Articles covering the deep topics of the Bible and Christian lifestyle.
“He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32
The question of who killed Jesus is one that echoes throughout history with many answers in possibility. The Romans nailed Him, the Jewish leaders indicted Him, all of humanity’s sin required Him, but truly, it was ultimately all according to the Father’s plan.
That’s difficult to hear and understand because God is love (1 John 4:8). But indeed, it was love that caused Jesus to endure the Cross, and it was love that led the Father to pour out His wrath upon Jesus to atone for the sins of the world. “This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).
“For our sake He (the Father) made Him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Romans 3:25 says, “God put [Him] forward as a propitiation by His blood.” Isaiah 53 puts it even more bluntly, “We esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God. . . . It was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He (His Father!) has put Him to grief” (Isaiah 53:4, 10).
This post was originally posted here. Re-posted with permission from the author.
Songs are powerful.
A man named Andrew Fletcher said it well: “Let me write the songs of a nation and I care not who makes its laws.”
As a worship leader, you’re having just as much, if not more, influence on your congregation as your pastor preaching his sermon. Stop and think about that for a second. (And go read James 3:1 and my post Worship Leaders are Teachers).
What are you teaching your congregation?
This is an important question and getting clarity on this will help shape and empower you as a worship leader.
King David didn’t just write songs to have a hobby. It was one of the main ways he impacted his nation. He would write songs for people to sing and thus he was training, challenging, and encouraging them through song.
Each and every week, you’re given a captive audience of people who, whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re training, challenging, and encouraging. Being intentional about clarifying your theological worship vision will help you partner with the Lord, your team, and your church in an even more dynamic way.
I recently started riding a bike. To clarify, it is my bike, but I recently got it and started riding it. The desire to have it and do this started as I stared out our hotel room window during Hurricane Irma. I felt cooped up, stifled, and wanted to do something freeing – to feel free. So I found a couple of really good bikes for my wife and I in an online marketplace at a great price, and now I find myself riding around our small town early a few mornings each week.
This morning I started to notice something I hadn’t really paid attention to on my previous rides… signs. Signs in parks and along bike paths, near picnic tables and fishing spots. All of them were negative… No Swimming, No Climbing, No Jumping, No Pets, Warning: Stay Off.
Now, I get the need for boundaries and safety. Rules are important, without them people do sometimes stupid stuff and get hurt. But I started to think about all the children that pass those signs and read them. They are all in places that are supposed to be fun and freeing, but they are all telling those same children they can only have fun or be free with limitations. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?
In Genesis 3:11, God asks Adam and Eve a very specific question… “Who told you that you were naked?” They had just disobeyed Him by eating from the tree in the middle of the garden – the one He said not to eat from. I don’t imagine He posted a sign next to the tree… He simply told them. “You can eat from every other tree, just not that one.” (emphasis mine) Now He comes to walk with them like He did every evening, and they are hiding. From God. In a bush.
God had created them and clothed them in glory, given them the command to be fruitful and the awesome charge that they were to have dominion – to be in charge. Adam had named every animal and became the caretaker of this glorious place God had created for them to live. And then in the desire to satisfy their own curiosity or fill the lust of their flesh, they ate the fruit of the one tree they were told not to… and they lost it all. That one act has had a lasting impact on every living thing – man or beast, plant or seed.
I’ve been leading worship at the house of prayer here in Tallahassee since 2008. We’ve had many great times of worship, but also plenty of awkward sets where we felt we really missed the mark. Whenever we feel as a worship team that we had a bad set, it brings to question what makes a time of worship good? What makes it successful?
These tips are by no means exhaustive. But I’ve found them to be very helpful to keep in mind as a worship team.
Worship with a sincere heart
First and foremost, worship is a matter of the heart. When a life is surrendered to Christ, worship is always the overflow. A worship set is always personally successful when your heart is sincerely worshipping the Lord.
“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure (sincere) heart” (Ps. 24:3–4, emphasis and parenthesis mine)
Humanity didn’t deserve the Cross. We weren’t entitled to it. Nevertheless, God’s big plan was to redeem the world, to set the world right. As we think about salvation, sometimes we only think about that big picture. Our part may be small, but it is comforting to feel like even a small part of the big plan, as this earth barrels forward in its transition toward the end and beginning of all things.
But there is a deeper layer to the story, something much more specific. There is a passion in God’s heart, and it is for people. It is me. It is you. It may be difficult to imagine a personal Savior who cares about being close to you, but that is exactly why Jesus came to earth. Jesus loves you. Jesus likes you. It is the consistent, never-ending attitude of his heart. Here are five verses that prove it:
Genesis 1:31 – The Designer’s Finest Work
“Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.” Gen. 1:31
Before you physically existed, you were a thought in God’s mind. He formulated you. He designed every detail of you. He loved you. In His words, the creation, your design was “very good.” When God Himself uses the word very, we should take it seriously!
