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

Empty-handed

Read: Exodus 34-36, Matthew 23:1-22

Exodus 34:20

Rule number one of Bible reading: look at the context. You don’t only need to know what a verse is saying, but you need to know what else is being said in connection to it. In the Bible I use, this verse stands alone. It its own paragraph. The context is God giving instructions to Moses to give to Israel.

How often do we hear someone say that they have nothing to give? Apparently this argument mattered not to God. No one in Israel was to approach God with nothing. Even the poorest person had to come with something. If God demanded something of His people then, why should we believe that He would expect anything less from us now?

The truth is that, even if we have absolutely nothing, we still have something to give. So long as we breathe, we don’t have to approach God with empty hands. But we do. Too often we go to God with outstretched hands, begging Him to put something in them. But that’s not what He wants from us. Yes, He wants us on our knees, not as beggars, but humble servants.

So long as breath fills your lungs, you have something to offer God. You can offer Him your praise and thanks. You can offer Him your service. You can offer Him your life.

If we claim that we have nothing to give, what we’re really saying is that God isn’t quite enough. He didn’t do a good enough job creating us. He missed something.

Now, I don’t know about you, but my God is enough. He did enough. He didn’t miss anything. At the very least, I owe Him my life.

The next time you approach God, consider His instruction to Israel. Do you go to Him with open hands hoping for crumbs? Or do you go to him with hands outstretched offering the heart that pulses in your chest. Does He want your begging or your service?

What’s in your hands?

 

Mark your moments

Read: Genesis 12-14, Matthew 5:1-26

Genesis 13:4

At significant moments in his live, Abram would build an altar. In the first few chapters of his story, he builds two and even returns to one. Abram built altars to mark the places where God spoke to or appeared to him. And where God spoke to him, Abram offered sacrifices and thanksgiving.

There are some things in life we should just forget about all together—faults and failures. But there are other things in life we should remember. When God speaks to us or when we have a moment of clarity or revelation, we should mark it. Like Abram, we may need to return to that place so that we can recall God’s faithfulness to us.

But aren’t we running a race? 

Yes, we are.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)

We need to forget the things that would hold us back and remember the things that push us forward. A runner cannot forget all that he has learned in his training if he is going to win the race. And we cannot forget all that God has done for us if we want to continue running toward His calling. If we forget why we’re running, we will stop altogether.

We shouldn’t always be in a rush from one mountaintop experience to the next. There are valleys in between that we may need to walk through as well. And in those valleys, we should be able to look back and remember the heights from which we came. Those moments on the mountain, and sometimes in the valley, should be marked so that we can give thanks in the moment and look back to remember and gain the momentum we need to finish the race.

Trust Him

The Lord is my strength, my shield from every danger.
I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

Psalm 28:7 (NLT)

In just one verse—four lines—David gives us a progression of strength, trust, and humility.

It begins with trouble. There would be no reason to be looking for strength and a shield if all were well. David knows that God can and will be both to him—if he puts his trust in Him to be so.

Then comes the trust. Not just a bit of trust. Not just a portion. Not just a little. David’s entire heart goes into trusting God to come to his rescue. He knows from past experience that God will help him. And he also knows that he must get out of the way and not depend on his own strength to gain the victory.

The more we are able to trust in God and put ourselves aside, the more room we make for God to be victorious. If we only trust God with a portion of our troubles, we cannot blame Him if we don’t come out of it with complete victory. Trust in Him with your whole heart, then get out of the way and let Him work.

Because David was able to trust God with his entire being, God comes to his rescue and helps him. Instead of being filled with anxiety over the situation, David is filled with joy! When we are able to put all of our trust in God’s word, our worries will be replaced with joy. How can you be anxious when God says that the battle has already been won? When we trust wholeheartedly in God, we can be confident in His strength and ability rather than wavering in our own shortcomings and weakness.

Once the battle has been fought and won by God, David bursts out in songs of thanksgiving. He gives credit where it is due—taking none for himself and giving it all to God.

In short, this verse is all about humility. David recognises where he falls short. He knows that he cannot win on his own. Instead of striving alone, he puts his trust in the best place anyone can put their trust—the Lord God. God steps in and fills the gaps lending His strength to the situation. David is at peace and filled with joy. When the victory is won, he gives the credit and thanks to God.

