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Archive for April, 2013

 

to-do

Some of you have responded to my request to share your Whole Life Worship experiences with our blog community. Thanks! This one comes from Lynne:

This past weekend I had way too much responsibility on my plate.  They were all good things to do for other people. The only problem was that they all needed to be completed at the same time!  But, I took it in stride and made a “to-do list” where I prioritized each task in order of their importance.  However, as it turned out, item #1 took much longer than I expected.

I was in charge of bringing a centerpiece to an event. It sounded simple enough. “I’m kind of a creative person,” I thought to myself. “I could make it myself!” But after many attempts (searching on the internet, making several trips to the store, even asking my husband for some help) nothing worked.  I was frustrated, out of time, and nothing else on my list had been accomplished.  I felt the tension deep in my shoulder muscles and the pain of a headache had come to visit.

 It was then I realized that I had a choice to honor God with a genuine heart or not.  So, I sat down on the couch and refused to do another thing until I was able to reconnect with God intimately and turn this issue over to him.  This was difficult, knowing that I was running out of time and not knowing if or how God would respond.

But God is so good. As I waited for him, he grabbed my heart and pulled me close to him. Then he told me, “Let go of the list!” So I turned my hands over and the to-do list fell to the floor. Immediately, my shoulders relaxed and my headache went away. Then my husband said that it would be ok with him if I bought some flowers instead.

After that, God took every single other item on the list and graciously weaved them into the events of the day – totally unplanned by me! They were all accomplished within a couple of hours! 

This was one success story, but there are about 50+ years of failure stories behind it. I’ve had to learn the hard way that trying to do all the good things that I think would please God is not the same as doing what God wants me to do. In these situations, I need to stop what I’m doing, seek a close connection to God, and listen for his voice. As I hear his voice, I can then take his appropriate action, knowing that I am worshiping him, one step at a time, with a life that is pleasing to him.

Whole Life Worship is more than giving God “lip-service.” It is the actual surrender of our lives so that we walk in step with what God wants – even when we think have a good plan!

Thanks so much, Lynne! What a great encouragement and reminder!

How about the rest of you? Got a good Whole Life Worship story to share? Email me at wholelifeworship@gmail.com

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foodforyoursoul

Last week I mentioned that one part of being spiritually nourished is a steady of diet of God’s Word. Reading, reflecting and interacting with Scripture is how we begin to understand how God works in this world and in our lives. But merely reading Scripture is not enough; in fact, it is dangerous. Head knowledge without heart practice lead to spiritually proud people. Jesus warns about this in Matthew 7:26-27 where He says:

“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

So a steady diet of Scripture needs to be accompanied with a steady diet of obedience. Jesus put it this way in John 4:34:

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.”

The only way we can be satisfied with life is to seek to do God’s will. Too often we try to do God’s will AFTER we have done our will. We squeeze the “spiritual stuff” after we’ve accomplished “our stuff.” What we will find is that when we make God’s will a second priority, we will NEVER have time to do it. The devil is perfectly delighted to keep us preoccupied with our own will and agenda because he knows it will keep us from God’s will.

When we seek our will first, we also find that our lives become very, very empty. I am reminded of the too many times when I insisted on doing my own thing instead of seeking God’s will first. I never felt satisfied when I did my own thing; I usually felt that I wasted my time.

How do we accomplish God’s will? Here are some practical steps:

1. Offer yourself daily to God (Romans 12:1-2). It sounds incredibly simplistic, but the simple offering of ourselves to God each day can make a big difference in how our days go. Before you start your morning routine, take a few minutes and turn the controls of your life over to the Lord. You can say something like this: “Lord, I give myself to You today. I make myself available to be used by You , to learn from You and to grow in You. Open my eyes today to see what You want me to do.”

2. When you read Scripture, ask yourself: Is there a promise I need to hold onto? Is there a command I need to follow? Is there a sin I need to confess? Is there an attribute of God that I need to offer praise? Is there something that I need to be thankful for? Is there an attitude I need to change? Always read the Word of God with the thought of personal application in mind.

3. When the Spirit prompts you to do something, do it! By offering yourself up to God and devoting yourself to His Word, you WILL be prompted by the Holy Spirit – I guarantee it! So do what He prompts. If you question whether the Holy Spirit is leading you to do something or not, call up a godly mentor and run it by them.

Jesus wants His Whole Life Worshipers to be “spiritually fit” followers of Him. So let’s not only be hearers (or readers) of the Word, but do-ers of His will, as well!