This post was originally published here and has been republished with permission.
I’ve heard a common statement recently. It goes something like this, “That worship leader is too self-centered” or “That worship leader is doing nothing but putting on a show.”
I agree with the premise that we need to get the focus off of ourselves and onto God. However, I’m worried about the response this causes from pastors and the congregation.
A few requests I’ve heard are:
- Sing songs in a key that the whole congregation can sing
- Sing your original songs very sparingly
- Don’t do songs that only hype people up
- If I pay you, you’ll only look at this as a job
- Just sing the songs like the CD. We don’t need your extra artistic flair
- (Insert your own churches preferences on what worship leading should look like)
While there are helpful tools in all of these suggestions, they can become more like rules.
“There are inescapable cravings in the core of every human heart that cannot be ignored, denied or pacified: they must be satisfied.” -Mike Bickle
Fundamental to every living person are longings that transcend culture, religion, or lifestyle. These longings are given by God, and only He can fulfill them. They are what drive every pursuit and every motive in life.
The longing to be enjoyed
Take a quick glance at American culture and you’ll soon realize that everyone wants to be ‘Liked‘. From social media, to entertainment, this American generation wants to be heard and enjoyed for who they are. I believe this culture echoes a powerful longing in our hearts: the longing to be enjoyed.
Enjoyed by God Himself
While human companionship can provide a great sense of support and security, this longing to be enjoyed is rooted in a desire to be enjoyed by God Himself. When one’s life are marked by the enjoyment of God, there becomes a pillar of strength inside that isn’t easily swayed by the insecurities and opinions of others. This longing is foundational to our identity in Christ (1 John 4:19).
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5
I am sure that we have all heard the great commandment from Deuteronomy 6:5 to love the Lord with all of our heart, mind, and strength. Throughout the Bible, this command is continually held up as the pinnacle of what the Christian life is to be centered around (along with loving our neighbors as ourselves). Jesus confirmed this in the Gospels when He answered the questioning of the scribes in Mark 12:28-34.
Loving God with our hearts and minds seems very practical and easy to understand. Loving usually has to do with matters of the heart and we all know about the unseen world of our minds that must be continually reigned in and governed to love the Lord. But what does it mean to love the Lord with all of our strength or might?
There are two attitudes, two primary mindsets that exist in the world when it comes to living in peace with the people around us. They are both effective in many ways, but I suggest that only one of these mindsets was the one Jesus was talking about when he talked about peacemaking. We will call these two approaches the peacemaker and the peacekeeper.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. -Matthew 5:9
Peacemakers and Peacekeepers have common goalsBefore we explore the differences between these two attitudes, we will look at the similarities between them. As Romans 12:18 states, it is a goal to live at peace with the people around us, and both these attitudes further that cause immensely. Many people live without caring about creating or maintaining peace at all. We can honor the peacekeeper while striving to transcend that mindset as peacemakers on the earth.
I have been a governmental intercessor for 25 years, standing in the gap for our country. I began to truly intercede for the nation when I had my fourth child; today, with four grandchildren, I am still standing in the gap for America and training young intercessors.
Many battles have been won and some lost. Our job as intercessors is to stay steady, stand firm, and never, ever give up! Sometimes this is easier said than done. When you watch the news and it seems like you’re losing, you have to learn to declare the Word of the Lord, realize you’re in a long-term battle, and not grow weary.
I want to share some stories of governmental intercession that I hope will give encouragement in the midst of the battles we are facing right now as a nation.
If you’re like me, you’ve often wondered why the Church places an importance on “standing with Israel.” You’ve probably even seen some believers seeming a little bit flakey in how they act, out of love for Israel and the Jewish culture. Rather than just showing allegiance to Israel without knowing why, it’s important to get God’s heart for Israel and to understand her Biblical importance, even to you and me as individuals.
The entire storyline of the Bible (Old Testament and New) is about Israel and the Jewish people. Does it “ruffle” your theological feathers that salvation first came for the Jews (Rom. 1:16, 11:11)? Thank God the Gentile Church has been included in the plans that God has for Israel, as well (Rom. 11:17).
Agreeing with God’s sovereign decision
Israel would be His people
To really understand why Israel is important we must go back to the beginning. In the Garden God made man and told him that He could eat anything but the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After their disobedience and fall, God made a way for them to be reconciled to Himself. God knew that the only way that man could be reconciled to Himself would be for Him to do it Himself. No man was able to do it, so it must be God.
Through Israel’s Seed He would raise up Someone who would crush the Enemy’s head (Satan). He sovereignly chose that the Seed would come from the house of Abraham (Genesis 3:15). Fast forward to God’s promise to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3). Then God said, “Lift your eyes now and look… For all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever” (Genesis 14:14-15).