An Appetite for God

FullSizeRender-2

The human appetite is a powerful thing.  In fact, there aren’t many things that control our behavior much more than our appetite.  I mean, just take a few seconds and think about the last time that you were really hungry.  When we are hungry food quickly becomes the most important thing to us.  We’ll do just about anything to satisfy our ravenous cravings.  We’ve even created a word to describe the person who’s unfulfilled appetite is causing them emotional distress. . .we call them “hangry”.

HangryWhen you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both (Urban Dictionary).

Ultimately, we know that, albeit uncomfortable at times, our appetite for food is a good thing.  Without it we wouldn’t know when to pause our daily activities to eat.  And consequently, because our intake of food is directly related to our energy level, if we fail to eat on a regular basis we’ll lack the energy to live our lives.  Simply put, our appetite is meant to lead us to the source of our energy.  

This is not only true for our physical lives, but also for our spiritual lives.  In the opening lines of Psalm 42 the Psalmist writes “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”  

The Psalmist is using a metaphor to describe the inner appetite he has for God.  Even better, he is correlating his spiritual appetite to a physical one that we all experience, thirst.  In essence, he’s saying that he has an inner longing for the living God and the nearest thing he can relate it to is thirsting for water. 

We all have a spiritual appetite given to us by God.  Augustine says it this way, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”  Here Augustine is speaking of the longing of every human heart.  There is a void, a restlessness in our hearts that we all seek to fill.  In Augustine’s estimation, of which I agree, that longing can only be fulfilled by our Creator.

While Augustine is referring to the general void every one of us experiences, there is also a desire that is more specific than a general longing for “something more”.  Once a person is saved through faith in the work of Jesus Christ, that person is awakened to new life.  Scripture says that person is a “new creation”, the old has gone and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).  This moment of awakening, known as regeneration, is the inception of a an eternal relationship with God.  It’s also the inception of an appetite for something new.  Through the Holy Spirit we are given new desires, a new appetite for God and things of God (wisdom, righteousness, and devotion) (Tit. 2:12). Often times, however, we have a twisted view of our salvation.  Instead of viewing our salvation as an ongoing exploration, we see it as a stationary event that we can look back on.  Life with Jesus was never meant to be viewed or lived this way.  Instead, life in Christ is meant to be a “glorious pursuit, the heart’s happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead.”  God is prompting us to pursue Him, and to ultimately find our delight in Him (Ps. 37:4).

This is precisely why God gives us a spiritual appetite, to cause us to seek our well-being in Him.  Just like our physical appetite leads us to the source of our energy, food, our spiritual appetite is meant to lead us to the Source of all vitality, God himself.  So when we feel like the Psalmist and our souls are thirsting for more, longing for something deeper, we must learn to recognize that this very longing is a God-given provision to us.  In the same way that He gave us hunger and thirst for food and water, He also gives us an appetite for more of His presence.  If we are to live a vibrant spiritual life, filled with energy, strength, and health, we must regularly seek the God who alone can fill us with such things.

Psalm 145:6 “You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. 

In closing, I want to give one practical step that each of us can take to see our spiritual desires lead us closer to God.  When it comes to eating, our appetite is most helpful to our health when we respond to it with consistent, steady nutrition.  Prolonged periods without food, inconsistency in our choices, and/or overindulgence in the wrong things can dramatically affect our appetite.  Similarly, consistency in seeking God is crucial to our spiritual life.  In Psalm 105:4 David wrote “Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually.”  In many other cases David wrote about seeking the Lord in the morning, throughout the day, in the evening, and in his bed at night.  It seems to me that David knew the importance of continually trying to live in the strength and presence that our Lord provides.  This continual seeking will look different for each of us.  The point is not to create some equation that we live within that produces God’s presence for us.  Instead, I suggest taking some time to think about how to invite God into everything that you do.   Make sure not to skip even the most mundane parts of your life like housework, paying bills, exercising, and even sleeping.  Once you’ve taken time to think about it, do it.  Ask God to be a part of everything that you are doing. Tell Him that you want to abide in Him and live out of His strength not your own.  And then do your best to be conscious of His involvement on a day to day basis.

I’ve heard it said, “Our lives are formed by the habits in which we live.”  Let’s create spiritual rhythms in our lives that help us rely upon God for everything that we are doing.  He designed it to work that way after all.

