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Archive for February, 2013

I’m not sure if this went out or not. So sorry if this is a duplication.

wholelifeworship

wired-for-connection_t_nt

(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…

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wired-for-connection_t_nt

(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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Being Present to Jesus

A_Cross_of_Candle_Light

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

In Personal Worship it is so easy to just jump right into the spiritual discipline. We are so accustomed to “doing” that it is hard for us just to “be” – which is where we need to be when we meet with Jesus. There are so many things that fill our hearts and minds – things we need to do, people we need to see, thoughts of past, present and future, worries and fears. The one thing we need to do is STOP and release these things so that we can do the One thing that is needful – that is to sit at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:42).

Here is a routine that helps me to be fully present to the Lord as I begin my Personal Worship time:

1. Light a candle. This is not for ambience. The lit candle represents the very real Presence of the Holy Spirit (I got this from Ruth Haley Barton @transformingcnt #invitationtosolidtudeandsilence). Every time I look at it, I am reminded that He is with me.

2. Begin with a time of silence and stillness. I get myself in a position that is comfortable, but not lazy. I want to be attentive and alert. Once I am in that position, I close my eyes and try to remain as still as possible.

3. Take deep breaths. As I inhale and exhale deeply, the noise in my head begins to leak out and I begin to hear things I never noticed before. I hear the sounds of my environment (cars driving down the street, the movement of the second hand of my wall clock, the singing of the birds outside my house). Then I hear the sounds of my body (my breathing and the faint pounding of my pulse). Ultimately, I am positioning my soul to hear the small, still voice of God (1 Kings 19:12).

All of this takes about 2-3 minutes, but they are the most important moments of my Personal Worship. That moment sets the posture and priority of attending to God and our precious time together. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” This infers that knowing the presence of God demands that we still our souls before Him.

This is the air I breathe: Your holy Presence living in me … and I’m desperate for You

(#breathe #mariebarnett)

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Jesus_Lamb_sketch-248x300

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

I was in college when I started having a regular devotional time. I was excited to introduce this spiritual discipline in my life and, for the first few weeks, I was pretty consistent. But then it got increasingly difficult to maintain this time. I found it hard to stay awake while I read my Bible. My prayer time felt like I was just going through the motions. And on top of that there were things clamoring for my attention: from studying for tests and working on projects, to reading the newspaper and taking out the trash.

Then I read a little booklet that changed my perspective forever: My Heart, Christ’s Home by Robert Munger (#IVP) #myheartchristshome. Written from a metaphorical perspective of Jesus making his home in a new believer’s heart, one of the sections dealt with the devotional time which Munger called “The Living Room.” In the Living Room Christ spent one on one time with the believer. The line that got me was when Jesus told the believer (something to the effect of), “You’ve been thinking that this time is for you. That’s fine, but don’t you realize that I want to spend time with you? I redeemed your life at a great cost and I love you. Don’t miss this time, if only for My sake.”

Reading those words cut directly to my heart! I never thought that spending time with me was something that Christ wanted, something that He desired. I felt convicted, but at the same time affirmed. Jesus wants to spend time with me! It made me look at all that I do during my devotional time with different meaning and purpose. I wanted to hear His voice. I wanted to understand His heart. I longed for the intimacy and empowerment that such thinking implied. After awhile (as I understood the concept of Biblical worship), I no longer call that my quiet time or devotional time, but my Personal Worship time with Jesus.

Over the past 37 years that have transpired since that moment, I have drawn such great strength, profound insight, and deep encouragement from meeting personally with Jesus. Of course, there have been times when I lose sight of the relationship and drift back into the task mindset. As well, there have been times when Jesus wants me to learn how to wait on Him. And sometimes my sin and laziness still gets in the way. But He always draws me back to Him, because – you know – He really does want to spend time with me!

Did you know Jesus wants to spend time with you? That He desires your presence and company? That He longs to impart His heart to you? And that He wants to hear what’s on your heart (even though He already knows – He loves to hear you express it)?

