Week in and week out, I get caught up in ministry. I get caught up in the tedious, minute details that ministry consists of. I get caught up in the songs we sing, the way we play them, the lessons we will use for upcoming Young Adult Ministry. I get caught up in what else I can do to serve, all amongst a plethora of other things. In the time crunch to get everything done, and done well, I can find myself too busy sometimes for the One I'm doing it all for, God Himself. Does this sound like something you can relate to? I believe that this is the danger of having a determined, driven personality in ministry. The danger is that so often we get caught up in the attitude of "what else can I do?" instead of "how can I spend more time with Him?" Why do we spend most of our day figuring out how to please God, when in all reality what God really wants is for us to spend the day with Him? How is it that while we can find and make the time to serve Him, we cannot find the time to visit Him because we are too busy serving Him?
The heart of a courageous worshiper, and follower of God, is not measured by the number of times he or she has served, but rather by the desire and dedication to daily visiting with God, the daily drive to know Him better. I believe that the verse "Be still and know that I am God" was written for me. Whether this verse is saying to stop what I am doing and spend time with Him or not, it's what I need to do. I have a rough time being still for anything! As a driven person, I do not like sitting still and not working on what I think needs to be done. I have gotten swept up in desire to please God through my serving and have neglected the daily need to "be still."
We need to remember why God created us. He longs for us to sit with Him and visit. He longs for us to hear what He would have for us. He longs for us not only to serve Him, but also to know Him. We were made to be in relationship with Him. The older I get, one of my fears has become that when I stand before Him someday, He will point out all the things I overlooked in life because I was too busy to hear His voice. Will you commit with me today to start a fresh relationship with the Lord by spending more time with Him? I truly believe it's what He desires. For the lost person on the Day of Judgment, God will not say, "Depart from me for you never served me," but will say, "Depart from me for I never knew you." I think that says it all.
2 Samuel 6:21-22
21 David retorted to Michal, "I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. 22 Yes, and I am willing to look even more undignified than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!"
Over the past few months I have taken an increased interest in learning more about what true worship really looks like. I need not tell you that worship is more than singing the songs picked out on a Sunday morning, or listening to your favorite Christian artist on your way to work. We know that every act of ours, every minute of every day, is an act of worship. What has really piqued my interest is what the "communication of worship" looks like.
LEVELS OF COMMUNICATION:
Humans connect on three levels
Primary: intimacy and relationship
All three of these levels are needed for corporate worship, but one level, in my opinion, stands above them all. Primary communication is essential to partaking in true worship. This level uses the language of relationship and intimacy to communicate. Is there anything more intimate than worshiping our Heavenly Father? David understood this. His worship was a prime example of a passionate, intimate relationship with God. Many of his Psalms were written from this level of intimacy and relationship. David's intimate worship allowed him to become completely abandoned, to the point of becoming "undignified" in the eyes of others, while he was worshiping the Lord. Read the above verse again. THIS IS WORSHIP. It is being able to let go completely of our own selfish thoughts, desires, worries, hindrances, talents, and pride, laying them all aside when we come to worship HIM. It is my goal week in and week out to be able to worship on such an intimate level, and I pray that each of you are able to worship at such a relational level as well. Now I'm not saying I hope we all dance in the streets in our undergarments, but I pray that we have the desire to get to know God on an intimate level so we can come to Him with hearts abandoned, putting His glory and praise at the center of our attention.
Each and every week, I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to worship with the members of the worship team and the rest of the church body. As a worship team, we strive not just to play the right notes at the right time, but also to worship God in such a way that we grow to know Him on an even deeper level with each note we play. I'm reminded of the song "Undignified" written by Matt Redman, from 2 Samuel 6:21-22. "I will dance, I will sing, to be mad before my King. Nothing, Lord, is hindering this passion in my soul.. and I'll become even more undignified than this, some may say its foolishness, but I'll become even more undignified than this." Let us strive to worship as David did: undignified with heart abandoned. "And I'll become even more undignified than this."
