Christian Formation

How I see worship

cross-66700_640I want to talk about worship for a little bit...

I must admit I am not the most qualified voice on the topic of worship when it comes to worship services. I am not a worship pastor, I don't help plan worship services anymore, and I really don't like music all that much - HUH! surprised disbelief from my readers... But I am a worshiper of God...

I guess this brings me to my point. For me worship isn't necessarily about singing or musical instruments, or one hour on Sundays, or even about sermons. I have found that some of the most worshipful moments I have had were the times when I was sitting in silence, or having coffee with friends, or eating dinner with my family. Don't get me wrong I throughly enjoy worship songs and I am not advocating the abolishment of music in worship services. What I am saying is that true worship isn't about the actions of worshipping, but the state of the heart. I recently saw this quote posted by Timothy Keller on Twitter: "Worship is treasuring God." I feel this statement captures just that, the state of the heart. I believe worship should encompass every area of a person's life, not just their voice or ears.

My friend Devan Bumstead said it best this way...

"In short, we believe worship is a communal lifestyle of sacrificial obedience based on a grounded relationship with the triune God. Meet and respond. But perhaps what’s most important about this little definition is just as much what it doesn’t say as what it does. We don’t use titles around here like, “Worship Service,” “Worship Pastor,” or “Worship Songs” because we believe that kind of language limits worship to a particular time, place, person, and activity. Biblical worship is beyond that—it encompasses every area of one’s life, not just the time they offer for an hour a week on Sunday mornings. This is why we’ve chosen to call our gathering time a “Celebration Service” and refer to our time of singing as “praise”, which should be appropriately viewed as a subcategory of worship, not to encompass the whole spectrum..."

To read Devan's whole blog post on worship, check it out here.

C. S. Lewis ‏said, "Praise is the mode of love which always has some element of joy in it." When Jesus told the woman at the well that there was a time when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, I believe he was revealing to her that there was coming a time when it would be a joy to worship God and not a chore (John 4:23).

Does worshipping God bring joy to your heart or is it a chore that needs to get done? Do you treasure God when you worship Him?

This Week's Top 5...

SONY DSCIf you missed a read this week… Here's the Top 5 most read posts for this week: 1. When is being selfish in the church okay...

2. You're more beautiful than you think you are... 

3. I just can't get rid of this burr under my saddle...

4. Monday Mashup

5. What's On The Other Side Of This Life

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What's On The Other side Of This Life

journey Journeys are not something to be taken lightly. I remember when my family went on a journey to Joplin, MO it began over twelve years ago. We left all that we had and all that we had known back in Sonoma County, CA. We journeyed through the Southwest part of the United States on our way to the heart of the country. My wife and I had never ventured that far out of our motherland before, so we took as much safety and precaution as we knew how; and hit the road with our three little kids in-tow.

We saw beautiful country along the way, desert, mountains, high country forests, and big open blue sky. It wasn't before long that we found ourselves on winding detours, tornadic storms, and even experiencing bad gasoline for our van. In between the serendipitous and tumultuous moments we found a rhythm that centered us back on the purpose of our journey...

We were headed to Joplin, MO to attend Ozark Christian College and prepare for fulltime vocational ministry. Or more precisely, we were moving out of and with the overflow of our love and passion for God and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit - we were being obedient because of love and devotion, not because of obligation and duty.

 

The real purpose of the journey was to grow deeper in our love and passion for relationship with the Father, it was not the destination to the college nor the vocation of ministry.

 

The Journey Is Still Going...

In many ways the journey is still going. We have moved geographically again on this journey and have found a home Colorado just like we did in Missouri, and the journey could very well pick us up and change geography again; who knows... However, what is still on going is the internal part of the journey, and this is the hardest part of the journey, moving through the constant ebb and flow of understanding our relationship with God, keeping our passion for Him, and obediently living out our love and devotion to Him.InnerJourneys

Too be very frank. Changing geography isn't hard to do! Moving from Northern California to Southwest Missouri and then to Northern Colorado isn't that difficult to adjust too. Leaving friends and family is hard, but eventually you make new friends and thanks to Facebook and vacations you can still see the people you love and care about...

What's hard is keeping focused on growing deeper in our relationship with God... Let me be even more upfront. I mess-up my relationship with God sometimes. I let everything else take precedent over this relationship, things like the type of ministry job I have, money, pleasing people and being who they want me to be,making a name for myself or for others, cars, electronic gadgets, vacations, things to complain about, ideas, philosophies, ministry methods, what we're having for lunch or dinner, and the list could go on...

 

I've let all these things whether good or bad corrupt the rhthym and purpose of my journey... The reason for the journey isn't the journey or the desitnation, the reason for the journey is the person we are on the journey for. I am learning not to take journeys lightly, but to cherish every moment and keep focus on the one who was the reason for the journey.

A good friend of mine, Brian Mavis, shared with me a prayer that I am going to pray first thing every morning, that's if none of these other things get in the way...

Here it is:

"I will live every day as if it is my last, knowing by God's grace and love the Savior waits for me beyond the grave." -- Chuck Colson

Ugh! It's so easy to forget that there is something else on the other side of this life.

