Need Inspiration?

Do you ever feel like you need to be inspired. Like life is going by at 100 miles per hour and you are being left behind?

We have all felt that way at one point or another. I know I personally go through seasons of inspiration with writing. Sometimes it seems like every thought that comes to my mind is a start to a blog or even a song… and other times I have to struggle to squeeze out even the worst idea to write or sing about. I also go through the same cycles in the gym. Sometimes I just HAVE to go every day, and other times I dread the thought of leaving the couch and getting sweaty.

Maybe you are like me and go through seasons of easy inspiration and seasons of having to fight for purpose and motivation? Maybe you have lost motivation and inspiration at work, or in a relationship, or maybe in your faith?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said,

If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.

Do you want to be more? Do you want motivation and inspiration to drive your purpose? Is it possible to cultivate inspiration?

Yes, I do believe we can. Let’s think together.


  • Listen

Have you ever been speaking to someone and come to the realization that they aren’t hearing a word of what you are saying?

Has a parent or teacher ever look at you and said, “Are you listening?” I’m sure my mom can think back to times in my childhood where she told me to do things and I turned my “selective hearing” on and didn’t hear a word that she said. I’m sure she knew that my hearing was fine, but that the problem was I wasn’t motivated to actually listen to what she said.

David Mathis on DesiringGod.com said,

Listening is one of the easiest things you’ll ever do, and one of the hardest.

In a sense, listening is easy — or hearing is easy. It doesn’t demand the initiative and energy required in speaking. That’s why “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). The point is that hearing is easy, and faith is not an expression of our activity, but our receiving the activity of another. It is “hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:2, 5) that accents the achievements of Christ and thus is the channel of grace that starts and sustains the Christian life.

But despite this ease — or perhaps precisely because of it — we often fight against it. In our sin, we’d rather trust in ourselves than another, amass our own righteousness than receive another’s, speak our thoughts than listen to someone else. True, sustained, active listening is a great act of faith, and a great means of grace, both for ourselves and for others in the fellowship.

Listening to God is like listening to anyone else, before we can hear Him, we must be ready to listen. Just as in a conversation, we cannot hear the other person if we are talking or if our mind is distracted. So it is with God! If we want to hear Him speak, we must be quiet and we must be focused on what He is saying. Regular conversation with God can transform your life! Think about a close friend, family member, or spouse and how you can almost finish their sentences. That didn’t happen immediately… it happened through a relationship grown by listening to them and understanding what they were saying. We must continually listen to God and we will begin to not only hear His voice… but also to know His heart.

We don’t consciously and deliberately disobey God… we simply don’t listen to Him.

Some of us prefer to hear the Lord’s voice only when we are in need of an answer or response. But a disciple trains to listen all the time. A consistent, daily prayer life and Bible intake are of paramount importance in this regard. So is learning to be comfortable with silence. The more we learn to listen, the more we will hear God and recognize His voice. Listening to God requires a deliberate choice to shut out the chaos around us and focus on Him and His Word. We live in a world of noise. Almost everywhere we go, we find sounds competing with our minds, keeping us from letting our thoughts get below the surface level. Hearing God’s voice means not listening to the noise of the world around us. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

Do you want to hear God speak to you? Listening to God requires regular Bible reading, since the Bible is the Word of God.

A WORD OF CAUTION: Sometimes Christians will use phrases like “God told me…” or “God inspired me to…” haphazardly. Everything out of their mouths seems, to them, to be personal, direct revelations of what God has supposedly told them. I don’t doubt for a minute that God speaks to us… but just be careful. Before you say, “God told me…” you’d better be sure, because if you’re claiming God said something when He didn’t, you are speaking untruth about Him. This underscores the importance of thinking carefully about how to listen for and discern God’s voice.


  • Yield

We all have seen those pesky yield signs along the roadway… and we have all seen people that have no clue what they mean! When we yield in our cars we stop or slow down in order to allow another “driving force” to overtake us.

Like yielding to other vehicles is the mark of a good and safe driver, the mark of a born-again Christian is measured in their yielding to the will of God and allowing it to “overtake” their lives. Obedience to God is required for all Christians, and the mark of obedience is yielding.

Yield in the Greek means to persuade; to make friends of, to win one’s favor, gain one’s good will, or to seek to win one, strive to please one; to be persuaded, to allow one’s self to be persuaded; to believe; to listen to, obey, yield to, comply with; to trust, have confidence, be confident.

In fact “yielding” is a verb, it is an action word and as such, when we yield, it is a conscious choice we make; whether it is a free choice or a choice we have forced upon us. But…we must be clear that God is not in the business of forcing His will upon us. Instead He makes His will known to us, and allows us the opportunity and choice to follow Him. God allows us the opportunity to yield to Him in obedience, or to reject Him.

We all yield to something. It might be a habit, and addiction, a person, rules, etc… if you are a Believer then you have to an extent yielded to God.

