Posts Tagged “Warren Wiersbe”

1Later Jesus went to Jerusalem for a special Jewish feast. 2In Jerusalem there is a pool with five covered porches, which is called Bethzatha [Bethseda in NIV, Bethsaida in others] in the Jewish language. This pool is near the Sheep Gate. 3Many sick people were lying on the porches beside the pool. Some were blind, some were crippled, and some were paralyzed. 4 5A man was lying there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw the man and knew that he had been sick for such a long time, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?“ 7The sick man answered, “Sir, there is no one to help me get into the pool when the water starts moving. While I am coming to the water, someone else always gets in before me.“ 8Then Jesus said, “Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.“ 9And immediately the man was well; he picked up his mat and began to walk. The day this happened was a Sabbath day. 
John 5:1-9 (NCV)

This passage was part of our Resting at the River’s Edge readings on Monday. Ugh! It’s only January 10 and I’ve fallen behind in my reading – I didn’t read it until Wednesday and I haven’t made it much further. That’s OK. There’s plenty of time to catch up and hearing from God is more important that completing the readings. And as I read this passage, God impressed a number of things on me.

“A man was lying there who had been sick for thirty-eight years…”
My first thought was that we humans are pretty good at adjusting to our circumstances…and that can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing. It is wonderful that God has created us with that ability because if we didn’t adjust to our circumstances – or perhaps adapt to our circumstances is a better way of putting it, we would live miserable lives – we would always be discontent. (More about contentment later)

Yet when we adjust to our circumstances too much, we become complacent – satisfied where we are when God has so much more for us. There is a fine balance with being content and striving for more.

I brought up this passage in a small group I’m a part of and one woman began a discussion about being content in God. It didn’t occur to me as she talked, but as I sat to write this blog, it seems to me that she hit upon the key – we’re to be content in God while always striving to see more of His Word become alive and active in our life. Yes, we need to adapt or adjust to our circumstances, but not allow them to lull us into a shallow satisfaction.

We see in this story that the sick man had been striving for more. Verse 4 is missing from most modern translations because it is not in the earliest manuscripts. It provides context that makes the verse confusing without it. Verses 3 and 4 read like this in some manuscripts:

3Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches, waiting for a certain movement of the water, 4for an angel of the Lord came from time to time and stirred up the water. And the first person to step in after the water is stirred was healed of whatever disease he had.
John 5:3 (NLT)

The sick man was lying by the pool and tried to enter the waters when they stirred, but someone else always got in first. He had undoubtedly experienced countless disappointments over many years. Yet he continued to lie by the pool waiting for the waters to stir.

“Do you want to be well?”
We can become so content in our circumstances that our limitations become our security or our comfort. What would happen if the sick man became well? He’d have to get up and move. He’d have to earn a living. He’d have to contend with things that those who are ill often don’t have to contend with – relationship issues, chores and living.

“Sir, there is no one to help me…”
I find it interesting that the sick man doesn’t answer Jesus’ question. Jesus asked a specific question – “Do you want to be healed?” One would think an enthusiastic “Yes!” would be the immediate answer. Instead, the sick man raises objections – he gives reasons why he hasn’t been healed. So do I. As I studied this passage this week, I realized that I do the same thing. Jesus offers life and life more abundant and I give excuses why I don’t have it. Instead of saying an enthusiastic “Yes!” I mutter to myself why I can’t really have it.

When I read the question “Do you want to be well?” a specific situation came to my mind. In this case, it was a ministry that I believe God inspired and I dropped the ball. No, it’s not a healing issue, specifically, but the principle of the story applies. God was asking me “Do you want me to do this for you?” My immediate answer was “I don’t know what to do next.” I immediately felt a catch in my spirit – I realized that I wasn’t being truthful with God – I did know what to do next – I knew the next one and a half steps. I hadn’t taken any action because I wasn’t sure what the second step would be. I could see a life-giving ministry at the end and I obviously could see the ground zero that I am at now. I just couldn’t see how to get from where I am now to the life-giving ministry God had shown me. So I hadn’t done anything. God asks “Do you want to be well?” Or in my case “Do you want me to open this ministry for you?”

“Then Jesus said, ‘Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.’”
God is compassionate. The sick man had the wrong answer and God was ready to bring healing anyway. Our healings are not dependent on us having perfect faith. In this case, though, it required the sick man’s obedience. He was to stand up and walk. And when he did, Jesus’ healing miracle was manifested.

In The Bible Expositon Commentary (New Testament, Volume 1), Warren Wiersbe wrote this:

British writer George MacDonald pointed out that John 5:17 gives us a profound insight into our Lord’s miracles. Jesus did instantly what the Father is always doing slowly. For example, in nature, as mentioned earlier, the Father is slowly turning water into wine; but Jesus did it instantly. Through the powers in nature, the Father is healing broken bodies; but Jesus healed them immediately. Nature is repeatedly multiplying bread, from sowing to harvest; but Jesus multiplied it instantly in His own hands.

