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Archive for March, 2017

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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There’s more to St. Patrick’s Day than the wearing of green, eating corned beef and cabbage, and celebrating all things Irish. St. Patrick was a great follower of Christ, who brought the Christian faith to Ireland as a missionary and exemplified whole life worship of God.

Patrick was born in England, actually, sometime during the 5th century. His youth was turbulent and he was actually kidnapped by Irish pirates, taken and held in captivity in Ireland. It was during those years, he came to faith in Christ. Through a miraculous series of events, Patrick was able to escape captivity and made it back to his home in England. But God spoke to him in a vision. He was to return to Ireland and preach the Gospel to the people there.

In obedience, Patrick returned to Ireland and was initially greeted harshly as an outsider. It was because of his persistence of faith and example of Christ-centered love that eventually turned the Irish people through pagan worship to becoming followers of Jesus Christ. He led thousands to faith in Christ. As well, he exemplified whole life worship through a life of integrity – like not giving into the bribes of kings and lords of the lands, and, as a result, facing tremendous persecution.

But Patrick realized that his work was not done. While it was important to lead people to Christ, they needed “shepherds” – leaders who could teach and train them to live according to the ways of Christ. So Patrick planted churches, and then monasteries (the first “seminaries” – places to train young leaders to evangelize, plant churches, disciple followers and raise up more leaders). He took seriously Paul’s instruction to Timothy: “And the things you heard my say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2). Patrick established a model of church and discipleship multiplication that is still being used today.

But at the core of Patrick was his dependency on Christ, day by day and moment by moment – what I call “whole life worship.”And on that note, I close with a portion of Patrick’s prayer, inscribed on a shield (think of the “shield of faith” in Ephesians 6:16):

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

So enjoy your green, your corned beef and all things Irish today. But remember the one for who this holiday is named, and his life of whole life worship.

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Ambushed by God!

I have a confession to make: there are days when I don’t spend time with God. I don’t like it and I try to keep this from happening, but sometimes it just does.

Last Friday was one of those days. After my morning workout at the gym, I had to take a quick shower and rush to an early morning breakfast meeting with a friend. So my Personal Worship Time with Jesus got skipped. I did have a few moments later that morning and I could have spent time with the Lord, but my mind was so preoccupied with other things that I didn’t get around to it. I thought about it. I intended to do it. But I didn’t.

Later that day, I was practicing a worship song called “None but Jesus” (Hillsong). I was at the piano, while listening to the song on my laptop. I would listen to a section, learn it, and then try to sing and play it on the piano. Finally, I got the whole song down. And as I played and sang the song, I got ambushed … by God!

Something, rather Someone, touched my heart and my soul at that very moment and I started to weep tears of joy. I felt warmth all over my body. I couldn’t sing any more. Something more important was happening to me.

Total connection with Jesus

It was as if He came up behind me and gave me a big hug. It reminded of the times when I periodically did that to Letty: wait until she was unaware of my presence, sneak up behind her, and just grab her from behind and hug her – and not let go! Those were times when the “total” love I have for her was so overwhelming I couldn’t contain it.

Well, that’s what I felt with God at that moment: Total love. And with a little mischief behind it!

Sometimes I forget that love is a two-way street with God. Yes, I need to seek after God. Yes, I need to spend time with Him. But I forget that He seeks after me and that He desires to spend time with me. So every now and then, when I am unaware of His presence, He’ll sneak up behind me and ambush me with His love.

Isn’t that like our Lord?

Have you ever been “ambushed by God”?

How did it happen? How did you feel?

There is no one else for me, none but Jesus. Crucified to set me free, now I live to bring Him praise. All my delight is in You, Lord – all of my hope, all of my strength. All my delight is in You, Lord – forevermore.

“None but Jesus” by Brooke Fraser

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Jerry sensed God speaking to him as he listened to the missionary speak of short term missions opportunities to a foreign land. But as he started to fill out the response card, inner voices flooded his mind, “Who do you think you are? They’re looking for mature, experienced Christians; not a spiritual baby like you. Plus, you don’t know anyone and you’re lousy at relationships. Remember the last time you stepped out in ministry – how those people treated you?” And Jerry put down the card and went home.

