Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Be Astonished and Afraid

Jesus wasn’t looking for fan, he was inviting followers. We have spent the last 6 weeks examining this from many angles, however in a congregation our size it seems there are always some who hold on to the idea that being a fan of Jesus is what we do here. We are really missing something if we get from scripture that we are merely to believe or behave.   Jesus’ disciples certainly did believe and behave, but that isn’t what made them disciples.  They followed!

What’s the difference? At what point does believing or behaving become following? That’s a fantastic question and I’m really glad you asked it. The answer is much too long for a little column like this one, so I would suggest that you go back and listen to Joe’s messages on the church website.  Get a copy of the book “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman and read it. Most of all, pray. Examine your life and ask God, “When I did this thing today (be specific) was that the actions of a follower or a fan?”

Let me offer this for you to think about: in Mark 10:32 Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem.  This takes place just before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.

“They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished and those who follower were afraid.”  NIV

When you follow Jesus daily you will certainly have many moments were you are astonished at what he is doing in your life. You will also find yourself afraid, not the kind of fear that reveals a lack of trust but instead the kind of fear that leaves you no other choice but to fully trust in Jesus.  Jesus will often lead you to places that will make you uncomfortable – places you would not go on your own.

Please, please, please don’t let this series fade into a distant memory as a nice sermon series that meets your expectations for a quality worship service and message. Make a conscious examination of yourself through the lens of scripture, narrated by the Holy Spirit.  Determine to be a follower and put away the selfish ways of religious fandom.


To Him Be Glory in the Church!

For the past few weeks Joe has reminded us of a verse (3:20) from Paul’s prayer (3:14-21) written in his letter to the Ephesians.  I absolutely love this verse!  Paul gets caught up in the greatness of God and the power He supplies His people for His Kingdom purpose.  Joe used verse 20 because it is there that Paul makes his point about God’s ability to do immeasurably, unimaginably more than all we ask.  As we set our goal of living this Christian life Unleashed, let us by no means fix a limit in our minds of what God can do in us.

It may have occurred to you that verse 20 ends with a comma, at least in most versions.  Paul includes all three parts of the trinity to make his point for us, but I have to include verse 21 to show you.

“Now to him (God the Father) who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power (Holy Spirit) that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”(NIV) Eph 3:20-21

God sent the Holy Spirit for a solitary purpose –to glorify his Son, Jesus.  The purpose of God’s power, which is given us through the Holy Spirit, is to build His church and to bring glory to Him, in Christ Jesus.  We glorify Christ, Christ glorifies his Father.  Part of unleashing God’s power in our lives is that we align our motives with God’s purpose – “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus.”

Warren Wiersbe puts it this way; “If our motive is to glorify God by building His Church, then God will share His power with us.  The power of the Spirit is not a luxury; it is a necessity.”

To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.


Do I Care What Others Think?

When it comes to corporate worship we can’t escape the fact that we are in the presence of others.  Wherever we sit or stand, we are surrounded by other worshipers. (And non-worshipers) In a world where image is everything, do we concern ourselves too much with what others think, when we should be focusing on God?

“What if they see me crying?”

“If I raise my hands, they will judge me.”

“Remember to turn the offering envelope upside down, so no one sees what I give.”

“Nobody complimented my shoes!”

“If I put the envelope in slowly, everyone can see how much I give.”

With the popularity of social media formats such as facebook, twitter and pintrest, etc… we are more concerned than ever before about maintaining an acceptable image.  Haven’t we taken this image conscious mindset to an unhealthy level?  Social media can be a great place to interact with friends, but in our humanness, we tend to only put forth the image we want others to see and we hide our real selves. I’m sure this isn’t true all of the time, but it’s true enough of the time.

Does this same tendency toward image influence our corporate worship?  Scripture teaches that God is the audience of our worship, not others.  When we make God alone our audience, we will care less about maintaining our image in front of others.  The next time you participate in corporate worship set aside the image you want others to see and lay your life open before God.

When we drop the image facade, our worship can be a testimony.  Let us be Spirit and Truth worshipers who enter His presence without our masks and worship the Savior without pretense.


