Archive for August, 2014

I’ve written a book on Whole Life Worship. It’s called Whole Life Worship: More Than a Song. I want to make it available to you – for free!

It’s actually been around for a few years and I’ve been trying to get it ready for publication since I’ve finished the draft. But I’m such a perfectionist (it’s a part of my false self) and I’ve finally come to the realization that this book will NEVER be perfect. But there’s a good enough book there to get it out in it’s current state. Most of all, it will give you the foundation for why I am writing this blog.

So you can go to this website (it’s my church’s website) and download it (pdf format). It’s about 125 pages long. You can share it with whoever you like, whoever needs to hear it, or whoever is thirsting to worship God in deeper ways.

And please read it. And let me know what you think. And, most importantly, let God speak to you through it. it will probably generate some thoughts and emotions – through which the Spirit might be bringing up.

Here is the website link that will take you to the book:




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There are times, after a worship service, when people will come up to me and say things like: “That was awesome worship” or “Worship was really great today!” Such statements are flattering, but what do they mean? Usually it means a variety of things ranging from: “the music rocked!”, or “you sang my favorite song!” Sometimes people were genuinely touched by God’s presence through music and prayer. But even if it is the latter (more noble) response, I often wonder: Who are we to judge how “awesome” worship is?

In the New Testament Greek, there are two words that are translated as “worship.” One word is proskuneo. This is actually a compound word: pros means to show reverence (where we get the word “prostrate” – the position of ultimate reverence and respect) and kuneo which means “to kiss.” In our worship of God we have a sense of both revering His greatness and drawing near in intimacy. This is the definition of worship that is most familiar to us: we praise, we clap, we lift hands, we sing, we kneel and we stand out of a sense of proskuneo.

The other word for worship is latreuo. This word means “service.” It is the word used in Romans 12:1 where we admonished to worship the Lord by offering our bodies to Him as a living sacrifice. Literally, this means that our worship is the daily giving our lives over to His service. We worship God as we serve Him; we honor His name as we do His will. This is the “forgotten side” of worship. People often leave their worship of God in the building on Sunday morning, but the rest of the week is indulged in the worship of the “self” and other things. For what we serve is what we worship.

King Saul was an expert at proskuneo worship. He could praise, he could dance, he could prophesy. He could even present burnt offerings to God. He had “awesome” worship experiences – God talked to him all the time! But was God pleased with his worship? NO! As good as he was at proskuneo worship, he neglected latreuo worship. The prophet Samuel had to chastise Saul many times: God does not want your sacrifice; He wants your obedience!

In Matthew 21:28-31, Jesus shared a parable about two sons. The father asked each son to do something. The first son said the right thing (proskuneo) but did the wrong thing. The second son said the wrong thing, but ­did the right thing (latreuo). Which son was more highly regarded by the father? The second son.

Now don’t get me wrong. It is good to proskuneo; to give God praise and thanksgiving. It is wonderful to sing to the Lord and to dance in His presence. It truly is exhilarating and right for people to get connected with God in corporate and private proskuneo. But let’s not forget to worship God with our lives, our decisions, our day to day doings and dealings. Don’t forget to latreuo – or our proskuneo will become empty and worthless. (Even as I’m writing this, I’m hearing a commercial for praise and worship CDs on the TV – “awesome worship” for only $29.95!)

You see, we are not in the place to judge whether worship is “awesome” or “lousy”. Only God is in that place. And when the Lord looks upon the lives of His children and sees that they are walking in His Spirit, obeying His commands, expressing His love and compassion to a lost world, and surrendered to living out His will in the daily ordinary experiences of life, is when He will say:

                     “Now, THAT is awesome worship!”

 Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee. Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love. Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

 (Charles Wesley, “Take My Life”)

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I love that song “Heart of Worship.” It really speaks to the crucial issue of what worship is all about. In this day and age of “consumer oriented music” our churches have been caught up with consumer oriented worship. Matt Redman’s song is a reminder that worship is:

  1. All about Jesus, not about us; and
  2. It’s more than just singing a song

I think folks are getting the first part down; and that’s awesome! Worship is not what I get out of it; it’s what I put into it – it’s giving to God. It is wonderful when people realize that worship is not about hearing their favorite song, in their style, to their liking – but about giving Jesus Christ the praise that is due His name. That is the beginning of true communion with God.

