Worship is a Choice

I grew up in a traditional church with traditional worship. I love the theology of hymns and the memories that they stir up in my heart. Hymns like: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, “The Old Rugged Cross”, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, “How Firm a Foundation”, just to name a few.

The words of these songs were written on my heart from a very young age. But to be honest, I really didn’t know what they were talking about, other than Jesus and God and the Cross. It wasn’t until I went to church camp in the 7thgrade that I experienced what we call “modern worship”. The worship team was cool and had long hair and played loud guitars and drums. I had never seen anything like this before. We rocked out to Dennis Jernigan and Vineyard worship songs. We sang lyrics like, “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for You.”

I wasn’t just singing lyrics that I didn’t understand. I was entering into a relationship with a Loving Father, Who knew me, was pursuing me, and longed for me to surrender my heart and life to Him. So I did. I entered into this holy place of worship. From the depths of my soul, God became alive to me.

That was 30 years ago. I’ve learned so much since Jr. High. Worship is a choice. There have been times in my life where I’ve chosen not to worship. There have been other times that worshiping was all I longed to do. Being a worship leader has pushed me to go beyond what I can naturally do, see, and experience. Spending time in worship has made the Scriptures come alive.Worship has heightened my senses to Who God is what His plan is for me. It brings peace when everything else is falling apart.

Psalm 62:5-8 says, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

This is the kind of truth that comes from a heart of a worshiper.

After all these years of worshiping and going deeper in my relationship with God, I can go back to those precious hymns and hear the wisdom from worshipers of long ago.

“O for a thousand tongues to sing

My great Redeemer’s praise

The glories of my God and King

The triumphs of His grace.”

Yes! Let us be worshipers whose souls sing out from obedient hearts. Let us bring praise to God, Whose grace has triumphed over sin and death. Let us worship our great Redeemers, Whose love invites us into freedom and victory!

We would like to thank Allison House for writing this post!

Connecting with God in the Midst of Every Day

Hi Ladies,

Contrary to popular belief, not all pastors’ wives rise before dawn and roll out of bed into the Holy of Holies when they give the first of their day to the Lord. Frankly, I’m in a stupor when I get up and I quite agree with the Folger’s commercial, “The best part of waking up, is [coffee] in your cup.” Many times I leave my morning “quiet time” feeling like that time wasn’t what it was meant to be, which is time actually spent with the Lord. I may have read the Word, but did it penetrate my heart? Did I actually have heart to heart conversation with the Lord? Thankfully, our time with Jesus doesn’t have to look like the pastor’s or a serious Bible scholar’s.

I have a few favorite ways to connect with God. The first is playing a worship song and turning it into a prayer. Holy Spirit by Brian and Katie Torwalt is fantastic. “Holy Spirit you are welcome here. .. I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves, where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone….” Another favorite is David Crowder’s, Here’s My Heart. I concentrate on His presence and the meaning of the worship/prayer. Often I try to extend my quiet time into my “exercise” time by walking in front of the house while the kids sleep, worship music blaring from my phone. This wakes up my mind, and works great for praying over personal concerns and for others.

A simple thing that I sometimes do in a brief moment is to just stop and say, “Thank you, Holy Spirit.” I acknowledge His presence and it is powerful.

I hesitate to share this next thing because it is very personal and precious to me. However, I’m probably not the only one who struggles with a wandering mind and this helps me to just be with God. I have a picture in my mind as I rest in Him. In my mind’s eye, I am perched on a rock on a high place. God is a huge bird: warm, comforting, protective, strong. His wing is around me and I lean against his chest. We are looking out over a valley together. I think about this image and stay in His presence. In His presence is peace. Psalm 91 (KJV) says,

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty….He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust.

The Scriptures are full of imagery revealing God’s nature. I’m not a very visual person, so if God can give me this image, I know that He will give you a picture of your own if you ask Him.

Finally, sometimes I just spend time meditating on a scripture God has highlighted for the season I’m in. Doing that gives me confidence in Him and peace.