Evaluating The Hour on Sunday (part 2)

Last week I posted the standard questions we ask when we evaluate the worship PLAN from the previous Sunday service.  As promised I am putting up our questions we use to evaluate the PRESENTATION layer of Sunday morning worship leading.  The reason we distinguish our questions between PLAN and PRESENTATION is because the work is done by different individuals or teams.  Therefore, the solutions to problems that arise will be handled by different teams.

The regular evaluation is done by the pastors and the creative planning team (the ones who create the PLAN.)  The PRESENTATION is done by the worship team (worship leader, choir, band, vocal team, drama team, sound team, video team.) They are the ones you follow and execute the plan.  I know it can sound kind of sterile to use these terms, but Christ is our center as we plan and we always seek to follow the Holy Spirit throughout the process. He works in Monday planning team just like he works in Sunday worship team.

When we evaluate the PLAN we want to know if it was a good plan?  Did put the pieces in place that allow and encourage biblical Spirit-and-Truth worship to be offered.  When we evaluate the PRESENTATION we want to make sure that we did everything we could do (or not do) on Sunday morning to engage the worshiper and invite them to join us in worship before the throne of God.  Here is our non-exhaustive list of questions;

Evaluating the PRESENTATION

MUSIC

  • Was the music presented at a high level of quality? Introductions? Transitions? Song Endings?
  • Were the transitions in and out of the singing portion appropriate? Clear? Well executed?
  • Did the musicians work well together? Did the band gel? Did the singers blend?
  • Was the volume of the music appropriate? Individual instruments and voices? Too loud/too soft? Overall?
  • Were the songs achievable and enjoyable to sing? Complicated melody? Key too high/too low? Too fast/too slow?

DRAMA

  • Was the drama presented with a high level of quality? Actors well prepared? Enough time given to prepare? Where actors believable?  Was the scene believable?
  • Was there smooth transition between drama and the elements surrounding it?

VIDEO

  • How was the transition into and out of the video?
  • Was it introduced (if needed) or set up properly?
  • Was the volume set well from the start? Was a special sound check performed for the video before the service?
  • Were the lights adjusted to an appropriate level during the video?  Was the sound person prepared/informed?

For follow worship leaders reading this, I hope this will help you the way it helps our team.  Feel free to use any of these evaluation questions for your teams.  If you don’t lead worship, but are a worshiper yourself, I hope this list helps you feel that worship is such a high priority for you church that we spend a lot of time making sure that we do our very best to steward the hour on Sunday.  Speaking for myself and many other worship pastors out there, we have a passion to see that the body of Christ worships the person of Christ for His benefit and for the encouragement of one another.

Do you have additional evaluation questions that aren’t covered in our non-exhaustive list?  Feel free to bring them into the conversation in the comment section below.


Worship in Spirit

Worship

Worship (Photo credit: Josa Jr)

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. (John 4:23 ESV)

As a worship pastor, I absolutely love to see people singing praises to God, who is worthy of our highest praise and adoration.  I love a good upbeat song sung by the choir or a solo that reminds me of the hope we have in Jesus.  We might call this spirited worship.  But is this what it means to worship in “spirit?”

Henry Blackaby and Ron Owens posed this question in their study on worship; Worship Believers Experiencing God.  You can purchase it here. What does it mean to worship God in Spirit? It’s a question worth asking.  For a more detailed answer you really should buy the study book.  But I’ll try to convey a couple of Blackaby and Owens’ points.

When Jesus says the Father is seeking “worshipers” who will worship in spirit and in truth, I don’t think he means that God is seeking a “spirited” display of music and singing.  In fact, it has little or nothing at all to do with music.  Rather, we become true worshipers of God by being born of his spirit.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:5-6 ESV)

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63 ESV)

The Father is seeking true worshipers.  He desires worshipers whose hearts are filled with His Spirit.

  • Worshipers who worship in spirit have come alive in Christ.  They have been born of the spirit into the kingdom of God.
  • Worshipers who worship in spirit have hearts responsive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. They confess and repent, and offer worship from hearts that have been cleansed, forgiven and restored by Christ.
  • Worshipers who worship in spirit maintain a spirit of honesty with God.  When they disobey or otherwise fail to obey God, they confess it before Him and offer a broken and contrite heart. (Psalm 51)
  • Worshipers who worship in spirit focus on God with and without the use of music.  Music is only one vehicle of expressing their worship.  Their love is also expressed to the Father through obedience, service, loving others, and living out a testimony of grace that woes they lost friends to the Savior.

