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Archive for October, 2013

Wrong Kind of Rocks

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Usually when the Bible mentions “rocks” or “rock,” it is a positive concept. The wise man built his house upon the Rock (Matt 7). The LORD is our Rock (various Psalms). We are spiritual rocks (stones) built into a spiritual house (1 Peter 2: 5). And Christ is the rock (stone) the “builders rejected” that became the Cornerstone (Acts 4:11).

But in the parable of the Sower (Mark 4), rocks are bad. When they are in the soil of a person’s life, it prevents the Seed of God’s Word from getting deep enough to lay roots. As a result, that person is unable to bear godly fruit in their lives.

I think of all the soils in this parable, the rocky soil is the easiest one to gloss over. It gets lost in between the “hard path” (those whose lives are so hardened toward God that there is no penetration of the Word) and the “soil with thorns” (those whose love for the world, sin, and selfish desire chokes out fruit of the Word). Certainly, having “rocks in the soil” seems a lot less glamorous than Satanic birds and murderous thorns.

When I got to this passage in my Lectio Divina of Mark, I felt that tendency to skip over the rocky soil. “Oh yeah, I know what that means.” But then the Spirit prompted me, “Oh yeah? What does it mean, Doug?” (That’s what I love about Lectio Divina! There’s plenty of space for God to chime into my thoughts)

And that made me think. What is it about the rocky soil? What does it really mean?

Here are a couple of thoughts that came to mind about this oft-neglected soil that serves as a cautionary tale for us:

1. The key function of the rocks is to keep the Word from going deeper into a person’s life. The deepest things in our lives are those which we protect the most: our hopes, fears, dreams, insecurities, secrets, fantasies, intimacies, extreme joys, and deepest tragedies. The purpose of God’s Word is to transform, confront, heal, align and set us free. It’s easy to give God the surface stuff and the comfortable stuff. But to allow anyone (including and especially God) access into the deep, dark places is scary. We actually put the “rocks” up to defend our soul.

2. The rocks are our defense mechanisms. Over the years, we’ve set up many mechanisms to protect our souls from hurt, exposure and vulnerability. Some of them are so sophisticated and bullet proof they make NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) look like a white picket fence. Chances are, the more we’ve been wounded, betrayed, and exploited, the more rocks we put in the way. These include: denial, passive aggressiveness, co-dependency, religious justification, theological argumentation, modesty (false humility), and many others. These things may keep us safe from getting hurt (again), but they also block any meaningful transformation by God.

3. Many “good,” church-attending people have a “rocky soil” issue. I think this is the most dangerous of the three bad soils for Christ-followers. We go to Church and Bible Study and receive the Word with joy (“oh, that’s so profound,” “very inspirational”), but don’t allow it to root into the areas of our lives that need it the most.  Christians are notorious for putting a “happy, spiritual face” on everything. But the test comes when life gets hard. Because we haven’t dealt with our rock issues, our faith is too shallow to withstand the pressure.

It’s almost ironic that this is the same demise as the foolish man who built his house on the sand! In the parable, we have to take out the “rocks.” In the Sermon on the Mount, we need to build on the “Rock.” Both are processes are necessary for the transformed life.

There is more I can write about this than I have time or space. But I just want to raise the questions:

– Are we willing to allow God’s Word and Spirit to go deep into the issues of our lives?

– Do we know what “rocks” we’ve set up to insulate our soul from God’s transforming work?

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For today’s blog, I want to share a little early morning “pep talk” from an Orthodox Archbishop, Anthony Bloom (taken from “Beginning to Pray,” pp. 75-77). It will get you going!

“Awake in the morning and the first thing you do, thank God for it, even if you don’t feel particularly happy about the day which is to come. ‘This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be grateful in it.’

Once you have done this, give yourself time to realize the truth of what you are saying and really mean it – perhaps on the level of deep conviction and not of what one might call exhilaration.

Then get up, wash, clean, do whatever else you have to do, and then come to God again. Come to God with two convictions. The one is that you are God’s own and the other is that this day is also God’s own.

(The day) is absolutely new, absolutely fresh. It has never existed before. To speak in Russian terms, it is like a vast expanse of unsoiled snow. No one has trodden on it yet. It is all virgin and pure in front of you.

