Understanding Worship

God takes great delight in you  

The Bible says,” He is a God who is passionate about his relationship with you” (Exodus 34:13) It also says God “Rejoices over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17)  We understand loving God and singing to God, but we don’t usually think about  God loving us passionately, or about him singing over us.  How does that reality make you feel? God wants us to respond in Worship.

In English the word “Worship” means to “greatly love, admire and respect somebody or something in acts of prayer and devotion; to declare the worth of someone or something” When we worship God, we declare his worth.  What is God worth to you?  The worth of God is both endless and endlessly rewarding.

God wants you to be a worshiper  

Buddy Owens, a musician at Saddleback Church in California, describes it this way:  Our acts of worship are responses to what God has already done. We praise him because he has revealed his glory to us.  We give out of bounty he has given us.  We repent, not to earn forgiveness, but because he has already offered forgiveness. God’s died for us while were sinners.  God’s friendship is the reward for worship.

Jesus taught us to worship

He Prayed - Mark 1:35
He taught - Mark 1:39
He preached - Mark 1:38
He was baptized - Mark 1:9
He gave - Mark 12:17
He resisted temptation - Luke 4:1-2
He fasted - Matthew 4:2
He sang - Matthew 26:30
He praised the Father - Matthew 11:25

I try to make sure everyone feels welcome and comfortable at our worship services.  At times I will invite anyone who would like to dance in the isles to do so, or dance in the pews, or sing, clap or just worship quietly.  It doesn’t matter how you act or how you dress. God is interested in your heart.

Worship is more than just singing some songs

There is no “Christian” style of music. None. At first, that idea confused me. There is no Christian music, just Christian lyrics. Melodies are neutral; lyrics make it Christian.  So the style of music that is used in worship is not relevant.  Worship is what is important, not the style.  While each of us certainly prefers one musical style to another, there is no “biblical” musical style. God loves music: he loves us more.

Finally, we begin our personal relationship with God through faith and grace. Through faith, we believe, and we trust God with our life, surrendering our will to his.  At the very core of worship is surrender.  Rick Warren states “Surrender is not the best way to live, It’s the only way." We make it our goal to please God.  (2 Corinthians 5:9)

The next time you are in worship, be a worshipper. Come with humility and thankfulness.  Express your worship boldly, raise your hands, sing joyfully, pray, read scripture, offer yourself to God so the reward of your worship will be God’s friendship.  In heaven, we will all worship God forever. This is just the exhibition season.  Start being a worshipper.

That the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
— Philippians 2:10-11
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Mike Conrad serves as our Worship Director. When he's not preparing for worship or playing an instrument, he enjoys spending time with his wife boating and fishing. Learn more about Mike here.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Electronic media connections are wonderful in that we can easily and quickly get updates and information all the time. We can shoot out quick texts to encourage, inform, vent, whine or even blast someone. It is quite easy and sometimes too easy. 

What is and always has been hard is the skill of listening. In the New International Version of the Bible, the word listen is used 412 times. In some cases, it is God asking us to listen, in other cases, God is asking others to listen to Him. Sometimes it refers to when they did not or would not listen. 

Notably, listening was and is important.  I don’t know about you, but I am much better at giving my opinion, sharing information or just speaking in general, than I am at listening... really listening, to what others are saying. 

That begs the question... How intentional and wholehearted are we when it comes to listening to God? This is where I need to pause and put on the brakes. 

Everyday I fill my mind with information from my phone, the TV, internet, and other sources. How often do I stop and read His word, and fill my heart and thoughts with God and His ways?

In John 1-:27 it reads, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” How can I follow God if I am not really, listening to Him? I can become so unfamiliar with His voice that I cannot distinguish it from the other voices that I have invited into my mind and heart.  After a while, it all becomes an endless stream of noise, with little or no real impact on my heart. 

In Psalm 86:11 it says- Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness, give me and undivided heart, that I may fear your Name. 

An undivided heart is one that listens and responds to God’s love, direction, and correction in our lives.  It begins with being passive, but that is only a starting place.

So stop and listen, listen well, listen long, and wait for God to teach you. Then, after you have listened well to God, comes the active part: respond at His leading, teaching, correction and direction.

