Thursday, April 30, 2015

Worship, from God's perspective

What do you think of when you hear the word "Worship?"

So many times when we hear the word worship, we think of music, a church service, or the emphasis that we put on something in our lives.

How many of you would say that you are completely satisfied with the way you worship God?

If, like me, you aren't completely sure you always have the correct motivations, or the correct method when worshipping God, come along with me on a study of worship in the Bible.

In Romans, chapter 1, we read, starting with verse 18:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 

19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 

20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 

21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 

22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 

23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 

25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Based on this passage, what can we learn about incorrect worship?  And, how can we avoid making the same mistakes?

1. They did not glorify God as God (they did not give Him His rightful place).

2. They did not give thanks.

3. They became vain or futile (empty, devoid of truth), in their reasonings, so that their senseless hearts were darkened.

4. They thought too highly of themselves -- they thought they were wise, but became fools.

5. They turned God into something they could see, touch, and feel.

I'm particularly challenged by the last observation.
How many of us think of worship as something we can see, touch, or feel?

Basically, in a nutshell, these people had greedy, self-centered, proud hearts that did not worship God in the way He asks, and deserves to be worshipped.

I read this quote online a while back:
" Worship does not begin and end with the singing portion of our church services. Worship is also not limited to only bowing in reverence before God. To begin with, worship is only determined by God Himself, and not everything we do is acceptable to God as worship, just because we are sincere or it makes us feel good." source

You see, we want to feel good.  We want the emotional high.

But, God wants us to know that His view on worship and our view on worship can be two completely different things.

We all know that God sees things differently than we do.

Just as human parents look at the things their children believe are the most important with amusement, so God must look at us at times and wonder how we could miss the truth so profoundly.

So, if there is a way that God wants things to be done, what does it look like?

Further down in the book of Romans, chapter 12, to be specific, we uncover a delightful map to lead us to the treasure of authentic worship.

Romans 12:1-3

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 

Let's take a moment to break that passage down.

1. We are to present our bodes as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.

Truthfully, the only way a sinful person can be acceptable to God is by receiving Christ's forgiveness, and repenting of sin. -- And, a sacrifice is putting something above our desires.

In I Chronicles 16:29 we read "Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him; Worship the LORD in holy array."
How would we worship in holy array?  Would someone please tell me what that means in plain English?

Let's talk about the original language in this passage. 

The Hebrew word for holiness is qodesh, and means simply this:

By living a life, surrendered to Christ, and allowing Him to "set us apart," we are worshiping him in holiness.

2. We are not to live according to the World.

Take a moment to reflect on this question: "What are some things the world tells us are important?"
I can think of a few...

Put yourself first.
Live fully, for the moment.
God loves me, no matter what I do, so why should I live according to the Bible's standards?
We are ALL God's children.

These are lies...rather, they are clever spins of the truth...something that our Enemy has had alot of practice at.

3. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

How does someone go about renewing their mind?

- Ask God to forgive us for the filth we have allowed in there
- Spend our time thoughtfully...dwelling on things that are helpful 

(Philippians 4:8 comes to mind... "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.")

4. We are to have humility of spirit. 

I could go into depth on explaining what that can mean, but let me simplify it by saying this.  Being humble does not mean that you live a quiet, subdued existence, never allowing anyone to see your gifts and talents.

On the contrary, humility of spirit recognizes that all we have...all we are is a gift from God, and that we are absolutely nothing without Him.

I really love this particular spin on the definition of "humility:" 

 Humility is variously seen as the act or posture of lowering oneself in relation to others, or conversely, having a clear perspective and respect for one's place in context.  source

The context I am referring to here, is the fact that there is one true God, and I am not Him.

One of my favorites passages in the Bible is the story of the Samaritan Woman.  Not only it is a beautiful story of redemption, but within it are hidden truths on worship from God's perspective.

You can read the story in it's entirety in John 4, but there is one part that I want to bring attention to.

Jesus wanted to talk to her about the heart of her issue, and she wanted to discuss different worship practices.  She wanted to debate this point of view as opposed to another point of view.

