Help To Better Worship

As a worship ministry leader, I often have to think about the congregation we’re serving. While I find there to be many reasons why people struggle to worship, both at church and in their personal lives, I’ve noticed that one of the biggest reasons why people don’t worship is that they don’t know how. I admit that it can be a little discouraging looking at others who seem caught up in a worship time when you’re not feeling or experiencing anything. Hence, I wanted to write a few tips I’ve learned over the years that will help people worship better.

Pray for revelation

The first and greatest thing we must realize about worship is that it is not something that we create. There is no such thing as self-sustained worship. The origin of all worship is God. We give Him nothing that wasn’t first given to us by Him.

Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? (Romans 11:35)

If you are righteous, what do you give to him? Or what does he receive from your hand? (Job 35:7)

When God gives us revelation of Himself, who He is and what He is like, our hearts naturally respond in worship. Our hearts can’t be still or quieted when we see God. It’s a natural overflow. Therefore the first thing we do when worshiping is to ask God to reveal Himself to us. God wants worshipers and is more than willing to make worshipers by revealing Himself to them.

Remember, be thankful, and praise accordingly

We are people with short memories. Israel was a perfect picture of this. Many times in the Old Testament, the author would write “but they did not remember the works of the Lord.” The Bible links Israel’s problem with worshiping God wholeheartedly with their memory problems. We should learn from them. During worship times, focus your mind on what the Lord has done for you. This will stir up thanksgiving in your heart, and thankfulness is the key to the door of praise and worship.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. (Hebrews 12:28)

Remember your salvation, how lost you were without Him; how He has forgiven your every sin, how He has protected you through every trial, pain and sickness. Remember His mercies and gifts He has given you — family, friends, a job, breath, and all things you need for life and godliness.

Think about what you’re singing

Many times the reason we’re not engaging in worship is because our brain is turned off. We may be singing, but we’re not comprehending what we’re singing. Take a moment and think about the words you’re hearing and singing. Think about how they apply in your life. If they don’t, pray that they would. Our worship many times takes form as a prayer to God. Certain statements like “there is none else that I desire but You” are biblical but are not true of our current life. Take those words and pray them while singing them.

If a song is describing what God is like, stop and think about it. Songs like Revelation Song are great to think about.

Follow the Bible’s physical instructions

Many times we look at someone dancing or shouting and wish that the Lord would “move us that way”. Yet, this isn’t how it works.

God created us and created worship. He knows what will unlock our heart and worship Him in spirit and truth, like He requires. The Bible doesn’t say “wait till you are experiencing the Lord in worship and then clap your hands.” No. Rather it says “clap your hands.”

There are physical things we can do, in obedience to the Word of God, that will unlock our hearts to love God more. When I lift my hands, it’s not usually because I’m overwhelmed. Rather, I lift up my hands in worship, like the Bible commands me to do, and then something unlocks in my heart and I experience God in a different way. The same with all the different physical acts of praise — dancing, clapping, bowing, shouting, etc — the more I humble myself and praise like the Bible commands me to, the more my heart opens to worship God.

Sing spontaneously

Even though we may do the physical acts of worship, there are times where our heart is cold and unengaged. I have found two remedies for this problem.

  1. Sing spontaneously
    To engage my heart, sometimes I need to stop singing the words everyone else is singing and sing my own song to God. I call this “letting your heart sing.” Many times it is just giving thanks to God in song, singing my testimony and singing about His recent faithfulness in my life. Sometimes I just sing to Him how much I love Him. Sometimes I open the Bible, particularly Psalms, and sing some lines I read there. 
  2. Sing in tongues
    While I do not believe that all people have the gift of tongues (per Paul), I do believe it is a gift and a often given one to people. I have yet to be able to sing in tongues and not engage my heart. Since speaking (and therefore singing) in tongues is a muscle of the will, usually my hardest fight is to start singing in tongues, but once I do, my heart immediately becomes engaged. It’s just another reason why I believe the gift of tongues are still active today.

