Free to Worship

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” David said to Michal, “It was before YHWH, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord ’s people Israel — I will celebrate before YHWH. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” – 2 Samuel 6:20-22

King David didn’t seem to have any problem freely expressing himself in worship, so why do we? Why do so many others? Perhaps we have been conditioned to be reserved in our participation. We might have grown up in a church that emphasized quiet, reverent postures (not necessarily a bad idea). We may have even been punished by our parents for “expressing ourselves” in a church service! Of course, we should never become a distraction or draw attention away from the One whom we desire to praise (this goes for leaders as well).

Unfortunately, I think more often we do not allow ourselves freedom in worship because we are too concerned about what others may think. Perhaps this is our greatest obstacle and challenge, to forget about ourselves and place all of our focus upon the Savior, which is the primary task of the worshiper.

The next time you sit, stand, clap, dance in a worship gathering, ask yourself this question, “Am I thinking about the words, the music, the leaders, the person next to me, my friend across the aisle or God?” If so, stop it. Place all your focus upon the One who saved you and let the weight of His glory lead you to honor Him in the moment and as well as in all the days to come.

God meant that a convert should learn to be a worshiper, and after that he can learn to be a worker…The work done by a worshiper will have eternity in it. – A. W. Tozer

Whatever?

Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for YHWH is with you.” But that night the word of YHWH came to Nathan, saying: “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what YHWH says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?’” – 2 Samuel 7:3-5

Nathan was a prophet of God and King David’s spiritual advisor. The king wanted to build a house for the ark of the covenant, asked Nathan what he thought, and Nathan told him to move ahead with his plans. God’s prophet based his advice on his understanding of God’s will for David and Israel at the time; however, that very night, God made His desires more clear concerning the Temple and Nathan had to return to David and alter his previous counsel.

It is always safe to act on our current biblical understanding of God’s will and purposes unless He chooses to indicate otherwise. We can advise others on this same basis. Problems occur when we become so locked into a decision or direction that we refuse to listen to God when He speaks, be it through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, or God’s people.

We must always remain open to God’s leading, even if He leads us away from where we want to go. Stop, go, walk, run, or turn, are you ready to do whatever He asks?

Rest in this, it is His business to lead, command, impel, send, call or whatever you want to call it. It is your business to obey, follow, move, respond, or what have you. – Jim Elliot

How Abundant is Your Life?

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:7-10

Selwyn Hughes once wrote that “although every Christian has the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit does not have every Christian.” Hughes seemed to parallel the abundant life in Christ with being filled with the Holy Spirit. Certainly, there should be no doubt for those who are in Christ Jesus, there is a direct correlation.

Someone else once said, “In conversion, God’s life is imparted to us. In the fullness of the Spirit, God’s life inundates us.” Jesus clearly stated that He had come (as the incarnate Son of God) in order that His “sheep” (those who had entered “the fold” through Him) might have life “to the full.”

The questions for each of us are these, “Is God’s life truly inundating, flooding, filling me? Believing that I have the Holy Spirit, can I say that the Holy Spirit has me?” If today our answer is, “No,” to either of these questions, then perhaps we can see why the life we currently enjoy does not seem very “abundant.”

If we are full of pride, conceit, ambition, self-seeking, pleasure, and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God, and I believe many a person is praying to God to fill them when they are full already with something else. – Dwight L. Moody

Work As Unto the Lord

Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. – John 10:37-38

Jesus affirmed His identity by His words and His actions. Only God’s Son could speak and act as He did.

While we may not be divine (though, we can be divinely minded), we are God’s servants (if we truly belong to Him) and I believe that in a small way the same test holds for our lives and service. If we are doing the work of Christ in a manner pleasing to Christ, then others may trust our service and our lives will bear, as Paul said, the brand-marks of Christ.

With this in mind, let us steadfastly work as unto the Lord, even when that means we are opposed by the world. If, on the other hand, our service does not point to the work of Christ and is not performed in a way that pleases God, then we deserve to be rebuked, rejected, and dismissed.

There is no improving the future without disturbing the present. – Catherine Booth

Above Vindication

Lord, YHWH Almighty, may those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me; God of Israel, may those who seek you not be put to shame because of me. – Psalms 69:6

In my pastoral ministry, there were times when some church members were very angry over decisions I had made. Some were upset because they did not have all of the facts that led to the decision, and once they had more information, they understood the direction I had taken. A few others remained angry because their emotions blocked their ability to discern or hear the truth. And, yes, there were some who were rightly frustrated because I just had not led well.

On the other hand, there have also been moments in my ministry when people wanted to defend me from a perceived “attack” and while it felt good to know that someone was “on my side,” it also made me uncomfortable. I was concerned about agreement that was rooted more in friendship than fellowship, that they might somehow miss “God’s side” in the equation. Of course, I believed that this is where I stood, but what He wanted was more important than any other opinion.

We all may have an innate need to be vindicated, to be “right,” but it must never be about us, our pride, or our reputation. It must always be about Jesus, no matter the personal cost. He does not need to be vindicated, so why should we?

