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.

Authentic Worship – Part 1

As is usual at the beginning of every year, I spend time to seek the Lord for His mind for the new year. For 2021, the Lord has given me two themes.

  1. Authentic Worship
  2. Hearts of Gratitude

I want to do a short series first on Authentic Worship, based on a message I gave in 2018 at a Praise & Worship Workshop. As I reflected on the theme of Authentic Worship, the Lord brought me back to this message. The Lord has given me very specific areas to touch on, so it is not my intention to expound comprehensively on this topic but to share only those aspects that the Lord has shown me by His Spirit for such a time as this.

Before we get into the meat of the matter, let me first define the word ‘authentic’. The various online dictionaries says it means ‘genuine, original, real, true, legitimate, and actual. I like the definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

  • worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact;
  • conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features;
  • made or done the same way as an original.

John 4:23-24 – This is Jesus speaking.

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (NKJV)

What can we learn from these two verses?

  1. God the Father is seeking TRUE worshipers. Strong’s concordance interprets the word ‘seeking’ as desiring. This is a desire of the Lord’s heart and so should be our desire also.
  2. We can conclude that there are worshipers and then there are TRUE worshipers.  What differentiates the two? Jesus says TRUE WORSHIPERS are those who worship the Father in SPIRIT and TRUTH. It is my belief that every Christian believer aspires to be a True Worshiper.
  3. The key therefore to understanding what is meant by TRUE (AUTHENTIC) WORSHIP is to understand what is really meant by worshiping the Father in SPIRIT and TRUTH. 

I was going to take the approach of teaching on these two aspects separately but the Lord said they cannot be separated. You cannot understand truth except God’s Spirit give you revelation.

For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 2:11, NKJV)

WHAT IS TRUTH?

The scriptures tell us that “God’s Word is truth” (John 17:17). We are also told by Jesus in John 14:6 that He is “the way, the truth and the life” and no one who comes to the Father can come except through Him. John 1:1 says,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (NKJV)

We can therefore conclude that true worshipers place Jesus (the truth) at the centre of their worship. He is their sole focus. True worshipers understand that their worship is an expression of their love and complete surrender to the One who sacrificed His own life on their behalf. The true worshiper’s posture therefore must be in accordance with Romans 12:1.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. (Rom. 12:1, NIV, emphasis mine)

A requirement for true worship and true worshipers is holiness. Throughout the scriptures we see these words “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalms 96:9, 29:2, 1 Chron. 16:29, 2 Chron. 20:21).

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet, 1:15-16, NKJV)

This is not a request, a choice, or an “if you feel like it”. It is a command. God never requires us to do something that is not possible. Of course, it is not possible in our own strength. We must have the power of the Holy Spirit within us for holiness to be achieved. We must understand that when we were saved our spirits were reborn and renewed but our soul – our mind, will and emotions – continue to be a battle ground; hence, our continual struggle to walk in righteousness. Paul tells us about it in Romans 7.

I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who will to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:21-25, NKJV)

Through Jesus Christ our Lord! Remember Jesus is the Word. So we win the battle to achieve holiness through the Word. But there is another element that was released to us through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.

But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. (John 15:26, NKJV, emphasis mine)

True worshipers do nothing in their own power and strength. If they do, then it is not true worship. They are guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit who knows the will of the Father and testifies only the truth of God’s Word.

‘Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit’, says the Lord of hosts. (Zec. 4:6b, NKJV).

This brings us right back to our initial scripture in John 4:23-24. God is Spirit and it is our spirit that must touch His if there is to be true worship.

Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; (Psalms 42:7, NKJV)

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24, NKJV, emphasis mine)

As I finish laying this foundation, it is important for us to note that this John 4:23-24 passage was part of a conversation Jesus was having with a Samaritan woman. Let’s see what He says to her in verse 22.

