Worship reminds me that our Big God has it all in control

One of my favorite verses is Revelation 4:2:

At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. Revelation 4:2 (NIV2011)

Sitting.

Not pacing. Not surprised. Not wringing His hands. Not wondering. Not worrying. Large and in charge.

From my worms-eye view, it sometimes looks like the world is running recklessly out of control. It is not. There is a throne in Heaven. Someone is sitting.

One of my favorite old hymns speaks to this:

Be still, my soul
the Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently the cross
of grief or pain
Leave to thy God
to order and provide
In every change
He faithful will remain
Be still, my soul
thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Thro’ thorny ways
leads to a joyful end

Be still, my soul
thy God doth undertake
To guide the future
as He has the past
Thy hope, thy confidence
let nothing shake
All now mysterious
shall be bright at last
Be still, my soul
the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them
while He dwelt below

Be still, my soul
the hour is hast’ning on
When we shall be forever
with the Lord
When disappointment
grief, and fear are gone
Sorrow forgot
love’s purest joys restored
Be still, my soul
when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed
we shall meet at last

It is impossible for me to sing that song and worry. You don’t overcome worry by trying really hard not to worry. You overcome worry by worship. If you have a big God, you have small problems and you worry little. If you have a small God, you have big problems and you worry much. Nothing gets that straight like worship.


The book and study guide are both available on Amazon. The study guide is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Worship reminds me who is Boss

What is discipleship, anyway? There could be a number of answers to this question, but central to what it means is that Jesus becomes Lord of my life in daily practice. James Smith defines it this way:

In short, if you are what you love, and love is a habit, then discipleship is a rehabituation of your loves. This means that discipleship is more a matter of reformation than of acquiring information. The learning that is fundamental to Christian formation is affective and erotic, a matter of “aiming” our loves, of orienting our desires to God and what God desires for his creation.[1]

When I worship, this process is almost automatic. When I sing, “He is Lord!” He becomes Lord in my daily decisions. I come to realize He is God and I am not; He is boss, I am slave; He is King, I am servant. Hours and hours of complicated Greek Bible studies won’t get that in your head and heart like a good hour of worship.

A church I was a member of at one stage in life did a night of worship once in a while. We called it T.G.O.F. — Thank God on Friday. The service consisted of about two and a half hours of uninterrupted worship. Uninterrupted, with the exception of an intermission about half-way through. (The heart cannot absorb what the seat cannot endure.)

It was glorious. I was telling a friend once that I thought that is what Heaven will be like—unending adoration of our glorious God. Hands lifted. Voice raised. We will all be able to sing like Chris Tomlin. We will sing loud. We will jump and shout and dance in the presence of the Lord. Even Baptists will dance. Wow. Hour after hour, day after day. My friend surprised me with his response. “I think that sounds awful.” It was at that moment that I began to wonder if he were the Christian he professed to be.

Another odd thought occurred to me. If God were to allow everyone into Heaven, it would only be heavenly for those whose hearts have been changed. For my friend, Heaven would be Hell for him, by his own admission. It occurs to me that Heaven and Hell could be the same place—the place of manifest, inescapable, palpable presence of God. For those who have come to love God, having Him so real we can touch Him will be Heaven. For those who spend their life running from God, there will be no place to run. No place to hide. They can’t get away. It will be hell.

Worship gets it clear in my head and heart who is Boss. It does at least one other thing.

[1] James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2016).


The book and study guide are both available on Amazon. The study guide is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Help Kirby Kennedy

If you are a friend of Kirby Kennedy, I’d like to invite you to join me in helping Kirby paying for expenses related to his recent kidney transplant that are not covered by insurance. It is estimated that these expenses could exceed $40,000.

To make donation, go to www.transplants.org (National Foundation for Transplant’s website). To ensure your donation goes to Kirby and not to the NFT’s general account be sure to do the following:

  • Go to the top right and click on the green tab that says Find a NFT Patient;
  • On the next screen enter the name Kirby Kennedy and hit the search button;
  • Once you see Kirby’s appeal letter, look on the right side where it says “Donate.”
  • Click that link and follow the instructions to make your donation.

Alternatively, you can call 1-800-489-3863 or mail your donation to:

National Foundation for Transplants
5350 Poplar Avenue, Suite 430
Memphis, TN 38119

In addition to giving, I’d invite you to help spread the word:

  • Make an announcement in your church, small group, or Sunday School class. We did this at our small church recently, and a donation was collected of several hundred dollars.
  • Copy this post on Facebook. Tag any friends that know Kirby.
  • If you have a blog, create a blog post like this one.

