Devotions

Category Archives: Reach • Gather • Grow: Fall 2020

Grow • Devotion #1: Trusting Your Worry Away

Have you noticed how worry has a way of sucking the joy out of your life? Sometimes we can be so consumed by worry that it is literally hard to breathe. It does not have to be a huge crisis that we are worrying about; even the minute daily details can leave us miserable if we are not careful. Have you been there? Are you suffocated by worry right now?

About five years ago, I found myself being consumed by worry. I could not get past it. I was inundated with what seemed like an unbearable amount of pressures and worrisome situations. I vividly remember staring out the window feeling like someone was squeezing the air out of my lungs; I could not breathe. I was trying to figure out how I could get myself out of the grip of worry. My thought process was, “I am a man. I can figure my way through these difficult situations.” I was letting the weight of all my worries build-up, and I was suffering in my own stubbornness.

As I stared out the window (I may have been banging my head on the glass), God said, “Hey, I did not design you to be consumed by worry! Quit trying to carry the difficulties of life on your own. Give your burdens to me. Trust me to help you through them.” I instantly stopped banging my head on the window and started praying. I poured my worries out to God; I gave Him every single one of them. I cannot even explain to you the immediate peace that God gave to me. I could breathe again, and the weight of my worries was gone. The difficult situations were still there, but God taught me I did not have to face them alone. He was with me every step of the way; I just needed to give them to Him and trust Him with the outcome.

Since that life-changing day, God has greatly helped me deal with my problem of worrying; He reminded me of the instruction and promise of Philippians 4:4-7 to help me understand how to deal with worry. Do not get me wrong, I still battle with worrying, but He has helped me grow to a place where I at least know how to battle it.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We have an almighty, all-powerful God that is greater than any worry we may have. He wants us to trust Him with our worries. His desire is that we go to Him with all of our problems. Do not let worry suffocate your joy. Give your worries to God. He will help you through them. Remember: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

Gather • Devotion #6: Streaming Is No Substitute

We live in a world that is increasingly less “in person.” In fact, major studies show that more people would rather converse via text message than a phone call or face to face meeting. That cultural shift towards an impersonal relationship makes it easy for us to sit on the couch, throw on the live stream, and say that we have gone to church. Although this seems like a great and easy way to attend church, it is a cheap substitute for the life-altering gathering of believers. 

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

The point of the gathering is not to sing the songs and hear the message. Those are surely aspects of our gatherings, but they in and of themselves are not the purpose. As stated in Hebrews, the purpose of gathering together is to stir each other up to love and good works. Singing together provides an opportunity for this encouragement. The Gospel-centered preaching of the Word of God provides an opportunity for this encouragement. However, alone, they are not enough. Much like the early church, we need the community provided by togetherness to encourage us to continue fighting the good fight. Without each other, we are unable to make it out of our Sunday pump up into the trenches of Wednesday.

Being able to stream a gathering is a huge help to many people. There are some who are unable to attend a gathering. It may be due to a work schedule, vacation, or an illness. For people in these positions, streaming a gathering is a wonderful alternative to not experiencing a gathering at all. However, for those of us who are able to attend a gathering, we should take every opportunity to participate in the fellowship of believers to encourage and be encouraged that we may go out into the world to live in the purpose God has called us to.

Gather • Devotion #5: Gather Together and Sing, Sing, Sing

“When you meet together, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, as you praise the Lord with all your heart.” Ephesians 5:19 (CEV)

Worshiping in a song is an important part of gathering together, and one of my favorite parts of the gathering. I love music, all kinds. You might be surprised if you wandered through my phone to find, hymns, country, and rap (not to worry, it is clean Christian rap). You would also find some southern gospel: a few classical pieces, and lots of contemporary Christian artists. Music soothes my soul, lifts my spirits, makes me happy, and brings me into quiet, reflective worship. There is something about singing in worship to the Lord that takes our hearts to a special place. 

Some cherished memories from my childhood include my dad and his friends playing music in our home. They would get out their guitars, and my mom would sing beautiful hymns. My dad did not sing, but one of his friends would often sing in harmony with my mom. One of my mom’s favorite songs was “Old Rugged Cross.” My mother loved music, and she loved Jesus! The cross was dear to her, and she clung to it through a lifetime of illness. The words of that old hymn always bring me to tears as I think about seeing my mom and dad again one day when I get to Heaven. 

