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Archive for February, 2013


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(This is part of a series on “Personal Worship” in the Whole Life Worship paradigm that started on 02/18/13)

Yesterday I talked about prayer as a two-way communication between us and God. One of the wonderful privileges of prayer is that we can come to God “just as we are.” The blood of Christ gives us the privilege to enter the throne room of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). However, it is important to also grow in our prayer-communication with God. And the primer used for growing us in prayer is the Psalms.

The Psalms were used to teach Israel how to pray to the LORD. In the 150 Psalms we see just about every type of human situation and context for prayer. It shows us how to praise and to give thanks. It shows us how to offer a petition or a supplication. It shows us how to pour out our hearts. It bears in mind both the holiness of God and the compassion of God. It teaches us to be authentic, but not flippant or too familiar with the Lord.

I believe one of the best ways to pray the Psalms is through the Daily Office (also called the Divine Office or Prayer of the Hours). The Daily Office consists of several prayers (morning, mid-morning, noon, afternoon, evening and night prayers). The Psalms are usually the centerpiece of the prayers in the Daily Office (although other Scriptures may be used). The Daily Office is meant to be done in community (and it is very powerful to pray the Office with others), but I find it helpful in my Personal Worship Time.

There are two sources for the Daily Office: a Protestant version through the Anglican Church (which utilizes the Book of Common Prayer) and a Catholic version. Depending on which tradition you feel most comfortable. The Catholic version does utilize some of the apocryphal books in their readings – albeit rarely – and there is an occasional reference to Mary that some might not feel comfortable with.

The Daily Office helps me to pray the Psalms, which teach me how to pray to God more reverently and confidently. I also find that it is helpful to not have to “think so hard” when I pray. Spontaneous prayer can be tiresome and very effort ladened; as well, it can become very self-focused or self-absorbed. Praying the Office takes that responsibility out of my hands. Like riding on the back end of a “bicycle-built-for-two” I can rely on someone else to drive the bike while I just focus on engagement.

But regardless of whether or not you use the Office as a part of your Personal Worship, it is good to make the Psalms a regular part of our prayer training. Billy Graham once shared with me (and 17,000 other college students at #urbana76 missionary conference) that his Personal Worship involved the reading of 5 Psalms a day (he read through the Psalms and Proverbs once a month). And I think his prayer life was pretty effective!

Are you growing in your prayer life? What has helped you to connect with God in a deeper, more Biblical manner?

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Prayer: Two-Way Conversation

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(This is part of a series on “Personal Worship” in the Whole Life Worship paradigm that started on 02/18/13)

What makes Personal Worship personal is prayer. Prayer is our conversation with God. What I want to focus on today is the fact that any good conversation is two-way. Prayer is not just talking to God; it is talking with God. It involves listening.

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with my spiritual friend, Benjamin. We talked about different relationships; some draining, some empowering. The draining relationships fell into two different conversation types. One is characterized by where the other person does all the talking. They never ask you about yourself; they constantly talk about them. You find it difficult to get in a word edgewise because they don’t give you any space to respond or to change the course of the conversation. The other is characterized by where the other person doesn’t talk at all. The burden of the conversation is totally on me, so that I am constantly trying to think of things to talk about, questions to ask, etc. And they usually only give you one word answers to questions asked – and so the burden on me to come up with another question.

Empowering relationships are those when the conversation is back and forth: talking and listening. There is good engagement and attentiveness. There is synergy and contribution, where the conversation starts spawning new ideas, insights and inspiration.

This describes my conversations with Jesus during Personal Worship (and in Everyday Ordinary; which I’ll cover later).

In my prayers to Jesus, I share my heart to Him. I talk, I speak to Him. Sometimes it is a word of praise or thanks. Sometimes it is a request. Sometimes it is a question. Sometimes it is a frustration. Sometimes it is an idea. But I love that Jesus gives me room to speak to Him.

But I also listen. This was harder to do at the start. It wasn’t until I realized that I was doing most of the talking (and becoming like one of the annoying people who yak about themselves all the time) that I started to pause and give the Lord some space to speak.

I listen to him when I read Scripture (see blog articles on 2/22, 2/23, and 2/24). I pause every time I speak to Him. I pause after every paragraph I write in my journal. I am silent. I am still. I am attentive. Sometimes I wait a long time until I hear His voice (usually an impression in my soul or a word from Scripture that sticks out to me). Sometimes I wait and I don’t hear anything at all. That’s okay – I realize that I also need to learn to just “wait on the Lord.” He doesn’t have to speak if He doesn’t want to or need to.

