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Archive for March, 2017

A Day in the Life

Taking a cue from one of my favorite Beatles’ songs, I wanted to share a couple of snippets from my life today – and how God met me at various times.

5:30 am – The alarm goes off! Ugh! I am still tired. My sleep was restless. No wonder! I test my blood sugar and I am LOW. I am going into a mild insulin shock. I gulp down some apple juice and make a half a peanut butter sandwich. “God, diabetes is hard. Always a battle and always a balancing act.” But it has taught me so much and made me more disciplined.

7:00 am – After working out at the gym, I get ready to take a shower. Letty is playing her daily Scripture verses on her phone while doing her hair. I recognize the verse. Colossians 3:23 – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if you were serving God, not man.” Good reminder. I’m not serving a man or “the man” or this man (me), but God. Also, “serving” is one of the words for “worship.” Serving and worshiping God is one life act at a time. We’ll see how this pans out today.

7:50 am – I’m getting on the freeway and it’s backed up on the on-ramp! I wish I could get off, but I can’t. Tine to make a choice: I can either whine and weasel my way into the fastest lane (which there isn’t one) OR I can use this time to exercise a spiritual discipline to get closer to God. The Spirit wins this time! I choose to enter into Silent Prayer after praying the Lord’s Prayer. It’s hard at first, but after a few moments I sense Presence. A thought comes into mind, “Where you are going is less important than where you are.” That is so right! I’m with the Lord. There’s no better place to be. After 10 minutes, the traffic opens up and I get to where I’m going in ample time – but with a good attitude because I had a God-moment.

9:00 am – I’m having my personal worship time. Just read Isaiah 20. But nothing really sticks out, except some thoughts how the prophecy of Is 19 was fulfilled: the once proud dynasty of Egypt falls to the Assyrians. But in my journaling time, I feel moved to pray: Lord, I need to get some major things done this week. Please help me!

10:15 am – One of those major things is getting fitted for a black suit. I need to have it in time for a dinner with the President of South Korea next week. And it can’t be too expensive. I go to a discount suit shop. They find me a suit that fits me perfectly (just the pants need to be taken up). It’s on sale (70% off) and they can have the alterations done by … tomorrow!! Wow – my spirit was just lifted up. Thank you, Lord!

2:30 pm – Another major task is making 15 copies of my unpublished book (“Whole Life Worship”) for a Worship Leader’s Training meeting. So I make copies (it took awhile) and I head over to the binding machine at the Children’s Ministry office. The Children’s Ministry Team teach me how to use the machine – they are so gracious. But the machine is temperamental. As it makes the holes, it doesn’t easily give up the paper. It takes a half an hour just to do one copy! At this rate I won’t be done until 2am! And I’m sure it looks funny looking in and seeing a 55 year old man wrestling paper out of a little machine – and losing! I am reminded of a verse Letty quoted to me yesterday from James 1: “and perseverance must finish its work so that you might become mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” Ok, ok, I need God’s grace and I need to persevere and become more mature about this! After the 3rd copy, I begin to see how the machine works and why it tends to hold on to the paper. By the 7th copy, the machine and I are not “fighting” as much and we are getting into a rhythm. I finish the task in 90 minutes – the last 10 copies take less time than the first five.

It’s 5pm now. I was dead tired 30 minutes ago when I started writing this article. But remembering how God was at work in my day has revived me! I can rejoice in today and what God has done in me and through me.

It’s so good to live for Jesus 24/7!

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Whole Life Worship is living the “large life.” God has called us to live a “large” life for Him. He wants to give us His blessings, His power, His love, His forgiveness, His joy, His hope, His peace, and His transformation. These are all LARGE things. They, if we will receive them, enable us to live ABUNDANT lives (see John 10:10, and John 15); more than that, we will also be able to live INFLUENCING lives – where others look and take notice (see Matt. 5:14-16).

But there are parasites ingrained in our fallen nature that want to kill the seeds of God’s largeness from bearing fruit. I call them “life-shrinkers”: they are the thoughts, attitudes and actions that make our lives small, puny and petty. These life-shrinkers are in direct opposition to living out Whole Life Worship to God. I am reminded of when Jesus could not do any miracles in a particular Galilean village because of their lack of faith – they were living lives dominated by life-shrinkers!

