Tag Archives: Present Your Bodies

Present Your Bodies: Mouth

Photo by Katy C

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  –Romans 12:1-2 ESV

In this very well-known verse, Paul is pleading with us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. But in the very next verse he points out something we all know to be true: the only way that our bodies can be a living sacrifice is if they remain connected to our minds. Otherwise, they would be like all the animal sacrifices made in the past. They would be dead.

James puts it this way:

faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. –James 2:14-17

The only way to offer our hands, knees and eyes as a living sacrifice is by being transformed by the renewing of our minds.

This may be doubly true when it comes to offering our mouths.

It’s true that the entire body is controlled by the mind and expresses what is in the mind, but what other part offers such clear and immediate access its contents? One time when Jesus was scolding the Pharisees, he said to them, “How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) A few verses later he warns: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37)

I don’t know about you, but I find that last sentence pretty sobering.

There’s much more to offering our mouths than opening them up to sing on Sunday morning. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it definitely includes that. I mean, whether the music is your favorite style or not, if the song is pitched in your range or somewhere in the stratosphere, whether or not you appreciate the fashion sense of the worship leader…none of these things are really the point. It’s the leader’s responsibility to take these things into consideration. That’s on them.

But what comes out of our mouths is our responsibility. That’s on us.

But, as I said, there is much more to offering our mouths than singing in church. Every word we speak aloud, every meme we post on social media, every political discussion, every Facebook status, every Tweet, every attempt at humor, whom we decide to speak to and why…all must be a living sacrifice.

It’s our spiritual act of worship.

Consider these words of Jesus:

Matthew 15:11
 “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”

Matthew 15:17-20
“Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

So, here’s the question we need to consider:

What comes out of our mouths?

Encouragement or criticism?

Mercy or anger?

Love or hatred?

Kindness or cursing?

Faith or doubt?

Peace or animosity?

Joy or hopelessness?

Bottom line:
Have I offered my words to God as a “living sacrifice,” or do I continue to use them strictly for my own selfish purposes?

Psalm 19:14
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

That should be our prayer as well.

Lloyd


I also wrote about offering our handsoffering our eyes, and offering our knees.

Present Your Bodies: Knees

klc_0125
Photo by Katy C

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  –Romans 12:1-2 ESV

Getting down on my knees was never very comfortable for me. I’m not sure why. I could do it, but I just couldn’t stay that way very long without cramping up, getting fidgety and desperately wanting to stretch my legs. This condition has only worsened as I’ve aged. Plus, there’s now the added inability to easily get back to my feet. The struggle is real!

This was the congregation I preached for in Chikkaballapur. I was glad I got to stand!
Individual prayer would continue long after the service.

I had the privilege of visiting the Chistia Seva Mission headquartered in Chikkaballapur, India a few years ago. I was amazed at the fact that everyone, young and old, sat on the floor for worship services. It’s true they didn’t kneel the whole time, but it feels sort of the same to me. I wouldn’t be able to do it. Sitting on the floor in this scrunched up position without the ability to straighten my legs would be excruciating.

Especially when you consider that the service was generally about three hours long!

Of all my body parts, my knees are, without doubt, the hardest part to offer as a living sacrifice. Not just physically, but mainly because of what it represents.

When does kneeling normally take place?

1. When you beg for mercy. (Like maybe a marriage proposal?)
2. When you are in the presence of royalty.
3. When you surrender in defeat.

Basically, you kneel when you acknowledge that your life is not your own. It belongs to another. You are powerless when you kneel. All the power belongs to the one who is standing before you.

No wonder this is so hard.

We have the (sinful) tendency to want control. We pray for God to bless us and tell him how to do it. We ask for God to guide us and go our own way. Oh, we always add the phrase “your will be done” but what we usually mean is “make my will your will.”

Or, am I the only one who does this?

God is not a genie who does our bidding. He is not some mystical “power” available to us to use for our own purposes.

He is…well, he’s God.

In an amazing act of love he has granted us the freedom to choose him as our King or reject him, but that doesn’t mean there are really any options. We can choose him and live, or reject him and die. Eternally.