I think it would be great if we could all pitch in. Few of us have a lot of money, but if all of us can do what we can, we can get this taken care of. Wouldn’t it be great if he could get all these bill paid for by July 4!

1 John 3:17 (NIV2011) If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?

Josh Hunt

 

Transformed by beholding

Romans 12:2 is the most iconic and perhaps important verse on how we are transformed. Transformed by the renewing of our mind. Never forget that. But, it is not the only thing the Bible says about how we are transformed. This verse is equally important:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. 2 Corinthians 3:18a (ESV)

We become what we behold. We wind up like what we worship. We advance toward what we adore.

It is true in many arenas in life. Again, an example from tennis. Research shows that people who watch great tennis players become better. This is especially true if they imagine themselves moving like the pros.

Many amateurs report that seeing tennis played at the highest level improves their own games.

Watching tennis and playing it can be mutually helpful activities, dialectically entwined.

Jon Levey, a writer and avid player said: “I always play better after watching the pros. Their form shows you that less is more. They move their body weight into the ball much better than I do. Everything seems to work in symmetry. After the Open, I suddenly know how to hit ‘up’ on my serve, like they do.[1]

This is part of what makes idolatry so dangerous. Not only is it a slap in God’s face, it is damaging to us. Idolatry hurts the idolater.

What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.

God has made humans to reflect him, but if they do not commit themselves to him, they will not reflect him but something else in creation. At the core of our beings we are imaging creatures. It is not possible to be neutral on this issue: we either reflect the Creator or something in creation.[2]

What exactly does worship do? How does it change us? I can think of at least two ways.

[1] http://straightsets.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/09/watching-tennis-can-improve-the-games-of-pros-and-amateurs/?_r=0

[2] We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry by G. K. Beale


The book and study guide are both available on Amazon. The study guide is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Transformed by worship

There is something about worship.

There is something about looking at God that makes us godlier. There is something about basking in His love that makes us more loving. There is something about thinking about His grace that makes us more gracious. There is something about worship.

On that day we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. There is something about seeing Him. There is something about worship.

It is true on a human level. Consider the following research:

A study published in the March 2006 issue of “Personality and Individual Differences” may have the answer. Twenty-two people, divided equally between male and female, participated in the study. They were asked to judge the looks, personalities and ages of 160 married couples. The participants viewed photographs of men and women separately and were not told who was married to whom. The subjects consistently judged people who were married as being similar in appearance and personality. The researchers also found that couples who had been together longer appeared more similar.[1]

If a man will come to look like his bride by staring at her over the years, how much more will the bride of Christ come to look like Christ by beholding Him.

It is not only true of husbands and wives, it is also true of tennis players. Consider the typical coaching session:

Imagine what goes on inside the head of an eager student taking a lesson from an equally eager new tennis pro. Suppose that the student is a middle-aged businessman bent on improving his position on the club ladder. The pro is standing at the net with a large basket of balls, and being a bit uncertain whether his student is considering him worth the lesson fee, he is carefully evaluating every shot. “That’s good, but you’re rolling your racket face over a little on your follow-through, Mr. Weil. Now shift your weight onto your front foot as you step into the ball… Now you’re taking your racket back too late … Your backswing should be a little lower than on that last shot… That’s it, much better.” Before long, Mr. Weil’s mind is churning with six thoughts about what he should be doing and sixteen thoughts about what he shouldn’t be doing. Improvement seems dubious and very complex, but both he and the pro are impressed by the careful analysis of each stroke and the fee is gladly paid upon receipt of the advice to “practice all this, and eventually you’ll see a big improvement.”[2]

That is the typical coaching session, and it never works. Let me show you a more excellent way:

