The Difference with Preparation.

The past few weeks we have been discussing the importance of spiritual preparation before worship. We have talked about why it is important, how we do it, and this week we are going to close out our conversation by establishing the difference that our preparation makes.

When we stop to think about it, worship is a rather challenging activity. We are seeking to encounter and interact with an invisible deity. We speak and listen to a God that we cannot visibly see audibly hear. Therefore, I would go out on a limb to say that it is impossible to overstate the importance of adequate preparation for authentic worship. In fact we see how highly preparation to encounter the presence of God was held in Scripture in Exodus 19:7-20. The account found in Exodus says,

Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

In fact, we know that this isn’t the only account in Scripture where people have prepared to encounter God. In Joshua 3:5 God instructs Joshua to prepare. Joshua 3:5 says,

Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.

Want more out of worship? Prepare.

In Psalm 24 David cites the personal qualifications of those who may comfortably go into the presence of the Lord. His point is that no one may simply barge in on the royal Lord. It takes a prepared heart.

Psalm 24:1-6 says,

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

So… we know that preparation for worship is important, but what difference does it make? What results can we expect to see from our preparation?


  • Gain Heavenly Perspective.

I have found that it is FAR too easy to get caught up in the small things and begin to “create mountains out of molehills” within the church. In a single service there are so many things that we can critique: the level of lighting, the song selection, the volume level, the seating layout, the length of the sermon, etc…

We even see someone caught up in the logistics of worship instead of the point in John 4 when Jesus is seen speaking to the woman at the well.

Take a look at that encounter in John 4:7-26,

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

In that passage the conversation turned to worship. The woman’s concern was where the worshiping was done (on Mt. Gerizim or in Jerusalem), but we see that Jesus was concerned about how and in what spirit it was done (in spirit and in truth). The phrase “in spirit and in truth” carries several levels of meaning, but through all its meanings runs the thread that teaches us the preparation of our spirit is more important than external circumstances or the location of our worship. Because of who God is, how we worship matters!

It is through this passage, and others, that I conclude that for the most part the external things/ logistics don’t matter. It is also evident that it is possible for every factor and logistic to be perfect/ without complaint and for us to still miss out on authentic worship. Our preparation will likely be the key that makes the difference.

In Ecclesiastes 5:2 Solomon states,

God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

In actuality, this is a statement of perspective, not actual distance. God is all-knowing, Creator, perfect, above all, and infinite. God is God and we aren’t. God is in heaven and we are on earth.

It’s all about perspective.

One of the great benefits of preparation is gaining a proper perspective of God.

With this perspective we not only gain a view of the throne of God, but we also gain a view from the throne of God. Once we have entered into God’s presence, we look down on our world from his perspective. We find that what we thought was a mountain was a molehill after all. What seemed great and mighty in the world’s eyes turns out to be small and insignificant in God’s eyes.

When we prepare and encounter the very presence of God we begin to see life from his perspective. When we worship we gain a view of the throne of God, and hopefully from the throne of God.

  • Wash Ourselves Beforehand to get the Most out of our Time.

Ever feel like by the time you feel as if you are in the presence of God that particular portion of the service is over?

Why does it take so long for us to get to that point?

Preparation.

In Old Testament times, the tabernacle in which the Jewish people worshipped and prayed consisted of several parts: the outer court; the inner court, and the Holy of Holies. The general “public” was restricted to the outer court. The priests had access to the inner court where they would make sacrifices on behalf of the people. But only the high priest could go behind the veil that separated the inner court from the Holy of Holies.

The room known as the Holy of Holies was the most sacred area of the tabernacle of Moses and temple of Jerusalem. The Holy of Holies was constructed to very particular specifications as found in the chapter of Exodus 26. Feel free to take a look at that chapter on your own… the details are SO specific! God takes His spirit serious!

Tabernacle

The Holy of Holies was accessible only to the Israelite high priest. Once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the high priest was permitted to enter the small, enclosure to burn incense and sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial animal on the mercy seat of the Ark. By doing so, he would be providing sacrifice and atonement for the sins of the people of Israel. The Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the tabernacle/temple by the veil in order to prevent in accidental views of the presence of God.

Habakkuk 1:13a says,

You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong.

God’s eyes are literally too pure to look on evil, and He can tolerate no sin. The veil and the elaborate rituals undertaken by the priest were a reminder that man could not carelessly or irreverently enter God’s awesome presence, but instead he must prepare. Before the high priest entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, he had to wash himself, put on special clothing, bring burning incense to let the smoke cover his eyes from a direct view of God, and bring sacrificial blood with him to make atonement for sins. After all of that preparation the high priest still had to wear bells on his ankles and a rope around his waist in order to let those on the other side of the veil know that he was still alive and give them a way to remove his body if he wasn’t.

Hebrews 9:6-7 says,

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.

In order to qualify and survive the privilege of meeting with God, the priest had to undergo certain rituals of purification. Today, we qualify to be in God’s presence not on the basis of rituals, but on the basis of our righteousness in Christ. We are all called to intimate fellowship with God, however, going beyond the veil and communing with God at the deepest level requires that we be prepared.

The priests didn’t rely on another leader to prepare them to encounter the presence of God. They took it upon themselves. They washed, scrubbed, prayed, fasted, etc… in order that they might be given the privilege. What or who are you waiting on?

Unfortunately our time together as united worshippers is limited… so we must pre-wash in order to be ready to enter in!


Preparation makes a difference! I challenge you to try it!

Our preparations in no way make us any more acceptable in God’s eyes. We can’t earn love. Jesus bought our ticket… he provided our way.

Hebrews 6:19-20a establishes this,

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.

Because of this we should prepare and enter in. Hebrews 10:19-23 says,

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

How do we Prepare?

Last week we began a short series on our preparation for corporate worship. Why we prepare, how we prepare, and the difference that preparation makes. Last week we tackled the “why?”

This week we let the rubber meet the road.

I have already discussed how there is no special equation for church worship services. No magical chord that we can hit or song we can sing that will instantly bring the Spirit of God rushing in like a tidal wave. Spiritual preparation is what makes our worship distinct and impactful. Preparation should be a part of worship for both the leaders and the worshippers… no person is exempt for the necessity of preparation.