Do it often

Although worship is not self-sustained, the act of engaging your heart is like muscle memory. The more you do it, the easier and more subconscious it becomes. Worship every chance you get — in the morning, in your car, during breaks at work, on your way to church, etc. The more you do it, the more you remind your heart where its focus should be continually on.

Advertisements

The Wedge Dream

Recently I talked about a dream that my friend had. Due to the post being about the name of my daughter, I didn’t want to go into the dream’s details or some things that the Lord had told him after he awoke. I talked to him and got his permission to write what he saw and heard. Both he and the people he saw in the dream will remain anonymous. For the sake of ease, I will write the dream in first person.

The Symbolic Dream

A great revival had broken out in the Church. It was a “passion for Jesus” movement and it was uniting people from many different streams of Christianity. The leaders of the movement were given a large field that could hold hundreds of thousands of people. They set up a stage and started worshiping and singing. There were national guardsmen all around doing crowd control. The government began setting up infrastructure like bathrooms, a clinic, an organized campground, etc. Soon it looked like Woodstock.

[An international Christian television company] came and started covering the “outpouring” on the second day. They hadn’t put a name on it yet, but were just broadcasting it throughout the whole world. (In this dream, there were always people coming from around the world to the field to be a part of the revival.)

A group of mega-churches all brought their worship teams and started taking turns leading worship between the preaching. There were members of every stream of Christianity and from every denomination represented. As I was listening to the preaching, I noticed that not a single preacher had preached from (or by using) the Bible.While most of what was being preached was biblical, they never once quoted the Bible. They preached through stories, jokes, and worldly wisdom. I even heard one pastor quote Confucius.

Then [a man of God] got on the stage. He had been called to preach his message, The Oil of Intimacy. He gladly took the opportunity to come and speak to those at the revival. He prayed and began his sermon. He said “Turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew 25. We’re going to talk about the parable of the ten virgins.” Immediately some teenage boys in the front row began booing him. [The man of God] is taken aback, but continues. He said “This parable is about…” but is cut off once again by more booing. The crowd starts yelling “Bring back [the last preacher]! We like what he had to say!”

Immediately, the spirit of prophecy fell on [the man of God] and he started prophesying:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10). I tell you there is an overwhelming lack of the knowledge of the Holy in this generation. You walk before Him in the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. But I tell you the truth: God is coming in His holiness to judge the works of wicked men, and only those who dwell in holiness will escape His wrath!

At this point there is an uproar in the crowd. They boo him off the stage. He walked off the stage, and then walked right through the center of the crowd. As he walks, ten people to the left of him and ten people to the right of him fall down in travail because of the fear of the Lord. Before he can get to the back of the crowd, a great earthquake breaks out and the fear of the Lord falls on the back half of the crowd. The whole crowd begins screaming. The front half screams because of excitement while the back half screams because of terror.

Just then, [a famous Christian author] walked on stage to quiet the crowd. He starts talking in a mesmerizing voice. The front half of the crowd becomes transfixed on him and becomes quiet. The back half of the crowd start screaming louder because they can hear nothing in his voice but the shrieking of the demonic. Then, the back half of the crowd separates and goes to the far end of the field. [The man of God] sets up a portable PA system and begins leading the people in repentance, weeping, and mourning.

Once [the famous Christian author] had the crowd under control, he began to speak to them. He said “I would like to give a shout-out to my friends from the Unitarian church.” The camera pans over to a group of people in white t-shirts. The front of the t-shirt has a picture of the earth with the words “One Church, One Bride, One World, One Consciousness.” People go through the crowd passing out these t-shirts and all the people in the crowd put them on. “I’m glad to see such unity in the body of Christ. Isn’t it great when we can all lay aside our differences and gather together to learn from one another?” he said. “I apologize for [the man of God]. He didn’t understand what it is we are doing here. We’re here to get passionate for God and grow in unity with one another.” As I looked, I saw that there were Muslims and Buddhists coming into the crowd.

