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Archive for January, 2013

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Jerry sensed God speaking to him as he listened to the missionary speak of short term missions opportunities to a foreign land. But as he started to fill out the response card, inner voices flooded his mind, “Who do you think you are? They’re looking for mature, experienced Christians; not a spiritual baby like you. Plus, you don’t know anyone and you’re lousy at relationships. Remember the last time you stepped out in ministry – how those people treated you?” And Jerry put down the card and went home.

As whole life worshipers, we want to live for Jesus. Our worship is more than a song; it is the giving of our lives to the Lord. So, we want to do His will, to be obedient to His call. That is a huge part of our worship to Him. But sometimes we get circumvented from doing that. God tells us to step out and we freeze. God tells us to control our tongue and we lash out. God tells us to go left and we veer right. We want our lives to be “Lord, I’ve come to do Your will” (Psalm 40:8). But it ends up looking like Romans 7:15 – “What I want to do, I do not do. And what I hate to do, I end up doing!”

We must remember that there is a realm that is at war with the things of God. There is an enemy out there who is working insidiously and conscientiously to keep you from responding to God in whole life worship. He is powerful, but not greater than God – far from it! We need not fear Satan for the Lord is with us and protects us in every possible way. However, we need to know the enemy’s schemes for they involve our free will (ability to choose and make decisions) and God, in His great love, leaves that area of our lives to us.

One of Satan’s schemes is speaking to our mind. It’s interesting how comedies on TV or movies depict our consciences. On one shoulder is our guardian angel, telling us what the right thing to do. On the other shoulder is the little devil, trying to tempt us to do the wrong thing. I remember Flip Wilson’s character “Geraldine” who always justified her wrong doings by saying, “The devil made me do it!”

While it is not true that the devil makes us do it, he does get into our head – and we should take that very seriously. One of the ways he gets into our head is to replay “stuff” from our past. It seems that whenever God calls us to move ahead (to take some steps of faith, to change our behavior, actions or attitudes), Satan turns on that recording. What’s on that recording? Negative experiences from the past, condemnations, memories of past sins and failures, abuse by others, ungodly vows or promises that you made to yourself, hurts and wounds, fears and struggles, lusts and cravings, lost dreams and broken hopes. You name it and Satan probably has it recorded for playback (on DVD or DVR or YouTube) with your name on it. And right when you are about to follow Jesus – click – there goes another recording, designed to keep you from taking another step forward.

Romans 12:2 (one of our foundation verses for Whole Life Worship) tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” We can overcome the enemy’s scheme to control our lives through those old memories by renewing our mind. In this case, we need to  delete the old recordings.

To delete the old recordings we need to shine the light of Christ on the source: the enemy. My friend, @neilcole, says that if you want to chase cockroaches out of a room, just turn on the light. When I sense that Satan is playing some “old recordings” in my mind, I ask Jesus to take control of my thoughts and to silence the enemy. I’ll usually say it aloud so that the enemy hears my words and knows I mean business (as does Jesus). I have experienced incredible results when I do this.

Sometimes our old recordings are so familiar to us that we need the help of other trusted, mature followers of Jesus. Letty and I have asked brothers and sisters (sometimes professional Christian counselors) to listen to what we are going through – revealing the contents of those old recordings – and asking them for their counsel and prayer. Your small group or accountability partner is a great sounding board to reveal the lies of the enemy. We can aggressively pray for each other and help one another get back on track in following Jesus.

The point is that we need to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) so that we can be free to serve and worship the Lord with our whole lives.

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Some time ago our worship team led the congregation in a very powerful song called “Your Grace Still Amazes Me”. It was one of those songs that stays in your mind long after you sing it. That’s what happened to my wife, Letty. She just couldn’t get the song out of her mind.

On Monday, Letty (a Kindergarten teacher) arrived at her classroom filled with anxiety and apprehension. She had reluctantly (and regretfully) agreed to do a project with her students that would take most of her available time that week to prepare for. She was not looking forward to doing this, but braced herself for the grind anyway.

Before starting into the day, Letty prayed a simple prayer that she always does at the beginning of a school day: “Lord, bless this classroom today with Your grace and power. And let me be a blessing to the students.” Little did she know how God was going to answer that prayer!