Many of us stand in need of a reminder to pause, turn off all the other noises and read God’s word. Let His word soak into your mind and saturate your heart without interruption. Our true contentment and peace of mind can only be found in Him. We spend a lot of time, energy and money looking elsewhere.

There are tons of great tips on how to be a better listener just google it. It can be helpful. But better yet, is to stop, read God’s word, seek Him out in prayer, and listen for Him to speak to you. Listen, my friend, really listen. What is He saying to you? Do you recognize His voice? Are you responding to His teachings? Can you hear Him? ……..Listen

And for your listening pleasure: Take a little time and hang out in scripture and listen to what they are saying…


Genesis 15:6, Deuteronomy 6: 4-9, Ruth 1: 16, I Kings 3:9, II Chronicles 7:14, Psalms 1: 103, Psalms 8: 3-5, Psalms 27:14, Psalms 37:4, Psalms 119:11, Psalms 105, Psalms 137: 1Proverbs 3: 5-6, Proverbs 29:11, Isaiah 6:8, Isaiah 40:30, Isaiah 43: 1-3, Isaiah 43: 10-11, Isaiah 55:6Hosea 6: 6, Joel 1:3, Nahum 1:7, Habakkuk 2: 20Matthew 6:33-34, Matthew 7:12, Matthew 11: 28-30, Matthew 28: 19 - 20, Mark 12: 30,31, Luke 19:10, John 3:16, John 13:35, John 14: 1-6, John 15: 9, Acts 1:8, Acts 2: 42-47, Romans 1: 16, Romans 5: 1-5, Romans 8:28-39, Romans 10: 9-10, Romans 12: 1-2, I Corinthians 6: 20-22, I Corinthians 10:13-24, I Corinthians 12: 4-6, I Corinthians 13: 4-8, II Corinthians 5:16, Galatians 5: 1-22, Ephesians 2:8-9, Ephesians 3:20, Ephesians 4:2, Ephesians 3: 15-16, Ephesians 5: 1-2, Ephesians 5: 21, Philippians 1:6, Philippians 2:5, Philippians 4: 4-8, Colossians 1: 15-16, Colossians 3:12-17, II Thessalonians 1: 3, I Timothy 2: 16-17, Titus 2:11, Philemon 1:4, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 2:18, Hebrews 11:5, Hebrews 4:12, Hebrews 10:22-25, Hebrews 12: 1-2, Hebrews 13:5, James 1: 19 I Peter 4:10, I Peter 5:7, I John 3:1 and Revelation 4:8.  – Can You Hear Me Now?

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Lori Ferguson serves as Children's Director at NUMC, and has been at the church since 2015. When she's not planning or teaching, she enjoys spending time with her grandkids. Read more about Lori here.

Dinner Matters

Logistically it was one of the worst trips I’ve ever been on. A third of the students got sick, one of them even projectile vomited on other students, the wind broke tent poles, sand was everywhere, the boat ride took twice as long as expected, it was miserable half the weekend, and students can’t wait to go back. I’m serious about it being a miserable trip, you can ask just about anyone who went on our fall retreat last year, and they will tell you that the conditions weren’t wonderful and that just about anything that could go wrong did. However, you will likely find lots of joy and laughter from them when they talk about it. You’ll hear some of them talking about being the best fire makers, or about that time two girls moved an entire palm tree half a mile for firewood, or when they tried to teach people how to cast nets. And they might complain about the lack of a bathroom, but they are legitimately excited about going on this trip again in a few weeks. 


A little over a year ago, a video started going around asking the question of parents and their kids “If you could invite anyone to dinner, who would it be?”. Here’s the video for you to watch yourself, it only takes about two minutes and is well worth the watch:

You might be just as surprised by the kid's answers as I was. In fact, I was pretty sure that this video was staged or they interviewed multiple families and only showed the few that fit the video’s theme. But even if they did (which I don’t think they did) studies are coming out that support the fact that kids want to eat meals with their family. I remember all the “eat more meals together at the family table” ads that were on TV a few years ago and thought they were just weird. But everything I see now says that kids want that experience, they want conversations (WHAT?!?), and they do cherish that time together (even if they act like they hate it). 