We prepare for many things in life… how much more preparation should we do before we approach the throne of God in worship?

Calling on God necessitates preparation. One would not barge into the President’s office unannounced and unprepared, neither should we with God.

This week I have done a lot of thinking about how people on an airplane and people on a pew or church seat can be compared and have a lot in common. All are on a journey, most are well “versed” and trained in public transportation manners, and a few just want to get out alive. For many, the mark of a good flight and the mark of a good worship service are the same… comfortable. Do you leaving a worship service content and comfortable or awestruck after encountering the presence of the Lord in a very real way?

Our worship is a journey, and our destination should be to the feet of Jesus.

As with any travel or journey we need to make the proper preparations so that we experience God rather than just “endure” worship. We want a memorable trip instead of just average or mundane. This week we will discuss together how we should be preparing for worship.


  • Get ready to meet God

In Ecclesiastes 5:1 Solomon writes,

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.

The phrase guard your steps means to proceed with reverence, tip toeing into the presence of God. We come with care and caution. We come with dignity and respect.

Exodus 3:2-6 gives us an example of such an approach. It says,

And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

We should approach God with the same care as Moses when he encountered God in a burning bush and removed his shoes and hid his face. It was holy ground, and he acknowledged that with his preparation before journeying onto it.

We teach our children not to run in church, so why do we “run” headlong into worship services and experiences.

Now obviously I am not talking about a physical act of running, but spiritually, emotionally, and mentally we are dashing in unprepared… we are “running.” We approach casually and unprepared like we would a lunch gathering or cookout get-together. When we aren’t anticipating God’s presence or voice we are unable to experience the presence of God that will stir our souls, change our lives, and fulfill our search for purpose.

  • Listen to God

I am a speaker. I like to talk… sometimes even if I have nothing meaningful to say.

What about you?

Think about your relationships… are you the talker or the listener? Now let’s think about our relationship with God the Father. Do we speak so often that we miss His voice? Do we listen and allow Him to speak to us or do we do all the talking?

In the passage out of Ecclesiastes that we looked at earlier Solomon offers further instructions for experiencing God in worship. That passage out of Ecclesiastes 5:1 says,

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.

But I personally like what The New Living Translation says in Ecclesiastes 5:1-2,

As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. It is evil to make mindless offerings to God. Don’t make rash promises, and don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God. After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few.

Let’s think about it: When we come to worship, we have come to meet with God, who also desires to meet with us. When we come to meet with God I personally believe that we would be well advised to listen and let him do the talking. God wants to communicate with us.

Are we allowing time for God to speak? Are we allowing ourselves time to listen?

Too many of us have gotten into the habit of screaming into the church parking lot on two wheels for our Sunday worship last minute, strolling casually into the sanctuary, finding our preferred seat, socializing with our friends and Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and before we know it the preacher is preaching and we are wondering why we didn’t sing any songs we preferred.

Before we know it the service is over and we missed the point. We weren’t listening.

Now hear me out… there is nothing wrong with fellowshipping with your fellow church members! That is part of what the church is about, mutual edification. But, let me suggest that we take the time to fellowship with God first… to prepare and listen. There will be time to fellowship with man after we have fellowshipped with God.

Preparation for worship will change your church worship forever! Just once try some personal preparation for worship through prayer and listening to God. Walk into church ready for an encounter! You’ll never go back.

  • Mean what you say

We spend a lot of time singing in church. But when we sing, are we really singing from our heart to God? Do we mean what we sing and say, or are we only saying words?

Quite a few years ago someone noticed that everyone when they sang in church tended to have their heads buried in the hymnals – even when they knew the songs. So… what do we do as inventive, innovative, and creative people do? We came up with the idea of projecting the words on a screen. So now instead of people staring at the hymnals they stare at the screen even if they knew the songs. Same problem… new equation.

Singing in church should be more than just reading words and notes. It should be a time that we worship God from our heart. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to think about what we are singing, and discipline our minds to focus on God.

Our words carry meaning.

Consider for a moment the promises you have knowingly or unknowingly made to God when you were in worship.

“I’ll praise you in this storm…”

“When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.”

“And on that day when my strength is failing, the end draws near and my time has come. Still my soul will sing Your praise unending, ten thousand years and then forevermore.”

What promises with your time, your commitments, your life, your money, etc… have you made to God and not kept?

When we make a commitment to God, we must keep it because God believes it and doesn’t forget it. God honors His commitments. Making commitments to God is like jumping off a cliff… after you take the plunge you ARE committed, there is no turning back. We are committed to the things we sing and say. We can’t change our mind.

When you go to worship, it would be better not to vow at all, than to fail to keep your word with God.

Our words carry meaning… pay attention and mean what you say. New Testament scholar Gordon Fee once said,

“Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.”

Mark Noll puts it,

“We are what we sing”


Worship is not and should not be something we have to “endure.” Instead it is a marvelous journey into the presence of God. It should not be a mundane trip, but a memorable flight.

Let me encourage you to come to worship prepared to worship. Pray before you come so you will be ready to pray when you arrive. Sleep before you come so you will stay alert when you arrive. Read the Word before you come so your heart will be soft when you worship. Come hungry. Come willing. Come expecting God to speak. Come anticipating a memorable experience with the Creator of the universe.

 

Why Prepare?

Worship… we all talk about it. We “participate” in it. We have grown accustomed to the “routine” of it…

How do we prepare for worship? Is it necessary? What difference does it make?

Over the next three weeks I plan to do a short series on our preparation for worship. Why we prepare, how we prepare, and the difference that preparation makes.


I’ve planned and led many worship services over the past few years and I’ve seen many different responses. It is easy to be encouraged by those who are outwardly responding to the presence of God, and it is even easier to get discouraged by those who we perceive as not “worshipping.” But something that I find necessary to constantly remind myself is that we can respond to a “moment” outwardly with an inwardly disengaged heart and mind.

That thought is horrifying.

There is no special equation for church worship services. No magical chord that we can hit or song we can sing that will instant bring the Spirit of God rushing in like a tidal wave. As a Worship Leader I need to be reminded that spiritual preparation is what sets our services apart. Spiritual preparation is what sets our worship apart.

Think about it… we wouldn’t go into a meeting with the CEO of the company we work for unprepared. We wouldn’t walk into the Oval Office and plop down in front of the President without a plan.

