Your Song Informs

The role of praise in a Christian’s life wears many hats. Some like the “feeling” that they get. Some like the entertainment value that it offers or maybe the outreach tool that a good band or musical service can provide. But there has to be more to our worship than that.

The Bible doesn’t give a “formal definition” of worship. But while looking for clarity or meaning perhaps we can begin to draw a meaning by seeing what various words for worship mean. The English word “worship” comes from two Old English words: weorth, which means “worth,” and scipe or ship, which means something like shape or “quality.” We can see the Old English word -ship in modern words like friendship and sportsmanship – that’s the quality of being a friend, or the quality of being a good sport.

So worship can be somewhat defined by splitting the word apart… worship becomes “worth-ship.” We are ascribing worth to what we worship. When we worship God we are saying that God has worth, that he is worthy. Worship means to declare worth, to attribute worth. Or to put it in biblical terms, we praise God. We speak, or sing, about how good and powerful God is.

This is a purpose for which we are called in 1 Peter 2:9 where it says,

You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

We were called for the purpose of praising God, worshiping God. That is one of the “job descriptions” of a Christian. We should declare that God is worthy, worth more than everything else put together.

Now let’s look at the biblical words. In both Hebrew and Greek, there are two major kinds of words for worship. The first kind means to bow down, to kneel, to put one’s face down as an act of respect and submission. In this portrayal, or act of worship, our body language is saying that we are willingly submitting our bodies, lives, desires, etc… to God’s will. The other kind of biblical word means to serve. Roughly half of the time these words are translated as worship, and the other half as serve. It carries the idea of doing something for God or making a sacrifice or carrying out his instructions for us here on earth.

Of course, word meanings don’t prove what worship is, but they do illustrate three different types or portrayals of worship: speaking/ singing, listening, and doing.

There is a worship that expresses the heart, a worship that involves the mind, and a worship that involves the body. There is a worship that is giving praise upward, a worship that is receiving instructions from above, and a worship that carries out instruction in the world around us. The best part is… we need all three types of worship! Some people focus primarily on speaking or singing praise to God. Praise is good, but if all we do is praise God, without ever listening to what he says, we have to ask whether we believe the words we are saying. If he is really all wise and all loving, then we need to be attentive to what he is telling us, because he is worth listening to. Similarly, all talk and no action does not show God the respect he deserves. Actions speak louder than words, and if our behavior isn’t changed by God, then our actions are saying that God isn’t important… He’s a nice idea, but not relevant to our day-to-day lives. When we really believe that God is worthy of every single praise and every single thing we can offer Him, then we will be willing to listen and to change the way we live in response to such a worthy God. We will trust him and seek him and want to please him as much as we can. Worship is the giving of our entire self, our thoughts and our emotions, to God’s use. All of life is an act of submission, an act of worship. Our service to God is not centered on a time or a temple, but is done whenever and wherever we are, because we are the temple of God. Worship should invade our entire lives. The test of worship is not only what happens at church, but what happens at home, on the job and wherever we go. Worship should inform and affect our behavior.

Every act of obedience is an act of worship. It declares that God has worth.

God wants worship not only on our lips, but also in our hearts. He wants our worship to be sincere. He wants to be the most important thing in our lives, and for us to be truly submissive to him. He wants our worship to affect our behavior, that we make sacrifices, that we put to death the deeds of selfishness, that we seek justice, be merciful and humble, and help others. He wants us not just to obey him, but to serve in ways that go beyond specific commands. We are to worship wherever we go, doing all things to God’s glory, praying always, giving thanks always, never ceasing to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. Our worship involves how we work, how we drive, how we interact with people, what we do in public and in private, etc… The real test of worship is not what happens at church, but what happens at home, and on the job, and wherever we go. Is God important enough to make a difference in the way we live, in the way we work, in the way we get along with other people? When the Holy Spirit lives in us, when we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, worship is a part of everyday life.

When we face attack from the enemy our response of praise should “inform” our thoughts, mind, and attitude of several things that can help us to overcome or to fight back. What is our worship “speaking into” or informing?


Us of God

Our worship is “saying” a lot of things although on the surface sometimes it seems to be pretty straightforward or “cut and dry.” One of the things we too often neglect in our worship is how the very songs we are singing are working to shape our thoughts about God the Father.

Our worship can be theologically forming!

I know that I myself at times grow idle in my thinking about the nature and attributes of God. Sometimes in the midst of an attack or storm I fail to recognize God for all He is. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the one of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Throughout His earthly ministry it was rare that people recognized Jesus and worshipped Him for who He really was: the Son of God.

But… in this case they did. Here comes Jesus riding in on a donkey and the people are lining the road and praising Him as the Messiah. The people are crying out “Hosanna!” This word was originally an appeal for deliverance, translating to “please save.” But here we see it being transformed into an expression of joy and praise for deliverance that only the Messiah brings.

The crowds that lined the roads recognized whom Jesus was and were moved to praise.

The reason this is such a big deal is because at this point, the people still believed that the Messiah was going to be a warrior king who would overthrow the Roman government and raise Israel to a place of political and military power. However, we now know that Jesus accomplished the will of God in a way that they didn’t expect. But… their preconceived notions or thoughts about the Messiah didn’t prohibit them from recognizing Him and His power and worshipping Him for who He was.

Does our “mis-information” or skewed perspective of who God is prohibit us from recognizing Him, His power, and His work around us daily or in times of spiritual deficiency or attack?

The story is continued in Luke 19:37-40 where it goes on to say,

And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

Did you catch the end of that verse?

The Pharisees were religious teachers of the day, but they let what they thought they knew about God completely blind them for seeing God right in front of their faces. Their religion was their God. It is what they worshipped.

Are we sometimes so caught up in the things that we “know” about God that we miss the workings of God taking place right in front of us?

It is essential for us to have the proper perspective and context about God, His attributes, and His work done on our behalf, and to incorporate those things into the songs that we sing on a daily basis. By “informing” ourselves of who God is in good times that information will be embedded in our very spirit for the rough times… the times when life’s outlook seems bleak.

Psalm 27:4-5 says,

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.


Us of our Mission

When reading about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in the above passages out of Luke I can’t help but wonder if Jesus were to ride into our churches today would we be moved to worship and praise Him, or would the rocks have to cry out? This triumphant entry is the beginning of the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and when the Pharisees tell him to quiet the crowd, his response is simply amazing:

I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

What Jesus is saying is that because He is who they say He is, that He is worthy of their praise. Do we realize that? Jesus IS God, and He is worthy of all praise we can give Him and more! So much so that if people fail to praise him, then the stones themselves will because He is worthy of it! God WILL be praised. Regardless of willingness, circumstance, cultural acceptance, or even your participation!

This is one of my favorite stories in Scripture because it reminds me of how awesome God is, and it serves as a job description for all believers! Our job is to be worshipping God and bring Him the glory due His name. We should be constantly worshipping him! In good or bad the call to praise still exists.

Imagine hearing a rock cry out the praise of Christ. How incredible would that be? It is nothing more than a rock… but God is so amazing, that even it MUST acknowledge and give him praise. To be honest though, I don’t want the rocks to sing God’s praise because if they do, that means I’m not doing my job!

Our mission is simple.

Psalm 150:1 says,

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

Psalm 98:4 says,

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music.

1 Peter 1:8 continues along with this pattern and says,

Let your love of the Lord Jesus pour out; rejoice with a glorious inexpressible joy.

The crowds who had seen Jesus ministry, his miracles, heard his teaching, and had their lives touched were eager to speak and cry out “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Their words were a confession, an acknowledgment that in Jesus they were placing their hope, their future, their security, and their salvation.

Has Jesus changed your life? What are your words confessing?

Worship involves our entire relationship with God: our words, our attitudes, and our actions. Our worship is a response to God. We can’t know God’s worth, much less declare it, unless God reveals himself to us. So God initiates worship by revealing himself to us. Then we respond, and the proper response is worship. The more we grasp his greatness, his power, his love, his character, the more we understand his worthiness, the better we can declare his worth, the better we can worship, and the better we can persevere and rise victorious in this spiritual fight that we are caught up in.

Brothers and sisters… will you pursue your mission and confess God’s goodness and salvation message each and every day despite your circumstances, emotions, or what the world might say? Will you cry out or will the rocks take your place?

Psalm 95:1 says,

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.


Us of the Situation

I never quite understand when Christians are surprised that life doesn’t become perfect or turn into “smooth sailing” the moment that they give their heart to the Lord. Newsflash… just because you’re a Christian it doesn’t mean everything is easy, and it definitely doesn’t mean we no longer have times of battle. What happens when you find yourself in a situation or battle that feels overwhelming? There seems to be many different ways we deal with those things that we’d rather just have pass us by. Battles are never fun, and of course they’re never something we would just pick ourselves for fun. However, they’re also unavoidable. We are in a battle, and in battle there are times when there is much warfare going on all around us.

We serve a God of seasons as the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us, and times of war are unavoidable. Even in the words “spiritual warfare” we find the word war. It’s messy. It’s unavoidable. So the real question is, “How do we battle?”

Our songs have many purposes and can inform us of many things, but an important thing that our praise can inform us of is our situation before God and in the moment we are currently facing. I believe the Lord gives us ways to battle efficiently, and part of that is understanding the fight we are in. But no matter the battle, we must remember the battle is never ours, it’s always the Lord’s. 2 Chronicles 15 says,

And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.

How many songs remind us of that very truth? Take a look at the song “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Parts of it go like this,

A mighty fortress is our God

A bulwark never failing

Our helper He amid the flood

Of mortal ills prevailing

For still our ancient foe

Doth seek to work us woe

His craft and power are great

And armed with cruel hate

On earth is not his equal

 

A mighty fortress

A mighty fortress is our God

A mighty fortress

A mighty fortress is our God

 

And though this world

With devils filled

Should threaten to undo us

We will not fear

For God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us

The prince of darkness grim

We tremble not for him

His rage we can endure

For lo his doom is sure

One little word shall fell him

What important truth! The battle is not ours! Our present situation, no matter how bad, becomes informed when we realize that we have a God who has already won and is our shelter and strength. He fights for us, and the battle is His.

Don’t be a “crisis Christian,” that only calls out to God when something goes wrong. In order to be successful in battle we must be proactive instead of reactive! The enemy loves to catch us unprepared and unequipped. I think it’s wise, when you’re not feeling a battle, that you use that time to get yourself equipped. Learn some songs that can enlighten your current and future situations with vital truths of God. Often times when things get tough and the unknown rears it’s head we can be informed and gather a more clear perspective about the situation we face through our songs of praise and worship. I think we need to remember, it’s never the size of the battle, and it’s never how great the enemy is, but if we keep our focus on God, how powerful He is, and how faithful He’s been time and time again that this is where you will find victory.

