Are You Loving God in Every Way?

The thoughts I am sharing in today’s blog were stimulated by a devotional written by Pastor Rick Warren based on Mark 12:30.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mk. 12:30, NKJV)

We are to love the Lord in all of the four ways mentioned in the passage. I’m sure you have recited this verse many times without really thinking specifically about each way we are required to love the Lord and what it entails. Are you and I loving the Lord in all four ways?

You have each been wired to love and worship God in one of these four ways more than the other three. Because of this, you can tend to go overboard in that area to the detriment of the others. Here is an opportunity to do some self-assessment to become more aware of your predominant tendency and the need to bring this predominant approach into balance with the other three.

Pastor Rick Warren expounds on the major activity involved in each of the four ways of loving God as follows:

Loving with your heart – talkative/communicator

Loving with your soul – feelings/emotional

Loving with your mind – thinker/loves the Word

Loving with your strength – doer/takes action

Operating in all four love modes helps us to be balanced in showing our love to God and to others. Let’s look at each in turn and the potential negatives if we fail to strike a healthy balance. For the most part, the thoughts that follow are my own. Remember to self-assess as we go through each approach.

Loving with all Your Heart

The talker must learn to listen and think. In their zeal to communicate about God and with God, these individuals may not listen sufficiently to be sensitive to the needs of others. They usually feel the need to speak out even when it is a time to be quiet. These are the persons who will tend to have one-way communication with God. They don’t wait to hear what God or others have to say. They may miss the ‘still small voice’ as this requires quietness. They also tend to speak before thinking. Not each thing that comes to our minds must be spoken. There are some things that God requires us to meditate upon in our hearts rather than speak it out. These persons may not only lack discernment of when to speak but also how much to say. In a prayer meeting, these are the persons who will take over the meeting, giving little room for others to pray. I heard someone say, “God gave us one mouth and two ears so we should listen twice as much as we speak.” It requires great self-control to bring our tongues into subjection to our spirit as we are told in James 3:5-10.   

Loving with all Your Soul

The feeler is very compassionate and empathetic. These persons have to be careful not to follow their feelings as these are fickle and can’t be trusted. Those who love with their soul mainly, must be guided by the Word rather than following the lead of their feelings. The scriptures tell us the importance of having self-control. We must allow wisdom to reign. Many times their compassion allows others to take advantage of them, particularly those who prey on the kind heartedness of Christians. Another potential weakness of those who love with all their soul is that they sometimes mistakenly equate being passionate about something with walking in God’s purpose. If I am passionate about it, it must therefore be God’s will. The Lord wants our obedience and discipline. It is not all the time that we will feel passionate about the things we are called to do. It will take sacrifice, which is what makes it so special (see Romans 12:1). So, we can’t do things just because we feel to or not do things just because we feel that if we are not excited about it then it can’t be from God.  

Loving with all Your Mind

This is my predominant way of worshipping and loving God so I can speak out of my own experience. The thinker is in love with God’s Word. Those who love with all their mind meditate upon God’s Word day and night. They are continually assessing themselves against God’s Word. They allow the Word of God to read them. They revere the Word of God and guard it jealously. They line up everything against God’s Word. There are 4 potential tendencies thinkers must guard against. 1) Being hearers only and not doers. 2) Being judgmental of others. Having a critical spirit of others because they do not abide by God’s Word. 3) Thinkers are very in-tune with their thoughts. They have to be discerning of the source of their thoughts. They have to ensure that they allow the Word they love so much to transform them by the renewing of their minds not just read the Word for intellect and knowledge. They need to allow the Word to give them wisdom and understanding also, so that they can give good counsel. They need to recognize that the enemy can bring deceptive thoughts so they always need to test their thoughts against the truth of God’s Word. 4) Not speaking when they ought to. In this aspect, those who love with all of their mind are the opposite of those who love with all of their heart. They are most comfortable writing down their thoughts rather than speaking their thoughts. God gives them much wisdom as they meditate upon His Word but they tend to keep it to themselves rather than communicating publicly what God has revealed to them even when God requires it.  They need to pray as Paul requested, “and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, …….. that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak (Eph. 6:19-20).

Loving with all Your Strength

Some versions use the word ‘might’ rather than ‘strength’. Those who love the Lord with all their might are those who are always busy putting things into action. They are the ones who get things done. They may mistake all of this busyness for God as having a relationship with God. However, they are not one and the same thing. They have a tendency to act on impulse out of their zeal for getting things done and do not spend the time to seek God diligently before launching out. There is also a tendency to do things in their own strength because they usually are gifted with abilities and skills but they do not necessarily have the leading of the Holy Spirit in the use of these gifts. They need to slow down and take the time to seek God’s face for His direction or they can waste time, money and effort – all valuable resources over which God expects us to be good stewards. The Word says, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zec. 4:6).  

Did you identify your love propensity? There is nothing wrong with having a propensity to love the Lord in one of the four ways mentioned in Mark 12:30. God wired you that way. You must, however, be aware of the drawbacks associated with your love mode and seek to bring it into balance with the other three. It is when all four come together in balance that we are giving God the love, and by extension the worship, that is pleasing to Him. So, choose today to work on all 4 areas – love Him with ALL your heart (your appropriate communication), with ALL your soul (your emotions & feelings balanced with wisdom), with ALL your mind (your knowledge and revelation of His Word), and with ALL your strength (your spiritually directed action).

Shalom.  

