Is My Worship Genuine?

Is my worship pleasing to God?
For some people, the question "Is my worship genuine?" seems ridiculous. "Of course it is," they say. Didn't I lift my hands in praise, and shout the name of Jesus at the top of my lungs? But the thing about worship, genuine worship, is that it has absolutely *nothing* to do with the act of lifting your hands or shouting the name of Jesus.
Say What?
No she didn't.
Oh yes, yes I did.

Here's a little tidbit of info that came as a bit of a surprise to me at first realization: Worship has nothing to do with what you say with your mouth or how high you lift your hands. Don't get me wrong, these are wonderful and beautiful things when they are authentic and spiritually intimate experiences between you and God (I'll touch more on that in a minute...), but true worship takes place within your heart.
I think we are all at least a little guilty of half-hearted worship in a Sunday morning service at some point or another. Your hands are up, but you're thinking about what you want for lunch.
Worship is all about being >real< with God. He knows our true heart; better than we know it ourselves. There's no "tricking" Him into thinking that our worship is or isn't genuine. He knows. So just be real.
If you find yourself worshiping for others (putting on a show or adding dramatics to appear more spiritual), just take a minute. Drop the act. Say a prayer.
It's OK. We all mess up and get distracted on occasion. Just talk to God; I promise He will understand. Go to Him with a spirit of humility and penitence and ask Him to change the state of your heart.
It's totally normal to allow your mind to become preoccupied now and then, but we should never use that as an excuse to allow manufactured excitement to regularly invade our praise.
The goal of our worship should never be to exalt or draw attention to ourselves.
The very nature of worship is to deny self and shine the light of our focus on Jesus.

"These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God."

Self-glorification was something the Pharisees and others like them loved to do. In fact, Jesus called them out on it on more than one occasion:
In the Gospels of Mark and Luke, we read of an unnamed woman - a widow who gave all she had (a meager two coins). This is contrasted with the wealthy people of the village who gave amounts that, although grand, were no more sacrificial than Taylor Swift donating $100 to charity.
I promise this is relevant. Here's why:
In these temples, the treasuries were strategically crafted so that depositing coins would cause a loud racket. i.e. The more you deposited, the louder the noise, and the more attention you brought to your "good deed." These wealthy men and women would bring large sums in order to draw recognition to themselves - Not to glorify God. Jesus was not impressed.
God didn't want these offerings anymore than He desires empty praise.
Directly before their encounter with the widow, Jesus taught His followers to look out for the teachers of religious law who liked to put on a show for their own glory.
I think it's safe to say that Jesus' stance on this topic is quite cut & dry. No gray areas here.

"You cannot impress people with yourself and impress them with the Lord Jesus simultaneously."
- Alistair Begg

So what does raw, authentic worship look like?
That is entirely up to you, my friend. Your worship should be unique to you.
However, here are some of the qualities that any form of genuine praise should embody:

A focused heart
Clearing your mind and fixing your focus on Jesus will open doors for the Holy Spirit to begin to move (Hebrews 12:2).
Denying yourself
We naturally want to give into our every whim, but praise takes discipline. When you deny yourself these impulses, you are communicating that time before God is more important than your desires (Matthew 16:24).
In contrast to over-the-top, fake worship, there are those who struggle with being vulnerable. They may be embarrassed to lift their hands or fall to their knees (even when they feel the tug of the Holy Spirit to do so), so they stand quietly and sing God's praises at a volume barely above that of a whisper. In these cases, it's important to remember that your worship should not be affected by what you believe others may think. Don't worry about looking silly. If it deepens your connection with God, go for it (Romans 1:16).
Worship isn't a Sunday morning only activity. It's a lifestyle. We cannot expect to lift our hands and sing His praises one day a week only. This will never facilitate growth. Our worship should overflow into every pore of our lives. I'm talking face on the floor, heart wide open, and tear soaked cheeks alone on a Tuesday night kind of overflow. If we do it on Sunday, we should do it on every other day that ends in the letter Y (Psalm 119:5-8 & v.164-168).
Worship isn't restricted to music and prayer. We praise God in many, many ways.
One of the best ways to serve God is to serve others (Philippians 2:3-4).
I can't stress enough the importance of this one. When we tithe, we are essentially telling God "I trust You."
What higher praise can we give than faith? (Psalm 4:5)
I'm so guilty of this. I've caught myself before wondering what the heck the person in front of me is doing. Why do they have to be so loud? Move so violently?
Because that's how they worship.
Realize that everyone's style of worshiping is their own. Don't worry about what anyone else is doing. Even if their dance moves are a little *ahem* unique.
Have respect for the styles of praise that others have adopted. If they are not physically harming you, it's none of your business. Focus on Jesus. He is the prize (1 Peter 2:17).