The battles we face are the Lord’s. Our job is to worship and trust Him. Our victories lie within our ability to trust and praise. So if you find yourself in a battle, don’t cry out in fear from what you see, cry out in faith for who God is and what He has already done! Go before the Lord in worship remembering all He has done and how faithful He’s been to you already. I’ve realized that whenever I do this, it takes me to a place of relying upon Him to battle whatever comes my way. Allow your song to inform your situation.


The Enemy of Who they Face

John 10:10 records Jesus saying,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

In our reality a thief, like every other type of criminal, is nothing more than an opportunist. Thieves look for the easiest prey they can find. They watch for people who appear to be timid, weak and incapable of defending themselves. Criminals also understand that there is indeed safety in numbers, so they choose victims who are alone and too separated from others to get help. Think about it… burglars find houses with little to no defenses. Attackers find victims who are easy targets. No opportunist wants to pick a fight they can possibly lose!

How does this apply to our praise as a utility or tool for our spiritual battles?

The truth is that most thieves are cowards who only want to go after people that are smaller and weaker than them. People who walk confidently and display a high level of self-assurance are far less likely to be targeted by thieves. Since a criminal prefers to put the least amount of effort into their heinous deeds, they wait for someone who is slow moving and seems to be unsure of themselves. This is the type of victim who will stand by meekly when they are involved in a confrontation.

As Believers if we are singing truths confidently, and believing them, then we are painting ourselves as less of an opportune target because we are a harder “kill” than someone else for the enemy. By praising in the midst of the spiritual fight we are looking the enemy in the face and proclaiming that we won’t be taken by surprise, we won’t back down, and we are ready to fight back.

“Stand up, Stand up for Jesus” is a song that we probably have all heard or sung at one time or another, and I believe that it has strong message for the enemy that we can learn from and sing when a spiritual fight heads our way.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus!

By singing this we aren’t asking if we should stand up for the cause of Christ, but rather we are proclaiming that the cause of Christ is worth rising up for. It means that we will defend the truth and share it with others. From the beginning of the song we are telling the enemy that we won’t be an easy target.

Ye soldiers of the cross; Lift high His royal banner, It must not suffer loss.

When you study the history of armies and war, you find that when soldiers would go into battle sometimes they would have banner. This banner was used to communicate, encourage, and represent their nation or their king. Imagine our soldiers currently wearing the stars and stripes on their uniforms as they fight for what that particular flag represents. Many of the “flag bearers” of old would actually carry their banner of flag instead of a weapon into war. In these battles if the soldier carrying the banner was killed, another soldier would pick up the banner and carry it in his place because it was that important to them and to their cause.

We can relate to this when come to our flag. Most of us are proud to be Americans and we love what our flag represents, and we cringe when someone decided to burn the flag out of protest because we know what our flag represents and that it came at the high cost of solider lives. As Christians, we need to realize that when we became Christians we signed up in the Lord’s army. Everyone of us is a Christian soldier.

2 Timothy 2:3-4 says,

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.

We are not fighting a physical war, we are fighting a spiritual one, but we must stand up as Christian soldiers and face our enemy. We must sing and wave the banner of Christ high with boldness and confidence so he knows the fight that is before him.

From victory unto victory His army shall He lead, till every foe is vanquished, for Christ is Lord indeed.

Jesus is the head of the church, and He knows how to help in our time of need. He has given us all the tools we need to win against our enemies because He has given us the power of His blood and the sword of the spirit, which is God’s truth.

I’m so thankful that God’s sheep are protected from the thief by their Shepherd, in John 10:11 Jesus said,

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

I’ll leave the rest of the hymn for you to interpret and sing in the face of your foe. The fight is worth fighting and the outcome is sealed. Allow your song to route your foe before the battle begins.

Stand up stand up for Jesus

The trumpet call obey

Forth to the mighty conflict

In this His glorious day

Ye that are brave now serve Him

Against unnumbered foes

Let courage rise with danger

And strength to strength oppose

 

Stand up stand up for Jesus

Stand in His strength alone

The arm of flesh will fail you

Ye dare not trust your own

Put on the gospel armor

Each piece put on with prayer

Where duty calls or danger

Be never wanting there

 

Stand up stand up for Jesus

Each soldier to his post

Close up the broken column

And shout through all the host

Make good the loss so heavy

In those that still remain

And prove to all around you

That death itself is gain

 

Stand up stand up for Jesus

The strife will not be long

This day the noise of battle

The next the victor’s song

To those who vanquish evil

A crown of life shall be

They with the King of Glory

Shall reign eternally


What songs are you singing and how are they working for you in your spiritual fight?

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Spiritual Exercise

I enjoy certain types of exercise. I like to go to the gym and lift weights, I like to play basketball. I don’t, however, like to run. Maybe it’s because I think it’s aimless… or maybe it’s because conditioning to run is hard and it hurts! My wife enjoys running… she does it a lot. On the other hand, I joke with people and tell them that the only thing that would make me run is a bear behind me! I go through phases though where I will jump on a treadmill and run. I particularly remember the last time because I went from not running at all to running 3.5 miles on the first go round. I felt fine the day of… but the day after was a different story all together. My body, although conditioned for other types of exercise, was not conditioned for strenuous running! The point I am trying to make is… exercise is hard. Especially if it is an exercise that we haven’t been conditioning for.

Today we will talk about conditioning our relationship with God through a different exercise plan… service.

Think about a relationship that you hold dear. Maybe it is with a lifelong friend, a husband or wife, a family member… most relationships that have proven to be lasting have experienced hard times that you have to work through. Any good relationship takes work to develop. I can remember in the early stages of dating my wife how I took the time to get to know her, what she liked and disliked, how she handled situations, her sense of humor, etc… It took time and effort to form a stronger relationship with her and a better understanding of her.

Some people have the idea that knowing God should be easy. That developing a relationship with the Creator and sovereign Lord of the universe should require nothing more strenuous than listening to an occasional sermon or reading a book or two. Why is that? Why is it that we will study for years in college to get a degree, we’ll labor nights and weekends to get ahead in our careers, and yet we think that knowing God should be effortless? We’ll exercise for hours to improve our physical health. We’ll eat right and sacrifice junk food, and torture ourselves on the treadmill.

In other areas of life, we understand that having things of value require work and dedication. Yet in the realm of the spirit, we expect good things just to drop into our laps. But that’s not the way it works! Like anything else of great worth, knowing God requires diligence and sustained effort. Is it worth it? Yes, the reward of seeking God far exceeds the cost. But there is a cost.

1 Timothy 4:7-10 says,

Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

You see, “knowing” God isn’t something that just happens. It requires that we “train ourselves” or as other translations put it, “discipline ourselves.”

The Christian life is not just an intellectual exercise. It’s not just some kind of self-improvement motivational program. Nor is it a set of rules and regulations. The essence of the Christian life is truly knowing God and having a vital, living and intimate relationship with Him; experiencing His presence and activity in our daily lives.

The good new is that God is not hiding from us! He wants nothing more than for us to know Him. He promises good things, and rewards, to those who seek Him. But a true relationship with God is not going to be had by anyone with only a casual, passing interest. The half-hearted may as well not waste their time. The merely curious can and will eventually find something else to tickle their fancy and temporarily fulfill their curiosity. I say all of this because God is only found by those who seek Him earnestly, who seek Him with “all their heart.” God is known by those willing to persevere, those willing to keep asking, and keep knocking, and keep seeking.

Hebrews 11:6 says,

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Lamentations 3:25 says,

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.

Jeremiah 29:13 says,

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Imagine that you’re an actor preparing for a role, and you want to know what makes your character tick… you want to understand how they think, what they feel, how they view the world. What would you do? Heath Ledger was cast as the villainous Joker in The Dark Knight. Up until Ledger was cast in the movie he was notorious for playing more light-hearted roles. Playing the Joker required a bit more preparation, which Ledger took to an interesting level. It is said that he locked himself in a hotel room, isolating himself from everyone, and took prescription drugs in order to get into a Joker-like state of mind. Ledger slept an average of two hours a night while playing “a psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.” He put himself in that very state of mind to play the role. Ledger was reported as saying, “I couldn’t stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.”

Actors have discovered that in order to really understand and get inside the head of their characters, the best kind of research is to actually live that life. Go through a day as them. Experience for themselves what it’s like. See what they see, hear what they hear, and hopefully feel what they feel.

In the same way, in order to really know someone, you have to enter their world and walk a mile in their shoes. If we as Christians want to know Christ, we have to do what He did. We have to imitate Him. Our topic today is “Seeking God through the Spiritual Exercise of Service.” I believe that we are never more like Christ than when we are serving others.

Matthew 20:25-28 says,

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Why did Jesus come? For two reasons. Everything He did can be summarized under these two headings. First, he came to die… to give his life in exchange for ours, to pay the penalty for our sin so that we could be forgiven. The crucifixion wasn’t something bad that just happened to him; it was in his plan from the very beginning. The other thing Jesus came to do was serve. He served people by healing them, He served people by teaching them, He served people by walking with them, attending to their needs (spiritually, physically, emotionally). Jesus even displayed service by washing his disciples feet!

John 13:3-5 says,

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

It continues in John 13:12-16 where it says,

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

You see, as many of you already know, at these times foot washing was a menial task, usually done by a household servant, upon a master or guest entering a household. Because of the footwear and road conditions of the time foot washing was necessary but dirty and unappreciated work.

That’s exactly the kind of service Jesus calls us to!

If you are not serving, you are not living like Christ. And to know Him, you have to be like Him. You have to follow His example. Christ came to serve, and unless we think we are greater than Him, we should be serving one another also.

1 Peter 4:10 says,

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

Galatians 5:13 says,

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,

The service that one should perform for another in Christian community is that of active helpfulness. This means, initially, simple assistance in trifling, external matters. There is a multitude of these things wherever people live together. Nobody is too good for the meanest (lowest) service. One who worries about the loss of time that such petty, outward acts of helpfulness entail is usually taking the importance of his own career too seriously.

True Christian service is humble service. It delights in being a blessing to others, and is not concerned with receiving praise, or recognition, or thanks. It’s only goal is the welfare of the one being served.

Finally, let me give you some quick practical principles for exercising your faith and relationship with God through service.


Plan to be Available

It is helpful for us to get in the habit of serving by planning to serve. But… we must also be available to serve on the spur of the moment. Our exercising of service needs to include both scheduled service and impromptu service. For instance, you could offer to help out one of the mothers in the church by babysitting once a week so that she can spend an hour or two without the kids. OR… you could serve in a planned and organized ministry of the church. That’s planned service. But you can also be available when a family needs help on short notice. Are you the kind of person that people call when they have a need? Do you have a history of service that would cause them to think of you?

Often, a need arises, or an opportunity to serve presents itself, but we can’t respond because we’re too busy. Part of being available to help others is simplifying your life so that you have free time to serve when you’re needed. I understand… this is hard! Life is busy! But, we must evaluate our priorities. Are we too busy for people?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and cancelling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps — reading the Bible. . . . . it is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.