Don't we do that?  We all have our ideas of what worship should look like and we like to talk about it, don't we.

"We want to discuss different worship practices, but what God really wants is for us to practice correct worship."

Jesus told her... "An hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers."

The Hebrew word commonly used for worship is shachah, and means to "bow down."  In our understanding it would be us recognizing our need for humility.  Another meaning is "to do reverence."  This means we should acknowledge Him as Lord."

I love what John Piper writes, regarding worship... It's simple, and to the point.

"Worship is strong affections for God rooted in truth."

It can't just be a emotional high.  There must be truth attached to our worship...

"...the essence of true worship is not external, but internal -- heart and head, emotion and thought, spirit and truth -- whether we are talking about all of life as worship, or corporate gatherings for worship." - David Mathis

You see, true worship will always produce a change in the heart of the worshipper, causing a greater desire to love and obey the God we worship. If worship does not propel us into greater obedience, it isn't worship. source

John 17:17 says "Sanctify (make holy...set apart) them in the truth; YOUR WORD is truth."

So, if true worship comes from a sanctified heart, and we are to be sanctified by the Word, how does that happen?

What is the Word?

Most of the times you see "Word" used in the Bible, it is either referring to Jesus Christ (the Word made flesh), or the Word/Commands of God.  

Even in the New Testament, when it refers to the "word," it is usually talking about the Torah, or what we call the Old Testament. 
It was the only word they had.

So, if we know that we are to be sanctified by the Word, or the Commandments of God, how is that even possible?

Well, you can sum up the entire 10 Commandments, or the Law in these verses...

Matthew 22:37: "Love God with your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself."

Galations 5:14: "For the entire law (truth) is fulfilled in keeping this one command...'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

God desires worshippers who worship him in spirit and in truth.
So, to worship Him in truth, we must allow Him to sanctify us by the true Word of God...Jesus Christ, who writes His Law on our hearts.

We must love God with all our heart, soul, and mind.

We must love our neighbor as ourself.

Who is my neighbor?

Any one who is "near" me.

If I am having a hard time loving my neighbor, than I am not worshipping God is truth, am I?

The beautiful thing is that we can ask God to examine our spirit and show us why.

Allow God to search our hearts.  Is He alive and working?  Have we submitted and surrendered to His authority?

We must examine our life.  What does it say about your tendency toward true worship? The worship of the heart, which will reveal itself in true obedience.

We are instructed in Matthew 22:37 that we should "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."
The Heart: Why is the heart first?  Because none of this is possible without an intentional surrender of our heart (our deep longings) to God.  Proverbs 23:7 says that as a man thinks in His heart, so is he.

The Soul: "every breath, the everlasting part of us." I believe this can encompass the things we should be doing that bring glory to God, even after we are gone. -- If you are already living with a surrendered heart, then ask God what your "soul work should be."  What I like to call "Kingdom work."

The Mind: What we dwell on.

So many of us are attacked in the arena of the mind.

This is a struggle I know all too well.

I have lived with anxiety and depression for the past 9 years.

After the birth of my first child, I experienced my first panic attack, and it spiraled downhill from there.

It was so bad that I developed a condition called agoraphobia (the fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness, or embarrassment).

I didn't want to go to the grocery store alone.  I was terrified of social settings.  I dreaded going to church, and that was a little bit of a problem, because I was married to a Pastor!

For years, I forced myself to go to places, having multiple panic attacks a week.  There were so many moments of despair when I wondered if I would ever feel normal again.

After 5 years of living that way, I experienced something similar to a nervous breakdown.  I remember my entire body aching, and I was unable to function...I pretty much just cried, and stared into space.

I ended up talking to my Doctor, and he told me that I had experienced so many adrenaline highs from the panic attacks and had been depleting my serotonin levels.  Because I wasn't taking care of myself, I wasn't able to replenish that serotonin.  I was sick.

I was sick, and hardly anyone knew.
I had managed to hide it from almost everyone around me.

