Tag Archives: worship

unity matters

Melissa Yeager, Co-Author of awriteheart.comMy parents always loved music, so when I was young we went to plays and musicals and orchestra events and music festivals. There was always music playing in the car and in our house. They exposed me to all sorts of genres, and I naturally settled into those that I liked best – some that they weren’t so fond of, and some that they loved themselves. As a kid I had a leaning toward concerts that were loud and crazy…I liked the lights and the feel of the bass vibrating through the ground. But now I love certain concerts for a different reason – and I just recently figured out why.

unity mattersLast week I went to see Rend Collective, which is a Christian band from Ireland whose music really inspires me to worship. My husband and I sat down in our seats at Roberts Wesleyan College’s performing arts center, and I people-watched a little bit as we waited for the show to start. There were people from my church, people we knew from other churches, people from the Christian school I graduated from, and many people we didn’t know at all. All of these people, all together, waiting for the same band, waiting to worship together. All of us were excited to be there, and we all had something in common so even those who didn’t know each other felt free to talk and ask about each other.

The lights went down and the crowd went silent, and finally the music started – and everyone sang along. And what I realized at that moment was that none of us knew or cared about the details of each others’ Christianity, other than that we were in agreement about the most important thing – that Jesus saved us from our sin, and that He is the One we should worship. We had no idea what version of the Bible the person in front of us read, or whether the person behind us was Baptist or Pentecostal. We didn’t know whether the woman across the aisle had a Calvinist or Armenian leaning, or which denomination the band was. The details seemed less important at that moment because we were gathered for a common reason – to worship the one true God together.

unity matters

I looked around at the rows upon rows of people and wondered whether that would be what heaven will be like in some respects – all different Christians, from all different backgrounds, worshipping God together. Different in the details, but unified at their core – in their belief of who saved their souls from the sin they could never pay for themselves.

In our minds I think we know that there will be many different kinds of Christians in heaven. We say amongst ourselves that we will be surprised who will be there and who will be absent (Matthew 7:21-23). We think we have a good grip on the fact that God alone sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). But so many times in practice we look at other Christians and the biggest thing we see are the differences – and we dwell on them. We allow our feathers to be ruffled because other Christians listen to and worship using different music, read different versions of the Bible, and attend churches with different labels. We are called to unity as a body of believers but we look skeptically at each other, and even question each others’ salvation at times, because of details that we don’t agree with. We so often don’t consider that perhaps others truly ARE seeking God, and that He has for them a different freedom or a different restriction than He has for us.

This is dangerous ground, I know, because our convictions and preferences are part of who we are, and they determine how we live out our faith. There is theology that we strongly believe, and we can back it up. There are practices and traditions that we strongly adhere to for reasons that we may never loosen our grip on. We have a defense for what we do and why we do it…we have seen results, and fruit, and blessing. We have a defense for why we disagree so adamantly with certain others. Our views and interpretations and ways of life are important to us – and they should be. Practices and traditions and theologies ARE important, and some of them are worth fighting for, and fighting over. But not all of them. Not all of them are worth sacrificing the unity of the Church – and by the Church I mean the whole body of Christ.

When Colette and I started this blog, we came upon an issue that we didn’t agree on…It really doesn’t matter which issue so I won’t go into that, but we had to face a conflict. So we came together, talked about what we believed about that issue, came to an understanding about its importance, and came up with a solution that we believed that God would be pleased with. What we did not do was allow an important but non-essential issue (meaning an issue that isn’t truly central to salvation and Christianity) to divide us completely, and we were able to work together in unity regardless. You’d never know we disagreed at all! Extend this situation to the Church – the body of Christ…If we can grab hold of unity, if we make it a priority, we can accomplish things together that would never have been possible otherwise.

[blockquote cite=”Richard Baxter” type=”center”]In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.
[/blockquote]

Christ said in John 13:34-35, ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And in 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul said to the church at Corinth, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” We are commanded to love other Christians as Christ loved us (laying down our lives for each other), and the we be perfectly unified as followers of Jesus. We are, of course, bound to disagree on some things – but that doesn’t mean that our love and our unity in Christ should be compromised.

I know, beyond a doubt, that when we get to heaven our eyes will be on Christ alone, and not on each other. If we can practice that here, before heaven, we can accomplish so much more together. The world IS watching to see how we love each other, so when we are tempted to dwell on the details instead of on Christ Jesus who unifies us, let’s remember the amazing place heaven will be when we will worship together in spirit and in truth – one Church, one body, one focus.