Look for Opportunities

Take initiative! Don’t wait to be asked!

Jesus responded to requests for help, but he also took the initiative to serve when he saw a need. A true servant always has their “radar” up. They stay alert for anything someone might say or do that indicates an opportunity to serve. Let’s be honest, sometimes our lack of service isn’t because people don’t want to ask… it’s because they don’t know to ask! Have you waited so long to be asked that people have no idea that you are even willing to step up to a task and possibly get your hands dirty?


Be Flexible

Don’t pigeonhole yourself and your service by having specific ideas of what your “serving” should look like.

In fact, don’t be too particular about how you serve. God has uniquely gifted each of us, but we shouldn’t be so concerned about only serving within our “specialty” that we pass up anything that doesn’t fit. I am absolutely certain that Jesus wasn’t an extraordinary “foot washer.” He saw a need and rose to fulfill that need.

We must be willing to serve in the small things as well as in the large. Don’t wait for a big project to come along, but seek out opportunities for everyday acts of generosity and helpfulness.

If there’s a genuine need, and you can meet it, don’t be too concerned with whether it’s one of your “gifts.” Just do it.


The key to a deep knowledge of Christ, and a deep experience of God, is to do the things that Christ did. The more we follow the example of Christ, by serving one another in humility and love, the more we will be like Him. The more we are like Him, the better we will know Him. And that is worth any price, any service, any sacrifice, and any suffering.

 

To the Worship Leaders out There!

I’ve been looking for an article like this and haven’t found too many. Honestly, we as a whole should be ashamed that most of us are too busy writing about the “10 things we wish Worship Leaders would stop saying” instead of building each other up and offering resources that can possibly encourage, or help someone to avoid some of the pitfalls many of us have hit. What is the point of spending our time and energy being judgmental and standing on our soapbox while others ministries are falling apart, marriages are failing, and passion is fleeing. Come on leaders… step up!

How many of us have struggled at times? If there is no part of you that is screaming “YES” then you are the exception. I haven’t ever met a robot in ministry so I’m pretty confident in saying that all the things discussed below can help us to “stay the course” and honestly stay sane.

In the past several years at times I have felt burnt… and during the “crispy” times I wish I had some of this insight. I have had friends lose their flame and “tap out” who have needed someone to come alongside them and hold them up. Let’s go into “survival mode” together and discuss some things we need to be doing below.


  • Sharpen your Mind

Just like we study our craft… we should also study our faith. Learning new things is never a bad thing. The old adage you can’t teach a dog new tricks shouldn’t apply to us because some “old dogs” are more than willing to learn!

We can’t be content to just love music… we have to love God’s truth more.

Nothing sustains a lifetime of worship leading like an ongoing pursuit of the knowledge of God. The more you see and experience God in His Word, even the difficult parts, the more you will love Him! The Word of God was designed to keep us fascinated for our lifetimes. Have you ever felt burnt out? Me too. Anytime I lose my fuel to lead I can almost count on it coming back through nearness to the Word.

I actually believe that in the long-term our knowledge and passion for the truth of the Gospel will fuel our worship!

We need to know theology… not just for others, but also for ourselves! We are guiding people into an experience of worship, and that worship needs to be grounded in the foundations of the Word. But more importantly God desires to be known by us as He is. It honors Him, pleases Him, glorifies Him when we know and declare His truth. Through that achieved purpose we can be refreshed.

Ephesians 6:10-17 says,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Back in the times of Jesus, Roman soldiers would “gird” their waists with a belt. This belt served many purposes. Their uniforms would include a helmet, shield, sword, short sword/ dagger, a breastplate, what we would consider a dress or skirt in today’s times, and a pair of boots. A soldier going into battle/ long march, or at alert position would take the bottom of their skirt and tuck it into their waistline and belt. If their waist was not girded with a belt a soldier was vulnerable because they couldn’t move as fast and their feet would become entangled in the bottom of their skirt.

The belt that “girded” the soldiers waist was what held the rest of the system together. Without it the soldier would be lucky to move and fight efficiently. This idea is similar to a police officer or soldier on today’s times. They have tons of gear and quite a bit of weight to pack around. If anybody reading this has ever carried just a holster and a gun before they will understand the importance of a good rigid belt to support the system.

The belt is their foundation. The truth is our belt. The truth is our foundation.

The belt we use to “gird ourselves” that we spoke of above was not only was used to tuck in the lower portion of a soldiers uniform, but it was also used to hold the sword at a ready draw position and to hold the shield during times when it wasn’t needed. So if a soldier was to lose their belt it would make the use of the sword (of the spirit) and shield (of faith) harder as well. So if we lose truth other parts of our walk with Christ become harder, and we become more and more vulnerable to the ways of the world and to the attacks of the devil.

Colossians 3:16 says,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

In this verse Paul urges Believers to have the Gospel message dwell within them, and to teach and admonish each other through the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Each of these three actions follow the original direction which is to “let the word of Christ dwell in” us richly, indicating that the teaching and exhortation is to occur through the action and content of the songs (psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs). This passage provides a powerful incentive for theological instruction regarding the music of the church. The Scriptures show us that worship serves as a teaching function of the church and those tasked with leading the song of the people must be adequately prepared for it!

Theological training allows a worship leader to plan meaningful ways in which the revelation of God through Scripture and the liturgy become evident to the congregation.

Bob Kauflin, in his book Worship Matters said this,

If over the course of a year, the only theology people heard was from your set lists, would people really know God?

Whether we like it or not we are teaching others through the songs we instruct them to sing!


  • Sharpen your Skills

This may seem obvious, but any “seasoned” Worship Pastor can tell you that often practice is the first “to-do” item that gets pushed off for other pressing needs of the ministry. In fact I believe that I probably got to practice and play music more before it was my job!

This particular point comes natural for some and is a distant thought for others. We shouldn’t stop pursuing excellence or the betterment of ourselves as worship leaders when we find a position or job. Outstanding worship leaders value training and love learning. Feel like you’re in a “rut” or afraid that you might be developing one? My response to you would be: Don’t get complacent or content where you are… continue moving forward, learning, and becoming a better worshipper and lead worshipper. This point doesn’t mean the same thing for every person in every situation, you don’t have to go to seminary to learn… there are a variety of blogs, podcasts, books, seminars, and resources out there that you can dig into for free!

Sometimes we get lazy or the office work can overtake the practice time… trust me, I understand completely. But a good practice session can be refreshing! We need to take time to remember and reignite the passion for music that once was one of our primary drives. Study your craft.

John Bellerjeau once said,

The bottom line is that a worship band is still a band; and a bad band is distracting.

You’d be surprised at the enjoyment that comes from being able to lead a song without even thinking about what you are doing musically. It is liberating and empowering. If we want to tap into our true potential then we need to be practicing. It will both improve and preserve us.


  • Grow your Relationship

Zachary Sapp once said,

Your heart has to be in the right place before you present yourself to God and the congregation; no matter how big or how small.

How often have you told someone that you would do something for them and then forgotten down the road and not come through? I do that more than I should. I also feel like we do that to God. We got into the ministry to serve Him and to seek Him. But somewhere along the way God is the very thing that we sometimes forget or ignore.

In all of our workings we must remember to put Jesus first.

I have said before that,

We lead from our presence more so than from our position, and if we ignore our relationship with Christ then our impact may be limited or not reach the potential that is really there.

All that we do in public worship is a reflection of our private worship. We absolutely cannot lead people to where we haven’t gone ourselves. We must learn to worship God by faith. This may sound easy… but it is SO hard! That basically means that when the “spiritual” feelings aren’t there, God is still worthy to be praised. Psalm 27:8 says,

My heart says of you, ‘Seek His face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek.

I’ve learned that if I am going to lead people in worship that I, myself need to be engaged in worship with the Lord off the stage.

Have you ever had guests? Most of us have. How much preparation goes into hosting people for a meal? I know if you are like my wife and I the prep usually begins with scrambling around the house picking up the dirty socks (hers of course… anybody that knows me knows that I don’t wear socks often) and running the vacuum cleaner. Then, when the guests are there you make sure the food looks just right and that you have enough place settings. You know the drill.

In Luke 10 we see as similar situation. In this chapter there is a story of two sisters named Mary and Martha. We all know the story. Martha is hosting Jesus at her house, and like many hosts, she busies herself with serving. To Martha’s dismay, her sister Mary does not help with the chores and all the busywork. Instead, Mary chooses to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his teaching. When Martha confronts Jesus about Mary’s laziness, Jesus says,

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

In ministry there are many “chores” to be done. There are set ups, sound checks, planning sessions, rehearsals, leadership meetings, set lists, pro presenter problems, etc… In the midst of the chaos, we can’t forget that “one thing is necessary,” and that’s to spend time, sitting at the feet of Jesus. We must be reading the bible and praying daily. Our intake must be greater than our outpouring.

This may seem like a given, but it is far too easy to get in the flow or into a routine and to become a full-time worship leader and a part-time follower of Christ. We as human beings are very good at faking things by becoming “excellent” at what we do without even thinking about why we do it. We all have the church or spiritual mask that we can put on to make people believe we have it all together even if we don’t. Sometimes I myself can be so “task-driven” or goal oriented that I forget to be intentional with Christ. Improving our ministries and getting things done isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but if we do those things while sacrificing personal devotion then what are we really working for? I lead worship a lot… but I hope that I can be a personal worshipper of Christ even more. Let’s decide right now to never become more focused on the things that we do and how we do them than the REASON behind what we do. Take time to spend with Jesus… your congregations will thank you.

When we allow things to happen naturally, the chores overtake our schedule and it is our relationship that suffers. Want to stay in ministry? Grow your faith.


  • Grow your Home

How is your home? No, I’m not talking about the yard, or that room that may need a new coat of paint. I’m talking about the inhabitants. It isn’t a house that we call a home… it’s the company.

Sometimes our church feels like our “family” and in some sense they are… but in reality we have our “real” family to go home to! We can’t ignore them. How often does our spouse our children get the raw end of the deal when we jump at every opportunity to be with our congregants? Being at the church every time the door is open is NOT a good thing! You heard me right. The reason I say that is if you are like me you have keys to the church and it is always available to be open!

Our first ministry is to our family.

Saying yes to everything is NOT a good thing, and every “good” opportunity is NOT your “good” opportunity. You have to take care of your household. 1 Timothy 3:5 says

If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

In other words, your ministry to your spouse and kids takes precedence over all other ministries.


  • Expand your Circle

Here’s a riddle for you. What is surrounded on all sides, but still stands painfully alone? A Pastor.

In the U.S. alone (in 2010), it is estimated that 1,700 pastors leave the ministry each month. A New York Times article, “Taking a Break from the Lord’s Work,” confirmed that being a pastor puts one at risk for physical and mental illness. The article stated,

The findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and with little notice: Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.

