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

I Am

Who created God? When did God begin? How can anyone not have a start?

These are all the logical questions anyone might ask of a God who claims to have no beginning and no end. And they are all questions that, even if we have the answers right in front of us, we will never really be able to wrap our minds around.

We humans know we have a beginning. And an end, of sorts. And another beginning. And then eternity (which we can’t really wrap our minds around, either).

When God speaks to Moses through the burning bush, He doesn’t say, “I was the God of your father…” God said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6) This implies that, not only was God the God of Moses’ ancestors, but He still is their God. And if He still is their God, they must still exist somewhere.

Jesus mentions this account when the Sadducees made an attempt, like the Pharisees often did, to stump him with the law. Don’t try to stump Jesus. You can’t. The Sadducees couldn’t, either. They gave a long hypothetical situation in which a woman ends up marrying seven brothers and eventually dies childless. In heaven, who is her husband?

After explaining that the finite things of life do not come with us into eternity, Jesus closes with this:

He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.

Luke 20:38 (NIV)

Our short lives on this earth are amazing things on their own, but when you add eternity to that experience, it is a mere shadow in comparison. When we make Jesus our Lord, God our Father, He is our God for eternity. Again, a tough concept to grasp. But no matter how difficult it is to fully comprehend eternal life, it is ours nonetheless.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—is is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV)

Even as I try to put into words the vastness of this truth, I am blown away by what God has offered us. Not only has He given us life on earth, but He has made a way for us to live forever with Him.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:20-22 (NIV)

God isn’t an I was, He isn’t an I will be. He is. And He has made us to be like Him.

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:16 (NIV)

When we are made alive with Christ, we become a part of The Great I Am. Who I was no longer matters. Forevermore, I am with I Am.

Read: 2 Samuel 15-16, Luke 20:27-47

The profession of Christianity

Let us try not to join the profession of Christianity, with seeking after worldly advantages.

Matthew Henry

“You’ll never have to worry about anything again!”

“God wants you to be rich!”

“This is the best life ever!”

“Everything is good!”

All of these claims have been touted by Christians, preachers, and televangelists. They have brought untold millions to their knees to pray a prayer that they’ve been conned into reciting. While they all contain a partial truth, they are not indicative of the Christian life.

Jesus had some choice words for some who wished to take care of business before taking up the business of following him.

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my Father.”

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:57-62 (NIV)

In order to “close the deal” when it comes to leading someone to salvation, we are often apt to spout the benefits while making light of the cost. The truth is, there are many, many benefits to giving your life to Christ, but there is also a great cost—one that cannot be ignored.

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:23 (NIV)

The benefits come as a result of us doing the right thing for the right reasons.

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

It is a difficult road to walk, this life in pursuit of God. On one side, we can be easily distracted by the thought of a reward and, on the other side, we can be so focused on our call that we deny the existence of any reward at all.

Our purpose in serving God should be just that—to serve Him and Him alone. If the reward is all we seek, our hearts are in the wrong place. But that does not mean that we should not be prepared to receive a reward or blessing.

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Luke 11:13 (NIV)

If is with a pure heart and pure motives that we must seek after God. Yet, as His children, we must not deny Him the joy of blessing us.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

Read: Judges 12-14, Luke 9:37-62

Places, everyone!

Do you know your place or position? I hope you know your position at your job (it won’t be your job for long if you don’t). Maybe you have a place at the family dinner table. I bet there’s a place at the grocery store you like to park. Do you have a favourite position to sleep in?

Through much of our lives, we know our place and, most of the time, we’re prepared—if not willing—to take that position. So why is it so difficult for us to take our place in the kingdom of God? Sure, we’ve got a place once we accept Jesus as our Lord, but there is much more to it than that.

Way back in Judges, a woman—yes, a woman!—was judge over Israel. Through Deborah’s wisdom in hearing from God, Israel was able to defeat Sisera and his Canaanite army. Through her joy in victory, she sang a song.

When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves—
praise the Lord!

Judges 5:2 (NIV)

In modern language, I believe this verse could read something like this:

When leaders take their place and lead,
when the people willingly submit—
praise the Lord!