The second part, though, is what I want to focus on. We know that worship is more than just singing songs to Jesus, but how much more? Worship is more than just my music, but how much more? Worship is more than just the hour a week I spend with my church family, but how much more?

The Apostle Paul gives us the answer to the “how much more” question in Romans 12:1. He writes:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.

How much more? Our whole bodies – meaning: our whole lives. When we do this, it is holy and pleasing to God.  If you were to ask God how He wants you to worship Him, He would say: “Give Me your whole life; that is your spiritual act of worship.”

I call this “Whole Life Worship.” It’s the worship God wants from us. It’s also the worship God deserves from us. Anything less would be inappropriate and irrelevant. After all, did God only give a part of Himself to us? Did God only give us a song to live on? Did God only give us one day a week to provide for our needs? Did God only give us lip service to save us? No, He gave His all for us. Jesus offered His body as a living (and dying) sacrifice in order to save us from sin, death and the pit of hell.

In the days and weeks to come, I want us to take a closer look at “Whole Life Worship”; what it means, how to do it, and what happens when we do it. Whole Life Worship opens the door to God’s Kingdom – the truly abundant life. Whole Life Worship changes us – it transforms and renews us. Whole Life Worship is what attracts others to Christ – they see how a truly God-centered life is the only way to live.

Let me end with this silly thought: there are two parties involved in producing a ham omelet – the chicken and the pig. The chicken contributed, but the pig was committed. (Get it?) But in a strange sort of way, this also describes the dynamics of worship. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. Whole Life Worship calls us to go beyond seeing worship as a contribution for God, and more as a commitment to Him. It is so much more than just a song.

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More Than A Song

(This is a great blog article on Wholelifeworship written by my good friend and colleague, Scott Higa. Scott is the Youth Pastor at my church and he writes a wonderful weekday blog – thechristiannerd.com, which has great insights into the Christian life from current pop/tech/movie/nerd culture perspective).

I really love going to church. I suppose that’s good since I’m a pastor, but I’m sure there are some pastors who have no desire to sit through a worship service. I’m not one of those people. I may complain about having to wake up early every Sunday, but once I’m at church I love it. I especially love it when I can simply sit in service without any responsibilities. No preaching. No announcements. No anything.

I had one of those experiences yesterday where I just got to sit in a worship service with Alycia. I didn’t have to talk into a microphone and I was able to sit in a row other than the front row. It was a wonderful time, in large part due to the sermon and the new series we started at our church this past weekend.

Our new series is called More Than a Song. I knew this sermon series was coming and I even knew what the sermon itself was going to be all about. Even with all that foreknowledge, though, I was still surprised by the sermon. I was surprised by the simplicity of the message that worship isn’t just something we do in church or through music. The entirety of our lives can be worship to God. We can worship God, like The Police said, with every breath we take and every move we make. We just need to view our lives in that light.

It’s easier to view worship as an event contained within a specific time and place. When viewed like that, worship doesn’t take too much of a commitment. When we relegate worship to an hour and a half on Sundays and perhaps another hour or two throughout the week, it’s easy to feel like we are living sacrificially for God. However, in Romans 12, Paul tells us that we should be living sacrifices. If we are breathing then we should be a sacrifice to God. Sometimes we’d much rather be a Sunday morning sacrifice, a Wednesday night prayer meeting sacrifice or a Thursday morning men’s group sacrifice. Again, being that kind of sacrifice takes much less commitment, but it also disconnects us from our purpose in life.

God created us to worship him in all the we do. The universe constantly sings God’s praise and we were created to sing right along with it. Unlike a tree, star or dolphin, we have the choice of whether or not we want to worship God. We also have the choice of how often and with how much fervor we worship God. If we choose to live lives of worship, constantly praising God in all that we do, we will start to see him more clearly. We’ll see how he’s working in our lives more often and we’ll better see him for who he truly is. Instead of only focusing on praising God for an hour a week, we’ll be focused on bringing God praise in all that we do, through the good times and the bad.

And that kind of focus won’t only put us more in line with how we were created, it will also transform us more into the people we were created to be.

What helps you be a living sacrifice?

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This past weekend was so very bittersweet for me. Krista, my protégée for seven years, has – in her own words – “left the nest.” She was asked to be the worship pastor at one of our daughter church and she accepted. For our church, this is a huge win: to see one of our own (she had been a part of our church since she was two years old) so grow and thrive in her relationship with the Lord, that she starts making major contributions – not just for our church – but for the Kingdom of God.