As the children marched into the classroom, Letty had some unexpected visitors: three parents. Each of them came up to Letty and said, “Mrs. Lee, I’m here to help you. What do you need done?” She put them to work on the project that she had been dreading. What would have taken her all week to accomplish, they finished in a couple of hours. As Letty thanked them for their help, they replied, “Mrs. Lee, you are such a blessing to our children; this was the least we can do!” And they had absolutely no idea how they were part of a God-led conspiracy.

Letty’s heart was filled joy and awe toward God’s orchestration of these events. And that song that she couldn’t get out of her mind became her personal “magnificat”*: “Your grace still amazes me, Your love is still a mystery. Each day, I fall on my knees because Your grace still amazes me.”

The Lover of her soul “ambushed” her with kisses from heaven! He even provided the perfect song for her to sing back to Him.

Grace invading our everyday ordinary. Blessings poured out through a cell phone call. Holy epiphanies taking place in rush hour traffic. God-led conspiracies in Kindergarten classrooms. These are commonplace occurrences for Whole Life Worshipers. If you worship Jesus with your life, you won’t be so surprised when He shows up.

Let’s look at Letty’s scenario through a different lens, now: “That song I heard at church keeps going through my mind – that’s annoying! It’s like trying not to think about pink elephants. I’ll try to focus on something else.”

“Why did I volunteer for that stupid project? I resent it when people expect me to do more than I can accomplish. Don’t they realize my time is limited?”

“Pray? I don’t have time to pray. I’ve got to get started on that stupid project. I wish I had a job that would give me more time so I can pray.”

“Oh, great! Not only do I have to take care of all these kids, I’ve got these three parents to watch out for; they’re probably spying on me.”

“Help? No, I don’t need help. Do I look like I need help? I’ve got it all under control! (under my breath) It would take me too long to explain it to you anyway.”

“What a rotten day it has been! What a rotten week it’s going to be. I wonder if God even likes me anymore because He’s got me stuck in this dead end job. Four more long days before the weekend and going to church – I love the music at the church, but I hope they are not singing that song again; I still can’t get it out of my head!”

I know those were silly overstatements, but they illustrate how the difference between Whole Life Worship and non-whole life worship is simply a matter of attitude and openness to the reality of Christ in our everyday ordinary lives. Jesus loves you – deeply! Why wouldn’t He want to invade your life with His grace, power and mercy?

God has some wonderful conspiracies laid out to bless your socks off. Kisses from heaven await you. All you need are eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to embrace and faith that anticipates the Presence of the Lover of your Soul in your everyday life.

Perfect submission, all is at rest. I in my Savior am happy and blest.

Watching and waiting, looking above, filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

This is my story, this is my song: praising my Savior all the day long!

 (“Blessed Assurance” by Fannie Crosby)

 * The “Magnificat” is the song Mary sang in Luke 1:46-55 taken from the first verse (“My soul doth magnify the Lord”). This song was Mary’s worshipful response to Elizabeth’s Holy Spirit-inspired comments that confirmed that the unborn child in Mary was indeed the Son of God. I use this word as a way to identify those songs that particularly describe the moments of God’s greatness we personally experience.

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open-hands

There are times, after a worship service, when people will come up to me and say things like: “That was awesome worship” or “Worship was really great today!” Such statements are flattering, but what do they mean? Usually it means a variety of things ranging from: “the music rocked!”, or “you sang my favorite song!” Sometimes people were genuinely touched by God’s presence through music and prayer. But even if it is the latter (more noble) response, I often wonder: Who are we to judge how “awesome” worship is?

In the New Testament Greek, there are two words that are translated as “worship.” One word is proskuneo. This is actually a compound word: pros means to show reverence (where we get the word “prostrate” – the position of ultimate reverence and respect) and kuneo which means “to kiss.” In our worship of God we have a sense of both revering His greatness and drawing near in intimacy. This is the definition of worship that is most familiar to us: we praise, we clap, we lift hands, we sing, we kneel and we stand out of a sense of proskuneo.

The other word for worship is latreuo. This word means “service.” It is the word used in Romans 12:1 where we admonished to worship the Lord by offering our bodies to Him as a living sacrifice. Literally, this means that our worship is the daily giving our lives over to His service. We worship God as we serve Him; we honor His name as we do His will. This is the “forgotten side” of worship. People often leave their worship of God in the building on Sunday morning, but the rest of the week is indulged in the worship of the “self” and other things. For what we serve is what we worship.

