Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for October, 2013

th

One of the ways I am praying during my Personal Worship Time is the Lord’s Prayer. But I’m praying it in a particular way that makes it a rich time: I pray one phrase and then I pause. During that pause I reflect on what I just said and what it means to me. It is just a moment or two; nothing too long, unless I sense the Spirit wanting me to linger on it longer.

Here is an example of how I pause and reflect after each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer:

“Our Father who art in heaven” – You are my heavenly Father, the one who created me, redeemed me, and loves me. And You are also the Sovereign of the Universe who reigns over all things from Your the heavenly throne.

“Hallowed be Thy name” – God, you are holy. You are the Name above all names. Your Name represents Your attributes (Truth, Righteousness, Love, Power). As the angelic host honor Your name, so I choose to honor Your name through my thoughts, words and deeds.

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – May You reign over all things, beginning with my heart. I subject my will, my agenda today so that Your will is accomplished in and through my life.

“Give us this day our daily bread” – I need You. I need physical, emotional, practical, spiritual provisions that come from Your hand. Help me to recognize how You meet my every need today.

“Forgive us our trespasses” – Forgive the ways I have failed you and others. Forgive my sins of commission and omission. Forgive my lousy attitudes, my disrespect, my self-centeredness, and my fearful living.

“As we forgive those who trespass against us” – I let all who offended me, hurt me, neglected me, caused me pain (perceived or real), off the hook. As You forgave me, I forgive them. I choose the path of love and blessing toward all of them.

“And lead us not into temptation” – God, You know how easy it is for me to get distracted and derailed. Block my path to meeting needs in illegitimate and unrighteous ways. Guide me far away from those things and thoughts and opportunities that are ungodly.

“But deliver us from evil” – Lord, I need Your protection. Sin crouches at my door. My enemy the devil seeks to devour me. My flesh wants to rebel against You. Protect me from all the forces of darkness without and within.

“For Thine is the kingdom” – You are the Ruler, the King. Everything belongs to You.

“The power” – All authority is Yours. There is nothing outside of Your ability. Nothing can thwart You or stand in Your way.

“And the glory forever” – You alone deserve the credit of all things good, wonderful, wise, and majestic. You will end all things well. May I be part of Your forever ending. May I glorify Your name today!

“Amen” – Yes, I believe this with all my heart!

Try praying the Lord’s Prayer with pauses and see if it opens up your connection with God.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

false-humility

I mentioned recently that “humility is the best way to live our lives.” In writing that, I want to make something perfectly clear: humility is NOT modesty.

I think people get the two confused, as if they are one and the same. But they’re not. Far from it.

I think it was Dallas Willard (author of “The Divine Conspiracy”) who opened my eyes to the difference between “modesty” and “humility.”

“Modesty” is the “aww, shucks, ma’am, you don’t have to give me the credit, I was just doing my job” attitude. It is letting people know that we’re not prideful or arrogant or pretentious – like how other people are. But underneath modesty can be an insidious form of pride; the most dangerous because it can fool us into thinking that we don’t have an “ego” problem. Blatantly arrogant people know they are prideful; or at least, the people around them know that. But modesty masks the pride from others and, often, from ourselves.

I know because I am a recovering “Modest-aholic.”

For most of my life I’ve wanted people to know that I am a “non-pretentious” person. On occasion, my ego will flare up and I will say something that betrays my selfish pride; but most of the time I control it. “Control” is a key word. Modest people control their ego. Humble people admit their ego.

As a modest-aholic, I also understand how modesty is a subtle form of judgmentalism. I judge other people secretly. I especially judge people who are not modest like me. I take pride in how I live my life – without fanfare, with simplicity, with discipline, without claiming credit. I won’t tell others about how proud I am of myself – that would just be uncool and socially unacceptable. But I’ll treasure it in my heart and mind.

I believe the Pharisee, in Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:11, was probably modest. It’s easy to judge him as arrogant, but if you look carefully at the passage, it says that he was “alone” when he prayed. That meant he wasn’t trying to show off to others. Rather, his prayer to God was sincere. So he could have been a modest person on the outside, but his prayer before the presence of God revealed his secret pride.

I never thought of myself as that Pharisee, but after reading Willard, I realized that I resembled him more than the humble tax collector.

