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Archive for March, 2014

Alignment

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I’ve learned this the hard way. When my wheels are not aligned it gets expensive. I go through tires quicker and I get worse gas mileage. It’s also dangerous, as I have to compensate my steering against the pull of a misaligned wheel.

The same is true with our lives. When they are not aligned with the right thing it can be expensive and dangerous. Relationships fall apart through lives that are aligned with deception and selfishness. Fortunes are lost through lives that are aligned with addictive behaviors. Time is wasted on lives that are aligned on the wrong perceptions. Generations are tainted and families destroyed when one person makes a poor alignment decision.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus addresses the alignment issue:

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

There is only one way a creature was meant to live: in alignment with the ways of the Creator. Everything else will result in the “wheels falling off the wagon.”

It is not enough to call God, “Father.” Nor is it enough to revere His name. We need to follow His ways. We need to align ourselves with His purposes.

Asking for God’s Kingdom to come is asking for the reign of God to extend beyond the reaches of Heaven (another word for “that which is under His reign”) to the human realm of earth. At one time, the realm of the earth was under God’s reign. But you know the story; there was sin and the Fall, the transference of the earthly and human realm to the powers of darkness, the redemption by the Son of God, and now – slowly but surely – the Kingdom of this world is becoming the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ. While God desires to see His Kingdom to come to all people, it is imperative that the one person who needs this alignment the most is the one whose face we see in the mirror everyday: you and me.

When we pray for God’s Kingdom to come, we are asking God to rule in our lives. This is something we need to do regularly. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross made it possible to be free from the prison of sin and death. Now I live in the freedom of God’s Kingdom – but I need to align myself daily (if not several times during the day) to the reign of God. It means that I am not in charge of my life; the Lord is.

This has a tremendous upside. While it is true that I am surrendering my life to God, I’m also putting myself under His protection, His provision, and His grace. I don’t have to worry about things and situations that are out of my hands. My life is totally in the hands of my Loving King, who is Almighty, Wise, Omnipresent, and Sovereign.

In the prayer, I also align my actions to God’s will. Jesus gives us the best example of what that means when he said, “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does” (John 5:19). Doing God’s will is simply doing what He commands us to do. This assumes that we are listening and seeking Him. Romans 12:1-2 points to offering ourselves to God as a living sacrifice (which, by the way, is Whole Life Worship). When we do this, we are transformed so that we can know and do God’s will.

This alignment of Kingdom reign and alignment of God’s will results in a life that glorifies God. It also results in a life of fruitfulness (John 15) and abundance (John 10:10).

When we pray this part of the prayer, we are not just aligning the “wheels” of our lives, we are gassing up the car and heading down the right path … to life, to Whole Life Worship.

When you pray do you take time to align yourself to God’s reign and will?

What are specific ways we adjust our lives to this alignment?

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To an American citizen living in the early 1960’s, John F. Kennedy was the most powerful man on the planet. He was President of the United States, Defender of the Free World, and Commander in Chief of the most powerful military force. He was a decisive leader whose decisions had global ramifications.

However, to two children in America (named John-John and Caroline) he was simply “Daddy.” I think one of the most poignant photos I’ve ever seen was John-John playing hide-and-go-seek with his Daddy in the Oval Office. In it we see a great juxtaposition of roles: the Daddy who is also the most powerful man in the world.

I liken this to the first two phrases of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in Heaven” and “Hallowed be Thy Name.” As we discussed earlier, Jesus taught his disciples to address God as “Abba/Daddy.” But we must never forget who our Daddy is: Holy God Almighty.

“Hallowed” is another word for “holy” – which means “set apart,” “like none other.” In Middle Eastern cultures, especially in Jewish Palestine, one’s “name” represented one’s character. For example, “Jacob” means “trickster, conniver.” And certainly, the Jacob of Genesis was that – as he faked out his brother out of a birthright and his dad into giving him a blessing. But when Jacob came to grips with who he turned out to be and wrestled with God, his name was changed to “Israel” – which means, “prevailed with God.” And that name reflected his new, transformed character.