Although life-shinkers are common to all, everyone has their own customized set of life-shrinkers that specialize in short circuiting the life of Christ in their particular life. Mine are: impatience with others, critical spirit, greed, envy, guilt and fear. These life-shrinkers are constantly at work to steal away God’s largeness of life. Here’s how they work in some not-so-hypothetical situations:

I notice that someone else is flourishing (ministry, financial, relational). I have a choice of rejoicing in their blessing or becoming envious. If I choose the envy route it leads me down a life-shrinking path: discrediting them, becoming resentful, joining others who are also envious, passing on juicy gossip, etc. In the process I become a much smaller, limited person.

A supervisor at work has the gall to reprimand me about something that he/she is always guilty of doing. What nerve! I have the choice to either look at the reprimand objectively and prayerfully or to harbor bitter feelings toward my supervisor. If I choose to harbor bitterness and its “life shrinking” powers go immediately into effect. I spend my hours at work watching for their every mistake, stacking up my case against them, and looking for the opportunity to get even.

The world likes to call Christians “a bunch of hypocrites.” That’s because many Christians suffer a credibility gap – what we say about ourselves does not match how we live. I believe this is due to the fact that, although we have the BIGNESS of God in our lives, our day to day decisions are more influenced by the “life-shrinkers” within us. The Apostle Paul tells us to put to death those things that “shrink” our lives (see Galatians 5:16-21, Ephesians 4:17-5:21).

What has helped me put these life-shinkers to death is to recognize them for what they are when they come to me. When a thought or attitude wants me to take action or to react in speech, I’ll say to myself, “That is such a small way to think. C’mon, Doug, you were called to bigger things than to react in that way.” Then I will pray, “God, I die to this way of thinking. Please lead me in Your path of right thought, speech and action.” And EVERY TIME I do this, the thought or attitude dies. Every time! I must say that it is a lot easier to do this when you nip these things at the bud (it’s a lot harder, but not impossible, to overcome the “life-shinkers” when we always yield to the desires of our fallen nature).

So live large in Whole Life Worship by getting rid of the “life-shrinkers” with the help of Christ’s grace and power. Then you’ll have another reason to sing His praises!

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Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve been noticing a lack of joy in the Body of Christ. Christian brothers and sisters seem to have this overly serious attitude about them. When asked about how their faith is going, the usual reply is: “I’m okay” or “I’m struggling” or “I’m hanging in there”. These are honest answers. No one wants to be a Pollyanna where everything is positive, but un-genuine. Living the walk of faith can be hard and even depressing at times.

However, there is a reality that we have a tendency to ignore. This reality is the source of true Christian joy. But we are so used to focusing on the dark shadows of life (which truly exist) that we fail to see the brilliance of the Light (which also exists) that gleams undaunted above all and every shadow on the earth.

Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:1-2, “Since, then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

There is something that has helped me to set my mind on the “above things.” That is: to start my prayers with celebration. Rather than coming before God and start in on “my stuff”, I begin my prayers with statements of celebration: “Lord, I celebrate Your love for me! Lord, I celebrate Your majesty! You are enthroned on high and the heavens rejoice. And I join in the rejoicing! I am so glad that You are on the throne. I celebrate Your grace. I celebrate Your goodness. I celebrate Your wisdom. I choose to celebrate You, Lord!”

This is not “Pollyana-ism”. These are statements of truth, not denial: I do not deny the existence of the challenges that face me nor the hardness and cruelty of life. Rather, it is acknowledging the greater reality of Christ’s sovereign dominion, love and favor over my life. It is realizing that, despite difficult circumstances on earth, Jesus has blessed me with every spiritual blessing … and He (and I, with Him) will prevail.

It is in Satan’s best interests to keep us from viewing our lives from that perspective. The devil wants us to keep our eyes and nose to the earthen grindstone, lest we discover the freedom and joy that Christ has all around us. And our feeble viewpoint communicates an all-too-common message to the lost around us: that we are no different than they and that Christianity is just another coping mechanism to life’s hardships.

