by Tracy Manno
This morning I was reading in the book of Exodus and was struck by something I really hadn’t spent much time thinking about before. The first three verses of Exodus 2 are all we are given in regard to the first three months of Moses life, and the heart-wrenching decision his mother made to send him down the Nile river in a basket. Can you imagine the anguish she must have gone through in making that decision? And not just that decision but all the way back to when she realized she was pregnant.
At that time Pharaoh, King of Egypt, decreed all male baby Israelites were to be murdered. Imagine how difficult the decision to even get pregnant would have been for any Jewish couple at that time. And imagine the anxiety she felt for 9 months as she carried the baby, not knowing its gender, wondering if her child would be taken and killed as all the others were.
With each of my 3 children, the moment of their births was filled with such joy for me and my wife. But imagine Moses’ mother when she gave birth and realized she had a son, to whom the order was given to kill. There was no lasting joy in that moment, only fear and impending dread.
In her despair she decided to hide Moses for three months while nursing him until she couldn’t hide him any longer. Those 3 months must have been more agonizing than the 9 months she carried him in her womb. The heartbreaking reminder, every day, every moment as she nursed her baby, growing more in love and tender to his needs, knowing she would have to give him up and never see him again.
The human pain and agony I just talked about was completely absent from the three verses of scripture we see in this story. We read nothing of the human element – her personal anguish. The living-nightmare she was in, and the agonizing trials of functioning every day within that nightmare, must have been overwhelming to say the least.
I must have read that passage at least a hundred times prior, but this time the absence of what she went through personally, emotionally, struck me the most. But as I thought about it, most of scripture is written that way. I suppose if the Bible included details of all the human experiences within the stories the final version would be too large to be practical. But it doesn’t take much for us to “fill in” those human gaps with our own understanding of the human condition. The “spaces” between the words in the Bible represent so much more than mere punctuation; they represent our story as well.
So often we read the Bible and recognize people only as characters, not real-life humans like you and me. But when we start to apply our own experiences of suffering, pain, tragedy, fear, love, perseverance, joy and every other part of the human condition, the stories become much more personal, and much more relatable.
The Bible says that Jesus came down from heaven and put on human flesh so that He could know us, relate to us, and be exceedingly merciful to us in every way. (Hebrews 2:14-18) In other words, when God became human He was able to fully enter into our suffering with us, as us, and ultimately for us.
It is with this same understanding I believe we are intended to enter into the scriptures. The Word of God is alive. We must not only see ourselves within its pages, but put ourselves there. We, along with humanity past, present and future, are in need of the Savior, and if we cannot place ourselves into the eternal story of God’s redemptive plan than we are hopelessly lost.
We are to connect with scripture at a very personal place. The spaces in-between the words and sentences offer us the opportunity to make that connection at a very real, and human, level.
As you fill yourself with God’s Word today ask that He would bring personal understanding and revelation for your life, and that you would find yourself within the pages of the greatest story ever told!
by Tracy Manno
I woke up this morning with a real sense that it’s time to share a little more with you about what I believe God has been saying to me, and where this whole thing is going. I figured I’d get it out in a single stream of thought through a quick video that you can link to at the bottom of this post.
His Way Worship is an evolution, not of a company but really of me seeking out God’s will. Someday I’ll share with you where the name came from, and why it means so much to me. God has continually told me through words from others that the heart of HWW is going to reflect the things He is doing in my heart, and it will be for the sake and benefit of others.
Stepping out into this calling has been a process. It started 6 years ago when I had an encounter with God where He shifted my thinking from what I thought the plans for my life were, to a completely new understanding. And through 6 years He has been walking me through the fulfillment of that shift. Now, entering into the 7th year since that encounter, I believe it’s time to fulfill what He showed me.
God will give us glimpses of destiny for us to refer back to as He moves us forward on our path. Those glimpses can come through encounters, desires, passions, words, dreams, visions, or however else He sees best to help us know, deep down, what we were created to do. Remember Joseph and his dream of ruling over his brothers? It took more than two decades for the fulfillment of that dream, and throughout the journey Joseph didn’t have clarity to what it was going to look like. But he always had the dream, the promise, to hold onto.
What is yours? What has God already revealed to you about your life calling? Maybe you brush off thoughts of this “other life” when they come to your mind because you can’t see past the life you live right now. But as Psalm 139 tells us, God wrote each of your days before you were even born. When you come to truly believe that, it becomes much harder to brush off. In fact you have a burning desire to chase after it.
