Easter, along with Christmas, are the two most significant holidays celebrated by Christians and in Christian churches. All across the Des Moines metro area, churches are hanging up signs promoting their Easter services and events, and you may have received an invitation or two in the mail from a local church inviting you to celebrate Easter with them. On top of all of that, Easter is a holiday filled with chocolate candy, fuzzy bunnies, baskets overflowing with pastel grass, and the perfectly cooked spiral ham. But where did Easter come from and what makes it such a big deal to Christians?
Do you look forward to the time of music and worship at church on Sunday mornings? Maybe your answer varies depending on how your morning or week went. Maybe you purposely show up late, so you don’t have to participate. I mean let’s be honest, clapping hands, swaying bodies, and raised arms can be a little creepy.
Or maybe worship is the highlight of your week.
Regardless, it can be incredibly difficult to enjoy or partake in worship whether it’s on Sunday morning or any other day of the week. Many times, our hearts are overflowing with anxiety about today, tomorrow, or life. Our minds are flooded with unanswered questions and uncertainty. Worship is challenging, or even unappealing, because it requires a certain level of peace and acceptance in the areas where we feel out of control.
The story of life began with God at the center (Genesis 1:1), which means finding peace involves letting go of the faux control we often impose on ourselves; and instead putting God at the center of every area of your life. With God at the center, we free our hearts and minds to hear how He is speaking to us through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit desires to permeate the areas we attempt to fill on our own. When we allow this, it liberates us from the anxiety and uncertainty that holds us back from engaging in meaningful worship.
Often when explaining the Holy Spirit to children, we describe Him as our ‘helper’. After we give our hearts to Jesus, he washes them clean and puts the Holy Spirit inside us. Then when we need help, we can stop to listen for what He is saying in our hearts. But God’s desire is that we grow to see the Holy Spirit as so much more than a helper! The Holy Spirit is our comforter, our counselor, the one who convicts, the one who encourages, and the most tangible member of the trinity. It’s a wonder why we don’t actively desire more of Him. The Holy Spirit is not a force, or a “feeling”, but rather a person who desires to be active in our daily lives.
When we let go of all that’s weighing down our spirit, worship suddenly becomes a time where we can connect to God in a unique way. Worship through music or singing seems to open a direct connection between our hearts and God, through the Holy Spirit. Something incredible happens when we allow ourselves to take part in a musical experience, especially in a congregational setting. The atmosphere of the room changes. There might be a sensation in your body, comparable to mild electricity. You could even physically feel something in your chest or heart. Not something bad; it’s glorious! Like a fire! This is the Holy Spirit filling you with the presence of God; reminding you that Jesus is alive in your heart. The priests of the Old Testament described similar situations where they “could not remain standing to minister…for the glory and brilliance of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chr. 5:14, APM).
The idea of having intimate access to God through personal worship did not exist in the Old Testament. Instead, corporate worship was restricted to certain people, places and times. The presence of God could only be found in the temple, near the tabernacle. However, Jesus replaces these Old Testament arrangements. He promised to, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:20, ESV). In other words, inviting Jesus into our heart means our body is now the temple; the place where God meets us, demonstrates his presence, and deals with our sin (John 4:21–24).
In Romans 12:1 Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” This means New Testament worship isn’t confined to sacred times and places like church on Sunday. Instead, worship should saturate our whole lives. Our faith unites us with Christ, and the Holy Spirit dwells within us, signifying that the temple of God is us individually and collectively. As a result, corporate worship in the New Testament includes everything from reading and preaching Scripture to singing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs together. It includes praying, celebrating baptism and communion, and encouraging each other to love and do good deeds.
Find the worship that grants your heart a connection to God and it will trigger your heart to sing. When the Spirit causes a heart to sing, profound worship happens. Transformation happens inside us as we’re filled with the Holy Spirit and commit everything we are to worship, praise, and thanksgiving to our heavenly Father.
LOVE IS HARD.
And so is dating, marriage, and relationships. And for as big a deal as relationships are in our lives, we don’t get a lot of instruction on how to get them right. You probably got more instruction on how to drive a car or do your job than you ever got on how to get a relationship right. So, you learned by observation; and depending on the examples you studied, that could be really helpful, or really horrible…
The story of Christmas is a story we can cling to when life gets real,
all year long.
Have you ever had a less-than-ideal Christmas? I have. It happened during my junior year of college when I was working my way through school as a security guard. I was a week away from final exams and a month-long Christmas break, trying to figure out how I would miss those four weeks of work and still come up with enough money to pay for my second semester of college, when my boss came up to me. He asked me if I had any interest in sticking around over the Christmas break to work. I would get paid double time, and the work would be pretty easy. I wanted to go home to see my family for Christmas and hang out with my friends, but I really needed the cash so I decided to stay. It really wasn’t too bad most of the time I was there. Most students and faculty were gone and things were pretty quiet. It was just kind of lonely and desolate.
Blended families make for great sit-coms, but the challenges that real blended families aren’t as funny or able to be resolved in a 30-minute episode.
This past Sunday (September 30) we wrapped up a series called, The Elephant in the Family Room, at our church. In the series, we covered some of the “un-talked-about” things that keep our families from being all that we would want them to be (you can check out the podcasts here).