The battle can only be won when God gets all of our trust. Then He can be our strength and shield, our help, and our joy. In all of that, what else is there to do but give Him our thanks?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 28-30, Acts 21:1-14

Your God

Judah is getting ready for battle. Several other nations armies have joined forces and come up against them. King Jehoshaphat is giving the big rally speech.

Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm.

2 Chronicles 20:20b (NLT)

The Lord your God. Not the Lord my God.

This was a time when Judah enjoyed a renewed covenant with God. Jehoshaphat did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight. The Levites spent time going throughout the land teaching people about the covenant they had with God. Call them the early itinerant ministers.

The people of Judah had personal relationship with the Lord. They weren’t dependent on the relationship that the priests or the king had. They knew God for themselves. Their God was going to save them. They put their trust in Him, not their leaders.

After consulting the leaders of the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang:

“Give thanks to the Lord;
his faithful love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:21 (NLT)

Their trust in their king and their faith in their God allowed them to go ahead of the battle signing praise to the Lord. Judah could stand and sing as though they’d won because they had enough of a relationship with God to know that His character was victorious. When God led His people into battle, they won. Judah didn’t have to hope for a good outcome. They knew that if they put their faith in God, He would fight the battle for them.

And that’s exactly what He did.

The song went forth and the opposing armies obliterated each other leaving the plunder for Judah to gather.

What kind of victory will you see when you believe in the Lord your God and go ahead with praise as though the battle has already been won?

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 20-22, John 16:1-15

No thanks

Everyone likes a little (or a lot of) recognition. It’s nice to be appreciated for the work you do. And we should show appreciation to other who do a good work. There is, however a difference in enjoying appreciation for the work you do and requiring appreciation in order to do it.

Jesus addresses this with his disciples.

When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, he doesn’t just sit down and eat. He must first prepare his master’s meal and serve him his supper before eating his own. And the servant is not even thanked, because he is merely doing what he is supposed to do. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, “We are not worthy of praise. We are servants who have simply done our duty.”

Luke 17:7-10 (NLT)

I’ve seen volunteers quit because they feel they aren’t shown enough appreciation. I’ve seen people turn up their noses at menial work because no one would ever see them do it—and if no one ever saw them do it, they would never be congratulated for it. One must then question the reasons for why we do what we do when it comes to service.

I don’t know about you, but in my Bible, Jesus tells all believers to go into the world and preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15). He tells us to honour our fathers and mothers and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves (Matthew 19:19). He tells us that we should do for others what we want them to do for us (Luke 6:31). These are just a few of the things Jesus instructed his followers to do. But in none of these guidelines have I found the provision for appreciation.

There is nothing that might stipulate that we should only do these things if proper gratitude is shown. In fact, we are told that if you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other, too (Matthew 5:39).

Christian service can be a thankless job, but that doesn’t negate our responsibility to Jesus’ teachings. The entire point of his ministry was to reach those who could not or would not show gratitude.

This lesson is twofold. First, don’t quit just because you aren’t being thanked often enough. You will never know how far your reach is until your race is complete. By quitting early, you may miss out on touching the one life that could have changed the world. Our service has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Jesus. Second, show gratitude. Make it a point to thank the people who do the lowliest of jobs in the church. Maybe even help them out. There is no such thing as stooping in the Kingdom of God. Pastors can clean the toilets and janitors can share the Gospel.

We are all there to serve. Period. We can all be servants. We can all be encouragers. And we can all do it together and be happy about.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 27-29, Luke 17:1-19

Thanks

I’d like to think that I’m a thankful person, but when I really think about it, I know that I am not.

…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

2 Thessalonians 5:18

Even today, I know that I am not thankful. I heard the rain and wind outside my window in the wee hours of the morning and was not thankful. I rolled over and my muscles ached from my workout yesterday and I was not thankful. I got up to go to work and I was not thankful. I got to work and was not thankful. Obviously, thankfulness is something I need to work on.

I think, though, that many people believe that they need to be thankful for everything that happens. I hardly think I need to be thankful for sore muscles, but I can be thankful that I have the ability and energy to use those muscles. I don’t have to be thankful for the wind and rain, but I can be thankful for the rain because that means that I will be even more grateful for the sun when it makes an appearance. Some days I don’t particularly enjoy my job, but I have a job, and for that I can be thankful.

Today, I’m going to try to find a reason to be thankful in as many circumstances as I can remember to do so. Why not try it? It might make your day.