Holy Habits #1: Worship

This was cross posted on White Rock Fellowship’s blog.

I know what you’re thinking. At least, I think I do. You see the title of this post and think, “How is worship a habit? Isn’t that what we do Sundays?”

It is true, the main reason we gather together on a Sunday is to worship together as a community, but I would be remiss as a worship pastor to let you think that worship is confined to our Sunday gatherings. Worship goes far beyond the scope of Sundays and is the first Holy Habit in our series for a reason. Worship is the foundational discipline that ought to permeate the life of a Christian. It is the lifeblood of the church and all other holy habits are in some form or fashion a manifestation of worship.

So what do I mean by the holy habit of worship? Let me define it simply. Worship is the reverent response to the presence of God. When Isaac travels to the land of ancestors to find a wife and sees the Lord’s providence in making the first interaction be with Rebecca, a beautiful woman from his father’s family, he stops and worships the Lord (Genesis 24:48). When the book of the law is found during the reign of Josiah, Josiah hears the book, tears his clothes in repentance, and responds with worship (2 Chronicles 34). When Thomas is confronted with the risen Jesus in the upper room, after his doubt  is destroyed by the scars on Jesus’ hands and the hole in his side, he exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Each of these instances and countless others throughout the Bible show the holy habit of worship. Worship is first and foremost the discipline to see God’s glory interacting with the world and responding to it with praise. The holy habit of worship is not only hearing the music and reading the words on a Sunday morning and singing out of response to their beauty and truth. It is seeing the sunrise and sunset and praising God for his consistent majesty, it is recognizing that the raise you just got, or the healing from sickness, or the restored relationships you’ve experienced are the result of our glorious God condescending into our world and showing favor. It is the response of faith when God says no to you, or allows you to endure persecution and heartache, because you know that God is perfectly good despite man’s flawed perspective of Him.

This week, I want us to take a closer look at the attitude we have towards God. Do we only think about what he is doing in our lives while at church? Do we only praise him when something good happens to us? The more ingrained the holy habit of worship becomes, the more frequently we will see God’s presence in our lives.

So here are a few things you can do this week to help grow the holy habit of worship in your daily life:

  • Stop before each meal to not only pray, but to list three ways you saw God affect your day.
  • Look at nature, even if it’s the dying lawn in your backyard, and praise God for its uniqueness.
  • With your family or your roommates, come up with one characteristic of God for the week (ie. holiness, love, justice, mercy, etc.) and make a note of where you see evidence of it during the week. Maybe set aside a consistent time to talk about how everyone witnessed that particular attribute, and then praise God for it in a way you feel is appropriate.
  • When something goes wrong, and it will, catch yourself before blaming God and say, “I trust you even though I don’t understand this.”
  • Before asking God for things in prayer, praise him for his presence, his goodness, and his grace.

What are some other ways you can build the holy habit of worship into your daily lives?

 

The 10 Holy Habits All Christians Should Have

At White Rock Fellowship, we just started a blog series on the ten holy habits all Christians have. I wrote earlier on how to develop holy habits as a Christian here, so I thought it would be good to elaborate on what those habits are.

Here are ten holy habits all Christians should have:

10 Holy Habits:

  1. Worship (Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 22:37-38; Psalm 67:5)
  2. Prayer and Fasting (Psalm 5:3; Matthew 21:22; Acts 1:14; Acts 13:3; Eph 6:18; Phil 4:6)
  3. Meditation (Deuteronomy 6:6-9; 8:1; Psalm 119:11; John 1:14; Phil 2:16; James 1:22)
  4. Proclamation (Mark 16:15; Psalm 40:5; 1 Cor 9:14; 11:26; Col 1:28; 1 John 4:14)
  5. Confession (Lev 26:40-42; Psalm 38:18; James 5:16; 1 John 1:9; Matt 3:2)
  6. Forgiveness (Matthew 6:12; 18:21-35; Ephesians 4:32)
  7. Margin and Generosity (Psalm 37:16; Prov 3:9; 15:16; Matt 5:40-42; 1 Tim 6:18; Psalm 112:5)
  8. Joyful Contentment (Neh 8:10; Psalm 66:1; Isa 35:10; Hab 3:18; 1 Thes 1:6)
  9. Community (Psalm 133; Acts 2:42)
  10. Righteous Justice (Deut 15:7-11; Lev 25:35; Psalm 72:12-14; James 2:5-7; Galatians 2:10)

I will cross post the explanations of these over the next few weeks.