We’re not in charge. We don’t make the rules. Try as we might.

We comfort ourselves with warm, “feel-good” phrases about how “God is for us, so who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) forgetting that “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” are still part of the deal (Romans 8:35). We’d just as soon avoid all this stuff completely, thank you very much! God promises that these things are all powerless to separate us from God’s love, but is that enough?

And here’s the kicker:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Like it or not, at some point we’re all gonna kneel.

The only real question is, when you kneel, will it be now as a plea for mercy (which is promised to be granted), or later as a defeated combatant (which is sure to be treated accordingly)?

Present your knees as a living sacrifice.

Lloyd


I also wrote about offering our hands, and offering our eyes.


Below is a song we did in our choir many years ago. It was one of my favorite songs that year, and it still comes to my mind from time to time. Like when I wrote the above post.

Bow the Knee
Chris Machen/Mike Harland
©1997 Centergetic Music

Bow the knee;
Trust the heart of your Father
when the answer goes beyond what you can see.
Bow the knee;
Lift your eyes toward heaven
and believe the One who holds eternity.
And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan,
In the presence of the King,
bow the knee.

Present Your Bodies: Eyes

klc_0101
Photo by Katy C

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  –Romans 12:1-2 ESV

I’ve always been intrigued with the phrase, “a living sacrifice.” When you’re speaking with a Jewish audience, and you use the word “sacrifice,” they’re going to imagine a dead one. The act of killing is part of the process. A living sacrifice is a whole new concept.

And it’s a tricky one. Because a living sacrifice is a whole lot harder to deal with than a dead one. A living sacrifice keeps wanting to crawl off the altar. It must be offered daily.

Maybe hourly.

Maybe, if the part of the body you’re sacrificing to God is your eyes, then maybe that sacrifice needs to be minute by minute.

What about our eyes? How can we offer our eyes as a living sacrifice to God?

The psalmist says:

I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile. –Psalm 101:3

The word “vile” means wicked, perverted, offensive, disgusting, cheap, or degrading. Do we allow ourselves to look at any of that stuff? Do our eyes find their way to things that fit any of those descriptions?

I almost decided to skip talking about pornography here because it seemed a little too obvious. Everyone knows that we should keep our eyes away from that stuff, right?

The thing is, every second $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography, and 28,258 internet users are viewing pornography.

That’s right, every second!

Pornography revenue in the United States exceeds the combined revenue of ABC, NBC and CBS. So maybe it bears talking about. Especially when you consider that, according to a 2014 survey of self-identified adult Christian men, 77% say they look at pornography at least monthly.

It’s a problem.

How can we “present our bodies as a living sacrifice” when our eyes (and presumably other parts as well) are being used in this manner? How can we “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” when so much of our mental energy is given over to the god of lust?

There’s something else to consider for those of us who are married men. The apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:7 that we should treat our wives with respect so that nothing hinders our prayers. What is more disrespectful to your wife than to look lustfully at another woman? Not only does it impact our marriages and our thoughts, but it hinders our prayers, as well.

Men, this must stop.

We must keep our eyes from crawling off the altar.

But wait, there’s more…

It seems to me that, if we’re presenting our eyes to God as a “living sacrifice,” there are some other things we must consider.

For example:
As we scroll through our Twitter feed or your Facebook newsfeed, what links grab our eyes? Am I a sucker for the outrageous “click bait”?

Or:
Do I fall for the “fake news” that seems to justify my already formed opinion, simply because it takes too much discipline to search for the truth?

Or, how about this:
Do I have a hard time seeing the good…

…in another person?

…in another race?

…in my own church?

…in almost anything?

God doesn’t look at the outside, he looks at the heart. It’s a skill we need to learn. Obviously, we’ll never be able to see within another person the way God can, but we can learn to look deeper than we do.

I’m sure this isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a start.

We just have to learn to take an honest look within.

It’s a matter of presenting our eyes as a living sacrifice.

Lloyd


You can read what I wrote about offering our hands here.