Statistics, which are numerous and varied, say that 70% of pastors constantly fight depression and 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living. This means that half of the 1,700 or so pastors who leave the ministry each month have no other way of making a living. Their education and experience is wrapped up solely in the work of the ministry. So, not only do pastors struggle with their choice to leave ministry, they have to worry about how they are going to feed their families. 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked and feel left out and under-appreciated by church members. 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend and 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

The most shocking statistic I found was that 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years. 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form. And 4,000 new churches begin each year while 7,000 churches close.

So what does this mean? We cannot stand-alone. Now sure, we always have God… but we need some earthly support!

Rev. John Terpstra, pastor of Immanuel CRC in Fort Collins, Colorado. After 25 years in ministry said,

You need to do ministry in community because there are a lot of demands on you, and you need places to safely say things. There are things you can’t share with your spouse or elder group. That is a very normal experience.

In fact, we as Pastors are no different than anyone else, just like we preach to others; we need to understand ourselves that we also were created by God to live in community. We need someone in our lives who accepts us completely, unconditionally, loving us for who we are and not because of our position.

Jesus was intentional about building relationships with His followers. We should follow that example in order to disciple and mentor those around us, but also in order to be encouraged and lifted up. Being intentional within a relationship is essential in developing roots that will help us stand in harsh times. Jesus walked, talked, and ate alongside His disciples. They experienced life together. It was in that way that they were able to be ministered to, and the disciples were given the strength and perseverance to lay down their lives for the ministry of the Gospel.

Chip Bell says,

Effective mentors are like friends in that their goal is to create a safe context for growth. They are also like family in that their focus is to offer unconditional, faithful acceptance.” There can be no discipleship without relationship… and relationships are intentional.

Don’t make yourself and island… cut off from the resources that can help keep you alive!

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Partner with other worship leaders. Sit in on jam sessions. Write together. Do unifying things for the community and the Kingdom.


  • Feed your Flame

What is it that ignites you? For me it is allowing myself to worship without responsibility. After discovering that, I have gone out of my way to attend 3 or 4 worship nights that I played no part in just so I could be fed through my favorite avenue… music!

Take time and allow yourself to be encouraged. Are there things you could be doing better? Sure. Are your efforts in vain? Of course not! Is God pleased? Absolutely.

If it is the outdoors that helps you to connect to God and escape the hustle and bustle of ministry then get outside! If it is woodwork or shooting guns then do it! There is no shame in taking a step back every now and then to breathe. Professional athletes still have to get a sub at times. Just like a fire in a stove needs oxygen to burn, we too have to, at times, catch a breath!


Hopefully this hits home for someone! Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone… if you have no one to talk to I’m here.

Tanner.NHCC@gmail.com

270-735-7342

 

Our Focus

Sometimes on Sundays I wonder how people perceive the structure of the services they take part in. There have been times on stage where I think to myself, “I hope this is translating and being understood.” The unfortunate fact is that sometimes it isn’t. I have been in services that seemed to have no distinct structure or coherent theme/ message. Maybe there was one intended and I just didn’t pick up on it… but nonetheless it didn’t come across to me.

The truth is that each and every Sunday should start with a plan… a message, theme, or thought that we are going to expound upon. Obviously our plans are just that… “plans” and we all know that sometimes plans change. A statement I once heard fits that thought perfectly. It goes,

Every battle plan seems perfect until the first bullet flies.

But I personally would rather have a plan and have it altered than not have a plan at all and miss an opportunity. We should understand that we have a great foundation or starting point and that it is demonstrated for us in the Bible. Worship isn’t a new thing! In the Old Testament much of the worship that took place centered upon the Exodus event where God called His people out of slavery in Epypt and delivered them to the Promised Land to be His chosen People.

But… we are new covenant Believers and worshippers. Hebrews 9:15 says,

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

We worship on this side of the cross, so our New Testaments worship is centered on Christ. On this side of the cross God has called us out of our own “Egpyt.” Through Jesus God called us out of slavery to sin and has provided us an avenue to Heaven through the work of Christ. We are His chosen people! 1 Peter 2:9-10 says,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

So… why should our focus be on Christ? Below we will sift through just a few ideas.


  • Christ is our mediator before the Throne.

I almost feel like that point should have ended with an exclamation point! Take a second and think about that… there is no such thing as unmediated worship! In the Old Testament Christians had to have a priest act as their mediator before God to offer sacrifices to atone for their sin. We no longer have to do that because of the ultimate sacrifice made on our behalf by Jesus… the Son of God!

John 14:6 establishes the route to the Father through Jesus. In that verse Jesus says,

I am the way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.

1 Timothy 2:5 says,

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.

Have you ever bought a product because you had the assurance of a warranty? I believe we all have. More than once I have been on the phone for hours jumping from person to person to arrange an exchange or refund only to be told I wasn’t eligible because of some small print or loophole found somewhere. The good thing for us is that in Christ we have full access to God. No hoops to jump through or loopholes to get caught up in! Ephesians 3:10-13 says,

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

We can be assured as leaders and worshippers that Worship Pastors, bands, environments, atmospheres, specific songs, or creative worship planning cannot bring us any closer to God or provide us a more direct or expedient route than the one Jesus already has established!

  • All of heaven worships the Risen Lamb.

We serve a risen King! What other prophet or “god” has claimed to have been resurrected from the dead? Not only did Jesus defeat death and the grave… but He called His shot!

Hosea 6:2: says,

After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up.

On October 1, 1932, during Game 3 of the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago New York Yankee Babe Ruth pointed his bat towards the center field bleachers during his at-bat. On the next pitch, Ruth hit a home run to the same spot in center field. Babe Ruth’s called shot is said to be one of the greatest home runs in history. Babe Ruth has been forever concreted on baseball history partially because of this event and story. But… the death and resurrection of Jesus and the prophecies that came before are so much more impressive!

The most significant prophecy in the Bible concerning the resurrection of Jesus is known as “the prophecy of Jonah.” It is a symbolic prophecy represented by the three days and three nights that Jonah spent in the stomach of a great fish as found in Jonah 1:17. Jesus himself explained the prophetic symbolism of this unique event on an occasion when He rebuked the Pharisees for seeking a “sign” from Him. We see this in Matthew 12:38-40 where it says,

For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jesus clearly and distinctly prophesies here, using the example of Jonah, that He will spend three days and three nights in the tomb before His resurrection will occur. Jesus called His shot! That is worth praising! In fact, we know that here on earth we aren’t the only ones lifting up the name of Christ.

Revelation 5:9-14 shows us a glimpse of this. It says,

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

We should join in this worship when we gather to worship as His Body on the earth!

  • Focusing on Christ in our worship helps us keep the proper perspective.

The world today is very caught up in itself. What other explanation would we have for the drastic things people do in order to attain a certain “model image” or the attention and affection of others? We as worshippers need to take specific measures and precautions to ensure that we make our worship about God and that our worship times do not become man-centered. We live in a self-centered culture where everything is centered on us… our wants, preferences, opinions, etc. The church is even like this! There is a church for everyone! If you like loud music there is a church for you! If you like soft music there is a church for you! If you want to drink coffee in the sanctuary in a seat that semi-reclines there is a church for you! This may seem ridiculous… but deep down we all know it is true.

Some of us leave a worship service thinking that if we did not get anything out of the service the preacher, worship team, or staff did not “fill our cup” or have somehow let us down. I propose that instead we should be asking ourselves how we did in honoring and serving the Lord in our worship. Is Christ our focus or has our focus shifted to include us?


The Gospel of Jesus Christ should always be at the center of all we do in the church including our worship times. We need to be constantly reminded of the cross of Christ and reminded of what Christ has done for us, but we must move past the cross to the resurrection and the power that it provided us to live and worship as Christ has designed for us to live and worship. Let’s focus on Christ and make Him the direction that our worship points!

 

The Value of Presentation

 


From the onset of this article many of you non-musicians or Pastors may feel a little left out. But… in reality this way of thinking can be applied across the board to ALL things done for God by ALL Believers. So read on and apply!


When it comes to church worship one topic that seems to be a tricky one is the issue of excellence. What qualifies as good enough? If the person has the right heart are they automatically eligible to lead? There is an obvious tension that exists between balancing heart and skill.

On one hand, we all know that worship is undoubtedly an act of the heart. But does that mean that we shouldn’t bother putting effort into our craft and offer forth a subpar offering? Colossians 3:23 says,

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.

So the often-heard statement, “Well… it’s good enough for church” holds no water when held in light of the verse above, and the old saying, “It’s the heart that counts” is only partially correct. God is excellent and His desire for us is excellence. Psalm 33:3 says,

Sing to Him a new song. Play skillfully and shout for joy.

As leaders and musicians, we are instructed to do everything we do with excellence and with “skill.” A good question we should ask ourselves is: Why is our need to pursue excellence, and the often lack of such a pursuit, even an issue? In fact, you’d think that Christians would widely embrace the fact that because God is excellent, he has called us to excellence as well, and so we ought to strive to be excellent in everything we are and in everything that we do. But you only have to look at people in our churches and our presentation or “offering” to know that this is not necessarily the case.

But… all of you non-musicians hang in there with me! This is for you too… this exact thought, or pursuit of excellence, can be applied to anything you do in the Lord’s name! What is your offering? What is our method of worship? Maybe it is teaching, working with kids, being a missionary to your community or workplace, sitting with the sick, crying with the broken? The opportunities are limitless!

I believe a major problem we run into with regard to excellence in church is a theological problem that is best interpreted as an underlying “cheap” understanding of grace. People like to embrace the notion that because we are saved by grace, we can just sort of kick back and relax and not be overly concerned about anything. Now of course we would never admit to having that mentality… but the complacency we talked about a couple of weeks ago is a sure sign of it. It seems as if in many ministries laziness, mediocrity, and complacency have become the “norm” and not just accepted… but also expected! Somehow, I believe, we have come to think the pursuit of excellence is incompatible with salvation by grace. Excellence is suddenly not a “spiritually correct” word because we automatically assume that we are seeking excellence for ourselves or to earn/ payback God for our salvation, when in actuality our pursuit of excellence is out of response to a deep-felt conviction of God’s grace that spurs us on to grateful service and a pursuit of true personal excellence for His glory alone!

As Christians saved by grace, we ought to try harder, because we want to bring honor and glory to God through the things he has enabled us to do!

Hebrews 13:16 says,

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

It’s a delicate balancing act between heart and skill… but it is one that we MUST balance. Our offering matters! Our presentation matters!

For example, imagine that your anniversary is coming up and you know that your wife has been admiring a new shiny $300 necklace. You scrounge up all the change you can by flipping over couch cushions and rummaging through the dryer and are somehow able to afford that $300 necklace.