It was time to bring my struggles to the light.

After learning ways to take care of myself, and get on a treatment plan, I was able to begin the healing process.

And, yet, there are still things that cause me such severe fear and helplessness.

To this day, I fear any type of stage.

When I sing or play the piano, I feel absolutely miserable.  I feel so sick, I don't know if I will survive.

I love to study the Bible and share truth from it, and any time I am required to get up and speak in front of people (even a small group), I wonder how on earth God will use me.  The fear is paralyzing.

And yet, what I'm finding is that God often uses the areas in which we are weak so that others will see His strength.

Don't miss this...

"Every time we choose to walk in faith, rather than surrendering to fear, we are bringing glory to God and worshipping Him with our heart, soul and mind."

So, let's get practical.

We know that we are to love God with all our heart, and love our neighbor as ourselves.

1. Relationship with God (Surrender)

- Surrender: I am not the Boss
- Submit: I will follow the Boss
- Serve: I will live like the Boss

2. Relationship with Family

- How can I serve my family? 
- How can I life the load of those closest to me?
- What do I need to adjust in my schedule to contribute to peace in my home?

3. Relationship with Everyone Else

- Focus on intentional relationships
- Accept God's call to be His "vision carrier"
- Live out truth from God's Word in how we treat others

What would we change in our lives, if we pursued truth from God's Word?

What would happen to our priorities if we worshipped Him in Spirit and in Truth?

This about this:

Singing is easy.
Being moved by music is easy.
But, doing what is right even when we don't feel like it is the hard part.

Life is hard. Days are long. The human existence is not for the faint of heart.

And yet, God offers us His Spirit, which will guide us into all truth.  

And the truth we must follow is this simple and yet life changing command...

"Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind...and love our neighbor as ourselves."

This is true worship.

And until we live that out authentically, we are only playing lip service to the majesty of God, rather than being transformed by His holiness.

Praying with you today,

Friday, April 24, 2015

When faith starts walking

What is faith in action?
How do we take the things we believe to be true, and move into the realities we want to live in?

First of all, God tells us through His word that "...without faith it is impossible to 
please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe 
that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)

So, the actions that follow faith cannot be adequately realized until faith is in place.
It's not enough to "want" to do good. Faith in God alone brings true repentance.

In fact, II Corinthians 7:10 tells us that "...the kind of sorrow 
God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. 
There's no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow,
 which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death." (NLT)

I've been thinking about the things in my life that I tend to place above God.
I was reading in Deuteronomy when Moses instructed the children of Israel to destroy idols in their lives...not to allow any part of it to burn.

Naturally, my mind went to my life in the modern world.  I know there must be idols that I place above God.  I asked Him to show me the things that I need to destroy.

One of the things He spoke to me about was my need to control.  So much of my life revolves around how I want things to go.  I want to have the say.  I want to decide.  I know best.

Whether that control exercises itself in how I want my day to go, or in what I decide to do with my time, or what I put in my body, I realize that I have a tendency towards personal dictatorship.

I want what I want, when I want it.

We don't often admit that.

We pretend that because the things we want are "acceptable," that it is okay.


in a Christian's life, nothing is supposed to take a place of authority over God.


And, if I'm being honest, there are things that threaten His place as Boss every day.

You may have similar experiences.

You have given Him your life.  You have asked Him to be the Lord of everything.
 You want Him more than anything... 

And, somewhere between the wanting and the doing, you find yourself succumbing to the element of control in your life.  You find yourself making excuses for your lack of self-control.
You tell yourself the lie that you can work on that problem tomorrow.
You lie to yourself.

I do too.

Wouldn't you know that a day after God spoke to my heart out of the Book of Deuteronomy, He also spoke to me through the Sunday church service!

We sang this song...
We bow our Hearts
We bend our knees
Oh Spirit come make us humble
We turn our eyes from evil things
Oh Lord we cast down our idols

So give us clean hands
Give us pure hearts
Let us not lift our souls to another
Give us clean hands
Give us pure hearts
Let us not lift our souls to another
And God let us be
A generation that seeks
That seeks your face
Oh God of Jacob

When our Pastor started speaking, conviction flooded my heart and mind once again.
He talked about the need to "clean house..." Asking God to remove 
any of the "respectable sins" that might be residing in our life.


