Rule of Life Series: Worship

Romans 12:1-2, Psalm 150

Worship is a lifetime’s worth of exploration.  We worship the name of Jesus, offering our souls and bodies to be transformed that our whole beings may be filled with His presence as we are living temples of the Holy Spirit.

When you hear the word worship, what comes to mind?

Many of us think about singing in a church service, or bowing down to someone or something.  Worship is more than these acts; worship is life.  We are all worshiping something with our life whether we know it or not.  Some worship money, others worship self.  There are a number of things that people worship, but how many of us are truly worshipping God with our lives?  What exactly does this look like?

Whatever your main focus is in life is what you are worshiping.  If you are more concerned about money than anything else that means that you are most likely worshiping money.  If you love sports and are constantly watching Sports Center, checking updates, and watching games, you may be worshiping sports.  It all comes down to how we spend our time and what is most valuable to us in life.  Sometimes we may be spending our time doing good things, but if we are not living for God’s glory then we are not worshiping God.  It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish with your actions.  If you are doing things for your glory then you are not allowing God to receive the glory.  This is a tough reality for Christians to be faced with but it is necessary.

Too often Christians aren’t allowing God to be God.  Instead, we make ourselves to be God without really recognizing it.  We don’t intend to do this, but sometimes this just occurs.  Let God be God.  Live for his glory and not your own.  Worship God with your life, rather than focusing so much on your own desires.  This is not an easy task, but this is what God desires from us.

Take some time this week to reflect on your life.

  • What are you spending a majority of your time doing?
  • How do we find time for God in our crazy schedules?
  • What can this look like for you from day to day?
  • How do you allow God to be God?
  • What needs to change in your life today?

“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You. Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us. Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.”

-St. Augustine

“That is what worship is all about. It is the glad shout of praise that arises to God the creator and God the rescuer from the creation that recognizes its maker, the creation that acknowledges the triumph of Jesus the Lamb. That is the worship that is going on in heaven, in God’s dimension, all the time. The question we ought to be asking is how best we might join in.”

-N.T. Wright

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Rule of Life Series: Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:17-20

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation with us. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  We implore you of behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Reconciliation-the restoration of friendly relations, the action of making one view or belief compatible with another, or returning to faith or harmony after conflict.

In the verse above we learn that we are ambassadors of Christ, entrusted with the message of reconciliation. This means that we should be striving to return harmony to broken relationships. We should be seeking ways to repair broken relationships between families, friends, communities, and God. There is a need for reconciliation wherever you go. We are all broken people, human beings with flaws, so we must learn to forgive and seek forgiveness. We must let God into our lives so that his grace and love can restore us.

One of the most critical aspects of reconciliation is listening. We must listen to others, getting to know them and where they come from. We have to learn stories and build deeper relationships. Once we begin to understand those that are different than us then we may begin the process of reconciliation, and this process must be done with gentleness and grace.

Too often today people listen defensively, meaning that they are developing their response while the other person is speaking. This is not really listening, and it will lead nowhere.  There are never-ending arguments and fights occurring on social media, the news, among peers, and on numerous other platforms that are corrupting our minds, and preventing genuine transformation from occurring. This happens too often within the church and among Christ followers as well. It is giving the world a false image of what it means to follow Christ.

Slow down and listen. Build relationships. Work towards reconciliation. Reflect on this idea of reconciliation. Pray about it. This process takes time. It requires patience and persistence. Be encouraged and allow the Spirit of God move.

  • Where is there a need for reconciliation in your life?
  • How can you achieve reconciliation within these broken relationships?
  • What does reconciliation mean to you?
  • Where does this nation, this world, need reconciliation? How can you help?
  • What must change within you so that you can reconcile any broken relationships in you life?

Ask God to guide you as you reflect on these ideas and issues. Be still and listen. We live in a broken world with broken people. Let the Spirit give you strength and encourage you today.

Sometime this week check out these stories of reconciliation. These stories are profound and difficult to grasp, but so powerful. Let them transform you.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/06/magazine/06-pieter-hugo-rwanda-portraits.html?_r=0

 

Want More?

Romans 5:10

Ephesians 2:4-5

Ephesians 4:32

1 Peter 4:8

Colossians 3:1-17

Rule of Life Series: Trust

Luke 16:1-15

Read verses 10-13 a few more times. Pray through them, and reflect on the words of Jesus.

To live a life of trust, both trusting and deserving of trust, is a mark of a life of integrity.

