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Archive for August, 2014

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I was in college when I started having a regular devotional time. I was excited to introduce this spiritual discipline in my life and, for the first few weeks, I was pretty consistent. But then it got increasingly difficult to maintain this time. I found it hard to stay awake while I read my Bible. My prayer time felt like I was just going through the motions. And on top of that there were things clamoring for my attention: from studying for tests and working on projects, to reading the newspaper and taking out the trash.

Then I read a little booklet that changed my perspective forever: My Heart, Christ’s Home by Robert Munger (#IVP) #myheartchristshome. Written from a metaphorical perspective of Jesus making his home in a new believer’s heart, one of the sections dealt with the devotional time which Munger called “The Living Room.” In the Living Room Christ spent one on one time with the believer. The line that got me was when Jesus told the believer (something to the effect of), “You’ve been thinking that this time is for you. That’s fine, but don’t you realize that I want to spend time with you? I redeemed your life at a great cost and I love you. Don’t miss this time, if only for My sake.”

Reading those words cut directly to my heart! I never thought that spending time with me was something that Christ wanted, something that He desired. I felt convicted, but at the same time affirmed. Jesus wants to spend time with me! It made me look at all that I do during my devotional time with different meaning and purpose. I wanted to hear His voice. I wanted to understand His heart. I longed for the intimacy and empowerment that such thinking implied. After awhile (as I understood the concept of Biblical worship), I no longer call that my quiet time or devotional time, but my Personal Worship time with Jesus.

Over the past 37 years that have transpired since that moment, I have drawn such great strength, profound insight, and deep encouragement from meeting personally with Jesus. Of course, there have been times when I lose sight of the relationship and drift back into the task mindset. As well, there have been times when Jesus wants me to learn how to wait on Him. And sometimes my sin and laziness still gets in the way. But He always draws me back to Him, because – you know – He really does want to spend time with me!

Did you know Jesus wants to spend time with you? That He desires your presence and company? That He longs to impart His heart to you? And that He wants to hear what’s on your heart (even though He already knows – He loves to hear you express it)?

He is jealous for me. His love is a hurricane; I am a tree bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy (#howheloves #johnmarkmcmillan)

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altar and candles

In the Old Testament times, the great saints marked their encounters with God by constructing an altar to Him. Abraham did this several times, as did Isaac and Jacob. Moses built God a tabernacle and David desired to build God a temple. These structures’ sole role was to be a place where the Presence of God intersected with the presence of people.

In the New Testament, Paul writes that because of Christ, our bodies are now a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) and our hearts are the Holy of Holies – the place where the presence of Christ dwells (Eph. 3:17). So the expression that a church building is “God’s house” is a misnomer: God doesn’t live in a building, but He does choose to dwell in the hearts of men and women who have been redeemed by Christ our Savior.

This is a great truth. However, it is a truth that is ignored by and large by most Christians today. We  live in a day and age where the presence of God resides in our own being, yet we are hard pressed to find the time to meet Him there.  We would rather seek Him in a church service or a Bible Study (which are wonderful ways to seek God), but we forget the most profound place where we can find Him; the “Temple” that He paid for with His very life so that we can encounter Him anytime, all the time – the altar of our hearts

You might ask: how do I meet God in the altar of my heart? Jesus answers this question in Matthew 6:6

When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Jesus models this in Mark 1:35

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

The way we meet God in the altar of our hearts is to find a quiet place where we can spend time alone with Him. I call this “Personal Worship Time.”

During my Personal Worship Time, I spend about an hour or so in prayer, Bible reading and journaling … all by myself with God. Now some of you might be thinking: isn’t that a “devotional” or “quiet time”? My answer is “it depends.” It depends on whether one’s focus is on being with Jesus or on accomplishing a task. One can read the Bible, journal and even pray but not be focused on the Lord at all. Many Christians view their devotional time as something to check off their “to do” list.

A Personal Worship Time is when praying is really talking with God, not just mumbling off a bunch of prayer requests. Personal Worship Time is when Bible reading is intent on listening to God’s voice, not  an intellectual analysis of Scripture construct or digging up some profound theological ideas. Personal Worship Time is when journaling is the seeking of God’s will in the midst of my experiences, readings and encounters, not just a recantation of yesterday’s activities.

Personal Worship Time is where I really, tangibly offer up my body as a living sacrifice to the Lord. I find that I have to offer myself at least daily to God, because it is amazingly easy for “living sacrifices” to crawl off the altar!

Personal Worship Time is transforming because it plugs me back into the flow of God’s will. I find that the days where I spend Personal Worship Time with God are much more powerful and fruitful than those days when I neglect this time. If you find that your life is listless, purposeless and fruitless, it is probably because you have not spent time alone with God with any kind of regularity.