So go ahead. Run the aisles, jump up and down, shout His name at the top of your lungs; but do it for the glory of the One who sits on Heaven's throne.

"Worship has been misunderstood as something that arises from a feeling which 'comes upon you,' but it is vital that we understand that it is rooted in a conscious act of the will to serve and obey the Lord."
- Graham Kendrick


No Room For Shame

We've all felt it. The overwhelming tidal wave of shame that crashes down on us the second we give into the enemy's glamorized version of what we, as humans, have been fighting against since the beginning: Sin.

Though I wish I could say I didn't, I know this feeling all too well. Because of our human nature, not one of us is perfect. And I'm about as imperfect as they come.
Sometimes we find ourselves believing the lie that, after we mess up, we are required to suffer (alone) through an undetermined agonizing period of shame before we finally see ourselves once again fit to approach the throne of God. But where is the Grace in all of that? You know, the Grace that our entire faith in the Gospel is based on? We can't just avoid God because we are too ashamed to approach Him. We can't think to ourselves, "I need to get my life together before I can go back. I need to fix this, and then I will be worthy of His forgiveness. THEN I can come to Him with my head held high in pride because I changed."
If we wait until we are "good enough" to approach the throne of God, then we will be waiting in the darkness of ignorance until our hearts bleed.
Who do we think we are?! More importantly, who do we think God is? Have we simply put God in a display case surrounded by twinkling lights and glamorous adornments all but screaming "Look at what a wonderful person I am! Look how I have my life together because I 'put my faith' in God! Look at all of the good things I've done!"
Is God our trophy wife?
We need to stop.
We have to face the facts that we will never be worthy. We will never earn forgiveness. And we will absolutely never be alone.

There is no room for shame in the presence of Grace.
We have to let go of our pride and our sense of self-liberation, and allow God to do what He has been waiting to do since the thought of sin entered our minds.
God wants to give us grace.

- /giv/ -
v. To freely transfer the possession of something to someone.

let's review.
The definition of give is
"To *freely* transfer the possession of something to someone."

Grace isn't earned, it's given. Grace is a gift from the most loving father we could ever ask for.
"...While we were still sinners Christ died for us" Romans 5:8

The Love will never run out. No matter how bound you feel or how blinded you are by the darkness in your life.
To quote Judah Smith's sermon Jesus Is Loving Barabbas:
"God, I'm so ashamed."
Give Me your shame.
"But what if I do it again?"
I'll still be here.
"God, I don't want to hurt you. I love you. I don't want to do this anymore."
Give me your sins, beloved.
His Love is gentle and understanding. He will never grow weary of welcoming us with open arms of Mercy. He knew from the very beginning that we would fight it, but He patiently awaits the moment that we turn to Him and say "God, I'm broken and hurting. Please fix me. Please comfort me"
"Finally," He seems to say.

What a beautiful gift we have been given. Let's not waste it by trying to earn it.