King Saul was an expert at proskuneo worship. He could praise, he could dance, he could prophesy. He could even present burnt offerings to God. He had “awesome” worship experiences – God talked to him all the time! But was God pleased with his worship? NO! As good as he was at proskuneo worship, he neglected latreuo worship. The prophet Samuel had to chastise Saul many times: God does not want your sacrifice; He wants your obedience!

In Matthew 21:28-31, Jesus shared a parable about two sons. The father asked each son to do something. The first son said the right thing (proskuneo) but did the wrong thing. The second son said the wrong thing, but ­did the right thing (latreuo). Which son was more highly regarded by the father? The second son.

Now don’t get me wrong. It is good to proskuneo; to give God praise and thanksgiving. It is wonderful to sing to the Lord and to dance in His presence. It truly is exhilarating and right for people to get connected with God in corporate and private proskuneo. But let’s not forget to worship God with our lives, our decisions, our day to day doings and dealings. Don’t forget to latreuo – or our proskuneo will become empty and worthless. (Even as I’m writing this, I’m hearing a commercial for praise and worship CDs on the TV – “awesome worship” for only $29.95!)

You see, we are not in the place to judge whether worship is “awesome” or “lousy”. Only God is in that place. And when the Lord looks upon the lives of His children and sees that they are walking in His Spirit, obeying His commands, expressing His love and compassion to a lost world, and surrendered to living out His will in the daily ordinary experiences of life, is when He will say:

                     “Now, THAT is awesome worship!”

 Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee. Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love. Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

 (Charles Wesley, “Take My Life”)

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Thank-You

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to “give thanks always for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Have you ever wondered what this means? Does this mean that I constantly need to say “thank you” to God?  Is God so insecure that He needs my “thank you” after He does something for me? Granted, we all know that it is nice to be thanked after we do something good or thoughtful, but we don’t need to be thanked; it’s not why we do something nice to others. So, why is giving thanks so important to God that it would be listed as a major aspect of doing His will?

Thanksgiving is important to God because it is important for us. God doesn’t need our thanks anymore than He needs our help or our money or anything else. He is totally self-sufficient. And giving thanks does not help Him be a “better God”. But it does help us become better people. God knows that giving thanks can powerfully impact our lives. Choosing to be thankful transforms our thoughts, our emotions, and, as a result, our actions. In other words, gratitude changes our attitude.

I remember one morning, not too long ago, having a big chip on my shoulder to start the day. I was a grump because I felt small, insignificant and unappreciated. I went to wake up my son. As I opened the door, I saw that his room was a disaster area and I reacted with harsh words. The rest of my family heard me and kept their distance, as if I had a “radioactive waste” sign around my neck! That only added “resentment” and “guilt” to my pity party. I got into my car, filled with “foul spirits”, and knowing that I had a ministry appointment in less than 30 minutes!

I felt so lost and defeated. I cried out to the Lord for help. And immediately, as if on cue, the words of 1 Thess. 5:18 came to mind – “give thanks always for this is God’s will.” It wasn’t easy, because I wasn’t feeling thankful in the least! But I forced myself to blurt out simple prayers of thanksgiving: “thank you for forgiving me”, “thank you for a car that runs”, “thank you for food in the pantry”, “thank you for hot and cold running water.” Whatever came to mind, I thanked God for it. My thanksgiving got deeper as I continued to thank Him aloud. I thanked Him for His ability to change my heart. I thanked Him for my family, and especially my son. I thanked Him for the opportunity I would have to ask for his forgiveness. It was then I realized how much I love my family and how much God had graced us. Before I knew it, my attitude had completely changed. No longer feeling a grump or a chump, I realized that I was among the most blessed man on the face of this earth. I was now ready to be a blessing to others and to God. “Thank you, Jesus, for this taste of abundant life!”

The enemy wants us to live in the dungeon of thankless-ness. This dungeon keeps us from experiencing the abundant Kingdom life Christ has for us. So Satan will throw at us the chains of self-pity, a complaining attitude, “taking things for granted”, and a “what’s-in-it-for-me” mindset. And when we give in to these thoughts, our hearts become hardened and calloused. What’s worse is that instead of living as Children of the Light, we actually start serving as agents of darkness.

But Christ has given us the key out of this dungeon: it is called “Giving Thanks Always.” The question is: are we going to use the key? Or will we wallow in the comfortable attitude of thankless-ness? Giving thanks is not easy; it goes against the grain of our flesh. Sometimes the action of giving thanks must be preceded by a cry for help: “Jesus, help me! Help me give thanks!” But thanksgiving is very powerful. Not only does it remove the “foul spirits” that have attached themselves to us, it allows us to be filled with the Spirit of God. It empowers us to bless others. It opens the eyes of our hearts to see the Goodness and Power of God in the midst of every situation. It lights our fire again and ignites our passion for Christ.