If you’ve ever had guests stay at your house for a night or two you know the preparations that went on before their arrival. You tidied up the whole house. You made the bed in the guest room with new clean linens. You scrubbed the toilet and the shower. How do you prepare your heart and mind for worship before asking the Spirit of God to indwell our worship?

We prepare for many things in life… how much more preparation should we do before we approach the throne of God in worship?

This week at church we are preparing floors for new carpet and walls for paint. Before we paint the walls we have to go and sand down any bumps or imperfections. We have to fill gaps, apply primer, and wait for the right time to begin painting. We can’t just begin slapping on coats of paint! To get the desired result takes time and preparation. Our worship works in the same way. We can’t walk into the sanctuary willy nilly on Sunday morning and strike the first chord and “BOOM” we are off to the races.

So… why do we prepare for worship?


  • To engage Spiritually.

We are all probably “used” to church “worship.” Because of that I believe that the more we have immersed ourselves in worship the more intense our preparation should be.

Ultimately, worship is a matter of the heart. It’s not an opportunity to observe, critique, or fulfill our own wants and desires. Instead it is an opportunity to respond in spirit and truth. John 4:23-24 says,

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Our worship is the response of our heart. If we aren’t preparing our hearts, then we’ll be more prone to engage emotionally but be passive spiritually. To respond outwardly and be inwardly disengaged.

  • To realize our dependence on God.

In all of our preparing we are both being obedient and reminding ourselves that we can do nothing apart from the moving of the Holy Spirit. We are entirely dependent on God to have an encounter with God.

Like we said above… “There is no particular element or song we can include to usher in the presence of the Lord.” If there were I am sure we would have it sown to a set science by now.

In our preparation, leading, and worshipping we may get a sense of what the Holy Spirit wants to do.

This works for both worship leaders and congregational worshippers. When we prepare our hearts before worship we are removing ourselves from the equation and moving out of the way in order to interpret and follow the Lord in our worship to Him. It’s always nice to enter into a worship service with a vision or word from God and preparation makes a way for us to do this.

  • To focus on what Matters.

Psalm 95:1-6 says,

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

Psalm 95 may be well known by many… and it draws our eyes, hearts, and minds to what really matters when we gather. This psalm also provides instruction on how we are to come worship.

“Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving…”

We are to enter into His presence with thanksgiving…already prepared and praising.

Preparation tends to point our hearts in the direction of the things that really matter. Things that matter to God. When we’re spiritually prepared, we’re not as concerned about songs and arrangements, volume and lighting, new or old. Those things may be important to us, but the presence of Jesus is so much more deserving of our attention. When we ignore the preparation of your heart, trivial matters tend to steal the show.


Let’s leave with a challenge to prepare ourselves for worship and see what the Lord can do both in our own hearts as well as the hearts of our congregations.

Isaiah 12:5 says,

Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.

Hebrews 12:28 says,

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.

I heard you the 1st Time!

We have all seen jokes about the lack in lyrical content in modern day contemporary worship music or the repetition that often runs throughout songs and the genre as a whole.

i-write-modern-worship-choruses

Repetition is often used as a divisive wedge between the “contemporary” and the “traditional” songs.

In fact, the repetition often found in the lyrical content of contemporary worship songs is framed as a negative thing and used as a weapon in the “worship wars” that still wage in many churches around the country today.

I find it interesting though that many of the most popular “traditional” hymns that have been sung for centuries in the church deploy the tactic of repetition in them as well.

Lets take “The Old Rugged Cross” for example. We all know how it goes… this particular song uses the phrase “the old rugged cross” twelve times. Twelve!

Or… we can look at one of my favorite hymns, “To God Be The Glory.” This particular hymn uses the phrase “Praise the Lord!” in the refrain four times. That means if you sing the song straight through, you will have sung “Praise the Lord!” twelve times.

Or we can do the Baptist “fight” song, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” The phrase “Onward Christian soldiers” is used seven times throughout the song. This song even uses the same structure as many contemporary songs with the refrain coming in after every verse just like our modern day choruses.

But… we aren’t here to compare “new” and “old” because ultimately they are both great when used for the correct purpose. We are here talking about repetition.

We see repetition in Scripture! Psalm 136 uses the phrase “His love endures forever” twenty six times, and Psalm 119 refers to “The Word” over one hundred times.

We even see repetition in the worship found in Isaiah 6:3 where we see the creatures in God’s throne room. It says,

And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

In fact, we find this phrase repeated again in Revelation. So… what is with the repetition, and what purpose does it serve? Let’s think together below.


  • Recognition

Many argue that the lines used repeating phrases are just a “cop out” for poor writing or a lack of deep lyrical content or theology. I would say that sometimes this is true.

Sometimes.

But… on the other hand I am a firm believer that repetition can be used to effectively convey beautiful Scriptural truths. The reason that I say this is because, I will be the first to admit that, it is far too easy for me to sing over a line in a song without ever thinking about it at all. I see the words ion the screen, I read them, and they flow out of my mouth. The end. No thought required.

The repetition instead provides more opportunities for me to read and recognize. Deep lyrical content doesn’t mean a lot if our congregations are breezing by the words and not even recognizing what they are saying or singing.

Bob Kauflin has this to say about repetition,

When someone has a problem with repeating lyrics, I’m reminded of my daughter’s response when I suggested she read a certain book of the Bible. “I’ve already read that,” she replied confidently. I had to help her see that reading something once doesn’t mean we’ve fully grasped all God has for us in it. Besides, we’re dull. Our minds aren’t always engaged with the words we’re reading. We need to hear them again.

  • Reinforcement

As a Worship Pastor that holds an undergraduate degree in English the problem many have with repetition perplexes me. In fact, I’d suggest that some of the greatest moments in literature, and even history, came riding in on the wings of the repetition of key phrases being reinforced over and over again. In Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, he repeats “I have a dream” eight sentences in a row. Eight! 

Sound like a familiar technique used in many songs today?

We see that each time Dr. King repeats the phrase it gains power until his audience is completely swept up in his dream of racial equality and love for one another.