Your life was purchased at great price, by the blood of Jesus. You are no longer your own but His. Romans 12 teaches us that our true act of worship is to offer our lives as a living sacrifice, to do what God desires us to do. The word living speaks to things of new life! Your new life is “hidden” in Christ (Colossians 3). Have you found it?
Worship is not all about music… it is an attitude! It is an unceasing exchange between what we think and what God thinks. What we want and what God wants. This is His way for us to worship!
So it’s time for me to be a little vulnerable and share where my head, and heart has been lately, and what you will start to be see from HWW that will help you make the shift to the things God is calling you to fulfill.
by Tracy Manno
In Part 1, we talked about the idea of “waking up” to a growing sense of calling, purpose, even destiny for your life. I had mentioned that I believe this must happen within the church even prior to a large scale revival, or global awakening takes place. The reason I said that was because when the eyes and hearts of thousands and millions are opened to the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s “Plan A” for them is discipleship by those that truly know relationship and fulfillment in their new life in Christ.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you...” (Matthew 28:19–20)
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
In order for this to happen in mass, the church needs to be ready, reliable and awake!
God always leaves a remnant of believers. The remnant are those that have not bowed their knee to any false idol. They are God’s loyal soldiers. In a world where ideological narrative seems to rule the day, the remnant are those not getting caught up in the arguments prevalent in the world, but are instead caught up in the mind and doings of their commander, King Jesus.
“No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:4)
What we identify with will create our arguments. Just look at the polar extremes and divisions in our country and around the world today and you’ll see what I mean. Every day you turn on the TV or log into Twitter you enter a world of arguments where division exists. And the arguments invoke tremendous emotion, creating almost addictive behavior. In the arguments we lose sight of the person on the other end. In the argument we find that defeating the other side is the ultimate thrill. In the argument anyone who stands opposed to what we believe are dehumanized and labeled in our minds, giving us even more self-righteous conviction to brutalize them with our words.
I am not saying Christians aren’t to engage in debate and critical reasoning. In fact we are encouraged to do so. But we are not to get caught up in the trending issues of the world, make that our identity, climb those hills and die on them. Instead, we are to be a people making our case, providing testimony and being witness to truth alone. Truth is indeed the only place that we can all unite.
Jesus Christ is the Truth. He is Truth! “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32)
There is no bypassing the magnitude of this verse and what it means for our lives. If we want to be free from being caught up in the arguments and ways of this world, our first and greatest allegiance must be to “know” the Truth. Truth must be our best friend. In other words, Jesus Christ is to be our greatest desire.
God reveals what He’s doing to His friends. "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15)
Our social media world has truly distorted what being a friend means. A friend in the traditional sense is someone you know, you trust, you spend time with. It is someone you have affection for that goes deeper than shallow common interest and convenience. True friendship is battle tested and wears the scars to prove it. True friendship truly “knows” one another, knows what they are thinking and what they are doing. If someone were to say something deceitful or untrue about your friend you would be the first to question it, stand up for them and speak on their behalf.
The bible states that in the end times there will be a lie so well accepted that it would deceive even the elect of God… if it were possible. Those words “if it were possible” should give us real pause. Is it possible for Christians, those filled with the Spirit of Truth, to be deceived along with the rest of the unbelieving world?
The answer is pretty profound. We will be deceived only if we allow ourselves to be. We have been given access, or more accurately, we are indwelled by truth itself, the Spirit of Truth. Yet even as Adam and Eve walked with the Lord in His presence daily, they had a choice. They had all the truth they needed available to them, walking with them, speaking tenderly and lovingly to them. Being deceived was a choice made by surrendering personal responsibility to discern, in exchange for a plausible and self serving argument.
As Christians we often think that our choices each day are whether or not to sin. And while there is truth to that statement, the greater choice is to know truth or reject truth, as God sees it. Knowing truth is always a choice. Or maybe it would be better to say not surrendering to deception is the choice.
Truth isn't always visible up front. The Bible says we are to seek truth, pursue it, even reason together to find it. But it has become almost a way of life for so many to simply accept what the loudest and most prolific voices are saying, without first doing due diligence to discern.
How quick are we to jump on the bandwagon of our familiar and "trusted" voices? How quick are we to surrender our responsibility to discern, seek, ask questions, gather information and investigate before we start echoing the talking points we heard?
We are to hold to Truth as a soldier holds his ground. God says our ground cannot be taken by the enemy; however it can be surrendered to him.