Present Your Bodies: Your Hands

klc_0071
Photo by Katy C

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  –Romans 12:1-2 ESV

I was raised in the Restoration Movement “non-denomination.” Raising hands in worship wasn’t something I remember ever seeing until I was in my 20’s. I’m not exactly sure why, but I sort of got the idea that it was something we didn’t do. I think maybe it was considered sort of showy, or something. The thing is, scripture has a lot to say about lifting our hands in worship.

Look at your hands for a moment. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

They really are an amazing piece of engineering, aren’t they?

Who gave us these hands? Well, of course, God did.

What kinds of things do we do with our hands? Well, we work with our hands. We feed ourselves. We play. We give gifts. We receive gifts. We show affection.

We also fight with our hands. We sin with our hands.

I suppose it should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that a huge part of “presenting our hands” has to do with using them in positive ways. For helping, and not hurting. For reaching out, and not holding back. For bringing honor to God and his people, and not dishonor.

But, since our hands are so useful, and so expressive, why is it that so many of us are hesitant to worship with our hands?

Lifting our hands to God is biblical. It’s a physical demonstration of a spiritual truth. By lifting our hands to Him, we are presenting our bodies to God as a spiritual act of worship.

Yes, it’s true that expressing worship begins on the inside, with a mind and heart transformed by God. Ultimately, it is the posture of our hearts that makes the difference. In John 4:23 Jesus says that the Father is looking for worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. God wants honesty, not showmanship. It is possible to have your hands raised on the outside but to have your fists clenched in defiance on the inside.

The condition of our hearts is what truly matters. Paul says that we should “be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” But, on the other side of the same coin, if your heart and mind have been transformed…if, indeed you are kneeling on the inside…if, deep in your spirit, your will is surrendered to God…then, why not demonstrate that physically?

Worship shouldn’t remain on the inside. It’s got to come out.

There are several images that come to my mind when I think of lifted hands:

-A small child running to her dad.
-An enemy, or an outlaw surrendering to an authority.
-A person volunteering for something.

Any, or all of these, and others, may be appropriate at different times. In any case, when you worship privately, or when we come together, I encourage you to offer your hands as a living sacrifice to God.

If you’re new to lifting your hands in worship, and you feel a little uncomfortable, I have a little exercise I’d like to suggest. It doesn’t involve anything dramatic and showy, but it does involve your hands.

About eight years ago, I participated in a worship time, led by Buddy Owens, where he led us in this time of prayer. He said it was something he borrowed from the Quakers. Since then, I’ve led it myself several times in a few different settings. You could do this in your own private devotional time, or at church during communion time, or other quiet time.

Begin by extending your hands in front of you with your palms up. Imagine your burdens and requests in your hands as you present them to God. Maybe there is a specific sin there that you need to confess.

Keep your palms up as you pray something like this:

“Father, thank you for your kindness and the gift of life. Thank you for your love and faithfulness. Thank you for accepting me as I am, and for doing the continuing work of transforming me into the likeness of Christ. I’m offering myself to you right now, body, soul and spirit. I give you my strengths and my weaknesses, my successes and my failures, my hopes and fears, my dreams and nightmares, my joys and my burdens.”

Now turn your palms down and pray something like this:

“Now, by faith, I’m obeying your command to cast all my cares on you. I release them all to you and trust that you’ll do with them as you see fit. May your will be done in me today.”

It may take a few minutes for you to actually let go of this stuff, but when you do turn your palms up again and pray something like this:

“Father, now I’m open to receive all that your grace has in store for me: strength for my weakness, peace for my fear, forgiveness for my sins, and grace to forgive those who have done me harm. Guide my steps, direct my thoughts, and protect me from the evil one. Let me be an extension of your love and mercy to the people I meet today, and I look to you to meet all my needs. I’m yours, Lord, use me to bring you glory.”

Remember, the specific words are only suggestions. God is not impressed with our language skills, but he does want our honesty.

Try it. I think you’ll find it meaningful.

Lloyd


 

I owe these thoughts to Buddy Owens and his little book called The Way of a Worshiper, which I heartily recommend.