Worship Now

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;
    proclaim among the nations what he has done.

Psalm 9:9-11

Now’s the time to worship Him. Now’s the time to lift up the name of Jesus and praise Him. Now’s the time glorify God for His goodness and grace. Don’t wait until this pandemic is over. Don’t wait until the economy fixes itself. Don’t wait until everyone is healthy and all the hard times have passed.

We have an opportunity to do something now that we cannot do in heaven. In eternity we will not be able to worship the Lord in the midst of hardship and pain. There will be no hardship and pain. In heaven we will not be able to lift up the name of Jesus in the midst of uncertainty and struggle. There will be no uncertainty and struggle.

Right now is when we get to glorify the name of Jesus regardless of our circumstances. Right now is when we get to declare the goodness of God in the face of all the hardship we face. Right now is our chance. Don’t let it pass!

Now is the time to declare our trust in God. Now is the time to declare that He is worthy of our lives no matter what. Now is the time to sing our lungs out about how amazing God is, slow to anger and abounding in love. Let’s not wait for things to return to normal before we lift up His name!

And I’m not just talking about gatherings on Sunday mornings. Yes, we will gather again eventually. But let’s not wait for that. Right now, in our alone time with the Lord, let’s exalt the name of Jesus. Let’s renew our worship of the Only One who is worthy. Let’s sing our song to Him in the secret place as a congregation of one to an audience of One.

We have an opportunity to do now what we won’t be able to do for eternity. We get to worship Him in the midst of this trial. Let’s not miss this opportunity. This kind of opportunity doesn’t come around very often. Let’s make sure we take advantage of it!

Worship now Church!

If

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

1 John 4:9-16

So often our default position when it comes to loving God is to love Him with an “if.” We may not say it out loud, but we say it in our hearts. It sounds like this, “God, I’ll worship you if….” “God, I’ll give you all the praise when…..” “Jesus, I’ll live my life for you if…” “Father, I’ll lay my life down for you if…” “I’ll share my faith with others if…” “I’ll step out boldly for You, God, if and when…”

If You protect me…if You provide for me…if You make this turn out alright…if I won’t lose friends…if I don’t have to be uncomfortable…if I won’t be embarrassed…if it’s not too hard…if I don’t experience pain and suffering…etc.

If.

But there have been moments in my life where I’ve left the land of “if” and entered into something better, something that feels totally free. There is a place with the Lord where there is no “if.” It’s a place where we realize that Jesus is the name above every name no matter what is happening in our lives or in the world. There is a place of worship where we love God just because He is God. There is a place of intimacy where we come to know, down to our bones, that He is worthy. Period. No if. He is worthy. He is good. He is loving. He is kind. He is patient. He is full of grace and humility.

I want to live in this land, not the land of “if.” I can feel myself being pulled away from this place and back into the conditional love of the world. And, yet, when I re-enter this place again, I once again experience the freedom of it. It is so incredibly freeing to simply love God because He is. Not to get something. Not in response to something I need Him to do or something He already did. There is freedom when we are in a place of exalting His Name simply because of who He is.

The freedom is that it doesn’t matter what happens to my life. I’ve already died with Christ. I’ve already been raised with Christ. I’m already seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. My life is not my own. I was bought at a price…a very high price. So regardless of what happens in my life, God is worthy of extreme worship and devotion. Jesus gets the glory regardless. Jesus is worthy of all honor and praise.

Have you been to this place before? Have you ever left the land of “if?” I invite you to spend time with the Lord and experience it for yourself. Once you get a taste of it, you’ll want more. You’ll want to not just visit but to live every day in that place…that place of total freedom.

Worship Music

Elisha said to the king of Israel, “Why do you want to involve me? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.”

“No,” the king of Israel answered, “because it was the Lord who called us three kings together to deliver us into the hands of Moab.”

Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not pay any attention to you. But now bring me a harpist.”

While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came on Elisha and he said, “This is what the Lord says…

2 Kings 3:13-15

In this time of social distancing we can get the idea that we don’t need worship. We may wrongly assume, “Since we can’t gather with others, why would we sing worship music?”

There is a unique place that worshiping through music plays throughout scripture. We see over and over again different commands in the Bible to sing to the Lord and worship Him in song. In the above passage with the prophet Elisha, we see worship music become a conduit of the power of the Spirit.

The kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom were going to war against Moab. But on their journey, they find themselves in the desert without any water. They want to seek the Lord’s direction about this and so they find the prophet Elisha.

Elisha only has respect for the king of Judah, but he still decides to inquire of the Lord on their behalf. The first thing Elisha asks for is a harpist to begin to play the harp. It wasn’t until worship music began that the “hand of the Lord” came on Elisha. This is a reference to the anointing of the Spirit coming upon Elisha enabling him to prophesy.

Yes, I believe there is something special about worshiping together as the Body of Christ. After the social distancing is over, I don’t think we’ll ever take that for granted. But worship music isn’t just for the corporate gathering. It is also a conduit of the Spirit for the individual. When we turn our heart, mind, and affections to the Lord in worship, we open ourselves up to the tangible Presence of God.