Romans 6:13 tells us,

Do not yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but yield yourselves to God, as one alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Romans 6:16 says,

Do you not know that to whom you yield yourselves as slaves for obedience, you are slaves to him whom you obey; whether it is of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness.”

When we yield to something, we will soon realize the tremendous control it has over us. Even though we might say, “Oh, I can give up that habit whenever I like,” we will ultimately know that we can’t. We will find that the habit absolutely dominates us because at some point we willingly yielded to it.

The first thing we must be willing to admit when we begin to examine what controls and dominates us is that we are the ones responsible for having yielded ourselves to whatever it may be. If we are slaves to our desires, and ourselves then we are to blame because somewhere in the past we yielded to ourselves. Likewise, if we obey God we do so because at some point in our lives we yielded ourselves to Him.

Yielding to Jesus can break every kind of slavery in any person’s life!

When you were saved you told God, in some way or another, that your life is now His to do as He wills. We are yielding ourselves to obedience. Yielding is a continual, daily process of submitting to the Lord. It’s He who forms our heart, transforms our lives, and leads us in ministry. It is so easy to lose sight of this truth, especially when everything around us seems to fall into place. We can be lulled into thinking that we have it all under our control and that we are in charge. That’s why we need to constantly remind ourselves that without the Holy Spirit we are nothing but broken and empty vessels that need to keep turning back to Him.

Psalm 40:8 says,

I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.

If we live each day with the attitude of that Psalm, and the willingness to yield to God in our everyday lives then inspiration from God will be soon to follow!


  • Follow

Sometimes our lack of inspiration comes from our lack of pursuit for the Lord. I’m not saying we have drifted or “fallen away” I’m just saying that if you are like me sometimes you grow complacent and stagnant in whatever place you are. It’s hard to be spiritually inspired when you are spiritually standing still!

We se this cool story begin to unfold in Genesis 12:1 where it says,

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.”

God didn’t give Abram, later called Abraham, a detailed map or even show him the exact final destination. He basically said, “Abram, leave your comfort zone and go where I will show you.” However, God also added that he would bless Abram and his descendants if Abram obeyed him. Abram didn’t know where he would end up, but he knew and trusted God’s character, so he obeyed anyway. Abram’s obedience happened one step at a time. With each step, Abram heard a little more and received inspiration from God.

Have you ever had to walk by faith?

Getting uncomfortable without a backup plan is a scary thing! I personally like routine. I like schedules. Lack of routine and schedules throws me for a loop! But… how is God wrecking your schedule?

We are given a commandment to “go” in the much-quoted Great Commission… but we do a lot of spiritual “standing still.” Abram was able to trust God in the not knowing and the continual going because he believed that God was with him. We also have that assurance. Matthew 28:19-20 says,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

So what is our excuse?

What if God’s plan isn’t our plan? Or our churches plan? Or the way our family has always believed? Can we change? Can we accept God’s plan if it’s different than what we currently believe? Somehow we must lay aside our preconceived notions and keep an open mind to what God wants for us, regardless of what we think or want.

Napoleon Hill once said,

Do not wait; the time will never be “just right.” Start where you stand.

Want inspiration? Get started! Begin moving and obeying… following God’s voice in your life! God’s not asking you to take a step that is five miles up the road, He is asking you to follow… one step at a time.


Need inspiration in your life? Need motivation to keep pursuing holiness and the things of God? Well begin to listen, yield to what He says, and follow out of obedience.

 

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Obstacles.

Liu Chi Kung was a magnificent piano player. He was a man of renown in his homeland of China and even had the respect of international performers. But after placing second to Van Cliburn in the 1948 Tchaikovsky competition, Liu was looked down upon by fellow Chinese people. His government, displeased by his failure, imprisoned him for seven years. While imprisoned the once renowned piano player had no access to his instrument of choice. At the end of his seven year sentence Liu immediately began another performance tour even though he hadn’t touched a piano in that time. Stunned, reporters from all over the world traveled to seek the mystery behind his ability to play the same, if not better, than he had before his imprisonment. One reporter asked him, “How is it you are able to play these pieces having not practiced them for years?” Kung replied, “Oh, but I have practiced. There has not been a day that has gone by in which I have not practiced every piece I know entirely in my head.”

Kung faced a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Right at the peak of his career, he was taken away and banned from playing the instrument he loved and was passionate about. What a setback! What an obstacle! Liu could have given up, forgotten about his abilities, sulked at his unfair treatment, and moved on in life. Yet he faithfully practiced his pieces day after day so he would be ready to perform after his release.

Obstacles are a common part of the human life. Christians aren’t exempt. We will all face obstacles that threaten to derail us from living for Christ, running our race, and accomplishing the task He has set before us.

The difference between a successful person and one who fails isn’t the presence of obstacles along their path, but their reaction to those obstacles.

So… when obstacles come our way how do we react? Let’s think together.


  • Don’t Give Up.

I once watched a video of Admiral William McRaven, explaining what he learned during Navy SEAL training that helped him never give up and quit. To this day the idea of never giving in to the easy failure has stuck with me. I went back and found that video and transcribed it below. Take a read through it and apply what he says to whatever obstacle is standing in the way of your faith and everyday walk.