Repetition can be a powerful tactic to really create impact in certain lines of speeches, poems, or songs. This doesn’t mean that repeating one line a thousand times makes it acceptable or “rich” in the sense of what makes a song good for corporate worship. It just means that using it intentionally as a device to reinforce a key theme is valid, and we actually see this employed in songs across the ages.

  • Memorization

Do you struggle to remember the words to songs that you sing weekly in church?

How about memorizing Scripture?

I don’t know about you… but I can’t memorize something after only reading or hearing it once. But, that is where repetition can come in to play. Repetition is a time tested and useful tactic in songwriting that when used properly can create a sing-able and memorable expression of worship and/or Biblical truth that serves our congregations well.

What better way to disciple your congregations than equipping them with memorable words and phrases that they can sing or preach to themselves throughout the week when we aren’t there to spur them on or encourage them in the Lord.

Nick Roen says,

We often bristle at repetition in our corporate worship. We think it breeds superficiality, or creates a false emotional frenzy, or is just plain boring. We have to remember, though, that our hearts are slow to feel. We need to remember that, even in our believing, we suffer from unbelief (Mark 9:24). We need to remember to remember. Dwelling on a simple and weighty truth for an extended period of time will, at times, be the only way to break through spiritual forgetfulness.

This reality is why we come together for corporate worship. Every week, we rehearse the same realities to one another over and over so that our rhythms of forgetfulness fade (again and again), while our faith rises. We remind each other of the familiar old story through song and through preaching, so that we might begin to remember. We continue to admonish, encourage, and strengthen each other, not with novelty, but with repeated refrains, “God is holy, we are sinful, Jesus saves!” Or, “his steadfast love endures forever.”

How could we ever sing that too many times?

  • Declaration

We already mentioned the instance found in Revelation 4:8 where we are given a glimpse into the heavenly throne room. In that passage we see the four living creatures, in all their terrible beauty, falling before God and singing over and over one single song.

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!

It’s not vain repetition. It’s not empty emotionalism. This is the never-ending, increasingly satisfying worship of a God who is worthy of the infinite reprise of his attributes. It is a declaration.

I believe that there is nothing more worthy of my declaration than the gospel… and that is what we do with repetition. We declare to ourselves, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to the world that we serve the almighty God and He alone can save and is worthy of our praise.


So… what are you repeating, recognizing, reinforcing, memorizing, and declaring?

The Dangers that come with Talent.

Talents. We all have one… some people have many.

We don’t have to look hard or far to see people all around us using their different abilities for all kinds of different purposes, and it making an impact on the world around them. We have talented actors and musicians who provide for us entertainment. We have talented mathematicians who keep the financial part of the world moving. We have people gifted and talented with patience who teach our children, and the list could go on and on.

The same goes for the church world. We can see people with incredible gifts making incredible advancements for the Kingdom of God. I fully believe that the church has some of the most talented artisans, speakers, and individuals in the world within it. Some of the best archeological research, art, and humanitarian efforts come out of the Body of Believers known as the church.

In fact, using our abilities for the glory of God is part of what we are called to do! Romans 12:6-8 says,

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

So… talents, we all have them.

But, with every good thing comes a temptation. What dangers come along with our assorted talents and how do we place safeguards in our lives to overcome these temptations? Let’s think together below.


  • The focus shifts.

Lets face the facts… talents have a way of drawing attention to themselves.

All of us at some point have looked up to someone and said something along the lines of, “If only I could (fill in the blank) like (whomever it is you look up to) then I could (blank).

We live in a society that places individuals and gifts on a pedestal unashamedly and unfortunately that creeps into the church without us even realizing it. Too many people use someone else’s talent and their apparent lack thereof, or shortcoming in that particular area, to make excuses as to why they can’t do something. Or, it can turn into resentment or bitterness towards a person, group of people, or ministry area just because they aren’t “part” of it or just because they aren’t necessarily gifted in that area.

All of us are aware of what Romans 12:4 says,

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function.

But, do we live with that attitude and/or mentality?

For example, I know people personally who are incredibly talented in areas but can’t move past the fact that they aren’t so talented in the ones in which they place on a pedestal. We all have met these people. They may be a great teacher, but they live in constant frustration because they want to sing and they just can’t…

Let’s embrace OUR gifts and use them, while also embracing others and their gifts and allowing them to use them!

We also must be aware of where we are placing the focus when we utilize our gifts. Sometimes it isn’t just another person’s fault when they idolize a particular gift that we may have. We must fight the danger of pride and point all of our workings and talents towards Christ the giver of all good things.

When the intentions are pure the focus will be right.

  • Preparation begins to take a back seat.

Another danger that comes along with talents is that we begin to rely on our talents alone and preparation can take a back seat to other things. Now obviously this can be preparation for the task or spiritual preparation… but we will discuss the spiritual aspect in the next point.

As a Worship Pastor there are times when I could easily “check out” and not be prepared to lead my band at all when we are playing songs that I’ve either played or heard a thousand times before. We all know that most of our church music isn’t the most “technical” stuff out there… and I must fight the urge to simply rely on my abilities to put out a mediocre product.

But… by relying on talent or gift alone who and what does that glorify?

Hebrews 13:16 says,

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

We must fight the urge to offer up our “second best” sacrifice out of convenience.

Instead we must embark on the journey past mediocrity and into “excellence” for Christ, and excellence won’t come without preparation.

  • Your giftedness can begin to overtake your spiritual maturity.

For me this is the scariest danger of all.

Each of us has the opportunity to allow our own giftedness to overtake and surpass our spiritual maturity.

We have seen this take place in our society over and over again. Think of a pastor, evangelist, or worship pastor who has fallen in their ministry. How does that happen? Up to the day their “ordeal” came out to the public they were still “ministering” and blessing others with the gifts and talents they had been given. But… what were they relying on? Obviously not God… instead their giftedness had surpassed their character. Their giftedness and overtaken their spiritual maturity.

Sure… we all mess up. But I believe we are talking about something else here.

God has given us gifts and we are to choose what we do with those abilities. In Scripture we know that David was called for a special ministry by God, and immediately following that call he returned to the field where he would shepherd sheep for years until the day that calling would come to fruition and be worked out within his life. Why? He had a gift… he was called.

I believe that God called David and then sheltered and hid him until his character was prepared for the calling in which he was made.