It doesn’t matter how bad of a cook you are, or even if everything goes horribly wrong, kids want that shared experience with you. I remember as a kid ordering pizza once a week and watching TGIF on tv. Step by Step, Family Matters, and Boy Meets World are still intertwined in my memory with family time that if I ever see them come on tv, I instantly think of Friday nights with my family. I can still point out exactly when in the movie Aladdin my mom had to step away for a bit so we used this really fancy thing on the VCR that marked where we were so that we could continue to watch the movie and then rewind it to that specific spot for her to not miss anything.

Why do I remember that? I have no idea, just like I have no idea why I remember half the stuff I thought was really insignificant as a kid but have become the things that are stuck with me forever. Spend time together, even if it’s just watching tv. Be active in their lives and let them be active in your life. Eat dinner with your kids, because even though it seems like it doesn’t make a difference, it is one of the biggest things you can do.

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Nathan Persell serves as our Youth Director. When he's not leading devotions and playing basketball with teenagers, he enjoys disc golf and bike riding. Learn more about Nathan here.

Parenting: 7 Simple Steps of Discipleship for Kids

Responsibility

When a couple first learn they are going to be parents – it is thrilling and wonderful and scary and overwhelming. What do we need to know to be ready for this big task, this big responsibility? Parents learn that there are so many things that kids need to know to be fully equipped to navigate and succeed in this world.  We want them to learn safety, etiquette, life skills, and foundations to build on for further learning. We want them not only to learn about God but to integrate their faith into all aspects of their life. (It is a charge, a command that we are given in scripture Deuteronomy 6: 4-8). And while we are working to disciple our children; we still have a marriage, job, extended family and friends, a home, our own faith walk and service as well as other things to be responsible for. It is quite a balancing act of our time, money, talents, and patience.  How do we fit it all in? How do we do it all well?


Here are a 7 Simple Steps to Teaching your Children about Jesus


Teach as you go: Many times the best lessons are learned as you go. When an event, problem, success or challenge is in front of your family, it can prove to be a wonderful opportunity to weave in faith conversations.  

•    Example: When someone has been mean to your child. You can help them learn to pray for those whose actions have been hurtful to them.  You can ask God to help us counter that behavior with the love of Christ. 

Be Intentional: Don’t just wait for those great opportunities to teach your kids, create opportunities. There has to be intentionality in sharing and teaching faith to our children. They need to know that it is important.


•    Example: The dinner table is a great place to offer a short Bible verse or lesson. (Keep it short) and allow for discussion. Also include intentional prayer time at meals at bedtime, or whenever it works best for your family.


Keep It Simple: Try to keep your talks developmentally appropriate. Keeping it simple makes it easier to remember, and to repeat. 


•    Example: Instead of a complete Bible Story, why not ask them if they experienced God anywhere in their day. (God sights) Or offer some of your own examples and let them begin to look for ways they can see God in their ever day life.


Repeat Often: Repeat, repeat, and repeat. What is the main point you want them to learn and repeat it often in different ways. 


•    Example: Look for opportunities to repeat a phrase or truth. Find a Bible verse that is important and/or meaningful to your family, and integrate it often into as many activities in as many ways as you can. 


•    Example: When my kids were young, we would have a phrase we wanted them to learn. We would discuss it over dinner, it would be written on a poster in the bathroom, and we would look for other appropriate times and places to introduce it into the conversation/situation.


Listen: If you want to know what your children are learning, listen. Watching and listening to our kids, can provide great insight into what they understand and are willing to do with their faith. How are they applying it or are they?


•    Example: Instead of filling in the blanks for our kids, let them wrestle with some of the concepts and ideas they have about God before entering the conversation. Trust God to be at work in their lives, even when you aren’t there. Ask them to tell you about their Sunday School lessons, and really listen to what they have learned. Ask them to tell you why that lesson or story is important to them. Don’t immediately give them the reason. Let them own it.


Play it Back: When you see or hear actions or attitudes that reflect Christian values and ideals encourage them.


•    Examples: Watch for and encourage your kids when they integrate the love of Christ into their actions and attitudes. Speak to that value (Christian behavior you have observed). Name it. Repeat the importance (play it back) and praise them for their willingness to share that behavior/action with others. Let them know how delighted God and you are for their actions and choices. 