Purpose: Being not Doing

I have been thinking long and deep about purpose…….again. The more I think about it the more I believe that purpose is more about being than about doing. It is more about WHO we are than WHAT we do.

We should all be agreed that God the Father predestined our purpose for living. After all, it is stated plainly in His Word.

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, (Eph. 1:11)

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. (Ps. 139:16)

Many Christian writers have sought to point us towards finding out our purpose using various acronyms.

   Spiritual gifts, Talents, Abilities, Giftings, Experiences, Skills (S-T-A-G-E-S)

   Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, Experience (S-H-A-P-E)

   Talents, Abilities, Giftings, Skills (T-A-G-S)

These are things that God has given to us. Everyone has been given these but not everyone fulfils God’s purpose. How we use them and who we are as we use them is the missing component.

Many Christians worry about not achieving their purpose. Even if they don’t say it out loud they are constantly wondering, “Am I walking in my purpose?”, “How do I know that I am in God’s purpose?” They are in constant fear of missing out on God’s purpose for their lives. I know because I was one of those people. But the Lord gave me a different perspective on my purpose and it freed me from the fear of ever missing His purpose for my life.

It’s His purpose not mine. You cannot imagine how much freedom this revelation has given to me. I no longer run around looking for my purpose, searching for it as though it was lost. Father God has already established my life’s journey. Therefore, He has a vested interest in its fulfilment. If He took the time to write down your purpose before you were even born don’t you think that He would also make provision for its achievement? David had this revelation in Psalms 23.

He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. (Ps. 23:3)

And like David, I must declare, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.” (Ps. 139:6)

Because God has a vested interest in you achieving your purpose, He has also made every provision for its fulfilment.

as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, (2 Pet. 1:3)

Whatever our purpose, it is to bring glory and honour to God. Therefore, He is going to partner with you in achieving it if you allow Him to. So, the first thing we must BE to achieve our purpose is BE IN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (John 10:27)

God wants to lead us but we have to BE WILLING FOLLOWERS. He has given us the freedom to choose.

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, of the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Jos. 24:15)

Having chosen the Lord’s gift of salvation we cannot leave it there and go on automatic pilot.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (Phil. 2:12)

How do we “work out our salvation”? Romans 12:1 says we need to BE LIVING SACRIFICES. This is our reasonable service or act of worship. We have to lay aside our own will and surrender totally to God. BE WORSHIPPERS OF GOD.

Another being is to BE EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. We must seek to be led by the Holy Spirit.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Rom. 8:14

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Gal. 5:25)

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left. (Isa. 30:21)

So he answered and said to me. “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, (Zec. 4:6)

How do you become empowered by the Holy Spirit? When you accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour the Holy Spirit took up residence in your spirit. You, therefore, have power within from that decision to surrender your own will. There is another level of power that comes through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This gives us power to BE WITNESSES.

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

A witness testifies of what he/she has seen and heard and experienced.

Another important aspect of being is to BE A LISTENER. To be listeners we must be quiet. This is a great revelation to many people J. We have the ability to multitask but this is not one of the areas where multitasking is possible. Try it if you don’t believe me. You cannot be talking and listening at the same time. The Holy Spirit leads us with a “still small voice”. Therefore, you must be willing to spend times being still and quiet in His presence if you are going to hear what He says. Prayer is two-way communication. You talk to Him (pray) and you must also give Him time to speak to you. Many times He speaks to us about who He needs us to become rather than what He needs us to do.

Another way God speaks to us is through His Word.

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 Tim. 3:16-17)

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Ps. 119:105)

BE WILLING TO SPEND TIME IN GOD’S WORD. The word is both ‘logos’ and ‘rhema’. There are verses that will be quickened to you by the Holy Spirit as you read, which is another way you know what God requires of you. Again, most times we are being told who He requires us to be and not what He requires us to do.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. (1 Cor. 13:1)

BE LOVERS. We are commanded to be lovers of God and lovers of others.

‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk. 12:30-31)

Trust me, you cannot do what God requires until you become who God requires you to be. As we determine to be all that God requires, we will have no choice but to fulfil His purpose for our lives. Therefore, BE WILLING TO TRUST IN HIM.

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Of if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Lk. 11:9-13)

Father God cares for us with loving kindness and tender mercies (Ps. 25:6). As we seek to become all that He requires us to become His pathways will become clear to us (Ps. 25:4-6). Our prayer must be, “Lord let me know Your ways so I can understand and perform Your works.”

Make me understand the way of Your precepts; So shall I meditate on Your wonderful works. (Ps. 119:27)

You will be walking in His purpose without even realizing it. To be all that God requires you to be is to fulfil His purpose. He is a rewarder of them who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). He is after the image of Christ to be manifested in our lives (Eph. 4:13). Yes, it will involve works. We are His workmanship created for good works (Eph. 2:10). But the good works cannot come unless we first become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. Fruit first then gifts. That is the order of priority in God’s kingdom.

So, stop worrying about God’s purpose being fulfilled in your life. Keep your eyes stayed on Him and He will grant you His peace. Learn to BE AT REST IN HIM.

Meditate on Matthew 11:28-30; Psalms 127:2; Isaiah 30:15; Hebrews 4:3a; and Hebrews 4:9-11.

His will be done, His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

Shalom.

Hearts of Gratitude (Part 4)

In this final part of the series, our focus will be on Paul, the Apostle. As we know, Paul wrote more than half of the New Testament, in the form of letters to the many churches he established throughout his ministry. He outlined in his letters the many adversities he experienced as he did the Lord’s work. I want to emphasize this, as he did the Lord’s work. Many of us feel that if we are doing the Lord’s work and if we are walking in God’s will we will not suffer hardship. Nothing is further from the truth. We only need to look at the life of Jesus, the lives of David and Job (which we discussed in parts 2 and 3) and now the life of Paul.