So… if David was sheltered until his spiritual maturity and character were ready for his gift then how are we safeguarding ourselves?

Our giftedness or success in life or ministry should never equate to our “spirituality.” They simply aren’t the same.

Guard yourself. Abide with Jesus. Your gift will work itself out in your life… but our first calling isn’t to our giftedness, instead it is to Jesus.


How are you gifted? How are you using that gift? How are you safeguarding your life?

Why so Personal?

Have you ever been offended by feedback that someone “most graciously” offered you at church?

It could be about anything… a ministry you are in charge of or involved in, the songs you pick or play, the way you approach and speak to people/ carry yourself, or even something as frivolous as the way you dress. We are a society of critics. We have game shows where we critique people. We rate performances, music, movies, athletes, etc… We all have feedback, and most of us want to share it, but none of us like to receive it!

Sometimes I wonder if we as Christians have, and offer, too much feedback on minor issues while being spineless and quick to zip our lips and stand back on major “counter-Christian” ones.

I also have come to wonder… why are we so sensitive? We treat most feedback as a personal attack against us, and sometimes we can be offended even when no offense was intended. Let’s be honest… most critiques we receive aren’t attacking us on a personal level, and most of it isn’t meant as an attack at all, but actually it is usually meant to try to aid or assist us in what we do.

I myself, being a creative person, have found that we artists can be overly sensitive. Artists can be the most stubborn people of all. I will be the first to admit that I personally have to watch myself because often times I want things my own way and become angry when I am challenged to do things a different way.

I wholeheartedly believe that because art is such a personal thing, it is difficult to separate ourselves from our work. We pour all that we are into our work, and that leaves us feeling vulnerable. Our “art” or “creation” is constantly being evaluated, and not everyone will like it! A Picasso painting doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone!

So… in a culture full of evaluation and critics how do we handle feedback from within the church? Do we let it break us down and ruin our spirit? Do we become defensive and turn people away? Do we try to please everyone and run ourselves into the ground in the impossible process? Let’s talk about handling feedback below.


  • Greet feedback as your friend.

Proverbs 27:5-6 says,

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Proverbs 27:17 says,

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

As individuals sometimes we begin to resent feedback or criticism and treat it as an enemy rather than a friend that is “sharpening” us. We must have a teachable spirit and be open to critique… be open to “sharpening.”

It is important for us to realize that feedback can be God’s agent to bring growth in your life- spiritual growth as well as artistic growth.

It sounds easy on paper or on your screen… but it is much more difficult when you are receiving it.

  • Respond with grace.

James 1:19-21 says,

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

This passage is important for us as Believers when responding to criticism or feedback.

We must “be quick to listen” instead of being quick to justify ourselves.

We must “be slow to speak” instead of being quick to defend ourselves.

Most importantly, we must “be slow to become angry. Let’s commit ourselves to cooling down and prayerfully thinking about feedback and our response before giving it.. Proverbs 15:1-2 says,

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

When constructive criticism is given it is important for us to make an effort to respond with appreciation. If you are doing what the Lord is calling you to do then pursue that and let Him handle it.

  • Learn how to fail graciously.

No one succeeds all the time. We are going to make mistakes and we need to own up to them. If we have a teachable spirit then we commit ourselves to learning all we can from our mistakes.

By accepting feedback and criticism we are not only accepting our “mess-ups” and shortcomings… but we are also moving towards making those things better.

Don’t take yourself SO seriously. Be joyful and laugh at your mess-ups… everyone else probably is anyways!


A couple of thoughts in closing:

Forgive those who hurt you with harsh feedback or criticism. Harboring bitterness and resentment can do more damage to you than negative words ever did.

You can’t control what people are going to say… but you can control how you’re going to respond.

Fast Food Jesus

We all probably eat WAY too much fast food. It is just so convenient and enjoyable! The thing about fast food is… no matter how many people tell us that it is bad for us most of us will continue to eat it anyways.

But… here is a serious question: Do we treat our faith like a fast food drive-thru?

I think that too often we do and we don’t even realize it. Let’s make some connections below.


  • You can’t “Have it your Way.”

Too often we try to walk out our faith the “Burger King” way… we try to have it all “our way.” Unfortunately… a life touched by Jesus doesn’t work that way. As Christians we are followers” of Christ, which means we walk by His leading.

We see a prime example of this exact lesson in the story of Jonah.

Most of us know the story of Jonah and the Whale as found in the book of Jonah. This story opens with God speaking to Jonah, son of Amittai, commanding him to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh.

As a prophet of God Jonah found this order unbearable. Not only was Nineveh known for its wickedness, but it was also the capital of the Assyrian empire, one of Israel’s fiercest enemies. Jonah wanted to see them fall! Jonah wanted to see justice served up to Israel’s enemies! This “mission” of God wasn’t the mission that Jonah had “pictured” God would put him on. God commanded Jonah to help people he didn’t even like.

How many of us can relate to that?

We see Jonah react in a way that many of us have probably reacted before… he did just the opposite of what he was told just like any child who frequently tests the patience of their parents. Jonah went down to the seaport of Joppa and booked passage on a ship to Tarshish, heading directly away from Nineveh. The Bible actually says that Jonah “ran away from the Lord.”

We all know the outcome of this action… God sent a violent storm, the sailors tossed Jonah into the sea, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish sent by God, and then while in the belly of the whale Jonah repented and cried out to God in prayer.

Jonah was in the giant fish three days until it finally vomited him out onto dry land. This time Jonah obeyed God. He walked through Nineveh proclaiming that in forty days the city would be destroyed, and surprisingly, the Ninevites believed Jonah’s message and repented and God had compassion on them and did not destroy them.

Are you like the reluctant Jonah?

What is God calling you to do that you just don’t understand, or don’t want to do?

Christianity doesn’t follow the Burger King slogan… you cannot “have it your way!”

  • There is nothing “convenient” about it.

In Scripture we see a lawyer encounter Jesus and leave with something he never expected… Luke 10:25-36 says,

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

This parable contains stories of both convenience and inconvenience. The lawyer, who knew the law, attempted to put Jesus in a bind by asking him a question about the law that he already knew the “religious” answer to. Jesus in turn replied with an answer that shook the foundations of the law and what this man understood as “following” the law. The lawyer probably had a comfortable life of convenience that he simply inserted his knowledge of the law into… but the application is always the hardest and most inconvenient part.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus draws a line between those who knew the law and those who obeyed the law… even at their own inconvenience.