 And now, what comes next? Ask God to bless this day, that everything in it should be blessed and ruled by Him. After that you must take it seriously, because very often one says, ‘O God, bless me,’ and having got the blessing we act like the prodigal son – we collect all our goods and go to a strange country to lead a riotous life.

 This day is blessed by God. It is God’s own and now let us go into it. You walk in this day as God’s own messenger. Whomever you meet, you meet in God’s own way. You are there to be the presence of the Lord God, the presence of Christ, the presence of the Spirit, the presence of the Gospel. This is your function on this particular day.

 As to the day, if you accept that this day was blessed of God, chosen by God with His own hand, then every person you meet is a gift of God, every circumstance you will meet is a gift of God, whether it is bitter or sweet, whether you like or dislike it. It is God’s own gift to you and if you take it that way, then you can face any situation.

 But you must face it with the readiness that anything may happen, whether you enjoy it or not. Then you can make prayer and life really like the two sides of one coin. You act and pray in one breath, as it were, because all the situations that follow one another require God’s blessing.”

This is mindset of a Whole Life Worshiper: every day a gift from God, every day lived in God, every day transformed by God, and every day being an extension of the blessing of God to others. So let’s go into the day with that mindset and see the wonders of God working in, around and through us!

Ready? …. Break!!

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Denver Broncos v San Diego Chargers

During one of our Whole Life Worship Community times with the Worship Team, one of our team members shared a Whole Life Worship idea that I thought was amazing. It something we can draw upon when we take offense to another person.

Nothing removes us faster from the flow of Whole Life Worship than being offended by another person. It might be something they said or did. Sometimes all it takes is a funny look and we go “sideways.” And when we get offended, it derails us emotionally and spiritually. Instead of looking at people with eyes of grace, we look on them with enmity. Instead of being able to move forward with glorifying God, we seek to justify ourselves. All of our available energies to doing something positive and constructive get re-channeled into self-pity, anger, and retribution. I cannot tell you how much creative energy I’ve wasted in order to come up with the perfect “snide” remark that counters someone’s offensive comment toward me.

What’s worse is that sometimes we get offended by something that was totally circumstantial. Maybe we were in a “foul mood” to begin with and anything can get our nosed bent out of shape. Or perhaps the other person was just trying to be funny, but the words came out wrong.

So our team member uses a strategy that I have called a “no offense” offense. (Put the accent on the second syllable on the first “offense.”) Basically, we go into every relational situation armed with the following on our hearts and minds:

1. I am going to give that person the “benefit of the doubt.” If they say or do anything offensive, I’m going to assume that it was a mistake or a slip. I’m going to believe in the best of people. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:7, “(Love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always endures.”

2. If that person continues to offend, I will talk with them privately and gently about it. This is the Matthew 18:15 approach. This is not a heated confrontation, but a desire to work out misunderstandings or misperceptions. I use the “when you said _________, it made me feel _____” approach. In this, I’m not judging the person but just expressing what I felt by stating the facts.

3. If I feel hurt and offended by what a person said or does, I will bring it before Jesus first. Many times we get hurt because part of our identity is attacked. The Accuser (aka Satan) uses it to say things like, “See, you thought you were so good. You’re a nobody!” or “Ha, ha! You got put in your place, you loser!” But our true identity is not in ourselves or our ability. It is in what God thinks of us in Christ. And that identity is bullet-proof! Regardless of what we’ve done or what people think of us, we are completely loved and upheld by God through Christ. We are His children and nothing can take that away. So before we try to justify ourselves to others, we realign our identity in Christ. The one thing takes away the need to be justified in the eyes of others is knowing that you stand before God justified in Christ.

The hurt and shame I feel, I bring before the Cross. I ask Abba Father to tell me what He thinks of me. I allow the love of Jesus – one who was rejected, humiliated and shamed by all of humankind – to comfort me; knowing that I am sharing in His sufferings. I stay there until “it is well with my soul.” Then I can move forward in giving the other person the benefit of the doubt or work out the misunderstanding.

Being offended is no little thing and getting back on track isn’t a little thing either. But as Whole Life Worshipers of Jesus Christ, we can – in His power and grace – elevate with a “no offense” offense in our relationships. It shines the Light of Christ brilliantly.