Deborah’s song goes on to describe the battle, then she closes.

So may all your enemies perish, O Lord!
But may they who love you be like the sun
when it rises in its strength.

Judges 5:31 (NIV)

In modern language, I believe this verse may read something like this:

No one can deny you, O Lord!
The Church will rise and endure
when those who love you take their proper place.

The only time things went well for Israel was when they had a leader who first submitted to God and led from a place of humility and a people who submitted themselves to their godly leader. Every other time in their history, Israel fell into slavery and war.

We may not be in a physical battle, but we are certainly in a spiritual war. Like Israel, the Church is never more victorious than when we take our proper places. Some are called to lead, but we are all called to follow.

To whom then should we be submitting?

God. No matter who we are, where we’re from, or what our place is, we must always submit to God over anything or anyone else.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7 (NIV)

Each other. If we can’t even love each other as members of the same body, how will we ever win anyone else over with love? The greatest part of loving someone is submitting to them.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)

Human authority. As much as it may pain us to do so, we are all under human law and authority. So long as we are not asked to go against the Word of God, we are expected to submit.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

1 Peter 2:13-14 (NIV)

And how is all of this supposed to help us to be victorious?

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

1 Peter 2:15 (NIV)

Nearly every argument the world has against the Church can be silenced if only we would live as we’ve been called to. If we take our places as children of God, submitting to Him, each other, and those in authority over us. It is only when we take our positions that we can truly wage our spiritual war and win.

Read: Judges 3-5, Luke 7:31-50

The name game

Read: Numbers 18-20, Mark 7:1-13

What’s a name? Is it just something we call ourselves to differentiate us from others? Is it part of our identity? Is it our entire identity? Do our names make us who we are or do we define our names? We use names lightly and we take them seriously. They become associations and labels. They let others know who we are, what we do, and where we belong. Names can lift people up or tear them down. They can be forever or they can be for convenience.

Several groups in the Bible had some issues with their names. They assumed a name, but rejected the identity that went along with the name.

Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here?”

Numbers 20:2-4 (NIV)

In one sentence, the spokesperson for Israel both declares them to be a nation belonging to God and a nation who rejects God. They had just gone through the whole ordeal of having proven Moses and Aaron as leaders of the nation, yet the people still weren’t pleased. They liked to remember and point out their status as God’s children, but quickly forgot all He had done for them and all they had done in disobedience to Him.

Jesus also encountered a group of people who used their name for status and wealth.

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teaching are but rules taught by men.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

Mark 7:6-8 (NIV)

For both the Israelites and the Pharisees, it suited them to be associated with God. It was helpful and beneficial to assume a relationship with the name of the Lord, but that’s all it was—a nominal association.

Sound familiar? Who hasn’t met a person who call themself a Christian, but like the Pharisees and teachers of the law, merely honours God with their lips while their hearts are far from Him?

CHRISTIAN: A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety.

Being a Christian is far more than assuming a name. In the early days of the church, to bear the name of Christ meant a constant threat of painful death. Followers of The Way were all to aware of the consequences of those they associated with, yet they took the name anyway, giving themselves completely to the cause of Christ.

Few of us regularly consider why we even call ourselves Christians. We simply are. Do we take the time to meditate on what that really means? Or do we use the name because it is useful to us? We should all consider our purpose and reason for bearing the name of Christ. We must determine if our claim to Christ is one of convenience or commitment.

Crumbs

Read: Exodus 1-3, Matthew 15:21-39

You’ve been invited to a feast. The table groans under the weight of the fare. All of your favourite foods are set before you prepared just the way you like it. The aroma wafts its way to your nostrils. Your mouth waters.

At the head of the table, your host gestures for the meal to commence. The person across from you, the one to your right, and the one to your left all dig in. You watch jealously as they consume the extravagant meal. All too soon, the food has been devoured. Your stomach still growls as the plates are cleared. Yours doesn’t even have a spot of gravy marring the shine. The other guests get up and leave the table. You remain seated. Before you is a single crumb. You don’t even know where it came from. You lick your finger and grasp the single morsel bringing it to your parched lips. You close your eyes and savour the small taste you were fortunate enough to have.

