This post is heavily influenced by the chapter “Solitude: Creating Space for God”, from Ruth Haley Barton’s book “Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation.” If you’re anything like me, having quiet time alone is a rarity. It may even feel like a luxury that you cannot afford, yet entering into silence and solitude on a regular basis is vital to not only becoming more aware of God’s presence, but also teaching us how to be present with God – important aspects in living a life of worship.
“The soul is like a wild animal – tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, self-sufficient. It knows how to survive in hard places. But it is also shy. Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush. If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out. But if we will walk quietly into the woods, sit patiently by the base of the tree, and fade into our surroundings, the wild animal we seek might put in an appearance.”
We are going to begin our journey into constructing a pattern of life that allows us to live wholly in worship to God with silence and solitude. Silence and solitude are two things that are very difficult to find in our modern, western world. Try for a moment to think back to the last time you experienced silence, real silence. There is always noise in the background. One of the only times I can remember being in utter silence was deep in a cave underground, where there was no light and the natural noises of the earth were blocked out by the thick, surrounding rock. It’s nearly impossible in this world to find pure silence.
In fact, silence makes us uncomfortable. We try and fill the emptiness with something, anything to keep it from being silent. I’ll be the first to admit that I need noise to sleep, because when it is silent I cannot sleep, so I turn on a fan to block it out – isn’t that odd? What is it about silence that makes it difficult to relax? I think that it is because we are vulnerable in the midst of silence.
It is in silence, stillness, quietness, and solitude that our soul will emerge from the trees and make itself known. This is why solitude is so important. Solitude is an opportunity to interrupt the noise and stimulation of life, and give allow ourselves to be quiet so that we can hear our loneliness and longing calling us deeper into the only relationship that can satisfy our longing.
The longing for solitude is the longing to find ourselves. The longing for solitude is the longing for God.
“Solitude is a place. It is a place in time that is set apart for God and God alone, a time when we unplug and withdraw from the noise of interpersonal interactions, from the noise, busyness and constant stimulation associated with life in the company of others. Solitude can also be associated with a physical place that has been set apart for times alone with God, a place that is not cluttered with work, noise, technology, other relationships, or any of those things that call us back into doing mode. Most important, solitude is a place inside myself where God’s Spirit and my spirit dwell together in union. This place within me is private and reserved for the intimacies that God and I share. What happens between the two of us in that place is not meant for public consumption. It is a place where I can give myself with abandon to the Lover of my soul, knowing that I am completely safe from anyone else’s curious gaze or judgmental glance.”
The goal of silence in solitude is to hear and acknowledge our own hearts; to know and take seriously, what is happening inside of us and rest in that knowledge with God. This is not a time for problem solving, or action, this is a time of discovery and recognition. It is important to set aside regular time to step out of the noise and commotion of life and consider how your soul is faring in the midst of all the hustle and bustle.
When was the last time that you sat in silence, alone, and listened to your own heart? I’d like to encourage you to give it a try. Find a place that is comfortable to you, where you can relax and be open and available to God. Take some time to settle in and just breathe deeply. With each breath, become more aware of God’s presence and your desire to be present with God. This is called centering-down, and for me it can take a while. My mind doesn’t like to stay centered and still in the moment, it likes to run miles an hour after all the things that need doing. Take the time to properly center down, don’t give up or get upset at your wandering thoughts. Be persistent, keep breathing, and keep relaxing.
Don’t speak. When your mind has gotten quiet, and your body has become still, start to think about your life and begin to notice what is true about you these days. Take your time, and go slow. Don’t rush to make something happen. Embrace the silence. Allow your soul to emerge and say something to you that maybe you have not wanted to admit. Is there an emotion that needs to be expressed (anger, joy, grief, confusion)? What have you been too busy to notice?
Whatever comes to mind, whatever your soul makes you aware of – don’t try to fix it, just sit with it for a little bit. Become more aware that God is present with you in this awareness. Barton says,
“Feel the difference between trying to fix it and just being with it. Feel the difference between doing something with it and resting with it. Feel the difference between trying to fight it and letting God fight for you. What does it mean for you to be still and let God fight (or work) for you in this particular area?”