First, let us put into context the things that Paul experienced in his effort to spread the gospel.

  1. People did not believe that he was an apostle/his conversion
  2. His message was rejected
  3. He was beaten/stoned
  4. He was imprisoned 
  5. He was deserted by close friends/Mark/Barnabus
  6. Some of the believers were backsliding
  7. There was competition from other preachers (apostles)
  8. There was lack of money/finance
  9. There were plots to kill him
  10. Influences of other religious/cultural/ideologies/practices
  11. He was persecuted/oppressed
  12. He was ship wrecked
  13. He was bitten by a viper
  14. He had a thorn in the flesh that God refused to deliver him from

I want to highlight two of these adversities beginning with the last situation first.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:7-9a)

Let us pause here for a while before continuing with this passage. I need us to take note of some facts. The thorn in the flesh was given to Paul, he didn’t do anything to deserve it. God could have stopped it from happening in the first place and could also have responded to Paul’s pleas to make it depart from him. Why didn’t He? He didn’t want Paul to become self-sufficient, to become filled with pride, which is always a risk faced by powerful ministers of the gospel. The Lord felt it was in Paul’s best interest to suffer the thorn in the flesh than to fall into destruction through pride. Paul recognized God’s care for him even as he denied his request for deliverance. He understood that the heart of God towards us is always to do us good and therefore even though it was distressful he accepted with gratitude that God’s way was best for him.

 Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:9b–10)

The ship wreck is the second aspect of Paul’s adversities I want to focus on. It landed him on the island of Malta. For all intents and purposes, this could have been deemed a tragedy. However, it is out of this tragedy that God used Paul to display the power of God when he was bitten by a viper (trouble upon trouble) but was not harmed. God used him to minister healing to many on that island. If Paul was consumed with self-pity he could not have been used by God to minister in this powerful way and display God’s glory for all to see.

The heart of gratitude can only be your reality if you understand the heart of God towards you. Nothing happens to any of His children by chance, nothing takes Him by surprise. Everything that happens to us happens for a purpose. It is more important to find the purpose than to bemoan the circumstance. This is God’s heart towards you and I……………

For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)

He says further………………..

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

Our problem, yours and mine, is that we read the Word but we do not believe it. If we did, then we would have no problem seeing every situation, good and bad, as an opportunity to give thanks to God out of a heart of gratitude. Maybe we would be quicker to be grateful if we knew of the consequences to being discontent.

A sound heart is life to the body, But envy is rottenness to the bones. (Pro. 14:30)

Better a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind. (Eccl. 4:6)

Remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches — Feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God. (Pro. 30:8-9)

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Tim. 6:9-10)

As I close this series, it is my prayer that we all seek to develop a heart of gratitude; thankfulness and contentment that is not dependent on our circumstances but on who we are in God. Be encouraged with these parting Scriptures from the grateful heart of Paul.

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:11-13)

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (1 Tim. 6:6-8)

Shalom

Hearts of Gratitude (Part 3)

As we continue our discussion on the link between hearts of gratitude and authentic worship, I have been focusing our attention on three persons in the Scriptures who typify the “heart of gratitude”. In Part 2, I discussed David and now we turn to Job.  

Job’s Heart of Gratitude

We are all aware of the quick succession of tragedies that came upon Job. We are told at the very beginning of Job chapter 1 that Job was “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” This context is very important to our discussion. It is when we are walking in righteousness and trouble comes that we feel most confused and upset. This is when the spirit of entitlement is most likely to rise up and grab a hold of us. We ask the question, “Why me, Lord? I haven’t done anything to deserve this.”

It is important to refresh our minds on the course of events that took place with Job to get a deep understanding of the degree of suffering that he encountered.

1. He lost 500 yoke of oxen and 500 female donkeys together with all but one of his servants who were tending them.

2. He lost 7,000 sheep and all but one of the servants who were tending them.

3. He lost 3,000 camels and all but one of the servants who were tending them.

4. He lost his 7 sons and 3 daughters all at the same time and only 1 servant lived to come and recount the tragedy.

Recall, these all happened in quick succession. What was Job’s initial response?

And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:21-22, NKJV)

We see here the mindset that we must develop. Job acknowledged that all that he had was given to him by the Lord and the Lord was therefore free (well within His rights) to take away what He had given. All of his possessions and even his children Job recognized did not belong to him. He chose to continue worshipping the Lord in the midst of these dire circumstances.

“And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Deut 8:18)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17)

These verses clearly support the fact that everything we have comes from the Lord. We are merely stewards over what He has given to us.

Not only did Job suffer loss of possessions and children but his health was also attacked. In chapter 2, we see him being “struck with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7b). Again, he holds his integrity intact even as his wife urges him to do otherwise.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:9-10)

To curse God, to blame God for our troubles is to sin with our lips. God is not against us questioning what is happening. In fact, He is the one who encourages us, “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord.’ (Isa 1:18a). However, we must be very careful to never lose our reverence and awe for the Lord. To step over the line, forgetting that He is the Creator and we are His created. Read Job chapters 38 – 41 if you are ever tempted to forget who we are in relation to Almighty God.

