Friday, February 29, 2008

Worship = Surrender

Forget for a moment about worship as that thing we do on Sunday mornings, and instead think of worship as what it truly is; a lifestyle. Worship is not a Sunday singing thing, but a 24/7 lifestyle of submission.

Surrender: The Hebrew verb for worship means “surrender, to fall down in submission, prostrate oneself…” Indeed the “heart of worship” is surrender. The heart of Christianity is about self-death, dying to ourselves. It means that our will, our desires, our dreams, must all die to those of Christ. Romans 6 outlines that we are no longer slaves to sin, but we ARE slaves to God….benefit is holiness, resulting in eternal life.

I want to propose that the biggest hurdle in leading a fully surrendered life is this thing called “self.” Think about it; how many books are out there that could be labeled as “self-help?” And are we better off for having read them? How many about a book on “self-death?”
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it to gain the whole world , and yet lose or forfeit your very self?” (Luke 9:23).

Same thing in the Message: “Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat, I am. Don’t run from suffering: embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?”

We are all lured into worshipping something, the question is what are we worshipping? Or, if you use the word “surrender” instead of worship, the question becomes “who or what is my life surrendered to?” Does God truly control me? The answer to these questions will show us who or what we are worshipping.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Back

I'm back from vacation and again, was blown away by the beauty and majesty of our Creator. We create from things that exist; He created from nothing. This slide show is just a short snippet from our trip.

"The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands, day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display knowledge" (Psalm 19:1-2).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I'm away on vacation, but thought I'd share these pictures...one, a sunset, the other, a moonset...just another example of the majesty of our God.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Be on your guard...

I'm reading through the New Testament in the Message translation, and just hit Luke 4;

For the third test the Devil took him to Jerusalem and put him on top of the Temple. He said, "If you are God's Son, jump. It's written, isn't it, that 'he has placed you in the care of angels to protect you; they will catch you; you won't so much as stub your toe on a stone'?"

The devil knows Scripture. That to me, is a very scary thought. Now combine that passage with these;

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6:12)

"[The devil] was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44)

What does this mean for us? That we should live in fear? No...but it does mean a few things I think;
1) The devil is extremely crafty and as we see in the temptation of Jesus, he even tries to use God's Word against us. This means we MUST be wise in knowing Scripture, understanding it, studying it, and perhaps most importantly, listening for God's Voice as we read His Word.

2) It's a reminder that we aren't fighting against people, or circumstances, or bad luck or many of the other things we seem to cast blame on; we're fighting against spiritual forces that seek our destruction, distraction and ineffectiveness.

3) What's our best offensive weapon when fighting against spiritual things? PRAYER. Prayer is what moves the hand of God, brings His peace to the storm...prayer is what connects us to His Spirit, what helps us to understand His Word.

Today was a very tough day...it shouldn't have been. It's the day before I leave for a vacation; but a number of things worked against me today, seeking to turn a promising day into a bad one. For once in my life, I seemed to accurately see this as a Spiritual battle and not a fleshly battle...so I stopped, and prayed. I prayed on my way to work, I grabbed another and prayed with him at work, I prayed at my desk, and prayed when I went to the piano later. I prayed while I was driving, and prayed when I got home. The result? God moved into a difficult situation and brought some peace. It works. It helps me understand God's command to "pray without ceasing."

The purpose of this blog, though, wasn't so much to share on prayer, but for us to be aware, to be on our guard, and fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Trusting?

I've preached a message a couple of times on what I think is the most important aspect of Christianity: Faith. Jesus commends faith, healings come from faith, lack of worry is due to faith, without faith "it is impossible to please God." Faith/Trust are foundational to Christianity...we are told that it is "belief" that brings someone into the kingdom of God, and it is faith that allows one to live a life worth living.