Is your prayer life a “two-way” conversation?

Do you share your heart to the Lord? If not, why not?

Do you take time to pause and listen for God’s voice? (see blog article on 021913 “Starting with the Sound of Silence”)

As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. (Exodus 33:9)

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(This is part of a series on “Personal Worship” in the Whole Life Worship paradigm that started on 02/18/13)

I mentioned yesterday that I use an approach called “Lectio Divina” when I have my Scripture time in Personal Worship. Lectio Divina (which means “Divine Reading”) was a spiritual discipline developed by St. Benedict in the 5th Century. Its application is varied, depending on the tradition, and I kind of view it (from my warped, Protestant perspective) as more of a principle than an exact methodology. The main thrust behind Lectio Divina is to allow God to speak and guide us during the reading. That is why I use it: it is very much aligned to the concept of Whole Life Worship, especially to how I view Personal Worship time. Lectio Divina keeps the discipline of Scripture reading focused on the relational aspect of Personal Worship.

In Lectio Divina (LD) there are four readings of a short Scripture passage (6-8 verses or a paragraph or short section) that lead into four reflections. Narrative passages (like Gospels, Acts, or OT stories) work best with LD. This is because the narratives are stories that allow for different angles and perspectives that the Holy Spirit uses to speak to our hearts. However, I’ve used LD for non-narrative passages of Scripture and it has been helpful.

1. The first reading is called the “Lectio.” The purpose of this reading is just to expose ourselves to the Word. I find it helpful to read this reading aloud. In the first 15 centuries of the church, most Christians only “heard” the Word of God. Reading aloud and hearing Scripture is a totally different dynamic than visually reading it; especially when it is read with intention and with the emotion associated with the text. After reading it aloud, I just let it sit in my soul for a few moments of silence. Certain words or phrases stick out and I make note of that.

2. The second reading is called the “Meditatio.” As you could guess, this reading is about meditating on certain thoughts; ruminating them in my soul. As I read the passage again (either aloud or visually), I ask the Holy Spirit to move in my soul at the places where I need to focus my attention. The reflection time after this is longer as I ponder the meaning of the text and what the Spirit is leading me to focus on.

3. The third reading is called the “Oratio.” This is the Latin word for “prayer.” In this reading, I ask the Holy Spirit to give me a holy “desire” from this passage. I notice what might be lacking in my life (love, wisdom, courage, faith, hunger for righteousness, etc.) as I read the passage again. My reflection time becomes a prayer, an intercession, a petition – most of the time for my own transformation, but sometimes He will lead me to pray for another person. This is usually a very powerful time as I sense my will is converging with the Father’s will.

4. The fourth reading is called the “Contemplatio.” You can guess that this is where the word, “contemplation” comes from. But most of us might not know that contemplation, in the Christian sense, means “union.” After the fourth reading, the focus of reflection is simply to wait for the presence of or the “word” from the Lord. Being somewhat new to the process of LD, I find that this is mostly a time of waiting for me. Every once in a while there will be a sense of union with Christ (something that is incredibly wonderful!) but more often than not, I will not experience this. I believe I am learning to condition my soul to not look for the “experience” but to get to the place where I simply “belong” to the Lover of my Soul.

Lectio Divina is not for everyone. It is just one way to approach Scripture in Personal Worship. But at this stage of my journey, I find it powerful and transformative. Most of all, it puts the focus on Him as my teacher and instiller of the Word of God in my life.

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(This is part of a series on “Personal Worship” in the Whole Life Worship paradigm that started on 02/18/13)

 As I mentioned in the last blog, the primary focus in Scripture reading is hearing God’s voice and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide me into truth. What helps me to keep that at the forefront is beginning with a time of silence and a short prayer:

Lord, I believe You want to speak to me through Your Word. And I desire and long to hear Your voice. Grant me the grace to be attentive to You and to hear You. Block out the distractions of the world, the enemy and my flesh. Here I am, Your servant is listening.

There are many ways to approach Scripture reading in Personal Worship. Here is my usual discipline in my Personal Worship Scripture time:

1. I work through an entire book of the Bible, but one small bite at a time. I usually read 6-10 verses at a time. But I work through an entire book. It’s important for me to understand the context of Scripture – which is why I read entire books instead of isolated passages. Right now I’m reading the Gospel of Mark. I started before Christmas and I should be done before Easter.