It is also important to note from Job’s story that these trials came at the request of Satan who wanted to show that it was only because of what God had provided for Job that Job worshipped and served Him. The Lord wanted to show Satan that even when these things are taken away Job would still worship Him. Could it be that there are seasons in our own lives when God allows Satan to buffet us so that He can show that our commitment to the Him is not based on what we have or do not have? What if we began to see our trials as an opportunity to bring glory and honour to the Lord by continuing to glorify the name of the Lord despite the loss and suffering that we may face in this life? To recognize that this brings glory to the Lord and shows our depth of maturity? It also is a measure of the confidence that God has in us that we are ready to withstand in the day and having done all to remain standing. Do we need to see hardships as a test of our belief in the faithfulness of our Father God and not allow the enemy any victory by being ungrateful to our Father? He has given us promises in His Word that we must use to sustain us through these trials. We must hold fast to them.

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13:5)

…………………………..and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Mt 28:20b)

Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert. (Isa 43: 19)

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. (1 Cor 2:14)

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Cor 15:57-58)

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore. (Ps 121:7-8)

I have given just a few verses from Psalms 121 but the whole Psalm is full of promises from the Lord and there are, of course, many more in the Scriptures. Neither time nor space would allow me to share all of them here. Just a little side note. The word “preserve” means to keep from being destroyed, from destruction, to be sustained. Therefore, the Lord preserving us from all evil is not to be interpreted as the Lord preventing evil from coming upon us but rather not allowing evil to utterly destroy us. In fact, the Lord set a limit on Satan in this regard.

And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.” (Job 2:6)

We cannot avoid suffering, it is a part of “working out our salvation with fear and trembling”. But we can avoid responding to suffering in the wrong way. A way that brings the name of the Lord into disrepute rather than bringing to Him the glory He deserves, no matter what we are going through.

It is His Word that will keep us in perfect peace when the storms of life hit. It is His Word that will keep our minds on the Lord and not on the circumstances. To never feel as though God has forsaken us or turned His back on us. To know that He holds us in the palm of His hands, even when it doesn’t seem so. To live by faith and not by sight. To guard our hearts with all diligence because ultimately that is what the enemy is after. He wants our hearts to turn away from the Lord to believe that God doesn’t care about us anymore and we are no longer the apple of His eye. In all of this, we are instructed by the following verses regarding our posture towards Father God and the mindset He requires us to have as we go through suffering, which is as inevitable as night follows day.

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:18)

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Pet 4:12-13)

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed: we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed — always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Cor 4:8-11)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)

Shalom.

Hearts of Gratitude (Part 2)

As we continue our discussion about the link between hearts of gratitude and authentic worship, I want to focus our attention on the first of three persons in the Scriptures who typify the “heart of gratitude”.

David’s Heart of Gratitude

There are two particular instances in David’s life that I want to highlight. First, the threat to his life from Saul and the second is the threat to his life from his own son Absalom.

David & Saul

Even though David knew he had done nothing to deserve the full onslaught of Saul’s envy and jealousy, even to the point of wanting him dead, his heart continued to be towards God. He continued to give God the praise and worship He deserved. He could have become upset, and wondered why, in essence, the Lord who had sent a prophet to anoint him King was now turning his back on him; allowing him to be pursued by Saul with the sole aim of killing him. We see his heart of gratitude coming out in his authentic worship to God in the midst of his adversity in the following verses:

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles.
         (Psa. 34:1-6)

This was written in the midst of Saul’s pursuit. If you have the time, it would be worthwhile reading the entire Psalm. Psalms 57 & 59, written during the same time, serve to emphasize even further David’s authentic worship from a heart of gratitude. How do we know he was grateful? Remember, I shared last time that the opposite of gratitude is entitlement. When one feels entitled, the response is bitter complaining in the face of being treated unjustly. Complaints rather than worship. Only one with a grateful heart could continue to worship in the midst of such hostility and injustice.

Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; Defend me from those who rise up against me.
Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, And save me from bloodthirsty men. For look, they lie in wait for my life; The mighty gather against me, Not for my transgression nor for my sin, O Lord. They run and prepare themselves through no fault of mine. Awake to help me, and behold! You therefore, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, Awake to punish all the nations;
Do not be merciful to any wicked transgressors. Selah
(Psa. 59:1-5)

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, To God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. [Selah] God shall send forth His mercy and His truth. My soul is among lions; I lie among the sons of men Who are set on fire, Whose teeth are spears and arrows, And their tongue a sharp sword. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth. They have prepared a net for my steps;
My soul is bowed down; They have dug a pit before me; Into the midst of it they themselves have fallen. [Selah] My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise.
Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. 10 For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, And Your truth unto the clouds. 11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth. (Psa. 57)

In verse 4 of Psalms 59, David is reiterating that his life is under threat through no fault that could be attributed to him. Despite this, David says his heart remains steadfast to sing and give praise to God, to exalt His name. He could have become bitter towards the Lord as many Christians do, unfortunately, when adversity hits. Here, David is the epitome of a heart of gratitude. Many of us wait until after God’s deliverance to give praise, worship and thanksgiving to God. What a difference it would make to the journey through adversity and how we come out on the other side if we could dig deep and, no matter what, determine that come what may, “as for me and my house we will praise the Lord” (Josh. 24:15b). Let’s look at one last verse written by David during Saul’s pursuit to drive the point home before we switch our focus to Absalom.