No wonder the Bible tells us to “give thanks … ALL THE TIME!” Gratitude changes our attitude, it transforms our hearts, it catapults us into the largeness of Whole Life Worship.

So many things I’ve taken for granted. Please help me fall in love all over again. Increase my passion, my yearning, my longing for you.

 (“I Bend My Knees Again” by Terry and Randy Butler)

 Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son!

 (“Give Thanks” by Don Moen)

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Rush Hour Worship

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A glimpse at 24/7 worship in action.

It was the most unlikely place and most unlikely time. It was a rushed morning, my electric razor broke in the middle of my shave, I was behind schedule, I got mad at my family, and I was stuck in traffic – in short, I lost all semblance of “spirituality.” And all this on the way to a prayer meeting! It was then God tapped me on my shoulder. “Hey, relax, Doug. I got you all to Myself!” It was not what I wanted to hear! “Doug – Who are you serving anyway?” Ouch! “Have you considered that I may not want you to be at that prayer meeting right now? How about spending some time with Me?”

My experience knows that it’s not wise to fight the voice of God. So I took a deep breath and stuck in a worship CD. And in that moment of “impromptu worship” I experienced something very profound. My car became a sanctuary and I sensed the great presence of God – in rush hour traffic! Although my iPhone calendar said I  needed to be somewhere else at that time, I knew I was right where I needed to be: in the Presence of my True Boss, my Lord, my Redeemer and the Lover of my Soul.

The words of the very familiar praise songs came to life; they had new and deeper meaning: “You are Lord and King, Master of Everything, all of Creation speaks of Your glory, now I shout for joy – Your love has changed my life!”

However, the glory of this time was soon tested. As traffic began to open up, I started thinking, “Oh boy, maybe I can make it to that meeting on time!” But then traffic jammed up again. The tense thoughts and anxious feelings began to re-enter my mind. However, the Spirit helped me as I resolved NOT to give in to this trap. I prayed, “Another delay means … I get to spend more time praising You, Lord Jesus!” I continued on the path of worship, drawing closer to God in bumper to bumper traffic. Although I was late to my prayer meeting, my time with Jesus in the car prepared my soul for a sweet and powerful time of intercession.

In Luke 10:41-42, Jesus told Martha something very profound: “You are worried about many things, but only ONE thing is needed.” He then pointed to her sister, Mary, who was sitting as His feet, present to His every Word. What is ultimately needed is not completing our agenda, our goals, or our tasks in life. The only thing that is needed is being present for Jesus. And as we are present for Jesus, I find that we always end up accomplishing everything else that needs to get done.

Jesus continues to speak to our overly-busy, preoccupied lives: “Slow down and meet with Me!” Next time you hit a delay or a snag in your plans, don’t look around – look up. Turn your gaze to heaven. God is trying to get your attention. Sometimes putting something in your way is the only way He can get through to you!

One of the secrets to 24/7 worship of Jesus is to think “outside of the box.” Rather than thinking that worship can only take place in a church building, one day a week, with contemporary music (or traditional or alternative or gospel…); think about how you can worship the Lord anyplace, anytime with anything. Anyone can worship God on a Sunday morning at 10am with a full-blown worship band and a congregation of fellow participants. But see what happens when you worship Him on a Tuesday coffee break at your workplace by doing a random act of kindness for a co-worker. Or when you worship Him on a Thursday afternoon by praying for the people in front of you at the supermarket check out counter. Or when you worship Him on a Monday morning by singing a simple praise song in the midst of rush hour traffic.

This is the type of worship that totally blesses God’s socks off! In addition, this is the type of worship that will transform your heart and life to see the Kingdom of God in places you’ve never dreamt imaginable.

Turn your gaze to heaven and raise a joyous noise. The sound of salvation come, the sound of rescued ones; and all this for a King, angels join to sing, all for Christ the King.

 

(“O Praise Him” by David Crowder)

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Jesus 24/7?