Brother, Sister, look up and behold Your King! Celebrate Him, the Lamb of God who takes away your sin! Rejoice in the Lord, who loves you and empowers you with His grace and presence! Death, darkness and sin have no power over you anymore! Christ has made you a child of the light and of the day! There is no reason for you to be joy-less!

Joy is not an emotion; it is an attitude. Joy is not a product of right circumstances, but right perspective. If your life is short on joy, it is because you are short on truth, not happiness. Celebrate the Lord; for it is not only brings joy to the heart, it brings truth to the mind and righteousness to the soul.

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I love my laptop computer. Wherever I go, it goes with me. It’s almost like an extra appendage to my body! But I don’t like everything on my computer. In fact, I don’t like the design that my desktop screen is set on. Well, little did I know that I could change that! With the help of my computer savvy wife, I learned that I can go into this little place called “the Control Panel” and change the default screen to a picture that shows me with my lovely wife and my adorable grandkids. Now I feel even better about my laptop!

One of the great truths of the Gospel is that, through the power of Jesus Christ, we can change the “default” settings in our lives. As we practice Whole Life Worship, the Holy Spirit can access to our “Control Panel” and transform the way we live out our lives.

You see, our lives are set to a default that the Bible calls the “sinful nature” or the “flesh.” Paul tells us that this default was programmed into humanity since the fall of Adam and Eve (Rom. 5:12, 18). This default program taints everything we do. When we get tempted, the flesh wants us to sin. When someone does something bad to us, we want to react badly back to them. Even when we do something good, our sinful nature quickly puffs up our soul through pride. Some try to “manage” their fleshly default through religion or will-power, but it always falls short of really taking care of the problem. If we took an honest look at our sinful nature we would cry out like Paul in saying, “What a wretched person I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24)

The good news is that Jesus Christ not only forgives our sins, but that Jesus Christ gives us power to overcome our sinful nature (Rom. 8:2). Many Christians know this “theologically” (in their head), but have never applied this great truth to their lives. Like my laptop computer’s previous state, they’ve never allowed God to practically access their control panel and change the default settings.

This is where Whole Life Worship comes in. Our motto is “Jesus 24/7” and our creed is to “offer our bodies to God as living sacrifices as our act of worship” (Rom.12:1). I want to show you how this works to overcome the sinful nature in a simple illustration:

One of the vulnerable areas of my flesh is when I drive. When someone cuts me off, my default is to react. Now my religious protocol keeps me from reacting with uncouth hand gestures, but that doesn’t keep my flesh from reacting in anger – and that anger ends up infecting my soul and others in the course of time. So when that happens, the Whole Life Worship response is to not embrace anger but, instead to allow the Holy Spirit access to my “control panel”. This means praying something like, “Lord, that person’s selfish act makes me want to hold onto anger. Please come and take control. Give me the grace to let it go and the strength to do what is right in Your eyes.” Usually the Spirit will then guide me to pray a prayer of blessing on the person who just cut me off (and you know it’s the power of the Holy Spirit when you can pray like that!) The end result is that, instead of being driven by anger, I am being driven by the Lord.

Now there will be times (and they are many) where I defy the Spirit and choose to live according to my sinful default, but I find that as I proactively live out Whole Life Worship these times are becoming less frequent. This leads to transformation of character. And transformation is the Kingdom portal to freedom and abundance in life!

Tired of that ugly screen on the “desktop” of your life? Let Christ into your control panel and let Him transform your default into something cool, powerful and beautiful. And then you’ll have another reason to worship Him.

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Fueled By Grace

One of the most profound books I’ve read on the topic of transformation is “The Renovation of the Heart” by Dallas Willard. One of the concepts that Dr. Willard shared was particularly insightful: that the primary resource for transformation of heart, soul and body is “grace.”