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.
I will praise You forever, Because You have done it; And in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good.
(Psa. 52:8-9)

David and Absalom

David’s own son, Absalom, treacherously plots and takes action to turn the people to him and away from King David, his father. One of the greatest, if not the greatest of hurts, is the treachery of a child towards a parent. Whatever it is – envy, jealousy, greed, power, pride, bitterness – that is in the heart of a child to reach this stage to turn on his own father has to go very deep. It had to be like a sword in David’s heart when he learned of the betrayal of his son. For fear of his life, David flees and ends up having to send an army out against his own son. Read 2 Samuel, chapters 15 -17 for the details.

Psalms 23 was written by David during this time of deep hurt and anguish. In the midst of great grief, David was able to acknowledge the goodness of God. David could have railed against God, pointing out to him that he had been a good King and did not deserve this treachery from his own son. To make matters worse, we see during his journey to save his life, in 2 Samuel 16:5-13, Shimei of the House of Saul came and cursed David, throwing stones and dirt at him. When the men who were with David sought to retaliate against Shimei David’s response tells us about David’s understanding of God and the recognition that nothing happens by chance with God. David knew there was something to be learned from this test.

11 And David said to Abishai and all his servants, “See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the Lord has ordered him. 12 It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing this day.” 13 And as David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, threw stones at him and kicked up dust.  (2 Sam. 16:5-13)

Another aspect of David’s attitude I want us to note is his plea to the men who were going out to fight against Absalom and his army, to deal mercifully and gently with his son. Here is another example of the kind of perspective we need to have when others come against us to persecute us. Like Jesus’ words on the cross “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”, we must recognize that we fight not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, against rulers of darkness and spiritual wickedness in high places. We must seek to take the high road and even as we seek for God’s intervention to deliver and save we also have a heart for those who are being used to bring us into hard testing for the maturing of our souls. Our hearts must remain tender towards God and towards others in the midst of our trouble. This is a heart of gratitude!!

Shalom.

Hearts of Gratitude (Part 1)

The two themes God gave to me for 2021 were ‘Authentic Worship’ and ‘Hearts of Gratitude’. I have already completed the blog series on Authentic Worship and now focus on the second theme. Although I am dealing with them separately they are tightly intertwined and cannot occur independently. In fact, the Lord just showed me today that you cannot have authentic worship without a heart of gratitude.

God will be testing the authenticity of our worship and whether we have hearts of gratitude. The test of gratitude can only be done through adversity. Gratitude is an attitude. It goes hand in hand with contentment. The opposite of gratitude is entitlement. A spirit of entitlement is akin to what I call ‘the spoilt child complex.’ The belief that I must get everything I want now and if I don’t I throw a tantrum. Unfortunately, that’s how many Christians are in their relationship with God. They see Him mainly as provider and blesser (if there’s any such word) and if they don’t get His blessing in the time they feel it should be given they are ready to complain and turn their backs on Him. We need a shift in mindset!! In academia we call this ‘a paradigm shift’. We have to start with the premise that we are here because God determined our days. He went further and through Jesus Christ has made available to every man, woman and child the gift of salvation. God so loved each one of us that He gave His only begotten Son so that we could have eternal life. This is the ultimate gift. If we get nothing else from God, we should be satisfied. Everything else is brawta. God owes you and I absolutely nothing but we owe Him everything. If we are able to come into that mindset, it will be easy to have a heart of gratitude; to be content with God’s provision, no matter how small or large it is.  

Why do so many Christians struggle with gratitude?

It is human nature to want everything to go smoothly in our lives. We have been socialized into believing that you are only blessed if things are going right in your life. But God does not think like the world. As high as the heaves are above the earth so are His thoughts higher than our thoughts and His ways than our ways. God gives us clues that life will not always be pleasant and without trials and tribulations. The first clue is that we are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Doesn’t sound like a trouble free life to me. In James 1:2b, it says “WHEN you fall into various trials,” (emphasis mine). David spoke about walking through the valley of the shadow of death (Psa 23:4). He also tells us in Psalms 119:50, that God’s Word will comfort him in his affliction. There are others but I think we are convinced. So, why are we taken aback when trouble happens? Why do we so easily go into a tail spin when we are faced with the slightest adversity?  Pain and suffering is a necessity for our maturity and to bring us into the image of Jesus Christ. I daresay this is why many Christians remain immature. They are unwilling to surrender to the crucible of God’s purifying fire on their lives, which is brought through adversity. They want to take the easy road. But we learn nothing and we appreciate nothing and we prove nothing about ourselves when we gain success on the easy road.

I said earlier that we need a major shift in our mindset. One of the contributing factors to why we think with an entitlement mindset is what we hear from the pulpit. Many of our church leaders have been guilty of watering down the word and only preaching the parts that will satisfy our ‘itching ears’. We hear from many pulpits and from international ministry leaders the constant message of prosperity and blessing.

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim 4:2-4, NKJV)

We are in the time that Paul prophesied about to Timothy. Instead of our church leaders being leaders they are instead the followers of the people they should be leading. Why? Because they do not want them to leave the church. They are busy playing the numbers game rather than discipling the Body of Christ according to the full truth of God’s Word. They are selective in what they choose to share so as not to ruffle too many feathers. They make the kingdom of God appear to be a rose garden. But truth be told, they still end up losing their members because hard times will come, they cannot be avoided, and with it comes disillusionment because the God of blessing and provision does not show up as they were told He would and they have not been properly prepared to undergo the hardships and come out victorious. Many experience a crisis of faith. The prosperity message tells them that if they believe they will get all of the blessings and the promises God has stored up for them. Their leaders have conveniently left out the conditionalities that must be met for these blessings and promises to become a reality. Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all (Psa 34:19). He will surely deliver but He didn’t say when.

