Tag Archives: worship

Embrace Scripture’s Call

In Genesis 1-2 we find a beautiful poetic narrative full of imagery, sights, sounds, colors, light . . . wonder. Here, at the beginning of the Story, we also find the starting point for some of the deepest and most enduring questions of the human condition: How did we get here? Who am I? Is there a God? Why am I alive? Do I even matter? What is the purpose of life?

embrace scripture's call

Bible- believing Christians may draw different conclusions about the scriptural genre and interpretation of Genesis 1-2. For some it is a literal, historical, and scientific account describing exactly how God created this earth. For others, it is a divinely-inspired literary, historical, symbolic, and poetic description of critical theological (rather than scientific) ideas. (If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of literary rather than literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2, you can read more about this perspective via BioLogos or from pastor and author Tim Keller here.) And for some, it’s somewhere in between — understood as partly literal/historic and partly literary/symbolic.

Whatever one’s view of the scriptural genre of Genesis 1-2, however, all who uphold Scripture’s authority and primacy in our lives can find compelling common ground and agreement in the call God immediately placed upon humanity from the very start: to “rule over” and “subdue” the earth and it’s creatures (Genesis 1:26, 28). It’s restated in Genesis 2 as the first man’s first job in the Garden: to “work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).

And how ought humans do so? Should we “rule” as sin and selfishness entice us to? Should we model ourselves after the rulership of many human kings and leaders—domination, power-grabbing, destruction, self-centeredness, greed? Is it all about taking what we want when we want it?

We find a clear and sonorous answer to this question before we even ask it. Right smack dab in the middle of God tasking humanity to rule and subdue the earth is this statement: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). The charge to rule, to subdue, and later to work and to care, all must be interpreted through this framework: We are made in God’s image and meant to reflect God’s character.

So what is God’s rulership like? If we are to mirror that image in our lives (including our stewardship of earth), then what is God’s character that we are to reflect? How does God himself rule and care for the earth and all his creatures (including us)? In what ways ought we pattern our stance toward the created world after his?

Scripture is full of answers, from Genesis to Revelation. In terms of the stewardship of this beautiful world that God madesustains, and reveals himself through, we can reflect God’s character in our stewardship: faithfulness, wisdom, gratitude, creativity, ingenuity, sustainable use rather than destructive use, frugality rather than waste, peacemaking, generosity, faithfulness, joy, blessing and goodness, self-control, redemption rather than destruction, and so much more.

God gave us this earth both to steward and to use its resources. So part of stewardship certainly is enjoying the ongoing gifts of this planet that sustain and bless us. This can and ought to involve industry, harnessing energy, scientific discovery, making things from earth’s resources (craftsmanship, manufacturing, etc.), eating and drinking from earth’s bounty, and so on! But, for the Christian, the manner in which we do all of these activities ought to align with Scripture’s call for us to reflect the character of God.

Do you believe that God has called you to be a caretaker of his created world? How might God be leading you to pray and think about your role as a steward of his very good gift? How is God calling you through his Word today?

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Extras! Be Green Week 2

2 fun extras I want to share with you this week as we consider how God reveals himself through the created world.

• Click here to listen to a radio interview I did for a national Australian radio show. In this interview I get a chance to share my passion for creation care and the biblical basis for it.

• Check out this amazing YouTube video, “Nature by Numbers,” about how math is just about everywhere in the created world. It’s really stunning and cool. It points to the intricate design throughout all of nature.

experience god creation

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Experience God through Creation

I don’t know about you, but for me there’s just something soul-healing about a deep breath of fresh springtime air. After the novelty of snow has turned into winter weariness, the first signs of spring’s new life fill me with joy, peace, refreshment, hope. And it’s not because the air itself has some magical power—rather it’s because God speaks to us through his world, ever reiterating his Word in echoing messages of grace.

experience god creation

Our natural world—from the dirt under our feet to the canopy of galaxies above our heads—proclaims deep and eternal Truth. What many theologians (and Galileo, by the way) have called God’s “second book,” the environment in which we live speaks to us.