Father, I long to be the kind of worshiper You seek.  My heart is Yours.  Forgive me when I have sought to offer You worship through a heart of pride.  I repent and bend my heart toward You that I may know Your joy and worship You in the way You desire. May I worship You in a spirit of obedience and love that goes beyond an hour on Sunday and saturates my everyday life.


The Worship Showdown

While reading the book “David,” by Chuck Swindoll, I came across the section where David played on the lyre for Saul.  As I read this section, I knew I would have to return and spend some more time. As a worship pastor, I was intrigued by the contrast between Saul and David’s purpose for music.

 

Background

Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him. 15 And Saul’s servants said to him, “Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.” 1 Samuel 16:14-16

It is not really possible for us to know why God did this.  But we know that this harmful spirit was “from the Lord because it plainly says; a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him. We can realize that, in the Old Testament, God’s spirit didn’t permanently rest on any one other than David and John the Baptist.  It wasn’t until the Day of Pentecost that God would send His spirit to permanently rest on His people.  As Swindoll says, “when the Spirit of God comes into the believing sinner as salvation, He never leaves.”  God no longer causes His Spirit “to depart from” those who are “in Christ,” nor does He send a “harmful spirit” to torment those of us who are “in Christ.”  But He did do this to Saul.

It is widely thought that God did this as a form of judgement for Saul’s sin of turning against the Lord.  This made it necessary for Saul to need soft, sweet music to relieve the spirit’s torments.


King Saul

Reading through this chapter, I wondered what we could learn from Saul’s experience.  We don’t share Saul’s malady, but perhaps we tend to adopt his purpose for music within our own worship strategies.  And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him. 1 Samuel 16:23. Swindoll explains that the Hebrew word is ravach and it means “to give space so as to bring relief.” I can relate.  Having 3 teenagers and a preschooler, sometimes I just “need a little space.”

Now, the words “refreshed” and “eased” are good words. In fact, I like them very much.  We all need refreshed from time to time. This world can beat us up and wear us down.  Living life takes it’s toll on us, but I don’t think the purpose for worship is that we be refreshed.  That is not the goal of our worship.  It is a byproduct of being in the presence of God.  Being refreshed will be a symptom of an already-obedient heart.  Refreshment is the reward for taking on the yoke of Christ, for He says “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We would all confess that we worship God because He commands it, and because He deserves it.  But we would never say, “I worship because God deserves to refresh me.”  It just sounds weird!  When it comes to worship, we don’t want to sidestep the object of our worship  – God Himself.  We miss the point when we focus only on what we can gain.

Often times, we are seeking refreshment from the anxieties and worries of life.  Without a doubt, God wants to relieve us of those worries.  Jesus says to us in Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. In other words, God is saying, “Trust Me. Obey Me. Worship Me alone.  Don’t worry about the things that make you worry.  I am taking care of you.”

King Saul was tormented, because he was disobedient.  The soothing music allowed him a way to cope with his torment and gain temporary relief, without having to actually repent and obey God.  Saul had no intention of reconciling himself to God.  He settled for the temporary refreshment.

 

David

David gives us a complete contrast to what we see in Saul. Where Saul has the goal to soothe his tormented soul, David desires to be made right in God’s presence.  Saul desired to be pleased by the music, but David desired to please the Lord. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:17. 

In Psalm 51:11 David, in his song, asks God,  “Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me.”  How interesting! This same David who played to soothe a tormenting Saul, from whom God’s spirit had departed, now asks that God not take His spirit from David.  I don’t know about you, but that seems like more than a coincidence to me.  I’m so glad that we no longer have to resort to that request.  Jesus declared that He would always be with us.  Never will he leave us or forsake us.  As we’ve already learned, God did not permanently rest his spirit on any one until the Day of Pentecost, except for David and John the Baptist.