We have been sold the story that God will never allow us to go through hard times because we are His children. Sometimes we make mistakes and we have to live with the consequences. But there are also times when we are walking uprightly but hardship comes. When this happens we immediately start the questioning. “What did I do wrong to deserve this?” Many times we haven’t done anything to bring hardship and suffering upon ourselves. Another question that goes through our minds when we come to the hard truth that all will not be roses and sunshine in our Christian walk is, “What is the benefit of being a believer in Jesus Christ then if I am still going to suffer? After all, when I gave my life to the Lord I was led to believe that everything would be smooth sailing after that. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I surrendered because of all the suffering I was going through by trying to do things on my own.” The difference is now God is with you. He has given you His Holy Spirit of comfort and of power and Jesus Christ (the Word of God), to sustain you and equip you to go through suffering and come out victorious, as pure gold. He does not prevent the suffering, He takes you through it. In Psalms 23 David said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff they comfort me” (emphasis mine). Note that he knew he would have to walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death. God was not going to take him over, beneath, or around the dark times but He would be with him as he went through them. How can you live a life of victory if you have no battles to fight and have no battle scars to show?

Let us ponder a little more. Why would we need faith if everything is going to be easy and joyful? God says, “Prove Me” (Mal 3:10b).  It’s only as we go through the storms of life that we will need to prove that God stands by His promises. It’s easy to praise the Lord when all is going well but it takes the sacrifice of praise to reach the heart of God. Our praise cannot be determined by what is happening in our lives. God is God no matter what. He deserves our praise just because He is God and for no other reason. That’s where the link is made between authentic worship and a heart of gratitude.

Nothing takes God by surprise. He is omniscient – the All-Knowing God. In Luke 22:31-32, Jesus had already prayed for Peter regarding the storm that he was about to go through. Jesus is our Mediator and intercedes for us, actually we are told ‘He ever makes intercession’, that means the intercession is persistent and never ending.

Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. (Heb. 7:25, KJV)

Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (Romans 8:34)

God has not promised to keep us from valleys and sufferings, but to make us fruitful in them (Francis Frangipane, Place of Immunity, 1996).

Over the next few blogs, I want to continue our meditation on this topic, by focusing our attention on three persons in the Scriptures who I believe epitomize ‘the heart of gratitude’ – David, Job, and Paul. I am sure there are others but these are the three the Lord dropped in my spirit. Hope you can join me.

Blessed Be Your Name https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTpTQ4kBLxA

Shalom.

Authentic Worship – Part 5

There are nine barriers that will hinder our worship. Last time I covered unbelief, unforgiveness, unresolved conflict, submitting to or opening our lives to worldly philosophies and occult practices, idolatry, and pride and arrogance. In this, the last in this series, I will be discussing the three remaining barriers.

Wrong Motive

Paul said,          

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. (1 Cor. 13:1)

We must all ask ourselves, and particularly those who are leading praise and worship ministry, ‘why am I ministering?’ Is it to gain acceptance, popularity, status or self-fulfillment? Our sole reason for worship must be love for God. God’s love for us, as evidenced by His willingness to give His only begotten Son to die on our behalf, must resonate within our hearts to such a degree that out of our deepest gratitude we give ourselves back to Him in service.

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy, and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. (Rom. 12:1, AMP)

1 John 4:8 says, God is love and if we know Him (not just know of Him) we will be full of love also. People who know God are passionate about the things He is passionate about. When God rebukes the church in Laodicea, we see the importance that God places on being passionate, which should translate into our worship of Him.

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. (Rev. 3:15-16)

If we are not willing to give God our all when we worship, then don’t worship. If there are things that are holding you back from passionately worshipping and serving God, then step back and seek help to get back to your first love. Sometimes, it pains my heart to see the faces of some praise and worship ministers who are supposed to be leading us to the holy of holies. There is no joy, no love of God, no passion in their faces or body language. This is not worshipping God in spirit and in truth; they are simply going through the motions. Paying lip service rather than heart service.

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all our heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. (Mark 12:29-30)

This is the kind of love God desires. Indeed, this is the love He deserves.

Loss of Reverence and Awe for God

In our New Testament dispensation of grace, many believers perceive that because God is gracious and merciful they can do as they like then just ask forgiveness and all will be well. This is an issue that Paul had to address with the Christians in Rome.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! …………………………But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.  (Rom. 6:15,22, emphasis mine)

There is no variableness or shadow of turning with God (James 1:17b). He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). There was a time when a believer would not come to church if he/she knew that there was unrepented sin in their life because the Holy Spirit would reveal it to someone so they stayed away. Many of us enter the house of God as though we are entering our living room. Not recognizing that we have come to meet with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Many of us come in and start catching up on the latest news with Sister Lucy and Brother Percy. We need to be taught again on the purpose of gathering together on a Sunday morning. Ministers fail to consecrate themselves the night before coming to minister but stay up watching all manner of things on the TV or going to bed late, having attended some social event the night before and come on Sunday to give God the leftovers. I know, because I used to do it myself. But God is saying to His people,

Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. (Lev. 20:7)

‘I am the God of your fathers – the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and dared not look. ‘Then the Lord said to him, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. (Acts 7:32-33)

Unrepented Sin

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear. (Isa. 59:2)

There is no such thing as secret sin. We can pretend that we are living holy lives around our brethren but God sees everything. In trying to fool God we only fool ourselves. Part of the problem is that the things we categorize as sin and those things God calls sin are not one and the same. Therefore, we think we are okay and in right standing with God when we are not.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

We need to be constantly examining ourselves. Let us not be too quick to say not me. Allow the Holy Spirit’s search light to reveal those things that are hidden deep within. Our attitude must always be like David’s; a willingness and desire to have God search and examine our hearts. It’s better that way than when God has to do things to bring it to our attention.