It speaks to us not in a pagan or New Age or spiritualist way—but in the way the Bible makes abundantly clear, again and again. Consider . . .

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech; they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)
 

And . . .

“[W]hat may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)
 

This truth coursing throughout all of Scripture is a foundational tenant of our exploration of “being greenWe can discover God, learn about God, and experience God’s presence in and through God’s created world.

For me, when I get busy or stressed or too self-important, time in nature sets me straight. Looking up at the clouds humbles me, reminding me of my smallness—and renewing my wonder at God’s love for me. (“What is man that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4).) Gazing at the intricate beauty of a flower leaves me in awe, reminding me of God’s artistry. Listening, in a bit of fear, to the tumult of a tornado-wielding thunderstorm renders me—Job-like—in a proper sense of fear, recognizing the power that is beyond, so beyond, my finite comprehension. Glimpsing a deer family through the trees in the nature preserve near my house speaks to me of God’s tender care for all of his creatures, from ants to eagles to whales to newts. And it reminds me, too, of my creatureliness—for I, like the deer, rely upon the God-made sustenance of planet Earth to live and to thrive.

be green photoHow have you experienced this biblical truth? How has God revealed his character, his values, his power, his very existence to you through his created world? How does time spent in nature (even just a 10-second pause to breathe deep spring’s bounty) re-align your soul to the reality of God’s presence and God’s love?

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Essay: On Mystery

My friend Charity Singleton Craig invited me to participate in her “In Your Own Words” series. Here’s my essay . . .

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woman praying:cryingmys·terynoun \ˈmis-t(ə-)rē\

: A word first used in English in the early 14th century to mean “religious truth via divine revelation, hidden spiritual significance, mystical truth.”

: It came from the Old French mistere, conveying “secret, mystery, hidden meaning” and from the Latin mysterium, meaning “secret worship.”

: It was used—in the Greek—in the ancient Septuagint compilation of Scripture (in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC) to mean the “secret counsel of God.” (Information quoted and adapted from The Online Etymology Dictionary.)

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Lord Peter Wimsey. Harriet Vane. Mma Ramotswe. Inspector Maigret. Kurt Wallander. Erast Fandorin. Sister Pelagia. Carl Mørk. Flavia de Luce. Father Brown. Sherlock Holmes.

This odd band of detectives—peopled from various nations, languages, and eras—have been my dear literary friends through the years. Some of them smoke, drink, brood, and languish. Others write, pray, study martial arts, or collect antique books. But they all question. They all seek. They all discover.

Alongside the mainstay genres that populate my bookshelves (fiction: classical, literary, international; spiritual writings: theology, spiritual formation, classic texts), you’ll always find a mystery novel on my nightstand. Detective stories and murder mysteries: What place do they have in my life? In my life as a Christian? Why am I drawn to these lords and priests, gumshoes and opium addicts, arm-chair philosophers and chemistry prodigies? Why does this genre hold such sway over me?

While certainly there’s nothing overtly (or even covertly) theological in most of the mystery series I love to read (save the inventive murder mysteries penned by theologians Dorothy L. Sayers and Gilbert K. Chesterton), there is a link between mystery itself and the questions that resonate in my soul.

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 The first audience reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories lived in the fin de siècle—a time when the Western world was changing rapidly. When new, shocking ideas from Darwin, Nietzsche, and others bolstered a popular questioning of—even rejection of—the common notions of meaning, of origins, of humanity, of divinity. A time when (shock! horror!) some “new women” dared to ride bicycles, wear pants, and even cut their hair. A time when—and I can only imagine how strange this shift must have been—streets that used to be dark at night began to be lit by strange bulbs, aglow with wires harnessing electricity.

And so Holmes’ stories became wildly popular for many reasons, including entertainment value, but at an essential, deeper level, in situations that didn’t make any sense, the lanky and arrogant Holmes somehow made sense of it all. In a world ringing with unanswerable questions, Holmes represented for his devoted fans the idea that answers, if sought, could somehow be found.

