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The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why — Mark Twain

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Josh has an incredible heart for God and is passionate about helping create environments that lead people to experience God.  He has tremendous gifts that enable him to help churches advance the Kingdom of God.

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What Is Worship?

Written by Josh Collins. Posted in Church, Worship, Worship Wednesday

Note: I’m honored to have Joy Lenton guest posting for me today.  Joy is a wife, mother, grandma-in-waiting and M.E sufferer. A lot of her days are spent in PJs, penning poetry and prose. She loves connecting with people, reading, drinking coffee and eating dark chocolate. Before chronic illness scuppered her plans, Joy worked as a nurse. She still has a heart to support and encourage others by sharing her faith and life experiences. Joy blogs at Words of Joy and would love to connect with you on Facebook  or on Twitter

I wonder what springs to mind when you hear the word ‘worship‘? Maybe a time at church when you pause to sing, lift your hands and praise God, being at a Christian concert, a period of contemplation at a conference, listening to music, or just a quiet moment in prayer by yourself in the privacy of your own home.

 

What Is Worship?

Photo Credit: crowt59 via Compfight cc

It can be a hand-raising, eyes shut, silence and a shouting, face to the floor or looking heavenward, singing and stomping, fire and fury, peace and presence, seeking and finding kind of experience – and so much more besides.

Though worship isn’t really so much an activity as it is a heart attitude and a way of life.

I wrote this acronym to help me to remember the gist of worship:

Willing – to give our time and lives as a daily…

Offering – in obedience..

Reverence – and awe as we…

Surrender – in joyful submission of…

Heart – mind and will..

In – everything, giving…

Praise – and thanksgiving to His glory

We give ‘worth-ship’ to God because He is worthy, in and of Himself, to receive all honour, praise and glory. Our greatest question is not how, where or when we worship but who (or even what) we may be worshipping. It is all too easy to turn other people or things into idols, as well as our own ideas, dogma and ways of doing church.

I came to faith in a local Pentecostal church during a convention, so my early days as a believer were shaped by thoughts of worship being continual, noisy, muttering, singing, crying and no-holds-barred. Not easy for a naturally shy girl like me! Years passed. I became mainstream Baptist for a while, dipped my toes briefly into the waters of Anglicanism, then rooted myself in Free Church Evangelical.

Now, no denominational umbrella fully serves for the way I want to worship God. I lean further toward the reflective, Contemplative pathway, soaked in smatterings of Charismatic fervour and receptivity, with a vaguely Evangelical bias. God is too big for any mind-set, denomination, organisation or ‘this-is-the-way-we-do-things’ to be able to contain Him.

Church for me is both everywhere and nowhere specific as I am largely unable to get to services and rely greatly on books, TV and internet for input to my spiritual life. And the more my body is housebound and confined by M.E and other chronic health problems, the more my spirit longs to soar free. Let me loose on lingering in His Presence. Allow me space to hear His voice.

I wrote the poem below as an attempt to define aspects of worship. Though, how do you really define the indefinable? Express the inexpressible? Constrain that which is limitless? I’m not sure. But here is an expression, some of which (I hope) may resonate with you too:

Worship Is…

Bending of mind, will, heart and knee in supplication

to God in recognition of all we have and all we can be

Raising of voices, lifting of hands, heart and head to His call,

lowering of our own goals unless they’re in tune

with the will of the One who is sovereign over all

Making time to spend in His word, by His side,

learning to sit still, to listen, rest and abide

Seeking God’s face, not His hands, His Presence, not His presents,

His heart, will and voice, as we give thanks and rejoice

Wonder and awe at all He is, has done, created and made,

how much He loves, gives, restores and saves

Being aware of Who we approach in prayer, words and song

as we give due reverence to the Holy One

Going wherever He leads and calls with prompt obedience and speed,

relying on His supply, provision and help for our every need

Knowing He is Father, Comforter, Helper, and our greatest Friend,

spending these days on earth with Him unto eternity without end

Question: What does worship mean to you?

Share in the comments below!

