed, a lot of people stayed, singing and praying over those who had come forward. Later that evening there were 2 baptisms in the square. This just highlighted how thankful I am to be at a school where your president and your teachers know that there are more important things than being in class on time.

Yesterday evening I went to choir practice at my church. That may sound inconsequential, but I felt like God was moving there too. We started off in an unhurried time of prayer.

“Lord, let us be invisible on Sunday morning.”

“Help us not to perform but to follow your lead.”

“It’s not us, but Your Spirit in us.”

The song selection for Sunday is…intense. Some of the most powerful songs that we sing at Grace Chapel, put together into one worship service.

“You are stronger, you are stronger. Sin is broken, you have saved me. It is written, Christ is risen; Jesus, You are Lord of all.”

“Free: You captured me, I’m released from the lies that I have believed. Your truth has set me free!”

“As He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me. For I am His and He is mine — bought with the precious blood of Christ.”

Even practice was so powerful… I can’t wait to see what God is going to do on Sunday morning. And I can’t believe I get to be a part of it! Awesome things will be happening at Grace Chapel. I fully believe that God will change lives.

I went straight from choir practice to Sanctuary — and last night at Sanctuary was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

Photo courtesy of Jake Burton, captioned: "Holy Spirit don't stop...Sanctuary with dozens being raised from the dead in JESUS!"

As usual, they began wrapping it up around 10:00, but this time Adam gave an altar call for anyone who felt the Spirit’s prompting to go down front and pray with a ministry team member. What followed was something only God could have done. People began making their way to the front, and then baptisms began. One right after another. I have never seen so much joy and celebration in one place. People were cheering, screaming, dancing, exploding in uncontainable excitement for God.

A while later, running out of songs and beginning to take requests, Adam said something that really stuck with me: “I know it’s getting late, but fortunately we serve a God who doesn’t sleep, so we’re just going to keep going!” I had to leave at 11:00 to take a friend back to school, but from what I heard later it kept going till midnight and there were about 20 baptisms.

All I can say is, THANK YOU JESUS.

What an incredible start to Easter weekend.

Published in: on April 6, 2012 at 11:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Snapshot from Passion 2012

Of all the incredible experiences I had at Passion back in January, of all the things I learned and the people I met, one single snapshot has stayed with me. It was really random, but it burned itself into my memory and I can still see it as clearly as I did that night.

It’s of a guy, a few rows in front me, during the Hillsong concert.

He has his phone out, recording the song. I don’t even remember what song.

As the music and the singing grow louder and more intense, his phone shakes and blurs the image as he raises his hand in the air, unable to remain still.

Then, almost frantically, alive with excitement, he gives up and slips his phone back in his pocket.

Freedom.

Up go his outstretched hands, high above his head, reaching, reaching for God. His hands, now open, now closed, now covering his heart, move with the music and the beat of the drum, emphasizing his surrender, punctuating his praise.

It is as if he is about to explode with worship so powerful he can no longer contain it. In that moment, his love for God is passion defined.

The intensity of emotion I see brings tears to my eyes.

Still.

Published in: on March 30, 2012 at 12:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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Biblical Expressions of Worship

Hey! So I’m gonna write about something that some Christians find awkward to discuss, because I’m never afraid of being awkward. People have such widely varied opinions and preferences on worship styles, and that’s fine! But I just want to talk about them a bit because I think too often we let our worship be dictated by what we’re used to, or what everybody else around us is doing, or other factors besides our passion for God. And here’s rule #1 of worship:

It’s not about you. You have to let go of your self-consciousness, tune everyone else out, and just worship God! If you were to stand near me at Sanctuary, you would never guess that I’ve had 5 years of voice lessons and a performance-quality voice because it sure as heck doesn’t sound like it — I sing/shout till I’m hoarse, and my only volume option is “loud”. Because I’m not performing — I’m worshiping!

When Pastor Steve talked about this a few weeks ago, he mentioned the story of the Samaritan woman. She was asking Jesus about where the “right” place to worship was — where the Samaritans worshiped, or where the Jews worshiped? Jesus answered that neither was “right”, because God was just seeking people to worship Him in spirit and in truth. It’s not about tradition or culture or expectation, and it’s not always dignified — it’s a natural outpouring of love in response to God, and a very personal expression of devotion. And so it makes sense that in most examples of worship in the Bible, people are letting go of propriety and releasing their emotions in passionate worship to God. So once you get it in your head that worship shouldn’t be defined by what is proper or socially acceptable, let’s start looking at some biblical examples of worship.

Raising hands. There’s nothing wrong with raising hands to God in worship! It’s awesome symbolism both for surrender and for reaching out to God, and sometimes you just can’t help but throw up your hands in a glorious exclamation of freedom! Plus, it’s totally biblical! Psalm 63:4 talks about lifting up hands in God’s name as an expression of praise. 1st Timothy 2:8 talks about lifting hands in petition to God.

Clapping hands. Psalm 47:1 — “Clap your hands, all you nations!” Why not?! We applaud everything else to show appreciation; why not show just as much — or more — to God?

Kneeling. “Let us bow down in worship and kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Psalm 95:6). Sometimes, overwhelmed by the holiness of God, there’s not much else to do but fall on our knees in His presence. Again in Revelation we see the elders falling before God in worship. Kneeling is an expression of worship and surrender just as much as raising hands or singing!

Singing. God sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17), so why shouldn’t we sing to God? He gave us a voice with which to praise Him! Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19). Sing praises to God (Psalm 47:6). Sing of His strength and His great love and His justice (Psalm 59:16, 89:1, 101:1).

Shouting. If you think you can’t sing, I know you can shout — and God loves it just as much! Psalm 100:1 and Psalm 95:1 encourage us to shout out loud for joy. When God has changed, has saved, your life, how can you not explode with amazement and gratitude? At worship tonight as we sang the words, “Oh, praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!” an awesome shout of uncontainable excitement rose from every pair of lungs in the place. It was joyful, it was beautiful, and it too was biblical! In Revelation we get to see a glimpse of the glorious party in heaven and the roar of a great multitude shouting, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!” (Revelation 19:1). It’s not a timid whisper. There’s no subdued “inside voice.” It’s an explosive joyful noise to God!

Dancing. Psalm 149:3 — “Praise His name with dancing!” David obviously believed what he wrote because that’s exactly what he did! 2nd Samuel 6 tells the story of David “leaping and dancing before the Lord” (oh and look, shouting as well!) for joy when the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Jerusalem. David’s wife was embarrassed by him and upset by the spectacle, but David was focused on more important things: “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes… [but] it was for the Lord, and I will celebrate before Him.”

And sometimes, I just can’t help but celebrate as well. : )

The Psalms are rich with expressions of worship, and definitely check out Revelation as well! After all, why wouldn’t we want to imitate a little bit of heaven on earth? I challenge you not to settle on “traditional” worship, whatever that is for you — whether it’s conservative church of Christ or Pentecostal, search Scripture and explore the heart of God, and above all else, whatever physical expression of worship you choose, always worship Him in spirit and truth!