And this is one of the appeals of the mystery genre for me, too: the idea that hidden behind all the details, the red herrings, the apparently disconnected and seemingly random events of this life and this world, there is meaning. There are clues that point us toward a lasting truth. There are answers to the eternal, human questions. What appears to be chaos actually masks a grand, narrative arc.

But it isn’t just the end of the mystery that appeals—when all whos, whats, wheres, and whys have been uncovered and explained. It is the mystery itself—the in-the-middle, before-the-conclusion, grasping and searching and discerning that draws me.

Because my life often feels a lot like that.

Our life—our common, shared human experience—is a lot like that.

For even in and among the answers and truths we find in God, in faith, in the created world, in the Word of truth . . . are the questions. The haunting questions. The persisting questions. The questions that drive us to hunt, to search, to discover. The questions that may drive us to tears. The questions that may drive us to our knees.

And the questions that, ever unanswered, draw us into wonder.

Faith without questions is dull, formulaic, unappealing—suggesting, somehow that we have all the answers. Presenting God neatly defined in a tidily wrapped box.

But faith with questions still intact—faith interwoven with mystery—draws me. Sustains me. Invigorates me. It’s the faith of the questioners, the skeptics, the wonderers, the criers-out who populate the ancient book. This is the kind of faith that holds sacred the capital-A Answers while tenderly holding the questions, the paradoxes, and the mysteries in balance. It’s a faith not afraid of tension or contradiction or complexity that cannot be easily delineated or summed up in a five-bullet-point sermon. It’s a faith that both intimately knows, and doesn’t even begin to know, our awesome and mysterious God.

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I’ve been reading a lot of mysteries lately. And I’ve also been dwelling in a place full of faith-related questions lately.

 Some are deeply painful: Why does our young, vibrant friend have cancer? Why are so many suffering in this world? Why are the evil and corrupt given power to control and destroy?

 Others are soul-searching: Where is God showing up in my life right now? When does God seem distant to me? How might I connect with God in ways that are alive and invigorating, rather than stale or rote?

And, of course, there are always the big questions, the grand mysteries. The ones that are both awe-full and awful, tremendous and terrifying. The mysteries of galaxies and black holes and quarks and beating hearts. The mysteries of biology, astronomy, philosophy, and even of theology. The parts of life and thought and love that are shot through with “secret, mystery, hidden meaning.” And the God who, as the hymn writer aptly understood, is “hid from our eyes.”

And so I love mystery. I love to read it, and I love living it. We are all living it. It can be beautiful, engaging, and satisfying. It can be confusing, discouraging, and frightening. But it draws me—it draws us—into something sacred. Into something True. Into the Story we’re crafted to live.

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(More) On How

In response to my post “Ever Present,” my friend Renee asked a critical question: How?  How can we live each moment attentive to God’s presence? Last week I shared 22 ideas with you for being more present in life and more present to God (find ’em here). But this week we’ll look at some deeper, theological and spiritual answers that come from a book I treasure.

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red poppyThe Practice of the Presence of God is a tiny little book with a great, big, walloping impact. It explores a seemingly simple idea . . . that revolutionizes every moment. It’s the record of some of the conversations and letters of Brother Lawrence, a French monk from the 1600s. Rather than summarize his ideas in my own words, here’s a short sampling:

Brother Lawrence taught:

• “That we might accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with [God], with freedom and in simplicity. That we need only to recognize God intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him in every moment.”

• “That it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times.”

 In letters, Brother Lawrence explained:

• “I make it my business only to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention, and a general fond regard toward God . . . an habitual, silent, and secret conversation of the soul with God, which often causes me joys and raptures inwardly.”

• “[W]e must accustom ourselves to a familiar, humble, affectionate conversation with Him. We must hinder our spirits’ wandering from Him upon any occasion.”

[**All quotes in the Public Domain]

What’s your reaction to this idea? What would a continual conversation with God look like in your life, in your heart? A relationship of freedom and simplicity? Addressing yourself to God in every moment?