May your times spent with Jesus be precious,

Erin Smart

This post was written by Erin Smart. To read more about her, click here

Connecting with God in the Midst of Every Day

worshipHi Ladies,

Contrary to popular belief, not all pastors’ wives rise before dawn and roll out of bed into the Holy of Holies when they give the first of their day to the Lord. Frankly, I’m in a stupor when I get up and I quite agree with the Folger’s commercial, “The best part of waking up, is [coffee] in your cup.” Many times I leave my morning “quiet time” feeling like that time wasn’t what it was meant to be, which is time actually spent with the Lord. I may have read the Word, but did it penetrate my heart? Did I actually have heart to heart conversation with the Lord? Thankfully, our time with Jesus doesn’t have to look like the pastor’s or a serious Bible scholar’s.

I have a few favorite ways to connect with God. The first is playing a worship song and turning it into a prayer. Holy Spirit by Brian and Katie Torwalt is fantastic. “Holy Spirit you are welcome here. .. I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves, where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone….” Another favorite is David Crowder’s, Here’s My Heart. I concentrate on His presence and the meaning of the worship/prayer. Often I try to extend my quiet time into my “exercise” time by walking in front of the house while the kids sleep, worship music blaring from my phone. This wakes up my mind, and works great for praying over personal concerns and for others.

A simple thing that I sometimes do in a brief moment is to just stop and say, “Thank you, Holy Spirit.” I acknowledge His presence and it is powerful.

I hesitate to share this next thing because it is very personal and precious to me. However, I’m probably not the only one who struggles with a wandering mind and this helps me to just be with God. I have a picture in my mind as I rest in Him. In my mind’s eye, I am perched on a rock on a high place. God is a huge bird: warm, comforting, protective, strong. His wing is around me and I lean against his chest. We are looking out over a valley together. I think about this image and stay in His presence. In His presence is peace. Psalm 91 (KJV) says,

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty….He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust.

The Scriptures are full of imagery revealing God’s nature. I’m not a very visual person, so if God can give me this image, I know that He will give you a picture of your own if you ask Him.

Finally, sometimes I just spend time meditating on a scripture God has highlighted for the season I’m in. Doing that gives me confidence in Him and peace.

May your times spent with Jesus be precious,

Erin Smart

This post was written by Erin Smart. To read more about her, click here

7 Must-Wins: Worship

7 must winsWe are continuing our fall blog series, “7 Must-Wins.” With a uniquely personal twist toward us as women, we will address seven topics that must be understood and walked out in order for us to have success in this life. To start with Part 1 of this series, click here.

Music has always been part of my life. Whether we were singing hymns at church, on a family road trip (where we listened to anything from ‘50’s and 60’s Rock n Roll, Classical, Motown, to college fight songs), or playing the piano, music was always there. Perhaps this is where God began to lay the groundwork in my heart to become a worship leader. Maybe it’s just because I really like music! Either way, music is where worship began with me. Not with Motown or college fight songs, mind you. But when I was 12 years old, I attended church camp and heard (what we in the church world call) contemporary worship for the first time. I was hooked. Because this wasn’t just about singing some songs about Jesus. It wasn’t just about a really cool band, whose members had long hair and tattoos (Um…I had never seen that in church before). I had an experience. In fact, the best way I can describe it is that I truly, purely, experienced the Presence of Jesus. For the first time in my life, I connected with my Savior. I felt alive! Why? Because He is my Life-Source!

In John 4, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman who was drawing water from a well. It was very unusual for a male Jew to speak to a female Samaritan. In fact, according to the Law, Jesus would’ve been considered “unclean” by drinking from this woman’s vessel. It’s interesting to me that the Samaritan woman is who Jesus tells first that He is the Messiah. According to the world’s standards, she was most unworthy. She had been married 5 times and was living with another man. Why would Jesus reveal Himself as the Son of God FIRST to this person? Because she was dead in her sin. She needed to be connected to her Life Source. Jesus says to the woman, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (vs. 13-14, emphasis mine). You see, the water we receive from the Father becomes something inside of us…NEW LIFE! Isn’t this good news!?! Why wouldn’t we want to be connected to our Life Source?