We used to have a saying in SEAL training, “Take it one evolution at a time.” Meaning don’t look six months down the road. Don’t ask yourself or don’t look and say, “My gosh, I’ve got more swims and more runs and more PTs.” If you do that, that event horizon becomes a little too far and I think it can be frightening. If all you do is try to do the very best you can at that very moment, you take it one step at a time and then six months goes by and you took it one evolution at a time and you made it. 

It is easy to quit in SEAL training. All you have to do is ring the bell three times and you’re out. You don’t have to talk to anybody. You don’t have to do anything. You ring the bell, you take your helmet off, you put it down, and that’s it. And you find that in tough times, there’s always kind of a way out and that’s quitting. That’s just deciding you’re not going to tackle this problem — you’re going to let the problem or the situation win.

And so the one thing I’m always asked is, “How do you get through SEAL training?” I had a young man who was going off to SEAL training about a year ago and he was a phenomenal athlete. I had lunch with him and he said, “Well, do I need to run more?” I said, “No, I don’t think so.” He said, “Do I need to swim more?” I said, “Nope.” “Do I need to lift more?” and he said, “What is the key to going through SEAL training?” I said, “It’s simple — you just don’t quit.” 

I wish we would always view it with that simplicity. The way to overcome is to just not quit. At some point we have somehow allowed ourselves to be deceived and convinced that defeat is somehow a viable option.

Not for me.

Romans 5:3-5 says,

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Let’s decide together that no matter what comes before us we will persevere and overcome it with the help of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 4:13 says,

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

  • Embrace Every New Challenge.

The psychologist and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl once wrote,

Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Now of course, Frankl was talking about embracing physical challenges so severe that we can’t even understand, but he did build a very solid case for the idea that even when going through hell on earth, he had freedom to choose his attitude, to find meaning in his circumstances, and it was this, more than anything, which was to determine whether he would survive the concentration camps or not.

Ultimately, the idea I would like to communicate is that we all have a choice about how we approach difficulties and obstacles in our lives and faith. When we have a literal mountain to climb we can choose to climb it resentfully, reluctantly, fearfully, half-heartedly, lazily, thoughtlessly, joylessly, unenthusiastically, lethargically, unintentionally, and with much dread and complaint. If we take this approach, that mountain does not move or run away, it is still there! We will either have to give up or take our time getting over the mountain, with much struggle.

On the other hand, we can choose to embrace the challenge, and to climb the mountain with energy, enthusiasm, joy, exuberance, focus, intentionality, mindfulness, excitement, determination, perseverance, and courage.

If we are going to have to go over the mountain to continue the story then we might as well try to enjoy it or take meaning from it! Embrace your challenges with a smile and gritted teeth!

James 1:2-4 says,

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Christian faith isn’t all about prayer and passion; real faith takes action and perseverance.

  • Don’t Forget to Ask for Help.

Like we have previously determined, obstacles will come into your Christian life; it’s a fact you can count on. God doesn’t promise the path He has for you will be easy, but He does promise to help you along the way. The devil is a master at causing Christians to feel overwhelmed, discouraged, and doubtful. Have you ever had the devil jump on your shoulder and begin telling you why you couldn’t accomplish something for God, live a faithful life, or continue along God’s path? Don’t listen to him!

Moses faced an obstacle in God’s task for him to lead Israel out of Egypt. God foretold Moses that Pharaoh wouldn’t release the Israelites easily. Moses could have seen this obstacle and given up, gone back to shepherding, and allowed the obstacle to rule his life. But Moses turned to God and trusted Him for help.

Moses faced his obstacle and trusted that the Lord would help him to overcome.

Every faithful Christian has faced obstacles in their Christian life. Whether it was Joseph being thrown into a pit then sold into slavery, Moses having to face the ruler of the land, David being threatened by the king, Daniel being captive in a pagan land, or the disciples facing persecution; every Christian has had their share of battles. Yet the ones who remained faithful were those who allowed God to guide them and trusted Him for help in conquering the obstacles.

What obstacle has come into your life? In what area has the devil been telling you that you cannot be faithful? God knows of these obstacles, and rather than simply removing them, He desires that we would turn to Him to help us overcome them. Rather than listening to the devil’s doubts, believe God’s promise that He will help you overcome the obstacles. Like Moses, allow God to stretch out His hand in your life and do many mighty wonders through you.

Ask for help and trust the guidance you receive.


What mountains are currently in your path? How will you face them… begrudgingly or with gritted teeth? And how will you come down the other side… victorious or defeated? It’s your choice to make.

 

 

Your Song Informs

The role of praise in a Christian’s life wears many hats. Some like the “feeling” that they get. Some like the entertainment value that it offers or maybe the outreach tool that a good band or musical service can provide. But there has to be more to our worship than that.