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In our discussions of worship we’ve learned that worship is more than a song. Worship is more than just what we do once a week in a congregational setting. Yesterday, we discussed the importance of having “Daily Altar Time”; a daily encounter with Jesus through prayer, Bible reading, journaling and other spiritual disciplines. But worship is more than that, too! How much more, you ask? Well, to be quite frank: Jesus wants all of us, all of the time. Jesus wants us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

You might be wondering: how can this be? How can I worship Jesus 24/7? Am I even capable of doing that? Most of visualize this type of worship as something that monks or “sainted” people do, requiring intense effort, postured on your knees with your eyes upward to heaven, and being still for a very long time. In our time-poor culture, the idea of worshiping Jesus 24/7 sounds about as outrageous taking a trip to Jupiter!

Let me share with you that 24/7 worship of the Lord is nothing like what most people think. It is not restricting, but freeing. It is not passive, but active. It is does not require an intense effort; rather, it eases your burdens. You don’t have to rearrange your schedule to do it; in fact, it works best in the midst of whatever you are currently doing. It’s not an “add-on” to life; rather, it effectively takes away negativity in life – stress, anxiety, fear, shame, impatience. Best of all, it is transforming. It transforms your situations, your relationships, and most of all … you! You become a better person when you become a 24/7 worshipper of Jesus.

The key to becoming a 24/7 worshipper is to simply allow Jesus to enter into your everyday activities. As you drive to work/school, allow Jesus to give you grace for the day. As you encounter people, allow Jesus to guide your conversation. As you face a decision, ask Jesus to give you counsel. As you wait in the grocery checkout stand line, allow Jesus to guide you into prayer for the people in front of you. As you eat dinner with your family, ask Jesus how you can build up your family members. As you lay your head on your pillow to sleep, allow Jesus to guide your dreams. As you do this, you will begin to see remarkable things happen. God will open up opportunities for you. You will hear His voice. Your attitudes and perspectives will change. Hearts will soften before your eyes. You will experience the Kingdom of God in power because you are giving King Jesus access into your life.

Jesus wants to do amazing things in and through us. However, we don’t give Him very much opportunity to do so. We often wait until there is a dire emergency before we involve Jesus in the process. I am reminded of the story of the elder board meeting at a dysfunctional church, where things were going really poorly. Finally, one of the elders said, “Maybe we need to ask the Lord to help us.” To which another elder replied, “Has it really gotten that bad?”

We laugh (or cry) when we hear that joke, but how different is that scenario from our own lives? Do we allow Jesus to enter our lives only when there is a crisis? We call Him, “Lord”, but do we give Him access to our everyday, ordinary activities?

One more thought on 24/7 worship: don’t try to give Jesus your whole life at one time. In attempting to give Him everything, we often wind up giving Him nothing. How many times have we stated to God (perhaps in a song or a prayer), “I give you my whole life; I give you everything!” and then, in the very next moment, we do something entirely selfish or ungodly? The truth is this: we are incapable of giving Jesus everything all at once. To think we can do so is delusional.

But we can give Jesus one moment at a time. And that is a key to 24/7 worship. Don’t try to give Jesus all your moments, but try to give Him the next one. The idea is to give Jesus more and more access each day. “24/7” is not a starting place; it is a vision. A vision for your life; a vision that can and will happen as we take “baby steps” in whole life worship.

In the coming weeks I will share some practical examples of how to live out 24/7 worship of Jesus. In the meantime, I encourage you to step out and give Jesus permission to come into the moments of your life (and I invite you to share with me your experiences in your pursuit of 24/7 worship). It will open your heart and eyes to a fresh, new reality – the Kingdom of God.

 Every hour, every moment; Lord, I want to be Your servant. I desire to be a blessing in Your eyes.

 

(“Psalm 19” by Terry Butler)

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altar and candles

In the Old Testament times, the great saints marked their encounters with God by constructing an altar to Him. Abraham did this several times, as did Isaac and Jacob. Moses built God a tabernacle and David desired to build God a temple. These structures’ sole role was to be a place where the Presence of God intersected with the presence of people.

In the New Testament, Paul writes that because of Christ, our bodies are now a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) and our hearts are the Holy of Holies – the place where the presence of Christ dwells (Eph. 3:17). So the expression that a church building is “God’s house” is a misnomer: God doesn’t live in a building, but He does choose to dwell in the hearts of men and women who have been redeemed by Christ our Savior.

