That’s the devil’s game.

bible picI had a revelation this morning when my Bible fell open to this page. I shared with my small group last night that I’d been angry with God since we lost the baby. I knew the anger was there. In fact, I’d kind make a joke out of it and my prayers would sound like, “I love you but I’m a little ticked. I’ll get back with you.” Only I never did and just drifted and drifted for months until I was sick of myself–exhausted from trying to heal without the Healer.

Anger is a normal, necessary stage of the grieving process, but I can’t forget the One who walks through my grief with me hand in hand. When I saw the note on the top margin where the devil tempts Jesus, all the dots connected. Satan places conditions on Jesus, tries to strike a little bargain with the King of Kings. Huh. What a dangerous game–to attempt to thwart the plans of someone who is in complete authority over you, the Living God. But now I realize that this is the place where my anger has taken me. I’m not going to pray, or study, or worship right now. I’m angry! Fix it, and then we’ll talk.

But Jesus doesn’t play. When I enter into that negotiation, I’m playing the devil’s game.

Last night at Bible study we talked about obedience. When God tells you to do something, you do it or you sin. No two ways about it. But that doesn’t mean that he isn’t simultaneously holding your hand and heart as you grieve. And just like I draw so much support, affirmation, and comfort from unpacking my grief with my sisters in Christ, conversations with the Father have all of that to offer and MORE.

My act of obedience today will be to bring my grief to worship with me. I think Jesus is eager for us to unpack this together. Here’s a verse I’m meditating on: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…” II Peter 1:3

If you’ve lost your way in the grieving process, I invite you to come with me to the Father and claim this promise. Wait expectantly for His divine power to heal your broken heart.

 

ADVENTures Day 3–He carries us close to His heart . . .

Go up on a high mountain, O herald Zion!
Shout out loudly, O herald Jerusalem!
Shout, don’t be afraid!
Say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
Look, the sovereign Lord comes as a victorious warrior;
his military power establishes his rule.
Look, his reward is with him;
his prize goes before him.
Like a shepherd he tends his flock;
he gathers up the lambs with his arm;
he carries them close to his heart;
he leads the ewes along.   Isaiah 40:9-11

Maybe I didn’t know what I was getting myself into—posting each day. If I were capable of just writing a little blurb about the scripture—600 words or less—this wouldn’t be a problem. But once I start breaking a scripture down, I’m sucked in! Call me a nerd, but I love this stuff. I like to research and study. I love history and God’s word. So, the two together? It’s a feast, I tell ya. I’ll have my bible and eight websites open at once. That’s really not practical for a post a day!

Isaiah fascinates me because his prophecies easily speak to today’s church. He describes judgment and exile for Israel, which had continued in religious activity but was still not righteous. They marked the sacrifices and feasts prescribed in the law of Moses, but they also sprinkled in practices from pagan nations (2:6), including the sacrifice of children at Gehenna. Isaiah refers to Jerusalem, once “the faithful city”, now as a “harlot” (1:21). Among Isaiah’s charges against Judah is social injustice, neglecting the “oppressed . . . the fatherless . . . the widow.”

It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? That the people chosen of God and the recipients of His favor should fall so far—even to the point of continuing in their sacrifices to the LORD while also giving themselves over to idols. But, is the American church so different? Have we not seen blessing upon blessing of God’s favor? Yet, churches will spend millions upon millions on themselves—buildings and programs and fluff—and neglect the needy right outside their doors. In doing so, who is our idol? We are. Alright, now what about child sacrifice? Did you know that the views on abortion within the church mirror secular views on abortion? I just gave a cursory glance to a web article defending a “Christian” view in favor of abortion. It’s okay if your theology allows for it. Wait– what??? Does God’s feelings about sin–murder, even–fluctuate because of the theological views we choose to adopt? That’s absurd! Again, look no further than yourself to determine which idol you worship if you can be convinced that God accommodates this sin. To that writer, I say, read Isaiah’s laundry list of horrors in store for Israel and then get back to me.

Where I see the most obvious parallel between Isaiah’s prophecies and the modern church is what we’re willing to call worship. Too often, church membership and attendance is flashed around like some kind of Jesus talisman. I attend. I sing a few songs—but only if they are the songs I prefer performed only by certain instruments. I hear a little lightweight preaching and call it good for the week. What is neglected is devotion—a devotion that can only come about in a heart that knows it has been rescued.

