Coming back to the heart of worship

I find it so spiritually unsettling when I see, experience, or hear about churches and church members complain about the worship. And today, as I think about how Holy Spirit has been moving in my life, my church, and my youth group, when I think about the heart of worship God’s given me, I find it especially unsettling that so many Christians just don’t get it. For some, it’s not that they are just too stubborn or traditional, it’s just that they don’t know what the heart of worship is.

    But for others, they would just rather sit in their church pews, listen to the pastor preach a sweet, encouraging message while whispering to his/her neighbor about how that same pastor should have given them this ministry, or this outreach.

    Seemingly, the “Modern American Church” (as I like to call them) has either turned their nose up at, or forgotten the heart of worship.

    For those of you who don’t know what I mean by “the heart of worship”, let me use this song lyric to define it for you:

I’m coming back to the heart of worship

It’s all about You,

all about You, Jesus.

I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it.

It’s all about You,

all about You, Jesus.

 

    So many people don’t get worship. They simply stand at their seats and sing the songs, occasionally lifting their hands or closing their eyes, or *gasp* both! But they don’t carry with them that heart that, when in worship, says “God, I surrender all I am all to You. It’s all about You.”

    Now, I come from a revival church. A non-traditional, unorthodox, Holy Spirit-filled church. A church where, when it was time to worship I had been trained from a young age not to just stand at my seat, but to literally and figuratively step out from where I was at and into the altars for worship. I cannot thank my parents enough for instilling in me that heart of worship. Without them, I would not be the man I am today. Now, 18 years of spiritual training later, my desires seem to be always focused on entering into that place of worship where I begin to open up my heart to allow the Spirit to move in me.

    And now, as a youth leader, this is something I try to teach and pray into the lives of my students. I’ve been either in revival or seeking it for years now, and God has placed such a heart of worship in me (and forgive me if those post sounds very egocentric, for that is not its purpose) that I have an overwhelming desire to see my students, my peers, and the Body of Christ step into that place in worship where they begin to say: “It’s not about me or what I want, God. It’s all about You. Take my life.”

    I believe that the Church is reaching a crisis of faith. Soon, church members will come to a realization about their faith and will make the choice either to pursue the manifest presence of God or to sit back and watch as the passionately hungry and thirsty are filled to overflowing. And they will miss their opportunity.

    This will never be my desire, to see my brothers and sisters placate, but this is the reality of the world we live in. Some Christians want what they want. They’ve gotten all the “God” they want. Why would they possibly need more?

    But it’s time for the Church to return to her purpose, which was to bring glory to God. Too many churches these days put a tight leash around their worship services; if the Spirit of God begins to stir in the atmosphere during worship, they immediately put a spiritual muzzle on Him, disallowing Him to move. There is no freedom in worship (freedom in worship can be manifested by dancing, shouting, clapping, lifting of hands, stepping into the altars, etc… There are no rules, these are just the ways in which freedom is typically manifest). Or traditional, orthodox, church elders have the worship leader backed into a corner almost saying: “I dare you to sing a contemporary worship song. Let’s just see what happens.”

    Both of these are only a few instances of bondage that has been allowed to shackle itself to the Church for too long. It’s time for the Church to break away from the shackles the devil has placed on her worship and to pursue the presence of God.

    For me, I find it so much easier to worship God when I step out into the altars of my church. Because I’ve been trained not to pay attention to what others think of me, I can worship without distraction. (Once again, I am so blessed and thankful for my parent’s passionate teaching and training me in the way of Christ!) I’m not saying that I’m perfect. There are times when I hold back in worship, though that is not my heart. My heart is always to, when in worship, pursue the perfect presence of God, and to pursue a radical infilling of His Holy Spirit.

    Worship isn’t about lighting, or the music, or even the songs and style. Worship was created as an expression of praise and thanksgiving to God for saving us, and so that we might bring glory and honor to His name. this is what worship is all about.