The more I thought about this, the more I realized how this is so true – and the more I realized how little I proactively rely upon God’s grace in living out whole life worship. It seems that I (like most Christians) try to live the “Christian” life relying solely upon my ‘human’ resources: passion, strength, determination, discipline and will power. No wonder we feel so tired, defeated and “heavy laden” – we are trying to live the supernatural God-life with purely natural means! The fuel needed to live the Kingdom, Christ-centered life must go beyond will power and human passion: we need God’s grace.

Before we can appropriate this grace, we need to understand what “grace” means. For the longest time I thought that “grace” was that prayer we say before meals! Later on, I learned that grace also meant the unmerited favor that God shows me by forgiving my sins through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). But grace is so much more than even that!

Grace literally means “gift” (Greek word charis, where we get the word “charity”). In light of our relationship with God, grace is everything God gives us in order to live “right” and fulfill His purposes. Sure, grace includes our salvation and forgiveness, but it also includes divine empowerment, wisdom, vision, protection, provision, presence, transformation and anything else we need to glorify Him. Paul tells us to live by grace and faith. Peter tells us to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). John says that we are to become like Jesus (1 John 3:2) who was “full of grace” (John 1:14). Without grace, we cannot live the God-life.

Grace is a mysterious thing. In some ways God’s grace operates independently of what we do (and thankfully so! How many times has God saved and protected me without my asking Him to intervene?) And yet, God desires for us to be proactive in asking and utilizing His grace to accomplish His mission in and through our lives. This symbiotic interdependence with His grace is one of the virtues of the mature life in Christ.

An illustration from the movie, “Back to the Future,” might be helpful. Dr. Emmett Brown takes a DeLorean sports car and turns it into a time machine. The flux-capacitor, combined with a thousand jigawatts of electricity, enabled this DeLorean to the realm of time travel. However, the DeLorean needed to accelerate to 86 mph in its own power in order for this phenomenon to take place. By itself, the DeLorean was just a car (albeit a very nice car). But without the DeLorean, the flux capacitor was useless.

The Christian life operates in the same way. By ourselves, we can try to live a good, clean life. But with God’s grace we can live exceptional, supernatural and powerful lives. God’s grace is the flux-capacitor and God’s Spirit provides the thousand jigawatts of power. Yet it requires our choice and decision to tap into this way of life. Although God’s grace works around us regardless of what we choose, His work within and through us requires us to direct our efforts in His direction. And that sometimes takes some work!

I experimented with this the other day. My alarm woke me up for a very early appointment. I didn’t want to get out of bed. So I asked the Lord to empower me with His grace for the day. And He said to me, “Fine. First, get your body out of bed.” I moaned and complained because I thought God was going to give me power to get out of bed! But I did manage to get up, and what happened from that point on was truly exceptional. Every one of my appointments that day were “God-moments”. I had unusually more energy than normal. I accomplished 5 times more work than usual. And through it all, I felt light and happy. God’s grace is truly high octane!

I encourage you to learn to proactively ask and rely upon God’s grace. You may be surprised how it can fuel you to truly live a life of worship!

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This might date me quite a bit, but one of my favorite TV shows growing up was this daytime soap opera called, “The Millionaire.” It was about this guy who worked for a multi-millionaire philanthropist. His full-time job was to disperse one million dollar checks to pre-selected people who were in need. These were also people who were sincerely trying to help other people. And the checks were to be given anonymously – no one was to know who this Benefactor was.

I loved this show mostly because I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to be on the receiving end of something like that!” But partly I was also intrigued by the type of person who would do something so wonderful and yet remain anonymous. Such a person had a depth of character that I lacked, and yet deeply desired.

In our journey of worship that goes “beyond the songs,” a whole-life worship, we have learned that true worship of God begins with the offering of our lives and results in the transformation of our character – to the likeness of our Lord Jesus. Our inner desire to become people like “The Millionaire” is just an evidence of a deeper desire to become like Christ (who is the true “Benefactor”).

Perhaps you’ve heard people say (especially Christians) that if they won the lottery, they would give millions to the church, millions to feed the poor, then pay off their mortgage, quit their jobs, and do full-time volunteer ministry. Of course, Christians usually don’t enter the lottery, much less win it! And it keeps this hypothetical situation in an easy hypothetical realm.