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A Signal to Give Thanks

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I hate catching light red lights. I know I’m just an impatient person, but it drives me nuts sometimes. I know God is trying to build more character into my life, but I still don’t like getting a red light, and waiting, waiting, waiting. My idea of a great morning is catching nothing but green lights on my way to drop my grandson off at his school (there are TEN signals – it happened once; it felt like being in the “third heaven”). My favorite commercials are the ones where the guy guns the car and all the lights turn green. One of my favorite movie scenes is in “The Italian Job” where they control all the signals in downtown LA and the stream of Mini-Coopers go from Hollywood to Grand Central Station in ten minutes … woo-hoo!

But life is full of red lights. And I need to deal with it.

Then an idea came to me. It came to me when I was having a conversation with my worship associate, Krista. She mentioned to me that she had the Worship Team this weekend share five things they were thankful for as part of their Whole Life Worship Community time. It worked very powerfully for them (and they did an amazing job this weekend!)

I thought, “What if I thought of three things I’m thankful for every time I hit a red light?” At first it sounded silly and trite, but then I realized that this silly idea could be powerful because I know that giving thanks to God is a powerfully transforming act whenever we do it.

So I gave it a try. First red light, I thanked God for breathing, hot showers, and my wife. Second red light, I thanked God for my pastor and his family, for my sons and my grandsons. Third red light, I thanked God for sunsets, His beautiful world, and for friends. By that time, I became unaware of traffic signals. I was in the flow of giving thanks to God. I continued to thank God throughout the rest of my short trip: thanking Him for giving me experiences of His love, for unforeseen blessings that recently happened, for my salvation, for the people in my life who invested in me, and on and on.

The “thank-fest” spilled over into my next activity, getting ready to lead worship for Lifeline. My heart was so full of joy and peace. Usually, it requires a lot of focus to do this task becomes it comes at the end of a long day. But I had exceptional energy and enthusiasm. I had a wonderful time with my Lifeline brothers and sisters!

So next time you hit a red light, don’t get frustrated and don’t think about the time you are wasting waiting for the green light to come up. “Stop” to give thanks to God for three things, and see if that doesn’t change something in your soul.

It’s a “signal” to enter into Whole Life Worship.

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Legacy

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Today is my Dad’s birthday. Lewis Lee would have been 85 today. But he passed away into the Lord’s presence ten years ago. And while some of the memories are beginning to blur, I will never forget him and I long for the day when I will see him again in the Lord’s presence.

Dad was a preacher’s kid. My grandfather was, among other things, a Presbyterian minister. He pastored a small flock of Korean immigrants who settled in Dinuba, CA (a Central California farm community) in the late 1920’s. I understand that his mother, my great-grandmother, became a Christ follower when Christian missionaries came to Korea in the early 1900’s. So I guess you could say that I’m a fourth generation Christian.

However, each of our paths to the Savior was our own. It is true that God doesn’t have any grandchildren, only children. Dad was a classic example of this. He rebelled against the faith at an early age. It seems that while my Grandfather was a wonderful pastor, he wasn’t so wonderful as a dad. The family was constantly neglected by my Grandfather in favor of the church. In fact, my Dad did not become a follower of Jesus until much later in life – after I became a Christ follower!

The interesting thing is that it was my Grandfather (I called him, “Papa”) who planted the first spiritual seeds in me when I was young. He died when I was only eight years old, but he constantly talked about God to me all the time. I also had godly neighbors who kept inviting me to VBS, which planted more seeds in my heart.

Finally, my mom (you know, “Gracie”) corralled all of us (including Dad) and made us go to church in my teen years. The moment of my conversion came my junior year in High School (1973) at a “Contemporary Worship Service” led by a Christian rock-band (inspired by the “Jesus People” movement – a big shout out to the late Pastor Chuck Smith whose vision to reach young people for Christ with Rock music) at our PRESBYTERIAN church! I guess Jesus really wanted me. And it was a profound conversion.

Soon after, my siblings also started following Jesus. I think they figured that if the Lord could transform their “knucklehead” big brother, there must be something to this Jesus. Dad was one of the last in my family to become a Christ follower. My siblings and I made several appeals to him to respond to Jesus, but for some reason he didn’t budge. Finally, a gruff Real Estate agent, who golfed with Dad, shared the Gospel with him and point blank asked him bluntly if he would receive Christ right then and there. And he did!

