Preparing for Worship!

When I was in undergrad – really not that long ago…I had to take a science.  I knew I didn’t like biology – even though I have a daughter who loves it.  But, when I saw astronomy on the list – I thought wow!  This could be really interesting!  I am here to tell you that I struggled in that class.  I’m terrible at math and our labs were nothing but math!  I could not fathom the light years and distance that we were from those little tiny twinkling stars that we see in the sky!  Not to mention the SUN and its distance from us – which is a star! It is absolutely mind-blowing to me.

We did do one thing that I will never forget as long as I live.  We went to Cincinnati where there was a telescope that you could climb up to and see the planets.  I got to see Saturn – with the rings around it.  It blew my mind!  And, it was amazingly beautiful.

In his book, The 7 Habits of Jesus, Robert Schmalzle, talks about “Preparing”  Preparing for worship and preparing for the Holy Sacraments – Holy communion and Baptism.  I want to focus on worship.

He writes: “Most of us who grew up in the church were not expected to prepare for worship.  The emphasis was merely on being in worship every week, not getting ready for worship…Being prepared for worship is not an option for a disciple of Jesus; it is a necessity…” (p. 182)

 And, how do we prepare ourselves for worship?  Well, he gives some really good examples, such as:

  • Remember your baptism and recall times during the week when you died to self. Recall times when you experienced new life in Christ.  I suggest to journal about these events.  You will be amazed how you see God working in your life.
  • Hear and listen to the God’s Word – through Bible Studies and the study the readings for the Sunday ahead.
  • Consider how you can grow your relationship with God. Think about ways that your relationship with God may need to be restored.  How does my relationship with others need reconciling?  And, is there anger in my heart that needs healing?

No doubt, as we begin to think about ourselves and how broken we are, we understand the need to come to Christ.  While Robert Schmalzle is completely right – and I highly recommend ALL the above – I believe that it can often be the really profound events in our lives that turn us to God – Because here is the thing…I don’t think our minds can handle the greatness of God.  We are human beings and our minds can only imagine a limited amount of information –

I struggled through astronomy – not just because of the math, but also because I could not wrap my head around what God had created.  When I saw Saturn through that telescope, I had tears in my eyes – It was so magnificent and it made me begin thinking about our earth and how God created this place just for us! This planet earth, is perfectly made just for us humans – the sun is perfectly placed so that we are not too close, not too far away.  The moon is perfectly placed to give us light at night – The stars are perfectly aligned –We have water. We have air to breathe. We food to eat. The list goes on and on and how God thought of EVERYTHING in order for us to live out our lives here on earth –

And, all God wants in return is a relationship with Him!  In fact, God wants that so bad that He sent His one and Only SON to conquer death and sin, so that in all reality – THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN COME BETWEEN US AND GOD!

HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!. God’s power and strength is unfathomable! God is capable of raising us from the dead into a life with HIM!  And, God promises that He will do that!  I don’t know about you…but that is enough right there to make me want to fall to my knees and worship my Lord!

God is the only one who can heal us from all our brokenness.  God is the Only one who can mend our broken relationships.  God is the Only one who can create a place for us to spend our eternal life.  God is the Only one who can forgive us and give us a clean heart.

 If you can somehow fathom the works of God – the creation of our world, the death and resurrection of our Lord – We can “maybe” begin to understand that we are created for worship – It is the heart and soul, the very CENTER of a Christian life with God. It is not about us but about what God is doing to us and for us – Just so that we can have a relationship with Him!

Worship then becomes completely natural!

Born Again!

“I hate myself” used to be a common statement that I would often make.  It wasn’t until my children got older and I had to do my chaplaincy work while in seminary, that it was pointed out to me what I was saying and how it revealed how I “really” felt about myself. The problem was that in the end, I forgot who I was and to whom I belonged.  I am a baptized child of God – chosen by God!  God loves me!  God created me!

In his book, “The 7 Habits of Jesus,” Robert Schumalzle puts it this way: “Baptism means wash.  And, when the church washes and repeats aloud the command of our Lord Jesus to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, – something happens – That person becomes a newly adopted child in God’s eternal family.  At that moment, our sinful separation from God is washed clean.  The Holy Spirit plants the seed of faith within us – Christ begins to dwell in us and eternal life is a promise by the Father. Like our physical birth into life, our spiritual birth into a new life with God is experienced – This is not anything that we can do – that I can do – but what God does in us and to us. It is the Holy Spirit that washes us and cleanses us – and it only happens because God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you.  Baptism is the Church’s proclamation that we are who we are – We are God’s Child and we belong to HIM” (pp. 49-50).