As whole life worshipers, we want to live for Jesus. Our worship is more than a song; it is the giving of our lives to the Lord. So, we want to do His will, to be obedient to His call. That is a huge part of our worship to Him. But sometimes we get circumvented from doing that. God tells us to step out and we freeze. God tells us to control our tongue and we lash out. God tells us to go left and we veer right. We want our lives to be “Lord, I’ve come to do Your will” (Psalm 40:8). But it ends up looking like Romans 7:15 – “What I want to do, I do not do. And what I hate to do, I end up doing!”

We must remember that there is a realm that is at war with the things of God. There is an enemy out there who is working insidiously and conscientiously to keep you from responding to God in whole life worship. He is powerful, but not greater than God – far from it! We need not fear Satan for the Lord is with us and protects us in every possible way. However, we need to know the enemy’s schemes for they involve our free will (ability to choose and make decisions) and God, in His great love, leaves that area of our lives to us.

One of Satan’s schemes is speaking to our mind. It’s interesting how comedies on TV or movies depict our consciences. On one shoulder is our guardian angel, telling us what the right thing to do. On the other shoulder is the little devil, trying to tempt us to do the wrong thing. I remember Flip Wilson’s character “Geraldine” who always justified her wrong doings by saying, “The devil made me do it!”

 

While it is not true that the devil makes us do it, he does get into our head – and we should take that very seriously. One of the ways he gets into our head is to replay “stuff” from our past. It seems that whenever God calls us to move ahead (to take some steps of faith, to change our behavior, actions or attitudes), Satan turns on that recording. What’s on that recording? Negative experiences from the past, condemnations, memories of past sins and failures, abuse by others, ungodly vows or promises that you made to yourself, hurts and wounds, fears and struggles, lusts and cravings, lost dreams and broken hopes. You name it and Satan probably has it recorded for playback (on Netflix or DVR or YouTube) with your name on it. And right when you are about to follow Jesus – click – there goes another recording, designed to keep you from taking another step forward.

Romans 12:2 (one of our foundation verses for Whole Life Worship) tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” We can overcome the enemy’s scheme to control our lives through those old tapes by renewing our mind. In this case, we need to delete the old recordings.

To delete the old recordings we need to shine the light of Christ on the source: the enemy. My good friend and colleague, Neil Cole, says that if you want to chase cockroaches out of a room, just turn on the light. When I sense that Satan is playing some “old recordings” in my mind, I ask Jesus to take control of my thoughts and to silence the enemy. I’ll usually say it aloud so that the enemy hears my words and knows I mean business (as does Jesus). I have experienced incredible results when I do this.

Sometimes our old recordings are so familiar to us that we need the help of other trusted, mature followers of Jesus. Letty and I have asked brothers and sisters (sometimes professional Christian counselors) to listen to what we are going through – revealing the contents of those old recordings – and asking them for their counsel and prayer. Your small group or accountability partner is a great sounding board to reveal the lies of the enemy. We aggressively pray for each other and help one another get back on track in following Jesus.

The point is that we need to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) so that we can be free to serve and worship the Lord with our whole lives.

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Some time ago our worship team led the congregation in a very powerful song called “Your Grace Still Amazes Me”. It was one of those songs that stays in your mind long after you sing it. That’s what happened to my wife, Letty. She just couldn’t get the song out of her mind.

On Monday, Letty (a pre-Kindergarten teacher) arrived at her classroom filled with anxiety and apprehension. She had reluctantly (and regretfully) agreed to do a project with her students that would take most of her available time that week to prepare for. She was not looking forward to doing this, but braced herself for the grind anyway.

Before starting into the day, Letty prayed a simple prayer that she always does at the beginning of a school day: “Lord, bless this classroom today with Your grace and power. And let me be a blessing to the students.” Little did she know how God was going to answer that prayer!

As the children marched into the classroom, Letty had some unexpected visitors: three parents. Each of them came up to Letty and said, “Mrs. Lee, I’m here to help you. What do you need done?” She put them to work on the project that she had been dreading. What would have taken her all week to accomplish, they finished in a couple of hours. As Letty thanked them for their help, they replied, “Mrs. Lee, you are such a blessing to our children; this was the least we can do!” And they had absolutely no idea how they were part of a God-led conspiracy.