God has many names in the Bible, and each one tells us about his character. Some of the names given to God were compound: They involved using His personal name (“Yahweh” – written as “LORD” in most English translations and meaning “I Am”) and a specific description of who He is. For example, in Genesis 22 after God provided a ram in the thicket for the sacrifice, Abraham called God, “Yahweh-Jireh” which means “The LORD who provides.” There are several other compound names in the Bible, including:

Yahweh-Tsidkenu: The LORD, my righteousness

Yahweh-M’kaddesh: The LORD who makes holy

Yahweh-Shammah: The LORD who is there

Yahweh-Rophe: The LORD is my healer

Yahweh-Nissi: The LORD is my banner

Yahweh-Rohi: The LORD, my shepherd

When I pray “hallowed be Thy name,” I spend quite a bit of time remembering the names of God (these names, not to mention several other names: “Alpha and Omega,” “the Vine,” “The LORD of Hosts,” etc.) and then set God apart in my life with that characteristic. For example, when I set God apart as the LORD, my righteousness (Yahweh-Tsidkenu), I remember that my own righteousness is like a “dirty rag” (according to Isaiah). I need the righteousness that God provides through Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect, sinless life. Also because of Christ, I don’t have to find my right-ness in what others think about me, how I look, what degrees I’ve earned, how much money I make, how talented I am, or how famous I am. Likewise, I don’t sweat it if I’m not smart, rich, handsome or famous. In God’s eyes, I have the righteousness of Jesus. Hallowing God’s name as my Righteousness sets my mind on the right track as I face the challenges of the day that will test me on whether I will trust in what God thinks or what people think. I find it extremely freeing to pray in this way.

Rev. Clyde Hodson (clydehodson@prayermentor.org) has an excellent resource on how to pray the compound names of Yahweh. Also, Larry Lea’s book, “Could You Not Tarry for One Hour?” is a good resource on praying through the Lord’s Prayer in six, ten-minute segments; one of which is “hallowed be Thy name.”

Knowing who our “Daddy” is and setting Him apart as the One who fulfills all the Biblical attributes in our lives is transforming and, therefore, a key aspect of Whole Life Worship. As it says in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life: that they (meaning “us”) know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

Do you focus on how great the Father is when you pray?

How has that helped direct and impact your life?

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Our Father

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Over the next few days I want to look specifically how we can use the “Lord’s Prayer” as a model for prayer. Each line of this prayer is a concept of prayer in and of itself. As we use the Lord’s Prayer as several prayer concepts, our prayer life and our relationship with God is deepened and expanded.

My friend and colleague, Rev. Clyde Hodson (President of PrayerMentor), first introduced me to looking at the Lord’s Prayer as a model. At the time, my prayer life was inconsistent and lacked vitality. After understanding this model, my prayer life came alive and my understanding of who God is in relation to life grew exponentially (as did our church, by the way, which doubled in size during the year Clyde and I prayed together three times a week using this model).

The first line of the Lord’s Prayer is:

Our Father, who art in heaven.

We take for granted that Jesus taught us to address God as our heavenly Father. But this was a radical concept during Jesus’ day. Faithful Jews saw God as holy, powerful, the Provider, the Righteous Judge, and the Lord of the angel armies (“hosts”). But the idea of God as Father was almost sacrilegious. God was considered too holy and too far above the human realm to be seriously considered as a “Father.” And no faithful Jew would ever consider themselves as a son or daughter of God. That was a position reserved for someone on the “Messiah” level.

But Jesus taught us to call on God as our Father. Most likely, when Jesus taught this prayer in the Aramaic language (which was the language he used in teaching and conversation) he used the word, “Abba” (meaning “Daddy” or “Papa” – a child’s way of addressing their father).

Can you imagine the shock in the disciples’ faces when Jesus told them to call on the Almighty as “Daddy”?!

What Jesus knew that His disciples didn’t (and that we take for granted) was that God’s truest desire for us is to call Him “Daddy.” God’s deepest desire was not for us to just be His creatures or His servants or even His chosen people, but that we would become His children! This was the whole reason why Jesus came and gave His life for us on the cross, which is why the Apostle John declares, with amazement:

Behold, what manner of love the Father has given to us: that we should be called the “sons” and “daughters” of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)

So when I pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” I am stating God’s greatest desire fulfilled: that I am now His precious child through the work of His only begotten, Jesus Christ. I use this part of the prayer to thank Abba/Daddy/Papa for loving me, for adopting me, for making me his child. I spend time reveling in the fact that I belong to Him. I think about how deeply and intensely I love my boys, and transfer that emotion to how God feels about me (and so much more because He is the Good Father). I bask in the safety and protection of my Daddy, who is also Sovereign of the Universe and the Almighty One.

Do you catch my drift?

This is more than a 6 word opening line to a short prayer. This is a portal to inexpressible joy, my friends! God is my Father! God is your Father! God is our Father – who art in heaven.

One last word: Jesus taught us to begin our prayers with “Our Father,” not “My Father.” This means that His deepest desire is not just for me, but for others. He so loves my brothers and sisters in Christ. He so loves those who have yet to discover Him. And so, I, as His child, should love people as my Daddy loves them. Sons and daughters of God need to learn to love as Daddy loves – as Jesus demonstrated to us. (And, boy, do I have a ways to go!)

