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Archive for the tag “New Life in Jesus”

Re-imaging Worship

Several years ago, my Pastor had a vision for the future of the Church. He believed the Church would once again be as it was in the beginning – small gatherings in homes; studying scripture, singing praises and then eating together – sharing life together. Soon after the vision, he began a teaching program called Solutionary – to help the membership (well, those who signed up for the classes) learn how to lead a house church. Through the years since, the vision has morphed into missional communities – small groups meeting together regularly, driven by a single purpose to help the community in a specific way.

As I was contemplating this Easter without any of my family – either my biological or my church family – I realized this maybe the first of a new normal. This thought brings some real grief. I have ever been without my family for an Easter celebration. I also realized during this season of forced solitude, I don’t do worship well by myself. I join the online experience, but I can’t seem to get into a worship rhythm with the worship team. This new normal feels wrong somehow. Worship is supposed to be a joint effort, right?

The thought of a house church really appeals to me right now. How about you? But what if we’re months away from another in-person gathering? What if our new normal is small gatherings where we are forced to stay within twenty or less people? What if I have to worship alone for another few months? That’s a lot of what ifs and I can get a bit freaked out if I think about the possibilities too long.

My spirit has felt a bit dry lately even though I have been in God’s Word every day for the last fifteen years or so. I have been in Bible studies. I have going to the church building for our weekly gatherings up until these last couple of weeks. However, something seems to be missing. Maybe I am just going through the motions without really connecting with God. Maybe this forced solitude is to reconnect with my Lord and Savior. Maybe this is a great time to refresh and reconnect and to learn to worship properly without the others around me to influence my worship.

I was reminded a week or so ago from a message by Francis Chan about the worship experience being an act focused on God, not us. He said breaking bread and drinking from the Cup was central to the act of worship in the early Church. It is an act of remembrance of what Jesus did for us on the cross. His body was broken for us. His blood was poured out for us. Jesus told His disciples to remember Him in this way.

Communion should not be taken lightly. This is an act of reverence for what God did for us. He sent His Son to the cross for us. And Jesus’ death was a harsh by suffocation alone, but He was brutalized by flogging and beaten with sticks before He was nailed to the cross. I don’t think we get how offensive sin is to God. Jesus’ death should be our evidence of what God thinks of sin. If not for Jesus, we would have to suffer an eternal punishment for our sins.

According to God’s Law, sin is removed by a blood sacrifice of a perfect lamb. Jesus’ blood had to spill in order for our guilt of sin to be paid. Jesus said from the cross – it is finished – an accounting term meant “paid in full.” One and done. The Perfect Lamb was sacrificed and our sins were washed away. No more eternal punishment for those who believe in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins! Praise Jesus for what He has done for us!

However, we have to own up to what we’ve done. It’s our sin debt Jesus paid. We have to agree with Jesus – we did not meet His standard. We are guilty. Every time we take communion we come to the table acknowledging our sins before Jesus. But as we lay those sins down, we pick up the bread give thanks for what He has done for us and drink His offering of the Cup that was poured out for us. We come to the table humbled before Him. We go away from the table cleansed by His blood.

Worship should not be taken lightly either. Francis Chan explained in his message, we are actually joining the angels and the ones in heaven in their worship time. We come together to worship, but we are actually slipping in through the back door to join in the worship of God the Father and worshiping Jesus as Lord. The angels are already doing this worship experience non-stop in heaven.

Revelation 4 and 5 show us their worship experience. One day we will be in that crowd of worshippers. But today, while still here on earth, our voices join theirs. They are already on their knees singing Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty. We are the backup singers. And our worship should be God-focused. He is worthy. Our hearts should be turned in His direction. Our voices are lifted to the throne room of God.

We may have to do our worship experience a little differently this year, but it is still an act that pleases God. I may be alone in my living room, but I am joining together with the rest of the Body. It’s a spiritual act and one I should not take lightly.

We don’t know how long we’ll be forced to stay in this solitude time. But until God sees fit to release us from this time out, we will have to re-imagine worship – including communion and remembering all Jesus has done for us. It’s a time of humbling ourselves before our great and almighty God; recognizing we have fallen short of His standards, and confessing our sins before Him. Once we come to the place of repentance, I believe God will heal our land and our spiritual Body will be better for it.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:26-28

A New House

There is an older neighborhood in my city close to my gym. Sometimes I use the cut through to get to another area of town because it’s less traffic and a more scenic way to go. The neighborhood is in one of the booming areas so the older homes are being fixed up or torn down and made into something new. I love to see these transitions. The updated versions look fresh and new, but the new houses are vastly different. The updated versions are put on the market and sold quickly. But the older homes that are sold before the updates are quickly torn down. I love to see the progress of new things being built. Don’t you?

However, it’s quite a different story about progress we need to make in our own transitions to become new. Our spiritual lives are like that neighborhood. Some of us are the old houses that need some repair work. We are comfortable in our broken down condition; never seeking a carpenter to help us and eventually our bodies and our lives are in a ruinous heap. There are some who have sought out a carpenter and repairs are being made to remodel their lives. Then there are those who have not only sought out The Carpenter, but our houses have been demolished and the new houses are in the process of being built. Jesus, The Carpenter, doesn’t come to make us a better version of ourselves; He comes to make us new.

One of the things I struggle with is making goals. In the corporate world, we are told to make SMART goals – goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. When I was in the corporate world, every year I had to come up with a couple of goals. It was so hard to do in the position I was in. I did the grunt work – I was the detail person. Like I said last week, I was not the big picture person. I helped to make the big picture come together. It’s hard to have goals dictated by another’s vision. However, progress needed to be made in my own growth as an employee and a member of the team in order to achieve the big picture vision.

