WORDS ARE CHEAP

by Zach Neese 

So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. 

I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

(Deuteronomy 11:13–15, NIV). 

Have you ever heard someone say: “Words are cheap?” In a way, that’s true . . . especially when it comes to love. Because all love worth receiving is love worth demonstrating. Unexpressed love isn’t love at all.

God certainly thinks so. That’s why He demonstrated His love for us through the cross. He didn’t just tell us; He showed us.

In the same way, while true worship always begins with the motivation in our hearts, it never stays there. Our love must be expressed in order to be considered worship. And since 55 percent of all communication is body language, our actions actually do speak louder than our words.

So how do you demonstrate your adoration for God? How do you demonstrate worship?

My pastor, Robert Morris, defines worship as “love expressed.” That’s true, but since we tend to be great at finding loopholes, allow me to expand on that definition—worship is love expressed God’s way.

In his book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman states that we all tend to express and receive love in one of five different ways. These “love languages” are words of affirmation (saying nice things), quality time, receiving and giving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.

Now, I’m a pretty simple guy. I’m a lot like a puppy. If you want to make me happy, just talk nice to me and scratch my belly every now and then. My wife, on the other hand, is an enigma. She speaks all five love languages fluently. My challenge is to discover via observation, subtle clues, the alignment of the stars, and much prayer and fasting which language she is speaking at which time.

Do you see the difficulty here? As a man, you might really feel loved if your wife buys you a fishing boat. But if you try to express your love for your wife by getting her a fishing boat, you’ll probably quickly discover she doesn’t see the love in it. Likewise, my wife got me a spa package as a gift once. It was very sweet of her, but I’m just not that guy. I have no idea why they call that thing they do to your fingers a manicure. I think it should be called a “womanicure.”

The point is, we often go amiss when we try to speak our own love language to express love to someone else. We have to learn to speak their love language.

Did you know there actually are some ways you may think you’re expressing love to God, but He doesn’t see it as love? For instance, God doesn’t feel loved just because we sing Him a song that says we love Him. I know I wouldn’t feel loved if my wife picked up a Hallmark card, wrote her name on it and handed it to me in passing. I need more than empty Hallmark cards from my wife. So does God.

Fortunately, God speaks all five love languages. Words of affirmation? We Christians call that praise. Quality time? We call that quiet time—prayer, soaking in the Word and private worship. Receiving gifts? That’s tithes and offerings. And acts of service speaks for itself. And finally, there’s physical touch. We have a God who still wants to touch, comfort, heal and be near His people. He wants us to experience Him now—in our physical bodies—not just in some sweet by and by, airy-fairy, glorified future.

God wants to demonstrate His love to you physically—in the world you can touch. And He receives love when you demonstrate your love physically.

That’s who God is. He invented love.

What great news! We have a God who receives love in all the same ways we do! Take some time today and consider all of the ways God has expressed His love for you. Then respond by expressing your love back to Him. I think you’ll discover your Father is waiting to share a rich, ever-deepening worship relationship with you.

For Further Study

Proverbs 3:9; Psalm 95:1–7; Psalm 119:10–12; John 14:15–24; Philippians 4:6–7

Our entire being is fashioned as an instrument of praise. When we use body language to express praise, that which is internal becomes visible. — Lamar Boschman

www.ZachNeese.com

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Show Me The Ring

by Zach Neese

If worship is “ascribing worth to God,” then the price of our worship shows God, and the world, how much we value Him.

Women typically understand this better than men. Take an engagement ring for example. How does a woman announce to her friends that she’s engaged? Does she write them a letter, email them or call them? Not usually. In fact, she usually doesn’t say anything at all. She walks into the room with a sideways smile, her hand preceding her, and her ring preceding her hand by a good inch and a half. Her friends, instinctively recognizing her posture, respond to this universal cue by gasping, ooing and aahing with hand-covered mouths. They gather about with outstretched hands, to touch and admire the ring. The ring!

Do any of them ask about the man? What’s he like? Does he have a job? Does he live with his mother? Does he have a hunchback and a third eye? No! None of that matters. He could be Quasimodo for all they care! It matters not. The world has come down to this — the ring!

Why? Because the ring tells them all they need to know. They don’t care about the groom until they see how much he values their friend — the newly-engaged woman. They come to that newly-engaged woman with one question in all of their hearts, “How much is she worth to him? How much does he value her?”

So she shows them the ring. In their economy, the price of the ring shows the world how much he values her.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 2.55.42 PMNow, switch gears. Here we are, the Bride of Christ — unlovable, unfaithful, adulterous and fickle. How could anyone love such a woman? Heaven and hell stand stupefied, and the lost are incredulous! How could the perfect Prince of Peace — glorious, holy, faithful, powerful, righteous, full of beauty and light — choose such an unlovely, wayward woman? The angels are mystified. Hell cannot comprehend it. The lost cannot believe it. Who could love a people like the Church? Only one thing will silence their doubt.

Show them the ring.