By now, I hope you’re thinking how stupid you would be to savour the crumb when you’d been offered the feast.

Jesus came to offer us the feast. We have an invitation to the table. We are honoured guests. But we often act like the dogs waiting beneath the table for the scraps to fall.

In Matthew 15, a Canaanite woman approached Jesus. Her daughter was tormented by a demon and she had heard of Jesus’ ability to heal. Jesus at first refuses saying that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel (verse 24).

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

Matthew 15:26 (NIV)

Even after being insulted, the woman persists.

Matthew 15:27

Jesus commends her for her great faith and her daughter was healed at that moment (verse 28). The crumbs Jesus offered her were enough to accomplish all she had asked.

We, having been accepted into the family of God through the blood sacrifice of Jesus, have an open invitation to the table. We are not the dogs, we are the children. If the crumbs are enough for a miracle, what are we settling for that we are content to merely exist? It is long past time that we, the Church, take our seat at the banquet and accept all that has been waiting for us. Healing is for us. Freedom is for us. Prosperity is for us. Provision is for us. Miracles are for us!

Stop settling for crumbs when you can have the whole feast.

Suitable for all audiences

Read: Genesis 33-35, Matthew 11

Have you ever known someone who refused to watch a G-rated movie because that stuff is juvenile? It’s fluff. It’s meant for kids. I’m above that sort of childishness. Well, I guess the Gospel is too juvenile as well, because Jesus made sure that his message was suitable for all audiences. It was actually aimed toward the less learned.

Matthew 11:25

Jesus stood strong in the face of the religious and welcomed the children to him. He acted in direct contrast to the culture of the day appealing to the weak and simple. His Gospel, while suitable for all audiences, was better received by those who had no claim to knowledge of the law.

Aside from sin, the thing that can restrain us the most from receiving from God is ourselves. Our big brains and so-called wisdom clog our mind with complex ideas that Jesus never presented. Like the Pharisees in the days of the disciples, we see ourselves as being above such simplicity. And Jesus praised God that He chose to reveal his truth to the young and the simple rather than the wise and learned.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is simple enough to be received by children and enduring enough for the aged. It is deep enough to appeal to the learned and broad enough to be understood by the simple.

Rather than working from the top down, Jesus started at the bottom and worked his way up. Not because those were the only people who would listen to him, but because it was his Father’s will that he do so.

Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

Matthew 11:26 (NIV)

Everyone else was doing it

Who never used the excuse that “everyone else was doing it” when you were a kid? It was a pretty simple go-to reason for why you did something your parents explicitly told you not to to. But did it ever work? If you tried it, you may have received “if they all went and jumped off a bridge, would you jump off, too?” as a response. Of course you wouldn’t. You’re smarter than that. Yet you did do something for which your only reason for doing it was because everyone else was.

John warns against following evil influence. The influence he’s talking about has far greater repercussions than getting your bicycle taken away or being grounded from the internet for a week. It’s your eternal soul at stake.

Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.

3 John 1:11 (NLT)

The evil influence John is talking about here is that a man, Diotrephes, is going around telling the church that they don’t need to welcome or care for travelling ministers—a teaching that is completely contrary to the example Jesus set. But we can take this word of advice and apply it to far more than just travelling ministers. It is advice for life.

Influence comes at us from all directions—all day, every day. It’s unavoidable. It comes from Christians as well as unbelievers. It is up to us as individuals to determine how we let it affect us. In this passage, John gives us a pretty simple answer—know God. When we know and love God, good deeds will be the visible byproduct. If we don’t know God, evil deeds will be the byproduct. And we cannot assume that everyone who calls himself a Christian knows God (John’s warning here was against someone in the church).

It’s all so confusing! How am I supposed to know what’s what?