    I want to challenge you: if you find yourself focused on the worship leader’s song choice or style of music, perhaps you’re missing the point of worship altogether. If you find yourself not experience the level of freedom in worship that Christ desires for you, perhaps it’s time to step out from where you’re at and enter into His presence (when we step into the altars of our church, it is a prophetic move of faith that you are entering into the Holy of Holies  – just as lifting our hands is a declaration of surrender).

    I can tell you right now that there is no place greater than within the perfect presence of God.

Take No Prisoners

I am, by no stretch of the imagination, not radicalist. But, I am a radical. How can this be?

The problem many Christians face today is that Islam has given the term “radical” an upsetting connotation, one that conveys images of war and terrorism. So how can Christians be radical in a world that says radicalism is wrong?

Am I talking about crusades and wars? No. Am I talking about Christians taking up AK-47s and marching the streets demanding “Convert or die!”? Of course not! Am I talking about non-resistance. Oh, most definitely not.

The fact is, we are at war. Too many Christians have taken up with the beliefs of Amish, Quaker, and Mennonite pacifists. “We will not fight,” they say. I can understand where they’re coming from, of course. You look at war-torn regions like Irag, Israel, Afghanistan, etc… and wonder how war can possibly be a good thing. But this is where non-resistant Christians get confused. Just because you choose to fight, does not mean you condone murder, rape, and plundering.

Non-resistance is not a feasible option given the spiritual and moral condition of the modern world. It has come to the point where Christians need to make a choice: Will I fight this war or will I stand by while the world circles the drain? Our world is dying and in dire need of another Great Awakening. Millions of babies are being killed at the hands of trusted healthcare providers. Millions of Christians are dying alongside innocents at the hand of evil organizations like ISIS. All one has to do is take a good look at the world to understand that we are at war. So why is only one side fighting?

Non-resistance is not a Biblical concept. All you have to do is take a look at both the Old and New Testaments to see that history’s greatest warriors were also God’s greatest worshipers. David was king of Israel, led his people into numerous battles, while also maintaining a level of such deep, intimate worship that many Christians can only hope to attain.

You’ll notice many times throughout the Bible that God issues a call to arms. In fact, numerous times, God told His people to annihilate the enemy. Take no prisoners.

A call to radical Christianity has been issued to you. So what is radical Christianity? Radical Christianity is simply Christianity as it was designed. It is Christianity that follows God’s primary command for the Church: “Go”. Fear not, the war we fight is not a physical one. (Ephesians 6:12) You won’t have to take up guns or swords. But we need to understand that there is a war going on around us and it’s time to stop maintaining a non-resistant attitude, a pacifist’s attitude, toward this spiritual battle.

God is calling His people to do warfare over our nation, over its people, over the lost, the hurt, the lonely, the broken, the destitute, and this requires a radical heart. It requires radical sacrifice, a radical move. It starts with a reform in our hearts, then in our churches, then maybe we will finally change the world. We will take no prisoners. Whatever the enemy tries to tempt us with (just as the enemy tempted the Israelites with the spoils of war in the Old Testament), we will resist.

The world will call you crazy, but the reward will be worth it.

Faith and Fantasy

I realize it’s been a while since I’ve posted, and here I am posting a somewhat controversial post. Ha! Enjoy. ;)

For decades, probably since the release of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ground-breaking and controversial Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the fantasy genre has received a hailstorm of criticism from the veterans of the Church, those so stuck in their ways that when Christian fantasy comes along, they don’t view the faith part of it, they only see what they want to see, the “demonic” fantastical elements.

In the past few years, more and more Christians have come to realize that faith and fantasy can, in fact, mix. In fact, they go extremely well together!
The problem with many Christians is that they stick to one side of an extreme. Now, holding the view that faith and fantasy don’t mix is not going to affect one’s eternity, but it does prevent one from being open to seeing the awe and wonderment of fantasy realms, which often superbly depict the Creator’s masterful artwork.
I am an avid supporter of “Faith + Fantasy”, which you might’ve known from the many fantasy novels I’ve written/started. I believe that they do mix, but I also believe that the fantasy genre is extraordinary on its own.
Some of you might wonder what my views are on things like dragons and magic. Well, I’ll tell you.