Posted on: December 11, 2013

Struggling to Be Our Authentic Selves: An Interview With David Hampton

Written by Josh Collins. Posted in Church, Community

Authenticity has become a buzzword in Christianity over the past decade. It gets used over and over and yet, few have any practical grid for what it actually means, never mind how it applies to your life.

David Hampton believes most of us shy away from any version of being authentic because it’s too messy and leaves too many questions unanswered. That’s why he’s written Our Authentic Selves: Reflections on What We Believe & What We Wish We Believed.

Recently I had the privilege of sitting down with David, where we talked about a lot of stuff from the Church, Christianity, Recovery, and the recent passing of his wife from a very long hard-fought battle with MS.

David will be leading and speaking at the Lifeway Men’s Conference in Nashville, Tn this weekend and has generously agreed to give away a copy of his book to one of you guys. But in order to qualify, you need to leave a comment and share this post on Twitter or Facebook.

David Hampton Our Authentic Selves

Our Authentic Selves

J: Where did you get the idea behind the book?

D: The writing of the book came from my journals and my blogs. I wanted to write something that wasn’t a devotional because I hate the word and I hate devotions. So I figured the best way to get people not to read my book was to call it a devotional. That left me wondering what would I call it and I came to the conclusion that what I talk about most is being our authentic selves and the difference between what we believe and what we wish we believed.

I think a lot of us live our Christian lives out of what we wish we believed instead of what we actually believe, but we don’t ask ourselves the questions or allow ourselves to sit in the spaces that bring about the true belief. Questions like do I really believe God loves me, do I really believe God’s trust worthy, do I really believe He cares? Well I don’t know. Some days I don’t. Some days I don’t think He gives a rip at all and here’s why. In the book I get into that. I wanted people to explore that more than I wanted them to sit down and have a warm fuzzy to start the day off.

J: What were your biggest challenges while writing the book?

D: There were logistical challenges along the way. I mean that always happens with publishing a book – explaining to editors why you’re saying something a certain way. And it’s not that maybe their way is better, but when something would get past them, and I would have to explain, they would say something like, ‘oh that’s what you mean,’ which tells me as a writer that I wasn’t clear.

But it also tells me that sometimes editors aren’t reading it through the same lens that a reader’s going to read it from. Cause I’m really writing to the reader, and the editors helping me clean it up. So that was challenging for especially since I had two editors working on it –one for grammar and one for content.

J: How has the writing process changed you as a person?

D: Well I’m not independently wealthy or anything like that, if that’s what you mean. But I think what’s changed for me is the sense of having processed some thoughts, beliefs and perspectives that I’ve had for a long time, finally being able to string them together into something cohesive that maybe other people could engage.

In addition to that, the biggest thing that has changed is that my wife died as I entered the home stretch finishing the book. That’s been pretty tough.

J: I love the title. I think far too many of us Christians aren’t interested in entering conversations about what we actually believe. It’s much easier to hide and go along with the evangelical crowd than to sit for a moment and ask our-selves, do I really believe that? What do you hope your book will inspire for the reader?

D: I hope it inspires questions. I hope it doesn’t confound anybody. I don’t want it to leave people in a heave, in a mess. I don’t think it will, but then again I don’t have the power to do that anyway. I just put it out there and what happens is between you and God. But I do hope that it really inspires questions and authentic conversations.

Nothing would make me happier to know that home fellowship groups are doing this together or Sunday School classes are doing this together because the discussion and opening up of where we are and what we are really holding on to reveal a lot about our superstitions. As evangelicals it reveals a lot about our expectations and I think those things come out better in groups, so I would love to see that.

Being a Professional Christian

J: In being our Authentic Selves, you talk about being a “Professional Christian” and hiding your hurt and pain. How do you see that showing up in the church today?

D: Well I think that we are creating churches where people have two choices. They can both deny their reality and create personas where they mascaraed as themselves, or they can address their reality and begin to share that reality, whatever it is, usually at the risk of some alienation.