The book of 2 Corinthians says the battle for truth is fought and won in our minds. Without asking questions, without investigating on our own and looking from other perspectives, we surrender the battle ground without even a struggle. (see 2 Corinth. 10)
Those that call themselves Christians, above all others, should have an insatiable appetite to know truth in all situations. When we see hate and division on mass levels like we are in today's society we should be even more driven to investigate. When we see this kind of division we must recognize it as the fruit of the enemy.
It is up to us to fight each day for truth. It is up to each of us to seek God, through His Spirit, to reveal His thoughts, His ways, His heart in all that we see and experience. It is up to us to examine ourselves, and see if there are any untruthful ways within us. (see Psalm 139:23-24) We cannot leave that to others to do for us. We cannot relinquish that responsibility by listening to the loudest voices while assuming they know what’s best.
When the Great Awakening occurs will you be ready to lead and point others to the place of truth, healing, unity and love? Will your life be a beacon, a light set on a hill? Are you part of the remnant that will not bow its intellectual knee to the idols and god’s of this world, but will stand on the Truth of not only who God is, but what He is doing!
Let us be set apart from the narrative of this world, and be united to Truth, through the Gospel of life and freedom in Jesus Christ.
Founder of His Way Worship, Tracy Manno is a Christian artist, worship pastor, life coach and author with a calling to come alongside other Christian’s to help them fulfill God’s calling on their lives.
by Tracy Manno
I have been noticing a pattern over the past couple years with the use of the phrase “A Great Awakening.” In spiritual terms this is speaking about a national, even global revival; an awakening to God in the midst of an anti-god culture. This will certainly be amazing to be a part of, and many believe it to be soon on the horizon. But what does that mean for those of us who are already chasing after God and walking in faith?
I believe there is a greater awakening already happening for Christians right now. It is an awakening at a personal level, which will extend to the effectiveness of the church as a whole. And it is an awakening, in my opinion, that has to happen before the global spiritual awakening.
The greater awakening is based on a personal awareness and pursuit of God's truth for the full realization of our identity, calling and purpose as sons and daughters of God. Some call this our destiny in Christ, while others refer to it as walking in God's perfect will. Whatever definition suits you, I believe God is opening the eyes of those that would see, and the ears of those that would hear on massive levels within the body of Christ to a greater knowledge of our end time assignments.
The word “awakening” implies we are currently sleeping. For most this sleeping state is unknown to them. Some coast through life content with a desire to simply maintain the status quo. Others remain asleep out of hopelessness or cynicism, convinced life will always be the same regardless of what they do. Whatever the reason, being asleep is a resignation to pursuing the greater works God has planned for each of us and the abundant life promised to us in Jesus Christ.
Most of us have come to believe that our abundant life is fulfilled in the next life, when we are given the full measure of our inheritance in Christ; the redemption of our bodies. I know that I was taught that growing up, even though scripture commands us to start taking hold of our eternal life right now! (see 1 Timothy 6:12) But when we are taught things without other ideas to challenge them, we unwittingly become captive to their narrative.
This process happens all throughout our lives. We are conditioned within certain narratives from a very young age. Not all are malicious in nature. Most are simply products of our upbringings, social and economic status, ethnicity, political bents, and many other influences.
I say all this because waking up requires us to recognize the snow globe of narratives and mindsets we've existed in for so long. To be awake means to be free from the chains of bias, prejudice, and excuse. In order to walk in the new we must be free from the bondage of the old. And the Bible says the battleground over bondage and freedom is in the mind! (see 2 Corinthians 10:5)
The narratives we live in are based on patterns of thinking that have become established and now influence how we see things, interpret them and make decisions. Narratives are useful in creating consistent and known responses, and because of this they are not objective, and rarely capable of leading us to unbiased truth. Jesus told us that we are to "know the truth and the truth will set you free."
Before he became the apostle Paul, his narrative on Christians was firmly established. His belief that they were blasphemous traitors to the faith deserving of death came from false religious narratives taught to him from a young age. These teachings controlled all of his decisions until one appointed day when “Truth” Himself woke Paul up. Paul's life-long narrative was disrupted instantly on the road to Damascus when the glorified Jesus revealed Himself to him. And at that moment he had a choice to wake up or stay asleep.
We all know the end of that story, and Paul later wrote that he wasn’t living life in relationship with God, but was ignorantly (asleep) living life in relationship with his narrative. (see 1 Timothy 1:12-13)
When we blindly live life in obedience to preconditioned narratives we live as those sleep walking. We coast through situations without expanding our awareness and challenging our understanding. We give our ability to think and make decisions to others by following the familiar narrative. But when we live our lives inside relationship, specifically our relationship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, all pre-existing narratives of who we are and what truth is dissipate in the brightness of His light!