The Bible doesn’t give a “formal definition” of worship. But while looking for clarity or meaning perhaps we can begin to draw a meaning by seeing what various words for worship mean. The English word “worship” comes from two Old English words: weorth, which means “worth,” and scipe or ship, which means something like shape or “quality.” We can see the Old English word -ship in modern words like friendship and sportsmanship – that’s the quality of being a friend, or the quality of being a good sport.

So worship can be somewhat defined by splitting the word apart… worship becomes “worth-ship.” We are ascribing worth to what we worship. When we worship God we are saying that God has worth, that he is worthy. Worship means to declare worth, to attribute worth. Or to put it in biblical terms, we praise God. We speak, or sing, about how good and powerful God is.

This is a purpose for which we are called in 1 Peter 2:9 where it says,

You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

We were called for the purpose of praising God, worshiping God. That is one of the “job descriptions” of a Christian. We should declare that God is worthy, worth more than everything else put together.

Now let’s look at the biblical words. In both Hebrew and Greek, there are two major kinds of words for worship. The first kind means to bow down, to kneel, to put one’s face down as an act of respect and submission. In this portrayal, or act of worship, our body language is saying that we are willingly submitting our bodies, lives, desires, etc… to God’s will. The other kind of biblical word means to serve. Roughly half of the time these words are translated as worship, and the other half as serve. It carries the idea of doing something for God or making a sacrifice or carrying out his instructions for us here on earth.

Of course, word meanings don’t prove what worship is, but they do illustrate three different types or portrayals of worship: speaking/ singing, listening, and doing.

There is a worship that expresses the heart, a worship that involves the mind, and a worship that involves the body. There is a worship that is giving praise upward, a worship that is receiving instructions from above, and a worship that carries out instruction in the world around us. The best part is… we need all three types of worship! Some people focus primarily on speaking or singing praise to God. Praise is good, but if all we do is praise God, without ever listening to what he says, we have to ask whether we believe the words we are saying. If he is really all wise and all loving, then we need to be attentive to what he is telling us, because he is worth listening to. Similarly, all talk and no action does not show God the respect he deserves. Actions speak louder than words, and if our behavior isn’t changed by God, then our actions are saying that God isn’t important… He’s a nice idea, but not relevant to our day-to-day lives. When we really believe that God is worthy of every single praise and every single thing we can offer Him, then we will be willing to listen and to change the way we live in response to such a worthy God. We will trust him and seek him and want to please him as much as we can. Worship is the giving of our entire self, our thoughts and our emotions, to God’s use. All of life is an act of submission, an act of worship. Our service to God is not centered on a time or a temple, but is done whenever and wherever we are, because we are the temple of God. Worship should invade our entire lives. The test of worship is not only what happens at church, but what happens at home, on the job and wherever we go. Worship should inform and affect our behavior.

Every act of obedience is an act of worship. It declares that God has worth.

God wants worship not only on our lips, but also in our hearts. He wants our worship to be sincere. He wants to be the most important thing in our lives, and for us to be truly submissive to him. He wants our worship to affect our behavior, that we make sacrifices, that we put to death the deeds of selfishness, that we seek justice, be merciful and humble, and help others. He wants us not just to obey him, but to serve in ways that go beyond specific commands. We are to worship wherever we go, doing all things to God’s glory, praying always, giving thanks always, never ceasing to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. Our worship involves how we work, how we drive, how we interact with people, what we do in public and in private, etc… The real test of worship is not what happens at church, but what happens at home, and on the job, and wherever we go. Is God important enough to make a difference in the way we live, in the way we work, in the way we get along with other people? When the Holy Spirit lives in us, when we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, worship is a part of everyday life.

When we face attack from the enemy our response of praise should “inform” our thoughts, mind, and attitude of several things that can help us to overcome or to fight back. What is our worship “speaking into” or informing?


Us of God

Our worship is “saying” a lot of things although on the surface sometimes it seems to be pretty straightforward or “cut and dry.” One of the things we too often neglect in our worship is how the very songs we are singing are working to shape our thoughts about God the Father.

Our worship can be theologically forming!

I know that I myself at times grow idle in my thinking about the nature and attributes of God. Sometimes in the midst of an attack or storm I fail to recognize God for all He is. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the one of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Throughout His earthly ministry it was rare that people recognized Jesus and worshipped Him for who He really was: the Son of God.

But… in this case they did. Here comes Jesus riding in on a donkey and the people are lining the road and praising Him as the Messiah. The people are crying out “Hosanna!” This word was originally an appeal for deliverance, translating to “please save.” But here we see it being transformed into an expression of joy and praise for deliverance that only the Messiah brings.

The crowds that lined the roads recognized whom Jesus was and were moved to praise.

The reason this is such a big deal is because at this point, the people still believed that the Messiah was going to be a warrior king who would overthrow the Roman government and raise Israel to a place of political and military power. However, we now know that Jesus accomplished the will of God in a way that they didn’t expect. But… their preconceived notions or thoughts about the Messiah didn’t prohibit them from recognizing Him and His power and worshipping Him for who He was.

