Tag Archives: Christian faith

Growing through worship: in Spirit and in Truth

spirit truth

by Laurie-Ann Copple

Last time we discovered that we can grow in God through worship. It doesn’t matter which cultural form or style you choose. Worship isn’t just singing hymns or praise songs. It’s an attitude of the heart. Worship includes the work that God is doing in you while you worship Him. It is there that we discover how to worship in spirit and in truth, as Jesus asks us to do in John 4: 23 – 24.

What does it mean to worship in spirit? I had wondered about what that really means until I attended a conference called the Glory School. We learned what heavenly worship is like. We also discovered what God’s heart was toward all humankind – even those who refuse to know and love him. I became fascinated with the truth that as Christians, our spirits are already worshipping in heaven while our bodies are here on earth. We are three-part beings that are made in the image of God. If your spirit is alive in him, you are in a sense, with him. This means we can worship God in the midst of doing ordinary things, like 17th century Brother Lawrence teaches in Practising the Presence of God. We are in two places. This is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “we are ‘seated’ in heavenly places (Eph 2:6).” In a sense we are already part of a heavenly choir, much bigger than any church choir or worship team.

What is this “three-part being?” We are! We have a physical body, a soul (mind, emotions and will), and we have a spirit: the part of us that is touched by God and filled with his Spirit. When we love Jesus, our spirits are connected to God and united with Him. Our soul has a choice to be involved, and we can decide not to worship God at that time, but this grieves Him. We’re not as close as we could be unless we choose to say yes to him. Worshipping in spirit involves the deepest part of you, your spirit. Yet it is very special when your body and soul are also involved in worship. When you worship in your spirit, you can do other things with your body; such as working, cooking, driving (with your eyes open) and spending time with your family. You could of course be doing ministry. If you worship inside while doing ministry, it makes your outreach very special, since God works through you more effectively when you are focused on Him. It can also make it much easier to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit inside your heart, since you’re already in communication with him. It becomes a natural relational flow from you to God and from God to you. This is also the key of ‘abiding’ that Jesus refers to in John 15: 1-8. He is the vine, and we are the branches. Branches grow effortlessly when they are attached to the vine. This abiding in God gives you deep contentment. Like the Apostle Paul, you can become content in all things (Phil 4: 11-13) because you are focused on Jesus and know that he will never leave you.

The concept of worshipping in truth can be hard to understand at first. However, I believe it simply means to worship in truth is to be honest with God about who you are. Don’t hide anything from Him. As you get closer to God, you may see yourself as more sinful, but that is the way it should be. You just begin to see yourself as you really are – a sinner saved by grace and adopted his love. This allows you to be thankful and hungry for more of his presence. So as you realize who you are, you also realize who God is to you.

Let me explain in another way. Some people have a problem with understanding God as Father. Due to this, they have trouble worshipping him because they think of mistakes their own earthly father made. But God is not that earthly father who made those mistakes. God is pure love and is perfect. If you open yourself up and allow God to reveal Himself (so you can see how He really is), he will be able to bless you with His presence in a deep way. When we begin to realize who God is to us (even in part), and we seek the face of God in worship, we change for the better (just by allowing him to soak us with His presence and fill us with love). It’s like a sponge left in a basin of water for a while. If God is love, he fills you with his presence of love (and that is just ONE aspect of God)!

You may be familiar with Matt Redman’s song “The Heart of Worship.” Look at the words with new eyes. As you meditate on these words, ask God to help you to worship Him in spirit and in truth. “When the music fades, all is stripped away; and I simply come. Longing just to bring – something that’s of worth that will bless your heart. I’ll bring you more than a song, for a song in itself is not what you required. You search much deeper within, through the way things appear; You’re looking into my heart. I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about you, it’s all about you, Jesus. I’m sorry Lord, for the thing I made it; when it’s all about you – all about you, Jesus. King of endless worth, no one could express how much you deserve. Though I’m weak and poor, all I have is yours, every single breath.”

It’s about knowing who God is, and how you really are – a son or a daughter in Christ. And doesn’t he deserve everything we have?

Next time, we will explore further the notion that worship and ministry aren’t separated.