Letty’s heart was filled joy and awe toward God’s orchestration of these events. And that song that she couldn’t get out of her mind became her personal “magnificat”*: “Your grace still amazes me, Your love is still a mystery. Each day, I fall on my knees because Your grace still amazes me.”

The Lover of her soul “ambushed” her with kisses from heaven! He even provided the perfect song for her to sing back to Him.

Grace invading our everyday ordinary. Blessings poured out through a cell phone call. Holy epiphanies taking place in rush hour traffic. God-led conspiracies in Kindergarten classrooms. These are commonplace occurrences for Whole Life Worshipers. If you worship Jesus with your life, you won’t be so surprised when He shows up.

Let’s look at Letty’s scenario through a different lens, now: “That song I heard at church keeps going through my mind – that’s annoying! It’s like trying not to think about pink elephants. I’ll try to focus on something else.”

“Why did I volunteer for that stupid project? I resent it when people expect me to do more than I can accomplish. Don’t they realize my time is limited?”

“Pray? I don’t have time to pray. I’ve got to get started on that stupid project. I wish I had a job that would give me more time so I can pray.”

“Oh, great! Not only do I have to take care of all these kids, I’ve got these three parents to watch out for; they’re probably spying on me.”

“Help? No, I don’t need help. Do I look like I need help? I’ve got it all under control! (under my breath) It would take me too long to explain it to you anyway.”

“What a rotten day it has been! What a rotten week it’s going to be. I wonder if God even likes me anymore because He’s got me stuck in this dead end job. Four more long days before the weekend and going to church – I love the music at the church, but I hope they are not singing that song again; I still can’t get it out of my head!”

I know those were silly overstatements, but they illustrate how the difference between Whole Life Worship and non-whole life worship is simply a matter of attitude and openness to the reality of Christ in our everyday ordinary lives. Jesus loves you – deeply! Why wouldn’t He want to invade your life with His grace, power and mercy?

God has some wonderful conspiracies laid out to bless your socks off. Kisses from heaven await you. All you need are eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to embrace and faith that anticipates the Presence of the Lover of your Soul in your everyday life.

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A couple years back, after having worn the same pair of glasses for ten years, I decided that it was time to get some new ones. And when I did, what a difference it made! Things that I had accepted as blurry and faded were now crystal clear. I did not realize how I had lost sight of what things were supposed to look like.

A Christian brother once told me to put on my “God glasses.” What he was telling me was to look through life through the eyes of my Lord, rather than my own fuzzy perspective of things.

Putting on “God glasses” is a key whole life worship concept. Jesus said in Matthew 6:22-23 that our eyes (perspective) are lamps to the body. If our eyes are good (that is, seeing from God’s perspective), then our lives will be filled with light. But if our eyes are bad (that is, seeing from our own or the world’s perspective) then our lives will be filled with darkness. Then Jesus adds for further emphasis: “And how great is that darkness!” meaning that everything we perceive will be distorted.

Can you imagine what life would be like if everything you perceived was distorted – and didn’t realize it? An Air Force pilot tragically experienced this when she was flying upside down but thought she was right side up (which can easily happen, flying at supersonic speeds). When she pulled “up”, the jet plummeted down; crashing to the earth (taken from “Divine Conspiracy” by Dallas Willard)

Likewise there are times when our perception can be fuzzy: we don’t know what end is up, we aren’t sure which choice is good or bad. We forget there is an enemy who wants to fake us into making poor decisions. We lose sight of the fact that the world influences our values more than we’d like. These things can lead us into darkness and destruction. Only God’s glasses give correct perspective; they lead us on the path to life.

Putting on God’s glasses requires proactivity and discipline. When I first got glasses at the ripe age of 13, I kept forgetting to put them on. Sometimes I didn’t want to put them on, lest people think I was a geek (not that they didn’t think I was one anyway!) It took a couple years of bad headaches and missed homework assignments (written on a chalkboard that seemed miles away) that I finally ate humble pie and started wearing my glasses – faithfully.

