whether or not Your lips move

You speak to me

worship is multi-faceted February 23, 2008

Filed under: relationship with God,worship — Ash @ 1:17 pm

I’ve always been fascinated by people. I love to watch them when they don’t know they’re being watched (no, I’m not a stalker). Whenever we’d take road trips as kids, one of our favorite activities was to count the number of people in other cars that were picking their noses. (This was before those nifty portable DVD players, we had to have some way of entertaining ourselves.) As I got older, the airport became one of my favorite places to watch people. (Before 9/11 when we could wait at the gate.) I loved watching couples and families reunite. I always had to repress the urge to go up and ask them why their reunion was so meaningful, where have you all been and how long were you apart.

Over recent years, my favorite time to watch people is during church worship gatherings. I’ve been a part of many different types of churches and faith organizations, and each one has had its own way of worshiping God through music and song. I love Mosaic, our church now, because we have such a neat blend when it comes to worshiping God. When I look around the room on Sundays, I see people lifting their hands, I see people closing their eyes, I see people who are trying to keep up with an unfamiliar song, I see people who might look bored to someone who didn’t know better. Each of these worshipers is experiencing God in his or her own unique way. And some of them may not best express their relationship with God through music or song at all.

In our community group (which meets at our house on 2nd and 4th Wednesdays), we’ve begun taking a look at the ways God has wired each of us to express our relationship with Him. I’m uber excited about this, because worshiping God is so important. Growing up, I always assumed that “worship” meant “a Sunday morning or evening service in which we sing songs and hear a sermon”. But it’s SO much more than this.

I love singing. It has been a passion of mine as far back as I can remember. God used the Little Mermaid to inspire me to start singing. (Go ahead and laugh.) It’s a release for me. It’s one of the ways I love to worship God.

Not everyone loves singing. Some people hate it because it makes them uncomfortable, or they think that they can’t carry a tune (and the “make a joyful noise” verse doesn’t always encourage them). I remember friends who constantly were frustrated because they were beating themselves up for not enjoying singing praise and worship songs. They thought they were disappointing God. I wish I could have told them back then what I know now– it’s probably because God has given you a different way to worship Him! AND primarily because our definition of worship is far too limited.

WHAT IS WORSHIP? I would define worship as anything we do that makes us (and others) see God for Who He is. We are worshiping God when we bring Him honor.

So. What forms does worship come in? Here are a few of my ideas (and of course there are a ton more).
* singing
* dancing
* painting
* looking at the stars
* sitting beside the ocean
* feeding the hungry
* taking soup to someone who’s sick
* visiting a nursing home
* cooking a meal for neighbors
* taking a vow of silence
* studying church history
* discussing a deep theological truth
* taking communion
* tending a garden
* participating in a liturgy
* writing in a journal
* hugging people
* sitting quietly/meditation
* writing out what you believe
* letting someone go ahead of you in line
* being ethical at work and school
* tipping well when you go out to eat

Basically ANY and EVERY action we take, word we say, thought we think can be worshipful.
Romans 12:1-2 describes in a nutshell what I see as worship. I’ll write it out in a couple of different translations.

“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. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice– the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.” (NLT)

We are making much of God when we live our lives sold out to loving Him and others. We are seeing God for Who He is when we allow Him to transform our ways of thinking, and when we allow Him to call the shots in our lives. (Transformation of the mind will probably be explored in a later post.)

WHY SHOULD WE WORSHIP GOD? Forgive me if this seems too simplistic, but because He is worthy. “When you think of what He has done for you, is this too much to ask?”
“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in holy array” (Psalm 29:2, NASB).
“Give honor to the Lord for the glory of his name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness” (Psalm 29:2, NLT).
There are many books written on this subject. Perhaps I’ll do a post at a later time on this.

HOW SHOULD I WORSHIP GOD? This is where the fun part comes in for me lately. I had our community group take an awesome quiz/inventory thing that comes from the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas. I strongly recommend getting this book. It explores nine different “worship styles” (ways that people express their worship/relationship with God). I love how diverse our small group is, although I find it interesting that we are heavy on the contemplative and intellectual sides. We also have a few naturalists, a couple caregivers, some activists, and some ascetics. And really, everyone has at least 2 or 3 worship styles that they’re wired with. I hope that they’ve found this as interesting and freeing as I have! (My dominant worship styles are contemplative and intellectual, followed closely by enthusiasm.)