Which brings me to our scripture.

I haven’t had a ton of time to study up for this post, but if I can believe the notes in my NIV Study Bible, I’ll assume that chapter 40 is written for the time when “the Babylonian exile is almost over.” God’s people endured years of suffering, which He intended as a purging of the evil they had absorbed into their community. But even as far back as chapter 1, Isaiah gave the people God’s assurance that despite the prevalence of their evil acts, their “scarlet” sins would be made “white as snow” (1:18). What I love about chapter 40 is the softer tone of the language. “Comfort, comfort,” it says in verse 1, and in verse 2, “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem . . . her hard service has been completed.”

Looking specifically at our verses for today, 9-11, I love the contrast between God’s power (v.10) and His care (v.11). The good news for the people in exile is that God in all His power will come to lead them back home. In love, He will not only lead as a shepherd, but “carry them close to His heart.”

What does this say to us? God will have His kingdom, made up of a people who are righteous— that is, in a right relationship with Him. This can only come about because of Christ, because He rescues us from evil. I believe God will purify His church of the drivel—the teaching that accommodates sin, the ho-hum worship of a people who barely realize what was done on their behalf, the preaching that amounts to little more than life coaching rather than conviction. He purged the people of Israel to make them righteous. He wants to purge us of our sin–of the way we’ve let the world’s theology creep into our worship. That kind of purging is painful.

If you claim faith in Christ, it doesn’t hurt to evaluate your worship. If it accommodates you, your preferences—or worse, your sin—then make this Christmas a time to re-devote yourself to Him. There’s no reason to adopt a theology that accommodates sin—the Lamb shed His blood to make those scarlet sins white as snow. He came for you, to gather you up like a little lamb and lead you home, cancelling your debt in the process. Does your worship reflect a gratitude for your rescue?

Maybe you don’t know God. Maybe you feel conviction over the things I’ve listed above. Abortion, maybe? Know that He also came for you. He simply doesn’t accommodate your sins—but He pays the price for them with the blood of His Son. Our sin would separate us from God forever except for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Here’s some really amazing news—no sin (that’s right, not even abortion) is so great that you can’t be redeemed by God. You see, the worth of Jesus Christ is incalculable—His blood’s power to rescue cannot be exhausted by the number or depth of your sins. He will scoop you up like a little lamb and carry you close to His heart.

lamb chop

We celebrate the birth of a little baby on Christmas Day. Now, imagine. That little baby came with power to rescue you. It is the “good news of great joy that will be for all people”. Receive the Lord Jesus and be at peace.

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God . . . [your] sin has been paid for . . .” Isaiah 40:1-2 (NIV)

The Tempter and the Poisonous IF

I finished a wildly uneventful spring break and limped back into school on Monday. My week off didn’t afford much excitement. We stayed home mostly. But I did live vicariously through all of you, via Facebook, who spent the week at Disney, et al. It’s good for me to feel jealous and bitter because then I get lots of practice repenting. And not once did I pray that it would rain on you blessed people who actually got to spend your vacation on vacation.

We had two big (that’s a relative term) outings last week. One little day trip was to the Wal-Marts where’s we got our hairs did. This is fun because A) the Beasley youngers aren’t savvy enough to realize that Wal-Mart is not at a spa, and B) they don’t scream at the stylist when she combs through those curls like they do at their momma. So it IS like a vacation. It also provides photo ops like the following:

Spa Day, Sort ofEden at the Wal-Marts

Our second outing included a movie and lunch date with friends. We saw God’s Not Dead, which I loved. I promise no spoilers here, but I do have to explain the inspiration for what I’m about to write. One character in the movie explains that he lost his faith when his mother died of cancer. He told God that he would worship Him forever if God would heal her. I had a bizarre reaction to this scene.

First, I cried. Now, I’ve always been emotional, so maybe that’s not all that bizarre, but it’s been really bad since my dad died. Here’s the weird thing–I felt a very strong impulse to jump into the screen and tell that (fictional) character that the same experience which convinced him that God ISN’T, convinces others that God IS. Now, why is that?