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foodforyoursoul

Those of you who know me well, know that I love to eat. If I go without food for more than 4 or 5 hours, I go crazy! Some of you can last longer without food than me; perhaps you have fasted a day or two – either for spiritual or personal reasons. But one thing is for sure: we all need to eat! If we don’t eat on a regular basis, we will die.

The same thing happens in our spiritual lives; if we don’t “eat” spiritual food, we begin to die spiritually. But what is “spiritual food” in the life of a Christ-follower?

Jesus talks about two forms of spiritual nourishment for His followers: getting the Word of God IN our lives and applying the Word of God TO our lives.

In Matthew 4:4, Jesus says, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

In John 4:34, Jesus further says, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.”

So a balanced spiritual diet is getting God’s Word into our lives and then seeking to obey it… That assumes that we are actually reading the Bible, doesn’t it?

How are we doing in taking in God’s Word? Are we reading the Bible? Do we take time to reflect upon what we read? Do we think of ways we can apply what we’ve read to our lives?  According to pollster and researcher, George Barna, most Christians in America do not read their Bible on a regular basis. That means most Christians in America are spiritually malnourished. And we see that based on the worldly attitudes/responses, lack of the fruit of the Spirit, and lack of spiritual empowerment that we see in the American Church today.

OK, enough of the guilt! So, how can we get more of God’s Word in our lives? Here are two surefire suggestions that can immediately help our Spiritual Word Intake:

1. HAVE A PLAN – if we plan to do nothing, we will surely do it (nothing) every time. So let’s plan to do something! Set apart a time in your day (start off with 10 minutes) to read the Bible. Then plan which book you will start reading (if you are new at this, I suggest reading one of the New Testament books or Psalms). Then set a goal for when you will finish reading that book.

2. HAVE A PARTNER – statistics show that we follow through on our plans much more when we have accountability. Meet with another Whole Life Worshiper (weekly or every other week) and keep each other accountable to your Bible reading. Share with each other what you have learned, questions you might have, etc. Pray for each other and encourage each other. I call these partnerships, “LTG’s” (Life Transformation Groups) because it is evident that those who are in these partnerships are reading Scripture regularly and seeing their lives being transformed.

I’ll discuss next week on the other side of “spiritual nutrition.” Right now, let’s stop procrastinating and get into the Word! There’s a “feast” waiting for us!

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hamster-on-a-wheel

Life can be a rat-race at times. I’m reminded of the old Broadway musical, “Stop the World – I Want to Get Off!” I’ve never seen it (nor do I have the foggiest idea of what it’s even about) but it is a great description of how hectic life can be: with appointments, deadlines, chores, responsibilities, crises, meetings, practices … and, oh yeah, sometime I gotta eat and sleep, too! But breathing is optional. (smile)

The problem with rat-races is that the more we “race,” the more we become “rats.” Busy-ness, harried-ness, and being on the “go” all the time eventually changes us – and not in a good way. Busy-ness increases our anxiety, lowers our frustration threshold, makes us even more selfish and rude, and often causes us to compromise our character and faith. What’s more is that the last thing on busy people’s minds is seeking to glorifying God or becoming more Christ-like (even when their job is to help others glorify God and follow Jesus – “ouch!”)

In the midst of the rat-race, God gives us a timeless reminder from the Psalms:

Be still and know that I am God. (Ps. 46:10)

The first phrase (“Be still”) literally means, “Cease from striving.” It means to take a time out. It is the act of stopping the world – your world and my world. It also implies, “Silence” and turning off the noise.

But in the stillness and silence we have a focal point: God; in particular, knowing that God is, indeed, God: the One in control, the One on the Throne, the Lord over everything, the One greater than anything we face, and the One greater than any demand that wants our attention. Our stillness and silence is not just a break from the rat-race; it’s a way out of the race and aligning ourselves with The King’s Way.

We normally think of silence and stillness as a part of our Personal Worship Time; our one-on-one times with God in solitude. However, I also find it helpful to take regular “time-out with God” breaks from the rat race throughout the day.

Just today I found myself getting too busy and stressed-out. So I pulled away, got to a quiet place, took in a few deep breaths, and stilled myself with some silent prayer. In that prayer, I quieted my heart and mind, and asked God to be my focal point. I actually recited Psalm 46:10 a couple of times. I was quiet and still for about three minutes – just enough to quiet the noise within and without. More importantly, I placed my anxieties and fears at the foot of His throne and remembered that He is “large and in charge.”