So what is humility?

True humility is an honest assessment of our situation and our character – nothing more, nothing less. It begins with the understanding that we cannot have this honest assessment without the help of God. So we ask God to reveal truth to us (Ps 51:6b, Ps 139:24), before we jump to any conclusions. We then accept God’s perspective and live by it. We don’t beat ourselves up over our mistakes and failings (for God doesn’t). In Christ, we know we are loved, accepted and a work in progress. So while our sins, failures and mistakes are sobering, they are not to devastate us. Christ does not condemn us, so we do not condemn ourselves. We learn, we grow, we move on.

True humility does not take credit for the work of God. Blessings, successes, and break throughs are all a part of God’s amazing grace. We may contribute hard work on our end, but we know that our ability to contribute is also a grace of God. One of our worship team members (who is an amazing musician and inspirational worshiper) put things into perspective when he shared that playing worship music for the church is an amazing privilege; that God gives us the honor to do this.

Finally, the truly humble person is not out to impress anyone. This is because the humble person is focused on honoring God, not impressing other people. We serve others. We love others. But frankly, my dear, we shouldn’t give a darn about what they think about us! We’re too busy wanting to know what God thinks and desires than to involve ourselves in the drama of others. Contrast this with the “modest” person, who is usually obsessed in what others think about them and where they stand in the “pecking order.”

There’s an old country-western parody that goes, “O Lord, it’s hard to be humble when I’m perfect in every way.” We can laugh at such arrogance, but I think that’s an attitude that is all too present in too many Christ-followers (including myself). But to pursue humility is the way of life and freedom. It’s the way of Whole Life Worship.

Read Full Post »

body-solid-gab350-commercial-semi-recumbent-dual-ab-bench-1

I had just finished doing my elliptical workout in record time (don’t ask me how slow it was!) As I lay on the ab bench, staring at the gym rafters, I was laboring to find my wind again! How thankful I was for God’s gift of air!! It was then I had one of those “aha” moments about life. “What will I be ‘breathing’ in heaven?” came to my mind. Then the next obvious questions came into being: what will I drink in heaven, what will I eat in heaven? Followed by the logical application question: how can I start exercising eternal life while still in my mortal body?

Here are three simple concepts of how we eat, drink, and breathe eternal life now:

The “air” we breathe in the Kingdom of God is prayer – communication with God. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 to “pray without ceasing.” Physically, we breathe without ceasing; the spiritual parallel to breathing is prayer.

The “water” we drink in God’s Kingdom is worship – our praise and thanksgiving to God. Worship allows us to drink of the living waters of Christ. His love and power come to us as we draw near in worship Him.

The “food” we eat in God’s Kingdom is the intaking and following the Word of God. Jesus told Satan, “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Jesus also says in John 4, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.” Getting the Word of God into our lives is so important, and doing the Word of God is equally as important. Jesus never separates “hearing” and “doing” when it comes to God’s Word.

Prayer, worship, taking in and obeying the Word of God – these are the elements that help nurture our eternal life, NOW. So how are we doing in nurturing eternal life now?

Are we “suffocating”? Dying of “thirst”? “Starving” to death? Or are we spiritually fruitful because we are breathing prayer, drinking through worship, and feasting on God’s Word and God’s will? Hear are a couple of ideas we can get ourselves back to the fundamentals of spiritual living:

Prayer – put the penny in the shoe (every time you feel the penny, you pray). If you eat alone, say a quick prayer in between the bites of your food.

Worship – do you remember the old teen movie, “The Ten Things I Hate About You”? Well, in the opposite spirit write out “The Ten Things I Love About God!’ Listen and sing with a worship CD or mp3.

Word – before you eat breakfast, read a paragraph of Scripture. Write out a favorite verse on an index card and put it on the dash of your car. Memorize it. As you read God’s Word, ask yourself, “How can I apply this to my life?” and then do it.

One day our mortal bodies will cease breathing air, drinking water (or Diet Coke), and eating food. How well will we adjust to the important things that we will be eating, drinking and breathing for eternity? I say, let’s start exercising for eternity NOW. For eternal life does not begin when we die, but it begins when we live for God.