God wants us to trust wholly in Him, and He desires for us to be trustworthy as well. This means that not only do we trust, but we must also be able to be trusted. We must be vulnerable and transparent with God, as we should also grow in transparency with others.  Building up trusted, honest relationships and communities is critical to a life of following Christ. We cannot succeed on our own. We need support from others and from the Holy Spirit to help push us forward, moving in the direction of grace.

To be a trusted individual you must be honest and live a life of integrity. The ancient philosopher Socrates described integrity like this:

…credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way to a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.

What he means by this is that once you break your trust with a person your integrity begins to drop. You begin to lose credit with others, and the more you do this the more challenging it becomes to gain their trust. I love the last sentence of his advice here, “…endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” In order to be you must do. In order to be a Christ follower with integrity, and appear as one, you must live out what you believe and say. James 1:22 calls for us to be “doers of the Word, and not hearers only.”

It is hard for people to trust someone who is a hypocrite, someone who doesn’t live out what they say and believe. Christians must live a life of integrity and honor so that they can gain the trust of others. It is true that no one is perfect and we all fall short. This should not stop us from pushing forward and seeking forgiveness.

God desires for us to trust him, putting aside all of our fears and worries. He is present with us, walking with us every day. We have no reason to be anxious with God by our side.  God also desires for us to be trustworthy. We should be a light and comfort to others as well. We need to build up communities of integrity so that we can be transparent with each other, working through life together.

Are you a trustworthy person?

How can you regain the trust of others?

How do you live a life of integrity?

How is God honest with us?

Are you honest with God?

How will living a life of integrity transform how other view you and treat you?

 

Want More:

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Proverbs 3:5-6

Isaiah 43:2

Matthew 6:25-34

Colossians 3:9-10

 

Rule of Life Series: Sacrifice

Mark 10:17-23

When I think of the word “sacrifice,” my mind tends to drift to the sports arena. Recently, like many of you, I assume, I was enthralled by the achievements of the world’s greatest athletes in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Many of the athletes were my age or younger. I’d see them perform these amazing feats and wonder how they do it. Then we hear stories of the many hours of practice and the physical pain they put their bodies through to prepare for this one event. All to win a gold medal.

And that’s how we often view sacrifice – working harder to achieve a goal. Giving up our time and energy to perform better. It’s all focused on performance.

What I find interesting in today’s passage is that Jesus isn’t focused so much on performance as he is on priorities. In fact, Jesus doesn’t ask the rich man to work any harder. He tells the rich man that he has followed the commandments well. But now he must follow Jesus. That means making Jesus his one priority. The rich man looks at all his wealth and simply cannot make the sacrifice.

Where is Jesus asking to you sacrifice something?

Keep in mind, that question doesn’t mean He’s asking you to work harder. He’s not looking for you to up your game at all. He simply wants you to follow Him. You see, Jesus is the one doing the performing. He’s the one who put in the work. He died on the cross for us! We simply need to follow his leading in our lives.

The problem is…many times that doesn’t seem simple to us. That’s because, when we’re faced with following Jesus, we realize that means sacrificing “other” things in our lives. We like our priorities the way they are. But Jesus calls us to rearrange those priorities.

So, practically, what does this look like? Well, it might be as simple as getting up 10 minutes earlier to do your devotions. We all like our sleep, but maybe that early morning time is when God wants to speak truth into your life. Make the sacrifice.

Sometimes, the sacrifice is bigger. Maybe you got invited to a party with some friends that you know are into some bad stuff. It all comes down to where your priorities are. Do you want to make a good impression on your friends, or do you want to follow Jesus?

You see, many times in those situations, we’re taught to “do the right thing.” Don’t go to the party because it wouldn’t be right. That’s true, but there’s actually a higher reason to follow God in that situation. Look back at our story for today. The rich man had already been doing all the right things…but it wasn’t enough. He wasn’t doing it for the right reasons. He wasn’t following Jesus.

So, when you’re faced with tough decisions and you need to make a sacrifice, remember that God doesn’t ask us to work harder. He asks us to follow. Yes, we have to make sacrifices, but we make them because they bring us closer to Jesus. Be prayerful this week about how God may be asking you to make sacrifices in your own life. And remember, make Him your priority and follow.

Want More?

Hebrews 9:28

Luke 9:24

Mark 10:45

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Rule of Life Series: Sanctification

Galatians 2:20—“I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

To be sanctified is to be holy, or set apart.  It means that we have accepted to follow Christ, and we are choosing to pursue his will for our lives. Frederick Buechner describes sanctification like this:

In “Beauty and the Beast,” it is only when the Beast discovers that Beauty really loves him in all his ugliness that he himself becomes beautiful.