In this story the first person who encounters the injured man is a priest. The priest represented the religious-acting people of the time. They “talked the talk” and knew all the right answers, but rarely walked the walk unless it was for show in front of others. We can even see this in today’s society and culture. Sometimes it is too “easy” to play the religion card or to use Christianity as an out or “back-up” plan. It is a convenient “social networking” or Facebook Christianity… and it is detrimental to the cause of Christ.

Anyways, the priest in this parable went out of his way to avoid the injured man because as a priest he didn’t want to make himself unclean by associating with someone who may have had blood on them. Not to mention the fact that the man was a Samaritan and that whole group of people was deemed “unclean” by the Jews. The priest could have even been on his way to perform his priestly duties and didn’t want to undo the ritual washings on himself that he had already likely performed. Ultimately, he let his convenience get in the way of what he knew was right. He knew the law in his heart and didn’t act upon it with his hands.

The same can be said of the Levite. Levites were experts in the Law… but sadly the one in the parable ignored what Jesus had just defined as the law: to love God and then love your neighbor as yourself.

The last person to come by was the Samaritan… the Samaritan people were considered a low class of people by the Jews since they had intermarried with non-Jews and did not keep all the law. Because of that the Jews would have nothing to do with them. In this parable Jesus doesn’t specify whether the injured man was a Jew or Gentile, but it made no difference to the Samaritan; he did not consider the man’s race or religion. The Samaritan saw past race and religion differences and saw a person in need. He didn’t just know the law… he acted upon the law. He got involved! Christianity has to get involved… even when it isn’t convenient.

A true experience with Jesus or encounter with the Lord strips us of our convenience and replaces it with a cause.

  • You can’t exchange it if it isn’t what you expected or ordered.

I always wonder if Paul knew what we know now if he would’ve just stayed blind! Think about it… shipwrecks, beatings, prison, etc… not exactly the most comfortable or convenient life. In all actuality Paul probably had it better while working for the Romans… he was an ancient government worker! Paul probably had a nice lifestyle, some recreational cash, and maybe even a couple of weeks of paid vacation days per year!

But… the road to Damascus changed everything.

In what is probably the most famous chapter in Acts we see a life unexpectedly changed after an encounter with God. Acts 9:1-19 says,

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.

This Saul character who has a miraculous encounter with God and is forever changed is the last guy most people would expect! Before this passage of scripture we hear about Saul. He was the one that people were laying their coats down in front of during the stoning of Stephen, and it was mentioned previously that he was leading the persecution of Christians. But when he encounters Jesus his world is turned upside down. God changes everything.

So… that leads me back to my point… Saul/ Paul had a comfortable job, influence, and success by the worlds and governments standards, and yet gives it all up to follow Jesus and spread the Gospel. When hard times came he had the deep understanding that we don’t always get what we want or expect, but God’s will and ways are higher than ours. No returns and no exchanges.

Paul truly decided to follow Jesus… no turning back, no turning back.


Let’s work together to get out of the “Fast Food Jesus” mentality. Our faith isn’t meant to be convenient, or fitted to our taste.

Where does our Creativity come From?

So last week we looked at why we as Believers should create. We looked throughout Scripture and pulled specific passages providing us with information about creativity and our purpose in having and utilizing it for God’s glory.

But… what we failed to discuss is where our creativity comes from.

When God created the world, he created man and woman in his own image. God was the first creator. He told His human creation to be fruitful and multiply and to rule over all that he had created. God also allowed Adam to name the animals. These acts, though often overlooked, are some of the first recorded creative acts of mankind.

We all know what takes place in Genesis 3… but even though both Adam and Eve fell from the perfection in which they had been created we find that mankind’s creativity continued on.

You may be asking… “Tanner, how can you know this?”

My answer to that is historically man had to advance. In the early chapters of Genesis we see the rise of agriculture, the building of cities, the forging of tools and even the beginning of music.

In the middle of the genealogies in Genesis 4 we come across a man named Jubal. Genesis 4:21 says,

Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.

Even after the fall man began to put into practice the creative gifts that God had given him to fulfill his task of ruling over creation. And so God, the creator, is the source of all creativity. And in creating man in His own image, God gave man gifts of creativity also.

Let’s discuss some important principles for us to consider while thinking about God’s gift of creativity.


  • God chooses the recipient.

We know that creativity comes from God. Most people attribute the works of the Holy Spirit with happenings in the New Testament… but a shock to most is that the first person to receive the Spirit of God was a “creative” in the Old Testament. We see this specifically in Exodus 31:1-5 where it says,

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.

This passage in Exodus takes place immediately after the giving of the Ten Commandments. Moses has ascended to the top of Mount Sinai where God has just given him detailed instructions concerning the tabernacle. And then in our passage God tells Moses how the building of the tabernacle is to be accomplished. Through a creative… that He has given the Spirit to in order to create exactly what God had commanded.

In the beginning of that passage we see that God chooses the recipients of His gifts… including the gift of creativity or artistry. God said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel…

We can’t make it happen on our own. God chooses each specific gift and ability that each of us has been blessed with.

I like the continuation of that story in Exodus 40 when the “creatives” have finished the Lord’s work. Exodus 40:24-28 says,

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.

The Spirit of God was so thick in and on the tabernacle that Moses couldn’t even get in! Now that is thick! Miraculous things happen when we respect and utilize the Lord’s gifts and selections. Let us use the gifts of God for His glory!

  • There are a variety of gifts.

Another important thing for us to consider and remember is that God gives a wide variety of creative gifts. We even see in the above passages about Bezalel, found in Exodus, a variety of gifts mentioned.

Exodus 31:4-5 says,

To make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.

Bezalel wasn’t just given one gift. Instead God gave Bezalel a wide variety of gifts to accomplish His purposes at that time.

Romans 12:6-8 tells us that we will have gifts that “differ” and goes on to mention some gifts. That passage says,

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

So… it is important to note that even though we are specifically talking about creative gifts in this blog everything pointed out applies to other gifts of the Spirit as well! I would argue though that all that we do involves some level of creative ability, from the simple setting of a table for dinner to inventing the wheel or writing the next CCLI top hit for the church. Even simple problem solving requires some level of creativity!

