The Aim of Adoration: What we value most either ruins or restores us

10963915_836012346437742_1614362506_n Last week I wrote about how our relationship with God, rooted in the new identity given to us by our Father, should result in our engagement in God’s mission in our world (click here to read).  Today I want to explore that topic on a deeper level by looking at how our worship leads to the shaping of our lives.

We become what we worship.  

Worship, by any definition, shapes who we are.  Every human heart is hard-wired to worship.  We are made in God’s image, each of us carries the Imago Dei, the image of God, in our essence.  Therefore, we are all, always, worshiping something.  There’s always some thing at the center of our thoughts, our desires, and our affections.  Whatever that thing or those things are, is what shapes us. I’ll never forget as a 7-year-old boy I was OBSESSED with Batman.  I watched Batman on TV every chance that I got.  I begged my mom for Batman pjs, Batman lunchbox, and the ever-so-important “Batman cape”.  I wanted to ride my bicycle down the road and see the cape flying up behind me like Batman’s did when he drove the Bat-mobile.  If it were possible to become Batman, I would have traded everything and done it.  This silly childhood story of mine is all-too familiar.  In fact, I’d bet good money that you can remember stories like this in your own life.  This type of thing is in our nature, we all do it.

“Our worship is either aimed at our ruin or at our restoration.”

In the book of Romans we see an interesting contrast when it comes to the OBJECT of our worship.  The author, the apostle Paul, points out that our worship is aimed at either a) our ruin, or b) our restoration (Rom. 1:18-27; Rom. 12:1-2).  If we focus our worship on created things instead of the Creator, we are aiming our worship at our own ruin instead of restoration.  We could spend a lot of time looking into these passages, but the primary point that I would like to bring out of the text is this:

“If our “worship” to God isn’t changing us into Christ’s image, then our “worship” to God might not be real”.

Here’s another way to say it, “If our worship to God isn’t changing us, our worship to something else is.”  We have to remember that our worship shapes who we are, therefore, if we’re truly engaged in worship to God, we’ll be transformed into His likeness (Col. 3:10).  Therefore, by simple deduction, if our lives aren’t being conformed to the image of Christ, if our desires for God aren’t growing, if our hearts aren’t breaking for the things that break our Father’s heart, then we need to take a close look at how authentically, or inauthentically, we are worshiping God. Here’s my admonition.  In a time where worship can be more about performance than presence, more about consuming instead of community, and more about being a fan than being a follower, I think it’s easy to get lost in it all and somehow lose our purity of heart toward God.  We have to realize that we’re prone to aim our worship at the created instead of the Creator.  Some of us slowly migrate there unintentionally and others of us are bent full force on worshiping our idols.

What would it look like if we saw a movement of worshipers emerging within our churches world-wide who desired God Himself more than anything else?  What if this movement exposed idols for what they really are and lifted Christ high as the Savior of all?  What if this movement was characterized by God’s power working through thousands of ordinary people just like you and me?  Would you believe me if I told you that this movement is actually already happening?  Jesus started it when He came to the earth, and he referred to it as the Kingdom of God.  The pure flame of God’s love is burning with strength, and is perfectly poised to ignite the hearts of those who seek Him earnestly.  Without sounding too much like a half-time speech, I wonder if Jesus’ isn’t awakening a generation of worshipers to accomplish things for His Kingdom that we have never seen before.

Intertwined: How a relationship with God affects everyday life

imageWhen I started writing this post I could hardly decide what to title it.  There were several perspectives I could write from; the post could’ve been called “Relationship & Responsibility”, or “Covenant & Kingdom”, or “Worship & Mission”.  Each title conveys a slightly different perspective on our relationship with God and how that relationship affects the rest of our lives.

I want to start by briefly looking at how our relationship with God changes us.

Identity.

When we come to know Jesus we are adopted as God’s sons and daughters, we are given a new identity.  

Part of the groundwork of our faith is that our Father has adopted us, given us a new name, and given us a new family to be a part of (Eph. 1:3-14).  The best part about this new identity is that we don’t have to do anything to earn it, it’s a gift given to us through Jesus, and that’s grace.  Therefore, instead of living our lives feeling like we have to do certain things to earn God’s love (which we tend to do a surprising amount of the time), we are freed to live out God’s purposes for our lives because we already have God’s love.  When we live this way, offering our lives back to God because of our God-given identity, it’s worship.