Matthew 4:1-11

All that week, I’d been reading through Matthew 4 over and over in preparation for writing this post. I’ve studied the book of Matthew several times, so in each reading, I saw the same thing in the text that I had for many years. I read it as an example of how to confront temptation. Believe me, we should certainly read this passage and follow Jesus’ example. He confronts the Enemy with God’s Word, and so should we. After seeing the movie, though, one word popped off the page.

IF.

If you are the Son God…

If you heal her…

One of my little language arts teacher tricks is to think yourself into the text. Which character do you identify with? In this case, I’d always put myself in Jesus’ shoes–err, sandals. Satan’s after me, so I need the tools to protect myself. After some careful consideration of that word IF, for the first time EVER, I realized that maybe I’m the tempter, not the tempted. Do I test the Lord with that word IF and make room to doubt God?

So, let’s break it down. Verse 3–“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus is wrapping up a 40 day fast. He’s famished–in need of nourishment in a way that most of us have never, probably will never, experience. Like the testing of Eve back in Genesis, the devil simply presents what is available for the meeting of a “need” that isn’t exactly a need. He points out to both Eve and Jesus an option which is there oddly enough BECAUSE of God in the first place. God put that tree in the garden, so why not take it? God’s power is present in Christ, so why not use it?

Though Jesus needs food in a way that Eve obviously didn’t, He isn’t in such a hurry that food has to appear before him miraculously. In fact, Jesus is so careful with His power that He would never exaggerate a need so that He can use God’s power when it isn’t God’s plan to do so. And His answer (v. 4) to the tempter is just gorgeous–“Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” In other words, let’s talk about what we really NEED.

First, God’s word is necessary. Not just helpful, like little tips to sprinkle around here and there to soften the blows of life–it IS LIFE. God is not a life coach. We need Him and His word. Like food. Like water. Like air.

But don’t miss this, either. Jesus said we need every word from God. EVERY. WORD. Y’ALL. That means the words that sound good to us AND the words that don’t. Even the words we don’t want to hear–those words sustain us.

Wow. I wish I had a dollar for every time I told God that I had a need and plugged my ears to shut out what He might say. And maybe another dollar for every time I called what is actually a desire a need, as if God didn’t understand the urgency of my situation. Then another dollar for every time I told God to just sprinkle His magic fairy dust to fix my need because, ya know, God may not have weighed out all the options when He made out His master plan. Last year, I prayed lots of these prayers. We had needs–we had to have a place to live, jobs, income, insurance. Daily, we listed it all out for God, and in that stressful state, we told God how to handle our problems.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Talk to Him. Tell Him everything. Discuss the options and what you think and feel and how you hope to see things happen. Talk to Him all the time, everyday, in your prayer closet, in the car, everywhere–keep that conversation going. However, we have to remember that we’re listening for EVERY WORD of God’s, not just the ones that sound pretty. I don’t recall using that conditional word IF with the Lord when we talk, but there have been a few difficult times when I just quit talking to Him because He didn’t jump through my hoops.

Years ago, I wanted a baby. In the absolute worst way, I wanted a baby in my arms. We suffered through quite a few miscarriages. I never actually said to God, “I’ll worship You if…” But that’s precisely how I acted. Looking back, I’m a little shocked at the way I treated God, at how I withheld my love–my worship– from Him and gave Him the cold shoulder. You see, I was a believer–and had been for many years–when all this happened. I didn’t want to NOT be a Christian. I still wanted Jesus for my salvation, but as far as the ongoing relationship is concerned, I wanted certain things on my terms. I treated my Savior as though He wasn’t worthy of my worship because He didn’t meet my need.

When Eden was born, it all made sense. I told God (imagine my repentant attitude) that I would do it all over again ten, twenty, thirty times, just so I could have my sweet Eden. All the more amazing is that God gave us Eden through adoption. So He in no way jumped through my hoops. He gave us a baby and then met a need that I wasn’t even aware I had. He used adoption to show me how much He loves me. I share this experience with many Christian adoptive parents. We pine for that baby for so long, and then finally we get to scoop one up in our arms and exclaim, “MINE!! ALL MINE!!” I ran after motherhood for so long, and it was oh so sweet when it finally came together. Now. Remember the story of the Prodigal Son? Remember how the father RAN to scoop that boy up in his arms? God ran after me and when I placed my faith in Jesus, He scooped me up and said, “MINE!” And the angels had a party. I rediscovered HIS love through my love for Eden–because I could see that, by sending Jesus, God ran to get His treasure–those He loves.