Spend a solid amount of time in solitude, I recommend starting with 30 minutes and a couple times a week. Allowing your soul to rest in silence and solitude is a blessing that you need to be experiencing. Take some time and look at the story of Elijah meeting with God in 1 Kings 19:11-13. God’s voice was not found in the noise, busyness, or chaos – God’s voice came to Elijah in “sheer silence.” Have you been creating space to hear God in the silence? Or, has your life been overrun with noise and “to-do” lists? Building a life of worship takes intentionality, it requires that we set aside our previous patterns and unhealthy tendencies and re-shape and re-order our lives to more closely reflect the life of Christ. Jesus was never “busy” or “in a hurry.” His pace of life was so different from many of ours. Use times of Silence and Solitude to filter out everything that you “have to do” and focus on allowing God to speak to your heart. He will show you what work you truly need to focus on, and what things you need to let go of. It is time to learn how to rest.
May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may you learn to be still and listen to His voice again. Remember, that even our Lord Jesus took time away from His ministry to withdraw from the crowds. If Christ required silence and solitude, how much more do our own souls need to be consistently re-grounded in the presence of God? May the Lord bless you as you seek to re-order your life to truly live a life of Worship, in His name. Amen.
Quote from Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness – as quoted in Sacred Rhythms p. 29
 Not so comfortable that you fall asleep!
 Barton. Sacred Rhythms, p. 44
 Your translation may say “a still small voice” or “a gentle whisper.” The intent behind the Hebrew word here is best translated, “sheer silence.”
Star over Bethlehem
We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (Dec. 17th) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.
In the grand story of Jesus’ arrival on earth, it can be a bit strange to modern day readers that 3 out of the 4 gospels of the Bible take time to give at least a part of Jesus’ lineage in their writings. Family legacy and heritage is simply not as important in 21st century American culture as it was to the Israelites during the time of Jesus.
However, this does not negate the fact that where and who we come from has a large impact on how we view people. If you were to learn that your spouse descended from a former US President, or has some connection to a royal European family, you might not see it as a declaration of their character, but you certainly could start to view their family in a different light.
The ancestry of Jesus is where we enter the story of the birth of Christ in this week’s topic.
- Why is authenticity so important to us?
- If authenticity is so important to us, why is it that we tend to doubt when something is presented to us as genuine, even if we might not have a reason?
- Why do you think the gospel writers found it important to inform their audience of the ancestry of Jesus?
- What is a name that stands out to you in the genealogy? Why?
After Matthew’s recounting of Jesus’ lineage, he takes to time to talk about Joseph, the husband of Jesus’ mother. Once more, we see that it is important to the gospel-writer and his audience to know about the people from whom Jesus came.
- Special attention is given to Jesus’ “step-father,” Joseph, pointing out his reaction to being told his soon-to-be-wife is pregnant with the savior of mankind. Why do you think this is?
- Joseph had a tough decision to make. He was caught between being faithful to what God had said, and dealing with being socially ostracized for marrying a woman who was already pregnant. What do you think was going through his mind at the time?
- Talk about someone from your “spiritual lineage,” that is, someone who has influenced you in becoming a Christian. Is it important to recognize the people who’ve had this role in your life?
- Have you ever had to make a decision that you know was correct, but led to ridicule or humiliation, like Joseph? What makes it easier to get through that situation?
Pray for the people in your spiritual lineage, thanking God that He placed them in your life. Also pray for your future opportunities to influence others for the gospel.
Today we are continuing our journey into learning how to live a life of worship. We will be introducing the spiritual disciplines today as patterns that we can infuse into our lives in order to acquire new “habits” that will re-direct our life of worship to its proper place: to God, and God alone.
Learning to live a life of worship takes practice, intentionality, and commitment. In a previous blog post, we talked about how easily we can fall into patterns of false-worship, often without being consciously aware that we are doing so. In order to combat these patterns, which are rooted in our very culture and society (even trends!), we must introduce different patterns into our lives that are designed to bring us into a life where we are living out our worship to God.
Just as the disciples were called to follow Jesus, we too become disciples of Jesus when we make the decision to follow him. Discipleship in the ancient world was specific and involved. When Jesus told Matthew, a sinner and a tax collector, to “follow me” he was asking for Matthew’s entire life. His time, his money, his career, his identity, his everything. “Following” your rabbi comes down to three basic tenants:
- Be with your Rabbi
- Become like your Rabbi
- Do what your Rabbi does
Our call is no different. As Christians, we too follow Jesus. This means that we are to be with Jesus, become like Jesus and do what Jesus did. We have to be willing to give him everything. It all begins with time, with being with Jesus. The more time we spend with Jesus the more we are transformed into his image and we become like him. Finally, we need to put that into action and do the things that Jesus did. If we don’t, can we really say that we are following him?