The song I’ve included below (or if the music isn’t your preference, I included the lyrics there below as well) has become my favorite for so many reasons – it reminds me of those who have gone to heaven before me, of how unworthy I am of the salvation I have been given, of the power of the blood of Jesus, and now of the unity we have in Him, despite our differences. I looked around me at that concert as tears rolled down my face, and saw others doing just the same…Overcome with emotion because they know what I know – that we will approach Him one day, and that we have everything to celebrate. Fix your eyes today on Jesus – and not so much on the details.

[blockquote cite=”Rend Collective, Boldly I Approach (The Art of Celebration)” type=”center”]
By grace alone somehow I stand
Where even angels fear to tread
Invited by redeeming love
Before the throne of God above
He pulls me close with nail-scarred hands
Into His everlasting arms

When condemnation grips my heart
And Satan tempts me to despair
I hear the voice that scatters fear
The Great I Am the Lord is here
Oh praise the One who fights for me
And shields my soul eternally

Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty

Behold the bright and risen Son
More beauty than this world has known
I’m face to face with Love Himself
His perfect spotless righteousness
A thousand years, a thousand tongues
Are not enough to sing His praise

Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty

This is the art of celebration
Knowing we’re free from condemnation
Oh praise the One, praise the One
Who made an end to all my sin[/blockquote]

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Celebrating who God made us , Melissa[/custom_headline]

the amazing things that happen when we are thankful in ALL things

Colette @ awriteheart.com

[blockquote type=”center”]In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. I Thessalonians 5:18[/blockquote]

I went for a long walk on a beautiful day. Thinking on thankfulness, I wasn’t too sure about the verse above and being thankful in everything. I rephrased it into a question. It’s the will of God to give thanks in all of the circumstances that have to do with me? I had lived a long time believing that God didn’t want me to be thankful for certain things. Things I considered bad, wrong or unfair in my life. I took a deep breath, began walking faster and first thanked God, out loud, for all that was good. Easy!

[pullquote type=”right”]”How could you possibly want me to be thankful in something that brought pain…something so ugly!?”[/pullquote]Then I thanked God for what I considered bad in my life. For every heartache I’d felt, for what I didn’t think was fair, for what brought me pain and tears, for any thing…past and present…that had gone wrong. Some situations popped into my head that I didn’t even realize that I was gripping onto with anger and bitterness. Let me tell you how hard that was. It was agonizing. It brought actual physical pain to surrender everything, in thanks, as something that was passed through God’s sovereign hand. I would think of a difficult time and before the words of thanks came out I stopped. I wrestled internally with God and asked Him if I was really suppose to thank Him in that? I continued, “How could you possibly want me to be thankful in something that brought pain…something so ugly!?” I couldn’t stand to even think of it let alone be thankful in it.

I wondered if this is what the Bible meant in Hebrews 13:15 and Psalm 116:17 by a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise – the kind that costs something. Then in my struggling I was reminded of Job. The awful trials that good man endured were terrible. Satan was behind all of them and God allowed it: the destruction, the deaths, the sickness, the heartache, the hurt. He allowed it for so many reasons: to test Jobs faith, to show Himself strong, to show Job that God is all he needed, to give us all a living example throughout history about God, His sovereignty and His love for this man who, again in the end, was blessed abundantly.

The same holds true for Joseph. In the end he was thankful in all that had transpired in his life. The abandonment, the mistreatment, the separation from his father…all of it God used for good. The very thing that hurt Joseph became the avenue that God used to bless him. God was the faithful One in his life and He elevated Joseph to places of leadership. Then one day Joseph had a decision to make: would he curse his brothers and repay evil for evil? He didn’t. Instead he wept and embraced his brothers with sincere forgiveness. GOD was the hero of Job’s story. And GOD was the hero of Joseph’s story.

That day as I walked I told God that I want him to be the hero of my story as well. I thanked Him IN it all and because of that I was then able to be sincerely thankful FOR it all. I released all thanksgiving to Him. I thanked a sovereign God for allowing even the most difficult things in my life. I realized that he allows them for my good and for his deserved glory.   Had I never experienced difficulty, how would I understand in the sufferings of others?  Of Christ?  How would I be able to teach and understand forgiveness had I not been faced with situations that needed both my forgiveness and my need for forgiveness?

[pullquote type=”left”]Nothing compares to the cross. [/pullquote]Towards the end of my walk, I thought of the cross. For many years I have said and sang songs of thanks for the cross. The place where the most atrocious thing happened. Where God, who came in the form of Jesus, was hung and beaten and paid the price for all sin. Giving thanks in that? Had it not been for the cross and Christ’s crucifixion, that awful and precious act, we would be lost forever. God has a plan and a purpose for all things. All things. Nothing compares to the cross. Not any hurt or sorrow that I have or ever will have compares to the heartache of the cross. How thankful I am for the horrible, beautiful cross!

Amazing things happen when we are thankful in ALL things!