Remembering who we are and to whom we belong to – changes everything!  At least, it did for me!  Poor Nicodemus!  He just didn’t understand what in the world Jesus was talking about when he was told to be “born again.”  Jesus tried to explain to him that he was not talking about physically being born, but to be spiritually born – with water and the spirit!  Essentially, Jesus is saying to be born from above is to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

And with this baptism of Word, Water, and the Spirit – we are born again!

The Power of Prayer

The movie, “War Room” is about a family – Tony, Elizabeth, and Danielle, who on the surface, have it all.  They have a beautiful home, a beautiful daughter, plenty of money, and a seemingly, perfect marriage.  However, things begin to crumble when Tony is tempted by a beautiful woman whom he has dinner with and is then invited to her apartment while away on a business trip. In the meantime, his wife who is a realtor, meets an elderly woman who wants to sell her house so that she can move in with her son.

My favorite scene in the movie is when this woman invites Elizabeth to have a cup of coffee.  She asked Elizabeth if she went to church.  Elizabeth responds, “Sometimes.”  She then brings Elizabeth a cup of coffee.  When Elizabeth takes a sip, she complains that her coffee is cold.  The woman says, her coffee is hot!  And, she then tells Elizabeth – you don’t like your coffee “lukewarm,” nor does God like his relationship with you – Lukewarm.

The story is about prayer and the power of prayer.  This woman full of wisdom designates a closet in her home where she goes to pray – to fight against evil and prays for God’s will in people’s lives. She calls this room in her home, her “War Room.”

Jesus in on the mountain where he is preaching the Beatitudes – a sermon of how we are to live our lives – It’s full of “do this” and “don’t do that’s.”  He talks about adultery, divorce, keeping promises, retaliation, how you should treat others, and how you are blessed if you are persecuted if on His account.

And so, this text is a continuation of this sermon while Jesus is on the mountain – people gathered all around him, asking him questions about how they should live their lives and what to do in certain situations. It starts out with Jesus telling us how we are to always be humble – to not practice piety – like we are better than others. When you give for charity – don’t let others know what you have done – keep it to yourself because God will know your good works.

Jesus also talks about prayer. Prayer is a very sacred thing.  Don’t stand on the street corner so that on the surface you look like a saint – but that prayer is between you and God. Go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. It doesn’t have to be a lot of words because God already knows what you need – And, then Jesus teaches them how to pray and the words to say.

Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name –Name above all names – God is our priority – holy and central – Our main concern in this life is that we treat God as God – God is and God is honored and has been made known to us through Jesus Christ.

Your Kingdom Come…To bring God’s Kingdom to here on earth is to hear the Word of God, believe in Jesus Christ who will lead you naturally to “practicing and applying the Gospel” to your everyday life.

Your will be done…What is the will of God?  Well, I believe it is Jesus’ sermon on the Mount – The blessing of the poor, the merciful, deep respect for other people, and living our faith in the rewarding reality – the importance of God, our Father so that we may be able to live as single-minded Christians. God will choose to use us to do His works in the world – God’s will is practiced – not our will.

Give us this day our daily bread –We pray not only for our spiritual bread, but also for the physical bread for our physical bodies.  We pray that all are fed – even Jesus fed the thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish – However, as Christians this should perk up when we pray this petition – For this is a prayer for social justice – that all may be fed with the “Bread of Life” – the life that is truly life that only be obtained through Jesus Christ.

And forgive us our failures as we, too, forgave those who failed us. The abundance of grace.  Give and forgive.  Give us physically what we need in order to live like humans; then please forgive us spiritually those things that we do or don’t do so that we can really live as humans – free of guilt.  Food is humanity’s priority need, but forgiveness is humanity’s profoundest need.

And don’t let us be led into any temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Satan is constantly luring us toward his mines and pits and it is only God who can snatch us away and rescue us and free us from destruction.  We pray that God will lead us in such a way that we will be able to resist the temptations that surround us – please Lord, swoop down and rescue us from the evil in the world –Lord, we need your help!

Jesus’ prayer that he teaches the people is the ‘perfect’ prayer – It embraces everything that is important in life.  The Lord’s prayer begins with the Father and ends with the devil.  So, why pray then if God already knows what we need?