Consider and pray . . . How might God want you to practice—make a habit of—tuning in to his presence?

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Now a bit more on Brother Lawrence. He was a monk who found he best connected with God during his daily duties – kitchen work. He experienced intimacy with God more in the context of his normal life than even the times set aside for prayer and devotions in the monks’ cells. His encouragement for believers to maintain a continual conversation of the heart with God can help us transform any – every! – moment into a sacred one!

But, let’s be honest.

stained glass prayerHe was a MONK.

He had NO KIDS!

He worked in a MONASTERY!

So how in the world can his advice fit within the context of real life? Because, let me tell you, it seems a LOT harder to have this kind of continual conversation with God in modern life than it probably was for him – at least in terms of the many distractions that assail us.

Yet Brother Lawrence offers us some insights that can yet help us navigate all that draws our attention from God. Continue reading

Surprise! God is present.

Awhile back, I got to do an interview with pastor and author Adele Calhoun for Today’s Christian Woman. My conversation with her was so personally encouraging, and one thing she said really stuck with me: “Consider the biblical story itself and the wide variety of ways people experienced God and got to know God: Abram heard God’s voice, Jacob dreamed of angels ascending and descending, Moses saw a burning bush, Balaam heard God speak through a donkey, Samson felt God’s strength, Elijah heard God in a whisper on a mountain, Isaiah saw God high and lifted up, Daniel had dreams, Mary talked with an angel, and on and on. The Bible itself is a catalogue of people’s diverse and unique experiences with God.”

paintbrushesHow do you experience God and connect with God’s presence? What does it uniquely look like for you to be present with God?

Clearly, Bible study is a critical way to come to know and understand God and who God is. This is the starting place. We also connect with God emotionally, spiritually, and even intellectually in practices like prayer and worship. These are the “essential vitamins,” per se, of the Christian life.

But there are also some ways we can be present with God that surprise us. For example, we can connect with God through creative expression—art, poetry, music, and even casual doodling can be intentionally transformed into a Christ-centered experience as we ponder the beauty of God’s world or mull over truths in awareness of God’s presence with us. Continue reading

22 Ways to Be (a Little More) Present

Be present.

What can this actually look like? How can we be more present to God (who is always, ever present with us)? How can we, in general, be present to our lives—to our experiences, to our loved ones, to our work and our world?

Here’s a list of 22 ideas, but a big, giant caveat on such lists: No one person can do all of these things at once! And I’m not suggesting that you do – because I certainly don’t (and can’t). Peruse a list like this with your soul listening to the Holy Spirit. What one thing might you want to focus on? Or what new idea springs to your mind as you consider this? Go with it.

paints Live a little more.

• Make it a goal to laugh more today! Laugh and smile with someone you love.

• Pause from busyness to enjoy beauty: nature, music, art, ideas. Just 5 minutes can transform your mindset for the rest of the day.

• Immerse yourself in a creative endeavor: Cook a meal with gusto, write a letter to a friend (on actual paper), scrawl out a drawing, sing your heart out in the shower.

• Enjoy your work. Value the tasks or employment God has put on your plate today, be it housework, office work, or whatever. Find meaning it in – sacredness – and find joy in utilizing your skills and efforts to get a job well done.

• Move a little more. Get that heart pumping. Use that body God has given you. Exercise (and try to enjoy it).

• Pause to be grateful for your life. Say thank you. Say it again. And again.

Love a little more. Continue reading

2 Strange, Miraculous Gifts

Our guilt and pain . . . can even become avenues of life and light and love.

That’s the statement with which I ended last week’s post. So how can guilt, pain, flaws, and brokeness lead to something good? Something beautiful?

true storyI believe there are 2 strange and miraculous gifts we are given in and through our experiences of guilt, sin, pain, and failure. The first is the gift of conviction, and the second is the gift of a grace-story. And of course, we are given these gifts in and through the grace of Christ and his redeeming work on the Cross.

