Valerie Jones

{Live with Purpose. Lead with Passion.}

I am a blogger, worship leader, and speaker who helps worship leaders and team members connect with purpose and passion in life and leadership by offering encouragement, community, and practical resources so that they can thrive in life and leadership, both on and off the platform.

Thanks for stopping by!

Filtering by Category: Worship

{2 Things that Changed the Way I Lead}

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! “Would you like to lead worship that Sunday?” Yes! Yes, of course, I wanted to lead worship! My heart nearly exploded with gratitude. When I had come back to church a few years earlier, there were no expectations. Zero. The calling I felt God had birthed in my heart had long been disqualified. At least, that’s what I thought; yet, there I was accepting the invitation to fill in in the absence of the worship pastor. It still blows my mind when I see how God has ordered my steps. I was part of a leadership team with two of the most gifted, highly-favored people I have ever known. I never quite got over being invited to the table,  you know? All the plans were in place.   Unfortunately, there was plenty of room for freaking out. Yeah, about that.

Sunday morning soundcheck went off without a hitch. We had a phenomenal team!  After that, though, it happened - the freaking out, that is. Self-doubt is not a kind, warm friend that comes alongside you to encourage you and keep you humble. No, not at all. It's a scheme of the enemy, whose big brother is FEAR.  Of course, I didn't realize that at the time. I was nearly frantic. I grabbed my Bible, went into a small room in the back hallway, and knelt down to talk this over with God. What else is a girl to do? My prayer wasn't elaborate. I was only stating the obvious, tears rolling down my face, "God, thank you for bringing me here and giving me this moment. But, I can't do this without You. I won't. Please, help me." I sat very still for a time and then flipped the Scriptures open to the Psalms. I was heading to the passage I would share that morning but stopped a few chapters short at Psalm 108. Here's what it says.

My heart is confident in You, O God; no wonder I can sing Your praises with all my heart! I will thank the Lord, among the people. I will sing your praises among the nations, for Your unfailing love is higher than the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens. May Your glory shine over all the earth.

And, that's when I breathed a sweet sigh of relief. In that tiny room backstage, while I knelt on the floor, the Lord started teaching me two truths that profoundly inform the way I lead.

1. Leadership is about my position in Christ. It's not a performance. Do you see it there in the first verse of Psalm 108? My heart is confident IN YOU, O God; no wonder I can sing Your praises with all my heart! I lead from my position in Him. It's all about who He is and who He says I am. If I try to lead without having first established who I am in Christ, then I am squashing potential. All of my gifts, abilities, and influence come from Him. And, even more than that, He is with me. I don't have to take a step without His guidance. You don't, either.

2. Leadership is not about making a name for myself. It's about His name and His fame. The psalmist ends with both feet planted firmly in this truth when he says, "Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens. May Your glory shine over all the earth." I want people to know Jesus.  The same gospel that compelled me toward Him is for everyone. Fixing our eyes on Him (positioning ourselves in a relationship with Him) will automatically move us in this direction. How remarkable that we get to be part of telling that story!  He's the lead story -- always.

Everything was as it should have been that Sunday. And, now? There is rarely a time I step onto a platform, large or small, that I don't whisper these verses as a prayer right along with Isaiah 26:8. See, leading well means being firmly positioned in Christ.  It means saying follow my example as I follow Christ's example. Isn't that when our influence will be at it's best?  I think so. Here's the thing: I simply want people to see Jesus in everything I do and say, both on and off the platform. After all, He's the one I love the most. And when people see Him, it changes everything. I am infinitely grateful that He doesn't leave us to go it alone.

Questions to ponder: Do I have a tendency to depend on my gifts and abilities more than on God's power in my life/leadership? How do I define success in leadership?

 

{Worship | Three Things}

The Why.  It's the thing that motivates and moves you. It informs your behavior and shapes your attitudes. It's a BIG deal. Huge.

Why do we do what we do? Why do we say what we say? Why do we sing? Why do we play our instruments? When we define our "why" properly, we can feel confident that we are at least headed in the right direction. Here are three things to consider when defining the WHY behind worship.

1. Worship is a matter of the heart; it's about what we love. John Piper, one of the wisest theologians of this age wrote, "Worship is all about consciously reflecting the worth or value of God. The inner essence of worship is prizing Christ. Cherishing Him, treasuring Him, being satisfied with Him." And isn't it true? Worship from a divided heart does not properly reflect the worth or value of God. It just can't. He gives everything and deserves everything in return.  May we continuously, deliberately pursue Him so that we can know Him and love Him most of all. Then, let our love for Him be the primary reason we worship.