Returning to the Father

         williams-8

  It’s often said, “a child knows the way to his or her father’s heart.” Parents will certainly attest to the validity of this statement. I can still vividly remember the first time my son looked at me, and with a big crooked smile on his face said, “Da da”.   In that moment I was beaming with excitement! Another recurring moment that makes my heart smile is getting home from work most evenings. As I pull into the garage and come through the door to our house I’m almost always greeted by my son, running full speed ahead with his arms stretched out toward me. As a Father, there just aren’t many things better than your children desiring to be with you.

God, the true and perfect Father, also desires this intimacy with His children. The problem is that the perfect relationship that once existed between our Father and us was broken by the Fall (Gen. 3) and has wrecked our relationship with Him. By choosing sin over blessing, we turned away from our loving Creator and sought to establish our own life outside of His care. In foolishness we gave up the shelter of the Almighty to become independent orphans. And now we find ourselves searching for the love that was once ours in the Garden. But there is good news. Just like God sought out Adam and Eve in the Garden after they had sinned against Him, He is seeking out each one of us. While we are hiding in shame, our Father is calling out to us, “Where are you son?” “Where are you daughter?” He’s extending an invitation to come back into His care, to come out of hiding and return to the relationship that once was. This is what our Father wants for us.

This is actually also what the practice of Lent should mean for us. A season that’s most often defined by what we’re “giving up” is actually more about “what we receive”. We must give up lesser loves in order to take hold of the truest treasures in life. Therefore, during this season, we take time to confess our wrongs, repent of our rebellion against God, and to recognize the breadth of our great need for Him. We fast from daily needs and competing desire in order to fix our attention on what really matters. Simultaneously, we gaze upon the beauty of the cross and the finished work of Christ, we receive the forgiveness that is offered to us through faith in Jesus, and we return unto our Father’s care, desiring to enter back into the relationship that we once knew in the Garden so long ago.

Our Father has extended this invitation to us, an invitation to once again dwell in His presence. Yet in order to dwell in His presence we must learn to seek Him continually (Psalm 105:4). This is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian life; we are to seek what we already have. Although we have direct access to our Father through salvation in Jesus, we must remain thirsty for more of Him. Seeking him forces us to continually reorient our hearts to become aware of the burning beauty of God all around us. Just like it was in the Garden, God has not moved away from us, He’s not hiding; we are the ones who have moved. We must relearn what it looks like to desire and recognize His presence that is all around us.

This Lent season, I encourage all of us to focus our hearts on returning to our Father. We can use this time to increase our appetites for more of God’s fullness. As our hearts begin to experience the love of the Father we’ll naturally crave more and more of Him and find deeper satisfaction in Him. Let’s together ask the Holy Spirit to empower us to do this together, in Jesus’ name, for the glory of our Father.

Becoming Who We Are

Part of My Story

When I was 16 years old God began to do something that was unique in my life, something that to this day drives me forward.  I was a young, immature boy who barely knew how to play the guitar, and knew almost nothing about the Bible and the Church, when God began to draw my attention to a word, worship.  At that time I could barely even call myself a “worship leader”, I had almost no experience leading.  Yet in His goodness and foresight, God was giving me a noble obsession.  I still remember sitting poolside one summer break scouring books, learning as much as I could about the subject in between games of Marco Polo and Ping Pong.  Kinda weird, I know, but none-the-less true.  That was just the beginning of a journey that I’ve been on with God ever since.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 10+ years it’s that worship is far more than a word.  It’s far more than an activity.  It’s an identity.  Worship is something that I do, but it’s also who I am.

“Worship is something that I do, but it’s also who I am.”

It seems to me that this should be at the forefront of our minds as Christ-followers.  Can we even be true disciples if we are not first, worshipers?  There’s no doubt that our identity as worshipers is important to God.  The Scriptures say that the Father is searching the earth, looking for true worshipers (John 4:23).

The problem that I see is that even though this idea of being a “worshiper” is widely accepted as a central part of our faith, the subject of worship (corporately and personally) is pretty misunderstood.  Here’s what I mean. . .

Corporately speaking, many of us are lacking a Biblical understanding of the gathered church.  We show up to church with almost no thought about the purpose of the gathering.  We may or may not participate in the service that’s been planned because we don’t see the practical or spiritual implications that singing/praying/communion/baptism/etc. bring to our faith.  Therefore, we tend to argue and bicker over personal preference as if it’s the primary reason the church exists.  If we lived out a more Biblical understanding of corporate worship I believe that our churches would be healthier, more unified, and each individual would find the gathering to be an absolutely necessary part of their life in Christ.