The day of your anniversary comes and goes and two days later you realize that after all the prep work you have forgotten all about it! So… to save face you go to the closet where you hid the necklace and bring it out in the original shopping bag you brought it home from the store in… maybe the receipt is still attached. You hand it to her and say, “Sorry I forgot our anniversary… I got you this.”

What’s the necklace worth? Well, $300! The receipt can prove it.

But imagine if, rather than forgetting that you bought the necklace, you also bought the finest gift-wrap you could find. You carefully and perfectly wrapped the box and topped it off with a beautiful bow, and you give it to your wife with some well thought out words and a smile.

What’s the necklace worth? Well, still $300! The receipt can prove it.

The point is that the wrapping and appearance doesn’t change what the gift is worth. The value is on the inside. But what the wrapping does is communicate to her that you understand what the gift, and the recipient of the gift, is truly worth.

I believe the same is true in our worship services. John chapter 4 makes clear to us the kind of worship that pleases God. 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.

God is after our hearts. This means that real worship of truly reverent hearts doesn’t depend on the quality of music, lights, stage sets, lasers, smoke machines, song selections, or any of the other trivial things we tag along with it. It never has and it never will.

The value of your worship is found in your sincerity.

But… if we view our worship as an offering or gift to God then what kind of picture does the above example paint? What challenge does it present? I believe with all my heart that my unceasing efforts of excellence in my craft, not just settling for “good enough” serves to demonstrate both to myself, God, and my church community, that I understand that very value of worship and excellence. The presentation matters.

Romans 12:1 says,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

This passage talks about our proper act of worship: taking our whole selves, everything that we can possible offer, and placing it before God as an offering. My love for Jesus should inspire and push me to work exceptionally hard to excel at my craft so that what I bring is the absolute best that it can be… because He deserves it and the presentation matters. When a laborer has a conviction that what they do isn’t just a hobby, but that they are being faithful with what God has put in their hand, then to them that labor is an act of worship!

Our sincerity can be found in our response.

I want to challenge us all to be Worship Pastors who are not willing to focus on skill at the expense of people’s hearts, but not brush off skill for the attitude of “good enough.” Worship Pastors, Christians in general, must know both must be addressed but ultimately realize that worship is fundamentally a function of the heart, and when a heart is transformed in worship, everything else follows including skill and excellence. The more experience I have gained, the more I have realized that my leadership has to become an act of worship that inspires others to worship, my skill has to be at a level high enough to allow me to worship with my presence and leadership without distraction. We become “lead worshippers” when we blend these two functions into one, so that people cannot tell the difference. Psalm 78:72 describes David as a man who led Israel with integrity of heart and with skillful hands. Heart and skill are two primary issues that every worship pastor wrestles with, not just for themselves but also for the people they lead. Both are part of the Biblical mandates that take a central role in the job description of a Worship Pastor.

In all of this it’s important to note that excellence is not perfection. Excellence is an attitude or mindset that drives us to do the best we can with what we have within our ability. Misappropriated excellence creates an environment that is harsh, restraining, and ultimately discouraging. But an appropriate understanding of excellence creates an environment that is fundamentally encouraging as it calls out the full potential of every individual that comes from the Father.

James 1:17 says,

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Aren’t you glad that when God created the universe, He took a step back and “saw that it was good,” not “saw that it was good enough.” Our pursuit of excellence is purely a reflection of an excellent God.

So, what is it that matters in our worship? Is it heart or skill? What actually matters is that Jesus is honored in all that we do and in our displayed love for Him.

Psalm 96:7-9 says,

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

Diagnosing Spiritual Complacency

One of the terrible diseases of Christianity today is complacency. There is a major complacency epidemic spreading amongst the Kingdom. Are you battling complacency in your ministry?

I certainly believe that Satan is a master deceiver and uses many techniques to disarm and neutralize Believers. I wholeheartedly believe that one of Satan’s strategies is to plant the seed of complacency.

I have a friend who served a tour of duty in Iraq. On that tour of duty he worked many road checkpoints and was issued, along with his other soldiers, some very particular gear. Among that gear was the normal body armor and helmet, but that gear also included padding and armor for their upper arms and thighs, as well as a groin guard. All of this gear had one mission in mind: to keep them alive and protected in the event of an IED explosion. As you can imagine all that gear made the already intense heat nearly unbearable. So for that reason many of the soldiers would remove the gear when officers were not around. One particular day there were no officers on site and a newer enlisted soldier was in the guard tower wearing his helmet causing many of the others to poke fun at him. On that particular day an enemy assailant just so happened to be taking aim with a long-range rifle and shot that soldier in the head. The helmet and his lack of complacency saved his life, whereas many of the other soldiers would have been killed. I say all of that to make this point: in combat complacency kills.

In Amos 6:1 the Lord spoke to the backslidden Israel through His prophet Amos. It says,

Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come!

The Lord was addressing to the people who were self-satisfied and in their comfort zone. They felt self-sufficient and strong enough in their own power. These people had little desire for God, and little hunger for His righteousness. They were self-confident and self-sufficient. Thus the Lord warned them about the impending judgment upon them.

How often do we fall into this exact attitude? We allow ourselves to grow complacent and live a self-satisfied life. Do we truly live dependent on God or do we try to maintain some independence? Remember, complacency makes us to feel secure in our job, safe in our strength, good about our knowledge, protected in our money and possessions, eventually blinding us and leading us to our downfall. Sometime the strike isn’t immediate. Like the enemy assailant in the story above, sometimes the enemy patently takes aim and waits. He allows us to grow comfortable, and complacent all the while he is disarming us without much effort.

A.W. Tozer says,

Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth.

Let’s get one thing straight. Complacency is a killer that can ruin ministry. Are you battling complacency in your ministry?

Revelation 3:14-22 says,

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

We see above that lukewarmness is a spiritual condition that apparently, Jesus can’t stand. Another name for it might be “complacency.” Complacency is not contentment. Where contentment is finding joy in the blessings of walking with God, complacency is when we have stopped walking.

How do you know that this killer has crept into your ministry? Here are some telltale signs.


  • Lack of Zeal

One of the most obvious and beginning stages of complacency is a diminishing presence or absence of zeal. We all can probably remember a time in our life when we were passionate about something, maybe you are like me and when you find a new interest or hobby you dive in headfirst and it is all consuming? Hopefully we can all think back to a time when we were like that with Jesus. We didn’t need complex theology or big “spiritually correct” words. Yeah… I just went there.

Too many of us have substituted zeal for knowledge!

I honestly am pretty tired of seeing Bible believing friends of mine tearing each other to shreds over theology on Facebook for the whole world to see. I have been there too! At times I myself have replaced my zeal for pursuing Christ and acting like Him for merely knowing more about Him and maybe letting others know about it. Before anyone gets all tore up please understand that I am talking to myself here! Maybe the dissection of the Word down to the last punctuation mark was just a distraction to keep you from understanding it and doing what it says? In actuality Satan, the deceiver, doesn’t care how much you know the Word if you don’t do the Word.

Please read the Word, dissect the Word, understand the Word, memorize the Word… but then go put into practice!

  • Tradition is Doctrine

Tradition entails so much more than what most people typically think of when it is mentioned. Tradition is more than robes, recited prayers, hymns, etc… Tradition is something that can invade and ultimately take over any church, regardless of its denomination, history, or style. Let’s get this straight, when we depend on tradition for our “religious” involvement, relationship, worship, or gatherings we stop depending upon something else… namely the Bible and the Spirit of God. When that happens, we’re on a rapid descent to destruction. In fact, our gatherings become nothing more than scripted ceremonies that we have rehearsed and polished in hopes of gaining something. We might keep ourselves happy, we might grow our church in numbers or financial security, but we aren’t truly pursuing the renewed work of Christ and the Kingdom of God here in our ever-changing ministry field.

There is nothing wrong with tradition itself. But… there is something wrong with depending on tradition!

C.S. Lewis once wrote,

Security is mortals’ greatest enemy.

But what kind of “security” is he talking about? I believe he is talking about the security that comes with comfort. Maybe your comfort looks different than the blanket that Linus drags around everywhere, but it’s still serving the same purpose. Do your traditions make you feel at “home” or secure and comfortable?

Complacency makes us feel secure, but feelings can lie.

Ephesians 5:14-17 says,

This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

How is it that we can be told to make the most of every opportunity and still pass up so many because they didn’t fit into our idea of “church?” Let’s put it out there, we as a whole have become slothful, habitual, uninspired, secure, and complacent, often doing what we do for traditional reasons rather than because it’s best.

Why is it that we, who have had the precious blood of Christ cleanse our sins, now take such a mediocre and habitual approach to those things related to Christ and His cause? From our outreach, in-reach, preaching, worship, programs, aesthetics, etc… in almost every area of corporate church complacency has unfortunately become the norm.

The message is the same, but the messengers and avenues they take change!

The secular world has caught on to this! Look at the music industry. Songs and albums were once put out on vinyl, then tapes, then cd’s, and now everything is digital. The same songs that were once on vinyl can now be downloaded on iTunes for .99 cents! Businesses don’t always change the product or name… they just change the presentation, method of delivery, or audience. Why aren’t we who have the best “offering” putting forth the same effort in our church activities as we do in our personal activities and businesses?

Andrew Grove, a founder of Intel, is famously quoted for saying,

Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure.

If we stay the same, for the sake of staying the same, we get left behind and we do the message an injustice! We must understand that our complacency has eternal implications, and I’m afraid that a culture of mediocrity has now become the new tradition.

  • Tolerance of Sin

Last week I asked you to imagine a trashed house full of garbage and the flies that go along with the garbage. Sometimes our lives look a lot like that house, and the natural tendency is to clear out the flies. Sometimes we are successful and manage to shoo them all away, but as long as the garbage remains we are fighting a losing battle and those flies are inevitably going to return and multiply. So, the solution is to get rid of the garbage in our lives. We need to be concerned with the flies, but we also must work to remove the garbage to keep them out! Every trashcan is going to look different… but we certainly all have one. In his strategy of complacency, Satan watches as we clear our houses of garbage and flies…except for one room. It’s more than likely a hidden room, one we keep to ourselves. That room may be continual sin, it might be a relationship, bitterness, or a wound we haven’t allowed to heal. At times the door to that room full of garbage stays shut for a while and Satan allows us to have successes in other areas all the while the flies are just multiplying and building up in this little room. Then, out of nowhere, the door of the hidden room flies open, freeing thousands upon thousands of flies who have been breeding and waiting for just this moment.

Why does this happen? We get complacent and our complacency leads to tolerance or apathy.