Here's the heart of the greater awakening: You were made to be in relationship with God, and to fulfill very specific things that He not only planned for you but also provided and gifted you to fulfill. But in order to finish the race planned for us we MUST wake up from our pre-existing condition, the way we’ve always been and thought, and take on the mind of Christ, letting Him renew our thinking and lead us into all truth. (see Romans 12:2 and John 16:13) The greater awakening is all about your freedom!
So what does this mean for you? What does this look like?
Well there are many of you sensing the awakening deep down. It's a sense that there is more, that everything isn't as it seems. God is stirring this awakening, and it is your job to pursue it. We are waking to Truth. God’s truth to who He is and who you are in Him. The truth of identity, calling and purpose to do and fulfill what He created you for! In this fulfillment there is nothing more satisfying. It’s the call to awaken from the malaise of half met longings and dreams to the reality of abundant life, fulfilling the desires He Himself put into your heart!
Seem unattainable? Seem impossible for your life?
I love the way the Amplified version translates Ephesians 2:10…
For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].
If these words stir you, know that it is the Spirit of God that brings His Word to life in us. And ask yourself one question: Why would you not believe what it says? Be honest! What voice, what thought, what familiar excuse is trying to tell you it isn’t true for you?
Your awakening to greater relationship and purpose in Christ is hindered only by false mindsets and narratives. This is what the Holy Spirit is waking us up to. The truth of the perfect will and plan for each member of His Bride, to play their role in the grandest final act this world has ever witnessed!
As Paul quotes to the church in Ephesus: “Wake up, sleeper, rise form the dead, and Christ will shine on you!”
Are you ready to take your place?
Next in PART 2 we will take a look at what it means to walk in truth.
Founder of His Way Worship, Tracy Manno is a Christian artist, worship pastor, life coach and author with a calling to come alongside other Christian’s to help them fulfill God’s calling on their lives.
by Chantel Waltz
My life regularly feels non-stop with always a lot to do. Can you relate? As a mom of 3, I feel like I am spread thin, trying to meet all my family’s needs. The laundry, the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, the homework, the after-school activities. Not to mention work or church ministry! Nursery! Worship Team! Prayer Teams! Evangelism! There never seems to be an end to the list of responsibilities. I’m not complaining, really. I love my family, my church and my life, but I do tend to get a little stressed out…...ok, a lot stressed out.
You could call me a Martha. You know the one. Martha, as in Mary’s sister. Jesus came to the home of these two sisters and began to teach. Frantic and disheveled Martha got busy preparing the food, while Mary, the good sister, sat sweetly down at Jesus’ feet to enjoy his company. Martha stood fuming in the doorway (because Mary wasn’t helping her make the dinner) and got reprimanded by Jesus for being angry with her sister.
This is, of course, my own translation of the Biblical account, but really, don’t we tend to interpret the story this way? “Wonderful Mary and Horrible Martha!” The thing is, regardless of our own interpretations, by working hard to prepare the food, Martha was doing exactly what she should have been doing! In those days, the women were always expected to work hard to serve their families, and especially notable guests.
Understanding this makes me feel a little better about my Martha tendencies. Serving others is a wonderful thing! It not only blesses others, but is also a vitally important part of our lives and spiritual walk. James 2:20b says “Faith without works is dead.” Jesus wasn’t rebuking Martha for serving, he was rebuking her for allowing her serving to make her anxious and angry!
Here at His Way Worship, we talk a lot about what worship is. More than musical worship during a church service, we worship the Lord through our whole lives. Romans 12:1 says “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.” Every day, like yours, my life is full of sacrifice, which mostly looks like service. There’s every day service: serving my husband, my children, my friends, and community. There’s also spiritual service: teaching, leading worship, praying for others, evangelism. When presented to the Lord, I know that my every act of service is worship unto Him, even washing dishes!
Jesus knew that Martha was actually worshipping Him as she worked hard to prepare His meal. So even His reprimand of her was rooted in love and pleasure. Not disappointment or anger. The last thing Jesus says in his reprimand is interesting to note, however. He adds that “One thing is needed, and Mary had chosen the better part.”
The Better Part… worshipping at His feet… taking time for intimate friendship with Jesus.
What is it about us Marthas? Sometimes the thought of sitting down to pray or read or worship (when our daily to-do-list could wrap around the house) fills us with anxiety. There are so many needs, all the time!! And sometimes, the goal of taking time to sit down and be with Jesus becomes just one more thing on the list that we don’t have time to do, which stresses us out even more. Furthermore, it’s not always easy to get to the place of intimacy with Jesus. Maybe we dread the possibility of getting “emotional” or just plain have a hard time sitting still.