I loved this quote from Smith’s book, “You Are What You Love” about what discipleship looks like:
“Discipleship is a kind of immigration, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col. 1:13). In Christ we are given a heavenly passport; in his body we learn how to live like “locals” of his kingdom. Such an immigration to a new kingdom isn’t just a matter of being teleported to a different realm; we need to be acclimated to a new way of life, learn a new language, acquire new habits – and unlearn habits of that rival dominion. Christian worship is our enculturation as citizens of heaven, subjects of kingdom come (Phil. 3:20).”
Read that quote again. Really. Let it sink into your mind and heart.
We live as citizens of heaven, but we are also still physically living within this world (the rival kingdom). All around us are the rival kingdom’s language, habits, customs, trends, values, and culture. In Christ, we are called out of that kingdom and into his glorious future kingdom, right now, in this present moment on this earth. In order to remain citizens of heaven, and not revert to our previous citizenship, we need a new way of life. We need to learn the language of Jesus, and acquire his habits, customs, trends, values, and culture.
God created us to be creatures of habit. As the creator, He also knows how formative those habits are on our lives. The more we engage in habitual activities the easier they become and the less we think about them. So, rather than allowing our present world, this rival kingdom, to give us habits and patterns that take us away from God, we should look to Jesus to learn the habits and patterns of God’s kingdom so that we may be his representatives (his ambassadors) in this rival kingdom.
We know these patterns and habits as the spiritual disciples. Dallas Willard describes the spiritual disciplines as conduits to the Spirit’s transforming grace. It is through the learning of and devotion to these practices that we become transformed into people who live a life of worship. These practices are a gift from God, designed to meet us right where we are in order to counter the patterns of the rival kingdom (all the other things that tug at our attention and devotion).
Perhaps you have tried to squeeze in a spiritual discipline or two in the past and have not been very successful. Maybe you have previously sensed that you need more of God in your life, but you aren’t sure how to go about doing such a thing. Or, it could be that you feel like a completely different person on Sunday mornings at church than you do on Monday mornings at work. I believe that the solution to these situations (and many others) is to completely wipe the slate clean, start from scratch, and re-pattern your life into a life that will lead you deeper into spiritual transformation and into a closer, more complete relationship with God. This re-ordering is done so that God exists at the center of everything we do, day in and day out. This is where adopting the habits of the spiritual disciplines comes in handy. If these practices form the core of your day-to-day life, everything else will revolve around them.
In the blog posts to come we will be focusing in on the following spiritual disciplines: Silence and Solitude, Sabbath, Bible Reading, Confession, and Prayer. Through these practices, we will learn more about what it looks like to live a life of worship. I once heard it said, “If you give God the time of your life, he will give you the time of your life.” It all begins with time. And it is time to start living your entire life in worship to the Almighty God.
May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may His most Holy Spirit work in you a transformation of your time and habits, that your life may become more aligned with the life of Christ. Remember that you are a child of God, and are no longer a child of the world. As such, you are called to a new life, with new habits, in a new kingdom. May we never cease learning how to be more like Jesus or grow weary of doing good. Amen.
 James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love (Grand Rapids, Brazos Press, 2016), 66
 Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines (San Francisco: Harper One, 1999).
Step Up: So That Others May Know!
We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (Dec. 3rd) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.
For six weeks now, we have been discussing what it means to step up to the task of carrying out the mission given to us by Jesus before he ascended to heaven. Today, we’ll take a look at the encouragement Paul gives the Corinthian church and the reminder he gives to the Romans that suffering isn’t a sign of God’s abandonment, but actually an opportunity to experience God’s faithfulness and grace!
- What do you think was Paul’s purpose in writing this section?
- Verse 56 makes a very interesting statement, in that “the power of sin is the law.” The law Paul refers to was the system of rules and regulations followed by the Jewish people, given to them by God. How could the power of the law be sin?
- What can cause us to feel like the work we do for the Lord’s harvest is in vain?
- What kind of suffering is Paul referring to here?
- What role does reconciliation play in the work we do for the Lord?
- What example should we take from the fact that Jesus died for us when we didn’t actually deserve it? How does that apply to how we pursue the mission of spreading the gospel?