Like the title of this article implies, there’s more to our relationship with God than this, God also gives us a mission to live out.

Mission.

When our relationship with God is restored we are given a new purpose for our lives.

Because we are now a part of God’s family, and we are in direct relationship with Him, we are also given responsibility by our Father.  This is seen throughout both the Old and the New Testament.  From the very beginning Adam and Eve were in perfect relationship with God and they also were given the responsibility to rule in the Garden (Gen. 2).  Additionally, God’s covenant with both Abraham and Moses (extending to the people of Israel) also included relationship and responsibility (Gen. 12; Ex. 19).  God graciously initiated a restorative relationship with a sinful people while simultaneously setting them apart for His purposes on the earth.  He repeatedly told the people of Israel “I’ll be your God, and you will be my people.”

This idea doesn’t end in the Old Testament, we continue to see it in the New Testament, specifically through the life of Jesus.  God makes THE way for His people to return to relationship with Him by sacrificially dying in their place and making a way for all who believe.  His invitation to receive salvation is also an invitation to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and participate in God’s plan to redeem the world.

Relationship with God is alway married to mission with God.

Balance.

So, what’s the problem?  Why am I writing about this?  The reason I’m writing is because I see a lot of Christians (including myself) living with a significantly unbalanced life in these two areas.  Some of us spend 95% of our time focused inward.  We read, discuss, study, sing about, and contemplate the finer points of our relationship with God to the extent that we have very little, if any, time to engage in God’s mission.  Don’t get me wrong, all of those activities are good, but they are not the end in themselves.  If we aren’t careful our spiritual lives will become a like a stagnant pool, all of the water flowing in but very little flowing out.

Conversely, I see others of us (younger Millennial’s in particular) so engaged in God’s mission on earth that we neglect the church and often our relationship with God to do the “real work” of ministry.  In many ways I applaud the authenticity and passion that this group of brothers and sisters live with, yet, I fear there will not be enough relationship to sustain these efforts over a lifetime.  I believe that God has always intended for their to be BOTH worship and mission, relationship and responsibility in the lives of His people.  Sure, there will be seasons where we spend more time on one side or the other, but a prolonged neglect of relationship or mission by God’s people will certainly result in disfunction.

The disfunction that I’m speaking of often looks like this. . .

            Do Things –> Create Our Own Identity –> Try to Earn God’s love

The end result of living our lives this way is frustration, striving, and lack of satisfaction in our relationship with God. We feel this way because we are living backwards, opposite of how God intended for us to live.  Instead of living out of the identity God has given us, we live our lives trying to earn an identity for ourselves.

When we learn to rest in our identity as sons and daughters of God, we become secure in our relationship with Him, therefore, we feel freedom to engage our world in a different way.

     When we live the way God intended we live a new-found freedom.  First, we’re freed to enjoy the sweetness and satisfaction of the grace of God in our lives.  Our worship to God shifts because we’re freed from trying to earn something from Him and we can focus wholeheartedly on blessing Him.  Living lives of obedience to the Father is no longer a daunting list of to-do’s, but an opportunity to glorify God.  Second, we’re freed to consider how we can engage in God’s mission in our world.  Since we are no longer striving to earn relationship, we find that we have a greater capacity for other people.  We also have the spiritual capacity to think and pray about how we can be light in the dark places around us.  When we live our lives this way we see worship and mission come together beautifully as one.

 This leads each of us to a few final questions, “Am I engaged in both relationship AND mission with God?”  Which side of this do you and your community tend to overemphasize?  What would it look like to balance out worship and mission in your life and community?

An Appetite for God

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The human appetite is a powerful thing.  In fact, there aren’t many things that control our behavior much more than our appetite.  I mean, just take a few seconds and think about the last time that you were really hungry.  When we are hungry food quickly becomes the most important thing to us.  We’ll do just about anything to satisfy our ravenous cravings.  We’ve even created a word to describe the person who’s unfulfilled appetite is causing them emotional distress. . .we call them “hangry”.

HangryWhen you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both (Urban Dictionary).