Galatians 5:7 says, A little leaven leavens the whole lump. The full relevance of this is brought out in 1 Corinthians 5. In essence, we are warned by Paul to have zero tolerance for sin in our midst. When we accommodate it and turn a blind eye it takes a toll on the whole church, not just the person who is committing the sin. This is particularly true of those who are in ministry. Many times we wonder why we are not seeing the power of God being manifested. This is why God has placed us in His family called the church. We are our brother’s and sister’s keeper.

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load. (Gal. 6:1-5)

Our fellowship with each other must be such that we build relationships of trust so that we can follow the instruction given in James 5:16.

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (Jas. 5:16)

Epilogue

The Lord has been revealing to His prophets that we are in a season when God is sifting His church. He has said we have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. God is looking for a remnant who know their God and will be strong and do exploits on His behalf. A remnant that will obey his command to “Be holy as I am holy”. The Lord is seeking true worshippers. Those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.  

[Click on the link – The Heart of Worship https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-Zp586pvZg]

Shalom

Authentic Worship – Part 4

There are nine barriers that can hinder the flow of the Spirit and make our worship powerless because God will not be with us.

Unbelief

 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. (Mt. 13:58)

Many times we convince ourselves that we believe but our actions and our works are evidence that deep down we still do not fully trust and believe the God we serve.

 Faith without works is dead. (James 2: 18, 20, & 26)

 By their fruits you shall know them. (Mt. 7: 16, 20)

Unbelief goes hand in hand with fear. A specific fear that troubles platform ministers is the fear of men’s faces. It causes us to compromise and to do things to please men rather than God. It is a form of idolatry. Fear of any kind is not of God. Fear is the opposite of power.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7)

Unforgiveness

Let’s look at The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18. I will take it from verse 32:

Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you? And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Mt. 18:32-35)

Unresolved conflict

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Mt. 5:23-24)

So, what is ‘the gift’ referred to in the above scripture? Usually what was brought to the altar was the sacrifice. Therefore, in our context the Lord is willing to do without our sacrifice of praise to Him (Heb. 13:15) to allow us to go and deal with any unresolved conflict in our lives. This shows us God’s priority. Obedience is better than sacrifice

Submitting to or opening our lives to worldly philosophies/occult practices

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, (Eph. 2:2)

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom 12:2)

Idolatry

In essence, idolatry is thinking we know better or more than God. Making things and people more important than God. I noted this earlier when I mentioned the fear of men’s faces. So, idolatry is not just this image we have of someone bowing down to a statue instead of worshiping the living God. Anything that we put before God in our lives has become an idol. Many times it is ourselves that become more important than God. We serve God when it’s convenient to us. I can’t go to practice or to prayer meeting because I’ll miss the episode of the latest series that has caught my attention on cable or Netflix.

Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ “ (Mt. 4:10; see also Lk. 4:8)

Another symptom of idolatry is things having to be done our way or else we are not being a part of it. It’s all about me. Self-centredness rather than God-centredness. Proverbs 3:5-7 says,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. (Prov. 3:5-7)

Pride and Arrogance

Pride can be very subtle and we can miss it unless we are alert. Many times others have to point it out to us and that’s when the real trouble begins. Christians involved in platform ministry are particularly prone to this sin. It was pride that led God to have to cast Lucifer out of heaven (Isa. 14:12-14). You will recall he was the chief minister of worship in heaven. We are at particular risk when we have excellent natural abilities. We sometimes trust more in our natural abilities than in the Holy Spirit. We must always remember that our anointing, gifts, skills and abilities come from God. Many powerful ministers forgot this to their detriment.

Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov. 16:18)

So he answered and said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts. (Zec. 4:6)

A very important indicator of pride is not wanting to submit to authority. Anyone who wants to be an effective leader must first be an effective follower. Leaders are human and they will make mistakes. The effective leader will be open to respectful correction. But God will not honour your ministry if you do not have a submissive spirit to those He has placed in authority over you. This is part of the test of your character. David passed this test with flying colours when he had the opportunity to kill Saul and chose not to. We can find this account in 1 Samuel 24. This was a leader who for 3 years hunted down David to kill him and when he could have killed him his first thought was that Saul was still God’s anointed leader over Israel therefore respect was due.

Next time we will complete the three remaining hindrances to the flow of the Spirit.

Shalom.

Authentic Worship – Part 3

The Power of Worship (continued)

For new readers of this blog series, you can catch up with our discussion on The Power of Worship in Part 2.

