Lead by Prayer & Worship

The other day I had a friend that was going through one of those really tough battles in life.  For circumstances that were out of his control, he found him self losing his job and his family and well pretty much everything.   He came to me and wanted to know what he should do.  Have you ever been there, someone is looking to you for answers and you feel like you have nothing to give them.  There I was, I did not know what to say. Truth be told, the reality was we both knew that he needed to hear from God and not from me.  So I said the christian default statement, “Lets pray about this.”  It just so happens that when we bowed our heads and I started to pray God laid upon my heart a scripture.  I had not read it in a long time but I could not shake it.  We find this story in the book of 2 Chronicles 20 where King Jehoshaphat is in trouble.  There is this great army that is made up of several different kingdoms and they all have come to take Judah and Jerusalem.  Jehoshaphat calls the people of God together and they pray! Well things get pretty awesome after the people go and seek God.  God shows up and speaks prophetically through His people and God says: “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the battle is not yours but God’s!”  As I recalled these words, the Lord moved in my heart to actually turn and read to him the rest of the story.

2 Chronicles 20:18-22 (NIV) Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. 19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord,  for his love endures forever.”22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.

I had not remembered the part about the worship of the Lord, just the prayer.  I am so glad that the Lord led me to read this passage because not only did it lead my friend and I to worship the Lord right there in my office, it changed my perspective about worship all together.  Prayer and Worship are not only important to a church service, but in 2 Chronicles we see that when we put prayer and worship first, the Lord goes ahead of us.  It reminds us that the battle is the Lords and we need not be afraid no matter what size the battle might be.  Leading people in worship of the Lord allows God to restore their hope in Him, the only One who can deliver us. It is kind of like the story found in Exodus 17 where the people of God are at war against Amalek and while Moses had his hands raised in Worship, the people of God prevailed.  When we worship we welcome God’s presence.  The Psalmist said it this way “But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.”  When we pray and worship God, He shows up bringing: deliverance, healing, prophetic words, and all other kinds of manifestations of the Holy Spirit.  In short, when we pray and worship God, we find that His presence is our victory!

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Worship from the Heart

I was challenged the other day when a congregation member came up to me after service and said “Wow worship was great today!”  I pondered that statement for a moment and then realized he was talking about the music selection and how it sounded.  This got me thinking about a worship service and what makes if great or better yet what brings glory to God.  I know that above everything else God is interested in the heart of man.  Do we trust Him or not.

The question of whether we trust or do not  trust has never more present than when God calls to Abraham and commands him to sacrifice his only son.  You see, Abraham had been promised all kinds of things, like that his descendants would become a great nation.  I wonder if at any time on the journey to sacrifice Isaac, if Abraham had any second thoughts.  I can not imagine him not having thoughts of doubt raging through his head.  If it were me, I do not know if I could go through with it; but Abraham pressed through the fear, the doubt and built an alter and bound up Isaac and placed him on the alter and was ready to sacrifice him, when the Lord stepped in and provided another sacrifice.  Now this may seem extreme but I believe that God was wanting for Abraham to eliminate his doubt, so that he could fully trust God.  You see, sometimes God allows us to go through things so that we can learn something about ourselves that God already knew.  The only response to this is that we worship God!  Maybe, Worship is more about abandoning all trust in our abilities and falling unflinchingly backwards, off the top of the twenty five foot ladder, into the abilities of the sovereign God.  What if, Worship has more to do with the posture of our hearts and less to do with the music set or the vocal and musical abilities of the band?

Now this is not meant to give license to the lazy person who “does not have time.”  We should always strive to give our best to God.  Meaning that we should develop our vocal abilities, strengthen our musical skills so that we can give God our best. Yet, as a wise man once said “When you have done all you can do, you have done all you can do.  So don’t worry about what you can’t do because you’ve done all you can do!”  When we have practiced, prayed, fed our selves daily on the Word of life and worshiped the living God keeping in mind that our hearts are surrendered to Him, that allows a great worship service.  God wants our hearts to trust in Him and allow Him to provide!

Something is missing

I have been on several teams, some have been great and some not so great.  The teams that are great have this feeling of completeness.  I had always thought the greatness of the team had something to do with the people that were on the team.  If you got the right people in the right place, if the right people were on the team, then the team would be great.  I have spent lots of relational equity trying to get the right people on the team.  However, this morning as I was before the Lord, He started to show me things about these great teams.  I have been on these teams but I had never paid attention to these attributes before.  There are lots of components that make up a great team.   However, there was one attribute that stood out above the rest.  This one is counter cultural, yet it is the one thing that seems to make or break a great team.  It is summed up in two words: authentic encouragement.  This is counter cultural because of the overwhelming amount of sarcasm that has become the standard for humor.  I know this is a sore subject, we as Americans have picked up sarcasm as a pressure release valve on the tension of our lives.  Sarcasm has a dark side, it breeds insecurity and undermines credible relationships.  What we have picked up to try keep the peace has only drawn the battle lines evermore distinct.  I have looked through out the scriptures trying to remove this conviction from my heart, yet I can not support sarcasm as part of God’s plan; I can not find anywhere He uses sarcasm.  It simply is not in God’s character to be sarcastic!  I am sure we could stretch the truth found in the scripture to justify something that God is trying to eliminate.

Truth be told, when there is authentic encouragement there is no need for sarcasm.  I found that as I reflect on those great teams I have been on, sarcasm was simply no part of them. However, there was a true love which manifested itself in encouragement.  The apostle Paul knew all about this, so when he is inspired to write to Timothy a second time,  Paul (or maybe God) encourages him.  It says in 2 Timothy 1:2-7 (NASB)  To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace Mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.  I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience that way my forefathers did as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you , even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy.  For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.  For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.  Paul simply tells Timothy the truth to encourage him, reminding him of who God has called him to be and where he came from.

As I was discussing this idea with a friend he asked me a question (that you might be asking yourself right now as you read this) “What if I don’t have anything encouraging to say?”  The answer to this is simple: get to know them and look for things that are great, things you can honestly encourage them about. Perspective is a powerful thing; If you focus on looking for faults you will find them no matter how “perfect” the person might be.  The opposite is equally true, if you look for the positive in people you are bound to find it, no matter how “imperfect” they are.

Things to think about when assessing your current team:  How have I been speaking to people on my team: sarcastically or encouragingly?  Do you want to be on a great team or are you happy with mediocrity?  What is it going to take to give up sarcasm and  really encourage people?