Old Rugged Cross

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross
The emblem of suffering and shame
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
And I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true
It’s shame and reproach gladly bear

Then he’ll call me some day to my home far away
Where his glory forever I’ll share

And I’ll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
And I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

The music in gatherings has changed since I was a girl. Drums and electric guitars have joined the piano on stage and the sound of the songs is now very different. One thing has not changed, the songs we sang then and those we sing now tell of a God who loves us unconditionally and has always and will always be there for us. I found one of my all-time favorite worship songs in my phone, “Lord, I need you.” It always reminds me that no matter when I have struggled, or what I have gone through, on good days and bad, my hope is in Jesus.  

Lord, I Need You

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
Where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

So teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
When I cannot stand I’ll fall on You

Jesus, you’re my hope and stay

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

You’re my one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

In Matthew 18:20, Jesus tells us, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Attend a gathering somewhere this weekend and follow the instruction given to us in Psalms 47:6, “Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!”   

Gather • Devotion #4: An Audience of One

What I know is true about me, is possibly true about you, that is I have an opinion. It is not on everything, but my opinions, right or wrong, have led me to prefer things be a certain way. For example, I prefer the temperature of the room is a little cooler. I do not like it hot. I also do not like it freezing cold. It has to be just right. I prefer my eggs scrambled with sausage or ham (not both), with peppers and onions in them. I do not like fried eggs, and I want my hash browns brown. I could go on, but I will hold back. My point is, just like me, you have a certain way you like things.

It has been my experience throughout the years in the church as an attendee and as a Pastor that there are certain preferences to worship that vary from person to person. While some prefer a more traditional style of worship with hymnals and a choir, someone else will prefer a more modern style with house lighting and a full band singing upbeat choruses. From generation to generation, and from the community to community, styles of worship vary, and we all have our preferences. These preferences have divided local church communities and the generations within that church for as long as there has been music as an expressive part of worship gatherings.  

Several years ago (at a different church), I had a conversation with a dedicated follower of Jesus that was convinced motion stage lights and anything above 90 dBs in the church was not worshiping; instead, it was a concert (or performance). The words or heart behind the leaders was not a factor; it was the production that set it apart according to them. When we are locked into our worship preferences, our focus is misaligned on ourselves as the audience. The act of worship is not what the church does for an audience of thousands, but for an audience of One. Our songs are not performances by a band for us to evaluate but are the words we sing to God who is the only recipient of our worship. He is the audience, not us. We all worship before an audience of the One and Only God!

We read in 1 Chronicles 16:23-25, “Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.”

I picture worship from a perspective of all those in the gathering as they are standing on a stage, singing, and it is God who is the only audience member. We all worship before an audience of the One and Only God! It is not for us to determine which style is worship; it is for us to bring ourselves to God as an offering for worship. Worship is our chance to bring honor to God. Plain and simple, it is honoring God. 

Psalm 145:10-12 says, “All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you! They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.”

You should go and read all of Psalm chapter 145. It is a beautiful passage of worship by bringing honor to God through our daily lives as a testimony of God’s greatness. It is a testimony that is to be shared from generation to generation.

Do not allow your worship to be limited to a one-hour weekly gathering or limited to your personal style preferences. Seek to bring God honor in everything.

Gather • Devotion #3: Identity

Christian, what is your identity?

An identity that comes from the world, what others may think or say about you, cannot compare to the identity you gain when you have been born again. 

If you are saved, you have been set free. John 8:36 (NIV) says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

You are chosen. Paul tells us this in 1 Thessalonians 1:4 (NIV), “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you.”

You are a child of God. Galatians 3:26 (NIV) adds, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.”

One of my favorite songs to sing is “Who You Say I Am” by Hillsong Worship. The lyrics are incredible because it speaks the truth of our identity in Christ Jesus. I am filled with joy and hope as I declare, 

“Who the Son sets free, is free indeed.

 I’m a child of God – yes, I am!

I am chosen, not forsaken.

I am who you say I am.

You are for me, not against me.

I am who you say I am.”

You are not going to be chosen by everyone.

I do not know about you, but I need this reminder. It can be easy to fall into the trap of placing worth in how others view or identify you. What others say or think about you can mistakenly become what drives your actions. It is an exhausting and frustrating way to live. The identity that the world may give you is worthless compared to the price that Jesus paid for you on the cross. This world will make you feel unwanted and unchosen but remember that the highest King has welcomed and chosen you. This world will make you feel like you do not belong, but remember you belong as a child of God.

I pray that you never let the enemy hold you back from having confidence in who you are in Christ.



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