Read these 2 excerpts from my new Bible study Surrender Your Guilt and consider how God might be prompting you to receive and to respond to these gifts. (Excerpts are ©Kelli B. Trujillo, published by Wesleyan Publishing House, used with permission)

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Conviction vs. Condemnation

Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in adultery (John 8) provides us with a powerful snapshot of the difference between conviction and condemnation. Did her sins deserve condemnation? Absolutely—and Jesus’ gracious actions toward her in no way “excused” the sin of adultery. But Jesus did not condemn her—the person she was. Instead, he spoke convicting truth into her life: “Go now and leave your life of sin” (8:11). Jesus directly acknowledged the sin and told her to leave it behind. Rather than the hopeless, dreary, ever-worsening, and (for this woman) even deadly future of condemnation, conviction offered her hope, clearly envisioning for her a new way of being. God’s gift of conviction helps us see that we can be set free and start anew! Continue reading

The Hard Work of Worship — Sharon Hodde Miller

As we wrap up January’s theme “Awaken Your Soul,” I’m excited to invite you into a conversation with Sharon Hodde Miller. Sharon is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog and has written for a variety of other resources including Relevant and Today’s Christian Woman. Her blog, She Worships, zeroes in on a critical theme we’ve been looking at this month: worship.

Welcome, Sharon! Tell my readers a bit about yourself.

DSC_0886(1) copyHello everyone, and thanks Kelli for inviting me to be here!

I guess I’ll share a few highlights. I am a southern gal. My husband and I are both from North Carolina, but we moved to the Chicago area about 3 years ago for school. Now we’re both working on our PhD’s and raising our 17 month-old son, which means that our lives are a lot of fun and also totally insane.

In between all that, I write.

Your blog has the theme “She Worships.” Why did you pick that focus? What does it mean to you?

I started my blog about 7 years ago. At the time I was teaching and discipling college women, and I wanted another avenue to reach and encourage them. That’s how I began blogging, and eventually it morphed into a larger ministry to women (although a lot of men read my blog too!).

As for the title, I picked “She Worships” because it’s what we were all created for. If you could boil our existence down to one thing, that is it. Romans 12:1 tells us that worship is not confined to the walls of a church, but is instead a lifestyle. Everything we do, from Sunday morning hymns to marriage, to parenting, to going to the grocery store, to cleaning the toilet — it can all be an expression of worship.

I have tried to write my blog with that broader theology in view. I cover a lot of topics, but all with an eye to worshiping and glorifying Christ. 

What has God been teaching you lately about worship?

Lately God has been teaching me just how hard it is. Not hard in the sense that it’s grueling, but in the sense that it is not the natural inclination of my flesh.

Actually, when I think about it, my flesh IS inclined to worship, but it is not inclined to worship God. Instead, I find myself constantly tempted toward lesser, false gods.

I have found that if I don’t keep the gospel directly before me, I will chase after other things: the approval of others, my own fame, a comfortable life, etc. Continue reading

10 Little Ways to Wake Up

Pray more. Worship more. Read Scripture more. Yeah . . . you got those. These are often the spiritual “prescription” we receive when we know our spirit needs a boost. And these are right on. These are essential vitamins we need for our souls’  well-being! But in addition to these basics, God invites us into something other than just “do more” . . . than just a to-do list that always says you aren’t doing enough. Here are 10 little ways you can wake up your soul . . . peruse, pick 1 or 2, let your mind wander to pick your own.R U Awake

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1. Take 5 minutes to list (or speak aloud) things you’re grateful for. Praise God for them all!

2. Hug or kiss someone you really love. Consider how this human relationship provides a glimpse into intimacy with God.

 3. Hunt for nature’s beauties. God is the very essence of beauty! (Too cold outside? Look out your window with a mission to notice beauties you often over look. Or peruse online nature images instead.)

 4. Laugh out loud. Dwell in some delightful or silly memories or watch a funny movie. God is the ultimate source of joy . . . our own chuckles remind us of a deeper joy we experience in God.

 5.  Continue reading