Andy Stanley said recently in a message “direction leads to destiny.” I have heard it said this way “we have to be going there to get there.” We need to be on the path moving in the right direction in order to become who we want to become. The only way to become someone new is to have goals to get there. We are given the vision of becoming new, but what does that look like for us as individuals? For us as believers in Jesus, we have our own personal transforming life coach living in us. The Holy Spirit dwells in us to help us to become the one Jesus saved us to become.

When I started on this transforming journey years ago, I didn’t realize the new me would be so totally different. I thought I was just a better version of who I was. However, I met up with some old friends from college and they wondered why I was so different. I no longer drank. My language was different. I was a different person before them. Unfortunately, I was afraid to tell them why I had changed. My life was different because of Jesus. When Jesus began His work in me, I didn’t know He would clean me up as He did. But He did and I am still being made new each and every day when I surrender to His work in me.

The thing about demolishing the old and making something new – it takes time. Sometimes the old comes down with a wrecking ball, sometimes it’s a tedious process of taking it down brick by brick. The new isn’t made overnight either. Our mindset is transformed every day as we open up God’s word. The thoughts we capture; the things we listen to and watch or read; even the people we even hang out with are transformed day by day when we give access to our internal and eternal life coach.

I still don’t have SMART goals yet, but I need the vision of who I want to become. In five years, I want to be completely different from who I am today. I must have my direction pointed toward my destiny. I can’t get there from here unless I am on the right path. How about you? Are you on the right path; going in the right direction? The key is letting our life coach have access to every part of our lives. Only then will we end up becoming brand new. In five years, we can all have a new house but it takes letting the Holy Spirit do His work in every area. He has to have access – give Him the keys. It’s the only way to become new.

Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new creation. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new. And God has made all things new, and reconciled us to himself, and given us the ministry of reconciling others to God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (TPT)

We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it! Ephesians 2:10 (TPT)

Reflections

This past weekend was my Mom’s birthday; the day she came into this world. However, she had a greater birthday, the day she was born into the Kingdom of God – her spiritual birth. I don’t know when that day was. I don’t think I ever heard her say. Maybe she didn’t even know it. She grew up in church. Her father was a minister of the Word so she grew up knowing about Jesus. But there has to be one day when we all put our faith and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior and commit to Him only. I don’t know that day for her, but I know she was committed in her relationship with Him. I know that on her birthday this past weekend, she was celebrating in heaven with Jesus – not because of her birthday but because of Jesus.

In the last days of Mom’s life, she spent them in a hospital room surrounded by her family. There were a few times when I found myself alone with her. Those times were precious. We had good conversations. But there is one conversation I wish I had with her. When she went into the hospital, she was in an emergency situation. We could see she was drifting towards heaven. The doctor would remind her to stay with us, and she would come back. The doctor told us she would be leaving soon to call everyone in that needed to be there. So we did. However, God gave us more time with her.

After she was admitted to the hospital, the next day I was alone with her for a couple of hours. I told her what a close call she had. At that moment she started thanking Jesus. I had never heard her say the things I heard her say in those moments. She was praising Jesus for something but I don’t really know why. I always assumed she was thanking Him for letting her stay here – that she was afraid to die. But I will never know because I didn’t ask her what she meant by her thanks. I never had that conversation.

We asked her pastor to have the conversation with her about her readiness for heaven to make sure she was okay before God called her home. After that conversation, the pastor reassured us that Mom knew her Savior and Lord and had trusted Him for her salvation. She was ready. My Mom’s sister told us later that Mom told the pastor that God gave her a glimpse of heaven when she was drifting in and out that first day in the hospital. I don’t know if this is true or not, but maybe that’s what she was praising Jesus for. Again, I’ll never know because I didn’t have the conversation with her.

During Mom’s life, she tried to instill in her daughters love – she showed us love in different ways. She modeled Jesus for us. She was not perfect. But she gave us an understanding of what God’s love looked like in human form – because she loved us deeply. I don’t think I returned as much love as she gave out. I asked her during one of those last conversations, if she knew how much I loved her and she said yes. So somehow in my fumbling attempts to love, she knew it. She also wanted to know if I would go back to my old way of life when she was gone (you’ll have to read my story in my book Mirror, Mirror to get the full context of my old life). The answer was no. I told her my faith and my life was in Jesus. There was no going back for me.

When Mom left us in the end, she was at peace. All the conversations were done. We gave her the release to go. And with one final breath, she was gone; at least from this present life. We know where she is right now. And for that fact, we rejoice and celebrate the coming reunion that one day we will have with her and the rest of our loved ones who know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Jesus said the way is narrow and not everyone will find it. He alone is the only way to find the door to heaven. He is the gate. He is the light. He is the truth. Only Jesus’ death and resurrection, gives us the key to heaven. We are told that when we believe this and receive that key, we will have entry into heaven. One day, every knee will bow to Jesus. Jesus said though, only the ones who know Him as Lord and Savior will be allowed in. That seems a bit narrow, doesn’t it? People scoff at that narrow-mindedness. But the only way to know you are secure in your relationship with God is through Jesus.

My prayer is that you will not wait for your final moments to know if you are secure. Get right today. Know Jesus today as Lord and Savior. Walk with the assurance that Jesus is your Lord and Savior and find peace today. My Mom’s life was a good reflection, and I hope mine will be for someone else to see Jesus in me. That’s the purpose for all of us – to honor and glorify Him every day of our lives. Let it be said of me – and you. Thank you, Jesus! I praise Your Holy Name today! Amen.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” John 3:16-18 (MSG)

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