(enjoy this preview of my upcoming sermon on 7/9/17)
If you’ve been around church for a while you know the story of the prodigal son. I grew up like a lot of you thinking that prodigal meant wild, rebellious, partying fool. That must be the definition of prodigal. But a little bit later in time, I actually looked up the definition of prodigal and come to find out, that’s not what it actually means. Do you know what prodigal means?
Ok that’s weird, because we all know the story of the prodigal son, but we don’t know what it means. Prodigal, for those who enjoy some language history, comes from Latin word prodigo which means “to lavish.” And so you can say that the son was lavish in his rebellion, lavish in his leaving home, lavish in his disobedience to his father, but the most lavish person in this story is the father because his love, his mercy, and his grace are far more lavish than the son. So really, it’s the story of the prodigal father, not the story of the prodigal son, a little bit of a curve ball for us this morning. And you’re like, wait a minute, can you really say that? And we can because we read the first few verses of Luke chapter 15 and this is beautiful.
“1. All the tax-gatherers and sinners were coming to hear Jesus.
Now we wouldn’t expect that. We would think that if Jesus came on the scene that the bad people wouldn’t be gravitating towards him, but they were attracted to Jesus.
“2. The proud religious law-keepers and the teachers of the Law began to speak against Him.
And this is what they had to say about Jesus..
They said, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
It’s like Ohhhhhh.
So that’s what they have level against Jesus and in hearing them muttering Jesus says, in response to that accusation I want to tell three stories. And he tells three stories which in the end really aren’t about lost things, but rather the finder of lost things.
The first is the story of the shepherd; he had a hundred sheep and one of the sheep drifted away. And the story tells us that he left the 99 sheep and went searching for the one lost sheep. Why? Because God is a seeker and a finder of lost things. There are maybe 200 people here today. That means all of us could be exactly where god wants us to be but only 2 people out of all the people here today could be living in less than what God has for them and God would say to the rest of us “you know I love you but I have to go to the 2,” because every single person matters to God. That’s what Jesus is saying.
The second story is the story about a woman who had 10 coins and lost one of them, so what does she do? She turned her house upside down until she found that one coin. And then Jesus tells the story of this father who has two sons.
Now this first son has created a major freedom fail. I don’t know if you know what a freedom fail is, but if you’re like me, you’ve probably been down this road before. A freedom fail is when we come up with a plan by where we are going to leave something worse and in our minds arrive at something better. We’re going to leave home, or leave our parents, or get out of this marriage, or get out of these circumstances and we’re going to get to this place we’ve been planning about, dreaming about, hoping about. And when we get there, that’s when life is really going to kick in for us, and everything we’ve been hoping for is going to happen. Well that’s what this son thought. He got his share of the estate early, got half of his inheritance and then he heads off with his money and with his friends. For a while it’s working pretty good, but ultimately it’s a freedom fail and I’ll tell you why. Because the enemy conveniently crops the disaster out of our freedom plans.
But isn’t that what the enemy does to us? We make these amazing freedom plans but he crops all the disaster out of the picture. So what we have to do is ask God to give us the grace to zoom out before we dive in. And this son did not do that.
So this son gets to where he’s going. He’s having the time of his life but then what happens. Pretty soon the money runs out, and when the money runs out the friends run out. And then something happens he didn’t plan on; a famine hits that land and he was in a world of hurt. He ended up hiring himself to a pig farmer and he’s now sitting in the midst of the pig slop watching the pigs eat. And while he’s watching them eat he’s thinking to himself “the servants back at my father’s place have it better than this.” Now that’s low when you’re watching pigs eat and thinking man A) not only does what they’re eating look pretty good right now but in your mind you’re thinking how in the world did I end up here?
We understand that though because we get in these places and we think, man how in the world did this happen to me? I just took two steps but I didn’t know they we’re going to end in such a rock bottom location. But when the son got to rock bottom he came up with a good plan. As Jesus told the story, first the son thought
"I’m going to get up." And that’s always the first thing to do. It doesn’t matter how far down we are, what kind of mess we’ve gotten into, we always have the opportunity to get up out of that place. To stand up out of that place. God will give us the grace to stand up and get out of that place. The son said “I’m going to get up and turn around and I’m going to head back home.” That’s repentance in a nutshell. That’s what it means to leave less and head to more. To say I’m done with this I don’t know how I got here, this is not what I had planned on and I want to go home.