Why Do I Have to Serve Communion...

art-communion_handsThis past weekend I found myself standing amongst a group of people who were getting ready to serve communion at one of our worship gatherings. I was asked to help because they thought they needed more help with serving the communion trays and the offering baskets. So like the humble servant that I am, I agreed to help. This is the part where I become very transparent with you... As I was getting the communion trays and walked to my assigned section, I noticed that a few of the people who came to help were heading back to their seats. Apparently they had more than enough people to help with serving communion. A surge of selfishness entered into my heart and I complained to myself as to why I had to serve communion and not join the other "lucky" people who get to head back to their seats. There was a brief moment where I was feeling a little indignant about the situation. Before you get appauled that I would feel this way about serving communion to people at church; trust me I already was appauled at myself... Anyways, as I was getting this ugly feeling inside of me, it hit me that I was about to help out in something ancient and honorable - I was given the opportunity to helped administer a sacred gift that God gave to bless the Church as reminder of who and what Jesus means to us and the world. Those who serve the Lord's Supper are part of a legacy of people who have helped serve the church in this way; beginning with the Apostles, the seven from Acts 6 (we could make a case for this), the early Church Fathers, Christian Martyrs throughout history, the older couple I see at our Saturday night gathering, and ultimately when we serve communion we follow in the footsteps of Jesus who was the first to serve communion and bless His people with the command to participate in communion until he comes again for His people.

I thought to myself, Lord what the heck is wrong with me! How did I get so prideful and selfish that I would have an issue with serving communion... Needless to say I felt like a tool and passed the communion trays with with a better understanding of what I was helping with, and with a thankful and humble heart.

How often do we tend to see the work that we are doing for God as a burden and chore rather than having the privilege of participating in things that are ancient and sacred?

People > Programs

neighbors street sign

"Be the prepared to be the answer to someone's prayer." - Ramin Razavi

I heard this quote from one of my coworkers a little while back, and it sent off a flood of thoughts about neighboring centric ministry vs programming centric ministry... People > Programs.

The reality is people seek connections and relationships not programs. Programs are tools that help facilitate these connections, and programs can be an answer to someone's prayers, but the purpose is to connect people to people who are made in the image of God. People are the purpose (and in someways the mission = Church) and people make the mission happen. Programs can connect people and programs can meet tangible needs, but programs don't love, programs don't cry, laugh, or show compassion. Ramin mentioned that we must follow Jesus' example and words of "Seeing the people around us..." Really seeing them not just noticing them, but look deeply into the people around us and compassionately move beyond our programs and be able to adapt what we are doing to adequately meet people where they are at. Many times we move people to our programs when we need to relocate ourselves to where the people are - we need to be in their dirt and messiness not the other way around... People > Programs.

Jesus was so good at this. He took every moment to look and see the people around him. In Matthew 9:35-38 we get a glimpse of this when he saw the people around him and he had compassion on them... He stopped and in the moment he saw the people deeply and had an emotional and intellectual reaction to them. He was moved to do something about the people around him and he lead his followers to do the same. In order to do what Jesus demonstrated and instructed us to do, to love God, love our neighbors, and to love one another, we must be in the moment and embrace the relationships around us. Once we do this hen move to bless them in the ways the Holy Spirit instructs us to do.

As leaders, we see our programs connect people, but so often because of this *success* our programs become our mission, NOT the people we are trying to reach and connect to Jesus. In order to prevent our programs from becoming our mission we need to become more people centric and less program centric. In a sense, our programs can become a burden to people, because inadvertnetly there are times we make people feel guilty for choosing our programs over being in their neighborhood and hangingout with their neighbors. This is unfortunate. It can cause people to operate freely uder the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and miss the ministry that God has for them. We take them out of their neighborhoods and distract them with participating in our events and programming…

2987611025_b9a279bba1I must state here, that I am not against programming, because programming helps us meet the felt needs of people (See Acts chapter 6). What I am saying is that our programming needs to be more than just purposeful, it needs to be focused and strategic - moving people to love God, love their neighbor, and love one another. It must free God’s people to be in their neighborhoods to connect and minister the gospel to those that live around them. Can the Church stop trying to be a buffet restaurant and distract God’s people from getting a clear picture of the mission He has purposed us to do? We must free God's people and give them the ability to love the people around them... People > Programs.

*Post adapted from a March 2011 blog post I wrote about neighboring*

Cynicism of Prayer

Prayer  

I am by no means an expert on prayer. Let me first get that out of the way... I pray, but not always with the consistancy I wish and I don't always believe my prayers get answered...

There I said it. Most of us if we were to admit it live in "shame and spiritual weariness," as Paul Miller aptly states about prayer. We are afraid to admit to God our lack of faith in His ability to do anything in our lives and thus become burned out, because we try to carry the burdens of life on our own. Our theology and practice is a "cynicism of prayer" not being heard or answered by God.

Prayer is continual and constant...

Prayer is not an item that we check-off from our todo list. It should be woven into the fabric of who we are becoming. Prayer is continual and constant.

Since for most of us prayer is something we occasionally do when the need arises or when we are in a setting or situation that calls us to pray; we do not necesarily see ourselves as people of prayer, but rather we would identify ourselves as someone who prays occassionally. Because of this it shouldn't surprise us when we become cynical about God hearing and answering our prayers.

It like the little child, who wants a sweet, but asks his or her parent once for a piece of candy and gets no response and then walks away dejected. It's always the persistent child who continually asks, sees a response from the parent and receives some sort of answer whether it be a yes, no, or not yet.prayer mountains

I'm not suggesting that God only responds to a frenzied and nagging conversation from us. Instead what I'm advocating is that through a consistent practice of us speaking with God we become aware and even sensitive to God's movement and action in our daily circumstances as He answers our prayers.

We also begin to perceive the things that God wants us to be about or ask.

By making prayer a continual and constant part of who we are and who we are becoming we become internally and visually aware of God in the midst of our lives.

 

Four characteristics to demonstrate as a person of prayer...

To break the cycle of praying with cynicism, there are four charateristics that I try to posture in my life as person of prayer...

Pray with expectancy

Pray with faith

Pray with courage

Pray with honesty

Above all, it is important for us to communicate with God about our doubts of Him hearing our prayers. To remain silent and not express our doubt that God hears our prayers can prevent us living a life on purpose for God. The courage to speak aloud this quiet cynicism is empowering and frees us to be the people of God.