Think it doesn’t happen? Take a moment to consider prominent Christian leaders, celebrities, or politicians whose lives and careers have been ruined when they fell in disgrace from one sin or another. We all know them so there is no need at mentioning names. We might look in from the outside an ask ourselves, “how would they allow that to happen” or, “why would they do that with all the success they have?” Rest assured. That fall wasn’t part of the plan when they began their career. Nobody begins a ministry with the goal to ultimately disgrace themselves and God by being brought to their knees by their own hand. Too often the fall comes from complacency. They believed the lie that they could “get away with it,” or, “it’s not that big of a deal,” and when they seemed to have it all together and under control, they grew complacent in their tolerance of sin.

Sin is sin, and all sin is bad. Don’t tolerate it! The church is to be a place of healing for sinners, but a Holy God doesn’t wink at or bless iniquity. He sent His son to die for and erase that iniquity and sin… not cover it up. The only reason the church welcomes sinners is because by God’s grace, sinners can be reborn with Christ’s righteousness. Do not tolerate sin in your own life! Letting a few “little things” slip leads to bigger slip-ups. I recently watched a video of a poor woman who slipped on an icy sidewalk and every time she would begin to regain her balance and composure she would begin to slide and fall again until ultimately she ended up on the ground. We’ve all been on an icy sidewalk… when you begin to slip it is all over. But… you know how you avoid slipping and falling? Stay off the ice.

  • Lack of Pursuit

What is a pursuit? I would define it as an intense chase of something in order to attain it.

My parents have a German shepherd by the name of Obi and he is extremely quick. One afternoon while playing and walking Obi his leash fell off of his collar and went limp in my hand. I looked down in shock only to see him looking at me with the same look of shock in his face that I had in mine. At that point the chase was on.

Why did I pursue Obi the dog? I pursued because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t catch him, of what would happen if I stopped pursuing him!

How many of us have stopped pursuing holiness? Lost interest or will to pursue God and spiritual growth?

Spiritual growth is marked by an aggressive intense pursuit of God. We desire His fellowship, His people, and His word. A life that lacks prayer, Bible intake, and neglects spiritual nourishment is a life that has slipped into complacency and that will see little or no fruit.

Mark 11:12-14 says,

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

When Jesus cursed the fig tree for its failure to produce fruit in the verses above He gives us a sobering lesson. Empty religion, lacking fruit, needs to and ultimately will die. In actuality the parable of the fig tree doesn’t end with Jesus’ withering curse, because the very next verse says,

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

The spiritual complacency or “religion” of the people had reached the place where they were making a total mockery of the temple and of the message. We may not see our situations as that bleak, but if Jesus walked into our churches what things would he need to overturn or shake up?

  • Inward Focus

One of the surest signs of complacency is a church that is self-absorbed or entirely inwardly focused. You might ask, “Tanner, what does than mean?” Let me begin my answer with another question, what is the mission of the church? That question can evoke many answers like: to provide teaching for Believers, to be a place of fellowship, a place of worship. To all of those I would say yes… but what is the first and foremost mission of the church? In Matthew 28:19 it tells us about that mission. It says,

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The mission of the church is to spread the good news and make disciples. In fact we may have to get out of our comfortable and familiar zone to do it! Acts 1:8 says,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Is your church inward focused or outward focused? Are you so concerned about not “rocking the boat” that you leave it docked? We see in the book of Acts that in order to achieve our mission we have to wander outside of ourselves! Are we so overly concerned about keeping “our people” happy and content that we miss opportunities to reach those that haven’t yet been reached by Christ or the church? I will step out in an unpopular way and say that when a church is absorbed with just its own activities, its own problems, and its own people, it has become complacent and ineffective at achieving the goal and mission.

The primary challenge, and our primary concern, should be, “how do we reach people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus?” Most inward-focused churches are not sensitive to or even aware of this challenge. We might bank on our “friendliness” or position in the community to cut it… but the numbers show that it doesn’t! We can’t simply pray for a harvest and not plant any seeds or till any ground!

So many of us are so complacent that we fear any change or decision that might push insiders away and, frankly, impact the bottom line. Ironically, any organization, including a church, that doesn’t focus on reaching new people has already started to decline and will eventually die. In the book of Acts, James the brother of Jesus, told the Jewish Christians, who were the insiders of the day, they should not make it difficult for the Gentiles, the outsiders of the day, to turn to God. Why is it that this many years later that problem still exists? Are we making it easy for outsiders to turn to God, or are we stuck in the busy complacent work of keeping insiders happy?

Jeremiah 10:21 says,

For the shepherds have become stupid and have not sought the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.

Proverbs 1:32 says,

For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.

What is our focus as a church?


Zephaniah 1:12 says,

It will come about at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And I will punish the men Who are stagnant in spirit, Who say in their hearts, ‘The LORD will not do good or evil!’

Are you complacent? Go to war with the complacency in your life.

 

With Identity comes Blessing: The Story of Jacob

 

The story of Jacob is one that we should all be familiar with from Scripture. A younger brother who rises up to rule over his older brother. Inspiring right! Well… not exactly.

What do we know about Jacob?

Deep-seated family hostilities characterized Jacob’s life. He was a determined man; some would consider him to be ruthless. He was definitely a con artist, a liar, and a manipulator. I find it interesting that we see stories that paint this picture of the man we know as Jacob, but his name also tells a lot about him. In ancient times a name often carried a meaning or purpose for your life. If Jacob’s name was his purpose then he surely accomplished it… the name Jacob not only means “deceiver,” but more literally it means “heel grabber.”

From birth Jacob exhibiting greed and a desire to take what wasn’t rightfully his.

Genesis 25:19-28 paints this picture,

These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Now is we follow along in Genesis we see how Jacob is cunning and manipulative beginning early in his life. You’d have to be to trick your older brother out of his birthright in trade for a bowl of soup! But… in my opinion there comes a point in Genesis 27 where Jacob is at the crossroads. He can dive all in and live up to his name or he can attempt to straighten his life out. Let’s read what happens. Genesis 27:1-35 says,

When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.” “Here I am,” he answered. Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. Now then, get your equipment—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.” Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’ Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.” Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.” His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.” So he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made. He went to his father and said, “My father.” “Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?” Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.” Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?” “The Lord your God gave me success,” he replied. Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.” Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him. “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked. “I am,” he replied. Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.” Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.” So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness— an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.” After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.” His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?” “I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.” Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!” When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!” But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

Jacob went all in. A life of deceit…. of misinformed identity is what he chose. Now obviously Esau didn’t take the news of the theft well. Genesis 27:41 says,

Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

As we continue through this story of Jacob, a story of lost identity and reconciliation, let’s find some application together.


  • Your sin will always catch up with you.

Following this threat on his life Jacob had to flee his own family because of his sinfulness. He had to begin a life on the run in order to try to “outrun” his sin. But… we know that you can’t outrun sin and your decisions will always catch up to you in one way or another.

In Genesis 27:43 Rebekah sends Jacob away to save his life. That passage says,

Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran.

Jacob’s life was built on a foundation of deceit. He made a “dog eat dog” world for himself. Jacob most definitely lived by the motto: “every man for themselves.” That motto comes back to bite him when he himself is deceived or “conned.” Genesis 29:18-30 says,

Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.” So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant. When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.” And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.

So Jacob had the tables turned and it cost him 14 years of his life! But… if he hadn’t learned his lesson enough he decided to attempt his con artist scheme yet again in order to gain wealth.

Genesis 30:41-43 says,

Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

So because of his own scheming, Jacob successfully turned a few weeks into twenty years, and when Laban his uncle found out he had been cheated he decided himself to kill Jacob. So… Jacob found himself fleeing for his life from his father-in-law and God had to intervene to prevent Laban from killing him.

How many times has God had to intervene on our behalf? How has God been working “behind the scenes” of your life… your plans?

  • You never win a fight with God

On his way back home, Jacob realized that he had to travel through Esau’s land. God spoke to Jacob again and promised to be with him (31:3). He followed this promise up by sending some angels to reassure Jacob of his protection (32:1-2).

But Jacob was still scheming rather than trusting. He sent some of his servants to bribe Esau with schmoozing and the hope of gifts (32:3-5). But they returned with news that sent chills down Jacob’s spine–Esau was coming to see him with 400 men! The gig was up. He had hit rock bottom and the time of reckoning was upon him. Have you ever been there?

For the first recorded time, Jacob prayed to God for protection (32:9-12).

But… then he hatched an elaborate and self-protective plan to buy Esau off. Genesis 32:13-20 says,

He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, “Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.” He instructed the one in the lead: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘Who do you belong to, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’ then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.’” He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: “You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. And be sure to say, ‘Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.’” For he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.”

How many times have we hit rock bottom and cried out to God only to have the enemy whisper in our ears afterwards and convince us that “we can handle it on our own” or, “God can’t help you… that prayer wasn’t real?” It happens often! Alone that night before he had to face Esau, Jacob had an encounter with God that was the defining moment of his life . . .

Genesis 32:22-31 says,

The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

God initiated a wrestling match, and how did Jacob respond?

Jacob responded by fighting back all night long (32:24). Why would Jacob fight with God? God was fighting with Jacob for his own future… to save his life! I believe that this is a picture of Jacob’s relationship with God the whole time. It wasn’t primarily Esau or Laban that Jacob was resisting and trying to get around… it was God himself. God had a will for Jacob’s life and made promises to him pertaining to that will, but Jacob had been stubbornly resisting God’s leadership at every step.

How do we resist God? How do we respond when God wrestles with us?

My favorite part of this scripture is where after wrestling all night, God dislocated Jacob’s hip with a single touch We see that in Genesis 32:25,

When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 

When reading this I ask myself… Why the hip? I have come to this conclusion,

God doesn’t want to kill or destroy you… he only wants to change the way you walk forever.

You see, with a bummed hip Jacob can only hang on to God. Man, this is a picture of our proper relationship with God! If you have ever had a limp you understand how hard it is to blend into a crowd. You will always stand out! God wants to change the way we walk forever so everyone can see who has touched us!

A single touch from God can leave a lasting mark!

Now that Jacob is in a dependent posture, God blesses him and renames him to cleanse him from his old ways (“deceiver”) and give him a new identity to live up to (“one who strives effectively with God”).

  • God is always willing to bless His children.

Often when reading this story we get so caught up in the wrestling match that Jacob brought upon himself and miss the fact that God had always been willing to bless Jacob. He had only been waiting for Jacob to ask with a trusting, dependent heart. Jacob thought he could do it without God… he sought out his own blessing and that only led to pain and suffering.

You see, God will not bless a deceitful heart indefinitely. Genesis 32:26-30 says,

Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.

In this passage God changes Jacob’s identity and renames him. Jacob had spent his entire life creating his own identity but the true blessing didn’t come until Jacob accepted his identity before God. On God’s terms.

Like many of us Jacob spent his life trying to evade God, and make it on his own terms… his own way, with his own plan. Jacob wrestled with God all night. It was an exhausting struggle that left him crippled. It was only after he came to grips with God and ceased his struggling, realizing that he could not go on without Him, that he received God’s blessing.

