The way we worship

As a worship leader, I think I’m often drawn to scriptures about worship. I like to see how others express their love for God. David, of course, is the best example we have in the Bible. Some know him as the boy who defeated a giant. Others as a king. Some yet a shepherd. I look to him as a singer/songwriter.

As the leader of all of Israel, David could have very easily appointed his worship team and walked away to let them do their thing. I’ve seen many pastors do it (my pastor gives me a lot of leeway in worship, but we still sit down and discuss songs, leadership, and direction on a regular basis). Even worse, I’ve seen many ministers sit in a green room or office during the worship service only to step on stage when it was their time to shine and scurry back to that room once they had delivered their message.

But David took an active role in how Israel worshipped.

That day David first committed to Asaph and his associates this psalm of thanks to the Lord;

1 Chronicles 16:7 (NIV)

Not only did David actively participate in leading worship (not just worshipping from the back of the room), but once the Ark of the Covenant was back with the people, he gave the worship leader the title song for the new album.

Sometimes, I think we can get so caught up with labels and descriptions that we box ourselves in to one small area. We never give ourselves the opportunity to explore other areas—especially in the church. Jesus gave us many examples of ministry, but he never said that one thing was for a certain person while another thing was for another type of person. He did it all. And aren’t we supposed to emulate him in all things?

David redefined what it was to be a leader, mostly because he was a worshipper long before he was ever anointed as king. Showing his love for the Lord was priority number one. That was followed up by showing his family how to love the Lord.

Then all the people left, each for his own home, and David returned home to bless his family.

1 Chronicles 16:43 (NIV)

We were created for worship. Everyone worships someone or something. We don’t have to be taught to do that. But we do have to be taught to worship the right someone. How will anyone ever learn to worship God if they never see the people closest to them worship themselves? As leaders, as believers, as children of God, we are the ones who will show everyone else who and how to worship. We must be worshippers of God before we can be anything else for God.

Read: 1 Chronicles 14-16, John 9:24-41

The least of these

Read: Leviticus 7-9, Matthew 25:31-46

Last May I had the opportunity to join seven other members of my church on a missionary trip to Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. Our week was planned out ahead of time by the leaders at the missions base there. We’d go visit some migrant camps, men’s and women’s rehabilitation homes, and minister to the homeless who live under the city bridges.

The day came for us to head to the bridges. We arrived, cleaned up an area that was known to bring many people, brought out chairs and a guitar, but no one came. A local man who’d worked with our mission before came by and explained to us that the Bridge People, as they’ve come to be known, wouldn’t be coming. They’d been burned out of their camps, rounded up, and taken to prison all in preparation for the Baja races which would run through the dry ravines in the city.

This presented a bit of a problem. We’d prepared to meet these people on their own turf, feed them, bless them, pray for them. No connections had yet been made with the local police to reach out to the incarcerated. But the gentleman who found us at the ravine had an idea. He paced away with his phone in hand. Less than an hour later, we’d packed everything back up and were parked outside the city’s 48 hour holding facility.

If you’re imagining a North American holding prison, get that image out of your head. This is not a well-lighted place with concrete benches, let alone padded cots. There is no stainless steel toilet in the corner nor is there a phone with which to call a lawyer or a relative to come get you (if you even have a relative with a phone of their own). You don’t get your one phone call. You get concrete and bars and a hole in the floor that serves as a communal toilet.

I don’t mean to be gross, but I need to be real.

In the parking lot across from the barred entrance, we could already smell the sharp odour of stale urine and who-knows-what-else. After a quick chat with the officers on duty, we were permitted to unload our coolers, bags, and boxes. Two by two we were allowed in with the guards to present each inmate with a dry sandwich, a juice box, granola bar, and second-hand blanket. They filed passed offering quiet thanks and blessings. To those who were considered to violent to let out of their cells, team members went to them deeper in the prison. They set aside their own discomfort to offer a small comfort to someone else.