I was lifted above the field to see both camps at the same time. On the one side of the field, the people we still crying out for God. He was manifesting His presence with signs and wonders. People were being healed of many diseases and being set free of lifelong addictions. Tens of thousands of people were being saved. For hours and hours a day, they would read the Word of God over the sound system. People would sit to listen and weep before the Lord. In the other camp, the preaching became increasingly more humanistic and syncretistic. The people were like frogs being boiled slowly in a pot of water; because the water slowly heated up, they did not realize they were being boiled alive. The meeting broke down into drunkenness and lewdness. People were having their way with one another in mass groups in open daylight. Young women were being raped. Young men were strung out everywhere on illegal drugs. Again, it looked very much like Woodstock.

When both sides were at their peak, [a second man of God] stood up between the two camps. The Christian television company cut the power to both stage and only gave power to [the second man of God]. He began to cry out:

How long will you waiver between two decisions? If Jesus is God, then  worship Him wholeheartedly. If Jesus is not God, then don’t throw around His name to get more followers. God desires that you live a holy life. I tell you the truth: there is one way to heaven and it is through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.”

When he said this, the whole field was shaken and fire came down on the camp that had been crying out to God. They were consumed but not destroyed and they all began to speak in tongues. The rest of the people fled in terror.

Then I awoke. I was shaken at this dream and asked the Lord how this would practically look like in our city. I fell back asleep and had another dream.

The Practical Dream

I saw two women talking in the hallway of a church about a book that [the same Christian author] had written. The next week it seemed like all the women in the church were reading and talking about the book. The pastor took a copy of the book and read it that week as well. The following Sunday he preached on it. He declared it unbiblical and heretical. He said it was dangerous teaching that would tear apart the Church. The women got offended and stood up and left the church. They took with them half of the congregation and went next door to the Unitarian church. The church was experiencing “revival” and people were being added daily to their numbers but mostly from other churches.

The Word

When I awoke from the second dream, I asked the Lord how long would it be till this happens. The Lord answered:

“Within five years, I will drive the Word of God like a wedge in My people. Only those who revere My Word will stand in that day.”

He gave me five areas that this wedge would fall and separate believers from those who become deceived.

    1. The infallibility of the Bible
    2. The sanctity of life (abortion)
    3. Gay marriage and gay ministers in the church
    4. Universalism and Unitarianism
    5. The false grace movement

I felt the Lord tell me that the churches that stayed true to what the Bible says about each of the five areas would experience the power and presence of God, manifesting in signs and wonders, even if they didn’t believe in miracles. However, those who did not hold fast to what the Bible said about these five areas would become deceived and fall away from God. Though they would seem to meet, worship, and preach in His name, they would be worshiping a god that they made, an idol of their minds and hearts.

Personal Thoughts

My friend had this dream on the Day of Atonement, October 8, 2008. This coming October marks the end of the fifth year. It’s worth repeating what I said a couple weeks ago:

The thing that I find crazy is how prophetic the dream/word was. This dream wasn’t given a month ago. It was almost five years ago. Back then, there was no great gay marriage debate or serious problems with universalism in the church. Upon hearing the dream/word, it was an act of faith to believe that these, what were at the time, small issues would progress to be nationwide issues, particularly in the church. Who would of thought 5-10 years ago that we would be debating whether practicing homosexuals should be ministers and leaders in the church?

I was around when my friend had this dream over four years ago and I’ve seen this dream come true. I’ve seen believers led away, many by popular ministries that preach the thoughts of man rather than the Word of God. I cannot express this enough: doctrine (what the Bible teaches and says) matters! Get to know the Bible. Get plugged into a church that preaches boldly the Word of God. May a flag go up in your spirit if you are listening to a preacher and you don’t continually hear scripture in his/her message.

It’s time for the church in America to choose what side they will be on: the Lord’s or the world’s. The world is aggressively calling Christians to forsake what the Bible teaches us to do and believe. There’s a Unitarian, Universalist, state church that’s been born and is growing in this nation. Choosing the Lord’s (and the Bible’s) side may cost us our comfort, but we will not be moved when the Lord starts to separate the wheat from the tares.

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30, ESV)

You may want to read the rest.