If my conversion was profound, Dad’s was AMAZING. It was like someone turned on the Light in my dad’s soul (and Someone did!) He was non-stop in his commitment to Christ for the next 25 years: visiting prisoners in jail, washing towels and serving meals at the Homeless Shelter, and telling everyone he met about Jesus Christ. Even though I had a decade or so on him in Christian “tenure,” he skyrocketed right past me through his unswerving commitment to Christ. He actually died doing what he loved best – helping and serving others.

I entitled this blog, “Legacy,” to show God’s faithfulness to generations. As it says in Exodus20:6, the LORD shows His love “to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.” I’m not sure how this works out, but I do know that it is not necessarily linear. Sometimes the parents aren’t the ones to pass the faith to the children. Sometimes the grandparents fail their own children, but make up for it with the grandkids. Sometimes the children influence the parents. And sometimes God uses Rock Bands and Real Estate agents to demonstrate His faithfulness and love to knuckleheads!

God’s ways are serendipitous, but they are sure. The role of the Whole Life Worshiper is not to follow a plan or an expectation, but to follow the “God-of-the-winding-road” and respond to opportunities as He presents them. As my Grandma (on my mom’s side; now 95 years old – another story for another day) would say, “It’s all good.”

Yes, God sure is!

(I miss you, Dad. I can’t wait to be reunited with you, Papa, Great-grandma who started this whole legacy, to be with the Lord on the other side of heaven!)

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Thank-You

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to “give thanks always for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Have you ever wondered what this means? Does this mean that I constantly need to say “thank you” to God?  Is God so insecure that He needs my “thank you” after He does something for me? Granted, we all know that it is nice to be thanked after we do something good or thoughtful, but we don’t need to be thanked; it’s not why we do something nice to others. So, why is giving thanks so important to God that it would be listed as a major aspect of doing His will?

Thanksgiving is important to God because it is important for us. God doesn’t need our thanks anymore than He needs our help or our money or anything else. He is totally self-sufficient. And giving thanks does not help Him be a “better God”. But it does help us become better people. God knows that giving thanks can powerfully impact our lives. Choosing to be thankful transforms our thoughts, our emotions, and, as a result, our actions. In other words, gratitude changes our attitude.

I remember one morning, not too long ago, having a big chip on my shoulder to start the day. I was a grump because I felt small, insignificant and unappreciated. I went to wake up my son. As I opened the door, I saw that his room was a disaster area and I reacted with harsh words. The rest of my family heard me and kept their distance, as if I had a “radioactive waste” sign around my neck! That only added “resentment” and “guilt” to my pity party. I got into my car, filled with “foul spirits”, and knowing that I had a ministry appointment in less than 30 minutes!

I felt so lost and defeated. I cried out to the Lord for help. And immediately, as if on cue, the words of 1 Thess. 5:18 came to mind – “give thanks always for this is God’s will.” It wasn’t easy, because I wasn’t feeling thankful in the least! But I forced myself to blurt out simple prayers of thanksgiving: “thank you for forgiving me”, “thank you for a car that runs”, “thank you for food in the pantry”, “thank you for hot and cold running water.” Whatever came to mind, I thanked God for it. My thanksgiving got deeper as I continued to thank Him aloud. I thanked Him for His ability to change my heart. I thanked Him for my family, and especially my son. I thanked Him for the opportunity I would have to ask for his forgiveness. It was then I realized how much I love my family and how much God had graced us. Before I knew it, my attitude had completely changed. No longer feeling a grump or a chump, I realized that I was among the most blessed man on the face of this earth. I was now ready to be a blessing to others and to God. “Thank you, Jesus, for this taste of abundant life!”

The enemy wants us to live in the dungeon of thankless-ness. This dungeon keeps us from experiencing the abundant Kingdom life Christ has for us. So Satan will throw at us the chains of self-pity, a complaining attitude, “taking things for granted”, and a “what’s-in-it-for-me” mindset. And when we give in to these thoughts, our hearts become hardened and calloused. What’s worse is that instead of living as Children of the Light, we actually start serving as agents of darkness.

