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Archive for January, 2013

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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