This is a great truth. However, it is a truth that is ignored by and large by most Christians today. We  live in a day and age where the presence of God resides in our own being, yet we are hard pressed to find the time to meet Him there.  We would rather seek Him in a church service or a Bible Study (which are not bad), but we forget the most profound place where we can find Him; the “Temple” that He paid for with His very life so that we can encounter Him anytime, all the time – the altar of our hearts

You might ask: how do I meet God in the altar of my heart? Jesus answers this question in Matthew 6:6

When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Jesus models this in Mark 1:35

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

The way we meet God in the altar of our hearts is to find a quiet place where we can spend time alone with Him. I call this “Personal Worship Time.”

During my Personal Worship Time, I spend about an hour or so in prayer, Bible reading and journaling … all by myself with God. Now some of you might be thinking: isn’t that a “devotional” or “quiet time”? My answer is “it depends.” It depends on whether one’s focus is on being with Jesus or on accomplishing a task. One can read the Bible, journal and even pray but not be focused on the Lord at all. Many Christians view their devotional time as something to check off their “to do” list.

A Personal Worship Time is when praying is really talking with God, not just mumbling off a bunch of prayer requests. Personal Worship Time is when Bible reading is intent on listening to God’s voice, not  an intellectual analysis of Scripture construct or digging up some profound theological ideas. Personal Worship Time is when journaling is the seeking of God’s will in the midst of my experiences, readings and encounters, not just a recantation of yesterday’s activities.

Personal Worship Time is where I really, tangibly offer up my body as a living sacrifice to the Lord. I find that I have to offer myself at least daily to God, because it is amazingly easy for “living sacrifices” to crawl off the altar!

Personal Worship Time is transforming because it plugs me back into the flow of God’s will. I find that the days where I spend Personal Worship Time with God are much more powerful and fruitful than those days when I neglect this time. If you find that your life is listless, purposeless and fruitless, it is probably because you have not spent time alone with God with any kind of regularity.

Every follower of Christ needs to have Personal Worship Time, just as every human being needs to eat, drink and sleep each day. You can go without those things for a little while, but pretty soon you will get sick and eventually, die. In the same way, neglecting our Personal Worship Time with God literally takes away spiritual life from our souls.

I encourage you to set apart 30 minutes to an hour each day to spend alone with Jesus. You will soon see that this is the best 30-60 minutes you can invest in. However, expect your commitment to this to be challenged by the fury of hell. The last thing Satan wants you to do is to spend time with Jesus. So be firm in your resolve. Have a friend hold you accountable and pray for your Personal Worship Time. Ask God to protect your time with Him from distractions and interruptions. Your whole life worship begins by regularly spending time in the Holy of Holies of your heart.

This is the air I breathe: Your holy presence living in me. This is my daily bread: Your very word spoken to me. And I’m desperate for You, I’m lost without You.

 

(“Breathe” by Marie Barnett)

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caterpillar-to-butterfly-2In recent years we have seen a number of reality TV shows that demonstrate outward change: “Extreme Makeover”, “Ugly Duckling”, “Loser” to name a few. On these shows, we see a radical change in people and places: a house gets remodeled, a face gets rearranged, a body loses excess poundage. But have you noticed that all these changes are on the surface? Nothing this world offers can truly change a person from the inside out.

The second part of Paul’s radical redefinition of worship in Romans 12 can be found in verse 2:

Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern God’s holy, acceptable and perfect will.

In the last blog I mentioned that worship is more than a song or a service, it is the offering of our whole lives to God, 24/7. That is the worship that God deserves; that is the worship God expects. But did you know that as we offer ourselves to God that something truly amazing happens: we get transformed! And not just a facelift or a makeover, we get transformed from the inside out. How does this work?

As we offer our whole selves to God in worship, we are, in a sense, surrendering our all to Jesus. This allows Him to do His good work in us. This good work began when we first asked Jesus to be Christ (King) of our lives. But it is not a work that is complete at our conversion; it is an ongoing work that God does throughout our lives. And He will complete it (Phil. 1:6), but only as we surrender ourselves to Him in worship. The end result is that we will become like Jesus (1 John 3:2) in our character, mindset and (to a certain extent) ability (Jesus did say anyone who believes in him will be able to do the things that he does; even greater things – John 14:12).

God commands us: “Be holy as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). There are two ways people try to do this. The most popular way is to try to act like God: they do good works, participate in spiritual disciplines, and keep themselves morally clean – to the best of their ability. The Pharisees approached holiness in this manner. But this fails to truly accomplish anything. What results is either spiritual failure (they can’t keep it up) or spiritual pride (which is actually a form of hypocrisy – you act changed when you really aren’t). None of this is true godliness or holiness.

