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Being a Follower Requires Action

April 27th, 2017 . by maria

Being a follower requires action. You can’t follow someone by standing still, and staying where you are. In fact, following is a continual action. But following is an act of trust – that who you are following is going where you want to go, and has chosen the best path. How do you get to that place with God where you fully trust all He is doing? Where your prayers become “your will God” without reservation? This is the place I am at (most days) now. It has been a journey of single steps. Each small step laying a foundation for another. I’ve learned that when I am faithful to take a step, it is always honored by God. You can’t go from zero to hero. Each of these steps builds on the other. But you do have to actually start by taking a step.

1. Accept and acknowledge. This could be the moment you ask Christ into your heart, or a later moment of personal enlightenment. But at some point you really take into your being the belief that God orders your steps, and that you are better off following Him than trying to do it all yourself. All the other steps will fail without this. Sure, you can show up and do all the right things, but it will be empty for you. Better to take small steps with meaning, than large ones leading nowhere.

I want to be really clear – many people believe in Christ the way I believe in the Eiffel Tower…it exists, has a neat story, and is a pretty picture…I’d like to visit someday. That’s not what I am talking about here. I’m talking life changing, soul saving, relationship. The kind of thing where you respond because you want to, not because you should.

2. Prayer. Once you’ve accepted God, speak to Him. It doesn’t need to be formal. Prayer is the simplest, most basic thing we can do: It doesn’t require any materials, we don’t have to go somewhere to do it, and nobody else knows if we’re doing it or not. Except us and God. But it is one step beyond acknowledging, and begins to teach us to listen and hear God’s voice.

Did you ever wonder why we pray at meals and bedtime? I’ll tell you a secret – it isn’t really to make our food better and our sleep safer. It’s so we will remember to pray! Eating and sleeping are two things we can’t live long without, and we should treat prayer the same way. So don’t just say “Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub. Amen.” (You know you’ve done that. Some of you even used those words.) But be reminded to converse with God, and invite Him to join you. It’s also no coincidence that these are two times of day when we have to stop talking, at least a little.

3. The Word. Biblical teaching is the next step in hearing God’s voice. When we know what He’s said and done, over and over in the past, we are better equipped to hear Him. We can see what He’s doing now, what He wants us to do, and how He views the world, because He’s already told us. Biblical teaching can be at church, in Christian music, and other Christian teaching. (Conferences, magazines, blogs, YouTube.) But don’t forget to read the Bible yourself. (Thank you, God, for Gutenburg!) That’s how you’ll learn if the teaching you are getting is sound – it will match up with what you read, over and over. Others can only give you what God has given them, and some only give you what they want to hear. So if you really want to hear God speak, pick a chapter and read it as if He is telling you something.

4. Private Commitment. If you are praying and reading in private, you are already taking an action in response to your faith. Build on that in the ways God puts in front of you, in your life. Only you know what that is. Maybe He is asking you to complain less, to be more generous, or to step away from an addiction.

5. Public Participation. Showing up at church is an action of public commitment. It doesn’t take a Christian to show up, but showing up does improve your Christian life. Showing up is just the start. The Bible says to sing, shout for joy, and dance. To raise our hands to Him and praise Him. But I might look silly…or pretentious! But doing these simple things for God here makes it easier to work for Him out there. I am not afraid to say “can I pray with you about that” , because I’ve done it here. I won’t care how it looks, because I’ve looked sillier than that here.

6. Service. This is the level where you are joining others in serving. It can start here, but it shouldn’t stay here. Here is practice; here is baseline. We should branch out. We should be getting out of the church building and getting out of our own heads. The Bible says we are like salt, but salt does no good sitting in the shaker! Get out there with the other salt, and change the flavor of our world! Now, don’t just go out and do “random acts of kindness” to the world. I’m sorry…that’s just silly. That guy has enough money to buy coffee, or he wouldn’t be in line behind you! Learn how to recognize where God wants you to serve. Join in serving somewhere with someone else who is already serving. This is where we learn what a calling looks like, what hard work is, and where we practice doing. When we join, we start from a place of humility, so we are ready to learn and in a mindset to follow.

