Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Recipe for a Worshipful Life

Worship is made up of different ingredients.

Worship doesn't look just one way. In fact, it can't.

To be complete, it requires different parts of ourselves all coming together for the same purpose: obedience and awe. 

I found something interesting about worship and what it looks like practically in Ecclesiastes 11:1-4.

"Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth. If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth, and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls there it will lie. He who observes the wind will not sow and he who regards the clouds will not reap." Ecclesiastes 11:1-4

At first glance, this may not seem very worshipful. Where's the music? The power-chords? The goosebumps? The experience? Well. Let's see. We will get to breaking this down in the original language of Hebrew, but first, imagine that worship begins with an empty bowl.

Your bowl looks different than the person next to you. Some people have porcelain bowls, others have plastic ones. Some have gold plated edges and others just have caked on peanut butter from a poor rinse job. Like mine. However, the bowl isn't the point. The fact that we have one is. Your bowl is a gift.

Look at your bowl a little closer: notice the casing, the color, the texture, the people, the faces, the places, the hallways, the dirty laundry, the sicknesses, the flaws and the warping from years of use–and embrace your bowl. Your life was hand picked to be yours from the beginning of time. Revel in that. Be thankful for that.

How we respond to our bowl is where worship begins.

Now, imagine that inside this empty bowl is your lot in life; your portion.

How we respond to the portion inside the bowl is where worship becomes a way of life.

We all have different portions in this life. We all have different capacities, sizes, callings, addresses, children, husbands, friends, jobs, heartaches, talents and sins. And even though each portion is different, God tells us to use the same exact ingredients to grow into worshipful beings.

So what ingredients are we told to fill it up with? Here's a few I found.

The most common ingredient of worship is singing. 

Here is the most commonly understood form of worship for church-folk. This is the experiential type of worship that happens in congregations or in your car or in your Bible study. Psalms is plastered with this ingredient of worship as are many, many other parts of the Bible. We are told "make a joyful noise unto the Lord, rejoice and sing praise." We are called to sing songs collectively and individually laced with hearts of gratitude.

This is an invaluable and irreplaceable ingredient of worship.

In the Bible we see powerful kings as well as poor, unwed mothers singing songs of God's unbridled goodness to glorify him. Singing is a universal language. When we individually or collectively blend emotion and action we create matter; and this is good. And right. And important. And essential to worshiping the Creator of the universe.

The second ingredient of worship is silence.

Quiet time with Him, sitting alone in His presence, listening for His voice, deep diving into the Scriptures; this is also worship. Seeking His face in the Bible and craving his Word. Not to get anything out of it, but to simply know Him more. These are the times we don't come to Him with our needs, we simply come to Him.

We are busy people. We are rushing to make things and meet deadlines and complete tasks all day long, so the sacrifice of doing nothing can feel extravagant. Almost indulgent. And this worshipful wastefulness mirrors the heart of what Mary did with the nard, the expensive perfume, when she broke it all over Jesus' dirty feet. Time in our culture is what nard was in Jesus'.

Let me tell you a story.

One afternoon, I wanted to slam my head into the wall. My kids were nuts, I was feeling worn out, purposeless, confused, angry and sad. Super sad. I had read in Richard Foster's The Celebration of Discipline, how important solitude and silence were in knowing God more. Instead of choosing to spin out that day, I put on a show for my kids, put my baby down for a nap and closed my bedroom door. 

It was a typical cloudy day and I had no clue how to do this. I laid my face in the carpet and forced myself not to get up. What I really wanted to do was clean the dirt and crud I could see by the slider door. I literally had to sit on my arms. I laid there and did nothing.

It was weird. 

Slowly, I settled in and imagined what it might look like to have Jesus in the room with me. At first, I thought He may be standing up over me, waiting for me to figure out how to do silent worship well. But as the Spirit began to move, I realized that Jesus wasn't standing at all. Instead, I saw Jesus kneeling next to me. He was bent over my frame. I felt his hand rubbing my back, comforting me. In that very same moment as I imagined Jesus rubbing my back, the sun broke through into my room and warmed my entire body.

I sat sobbing with my face in the dirty carpet.

Seconds later, the sun was gone and didn't come out for the rest of the day.

Jesus doesn't call us to silence to punish us, he calls us to silence to comfort us. Worship isn't just giving of ourselves, it is inviting him to give to us. That is how this works. That is the God we serve.

The third ingredient of worship is service.

OK, I know you've been eager to get to the Hebrew in Ecclesiastes 11, so here we go.

In verse 1 it says, Cast your bread upon the waters, and you will find it after many days. 

In the Hebrew the word shalach, which is "cast", means to say goodbye. To bid farewell. To divorce, even. What Solomon, the author, is saying here is to be recklessly generous. To take your bread, your provision, your food, your meals, your energy, your time and to give it away for good.

Don't send it up the river with a string attached in case no one takes it and you can just pull it back. Or so you can see who grabs it and how that "glorifies God", but really glorifies you.

Instead, we are called to say goodbye to our gifts and throw them on the water, whether it sinks or serves; whether we see the outcome or not. The verse does go onto say you will find it after many days. But that translates into "an abundance of ages". So Solomon is saying,  don't hold your breath.

In verse 2 it says to, Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth.  

Divide "your portion". Here we have that same language that we had at the beginning. We are back to our bowls. The portion inside our bowls is not to be kept, it is to be divided. This word divide is nathan in the Hebrew, which means to "give". In this verse we are told to give of our portion 7 times over.

If you were to divide a single portion seven ways, there isn't much left is there? And Solomon takes it even a step further saying we should divide our portion even up to eight times. Which basically is just implying, "So you've divided yourself so many times you don't think you have anything left? Well, just scrape the bowl. You'll find something."

He concludes the section this way, If the clouds are full, they pour out rain upon the earth; and whether a tree falls toward the south or toward the north, wherever the tree falls, there it lies. He who observes the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.

It is time to ask an honest question: are you an observer?

In the Hebrew the word "observes" in this context translates into "keeps". Do you keep the wind for yourself? Do you gather rain and store it in barrels so that when you're in a drought you can use it? Or do you pour it out on dry souls around you risking that you may be empty when your day of need comes?

It says here that those who only observe and those who only look at the clouds will not sew and will not reap. That means we won't grow. Our seed won't take. In God's economy the opposite happens when we give, things are multiplied not minimized.

Worship is to serve so much it hurts.

To watch other people's kids. To buy people groceries. To welcome in orphans. To spend extra when you don't want to. To show up early. To stay late. To lean in when you want to pull away. To give away your extra room. To welcome exhaustion. To wipe down dirty feet when you just washed your hands. To go the extra mile. In secret. Where nobody knows. Where nobody sees. Except the only eyes that matter. His. 

Cast your bread on the water and say goodbye. To the glory of God.

Ultimately, worship can be expressed in a three-fold partnership of singing, silence and service.

When mixed together, our bowls and our portions, the giving of our very lives, become a living sacrifice. This echoes the very thing that Paul charges us, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers (and sisters), by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." Romans 12:1

A worshipful life is a joy-filled life. As counter-cultural as it seems, to sing and seek silence and to serve others, it is the most potent response to a life that feels dull, purposeless and hollow. This is how we were created to feel when we've gone without Him for too long.

Try the recipe. If know Someone who bet his life that it would be a success. Test it.

We're in this together,
M

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