“You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship…” (John 4:22)

A true worshiper knows the God who he/she is worshiping. I don’t mean knows of God or knows about God but knows God. To know someone you must be spending intimate time with that person. You must be in close relationship to really get to know someone. It is out of our knowledge of the awesomeness and the greatness of the God we serve that we bring true worship.

Next time, we will shift our focus to the POWER OF TRUE WORSHIP. See you then.

Shalom.

The Fear of the Lord (Part 7)

Yes, I’m back! I know I said that Part 6 was the last in this series. But God in His mercy gave me a day’s break and then woke me up this morning with such a consciousness of His splendor and greatness. He reminded me that He gave me this assignment and He is the One who determines when it is finished. I must confess that in Part 5 I preempted and said Part 6 was to be the final part. Having said it, I then tried to squeeze all that remained into Part 6 and missed out some very important downloads I had received from Holy Spirit. I have been writing this blog long enough to know that I should never go ahead of God. So, I come humbly and in obedience to publish Part 7. Truth be told, I have never been required by God to publish six blogs in six days. It was taking a toll on my time and I was really pushing to get everything done so I could get back to what I felt was pressing. But this is just what is wrong with the Body of Christ. I just said ‘my time’. But it’s not ‘my time’ it’s God’s time that He has given to me to use as He sees fit. Who am I to determine what I do with it. I also began doing things in my own strength and not by His power because of the urgency with which I WANTED to finish the series. Wrong again!! Ultimately, it is not about what I WANT but about what GOD WANTS. I have craved and received His forgiveness for being presumptuous and I now move in total obedience as His humble servant.

Warning!! This is the longest blog I have written. But God has instructed to write it as He has given it. You may read at your leisure but I must write at His pleasure. I know when the anointing of the Lord is flowing because the words just flow out of me. Take your time and read. No matter how long it takes. No matter how many sittings it takes. But read you must!! This is the Word of the Lord.

Who Is Man?

David says in Psalms 8,

What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit Him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet……………O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth! (Psa. 8:1-6, 9, emphases mine)

Everything we are and everything we have is because of God!! We need to remember this every day we wake up. We are here because God decided to give us another day of life here on earth. It is time for us to have the right perspective of ourselves.

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to thing of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Rom. 12:3, emphases mine)

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 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. 1:2-3, emphases mine)

For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:13, emphasis mine)

Many believers have become puffed up because of the power we have received from God. We have ascribed it to ourselves, forgetting the source is God. We can do nothing of ourselves. That is the honest truth! Saints of God, ascribe to God the glory due to His name!!

Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. (Psa. 39:5)

because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away. (1 Pet. 1:24)

All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. (Eccl. 3:20)

Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. (Psa. 95:7, emphases mine)

Well, well!! Really now!! Who would have imagined!! When we listen to some Christians speaking about what God should have done, and why doesn’t God do this, and how could God have done that, you would have thought that we created God. Yes, God calls us to reason together with Him (Isa. 1:18) but as is the norm with humankind we are given an inch and then take a mile. I feel the need to put this reasoning together with God in the right context. We have a tendency to take verses of scripture out of context and use them to justify our own ends. God was speaking to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. He was tired of their religious activities – the futile sacrifices, the incense, the New Moons, the Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies and sacred meetings, the appointed feasts. Why? God says He cannot endure iniquity. Let’s take it from verse 14.

Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isa. 1:14-20, emphasis mine)

When God says here “let us reason together”, He is showing them two paths that they can choose; one leads to blessing and one to death. He is saying, now you work it out in your own mind (reason it out for yourselves), which path are you going to choose. These are My terms; think it through. This is so far removed from the way in which we have used this verse to erroneously support our right to argue with God, me included. Don’t get me wrong, God gives us the leeway to question Him but within the bounds of humility and deep respect, not as if we are on equal level with Him. In the midst of this COVID-19 plague, God is calling the church and the nations to reason together with Him, “which path will you choose?” He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says. Do not despise prophecy!!