So when you think about creativity, don’t just think about the arts! God gives a wide variety of creative gifts, and He has given creative gifts to you, too. And there is a reason God gave you the specific gifts that make you who you are. No single gift is greater than another and we are called to use the ones we have been given for the glory of God and the furtherance of the Kingdom.

  • Every gift has a purpose.

Why did God give Bezalel his specific skills? God had a specific purpose in mind for them. Now… I am sure that he used those skills for many other things as well, but the primary purpose is portrayed in Exodus.

God gave Bezalel all the particular skills that he needed in order to build the tabernacle, and not just to build it, but to build it according to God’s exact specifications!

God gives creative gifts for a purpose.

Christianity is all about being human, God’s creation, to the glory of God the Creator. And so that means taking all that God has created in this world, all of human culture, and all of our creativity and returning it to God in praise. 1 Timothy 4:4 Paul says,

Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.

Ephesians 2:10 says,

We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Just as Bezalel’s gifts had a purpose God has also prepared specific works for each of us to do. Not only did He set us aside for these works… but he also created us with the specific gifts necessary to do those good works.

God’s gifts have a purpose, and God has a purpose for the creative gifts he has given you.

Pause.

Do you ever feel like the Energizer bunny?

Many, if not all, of us have been through a season where it seems like for every one thing we get off of our to-do list two more are added. Maybe you are in that season now.

What do we do when our work is piling up and there seems like there is no escape or plausible solution to free ourselves from the busyness? Have a breakdown? Work overtime? Well actually there really isn’t an easy solution here with a guaranteed outcome.

Below we will talk about the importance of remembering Jesus in the seasons of busyness and some important things to keep in mind when we are neck deep in piles of work.


  • Don’t get so caught up in your work that you miss His.

Psalm 37:7 says,

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

Those of us who are work-driven suffer from the mentality or thought that we have to work more and harder in order to get the work that needs to be done accomplished, that somehow God’s work is dependent on our 8-hour workday. Now on a certain level we all know that we can’t be “lazy” and expect things to get done… but this idea of work-driven spiritual success can be harmful.

Psalm 46:10 says,

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

We see a command in the Psalm above: Be still. The word still is a translation of the Hebrew word rapa, meaning “to slacken, let down, or cease.” In some instances, the word carries the idea of “to drop, be weak, or faint.” Christians often interpret the command to “be still” as “to be quiet in God’s presence.” This idea is true… but not always a helpful interpretation. Quietness in order to listen to and for God is certainly helpful, but the phrase also means to stop frantic activity, and to be still.

Sometimes it would actually be better if we slowed down and allowed the Lord to guide our work instead of franticly doing every project or list item that we can think of just to get them checked off our list.

A thought that helps me to remember to be still and let the Lord guide my work is: Does God’s will require this to be done at this instant… is He guiding me to do it now or is it my will that it be done?

To “know that I am God” means to acknowledge and be aware of who God is and what He does. This should impact our work because if we know God then we know that He is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (present everywhere), omnipotent (all-powerful), holy, sovereign, faithful, infinite, and good. Acknowledging God implies that we can trust Him and surrender to His plan because we understand who He is.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to let go and let God work. We must remember that we don’t have to always be in charge. Instead of trying harder, we merely need to trust more.

Whose work is more important?

  • Presence is more important than position.

In times of busyness our relationships suffer.

Our families and friends know when we are busy, because our relationship with them is strained or suffers. The same goes for our congregations if we are ministers. Have you ever been working hard and someone shows up out of the blue “just to talk?” What was your reaction? This happens to me frequently in the office at church and I have to make a conscious effort to pry myself away from the task I am working on to be intentional with them.

After all, we aren’t called to get the lights programmed, the bulletins printed, or the website looking amazing. We are called to make disciples… and with that call comes an understanding that in order to do that we have to be willing to make an intentional effort to put people first before our “tasks.”

Relationships require a certain level of commitment… but at the very least you have to be present for them to work!

I’m not just talking about being physically present. I am talking about being intentionally present with more than just your body… your heart, mind, and spirit need to be there too!

We never know what someone really needs and what opportunity God is placing in front of us. We see a prime example of this in Acts 16:24-34,

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

In the story of the Philippian jailer we see that Paul fought the human tendency or urge to flee as soon as the prison doors flung open, and that unnatural response led to a life and a family being surrendered to Christ. Paul was intentional.

Paul cared less about his position as a missionary or apostle… instead he cared about being known for his presence when interacting with people! What good is a pastor who is always at church but who is unattached and has no presence among the people? What good is a parent who holds the position of authority but has no presence about them when they are home with their children? As a worship leader it does me no good at all to pick the best songs, rehearse diligently to a level of excellence, just to ignore those God has trusted me with and display no amount of presence when leading God’s people in worship!

I promise you that you lead more from your presence than you do from your position.

Let’s commit ourselves to being intentional and present with people because it glorifies God and honors the position He has ultimately given to each one of us.

  • Take the time to hear what He is saying instead of what you want to hear.

You may be saying, “I don’t have time to get done what I feel like God has already told me to do and now you are telling me to take more time out of my schedule!”

My response… yes.

We are all going to go through seasons of “busyness,” but in these times God isn’t silent. The season is in your life for a reason… what is God showing you, telling you, or teaching you?

Often the first thing that gets cut from a busy schedule is our own personal time of ministry. The time we take to hear from and speak to the Lord. We must minister to ourselves!

The best preacher you will ever have is yourself, so preach God’s Word to yourself everyday!

I think that the best example of surrendering to self is Jesus. We see in Scripture that the very night before his crucifixion Jesus surrendered himself to God’s plan. Mark 14:35-36 shows us this,

And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.

We see in this passage, in this prayer, that Jesus surrendered himself to God’s will. He submitted Himself to God’s will even if it didn’t perfectly align with what He wanted. Let’s face it… we are all human and our will doesn’t always perfectly align with God’s, but way too often we get so caught up in doing our will that we neglect to hear or ignore the tender calling that accompanies God’s will.