During the closing verses of Psalm 51, we see that David recognized something very significant.  God desires worshipers! For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. Psalm 51:16.  David knew that it wasn’t the burnt offering, and it wasn’t the sacrifices that pleased God.  Those were merely a medium to symbolize what it was that God really desired.  God desires that we offer ourselves to him – that we offer hearts and lives, broken by our sin, and bendable for his correcting.  This verse also looks forward to what Paul would tell us in Roman:  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. Romans 12:1.  David rightly viewed the physical sacrifice as a symbol of “dieing to his sinfulness.”

So, the question is – what is our goal when we worship?  Is it to be soothed, refreshed and made to feel better, or is it to die to ourselves and offer wholeheartedly our very lives to God?  Do we choose to make confession, or do we choose to seek refreshment while we live our lives in disobedience to God?

 


A Prayer of Thanks to God Who Blesses Beyond Measure

Father, You are my great Provider.  You love to give good things to Your children.  You have blessed me with every good thing.  Sometimes Your blessings have been answers to my prayers; A lovely wife, kids who love You, a home for my family.  The very best gifts from You are the ones I wasn’t wise enough to ask You for – things at the time, I didn’t even know that I needed; Grace, Mercy, Salvation. While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.

You provide my daily needs, may I not take them for granted.  I bless You, Provider, for daily food to sustain me and clothes to warm me.  I bless You, Healer, for bringing me and those I love through times of sickness and pain.  I bless You, Mighty One, for giving us Your strength and power as we work for the sake of Your gospel.  I bless You, Creator, for the beauty You show us in a sunset and in a starry sky.  I bless You, Deliverer, for saving me from the death blow of my enemies.  I bless You, Prince of Peace, for making a way that I may enter Your presence free from the wrath I deserve.  I bless You, Friend of sinners, for Your intimate fellowship that brings me such joy and satisfaction.

And in case I haven’t said it before, I want to thank you for the suffering and hardship You have, in Your wisdom, allowed in my life.  Though I am not yet the completed work You have designed, You are shaping me with these trials.  If it were not for the trials, I would not have experienced Your Spirit teaching me endurance which builds and shapes my character.  And You have shaped that character that my hope would be fixed on Jesus alone.  As You say in Your Word;

Romans5:3-5 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Thank You, Lord, that You have restored friendships that I had broken with harsh words or disagreements.  Thank You that Your ways are better than mine.  Thank You for Your forgiveness which has allowed me to forgive others who may have wronged me.  Thank You for not allowing my sins to devour me and destroy my life.  By Your forgiveness You have rescued me.

Your love, oh Lord, reached out to me when I was completely helpless to save myself.  I give You thanks. Even now I am completely powerless to do anything outside of Christ living in me.  In Christ, I can do all things.  Outside of Christ, I can do nothing of any value.  Thank You for Jesus, Who is the Christ, Your Son; and YOU ARE ALIVE!

You alone are God.  You alone deserve to be God.  You dwell in light unapproachable, yet You welcome me in as a child coming home.  Bless Your Name!


What Is A Disciple?

At my church, we are in the middle of the series we’ve titled The Original BIG XII:  That is the 12 disciples.  So I thought I would look up the definition for disciple.  Here is what I found.  Disciple – “One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another.”  Have you ever been convicted by the dictionary? (I know that the Holy Spirit is the real one who convicts all men.)
We have assumed for too long that just because we have been saved that we are automatically “disciples.”  That is our mistake.  As the saved church of Christ – His body, His bride, His beloved sons and daughters – we are called to be disciples, but not every one of us who is saved answers that call.
I think there are a number of reasons or obstacles that keep us from being disciples.  One reason, I just mentioned; we assume we already are disciples.  We make the hearing the call with answering the call.  You’ve been told that you are called, but just being called is not what made the original BIG XII into disciples – Answering the call did.  They “embraced and assisted in spreading the teachings of Jesus.”
A second reason we don’t answer the call is because we think it is too difficult.  A narrow path and filled with many trials it is. (Did that just sound like Yoda?) Personally I’d rather walk the narrow path, where my guide is Jesus himself, than walk the easy path, where my guide only has one thing on his mind – my destruction.
The original BIG XII understood that Jesus was calling them to “embrace and assist in spreading his teachings.”  He was called Teacher by Peter in Mark 9:5.   Even Pharisees called Jesus teacher. (Mark 12:13-14) (John 3:2) The disciples embraced Jesus’ teachings.   And as far as the second qualification for a disciple – as assisting in the spreading of Jesus’ teachings – Jesus let them know, from the beginning, that this was why he’d called them.  Mark 1:17 “And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  And that is exactly what they became.  In fact, the original XII – minus Judas – died because they would not stop spreading the teachings of Jesus.
These are the men who, along with Paul, penned the New Testament.  These are the disciples God is calling us to join.  This is the original BIG XII whose examples we are invited to follow.