Elevation Church, Son of God,


Why We Should Probably Stop

Nit-Picking Each Other

As many of you may have noticed, Elevation Church and Pastor Steven Furtick have been the focus of quite a bit of media attention lately and even more frequently in the past. Also, with the release of the movie Son of God this past weekend, there has been a lot of buzz as to its Biblical accuracy.
But here's the thing:
We need to stop nit-picking and attacking each other, and start focusing on our own relationships with Christ so that we can share that love with others.
I'm speaking specifically to Christians here.
We spend way too much time criticizing the mistakes and short-comings of others when we could be using that time much more effectively by coming to God with our concerns (Remember Matthew 7:3-5). Is He not great enough to work in the hearts of others to change their ways when He sees fit? Can He not guide us all back onto the path of righteousness when we all-too-often fall off? The answer to both of those questions is yes. He can.
Everyone makes mistakes and does (or says) things that they shouldn't. That includes me. That includes you. And it includes everyone else in the sin-diseased world that we live in. But criticizing others when we are in the midst of wrongdoing ourselves only makes us like the Pharisees (Luke 18:9-14); who exalted themselves and viewed others as filthy, sin-ridden creatures unfit for the presence of God.
Let us not become like these misled religious leaders. Let us instead see the example of Christ and use it as a compass for our own lives (Hebrews 12:2-3).
Now please don't mistake this as me telling you that we should not correct one another (brothers and sisters in Christ) in love, which is a Biblical and honorable act (Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 5).
No, what I'm talking about is Pharisee-like criticism of others with the sole intention (whether we realize it or not) of bringing them down, not building them up.

I have been hoping to address some of the issues that have been brought to light by Christians who are less-than-pleased with the Son of God movie.
But first, I want to give praise to God and thank Him for the Holy Spirit experience that I had after viewing this movie last weekend.

I've experienced God in my life, but never quite like this. There was something about the truly loving nature of Christ portrayed so well in the film that opened my eyes to His grace like never before. I was impacted greatly, and decided to talk to God on my drive home. I told Him that I was hurting, and that I was confused with what He wanted for my life (uncertainty is not my strong suit. I struggle with the unknown and letting go of control in my own life). That's when He spoke. He opened the flood gates and poured out His love into my heart. I have never so strongly felt the desire to be close to Him. I knew in that moment that I didn't need anything else. I only needed the love of God and the presence of His Spirit in my life. That's not to say that I don't still want certain things in my life, but it's so overwhelmingly comforting to know that the only thing that I really need will never leave my side.
I've struggled (and still do) with unforgiveness and not being able to let go of my past sins. But I clearly heard the Spirit of God speak all of that away that night. It's like He came in and power-washed the walls of my heart. And that is what I believe is the ultimate goal with this movie and any like it. To allow for a new way of experiencing Christ for those that are seeking Him.

I've seen reviews bashing the accuracy of this movie, and it hurts to read. Although I do acknowledge that there are some changes made (most likely for dramatic impact and cinematic excitement), none of it alters the outcome, and I don't believe that any of these changes would negatively affect anyone's walk with Christ. The movie is not intended to be a sole means for salvation or a replacement for an authentically developed relationship with God, but I believe it is intended to open the eyes of many and lead them to the treasure trove of Christ's love: The Bible.

As for Pastor Steven Furtick and Elevation Church:
The amount of hatred and slandering being tossed about in regards to Pastor Steven and the church is baffling. Do I believe that every decision made by Pastor Steven and the church is perfect? No. But here's the thing: neither are most of the decisions that you and I make everyday. Furthermore, I also believe that God can and has used Elevation church and many others like it to reach the lost and do His will. I know my life has been significantly impacted during the nearly two years that I've been with Elevation.
If we could focus all of that attention on God, we would have no need to worry about the perfection of another individual. There is no perfect person. And as a result, there is no such thing as a perfect church. No matter where you go, there will be people wrongfully idolizing leaders, and others making mistakes in the way that they handle certain situations.

Let's all focus on God's greatest command: Love. If we could learn to love one another as Christ has loved us, the world would certainly be a better place. But until that beautiful day of His return, let us pursue a relationship with God so deeply-rooted that even the devil himself would grow weary trying to pluck us from His hand.

P.S. I just love the song in the Son of God trailer, so I thought I'd share it with you!

And this one! Because Phil Wickham is the man.


Hope We Affirm

Last night, I did a study in the book of Hebrews. I was focusing in Hebrews 10, and I truly believe it was God-ordained because it was exactly what I needed to hear. Funny how God does that. Just that evening, my small group was talking about hearing from God and the different ways He speaks to us. Let me back up for a second and give you a look into my life and the reason this passage was so important to me.