He is jealous for me. His love is a hurricane; I am a tree bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy (#howheloves #johnmarkmcmillan)

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Worship in the Congregation

PackedStJoeChurch

The fourth and last movement of a symphony is usually called the Finale. It is usually the most exciting movement because it is the culmination of the opus; a closure of the composer’s singular intention, developed over the first three diverse movements, containing numerous themes and motifs. The Whole Life Worship paradigm operates in the same way: The fourth movement, Worship in the Congregation, culminates the weeklong journey of receiving from and responding to God in the contexts of solitude, marketplace, and spiritual friendship. Here, the Whole Life Worshiper joins other worshipers in the corporate expression of praise and thanksgiving to God. There is something wonderful, powerful and dynamic when God’s people gather together to praise their God for who He is and what He has done.

Almost all Christians engage in weekly congregational worship (although an alarming and increasing number of Christians do not attend a local church on a regular basis – another topic we’ll hit at a later date). What makes the Whole Life Worship paradigm different than how many Christians view congregational worship is that Worship in the Congregation is seen as the culminating movement of worshiping God. For many, the congregational gathering is their first (and perhaps only) movement of worship. As a result, the worship service is seen as the spiritual “vitamin” that one takes to help them cope with their week of non-church and non-worship. This wrongly places the onus on the worship service itself to provide what Christian consumers want for their spiritual pill: inspiring songs (in the style of their preference and at the right volume level), motivating sermons, state-of-the art videos, award winning choirs or musical soloists, ambience in lighting and staging. And many churches are happy to oblige their customers.

Even traditional and liturgical churches struggle with the “consumer-orientation” of Christian congregants. In spite of the noble effort of Matt Redman who wrote that worship is not about us but about Jesus (“The Heart of Worship”), churches and church goers find themselves in the “rat race” of trying to have their “worship experience” expectations met. It becomes all about us, and little to do with Jesus.

However, if Christians had a Whole Life Worship mentality, I believe things would be different. Whole Life Worship says, “Instead of improving the worship service, why not improve the worshiper?” When a person encounters God throughout the week (in personal worship, in the everyday ordinary, and in spiritual friendship), they come to the congregational gathering ready to “give” to God, instead of hungry to “get” something out of the service. Congregational worship would not be the “bread and butter” of their worship, but the “frosting on the cake.” It is an opportunity for overflow, where the life of God oozes out of one life and into another.

I’ve taught Whole Life Worship to several people at my church and their attitude toward congregational worship is markedly different than others. They come with hearts full of praise and thanksgiving to God. They engage with the songs as opportunities to honor the God who has revealed Himself throughout their week (even if they don’t care for the song!) They seem to be more full of joy and exuberance in their worship. They listen to the message with a sense of expectation because they know God will speak to them, as He did on the weekdays. They are more alert and sensitive to the needs of people around them; often ministering to others who are downtrodden or discouraged. The reason for the difference is that they come to Congregational worship already “full” of Jesus, the love of the Father, and the empowerment of the Spirit.

Can you imagine what a worship service filled with Whole Life Worshipers could be like? Where God could actually receive the praise that is due His name? Where peoples’ hearts would so be in tune with Christ’s heart that the response to mission, outreach, compassion, and evangelism would be a “no-brainer”? Where people would be so in tune with each other and so filled with the love of God that there would be no need among them? Where the personal transformation of individuals and corporate transformation of the church would be so remarkable that the world around them would say, “What is up with these guys?”

I dream about it all the time. Maybe you’re dreaming the same thing. It can happen. As I read in Acts, it has happened before. And as I read in Revelation, it will happen again; in fact, it is the destiny of the Church of Jesus Christ. But I don’t want to wait until “Kingdom come” to start worshiping God the way He wants me to worship – with my whole life. We can start today, right now. How about it?