By now you can probably guess that I’ve not been the most disciplined about spending intimate time with Jesus. I am getting better and have actually seen progress in this area of my life, but it’s honestly a daily challenge to choose to take time to be intimate with Jesus… to get filled up. And it is SO true, when I try to serve without first being filled, I DO feel like Martha. Anxious. Tired. Angry.
So, to all my fellow Martha’s-keep going! Keep running! Keep serving! Know, that as you serve, if you offer it to the Lord, you are engaging in worship to Him, and He loves it! But also know that His plan for us includes stopping to do the one thing that is needed. To sit at His feet. To lay our burdens down. To hear what he wants to say to our hearts. To get filled-up. It’s truly the Better Part.
I wanted to discuss the idea of God's love being reckless, as sung in the Bethel Music worship song, "Reckless Love."
There has been a lot of conversation around this song as to whether we should use the term "reckless" to describe God's love for us. To some, the use of this word is dishonoring to an all-loving, all-wise and all-powerful God, reducing Him to an obsessive deity, unable to control His own responses. To others, the use of this word speaks volumes to their soul as they consider how God left nothing on the table to rescue and redeem the lost sinner, even setting aside His own dignity in pursuit of His personal passion.
My intention with this response to "Reckless Love" is not to establish or discredit either view, but rather to turn us to the unifying truths of Scripture as we seek to understand Him who exceeds the ability of our mortal understanding.
When we hear the word "reckless," we tend to think of things that have to do with being foolish, undisciplined or unwise, right? The word relates to something done without applying wisdom, without thinking it all the way through, lacking prudence and good judgment.
So from that point of reference, you might be thinking "God is not any of those things! God is wise! God's judgment is always good!" And I would agree.
But here's the thing. God doesn't use the world's standards to judge and define His actions. He uses His own heavenly standards, which seem foolish to the world. And often God chooses to explain His wisdom and truth to us by referring to it in the most opposing words available in contrast to worldly wisdom.
For example, when speaking of those Jesus bled and died for, the pure white bride of Christ, Paul says in 1 Corinthians that we are "scum of the earth." When speaking about living a life based on faith in the power of the resurrection of Christ, again Paul concedes that to the world we should look like the most pitiful people on the planet (see 1 Cor. 15:19).
So the concept of using undignified terminology to highlight the great chasm that separates the world's understanding of God to His own understanding is well established in Scripture.
Take a look at what it says in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25:
"For to those who are perishing, the preaching of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (v. 18).
Would you call the cross foolish? Of course not! You understand what the cross is, what it means? But to the world, it is foolish indeed.
"It pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom. But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks" (vv. 21b-23).
They (the unbelievers) don't get it. It doesn't fit into their model of thinking ... their standards. It's foolish! It's reckless!
"But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, we preach Christ as the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (v. 24-25).
Consider this: God tells us we must become like children to come to him. A child, when he or she sees what they want, will go after it with reckless abandon. It judges for itself what is most important, and will leave all it has for that chance at getting that one thing it deems in that moment to want the most.
Remember the parable Jesus spoke about the "pearl of great price." The man sold everything he had to gain access to this one pearl of great value. Foolish! Reckless spending of all he owned! But to the person of faith it's not foolish, it's not reckless. It's the wisdom of God calling.
Jesus will leave the 99 sheep to go after the one that is lost. Jesus will leave His throne in heaven to take on the frailty of human, mortal flesh, to save even just one lost sinner. To the world, to a grownup, this is childish, reckless thinking. But not to the one who knows what's most important.
The father or mother who has lost his child will give up all sense of proper etiquette when searching for that child. I don't like bringing attention to myself in any normal situation, but when I can't find my small son or daughter in a crowd I get reckless to my own standards. I become a spectacle to all those around me in my effort to find my lost child.
Jesus became a spectacle on the cross, for all to see. Not prim and proper, no dignity, just a spectacle for all to see. Reckless love for those He came to save. Reckless by worldly standards—but not by the heavenly standard.
The Bible consistently encourages us to represent Him in this life by living the life of a fool. Fools that love others with the same reckless abandon as Jesus loves us. Fools that love as if this world and what it offers means nothing, and God's kingdom and our eternity mean everything. To the world, that's foolish, dare we say, even reckless. To the one being saved, it is the power and faithfulness of God the Father to do whatever it takes to save those He loves.