I don’t waste time wondering what life would have been like if God had used His miraculous power to give me a biological child. God’s answer–His word–was bitter. And better.

That lesson from adoption continues to shape my faith even now. Last year when we were getting pretty desperate for income, I genuinely had needs. We had to have an income to feed ourselves. It was scary. The Lord and I discussed all this at length over and over and over. I begged God to give Todd one job in particular with the Arkansas Highway Department. I was pretty depressed when he didn’t get that job, and I won’t lie, I had a hard time praying at times. But I remembered Eden–how God’s plan to give children to the Beasleys was far better and so much more than what I’d asked for. His word was hard for me to hear at first, so how could I have predicted that I would one day be thankful for miscarriages? God had revealed His character to me. Now I had to trust–and like Jesus said, immerse myself in God’s Word like it’s bread and water. Every once in a while, I would get a little cheeky with God, quote Matthew 6:31-32, wag my finger at Heaven and say, “You promised!”

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

I told Todd on a number of occasions, “I know that somewhere on the other side of this, God has a job for you that will be more and better than we ever expected.” My faith was still a little rickety at times, but nothing like those bitter days before we adopted. I’ve made some progress, y’all! She CAN be taught! Since I just covered the answer to the job search prayers in my last post, I won’t go through it all again. Take a look at State of the Beasley Union if you want to read a neat story about our prayers and God’s plan.

The second temptation presents Jesus with the opportunity to perform a dramatic feat in a very public place. Simply put, to show off. And Jesus’ answer? Don’t test Me. One commentator said that when the devil says “if you are the Son of God” in verse six, it really should say “since you are the Son of God.” The enemy knows exactly who he is dealing with, exactly what power our God has.

But people don’t. Not really. Certainly someone who doesn’t believe in God will rationalize away any evidence of God’s power, but even believers get comfortable thinking of miracles as something God used to do. That is, until we hit a crisis and we need that miracle to prove to us that He is there. Then we start pressing Him with all our might in prayer. IF You are there, IF You are who You say You are, do this. We may avoid Him in every other area of our lives—we may not give Him a second thought as we make huge life decisions, as we begin and end relationships, when we take on new challenges and it seems like we have the world by the tail. We accomplish every other thing in our lives in our own strength until suddenly, we need that miracle.

It’s impossible to avoid this trap, I think, even for believers. We all go there at one time or another. Something awful happens, you’re in pain, and you need God to show off. Nothing less than the impossible will do, and nothing’s impossible with God, right? So, why doesn’t He demonstrate His power for me? Doesn’t He love me?

After reading this text with myself in the role of tempter, I have to admit that I am guilty of testing Him. Even if I don’t tell Him directly, I imply, “IF You are there, and you really love me, You’ll do this.”

If You really love me, You’ll let me carry this baby to term.

If You are really there, You will heal my dad’s leukemia.

Picture God answering me with the same directness He used with the devil. Katie, don’t test Me. I AM.

Ouch. Isn’t that how we hear Him sometimes? When we imagine getting the dreaded word “no” from God, don’t we assume that He’s harsh? Or dismissive? Or cruel? Since I’m an English teacher, I know how to experiment with the tone to hear how a loving Father might reveal Himself to me. How would it sound if that loving Father wants you to know Him, not fall away in disbelief? What words might He use if He desires intimacy with us–if His real goal is to draw us closer and deepen our faith?  “Katie, I love you. Whether you believe in that love or not, it is there–even in your darkest days. Don’t test me. It will only cause you to doubt. Trust me. Wait on Me. I AM.”