When we worship, we become more aware of God’s Presence. God’s not looking for accolades or compliments. He’s looking for our hearts to be connected to His. He loves us SO! His desire is to be in relationship with us at the deepest level.

So what’s music got to do…got to do with it? (Because everything is a song to me…) Music is a vehicle to not only express our worship, but also to touch our emotions. You can hear a song that was popular when you were in high school, and you will literally FEEL what you were feeling during that time in your life. (Which could be good or not so good…) When I hear a college fight song or a Motown song, I immediately think of the many road trips we took as a family when I was growing up…good times. When we listen to someone singing, playing guitar, playing the keys, or even playing a pipe organ (‘cause that still happens), and they are worshipping Jesus, our hearts become vulnerable to the One who created them. Our Creator God is lovingly speaking to us, connecting to us, revealing Himself to us. And when we respond…OH FRIEND…that spring of water wells up inside of us and WE FEEL ALIVE!!!!! Because we ARE ALIVE!!! Praise Jesus!

Jesus goes on to tell the Samaritan woman, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (vs. 23)

Are YOU the kind of worshiper the Father seeks? Is your worship observable? Are you aware of God’s Presence in your life right now? Do you recognize that He is revealing Himself to you? Are you connected to your Life Source? Come and take a drink…

This post was written by Allison House. To read more about her, click here. 

**To read Part 4 of this series, click here. 

The Truth About Worship

The Truth About Worship

When I was asked to write this post on worship, my first thoughts were, “I’m not a worship leader! I can think of many women more qualified to write this post than me.” Then came the gentle voice of Truth—a voice that told me that I did have something to say on worship. This patient Holy Spirit voice reminded me of my identity in Christ.

My worship comes from knowing the truth of who I am in Christ, and who God is in me. I am chosen by God (as are you) to declare the praises of him who called me out of darkness (1 Peter 2:9). Although I’ll probably never lead worship from behind a microphone and guitar, I have been called to worship in my everyday life, just by walking in who He create me to be.

I can clearly remember the season of my life where this revelation became cemented in my spirit. Very soon after Kirby and I married, he was diagnosed with stage 3B cancer. In that season, I ran headlong into this tension between the facts in our life and the truth of the Word of God in our life. Let me explain: the fact was that my husband had life-threatening cancer, but the Truth of the Word says that by his stripes, Kirby is healed. The fact was that I was a scared young bride who had no idea how to care for a husband with cancer. The Truth says that I have been given everything I need for life and godliness. I found that as I chose to embrace the facts—but believe the truth in my life—I began to position myself to follow the Holy Spirit guiding me through my everyday. And out of that place, worship began to flow naturally.

When worship flows out of the truth of who we are in Christ, it goes way beyond Sunday morning. True worship evolves into serving our life groups, loving our husbands, discipling our kids, being excellent in our careers, and so much more. When we choose to say yes to our identity in Christ, we can begin to truly engage in worship in our everyday.

I love the way the Message Bible puts it:
“Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” John 4:24

Here’s what is at stake: If I allow my circumstance (facts) to determine whether or not I worship, then I won’t worship. My decisions will sway in whatever direction the wind blows. So let’s allow the Truth to win the day in our hearts, sister. Let’s choose to worship in Spirit and Truth – the truth of who God is and who we are through Christ. Let’s choose to engage.

This post was written by Catherine Dunn. To read more about her, click here

Daily Worship

worship_imageWhen I called my dad for his birthday this year, he reminded me of something that a family friend had told me. He got a word from the Lord for me about worship. Dad said that this was biblically-based because of Romans 12:1—

“Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship” (TNIV).

I don’t often just stop and think about worship. There’s the obvious “worship time” during church, or even during my personal time with the Lord, but worship is more than that. Worship is how I live my life. It’s something that I do daily, consciously putting the daily activities of my life in the hands of the Lord. There are some obvious times that I feel compelled by the Lord to do something (usually something I wouldn’t ordinarily want to do) or in a burst of joy just thank Him in the middle of the day. But in what other ways do I express worship for the Lord?