The other approach is “Whole Life Worship”, which starts by offering ourselves to God (as we discussed in the previous blog). It is saying to Jesus: “Here I am. I give myself to You. I can’t change me, but I know You can. Take what I have and what I am and make something wonderful out of my life.”

But too many people leave it there. As a result, they do not see their lives changing a bit. Offering ourselves to God is more than lip-service; it requires acts of faith. Paul says there are two acts of faith that lead to transformation. The first is: not conforming to the world’s mold.

Again, this does not mean we try to do this on our own power. First, we don’t have the power in ourselves to overcome the world’s influence. And second, even if we could accomplish this in our own power, God would not be worshiped – we would end up taking the glory! No. “Not conforming to the world’s pattern” requires a step of faith. It is believing that Jesus has the power to do something in and through us that we could not do ourselves. So much so, that we learn to “let go and let God.”

Let me share a personal illustration of how this works. Years ago I struggled with a powerful addictive behavior. I was totally enslaved by it. I knew it was wrong; I knew it wasn’t pleasing to God and I tried everything in my power to overcome it. But I couldn’t. I was so dismayed that I came to Jesus and said, “I can’t do it, Lord. I need Your help – bad!” To which the soft, still voice of Christ said to me, “I will help you. I will give you the power to overcome this. Here’s what I want you to do: step out in faith and live this next hour free from sin. If you feel weak, then cry out to me and I will give you the power to live the next hour free from sin. You will not see freedom unless you step out in faith and look to me as Your source of power.” And friends, I have to tell you: Jesus gave me victory that day, and the next and the next. Days became weeks and weeks became years. Though I must be on my guard against this “conformity to the world”, I am no longer a slave to it. Jesus gave me victory and transformation through the process of Whole Life Worship.

Successful recovering alcoholics and other addicts have a saying: “I can’t, Jesus can, and I’m going to let Him!” Do you also notice that they are also the most enthusiastic worshipers of Jesus? They understand the process of true transformation; they practice whole life worship on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

We all have our struggles with conformity to the world. It may not be an alcohol or drug addiction. It may be something worse, like arrogance or anger or impatience or controlling others or striving for physical beauty or materialism or self-centeredness (I say “worse” because these are hard things to detect). You could be addicted to sports or your job or the TV or fitness or cleaning. Maybe you know what it is. Or maybe you don’t and need to ask the Lord what it is (and He will tell you, believe you me!) But in any case Jesus wants you to be free and God wants you to become holy (they are the same thing). It begins with Whole Life Worship. Offer yourselves to Him, today.

“Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee” – Charles Wesley

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I love that song “Heart of Worship.” It really speaks to the crucial issue of what worship is all about. In this day and age of “consumer oriented music” our churches have been caught up with consumer oriented worship. Matt Redman’s song is a reminder that worship is:

  1. All about Jesus, not about us; and
  2. It’s more than just singing a song

I think folks are getting the first part down; and that’s awesome! Worship is not what I get out of it; it’s what I put into it – it’s giving to God. It is wonderful when people realize that worship is not about hearing their favorite song, in their style, to their liking – but about giving Jesus Christ the praise that is due His name. That is the beginning of true communion with God.

The second part, though, is what I want to focus on. We know that worship is more than just singing songs to Jesus, but how much more? Worship is more than just my music, but how much more? Worship is more than just the hour a week I spend with my church family, but how much more?

The Apostle Paul gives us the answer to the “how much more” question in Romans 12:1. He writes:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.

How much more? Our whole bodies – meaning: our whole lives. When we do this, it is holy and pleasing to God.  If you were to ask God how He wants you to worship Him, He would say: “Give Me your whole life; that is your spiritual act of worship.”

I call this “Whole Life Worship.” It’s the worship God wants from us. It’s also the worship God deserves from us. Anything less would be inappropriate and irrelevant. After all, did God only give a part of Himself to us? Did God only give us a song to live on? Did God only give us one day a week to provide for our needs? Did God only give us lip service to save us? No, He gave His all for us. Jesus offered His body as a living (and dying) sacrifice in order to save us from sin, death and the pit of hell.

In the days and weeks to come, I want us to take a closer look at “Whole Life Worship”; what it means, how to do it, and what happens when we do it. Whole Life Worship opens the door to God’s Kingdom – the truly abundant life. Whole Life Worship changes us – it transforms and renews us. Whole Life Worship is what attracts others to Christ – they see how a truly God-centered life is the only way to live.