The result was peace and focus as I entered into my next meeting. I sensed the presence of God with me and the meeting was a very fruitful and powerful time (you can ask my staff – Krista and Liam – as my meeting was with them).

So when life gives you too much, take a 2-3 minute time-out with God. He’ll get you out of the rat-race and back into the flow of His life and grace.

Do you feel like you’re in a rat race? (And are the rats winning?)

What helps you to reconnect with God when life gets overwhelming or too busy?

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Hide N Seek

2055588-Hide-and-Seek-1

Awhile back I attended a worship conference with great anticipation. I always had great experiences with the Lord at these conferences, as I met connected with Him through new worship songs and being with 5,000 other whole hearted worshipers. However, at this conference I did not experience anything. Nada. Zilch.

I expressed my disappointment to the Lord and I was given a vision. In the vision, I saw Jesus from a distance. But as I walked closer to him, I realized something peculiar. He wasn’t moving. In fact, I realized I wasn’t seeing Jesus, at all. Rather, it was a cardboard cutout of him – propped up, like a store display! Attached to the cardboard cutout was a note:

“I’m not here anymore. You’ll have to seek after me. Love, Jesus.”

Jesus was playing a game of hide n seek with me!

After some reflection, I realized that this “game” was for my benefit. My experiences with him at worship conferences, in worship services, and in personal times when I sang worship songs actually limited my concept of who God is and what worship is. It was like I was expecting Jesus to show up every time I worshiped through music, and especially at these conferences where the music and the crowd kind of hype up the sense of expectation. But this vision exposed three “not-so-holy” attitudes that were creeping into my life:

1. “God-on-demand” – like the “movies-on-demand” button on my remote where I can watch any movie at any time I want, I was developing an attitude that God should “show up” and give me what I need, whenever I wanted it. “God-on-demand.” I could see why God wanted to nip this at the bud. For if God showed up every time I demanded, He wouldn’t be God anymore … I would. That’s a sobering and scary thought!

2. “Worshiping the experience” – this is a really hard one to see, but it’s easy to fall into this. God blesses us with experiences and revelation that are amazing. And He gives us these experiences because He loves us; He wants us to know He and His love are real. But when we desire those experiences too much, we start to worship them – instead of worshiping the Lord. And there is so much more to God than what we get from these special experiences.

3. “God only meets me during this time” – I was limiting how God could connect with me. It had to be one of those worship experiences. It had to be the right song. It had to be the right environment. It had to be a perfect musical execution. If not, my fragile connection with God would be lost! That is the farthest thing from the truth, but it’s easy to get sucked into that mentality. The truth of the matter is that God desires to reveal Himself to us in many, many ways. That is one of the beautiful things about our God: He can reveal Himself to us in just about anything. Even in trials or the ugliness of life.

The Lord, in His ever-gentle manner, reminded me of the value of seeking Him. As the Psalmist and Prophet write, “Seek His face!” (Ps 27:8) and “You shall seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart” (Jer 29:13).

From that moment on, God has been playing “hide n seek” with me. And as I sought Him, I found Him; again and again and again. First, it was in my reading of Scripture. Then it was in a time of intercession. Then it was in a flower that I stopped to gaze at and smell. Then it was in an act of service I got involved in. Then it was in an act of grace that someone extended to me. The more I played this game with God, the more I realized He is EVERYWHERE and He is AMAZING! As well, I began to understand the danger of “pigeon-holing” the Presence of God only in ecstatic, pumped-up, worship (music) experiences. God is so much greater than to be confined to one-way of revealing Himself and connecting with us.

Has God ever played “hide n seek” with you?

What are some ways God has revealed Himself to you that you did not expect?

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4-counting-sheep-fp

One of my all-time favorite songs comes from the old Bing Crosby movie, “White Christmas.” And no, it’s not “White Christmas”! Rather, it’s a lesser known song called “Count Your Blessings.” The first line goes like this, “When you’re tired and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep. And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.”

I don’t know about you, but there are times at night when I can’t fall asleep. Or there are times when I wake up in the middle of the night (usually to go to the bathroom – yeah, old age!) and I can’t get back to sleep. I’ll toss and turn and squirm and puff up my pillow. But if it takes me longer than 5-10 minutes to go to sleep, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Lord wants me up for some reason. And so I’ll get up and pray.