From personal experience which I know many of you can relate to, I work with people and students throughout my entire day. By the end of a really long day, it is hard for me to continue to be kind to those around me. But in the last couple years I’ve had to learn that I must give my day to the Lord. As I’m driving to school I pray for whatever situation I might encounter. I’ve even dubbed a song that I use to pray over my students this year! It’s amazing to see personalities and hearts change throughout the year, more than just academically.

I know that the people that I have relationships with–whether I am aware of it at the time or not–weigh the way that they approach situations based on other situations that they’ve had throughout the day. I have the opportunity to be a positive influence in their day, even if that means simply smiling, asking about their day, and actually listening.

Recently I’ve had to ask myself, Does the way that I convey myself around people actually reflect my heart? In some cases sadly, I would have to say that no, it doesn’t. But by focusing on God’s point of view in every situation, it helps me to tune my actions to match my heart. My words can be more than just rote conversation. Rather, it can be an uplifting encouragement that comes directly from the Lord! I pray that you can face the daily pressures of life and still experience the unique joys that surround you every day. God can surprise you! What ways does the Lord use to speak to you, even in the midst of the busyness of the day? I cannot wait to see what God does with the people around me as our hearts become more focused on worshiping Him!

This post was written by Hannah Dillard. 

That Face to Face Place

worship 3Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. (Psalms 100:4 NKJV)

We’ve probably all heard this verse or even sung it in Sunday School as kids. What a simple yet profound instruction: this is how you get into the presence of God Almighty, who has provided a way for us to meet with Him face to face. Be thankful…praise Him…bless His Name, and you might just find yourself front and center with the Throne, face to face with the King of Kings.

While this is a worthy goal of our worship, to enter in and just experience His Presence, to give Him the glory that He deserves, I think that there is something more.

There are so many things about God that I don’t fully comprehend. There is so much of His awesomeness that I’ve yet to grasp. But I do know one thing:  There’s always more.

In Old Testament times seeking an audience with the king meant taking your life in your own hands, or more accurately, putting it in the King’s.  If you wanted to enter into the King’s presence, you would come in, kneel before the throne, and wait. In the few seconds that I’m sure felt like an eternity, the King would either raise his scepter, a signal that permission was granted to approach, or leave it down, at which point you would be taken away and promptly escorted to your own execution.

Thankfully we don’t serve a King like that. We serve a King that gave up everything He had to give so that we could come before Him–boldly, with confidence, accepted–as his kids.  But you know, because He’s made a way to freely come, I think sometimes we have a tendency to lose the reverence, lose the awe of the encounter.  We come in, not focused on meeting with the King, but thinking about our last fight with our spouse, or lunch plans, or whatever. And guess what–we’re human. We’re called sheep numerous times in the Bible, and I don’t think it was a compliment. So I’m not here to send anyone on a guilt trip.  If so, I’d need to be the first to pack my bags.

But think back to that Old Testament picture. Someone seeking an audience with the king had a pretty important matter to discuss. He must have had a worthwhile case to plead; one worth risking everything in the hope that the king would intervene.  And I bet you my last dollar, he came in knowing what he was going to say.

A while back a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer. It came as quite a shock as she was a young mom who was vibrant and healthy. The Sunday following that news, my worship took on a whole new meaning. I had decided I was going to fight for her with everything I had. Those weren’t just songs that morning, they were weapons. They were launch pads for faith to be unleashed.  I had the enemy in my crosshairs.  It was an incredible time of worship!

It might not be a friend with cancer.  It might be a lost family member, or a marriage on the rocks, or a physical illness, but we ALL have circumstances in our lives where we need the King to intervene. We all have places that are totally beyond our control (and probably more than we care to admit!) And we all have instructions for coming face to face with the King. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks, bless His Name, enter boldly. But then what?

Worship is a powerful mixture of Spirit and Truth. When we align our hearts with the truth of God’s Word, something happens. Faith happens. When that faith is focused on a specific target, it paves the way for the miraculous. And when we get to that face to face place, let’s not take it for granted. Let’s know why we came. Let’s ask the King to act and see if He doesn’t delight to respond.

This post was written by Becca Wilhite. To read more about her, click here