Even king Saul, who was demonized, found a bit of temporary peace when David would play worship music for him.

…David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.

1 Samuel 16:23

And we know one of the directives of the apostle Paul was for his churches to worship. Paul even connects worship music to being filled with the Spirit.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:18-20

Now is a time you may need worship music in your life more than ever. Wake up in the morning and spend some time worshiping the Lord through song. Listen to worship music throughout the day while everyone is home. Let worship music be a regular part of your day! As we turn our heart and mind to God throughout the day in song, we’ll experience the Presence and peace of Christ come near to us.

The Church Gathered

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47

The church has gathered in homes from the very beginning. The persecuted church still does this today. No worship band. No big building. No stage. Just a small family of people, gathering in a home around the word of God and the Spirit of Christ. There’s something special that happens when the Church gathers this way.

Because of the social distancing protocols in place, most churches around the world had to gather in homes rather than in buildings last Sunday. In our home, we gathered as a family of five. My wife and I let our three kids each pick one worship song for us. We all sang along to whatever favorite worship song each child picked. Then we listened to a pre-recorded sermon. I worked together with a member of my speaking team to create a podcast for our local church that was a combination of dialogue, teaching, and story-telling.

There were a few things that happened that I wasn’t expecting.

First, I began to sense the power of the Spirit so present in our living room that I began to tear up as we worshiped. Jesus reminded me that He’ll gladly show up for a family of five just as He will for a family of 500. Jesus promised, “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).

Secondly, I loved worshiping as a family. With my daughter sitting in my lap and all of us singing together, it was a special moment. So often when we gather in a larger group on Sundays, we come as individuals. But it is impossible to stay stuck in that kind of individualism in a living room with your own kids. We didn’t worship as individuals; we worshiped as a family unit.

Finally, physical distance from my local body of believers actually created greater connection to the global Body of Christ. As my little family gathered in my living room, as we sang and listened to a sermon, I imagined thousands upon thousands of families doing that same thing all over the world. I was suddenly connected in my spirit to all of those worshiping families. Every nation, tribe, people and language were gathered in living rooms and under trees to worship The One who is worthy. We’re not just members of our local church; we’re members of the global Church. Our brothers and sisters in Christ aren’t just the ones standing next to us on a normal Sunday, but they are also the ones half a world away, gathered in a living room around a Bible.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

Revelation 7:9-10

The Holy Spirit doesn’t need us to be physically near each other in order to connect us in the spirit. Last Sunday I felt more connected to the global Body of Christ than ever before. Maybe this is what the apostle Paul was experiencing when he wrote to the churches in Colossi and Corinth:

For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit…

Colossians 2:5

…even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit…So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present…

1 Corinthians 5:3-4

So as we gather in living rooms instead of worship centers and sanctuaries, let’s keep our hearts and eyes open to what God may be doing in our midst. Could it be that through this crisis the Lord is teaching us deep truths about His Church that are long overdue? Could it be that revival is on the other side of all of this?

Velcro

As Solomon grew old… his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.

1 Kings 11:4-6

At one point in Solomon’s life, he was fully devoted to the Lord. His heart was fully surrendered to God. Yet, as he grew older, he experienced a kind of heart-drift. In order to appease his wives and gain favor with other countries and kingdoms, Solomon allowed the worship of false gods. Then, not only did he allow it, Solomon began to participate in it. Finally, not only did Solomon participate, but he ordered the building of special high places for the worship of these false gods.

But notice that it didn’t say that Solomon became an unbeliever. There really isn’t such a thing. We all worship something, even if that something is ourselves. We’ll make something our god. It is the thing to which we have the most loyalty. It’s the thing to which we’ve given our heart. Solomon still believed in and worshiped the Lord. That wasn’t the issue. The issue was that he worshiped the Lord AND worshiped these false gods. What set his father David apart was his full and complete devotion to the Lord. Despite all of David’s mistakes and failures, David’s heart belonged to the Lord and the Lord alone.

The theological word for mixing our worship of the Lord with the worship of other “gods” in our life is syncretism. There are consequences for treating the Lord as if He is just one option on a buffet of spiritual food.

The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son.

1 Kings 11:9-12

Like the tearing of a garment, the Lord declared that He would take the kingdom out of Solomon’s hands. But, for the sake of David, the Lord would not do it in Solomon’s lifetime but would wait until the next generation came into power. Because Solomon’s connection to the Lord went from being intertwined to being little more than velcro, God would rip the kingdom out of his hands like velcro pulling apart.

A highly prophetic friend of mine once gave me this word that said, “whatever isn’t interwoven will be removed.” If we are interwoven with the Lord, nothing can pull us away from Him. Our heart will be fully surrendered and devoted to Him. But if our connection to Him is little more than velcro, when life pulls on it, there will be a ripping away. Likewise, our relationships to each other must be interwoven and not just velcro or they’ll pull away.