2. Worship is a function of the mind; it's about what you believe. We cannot overlook the importance of developing right knowledge of God.  Our theology (what we believe about God) is important because authentic worship cannot happen apart from right knowledge of God. In worship, our theology shapes our philosophy (what one believes about worship). In turn, our philosophy of worship determines our methodology (how one does worship). Knowing God more fully enables us to worship Him more fully. Theology, rightly applied, will inform our minds and captivate our hearts so that we love God passionately.  You cannot encounter the truth of who God is and be left unchanged. So then, let the truth of who He is define our worship.

3. Worship is lived out in the moments of everyday life. I love corporate worship. There is something especially beautiful when God's people gather and worship. But, corporate worship is meant to be a natural overflow of personal, private devotion. Day after day, in every moment, there is a battle being waged for our attention and our affection. The enemy of our soul would like nothing more than to see our worship misguided and misdirected. He laughs, pleased with himself,  when Christians become comfortable with the monotony of our religious activities, the going-through-the-motions because our hearts and minds aren't engaged. He celebrates a tiny victory when we live so distracted through the week that we neglect turning our attention toward Our Father. What if we allow our love for Him and our relationship with Him to seep into our everyday moments? See,  if we love Him passionately and know Him intimately, then pausing to make space for Him in the tiniest details of our life is just what we do. He is concerned with the details, after all. He's there, waiting to be invited into the everyday moments. Can we learn to recognize Him in those everyday moments, and allow our lives to be consumed by Him and surrendered to the Holy Spirit? And then, worship becomes the natural response because we are mindful of Him.

Here's the thing: Worship is about our posture and position. It's the posture of our hearts and minds and our position in Christ. Our entire lives positioned firmly in Him.  It's about seeing ourselves in light of who He is and what He's done for us. See, for me, when I have a true picture of His holiness, goodness, faithfulness, and unfailing love, I immediately recognize my utter need for Him.  That's when our worship becomes real. That's when we stand up to sing songs about Him and we mean it. We believe it. We live it. HE becomes our why.  And, then, our why is bigger than life! And worship from that posture becomes less about our preferences and more about His presence. We can't encounter His presence and be left unaffected. 

May I encourage you today, sweet friends? Look up. Fix your eyes on Him. What you'll find is that He's already gazing back at you. You've captured His heart and He longs to capture yours.

{Remember His Faithfulness}

Finally, early spring was peeking through the dreary grayness of a long, long winter. B. and I piled into the car and headed in a direction that I hadn't been in a long while. This place. It represented some of the most difficult moments of my life. You know, all of the moments I didn't care to relive. I didn't go often.

Each time I visited this place in the past, the pain and anxiety crept in and gripped my heart and mind the second my car approached the driveway. Images raced through my mind in rapid fire and the deep ache that had become so familiar pressed hard on me. Sometimes, I felt better after a visit because that's what happens after a good, ugly cry. Other times, though, bitterness tightened its fierce grip on my heart, and I would leave feeling more hopeless and helpless. But this time it would be different. I was different.

The car turned into the gravel drive and evidence of time passed was striking. Trees were much larger; and, the sprawling, empty field of grass that I remembered wasn't sprawling and empty. There were rows and rows of gravesites, almost as far as my eye could see. My eyes searched for the beautiful tree that grew just behind the plot chosen for my sweet babies, Tyler and Hailey. It took me a few minutes to get out. But, I did.

It's hard to put into words exactly what happened during that graveside visit. B. stayed in the car because he knew this moment was between a girl and God. See, in the weeks and months prior, the Lord had been healing my heart and my perspective. I had finally released the right to be angry and bitter and allowed Him to work a miracle in me. And, He did just that. So, there I was. My being there was a matter of obedience. The Lord was taking me back to this spot so I could see it with fresh eyes through the lens of a healed heart and mind. We had a sweet moment, the Lord and I. I knelt graveside and prayed, weeping. But these tears were different. I was grateful and in awe of God and His unfailing love and faithfulness. Before I knew what happened, my arms were stretched to the sky and I was singing.

For thou O, Lord are high above all the earth. Thou art exalted far above all Gods. I exalt Thee. I exalt Thee. I exalt Thee, O Lord.

In that moment of worship, there was a beautiful exchange: beauty for ashes, joy for mourning. In that moment, He reignited a passion and a calling for worship leading. In that moment, He reminded me of His lavish, unfailing love.

Fast-forward to January 2016. It's a season of many challenges. I'm talking about the kind of challenges that, in the moment, make you want to run and hide. Quit. Give-up. These are the kinds of challenges that sweep through every inch of your world like a tidal wave and knock you off your feet. It's all I could do to keep my head above water. But God has a beautiful way of reminding us that He's with us.

There I was standing in a room during a night of worship. The evening had already been like a breath of fresh air. Just as I was asking the Lord what He wanted me to do, a new song rang out in the room.

I exalt Thee. I exalt Thee. I exalt Thee, O Lord.

