Monday, September 30, 2013

THE WORSHIP SERIES - THE ESSENCE OF WORSHIP (Part 12): GIDEON (Obedience Precedes Worship)

It is possible for us to be so concerned about the acts of worship, that we run ahead of the necessary steps of God requires as He leads His people to True Worship. In a sense, True worship is not an act but rather a natural response to foregoing knowledge or experience. In other words, whereas God's people can run hither and  yon trying to discover genuine ways to worship God, He would rather they obediently follow Him throughout the week  so that Sunday worship will be a natural expression of their relationship with Him.

We look into the Old Testament story of Gideon. God put a heavy burden on Gideon, though he lacked confidence about his ability to lead God's people. Since Gideon was weak in faith, he begged God to confirm His will by making a fleece wet or dry. God obliged and then instructed Gideon to fight a massive enemy army with only a handful of men. When Gideon was unsure, God told him to go to the enemy's camp in the middle of the night. Gideon OBEYED this seemingly strange requirement and, in so doing, learned an important lesson about God's power. His natural response was to fall down in WORSHIP and then rise and serve in CONFIDENCE!

Gideon was going through a very difficult time. As the Bible records in Judges 6, God had allowed the nation to suffer seven years of enemy occupation because Israel was in sin. The Israelites cried out, and God sent prophet to confirm His promise. Gideon was minding his own business, doing farm chores for his father, when "the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, 'The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor ... Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?' " (Judges 6:12-14)
We read of the progress of Gideon's faith through his obedience:
- He started out alone in faith protesting of his weakness but God assured Him (Judges 6:15-16)
- Then he began to asked God for a sign that it was God who was speaking to Him. God was gracious and gave Gideon a sign followed by a promise ("peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die." - Judges 6:17-24)
- Then Gideon obeyed God's further instruction to destroy Baal's altar. Although he received death threats God protected him (Judges 6:28-31)
- More importantly, "the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon." And the men of his town and tribe rallied to his cause, and messenger were sent to rally other tribes. (Judges 6:34)

Gideon was moving in the right direction. He obeyed God's command, then worshiped his Lord and was encouraged to start assembling an army. yet still lacking complete faith, he"put out the fleece" (Judges 6:36-40) so that God might give another confirming sign. God did so, and at the start of the events recorded in Judges 7. Gideon had amassed a host of twenty-two thousand soldiers. However God instructed Gideon to let the fainthearted go home and only ten thousand remain. But incredibly, God declared that "the people are still too many." So He proceeded to reduce the Israelite force to a mere three hundred men.  

At this stage, Gideon had no army at all, but only a small band of soldiers. Yet that situation was precisely the place God wanted His people to be  - in complete dependence on Him. Gideon knew what he was supposed to do. God had given him clear instructions: "Arise, go down against the [enemy] camp, for I have delivered it into your hand." (Judges 7:9). If Gideon was afraid to scout the enemy alone, God had told him he could take his servant along. But that very night God commanded Gideon to go "down to the camp ... and you shall hear what they say; and afterward your hands shall be strengthened  for the ensuring contest (Judges 7:10-11)
Gideon obeyed and his OBEDIENCE was no small matter since "the Midianites and Amalekites" were mighty and numerous. (Judges 7:12). The odds seemed overwhelming, but Gideon trusted God. To his surprise, in the enemy camp Gideon learned that his foes were apprehensive about him! One soldier even had a dream that, through his symbols, depicted the Midianites' destruction by the "sword of Gideon," the man who had God on his side (Judges 7:14). Like Gideon, we will not experience God's encouragement until we trust Him enough to obey Him. When Gideon heard of the fear among God's enemies, he bowed in humility before his Lord.
"And so it was, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, that he worshiped." (Judges 7:15)
The text uses a Hebrew word - SACHAH that speaks of a servant or slave's lowering himself before his master. Thus most depictions of worship in the Old Testament show worshipers bowing or prostrating themselves in humble recognition of God. That recognition was often gained as it was with Gideon, through OBEDIENCETHE ESSENCE OF TRUE WORSHIP results when God allows His servants to see His mighty power and realize their own meager state.
Gideon could worship God truly because he had learned some important lessons from God. But in order to learn those lessons, he first had to obey God and trust Him. In the same way, when we are living or acting in OBEDIENCE, we learn to trust God more. As we grow in that trust, He reveals to us His great power. And in glimpsing that power, we fall prostrate before Him and worship. Does that pattern describe the kind of worship we have today? 