The only way for God to silence the skeptics was to demonstrate His love. To prove how much we are worth to Him. Romans 5:8 (NIV) says that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What is the cross? It’s the engagement ring of Christ. It is a bloodstone, bought with the price of God’s own Son, to woo the heart of the Bride away from her other suitors and prove once and for all that He loves her more than life.

The gospel is our engagement ring, and it tells the world everything they need to know about the Groom who is pursuing us.

If the cross proves how much we’re worth to God, our worship proves how much God is worth to us. The lost are watching. They’re wondering: “Do they really believe what they say they believe? Does their God really exist? Is He really lovable? Does He have the power to save and transform? Is He worth following? Is He worth living for?”

What are they really asking? Show me t h e r i n g ! Wor shippers, l i s t e n to me — our worship communicates more to the world than you know! Our worship shows the world how valuable our God is. Worship demonstrates that we have a Savior worth loving, worth living for and, if need be, worth dying for.

When you worship, it’s like turning up the volume on your testimony so that it’s broadcast to the world. Remember today that your worship — the daily expression of how much you value God — may be the loudest, most visible and clearest testimony of God’s lovability that the world ever sees.

 

For Further Study 

Psalm 66; Psalm 96; Romans 5:6–10; Romans 12:1–2; 1 John 4:9

Someone has noted that when we pray, we are preoccupied with our needs. When we praise and give thanks, we are preoccupied with our blessings. But when we worship, we are preoccupied only with Him. –Eddie Hyatt

 

 

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What’s Your Story?

by Zach Neese

What’s your story? I’m convinced that our lives are meant to be living, breathing, walking, talking worship. If that’s true, then sharing our stories—our testimonies—are some of our greatest declarations of praise and some of our greatest weapons of warfare.

In Ephesians 6, Paul spends 12 verses equipping us to engage and defeat spiritual enemies and overcome life’s adversities. It’s a reminder that each of us is designed for a specific role in the age-old struggle between the kingdoms of Heaven and hell. Each of us has been assigned something to defend, something to defeat, and something to declare.

It’s the declaration part that we don’t always pull out of these verses. Ephesians 6:13 uses the same Greek word for “stand” as the previous verses, but it follows the statement “having done all.” The Greek word is katergazomai, and it means to accomplish or achieve something. In other words, Paul is saying that it is not enough to fight and win. When we are done kicking cans and taking names, we are supposed to stand again. Why? So that everyone will see who came out on top— to make a spectacle of the enemies of God.

That is the purpose of a testimony. So that all of Heaven, all of Earth, and all of hell is made to face the crushing, humiliating, awe-inspiring victory of the children of God—to rub the devil’s nose in his failures and to inspire faith to rise up from the Earth.

That’s why David didn’t just thump Goliath on the noggin with a stone. He chopped his great wooly head off and raised it as high as he could. When they saw it, the Philistines panicked and fled, but the Israelites were encouraged. The same soldiers who had been cowering in terror at the sight of this “invincible” monster saw a boy effortlessly swat a giant aside. Their courage soared; they roared like lions; they leapt out of their hiding places, and they chased their enemies back to Philistia (1 Samuel 17).

That’s what your testimony does. It scares the tar out of hell and strengthens the Churchs’ hands for war.

At first, sharing your testimony can be intimidating, especially if you are a private person. Who wants the whole world to see their laundry hanging on the line? But in the end, it’s clean laundry, after all. And it’s God’s laundry, not ours. That means your testimony is also God’s testimony, because it was His work that accomplished the victory for you. What He has done in you is worthy of praise and worth sharing.

So when you get the chance, tell somebody the story of God’s work in your life. I am praying that when you hold up the head of your Goliath, your enemies will flee, your hands will find strength to fight, and others will be encouraged to take their own stand—to share their own story.

 

 

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Kids: Brats or Blessings?

 

Going out to eat with six children is always an adventure, not because the children misbehave (they are good children), but because everyone seems to feel they have the right to share their opinion about the size of our family.

If you are one of the 5 percent of American Christian couples with more than two children, you have probably had some smirking witster approach you with this question: “You do know what causes that, don’t you?”

In fact, we know full well what causes children to be born into our family, and we are well-practiced in the procedure. Children are the fruit of attraction, intimacy, potency and passion. And whether these are found in a church or in a home, they are designed to result in reproduction. Multiplication. Childbearing.

Why is our culture so constipated about kids? Why do professional women look down their noses at us like we are exceeding our oxygen quota by spawning so many Neeselings? Do children emit greenhouse gasses? Are they consuming more than their fare share of resources? Are they inconveniences to enlightened, independent adulthood? Are they hindrances to marital happiness?

Neese Family2When did we become allergic to parenting? When did children stop being blessings and become obstacles to fulfilling our dreams and destinies? When did America decide that children were no longer honored guests in our homes, but unwelcome parasites in our wombs?

Once, great-grandmothers felt that God had entrusted them with children. Now, God has burdened us with brats. When did our attitudes shift?

If the typical “large” American family were to name their children based upon their honest feelings about them, an introduction would go something like this: “This is my son, ‘Trophy-Child.’ My daughter, ‘Fulfilled-American-Dream.’
And this is little ‘Inconvenient-Deviation-From-Our-Plan,’ but we call him ‘Oops’ for short.”