And he says, when I get home, he had this pretty good speech he’s worked out, but he says I’m gonna say to my dad “father I have sinned against heaven and against you (that was true) and I am no longer worthy to be called your son (that was also true). And he said I’m gonna tell him “I know I’m never going to get back into your good graces but just make me like one of your hired men.”
He knew he was never getting back in the house, he knew he was never getting back to the place he was in before, but if he could just have a job like the servants it would be better than what he had. But what the son didn’t know was that this wasn’t the story of a prodigal son, this was the story of a lavish God and something happened when Jesus was telling this story. If Jesus had a string quartet traveling with him, this is where the music would have changed right here. Because this is where it gets really amazing.
Jesus said, but, when the father saw the son a long way off, he saw him a long way off. Do you know what that means? It means he never turned his back on the son. He never pulled the shades down and closed the shutters and put a sign down at the end of the drive that said “don’t even think about it.” But he was watching, he was probably thinking to himself, “you know what, he’s probably making some foolish choices right now and that money is going to run out.” He knew where his son had ended up. Just like today, news traveled fast in that day and age and he had heard that hard times had come. And I wonder if that father was thinking “I wonder if it’s getting tough, and I wonder if one of these days he’s going to have had enough. And just in case that day’s today, I’m watching the road today.”
You know long before we ever turn our eyes towards God, God’s eyes are turned towards us. And they’re just watching for that moment we say I have had enough of less, and I’m going back. I’m going home to my father. And the story says when he saw him emotion took over. Could you imagine, when he saw him he ran to him. Now some of us know this but it says that the father was a dignified man, and in the culture and the time of Jesus he would have been wearing a very long proper outer garment, and a long undergarment and sandals, and you just don’t run with a couple of long garments and sandals. And at this time running would have meant pulling up those garments, flashing his legs, and that’s just something you wouldn’t do as a dignified man in this day and age but when he saw his son his heart took over. And it says that when he saw his son he just took off running. Imagine that, he saw his son and he’s just sprinting down the road, he’s running full speed down that road. Then the son looks up and thinks “who is that crazy man running down the road towards me. And then he says oh wow that’s my dad. I’ve never seen my dad running before. This is going to be way worse than I thought it was going to be. He’s not going to wait until I get to the house to crush me, he’s running out here to crush me right in the middle of this road.” And the son is trying to find that speech he planned, but his father is so close now, and then the father drops his robe and slows to a walk and a smile comes across his face and the son is trying to compute it all and process what he sees, but before he can connect the dots his father takes him off his feet in this huge embrace, I’m telling you he just wraps him up, swings him around and is like “YEAH IT”S YOU, IT REALLY IS YOU.” He pushes him back, “YEAH I KNEW IT WAS YOU, IT REALLY IS YOU. He’s hugging him, kissing him, grabbing him “YEAH IT’S YOU, I KNEW YOU’D COME HOME.” Sweeping him off his feet, “YEAH THIS IS MY SON, THIS IS MY SON.”
The servants show up, they’ve been standing on the porch freaked out this entire time. And the father looks at them and says “what are you looking at. Get a robe and put it on my son, get a ring and put it on his finger, get him sandals and put them on his feet. And you, call parties-r-us and get everything we need. You, get that big fat calf, kill it, roast it, throw it on the spit. We’re going to have a celebration at our house tonight, this is my son who was dead and is now alive. This is my son who was lost and is now found. We are going to have a party in our house tonight!
Don’t you know that our God is a celebrating God? It says in the story that when the shepherd found the lost sheep he joyfully puts it on his shoulders. And then he goes home and calls the neighbors together and he says “rejoice with me I found my lost sheep.” Jesus then amplifies, he says “I tell you the truth, there will be more rejoicing in heaving over one sinner who repents than 99 righteous people who do not need to repent.”