- What is a specific suffering you have dealt with as a result of your faith? This could be the loss of a friendship due to bad influence, ridicule or negative treatment, or anything that makes challenge of maintain your faith a little harder to bear.
- Oftentimes, the toughest part of our work for the Lord is not necessarily the big difficult challenges that loom over us, but the ability to maintain passion and resolve in the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly process of that labor. What can help us not fall asleep on the job?
- If you have one tell us a victory story from the harvest field. This can be leading someone to Christ, breaking a habit of sin, fixing a broken relationship, or anything that displays the power of God’s faithfulness.
We have never been promised that our faith will make the battles we face come to an end or even become less challenging. What we are promised is that God will never leave our side throughout the struggle, and that we have been given hope that supersedes the difficulties we endure on Earth.
There is work to do, church. Work that won’t be easy, that will demand everything from us, and that will often leave us wondering if we can continue on. But take heart! Our Savior has not left us alone in our mission. We have a Father who listens to our prayers, a Holy Spirit that will guide us in times of confusion, and a church united in the same task: to bring the whole Earth back into the fold of God!
Pray for a spirit of thankfulness in times of hardship and adversity, and the ability to remember that we have a hope that transcends our temporary difficulties. Pray for the strength to endure persecution and remember that God will never leave our side.
Today we will define why we need worship, what it is designed to do for us and in us. Much of today’s post was generated from my notes on a lecture about liturgical worship.
Today’s post will be a short one! I hope by now that this series has challenged you to examine your life through the lens of worship, and has helped you discover any areas in your life that you have not surrendered over to God. If you have not read the previous two posts, “Our Life is Our Worship” and “You Are What You Worship” I encourage you to go back and check them out before proceeding to the post below.
In my last post, we examined the idea that “You Are What You Worship.” We discovered that worship isn’t merely something we do, but worship does something to us as well. And, as sinners, we can often end up worshipping things that we should not be worshipping, even without fully realizing what we are doing.
The question now remains, how do we break the patterns in our life where we worship other things? The “simple” answer is to introduce counterformative patterns into our life to combat the “patterns of this world.” But, how do we introduce these counterformative patterns into our lives, so that we can begin to remove our subconscious acts of worship and allow the Holy Spirit to transform our entire being? I believe the answer lies in the spiritual disciplines, but before we get to those, I think, we first need to take some time to talk about the purpose of worship…
Consider this quote, from Pope Pius X:
“Worship is for the glory of God and the sanctification and edification of the faithful.”
This is a simple and succinct statement concerning the purpose of worship. Yet, there are a few, rather large, aspects to this purpose statement for worship. So, I’d like to break that statement down a bit.
First, worship is for the “glory of God.” As believers, we gather in worship to extol the nature of God; to celebrate His glory and His glorious attributes. Simple enough, right?
Second, worship is for the “sanctification” of the faithful. This one is a little trickier because sanctification is one of those churchy words that we use a lot, but are not always quite sure how to define what it means. Sanctification, simply put, is the biblical concept of making God’s people holy. Remember, holy simply means to be set apart. Therefore, the purpose of worship is also to shape us into people who are different from other people, set apart for God and His purpose. This is what we examined in the previous blog post about how worship is formative – it does something to us.
Finally, we see that worship is for the “edification” of the faithful, another churchy word. Now, edification is not about making people feel good. It is a word that communicates action, specifically the act of creation/building up. This is “architecture” language here (think “edifice”). Edification is the creation of a structure, the building up of Christian Community as the temple of God. Think of it this way, the gathered people are depicted as stones that are built together, through worship, to become the temple of God. What a great image!
In this simple quote from Pope Pius X we see a complex and beautiful image of worship emerge. Worship is so much more than simply singing songs. Worship is about giving glory to God, which transforms us into the people of God, who together form the living temple of God. Worship is something we do, but it also does something to us – and it is all for God’s purposes.
Another way to view worship is, as Constance Cherry describes, like a journey:
“[Worship is] a journey into God’s presence [gathered together], of hearing from God [reading of the Word], that celebrates Christ [at the communion table], and that sends us into the world changed by our encounter with God [when we are sent back out].”
Worship is where we come together, unified in the Body of Christ, to celebrate God and what He has done for us. In worship we offer up praise, but we also experience the presence of God, and receive communication from Him. Worship shapes us into people that are separate/different from the rest of the world. Worship gathers us together, collectively, to construct a living temple dedicated to God.
