Sunday, April 29, 2012

Week Ten

The Discipline of Worship

"To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God."- William Temple

I've been so incredibly blessed to experience all types of worship across the globe the past several years.  If anything it has broadened my perspective of true worship, taught me how to worship freely in His presence, and given me a little taste of what it's gonna be like in heaven one day.  I know I have only a tiny opinion of worship in the grand scheme of things, but I do hope that you receive new revelation today of God's heart through some of Richard Foster's thoughts on it as well as a few of my own stories.

I, like most of you who were also raised in the buckle of the bible belt, grew up singing from a hymn book in a well manicured tightly run southern baptist ship.  Yes... there were many beautiful things about our worship gatherings, but as a young gal I always felt like something was missing.  It wasn't until many years later that my heart was set free to receive the full revelation of His love and I was able to truly give Him my all in all- in spirit and truth. (John 4:23)

Foster says that to worship is to experience Reality, to touch Life.  It is to know, to feel, to experience the resurrected Christ in the midst of the gathered community.  It is... being invaded by the Shekinah of God.  (Shekinah: the glory or radiance of God dwelling in the midst of his people).

He also says that worship is the human response to the divine initiative- to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father.  Its central reality is found and kindled within us only when the Spirit of God touches our human spirit.  Until God touches and frees our spirit we cannot enter this realm.  Singing, praying, praising all may lead to worship, but worship is more than any of them.  Our spirit must be ignited by the divine fire.

For years I wondered if there was more... and if there was,  how or if i could attain it?  Part of me knew not to be satisfied with the bare minimum and the other part of me had no idea the great and awesome capacity inside of us to experience God in such a powerful life-altering way.  Does the depth and height of His love for us depend upon our response to Him? Absolutely not... He unfathomably loves us the same no matter our attitude.  But does our receiving of this love depend upon the position we hold before Him?  If we don't truly know this crazy love... then I do believe it also effects our response to Him.  It becomes one of repetition, religion, and reaction... rather than out of love, desire, respect, honor, and joy.

If we truly desire to see His face we must humble ourselves before the Father positioning ourselves at His feet with a repentant and hungry heart worshiping Him because of who HE REALLY IS... not how we feel or our projection of Him at the moment.  God desires for us to want MORE of Him.

Our lives are to be punctuated with praise, thanksgiving, and adoration.  Service flows out of worship. And if we long to go where God is going and do what God is doing, we will move into deeper, more authentic worship.- Foster

Now, when I walk into a gathering with others or just want to spend intimate time with the Lord on my own I picture myself walking into the throne room of God to commune with Him.  Since the veil was torn we now have the awesome privilege of entering Holy of Holies anytime, anywhere.  In the word it teaches us to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.... so this is exactly what I do.

It doesn't take long at this point for God to begin to pull things to the surface in my heart so I can be cleansed and move deeper into His presence.  And boy... when His heart touches mine I can't help but be completely overwhelmed by His love!  At this point you just can't seem to bow low enough, jump high enough, shout loud enough, or even return just a fraction of His love.  Suddenly, you are wrapped up in His beauty and taken to a whole other place.... grateful yet unmoved by your surroundings you are completely free to respond fully to this love giving Him all you have- mind, body, soul, spirit.

So Foster asks us: How do we cultivate this holy expectancy?  He believes it begins as we enter the Shekinah of the heart.  Which is the radiance or glory of God in us.  It is by us taking advantage of this amazing opportunity we have as children of God to connect and abide with our Father daily.  Sometimes this is recognizing His presence and listening for His voice in the silence, finding rest in the stillness, observing His beauty through nature, or finding ways to minister to Him through our body, mind, acts of service and honor.  Our Dad delights in us when we delight in Him.

Today I was talking to my good friend Mark about how becoming a Father has revolutionized the way He sees God.  He said that not only does He still love His children after they do something bad... but He actually wants to spend MORE time with them!  There is absolutely NOTHING they could do that would ever make him love them less.  He just wants to be with them.  And his wife Aegis agrees... in fact, her favorite time of the day is when their son wants to snuggle.  She said he just can't get close enough to her.  What makes this story even more special is that the two children they have were adopted.  I love when God gives us real life pictures of His heart for us.... His adopted and beloved children.  If we really opened ourselves up freely to this love I'm guessing we too would not be able to get close enough.

