Friday, June 19, 2009

I Want to See

We had a wonderful time of worship at church on Wednesday night. It was an extended time of worship because we found ourselves "in between" our growth group series that is just ending and the "Truth Project" series that doesn't start till next week.

I love worship time, it's a time to completely focus on the Lord, but sometimes I struggle with it. I find myself envying many of those around me who seem to get so lost in worship. I have a good friend who is like that, she "boldly enters the throne room" in worship and you can see she has entered into the Lord's presence completely. I think Neal is like that too. Perhaps it's a gifting the Lord provides to those who participate in the leading of worship, but sometimes I will look at him up on the stage, behind his drums and can see he really isn't there, he's entered into another place, the Holy of Holies.

Can you see my problem already? I'm way too aware of what's going on around me, instead of losing myself in worship as well I find myself so severely distractable. It can be very frustrating.

Perhaps it is a gift? Or maybe a mark of maturity? I honestly don't know. I know I have been there, but I seem unable to enter in as often as I'd like to (which would be every time.) I often find myself on a Sunday morning during worship time singing the songs, but my mind is racing off to other places, everywhere from wondering if a particular person has made it to church that day, to contemplating lunch, to making the grocery list in my head for the following week. Thoroughly and utterly distractable!

This past Wednesday my distraction was my distractability... I was so very aware of how much I seemed unable to focus on Him in worship. I willed myself to do it, I sang, I raised my hands, I turned my eyes toward the heavens, but still my mind wandered. Finally I sat down and focused , covering my face, trying to remove any other input than the words of the song, willing myself to enter the presence of the Lord.

I thought to myself about how many things there are that consume our attention, like passing a car accident, you cannot help but look. A flaw in my own appearance, I cannot get my focus off of it; a worry or concern, will fill my mind, wake me in the night from sleep even, but the Lord, for some reason, I struggle to give Him my full attention.

The examples above are all such negative things too. I think to myself about how the all-consuming worry is the antithesis of worship, because when it consumes my mind, I'm really not focusing on my God at all, or even giving Him any consideration. I know because if I was looking at my God, my worry would seem so big or threatening at all... but I have traveled off on a rabbit trail here, because that wasn't even the case on Wednesday.

So as I sat there determined to truly worship on Wednesday night, my prayer was for me to see my God as He truly is, so BIG I cannot take my eyes off of Him...

When I worship, I want to see the reality....

I want to see the God who took this broken vessel, wounded and destroyed by my sin and turned her into a woman with hope and redemption...

I want to see the God Who took this barren body, and gave me the ability to have children...

I want to see the God Who took my barren soul, devoid of anything good and gave me an understanding of truth and the desire and power to share it...

I want to see the God Who took broken, hopeless pathways and opened them up and turned them into the path to dreams come true....

I want to see the God Who holds my family in His right hand and covers it with His left...

I want to see the God Who loves me and forgives me still in the midst of my failure, sin and struggles...

I want to see the Father Who gave up His Son so I could be forgiven and adopted into His family...

I want to see the Savior Who gave up His very life on the cross because He loved me enough to suffer for me...

I want to see the the God Who has redeemed my past, walks with me in the present and holds my future securely in His hands....

For when I look upon this God, I cannot take my eyes off of Him, for He is bigger than life, all-consuming and not only holds my gaze, but He holds my heart.

This is the God I am called to worship, this is the God that will overcome every distraction. I am in love eternal with this God, my God.

My God. Lord, help me not lose sight of who You are. MY GOD.

I will worship this God, my God.

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised...

Psalm 18:2-3

Monday, June 15, 2009

Seeking Him Together - Am I Lord?

Have you ever chewed on such a big piece of steak that it got all stuck between your teeth and made you wish you'd never even seen a steak much less taken a bite out of one because of the pressure that makes you absolutely aware how completely unholy you are.... oh wait, was I too obvious? Because yeah, that's what I meant, spiritual meat that you could choke on, that's what day five of this week's study was a little exactly like. But totally in a good way.

So, a week ago Sunday the Lord started talking to me. It all started out of my pastor's sermon. He was speaking on "The Narrow Road," and shared the scripture that talked about denying yourself and taking up your cross. (Matthew 16:24) I was at lunch when the Lord immediately started talking to me about the fact that not denying myself has created the two biggest challenges in my life, and I blogged about it here: Denial.

The Lord was really speaking to me in a powerful way about responsibility and choices. I told a friend of mine to go and read the blog and she wrote a long comment about her disagreements with what I had written that went on to be even a longer discourse in email. In the end although I think she still disagreed with me, I felt we were looking at the same situation from two different perspectives. And I felt just as certain that the Lord was speaking to me about responsibility and choices.