Every follower of Christ needs to have Personal Worship Time, just as every human being needs to eat, drink and sleep each day. You can go without those things for a little while, but pretty soon you will get sick and eventually, die. In the same way, neglecting our Personal Worship Time with God literally takes away spiritual life from our souls.

I encourage you to set apart 30 minutes to an hour each day to spend alone with Jesus. You will soon see that this is the best 30-60 minutes you can invest in. However, expect your commitment to this to be challenged by the fury of hell. The last thing Satan wants you to do is to spend time with Jesus. So be firm in your resolve. Have a friend hold you accountable and pray for your Personal Worship Time. Ask God to protect your time with Him from distractions and interruptions. Your whole life worship begins by regularly spending time in the Holy of Holies of your heart.

This is the air I breathe: Your holy presence living in me. This is my daily bread: Your very word spoken to me. And I’m desperate for You, I’m lost without You.

 

(“Breathe” by Marie Barnett)

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Personal Worship

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 The first movement of the Whole Life Worship paradigm is at the most foundational, simplest place where worship can begin: the human heart or spirit – the innermost part of a person. In John 4:24, Jesus said that God’s true worshipers “must worship in spirit and in truth.” While people can worship God with their hearts anywhere and anytime, including a corporate worship service, one of the best contexts of this simple worship is the quiet place of solitude: alone with God. In some ways, the credibility of our worship of God is best verified not when we attend our public worship services, but when we “go into our room, close the door and pray to our Father who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6). For the Whole Life Worshiper, worship begins with regular, one-on-one time with God. This personal encounter and connection with God is the first step for the powerful and transforming integration of worship with daily life. I call this “Personal Worship.”

Most Christ-followers understand the importance of spending time (apart from people) in prayer, Bible study, and other spiritual disciplines. Some of the names we give to this time are: Quiet Time, Daily Devotionals, Solitude, Bible Reading and Prayer Time. But if you look at these names, it is inherent that the focus is on a task. They imply that the goal is doing something, to accomplish something, to check something off a spiritual “to-do” list. But in Whole Life Worship the focus is not to do something, but to meet with Someone. That’s why I call this time, “Personal Worship.” It’s all about meeting with Jesus, the Lover of my Soul, the Redeemer of my Life. It’s “personal” because there is no one else around; it’s just Him and me. It’s “worship” because the basis of our relationship is His initiation of mercy and his invitation to come to Him. I am simply responding to Him, which is what Biblical worship is (see Romans 12:1 and yesterday’s blog).

I still engage in spiritual disciplines in Personal Worship, but they have a relational focus to them. My prayers in Personal Worship are not “grocery lists” of requests but a pouring out of my heart to the One who loves me. It is also two-way conversation: my times of prayer are times of waiting and listening to the “small, still voice” of Jesus. And many times (not always) I hear Him speaking to my heart. Sometimes it’s an affirmation, other times a conviction or a direction, and other times an enlightened or inspirational thought.

In Personal Worship, the Scripture becomes a mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit. My practice of Scripture reading is called “Lectio Divina” (which is Latin for “Divine reading” #lectiodivina). I read a short passage of Scripture (5-7 verses) four times, with a pause for listening and reflection in between each reading. The idea is to let the Holy Spirit teach me. Sometimes the Spirit will lead me into deeper “digging in” to the Scripture passage (what we pastors call “exegesis”) but more often than not, the Spirit will point to something within my life that needs some adjusting.

There are other disciplines I engage in during Personal Worship and I will explore these and some other thoughts about this first movement of Whole Life Worship in the next few days. But you get the idea: it’s not about doing the disciplines for their own sake; it’s using the disciplines to encounter Jesus.

I realize that this approach might sound too “touchy-feely” for some (and for others, it’s not touchy-feely enough!) I just want to say that Personal Worship is not about emotions or feelings. I confess that it probably comes off that way because I am more of a feeler type. But Personal Worship is really about relationship with the One who really desires relationship with you. And Christ will engage in relationship with you in the way He wired you – whether you are a thinker or a feeler, an introvert or an extravert. He will relate with you through both intimate experiences and transcendent thoughts. He will speak to you through the instantaneous moment of epiphany and over the long haul of faithful habit. But in any case our eyes need to be focused on Him, not on just accomplishing a task.

In the secret, in the quiet place, in the stillness You are there. In the secret, in the quiet moment I wait only for You, because I want to know You more. (Andy Park, “In the Secret”)

What helps you to encounter Christ in your times of personal worship?

How can you keep this time “relational” as opposed to doing tasks?

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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:

https://findcommunity.com/wholelifeworship

Blessings!

Doug

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open-hands

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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