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Prayer and Fasting – another important way to grow in God

Growing in God doesn't have to be a race like this fast boat from Mackinac Island, Michigan

Growing in God doesn’t have to be a race like this fast boat from Mackinac Island, Michigan

Growing in Prayer and Fasting: Ways to Grow in God

Last time we discovered that we flourish as we express our prayers in journaling, as well as waiting for the Holy Spirit’s voice in reply. This reply often comes by remembered scriptures, words of encouragement and being drawn closer to Jesus). We also learned the popular model of ‘A.C.T.S.’: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.  Supplication includes praying for others; sometimes in the form of lists. The ‘Prayers of the People’ that we share at church would be in this category. I believe that God listens to these prayers. Yet, have you had times when you were interrupted by an urgent thought, a picture of someone you know in your memory and an intense desire to pray for them?  This is intercessory prayer – prayer requests from the Holy Spirit himself. So you’ve obey that call and pray for that person. You feel that burden on your heart grow lighter. Sometimes you may weep while praying.  Then soon after, you learn the person you prayed for had urgently needed help at that exact moment. Your prayers were used by God to get them out of some danger.   The Apostle Paul encourages us in 1 Thess. 5:17 to pray without ceasing (or to pray continually).  This doesn’t necessarily mean for us to literally be on our knees 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but it does encourage us to have a prayerful attitude where you can offer up quick ‘arrow prayers’ to the Lord throughout the day.  This attitude keeps us thankful.  It also helps remind us that Jesus really is there with us all the time.  This is “practicing the presence of God” (or abiding as mentioned in John 15: 1-17). This posture keeps you peaceful and centered on Him.

Remember to take your time in all forms of prayer. Don’t just pray quickly to get it over with. Slow down and listen – and be quiet before God.  It can be difficult to hear God in the midst of an adrenaline rush. When you take that time, He may say something to you. He may lead you to specific scripture verses, or pour His love and peace into you as you wait on Him.  You will find that time refreshing and a welcome break to a hectic day. Then you will be more energized and focused. Think of it as a divine refreshment break.

Fasting is often combined with prayer.  My former priest Fr. John reminds us that we need to give something up and take something on during the Lenten season. This kind of fast is specific to Lent, since it is giving up one thing for a specific period of time.  However, you can also set other times for specific fasts if you are called to do so by the Holy Spirit. Usually that item or activity that you surrender would be important to you. The activity you pick up could be extra time with God, or doing a ministry for him (This practice is meant to be a gift of devotion to God and bring you closer to Him).

Many people chose to give up chocolate. Your Lenten fast doesn’t have to be chocolate, although many people choose it as the thing to fast from because it’s their favourite thing.  There are many things we can give up for a season.  I remember going off coffee one year, and it wasn’t easy. Another year I gave up television, which was difficult at the time, but later on I didn’t watch much of it when I was in school nearly full time.  A few years ago, I gave up credit cards, which was a good thing, though I have since relapsed.

You don’t have to limit your fasting to Lent.  Tony and I went on weeklong vegetarian fast before a mission trip. It is also called a ‘Daniel fast’, since the Old Testament prophet Daniel fasted from meat and wine for 3 weeks while he prayed (Dan 10:2-3). We did this as a time of praying and waiting on God’s confirmation of our 2005 Kenya Alpha mission. During this week my mind cleared and my heart began to change concerning Tony’s role in the mission. While I did not yet get the guidance I needed, God was preparing Tony’s heart for that mission; even though he wasn’t yet willing to join me. I simply asked the Lord to speak to Tony about going to Kenya during my own devotional prayer time.

During that week Tony shared with me that he could sense God very strongly several times when he was working on his computer, and he prayed in response to God’s call, but he did not get direction on going on the mission trip.  Eventually, Tony did hear the Holy Spirit speak to him about going with me on the mission, but this was in HIS time, not mine.  Fasting in the context of prayer is meant to change the heart of the person who prays. It also helps that person get more in tune with God’s heart.