I think the main point is not necessarily just to do things that we enjoy, but instead to enjoy God through doing them.

WHERE SHOULD WE WORSHIP GOD? I think that corporate, or group, worship is important. What form it takes is up to the group (as we’ve seen above). At Mosaic, we have folks who love to go hiking together. We have groups who make Christmas cards for those in nursing homes. We love putting together care kits for the homeless. We get together on Sundays and sing praises. We get together at coffee shops and pray. We get together in homes and study God’s Word.

Worshiping God individually is equally important. We are each responsible for our own actions, thoughts, and words. We can utilize moments throughout our day to worship God. We are honoring Him when we don’t flip off the person who cut us off in traffic. We are honoring God when we do our best at work or school, and not just when the boss/teacher is looking. We are honoring God when we clean up after ourselves at a restaurant. We are honoring God when we speak lovingly to our families. We are honoring God when we engage in activities that flow with our worship styles. We honor God when seeking His face in prayer, when reading His Word, and through loving others in practical ways.

Worship is multi-faceted. I hope that you seek ways to honor God and let Him know how much you love Him. He rejoices over you when you enjoy Him.

 

works-based sin February 21, 2008

Filed under: faith,love,relationship with God,sin — Ash @ 11:05 pm

One evening Aaron and I were at a great Thai food restaurant with a couple of friends. It was quite a long time ago so I can’t really remember the exact conversation, but we were discussing sin and redemption and other fun things. Somewhere along the way I said something about how we don’t want to base our salvation on works, and yet we base our sin on them– works-based sin.

Works-based (or “legalistic”) Christianity tells us we have to do and say all the right things, and avoid all the wrong things, in order to be good little boys and girls. Most Christians will say they don’t have a works-based view of their relationship with God. But do we of sin?

I’ve been rolling the thought around in my head for a few years now and have been asked by some new friends what “sin” is. In the past I’ve described it as “missing the mark” (like when you’re shooting at a target and miss the bullseye) which is what the Greek word most often used in the New Testament technically means, although its usage brings a little more into the picture. Here are some definitions from Strong’s (I cut it down a bit but if you want to check it out for yourself there is a free tool at www.blueletterbible.org):

(a) a principle or source of action, or an inward element producing acts, e.g., Rom 3:9; 5:12,13,20; 6:1,2; 7:7 (abstract for concrete);
(b) a governing principle or power, e.g., Rom 6:6; “(the body) of sin,” here “sin” is spoken of as an organized power, acting through the members of the body, though the seat of “sin” is in the will (the body is the organic instrument);
(c) a generic term (distinct from specific terms such as No. 2 yet sometimes inclusive of concrete wrong doing, e.g., Jhn 8:21,34,46; 9:41; 15:22,24; 19:11);
(d) a sinful deed, an act of “sin,” e.g., Mat 12:31; Act 7:60; Jam 1:15 (1st part); 2:9; 4:17; 5:15,20; 1Jo 5:16 (1st part).

In my most recent conversation about the definition of “sin” I tried to describe it in terms of inner motivation rather than mere outward action. Otherwise I think we run the risk of basing too much on our “works”. Please don’t hear me say that our actions are not important– they absolutely are. They speak louder than words. God has commanded us to do many things throughout His Word. However, in this sense, I hope we can avoid limiting “sin” to our outward actions when it initially takes place at the soul level. Or, as our first definition above says, “the source of action.”

Followers of Christ believe that we cannot do anything to earn a relationship with God. We can’t do anything to wash away the guilt of our past mistakes. We can’t do anything in and of ourselves to make ourselves truly happy in this life. Left to ourselves, we can’t have a hope of a life with God after we depart from this earth. If we could do something on our own to make all that happen, why in the world would God have let Jesus die such a horrible, gruesome, devastating death?

Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the One Who, on our behalf, made peace with God– He had no sin, but took the punishment for the sin of the world. He purchased our forgiveness and new-found innocence with His blood. He gave us the right to be called God’s kids. He brings us overflowing life– life full of not only stinkin’ awesome moments, but also really blasted tough ones. And He will welcome us to His side when we leave our dusty jars of clay behind.