I hit my knees. Once again in awe of God's faithfulness. He was reminding me of where He brought me from. He was reminding me that He lifted me out of a deep pit, healed me and restored me. He was reminding me that He was the same God that held me in His hands when I knelt graveside all those years ago. He told me to get up and do the thing He's called me to do with bold faith. Why? Because He's proven Himself faithful over and over again. He is God. He is always God.

May I encourage you today? On those days that God seems far off, remember WHO He is. On those days that God seems quiet, remember how He's been faithful. I promise you this: God is always there and He's always faithful. Do the next thing simply because God is who He says He is. Then watch Him do what only He can do, proving again that He is faithful beyond measure.

He. Never. Leaves. You. He loves you so.

 

 

{Dear Christian, Are You All In?}

She looked so small standing in the kitchen with her backpack hanging off her shoulders. She had on a little plaid skirt and a navy blue polo and looked darling. I couldn't believe she was off to Kindergarten. I cried that day, I'm sure. But, I also felt extremely fortunate that she would be heading off to a private, Christian school. Six years later, she was much bigger and was heading out the door to the same campus for her first day of sixth grade. This was the year she learned a hard but important truth. Just because you label something Christian doesn't mean it's a fair, true representation of the label. The sad truth my young daughter was learning is that many people identify themselves as Christian and behave much differently than one might expect Christians to behave. The sad truth is that there are loads of people who are nominal Christians - ones who wear the label but look no different than the ones who don't. She was so confused. We parented her through it and now she gets it, but in the moment it was a big deal. What we figured out is this: there are non-Christians even in places that you might expect to be full of Christians (like a Christian school), and you cannot expect non-Christians to behave like Christians. 

But what about those of us who call ourselves believers? What about those of us who say we've chosen to worship God? What does that look like? Here's what I know: worship is about who we are and what we do. It's about our attitudes and actions. It's about recognizing who God is and responding accordingly. When we consider all of these, we gain a more complete perspective of worship and what it means in the life of a believer. Wandering aimlessly through our daily routines without consideration of what it means to belong to Christ doesn't work. Our lives must be lived with intention and purpose. People are watching. People are forming opinions about God and about His Church based on your behavior -- whether you like it or not. Here are three things we need to remember.

1. Worship is about what you love. It's a matter of heart. There is a battle constantly raging for our affection and devotion. We get into trouble when we try to live life from a divided heart. Scripture commands us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. That's it!  We have to love God wholeheartedly, and live our lives motivated by that love. Paul wrote that everything else was worthless - like garbage! - compared to the value of knowing Christ. When we learn to prize Christ - to value, cherish, and treasure Him above all else, our lives will reflect that.  One thing is for sure, though. You cannot worship Him in truth if You do not know Him.

2. Worship is about what you believe. It's a function of the mind. Authentic worship cannot happen apart from right knowledge of God. Can you imagine staring into the face of Jesus and being asked, "Who do you say that I am"?  So, go on. How would you answer that question? You know, the way we answer that question informs what we believe about everything else. It shapes the way we think about life.  And, the things we believe about life and about God, will determine how we live it. Can you see why it's so important that we be able to answer the question of who God is accurately? As we come to know Him we can love Him more deeply. When our knowledge of God is accurate and our love of God is deep, then our worship is accurate (true) and passionate.

3. Worship is about how you live. It's about what you do. And, I'm not talking about just what you do on Sunday mornings! What we do on Sunday mornings in our corporate gatherings should be an extension and overflow of personal, private worship. If Sunday morning is the only time you turn your attention and affection toward the Lord, then you're doing it wrong. What we do, what we say, and how we live must be in alignment with the standard set forth in Scripture. Our actions and our attitudes in our Monday through Saturday lives have to reflect the truth we declare in our gatherings on Sunday mornings. We exist to honor, glorify, and obey Christ. We are instructed in Scripture to be godly examples in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, to strive for personal holiness. It matters what you do. It matters how you handle yourself in every situation. That's what living worship is about. His name and His fame are on the line when you wear the label Christian. It's a big deal.

May I challenge you today? Take a few minutes, in a quiet space and imagine that you're staring in the face of Jesus who's asking you, "Who do you say I am?" Answer Him as honestly as you can.  And then, prayerfully identify things in your life that contradict what you believe about Him, and ask Him to help you change them. Be encouraged sweet friends. The Holy Spirit will do the work for you, if you invite Him.

Let this be your prayer: Teach me your ways, oh Lord, so I can live according to your truth. Grant me an undivided heart so that I can honor You, and let everything I do and everything I say be a true representation of who You are. (Ps. 86:11, Col. 3:17)

He loves you so. Don't settle for nominal Christianity. Just don't. The truth of who God is changes everything. Go all in.