Thursday, August 26, 2010

Worship as a discipline (part 2)

Worship takes preparation. When the early Christians gathered together to worship God they were expecting something BIG to happen. They were expecting God to act on their behalf. Do you expect God to act when you gather with your community to worship? Here are some ways to prepare for worship during the week.

Learn to practice the presence of God during the week.
- Imagine He is right there with you in person.
- How would you live if He were right by your side 24/7?

Brother Lawrence, who wrote a book called Practicing the Presence of God, learned that because he experienced the presence of God in the kitchen, he knew he would meet God in the worship service as well.

Learn to praise God.
- The Psalms speak mostly about praising God. Read them. Memorize them. Use their language when you talk about God.
- Singing is a way to learn to praise. It can help us focus on Jesus.

Learn to really prepare for the worship gathering on Sunday morning.
- Prepare in a special way Saturday evening (prayer, bible reading, etc.).
- Develop an attitude of expectation for this time of gathering.
- Come early and seek God in prayer.
- Prayer for your pastors and SS teachers (God glory would surround them).
- Look around at people as they enter. Do they seem burdened? If so, lift them up in prayer.
- Think about this statement by Foster before a worship gathering, “If Jesus is our Leader, miracles should be expected to occur in worship. Healings, both inward and outward, will be the rule, not the exception. The book of Acts will not just be something we read about, but something we are experiencing.”

Of course there is much more about worship, but this is just some of what I’ve been chewing on since teaching on it a few weeks ago. The preparation for worship has been heavy on my mind. I’ve been evaluating how I prepare for the community worship time that takes place Sunday mornings. Here are some questions I’m asking/wrestling with:

- What are some ways I could better prepare for worship?
- What kind of things would take place during community worship time if I was prepared?
- What do I miss because I enter community worship time rushed and scatter-brained?

Any thoughts?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Worship as a discipline

I thought I would share with you a little bit of something I’ve been doing all summer long here at my church. I’ve been teaching a series for adults on the spiritual disciplines. Of course the book I’ve been leaning on for this series has been Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Wow, this book is a classic and must own! I’ve read it before, but continue to grow in knowledge when I return to read it again. I’ve also used With Unveiled Faces by Keith Drury (which has been extremely helpful and insightful too).

The one discipline that challenges me most is worship. Here’s what I’m learning about worship.

Worship is not…
- When God’s people gather together
- Raising one hand and loudly saying, “Amen!”
- Singing
- Raising two hands in the air while closing your eyes and gently swaying back and forth.

According to Foster, “Singing, praying, praising all may lead to worship, but worship is more than any of them.”

So, what is worship?

Worship is our response to the great love from the heart of the Father. It is the human response to the divine initiative (definition from book).

Are you responding? God’s love demands a response. God didn’t send Jesus for us to just look at Him. We are called to decide if we will place faith in Him or not. We are called to respond. That response is worship. If Jesus is to be Lord of your life, worship must become a priority. Why? It’s the first call to Christians that is mentioned in Mark 12:30. Part of loving Him with everything is that we worship Him. We worship the Lord not only because of who He is, but also because of what He has done. Foster ads, “Our lives are to be punctuated with praise, thanksgiving, and adoration.”

Why should I practice this discipline?

In John 4:23-24 Jesus calls us to it. He doesn’t suggest worship as an idea, but as a way of life. Because God is Spirit, we must worship in spirit and truth. What does that mean? At the center of who you are is your heart (not the physical thing). Your heart (which can be thought of as your will and spirit) is thought of as the place, or the executive center, of where decisions and choices originate. Jesus backs this up with His statement in Mark 7:21-23.

Worshiping in spirit means we are making a decision to worship God. It’s not something that is being forced upon us. We are doing because we are moved by His love for us. The Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God wants people that will worship Him because they want to. He wants people to worship Him for who He is (the truth part to this passage).

How do I begin and/or prepare for practicing this discipline? Come back next week for that.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sabbath Purpose (ch. 6)

I'm back. I know many of you have been waiting all summer for this. Some of you have even put your vacation plans on hold just to make sure you could be here for this. Thank you, ha!

It's been a fun summer for me. I've had a chance to sit down and really read and evaluate some good books and some not so good books. I hope to share some of those findings with you over the next few months. I'm starting, or picking back up, with a book I started reading last spring; Sabbath by Dan Allender.

Previous Chapters (summary and thoughts if you are interested)
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

Chapter 4
Chapter 5

Chapter 6 begins the second part of the book which is on Sabbath purpose. What is the purpose of the Sabbath? Allender sees the Sabbath as a day of peace and reconciliation. On the Sabbath we are to be reconciled to our brothers and sisters. If we are at war with them we stop. No fighting. Nothing. We pretend all is well even if it is not. We, “celebrate the newness of life, created, redeemed, restored, and set free.” Later Allender asks, “How would you live if there were no wars, enmity, battle lines, or need to defend, explain, interpret, or influence another to see anything differently?” This is how we try and live on the Sabbath. We don’t push our enemies to the back of our mind, but we pray for them. We wonder what it would be like to be at peace with them. Prayer for our enemies is encouraged. Doing this allows us to practice eternity when wars will cease and peace will reign. To help us get there Allender suggests we need curiosity, coziness, and care.

Curiosity is to be seen as a gift of the Spirit and a great aid to help us practice eternity. We imagine what life would be like if Jesus was here on Earth ruling. We imagine what it would be like to be at peace with oneself and one’s enemies. Be open to where your curiosity takes you on the Sabbath. Let it run wild.

Another purpose of Sabbath is to get “cozy”. This is more than just rest and relaxation. This is giving our mind over to curiosity and allowing our imaginations to run wild. When is the last time you did that? When is the last time you imagined what lies at the farthest end of the galaxy? What is the realm of angels and demons like? On the Sabbath allow your mind a chance to explore these things.

Another thing we need to help us practice eternity is care. We need to give and receive care on the Sabbath because there is a promise of peace. True care is really paying attention to your spouse or kids to see what their real needs are. We notice things about others and try our best to show them love.

I like the idea of thinking about what life would be like if God’s peace reigned. What would life be like if I was at peace with my worst enemy? To me this chapter revealed the important role imagination plays on the Sabbath. How good of an imagination do you have? Logic takes a back seat to imagination when we think of Jesus’ return and what life will be like when He renews the Earth and makes all things new. Try thinking about that logically and you don’t get very far. Some practical ideas sprouted in my mind as I read this chapter for celebrating the Sabbath to really practice eternity:
- Going to the library before the Sabbath arrives and getting books or magazines on subjects I wouldn’t normally stop and read about (e.g., space, dinosaurs, scuba diving, and woodworking) and perusing the pages with my kids. We would see new things and visit new worlds in the coziness of our home.
- For care, we could go as a family to a nursing home and spend the day with someone. We could eat together, sing together, and just enjoy each other’s company. A simple way to put caring for others into practice.

How about you, any ideas on how you would practice eternity on the Sabbath?