Jesus said “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”
“In Isaiah 29, He complains about worship that is half-hearted and hypocritical. The people were offering God stale prayers, insincere praise, empty words, and man-made rituals without even thinking about the meaning. God’s heart is not touched by tradition in worship, but by passion and commitment.”
The above excerpts come from: Lisa Bevere & John Bevere. “Girls with Swords.” WaterBrook Press, 2013-02-12. iBooks.
At 62, I’m brand new in the journey to know and follow Jesus. Raised a Catholic, in a strict Catholic home, my memories are of a constant oppressive existence… and I was a introverted tomboy. If I fidgeted in church, I got pinched. When I couldn’t conjure up an answer as to what the sermon was about, the disapproval was imminent. My knees hurt from the pew kneelers. And those dark confessionals terrified me. I used to make some sins up. The week before Easter, walking along the 12 stations of the cross was devastating and horrifying. And never feeling like I could approach our priest rendered him untouchable – like our Bible at home. But topmost, I did not consider myself a sinner. Religion left a bad taste in my mouth, but I dared not make that known.
Something in me rebelled silently to the nightly prayers kneeling around my parents’ bed – the same prayers day in day out. Even in my young ignorant mind, these rituals seemed wrong.
In church, it wasn’t fire and brimstone. It was subdued light and no spontaneity, ritualistic, repetitive. It was the same at home. I vowed that when I left home, and my plan was to do so at 18… that I would never return to any church. I didn’t, except for weddings and funerals… and each time, the bad taste returned full force.
I later learned that I had become ‘church damaged.’ Rather than succeeding at bringing me ‘into the fold’… my religious upbringing turned me away. I would never return. For almost 40 years, I arrogantly rebelled at any religion.
I never did voice my ‘blasphemous, wayward thoughts’… until 5 years ago.
Now, I am most humble, yet backed by a great inspiring power – in my thirst for knowledge about Jesus, and how I can follow him in my life. My bible is in a couple of forms – a book that I have written in, stuck tabs to, and dog-eared; it is also on my phone, which is always with me. I have yet another bible that I journal creatively in.
As a child, having strong feelings about the downtrodden in my own little world often brought me into the fringes of trouble. Often, I spoke of guardian angels sitting on my shoulder. I doubt that I truly believed in that guardian angel. The thing is, I rarely actually helped someone beyond what was familiar or comfortable. Other than the repercussions of stupid judgment, my life was ‘safe.’ Yet, I can remember asking God for help, a lot. Sometimes I got downright angry with Him. I could not understand why He didn’t answer me. I later realized that I sometimes was one of those people who “offered stale prayers, and my heart was far from Him.” I wasn’t listening. I just did all the talking.
Those five years ago, I began my journey by attending bible studies. I was terrified, still painfully introverted, but committed. I began to listen to Christian music, to read Christian literature (incl. the books mentioned in this post), and to spend time with people who shared my journey. And I entered a church again. The message is God-breathed into our pastors. And the Holy Spirit guides them. They bring the Bible, the Good News, ‘down to earth’ for us… This I know.
Bible studies have become a weekly and yearly commitment – one that I relish – with other godly women. We are all broken beings, sinners, and we are forgiven. It is so freeing to be amongst these women. It is authentic, and can be bare and raw. They are beautiful – every one of them.
Today, giving of myself in a number of ministries through our church is bringing me to a place that I never knew I could reach. It grants me a feeling of belonging in a community of wonderful people, where I can talk to my pastor about just anything, including this blog. He asks me how its coming! All of our pastors (teaching pastors, campus pastors, worship pastors, etc.) dress in jeans! There’s no competition in creating a fashion statement, like I remember in childhood. Our worship team creates an environment where when they stop singing, the congregation takes it up and continues. I shall humbly boast of being a member of this team on Sunday mornings.
These ministries touch so many people… homeless, single parents, veterans, disadvantaged kids… our seasoned congregation and new guests each Sunday.
We come to our church to meet, know, and follow Jesus! There are no crucifixes. There ARE crosses. You see, Jesus has risen. We need to be reminded of the love, mercy and grace Jesus granted all of us, through his death and resurrection. He no longer is on the cross. Our focus is on Him. Our focus is on eternity with Him.
“Living to create an earthly legacy is a shortsighted goal. A wiser use of time is to build an eternal legacy. You weren’t put on earth to be remembered. You were put here to prepare for eternity.”
Excerpt From: Warren, Rick. “The Purpose Driven Life.” Zondervan, 2012. iBooks.
Pray, Love, Serve