Does our “mis-information” or skewed perspective of who God is prohibit us from recognizing Him, His power, and His work around us daily or in times of spiritual deficiency or attack?

The story is continued in Luke 19:37-40 where it goes on to say,

And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

Did you catch the end of that verse?

The Pharisees were religious teachers of the day, but they let what they thought they knew about God completely blind them for seeing God right in front of their faces. Their religion was their God. It is what they worshipped.

Are we sometimes so caught up in the things that we “know” about God that we miss the workings of God taking place right in front of us?

It is essential for us to have the proper perspective and context about God, His attributes, and His work done on our behalf, and to incorporate those things into the songs that we sing on a daily basis. By “informing” ourselves of who God is in good times that information will be embedded in our very spirit for the rough times… the times when life’s outlook seems bleak.

Psalm 27:4-5 says,

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.


Us of our Mission

When reading about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in the above passages out of Luke I can’t help but wonder if Jesus were to ride into our churches today would we be moved to worship and praise Him, or would the rocks have to cry out? This triumphant entry is the beginning of the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and when the Pharisees tell him to quiet the crowd, his response is simply amazing:

I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

What Jesus is saying is that because He is who they say He is, that He is worthy of their praise. Do we realize that? Jesus IS God, and He is worthy of all praise we can give Him and more! So much so that if people fail to praise him, then the stones themselves will because He is worthy of it! God WILL be praised. Regardless of willingness, circumstance, cultural acceptance, or even your participation!

This is one of my favorite stories in Scripture because it reminds me of how awesome God is, and it serves as a job description for all believers! Our job is to be worshipping God and bring Him the glory due His name. We should be constantly worshipping him! In good or bad the call to praise still exists.

Imagine hearing a rock cry out the praise of Christ. How incredible would that be? It is nothing more than a rock… but God is so amazing, that even it MUST acknowledge and give him praise. To be honest though, I don’t want the rocks to sing God’s praise because if they do, that means I’m not doing my job!

Our mission is simple.

Psalm 150:1 says,

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

Psalm 98:4 says,

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music.

1 Peter 1:8 continues along with this pattern and says,

Let your love of the Lord Jesus pour out; rejoice with a glorious inexpressible joy.

The crowds who had seen Jesus ministry, his miracles, heard his teaching, and had their lives touched were eager to speak and cry out “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Their words were a confession, an acknowledgment that in Jesus they were placing their hope, their future, their security, and their salvation.

Has Jesus changed your life? What are your words confessing?

Worship involves our entire relationship with God: our words, our attitudes, and our actions. Our worship is a response to God. We can’t know God’s worth, much less declare it, unless God reveals himself to us. So God initiates worship by revealing himself to us. Then we respond, and the proper response is worship. The more we grasp his greatness, his power, his love, his character, the more we understand his worthiness, the better we can declare his worth, the better we can worship, and the better we can persevere and rise victorious in this spiritual fight that we are caught up in.

Brothers and sisters… will you pursue your mission and confess God’s goodness and salvation message each and every day despite your circumstances, emotions, or what the world might say? Will you cry out or will the rocks take your place?

Psalm 95:1 says,

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.


Us of the Situation

I never quite understand when Christians are surprised that life doesn’t become perfect or turn into “smooth sailing” the moment that they give their heart to the Lord. Newsflash… just because you’re a Christian it doesn’t mean everything is easy, and it definitely doesn’t mean we no longer have times of battle. What happens when you find yourself in a situation or battle that feels overwhelming? There seems to be many different ways we deal with those things that we’d rather just have pass us by. Battles are never fun, and of course they’re never something we would just pick ourselves for fun. However, they’re also unavoidable. We are in a battle, and in battle there are times when there is much warfare going on all around us.

We serve a God of seasons as the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us, and times of war are unavoidable. Even in the words “spiritual warfare” we find the word war. It’s messy. It’s unavoidable. So the real question is, “How do we battle?”

Our songs have many purposes and can inform us of many things, but an important thing that our praise can inform us of is our situation before God and in the moment we are currently facing. I believe the Lord gives us ways to battle efficiently, and part of that is understanding the fight we are in. But no matter the battle, we must remember the battle is never ours, it’s always the Lord’s. 2 Chronicles 15 says,

And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.

How many songs remind us of that very truth? Take a look at the song “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Parts of it go like this,

A mighty fortress is our God

A bulwark never failing

Our helper He amid the flood

Of mortal ills prevailing

For still our ancient foe

Doth seek to work us woe

His craft and power are great

And armed with cruel hate

On earth is not his equal

 

A mighty fortress

A mighty fortress is our God

A mighty fortress

A mighty fortress is our God

 

And though this world

With devils filled

Should threaten to undo us

We will not fear

For God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us

The prince of darkness grim

We tremble not for him

His rage we can endure

For lo his doom is sure

One little word shall fell him

What important truth! The battle is not ours! Our present situation, no matter how bad, becomes informed when we realize that we have a God who has already won and is our shelter and strength. He fights for us, and the battle is His.