{Dragons}
I actually think that it’s possible that dragons existed. I think they walked (or flew) the earth during the Age of Dinosaurs. The Bible even mentions dragons when referring to the “Leviathan” (Check out the book of Job). This leads me to believe that, if God created dragons, then they are not inherently evil. They are no more evil than a lion, goat, or snake (all creatures used to depict or describe the devil at some point or another in the Bible).

I think whether a dragon is good or evil is entirely up to the author and how he/she chooses to utilize them. For me, dragons are some of the most incredible, amazing, extraordinary, graceful creatures, despite the fact that I’ve used them as both good and evil creatures.

{Magic}

Magic, however, is a much trickier subject. In order to share my views on this, we must first differentiate between the term “magick” and “magic”. You might think that these are the same words just different spellings. But they’re not.

Magick – A power or effort associated with wicca.

Wicca – a nature-oriented religion having rituals and practices derived from pre-Christian religious beliefs and typically incorporating modern witchcraft of a benevolent kind.

Magic – In fantasy, magic is not depicted as a form of witchcraft, but rather supernatural gifts and abilities gifted to man by some form of a deity.(Eru Ilúvatar in The Lord of the Rings).

Based upon these varying definitions, we can see very clearly that Magick is witchcraft and that Magic is a supernatural, beyond-human set of abilities gifted to man by God or gods.

Dragons and magic are the two hot topics that have caused such controversy swirling about faith and fantasy. I believe, that if a writer handles each topic with sincerity and maturity, they can successfully portray an extraordinary work of faith and/or fantasy.

Please leave any questions or comments in the comments section below. I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions. :)

Introducing: “Running With Wolves”

So, I actually started this story a while ago. But WordPress has been acting weird and won’t let me post anything… (In fact, I was going to post about Maleficent the movie, but WordPress wouldn’t let me and I didn’t have the patience to rewrite the entire post.) Anyway…

I’ve been working on Running With Wolves for a while. This story… gah. It’s caused me such emotional turmoil. It’s disrupted my daily life. I spend the majority of my waking hours thinking about what I can do to better the story. And when I write, RWW is what I’m working on.

You probably want a synopsis, eh? Well, first you must be warned. Running With Wolves is a tragedy. It’s a love story. It’s a story about the beauty of love and forgiveness. Oh, and wolves, too. No, it’s not paranormal. No, it’s not fantasy. Running With Wolves is completely outside of anything I’ve previously written. For this story I’ve had to step completely outside of that dreaded box called Comfort Zone. 

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Here’s the synopsis: 

My tears are all the words I never said.

Ashley Winters never could’ve imagined a life without her father. But now she’s forced to live it.

After her father’s death, Ashley’s mom sends her and her little brother, Benji, to live with their grandparents in Alaska. One problem: Ashley doesn’t want to go.

Forced to leave her mother and her friends behind for the summer, Ashley must discover what it means to forgive herself and others. She’ll soon discover that the healing she so desperately longs for can be found in unexpected places. And maybe the mysterious boy named Little Wolf can help.

Yes, I realize the synopsis is poorly written. It’ll take some time to write a better one. :P Here’s a couple quotes to stave off your hunger,

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You can read the first few chapters of Running With Wolves on Wattpad if you like. (Warning: contains mild thematic content and some language)

I’ve got fans!

The other day, something pretty awesome happened to me… I received my first piece of fan-art for The Starcrafters’ Saga! It was an awesome moment, looking at a picture someone else had drawn of my characters simply because they loved my book.

And then it dawned on me: I actually have fans. It was an amazing moment, to say the least, when I realized this.

Anyway, I want to share with you guys my first piece of fan-art by awesome fan Connie J.!

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“Paradox” on Kindle!

It’s that moment many of you have been waiting for: the revealing of the release date of Paradox as an eBook through Amazon’s Kindle service. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here!

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Want to read the story that has readers calling it “Fantastic”, “Meaningful”, “Entertaining”? Now you can on your iPad, Kindle, or smartphone for just $3.99! :D And if you already bought the paperback through Amazon, but would like a digital copy as well, you can purchase the DISCOUNTED eBook for just $1.99!

So be sure to mark the date on your calenders!