Let me end with this silly thought: there are two parties involved in producing a ham omelet – the chicken and the pig. The chicken contributed, but the pig was committed. (Get it?) But in a strange sort of way, this also describes the dynamics of worship. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. Whole Life Worship calls us to go beyond seeing worship as a contribution for God, and more as a commitment to Him. It is so much more than just a song.

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The Attitude of Wonderment

Last week the winds cleared away the smog and clouds from the sky. As I looked to the mountains, my breath was literally taken away. Although I have looked at these mountains many times, I never really saw what now was obvious to me: the clear definitions of the canyons, ridges, and vegetation. The green of the highlands had magnificent hues and shades. As you looked up, the green melted into the purple of the rock, which vanished into the white of the snow cap. I paused and gave thanks to the Creator for the glory of such a sight that gave me a sense of “wonder.”

I’ve been stopping myself more often to gaze at the mountains or a flower or a small child or the bustle of a busy restaurant because there is a lot of “wonder” to be found. I was saddened to think how I go through life so fast and furious that I miss the many wonder-full things that happen constantly around me.

At the center of worship is a sense of “wonder.” Wonder is what makes worship of God fabulous, deep, rich. Without a sense of “wonder”, worship becomes a chore, an obligation, something to check off your “to-do” list. Without “wonder”, worship deteriorates into “religion” (ugh!) Unfortunately, our churches are filled with “wonder-less worship” and “wonder-less” worshipers. Perhaps you can relate.

Everyone knows what “wonder” is. God brings it into everyone’s life at one time or another. The other evening I had our worship team share a time in their lives when they were filled with wonder. They had no difficulty in recalling such times: the birth of a child, the sense of the Spirit-leading, a mountain-top experience at camp. These are times of great clarity; we see things as they should be – and we are in awe. Unfortunately, these times are far and few between. We wonder (no pun intended) why God doesn’t zap us with more of these experiences.

I believe that God is wonderful all the time! The reason why we don’t “see” it is because we don’t seek it. Sometimes God has to literally hit us over the head with an epiphany or revelation (usually accompanied by some traumatic event – positive or negative) before we experience the “wonder.”
It’s amazing what lengths God goes through in order for His wonder-fullness to break through our hard hearts and distracted minds!

Remember, Jacob in Genesis? He had to run for his life (fleeing from his brother Esau) before God had his undivided attention in the wilderness. It was there that the Lord gave him the vision of the “Stairway to Heaven”. Finally, Jacob was in awe and worshiped: “Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place … and I never knew it!” (Genesis 28:16).

God’s presence was there all the time, it’s just that Jacob wasn’t aware of it until God had his attention. The lesson for us is that Instead of waiting for wonder to come us, God wants us to find it. I call this the discipline of “wonder-ment”. It is the attitude and mindset of discovering the wonder of God throughout our day and our experiences. God is there, the question is: are we looking for Him?

This discipline begins with two things that totally go against the grain of our busy culture: slowing and pausing. You’ve heard the expression: Slow down and smell the roses? That is the first step to wonder-ment. Slow down and look at the mountains. Stop at a park and breathe some fresh air. Pause at a busy mall and look at the people. Then, turn your attention to God: give Him praise for the scene of glory, lift up intercession for the lonely, busy people you see, laugh with Him as you watch children at play.

As you do this, don’t be surprised if God transports you into a sense of “wonder-ness”! Wonder is a not only huge portal for worship; it is an enormous portal for life itself. It elevates us past the mundane into the holy. But it begins by seeing the holy in the mundane.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie “Hook” is when one of the smallest of the Lost Boys (in Neverland) uses his hands to contort the face of Peter Bannister (who was once Peter Pan, but forgot who he was and ended up as a … corporate lawyer). After manipulating Bannister’s face to different expressions, the Boy lands on one and exclaims: “There you are, Peter. I knew you were in there!” And that was the beginning of Peter’s return to being who he really was, the Pan.

When we slow down and pause in the discipline of wonder-ment, we start to see the face of Jesus in everything. That is the beginning of wonder-filled worship, and the return of ourselves to who we really are: beloved children of the Most Wonderful God.

Indescribable, uncontainable! You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing, God!
Incomparable, unchangeable! You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same.
You are amazing, God!

(“Indescribable” by Laura Story)
mountain

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