Thursday, July 26, 2007

Raw Worship

"David, son of Jesse" you can almost hear Michal exclaim "what in ****'s name were you thinking?!? You're the king of Israel for crying out loud. You know those historians are writing down everything you do and the royal artists had plenty of time to get you inscribed on a scroll in all your glory. And what about your sons, you know the ones that are starting to look at you with shifty eyes while sharpening their spears. They're going to use this to their advantage. If my father were alive, he would pin you to the wall no matter what song you were playing."

David's response: "I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes." (2 Sam. 6:21-22).

You see, David had finally gotten the Ark of the Covenant back to God's holy city after previous attempts had failed. As he entered the city he disrobed while leaping and dancing before the Lord. Probably not too far out of line with most wives' reaction, Michal didn't like the idea of her husband, the king, disrobing and dancing in the streets in the presence of other women especially the lowly servant girls. In the church today, most people would seriously frown (at the very least) over someone worshiping God while wearing so little clothing. And the dancing would be taboo as well. But my point today is not about dress codes or choreography in our church worship services.

The idea I want to focus on is in David's response. He didn't just humble himself before the Lord. He humiliated himself. His celebration could be described as primal, emotional, and utterly unkingly. He bypassed respect for God, flew past awe of the Lord, and went straight into the realm of the considering himself slime on the nose of the algae that feeds the pond scum in comparison to the Almighty Creator of the Universe. His actions reflected the status of his heart. Before the Lord, he felt as nothing; opening himself fully to the Spirit that lived within him. His leg and arm flailings serving as primal moans that only the Spirit could interpret, faithfully relaying David's message to God.

Have you experienced such worship? How often do we humble ourselves before God to the point of humiliation? How often do we let our emotions pour out before the only one who can truly understand them anyway? Do we pour out ourselves before God? Do we pour out ourselves before God in the presence of our fellow man? David didn't celebrate in secret. He praised God in the streets in front of his whole kingdom. If the light within you is only visible when you're in the closet with the door shut and the lights out, then you're working too hard to hide it under that bushel.

How can we show our deepest emotions (joy, sorrow, gratitude, fear) in our worship before God? Is it by raising our hands, clapping, or jumping up and down? Do we have to cry or smile or laugh? Does it require any physical manifestation at all? I'm really not sure. But I know that I'm not humiliating myself before God because I'm too worried about humiliating myself before my brothers and sisters. If I raise my hands will people look at me funny? Am I moving around too much when I'm singing? If I close my eyes, will people think I've gone to sleep (I wouldn't be surprised if I sometimes sing in my sleepJ).

Who am I compared to King David, a man after God's own heart? If he can dance in the streets in his underwear, I can certainly allow my emotions to come out in my worship in some form. If I let anything or anyone come between me and my God in my worship, then I am not humiliating myself enough. Whether its clothes or distractions or fear or the shifty eyes of my children, I should lay myself bare before the Lord saying "Here I am Lord; I'm nothing before you; take me as I am and mold me into the likeness of your Son." Oh yeah, and Jesus prayed so hard that sweat fell like blood from his head. I think I could find it within myself to let out a little "barbaric yawp" once in a while.

I will not find this in myself except through complete surrender to His Spirit living within me. And I won't find it if my only search is on Sunday morning. If my entire life is not surrendered to His will, then there will be too much of me and not enough of Him.

Come, Lord Jesus! Let me hunger and thirst for you. Open my heart to the humility that David demonstrated that I may empty myself and be filled with your Spirit. Fill me that I may be wholly yours.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Solving Life’s Puzzles

Life Lessons in Solving a Rubik's Cube

[This is meant to be a visual demonstration. Imagine me standing in front of a class or at someone's door and speaking text similar to this while solving the Rubik's cube. My plan is to go door to door and use this as a "gimmick" or hook to get people interested in a Bible study. Constructive comments are certainly welcome.]

Life offers us many puzzles to solve. In fact, our life in its entirety may be seen as a puzzle. We have to know how all the pieces fit together or what moves to make to get to the solution. Remember the Rubik's cube from the early '80s. It was very popular for a while and one of the most popular puzzles of all time. If you look past the initial insanity of trying to solve the Rubik's cube you find that there is an easy shortcut to solve it. Turning one of the faces diagonally and applying the proper lateral force will allow you to disassemble the cube and reassemble it in the proper order. This is what's known as cheating. Another cheating method is to simply remove the stickers from all the faces and reapply them in the proper order. This would fall under the life motto of "The ends justify the means" which a civilized and moral culture should disavow. While this method gave me a slight sense of accomplishment as a child, I still hadn't solved the puzzle. Recently, my brother-in-law visited and showed me that it doesn't take a nuclear engineer to solve the Rubik's cube, just some time in an airport and a decent set of instructions (I'm sure the fact that he is a nuclear engineer helped too). His playing with the cube revitalized my interest and the next week I set out to master the puzzle myself.