For seven years, I’ve taught and trained Krista to be a worship pastor. First, it was learning the mechanics of the ministry, as she served as my administrative assistant. Then it was process of becoming a worship leader – to understand the congregation, to work with the team, and to coordinate with our staff. Then there was the training of going deeper with God; spiritual formation, seeking Christ in Whole Life Worship, confronting the false self, and learning to lead from the strength of our Christ-surrendered souls. And finally, we focused on what it means to feed the sheep of Jesus; pastoring people, being present and helping them in their time of need, discerning the Spirit’s lead in how He wants us to come alongside people – and not relying on our own insight.

And the past few years have been so awesome! You see, it wasn’t always about me training Krista. She taught me so much about faith, love, truth, and being authentic. (I think I learned far more from her than she did from me.) The last couple of years our relationship was less Master/Protégée, and more like being seasoned co-workers. We were a finely tuned “duet” that enabled our Worship Ministry to enjoy its best years of ministry in the twenty-two years I have served at this church.

But now she is moving on. She is ready to be a worship pastor at another church that needs her. And so, part of me is so very, very happy. This is a fulfillment of a grace-filled, yet intentional work of seven years. I celebrate that with gusto!

And yet, I’m also very, very sad. I will sorely miss her. Very bitter-sweet.

And this is not the first time. Over the past 30 years, I’ve had the honor and privilege to raise up, train, and release several worship leaders and pastors. I think I’m wired to do this. I’m most alive when I am working with a protégée. Each goodbye is hard because of the mixed emotions. There is the initial sense of sadness at one level, but it’s always followed by a “tinge” deep joy as time goes by.

I’m in good company. Moses passed the mantle to Joshua. Elijah had to release Elisha. Barnabas mentored and elevated Paul. Paul trained and sent out Timothy. And the goodbyes were hard. But it is God’s will and design for us to multiply leaders for the Kingdom, and to do it relationally.

I’ve lost a protégée. But the tinge of joy is that I’ve gained a colleague. And with this colleague, there are great hopes and expectations – not only in her own worship ministry – but also of seeing her own protégées raised up, them being trained by her in Whole Life Worship, and then released and thriving for the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus. And that vision is worth far more than any sense of loss I’m feeling today.

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)

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Doing “For” God

I’m back! I was on a spiritual transformation retreat the past few days, focusing on the topic of spiritual discernment. It was a great time and I learned so much, but need to process it some more before I share any reflections on the subject.

Last week, I wrote about “prepositions.” These are those small words that we often overlook in our Bible reading. Yet, they are very significant and powerful words, especially when attached to God/Christ. We started with “from God” or “by Christ”; looking at how it all begins with Him. Then we looked at “to Christ” – the appropriate response and direction because of His greatness and love. This led us to the intimate invitation we are given to be “in Christ.” And finally, we are called to live life in companionship “with” Christ and “through” the power of the Spirit.

And all this leads us to the last preposition: “for.”

Many of you are in some sort of ministry. The reason you are in ministry is because you want to do things “for God.” After all, God through Christ, has done so much for us. He not only created us, but He redeemed us, He gave His life for us, He gives us new life through His Spirit, and we receive blessing upon blessing for all the many other things He does “for” us. So it is the natural and appropriate desire to do things “for God.”

Just a couple of thoughts about doing things “for God.”

1. We do things for God as a response of thanksgiving, not as a way to “earn” God’s favor. If we are doing things for God in order to get more blessing from God, we’re missing the mark. That is a subtle form of manipulation; something that pagan religions espouse in order to pull the odds “ever in our favor.” But we believe God has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Our doing “for” Him is simply a thankful response.

2. Doing things for God is out of the overflow from experiencing life with God. So before we start doing “for” God, we need to understand and embrace the “from,” “by,” “to,” “in,” “with,” and “through” God/Christ. When we exercise the other prepositions first, it makes our doing “for” God so much more powerful and meaningful.

The prepositions give us a more complete expression of worship to God. It’s not just about singing songs or going to a church service. It’s about becoming more aware of that which is “from” Him, running “to” His arms, abiding “in” His life, walking “with” Him in our life experiences, living “through” His power and grace, and serving “for” His purposes. That’s what Whole Life Worship is about.

For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen. Therefore, I urge you, my brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship(Romans 11:36-12:1)

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