———————————————————

UPDATE: It seems like others have had the same dream and warning. Read Steve Hill’s article about the coming “avalanche”.

Is Jesus Worth A Mundane & Hidden Life?

Most charismatics love the book of Acts. It’s filled with miracles, adventures, and powerful preachers of the gospel. From Peter to Stephen to Paul, it is filled with some of the most well-known people of the Bible. Yet, one major person is absent for most of the book.

That person is the disciple, John.

While John walks with Peter to the temple in Acts 3, he is rarely heard of after the outpouring at Pentecost in Acts 2. So what happened to him? John tells us himself in his gospel.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 20:26-27)

The reason why you don’t hear of John in Acts is because he was taking care of Mary, Jesus’ mother, for most likely 15-20 years after Jesus ascended. While his friends were traveling, preaching the gospel and working signs and wonders, John stayed with Mary at home. Instead of starting thriving church plants, he would stay around Mary and go to their simple gathering, praying and reading the Word.

The task of taking care of Mary wouldn’t last forever. Many scholars think Mary died around 50AD. It was then that John did a little traveling around Ephesus, yet scripture doesn’t mention it. Paul mentions many great people in his letters, but never mentions John. Even though John’s life got less mundane, it didn’t get less hidden, even though the churches loved this “elder of love” who would visit and speak at their churches.

Can you imagine the thoughts that John possibly had over these years?  I wonder if he thought he was missing out. What were his stories when Peter would come back from his travels? Did he miss being in apostolic authority over churches like his brother James was? He was the closest disciple to Jesus, yet he didn’t get to participate in any of the new exciting things the Lord was doing.

Years later, the Roman authorities would begin hunting down and persecuting the apostles. John would eventually be exiled to Patmos. Some scholars say that Patmos was home to a Roman stronghold and labor camp. Whether Patmos was a labor camp or a deserted island, John’s life had reached a whole new level of mundaness and hiddenness.

No friends. No family. No church. No public ministry.

Yet, it was at this time that God would give John the greatest vision in the New Testament. Not since Daniel or Ezekiel had a man seen God, the future, and heaven, and was able to write it down. With one vision, all the years waiting in hiddenness, doing mundane things instead of traveling the world preaching the gospel, became worth it. John had been faithful in secret and the Father rewarded him in secret (Matthew 6:1-4).

Likewise, many times God calls people to mundane and hidden lifestyles. While others may be called to great and public things, these people wrestle with a life that looks boring. While others are visiting many nations, these people rarely leave their state. While great opportunities open for others, these people find themselves working at a local pizza shop or grocery store for years of their life, wondering where all the promises, callings, prophecies, education, and preparation has got them. They may eventually get to minister, but they will never pastor a mega-church or tour the nations with the most popular worship teams. Rather they will minister and love a few churches and pour themselves, in love, into them.

It will be in this place that God will grant them the greatest revelation of Jesus. The path of mundane hiddenness eventually leads to the revelation of God. His revelation makes all the decades of tediousness worth it. I realize that all my heroes of the faith, people like St John of the Cross and Brother Lawrence, all had one thing in common: a mundane hidden life.

I guess the question for us is whether having a greater revelation of Jesus is worth decades of mundane hiddenness.

Remember, only 10% of Jesus’ life looked exciting. 90% of His life was spent in hiddenness, doing mundane things (carpentry, anyone?), but that 10% changed the world. How willing are we to follow Jesus’ and John’s example?

What is intercedewith.me?

iwm slide

I’m so excited to announce (at least here on my blog) the launch of a new social prayer website, intercedewith.me. Here is the “about” information from the website:

First Assembly DeLand is passionate about equipping the Church with tools for building a life of prayer in each individual believer’s heart, a house of prayer in each believer’s home, and a culture of prayer in each partner ministry. The frenzy of modern life makes it hard to sustain a secret life in God. To that end, we built intercedewith.me to help you build prayer into your daily life. Visit the site whenever you find yourself with a free moment – in line, on your lunch break, in the evenings before you turn on the TV – and take some time to engage in prayer with the current focus.