So, we must ask ourselves, “What other ‘gods’ are we worshiping?” “What other things have crowded our hearts and stollen some worship from the Lord?” Like David, is our heart fully devoted to the Lord? Or, like Solomon, have we set up a few high places that have us bowing down to priorities other than God’s priorities?

Filled With His Presence

The priests then brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and overshadowed the ark and its carrying poles. 

When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.

1 Kings 8:6-7, 10-11

Solomon had just spent seven years building a magnificent temple for the Presence of the Lord. The whole thing was made of cut stone blocks and cedar. The entire inside of the temple, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, were covered in gold. Most of the objects in the outer courtyard were made of cast bronze.

Once the temple was completed, Solomon ordered the priests to bring in the ark of the covenant. First they gathered the people, and then they sacrificed so many sheep and cattle to the Lord that their number couldn’t be counted. Finally, the ark was placed into the Most Holy Place. When the priests left the Most Holy Place and the Holy Place, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.

The Presence and power of the Lord came with such intensity that the priests couldn’t re-enter the Holy Place to perform their services. Here is how the writer of 2 Chronicles describes it:

…the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord…

2 Chronicles 7:1-3

Their natural response to the Presence of God coming in power was to drop to their knees, bow their faces to the ground, and worship the Lord. Sometimes God shows up gently and brings us peace and comfort. Yet, other times God shows up with ferocity, and when He does we might find ourselves on the ground. It’s probably best to stay there and worship Him in a posture of submission and humility.

Some Christians today have trouble with phrases like “God showed up in power” or “She was filled with the Spirit.” They tend to push back against this language saying things like, “Isn’t God always present?” Or, “How can you be filled with the Spirit if you already have the Spirit in you? Do you get more of the Spirit? Is He like a liquid?”

These responses reveal a misunderstanding about God’s Presence. We could ask the same questions about Solomon’s temple. Scripture says that “the glory of the Lord filled his temple.” Wasn’t God’s Presence already there in the temple? God is omnipresent after all. How could God fill the temple if He was already there? And why did the priests react so dramatically?

What this scene shows us is that, while God is always present, He can, at times, increase how much of His Presence is tangible or manifest. Theologians sometimes call this God’s “manifest presence.” This is sort of a measurement of how much of God’s Presence breaks through the veil between the spirit realm and the physical realm. The tangible Presence of God (or manifest Presence of God) can increase and decrease based on the environment. Because of this, our bodily reaction to God’s tangible Presence can change based on its intensity.

This is why Paul commanded the Christians in Ephesus to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). He wasn’t commanding them to become Christians again by accepting the Holy Spirit into their lives. He was commanding them to allow the Spirit to take over more of their lives. He was telling them to allow the Presence of God within them to become the tangible or manifest Presence of God within them. When we are filled with the Spirit there is naturally going to be an overflow, and this overflow will affect the people around us. Being filled with the Spirit will often, though not always, cause physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit in our body that are beyond our control.

As followers of Jesus we need to accept the fact that God’s tangible Presence, and the Holy Spirit’s tangible Presence, will increase and decrease based on the situation we are in. It doesn’t mean God wasn’t there in one moment and that He is there in the next. But it does mean that God will increase or decrease how much of His Presence we will tangibly experience at any given time. This is what James was trying to explain when he wrote:

Come near to God and he will come near to you.

James 4:8

We know, of course, that God is alway near. James is talking about the tangible Presence of God here. If we draw near to God with hearts and minds that are worshiping, we will often experience an increase in the tangible Presence of God drawing near to us.

A Grateful Heart

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:
“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human!

“What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, Sovereign Lord. For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

“How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you…

2 Samuel 7:18-22

This is an amazing example of gratitude to the Lord. King David models for us what our heart posture should be as we pray and contemplate all the Lord has done. What is so amazing about this stream of gratitude that pours out of David is that it comes right after God tells David that he won’t be allowed to build the Temple.

Think about that!

King David made plans to build the Temple of God. But before he could start, the Lord spoke through the prophet Nathan and told David that he’s not allowed to build it. God also told David that God would give David success as King of Israel and that David’s son would build the Temple. God also told David that his house and his kingdom would endure forever (this is a prophetic word about Jesus).

So what we have is a mixture of words to David from God. God tells David what God will do, and He also tells David what He won’t do. But which of these does David choose to focus on? David’s response is pure gratitude. King David doesn’t waste time being upset about what God isn’t doing and instead focuses on what God is doing.

If we are going to be people of gratitude, this has to be our focus as well. So many Christians are only focused on what they want God to do that He isn’t yet doing. They get frustrated and bitter at God, and in the process become completely blind to what He is doing.

We need to release those things we think God should be doing but isn’t. And we need laser-like focus on what God is doing in our midst. If we are able to focus on what God is doing rather than on what He isn’t doing, gratitude will be the natural overflow of our hearts. We won’t be able to help ourselves as gratitude will daily pour out of us as it did King David.

Are you focusing on what God is doing in your life and in your midst? Or are you stuck on what He’s not yet doing? Maybe it is time to shift your focus and lean into gratitude. The apostle Paul gives us clear instructions about thanksgiving and gratitude.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:15-17