I miscarried eleven days before my dad was diagnosed with leukemia. Did I pray for that pregnancy? Did I pray for my dad’s healing? Absolutely, I did. I am in no way suggesting that you shouldn’t pray for every single miracle that you hope for in life. Pray big–then watch expectantly for the amazing and beautiful things your Abba Father will do for you. Just beware. When you relate to God with that added conditional element–If You love me, if You are good–you are setting yourself up for doubt. You are in danger of slipping into bitterness or unbelief like the character in the film. Then when you come to your senses, you will have lots of regret–and lots of work to do.

My father didn’t live long after the diagnosis. Those were my darkest days. It’s difficult for me to explain what that year was like. It was so, so hard. But I had learned a few things from my pre-Eden years. Back then, I was so angry that I shunned God for a time. Now I realize that God is no less God because I choose not to love and worship Him. He’s still worthy of my adoration and affection even when I withhold it. Once I wore myself out on that bitterness, I’m the one who had to start over. God was still there; He’d never left, never stopped loving me. But now He had to scrub me clean of that unrighteousness and I had to begin again, working to trust in Him even in situations that made it look like He wasn’t worthy of that faith.

Following His third temptation, Jesus tells us plainly (v.10), “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” When I place an expectation on God, with that condition IF You are a loving God attached, I am really attempting to make myself the object of worship. Huh, kind of like the devil does in verse 9.

Here’s the thing that needs to sink in. God doesn’t need me to worship Him. He is just as awesome and all powerful when we don’t believe in Him as when we do. Worshiping Him and serving Him alone really benefits me. It teaches me. It changes me. It keeps me humble. It keeps everything in perspective.

I can test Him, but it will only lead me to doubt. I can plug my ears, trying to avoid the words from God that sound bitter, but I’ll miss seeing Him fulfill His word in me. I can withhold my love and worship, as if He is somehow empowered by adoration, but I am the one who is pinned down and lost without His power in me. I can try to connive things so that I’m the object of worship, but I’m no good at being God.

Or I can just do away with that poisonous conditional IF, and know that He IS. And He rewards me when I seek Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go the Distance–So to Honor Him

This is post #3 of my walk through the book of Matthew. It’s looking like a pretty leisurely stroll. Three posts per week may be a bit of a stretch, so I have to extend some grace to myself–which is so hard for me to do! Regardless of the number of posts, I’m enjoying this. I’m spending several days reflecting on just a small section of a chapter; today’s post covers Matthew 2:1-12. It’s a different exercise than doing a daily reading and moving on to the next thing the very next day. If you feel challenged or encouraged, please comment and share!

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2

Quite possibly the most excruciating Bible lesson I’ve ever sat through was over this passage. As a young adult I attended a church heavily populated by seminary students. I loved the church, the pastor, the teaching, all of it. But, being in a Sunday school class packed with would-be scholars (when you ain’t one) has its drawbacks. On one hand, we never had a teacher shortage at that church. On the other, everybody thinks they’re teaching the class.

We endured, for far too long, the argument discussion over exactly what the wise men followed to find Jesus. Was it a nova? Jupiter and Saturn positioned closely together? A comet? No, no, it can’t be this. It must be that. Haven’t you read what so and so wrote on the subject? My professor from thus and such class says… Not that theories aren’t interesting, but listening to a bunch of guys holding the lesson hostage, all trying to one-up each other, just made me want to throw a chair.

If memory serves, in my tried and true, opinionated, foot-in-the-mouth demeanor, I steered the conversation toward the wise men themselves. Like a bull in a china shop. Hey, at least I didn’t throw a chair. I’m so proud of me.

I like the story of the wise men because they were foreigners. They didn’t belong to this geographical area, or the culture, or the religion. Yet, they came to worship the king of the Jews. Huh. That’s odd. It needs explaining.

Like the star, theories abound for the origin of the wise men as well. My favorite traces the Magi’s journey from Babylon. Because the Jews were held in captivity in Babylon, and some never returned from there, wise men in that area easily could have been influenced by Jewish traditions, writings, and prophecies.  I like this explanation for so many reasons—mainly because I like the irony that God would call someone out of Babylon to worship Him. Other theories purport that the wise men came from more distant places, perhaps India or even China. Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter that much. While I enjoy tossing these options around, I really only need what is provided for me by Matthew.

