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Archive for December, 2013

The Lord is Come

47004457_640the-lord-has-come-printable-e1353380215858

At Christmas, you get a dozen different versions of the same song. Some songs have the same words with different melodies. Other songs have the same melodies but different words. And some songs have words that are mostly the same, but with some slight variations. It makes it tough for us worship leaders, who have to make the decision on which version that will work best for the congregation.

One of those songs is “Joy to the World.” In the very first line there is a variation. Some versions go, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” Older versions have, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” I have usually preferred “has” over “is” because it makes more sense in modern English. We just don’t use the words “is” and “come” together anymore.

However, I’ve changed my stance on this. I prefer the old “is come,” now. And the reason is more theological than it is grammatical.

The coming of the Lord is not just a past event. Certainly, Jesus Christ came historically over 2,000 years ago. But we also anticipate another coming of Jesus Christ in the future – the Second Coming. So we can also sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is coming.” The version of “has come” only tells part of the story.

But there is also the sense that Jesus is come, in the present sense. And that’s what I want to focus on today. Jesus continually comes into our lives, spiritually, as we open our hearts – day by day, moment by moment – to Him. In fact, it is the “ongoing” sense of “is come” that aptly describes the Whole Life Worship process.

Every time we notice the Lord at work around us, the Lord is come. Every time we turn to Him in prayer, the Lord is come. Every time we feel His presence, the Lord is come. Every time we surrender ourselves to His way and His will, the Lord is come. Every time we choose to love in the power of God, the Lord is come. The more we become aware of the Lord in our everyday ordinary lives, the Lord is come.

And every time the Lord is come into our lives, the more we are become as He is – transforming into His likeness.

How can you allow Jesus to come more into your life today?

I guarantee that you’ll experience a deeper “joy to the world” as the Lord “is come” more into your life.

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What’s the Rush?

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I’ve definitely noticed a change in the traffic patterns in my neck of the woods since Thanksgiving. People are driving faster. They are more impatient in traffic. They are cutting others off. They are insisting on their own way. They are running red lights and rolling past stop signs.

I know because I am one of them.

It bothers me because I have worked really hard to be more patient as a driver. It has become one of my “spiritual disciplines.” Seriously. If I can’t exhibit self-control in traffic, how will I ever be strong enough to stand up against persecution? How can I keep my faith and fortitude when I face severe calamity when I have trouble stopping at a stop sign? How can I really encourage another brother or sister to persevere in trials when I can’t control my driving habits when I’m running 5 minutes late?

As I reflect on my sins behind the wheel, two things pop up in my mind:

1. Herd mentality. I’m in a rush because I see that others are in a rush. When I see someone zipping in and out of the lanes of the freeway to get ahead, it makes me think: “Hey, I’m important, too. I need to get somewhere, too.” And so I follow along. And I’m also probably influencing someone else nearby to join in the rush by my actions. Together, we create a culture of “hurry.” Sin breeds more sin.

2. Adding holiday tasks cause us to lose margin. The reason we are in a rush during the holidays is because we’ve added more things to do without taking anything “off” our plates. We end up having more things to do in the same amount of time. So I think I can make up for it by driving faster, fudging on the traffic laws, and being more aggressive on the road. By saving two minutes on a trip, I can accomplish one more small holiday task that I’ve crammed into my already too full life.

I think about what Jesus said to Mary, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed” (Luke 10:41-42).

So I’ve decided to go against the herd mentality and drive more leisurely. I’m going to play worship music and meaningful Christmas music in my car. I’m going to enjoy my driving and get there when I get there. I’m going to let people whiz by me and not get caught up in the “rush” game.

I’ve also decided to downsize my holiday “to-do” list. I might not put up the house lights. I’m not going to the mall to shop. I’m not sending out Christmas cards this year. There might be a few other things I might “not do.”

But I am going to be faithful to personally worship Christ each morning. I will spend time in Scripture. I will be present and engaged with people.

With God’s help, I’m trying not to be in a rush anymore, especially during this holy season.

How about you?

What steps can you do this holiday season to prevent being caught up in the “rush”?

How can you be more present to Christ and others?

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Stepping into My Darkness

Light-Through-Door

Tonight at worship team rehearsal we went over a song we are doing this weekend, “Here I Am to Worship” by Chris Tomlin. It’s an “oldie” that we haven’t done for quite awhile. During our team time we discussed the some of the lyrics and how they are so appropriate for Advent (“Coming”). They talk about the incarnation, the humble act of God:

King of all days, O most highly exalted, glorious in heaven above,

Humbly you came to the earth you created, all for Love’s sake became poor.

But the line that always gets me is the first one:

Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness.

As we read in Scripture, the concept of true Light has nothing to do with darkness. Light is holiness, purity and perfection. Darkness is sin, evil and defilement. But Christ, the Light of the world, chose to step down into darkness. That required intention, as it is not Light’s first tendency to go toward darkness, but away from it. The Bible calls this intention, “love.”

I take it personally. Jesus did not just step into the world’s darkness. He steps into my darkness: Into my filth, my brokenness, and my evil. Into my secret pride, my seediest lusts, and my deepest fear. New York City’s sewers have nothing over the depths of my fallen humanity.