I’ll usually start off with giving thanks to God for His blessings (like the song says). Paul says in 1 Thess 5:17 to “give thanks always” – I assume “always” means anytime, even in the middle of the night. You can’t go wrong with giving thanks to God. It always puts our hearts and minds in the very center of God’s goodness. Plus, the enemy hates it when we give thanks … and he usually tries to make us drowsy and fall asleep, rather than give us the opportunity to glorify God. This is always a win-win situation.

But sometimes it doesn’t end with thanksgiving. Sometimes God wants me to pray for something. I’ll ask him, “Lord, what do you want me to pray about?” And until I get an impression from God, I’ll pray “in the Spirit” (for some this means praying with an open heart for God’s will to be done, for others it involves a prayer language). Sometimes I already know what God wants me to pray for. My most powerful times of intercession often come between midnight and 6am.

And sometimes, in those wee hours of the night, God leads me to read Scripture or a book by a Christian author. In any case, my night time sleeplessness is not wasted on trying to get myself to sleep. Rather, I see it as an opportunity to practice Whole Life Worship – to offer my “unsleepy” self to God as a living sacrifice. I find that when I do this (and sometimes I’m up for a few hours) God almost always gives me a restful sleep for the remainder of the night. And I wake up refreshed and ready to live another day for him.

The Psalms talk about those who serve in God’s Temple, keeping their watch at night (for example, Psalm 134:1). Sometimes God calls us to that “night watch.” As God is always up, keeping an eye on all of us, occasionally he will ask us to stay awake with him – to tarry with him, to join him in the work he is doing in peoples’ lives, to worship him with the angels in the quiet hour.

The liturgical church’s night time prayer focuses on the fact that we might be asleep or awake during the night hours. And so the prayer goes:

Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.

So if you can’t sleep at night, don’t worry. Instead, worship. Practice Whole Life Worship in those un-sleepy moments. And God will give you rest: falling asleep while counting your blessings.

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jury duty

A dear friend of mine, who teaches Junior High, has developed some great ways to respond to whiny adolescents. Whenever a student complains about an assignment by saying, “Do I have to do it?!” Bill replies, “No, you don’t have to do it. You get to do it.” (smile)

There is something to be said about having the right perspective as we look at our day-to-day situations; particularly our struggles and trials. We can look upon them as things we must endure or as challenges that we get to conquer! This perspective can change not only our outlook, but the outcome as well.

As Christ-followers, we are called to live out this perspective. The apostle Paul says:

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Note that this is not some sort of Polly-anna-ish, “put on a happy face” attitude adjustment. Nor is it an exercise in the power of positive thinking. Paul is not proclaiming a delusion filled self-invincibility, but a confident “Christ-dependency.” The two key words in the verse are “through Him.” We cannot do all things in our own power; in fact, there is very little we can really do in our human strength. But, “through Christ” all things can be done.

There is no joy in doing things we hate to do, whether it is: a tedious job, working through relationship issues, parenting complex children, doing the right thing when it is inconvenient, or living with a difficult health condition. However, there is joy to be found; not in the task or trial, but in the presence of Jesus. We just don’t get to do it; we get to do it with Jesus! We get the opportunity to see His power at work: sometimes in changing our situations, all the time in transforming us.

I remember awhile back when I got called in for jury duty (ugh!) On my way to court (after dropping off a sick child to be with Letty, while she was in the middle of parent conferences) I was totally upset with the inane timing of this summons. However, at the same time I was experimenting with this “getting to do hard stuff with Jesus” theme. So I wrestled between what I wanted to do (whine and complain) and what God wanted me to do (focus on the presence of Jesus). As usual, God won. The wrestling ended with a prayer of surrender: “God, obviously you want me at court. So please change my attitude. May I be responsive to whatever You have for me – help me enjoy the fact that I get to serve jury duty … with Jesus!”

Eventually I did get dismissed, but only after waiting two hours in the holding tank. Nothing eventful happened. No significant conversations with others took place. (I did get to read a golf magazine – cover to cover!) But the main thing was that the peace of Jesus was with me. I normally would have gotten upset or huffy about this; but I was remarkably calm. I learned another valuable lesson in faith. And it also gave me another great (but humbling) story to share with you!

So when you face those hard things, tasks or trials, don’t ask “Do I have to do this?” Tell yourself, “I get to do this … with Jesus!” It will lower your blood pressure and open your eyes to the wonders of a Christ-filled life.

What are some hard things or tasks you are facing this week?

What can help you grasp the truth that Jesus is with you as you face these things?

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