 

How to Develop Holy Habits

In high school, as I was starting to develop my own faith in God, I always relied on the “mountain top” experience to jumpstart my spiritual growth and compel my faith forward. Summer camps, winter camps, mission trips, and lock ins were like steroid shots in my constantly failing spiritual heart. I needed them to remind me of God’s holiness and grace, to make me look at my own soul, to repent of my  constant failings, and set my lofty spiritual goals when I would return back to the “real world.”

Sadly, this method of keeping myself spiritually growing didn’t work. When I came back from camp, I would find myself slipping back into my old ways and all I ended up developing was even greater shame  for not being able to maintain the fervor I so easily developed separated and saturated in the mountains.

I wish I could go back in time and warn my high school self. This tactic doesn’t work! This is not sustainable. So what does work? If the fire hose, mountain top strategy for spiritual growth is ultimately ineffective, then how can we as Christians grow in our faith on a day to day basis.

I call them holy habits. After years of trying to use large scale events to catalyze my faith, I have come to learn that it is the slow and steady drip of holy habits lived out on a day to day basis that is most effective in growing the garden of faith in my life.

A holy habit does not necessarily mean having a thirty minute quiet time of bible reading and prayer or fasting every Thursday or journaling, although it could look like all of those things. A holy habit is an action done in accordance with your temperament on a consistent basis that draws you into a deeper faith in Christ.

With that in mind, below is not a list of holy habits, per se, but a guideline for how to best discover the holy habits that best help you grow deeper in your faith.

1. Know your learning style – One of the most common reasons I hear for why a Christian doesn’t have a consistent devotional life is that they tried really hard, but struggled to really get anything out of it. Now, there are certainly times when things like unconfessed sin, a lack of discipline, or just a coldness of spirit is to blame for a failed devotional life. However, I think often times the reason people fail at having a consistent devotional life is because there learning style and temperament doesn’t work best with our traditional understanding of what a devotional time looks like.

For me, I learn well by reading on my own, by writing and reflecting, so I’ve found the “read your Bible, pray, and journal by yourself” approach to devotional time extremely beneficial. But that’s not how everyone learns. I know people who learn far better through discussion in a group, so a healthy devotional life for them may mean meeting regularly with another person or group of people to discuss the Scriptures, pray, and reflect. You may learn better through listening, so instead of reading consistently, it may mean listening to sermons or spiritual songs. You may learn better visually, so you may find success by looking at and reflecting on bible inspired art or film. To develop the holy habit of consistent devotional reflection, we need to make sure we know and understand our learning style and develop our holy habit in accordance with our temperament.

2. Plan when and how you wake up - You do not necessarily have to be a morning person for this to apply. If we are awoken without a plan and in just enough time to take care of the immediate concerns of the day, the likelihood of setting aside anytime during the day to focus on the eternal and find enough quiet to listen to what God is telling you severely diminishes. By planning out when you wake up and what you want to accomplish once you wake up, having a consistent holy habit of meeting with and listening to God becomes far more possible. This doesn’t mean you have to wake up at 5 am (even though it is the best time to start your day), but just try to plan on setting your alarm thirty minutes before you normally wake up and think of doing one fifteen minute thing that helps you focus on who God is and what he’s doing in your life.

3. Recognize daily needs – It is a lot easier to pray consistently, praise God frequently, if we make an effort to recognize the needs we have every day and our own inadequacy in meeting those needs. If you have a family, recognize the needs as a family and pray together thanking God for meeting them or asking God to provide.

4. Serve Sacrificially – When David went to purchase the threshing floor of Araunah, he would not accept it is a gift because it would not mean anything if it didn’t cost him. One of the best ways to develop the holy habit of thankfulness, worship, and faith, is to serve consistently in a way that costs you something.

5. Invite Christian Community into your everyday life – Instead of sequestering Christian community into a weekly, controlled environment, the holy habits of accountability, forgiveness, confession, and encouragement, will begin to grow when we start inviting our Christian community into our everyday life. If there is a park you frequently take your kid to interact and meet people in the neighborhood, invite someone from your Christian community to join you. If you exercise or go to coffee in the morning before work, invite someone from your community to join you. Don’t set aside time for Christian community, but incorporate it into the schedule you already have.

What are some other ways you develop holy habits in your life? What has worked in developing your faith?

How Goes My Soul?

For one of my assignments at DTS, I was asked to write a creative essay answering the question “How is Your Soul?” Below is my response.