Don’t be a “crisis Christian,” that only calls out to God when something goes wrong. In order to be successful in battle we must be proactive instead of reactive! The enemy loves to catch us unprepared and unequipped. I think it’s wise, when you’re not feeling a battle, that you use that time to get yourself equipped. Learn some songs that can enlighten your current and future situations with vital truths of God. Often times when things get tough and the unknown rears it’s head we can be informed and gather a more clear perspective about the situation we face through our songs of praise and worship. I think we need to remember, it’s never the size of the battle, and it’s never how great the enemy is, but if we keep our focus on God, how powerful He is, and how faithful He’s been time and time again that this is where you will find victory.

The battles we face are the Lord’s. Our job is to worship and trust Him. Our victories lie within our ability to trust and praise. So if you find yourself in a battle, don’t cry out in fear from what you see, cry out in faith for who God is and what He has already done! Go before the Lord in worship remembering all He has done and how faithful He’s been to you already. I’ve realized that whenever I do this, it takes me to a place of relying upon Him to battle whatever comes my way. Allow your song to inform your situation.


The Enemy of Who they Face

John 10:10 records Jesus saying,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

In our reality a thief, like every other type of criminal, is nothing more than an opportunist. Thieves look for the easiest prey they can find. They watch for people who appear to be timid, weak and incapable of defending themselves. Criminals also understand that there is indeed safety in numbers, so they choose victims who are alone and too separated from others to get help. Think about it… burglars find houses with little to no defenses. Attackers find victims who are easy targets. No opportunist wants to pick a fight they can possibly lose!

How does this apply to our praise as a utility or tool for our spiritual battles?

The truth is that most thieves are cowards who only want to go after people that are smaller and weaker than them. People who walk confidently and display a high level of self-assurance are far less likely to be targeted by thieves. Since a criminal prefers to put the least amount of effort into their heinous deeds, they wait for someone who is slow moving and seems to be unsure of themselves. This is the type of victim who will stand by meekly when they are involved in a confrontation.

As Believers if we are singing truths confidently, and believing them, then we are painting ourselves as less of an opportune target because we are a harder “kill” than someone else for the enemy. By praising in the midst of the spiritual fight we are looking the enemy in the face and proclaiming that we won’t be taken by surprise, we won’t back down, and we are ready to fight back.

“Stand up, Stand up for Jesus” is a song that we probably have all heard or sung at one time or another, and I believe that it has strong message for the enemy that we can learn from and sing when a spiritual fight heads our way.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus!

By singing this we aren’t asking if we should stand up for the cause of Christ, but rather we are proclaiming that the cause of Christ is worth rising up for. It means that we will defend the truth and share it with others. From the beginning of the song we are telling the enemy that we won’t be an easy target.

Ye soldiers of the cross; Lift high His royal banner, It must not suffer loss.

When you study the history of armies and war, you find that when soldiers would go into battle sometimes they would have banner. This banner was used to communicate, encourage, and represent their nation or their king. Imagine our soldiers currently wearing the stars and stripes on their uniforms as they fight for what that particular flag represents. Many of the “flag bearers” of old would actually carry their banner of flag instead of a weapon into war. In these battles if the soldier carrying the banner was killed, another soldier would pick up the banner and carry it in his place because it was that important to them and to their cause.

We can relate to this when come to our flag. Most of us are proud to be Americans and we love what our flag represents, and we cringe when someone decided to burn the flag out of protest because we know what our flag represents and that it came at the high cost of solider lives. As Christians, we need to realize that when we became Christians we signed up in the Lord’s army. Everyone of us is a Christian soldier.

2 Timothy 2:3-4 says,

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.

We are not fighting a physical war, we are fighting a spiritual one, but we must stand up as Christian soldiers and face our enemy. We must sing and wave the banner of Christ high with boldness and confidence so he knows the fight that is before him.

From victory unto victory His army shall He lead, till every foe is vanquished, for Christ is Lord indeed.

Jesus is the head of the church, and He knows how to help in our time of need. He has given us all the tools we need to win against our enemies because He has given us the power of His blood and the sword of the spirit, which is God’s truth.

I’m so thankful that God’s sheep are protected from the thief by their Shepherd, in John 10:11 Jesus said,

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

I’ll leave the rest of the hymn for you to interpret and sing in the face of your foe. The fight is worth fighting and the outcome is sealed. Allow your song to route your foe before the battle begins.

Stand up stand up for Jesus

The trumpet call obey

Forth to the mighty conflict

In this His glorious day

Ye that are brave now serve Him

Against unnumbered foes

Let courage rise with danger

And strength to strength oppose

 

Stand up stand up for Jesus

Stand in His strength alone

The arm of flesh will fail you

Ye dare not trust your own

Put on the gospel armor

Each piece put on with prayer

Where duty calls or danger

Be never wanting there

 

Stand up stand up for Jesus

Each soldier to his post

Close up the broken column

And shout through all the host

Make good the loss so heavy

In those that still remain

And prove to all around you

That death itself is gain

 

Stand up stand up for Jesus

The strife will not be long

This day the noise of battle

The next the victor’s song

To those who vanquish evil

A crown of life shall be

They with the King of Glory

Shall reign eternally


What songs are you singing and how are they working for you in your spiritual fight?