My next lesson that day was with a beginner named Paul who had never held a racket. I was determined to show him how to play using as few instructions as possible; I’d try to keep his mind uncluttered and see if it made a difference. So I started by telling Paul I was trying something new: I was going to skip entirely my usual explanations to beginning players about the proper grip, stroke and footwork for the basic forehand. Instead, I was going to hit ten forehands myself, and I wanted him to watch carefully, not thinking about what I was doing, but simply trying to grasp a visual image of the forehand. He was to repeat the image in his mind several times and then just let his body imitate. After I had hit ten forehands, Paul imagined himself doing the same. Then, as I put the racket into his hand, sliding it into the correct grip, he said to me, “I noticed that the first thing you did was to move your feet.” I replied with a noncommittal grunt and asked him to let his body imitate the forehand as well as it could. He dropped the ball, took a perfect backswing, swung forward, racket level, and with natural fluidity ended the swing at shoulder height, perfect for his first attempt! But wait, his feet; they hadn’t moved an inch from the perfect ready position he had assumed before taking his racket back. They were nailed to the court. I pointed to them, and Paul said, “Oh yeah, I forgot about them!” The one element of the stroke Paul had tried to remember was the one thing he didn’t do! Everything else had been absorbed and reproduced without a word being uttered or an instruction being given![3]

How does this relate to discipleship? Much in every way. Consider the typical attempt at discipleship:

  • Read your Bible.
  • Study your Bible.
  • Try really hard to do what it says.
  • Confess your sins.
  • Don’t try so hard. Let go and let God. Trust.

This is a typical discipleship session and it rarely works. Let me show you a more excellent way: Look to Jesus. Worship Him. Adore Him. Be transformed in His presence. James Smith rightly observes:

So discipleship is more a matter of hungering and thirsting than of knowing and believing. Jesus’s command to follow him is a command to align our loves and longings with his—to want what God wants, to desire what God desires, to hunger and thirst after God and crave a world where he is all in all—a vision encapsulated by the shorthand “the kingdom of God.”

Jesus is a teacher who doesn’t just inform our intellect but forms our very loves. He isn’t content to simply deposit new ideas into your mind; he is after nothing less than your wants, your loves, your longings.[4]

[1] http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/genetic/old-couples.htm

[2] The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance by W. Timothy Gallwey

[3] IBID.

[4] James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2016).


The book and study guide are both available on Amazon. The study guide is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

The research on spiritual growth

There has been a good deal of research done in recent years into what transforms people’s lives. This is what researchers and students of the subject have found:

No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There simply is no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture. The reasons for this are obvious. In the Bible God tells us about Himself, and especially about Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God. The Bible unfolds the Law of God to us and shows us how we’ve all broken it. There we learn how Christ died as a sinless, willing Substitute for breakers of God’s Law and how we must repent and believe in Him to be right with God. In the Bible we learn the ways and will of the Lord. We find in Scripture how to live in a way that is pleasing to God as well as best and most fulfilling for ourselves. None of this eternally essential information can be found anywhere else except the Bible. Therefore if we would know God and be Godly, we must know the Word of God—intimately.

Willowcreek Association surveyed people from 1000 churches to discover what transforms the mind. Here is what they learned:

Reflection on Scripture Is the Most Powerful Spiritual Practice for Every Segment

We would love to print the header above this paragraph across the top of the program for every church leadership training event in the country. Reflection on Scripture is, by far, the most influential personal spiritual practice …

And that’s only part of the story. Because when we statistically compare the responses of those who take the REVEAL survey, of all the personal spiritual practices, we find that Reflection on Scripture is much more influential than any other practice by a significant margin.

A survey of 70,000 churches confirmed these findings:

Research into the spiritual lives of seventy thousand Americans—of all ages, from nearly every corner of the nation—is proving something many Christians have doubted: There’s power in God’s Word. A majority of those we surveyed showed us that consistently engaging the Bible is the key to knowing God intimately, getting unstuck, and growing spiritually.

There are significant differences in the moral behaviors and spiritual maturity of believers who read or listen to the Bible at least four times a week compared to those who read or hear Scripture less often or never at all.

If you want to live the Christian life, you can’t do it by merely trying really hard. You must be transformed. You must be transformed by the renewing of your mind. You must be transformed by scripture. You must be transformed by memorizing, meditating, reading, hearing and studying God’s Word.

But, even that is not enough. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind. We are transformed by training ourselves to be godly, and we are also transformed by worship. We become what we behold. That is the subject of the next chapter.

Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 28.

Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson, Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal about Spiritual Growth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).

Cole, Arnie, and Michael Ross. Unstuck: Your Life. God’s Design. Real Change. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012.


The book and study guide are both available on Amazon. The study guide is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

An app that changed my life

There are a number of good apps for Scripture Memory. I want to recommend Scripture Typer. There is a free version that will allow you to experiment with how the app works. There is a small fee for the full version.

Scripture Typer has a number of wonderful features, but the one I love best is the feature that allows you to listen to the verses you are working on recorded in your own voice. This way, you can memorize verses the same way you memorized John 3:16.