How goes my soul?

My soul rests.

My eyes, however, are heavy. Between sleepless nights, late bedtimes, early mornings, and busy days, my eyes fight to stay open.

They work hard, though.

By Chris Cook

My eyes love watching my two wide-eyed sons discover the world they’ve been brought into. My eyes long to see the beauty of my wife’s face as they pry open in the morning, as they walk through the door at the end of a long day, and as they reluctantly but quickly close to dreams at the end of the night. My eyes joyfully strain to read the revelation of a condescending God and curiously absorb the manifold wisdom of the written word. My eyes long to see the day swords become scythes and spears, rakes, both in this world and the next.

My eyes are heavy…but my soul rests.

My hands are anxious. Bearing the curse of Adam to work, my hands seek desperately to justify their existence and work off a debt they cannot pay.

My hands are eager for the touch of strings on my callouses. They long for the stability that comes from knowing the legacy they create is meaningful. In the midst of transition, of unknown futures, my hands seek a stable branch from which to swing with no promise it will hold. My hands wring from the constant pursuit of performing miracles in the lives of the church. My hands energetically pound from beating swords into scythes and spears, rakes.

My hands are anxious…but my soul rests.

My mind is cluttered. Moving from one life, to another, to another, all in 24 hours, constantly shifting from one fragment to the next creates mess.

My mind is filled with theology in one instance, then melody in the next. My mind shifts from Greek to toddler, from romance to theory, all within a split second. My mind is constantly trying to make space for my compulsive need to create and express the timeless, all while maintaining a steady stream of schedule and timeliness. My mind wrestles with the swords not yet scythes and the spears not yet rakes.

My mind is cluttered…but my soul rests.

My affections are distracted. Though my deepest desire is Christ, the immediate often overwhelms the eternal and my affections wander.

My affections turn aside to the greed and self interest inherit in seeing opportunity. My affections are weighed down by the constant covetous of objects not yet possessed. My affections are preoccupied with what gives me happiness in the moment and shallow but instant peace. My affections are set on fueling the deep rebellion of my heart against a God who’s love I could never earn. My affections constantly seek vindication through the sword and the spear.

My affections are distracted…but my soul rests.

My spirit is tormented. Constantly in view of my own duplicity, I am tormented by the glaring discrepancies between my reality and my identity.

My spirit is guilty of my distracted affections, embittered towards my cluttered mind, ashamed of my anxious hands, and distraught with my heavy eyes.

But despite my spirit, affections, mind, hands, and eyes, my soul rests. All the former are mine for now, but the latter, both temporally and eternally, Christ’s. Therefore, my soul rests.

So, how goes your soul?

The Most Frightening Thing About Preaching

So I know that the main thing I write about on this blog is worship leading. I am a worship pastor at my church and, Lord willing, plan on being one for a while. However, being a part of a church plant means wearing multiple hats. Lately, one of those hats has been preaching.

I love preaching. I love the process of digging through the passage, working through the original languages, reading the commentary, and crafting a sermon. I love it when the lights turn on and all of a sudden I see the glory of God shining through in all his depth and wisdom and I, like a kid seeing snow for the first time, am stopped in fear and wonder.

As much as I love preaching, I’m scared of it. I’m not just scared because it’s different, or because I don’t get to have a guitar in my hand (I have no idea what to do with my hands without it). There’s a deeper fear. Something that struck me to my core only after preaching a few times.

People believe what you tell them.

In my opinion, the most frightening thing about preaching is that people believe what you tell them. This means that if I tell a congregation something inaccurate to the text, something misleading about God, or something that takes away anyone’s faith in Christ, it’s on me. I am responsible.

I have felt this weight more and more as I have gotten opportunities to preach, and this weight has carried over into my worship leading. Whether I’m preaching or leading worship, people believe what you tell them. Although congregations are more inclined to think critically about what is delivered in a sermon than earlier in our history, they still for the most part trust us.

This means we have no excuse but to do everything we can to be preaching with diligence the word as it was given. We can’t slack in preparation. We can’t ignore the intent and meaning of the text. We must be careful in considering the scope of Scripture in all that we do. And mostly, we need to make sure we are preaching the word, leading the church in worship, with a deep love and respect for both God and the church.

We will be held accountable for what we say and do in front of a congregation, and that should give us a healthy fear of what we say and do. People believe what you tell them!

Have you felt that weight before? How do you prepare in light of the great responsibility we have?

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