When children understand THIS kind of love... it doesn't make them want to go out and throw away their inheritance does it?  No!  It makes them want to hang out with their loving Dad even more... and do everything in the world to love and honor Him in response to who He is.

Let's let this soak in for a moment.  When we stop depending on the church, the pastor, the worship leader, the friend, the author, or the guest speaker to lead us into this place of true worship... and let go of all our guilt, sin, shame, "rights", earthly expectations, emotional fulfillments, and temporary satisfactions... and position ourselves rightly before the throne.... we will not walk away the same person.  And when we enter into a body of believers and there are several others with this same "holy expectancy".... the whole atmosphere of the room can change.

Foster gives some beautiful application to this in his book that I'd love to share with you, He truly believes- and so do I -that this can shift something in the atmosphere bringing freedom to all in worship:

1- Live throughout the week as an heir of the kingdom, listening for his voice, obeying his word.
2- Enter the service 10 min early lifting your heart in adoration to the King of glory.
3- Lift up the pastor, worship leaders, and other leaders to the power of the Lord.
4- Start interceding for people who enter the room, especially those who look down and out.

"Meet together in the name of Jesus... He is your Prophet, your Shepherd, your Bishop, your Priest, in the midst of you, to open you, and to sanctify you, and to feed you with Life, and to quicken you with Life" - George Fox

Foster also states that If Jesus is our Leader (and is present), then miracles should be expected to occur in worship.  Healings, both inward and outward, will be the rule... not the exception.  That the book of Acts will not just be something we read about, but something we are experiencing!

Every time I pray for someone now I am assured that even though I may not see a physical change, I know that something much deeper is going.  For God cares more about the heart than anything else.  Spiritual freedom and healing is greater than an other... even though I do believe God wants us to experience this in all areas.  Something that my good friend Allyson always says that I think is so relevant to what we're discussing is: "God just wants us to show up... then get out of the way so He can do His thing."  His "thing" that He does is so grand that we can hardly fathom it, and because He does love us so much... He allows us to be apart of His story.  In this place we are thoroughly blessed.

"God calls for worship that involves our whole being- body, mind, spirit and emotions should all be laid on the alter or worship.  The bible also describes worship in physical terms.  The root meaning for the Hebrew word of worship is "to prostrate."  The word bless literally means "to kneel".  Thanksgiving refers to "an extension of the hand."  In scripture there are many physical postures in connection with worship: lying prostrate, standing, kneeling, lifting hands, clapping hands, lifting head, bowing head, dancing, and wearing sackcloth and ashes.  Point is that we are to offer God our bodies as well as the rest of our being.  To sit still looking dour is simply not appropriate for praise.  Kneeling, bowing the head, lying prostrate are postures consistent with the spirit of adoration and humility."- Foster

Several years ago I was in Thailand with one of my YWAM teams.  A few of us were downstairs in the prayer room when all of the sudden I really felt the presence of my Lord sitting next to me.  As if that isn't strange enough for most people... Jesus seemed to be a tiny man dangling His legs off of the ledge on the wall.  I started laughing to myself about this image I had just gotten and realized that there were others in the room praying and I didn't want to distract them.  I felt in this moment that God said He wanted to bring me pure joy in this moment because that is what my heart needed the most.  Then He said that He was dealing with my friend David in a more somber manner.  About this time David looked up at me and asked what I was laughing at.  I told Him about the picture and what Jesus was telling me.  He said God was telling Him the exact same thing.  Just then I began to have the revelation of true worship.  I realized that in any given moment in a worship service we could have someone experiencing the joy of the Father, another experiencing brokenness, another revelation of God's love, another pain of sin, and yet another in a completely different way!  I began to wonder if this is what we called "charismatics".