The key is found in Proverbs 3:5-6; "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

The outline is simple to understand, but terribly difficult to live out;
1) Trust in the Lord: you must know God well enough, for it is only in knowing Him, the true character and nature of God that you can overcome your fears.
2) with all your heart: faith requires a full commitment...you can't "partially trust" or trust from your head alone...it requires a full commitment.
3) lean not on your own understanding: this is perhaps the hardest part...we have to let go of our understanding of things, and trust God's understanding, knowing that His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.
4) in all your ways acknowledge Him: that word used for "acknowledge" could be more accurately translated to "know Him" or "be known." In ALL of your ways, we must know and be known of God, and be surrenedered to Him.
5) and He will make your paths straight: notice that it doesn't say make your paths easy...but it does say straight. This is the promise, but it is conditioned on the previous verses...that we are fully trusting Him.

I'm reading through the NT in the Message translation right now, and recently came across this verse in Mark.

"Jesus said to her, 'Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you're healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.' " Mark 5:34

Trusting is risky business; living a life of faith is not easy and can often feel like a departure from rational or logical thinking. That's the whole point though...do you, do I trust God enough to place my whole life in His hands? (If you're interested in audio of the message, click here).

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Life Worth Living

I love music. Music inspires me, gives me creative ideas and helps me connect with God. Lately, as I've been exercising, I've been listening to the group MercyMe, one of my favorite Christian bands (they wrote among other things, the song I Can Only Imagine). I think I have a new favorite song; it's called "Bring the Rain." Here are the lyrics...

Bring The Rain LyricsArtist(Band): MercyMe
Review The Song

I can count a million times
People asking me how I
Can praise You with all that I've gone through
The question just amazes me
Can circumstances possibly
Change who I forever am in You

Maybe since my life was changed
Long before these rainy days
It's never really ever crossed my mind
To turn my back on you, oh Lord
My only shelter from the storm
But instead I draw closer through these times

So I pray
Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain

I am yours regardless of
The clouds that may loom above
Because you are much greater than my pain
You who made a way for me
Suffering your destiny
So tell me whats a little rain

There are a few reasons I love this song; namely I love it because it expresses my heart. I often hear the question posed, "if God is a loving God, how could He...(fill in the blank)." I am always perplexed by this question, namely because it suggests that my belief in God hinges on circumstances. It suggests that the only kind of God worth believing in is a God that never lets anything bad happen to anyone. Obviously, I don't subscribe to this belief. Without pain, I would not be who I am today. Sometimes, it is only through pain that I will grow. God's ways are so far above my mortal thinking, it becomes a fools errand to try and figure out all that God is doing.

This song captures these thoughts and so many more, especially the following lines;
- Can circumstances possibly, change who I forever am in You
- And I know there'll be days, when this life brings me pain, but if that's what it takes to praise You, Jesus, bring the rain

These are challenging lyrics to sing, but the truth remains.

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (James 1:2-4, Message)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Breathing the Breath

I was in my car today listening to worship music when this song came on called "Breathing the Breath" by Matt Redman. These lyrics always get me thinking...

We have nothing to give
That didn't first come from Your hands
We have nothing to offer You
Which You did not provide
Every good, perfect gift comes from
Your kind and gracious heart
And all we do is give back to You
What always has been Yours

Lord, we're breathing the breath
That You gave us to breathe
To worship You, to worship You
And we're singing these songs
With the very same breath
To worship You, to worship You

Who has given to You
That it should be paid back to him?
Who has given to You
As if You needed anything?
From You, and to You, and through You
Come all things, O Lord
And all we do is give back to You
What always has been Yours

Everything we have comes from God, including the breath we breathe. God gave us life, gave us breath, and then bought us back from the lost state we were in so that we could use that same breath He gave us to worship Him. It's ironic, but true, God desires our worship...yes, even though He created us, and even though everything we give Him is His already, and even though every song we sing is using the breath that He gave us, yet still, He desires our worship.

"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." (Romans 12:1)

Take a moment if you will, and post a comment about this post. I'm curious if these lyrics strike anyone else in anyway?

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