2. I systematically read through the whole of the Bible. I alternate between the Old Testament and the New Testament (I end up reading the New Testament twice). There is a great benefit in reading the whole Bible; it gives such a full perspective of the history of God’s people. After I finish one book, I’ll check it off on the Table of Contents (so I know what I have and haven’t read). The next book I’m going to read through is Isaiah.

3. I read the short passage 4 times, taking a pause for reflection and listening for God’s voice between each reading. Tomorrow I’ll talk about the Lectio Divina (#lectiodivina) approach, which involves a different reflection process on each reading.

4. I’ll underline key phrases or words that the Holy Spirit seems to illuminate in my reading. These become focal points for meditation and prayer. Sometimes those words or phrases correlate to something I am facing in my life. Or perhaps they are something that confuses me (I’ll put a “?” besides that) and I use that opportunity to ask the Spirit to give me clarity.

I’m constantly talking with the Lord as I read saying things like: “I never saw that before, Lord” or “I don’t get it, what does this mean?” or “There’s something behind this You want me to get, isn’t there” or “I love how You responded to that person, Jesus” or “I’m getting nothing out of this – is it me or are you teaching me to be patient?” or “Whaaa?? Should I look this one up in a commentary or Wikipedia (yeah, I do that)?”

By keeping the relational focus as I read Scripture, it keeps it fresh, interactive, and about Jesus. I have rarely had a “dry moment” in the Word, because Jesus the Word of life is always with me. The Word is living, active and sharper than a two-edged sword. I’ve had many times when He pierced my heart during my readings. I’ve also had many experiences where I fall in worship in realization of who He is; how loving and merciful and wise and amazing He is. The Spirit opens the Word of God and my heart at the same time when I allow Him to take the lead in Scripture reading.

How do you approach Scripture reading in your Personal Worship? I invite your comments to share with our blog community.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105)

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(This week’s blogs will focus on the Personal Worship Movement of Whole Life Worship)

One of the great benefits of a Personal Worship approach to solitude is the anticipation and expectation of “hearing the voice” of our Lord, the Great Shepherd and the Lover of our Soul. While the language I use is rather intuitive/feeler oriented, I believe that God desires to speak to us in ways we can comprehend. For some it comes through a sense or an impression. For others it comes as an insight or thought. For others, like John Wesley, it comes through an inner physical manifestation, like the “heart being strangely warmed.” For some it comes by way of words or phrases. For others it comes as a picture or scenario. In any case, God knows how to communicate to us in ways we understand and know that it is Him. Personal Worship simply puts us in a position to hear that “small, still voice.”

It is in the context of hearing God’s voice that I want to begin on the role of Scripture in Personal Worship. Although I believe God speaks powerfully through impressions, thoughts, and visions, His voice is most evident in the Bible. In fact, I view the Bible as the tool that gives the voice of the Holy Spirit “vocabulary” and “content” when He speaks to my soul. Unless I am a student of Scripture, I will never understand – with any precision or discernment – what the Holy Spirit is saying to me.

I also want to add at this time that it is easy for some of us to get into the “intellectual mode” of studying Scripture without having a sense that God will actually speak to me through it. I am not talking about the spiritual temperament of “intellect” as a form of connection with God, but the attitude that studies the Bible as if God wasn’t “in the room.” In a subtle manner, not addressing the probability of encountering God’s voice (which the ancient Hebrews called the Kol Yahweh, “the voice of the LORD”) is a form of arrogance that places our intellectual prowess over the Holy Writ. However, the object of Scripture reading in Personal Worship is not to master the Bible, but allow it to master over us. Like the disciples on Emmaus road, we need the voice of Jesus to make the Scriptures “burn” in our hearts (Luke 24:32).

There are many ways to approach the Bible in Personal Worship, and in the next blog I want to explore some of those ways. At this time, I just want to underscore the importance of having some kind of interaction with Scripture in our times with Jesus. While other spiritual disciplines can “enrich” our time with God, Scripture reading and prayer (which is how we communicate with God) are bedrock essentials.

In closing, I encourage you to reflect on these questions:

1. Is Scripture reading a part of your Personal Worship time? Why or why not?

2. Do you anticipate hearing God’s voice when you read and reflect on Scripture?

3. When was a time where the voice of Jesus opened the Scriptures to you and made your heart “burn”?

 

This is my daily bread, Your very Word spoken to me … And I’m desperate for You

(“Breathe” by Marie Barnett)

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(This week’s blogs will focus on the Personal Worship Movement of Whole Life Worship)

Yesterday I discussed how God uniquely creates each of us, including the unique way He has wired us for connection. Many of us were taught one way to connect with God, not realizing that there might be other ways that are more in line with our spiritual temperament.