As we sat in the van afterward, our pastor brought to mind a portion of scripture from Matthew.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you have me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Matthew 25:35-36 (NIV)

Circumstances prevented the people we planned to minister to from coming to us, but God made a way for us to go to them. Doors were opened and even the locals were amazed at what we were able to do. People were fed, given something to drink, clothed, looked after, and visited in prison—all by complete strangers.

Several days after our prison visit, a man approached our van at while we sat at a red light. He was selling candy bars. Our pastor purchased several. As he walked away, we noticed something. Aside from the candy, he carried only one thing. Tucked tightly under his arm was one of the blankets we’d handed out in the prison.

Matthew 25:40

Tear your heart out

Hearing stories of the war and destruction that make up a lot of the Old Testament, many people who don’t know God are eager to paint Him as a tyrant. A big bully who destroyed entire nations (and even the earth once) on a whim. What they fail to see are the dire warnings that preceded all of that. Every time. Before death and destruction came warnings from men of God pleading with the nations to turn from their wicked ways and return to the Lord. God wanted to show mercy, but because man always seems to know better…

That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is still time! Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief; tear your hearts.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful. He is not easily angered. He is filled with kindness and is eager not to punish you.

Joel 2:12-13 (NLT)

Does that sound like a tyrant to you? If God is eager not to punish you, why then do we make him the villain of the story?

Because we don’t want to have to name the real villain. You. Me.

If God is truly gracious and merciful like He says He is, that would mean that we are the true bullies. We taunt God with our hearts and our love and then withhold them from Him. Put yourself in His place. You’ve created something so that you’d have companionship. You give that creation free will so that they will love you because they want to, not because they have to. You give them everything they could possibly need. And yet they still turn away from you. Again. And again. You must punish their evil deeds, but you don’t really want to, so you give a warning. And another warning. All with the hope that they will turn back to you and you won’t have to punish them. They come back for a little while. And then they leave again.

Be honest, how many opportunities would you give your creation to return?

God has given us infinite opportunities to return to Him. He doesn’t want to punish us. He wants to love us. He wants to shower us with His grace and mercy, but we have to put ourselves in a position to receive it.

We must tear our hearts. Our minds and our attitudes must be changed, our old patterns destroyed and replaced with a new way of thinking. Until we rend our old, stony hearts and allow God to replace that ugly mess, we cannot expect to experience all the goodness that He has planned for us.

So don’t be afraid to tear your heart out because God has a new one waiting for you.

Daily Bible reading: Joel 1-3, Revelation 4

Worship

WORSHIP: To respect; to honor; to treat with civil reverence.

Worship isn’t just what we do when we sing on Sunday mornings. It’s what we have the opportunity to do every day of our lives. Our generosity, when done in the name of the Lord, is both an act of worship as well as the inspiration for worship.

Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out into thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 9:11 (NLT)

God gives us opportunities all the time—if we have a mind to look for them. There are infinite ways that we can show generosity to those around us. We need only pay attention and act when we see a need.

For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you.

2 Corinthians 9:10 (NLT)

God has not blessed us so that we can hoard our blessings. He has blessed us so that we can in turn bless others. The more we strive to worship God by blessing others, the more room we make in our own lives to receive a blessing. The Church should be producing a perpetual harvest of generosity. We should be drawing good out of each other so that we can draw more people into the Kingdom.

Look for opportunities to worship God through your actions this week. Allow Him to produce a harvest of generosity in you.

Daily Bible reading: Ecclesiastes 1-3, 2 Corinthians 9

Excel

If you call yourself a Christian, you are called to ministry. First, to minister to the world—whether it be your own small corner or abroad in a foreign nation. We are all called to be ministers of the Gospel. Also, we are called to the ministry of giving.

…now I want you to excel also in the gracious ministry of giving.