Monday, September 23, 2013

THE WORSHIP SERIES (PART 11) - THE ESSENCE OF WORSHIP: It Involves Faith, Sacrifices and Obedience (Daniel and The Three Hebrew Children)

A Worshiper Is One Who Is Intimately Acquainted With And Has A Daily Relationship With God Exhibited Through Obedience - John W. Stevenson

We were created NOT to DO but to BE a worshiper. In order for us to gain greater insight into what it takes to be a worshiper of God, we must use the "Law of First Mentioned," a principle that states the first time a word or idea is mentioned in Scripture is significant, for it sets a foundation and framework for any other time the word is used throughout the Scripture. The first time the word "worship" was used in connection with Abraham offering Isaac (Genesis 22) and it involves Faith, Sacrifice and Obedience.

The life of a worshiper is not without tests, nor without the pressure that comes with living in sinful world. It is God's grace that strengthens us and helps us to walk in victory even in our most challenging times! Let us see other worshipers in the Bible who walk in Faith, Sacrifice and Obedience in order to learn from them:

1) The Three Hebrew Children In The Fiery Furnace 

"Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego replied, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn't, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up." (Daniel 3:16-18 NIV)
This was a faith-defining moment for these three worshipers. They made it absolutely clear that they would not compromise and maintained their covenant relationship with the God of Israel and refused to bow down and worship anyone other than Him. As worshipers they were confident in their God and His ability to keep them!

At this point it looked like these men would surely die for their beliefs. They were tied up and thrown into the fiery furnace and that's when the miracle happened! These young worshipers were now joined in the fire by the One they worship! That's worshiping God with their lives in Faith, Sacrifice and Obedience... no instrument and no songs but they encountered the manifest presence of God - "The 4th Man!"
As a result, the king gave praise to the God of Israel and decreed that from that time on anyone who said anything against Him would be executed “for no other god can save in this way” (Daniel 3:28-29).

2) Daniel In The Lions' DenAs a worshiper, Daniel had enjoyed God’s favor all his life, and when king Darius appointed Daniel as one of 3 administrators to oversee the kingdom he so distinguished himself that king Darius thought to give him sole administrative authority over all the kingdom. This of course made the others jealous and they sought to discredit him, but Daniel was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent (Dan 6:4). Finally they devised a scheme to trap Daniel by making it illegal for him to worship God. They convinced king Darius to make it mandatory for all his subjects to worship him for the next 30 days and anyone caught worshiping anyone else must be thrown into a den of hungry lions (Dan 6:6-9).
Daniel of course remained true to his God and since he made no attempt to hide this, he was caught praying and worshiping God and was thrown into the lions' den. From the original language of Dan 6:16-20 it appears that king Darius believed God was obligated to save Daniel because he was intimately acquainted with and has a daily relationship with God exhibited through obedience

In Dan 6:23 the word translated trusted means to trust continually. The fact that the lions immediately devoured Daniel’s accusers in the morning proves they had been hungry all night long. This faith became one of the great examples in “The Hall of Faith” (Hebrews 11:33). 
“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:11 (NIV). Faith is trusting what the eye can’t see. The natural eyes see the prowling lion but faith sees Daniel’s angel. 

In conclusion, I would like to quote from John W. Stevenson's book - Worshiper By Design: "God does not test us to destroy us, but rather to make us! As worshipers, we must come to expect times when we will be tested. But "those who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits" (Daniel 11:32). In every case, God honors and protects those who are intimately acquainted with and have a daily relationship with Him as exhibited through their obedience to His word. He honors His worshipers!"


Monday, September 16, 2013


In our previous posts we learnt that the life of a WORSHIPER is a life of FAITH, OBEDIENCE AND SACRIFICE.This week let us look at the life of Abraham who is one great model to learn from:
1) The Promised Of A Son
So After Waiting Patiently,
Abraham Received What Was Promised
Hebrews 6:15

As a childless couple, they had been told by an invisible God that they would be the parents of countless descendants. They had no Scripture or fellowship of believers to encourage their FAITH on a discouraging day. All they had was a promise and a lot of time to think about it. Too much time, in fact. They passed childbearing age, not just barely, but hopelessly. 

This is the same Abraham who suggested that his servant Eliezer might be his best chance at an heir (Gen 15:2-3); the same Abraham who listened to Sarah's advice to try for a miracle son the natural way through her servant Hagar (Genesis 16); and the same Abraham who laughed when God repeated the promise well after childbearing years (Genesis 17:17).

When God changed both their names from Abram to Abraham (father of many nations) and Sarai to Sarah (mother of many nations) (Genesis 17:5-6 & 15-16), it was the ACT OF FAITH to be calling each other daily by their new names without seeing the promise. Yes, we are told, this is the Abraham who "did not waver through unbelief" (Romans 4:20) and waited patiently.

But against all odds, God fulfilled His promise. The child was born, the invisible God was vindicated, and the couple rejoiced. 