Tracy Manno currently resides in central Pennsylvania with his wife and three children and is president & CEO of His Way Worship® and co-founder of Narrow Road Ministries where he has serves as director of business and worship. Drawing upon 20+ years experience as lead worship pastor, as well as a broad range of achievements as a songwriter, artist and business executive, Tracy spends much of his time coaching new artists and mentoring those with a desire to live out their God-written destiny in Christ.
For more information and to contact Tracy about coaching, worship and speaking engagements, go to HisWayWorship.com or connect on Facebook at facebook.com/HisWayWorship.
by Terrance & Lisa McCoy
Does it strike anyone odd that Jesus made wine for His first miracle? Perhaps the strangest part of the first miracle was that Jesus used bathing jars to hold the wine. Honestly, isn’t that a little gross? As crazy as this first miracle seemed, the strangest part to me was when he had them fill the huge jars full of water. He had his disciples fill the stone jars to the brim. Why didn’t Jesus just go over to the jars and pray a little prayer and make wine? He could have. There is a purpose for the water.
In Bible times, stone jars were used for purification rituals. Stone was believed to hold purity. These jars were often made of limestone, which was easy to carve. The water poured inside would thus be pure, “living water,” held in this cistern of sorts, for later use. The jars were useful, moldable, pure...but just attractive jars without the water being inside them. The water was the tool to be used. The water was the key element in the purification ceremonies. The water was the stuff of Heaven, being held in specially chosen earthen vessels. The water was the game changer.
We are the jars - chosen, moldable, ready to be used for the Kingdom, waiting for the Water that will flow and heal. But if we come before God without being filled, without lifting our hearts and empty vessels for a fresh filling of His Spirit, power, and direction, we are just attractive stone. We may clean up nicely and say, “Amen!” at the appropriate time, but we are hollow, cavernous, and cold inside without the stuff of Heaven sloshing out and into the world. The stone is nothing without the water.
If I may be honest, we live in a world of carbon copying. Everywhere you look and in all things, we are looking for the next cool look. We are waiting on the next mega church to write another hit song so we can share it in our church. We wear our hats certain ways, bend our brims in certain ways, roll up our pants legs, cut our hair, wear our jewelry and plan our church services in certain ways in hopes to have success. I’m guilty more than anyone else. It leaves me asking myself, “What am I depending on to radically love and change the world around me”. When I try to perform or create things to change the world without listening to God, I am making my own “boxed wine?”. Am I squeezing my own grapes and trying to manufacture my own power? Am I bypassing the living water and hoping the stellar stone will do the trick? A wine connoisseur can identify a fine wine a mile away. They can distinguish its aroma, its intensity, balance, and complexity of notes and flavors. Our hearts are the same way. When you have had choice wine, boxed wine is way less appealing.
Jesus was making a huge point. In John 4:14 He asked the Samaritan woman for a drink. He was building up to an eternal and epic moment with her. “With this living water, you will never thirst again.” I have tasted this water. I’m so glad I did. I, too, fill it to the brim and it bubbles over. If I fill my life with my talent, performance, hard work and grit, I offer the world box wine, devoid of Heaven’s flavor and intensity. If I fill my life with His Holy Spirit, the miracle happens. He allows choice wine to spill out of my dirty stone jar. This, and this alone, is what our world needs. People need much more of Him and much less of me. They need my worship flowing from my emptiness and His filling. They need all of us to go from water to wine, pungent and resplendent for His glory.
Kick the boxed wine, my friends. Let’s go for the Chardonnay!
by Chantel Waltz
We can carry around a lot of things that can hinder our worship. Self-condemnation, sorrow, fear… I feel like we hear a lot about these things. Today I want to talk about something that isn't really talked about a lot. I want to talk about anger.
Last Sunday morning, I walked into the church sanctuary as the lights began to dim. The band came out as I found my place in my row. I'd had a hard week, but I was glad to be in the house of God. I wanted to lay it all down and worship the Lord. Our first song was 'This is Amazing Grace' by Phil Wickham, and I had just really started to enter in to worship. My heart began to engage with the lyrics, which recount many of the wonderful promises of God, as I sang to Him. Things were going great, until we got to a particular promise in one line of the song that says "Who makes the orphan a son and daughter." And I froze. I started to feel a heaviness in my chest. And then the tears started.
You see, we have been pursuing an international adoption from Africa for four, very long years. 2 years ago, we actually had a referral to a little girl in Tanzania. We had her picture up on our fridge, and our family was really excited to bring her home, and in my heart she was my daughter. But because of some political issues we lost our referral, and we lost her. It was very painful, but we still felt called to adopt. Soon after that we started the process all over again, this time in the African country of Guinea. We have been waiting on a referral for a 12 month old little girl, who has been chosen for our family, but recently found out that there are some serious complications with THIS adoption as we found out our adoption agency will be closing permanently.