Worship isn’t merely the hour, once a week, that we gather on a Sunday morning in the auditorium. Worship is every hour, of every day, in each week and month and year. Worship goes out into the world with us. Worship is in our families, our jobs, our relationships, our priorities, our interests, and our actions. Worship is who we are and what we do. Worship is all of us. Worship is our lives. This leads us naturally into the next question: what does it look like to live a life of worship? More on that, in the next post.
May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may His most Holy Spirit continue the good work in you until Christ has been fully formed in you. May you always remember that you were created to love and to worship God, and that He alone is worthy of your love and worship. God, continue to build us together in worship into your temple, that we may be the place where the lost people of this world can come to encounter your presence. Amen.
 Cherry, Constance M., The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010) p. 47
We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (Dec. 3rd) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.
The concept of “sacrifice” in the Bible is a pretty loaded topic. It could mean the burnt offerings the Jews offered to God under the Mosaic Law, the sacrificial atonement that Jesus made on the cross,the self-sacrificial attitude Christians are to display as they follow the Christ, or even just giving up some portion of our earthly treasure to provide for others. This week, we are going to talk about that last definition, and what it means to step up to spreading the message of the gospel through how we spend our money and value our possessions.
- If he is truly all-powerful and outside of any sort of earthly need, why does God demand such expensive sacrifices from His people?
- What are some ways that we can “pollute the offering table” than turn around and pretend like we have done nothing wrong?
- What is the modern day equivalent of offering a lame or diseased animal as a sacrifice?
- Ignoring his true intentions revealed to us by the author, do you feel as though you might agree with Judas in this story?
- What do you imagine the mood was like in this home, knowing that Lazarus was dead not too long before this?
- What does Jesus mean in verse 8? Is he declaring that the poor are less important than Him?
- There are many different views on how a Christian should use their money in relation to the church. Some people give to specific charities, some give when they feel like they have enough to give, some give a constant %10. How do you feel people should view money and financial responsibility toward the mission of the church?
- What resources, aside from money, can we use to serve the church?
- What is your “expensive perfume” from the story in John? Would you have a hard time using the things you find valuable as a way to worship, like Mary?
In Matthew 6, Jesus declares that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When Mary uses her treasure to serve Jesus, her heart is in the right place. Judas outwardly claims to have a heart for the needy, but his heart was truly for himself. It seems that not only do our actions matter, but the attitude with which we do them, as well.
When you use your wealth and possessions to serve others, it is with a sacrificial heart? Are you seeking not only to provide for the church, but also to bring glory to God? This week, examine your sense of generosity and take steps to uncover where your heart truly lies.
Pray for opportunities to live sacrificially. Pray that your heart is in the right place, so that God will see fit to open up the storehouses of heaven and use you as a way to bring the gospel of contentment to those who don’t yet know who He is. Pray for assistance in realigning any selfish motives you have when considering how to use the money and valuables you have received from God.
Today’s post will offer insights from the book, “You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit” by James K.A. Smith. I highly recommend reading this book – you can find it in our Harvest Bookstore on Sunday morning! “You Are What You Love” has been both powerfully illuminating and convicting for me personally. It’s worth it to invest some time in reading it, it may speak to your heart too!
In my last blog post, Our Life Is Our Worship, we highlighted the seemingly popular idea that the word “worship” is synonymous for “music” or the singing of praises. Indeed, music and singing are activities that we can and should engage in, but they do not encompass the entirety of what worship truly is. Worship is so much larger than that.
In his book, “You Are What You Love”, Smith identifies that to be human is to worship, and that worship is not optional. Whether we are aware of it or not every human being on this planet is worshipping something. We will always, at some point, end up in a state of worship because we cannot help it, we are hard-wired to love something as ultimate. God wove worship into the very fabric of our beings, indeed into the whole of creation!
Before we dive in, let’s review because this is important groundwork…
First, we are creatures made by God for worship, worshipping is simply not optional.
Second, because worship has been woven into creation itself, it engages our entire self and becomes inseparable from the lives that we lead.
Additionally, how we live our lives will declare what we are worshipping because we are what we worship.
Today, we will be looking at how worship is formative in our life. Worship is something that we do, but it also does something to us. With this in mind, it is vitally important for you to know what you are worshipping because you are what you worship. In Smith’s book, he spends some time laying the groundwork to this concept “you are what you worship.” He establishes a progression of thought that looks something like this:
You are what you love à You worship what you love à You are what you worship
Pretty simple, right? The point is this: at the heart of worship is love. What we worship will be the thing that we love the most. Stay with me now, because this is where it can get tricky.