The church doesn’t know what do with addiction, sexuality, brokenness and a lot of other relational places – not to mention things like mental illness, or compulsive behavior.

People deal with this stuff in their families everyday and they get prayed for but the prayers are that God will happen (to) them and this will all just go away, instead of the peace, courage, wisdom, etc. that it’s going to take to live with it, cause it may never go away. Your child may always struggle with autism and you may always have this issue. You may always have the broken place that you have that doesn’t go away.

The better question is how are you going to live with that and walk within community, trusted community, a small group of people usually or are you just going to put up a persona?

I think part of that de-churching that we’re seeing in this culture now, is not because people have had it with God, I think they just don’t know where they fit into the body of Christ. They just don’t have any other options in their minds but to just withdraw and create their own reality somewhere.

“I think we should be afraid of the worthy people, worthy people are dangerous…” (tweetable)

Recovery and The Church

J: One of the things you and I have in common is our story of recovery. I personally believe everyone needs to be in recovery, because the truth is we are all living stories of recovery, whether we recognize it or not. We’re all recovering from who we once were to who we are yet to become. How do you think adopting recovery principles in how they love people could impact the church’s relevance?

D: The first thing for me, the distinction that I realized early on in my recovery, was that in recovery everyone’s desperate to be there and in the church they’re not. We’re in church for a bunch of different reasons.

I’m at church to get my wife off my back, I’m in church because I think it’s good for my kids or because I really need some spiritual connection and I don’t know how to get it. Then obviously there are the mainstream reasons people go to church, but in recovery people are desperate to be there.

People have to exhibit rigorous honesty to become healthy and they have to acknowledge some truths about themselves. They have to own some things about their own behavior, then they have to make some amends for that behavior and they have to address it to the people they’ve hurt.

In the church, we just give each other passes like left and right. We don’t sit in any of that. As Protestants, we don’t even do confession because we can go to Jesus ourselves, except we don’t. There’s no doubt the church could be impacted greatly by adopting recovery principles because recovery principles are just biblical principles that the church has kind of forgotten about.

J: What would you say to the cynic or the skeptic who is reading this book, sitting on the outside looking in?

D: That’s a great question because I really did keep this kind of caricature of an unbeliever in my head – this image of a certain person and when they read this, what does it trigger in their mind, what do they hear when they read this phrase. I tried really hard not to use “Christian-ese” language and if I did, I tried to unpack it because what I really want people to embrace in the book is their own sense of where ever they are.

I know people who say, ‘I don’t know if I’m a Christian yet or not.’ They say, ‘I mean I believe this but I haven’t done it like that and I haven’t said the magic sinners’ prayer like that from the brochure but I have had this moment when I realized God was God and I wasn’t, that someone bigger than me better take over running this show and I found some kind of grace in that.’ I think we’ve reduced Christianity to whether you’ve got your passport stamped or not, and if you’re in the gray area then there’s something in your belief system that we don’t know what to do with yet.

I’m hoping that there are people in the gray area, wherever they are, that read this book and go, if I could accept that Christ was the all in all and still maintain the authenticity of my life, I might be able to get on that boat, instead of the deny your reality come to Jesus.

You can find out more about David and his genius on his website and you should definitely follow him on Twitter. His book, Our Authentic Selves: Reflections on What We Believe & What We Wish We Believed is available on Amazon.

What struggles do you have with being your authentic self?

What would it mean to you to be a part of a church that didn’t just accept your authentic self, but rather invited it?

Posted on: July 26, 2013

Worship Wednesday: Where the Church Gets It Wrong

Written by Josh Collins. Posted in Church, Worship Wednesday

These days you can walk up to just about anyone in America and ask them what their experience of church has been like, and chances are they will tell you a story that either embarrasses you as a christian or makes you cringe in horror.

I know because I do this from time to time.

As an Experience Architect and story-teller, I love hearing these sorts of stories. They fuel my mission and my purpose, and if the old adage is true that you can’t improve on anything that you don’t measure, then these stories become just as important and necessary for the church to hear than any other powerful testimony of transformation.