So… what happens next? Jacob learned the lesson, and God blessed/ delivered him. The next morning, he dropped his elaborate and self-protective plan with Esau and instead passed ahead of everyone to meet him directly trusting God’s promise to protect him. Genesis 33:3-4 says,

He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

Jacob discovered that Esau had forgiven him, and he went on to supply godly leadership for his family.

  • God loves you enough to “step out on the mat.”

God works through suffering and adversity to teach us our need to depend on him. Our primary problem is one of deeply-rooted self-sufficiency, and often God works to “break” this through adversity.

Often (like Jacob), he just lets us reap the consequences of our poor choices:

  • Alienation due to deception
  • Broken relationships due to sin
  • Lost jobs due to irresponsibility or lack of respect for authority

Sometimes, he intervenes with specific discipline:

  • Wrestling matches/ physical adversity
  • Sickness
  • Career disappointments
  • Discipline through others

In the end, He loves you enough to “take you to the mat” and fight for your life, your purpose, and your identity.

  • God isn’t just the God of your successes… but He is also the God of your failures.

To know Jacob’s life is to know a life of struggles. Most of which he brought upon himself. It’s in Jacob’s story we can easily recognize our own elements of struggle: fears/ worries, darkness, loneliness, vulnerabilities, empty feelings of powerlessness, exhaustion and relentless pain.

But guess what… we aren’t alone! Even the apostle Paul experienced similar discouragements and fears! 2 Corinthians 7:5 says,

For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within.

But, in truth, God does not want to leave us with our trials, our fears, our battles in life. It is through Him that we can receive the power of conversion and transformation, the gift of not only surrender, but freedom, and the gifts of endurance, faith and courage. In the end, Jacob does what we all must do. He confronts his failures, his weaknesses, his sins, all the things that are hurting him… and faces God.

What we learn from this remarkable incident in the life of Jacob is that our lives are never meant to be easy. This is especially true when we take it upon ourselves to wrestle with God and His will for our lives. We also learn that as Christians, despite our trials and tribulations, our strivings in this life are never devoid of God’s presence, and His blessing inevitably follows the struggle, which can sometimes be messy and chaotic. Real growth experiences always involve struggle and pain.

As this blog comes to an end, I want to make this last point very clear: God isn’t ashamed of our past, our fears, or our failures.

Exodus 3:1-6 says,

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 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 saw in Genesis that God had renamed Jacob and given him a new identity. So… why does He here in Exodus refer to him by his “old” sinful name?

Because God isn’t just the God of the “good” us… instead He is the God of both or victories and defeats… our successes and failures.


So, how are we resisting?

It is important to remember that conversion is not only saying “I’ll take the free gift you offer me through Christ”-but also saying “I am willing to bow to you and submit to your leadership.”

 

 

What does God say about You?

What do people say about you? The way you dress? The way you act? The people you associate with? What you enjoy doing?

These are all questions that many ask themselves each and every day. What type of impression do we make? Do people like or approve of us? It is completely natural to ask ourselves these things.

In fact you don’t even have to tell or train kids to care what their peers think. At some point in late elementary school the innocence of care-free living and relationships disappears and groups begin to form based off interests, attire, gender, race, etc… Where groups happen you will always find people conforming to “”fit in” to those groups. We are internally wired to care about what other people think or say about us. There are exceptions to this… but even those people who claim otherwise typically care to some extent.


In 2013 many of us got to experience a pretty incredible moment as Nik Wallenda, “The King of the High Wire,” walked a tightrope across the Little Colorado River Gorge (a section of the Grand Canyon) live on national television without a safety net. Nik is a seventh generation daredevil belonging to the legendary Great Wallendas (a tight roping family) and began walking the tightrope at age 4. Nik had spent his life training and preparing for this one moment.

What many viewers that night were unaware of was the fact that Nik’s great-grandfather died before viewers’ eyes on live television trying to walk a tightrope strung between two hotel towers in San Juan, Puerto Rico, harness-free, in 1978.

Anyone who watched felt the suspense the whole time as Nik battled high winds (18-30mph) while balancing a 45 pound bar on a mere 2-inch wire. The quarter-mile walk at 1,500 feet in the air took more than 20 minutes, and Wallenda actually had to kneel twice to wait out the stronger winds. But… he made it! Nik Wallenda was the first human to ever cross the Little Colorado River Gorge on a wire.

A tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon without any safety net or harness is pretty crazy right? Success means living another day as a daredevil, and failure means certain death… live on television for your friends and family to see.


But… in a less literal sense I would compare walking a tightrope to living according to what other people think. Trying to please people is like stepping out on a tightrope. Once we decide to bend to people’s desires or perceptions we are stepping out, and getting on, to a hairy situation that most of us will never be able to maintain. Think about it… everyone wants something different… no one thing can please every crowd. So with each step we are swaying left and right in order to meet the needs and gain the “applause” of the right group of people. But… we must be extraordinarily careful not to sway too far in either direction because that mistake can leave us hanging on for our lives. It is sad to say that much of the world’s happiness is dependent on impressions… what people say or think about us.

Many of us need to unhook the “applause-meter” and focus on who God has created us to be.

Our happiness in life should depend on how God sees us. Sadly, many of us have a wrong idea of God’s opinion of us. We base it on what we’ve been taught, our bad experiences in life, what the world tells us, and many other assorted assumptions. Some of us may have bought into the lies of the enemy and think that God is disappointed in us, or that we’ll never measure up to who He has called us to be. Some of us may even believe in an angry God who exists in a constant state of anger because we as humans, try as we might, can’t stop sinning.

But if we want to know the truth, we need to go to the source: God himself. Let’s dive in to the Word and figure out who we are according to what God has called us. Let’s think together.


  • We are His beloved children.

Luckily enough, upon our salvation, we are no longer strangers to God. The decision to accept Christ is a decision to join a family. We are adopted and no longer exist as orphans or children of the world, even though we may sometimes feel alone. We know for a fact that the heavenly Father loves us and sees us as one of His children.

2 Corinthians 6:17-18 says,

Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.

Not everyone has the experience of having a good earthly Father, but we all have the same opportunity to be adopted by a great Heavenly Father who will never leave us or forsake us, but will instead love us unceasingly without restraint.

1 John 3:1- 3 says,

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Our identity is even found in the way we are taught to pray! In Matthew 6 we find the “model prayer” or Lord’s prayer and even in the way we address God it not only reinforces His identity… but it confirms ours!

Matthew 6:9 says,

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

If He is indeed our Father then that has to mean that we are His children! We serve a good Father who blesses His own. Matthew 7:11 says,

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

God doesn’t just give us good gifts to buy our affection… instead He shares our inheritance with us. Upon conversion we become heirs with Christ Jesus Himself… to share in His inheritance.

Romans 8:16-17 says,

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

  • We are forgiven.

On October 30, 2011 Marion Hedges was at her local Target buying Halloween candy for underprivileged kids when she was hit in the head by a shopping cart pushed over a fourth floor railing by two 12-year-old boys. Marion was technically dead at the scene and had to be revived by a doctor who happened to be nearby. The then 47-year-old had to be in a medically induced coma for a period of time, suffered serious brain trauma and injury, and lost the use of one eye after the cart fell on her. She needed months of rehabilitation.

In her time of recovery when Marion heard of the two young boys who committed the violent prank she responded by choosing grace and forgiveness. She was quoted saying, “I feel very sorry for them. My son is 13 also, and he is a very good boy.” Hedges chose the road of forgiveness instead of harboring bitterness, anger, and un-forgiveness in her heart. Since her accident, Hedges has expressed her concerns for both of the boys responsible.

Many Christians are being crushed under a heavy load of guilt, afraid they have disappointed God, and are past the point of grace and forgiveness. But… there is good news! If we know Jesus as our Savior, God sees us as forgiven.

God does not hold our past sins against us.

Acts 10:43 says,

All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

John 8:36 says,

The Son has set me free. I am free indeed!

The Bible is clear on this point. God sees us as righteous because of the death of His Son on our behalf. As Forgiven Sons and Daughters of a good God we don’t have to worry about being holy enough, because Jesus was perfectly holy and died on the cross on our behalf. God sees us as forgiven. We just have to walk in that forgiveness.

Galatians 2:20 says,

I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

  • We are a people of hope.

 Ephesians 3:20 says,

He is able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within me.

Hebrews 10:23 says,

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

He who promised is faithful… what a powerful statement that so many of us fail to recognize and hold onto daily. Tragedy hits for everyone at some point… and it is easy to lose sight of our identity before our Maker when we feel as if life has handed us more than we can handle.

But… God sees us and has made us to be people of hope. No matter how bleak the situation, Jesus is with us through it all.

Romans 8:31 says,

God is for me! Who can be against me?

Jeremiah 29:11 says,

For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future

We’ve all had these situations… in fact the song below is one that I wrote while in one of those “hopeless” seasons that now ministers to the Body in which I serve.

Ultimately our hope is not based on what we can muster up. It’s based on the One we have hope in. When our hope is failing we must remember that our Father is strong. When we keep our attention focused on him, hope will come.

Lamentations 3:25 says,

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.


When we begin to see ourselves as God sees us, it will change our perspective. What other truths can you find in the Word that speaks to your image before God?

The Power of Silence

Silence. It’s rare. It can be uncomfortable.

One of the definitions for silence in Merriam-Webster is:

A situation, state, or period of time in which a person does not talk in order that they may hear.

In fact, the word “silent” and the word “listen” have the same letters interchanged. They go hand-in-hand. I like the statement,

When I am silent, then I can listen, when I can listen then I can learn.

Lamentations 3:26 says,

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

There is nothing worse than being in the very presence of God and having that trampled out by noise. Hear me out… we have all been there, think about a time in church where you were “connected” and pouring your heart out in a song and when it ended the silence was stomped out by awkward applause. I have been there. I have been the culprit.

Sometimes silence is uncomfortable as a Worship Pastor. I have made many a victim to meaningless theological “fluff” off the cuff at the end of a song just to escape the effects of silence.

How does silence play a part in our worship and our communication with God? There is a place for singing and shouting and a place for silence. Why should we seek out silence and participate in it during our worship? Let’s think together below.


  • Silence speaks when we have no words to say.

Revelation 8:1 is a small passage that reveals one of the most powerful moments that will exist in all of creation. That passage says,

When the Lamb ripped off the seventh seal, Heaven fell quiet—complete silence for about half an hour.

All of Heaven fell quiet. Can you imagine that? In that moment of significance there was nothing to say…

Such a small verse that is often read over relays a huge truth: sometimes when we encounter the awesome power of God, all we can do is be silent. Silence is the appropriate response.

This concept of silence isn’t new to us. I believe that everyone has had a moment in their life that has left them speechless. Think about at the end of a powerful film… the movie theatre is silent as the credits roll. What about when you have witnessed an incredibly powerful moment, whether it was an act of compassion or recognition for a humanitarian hero, sometimes applause and cheering isn’t the appropriate or natural response. I even think about when I have encountered someone that I admire or look up to. All I can do is stand in silence and observe.