Read Full Post »

A Voice in My Head

whispering

I’m going to share something really embarrassing today. Actually, I’m kind of hoping no one reads this blog; which is why I’ve tucked it in the middle of the week. But I feel it needs to be told because it might help some of you. Painful as it is, it sure helps me to tell it.

This morning, I passed by a car that was stuck in the left turn lane. I wasn’t sure if the battery died or the car was stalled, but who cares? It wasn’t my car or my problem.

As I drove by, the Spirit said, “Aren’t you going to stop and help that person?”

I tried to ignore God. Besides, it could be a rapist, thief or murderer driving that car.

But God would not quit. Quite reluctantly, I turned the car around and drove back.

It turns out that it was a middle aged woman and she needed help. I stopped and tried to help move the car out of the intersection, but it wouldn’t budge. So I called Auto Club and had them send a tow truck to help move Darlene’s (not her real name) car. As we waited we had a conversation. She mentioned that she was praying for help and that God sent her an “angel.” (Smile.) I told her about my conversation with God that led my back to help her out.

We then talked about the Lord, churches and people in her life. She told me that her boyfriend is not a believer and that they get into a lot of arguments when they talk about God. I, now wearing my “pastor hat,” gave her some great tips and ideas on how to share her faith with him.

The tow truck and the boyfriend arrived at the same time. We had the car towed to his house, which was just around the corner from where she was stranded. I had a short conversation with the boyfriend, we’ll call him “George.” George was thankful. And I explained, “I saw her car and a voice in my head told me to turn around and go help Darlene.” And we parted.

“A voice in my head”???? I can’t believe I didn’t say, “God told me to turn around.” Why was I so reluctant to just give God the glory by mentioning Him by name? At worst, I could have said something non-evasive like, “The Man Upstairs,” or “The Good Lord.” And Darlene was in earshot of my comment. I wondered what she thought of this “pastor” who was too afraid to use the word “God” with her unbelieving boyfriend?

Let me tell you, the voices really took over my head from that point on!

After spending the next 30 minutes confessing my sin profusely to God and driving out the accusing spirits of darkness (I now see where “Legion” went after they inhabited the pigs), a sober realization came to me:

I am afraid to talk with unbelievers about God.

I’ve been a pastor for 25 years. I have a doctorate in Ministry. And I’ve actually led dozens of people to Christ over the course of time. But at this moment in 2013, I am afraid to talk with unbelievers about God.

And I don’t think I’m alone. I think there are many, many Christians who are afraid to do this. I think there are many, many pastors who are afraid to do this (and some of those who aren’t afraid tend not to do it very well when they do).

So rather than beat myself up, I sought help. I just happened to be meeting with my accountability partner, Gary (his real name), later that day. Gary is a pastor at another church in town. And we’ve met every other week for the last 20 years. We talked about it and we decided to make this – personal outreach – an issue of prayer, discussion and accountability. He candidly told me that he also needs to grow in this area. And so we are going to start this journey together.

As pastors, it’s easy to put personal outreach on the “back burner.” After all, there is so much work to be done in “taking care of the sheep.” And we tell the sheep that they need to grow in personal outreach, because there are lost people out there who need to be saved. But are we willing to engage in personal outreach ourselves, or do we simply delegate it to the “sheep”?

For me, this is all part of my Whole Life Worship to God. I need transformation in this area of my life. I want to give glory to the God who loved me, saved me, and redeemed my life; and not to some “voice in my head.”

Read Full Post »

th (1)

On the Christian radio station the other day, I heard one of the DJ’s saying, “You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.” That is so true.

There are many reasons why people give of their time, energy, and money. Some people do give out of love. They are moved by a need or an inner prompting to genuinely help others. But some give out of compulsion. Others give out of guilt. And others give out of pride.

But loving has, at its very core, the desire to give. When we love someone we want to give something to them; usually something that represents a part of our lives. If we claim to love someone, but don’t feel the desire to give – then something is wrong. Something has disrupted the natural flow of love. One might even question the presence of love if there is no desire to give. Love, without the desire of giving, is either faulty or a figment of one’s imagination.

The Apostle John would take it one step further. True love is evident in, not just the desire to give, but the action of giving. He writes in 1 John 3:18:

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

This is seen in God’s love for us. God loves us, not in speech or thought or intentions, but in action. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” “But God demonstrates His love in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” “And this is love: not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice.” The evidence of love is in the action of giving.