Is there some aspect of your life that Jesus wants to instantly do right now? As I read this passage, Jesus made it real to me, asking “Do you want to be healed?” “Do you want me to do something extraordinary in your life?” Is he asking you the same thing? And have you been like the sick man, making excuses for not being healed? Or have you been like me, making excuses for not taking the next step? If so, perhaps God is telling you to “Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.” It’s what He was saying to me. Since reading this email, I’ve shared what God was speaking to me with our small group (for accountability), asked another woman to pray about being involved in the ministry and sent off an email to schedule our first get together to pray about the ministry and ask God what the next step is. Because we want to stand up, pick up our mats and walk. How about you?

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This blog is a part of a blog series called “The Heart of a Worshipper” series, or HWS. My prayer is that you will be blessed and transformed as you grow in your own worship of the King of Kings.

“Heart, Soul, Mind & Strength” Worship, Part 2

In Part 1, we began to look at Warren Wiersbe’s definition of Worship:

“Worship is the believer’s response of all that they are – mind, emotions, will, and body – to what God is and says and does. This response has its mystical side in subjective experience and it’s practical side in objective obedience to God’s revealed will. Worship is a loving response that’s balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better. And what should be the result of all this? Transformation.”
     (page 26, Real Worship)

The blog title came from comparing Wiersbe’s definition with Mark 12:30:

Mark 12:30

Wiersbe’s Definition of Worship

Love the Lord your God with
all your…
Worship is the believer’s response
of all their…
     Heart      Emotions
     Soul      Will
     Mind      Mind
     Strength      Body

Today we want to look at what it means to worship God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

With All My Heart and Soul (Emotions and Will)
Good worship defies description because it is a time when we experience the indescribable God. Psalm 34:8 says “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” I don’t know about you, but that has always seemed kind of strange to me. “Taste and see.” It speaks of both the experiential and the objective. Have you ever tried to describe how something very unique tastes? Well, our God is unique in the truest sense of the word – there is none like Him. Or how about describing to someone who’s never been in love what it feels like to fall in love. There are many words that you might use, but none are adequate to convey the experience. Similarly, true worship often defies adequate description. It includes adoration and subjectively experiencing the Presence of God or hearing the Voice of God.

In the first blog in this series, I quoted William Temple, the archbishop of Canterbury in the 1940s. He describes adoration as “the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.” I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing that you’re a lot like me and you could use some of that remedy for self-centeredness.

How should our emotions be involved in worship? We worship God because He is worthy and because He commands us to, not because it makes us feel good or because it’s fun (even though it is fun and it does make us feel good!). True worship must begin with the character of God. True worship involves a revelation of who God is – the Holy Spirit reveals God’s nature and character to us and we are compelled to worship Him. It’s not an emotional thing, it’s our response to the truth of God’s nature and character.

Our response should involve our emotions, however, because one can’t look upon the nature and character of God without responding emotionally. To hold back those emotions or to deny them is being dishonest with ourselves and God. It also cheapens our worship. Our emotions are part of what it means to be created “in the image of God”. We worship and serve an emotional God – not one who is ruled by His emotions, but certainly one who experiences them. To deny our emotions is to respond dishonestly to what the Spirit is revealing to us. But worship isn’t based on our emotions or how we’re feeling; it’s based on the character and nature of God.

With All My Mind and Strength
Some friends were discussing some doctrinal issues and differences. I made a comment about sometimes becoming frustrated with discussions about seemingly minor points of doctrine that have no practical application. One of them appropriately corrected me, saying “But Sandy, this is loving God with our mind.” He wasn’t saying that arguing about doctrinal differences is OK; rather that honest discussions about what Scripture teaches sharpens our knowledge and understanding of it. 2 Timothy 2:15 says “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (NASB)

We love God with our minds by studying Scripture (even those parts that seem to us to have no practical application), by memorizing it so that we can carry it with us, by meditating on it so that God can reveal the full meaning of it to us, and by discussing it with others. I think it brings a smile to God’s face and a warmth to His heart when His children excitedly discuss His word. After all, He wrote it. Scripture tells us that ” All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV)

But it’s not study, study, study all the time…there comes a time to implement what we learn! Wiersbe describes this as the “practical side” of worship – “obedience to God’s revealed will.” Phil and I often jokingly say to one another “If you really loved me you’d ____________.” We fill in the blank with whatever chore it is that we don’t want to do at the time – wash the dishes, visit a client, be the first one to get out of bed and into the shower! We’re joking, because we know that our love isn’t conditional upon doing those things. But there is also truth in the statement. When we love someone, we do things to please and help them. Those actions demonstrate or show our love.

In the Lord, that means that we are obedient to God’s revealed will. What is God’s revealed will? It’s first and foremost the whole of Scripture and secondarily those things that He has revealed to use as His will for our lives (such as being called to teach Children’s Church or participate on a worship team or lead a small group). It sometimes seems like the equivalent of washing the dishes for the one you love, but when it’s done out of love and devotion to God, the “chore” becomes an act of adoration.

Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength Worship…Brings Transformation
True worship also must touch God’s holiness. Returning to Weirsbe’s definition, “Worship is a loving response that’s balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better.” No matter how near we draw to God, our worship must remain authentic (real) and respectful. God is not fooled by displays of worship that do not come from repentant and loving heart. As we worship God in holiness and truth, He reveals more of Himself to us. He allows us to gaze upon His beauty and to experience His love in a greater way. This evokes in us a deeper response in us.

Scientists have proven that looking at a picture of someone we are passionately in love with releases the same chemical in our brain that causes a person to become addicted to drugs. When we are in love with Jesus, gazing upon His face can have the same affect! I want nothing more than to become addicted to Jesus! I want my worship of the Lord to be “all gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable.” True worship brings us to the point of surrendering all that we are and all that we have to God’s purpose. That’s the transformation that Warren Wiersbe talks about.

It’s the transformation that Paul talks about in Romans 12:1-2. Notice that this is a passage about worship:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will. (italics mine)

Lord, Help Us to Worship You
Worship has both an experiential and an objective element. So we pray, Lord, free our minds and our emotions to respond as You would have us respond. Give us a willingness to be touched by You in worship, both experientially and objectively.

Worship is based on God’s revealed nature and character; it touches God’s beauty, His holiness and His heart. So we ask: Holy Spirit, reveal more of God’s nature and character to us. Lord, we ask that you reveal Your beauty and holiness to us. We ask that You show us Your heart. Give us Your heart, Lord.

True Worship requires that our total devotion and attention focused on God. So Lord, we ask for your help. We confess that we are easily distracted, and we don’t want to be. We want to focus on You and You alone.

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This blog is a part of a blog series called “The Heart of a Worshipper” series, or HWS. My prayer is that you will be blessed and transformed as you grow in your own worship of the King of Kings.

“Heart, Soul, Mind & Strength” Worship, Part 1

What is worship? That’s a question that I continually return to in my own study of the subject. If we were to survey the congregation asking for a definition of worship, I’m confident we’d get many different answers. A previous blog in this series focused on Eugene Peterson’s definition, in which he encourages us to “interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God.” Peterson spurs me on to deny myself in pursuit of God (and that’s a good thing!).

Another favorite definition of mine comes from the excellent book Real Worship by Warren Wiersbe. Wiersbe’s definition begins much as God’s first commandment does and continues through to the end result of worship:

“Worship is the believer’s response of all that they are – mind, emotions, will, and body – to what God is and says and does. This response has its mystical side in subjective experience and it’s practical side in objective obedience to God’s revealed will. Worship is a loving response that’s balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better. And what should be the result of all this? Transformation.”
     (page 26, Real Worship)

In eighty words, Wiersbe:

  1. Defines worship (first sentence);
  2. Explains what it looks like (second sentence);
  3. Addresses a major area of confusion in worship – loving the Lord vs. fearing Him (third sentence);
  4. And defines what the result is (fourth and fifth sentences).

He has my vote for being able to pack a lot of meaning into eighty words! Let’s look at each of these points.

What is Worship?
Wiersbe’s definition of worship mirrors Jesus’ exhortation to us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) Look at the similarities:

Mark 12:30

Wiersbe’s Definition of Worship

Love the Lord your God with
all your…
Worship is the believer’s response
of all their…
     Heart      Emotions
     Soul      Will
     Mind      Mind
     Strength      Body

Jesus introduced us to wholehearted devotion to the Lord. He said “Give it all you’ve got; don’t hold anything back.”

Jesus wants our heart – our emotions. But not just our emotions because He knows that we can be quite fickle. He also wants our will – our commitment to follow Him even when we don’t feel like it. He doesn’t expect us to follow Him blindly, He’s give us minds with which to evaluate His claims and the claims of others. He wants us to study Him and His Words, to engage our minds. Yet He doesn’t want only our love and our commitment to follow Him and our engaged mind seeking Him, He also wants our bodies – He wants us engaged in acts of service.

Wiersbe goes on to explain how these four elements (heart, soul, mind and strength or emotions, will, mind and body) interact. He points out that true worship is both experiential (mystical) and objective (practical).

A question I frequently ask myself is this: “Does my worship reflect Mark 12:30? Am I worshipping God with my whole heart (or my emotions), with my whole soul, with all my mind, and with all my strength?” Sometimes I answer that question too easily – a quick “yes” or “of course” – because I don’t really evaluate the question, I just answer it. To avoid this automatic response I sometimes ask the question a bit differently: “What am I doing that reveals that I am worshipping God with my whole heart? What evidence is there that I am worshipping God with all my emotions? How am I worshipping God with my mind? In what ways am I worshipping God with all my strength?”

Think about it for awhile…tomorrow I’ll blog “Part 2”  of “Heart, Soul, Mind & Strength” Worship. See you then!

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