I have always struggled with letting go of past sins. I let the mistakes from the darkness of yesterday haunt me today. And that keeps me from seeing the Glory of God and the beauty of His forgiveness.
The author of Hebrews clearly paints for us a picture of our inability to atone for our own sins and our need for complete spiritual dependence of the promise of Christ's sacrifice.
I can't tell you how relieving it is to have a gracious and merciful God to rest on. His forgiveness knows no limits and His love is never wavering.

Now don't mistake His grace for permission. The Bible clearly instructs us to confess and turn away from our sins (Acts 3:19). We must not abuse forgiveness and use it as a crutch for gratifying our flesh and feeling okay about it afterwards because "God forgives me." True repentance comes from the desire to turn away from sin. I'm preaching to myself here. Every now and then I'll find myself making snide remarks about people at work who left me a less-than-desirable tip and angered me into sin. I know that it's wrong beforehand, but I choose to do it anyway. This should not be the case. I should be turning to God in my moments of spiritual weakness and asking Him for the strength and ability to overcome the wicked thoughts bubbling up in my mind. I should be praying for love to flow from my heart like a river, pouring out on those around me so that they might see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in action against all odds.

But let's be real for a second here:
How incredible is it to have a merciful, forgiving, and understanding God?! He knows. He's been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. God understands how difficult sin is to overcome. But He has provided a way, through His Spirit, to stand strong against temptation.

When you're feeling weak and unable, look to God. I promise you will find strength in a close relationship with Him. Just having a conversation with Him and spending time studying His Word always rejuvenates me and gives me an entirely new outlook on life. A much more positive, and uplifting viewpoint.
He so desires to be close to us. He loves you more than you can or will ever fathom. And He is providing hope that we can affirm.

"As for me, I will always have hope. I will praise You more and more." Psalm 71:14


Though My Heart Is Torn

Joanne Bischof

{Book Review}

Title: Though My Heart Is Torn
Author: Joanne Bischoff
Genre: Fiction - Historical
Pages: 334
My Rating: 4.5

Synopsis: Gideon O'Riley has two wives - But he doesn't know it.

Lonnie only wanted her husband's love. Now that he belongs to another, can she surrender Gideon to a God with a bigger plan?

(From the publisher) "Setting into a simple life in the majestic Blue Ridge mountains, Lonnie and Gideon O'Riley have finally found happiness after the rocky start to their marriage. The roguish bluegrass musician has fallen in love with his gentle wife and the God she serves, and Lonnie rests secure in his tenderness for her and their young son. A heartless ruse interrupts their peace, bringing them back to Rocky Knob - and forces them to face the claims of Cassie Allan, a woman who says she is Gideon's rightful wife.
As Gideon wades into the depths of his past choices, Lonnie is stunned by the revelations. She has no choice but to navigate this new path, knowing that surviving the devastating blow will take every ounce of strength she has.

While Gideon's guilt and his bitterness towards Cassie threatens to burn up his fledgling faith, Lonnie wrestles to find the courage to trust the God who brought them together in the first place. Will their hard-earned love be able to conquer all?"

What I Loved: I loved the depth of the characters in this book, and the way that the author portrays the story and characters in such a rich and realistic fashion. I felt so connected to Lonnie and Gideon.

What I Wasn't So Fond Of: I've yet to be able to read books 1 and/or 3 in this series, so though this book was a beautiful story on its own, I believe I could have gotten more out of it had I been able to read the first and third books as well. I don't know if my heart could have taken all that, however ;)
Obviously, though, the fact that I haven't read the first or the third books has nothing to do with the creativity and quality of this particular book. So other than bringing me to tears on more than one occasion, there isn't much that I didn't love!

About The Author
Christy Award-finalist and author of "Be Still My Soul and Though My Heart Is Torn, Joanne Bischof has a deep passion for Appalachian culture and writing stories that shine light on God's grace and goodness. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her husband and their three children. When she's not weaving Appalachian romance, she's blogging about faith, folk music, and the adventures of country living that bring her stories to life.
*author bio taken from


*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Though My Heart Is Worn

Tenth Avenue North said it so beautifully in their song 'Worn' (video included at the bottom of this post); Life can be so painfully difficult sometimes, and I can attest to this personally.