Now some people are enough genius to come up with a solution on their own, but I was not one of them, neither are most people. So for me, when I decided that I wanted to solve the cube, I had to seek external wisdom. So I went seeking for some expert guidance on solving this puzzle. In life, we can muddle our way through and try to figure things out on our own. But what we end up with is just as mixed up as the cube when I would sit and fiddle with it for a few minutes making random moves or trying to keep the colors together.

It's fairly easy to solve portions of the cube with just a little fiddling. You can make a cross or an 'H' on one side or even solve one side by making it all the same color. The difficulty comes in when you need to know how to move the pieces in such a way as to solve the rest of the faces while maintaining the current order. Often the goal is to switch two pieces or move one piece to a certain location without disturbing the existing solution. Of course to do this, for a while you have to break up the order you have made. Then you have to put it back together. Moving one piece into the correct place can be as many as 10 moves of the cube faces once you near the end. However at the beginning, it is anywhere from 2-6 moves. As the amount of order in the cube increases, it becomes more difficult to maintain that order. In life, we start with basic teachings. We teach our children right from wrong. We teach them to be nice, to share, to be polite, to obey the rules, etc. As we progress in life, things get more complicated, and it takes a more complicated set of moves to maintain the order in our lives.

Often when I'm solving the cube, still being the novice that I am, I'll make a wrong move or forget where I am in the series of moves. Sometimes I realize this and remember exactly what I've done and can undo the problem and start again. Most of the time, I end up with a cube that looks not much better than when I started. It's times like these when I have to go back to the center. The method for solving the cube that I use involves starting by solving the white face first. The white face always stays on the bottom and serves as the reference point or foundation for the solution. It's very important to have a foundation in our lives. It is this foundation, this center, to which we must return when our lives become hopelessly scrambled. If I were to try to figure out how to fix the cube without this center, I would never get anywhere. By building on a foundation and building up the cube one layer at a time, I can always be assured of reaching the end. Not because of how smart or dexterous I am, but because I'm following the plan laid out by the expert. One thing about starting over is that it is never as bad as it seems. At first glance, I think I'll have to start from scratch, but when I get the foundation back in place, the rest of the pieces are often right where I left them.

What better expert for our lives than the one who made all things. Almighty God has given us his instruction book for life. He made the universe and all that is in it. He knows how it works. He knows all the twists and turns I will have to make to successfully reach my final destination in life. If I follow His plan, and build my life on his foundation, then I can work my way up the cube. When I fall or take a wrong turn, I am not lost for I have that foundation to return to and start over again.

Please don't think I'm trying to say that life is a series of legalistic moves or that Christianity is a set of rules that you must follow to get to the final destination of heaven. But there is a plan, a series of instructions provided by the Creator. In essence He is saying, "Here's how I want you to live. If you follow my plan, you'll make it to the end." He even provided the perfect example for how to live by coming to this earth Himself, in the form of man, and living a perfect life. He did this to provide a pattern for us to follow, but also to provide encouragement for us. We have a God who knows what it's like for us because he was one of us.

So many of life's problems would not be problems if we would just follow God's plan from the beginning. Even better, when we mess up, His word provides solutions for how to get back on track.

In solving the Rubik's cube, I recently fulfilled a dream from my childhood. It's one that I thought was long gone (kudos to my bro-in-law for inspiring me to do this). My adult dream is to see my children grow up and be faithful servants of the Lord and strong leaders in His kingdom. God's word provides plenty of instruction for making this happen and most of doesn't have to do with how my kids act, but with how I act.

Caveat #2: Those familiar with the Rubik's cube will know that there are different methodologies for solving the cube each with their pros and cons. This is where the analogy must end for there is only one way to the Father and that is through his Son, Jesus Christ. Many other religions and ideologies claim to have the answer to life's problems and to some extent they are beneficial in this life. But only Christ provides the necessary forgiveness and grace that is our salvation.

In closing, life is hard and complicated. We need instructions. We have those instructions. See for yourself. Pick up a Bible and study God's plan for all of us. But beware. It's dangerous, for it will change your life if you let it.