Light steps in my darkness because of love. Love says that there is something valuable in that murk and mire. Apparently, there’s something worth saving and redeeming underneath the garbage; something worth loving and transforming.

It’s incredibly humbling to realize that that “something” is me.

And you.

The miracle is that Jesus’ Light doesn’t just rescue us from darkness, He also transforms the darkness within into light. He is the Light of the World. But He also calls us “the light of the world.” (Matt. 5:14)

So that’s how it works! No wonder Paul says that we “were once darkness, but now we are Light in the Lord” (Eph 5:8). When we allow the Light to step into our darkness, we become light. Together we are a string of lights that shine (think about that when you put up Christmas lights: that’s us!) Eventually, we become a City of Light and the darkness  – that once enveloped us, dominated us, defined us and enslaved us – will become a distant memory.

Light of the world, here I am to worship!

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Anticipation

We are now in the season of Advent. Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” Many liturgical churches celebrate Advent as a re-enactment and celebration of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. As people who live on this side of the Cross, we also look forward to Christ’s Second Coming (Advent).

However, Advent also represents the “comings” of Christ into our lives in this “in-between” time of His physical arrivals. He brings His spiritual presence to our lives in prayer, worship, and life. As Paul prays in Ephesians 3:17, “I pray that … Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith,” we can experience the presence of Jesus in the here and now.

But as with any “coming,” there is a “waiting.” Advent teaches us to wait. The Jews had to wait 400 years from Malachi’s last word to the coming of the Word. During Advent we wait four weeks before Christ’s Mass comes. And in the sanctuary of our soul, we also have to wait for Christ to come and make His presence known.

As I’ve learned over the years, the Lord does not have to come to me on my beck and call. After all, He is the Lord and He makes His presence known only when He chooses. Although I am cognizant that Christ is always with me in a theological sense, my awareness of His close presence is more infrequent. Often, I have to wait; and it’s usually because my soul needs time to ready itself for His arrival.

However, the waiting for Christ is not like waiting for a fickle person. No, Christ always comes. It’s never a matter of “if,” but “when.” There is never any anxiety; only anticipation. And that’s what Advent teaches: as we wait for Christ, we wait in anticipation; with a sense of expectancy.

I have found this mindset helpful in practicing Silent/Contemplative prayer. Rather than trying to “ramp up” or fabricate the presence of Jesus (through words, emotions or thoughts), I simply wait for Jesus to “show up.” Sometimes He shows up in powerful, tangible ways; other times, I don’t sense anything on a conscious level. But later on (sometimes, much later) I see that He was there – kind of like the footprints in the sand or, better, fingerprints on my soul.

This practice of waiting with anticipation prepares me to “notice” more when Christ reveals Himself to me in ordinary life: like this morning when my grandson said, “Goodbye, Grandpa!” as I dropped him off at school. For some reason, I felt the kiss of God in that. Or when I notice a peculiar peace when I am working. Or when I feel a burden to pray for someone.

Practicing anticipation. Advent teaching us the deeper sense of Emmanuel, “God with us.”

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cart-before-the-horse

I apologize for the lack of posts these past couple of days. To be honest, I was depleted. I just had nothing to write, nothing to say. Along with the travel, being with family and Thanksgiving preparations (all of this good), there were additional issues that sapped my soul: the death of my Grandma, the preaching of a sermon (not one of my regular duties), and some personal turmoil that my family is facing.

In the midst of this, God spoke in His still, small voice: “You can give the blog a break. You were beginning to put the cart in front of the horse, anyway.”

As usual, the Lord was right on. As much as I love writing this blog, I had become so consumed with the responsibility of putting it out every week day, feeling so “important” because others were counting on me, and somewhat prideful in the growing readership, that I lost track on why I’m doing this:

To pursue the depths of God’s transforming work in me and others through Whole Life Worship.

I had made the blog more important than the journey of transformation. The blog is nothing more than the sharing of this journey with other sojourners. I realized that the blog is not the journey, nor is it more important than the journey. So, out of obedience to God and respect for my soul, I took a “break.”

And I have to be honest with you, it felt good to take a break.

I’m back again, and my intention is to keep the weekday output. But I am considering some tweaks in the blog so that I don’t get caught putting the proverbial horse before the cart again. Let me run them by you:

1. I’m going to try to write shorter blogs. (Some of you are rejoicing, aren’t you!)

2. I might take a break now and then. I want inspiration and insight to take the lead on this blog, not some codependent feeling that I have to “get something out” for my constituency.

3. I want to leverage more input and inspiration from you (the reader). You might have questions or thoughts about Whole Life Worship that will help me in writing this blog.

Can I ask you to share them with me? I can’t promise that I will use every one, but they will definitely “kick start” my thinking. If you are subscribing, you can “reply” to this blog. If you are reading this on Facebook, you send me a message; my user name is “Douglas M. Lee”. Or you can email me at: wholelifeworship@gmail.com

Thanks for your support! Let’s keep encouraging each other to live for, with and through Jesus 24/7 in Whole Life Worship.

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