Personally speaking, many of us are lacking a Biblical understanding of what personal worship looks like.  Our lives of worship are meant to be much more vibrant than sporadic “quiet times”,  saying grace before a meal, or attending church services.  We’re invited into a dynamic, rhythmic, intimate relationship with God.  King David, the Apostle Paul, Jesus himself and many others offer us practical insight into what a life of worship looks like.  They can help us see past our traditions, get us outside of our comfort zones, and develop new habits that will infuse our lives with devotion to Jesus, and ultimately shape our faith.  The Bible presents a new way of living life that many Christians never take hold of.  It’s a life that’s found at the feet of Jesus.

Join me?

In the coming months I want to invite you to join me in exploring what it looks like to be a worshiper both corporately and personally.  I’m certainly not saying that I have all of the answers, but I would like to ask some questions, discuss some scriptures, and hopefully add something to the world around me that’s helpful.  I hope you’ll follow along, invite friends to follow along, and let’s journey together toward a Biblical understanding of who we are, worshipers.

 

 

 

 

 

Working In Our Waiting

waiting

Waiting.  No one likes waiting, at least I’ve never met anyone who likes to wait.  We live in a fast-paced world, demanding speed in almost every part of our lives.  From fast food to high speed internet to 2 day Amazon Prime shipping, efficiency is King in our world.  But we can’t stop there, we not only love getting what we want quickly, but we also loath it when things don’t work quite quickly enough for us.  Bad traffic, buffering internet, or heaven forbid,  Siri doesn’t understand our voice commands and we are suddenly acting like a 5 year old on the toy isle.

I’ll admit, I’m one of the worst.  My #1, all time, biggest pet peeve is wasting time.  Every time I drive through Dallas, Texas I swear to my wife that “Dallas traffic is a direct result of the Fall of man!”  Why?  Why is it that I, we, are so bad at waiting?  I think it’s because in our minds waiting = wasting.

So much of our identities are wrapped up in what we can achieve.  We want to control every minute of our lives so that we make sure that we stay on track and don’t fall behind everyone else.  Wasting time to us is wasted opportunity.

The truth is, we couldn’t be farther from the actual truth.  But, in order to see it, we have to slow down and look at our life with a different perspective, God’s perspective.  God often has a different plan for our lives than we do, and God’s plan often involves, yep, you guessed it, waiting.  It almost doesn’t make sense to us, that is until we realize that in God’s economy waiting doesn’t equal wasting.  The reason is because waiting is one of the ways that God chooses to work in our lives.  We see this repeatedly throughout the Scriptures.

God has given us waiting as a gift.   Every moment of waiting is an opportunity to seek God.  When we are uncomfortable, longing for something that’s not fully in view, we can look to God, trusting Him to provide our future.  While we wait, God works in us, transforming us into His likeness.  Years ago God gifted Israel with the promise of a coming Savior, and in their waiting, He did amazing things, things we long to see in our day.  He’s done the same for us.  He’s promised that He will return for us.  We can rest assured that He will do what He has said.  He’s faithful and He’ll come again.  But in the mean time we can also begin to see that He’s working, not wasting.

What are you waiting on this Christmas season?

 

BOGG 2014 Song List

10505395_640998752662140_2477687098983583335_n

 

Hey Friends,

We had an awesome time last week worshiping with the students and adults at Bogg Springs camp!  Here’s our song list from last week for those that are interested.

 

Monday Night Session 

Go – Hillsong United

This is Amazing Grace – Phil Wickham

Oceans – Hillsong United

Sinking Deep – Hillsong Young and Free

Just As I Am – Brett Rutledge arrangement

Tuesday Night Session

Wake – Hillsong Young and Free

Only King Forever – Elevation Worship

Cornerstone – Hillsong Live

Found – We The Union

Forever Reign – One Sonic Society

In Christ Alone – Passion 2013 arrangement

 

Wednesday Night Session

This is Amazing Grace – Phil Wickham

Come Thou Fount – All Sons and Daughters arrangement

Sinking Deep – Hillsong Young and Free

Found – We The Union

Oceans – Hillsong United

 

Thursday Night Session

Wake – Hillsong Young and Free

Only King Forever – Elevation Worship

Sinking Deep – Hillsong Young and Free

In Christ Alone – Passion 2013 arrangement

Found – We The Union

Just As I Am – Brett Rutledge arrangement

 

Morning Session Songs

Alive in Us – We The Union

10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman

 

** The “We The Union” album was on pre-release at The Bogg.  If you didn’t grab a copy but want to buy the songs, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram to keep up to date with our album release.