So when we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” I hope we have a greater sense of what we’re actually saying and what it means to Abba/Papa/Daddy when we pray it from our hearts. It’s the great, noble starting place for our Whole Life Worship.

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A Short Break

Today I’m taking a break from the blog. Yesterday was my Sabbath and during that time I sensed that I need to rethink an pray over the rhythm and frequency of writing Whole Life Worship blog posts. So, I will be back after a short break and let you know how the Lord is directing me. Hopefully, we will have a plan of action that continues this ministry in a way that furthers the concept and practice of Whole Life Worship, but in a way and a rhythm that continues to be life-giving to me.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for reading this blog and for the encouraging comments many of you have given me over these past 15 months. I’m thankful for how God is using it to draw you closer to Him in your everyday life. And thank you for understanding my need for this short break.

Always in Jesus,

Doug

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This past weekend I got to take my Worship Ministry Leaders on a retreat up in the mountains. We asked the worship team from our daughter church to lead worship for our “peeps,” and they did a wonderful, amazing job! Thanks, Flipside Church!

One of the things we did was reflect on where the Worship Ministry is at today. We were amazed at what God had done over the past few years: how the people in our ministry have grown musically, how our church is experiencing God more deeply in our corporate worship gatherings, and how God continues to bring in such wonderful people to our ministry.

But the one thing that touched our hearts was the same comment made by two different people who recently joined our ministry: “This worship ministry is different than I’ve experienced in other churches. This ministry is a family.”

It resonated with the leadership because it confirmed a vision that we have been working on for two years: if we focused on ‘feeding the sheep’ by loving our people, encouraging their spiritual growth and providing a caring environment, then everything else will come together.

For so long we had been working on execution, musicianship, and learning the newest sounds and styles. And while that helped us “sound” better, something was missing. And it was at another Worship Leader Retreat that God gave us the answer: don’t just become a better team of musicians, become a better family of Christ followers.

And, amazingly enough, our music became better, too. It was richer, more meaningful. We sang more in tune because our hearts were more in tune. Instruments stopped clashing and insisting on being heard because we learned how to defer and complement in our relationships.

It made me think about my leadership in ministry.

When all is said and done, God will probably not say to me on that Last Day, “Doug, that was a great worship service you led on January 21, 2013.” Or, “Well done, Doug, you got your volunteer worship team to sound like pros.” More than likely, He will say, “Did you invest in the people I entrusted you? Did you help them to become all they could be in Christ? Did you help them feel like they were part of My family? Did you feed My sheep?”

The formula for beautiful worship music is not “musical precision + cool drum beats + awesome harmonies + great licks,” but “love + Christ-following + giving our best + together.”

For without love, even angelic sounding voices are nothing but noisy gongs.

But the music of the hearts united in love for God and each other is the foundation of truly beautiful worship music.

I know because I have the honor of seeing it and hearing it every week.

How do your relationships affect your worship of God?

What helps you to build relationships with the people you serve with in ministry?

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When my alarm goes off early in the morning, it awakens me to the one thing I often dread: Working Out. I am so tempted to just hit the snooze button or roll over and forget about it altogether. But now that Letty is my accountability partner in exercise, I just can’t do that anymore. I know that working out is a good thing for me, but – like eating Brussell Sprouts – it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

The other day when I met with one of my spiritual friendship groups, we shared about how we best connect with God. One of the members, my good friend and colleague Jeanne, shared about how she connects with God through exercise. She’s a cyclist and her best times with God is when she is on the road – gears a’grinding, wheels a’spinning, heart a’pumping, body a’sweating, and her soul a’praising and a’praying. She experiences a sense of joy, peace and grace when she connects with God while working out. There is a special convergence and communion that happens when our physical bodies operate alongside our souls. As Olympic medalist and devout Christ-follower, Eric Liddell, once said, “God created me to run. When I run, it gives God pleasure.”

There is a great word that describes when the spiritual reality converges with physical reality: “Incarnation.” Nowadays, incarnation is a word used in Christian ministry circles to denote acts of justice and compassion (which is good because there isn’t enough of that happening!) But incarnation is more than that. It is the intentional act of putting a physical expression to spiritual movement. The ultimate act of incarnation happened when the Son became “flesh” and dwelt among us (John 1:14). This inspires us to smaller acts of incarnation where the ways of the Spirit lead our souls to express them in physical reality. These include acts of compassion and justice, but it also includes aligning our actions with God’s commandments, spiritual disciplines (like fasting and giving), singing/clapping/lifting hands to God in worship, and working out with our bodies and souls. And whenever we do this, it gives God great pleasure!