It is at this point that Smith introduces another piece to the puzzle: you might not love what you think. The scary truth is that we may not actually love what we think we love, or even profess to love. Actions speak louder than words, right? If our life is our worship, and our worship stems from what we love, than we must examine ourselves honestly to see what it is that we love most.
The truth is that we live in a world saturated by sin. A world that does not worship God. A world where the normalcies of its culture will try to teach us to worship things other than God. Therefore, it is vitally important to be aware of the culture of the world that surrounds us. We live in a world that plunges us into patterns of living and habits that attempt to re-direct our worship, our hearts, what we love, our time, to things other than God.
So, here we go. The following questions might be uncomfortable for you, they certainly were for me, but I believe that they are questions that we must ask ourselves. Are you ready? Let’s begin.
Think about this: what do you want? Where do you place meaning in your life? From where do you draw your strength? What is the source of your identity? What do you love the most? Because that is where you will spend your time and energy. And remember, how you spend your time/energy/money will reveal what you love, and you might not love what you think (and we worship what we love).
What drives you?
Is it money and possessions? Are you always looking for that next raise? The bigger house? The newer car? Do you need to have the latest and greatest technology? If this is what you worship, you will never have enough. You will always want more.
What about your body? How wrapped up are you in your beauty, attractiveness, or athleticism? Have you fused your sense of identity with how you look, or how your body can perform physically? If worship your body you will never be strong enough, thin enough, pretty enough, and eventually not even young enough.
Or, perhaps the thing you seek the most is power. Do you have to be in charge, do you have to be in control? Are you seeking power, which you will never have enough of, because it makes you feel important, safe, secure, and strong? If you worship power, you will only ever feel weak and afraid.
Do you worship your intelligence? Is being the smartest person in the room important to you? Do you feel the need for people to recognize that you are right? Do you desire to have a reputation for always knowing what you are talking about, for being accurate? Can you admit when you are wrong? Worshipping intelligence will only highlight to you the people who know more than you do, and you will always feel inferior and seek to prove yourself.
David Foster Wallace, a writer, spoke to our tendency to worship such things in a famous commencement address at Kenyon College:
“The insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.”
I believe that Wallace touches on something key here, that it is possible to end up worshipping things subconsciously. If we are not careful, the habits, trends, and rituals of the world around us become normal patterns of life. Temptation enters our lives subtly. Not all sins are decisions. Sin can become a habit, one we become so used to that we don’t even recognize it as sin anymore. Remember, we are called to be “transformed” and “set apart.” There is danger in conforming our lives to the patterns of this world. Even the small, innocuous and subconscious habits we develop become dangerous when they replace God at the center of our hearts and lives.
Are you uncomfortable yet?
I will be the first to admit that I have allowed the patterns of this world to dictate my lifestyle and my identity. I desire to give myself completely over to God, and to live a life of worship that declares my love of God. Yet, I still find myself pulled toward living a life of worship to myself. Even the apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, laments that he is at odds with himself:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Rom. 7:15)
Paul’s flesh (sin) is at odds with his spirit (Christ in him). Paul is a new creation creature, a citizen of the Kingdom of God, living in a rival kingdom. What Paul is expressing is something to which we can all relate. We want to live lives of true worship to God, we want to be transformed and live holy lives, but we still mess up – we still make mistakes. There are influences all around us that try to steal away our attention from directing our lives in worship to God. The first step is admitting it.
In order to live a life of worship we need to create new patterns, new habits, in our lives so that our worship can be re-directed to its proper place: to God, and God alone. It is not something that happens overnight, and we cannot simply think our way to transformation. We need to cultivate an environment where the Holy Spirit can transform us from the inside out. We have many tools at our disposal, several counterformative patterns that we can utilize to cultivate a life of worship. We call these patterns, “the Spiritual Disciplines” and we will be learning more about these practices over the next several weeks.
Are you ready for your life to change?
May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may His most Holy Spirit open your eyes to the habits and patterns in your life that conform rather than transform. God, may we continually seek to worship you with all that we have and never forget that we have been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus and have died to our lives of sin. Amen
 James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016), 23
 David Foster Wallace, “Plain Old Untrendy Troubles and Emotions,” The Guardian, September 20, 2008, 2. Quotation taken from You Are What You Love (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016), 23