But we don’t have to wait to become millionaires to become givers and do-gooders. In fact, whole life worship is as much service (latreuo) as it is devotion (proskuneo). One of the big ways we serve God is to serve others (see Matthew 25:40 – as we help the least of people, we are doing good deeds to the King, Himself).

In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus gives us powerful guidelines on how we are to do acts of kindness. He tells us to do these things “in secret”; hidden from the public eye. By doing it in secret, we put to death the desires of the flesh, which longs to be recognized by others. Also, it transforms our character and perspective. The source of good gifts and service is not us, but God. We, like the man who dispensed the checks in “The Millionaire,” are merely agents carrying out the good wishes of the true Benefactor. To take credit for such good acts is wrong and unnecessary.

I want to encourage you to worship the Lord through “secret random acts of kindness;” doing good deeds that are often unseen by others. This is the type of whole life worship God loves to receive (the New Testament actually talks more about this than the activity we see in most corporate worship gatherings).

Here are some ideas on what this could look like: picking up trash in the neighborhood, praying for strangers in the hospital, writing an anonymous note of kindness to another, paying someone’s rent or utility bill, etc. (maybe you have some ideas to share with me!)

Sometimes, you may get “caught in the act” (it has happened to me on occasion). In that case, just give credit to God – “the Lord told me that I should do this, so it’s His fault.” The object is to worship the Lord (not ourselves) by doing what He wants us to do.

Hebrews 10:19-25 gives us a good model of worship: drawing near to God (v. 22), hold unswervingly to our hope (v. 23), encouraging each other in fellowship (v. 25) and (v. 24) spurring one another toward love and good deeds… Consider yourself “spurred”!

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The other day I was having breakfast with my good friend, Felix – a fellow Whole Life Worshiper of Jesus. Felix has seen many spiritual doors open up with clients and associates (he’s both an amazing contractor and an accomplished jazz musician) who constantly ask him about his sunny disposition and cheerful outlook on life. He tells them, “I begin each day making a choice to live it for God. God has done everything to make this a wonderful day. He set everything in motion while I was asleep and now it’s my turn to live it out. It’s up to me to approach it selfishly or selflessly. It’s like a baseball pitcher with a ten run lead going into the 9th inning, and God is giving me the ball. The only way I can lose is to not play His way. This day is my day to win by following God or lose by following my way or the world’s way. So I choose to win.”

Now it’s important to understand that Felix is not exhibiting a “Pollyanna” perspective. This is not an overdose of positivity. He understands that life is not always easy or positive (and he’s been through his share of rough spots). Rather, this is an expression of faith in God’s sovereignty, intentions, and power in the midst of our reality.

This perspective is described in one of the great promises of Scripture in Romans 8:28 –

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

Underlying this amazing promise is the intention of God toward you and me: that God is good – all the time. He desires the best for us. God is not malicious. Nor is He forgetful or careless. And He sovereignly works all things in our lives for our best possible interests. It is imperative that we believe this with all our hearts.

However, this promise does not mean that everything will always turn out the way we want. Sometimes what we want is not the best thing for us. Sometimes we want bad things and that is not good. Sometimes we want to get our way (maybe like, all the time). But if God gave us that we would become spoiled, impatient people. In light of that, we need to approach our day with the expectation that not everything will go according to how we want or what we want. And that is good, because it’s for our best.

Also, this promise does not mean that bad things or trials will not come our way. God wants us to become strong, loving, and faith-filled people. The only way we can become “good” people is to face trials and hardships with the presence of Christ. So we need to approach our day with the expectation that bad things and trials may come our way. But as we face these trials, we have Christ. And that is good, because being good is the ultimate goal of God for us.

The key operative phrase in this verse is “those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” As the things of life come our way, we approach them with the presence and the purpose of our loving God. If we see our day as lived for His purposes (Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done) and lived out of a trusting love for God, how can we lose? As Paul later states, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

This is the perspective that my friend Felix and other Whole Life Worshipers of Jesus have. God has set up this day for us to win, and we choose to live it out His way. It is our day to win or lose.

As for me, I choose to win!

How about you?

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