"We are to give each other freedom to respond to the moving of God upon the heart."- Foster

Richard Foster was kind enough to give a few simple steps that He hopes will help in our experience of worship, let others know what you think as you apply them to your lives:

1-Learn to practice the presence of God daily. Punctuate every moment with inward whisperings of adoration, praise, and thanksgiving; personal times of inner worship and confession.  Attentiveness to Christ, your present teacher.  All this will heighten your expectancy in public worship.
2-Have many different experiences of worship.  Be alone, have small home groups, and find creative outlets to worship Him as well.  It will impact and empower larger gatherings.
3-Find ways to prepare for the gathered worship.  Go to bed early the night before, have inward examination of self preparing heart, be in prayer and enter worship center early to pray filling the room with the presence of God.
4- Have a willingness to be gathered in the power of the Lord.  Let go of your own agenda and concern.  Submission to one another and the ways of God.  Become of one mind, one accord.
5- Cultivate holy dependency.... completely dependent on God for anything significant to happen.  The work is all God's, not ours.
6- Absorb distractions with gratitude.  Learn to take frustrating things in and conquer them.
7- Learn to offer a sacrifice of worship.  Many times we don't "feel" it... go anyway.
Go, praying.  Go, expecting.  Go, looking for God to do a new and living work among you.

"Just as worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience.  If worship does not propel us into greater obedience, it has not been worship.  To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change.  In worship an increased power steals its way into the heart sanctuary, an increased compassion grows in the soul.  To worship is to change."- Foster

The life of Thaddaus (aka Jude)

It was a little harder to find info on this guy than the other disciples. And for some reason the stuff I did read I didn't really identify with.  One thing that did stick out to me was that He is/was often confused with Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus. 

Just this morning my pastor was talking about Jacob in the bible and I was thinking about my friend Jacob in the audience and how He feels when He hears His name.  Then I thought about what it would be like if there was a Lindsey in the bible and I heard her name from the pulpit a lot.  What if the stories were bad about her and simply because we shared a name I received dirty looks from others?  Having the same name as a person who is not liked is not very fun I'm sure.  I bet you can even think of a few names that you wouldn't trust if you met because of some past history with other people with that name.

Well... I just wonder how Jude might have handled this, being someone that DID love the Lord very much.... but being confused for a guy who betrayed Him.  In the end... Jude too was martyred for His faith.  No matter the hardships, struggles, wrongful associations and accusations... Jude along with the other disciples worshipped the Lord with their WHOLE lives... even in their death.  They may not have had much to be grateful for physically, but they knew He was worth it and for that thrived eternally.  He KNOWS your name.

Training for the Half-marathon

So... technically the race is over, but I am late in writing this blog so I'm gonna leave you hangin' for a little bit until I finish studying the spiritual disciplines :) 

I'm still drawing so many parallels from training for this thing that I would recommend EVERYONE train for a marathon, even if you don't actually run it.  I know it sounds crazy, but I've learned SO MUCH about myself, myself in God and God's character through this challenge. 

The last few weeks before the race were difficult to say the least.  I feel like it was so hard to get a good run in.   Obstacles and distractions continued to pile up in front of me and the momentum began to slow down.  I could even see how this was strangly parallel to my spiritual life.  Even though I was still thinking and talking about God, I was slacking in my "daily dig".  I was getting a little lazy with reading my word and meditating on it.  Pretty soon my balance became off too.  At this point I was starting to doubt my ability to run, but still had a tiny glimmer of hope.

One day while I was on the road with a friend I had the opportunity to run at the beach.  It was glorious.  Although my body had slowed down a bit from not training as much, I recognized God's awesome grace as He revealed so much beauty during that jog. 

It's funny how we tend to shy away from worshipping our Dad when we feel like are not living up to His expectations for us.  Just like Adam and Even we wanna run and hide.  It's so crazy that we actually still believe sometimes that His love for us depends upon our actions.  When I see His love packaged in this beautiful earth It just makes me want to get up when I fall and run harder and faster towards Him instead of farther away.  He is so so good.

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