When God’s active love touches our hearts, we have a desire to respond in kind. Just as He gave to show His love for us, we want to give to God to show our love for Him. This response of “giving” out of love for God is what the Bible calls “worship.” Worship is a multi-faceted word that describes every loving response we give to God. Unfortunately, our culture (and the devil – in my opinion) has reduced the word “worship” to mean singing songs and a church service. But worship is what we give to God in love. I see three ways we can practically and actively give our worship/love to God:

1. We give God our obedience. Jesus said it plainly, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love” (John 15:10). Samuel told Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). God doesn’t want our lip-service, He wants our “life-service.” When we offer God our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) it is a worship of obedience; we are saying to God, “My life is at your disposal. I will do whatever You want me to do.”

2. We give God our material wealth. Jesus also said, “Your treasure is where your heart is … You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt 6:21, 24). God doesn’t need our money, but God knows that money can have our heart. The offering of part of our material wealth (the tithe) is not about helping out the church (though it does), but to declare who is really God of our heart. In that act of giving, we also proclaim who our Provider is and whom we put all of our trust.

3. We give God our destiny. We all have hopes and dreams for the future. But when Christ becomes Lord of our lives, we entrust our destiny to the One who holds the future. We forfeit our ways – our will – by surrendering to the will of God. That’s why Romans 12:2 is so important to the process of worship. Our surrender of our lives to God in Romans 12:1 leads to transformation and renewal of mind in Romans 12:2. This enables us to live our true destiny: to know and do the will of God. Just as the love-vow of a marriage is (supposed to be) the surrender of each other’s destiny to the other (till death do us part), the love-vow of worship is the on-going surrender of our destiny to loving and capable hands of Christ.

We can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving. How are you giving out of your love for God?

Read Full Post »

Jesus_Sinai_Icon

The other day, during a Personal Worship Time, I reflected on the most used title of Jesus, “Lord Jesus Christ.” As I looked at this title, which the apostles use over 50 times in the New Testament, I realized that each of those words has a special meaning of how it relates to our lives. These three words can be used as an Examen; both as a way to examine how my life follows the leadership of Jesus (Examination of Conscience) and as it uncovers those times during the day that the Lord has blessed me or revealed Himself to me (Examination of Consciousness).

“Lord” – signifying Christ’s leadership in our lives. In the early Church, the litmus test of true believers was the phrase, “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 12:3). The Lordship of Jesus Christ still serves as the main engine of our discipleship and Whole Life Worship. As an Examen, I use “Lord” to identify those areas of my life that He calls me to surrender to Him. Right now, one of those areas is to let go in “being right” in my opinions and judging others (see yesterday’s blog!).

“Lord” also points to my need to trust Him with areas in my life that cause me to be impatient with people. It reminds me that Christ (not I) is in charge of my timelines: whether they are about getting to a destination (like red traffic lights) or developing people (leaders, disciples, children and grandchildren).  Following Christ’s Lordship determines whether or not I am positioning myself for transformation and to bear the fruit of the Spirit and righteousness.

“Jesus” – literally means ‘Yahweh Saves.’ The name of Jesus reminds us not only of His historical presence on earth and His saving work on the cross, but also of the ways God shows His grace and mercies to us in the here and now. In the name of Jesus, we receive help in our time of need (which is often) as well as supernatural strength from His Spirit to do His will.

This past weekend I saw the wonderful grace of Jesus as I attended my High School reunion. I was genuinely affirmed and blessed by several of my classmates (which comes from the hand of God). I also experienced a sense of forgiveness and closure in a relationship that I caused pain and damage some 38 years ago. Each of these was like “a kiss from heaven” that brought healing and refreshment to my soul.

“Christ” – means ‘Anointed One.’ It is equivalent to “King” in our modern language. As I thought about of the reign of God, I was particularly drawn to how all things in Creation are under His sovereign reign. Not only does my life fall under the reign of the King as I follow Him, but the circumstances of my life, as well the events of the world, are under His reign. These include the things in life that I find perplexing and difficult. Understanding that Jesus is Christ gives me great comfort in knowing that it will all work out in the end.