The Church has bought into the popular theology of politically correct family values, which is more accepting of homosexuals than children. A modern family can be a dad and mom, two dads or two moms, or any combination who are living in perverted relationships with one another. As long as there are not more than two kids. Our perspective is screwed up!
We think large families are the result of irresponsible stewardship of resources and poor reproductive planning. The biblical view of childbearing is absolutely contrary to that position. From a biblical perspective, being able to reproduce and raise children is the proof of a godly man’s power. Jacob called Reuben, his firstborn, the FIRST sign of his strength (Genesis 49:3). He went on to prove his strength 12 more times.

Interestingly, we measure God’s strength by the same standard. We all agree that God is OMNIPOTENT. The word potent means powerful, but it also means “able to reproduce.” In other words, God is all-powerful, but He is also a Father who is “all-able-to-reproduce.” His power is demonstrated in His creation of life and in the formation of His children into His image—the reproduction of Himself in us.

What if we are most like God when we are reproducing children and discipling them to maturity? What if our marriage best represents Christ’s relationship with His Bride when the power of our intimacy (worship) is proven by our fruitfulness (creating disciples)?

Sadly, the decline of the American Church is due in part to our negative perception of childbearing. In contrast, the global rise and spread of Islam is not due to the superiority of its religion, economics or military strength: it is due to the superiority of their potency. In our day Islam is more potent than Christianity. Not because its god is more potent, but because its people are more potent.  They have embraced the inheritance of childbearing.  And they are literally taking over the world through superior multiplication.

Christian couples need a paradigm shift—a return to the perspective of God.

According to Psalm 28:3 a righteous man’s wife is like a fruitful vine. Psalm 127:3-5 asserts that children are a reward from God and evidence of His blessing upon a righteous man’s life. So, here’s a perspective change: children are God’s badges of honor.

The world says that children prevent us from accomplishing our goals. God says that children are our heritage. As couples, we can forsake parenting and focus upon the transient success of our personal goals, or we can invest our lives in success that will succeed us. As for the Neeses, we believe that the only things worth doing in life are the things that will outlive us. Parenting is investing in generations of success. Our children will be greater than us. Their children will be greater than them. And our great grandchildren will prove the power of our lives as they carry on our heritage of godliness. True success is proven through succession. So here’s a second perspective change: children are God’s plan for our successes to outlive us—part of our eternal reward.

You may be thinking, “Yes, but parenting is so hard, so expensive, so time consuming, so inconvenient.” Well, of course it is. “But,” you might say, “the Bible says that children are a blessing from God. Isn’t that a contradiction?”

Not at all. Our confusion is in our misunderstanding of the word blessing. A blessing is not something God gives us to make life easy. When God blesses us, He is catalyzing destiny in our lives. A blessing pulls calling out of us. It shatters our mediocrity and sets our feet upon the path of greatness. Children bless us because, in parenting them, we embrace an essential ingredient to the fulfillment of our own destinies.

We, Jen and Zach, are not just parents, but being parents is essential to our becoming the people that God designed us to be. And each individual child contributes something to who we are – they contribute to the fulfillment of our created purpose.

So, though they are a blast to make, children are not a blessing because they are always easy to have around. Children are a blessing because they train our hearts for destiny and equip us for our Armageddons.

How do they equip us? God says that children are like arrows in the hands of a warrior. In other words, when we are raising a child, we are fletching a shaft. We are sharpening an arrowhead. We are practicing our marksmanship. And when the day of contention comes (as it does each morning), we knock our children on the strings of our bows, draw them back, aim them at our foe and we let go. Those children will fly straight to the heart: they will pierce him and break his charge, topple his minions from the walls and cause confusion in his camps. Our children will thwart the devil’s plans and pulverize his resolve. Why? Because that is what they were born for. And they will sense the pleasure of God as they do it.

When we have family prayer time in the Neese house, we are firing flaming arrows into the enemy camp. And it scares him to death. Arrows don’t see their targets and flinch. They don’t doubt the archer’s aim. They just fly and strike. That is the blessing of a godly man and wife. As we raise these children we are promoted from the ranks into high command. Zach becomes the general, Jen the Field Marshal and the children are the troops. The eight of us are a more formidable opponent because of our numbers, training and discipline. We are pack, and we are powerful.

So allow us to introduce you to our family. We know exactly what caused them, and we are honored to have the privilege of parenting them. If we were to rename them according to our feelings about them, it would sound something like this: “This is my son, ‘Vanquish.’ My daughters, ‘Javelin,’ ‘Morning Star,’ ‘Trebuchet,’ and ‘Intercontinental Ballistic Missile.’ And this is the baby, ‘Beloved,’ but we call him ‘Kick the Devil’s Tail Up Around His Ears’ for short.”

You’ve probably heard of them. If not, you will, we assure you. They are the proof of our potent intimacy. They are our reward from God. They are our blessing and our inheritance. They are daily catalyzing destiny in our lives. And they are going to conquer the world.

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