I've spent a lot of time talking to God about our adoption process, declaring victory and begging God to intervene. We really felt like God told us to pursue this, and believe He promised us a little girl from Africa. But this has been such a long, difficult journey.
Sometimes I do great, I'm filled with expectation and strength to keep waiting and trusting God. But there have also been seasons when all I can do is cope, and I just force myself to not think about it. Then there are the times when all just feels really hopeless. It hurts. It doesn't seem fair, for us OR these orphaned children.
Here's some of the awful thoughts that I wrestle with in those darker moments. “If God REALLY does give mom's and dad's to orphans, then what about the little girl we almost brought home from Tanzania? She's still stuck in an orphanage. What about the baby girl in Guinea? Are You going to take her away too? What about my feelings, my husband's feelings and my 3 bio kids? Why am I being punished when I'm trying to do something GOOD? And spending a lot of time, energy and money to do so?”
The most painful part is that I KNOW God could change all this right now. He is sovereign. He could have stopped it. At any point He could have made it right for all of us. But He didn't. And right then, in that darkened church sanctuary, I realized that I was really angry at God.
Nothing shuts down a relationship like anger. For all the married folks, have you ever tried showing affection to your spouse while you were angry at them? Have you ever tried honestly blessing them, or harder still, giving your whole heart to them in intimacy? You can't do it! Not for real! You can fake it. You can go through the motions, but truly, anger is a nemesis of heart intimacy. The worst of it is, anger is that it doesn't just "go away." You can push it back, try not to thing about it, but in that moment when you try to make a heart connection with someone, it comes right back up. To move forward in relationship, any relationship, the anger has to be recognized and called out for what it is. It has to be dealt with.
We all know anger is bad, but anger at God seems particularly bad somehow, doesn't it? I mean, He's God, right? He knows everything, who are we to question His judgment? Just ask Job, who got an earful of holy lecture when He dared to question God's judgments. This is Christianity 101! But the truth is, God knows the anger is there anyway, and He wants all of us, the good bad and ugly.
The worst thing we can do in our relationship with Him is to try to hide ourselves from Him. It stops our trust, stops our ability to be intimate with Him. He asks us to not hold anything back. To give Him our whole hearts, however sinful, and to let Him create in us a clean heart.
In that moment at church, I knew I couldn't keep singing to God as if nothing was wrong. It would have been fake. I knew I needed to deal with my anger at the Lord. And, as embarrassing as it was for me (cause, shouldn't I know better by now?), I confessed anger at God to Him as sin. But I also recognized that He wasn't angry or disappointed at me for being angry at Him. God, Himself is SLOW to anger. He knows our hearts, He understands our pain AND our imperfect love. I gave Him my emotion of anger. Then I told my own soul, my own emotions, to line up with the truth of my good and loving God. I told my spirit to rise up within me. I cried as I affirmed that my family, myself and both of these little baby girls, are perfectly taken care of by my Father. I affirmed that His ways are not my ways, and I relinquished the right to understand.
I started to feel lighter, like a guard around my heart was falling off. Worship was still going, and now the song was 'Do it Again.' by Elevation Band. "I've seen you move the mountains, and I believe I'll see you do it again, You made a way when there was no way, and I believe I'll see you do it again”. I looked up at that projection screen and literally forced myself to begin to sing out these words, through tears I felt His peace come over me. I started shouting the words, and the Lord began to remind me of all the times He came through for me. The many, many times and situations that He has helped me, provided for me, saved me, fulfilled His promises, miraculously healed me. And I began to praise Him for those times and for the times to come. I allowed my faith to rise up again over our adoption.
Hey, maybe you have some really tough stuff going on in your life right now, and you're reading this and realizing that you are angry at God. That it's keeping you from being truly intimate with Him. There's good news for you! He's just waiting for you to come to him, with all your stuff, and pour out your heart to Him. He longs to reassure you of His love, like He did for me last Sunday, so come to Him. Be real about what's going on, He understands! Submit your whole self, even your emotion of anger, to Him. Call your faith to rise up, even if it's just a mustard seed. Remind yourself of how He has come through in the past, how He's proven His goodness over and over again, and then worship Him for who He is, what He's done, and what He's going to do!
by Tracy Manno
“Worship!” Reading or hearing someone say the word worship can invoke a number of responses in each of us. Depending on our upbringings and life experiences we each have our own personal take on what worship means, how we define it, and varying emotions and imagery it conjures. From thoughts of performing ceremonial religious acts and memories of fragrant incense, to rousing our feet to stomp and hands to lift high in praise with cymbals, horns and guitars, there is no shortage of opinion on the subject.