Though I dearly love my new home and all of my wonderful new found friends here in the Queen City, life has become decidedly more of a struggle. I miss my family everyday (an hour and a half may not seem like much, but it's been very hard being more than twenty-or-so minutes away from my wonderfully supportive mother), starting a new job has absolutely presented challenges and the uncertainty of income that comes with being a server has done a number on my nerves on more than one occasion. Not to mention the anxiety that accompanies being a somewhat socially awkward introvert trying to make new friends in a big city (I know, I know, but Charlotte just feels so darn ginormous to this small town gal!).
Through all of this, and fighting a few spiritual battles in the process, I've been worn down to almost nothing it seems.

As a young girl, like any other blossoming little lady, I struggled intensely with self-worth and image. I never felt as though I was as beautiful or charming as I should be. I was never enough in my own eyes. My heart took a number of beatings through faded friendships and crumbled "relationships." I always dealt with it in my own way - by feeling sorry for myself and shutting myself off. It hasn't been until recently that I realized the purpose and truth of it all: God just wants me to know that He is enough. That He alone can hold me when I feel so broken and so far beyond reach.

His love is ever present, and He will never abandon us, especially when we need Him. Which, lets face it, really is all the time. I wish I had more words to describe the warmth welling up in my heart as I realize this, but I believe God has intended for this post to be short and sweet.

So I leave you with the promise from God to always hold your heart, always love you with the intensity of countless suns, and never leave your side even when you reject Him.

"Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God's love encompasses us completely. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your Presence? If I go up to the Heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast."
- Psalm 139: 7-10

Rest In His Perfect Love

So much love to you all, and always hold onto hope.


Wishing On Willows

Katie Ganshert

{Book Review}

Title: Wishing On Willows

Author: Katie Ganshert
Genre: Fiction - Christian Romance
My Rating: 5

Synopsis: Does a second chance at life and love always involve surrender?

(From the publisher) "A three-year old son, a struggling cafe, and fading memories are all Robin Price has left of her late husband. As the proud owner of Willow Tree Cafe in small town Peaks, Iowa, she pours her heart into every muffin she bakes and espresso she pours, thankful for the sense of purpose and community the work provides.

So when developer Ian McKay shows up in Peaks with plans to build condos where her cafe and a vital town ministry are located, she isn't about to let go without a fight.

As stubborn as he is handsome, Ian won't give up so easily. His family's business depends on his success in Peaks. But as Ian pushes to seal the deal, he wonders if he has met his match. Robin's gracious spirit threatens to undo his resolve, especially when he discovers the beautiful widow harbors a grief that resonates with his own.

With polarized opinions forming all over town, business becomes unavoidably personal and Robin and Ian must decide whether to cling to the familiar or surrender their plans to the God of Second Chances."

What I Loved: Katie Ganshert is one of my absolute favorite authors, because I simply adore her down-to-earth and raw style of writing.
I was quite fond of the electrically witty chemistry between Robin and Ian. Robin is determined not to let him into her heart and her town, but he always seems to find a way to work his way in.
The characters were so believable with the way they interacted with one another, and the inner thoughts of each person provided in the book were incredibly realistic.

What I Wasn't So Fond Of: There was literally nothing that I didn't love about this book!

About The Author
(From the author): I’m a slightly-frazzled, ever-inquisitive Midwest gal who’s passionate about Jesus, my family, writing, and all things romance, which is exactly what I write. Stories about flawed, broken characters who find faith and fall in love. When I’m not plotting ways to get my hero and heroine to cross paths, I enjoy watching movies with my hunk of a husband, playing make-believe with my wild-child of a son, hanging out with the crazy but lovable junior high students at my church, and chatting with my girlfriends at Panera®. I could talk books all day and am often spotted around town pushing a stroller, walking my dog, and reading—all at the same time.

*author bio taken from


*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

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