It’s a good thing that God doesn’t expect us to know it all. And it’s a good thing that He does know it all. And it’s an even better thing that He gave us His Holy Spirit to guide us in that regard. The closer we are to God, the more in tune we will be with His Spirit and can allow ourselves to be influenced by Him rather than those around us. And the stronger God’s influence is in our lives, the more of a good influence we will be on those around us.

If you need an influence to follow, Jesus is your prime example. Get to know him. Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it (even Christians), do it because Jesus did it.

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 11-12, 3 John 1

A hug a day

“As a belt clings to a person’s waist, so I created Judah and Israel to cling to me,” says the Lord. “They were to be my people, my pride, my glory—an honor to my name. But they would not listen to me.

Jeremiah 13:11 (NLT)

As I read this verse this morning, what came to mind were the actions of a father and son. On Sunday morning, as a group of volunteers were praying before the church service, one of the kids came running in. He made no sound as he rushed to his father, grabbed him tight and climbed into a position where he could be held. The boy’s arms were wound tight around his father’s neck, his legs wrapped around his waist. The father held on to his son just as tightly. They remained that way for the duration of our prayer time.

I think that’s how God would love for us to be—as innocent children seeking safety and comfort in the arms of the protective Father. It is to the benefit of both parties. We receive our comfort and God receives His glory. But only if we cling to Him.

CLING: To adhere closely and firmly, in interest or affection; to stick to; to hold fast upon.

If you’re at all concerned that this promise was strictly for the Jews, don’t be. God addressed it just a few verses back.

“And if these nations quickly learn the ways of my people, and if they learn to swear by my name, saying, ‘As surely as the Lord lives’ (just as they taught my people to swear by the name of Baal), then they will be given a place among my people.

Jeremiah 12:16 (NLT)

We’re good. Even long before Paul was sent out to reach the Gentiles, God made a way for all people to be able to come running to Him, to throw our arms around His waist, to hold on to Him, and be held by Him. He made a place in His embrace for all of us.

Studies show that the benefits of being embraced go far beyond that of a simple touch. In a physical sense, those who embrace others with regularity have stronger immune systems, lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and are less likely to become depressed. A hug is an affirmation of love and, according to Stan Tatkin, PsyD, can have measurable neuro-biological consequences.

While a physical embrace with God may not be possible, I have no doubt that, the closer we are to Him, the more we cling to Him, the more we can also reap these benefits along with many others.

Do not forget that you are God’s child. You are His pride and His joy, set apart for His pleasure. And when we pursue him as the boy with his father, we bring honour and glory to His name. Embrace it. Embrace Him.

Have you hugged God yet today?

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 11-13, 1 Timothy 4

Children of the Light

There are many definitions for the word light. It’s meaning goes far beyond that of simple illumination:

  • life
  • day
  • means of knowing
  • a window
  • God
  • Christ
  • joy
  • comfort
  • deliverance
  • the Gospel
  • a true Christian
  • favour

All of these things exemplify light.

For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.

1 Thessalonians 5:5 (NLT)

When we claim the title child of God, it means so much more than belonging to God. And that is a wondrous thing! When Paul says that, as Christians, we are children of the light, we have life, we have a way of knowing, we have joy, comfort, deliverance, favour. And, if we have anything other than these things in our lives, we have allowed ourselves to be pulled back into the darkness that Jesus died to save us from.

DARKNESS: absence of light; obscurity; want of clarity; that quality or state which renders any thing difficult to understand; a state of being intellectually clouded; great trouble and distress

These characteristics are unbecoming of a Christian. They have no place in our lives. Do we live in a dark world that would see us all brought back into that darkness? Yes. But that is why we are called to let our light shine. Let our joy, our clarity, our comfort, our deliverance, and our favour overflow and overcome the darkness that surrounds us.

But let us who live in the light think clearly, protected by the body armor of faith and love, wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 (NLT)

The close we get to God and the longer we remain in His presence, the more clarity we will find and the more confident we will be in our salvation. Darkness will become a distant memory that no longer has a hold on us because we are protected by these gifts from our Father.

So let us live as we are meant to, as children of the light. Let us cast all darkness from our lives and walk in the close comfort that comes with our salvation.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 62-64, 1 Thessalonians 5