A Call to Share

Studies show that one in five Americans don’t believe in a deity. Many of you might look at those numbers somewhat optimistically… but when compared to the numbers the Hartford Institute of Religion Research have on church attendance the real issue begins to show it’s head. The numbers on church attendance show that more than 40 percent of Americans “say” they go to church weekly. As it turns out, however, less than 20 percent are actually in church. In other words, more than 80 percent of Americans are finding more fulfilling things to do on weekends and then answering differently on questionnaires or polls. Those same Americans “believe” in a deity… but their beliefs aren’t impacting their actions or decisions.

Psychologist Jean Twenge of San Diego State University has said,

The large declines in religious practice among young adults are also further evidence that millennials are the least religious generation in memory, and possibly in American history.

That’s a scary thought… but a harsh reality. How do we right this ship?

Matthew 28:19-20 is a passage referred to as the Great Commission that we are familiar with. It says,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Evangelism was born with a simple command from the risen Jesus to “go.”

Our task is as Believers is well defined: outreach. Our territory is well laid out: the world. Our message is plain: Jesus. And fortunate enough for us all we need is made available: “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

No congregation, no pastor, and no Christian can afford to ignore the call of evangelism. 2 Timothy 4:5, says,

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

In this passage we can see the apostle Paul writing to the young pastor Timothy, affirming that the work of the evangelist is inseparable from gospel ministry.

Christian missiologist Ed Stetzer has said,

It’s essential to understand that, regardless of our personal comfort level, we are called to share our faith because Christianity is a missionary faith. Despite the change in our culture and the way our faith is regarded, Christians are commanded to tell people about Jesus. In Matthew 4:19, Jesus called fishermen as his first disciples and told them he would make them “fishers of men.”

His disciples are still called to be fishers of men.

Even in our multi-faith environment, this calling should not be offensive to those of other faiths or no faith at all. Evangelism does not mean coercion. We can and should respect each other and strive for tolerance across varying beliefs, but that does not require pretending those differences do not exist. One of the core beliefs of Christianity is that Christianity should be propagated.

It isn’t necessary for every Christian to rent a stadium to proclaim the gospel to thousands. Most Christians can gain a hearing for the gospel while exchanging life stories at the coffee shop, taking a meal to a hurting family or standing for justice in an unjust world.

What evangelism requires is that when we care for a friend or speak out for a cause, we tell others that our faith is the reason. We tell them the good news that was told to us.

Evangelism can be defined as the person-to-person outreach of believers to nonbelievers with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the act of leading those who do not believe to repentance and to acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. All too common is the notion that this work belongs to the pastor alone, but the fact that the pastor is called to lead does not relegate the work of evangelism exclusively to them. So… you might be asking, “How can I be a successful evangelist?” Let’s think together!


Be Ready.

Having traveled playing music and been around musicians off all ages and genres I always find it interesting to see what an artist is like when they are off the stage. Many of them aren’t at all like they appear to be on stage. Sometimes in the hours leading up to the show you can watch them physically and mentally prepare and morph into what their fans expect. If you were to catch them “off guard” and throw them up on stage early they might not be able to perform to the best of their ability and give the people what they want.

The first key to successful evangelism is to always be ready to evangelize! 2 Timothy 4:2 says,

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.

Successful evangelism is not seasonal. Nowhere in Scripture is there even a hint that evangelism should be a seasonal endeavor. On the contrary, Acts 2:46-47 indicates that accessions to the truth occurred daily. That passage says,

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The church must remain true to the Great Commission and rescue evangelism from the realm of the “occasional” and anchor it where it belongs: in the down-to-earth, ongoing, daily life of the congregation. Evangelism is not something that may be turned on and off like a light switch. It is a year-round way of life mandated by God to invite “whosoever will” to come into God’s kingdom.

If we are to be ready “in and out of season” then we are going to have to have the Word of God “dwelling in us richly” because we know that Romans 10:17 says,

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Being prepared for successful evangelism is rooting ourselves in a healthy biblical theology. God is passionate in His desire to save. No matter how much we may “psych” ourselves up for evangelism, unless our understanding is rooted in the reality of God’s unquenchable desire to save, His ability to save, and His purpose to employ us in the saving mission, we run the risk of leaving many of the vast resources God has provided to His people unused, which will leave us disheartened or dissatisfied.

A healthy biblical theology will guide us to a complete dependence on God for the mysterious work of conversion that He alone can accomplish.

We must be always ready by being always dependent on God, his Word, and the resources that He provides.


Be Present.