And when the woman, when she found her lost coin, it says that she called her friends and neighbors together and she says “rejoice with me for I found my lost coin.” And then Jesus adds, because he really wants the Pharisees to hear this, he doesn’t wants us to miss this, “In the same way I tell you there is rejoicing in the presence of the angles of God when one sinner comes to repent.”
And then this son comes up the road, covered in yuck, covered in muck and the stench of his own failure and the father just can’t help but embracing him, kissing him, and lavishing him. It’s because our God is a celebrating God. I think for far too long the people of God, we’ve advocated all the partying to the people of the world but the truth is, they don’t have that much to party about, but we on the other hand have everything to party about, and yet sometimes we’re just sitting on our hands looking bored with life.
And I do know that we’re in a fight. It’s true. We’re still in the struggle. We live on a broken planet and we have a mission on earth. But if we can’t celebrate when people come from death to life then we are missing the heart of God. Because on this night, this son came alive on God’s Great Dance floor. He came to life on God’s great dance floor.
A mentor of mine once told me that, "all living things are growing, and in the process of growing, things are changing. If something is not growing, well, then it is dying." I knew this principle to be true in biology, but it had never occurred to me that this same principle is applicable to the church as well. If the church is in fact the "living church," it is growing, and in the process, it is being changed by God to serve His purposes. I'm sure that many of you can attest to the feeling of change in the atmosphere here at PLCC. We have said it many times that "God is on the move" and He surely is! God is bringing to life something new here and I cannot even begin to describe the excitement I have to be a part of His plans.
As a worship leader, I strive to make sure that each and every service reflects His glory. That every song we play, every movement we have on stage, every single thing we plan in a service all points back to Him. We pray diligently and humbly that in each service we are led by the Spirit, and not by man. I fear that many churches today try so desperately to imitate a move of God throughout their services, seeking an emotional response from the worshipers, rather than seeking a true change of the heart brought upon by the presence of God. The Word clearly states that a worshiper will be changed by their worship, but only if it is genuine! Look at this following verse with me.
"When the people of the land come before the LORD at the appointed feasts, whoever enters by the north gate to worship is to go out the south gate; and whoever enters by the south gate is to go out the north gate. No one is to return through the gate by which he entered, but each is to go out the opposite gate" (Ezekiel 46:9)
While God could have been giving logistical directions as a form of crowd control here, I believe that this represents something much bigger. I believe that He is suggesting that anyone who comes into His presence – and experiences a true move of God – will not leave the same as they entered. That our encounter with Him through worship and teaching will change us! Plain and simple... you cannot fake it when God shows up!
So how do we know if something is genuine? How can we tell if God is truly on the move within a church? I suggest looking at these three important signs.
1. Tears: There will be outward proof of an inward work of God. Real tears show real change. It shows that the heart of the worshiper is being shaped by our Creator.
2. Talent: Just as God provided David with an army in the wilderness and Moses with leaders among the Israelites, He provides the talent needed to make something happen.
3. Time: Being passionate about a vision means giving time. When people in a congregation get motivated, they're more worried about life change than who's getting paid for what.
When I look at the evidence of God moving throughout PLCC these three signs jump off the page at me. Specifically as it relates to our corporate worship, we can see hearts being changed! People are letting go and worshiping with their entire being! God has brought us such an influx of talent to the worship team through the likes of Tim Cyphers, Dave Render and Justin Phillips (amongst many more who are in the process of joining) to prepare us for where He is taking us next! The time that is being poured into the vision He has given us! The Time our leaders are spending in prayer! The time our church family is spending together! All of this is just a small piece of the evidence that GOD IS MOVING AT PLCC AND HE IS JUST GETTING STARTED! Are you feeling it? Are you ready? Are you moving with Him? God is on the move, and He is going to do miraculous things here. "The atmosphere is changing now, for the Spirit of the Lord is here!" I love my church, and I love my God.