2 Corinthians 8:7b (NLT)

I can guarantee that God has put it on your heart to give. If you don’t believe so, you haven’t been listening.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

James 1:17 (NKJV)

If God gives us good gifts and we are to become more and more like Him every day, should we not also be giving good gifts?

If you are really eager to give, it isn’t important how much you are able to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you don’t have.

2 Corinthians 8:12 (NLT)

God doesn’t intend for us to give so much that we become destitute. He wants us to give not only to bless others, but to make more room in our lives.

Blow up a balloon, but don’t tie it off. Let all the air out. Blow it up again. Let the air out. Each time you let the air out, the balloon will appear larger. You’re stretching it. Making more room. There are things that God wants to give us that won’t fit into our lives the way they are. The balloon would pop. But let the air out, and you’ve made room for more the next time you fill it.

God wants to do the same with us. Giving may deflate us a bit, but God will fill us to capacity again and again, increasing our limit every time. If you tie off a balloon, no air can get in or out. The supply is cut off.

Don’t cut yourself off from God’ generous supply by being stingy. Instead, become a part of His supply chain and allow Him to bless others through the blessings He gives you.

Learn to excel at the ministry of giving.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 30-31, 2 Corinthians 8

Another reminder

Build altars in the places where I remind you who I am, and I will come and bless you there.

Exodus 20:24b (NLT)

Are you ever reminded of who God is? I hope so. I hope that you are reminded on a daily basis.

Being reminded of something can be a good thing. I keep letters, notes, and cards from people if I found it encouraging upon receiving it. Every once in a while, I’ll go back and read them again. And again. What I found encouraging once, I often find encouraging again.

What would change in your life if you kept reminders for yourself every time God revealed himself to you? It could be one word, a song, a verse. On days when you find yourself down, you could go back to those reminders and be blessed again and again.

Try keeping some reminders and see what blessing can come from it.

Daily Bible reading: Exodus 19-21, Matthew 20:1-16

I know what I’m doing

Remember that time when Jacob stole the birthright from his brother Esau? And he then bought his brother’s inheritance with a bowl of beans? (Genesis 27) Classy guy, right?

Remember that time when God changed Jacob’s name to Israel? (Genesis 32:28)

Why would God bless the one who stole what wasn’t rightfully his? Why did God make promises to Jacob rather than Esau. Esau, after all was the older of the two and, by Hebrew custom was the one deserving of the blessing.

In my opinion, any man who sells his inheritance for a bowl of stew isn’t really worth the blessing of the birthright, but that’s beside the point.

Do you think that maybe, just maybe, God knew what he was doing?

In Jacob’s old age, he moved to Egypt in order to survive the seven year famine. His youngest son, Joseph—who had been sold into slavery by his brothers—was second only to Pharaoh. Joseph went through a lot before obtaining his position of power. I don’t think that, in the midst of his imprisonment, he was thinking much about it being a part of God’s grand plan. But it was.

Upon revealing his identity to his brothers, Joseph says this:

“I am Joseph, your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But don’t be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives… God has sent me here to keep you and your families alive so that you will become a great nation. Yes, it was God who sent me here, not you!”

Genesis 45:4b-5, 7-8a (NLT)

Joseph was able to recognise God at work in his life as well as the lives of his family. You’d think he’d trust in God’s plan.

When Joseph’s father, Jacob (the guy who stole the birthright), decided to bless Joseph’s sons as his own, Joseph made to correct his father.

“No, Father,” he said, “this one over here is older, Put your right hand on his head.”

Genesis 48:18 (NLT)

Jacob’s response:

“I know what I’m doing, my son.”

Genesis 48:19 (NLT)

Jacob knew firsthand that God’s plan can work outside of cultural tradition. He knew that the younger could surpass the elder. He knew what he was doing. Just as God knew what He was doing allowing Joseph, the youngest (at the time), to be sold into slavery.

God doesn’t need us to help Him make decisions. He knows what He’s doing.

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 46-48, Matthew 14:22-36