Ultimately, we know that, albeit uncomfortable at times, our appetite for food is a good thing.  Without it we wouldn’t know when to pause our daily activities to eat.  And consequently, because our intake of food is directly related to our energy level, if we fail to eat on a regular basis we’ll lack the energy to live our lives.  Simply put, our appetite is meant to lead us to the source of our energy.  

This is not only true for our physical lives, but also for our spiritual lives.  In the opening lines of Psalm 42 the Psalmist writes “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”  

The Psalmist is using a metaphor to describe the inner appetite he has for God.  Even better, he is correlating his spiritual appetite to a physical one that we all experience, thirst.  In essence, he’s saying that he has an inner longing for the living God and the nearest thing he can relate it to is thirsting for water. 

We all have a spiritual appetite given to us by God.  Augustine says it this way, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”  Here Augustine is speaking of the longing of every human heart.  There is a void, a restlessness in our hearts that we all seek to fill.  In Augustine’s estimation, of which I agree, that longing can only be fulfilled by our Creator.

While Augustine is referring to the general void every one of us experiences, there is also a desire that is more specific than a general longing for “something more”.  Once a person is saved through faith in the work of Jesus Christ, that person is awakened to new life.  Scripture says that person is a “new creation”, the old has gone and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).  This moment of awakening, known as regeneration, is the inception of a an eternal relationship with God.  It’s also the inception of an appetite for something new.  Through the Holy Spirit we are given new desires, a new appetite for God and things of God (wisdom, righteousness, and devotion) (Tit. 2:12). Often times, however, we have a twisted view of our salvation.  Instead of viewing our salvation as an ongoing exploration, we see it as a stationary event that we can look back on.  Life with Jesus was never meant to be viewed or lived this way.  Instead, life in Christ is meant to be a “glorious pursuit, the heart’s happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead.”  God is prompting us to pursue Him, and to ultimately find our delight in Him (Ps. 37:4).

This is precisely why God gives us a spiritual appetite, to cause us to seek our well-being in Him.  Just like our physical appetite leads us to the source of our energy, food, our spiritual appetite is meant to lead us to the Source of all vitality, God himself.  So when we feel like the Psalmist and our souls are thirsting for more, longing for something deeper, we must learn to recognize that this very longing is a God-given provision to us.  In the same way that He gave us hunger and thirst for food and water, He also gives us an appetite for more of His presence.  If we are to live a vibrant spiritual life, filled with energy, strength, and health, we must regularly seek the God who alone can fill us with such things.

Psalm 145:6 “You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. 

In closing, I want to give one practical step that each of us can take to see our spiritual desires lead us closer to God.  When it comes to eating, our appetite is most helpful to our health when we respond to it with consistent, steady nutrition.  Prolonged periods without food, inconsistency in our choices, and/or overindulgence in the wrong things can dramatically affect our appetite.  Similarly, consistency in seeking God is crucial to our spiritual life.  In Psalm 105:4 David wrote “Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually.”  In many other cases David wrote about seeking the Lord in the morning, throughout the day, in the evening, and in his bed at night.  It seems to me that David knew the importance of continually trying to live in the strength and presence that our Lord provides.  This continual seeking will look different for each of us.  The point is not to create some equation that we live within that produces God’s presence for us.  Instead, I suggest taking some time to think about how to invite God into everything that you do.   Make sure not to skip even the most mundane parts of your life like housework, paying bills, exercising, and even sleeping.  Once you’ve taken time to think about it, do it.  Ask God to be a part of everything that you are doing. Tell Him that you want to abide in Him and live out of His strength not your own.  And then do your best to be conscious of His involvement on a day to day basis.

I’ve heard it said, “Our lives are formed by the habits in which we live.”  Let’s create spiritual rhythms in our lives that help us rely upon God for everything that we are doing.  He designed it to work that way after all.

Returning to the Father

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  It’s often said, “a child knows the way to his or her father’s heart.” Parents will certainly attest to the validity of this statement. I can still vividly remember the first time my son looked at me, and with a big crooked smile on his face said, “Da da”.   In that moment I was beaming with excitement! Another recurring moment that makes my heart smile is getting home from work most evenings. As I pull into the garage and come through the door to our house I’m almost always greeted by my son, running full speed ahead with his arms stretched out toward me. As a Father, there just aren’t many things better than your children desiring to be with you.