In the experience of Saint Paul, it is only when we discover that God really loves us in all our unloveliness that we ourselves start to become godlike.

Paul’s word for this gradual transformation of a sow’s ear into a silk purse is sanctification, and he sees it as the second stage in the process of salvation.

Being sanctified is a long and painful stage because with part of themselves sinners prefer their sins, just as with part of himself the Beast prefers his glistening snout and curved tusks. Many drop out with the job hardly more than begun, and among those who stay with it there are few is any who don’t drag their feet most of the way.

But little by little—less by taking pains than by taking it easy—the forgiven person starts to become a forgiving person, the healed person starts to become a healing person, the loved person starts to become a loving person.  God does most of it. The end of the process, Paul says, is eternal life.

This is a great image of what it truly means to be sanctified by God. Now read Romans 6 to get the full picture that Paul paints of sanctification. Read through this chapter a few times and reflect on the words that Paul says here.

  • What must you do to be sanctified?
  • How does this look from day to day?
  • What changes do you need to make today in order to better follow after Christ?

Take some time to pray and ask God to guide you in this challenging process.

Rule of Life Series: Being Set Apart

Mark 6:30-33

Many times, we view the word separation in a negative way. We associate it with loneliness or detachment. From an early age, we struggle with the idea of being separated from other people – especially those close to us. There’s a lot of baggage that comes along with separation.

But what if I told you that separation – or rather, being set apart – has positive qualities too? In the right context, separation is vital for your spiritual growth.

Look at our passage for today, Jesus and the disciples had been travelling the country doing ministry. It was to the point where people were now starting to recognize them. They were celebrities. Life was getting pretty hectic.

That’s when Jesus tells them to set themselves apart. To get away for a little while and recharge. To rest. When was the last time you did this? When did you take some time to be by yourself? No phone. No computer. Just you and God.

What makes this different than the negative type of separation we’re used to hearing about is the intention behind it. This is the choice to set yourself apart for renewal and growth.

I’d encourage you to set aside some time this week to be set apart. If Jesus encouraged the disciples to do it, we probably should as well.

Want More?

Matthew 6:6

Luke 5:15-16

Mark 1:35

1 Kings 19:11-13

Rule of Life Series: Desire and Choice

Read John 15:12-17

Think about the word “choose.” You choose every day. You make choices about what clothes to wear and what food to eat. You choose what to do with your time, and you choose who you spend your time with. We all make choices.

Some choices are simply more significant than others. The day I chose to marry my wife has much more impact on my life than the lunch choice I made today. In today’s TAWG, we’re looking at the most impactful choice on your life – one you didn’t even make.

In our passage for today, God says that we did not choose Him. Instead, He chose us. What does this mean?

It means that God desired to be with you before you were even born. He loves you so much! In fact, His love for you is so great that He chose to send His only Son to die for you. That’s a big choice.

It’s important to remember that we are not ones making that initial choice. Sometimes it’s easy to think we initiate our relationship with God. What I mean by that is we think that a prayer or an action of ours was the beginning of our walk with God. What this verse tells us is that God initiated that relationship long before we even thought about beginning it.

So, where do we fit in then? I’m glad you asked!

The Choice is Yours

We still get to choose. Just because God made the first choice in this relationship doesn’t mean that we are locked in from there on. We can make the choice whether or not we want to accept God’s invitation to relationship. We can choose how much we let Him in. We can make many choices. This is because God has given us free will. Look back at our passage.

In verse 14, Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” It’s interesting that Jesus uses the word if there. That means, there is the option to not do what Jesus commands. Otherwise, Jesus wouldn’t have to say if.

So then, we know that God has made the first choice – to love you and desire to be with you. Now, the choice is yours. Will you accept his invitation?

This certainly applies to salvation – will you accept that initial invitation to relationship? That’s a huge choice! If you have questions about that, ask either your parents or your pastor. They can help you.

But this also applies to our daily lives. Will we choose each day to follow Jesus? To take up our cross and follow his teachings each day. Will we love God and one another? Will we choose to be in a close relationship with Him each day?

I invite you to ponder these questions. Think about how amazing it is that the Creator of the universe chose you. He loves you and He desires you. Now, think about the choices you make each day. Are you following God or not? It sounds like a simple question, but the way we choose to answer it will literally change our lives.

 

Want More?

Matthew 16:24

Luke 9:23

James 2:5

Deuteronomy 7:6

Psalm 65:4