2) The Sacrifice Of IsaacGod said to him, "Abraham!" 
"Here I am," he replied
Genesis 22:1
God called upon Abraham with a test. It was perhaps the most difficult test any of us could think of. Did the thought of sacrificing his own son horrify Abraham? Did he weep all night before he got up and went to Moriah? The text doesn't say. All it says is that Abraham OBEYED. And that OBEDIENT began with a simple statement of readiness: "Here I am." In fact we were told that "EARLY NEXT MORNING Abraham got up .... he took with him two of his servants and his Isaac ... and on the third day ... said to his servants, 'Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. WE WILL WORSHIP and then WE WILL COME BACK to you.' " (Genesis 22:3-5)
We know that Abraham feared God and that he was obligated to God. But somewhere wrapped up his reverence and duty was the simply desire to please the Lord who has graciously provided the son. His response was more than that of a slave or a subordinate. It came from the HEART; it had to, considering the command. It mean that Abraham had cast his affections on a very trustworthy God.

As worshiper, when God calls do you say, "Here I am"? Probably so. But here's a deeper question" How do you say it? Let your response flow from a loving, reverential FAITH in your PROVIDER.

Abraham's OBEDIENCE is commended as the cornerstone of righteous, biblical FAITH. The FAITH that led Abraham up that mountain is unimaginable. Any illusion that the life of FAITH is a life of comfort and ease is undone by this story. FAITH is excuriating, sometimes illogical, and always right.

Does your FAITH sometimes defy logic? If not, it hasn't been stretched as far as God wants to stretch it. Has God ever called you to give up His promise as an act of OBEDIENCE AND SACRIFICE? If not, your FAITH has deeper depths to reach.

3) The Faith Of Abraham
What did Abraham see in that day? He saw nothing. Year after year until he died, he only begot Isaac. Of the numerous descendants promised to him, who would be as man as the stars in heaven, the sands by the sea, and the dust on the earth, he only saw Isaac! When his wife died, he did not have one plot of land in which to bury her. He had to buy a burial ground. Is this what God had promised? Yet as the WORSHIPER and father of our father, he did not doubt. He knew what FAITH was and what it was not to live by sight
What a lesson of on FAITH, OBEDIENCE and SACRIFICE!

Monday, September 09, 2013


Pastor John W. Stevenson in his book Worshiper By Design defines a worshiper as:
one who is INTIMATELY ACQUAINTED with, and has a DAILY RELATIONSHIP with GOD exhibited through OBEDIENCE.
He said, “You were NOT created to DO, you were created to BE”.
The first time you find ‘worship’ in Scripture is in Genesis 22. It reads:

" And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; I and the lad will go yonder; we will worship and return to you ." (verse 5 emphasis added)
It is important to note that Abraham was not going up yonder with a musical instrument to sing a song with Isaac. He was going up there to put the most treasured possession in his life to death, simply because God ask him to do it! So as you can see worship involves faith, sacrifice and obedience. These three elements set the foundation for all Christian worshipers.

God never intended for worship to be ‘synonymous’ with music and the arts. Christians tend to ‘compartmentalize’ worship. For example worship seminar tends to focus on the "doing" rather than Christian living. Why do worship workshops attract only musicians, singers and worship leaders? The reason is that Christians have drawn a line of demarcation between worship and the Christian life. True worship is a life of obedience and out of that life will flow songs of worship, which will delight the heart of God, rather than repulse Him as in the following Scriptures:
"Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry"(Amos 5:23-24 NLT).
You see, there really is no difference in singing a song out of a hymnbook or singing a song that is projected on a screen. The real difference is in the heart of the person singing. Singing "worship" songs does not make you a worshiper! Having a worship team does not make you a worshiping church! All of that can become religious exercise if we are not intentional to keep our hearts engaged in the exchange and remain in passionate pursuit of the ONE we are worshiping - JESUS! It is our daily relationship with Jesus that makes our worship of God genuine and authentic.

The church has entered a season in which the Holy Spirit is confronting us about the things we have taught in many ways have moved us away from a worship relationship and a worship life to a place more focused on worship activity. If we are going to help bring about change in the Body of Christ, it must start with changing our own models, our vocabulary, and our teaching on worship.

Worship is not about doing! It is a lifestyle that flows from dwelling in the very presence of the Lord. The worship life of the believer is living with the awareness that we are daily in that Presence. It is living in the reality that we are in Him and He is in us. When we worship Him, we are not trying to work our way into His presence. we are acknowledging that we are already in His Presence and our worship of Him is what gives us access to relate to Him.

What does it take to be a worshiper of God? Considering our definition of a worshiper, we realize that to focus on the elements of music and the arts is to reduce worship to something less than God intended and something far less than He deserves. If a worshiper is one who is INTIMATELY ACQUAINTED with and has a DAILY RELATIONSHIP with GOD exhibited through a life of OBEDIENCE,
we must move beyond songs, instruments, banners and art to something deeper and greater; we must move to something encompasses all of life and it involves faith, sacrifice and obedience!