We have overstepped our bounds in how we relate to God and it is evident in so many ways. We have become familiar with God. How do I know? I use my own local church as an example and I know many of you have observed similarly in your own churches. My church starts at 9:00 a.m. Only a quarter of the church, if that many, are present when church begins. If it was announced that the Governor General or the Prime Minister or some other human dignitary was going to be in the church service one morning everyone would be there, not only on time but before time. I recall going to an event where the Governor General was going to be in attendance and we were told to be in place at least 15 minutes before His arrival as the doors would be closed at that time and no one, no matter who, would be allowed to enter the area, much less the room. We do this for human leadership. Is it because we cannot see God that we treat Him with disdain and disrespect by coming to meet with Him late? Taking our own sweet time to come into His presence as though we feel He must wait on us and accept us when we are good and ready to show up?

My second observation – we feel we can come any and anyhow to meet with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. There are two facets to this – physical and spiritual. We recall the days when our mothers had special clothes put aside for church – the Sunday best. I agree, God is not as interested in our outward appearance as He is in our heart condition. However, it’s not so much about God but about where our head space is at. If you believed that you were coming to meet with royalty how would you dress? It’s about our attitude. Even though I spoke of two facets earlier, you really cannot divorce the physical and the spiritual. The physical is a manifestation of what is happening on the inside. God knows our heart. He knows if we have done our best in preparing to come to meet with Him. That is all He requires. In terms of the spiritual aspect, we need to clean up ourselves BEFORE we come to meet with God. We do not come to church filthy on the inside and in our best garments on the outside. We are priests unto God. Remember, in the Old Testament, how the priests needed to prepare themselves before entering into the holiest place. They did this to avoid possible death! We are now living under grace. But truth be told, we have used God’s grace as excuse to treat Him with scant regard. As humans, it is unfortunate but true, that if we do not have someone ruling us with an iron fist we feel we can do as we please. God allows us a certain degree of latitude but He has called us to be disciples (disciplined) and to be led by His Spirit in this dispensation of grace. We are therefore without excuse.

My third observation relates to HOW we enter into God’s sanctuary. If we truly recognize that we are entering into God’s presence we would not come into the sanctuary as though we are coming to a social club to meet with our friends. Many times, as church is to begin, it takes the Pastor a number of welcomes to get everybody’s attention that we are ready to begin church. There is much too much idle chatter. Do that outside before you enter or let it remain until after you leave. God’s words to Moses should resound in our spirits as we come into His House, recognizing into whose presence we are coming.

Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. (Ex. 3:5-6)

Man’s Posture in Relation to God

So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips. And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” (Isa. 6:5)

What is meant by the word ‘posture’? In this context, it means man’s ‘approach and attitude’ in relating to God. Our posture in relation to any thing or any person is based on our knowledge about that thing or person. In the previous section, as we looked at who we are, we gained some insight of who God is. I want to share a few more scriptures with us to ensure that we have the fullest understanding of His awesome greatness and glorious splendor. This is the scripture I woke up with this morning.

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat. (Psa. 19:1-6, NKJV)

I encourage you to read the entire Psalms 19. When we look at nature, recognizing both its splendor and its intricacy, and that God made creation ALL ON HIS OWN, it immediately puts man in his rightful place in relation to God. We are the created and He is the Creator.

I stated earlier that there is so much evidence of our loss of the fear of the Lord and gave three observations to this fact. My fourth observation of this is the ease with which we murmur and complain. This is evidence of an attitude of entitlement. We have somehow come to a point where we believe that God owes us something, when, in fact, WE OWE HIM EVERYTHING!! Job found this out in no uncertain terms. My heart goes out to Job. I applaud His initial stance and posture, “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21b). After further tribulation came upon Job His wife said that to him in Job 2:9,

……………… “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)

Many of us would have crumbled and cursed God if we had lost even 10% of what Job lost. I daresay, it is when we lose a right perspective of who God is and who we are in relation to Him that our complaints begin. Job came to that place after God did not show up on his behalf as Job expected. We are like that too. There is a point up to which we can continue to praise and trust God in our trials. However, we have a window within which we expect God to act to change the situation and when He doesn’t we begin to feel that somehow God has done us a disservice. After all, look at all we have sacrificed and done for Him. How could He not show up in answer to our prayers? How could He not come and deliver us in the timeframe we have set? For Job it starts in chapter 3, after sitting down on the ground with his friends for seven days and seven nights, no one speaking because of Job’s great grief.