A number of things get my attention here. They came from far off and brought offerings for worship. We don’t know exactly how far they traveled, but from the explanations available through historical study, even a conservative estimate might figure around 900 miles. In that day, a trip of that distance could be covered in a few months, possibly less. Still—two months? Three months? To search for the king of a people that isn’t even yours? This is an expedition, not a vacation. It’s not something they planned on a whim. Furthermore, the bible tells us that the wise men took a different route when they returned to their own country. If we assume they took the most direct route to Jerusalem, then isn’t it possible that they took a longer route to get home? After all, they were avoiding Herod, so it makes sense to choose an unexpected route to cover their tracks.

So, just guesstimating at three months both ways, this trip was no bargain. It would have taken them away from every other thing in their lives. Whatever comprised their lives before the trip had to be put on hold–the cause of Christ was about all that remained.

Here’s something to think about. The Magi went the distance to worship the Lord. I’m not qualified to do a lot of speculating as I’ve done only minimal research—but I’m not sure the Magi understood who Jesus truly was, or who He would later claim to be. Their knowledge of the Christ would have been limited to Jewish prophecies—and we don’t even have evidence that they were aware of these prophecies at all. They did know that He was the king of the Jews and that He was worthy of worship. They acted on God’s call to go the distance and worship.

Then there’s the Magi’s actual act of worship. Matthew said they were overjoyed and bowed. One article I read said the gifts they presented would have been typical gifts to bring a king. Now, don’t you think it a little strange that after a long journey in which they expected to find the heir to a throne, to be filled with joy upon arriving at a poor carpenter’s house? Matthew does not indicate any measure of disappointment or hesitation, only joy and worship. They bowed and gave their costly gifts to a child, born poor. What a beautiful story of faith and obedience.

My wise preacher husband taught on worship once. It made an impression on me. Worship, he said, is the acknowledgment of His worth to us. Worship is a devotion that should reflect the value of the One we worship. I think about these wise men, about how they put their entire lives aside to go the distance and worship the Christ, when they had limited information about where He was and who He was. They didn’t have the benefit of the New Testament to educate them on the worth of the Christ. We have the gospels. Christ’s purpose is fully explained for us. He is so valuable that cost of His blood is enough to cover the sins of mankind. His worth is so astronomically high that His death bought us back from evil and death.

Now, consider what the wise men had available to engage in worship. There is no choir, organ, or piano. There is no band, no worship team. No guitars, microphones, worship leader or sound checks. There is no argument over which song or style is better. There are no preferences for this or that. They simply bow. They put their lives completely aside so that the only thing that can possibly be acknowledged is the value of the One they worship.

So, how do you worship? Full disclosure. . . I might be teetering on the edge of putting my toes upon your bad side. I apologize in advance.

I sang in a worship band for years. The last thing that I want to do is minimize the importance of corporate worship through music. But let me give you an idea of what it looks like from the stage. I saw a lot of picking. Yawning and stretching. Shifting from foot to foot. Maybe a quick check on the ol’ phone. Glancing at the watch. Down in the youth pews, a little flirting maybe. I saw many bored, complacent faces. It could not be more evident that attending “worship” is not at all convenient.  Even the small act of regular church attendance is too much to ask for some Christians. The wise men go the distance; we can’t skip a soccer game to be in church.

Let me backtrack a smidge and tell you that I’m the chief of sinners. God taught me a lot of lessons on worship the hard way. I endured a lot of loss before I recognized the depth of my sin in light His abundant mercy. One of those sins was that I stood on the stage for a lot of years with nary a clue what the value of my salvation truly was. How could I “lead worship”? I couldn’t. Not really. Oddly, I realized that there was a disconnect between His worth and my worship, and I had to pray for Him to set me straight. It hurt. But I absolutely do not regret it.

My prayer is that whatever I write today makes a difference—that someone’s life would change because I wrote what He wanted said about worship. Go the distance. Make a sacrifice. Put the stuff that comprises your life entirely aside and examine the immeasurable value of a King who would die for you. Ask Him how to make your life—not just on Sunday during a song service, but every day—reflect His worth.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How does a person worship from Monday through Saturday?
  • What does going the distance in worship look like for us?
  • Are you trying to live a life that reflects the worth of the Lord Jesus?
  • If not, what’s stopping you? What needs to change?