Most church-going Christians can quote John 3.16 although they never consciously tried to memorize it. They just heard it so many times that it magically lodged in their brain. I am using Scripture Typer to do the same thing with 1300 plus verses that I am working on. Every day I work on a few during my Quiet Time, and listen more when I walk or when I drive.

Slowly by slowly these verses are being programmed as the new map in my mind. My mind is being transformed into a unit the Holy Spirit can speak to.

They say that the real test of learning a new language is when you get to the point you can think in that other language—when your automatic thoughts can process in the new language. This is when you know you are close to mastery of the new language.

I will never forget the day I noticed my automatic thoughts being Scripture. When you listen, read, study, memorize, and meditate on the word, your mind is transformed. When your mind is transformed, you don’t have to try really hard to be good, you just do what the programming calls for.


The book and study guide are both available on Amazon. The study guide is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

How to be transformed

We are transformed by hearing, reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on God’s Word. The greatest of these is Scripture Memory. Nothing will transform your mind like the power of lodging God’s word in your heart.

I am fascinated by the technology of GPS. How a little box can talk to satellites miles above the earth and tell me exact directions to the nearest Starbucks never ceases to amaze me.

Now, suppose I were to take my GPS (not a smart phone that is connected to the Internet) and go to Australia and try to use it, would it work? There are satellites that point there and everywhere—that is why they call it Global Positioning System (GPS). So, it should work, right? Well, with one adaptation, it would. I would need to install local maps into the system.

This is what hearing, reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on God’s Word does for us. It installs the local maps. The GPS system is analogous to the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. But, just as the GPS system needs local maps to work correctly, the Holy Spirit needs the Word planted in you. (James 1:21) Nothing does this better than Scripture Memory.


The book and study guide are both available on Amazon. The study guide is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Does the SBC need more prayer?

Let me pose a question to you: Have you ever heard the Lord say, “Quit praying—get up off your knees”?

The Lord spoke these very words to Moses: “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to Me?’ ” (Exodus 14:15). The literal Hebrew meaning of the verse is, “Why are you shrieking at Me? Why all the loud pleading in My ears?”

Why would God say this to Moses? Here was a godly, praying man, in the crisis of his life. The Israelites were being chased by Pharaoh, with no escape. Most Christians would probably react as Moses did. He got alone with the Lord and poured out his heart in prayer.

Yet when God heard Moses shrieking, He told him, “Enough!” Scripture is not explicit about what follows, but at that point God might have said, “You have no right to agonize before Me, Moses. Your cries are an affront to My faithfulness. I have already given you My solemn promise of deliverance, and I have instructed you specifically on what to do. Your tears are not the cry of a broken heart now—they are tears of self-pity. It is time to stop crying.”

As we face our own crises, we may convince ourselves, “Prayer is the most important thing I can do right now”—but a time comes when God calls us to act, to obey His Word in faith. At such a time, He will not allow us to retreat to a wilderness to pray. That would be disobedience—and any prayers would be offered in unbelief.

David Wilkerson, God Is Faithful: A Daily Invitation into the Father Heart of God (Minneapolis, MN: Chosen, 2012), 185.

 

My favorite verse and why

My favorite verse is Hebrews 11:6. What do we learn about God from this verse?

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (NIV2011)

What do we learn about God? We learn that He exists. Most people already know that. Most people believe there is a God. Even the demons believe there is a God. What they don’t believe is this next part: God is a rewarder. They don’t believe that they will be rewarded if they follow God. They don’t believe it is good for them to obey God. They don’t believe it is in their best interest to live the Christian life.

The Bible teaches that God’s commands are not burdensome.

In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3 (NIV2011)

The word translated burdensome is used six times in the New Testament and it is translated six different ways by the NIV:

  • Serious
  • Weighty
  • Burdensome
  • Heavy
  • Important
  • Savage

Jesus used this word to describe the burdens that the Pharisees put on the people:

They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Matthew 23:4 (NIV2011) [Emphasis added.]

Heavy is the most literal translation of this word. Imagine what a pain it would be to carry a 50 pound sack of flour around. What a pain. Following Jesus is not like that. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. His commands are not burdensome.

He is good. Following Him is good. It is always in our best interest to live the Christian life. You must come to believe it. You must come to love it. You must come to love God and love Christian living. You must come to love the Christian life, or you will never come to live the Christian life.


The book and study guide are both available on Amazon. The study guide is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

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