Intercedewith.me is the brain child of my good friend Mark, our pastor, and myself. We have been trying for years to get a greater amount of people at our church to pray. We’ve experimented with many different things and while some people did engage, we realized that some people saw “prayer times” as a special service or an elitist thing to do. Many people didn’t see it as something practical or something that they could do at anytime or anywhere. We were praying and thinking of ways to help and teach our church to pray throughout the day. We wanted to show them that prayer is for everyone and doesn’t have to be hours long to be effective. I’ve talked before how, sometimes, 15 second prayers, prayed throughout the day, are better than a whole hour once a day. It’s all about constant communication and conversation.

It was in that heart that intercedewith.me was birthed. Mark had an idea of making a online, mobile-friendly site where people from all over could engage with a prayer focus and, if they wanted to, leave prayers about the prayer focus on the site. It was an amazing idea and something that I’ve never seen done before. While people are waiting in line at the grocery store, they can open the website on their phones, hear/see the prayer focus, and engage in prayer in their heart and online….all while still in line! We added the ability where people can also share the prayer focus and/or their prayers with their friends on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

As a designer, I understand the opportunity cost to the things we attempt to do. The theory is if we make something easy enough, people are more likely to do it. While praying does involve time, focus, and attention, intercedewith.me is not meant to replace a believer’s personal prayer life. Rather, it is to boost and encourage their prayer life by stirring their faith and passion as they join with others believers in prayer, just like corporate worship times should boost our desire to worship at home.

I encourage you to check the site out and engage with us as we pray throughout the week for different issues. You can follow us on Facebook or Twitter to see when a new prayer focus is posted.

Lessons In Mono

I’ve spent the last month or two fighting mono. According to the blood tests, I have had this sickness before but I never remember experiencing anything like this in my life. In short, it was horrible.

I remember that all February I struggled with depression, thinking that there was something wrong with me on the inside, with my soul. I tried to eat better but had no appetite. I tried to work better but was too fatigued. I tried to love more but had no emotions. At the same time, I ended up getting bronchitis and after that strep. Even after medicating the strep away, I could barely breathe or swallow. My abdomen was in intense pain from my spleen being enlarged. I was miserable. The doctor put me on bed rest for 6 weeks, stopping me from working, serving, and anything else I do with my life.

I believe that there is something God is trying to teach us in everything that we go through. So what did He teach me? Dependency.

For the last 4-6 weeks, I haven’t been able to do much. There were times I couldn’t get a drink. I couldn’t work and make money to support my family. I was humbled by the serving and giving of friends and family to us in many areas.

I felt pathetic.

Why?

The reason I felt pathetic was because I had built my life on independence and on arrogance of what I could do alone. I put my self-worth in what I could accomplish by myself. Before the sickness, I felt like God’s perfect worker — leading teams, teaching classes, holding conferences, and providing for my family. So when all of my ability was taken away from me, I felt utterly worthless.

I loathed dependency. I abhorred the idea of being subject to someone else’s availability or ability. Even more, I hated being dependent upon God, someone I couldn’t see, command, or control. Over and over this verse was resounding in my heart:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

I feel like I’m under a waterfall and those final words are washing over and over me. “Apart from me, you can do nothing.”

Dependency. Relying on someone besides myself. That’s where my self-worth should be found: utter dependency on Jesus and what He has done, is doing, and what He will do. Here’s where it strikes a chord with me though: if kingdom things are only done through dependence, then I am only rewarded for my work on earth that I did dependent upon another, whether God or other saints.

I am a huge “quality over quantity” person, which is why I do many things myself, because I feel I can do them better and timelier. But God is more about teamwork. Not that He dislikes excellence, but excellence done in arrogant independence is worthless to Him. The process of working as a team to achieve excellence, the process of improving in dependency, is what pleases His heart.

I’m still working through this lesson and I’m sure there are many bad habits left in my independent nature. I need to keep John 14:4-5 in front of me, as well as this verse:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:3-5)

It’s time for me to stop thinking I am the body and begin to act like I’m just one piece of the body, His body, and become more dependent upon this body that holds me together.