Where the Church Gets It Wrong

Photo Credit: James Jordan via Compfight cc

Just the other day I was talking to a Pastor about the church he planted. He had some really positive things to say but when I asked him about any challenges or if anything has surprised him in his journey, his tone began to shift.

To be honest, I wasn’t all that shocked by his answer, but you may be.

He said, “I never thought I would have faced this much rejection from other Pastors in the area.”

He went on to tell me that local Pastors were refusing to even meet with him all because of… wait for it… the translation of the Bible he preaches from.

And while I’m quite aware of the complexity and depth that the issue of Bible translation has had over the years, what this story really points to is the current state of the church in America.

Unfortunately, the church has created places where some people don’t fit and some people aren’t welcomed. It’s almost as if the church is now saying, well if you fit into any one of these categories or boxes, then the gospel isn’t for you, please go elsewhere.

Now when I was younger, I would well up with rage and anger against such church cultural statements, but these days my response is much softer and more gracious. 

I understand something better today than I used to – I’m broken, and I tend to mess up. A lot.

Stories and situations like this present a mirror for me, and that mirror reveals my own heart and my own words of alienation and exclusion.

They should for you too.

Consider these words:

“I can anticipate the response that is coming: ‘I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?’ Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” Romans 7:14-25 MSG

At the end of the day, part of why I love the church so much and why I partner with her to create awesome experiences engaging culture is because I understand that they are led by men and women just like me. They are wounded, abandoned, selfish, prideful, and yet full of the same Awesome Truth that I am.

And because we are created to worship and because we are most satisfied when Christ is most glorified in our lives, then this is the reason why I worship today. This is the reason why I choose to submit and confess and sing songs declaring I am not my own.

You may read this and have your own story of abandonment or alienation from the church.

Welcome! You’re in some really good company!

I ask your forgiveness, because I’ve been on both sides and my heart’s desire is to move closer to the securely attached places, where I’m free to love and speak words of truth in love.

Perhaps you have one of these stories, perhaps not, but no matter where you’re coming from today, can I just say one final thing to you. The Gospel is for you. It’s big enough and awesome enough for you no matter what you’re going through.

Here’s a question for you today:

What messages or stories do you have that tell you the gospel isn’t for you?

I’d love to hear, so leave a comment below!

Posted on: July 24, 2013

After Easter: Thoughts From A Ragamuffin

Written by Josh Collins. Posted in Church, Worship

I’ve grown up in Church.  I am one of those that can say any time the doors were open I could be found in the Church. And yet for some reason, year after year, Easter would come and go, with me getting new fancy clothes and baskets full of candy, but leaving me no different from before.

This year was different.

image

Photo Credit: Glen’s Pics via Compfight cc

This year, Easter took on a whole new meaning, and I’ll tell you why, but in order to do so, I have to back up a little bit.

You see I’ve been working on something big. Something I’ve been dreaming about for a very, very long time. And its been quite a journey just getting to where I am today. Part of that journey means I’ll be launching a new website soon, and recently just finished my first e-book.

And what’s come out of this particular chapter of my story, more than anything else, is the reality that I’m the one that deserves the Cross.

I’m the one, who’s life would be dramatically different where it not for the grace I’ve been shown time and time again, from those closest to me.

Its me, the chief of sinners.

So Sunday, as Passion Week began, sitting there thinking about what was coming up the following Friday, that truth just hit me and has stayed with me ever since.

And so, the Good News of Easter has a sweeter aroma than usual. There really is no turning back, no other way of being. Nothing carries as much weight, nothing provides as much peace, nothing produces life-like the Cross of Christ!

It is true, He is Risen indeed!

So as things are rapidly changing in my life, and opportunities surfacing out of nowhere, I’m brought back to the simple fact that I’m just a man, who continues to be a recipient of the undeserved favor of a King.

I’m just a Ragamuffin, doing his best to make sense of it all.

That has become my worship and is meant to be yours as well.

Here’s a question for you:

What did Easter mean to you this year? Did you experience it any differently?

Posted on: April 1, 2013

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