So I tried out Jeanne’s idea yesterday morning. I woke up in my typical grumpy state, but I was determined to let God be the focus as I did my 30 minute workout on the elliptical. Instead of starting off my workout to the pace-making music of Chicago, Boz Scaggs and the Doobie Brothers, I began with the Jesus Prayer followed by Silent Prayer. At first it was hard as both my body and soul rebelled against this change of routine. But as my soul centered on God, my body settled into a comfortable rhythm: Muscles moving, deep breathing, sweat pouring out. After ten minutes of silence, I started the iPhone with my praise and worship play list. Although I’ve heard those songs hundreds of times before without noticing anything, this time the lyrics popped in my mind like fireworks! “Every day, Lord, I’ll learn to stand upon Your Word.” “Praises to the Lamb who saved us.” “Happy day, You’ve washed my sins away.” The combination of the physical and spiritual opened the way to soulful worship to God. My 30 minute workout – which always seems 29 minutes too long – went by easily. In fact, I could have gone on longer (but I didn’t – gotta save some for tomorrow).

Thanks to Jeanne, I was inspired to connect with God in this way!

Two takeaways from this Whole Life Worship lesson:

1. It is good to get physical with God. Too often we leave the “spiritual” in the head or in the prayer closet. God created us in our bodies. We don’t just have a body; we are a body. When we use our bodies in ways that glorify Him – whether that is serving, reaching out, helping others, or worshiping – it brings pleasure to both Him and us.

2. We can learn new ways with God through spiritual friendships. The sharing of ideas help us; not only to understand how others are different, but also to inspire us to new things in our walk with God. We are meant to share the journey of faith together. Since we are the “Body of Christ,” spiritual friendships help us exercise the Body – in the larger sense!

How can you put a physical expression to your spiritual life?

Do you have spiritual friendships that encourage you towards greater connection with God? What things have helped you in these spiritual friendships?

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Was That God?!

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Awhile back Letty and I took our grandkids on an overnight trip to Lego Land in Carlsbad, CA. It was the boys’ first experience in a hotel. Early in the morning, I stepped outside and had my Personal Worship Time with God on the little patio area next to our room. Aiden, my youngest grandson, woke up and asked Letty, “Where’s Grandpa?” She told him, “He’s talking to God right now.” “Oh,” said four-year old Aiden. After I was done, I left to get some breakfast at the nearby McDonald’s. Aiden sneaked out into the patio area while Letty was cleaning up the room. There was a man talking on his cell-phone on the patio right above us. Upon hearing the man’s voice, Aiden jumped back into the room, wide-eyed with excitement as he asked his grandma the question:

“Was that God?!”

Too cute!

You can imagine the delight in my heart when I heard that story after I got back from McDonald’s. I had a smile on my face all day long!

Although Aiden did not hear God speaking (at least, I don’t think it was), I am so glad that he is inquisitive about hearing God’s voice. I pray that he never stops listening for the voice of God. I long for the day (and that it would come soon) where Aiden and DeeJay would recognize the small still voice of God speaking to their soul. I pray they would learn the many ways God speaks to us, through His Word, through godly people, through Creation, through circumstances (both good and bad), and through the many blessings He gives to us day after day.

Hearing God’s “voice” is essential to Whole Life Worship, as we seek to glorify God by walking with Him, following His direction and obeying His will. Whole Life Worshipers need to understand how God encourages, strengthens, prompts, and leads. It is imperative that we continually keep our ears open to the “voice” of the Lord, and expect Him to speak to us – certainly not on demand or at our command, but as a servant would expect his Master to communicate his bidding.

Jesus says that we (the sheep of his fold) should expect to hear his voice (the Great Shepherd). In John 10:3-4, Jesus says:

“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him (the Shepherd), and the sheep listen to his (the Shepherd’s) voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Many years ago, before I was on staff at my church, I had the honor of joining the pastoral staff in prayer for the needs of the people in the church. As we prayed, a thought came into my head to pray for a specific person who was battling cancer. But before I could pray it, one of the pastors prayed that exact prayer! Then the thought of praying for the growth of our youth ministry popped into my mind. But, again, someone prayed it before I could open my mouth! A third time a thought of praying for a needy family came. But – you guessed it – someone beat me to it.

After the prayer meeting, I came up to Bob Logan (my mentor and our founding pastor). I apologized for not praying and shared with him what happened. He looked at me intently and said, “Doug, you were hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. God was speaking to you. So memorize that voice!”

How do you hear God’s voice?

How do you discern whether it is God who is speaking to you or your own thoughts?

How important is it for you to hear and discern God’s voice in your daily life?

How can you increase the frequency of giving God space to speak to you in your life?

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