Model it: Live it out in front of them: Many times the best lessons are not taught, they are caught. Kids watch others apply God’s love to their lives, and they have an “Ah Ha” moment. So that’s how you do it? Remember however, the reverse is true too. If kids see others not living out Christian behavior, that can send mixed signals and can be very confusing. For us and for them, it is essential that we take time for our own spiritual development so that we can live a life worthy of emulating. Look at I Corinthians 11: 1. The Apostle Paul reminds us to follow him as he follows Christ. Additionally, we are going to mess up. Even our failures can serve as a lesson on confession, forgiveness and God’s provision. Additionally when we fail, we can teach our children how to recover from their own falls. Be the example that will help them know and be more like Christ. Let them see that Jesus is important in your life. Let your life be a model for them to learn from.


•    Example: When our children see us read our Bible, pray, serve, and attend Church, they know that we value these things. When we include unconditional love and care into our daily lives, they see our words and actions matching, and making sense. We are all going to mess up, but we can use our weakness to show Christ’s strength, and our dependence on Him. Confession and forgiveness are wonderful lessons for all of us to learn together. 


Summary

1.    Teach as you go- Life happenings provide a walking witness of God to us, Use them! 
2.    Be Intentional- Provide opportunities for faith conversations
3.    Keep it simple – Refined to age-level understanding. Make sure they understand it and can repeat it, often! 
4.    Repeat – Repeat simple phrases or scripture verses often, in a variety of ways
5.    Listen – Don’t try to feed the answer to your kids, let them wrestle with their faith and own it. Listen for clues of confusion, that need redirection or clarification.
6.    Play it Back- Watch for examples of Christian behavior lived out in your family and encourage it. Repeat and name that Christ like quality/behavior.
7.    Model: Let your kids’ see you grow and work out your faith in front of them. (This will happen anyway, just be aware of what lessons they may learn about God from you.)

Think about your family. What are some of things you are doing to share faith with one another? Would love to hear what works for you. What works for you might also work for someone else. Email me your comments, or ideas!

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Lori Ferguson serves as Children's Director at NUMC, and has been at the church since 2015. When she's not planning or teaching, she enjoys spending time with her grandkids. Read more about Lori here.

What does that have to do with Algebra?

When I was a senior in college, I took a dual enrollment college algebra class. I had taken classes with the teacher before, and he was one of my favorites. It helped that I loved math to begin with and that he was a big kid himself. A few weeks into the semester he stopped mid-lesson and said “you guys already know all this stuff. We can spend the rest of the semester just going through the motions and getting done with the book, or I can teach you guys how to do the Rubix cube.” Of course, we all jumped at the chance to miss some book work (don’t worry we still had plenty of it) but over the next few months he incrementally taught us how to solve the Rubix cube, and it ended up being our final. 


If you were to walk into my office, you might notice that I have a handful of different Rubix cubes on one of my shelves. I bought most of them after this class, and even ten years later I can only solve the original 3x3 cube. I’ve been staring at the 4x4 for ten years telling myself one day I’ll figure out how to solve it. I guess it’s not a big surprise that I still can’t. You see, I only really had to memorize three moves to solve the 3x3 cube. I have a stack of papers of moves I have to remember to solve the 4x4. I’m sure it can be simplified, and it’s probably not nearly as complicated as it seems at the moment, but it seems pretty daunting. 


I think the same thing happens in our Christian life. We get comfortable with how one thing works, or with how we’ve done things. Then something a little more complicated or different comes along, and we either panic at the new complexities or say that’d be a great thing for further down the road. I’d like to say learning is always fun, but many times learning is difficult, heartbreaking, and just down right miserable. I think the bigger question revolved around our motives for learning or, as Lori Ferguson (our children's minister) would put it, making sure our “whys” align with our “whats.”

Learning about the Bible, God, and what it means to be a Christian is supposed to be an ongoing journey where we constantly learn new things. But too often we get comfortable and stop learning. So I want to encourage you to do something new. Maybe that means getting involved with a growth group, volunteering at our thrift store, or branching out and inviting someone to church. Find those areas of growth and new complexities that scare you and work it out. And I’ll make a deal with you. After ten years of saying I’ll figure it out eventually, I’ll learn how to solve the 4x4 Rubix cube. You have my permission to come to my office anytime and ask me to do it, but if you do, expect me to ask you what area you’ve been working on.

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Nathan Persell serves as our Youth Director. When he's not leading devotions and playing basketball with teenagers, he enjoys disc golf and bike riding. Learn more about Nathan here.