Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas Worship Like the First Time (Part 2)

One definition of worship is “to express reverence or adoration of someone or some thing.” By this definition we have all been guilty, at one time or another, of showing more affection, appreciation and priority for other people, places, objects and activities in our lives than we have shown toward God Himself.

Jesus knew that true children of God would make it their priority to follow Him into the world proclaiming the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:57-62). People who are awakened to the joy of their salvation want everything about their lives to reflect the One who has rescued them.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:7-14
Jesus Himself often told people to go tell their friends and family what God had done for them (Mark 5:18-20, Luke 8:39). But there were also many times when Jesus didn’t specifically instruct someone to go and tell. They just did. They did because they were so moved by Jesus’ compassion toward them and His power of transformation in their lives that they couldn’t stop talking about Him! And the passion of their testimony paired with the evidence seen in their renovated lives caused people to be amazed and worship God (Mark 2:11-12).

Oh, that our enthusiasm and gratitude would overflow as worship (Psalm 23:5, Romans 15:13, 2 Corinthians 4:15, 2 Corinthians 8:2, 2 Corinthians 9:12, Colossians 2:7)!

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9
Lifting our eyes to see God and then giving voice to what we see is worship. What we see and say about God will also lead other people to worship.

This reflection on worship is excerpted from "Living Your Glory Story" available at Amazon and the Walk Right In Ministries store.  Copyright © 2013 Walk Right In Ministries. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas Worship Like the First Time (Part 1)

It's December and, once again, Christians all over the world are celebrating Jesus' first coming. I've been thinking about when I first experienced Jesus' coming into my own heart and life in a way that I knew was real and deeply personal.  I recall a sense of wonder and intrigue in my worship that year which was very different than years before. 

I want my current worship to reflect at least the same vigor and curiosity as it had in those early months when I knew my life and passions had been profoundly changed forever. That was a time when others noticed my new priorities and sometimes wondered about them too. I hope my life compels others to turn and look where I'm looking — toward the treasure of Jesus.

I've been studying Revelation this fall. Three things are striking and inspiring to me about John's vision of Jesus. First, it is while John was worshipping "in the Spirit on the Lord's day" that Jesus revealed Himself to John.  Next, John "turned to see the voice that was speaking" to him. He paid attention and had an opportunity to see the manifest presence of Jesus for Himself!  When John saw Jesus, he "fell at his feet as though dead." And do you know what Jesus did then? 

Jesus touched John.

I wonder. Will my life and faith reflect the kind of zealous and attentive worship that leads to such an intimate encounter with God? Will yours? 


How might the world around us be different if our Christmas worship reflects the kind of wonder and enthusiasm we had the first time we encountered Jesus in an intimate way?
Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” 
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. Luke 2:9-17 (NLT)




Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Gear Up for Good Gifts

Thanksgiving, Christmas and a New Year are right around the corner. Days will be busy for most and lonely for some. Wherever we are on that spectrum, there is opportunity. I want to paint a picture of how we can give and receive life-lifting gifts this holiday season.

And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, 
so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.Titus 3:14

Do you remember how it felt when you were the kid who got picked last because you ran a little slower than the rest, weren't quick enough with your times tables or just weren't wearing the right color shirt that day?  How about that time when a sprained ankle kept you on the bench? Your mom made you go to the game saying, "you're still part of the team and need to show your support even if you can’t play!" Some part of you wanted to be there with your friends but another part would just rather have stayed home alone than be trapped on the sidelines unable to fully participate. 

The holiday season stirs very similar tensions for folks who are wrestling with something that is challenging or seems to differentiate them from the crowd.  Imagine these holiday scenarios:

You are the parent of a child with autism who has been invited to attend the family Thanksgiving. The atmosphere will create stress for your child — and so for you too. You anticipate being exhausted trying to manage your child’s disruptive behaviors. You will spend a lot of time on the periphery of the group watching other parents enjoying the freedom to relax in conversations and play traditional holiday games. You’ll probably spend the afternoon trying to help your child avoid a myriad of scene-causing possibilities from sensory overload to a toileting catastrophe or seizure.  Knowing you’ll get depressed and feel guilty for resenting others who will sip a drink and casually balance a full dinner plate in their lap, you consider staying home.

You have been having some difficulty remembering names and staying focused in conversations. It is frightening to go out in public. You aren’t comfortable speaking in case someone hears that you are struggling. You regret that you’ll miss seeing the grandchildren play but your mounting fears remind you that staying home feels safer.

You’d like to be with family for the upcoming holiday dinner but you don’t want to drag everyone down. You wish you could sit quietly on the couch just soaking up some of the joy around the room but you’ll feel pressure to participate and look happy. You suspect the family has wearied of your moods and just wants you to snap out of it. You feel misunderstood, unwanted and unsafe.

Going to church for the special holiday services has always been a joy for you but now it feels overwhelming. Seeing happy families reminds you of that loved one who won’t be with you this year. Unexpected moments of raw grief quickly spiral out of control. The last thing you want to do is draw attention, feel out of control or cast a shadow on someone else’s joy.

When Carly was first diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, I suddenly found myself experiencing a paradox — surrounded by people who loved me yet feeling very alone. Some part of me knew these were not rational feelings. Yet I still encounter too many triggers for feelings of disappointment and isolation, especially during the holidays.  

Nobody likes to feel different, undervalued, isolated, last or lonely. Yet there is heartache and longing to feel included all around us. Whether you’re the one feeling sidelined during these holidays or someone who is enthusiastically gearing up for the celebrations, I hope you’ll pray for radar to recognize the Divine promises and opportunities.

4 Promises that Anchor and Encourage People

1.      Nobody is immune to trouble but we have hope.
Jesus said “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLT)
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

2.      God remains your most faithful advocate.
The Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them.”  Exodus 2:23-25, 3:7-8 (NLT)
So Jesus told them this story: 4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! Luke 15:3-7 (NLT)

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will.  Romans 8:26-27 (NLT)

3.      You are never alone.
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:6-10 (NLT)
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT)
4.      When you suffer, God’s comfort will be multiplied to you and through you.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NLT)

5 Ways to Ease Someone’s Heartache During the Holidays
  1. Notice someone who may be hurting — Reassure someone who feels isolated that they are not invisible. Let a simple word or act of kindness speak clearly that people matter to you and to God. “Tithe” a few moments of each day to send a kind email or hand-written note, make a phone call, do an act of service or give a grocery/gas card. While you’re out in the community, be intentional and generous with your eye contact and a smile.
  2. Just BE — Come over and hang out next to someone (whether it’s across the room or across town). You don’t have to know what to say. Resist pulling back from relationships that feel awkward or too complicated. Your presence ministers so much more than you know.
  3. Listen first, then listen some more — Ask what somebody is thinking, feeling or wanting. Take time to understand what the person is experiencing and, without analyzing or judging them, learn how they are coping with life’s challenges.
  4. Remind someone of God’s sure promise — Share one of the examples above or describe one of God’s promises that has been tangible for you recently.
  5. Express appreciation and affirmation — Thank people for sharing their heart with you, for helping you learn something, or for coming to the party even though it was hard. Let someone know that their patient endurance through hardship inspires you. Tell a caregiver that they are doing a good, important and beautiful work.

Have you believed the lie that you are too busy to be used by God in sharing someone’s burden this holiday season? Or are you someone who is feeling too stuck or too broken to experience God’s touch? 

Here’s the truth:

God will generously provide all you need.
Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT)

Let’s remember together that we live and move and have our being by the grace and power of God, not ourselves (lest we might boast about it). 

What wonderful inspiration and opportunity to carry us through these holidays and into a new year!


Follow by Email