The point of our “Rediscovering Worship” blog series, and really the point of His Way Worship at heart is to set a tone where we can start to set aside our finite ideas on “how” God wants to be worshipped, and explore the endless ocean that is ours in worshipping the Lord Jesus.
Let’s start by just ripping the band aid off and saying worship, in its primary form, is not a musical concept at all. Think of music as a vehicle for our worship to travel in. We get in a car, airplane or boat that provides us transportation to someplace we otherwise couldn’t have gone. Music is a place that we can enter into so we can tangibly express deep longings to the Father from within our souls. The lyrics we sing connect the truths of who God is with our own living spirit. The music we play allow us to physically interact with that connection by playing instruments, tapping feet, lifting hands, singing voices. We “enter into worship”, individually or together, through the medium of music.
Music is such a powerful and universal vehicle for us to worship in I believe, in part, because we are created in the likeness of Christ. We create music using the very likeness of Himself, and we naturally connect with this likeness at the untouchable place it was created… deep within our souls.
Worship is where our spirit and soul collaborate and agree together that Christ is above all and in all. When sin came into the human DNA our eternal connection with God’s spirit was severed. We needed a savior to revive, restore, and bring new spirit life back to us. Through the process of salvation God gives us His own Spirit, and once again our soul can connect eternally with God, and in our worship we agree with Christ, that He is Lord of our lives.
Romans 12:1 tells us that this is our spiritual act of worship… the sacrifice of our lives to Jesus for His purposes.
This is why worship at its core is not about music. It’s a heart condition. Worship happens as a lifestyle, in the mundane, messy, broken, painful, joyful journey of our daily lives. We find our worship in the surrender of every moment as we agree with His Spirit that He is worthy of it all. In this way our very lives become the ultimate vehicle for our expression of true worship. We allow God to play us as His instrument, freely giving Him every moment, every circumstance to the obedience of serving our beautiful Creator.
Let the symphony play on Lord Jesus!
I have been in fulltime work of the Gospel for nearly 15 years, and no matter how hard I try, inevitably I find myself fighting against the knowledge I have of God’s love for me. My “default” thinking wants to see God with a list of my good and bad deeds, rewarding or denying His goodness towards me based on that list. This is wrong thinking and I am regularly amazed with how easily I get caught up in it over and over again.
I “know” He loves me, and I “know” that it’s unconditional… but I often don’t truly live in that place in my heart and mind. God’s love is not just to be heard about, but experienced.
No greater example of this problem is seen than with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. To the contrary to what many Christians teach and believe, after they sinned God banished them from the garden, not out of punishment but out of a deeply emotional and loving response from God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. God’s motive for banishing them from the garden is recorded that we might forever understand where His heart was during this deeply traumatic experience.
Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
God was not angry with them, and He definitely wasn’t pouring out judgment and punishment on them. He loved them, and all that they represented as first created of an entire human race meant to live in intimate relationship with Him. No, the Triune God had to let them go so that they would not remain in a fallen state, forever separated from God for all of eternity. And as He sent them out, He also set into motion His plan to bring them back! And as we know from His own words… “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son”… this was no little plan. This plan came at great personal cost to himself… because of His Great Love!
Unfortunately it doesn’t take much in our weakened sinful state to withdraw back to a place of shame and guilt, even so much as to doubt, and ultimately reject the concept that God loves us with a very personal and intimate love. The voice of the enemy points us to the angel standing guard at the entrance to Eden, blocking our re-entry, keeping us out, reminding us of our guilt. But the truth of God points us forward to a place of healing and restored relationship.
God created us from His love. God sustains us through His love. God redeems us because of His love. There is no more condemnation for those in Christ Jesus! (Romans 8:1) He is nearer to you now than ever before. He has given you His spirit to dwell within you, to be connected with you, to reveal more of Himself to you.
His love is fierce. His love is intense. The strength of His love surpasses our own failures. And yet while none of us are good enough to earn his love, we are loved by Him nonetheless. No, you don’t need to please Him in order to gain His love. He loves you already, by His own choice.
Father, help me today not to allow the enemy, Satan, to steal the peace and healing to my soul that comes with the knowledge of your love for me. Your word tells me that even when you discipline me it is out of your great love for me. I repent of a religious mindset that says I must earn your love and earn your favor. In Christ Jesus your love and faithfulness have been made known to me. May I live this day in the fullness of that knowledge!