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. And Job spoke, and said: “May the day perish on which I was born, And the night in which it was said, ‘A male child was conceived.’ May that day be darkness; May God above not seek it, Nor the light shine upon it……………………………… Because it did not shut up the doors of my mother’s womb, Nor hid sorrow from my eyes. “Why did I not die at birth? Why did I not perish when I came from the womb?……………  Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, And whom God has hedged in? For my sighing comes before I eat, And my groanings pour out like water. For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, And what I dreaded has happened to me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes.” (Job 3:1-4, 10-11, 23-26)

From our human perspective, Job is justified in feeling this level of despair. But we also need to understand that in cursing the day of his birth, He is in fact questioning God’s decision and purpose for his being born. He continues in Job 29 to relate all that he used to have, and all that he used to do, and all the status that has now been taken away from him. Trials and tests bring out of us that which is buried deep within. If you take the time to read Job 29 -31, we see pride at work in Job and at the beginning of chapter 32 it says,

So these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then the wrath of Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, was aroused against Job; his wrath was aroused because he justified himself rather than God. Also against his three friends his wrath was aroused because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job. (Job 32:1-3, emphases mine)

We are all guilty. Not one of us can cast a stone in Job’s direction. We are all guilty of the same sin. But let us remember the words of Isaiah.

But we are like an unclean thing. And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. (Isa. 64:6)

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isa. 61:10)

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21)

The only claim we have to being righteous is because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Isaiah foretold of God clothing us with garments of salvation and covering us with the robe of righteousness. Not because of anything we have done lest we should be tempted to boast (Ephesians 2:9). On this basis then, God shows up in Job 38 – 41 and dresses Job down properly throughout the four chapters. If you ever need to come back down to earth regarding who you are in relation to God, and if at any time you find yourself going off into murmuring and complaining about God’s handling of events in your own life, the church or the nations then read these four chapters to be reminded of who God really is in His own words! Just look at a short excerpt.

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: “Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened! Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors, When it burst forth and issued from the womb; When I made the clouds its garment, And thick darkness its swaddling band; When I fixed My limit for it, And set bars and doors; When I said, ‘This far you may come, but no farther, And here your proud waves must stop! “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, And caused the dawn to know its place, That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, And the wicked be shaken out of it? It takes on form like clay under a seal, And stands out like a garment. From the wicked their light is withheld. And the upraised arm is broken. “Have you entered the springs of the sea? Or have you walked in search of the depths? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Or have you seen the doors of the shadow of death? “Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this.” (Job 38:1-18)

So, what is to be our posture in relation to God?

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that You can do everything. And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ “I have heard of You by hearing by the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)

It was only after Job came to this posture that God restored to him even more than had been taken from him. Again, I say everything we have and everything we are is from God. Let us never forget from whence we came and whose we are. Yes, God is a merciful Father but He is also a consuming fire.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Heb. 12:28-29)

Let us understand the purpose for grace. It is not to become too familiar with God, to feel that because we are in the dispensation of grace we can get away with doing as we please and God is bound to forgive and show mercy. Instead, let us understand that grace is given so we have the power to serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

So, we have come back full circle to the 3 events I shared in Parts 1 – 3. We learnt from those events, and I rehearse here, that God requires total obedience, total dependence and total dominion. Let us be of the same persuasion as our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. (John 5:19)

I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:30)

Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. (John 8:28)

Let us therefore see that we “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph. 5:15-17)

As I close, I hear the Lord saying in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis, “But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him. Be still and know that I am God.”

How Great Is Our God!!