SOAR 2014 Song List

the house art

 

Last week I had the privilege of leading worship at the SOAR conference with my band “We The Union”.  It was an unforgettable week!  For those that are interested, here’s the song list from last week.  .  .

Session 1: 

SOAR Opener

Go – Hillsong United

This Is Amazing Grace – Phil Wickham

Only King Forever – Elevation Worship

Forever Reign – One Sonic Society

Forever – Kari Jobe

Never Ending Love – We The Union

Alive In Us – We The Union

 

Session 2:

Only King Forever – Elevation Worship

Wake – Hillsong Young & Free

At Your Name – Phil Wickham

Come Thou Fount – All Sons and Daughters arrangement

Sinking Deep – Hillsong Young & Free

10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman

 

Session 3:

Go – Hillsong United

This Is Amazing Grace – Phil Wickham

Found – We The Union

Forever- Kari Jobe

Just As I Am – Brett Rutledge

Majesty – We The Union

 

Session 4:

Wake – Hillsong Young & Free

Only King Forever – Elevation Worship

Found – We the Union

Never Ending Love – We The Union

Oceans – Hillsong United

Sinking Deep – Hillsong Young & Free

 

***If you were at SOAR I would love to hear what songs spoke to you the most.  Or maybe you’ve got a cool story to share about something God did in your life involving one of these songs?  Just leave a comment below to let me know.  Thanks!

** The “We The Union” album was on pre-release at SOAR.  If you didn’t grab a copy but want to buy the songs, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram to keep up to date with our album release.

It’s Not About The Singing

instruments-microphone-51094

– Worship has become about a performance.

– The songs are too high and complicated to sing.

– I prefer the older hymns.  And hymnals.

– I prefer the newer songs.  And projectors.

– The music is too loud.

-The music isn’t loud enough.

– The room is too dark and the lights are too bright.

– The room is too light, I’m too easily distracted.

According to various blog and Facebook posts this last week, these are some of the reasons given on why there is a decline in congregational singing in our churches.  There is definitely a contingency of people who are pointing their finger at the modern worship movement and calling out its flaws in an attempt to answer the question “Why does there seem to be a decline in people singing in church?”

And I must admit up front, I have thought about this question a decent bit over the last couple of years as well.  At times I have noticed a decline in singing in the church, and quite honestly, there aren’t many things that sadden me more.  However, I have currently come to a different conclusion than some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. (I say currently only because I think our thoughts are never to be concrete, rather, always evolving and improving)  And while I am certainly not trying to discredit everything that I read this week, because much of it was well thought through and written, I do want to offer a different answer to the question.

Why do we gather?

I believe that the answer to our question is as simple as answering the question “Why do we gather?”  If our answer to this question is centered around any one of us, then all of the excuses above are completely valid.  I’m guessing you see where I’m headed with this.  Although we could get very detailed here, the most simple and central answer to the question “Why do we gather?” is “We gather for God’s glory”.  When exalting God is the central reason we gather, something amazing happens, unity.  We are unified not because we all look alike, like the same things, and agree on everything.  Rather, we are unified by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and united to exalt Him.

When I look at the Scriptures, worship (including congregational singing) seems to be a pretty simple concept.  It tends to go something like this. . .”In response to all that God has done, the pinnacle being the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, offer all of yourself to him as sacrifice of worship.”

When we look at corporate worship from this point of view we see that congregational singing isn’t fueled by personal preference, it’s fueled by the grace of God.  We don’t sing because we love the songs that are chosen, we sing because God chose to send His Son to die for our sins.  Worship is not “good or bad” based on how much we like or don’t like it, our worship is good only because God sees it through the perfection of Christ.  Me choosing not to worship through singing has less to do with what the church is doing wrong and a more to do with my heart being selfish.  

At our core, we all want things done our way.  Corporate worship is no exception to this.  But worship doesn’t fit inside the box we try to create for it.  Worship is much bigger than any one of us.  It’s cross-cultural, includes all genres and ethnicities, and it is not confined to what we imagine it to be.  You see, worship becomes a difficult subject only when we pretend it should be done a certain way.

When we show up to church we must remember just how much we all need Jesus.  As soon as we forget the immediacy of the Gospel, we begin to think that church services are about us instead of God.

In closing, I believe that there will always be tension in the “how” of worship.  But, that tension should never keep us from giving the “Who” of worship the glory that He is due.  Let’s lose the cynicism and gather to worship unified by the Gospel and united for His glory.  And for crying out loud, sing!