Now did any of these Lenten fasts bring me closer to God?  I would have to say that in and of themselves, they did NOT bring me closer to God – but that is where the taking on something extra comes in.  When one gives the Lord what you have given to him as a GIFT, not as an obligation, and in the time you would spend watching television, or eating dessert, etc, you would be spending that time with Him in a specific way, then it can become a blessing to you. One Lenten season I taught the Ways to Grow series at St. Paul’s and all of us were deeply blessed. I especially received as I poured out love, teaching and prayer to those who attended. This was the something extra that I took on that year.

Other fasts can be more intense than Lent.  This includes fasting from one meal for prayer, to forty days fasting from food, but not liquids.  Jesus spent this kind of fast in the Judean desert.   Do we need to do this in our own walk with God?  Perhaps – but I would advise taking small steps as you learn.  I am still learning this discipline myself, and I know the Lord honours our efforts to grow in Him.  He will guide you closer as you dare to walk closer to him.  You won’t be sorry.  Note:  I also shared a longer talk on prayer and fasting that will be posted online separately for readers who need more than this bite-sized story.

Yours in Christ, Laurie-Ann Copple

Laurie-Ann recently moved to Nelson BC, and works for Vista Radio.  She attends Kootenay Christian Fellowship and has roots at St Paul’s in Kanata ON.

Slow down and let God’s love fill you

July 2012 103

During my mission travels, I am often asked about how people can grow in their faith – especially in Africa, where Christianity is noted as being “a mile wide and an inch thick.”  We are called to ‘grow roots’ like a healthy tree by a stream so we prosper (Psalm 1:3).  This means we are called to go deep so that we cannot be uprooted easily.  I will be exploring many different ways to grow during upcoming posts.

One thing that I found is that it takes TIME to grow in faith.  When I first became a Christian, I was almost TOO excited – that is in the eyes of the church people around me. Often I was advised by wise church leaders to “be still, and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10).  This is good advice because it taught me to wait on Him when my natural desire is to ‘jump in with both feet.’  Even in Kenya, there is an expression called ‘pole, pole’, which means slowly, slowly – and in our fast paced society around us it can be hard to slow down to hear God’s still small voice speaking to you in your heart.  My Tyndale Seminary professor David Sherbino used to remind me that it’s hard “to hear God in an adrenaline rush.”

Why does it take time to grow in God?  Well, think of it this way – in my church I am a server- crucifer. I bear the processional cross at the beginning and end of the service.  When I do that, I am acting as an image-bearer. That image represents Jesus.  That image is also inside of you – you’ve been marked as Christ’s own, with the sign of the cross, and in time He conforms you to be more and more like Him (2 Cor. 3:18).   We are a part of God’s family and as we all grow in faith, often we see glimpses of Jesus’ love and character in others.  It’s not just that people are nice, it’s that they remind you of Jesus.

Spiritual growth is like growing fruit. Nicky Gumbel tells many stories in the Alpha Course. One story involves Nicky’s impatience about pears growing on a newly planted tree. Nicky would check the tree’s growth so often that his friends teased him.  Finally a friend taped a granny smith apple to the pear tree.  Nicky responded to this joke by saying, “I may stupid, but even I know that granny smith apples do not grow on pear trees.”  Nicky emphasized that it takes time to grow fruit, and it also takes time to grow in faith.  So I encourage you with Church Father John Chrysostom’s proverb about patience. He says that to be patient, is to ‘have a wide and big soul!’

Why do we need to grow in God?  We need to grow to become familiar with, and grounded in truth. That way we won’t be deceived by lies.  When we become mature, also we get more discerning, loving and willing to bless each other in ministry (Eph. 4:13-16).

Now finally to one of the ways to grow in God:  We grow through God’s LOVE.  Earlier I mentioned about being like a deep-rooted tree by a stream. Now you can imagine yourself like a plant.  Any plant needs good nourishing soil.  A heart full of forgiveness is like good faith-soil inside you. When we are rooted in God’s love, we grow deeper into God (like tree roots) and also wider in our reach towards others (like the plant growing up towards the sun).    God’s love is like the sunshine we need to grow even in hard times.  I pray that as you read this article, you may experience the love of God in your heart. It’s like water to the soul and sunshine to the heart.

St. Paul gives us a special prayer in Ephesians 3: 16 – 19 for us to meditate on: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp who wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.”

This article was published in Anglicans for Renewal in Fall 2011