As I spent time this weekend with my family, I realized there are so many unresolved and bitter things. My dear sister suffers from an unknown ailment and I am speechless. My dad’s death still seems premature and there’s an ache in my heart that just does not go away. My sister-in-law has suffered several bouts with cancer, and it never seems to end. There are unmentionable conflicts and difficulties caused by circumstances and decisions beyond our control, and sometimes they even seem out of reach of our best prayers. But in those moments of despair and grief, the gentle wave of the Spirit seems to come over me: “Jesus is the King of Kings. He is the Sovereign Lord.” And I know again that the One who willingly suffered and died for us will prevail in all things in the end.

So in this simple three word Examen, I’m learning to surrender and trust, to laugh and weep, to receive rebuke and kisses, to notice and embrace, to resolve and be unraveled all at the same time. But in this, something good has definitely moved deeper into my soul.

Lord – Jesus – Christ.

Read Full Post »

judgmental_bag_grants_pass

When I started to reflect seriously on the Psalms a few months ago, one tiny little concept in Psalm 1 grabbed my attention: “sitting in the seat of mockers.” Blessed is the one who does NOT sit in that seat.

I wondered: what does that really mean?

The obvious definition of a mocker is someone who makes fun of other people. It is a response that comes when we think others are doing something wrong, foolish, or embarrassing. So we belittle them, make fun of them, and outwardly criticize them – mocking. But the intent of this passage goes deeper than that. I believe what the Psalmist is getting at is the attitude of “judging others.” At the heart of mocking others is a prideful heart condition that is bad and misguided: we judge others because we think we are better than they are.

Personally, I try not to outwardly mock people. But it’s more because of a cultural, sophistication thing (it’s in bad taste and shows “bad form”) than a conviction toward righteousness and humility. Yet, in my heart and in my mind, I secretly mock and judge people more often than I care to admit. Sometimes the thoughts in my head toward others are disgustingly haughty (“What an idiot! Where did you go to school?”) Sometimes I’ll act humbly on the outside, but on the inside I’m thinking, “I’m right, you’re wrong. You’ll see!” Sometimes the attitude is so subtle that I don’t even realizing I’m judging someone until long after the conversation (but the Holy Spirit brings it up now that I am beginning to examine the events and encounters in my life).

Like the Psalmist says: It’s time to get out of that seat! It’s ungodly, it’s wrong and it’s insidiously wicked.

Jesus said, “Judge not, or you will be judged” (Matt 7:1). There is so much wisdom in that. Here’s what I mean:

First, when we judge others, we are assuming God’s position over people. We sit in His judgment seat; whether we realize it or not. But there is only One Judge. And I’m not Him. And neither are you.

Second, I’m just too stupid and ignorant to be an informed or just judge on anything; especially when it comes to other people. It’s true that people do wrong and bad things. But do I really know why they are doing them? Have I walked in their shoes? Do I see all the circumstances in that person’s life? No. So what gives me the right to judge them?

Third, judging others poisons me. It feeds my pride and keeps me from true humility (which I believe is the absolute best frame of mind/heart to be in). Judging others turns everything I think, feel, say, and do into negativity. Judging another person makes me think that “being right” and “being justified” is more important than “being a loving person.”

Fourth, judging others actually damages my identity in Christ. The quintessential example of judging others is the “Accuser,” aka “Satan.” I am not a “son of perdition” but when I judge others I am imitating Satan. Inadvertently, in this act I am choosing to identify with darkness, rather than with Christ. I need to remember that my identity rests with the One who said to the woman caught in adultery: “I do not condemn (judge) you; go and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).

So getting out of the seat of mockers, getting off the Judgment Throne, is something I have to do – in heart, mind, attitude, and action. It’s something we all have to do if we really want to be Whole Life Worshipers of God.

I want to explore some of the ramifications of this idea further (things like, “Aren’t we supposed to help each other live righteous lives? How can we do that without judging?” and “How do I get myself out of that seat and not just accept everything as being okay?”)

But let me end with these questions: Are we sitting on the seat of mockers? Is there someone in your life that you judge or belittle in your mind or constantly have critical thoughts about? What would it take for you to bless that person instead of curse them or ignore them?

Today let’s live as children of our Father of lights and leave the company of the Accuser.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »