Worship: A Cosmic Boomerang?

I’ve spent a lot of time talking with folks about worship, and I’ve heard it described and defined in just about every way imaginable. But something that seems to be common in my conversations and observations is the idea that worship is something we do “down here,” apart from God. He’s up there and we’re down here. We kind of throw it up to him, and then it comes back in the form of his presence, anointing, power, miracles….whatever. A cosmic boomerang. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Worship is relationship, namely, the perichoretical relationship of the Trinity. And our worship can only be “understood” within the context of this relationship, and our participation in it. It is not something we do apart from God, but rather in Him. Although worship may/will be expressed through our actions, it is not merely things that we do: singing, preaching, praying, Bible-study, service, etc… It is who we are, men and women living their lives in Jesus, participating in the very life of the Triune God. That which the Father, Son and Spirit has (Why has instead of have, hmm…?  ) known from all of eternity has been given to us. Before there were angels, planets or people, there was worship. Worship is that which has been expressed in the Trinity always. The Father says of the Son, “Your throne, O God, is forever.” The Son says to the Father, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” The Spirit glorifies the Son as God’s love is poured out in our hearts, and we cry, “Abba!” Only when we begin to see worship as our lives lived (and laid down) in participation of the Triune life of God, in Jesus, can we even start to fathom the glory of that into which we have been called.

Jesus prayed in John 17:

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their [the apostles] message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Can you see the adoration, the desire, the love- the worship?

No, worship is not a cosmic boomerang that we throw up to God, hoping to receive a piece of heaven as it comes back around. It is us, in Jesus, living and loving God, in the way God has always lived and loved.

What’s In A Name?

What’s in a name? “That which we call a rose would by any other name smell as sweet.” Really? What we call something, its name, reveals to us something of its “essence.” Therefore, if I am talking to someone about a rose, I would not call it a daisy. The name rose contains within itself the “essence” of the flower of which I am speaking. When people speak of you, when they mention your name to those who know you, the word “Bob” does not stand alone. It carries with it your character, things you’ve done and said, your values, your personality- the “essence” of who “Bob” is. What’s in a name? Everything.

I think a lot of Christians fail to realize what “in the name of Jesus” means. For many, it’s really nothing more than a moniker attached to prayers and endeavors in order to assure success. The louder we say it, the frequency with which we use it, somehow, magically, validates our words or course of action. Sadly, in many cases, “in Jesus’ name” is merely the Christian version of “abracadabra.” And perhaps the reason so many of us experience unanswered prayers, and fruitless “ministry” is because we have attached the “Jesus Moniker” to things in which his name, quite frankly, has no part.

If you read the book of John, especially chapter 17, you find Jesus speaking a lot about the name. And reading these passages, you understand that his name is more than just a formula for successful prayer and ministry. It is in this name that we are kept. The revelation of the name continues among his followers “that the love with which you have loved me [Jesus] may be in them, and I in them.” The very heart of God, his “essence,” is contained within the name. All that God is, all that he is doing, his character, his values, his personality, his intentions and desires are contained within the name. So when we pray in his name, when we minister in his name, as we simply live in his name, it is to bring a revelation of who he is and what he desires.

So, what does this look like? How does this all play out in us? Well, the first thing we need to understand is that there is no “in the name of Jesus” without relationship. And the cool thing is that as lovers of Jesus we are right smack-dab in the middle of the relationship God has enjoyed within himself for all eternity. We are “in the name.” In Jesus, we have been made partakers of the life, love and fellowship that the Father and Son have always known. We have been made partakers of the divine nature, and as we abide in him, we come to know who he is and what he desires. And as a result, we live and pray and minister.

What’s in a name? If you are in Jesus, you are!

(Please understand that in this post I am not using the term essence in a strict theological fashion.)

Forget Me Not

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

“ Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

“ But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.” (Psalms 13 NIV)

            I don’t know about you, but I can totally relate with what David is saying in these verses. In my walk with Jesus, I have experienced times (extended periods of time) when I felt as if God had forgotten all about me, and wouldn’t even look my way. That sweet communion that I enjoyed with the Lord was only a memory that brought no comfort, but actually served to torture my soul as I struggled to understand what was going on. The “enemy” seemed to have the upper hand, defeating me at every turn.