Because of the incredible power potential of worship, it is one of the ministries in the Body of Christ most targeted by Satan. Worship and prayer are under constant enemy attack. No one knows the power of worship more than Lucifer, the chief minister of worship in heaven (Ezekiel 28:13, KJV & NKJV). Many times we do not discern the enemy’s attacks because they come in subtle ways. The greatest battle field is in our minds and the second greatest is the things people around us say and do. But they are not the enemy. Ephesians 6:12 tells us quite clearly who our real enemy is and we need to always remember this and target our warfare accordingly.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

We all fall prey to Satan’s tactics but we are told by Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:11 that we must not allow him to get the advantage over us by being ignorant of his devices. I know there are some Christians who believe there is a demon behind everything that happens to them. I am not one of them. I know God has given us freedom of choice and many times we ourselves make the wrong decisions and have to bear the consequences. On the other hand, I am not naïve enough to believe that because I am saved the enemy cannot touch me. There must be a reason why we are told in 1 Peter 5:8,

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. (1 Pet. 5:8)

Burying our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich will not cause his attack to pass us by. We must be on the alert and be battle ready at all times. One of the driving forces behind my ministry is Hosea 4:6, my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. I am called to teach and to minister healing and deliverance through the prophetic anointing in Jesus’ name. If you will partner with the Holy Spirit today the enemy’s tactics will be revealed and if you are in the worship ministry you will move to a higher level of power. James 4:7 says,

Therefore, submit yourselves unto God. Resist the enemy and he WILL flee from you. (Jas. 4:7, emphasis mine)

Any time you see a ‘therefore’ you need to check what it is there for. What preceded this verse? “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6b). Pride is of the enemy, don’t let it rob you of what God has for you today. In part 1, we talked about worshiping in Spirit and in truth. All of our power comes from the Holy Spirit so the first requirement for operating at full power is to be baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-8). This is necessary but not sufficient. Even when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit there are things that can hinder the flow of the Spirit and make our worship powerless because God will not be with us. I have identified 9 such barriers and will begin our discussion of these next time. See you then!

Shalom.

Authentic Worship – Part 2

I want to switch gears somewhat from where we left off in Part 1 and focus our attention on the POWER OF TRUE WORSHIP, a power that we have not fully grasped in most of the Body of Christ.

The Power of True Worship

And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him. (1 Sam. 16:23)  

Here, we see the power of music to influence the environment so that an evil spirit could not stay in the atmosphere. We come to church on Sundays and sing a few songs and many times do not recognize or understand the spiritual impact that praise and worship should be generating to set the atmosphere for spiritual bondages to be broken.

In 1 Samuel 10:5-7 the prophet Samuel is speaking to young Saul who is not yet King but has been so appointed.

After that you shall come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is. And it will happen, when you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them; and they will be prophesying. Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you. (1 Sam. 10:5-7)

Praise and worship is the vehicle that ushers in the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the spirit are manifested. Here, we see the gift of prophecy coming upon Saul who did not operate in the prophetic office. It was so unexpected that in verse 12 of the same chapter it became a proverb: “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

Let us go back to David and Saul in 1 Samuel 16 and look earlier in the chapter at verses 17 & 18

So Saul said to his servants, “Provide me now a man who can play well, and bring him to me.” Then one of the servants answered and said, “Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him.” (1 Sam. 16:17-18)

What combination do you notice? Worshiper and warrior.

The Lord has revealed to His prophets that we (the Kingdom of God) are in a season of warfare; a season of taking back territory for God and pushing back the forces of darkness. He is releasing the warrior spirit upon His ministers starting with the intercessors. This warfare intercession will see the release of a new sound coming through His anointed musicians to set the right environment for spiritual warfare and the ushering in of the prophetic anointing.

In 2 Chronicles 20 we see a praying King Jehoshaphat bringing to God’s attention the fact that the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who the Lord instructed the Israelites to spare when they came out of Egypt, were now bent on wanting to take away the land the Lord had given the Israelites as their possession. In response, a prophetic word comes from the Lord outlining the strategy that they are to use to fight the upcoming battle. Importantly, the Lord confirmed that the battle was not theirs but His. What was the strategy God gave for the battle? Let us read from verse 20:

So they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.” And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: “Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever.” Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another. (2 Chron. 20:20-23, emphasis mine)

Why did God require the singers to go ahead of the army? To stir up the spiritual atmosphere and thereby bring confusion to the enemy’s camp. We know it was true worship because it was under the inspiration of God to a holy God.

Let’s look at the destruction of Jericho in Joshua 6 starting from verse 1.

Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.” (Josh. 6:1-5, emphasis mine)

There is a particular sound that sets the atmosphere for spiritual warfare and that is the power of praise and worship that is being required by God in this hour. We see again in Joel 2, the blowing of the trumpet in Zion (symbolic of the church) and the sounding of the alarm in God’s holy mountain to announce a great battle of the Lord. In Nehemiah 4:19-20,

Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” (Neh. 4:19-20)

In the new testament, we see Paul alluding to there being a particular sound that warns us to arise for battle.

Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? (1 Cor. 14:7-8)

For the battle to be successful though it is not just about the sound. We cannot divorce the sound from the character of those who are called to make the sound. We come back full circle to true worship.

So Saul said to his servants, “Provide me now a man who can play well, and bring him to me.” Then one of the servants answered and said, “Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him.” (1 Sam. 16:17-18, emphasis mine)

It was not the music in and of itself that allowed the distressing spirit to depart from Saul. It had everything to do with the character of the person who was playing the music. In Acts 13:22, David was said to be a man after God’s own heart. We know that David was far from perfect but it was not about being perfect, it was about the attitude when he did wrong. He acknowledged his wrong, took responsibility, repented and in this way he kept short accounts with God. Let us see such an example in 2 Sam. 24:10.

And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” (2 Sam. 24:10)

We also see his contriteness displayed through the words in Psalms 51. Psalms 34:18 tells us that the Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves such as have a contrite spirit. We cannot be wrong and strong at the same time.

In an effort not to make the blog too lengthy, I will stop here with our discussion and resume next time.

Shalom.