Today I want to explore some other factors that will help us to find our most powerful connection with God in Personal Worship.

Time of Day

It is easy to assume that our Personal Worship time should take place at the “crack of dawn.” I usually have my time in the morning, but for many that is not the best time to spend with Jesus. I believe that, if at all possible, we should give the Lord the best time of our day. For some it might be later, like mid-day. I know some Christ-followers who love to use their lunch break as a time to meet with Jesus. They go to their cars, eat their lunch, pray, read Scripture, listen to a worship song – whatever helps them to best connect with God. For others it might be the evening, after dinner or before they go to bed. The thought is that Personal Worship doesn’t have to take place in the morning. It should be at the time of day where you can be most attentive to the Lord.

Setting

My early concept of devotional time was in a closed room at my desk in total silence. And while I prefer being at my desk in a quiet room (I have an ascetic-contemplative temperament), for others that would be considered “spiritual torture”! What is a good environment for you? Some prefer a couch by a window. Others like to be in a rocking chair in the bedroom or out on the patio (I enjoy that, too – weather permitting). For a season, I spent my Personal Worship while walking around the neighborhood (I have some naturalist tendencies, too) – a prayer walk! Some like to use their time in the car while commuting to work or school as their “sanctuary” with Jesus.

Spiritual Disciplines

I was taught that the typical “quiet time” is this balance of prayer, Bible Study and reflection (often journaling). Again, this seems to work well with me but it is definitely not for everyone. And there are more forms of spiritual discipline than those three. (I encourage you to get #SpiritualDisciplinesHandbook by #AdeleCalhoun #IVP #Formatio. She lists dozens of spiritual disciplines/practices (63, to be exact) that strengthen our connection with God) In fact, it is good – if not, necessary – that we expand the scope of spiritual disciplines for our maturity in Christ. Just remember, Personal Worship is not about doing a task but meeting with a person. As #RichardFoster told me, “Spiritual disciplines cannot create the grace of God. They merely put us in a position to receive it.”

I encourage you to explore different times, environments, and spiritual disciplines as you spend glorious time with Christ in Personal Worship.  And even though my spiritual temperament prefers the “classical approach,” it is so good and refreshing to try something new. I often find some amazing “God surprises” waiting for me when I do!

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(note: I wasn’t sure if this got sent this morning. So I’m resending it. I apologize for the confusion)

(This week’s blogs will focus on the Personal Worship Movement of Whole Life Worship)

Psalm 139:13-14 says, “For you created me in my inmost being: you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” This implies God’s custom work in each of our lives. Each of us is unique. No one person is exactly alike another. Each of us manifests the image of God in a way like no other. And because of that, each of us is wired differently in our connection to God.

Why then do we try to connect with God in one way? The idea of quiet time or devotional time, perpetuated by well-meaning Christian pastors and leaders, is this cookie cutter approach: we sit at a desk at an “earlier-than-we-want” time of day with Bible and journal in hand to spend our 30-60 minute exercise in spiritual discipline. And while that suits some people fine, for others it’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Two authors, Gary Thomas (#sacredpathways) and Myra Perrine (#whatsyourgodlanguage, Salt River press), have helped me to understand something that has been on my mind for a long time: that there are many ways to have meaningful connection with Christ. Just as each of us have unique personalities that relate with other people differently, we also have different ways in how we best relate/connect with God. Thomas and Perrine call these “Spiritual Temperaments.” They list nine different categories that people have connected with God (with Personal Worship practices/focus in parentheses):

1. Activist – loves God through confronting evil (times of intercession, spiritual warfare)

2. Ascetic – loves God through solitude and simplicity (fasting, silent environment)

3. Caregiver – loves God through serving others (prayer lists of people in need)

4. Contemplative – loves God through adoration (focusing on intimacy)

5. Enthusiast – loves God through mystery and celebration (worshiping through music)

6. Intellectual – loves God through the mind (extended Bible study)

7. Naturalist – loves God through experiencing the outdoors (prayer walks, having PW in a garden or park)

8. Sensate – loves God through the senses (lighting candles, burning incense)

9. Traditionalist – loves God through ritual and symbol (cross, study hymns, fixed hour prayer)

Do any of these temperaments resonate with your soul? I encourage you to explore ways you can express this temperament in your Personal Worship.  It brings God joy to see you connect with Him the way He wired you.

(note: Among other things, Perrine’s book has a helpful assessment tool to help you discover your spiritual temperaments)

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