Then I spent this past week learning about the call to holiness.... and responsibility and choices. We have talked in previous weeks about not soft-selling sin and calling it by other names. Interestingly enough my pastor said almost those exact words yesterday in church, and he was preaching on Joy. My God is a funny God, (and oh so highly organized) the way he can take all the inputs in my life and tie them into such an intricate knot, making such a beautiful bow.

Revival... ouch. I found myself in conversation this week with my son and his friends about media choices like going to certain movies only to find myself sending my children out of the room for what was on my television.... ouch. I literally just turned the channel now because of what I heard being said in slang about a woman's body, and I'm in the room alone. Why? Because the Lord is calling to a higher ground.

When the Lord was dealing with me about my finances and eating in the post I mentioned above, the question He asked me as I was ready to give into temptation was, "Am I Lord of your eating... of your finances?" And He was showing me that the answer had been "No." Sometimes the food was lord, sometimes my will was lord, sometimes my emotions were lord, but when I said yes to these things for whatever reason, I was saying no to God.

And when the Lord says to me, "put on... love... transparency... self-control... kindness... humility... patience..." (I could go on and on) and I say "No," (either actively or by omission) I am saying, "You are not Lord in that area," and if there is any area He is not Lord, then can He be Lord at all?" Ouch... yeah, that's what I've been chewing on all week long.

So Amber, our hostess for this week has posed the following questions about this week's study on holiness, and I will do my best to respond.

Define "positional holiness" and "personal holiness." What's the difference between the two? Oh joyous and wonderful positional holiness, the beautiful and wonderful finished work in my life. My holiness is found in Christ alone. I am made right with God in holiness and righteousness by the finished work on the cross the Lord did for me. I am secure in it, it cannot be lost and I am so very grateful for it. And then there is personal holiness.... yeah....sigh... personal holiness, there lies the rub. Personal holiness.... It's what I want to live out, but always find myself falling short, it is the day to day, but not only actions, it goes deeper, words, thoughts, attitudes... gulp... motivations... Positional holiness is what I have, personal holiness is what I aspire to... in my own bumbling way.

1 Peter 1:13-16 and other Scriptures urge us to be active in our pursuit of holiness. How can we cooperate with God to grow in personal holiness? "Be holy, as I am holy." Just like I heard it in "Deny yourself, take up your cross," I hear a directive... a command even, from the Lord. So here's the thing, the place where my friend found herself disagreeing with me... but let me clarify, I by no means believe I have the power in and of myself to be holy. I know I can't do it on my own. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that I can accomplish it, and yet, I believe the Lord is calling me to first effort, and continued effort. There's an old saying I've heard that says, "Good, better, best, never let it rest, till your good is better and your better is best." I think it applies, it's an issue of determining to never be satisfied with where you are, it's always wanting more, more of the Lord, more of His accomplished work in my life. It's a joyous thing when you know you have been obedient, made the hard choice (to turn the channel, to confess the hypocrisy, to change directions). Would I have made the attempt without the prompting of the Holy Spirit? No. Would I be able to continue doing it apart from His empowering? No. So Is He calling me to holiness through obedience? Yes, but He also is the one who equips me for it. Nice how He works it all out like that.

How can believers be delivered from hypocrisy and move toward living more authentically holy lives? Never forget, I am a sinner saved by grace. Never doubt, apart from Christ I can do nothing. Never conform to the standards of the world. And never grow complacent in where you are in your walk toward Christ... for when you arrive, you will be like Him. And along the way, be real, remember He made this Christian life to be a team effort, compassion, support, accountability are just a few of the benefits to walking toward Christ in a godly community.

How did the Lord use the "Put Off/ Put On Exercise in your heart? What are some practical ways you can continue to put off the 'old self' and put on the 'new self'? OK, am I the only one who almost ran out of ink clicking off all the things characteristics sinful ways that I need to work on "putting off"? I mean, ouch... if every click had been a "right answer" on a test, let's just say I would have passed, but since these are not good things, I wasn't very happy about it. TBut because this post is already pretty long I won't address them all, but there was one that stood out to me above all else, and that was "Put off wrath, put on a soft answer." I had actually quoted earlier in the day to a dear loved one the Proverb "A gentle answer turns away wrath," and I was expressing it in the traditional sense of if someone is outraged toward you and you respond with a gentle answer it will calm them. But as I read it later in the day through the exercise, thinking about putting on and putting off, I realized it was in respect to controlling my own wrath (which yes, I had to check that one) and in the process of willing myself (with the strength of the Holy Spirit) to speak gently, with purpose, it can perhaps defuse the anger inside (or I guess it would be the anger coming to the outside). Well, it's theoretical at this point, but I hope to give it a try... well, if I have to that is... it would be better if wrath just never reared it's ugly head again, but I don't have that much confidence.

It's been a full week, and there is still lots of meat stuck in my teeth to be chewed, but it's also chock full of spiritual nutrients, so I will continue chewing till it's fully digested.