            For the lover of God, there can be no greater torment than the perceived absence of His presence. The “sparkle” in your eyes grows dim, and even death itself seems a distinct possibility. You can hear the enemy whisper, “I knew this would happen, and now your God has abandoned you. I’ve got you now!” Perhaps there are even those who rejoice that you are in such a state. At times like this, there is great heaviness and darkness, panic can easily set in. But it doesn’t end there!

            Along with the psalmist, we may trust in the unfailing, loyal love of God. But although we idealize men like David; dare I say that we are in a better position than he ever was? For you see, Jesus has come! The Father has caused us to be placed in him and He in us. The kingdom of God is within you. He became everything that we are so that we may share in all that He is. The eternal love that God has always known within himself, the holy love of the Father, Son and Spirit is ours in Christ. We are connected to Him like branches to a vine. The very life of God is in us, flowing through us if you will, in the Spirit. The One David knew in part, and prophesied about in part has come. It is finished! And we are in Jesus. Talk about rejoicing. Talk about singing. Oh yeah, God has been “berry,” “berry” good to us!

            We all go through hard times, times when it seems like God has left the building. But be reminded, you are the “building” God resides in. The Father has placed you in Jesus, and shared with you the eternal holy love of God. He would no more leave you than He would the Son. Think on that, and rejoice in the Lord.

Kind Intentions

We’re all familiar with the old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Well, I don’t know about all of that, but I do know that the road to eternal life is paved with kind intentions- God’s kind intentions. Yep, Ephesians 1:5 tells us, “He [God the Father] predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…”(NASB) I really don’t want to get into that tired old debate about the sovereignty of God vs man’s freewill, but rather the significance of the fact that in Christ, God had kind intentions towards us before the world was ever created.

a fathers loveI love the way the NLT renders Ephesians 1:3-8 “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”

I think if the only portion of the Bible you had were these few verses, you’d have enough to ponder for the rest of your life. I mean really, let’s break it down.

1) We’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing that God has to bestow

2) As we stand under the scrutiny of God’s holy gaze we are holy and without fault

3) God planned all of this in advance

4) God has adopted us

5) God wanted to do this and it brought him pleasure

6) We are free and forgiven through Jesus’ blood

7) God has showered his kindness, wisdom, and understanding on us

8) All of this is brought about, contained, and maintained in Jesus

Man, talk about kind intentions! Can I get a witness?

And as if all of that were not enough, allow me to refer you to verse 19 & 20 of the same chapter. “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” The same power God used when he raised Jesus from the dead is the same power he exerts in your life. Say what? That’s right; the awesome resurrection power of God is at work in you my friend. That is, if you are in Christ. And if you’re not, the Holy Spirit can baptize you into him today. You can come and receive from the kind intention of God right now, and be filled with his precious Spirit who is the guarantee  that God will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people.

Before there were stars, before the sun and moon were created, when the foundations of the earth had not yet been laid, God had kind intentions towards you, in Jesus. Only one question remains.What are your intentions towards him?

Perichoretic Salvation (Dr. James D. Gifford)

I want to tell you about a book that I really believe can change your life. I had the privilege of having Dr. James D. Gifford as a professor, and he has written a book entitled,  Perichoretic Salvation: The Believer’s Union with Christ as a Third Type of  Perichoresis, which I think is simply awesome.  I took the  pericope below off of the back cover and I hope it will entice you to click on the provided link, and get your own copy. Perichoretic Salvation by James d. GiffordI know the man, and I absolutely encourage you to get his book!

“For two thousand years, Christian theologians have struggled to explain the believer’s union with Christ. What sort of union is this? How can it fully be described? This book is an attempt to join the conversation to explore exactly what it means to be in union with Christ. This book will argue that the believer’s union with Christ can be rightly presented as a third type of perichoresis. Perichoresis is a word that describes the way the persons of the Trinity interrelate, without losing their essential oneness nor without being absorbed into each other. In short, the doctrine of perichoresis preserves the unity and diversity within the Godhead. It is also used to describe the hypostatic union of the divine and human nature in Christ. In Perichoretic Salvation, James Gifford argues that the union of the believer and Christ is a relationship of the same kind, though of a third type. Arguing from a perspective that is rooted biblically, historically, and theologically, the book will allow the union to be explained more fully than in the past while remaining within the bounds of what the church has taught over the centuries. It mat prove to be a basis for understanding the work of Christ afresh for the twenty-first century.”