God has nothing to say to the self-righteous. – Dwight L. Moody

Lead and Be Led

But I pray to you, YHWH, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation. – Psalms 69:13

In my experience as a Christian leader, I have had some very trying moments, tests of my skills and authority to exercise them. By God’s grace, I sometimes passed the test but frankly it didn’t often feel like it. Successful spiritual leadership doesn’t always equate with being popular. It is often necessary for shepherds to lead the sheep where they don’t want to go (but need to) and well, we all “like sheep” are prone to wander.

For example, sheep, by nature, will graze over a field until it is completely barren, but a good shepherd will lead the flock to newer, fresher pasture. Some, unfortunately, just will not go. Others may stubbornly make the journey only because they fear being left behind. A small group may actually trust the shepherd and willingly follow.

Being both shepherds and sheep, we must (depending on the circumstances) lead and also be led. We cannot see everything that “is” or that “is coming,” but we all must still follow the One who can.

Only a disciple can make a disciple. – A. W. Tozer

Why Adversaries Exist

You know how I am scorned, disgraced, and shamed; all my enemies are before You. – Psalms 69:19

If you live long enough you will know an enemy, or two. Here are three things to remember when facing an adversary:

  • The Lord will take care of you if you remain submitted to His will and purposes.
  • God knows who your adversaries are, and He can handle them.
  • As long as you are in the Lord’s camp, anyone opposed to you is opposed to Him and, therefore, ultimately a “loser.”

There have been a few times in ministry when I have wanted to “run,” to escape conflict; however, if we run from a “learning” situation, I believe that God will simply recreate it in our lives at a later date. Adversaries exist to drive us to our Protector, to teach us to align and depend on Him, and to correct our direction when it is erroneous.

This is a lesson we all must learn, and God is a persistent Teacher.

Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it. – William Penn

Letting Go

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” – John 12:23-28

There have been times when I “hated my life in this world,” because it wasn’t the positive experience that I had hoped it would be. I am not exactly sure what is at work in me that leads me to these valleys of discouragement, but I can begin to lose hope and develop an unhealthy cynicism concerning ministry, and I consider myself a pretty upbeat guy!

Thinking back, I may have convinced myself that I wanted more from this life, that life could somehow be better. Of course this meant that rather than “hating” this life, I “loved” it and wanted from it what it could never give me, which is true contentment. There are, however, common everyday joys for the one who finds contentment in Christ.

Most of us have had the pleasure of knowing “saints” who endured with grace the many trials God had allowed into their personal lives. Such people regularly testified to their hope in Christ alone and their joy in the promise of finally attaining their reward. These brothers and sisters in Christ learned that there comes a time for each of us when we must let go of “this” in order to gain “that.” Lord, no matter the circumstances, help us to always be “letting go.”

Between us and heaven or hell there is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world. – Blaise Pascal

A Man of His Word

These are the last words of David: “The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse, the utterance of them an exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, the hero of Israel’s songs: ‘The Spirit of YHWH spoke through me, his word was on my tongue.’” – 2 Samuel 23:1-2

I once knew a man of many words but in the end, he really didn’t have much to say. It was Abraham Lincoln who supposedly said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” I wish I had remembered that wise counsel from time to time.

King David was a singer and prolific songwriter. We possess much of his work in the form of biblical psalms. David’s writings are some of the most inspirational ever composed, yet I wonder if David ever asked himself, “Did I ever really say anything of consequence?”

David spoke the words of God and his words are preserved in holy Scripture, yet I sometimes ponder a similar question. After every sermon, lesson, conversation, counsel, speech, presentation, or post, I wonder, was God’s Word on my tongue? One thing is for certain, if His Word were not first in my head and heart, it could not possibly make it out my “piehole” or to the page. While I will always wish to be a man of my word, may I first be a man of His.

When you examine the Word of God, the Word of God examines you. – Jack Wellman

More Than Nickels and Noses

Again the anger of YHWH burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.” – 2 Samuel 24:1

I guess I am a little obsessed with numbers. I always have been. I like to keep statistics and even majored in accounting in college. Perhaps it is one reason I prefer golf as a sport, there are so many stats to track! It’s a sickness.

I used to keep similar stats on the churches I pastored. I liked to see attendance charted at every level of participation, especially when it trended upward. Honestly, when things went the other way, I wasn’t as excited.

Was it wrong for me to keep count? The shepherd counts his sheep to see if one is missing, but he also knows each one by name. And though David sinned by ordering a census of Israel, there were other instances where God ordered that a census be taken. Perhaps, the danger is when a leader begins to believe that “heads” equal “health.” “Bottoms” in seats do not tell the whole story, though they do tell a part. Let’s just be sure that we aren’t relying on the size of a congregation or a bank account as a measurement of true health.

There will always be a difference between a “crowd” and a “church,” and obedience is more than “nickels” and “noses.”

It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. – A. W. Tozer