So how do we get in on this?

Grace.

Throughout the New Testament we’re reminded that we cannot “earn” this grace. Grace by its very nature is “un-earnable” if you will.

But surely we have some part to play in this thing, right?

Yes.

This is the part where faith comes in. I like to think of faith as a conduit, a lifeline, an aqueduct, or what have you. Faith connects us to God. To His heart. All sorts of things come to us through that conduit of faith. Grace comes to us through faith: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB). Faith is essentially trusting God that He is Who He says He is and that He can do what He says He can do.

So what do we do with this faith? “Salvation that comes from trusting Christ– which is the message we preach– is already within easy reach. In fact, the Scriptures say, ‘The message is close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.’ For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’ (Romans 10:8-11, NLT).

Sin is doing the wrong thing. But more than that, sin is knowing the difference between the right and wrong thing, and still doing the wrong thing. Sin is also doing the wrong thing unintentionally, as we see from our definitions above; sin can have such a hold on us, such a power over us, that we don’t even realize how deep we’ve gotten into it. Sin can numb us to God’s voice. Sin can fool us into thinking that we are having a great time, when deep down we know we are drowning. Sin will keep us longer than we intended to stay and take more from us than we ever wanted to give. (And yes, I know what I’m talking about, I’ve been there– even as a Christ follower.)

So all this to say, for the follower of Christ, having been forgiven and having received all the benefits of being connected to God, what role does sin play in our newly created selves? Do we avoid doing/saying/thinking the wrong things just because we shouldn’t do/say/think them? Or is there a deeper level now, a level of our souls that knows when we do/say/think sinful things, it hurts God’s heart? Will we allow ourselves to move to a much more vulnerable place with God– a place where we allow the things that hurt Him to hurt us, too? The question then becomes not “how sinful can I get away with being” but “through God’s power, how Christ-like can I be?” We move away from a works-based view of sin and closer to the Father’s heart.

For those of us who follow Christ and yet struggle with the power sin seems to have over us, know that the same grace that God lavished on you when you first decided to follow Him is like a bottomless well. Hook up your faith pipeline to it and drink it in. Pour it over your head. Swim in it. Whatever you do, don’t allow the sorrow of your sin keep you from running into God’s arms. That’s just what satan, the one who loves to see you as screwed up as possible, wants you to do– be so full of shame that you can’t bear the thought of opening that part of you to God. Guilt is sometimes necessary because it leads us to change our course of action and choose the better path that God has for us. But once we are going in the right direction again, we have no business feeling guilty anymore (check out 2 Corinthians 7:10). GOD LOVES YOU. When you talk to Him, He smiles like a proud parent. When you come to Him, He welcomes you like a lover. HE WILL NOT REJECT YOU. Let Him free you from whatever “it” is. It may take some time and the road may seem long and painful, but trust me… it’s worth it.

 

I stand amazed in the presence… February 13, 2008

Filed under: love — Ash @ 9:32 am

I had a particularly wonderful morning of worship today. Singing with the choir at work, the only way to describe what happened this morning is that the Holy Spirit fell. We are always in the presence of our Savior, but there are times when He feels particularly close. This morning was one of those times.

“I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and I wonder how He could love me—a sinner, condemned unclean. How marvelous, how wonderful! And my song shall ever be: how marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me.”

I couldn’t make it through the song without crying. I had to just let the tears fall. Tears can be so heavy with God’s glory. I hoped no one was looking at me.

Later as I was sitting alone, I let the words wash over me again. I am no longer condemned unclean. There is no condemnation in Christ. This is something that was a long struggle for me to fully embrace, as I had grown accustomed to punishing myself if someone else wasn’t doing it.

I told Jesus, “I really just wish I could be with You. I get so sick of myself.”

His response came, “But I love you.”

I said, “But I’m proud.”

Again, His response was, “But I love you.”

I protested, “But I do so many stupid things.”

The gentle answer came again, “But I love you.”

I thought of a dozen other things I could say about myself, but realized that His answer is always going to be the same:

“But I love you.”