In Colossians 4:5-6 Paul tells the church to,

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Paul isn’t just saying evangelism is our responsibility; he’s telling us to do it “in person” and wisely, “making the best use of the time.” Unfortunately, to a lot of us evangelism can seem like an out of body experience because we aren’t comfortable with or “present” in the moment.

I’m reminded of the more passive Christian who “checks” evangelism off their list by wearing a “trendy” Jesus t-shirt, hat, or WWJD bracelet while secretly hoping that nobody acknowledges it, or that it doesn’t create an evangelistic opportunity (although I never have seen that happen). Or, on the alternative side I think of the zealous Facebook Christian who posts Bible verses, Christian memes, or might troll statuses and pages in order to start conversations to defeat arguments, while losing people in the process.

Don’t allow the comment section to become the new street corner. 

Matthew 6:5 says,

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

There are only 3 ways of viewing time: past, present, and future. We must evangelize in the present. The above approaches are foolish and not “present” because they treat people like projects to be completed, or arguments to be won and not persons to be loved. It is looking at what they could be in the future instead of what they are now.

Have you ever been on the other end of an evangelistic project? Perhaps from a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon at your door. You don’t feel loved; you feel used, like a customer being pressured into a sale. Go to any restaurant around with a wad of cash for tip money and you will find someone willing to be your “friend,” go empty handed and see the difference.

In the above passage out of Colossians 4 Paul says, “know how you ought to answer each person.” This means that most of our Gospel explanations will be different, not canned. It also implies that we are present and listening in our evangelism. How can we know how to respond to each person, if we don’t truly know each person? This advocates a present and relational evangelism strategy fueled by the love for people with “no strings attached.”

When Francis Schaeffer was asked how he would spend an hour with a non-Christian, he said,

I would listen for fifty-five minutes, and then, in the last five minutes I would have something to say.

Evangelism is not a program but a way of life. For each of us it is an opportunity each day to witness to others about the power of the crucified, risen, and soon-coming Lord.


Be Committed.

What’s the difference between wisdom and knowledge? Wisdom comes with a requirement of gray hair!

In Colossians 4 Paul isn’t just telling us evangelism is personal; he’s telling us to do it with wisdom. Wisdom possesses more than knowledge; it expresses knowledge through understanding. In evangelism another word for this is love.

By many peoples standards love is inefficient. It slows down long enough to understand people and their objections to the gospel, and views them as more than projects. Love recognizes people are complex, and meets them in their need: suffering, despair, indifference, confusion, etc…

A successful evangelist is committed for the long haul.

Unfortunately the “fast facts” way of evangelism that many of us have been “trained” in for a long time is ineffective and almost seen as an insult anymore. Rehearsing a memorized fact, “Jesus died on the cross for your sins,” isn’t walking in wisdom even though the whole statement is truth.

We need to explain and display these important truths not simply assert them, and that takes commitment and relationships. It takes a love for people.

We need to see evangelism as a long-term endeavor. Stop “checking the list” and defeating others with your knowledge of the Gospel and your machine gun mouth. Slow down and practice listening, and most importantly… love them for who they are and not for who they could be! Most conversions are not the result of a single, point-in-time conversation, but the culmination of a personal process that includes doubt, reflection, gospel witness, love, and the work of the Holy Spirit, and those things take time!

Don’t feel pressured by numbers. Successful evangelism is measured by faithfulness to the task. If faithfulness is measured by numbers, then Noah would probably be considered a failure. Noah started building the ark when he was 480-years old. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:7 that Noah moved with fear,

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Prior to the Great Flood the earth had never flooded in that manner (some would even argue that it had never rained, see Genesis 2:5-6 and Hebrews 11:7, but I do not wish to enter into that conversation); yet God told Noah He was going to flood the earth with rain. Now when God gives Noah the command to do this, it is 120 years until the Flood. This is what you would call a long-term project. Noah preached the Word of God, gave warnings to the people, and was ignored and ridiculed. Only his family boarded that Ark.

We learn from the experience of Noah that faithful evangelism doesn’t so much have to do with the numbers and response as it has to do with proclaiming God’s message boldly out of obedience and love.

In sum, if you evangelize apart from love you will be holistically unsuccessful. With love comes patience, and that means we are evangelists for the long term.


In conclusion, we are all called to be evangelists. We will all be presented with differing opportunities and platforms. Many of us will see different “measurable” successes. The parable of the seed falling in different kinds of soil puts things in-perspective for us. Inevitably, the word that we proclaim or teach falls, like the sower’s seed, on a variety of surfaces. That is why successful evangelism cannot be linked exclusively to numbers. A great part of the success is that we have simply delivered the message faithfully. Our task is especially to care for those who are represented by the good ground, and to continue to pursue the others in the hope that the ground of their hearts will soon be receptive to the seed.

Successful evangelism is well within the reach of every person. Paul’s admonition to young Timothy to do the work of an evangelist is framed in a context of a call to faithfulness, consistency, and longsuffering. The evangelist who has these qualities will succeed.

And remember, don’t put pressure on yourself; conversion is in God’s hands. We just get to share the incomparable news of Jesus!