God, the true and perfect Father, also desires this intimacy with His children. The problem is that the perfect relationship that once existed between our Father and us was broken by the Fall (Gen. 3) and has wrecked our relationship with Him. By choosing sin over blessing, we turned away from our loving Creator and sought to establish our own life outside of His care. In foolishness we gave up the shelter of the Almighty to become independent orphans. And now we find ourselves searching for the love that was once ours in the Garden. But there is good news. Just like God sought out Adam and Eve in the Garden after they had sinned against Him, He is seeking out each one of us. While we are hiding in shame, our Father is calling out to us, “Where are you son?” “Where are you daughter?” He’s extending an invitation to come back into His care, to come out of hiding and return to the relationship that once was. This is what our Father wants for us.

This is actually also what the practice of Lent should mean for us. A season that’s most often defined by what we’re “giving up” is actually more about “what we receive”. We must give up lesser loves in order to take hold of the truest treasures in life. Therefore, during this season, we take time to confess our wrongs, repent of our rebellion against God, and to recognize the breadth of our great need for Him. We fast from daily needs and competing desire in order to fix our attention on what really matters. Simultaneously, we gaze upon the beauty of the cross and the finished work of Christ, we receive the forgiveness that is offered to us through faith in Jesus, and we return unto our Father’s care, desiring to enter back into the relationship that we once knew in the Garden so long ago.

Our Father has extended this invitation to us, an invitation to once again dwell in His presence. Yet in order to dwell in His presence we must learn to seek Him continually (Psalm 105:4). This is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian life; we are to seek what we already have. Although we have direct access to our Father through salvation in Jesus, we must remain thirsty for more of Him. Seeking him forces us to continually reorient our hearts to become aware of the burning beauty of God all around us. Just like it was in the Garden, God has not moved away from us, He’s not hiding; we are the ones who have moved. We must relearn what it looks like to desire and recognize His presence that is all around us.

This Lent season, I encourage all of us to focus our hearts on returning to our Father. We can use this time to increase our appetites for more of God’s fullness. As our hearts begin to experience the love of the Father we’ll naturally crave more and more of Him and find deeper satisfaction in Him. Let’s together ask the Holy Spirit to empower us to do this together, in Jesus’ name, for the glory of our Father.

Becoming Who We Are

Part of My Story

When I was 16 years old God began to do something that was unique in my life, something that to this day drives me forward.  I was a young, immature boy who barely knew how to play the guitar, and knew almost nothing about the Bible and the Church, when God began to draw my attention to a word, worship.  At that time I could barely even call myself a “worship leader”, I had almost no experience leading.  Yet in His goodness and foresight, God was giving me a noble obsession.  I still remember sitting poolside one summer break scouring books, learning as much as I could about the subject in between games of Marco Polo and Ping Pong.  Kinda weird, I know, but none-the-less true.  That was just the beginning of a journey that I’ve been on with God ever since.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 10+ years it’s that worship is far more than a word.  It’s far more than an activity.  It’s an identity.  Worship is something that I do, but it’s also who I am.

“Worship is something that I do, but it’s also who I am.”

It seems to me that this should be at the forefront of our minds as Christ-followers.  Can we even be true disciples if we are not first, worshipers?  There’s no doubt that our identity as worshipers is important to God.  The Scriptures say that the Father is searching the earth, looking for true worshipers (John 4:23).

The problem that I see is that even though this idea of being a “worshiper” is widely accepted as a central part of our faith, the subject of worship (corporately and personally) is pretty misunderstood.  Here’s what I mean. . .

Corporately speaking, many of us are lacking a Biblical understanding of the gathered church.  We show up to church with almost no thought about the purpose of the gathering.  We may or may not participate in the service that’s been planned because we don’t see the practical or spiritual implications that singing/praying/communion/baptism/etc. bring to our faith.  Therefore, we tend to argue and bicker over personal preference as if it’s the primary reason the church exists.  If we lived out a more Biblical understanding of corporate worship I believe that our churches would be healthier, more unified, and each individual would find the gathering to be an absolutely necessary part of their life in Christ.