I’m coming back to the heart of worship and it’s all about you, Jesus. I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it, when it’s all about you, Jesus. (Matt Redman, “The Heart of Worship”)

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Spiritual Friendship

folk

(This week I am blogging on the Whole Life Worship Paradigm and breaking it down to its essential components)

The third movement in a symphony is usually a dance (minuet, waltz, scherzo, trio). In the Whole Life Worship paradigm, the third movement is also a “dance” – it is where we leverage the power of small community into the act of offering ourselves to God for transformation together. It is here where we bring the themes and motifs of our previous movements of Personal Worship and Everyday Ordinary into the safe company of like-minded Whole Life Worshipers, where we can encourage, pray and strengthen each other in our common journey of worship. I call this movement, “Spiritual Friendship.” It can be a partner or a small group (Jesus used the phrase “two or more gathered in my name”). It is a “friendship” in that it needs to be a safe place of honesty, openness and trust. It is “spiritual” in the intention of meeting is to move forward in the spiritual integration of worship into our daily lives.

We live in an exciting day and age where partnership and small communities are common in most churches. There are small groups, care groups, Bible study groups, discipleship groups, recovery groups, and fellowship groups. There are prayer partners, accountability partners, mentoring partners and coaching partnerships. Whole Life Worship spiritual friendships operate in the same way: it is where two or more (usually not more than 8-10) people gather together on a regular basis to share Whole Life Worship experiences and pray for each other.

Any small group or partnership can become a Whole Life Worship Spiritual Friendship. Only two things are needed. The first is a basic understanding of the Whole Life Worship paradigm. Members need to understand that Biblical worship is the offering of ourselves to God in response to His mercies, and that one of the main outcomes of worship is transformation (Romans 12:1-2). As well as there needs to be an understanding of how to approach devotionals/quiet time as Personal Worship with God (see blog entry on 2/12/13) and how to view life through the Worship in the Everyday Ordinary (see blog entry on 2/13/13). The second needed component is a sufficient amount of time to interact with each other about their Whole Life Worship experiences and to pray for one another. It is important to keep the sharing of Whole Life Worship experiences as the priority activity of the group. It is through the discussion of how God is at work in our personal lives that brings greater encouragement and inspiration to the group’s collective worship.

I have spiritual friendships with two men who are very committed to Whole Life Worship. I meet with them every other week (so I have a Spiritual Friendship meeting every week). We spend most of the time sharing about our lives; how we see God working, what we’ve been experiencing in Personal Worship, insights into the Everyday Ordinary, things that we’ve been wrestling with, frustrations and struggles, joys and victories, family, work, ministry – just about anything that has to do with Jesus and us. And then we pray for each other, asking for God to empower us and to reveal His greatness to us as we seek to live for Him. I have to say that these spiritual friendships have been one of the main catalysts for experiencing God’s transformation of my life and character over the years.

Several years back, my spiritual friendships were my “house church” (I was a church planter of house churches from 1998-2006). We intentionally made our house church a Whole Life Worship Community. During our gatherings, we listened and looked for God’s “fingerprints and handprints” in each others’ lives as our members share their Whole Life Worship experiences together. It is amazing how what was shared encouraged the group members to new ways of seeing God at work in their everyday life. There were also countless times when the group could see God at work in places where the “sharer” could not. Every time it gave us more reason to praise and worship God for the myriad of ways we saw the Divine work in, through, and around our lives.

Whole Life Spiritual Friendship is a powerful dance that utilizes the experiences and prayers of “two or more” for greater worship of God and transformational growth. It takes Whole Life Worship out of the realm of the private and into the realm of the community where the presence of Christ is manifested more fully. For as we dance this Whole Life Movement together, the reverberations extend far beyond us and into our world.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand. And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love (“They’ll Know We Are Christians” – Peter Scholtes)

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A busy street in Sydney, Australia

Many Christians find it difficult to integrate their spirituality into daily life. Exercising spirituality in the interior world of Personal Worship Time is safe and comfortable. It is relatively easy to worship the Lord in the protective confines of solitude. However, it amazes me how quickly meaningful spiritual focus is lost once I encounter the “real world” of freeway traffic, overbearing bosses, dysfunctional family members, economic stresses, project deadlines, and rude people. It is hard to maintain attitudes of humility and surrender in the “dog-eat-dog” mentality that pervades our workplaces, schools, and marketplaces. It is difficult to sense the love and peace of Christ when the daily circumstances we face are filled with spite, uncertainty, or tension. Even in the positive environments that some are fortunate enough to enjoy, the day to day routine and grind can lull us far away from the thoughts of God and the fact that we belong to him.