How do we put on God’s glasses? Here are some ideas:

  1. Approach each day with wanting to do God’s will in mind. Jesus taught his disciples to pray right off the bat: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Too often our prayers are attempts to get God to see things our way, rather than trying to see things God’s way. When you sincerely pray, “Lord, I want Your will to be done in my life today – more than anything else” you will begin to see things as God does.
  1. Look for God to be at work around you – and join in. In John 5 Jesus said, “My Father is always at work.” Jesus was not making a platitude; He meant it. God is at work all the time, around us, if we are willing to see. And when we see God at work, we join in what He is doing. That interruption might be a divine appointment. That inconvenience could be a God-opportunity.
  1. Stay in community with God’s people. We don’t have the complete picture by ourselves. We need others in the community of faith to help guide us. God’s perspective comes by being connecting to Christ’s Body. We need others (prayer partners, mentors, accountability partners, small group members) who can remind us on a regular basis to look through life with God glasses. They may not be right all the time, but chances are they will be right more often than us, limited by our own perspective.

So how’s your view of life? If it’s fuzzy, out of focus or hopeless, you’re in need of a new set of lenses – God’s glasses! Put them on and enjoy the clarity that comes from a Whole Life Worship perspective.

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1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to “give thanks always for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Have you ever wondered what this means? Does this mean that I constantly need to say “thank you” to God? Is God so insecure that He needs my “thank you” after He does something for me? Granted, we all know that it is nice to be thanked after we do something good or thoughtful, but we don’t need to be thanked; it’s not why we do something nice to others. So, why is giving thanks so important to God that it would be listed as a major aspect of doing His will?

Thanksgiving is important to God because it is important for us. God doesn’t need our thanks anymore than He needs our help or our money or anything else. He is totally self-sufficient. And giving thanks does not help Him be a “better God”. But it does help us become better people. God knows that giving thanks can powerfully impact our lives. Choosing to be thankful transforms our thoughts, our emotions, and, as a result, our actions. In other words, gratitude changes our attitude.

I remember one morning, not too long ago, having a big chip on my shoulder to start the day. I was a grump because I felt small, insignificant and unappreciated. I went to wake up my son. As I opened the door, I saw that his room was a disaster area and I reacted with harsh words. The rest of my family heard me and kept their distance, as if I had a “radioactive waste” sign around my neck! That only added “resentment” and “guilt” to my pity party. I got into my car, filled with “foul spirits”, and knowing that I had a ministry appointment in less than 30 minutes!

I felt so lost and defeated. I cried out to the Lord for help. And immediately, as if on cue, the words of 1 Thess. 5:18 came to mind – “give thanks always for this is God’s will.” It wasn’t easy, because I wasn’t feeling thankful about anything at all! But I forced myself to blurt out simple prayers of thanksgiving: “thank you for forgiving me”, “thank you for a car that runs”, “thank you for food in the pantry”, “thank you for hot and cold running water.” Whatever came to mind, I thanked God for it. My thanksgiving got deeper as I continued to thank Him aloud. I thanked Him for His ability to change my heart. I thanked Him for my family, and especially my son. I thanked Him for the opportunity I would have to ask for his forgiveness. It was then I realized how much I love my family and how much God had graced us. Before I knew it, my attitude had completely changed. No longer feeling a grump or a chump, I realized that I was among the most blessed man on the face of this earth. I was now ready to be a blessing to others and to God. “Thank you, Jesus, for this taste of abundant life!”

The enemy wants us to live in the dungeon of thankless-ness. This dungeon keeps us from experiencing the abundant Kingdom life Christ has for us. So Satan will throw at us the chains of self-pity, a complaining attitude, “taking things for granted”, and a “what’s-in-it-for-me” mindset. And when we give in to these thoughts, our hearts become hardened and calloused. What’s worse is that instead of living as Children of the Light, we actually start serving as agents of darkness.

But Christ has given us the key out of this dungeon: it is called “Giving Thanks Always.” The question is: are we going to use the key? Or will we wallow in the comfortable attitude of thankless-ness? Giving thanks is not easy; it goes against the grain of our flesh. Sometimes the action of giving thanks must be preceded by a cry for help: “Jesus, help me! Help me give thanks!” But thanksgiving is very powerful. Not only does it remove the “foul spirits” that have attached themselves to us, it allows us to be filled with the Spirit of God. It empowers us to bless others. It opens the eyes of our hearts to see the Goodness and Power of God in the midst of every situation. It lights our fire again and ignites our passion for Christ.

No wonder the Bible tells us to “give thanks … ALL THE TIME!” Gratitude changes our attitude, it transforms our hearts, it catapults us into the largeness of Whole Life Worship.

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