  • Our perspective changes and we can safely trust a sovereign God whose greatest characteristic is love. We no longer need to harbor bitterness, blame or anger because we know that God has a bigger and better plan…..for pure good and His glory.
  • There is a miraculous shift in the deepest part of our heart.
  • We are set free from burdens that we are not suppose to bear.
  • The cross becomes more and more our center.

I encourage everyone to spend time in thanksgiving to God for ALL things, the good and the bad…because nothing is wasted in His hands. I have watched many brokenhearted people do this. It’s one of the most difficult, emotionally draining commands given. But also one of the greatest and deepest healing things a person can do.

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him and bless his name. For the Lord is good…” Psalm 100:4 That we can enter in at all is unfathomable – THIS is the amazing grace of God. For this grace and for all things I am truly thankful!

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Give thanks with a grateful heart, Colette[/custom_headline]

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/48352229_caf6c84ceb_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]Our July Giveaway Just Got Better![/custom_headline]With each post we publish in July, Colette will add ONE MORE ITEM to this month’s giveaway! As of this post, the giveaway includes Godiva Chocolates, and a SURPRISE gift from Anthropologie – Colette’s favorite store!

There are THREE WAYS TO ENTER!!!
1. Subscribe to our email newsletter during the month of July – click HERE!
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You CAN be entered more than once! SUBSCRIBE, FOLLOW, and TAG NOW!!!

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Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by eschipul http://flickr.com/photos/eschipul/6792993194 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

this side of heaven

Melissa @ awriteheart.comMy dad died this past August, and since then I remember things about him out of the blue…I remember how he loved putting cheese puffs in yogurt (ugh), how he played catch with me when I was my oldest daughter’s age, how he loved being with his family, and most of all how he loved music. Certain songs take me to a place where I feel like he’s right with me. He loved the great classics about heaven – “I’ll Fly Away” was one that he sang a lot, and this one:

This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue;
The angels beckon me through heavens open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

I loved hearing him sing those songs, but when I was a little girl I didn’t get it – why a person would sing such a thing when in between here and heaven’s open door is death.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve found more and more that the thought of breathing my last breath with this vessel of a body I’ve been given, and then in that same moment being born into eternal life in the presence of my Jesus who I’ve longed to see with my eyes for what seems like my whole life – well, it’s a welcome thought. I don’t wish death upon myself, nor do I look forward to separation from the people I love – I want to get old and wrinkly with my husband, and I want to see my kids grow into adulthood…I want them to have my love as long as they possibly can, for the sake of their happiness and security. But the thought of leaving this life doesn’t frighten me like it did, and I know that God loves my family infinitely more than I do – I trust Him with their futures more than I trust myself.

[pullquote type=”left”]Heaven will be amazing, not because of the streets of gold but because I can lift my eyes to see my Jesus.[/pullquote]Along with my fading fear has come an increasing homesickness…a longing to see the Savior that I’ve worshipped for the vast majority of my life. Almost every day the thought crosses my mind that if I could only sit as His physical feet, all would be well. That homesickness overwhelms me especially in difficult times, when I can’t help but see how very desperately I need Christ, and when I truly feel the weight of my little corner of the world on my shoulders. “I want to go home”, I say to Him…The tears come and I just wish I could see Him with my eyes. Heaven will be amazing, not because of the streets of gold but because I can lift my eyes to see my Jesus.

So in the meantime…

While we wait this side of eternity, what can we do on those days when we long for that eternal home? I think the thing that makes the most sense is to do the same thing that we will do when we get there – worship. In spirit and in truth we can worship Christ here, sing to Him in a loud voice here, shout His praises here, and lay our crowns at His feet here. Close your eyes and think of what it describes in Revelation, thousands times thousands singing the praise of Jesus, who conquered death to save us from our sin by His blood…Think of the throng like the roar of many waters, shouting hallelujah! I can’t wait, but in the meantime I will worship with the knowledge that I will spend all of eternity doing just that.

Worship.

[pullquote type=”right”]Let this world fall away, and see nothing but Jesus if only for a few moments. Be grounded in Him, be centered in Him, lay this life at His feet.[/pullquote]Worship in times that try you and confuse you. Worship in times when sin overwhelms you. Worship in times when others forsake you. Worship in times when joy overflows. Worship in times of health and in times of sickness. Worship in times of plenty and in times of need. Worship in times of war and in times of peace. Worship when no one hears you, and when everyone is listening. Worship with emotion, with tears, with laughter, with your whole self. Let this world fall away, and see nothing but Jesus if only for a few moments. Be grounded in Him, be centered in Him, lay this life at His feet.

I wonder if my dad sings “That world WAS not my home” now that he’s home in heaven…but one thing I know for sure is that he’s worshipping. Just like me.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true”]In spirit and truth, Melissa[/custom_headline]

 

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