Well, I too have sort of a War Room in my home.  It’s where I go to be alone.  It’s where I go to pray.  In my “war” room, I have some a reminder about prayer: “Prayer changes things.”

No doubt, that if were to watch the movie, “War Room,” you witness in this story the power of prayer, especially when Tony loses his job because he was stealing prescription samples and selling them on the street for extra money. This seemingly perfect family was on the verge of losing everything – their home, their money, and their marriage.

Through prayer, Elizabeth prays for her husband and while she has every reason to break off her marriage with Tony, she does the unthinkable and forgives him and loves him, in spite of his wrongdoing.

The transformation in Elizabeth is powerful to witness!  She goes from a “Lukewarm” relationship with Jesus to a relationship that is “ON FIRE!”  The Spirit is active in her life who guides her into doing the will of God – “If you forgive other their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you –

But, I think I want a new sign in my war room!  – It is not that “Prayer Changes Things.”  It is Jesus Christ who changes us through prayer – our relationship with Jesus changes when we are in communication with him. Prayer gathers us into Him.  It creates a bond.  Prayer builds relationship with our Lord and Savior.

Jesus empties us of our pride, hate, and anger, and fills our hearts with his Grace, Mercy, and Forgiveness…Through prayer, we are transformed into the likeness of Christ.

Jesus Christ then becomes our treasure by “Living a Life in Christ.”

A Life that is truly life.

Prayer

Matthew 7:7-87” Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

So, I have a really funny story about when I was a little girl.  I loved babies.  Therefore, I played with dolls a lot.  I took them for walks. I fed them. I changed them. I did everything a mom would do for her baby. I knew Jesus my whole life. I was only about 4 or 5 years old when I prayed one night for God to give me a child.  I told God, “Just put the baby at the bottom of my bed.  I promise I will take care of her.”  Well, God did not give me what I wanted as a small child, but I do have four beautiful children.  I remember feeling disappointed at the time; however, now that I am older, I realize that God knew my heart, but also knew what was best for me!

We want to think we know what is best for ourselves.  But, I believe that God has the inside scoop and knows things we don’t know.  Sometimes it feels like God isn’t answering our prayers; however, God loves us so much and wants the best for us.  Search for the power of God in you and through you.  Find the love of Christ.  And, God will open the door to a life you never dreamed possible.

“The results of our prayers are only dependent upon giving our heavenly Father access to our needs, and imploring him to exercise his power to help us.” (The 7 Habits of Jesus, by Robert Schmalzle, p.130.)

Do You Put Yourself Above Others?

In the area that we live, there is an organization, “Family Promise.”  What they do is take in homeless families and help them get back on their feet.  During the day, the families stay at a shelter where they help the parents find jobs and make sure the children get into school. However, in the evenings, the churches in the community provide a place for them to sleep and a meal.  When morning comes, they are taken back to the shelter.  Imagine having small children and going week-to-week sleeping in a different church – not knowing what you will eat or where you will sleep.  Of course, this is much better than being on the streets, but this is not the point I want to make.

In Philippians 2:1-11, from St. Paul states, “…regard others as better than yourselves…look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others…”  St. Paul goes on to talk about Jesus and how He emptied himself.  In other words, Jesus emptied himself of pride and His equality with God!  Jesus became a slave and humbled Himself and became obedient…to the point of death…even death on a cross (v.8).  I think what Paul is asking us to do is the hardest thing for us Christians.

In this program, Family Promise, it often seems that the families on the surface do not appreciative the hospitality of the church who is providing a place for them to sleep or the meal they receive.  Many who are serving feel intimated and then do not want to serve again.  But, I think St. Paul says it all in his letter to the Philippians – Humble yourself…even to the point of death!  In other words, put yourself in their shoes!  Because I don’t think we can have a clue what they are feeling and are going through if we have never been in homelessness – These moms and dads are in crisis mode!  They fear for their children!  They are afraid!

Is it not true that we, as humans, tend to put ourselves above others?  Because I think we do!  Our lives as Christians are to obey God and to serve one another.  St. Paul doesn’t say only serve those who are the same color of skin as you; or the same economic status as you; or who goes to the same church as you; or even if they appear to be appreciative!  It is quite the opposite – serve others who are different than you.  Humble yourself and obey God’s command to love one another…even to the point of death!

Let us pray…Gracious God, we have so much and you have blessed us with so many blessings.  We like to take credit for our success and the money we have.  Empty us – from our pride, our egos, and thinking they we are above others.  Help us and guide into your will to serve.  Amen.