How To Plan A Revival Without Scheduling One

Pray.
This one-word-blog brought to you by Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Great effort was taken in the writing of this blog to keep the message clear and simple. Please feel free to elaborate with your own thoughts and experiences in the comment section below. All comments will be read by the author of the one-word-blog and replies will be posted at the authors earliest convenience. Any questions, concerns or suggestions can also be submitted via the comment section below.

The World is Worshipping. Are You?

Something occurred to me over the weekend. I’m sure that I’ve tried to think this thought before, but a combination reading tweets and reading bloggers takes on the Oscars over the weekend caused me to have an epiphany. This is what the world worships; ENTERTAINMENT. At least, it is one of their idols or false gods.

Actors and Actresses on a “silver screen” or on the “idiot box” getting our love.
Athletes and Ballplayers on a court a diamond or a field getting our praise.

I am under the same self condemnation as Paul spoke:
1 Timothy 1:15
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.

Yes I love the movies and tv shows. I watched “True Grit” and enjoyed myself immensely. Our whole family watched Toy Story 3D this past year and it was a great entertainment experience. And I’m seriously considering talking my wife to see “The Kings Speech.” I am a huge fan and follower of baseball and devote more time than I should at studying the stats and reading the scouting reports of players who might not even make it to the big leagues. (Yes; I’m a nerd!)

I confess all this for 2 reasons:
1. Confession is Biblical and yes it is good for the soul.
2. I trust that I am not alone in at least one of these categories.

Now, please remember that I offer these blogs as a chance to get myself thinking and hopefully those of you that read it… (hi mom) So remember this isn’t a condemnation of any one of us, but perhaps we may find ourselves rethinking the worth of our worship to the Father who is worthy of far more than any earthly treasure.

For your comparison.

The International Mission board approved it’s Annual budget for 2011;
$308.5 Million dollars for global missions 5,000 Missionaries.

The Combined Yankees and RedSox 2010 payroll;
$380.5 Million

Remember that even with a budget like that those ball teams make a profit, while IMB is had to 600 missionaries out of its budget for 2011. That is a cut of almost 11% of missionaries; taken out of the mission field! This is our responsibility? What do we do to change it.

Of course money isn’t the only measurement of giving ourselves to God.
You fill in this blank:
Time I spent talking to friend about my favorite show or sports team _____?
Time I spent bragging to friend about the greatness of God in my life______?

Trust me I don’t even like asking these questions, so I don’t want to answer them either.
So the last one is a question of our testimony, what about giving God our attention.

If you evaluate your own worship to God by your enthusiasm; what are you more enthusiastic about?
A. Christ in You the Hope of Glory (Col 1:27)
B. The Big game
C. A night on the town
D. Payday

I won’t reveal to you my answer; trust me… it wasn’t A. I wish it was. God forgive me when it’s not.

I better wrap this up, lest I go put my own head in the sand. How much attention does God get compared to the world?

_____ hrs spent in scripture and prayer versus ______hrs spent being entertained?

Do I evaluate the worship service by how I’m captivated or by what I bring to God?

Do I look for a worship SERVE US?
Do I offer SURFACE worship?
Do I come to SERVE AS the worship offering and gift to my God?

Dear Father, as I answer these questions in my own life, please guide me toward the unselfish. Forgive me when you have looked upon my so called worship offering and found me doing something else. Nothing but Your presence and glory in my life will truly satisfy me. Help me not to look elsewhere. Amen