On the same note, I have been in worship services that have left me at a loss for words… but yet the hardest thing for me to do was just to be silent. Why is it that we always feel the urge to speak? To clap? To cheer and yell?

Victory doesn’t only come in the midst of applause and cheers. In fact, in Psalm 62 David writes,

I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.

Sometimes when we are left speechless it is better for us to stay that way than scramble for something “theological” to say. 

Habakkuk 2:20 says,

But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.

Let’s not be so quick to speak “into” a situation that we miss out on experiencing the awesome presence of God.

  • Silence confronts.

Nothing is silent anymore.

Last summer I went on a tour of Mammoth Cave here in Kentucky and at one of the deepest points of the trek the guide turned out all the lights and said that when the cave was empty and dark someone would quickly lose sanity because of the lack of auditory stimulus.

It’s a noisy world we live in! Everything around us makes noise. Think about the evolution of personal music devices. You used to have to have a record player and quite a large setup to listen to music. Over the years the devices have gotten smaller and smaller and now there isn’t a place we can go that is out of reach of our personal listening pleasure.

We now have constant auditory stimuli from our iPods, phone conversations, busy streets, and everyday life. Genuine silence is nearly impossible to come by these days, but yet silence has a power that we should use more often. Silence confronts.

That last statement may have thrown you off…

Let me say it this way… it is easy to ignore what’s going on inside of you when there are so many things demanding your attention. But when left with only silence, we have a much harder time ignoring the things deep down in our souls that we have tucked away for so long. Silence can reveal things that make us uncomfortable and strip away the things we have used to shield us away from facing them. Silence confronts us with ourselves.

Silence also confronts us with God.

God sometimes yells, but more often He whispers. With all the noise around us, sometimes it can be hard to hear and recognize His voice.

Psalm 46:10 provides the antidote to our “hearing” problem. It says,

Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.

Let’s make time in our worship services to be confronted with the voice of God speaking into our souls.

  • Silence allows room for us to hear.

I Kings 19-9-13 says,

There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

It is no coincidence that in 1 Kings 19, when God speaks to Elijah, it is in a “gentle whisper” and not in the fire, the wind or the earthquake like we would expect our all-powerful God to do.

What I have seen displayed in my own life of ministry is that God rarely, if ever has forced His will on me. Instead, He shows me and waits for me to make the move. He speaks and waits for me to listen. He promises and allows me to find Him. Isn’t that how faith works? It would be easy to have follow God if He was always blatantly pointing things out to us and screaming directions into our ears. We would be puppets or marionettes on a string being pulled in whatever direction He willed.

Romans 10:17 says,

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

So… are we hearing?

If God sometimes speaks in whispers then we must create time and space in our lives to hear His whispers and follow His gentle nudging.

Have you ever had a relationship with someone who never hears you because they are always either talking or thinking about how they are going to respond when you are done speaking? I personally catch myself doing that to God. I pray and respond… sometimes I just don’t listen.

If our relationship with God is like that of any other relationship then we know that communication is key. Communication isn’t only talking. Sometimes we need to just shut up and listen.

When we encounter the Spirit of God I believe that we should be quiet and let Him speak, and get out of the way so He can move.

Exodus 14:14 says,

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”


Let’s commit ourselves to learning when to be silent.

Psalm 62:5 says,

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.

The Benefits of Multi-Generational Worship

What does the makeup of your church look like?

All young? All old? Is it healthy?

Deuteronomy 6:1-13 says,

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.

This passage shows us that multi-generational “worship” is of utmost importance.

Howard Vanderwell defines intergenerational worship as,

Worship in which people of every age are understood to be equally important. Each and all are the church of now.

In fact, the phrase “all generations” appears 91 times in the Bible. Vanderwell goes on to say,

God does not form our character all at once or all by himself. Nor does he expect us to unilaterally form our own character. God acts on us through others. Interaction among generations is necessary for forming faith and character. Each age learns from another.

Worship is SO much more than singing.

Worship in its purest sense is related to the teaching and learning of God’s Word. I don’t want to limit our understanding of worship to being only through song or an artistic sense… of course, that is one avenue or expression of our worship. But, here we are talking about ALL that is worship.


The Context

Having multiple generations together in a worship service or ministry is almost against the “norm” nowadays. Too often we cater to our own individual preferences and create services for everything: kids service, youth service, traditional service, contemporary service, country western service, etc… The modern church tends to approach ministry programs in a mostly uni-generational manner instead of a multi-generational manner. Meaning, we segment our worship services into age appropriate groupings with each respective group receiving teaching, ministry, musical worship and such in a very compartmentalized environment.

The problem I have with this mindset or method though is that isn’t what Heaven is going to be like! Revelation 5 paints us a picture of what Heaven will be like… it says,

They sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Not only is Heaven going to be filled with worshipers from every tribe and nation like Revelation 5 says, but it will also be filled with worshipers from EVERY generation! We can worship alongside Peter and Paul, our great-grandmother, and what will be our great grandchild! Worshipers from EVERY time and place will be there. So, as we pray as Jesus taught us, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven,” we can fight for our times of worship to be multi-generational. Heaven is multi-generational!

So… other than looking a little like Heaven here on earth, what other benefits come along with multi-generational worship? Let’s explore that question below.


  • Promotes Understanding

How do you worship? What about the person next to you on Sunday?

The fact is that we all express ourselves in different ways and what moves me into worship may not do anything for you.

We each interact differently. We each have our own worship language.

The first step to bringing generations together in a worship ministry is to provide opportunity for everyone to worship in their language. At school we have talked a lot about the culture and languages of worship differing in each church, and I think the same can be said for different generations. I don’t respond in the same way to a song that my grandma does. So… instead of splitting people apart and segregating by age or other factors I think we should be providing a place for them, either on stage if that is their ministry, or in the congregation as a worshipper. The funny thing is that this is the first step often times to dissolving the tension amongst worship styles and preference.

One of the great benefits of worshiping together is that people are given a great opportunity to learn and grow in their preference of others. When people are taught and begin to understand that there is really no such thing as “adult worship” or “youth worship” or “contemporary” or “traditional” they begin to see the different approaches as valid and beneficial to the Kingdom.

Different languages for different voices.

By providing an opportunity to worship alongside Brothers and Sisters in Christ we are providing an opportunity for connection, relationship building, and at least understanding of who we are connected to through the blood of Christ. Multi-generational worship promotes understanding.

  • Promotes Unity

People tend to gather in groups made up of people that they share similarities with. You can see it by going to your nearest high school cafeteria or country club! People with wealth tend to hang out with other wealthy people. People who dress a particular way or have particular hobbies/ interests gather together because of their commonalities. In fact it isn’t shocking at all that people like to hang out with people like them!

I’m afraid you could walk into many of our churches and make similar observations. It is far too easy to stereotype most churches within the first 30 seconds of entering the building or even driving by… but the saddest part is that most of those stereotypes turn out being correct! “Ohhh… coffee shop in the foyer, this is the young people church where people wear skinny jeans and the music is too loud.” Or alternatively… “Potted plants, banners, and paper bulletins handed out by greeters, this must be the old people church with the organ and hymnbook.”

How easy and true is that?

But, the beauty of the Gospel is that it brings together people who would not naturally choose to be together. In Ephesians 2:14-18 Paul says,

For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

In the times that Paul was living and ministering there was never a divide quite as strong as the one between the Jews and the Gentiles. Jewish people spent their lives thinking of ways to be separated from the Gentiles! But… a wrench was thrown in the machine when Gentiles started getting saved! How were Jews and Gentiles supposed to be of “one body?” They hated each other… they had nothing alike! These are the types of things Paul was facing at this time and these same ideas and problems are still around today. How easy would it have been for Paul just to have a Jewish church service and a Gentile church service? Two churches for two differing bodies with two different “tastes.” But Paul knew that is not what we are called to do. Paul knew what many of us need to grasp today… Paul knew that a united people in one church would display the beauty of the gospel more brilliantly.

When we teach our congregation that we are all unique and diverse and that there are many valid approaches and styles of worship (including music), and that it’s okay to have preferences, we can experience some beautiful moments of unity. What happens is, people become accepting with an approach that isn’t necessarily their cup of tea because they understand unity, and they understand the needs of their fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Using musical worship as an example, it’s okay when the children sing a song that we as adults may deem as silly or shallow at the top of their lungs because that is their worship language at this point in time. The adults should absolutely join in singing “Jesus Loves Me” with their children because they prefer and understand the importance of unity and want the children of the church to learn and grow in their excitement to worship God. Afterall, He is OUR God… not MY or YOUR god.

If our congregations can’t move past style then ultimately they are worshipping their style of worship instead of actually worshipping.

Through multi-generational worship we also teach our children to learn, join, and sing when their grandparents bust out their favorite arrangement of “In the Garden.”

Psalm 133 says,

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

One of the simplest ways that we can live the truth of Psalm 133 is to worship together, old and young. This verse says that it is wonderful when God’s children live together in unity. When we segment our environments by age, or other factor, and shuttle them off to be taught “age-appropriate” curriculum we probably do a lot of good for them individually. But what we also do is probably unintentionally teach younger generations that it is acceptable to worship in a segregated manner. We create groups of worshippers… groups of little individual churches. We call these little churches: children’s church, youth group, and “big church.”

We are meant to be ONE body.

  • Promotes Discipleship

I believe that a huge part that our older and more mature believers can play in our churches and our worship is discipling younger believers and modeling worship in front of them. This is where multi-generational worship comes into play.

Psalm 45:1-7 says,

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

This passage talks about older generations telling younger generations about the goodness of God. When we’re able to intentionally make this happen by promoting multi-generational worship, we reinforce family. God loves family. Jesus was brought into the world through a young family. The early Church was a family. The Old Testament reiterates the importance of family through stories and genealogical listings and through stories about the Israelites and the family of God.

Worshiping together helps us see and experience what that family is supposed to be all about. I’m definitely not saying that we should never utilize age specific ministries or age-appropriate worship sets, activities, or sermons, but that we should be willing to incorporate gatherings, elements, services, etc. that allow us to worship in a multi-generational manner. I believe many of us would be surprised and challenged by the things that we learn from each other when worshipping together.

Acts 2: 17-18 says,

And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

The work of God isn’t limited by age or any other factor.

Multi-generational worship provides the opportunity for discipleship. Discipleship usually doesn’t happen in the context of peer-driven ministry. We need our older generations to share their life experiences, their faith-building stories, and their wisdom. We need our younger people to inspire with their zeal and youthful energy. Relationships that lead to discipleship form in multi- generational worship and ministries.


How are you doing at encouraging and providing multi-generational worship?