Killing Me Softly with His Song…or, Come Now is the Time to Worship

I had a great conversation with great new friends last night, and whoa, Nellie…it’s amazing what a charge you can get from shooting the breeze about faith with people you’ve just met. My wise and quotable mom would call that the Spirit recognizing the Spirit.

It was a small collection of folks who all might be interested in church planting. So, of course, it’s quite logical to meet and talk and investigate the possibility that we could join forces and build a new church together.

At one point during the conversation, we talked about worship. One of my new friends, Katie (yes, that’s my name, too), told us that she had experienced the most powerful and genuine worship while on mission trips to Kenya. Another new friend named Todd (yes, that’s also my husband’s name) said that he had never encountered genuine worship before entering drug rehab at Victory Temple Ministries in Fort Worth.

They both described these times of worship as pretty lengthy. The worshippers take their time to sing and shout their praise—it’s not just three or four songs they have to get through so they can hear the message, take up the offering and head out to lunch. They linger in worship. It’s almost…leisurely, perhaps?

As the conversation turned to church planting, Todd said, “I think it ought to be standard to worship for an hour.”

I knew what he meant by that. He’d seen—experienced, rather–something very real. The people who engaged in worship with him at Victory have just thatvictory. They had all come to the end of a long road of addiction and experienced a transformation that only Jesus Christ in His mercy and grace can bring about. To be sure, these worshippers have a solid frame of reference of exactly what Christ has rescued them from.

“Or at least,” I added, “it should be standard to just…worship.”

I’ve never been to Kenya, never been to rehab, but I’ve seen it, too.  There’s a difference between a song service and worship. My own worship of Jesus Christ has dramatically changed of late.  I spent a lot of years being pretty passive during the music, if not downright inattentive. A hunger for something more surfaced while I was singing with the band at First Baptist Church in Orange, Texas. John, our music minister, would always emphasize, “We lead worship.”

Taking these instructions to heart, I paid close attention to the lyrics. Theologically, I concurred. It’s all true. “How Great is Our God”?—Pretty great.  “Mighty to Save”?  Yep. He, in fact, can move the mountains.  Hey, are these or are they not the “Days of Elijah”? You bet they are. And, “He (indeed) Knows My Name” which makes me a “Friend of God” and it’s “All Because of Jesus.” Hallelu-yer.

What troubled me is that I agreed, but that was about it. If we were to sing, let’s say—how about an oldie?—“I Love You Lord,” then I truly felt…uncomfortable. Do I love Him? Really? If He were to question me the way He questioned Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Could I say yes?

Honestly, I just wasn’t sure. I mean, I know that I wanted to love Him, I should love Him, I’d always claimed to love him, but it didn’t feel like love. It felt more…perfunctory, routine, habitual yet passive.

At about the same time that I began wrestling with these troubling thoughts, my husband Todd and I began questioning our involvement in the ministry altogether. One day we had a conversation that went something like this—

Him—“Maybe I should just quit and go to work at Home Depot.”

Her—“I think we need to see lives changed or I just don’t want to do this anymore.”

Sounds like a bummer, right? Don’t think your own pastor doesn’t go through seasons like this.

I prayed for these disconcerting issues off and on for a few years—that I would experience a true love relationship with Jesus Christ and that we would get to see lives changed. And do you know what God did? He proved Himself to me, alright. He fostered that love between us and changed a life all at the same time. He changed me.

It’s a long story, which is too much for one post. But between miscarriages and adoptions, deep depression and true abiding peace, anger and restoration, loss and acceptance, I experienced victory. Here’s the amazing thing. I would do it all again—the whole rip-your-heart-out-and-grind-it-into-a-powder devastating mess—to know Him and love Him the way I do today.

You know how I know I’m changed? When the very darkest day of my life was upon me, I was seized with the realization that salvation truly is a great rescue—that I, Katie Beasley, have been brought from death to life. Suddenly I understood that my earthly suffering is just an infinitesimal glimpse at what hell must surely be like. Though hell is the place I deserve, Jesus saved me and has gone to prepare a place for me in the Father’s house. “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”? Dear friends, it is “vast beyond all measure.” So I worshipped Him. And it was real.