The authentic integration of Christian spirituality into everyday life is one of the main issues the Whole Life Worship paradigm addresses. We bring the “stuff of life” into our spirituality in the movement of Whole Life Worship I call the Everyday Ordinary. I want to make clear that the Everyday Ordinary is not about “singing songs to Jesus throughout the day” or “praising my Savior all the day long,” although music and an attitude of praise can contribute to this way of worship. Nor is it a “hermit mentality” where people try to disengage themselves from the world (physically or psychologically) in order to maintain connection with God. Nor is it a discipleship model that tries to exercise Christian standards and practices through will power alone.

Worship in the Everyday Ordinary integrates Romans 12:1-2, into daily life, whereby typical “everyday, ordinary” daily decisions, interactions, and events become acts of worship consciously surrendered to God. Worship in the Everyday Ordinary proactively invites the Holy Spirit’s power and wisdom into these life events to transform both the worshipers and the situations they face. This is where the “rubber” of faith meets the “road” of life. It brings the motivational power of worship into our discipleship, and our following of Jesus into actual daily life experiences.

There are three main ways we enter into Everyday Ordinary worship of God. One way is through practicing the presence of God in our daily tasks. This is a mindset (which comes from Brother Lawrence, a monk who lived 500 years ago) where we look at everything we do to the glory of God – whether that be filing paper work, attending school, driving our cars (ouch!), buying groceries, supervising people, or watching our kids play soccer. Every act is an act of worship. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

A second way of entering into this movement is making proactive connections with God throughout the day. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.” While this is a daunting expectation, it serves as a vision statement for how we can connect with God. We can connect with God more frequently – especially if we plan on it. One method I’ve used is to set my watch on “chime” mode. Every hour, my watch would beep, reminding me to make a conscious connection with God – even if it was just a one sentence breath prayer like “Thank you, Lord, for being with me now.” A new way I proactively connect with God is praying the daily office at various times of the day. Or you can put a penny in your shoe and every time you feel it, lift up a prayer to God.

Finally, a third pathway is to invite God into an everyday ordinary moment and watch Him transform it into a holy moment. This is called the Sacrament of the present moment (from Jean-Pierre DeCassaude). This is particularly effective when you face a trial or obstacle in your daily life. When I’ve faced unpleasant tasks that are hard, I’ve found that when I invite the Lord into those moments that the task becomes easier and actually fun. He does make our yoke easy and our burden light – if we let him. Sometimes a really bad scenario becomes redemptive and amazing because we invite Jesus into it. We see the power of God in our circumstances because we are giving Him the space and the opportunity to do it. But more importantly, worship in the everyday ordinary transforms me. Those one second moments to pause in prayer and surrender often make the difference on whether I am following Christ or the world’s mold.

While it is possible to experience transformation in corporate worship and in personal worship, many of our significant transformational moments can only happen in the crucible of our everyday, ordinary lives. It is within the context of home, work, school, relationships, marketplace, leisure, and transit that we find the raw material for becoming Christ-like. Sometimes God miraculously works quickly; at other times, more slowly. The common denominator is a will wholly submitted to God. The attitude of Whole Life Worship (offering our lives to God as living sacrifices) within the events of the everyday ordinary, invites the presence of God to transform powerfully, both ourselves and our situations. This leads to more authentic worship of God, for we celebrate and praise God when we experience the Divine at work in and through our everyday lives. Worship in the everyday ordinary simply makes these transforming moments more available and possible.

Father, may everything we do begin with your inspiration and continue with your saving help. Let our work always find its origin in you and through you reach completion. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (taken from the “Divine Office – Morning Prayer for Feb 11, 2013”)

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