Personally speaking, many of us are lacking a Biblical understanding of what personal worship looks like.  Our lives of worship are meant to be much more vibrant than sporadic “quiet times”,  saying grace before a meal, or attending church services.  We’re invited into a dynamic, rhythmic, intimate relationship with God.  King David, the Apostle Paul, Jesus himself and many others offer us practical insight into what a life of worship looks like.  They can help us see past our traditions, get us outside of our comfort zones, and develop new habits that will infuse our lives with devotion to Jesus, and ultimately shape our faith.  The Bible presents a new way of living life that many Christians never take hold of.  It’s a life that’s found at the feet of Jesus.

Join me?

In the coming months I want to invite you to join me in exploring what it looks like to be a worshiper both corporately and personally.  I’m certainly not saying that I have all of the answers, but I would like to ask some questions, discuss some scriptures, and hopefully add something to the world around me that’s helpful.  I hope you’ll follow along, invite friends to follow along, and let’s journey together toward a Biblical understanding of who we are, worshipers.

 

 

 

 

 

Working In Our Waiting

waiting

Waiting.  No one likes waiting, at least I’ve never met anyone who likes to wait.  We live in a fast-paced world, demanding speed in almost every part of our lives.  From fast food to high speed internet to 2 day Amazon Prime shipping, efficiency is King in our world.  But we can’t stop there, we not only love getting what we want quickly, but we also loath it when things don’t work quite quickly enough for us.  Bad traffic, buffering internet, or heaven forbid,  Siri doesn’t understand our voice commands and we are suddenly acting like a 5 year old on the toy isle.

I’ll admit, I’m one of the worst.  My #1, all time, biggest pet peeve is wasting time.  Every time I drive through Dallas, Texas I swear to my wife that “Dallas traffic is a direct result of the Fall of man!”  Why?  Why is it that I, we, are so bad at waiting?  I think it’s because in our minds waiting = wasting.

So much of our identities are wrapped up in what we can achieve.  We want to control every minute of our lives so that we make sure that we stay on track and don’t fall behind everyone else.  Wasting time to us is wasted opportunity.

The truth is, we couldn’t be farther from the actual truth.  But, in order to see it, we have to slow down and look at our life with a different perspective, God’s perspective.  God often has a different plan for our lives than we do, and God’s plan often involves, yep, you guessed it, waiting.  It almost doesn’t make sense to us, that is until we realize that in God’s economy waiting doesn’t equal wasting.  The reason is because waiting is one of the ways that God chooses to work in our lives.  We see this repeatedly throughout the Scriptures.

God has given us waiting as a gift.   Every moment of waiting is an opportunity to seek God.  When we are uncomfortable, longing for something that’s not fully in view, we can look to God, trusting Him to provide our future.  While we wait, God works in us, transforming us into His likeness.  Years ago God gifted Israel with the promise of a coming Savior, and in their waiting, He did amazing things, things we long to see in our day.  He’s done the same for us.  He’s promised that He will return for us.  We can rest assured that He will do what He has said.  He’s faithful and He’ll come again.  But in the mean time we can also begin to see that He’s working, not wasting.

What are you waiting on this Christmas season?

 

BOGG 2014 Song List

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Hey Friends,

We had an awesome time last week worshiping with the students and adults at Bogg Springs camp!  Here’s our song list from last week for those that are interested.

 

Monday Night Session 

Go – Hillsong United

This is Amazing Grace – Phil Wickham

Oceans – Hillsong United

Sinking Deep – Hillsong Young and Free

Just As I Am – Brett Rutledge arrangement

Tuesday Night Session

Wake – Hillsong Young and Free

Only King Forever – Elevation Worship

Cornerstone – Hillsong Live

Found – We The Union

Forever Reign – One Sonic Society

In Christ Alone – Passion 2013 arrangement

 

Wednesday Night Session

This is Amazing Grace – Phil Wickham

Come Thou Fount – All Sons and Daughters arrangement

Sinking Deep – Hillsong Young and Free

Found – We The Union

Oceans – Hillsong United

 

Thursday Night Session

Wake – Hillsong Young and Free

Only King Forever – Elevation Worship

Sinking Deep – Hillsong Young and Free

In Christ Alone – Passion 2013 arrangement

Found – We The Union

Just As I Am – Brett Rutledge arrangement

 

Morning Session Songs

Alive in Us – We The Union

10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman

 

** The “We The Union” album was on pre-release at The Bogg.  If you didn’t grab a copy but want to buy the songs, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram to keep up to date with our album release.