7. Your mission. It will come to you. Don’t worry – I am not saying that this path leads to being a missionary overseas, or even being a pastor or other leader. But God built you a certain way for a reason. When you have been stepping out, He will start to reveal that to you, and open doors for you to use that. Maybe it will be speaking His truth in simplicity, or connecting with the broken. But maybe some of you have a gift with finance and project planning, and you’ll learn when God is calling you to make something happen. Maybe your mission starts at home with your kids, or when you walk your dog and get to know your neighbors and take the time to speak hope into their hardships. Seriously, a dog is a great icebreaker!

Each of these steps loops back to reinforce the others. You accept. You pray, and your acceptance of God grows. You get into the Word, and you get to know Him and accept Him more, and speak to Him more. You join other Christians, and hear what He’s done or is doing for them, and you love God more and see how He works. You step out with the tiniest action, and He honors your effort, and you start to know Him better and hear Him speak more clearly in your life. And He shows you the next step, and you take it. And it builds – it is a snowball effect. Seriously, if you want to sense God in your life, step out of the church and do His work. You will be changed.

But it all starts with a response. With you being willing to act – needing to act – in response to what God has given to you. Whether you’ve come from a broken place and found healing, or if you’ve just looked around and realized how blessed you have always been. And it doesn’t matter if you are 2 or 12 or 47 or 70 – God wants to speak to you and work with you. When you feel it, when you understand His love, there is a response that goes beyond just showing up for an hour on Sunday morning. That’s kinda scary, right? What will I have to do? What will I have to give up? But oh, my dear heart, what will you gain? Just…go for it. It’s ok if you Start small. It’s ok if you screw up. But act. Take steps. Move.

Use What You’ve Got

April 26th, 2017 . by maria

So, I ended my last post with “Well, when God wants you to lead worship with a Ukulele, He will make it happen!” That couldn’t be more true. I played Ukulele on 1-2 songs each Sunday after that, including the Christmas Eve service. But around that time, I also was getting a message that God had plans for me away from TLC Church. (To be clear: I love TLC Church, and the people there, and the music team. I didn’t want to leave, and nobody did anything to make me want to leave.) But I’ve learned that when God is pushing you, it is best to follow before He has to get stern with you. So I let my leaders know, and laid out a timeline ending in March. I visited a lot of church websites, and then took a Sunday off here and there to visit a couple churches. They were OK, but not a good fit. March came along, and I still didn’t know where I was going, and I was like “um, God? Open door?” But while I was out one Sunday, the leaders told the team I was leaving, so…well…it was happening, and I trusted God had a plan.

March 5, 2017 I visited Ponce Church, liked what I saw and heard, and spoke with the worship leader (Buddy Reaves) briefly. I put my email in their offering to help with their feeding the homeless project. Wednesday I got an email from the pastor, Rick Tidwell. They had just done a church plant and lost their worship leader. Buddy is a fill-in, but can only do a couple days a month, and his other contacts are unavailable. Would I be interested in leading worship?  DOOR OPEN.

I made sure Pastor Rick knew that I play an electric Ukulele, and he was cool with that. (Hmm…I didn’t even have to tell him how that was God’s fault.) I arranged to visit one more Sunday, with my Dad in tow, because I respect his experience and judgement. And because he had been feeling a similar pull, and I was hoping we’d end up together. We did, for now at least. We started leading worship there March 19 (taking turns with Buddy). And it is working. God prepared it, and me, and it is beautiful to feel like you’re in the exact place doing the exact thing that you were built for. Make no mistake, my stubby little fingers weren’t built for playing anything but the Ukulele. But that’s OK, because I was also built to worship my God.

Practicing Ukulele Worship at my Aunt Nana’s house