(an extract from Worshiper By Design: A Unique Look At Why We Were Created by John W. Stevenson - for more information: )

Monday, September 02, 2013

THE WORSHIP SERIES (Part 8) - The Essence of Worship: Joshua - True Worship Centers on God's Word

When Joshua began to settle God’s people in the Promised Land, one of the first things he did was to draw the people together in worship of God. Since this worship centered on sacrifices and offerings, the surrounding pagans might observe the Israelite's  worship and conclude that they were all doing the same kind of thing. But there was at least one major difference between the Israelite’s worship and that of their pagan neighbors.  After Joshua had built an altar, gathered the people and made offerings, their worship included the reading of God’s law.
“[Joshua] read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursing  according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded, which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel.” (Joshua 8:34-35)
Declaration of God’s Word was the focus of the Israelite’s worship. The ESSENCE OF TRUE WORSHIP must draw people into God’s presence where they can hear, read, and study what God says about Himself, His people, and mankind in general. 

Secondly, Joshua led the people to a specific place, Mount Ebal, as God had commanded through Moses in the law (Joshua 8:30). There they built an altar according to specifications:“an altar of whole stones, over which no man has wielded an iron tool. And they offered on it burnt offerings to the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings” (Joshua 8:31).
Why a plain structure of undressed stone altar? During this time in history, the pagans built beautiful, ornate altars for the worship of their gods. How could the Israelite impress their enemies with only a plain altar of stones? In requiring that the altar be made of natural stones, God was making an important distinction. The principle of simplicity in worship is still in effect. “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27). God does not need human glitz or gimmicks in worship. He will be glorified and magnified when we honor Him with our worship that is from the depth of our heart.
After Joshua built the proper altar, the people worshiped with offerings and sacrifices. Their burnt offerings illustrated thankfulness and dedication to God, while the peace offerings indicated a right relationship with God. They were thankful for the privilege of knowing God, of being His people, and dedicating themselves to His service. They gave their freewill offerings to the LORD, beautifully picturing the picture of our offerings in worship today – our offerings must express obedience to God’s WORD and a genuine love for God. We cannot engage in THE ESSENCE OF TRUE WORSHIP when we give offerings under compulsion; we must give to the LORD because we love Him.

While the people watched, Joshua "wrote on the [altar] stones a copy of the law of Moses" (Joshua 8:32). He did not personally chisel the words into the stone; that method would have taken too long and limited what he could write. The Hebrew words here indicate instead that the stones were covered with plaster. So Joshua copied exactly what God has given, which was the same law that Moses gave to the people. By copying the exact law in the presence of all the people, he revealed to them that he had great respect for the law. Why did Joshua have this respect for the law? He knew that it came from God. Christians today must likewise respect God's WORD simply because it is from God.
By writing God's WORD in stone Joshua also pictured the importance of preserving God's principles. Similarly, when we gather for worship today, there should be no question of the people that God's WORD is important. That regard for God's WORD is what we need for TRUE WORSHIP. When the excitement of the meeting is done and the "mountain top experience" is over, what do we have left? Emotions change and fade with time, but the principles of God's WORD endure forever.

After the people saw Joshua write a copy of God's law, something very significant occurred. The Bible records that "all Israel, with their elders and judges, stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord" (Joshua 8:33).
Here we see a picture of the people gathered together, and in the very center of the crowd is the ark symbolizing God's presence. There were reminders of God's power in that ark. These included a sample of the manna that had fed the people in the wilderness, along with Aaron's rod of power and the original (second) set of stones upon which God wrote His law. On the ark was also the mercy seat where God accepted the blood atonement for sin. And at special times, God's shekinah glory would come upon the ark. All of these realities reminded the people that God's presence could be found at the ark.

When the people were gathered around the ark, spreading out for many hundreds of miles between the two mountains, it appears that the leaders dispersed so "that they should bless the people of Israel" (Joshua 8:33). The passage then records that Joshua "read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursing  according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses commands, which Joshua did not read before the assembly of Israel."(Joshua 8:34-35).  Presumably, the leaders were also involved in the reading, for it would have been impossible for millions of people to hear one man speaking. This procedure was used, for example, in the time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:1-8; see also chapter 13).
In our day, too, declaring the whole counsel of God must be the focus of our worship. God promises that His WORD is sufficient to make His people what they should be: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17). 
Christians in the early church met for the purpose of "continuing steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). They practiced THE ESSENCE OF TRUE WORSHIP, making God's WORD the center of their gathering.