But Christ has given us the key out of this dungeon: it is called “Giving Thanks Always.” The question is: are we going to use the key? Or will we wallow in the comfortable attitude of thankless-ness? Giving thanks is not easy; it goes against the grain of our flesh. Sometimes the action of giving thanks must be preceded by a cry for help: “Jesus, help me! Help me give thanks!” But thanksgiving is very powerful. Not only does it remove the “foul spirits” that have attached themselves to us, it allows us to be filled with the Spirit of God. It empowers us to bless others. It opens the eyes of our hearts to see the Goodness and Power of God in the midst of every situation. It lights our fire again and ignites our passion for Christ.

No wonder the Bible tells us to “give thanks … ALL THE TIME!” Gratitude changes our attitude, it transforms our hearts, it catapults us into the largeness of Whole Life Worship.

So many things I’ve taken for granted. Please help me fall in love all over again. Increase my passion, my yearning, my longing for you.

 (“I Bend My Knees Again” by Terry and Randy Butler)

 Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son!

 (“Give Thanks” by Don Moen)

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A couple years back, after having worn the same pair of glasses for ten years, I decided that it was time to get some new ones. And when I did, what a difference it made! Things that I had accepted as blurry and faded were now crystal clear. I did not realize how I had lost sight of what things were supposed to look like.

One fine morning, a Christian brother reminded me to put on my “God glasses.” What he was telling me was to look through life through the eyes of my Lord, rather than my own fuzzy perspective of things.

Putting on “God glasses” is a key Whole Life Worship concept.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:22-23 that our eyes (perspective) are lamps to the body. If our eyes are good (that is, seeing from God’s perspective), then our lives will be filled with light. But if our eyes are bad (that is, seeing from our own or the world’s perspective) then our lives will be filled with darkness. Then Jesus adds for further emphasis: “And how great is that darkness!” meaning that everything we perceive will be distorted.

Can you imagine what life would be like if everything you perceived was distorted – and didn’t realize it? An Air Force pilot tragically experienced this when she was flying upside down but thought she was right side up (which can easily happen, flying at supersonic speeds). When she pulled “up”, the jet plummeted down; crashing to the earth.

Likewise there are times when our perception can be fuzzy: we don’t know what end is up, we aren’t sure which choice is good or bad. We forget there is an enemy who wants to fake us into making poor decisions. We lose sight of the fact that the world influences our values more than we’d like. These things can lead us into darkness and destruction. Only God’s glasses give correct perspective; they lead us on the path to life.

Putting on God’s glasses requires proactivity and discipline. When I first got glasses at the ripe age of 13, I kept forgetting to put them on. Sometimes I didn’t want to put them on, lest people think I was a geek (not that they didn’t think I was one anyway!) It took a couple years of bad headaches and missed homework assignments (written on a chalkboard that seemed miles away) that I finally ate humble pie and started wearing my glasses – faithfully.

How do we put on God’s glasses? Here are some ideas:

1. Approach each day with wanting to do God’s will in mind. Jesus taught his disciples to pray right off the bat: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Too often our prayers are attempts to get God to see things our way, rather than trying to see things God’s way. When you sincerely pray, “Lord, I want Your will to be done in my life today – more than anything else” you will begin to see things as God does.

2. Look for God to be at work around you – and join in. In John 5 Jesus said, “My Father is always at work.” Jesus was not making a platitude; He meant it. God is at work all the time, around us, if we are willing to see. And when we see God at work, we join in what He is doing. That interruption might be a divine appointment. That inconvenience could be a God-opportunity.

3. Stay in community with God’s people. We don’t have the complete picture by ourselves. We need others in the community of faith to help guide us. God’s perspective comes by being connecting to Christ’s Body. We need others (prayer partners, mentors, accountability partners, small group members) who can remind us on a regular basis to look through life with God glasses. They may not be right all the time, but chances are they will be right more often than us, limited by our own perspective.

So how’s your view of life? If it’s fuzzy, out of focus or hopeless, you’re in need of a new set of lenses – God’s glasses! Put them on and enjoy the clarity that comes from a Whole Life Worship perspective.

“Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see You.”

(Open the Eyes of My Heart by Paul Baloche)

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