All weekend I've been thinking about what that is in my life.

I don't want to allow anything (no matter how small) to have first place in my heart.

And, control...the need to control is the thing that keeps inching up to first place.

Our Pastor suggested that we go home and write down the thing that God is speaking to us about. I knew as soon as he said it what my subject matter would be.  I knew what I would be asking God to change in me.

The need to control.

But, aren't we supposed to control?
Doesn't the Bible instruct us to have self-control?

Yes it does.  

Read this passage from II Peter 1

 "To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, 
by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of 
God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has 
granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, 
through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own 
glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His 
precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may 
become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption 
that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, 
applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence
and in your moral excellence, knowledgeand in your knowledge,
 self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance
and in your perseverance, godlinessand in your godliness, brotherly kindness
and in your brotherly kindness, loveFor if these qualities are yours 
and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful 
in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities
 is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 
Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about 
His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, 
you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom 
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you."

It's there.
I'm fine.
Control is needed.

Yes it is...

...I just need to have the right control.

Self control is "restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires."

I've got that down when it comes to "normal sins." You know, the ones everyone says you should stay away from.  The biggies like adultery, lying, stealing, murder.  Yeah... I'm self-controlled. 

But, am I self-controlled in the more acceptable sins?

Do I have a tendency towards gossip (self-control over my tongue)
Do I spend my time and money wisely?
Do I focus on myself and my desires more than the desires of God?
Do I have a tendency towards selfishness?
Towards pride?
Is there anything in my life that means more to me than time with God?

If we break down some of the words in that passage, we can 
get an idea of how to live an abundant, victorious life.

Diligence - "persevering application"

Faith - "allegiance to duty or a person :  loyalty" also, "strong belief or trust in someone or something"

Moral Excellence - "conforming to a standard of right behavior" "greatness, superbness"

Knowledge - "information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience or education"
 "awareness of something : the state of being aware of something"

Self-control - " restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires"

Perseverance - " continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition - the action or condition or an instance of persevering :  steadfastness"

Godliness - "believing in God and in the importance of living a moral life"

Brotherly KindnessSynonyms...benevolence, courtesy, grace, indulgence, favor, mercy, service

Love - "unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another" "the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration"

It is kind of like a path...

Faith...Moral Excellence...Knowledge...Self-control...
Perseverance...Godliness...Brotherly Kindness...Love

Faith leads to morality...power through the Spirit of God...Then, we must arm ourselves with the knowledge of God's Word... and ask Him what areas in our lives need self-control. Then, through perseverance (a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties) we press on to Godliness...are able to live a life of brotherly kindness, and show true love to those around us.

When I know the areas that I tend to put above God, I can search for good ways to keep myself accountable.  I can set up good parameters...boundaries...etc.

If I know the things that steal my time and affection,
I can limit those things.

There are many things that are not wrong, when used in moderation.

Most of the time, we are very much aware of what it is that steals our affection from God.

We aren't usually walking in ignorance, but rather we are walking in disobedience.

May we fall on our faces before God, and ask Him to cleanse us from all unrighteousness... especially those areas where it seems okay to fudge a little.

Areas like:
 Time management.

Idolizing our families over God.
What we put in our bodies.
What we say to other people.
What we spend time thinking about.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

There is only ONE thing - ONE priority that should always be first in our hearts.

We know what it is.

Now, let's live it out.

"Father, I ask right now that you would fill us with your power and strength to follow you in the way you ask to be followed.  May we walk in your paths...the straight paths, all the days of our lives.  May we never allow anything to come before you and your rightful place in our lives.  And, if we become aware that we are allowing other "gods" to form in our lives, may we repent of this sin, and look to you for the strength to be victorious in those areas. Amen."