Our time may be spent doing “good” things… but are they the things that God desires from us at this very moment? I do good things everyday in and around the church, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am being intentional in accomplishing the will of God. Sometimes we can desire good things that take work and that isn’t bad at all! We just need to be careful to not ignore God’s work in order to accomplish ours. Not to ignore his will because we desire something else.

We must surrender ourselves and take the time to hear what God is saying to us instead of what we want Him to say.


Pause.

Be still and know that He is God.

Essential Relationships to Cultivate as a Believer

At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus spoke what has come to be known as the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:19-20 says,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Of course everyone who has read the Gospels has read this passage, and the majority of us have heard more messages preached on this topic than almost any other topic found in Scripture.

Typically, when we hear anyone speak on this message the emphasis is on missions… and it really should be! But, there’s quite a bit more than just that packed into Jesus’ statement. Let’s break it down. There are four main verbs in this commission or command. They are: go, make disciples, baptizing, and teaching.

Looking at the verbs individually we can see that they all are dependent off the one previous to them. We can’t make disciples without going! After we make disciples we baptize, then we walk alongside a new believer in their faith and teach them! It is a perfect process! In this commission Jesus is telling us that His church is meant to be a disciple-making body first and foremost.

So… what is a disciple?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a disciple as a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher. What I find even more interesting than the definition is the word’s origin though. The English word that we know comes from the Latin word “discipulus” which translates to “learner.”

A disciple is a learner. We are called to be disciples of Jesus and our relationships within the body of Christ should be geared so that all of us learn more and more about and from Jesus.

It is easy for us as believers to build a castle, surround it with a moat, and live isolated in our own “kingdom.” But… that isn’t how life was meant to be lived and ministry was meant to be done.

I was once advised by a professor to find a Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy for my own life. At first I had no idea what that even meant. I knew a person or two-named Timothy… but finding someone named Barnabas was obviously going to be more difficult in my mind.

But… as time went on it clicked.

Each of these well-known New Testament figures represents a type of relationship that is essential in the discipleship process. This discipleship isn’t just for others! Discipleship is foundational to our own personal growth in faith. Having a spiritual advisor, an encouraging peer, and a new believer whom we mentor is crucial to a Believer’s spiritual health. Each of these three characters is important to nurture and mature us as followers of Jesus. That’s why we must cultivate these types of relationships. Let’s discuss them together.


  • Paul

The privilege of sitting under a believer who is far wiser than us in spiritual matters is a mighty blessing. Ultimately, God is our counselor, and the Holy Spirit will always teach, guide, and direct us.  But a person who has gained knowledge and insight through personal trials and victories is also crucial to our spiritual health. This person is definitely a tool that God uses to help us persevere in our faith.

A “Paul” is someone who will lovingly speak the truth to you, even at the cost of hurt feelings. We see that displayed in his letters to the different churches in the New Testament. Paul calls them out on things that they are doing that aren’t reflecting the attributes of the Savior who saved them. He does this with authority… but gentleness. In a way that builds up and enables Believers to pursue the purpose and calling that God has for them and the church. Paul was a spiritual father to many believers.

A “Paul” is a mentor, a guide, and a sounding board. We even see this type of relationship displayed in the secular world. We have counselors, trainers, and coaches who push us to achieve certain things and hold us accountable to that. They provide insight and encouragement while instructing us along whatever route we are on.

The thing we must understand about this relationship is that a “Paul” in our life will be a teacher first and a friend second. They are a mentor, and sometimes that means they have to say things to us that we don’t like.

First and foremost we have to find someone who will pour his or her life into us.

  • Barnabas

Barnabas was a companion of Paul on his first missionary journey after Pentecost. Paul and Barnabas were peers, and sent out from the same church ministry in Acts 13. Paul and Barnabas walked through life and served God together. They were friends and without a doubt, they were mutually edified by each other.

Do you have a companion? A partner? A personal support system?

We even see that when Jesus sent out His disciples throughout the Gospels, He sent them out two by two and not alone! It is commonly explained that Jesus knew they needed fellowship and protection. He wanted His disciples to have fellowship because He knew that they were created for relationships.

We aren’t meant to do life alone! We aren’t meant to do ministry alone!

So… we all need a “Barnabas.” We need to be able to share our lives with others in friendship. Biblical Christian friendship. Do be a lone ranger! When we are alone, we are more vulnerable in so many ways, but when we are in relationship, someone has our back. Many of us have seen an action movie where the main character looks at someone and says, “Watch my six.”

Find someone to do life with! To do ministry with! Somebody has got to watch your spiritual “six.”

We must challenge ourselves to find someone we can count on. Not only do we need a Paul, someone who will pour into us, but we also need a Barnabas, with whom we will walk through this life of faith. A “Barnabas” is our spiritual peer, a friend in the faith, someone we co-labor with and someone who will be a source of fellowship and protection. They will encourage us in the faith, and we will do the same for them.

  • Timothy

After we have established the above relationships and are living alongside them we must look to the future and find a “Timothy.”

Timothy was Paul’s son in the faith. We see historically that Timothy was considerably younger than Paul, but that didn’t stop Paul from making a substantial investment in Timothy. We can see that Timothy was the recipient of mentoring at the hands of Paul and it paid eternal dividends and carries substantial weight in the Kingdom of God. So not only do we need a “Paul” in our lives to pour into us, not only do we need a “Barnabas” to walk alongside us, but we also need a “Timothy” as well.

We must become someone else’s “Paul!”

What an honor that is! We need to be making and effort to be consistently pouring into someone for their benefit and growth… not for what they can do for us. If you are like myself previously you may be thinking that you have a lot of work to do on yourself before you can begin to mentor someone in their life and faith… but let me assure you that there is always someone who will be blessed by your intentional spiritual investment in their lives.

If we all grasp this concept then we will begin to create and develop a cycle that carries on and benefits the church as a whole in the years to come.

Finding a “Timothy” somewhat serves or can be viewed as our spiritual “paying it forward.” We have been blessed by our “Paul,” and encouraged by our “Barnabas,” and then in return we continue the cycle and seek out someone we can bless as we have been blessed.

Do you have a “Timothy?” Who are you pouring into?


Let’s concern ourselves with creating and developing healthy Christian relationships that encourage and push us on in our faith while we in turn pour into others.