Shalom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fear of the Lord (Part 6)

This is the final part of this critical series. Yesterday, I shared several biblical passages so we could see the scriptural precedent regarding times of God’s judgment and the response He required for His judgment to be stayed. I sought to bring our attention to the patterns we could see running through these scriptures and said we would compare notes today.

What does God require? (continuation)

What were the common themes?

  • Acknowledgement of sin (1 Chron. 21:8, 17). David was more than willing to take the punishment from God for what he had done. He gave no excuses. This must be our stance before the Lord. The Israelites also acknowledged to Moses that they had sinned against God (Num. 21:7).
  • Repentance. David and the elders clothed themselves in sackcloth (1 Chron. 21:16). What is the significance? Sackcloth is symbolic of showing penitence, showing remorse, to be in mourning. It denotes one’s guilt and willingness to do what is necessary to show one’s responsibility and penance for one’s wrong doing. Your intention must be to make a 180 degree turn away from the sinful behaviour that brought God’s judgment upon you. We also see in the Numbers’ passage that God required the accursed thing be removed from among the people. This is really what repentance is all about. We have to cut ourselves off from that thing that is displeasing to God with no intention of ever returning to it again.  In 1 Chronicles 7:14, God requires that His people turn from their wicked ways. In fact, the healing of the nation is contingent on the Body of Christ repenting. All of the six churches in Revelation 2 and 3 were not only told to repent but some were also told what would happen if they failed to repent. There are consequences if we fail to repent in this season.

For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Cor. 7:10)

  • Separation. In Joshua 7:10-13, God instructed Joshua to have the people sanctify themselves. Sanctification means separation, dedication, purity, consecration and service. Being set apart and separated from the world’s system and separated unto God. Being pure and holy.

And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. (Rev. 18:4-5)

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. (Jas. 4:4)

Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives.” (Ezra 10:11)

  • Humility and total submission. David and the elders fell on their faces before God (1 Chron. 21:16). This is the first requirement mentioned in 2 Chronicles 7:14 for God to hear the prayers of His people. We must have the right heart attitude or our prayers will be ineffectual. God will resist the prayers of the proud.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:5-8)

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (Jas. 4:6)

  • Prayer and intercession. David had compassion for the people and interceded on their behalf. Moses had not sinned but was willing, at the request of the people, to make intercession on their behalf. God is a compassionate God and when He sees His people showing compassion for others it moves His heart. God calls His people to pray in 1 Chronicles 7:14 first for the forgiveness of their sins so that there can be healing of the nation. However, we are not called to just pray any old prayer. We must seek His face so that we know how we are to pray.
  • Seek God’s face. If we can’t see God’s face how do we seek it? The Hebrew word for “face” is often translated “presence”. Seeking God’s face means seeking His presence; returning to Him; not being willing to go on until He reveals Himself to us. A person’s face reveals much about a person’s character & personality. Many of us do not fear God because we do not know His character. We fail to take time to know Him and approach Him presumptuously to our own detriment. We need to come to that place where we want His presence more than any other thing He can give us. It is critical in this COVID-19 season that we know the heart and mind of God and align our prayers accordingly. I hear people rebuking the corona virus and sending it back to the pit of hell. They have missed the fact that this is judgment sent from God and there is justification for it. We need to be looking into ourselves, the church and the nation to identify the sins that have come up as a stench in God’s nostrils, which would have allowed Him to release this plague in the earth. Thus, we must begin with prayers of confession and repentance. Only then can we stand in the gap and begin to cry out for God’s mercy to be visited upon us, the nation and the world.
  • God requires a sacrifice. In 1 Chronicles 21, God required David to build an altar. Offering a sacrifice was necessary in David’s day as an atonement for sin. It is important to note that the true nature of a sacrifice is that it must cost us something or else it is not really a sacrifice acceptable to God. This is why David refused Ornan’s offer to give him the threshing floor and oxen free of cost.

What was the nature of the sacrifices David made on the altar he built?  He gave a burnt offering and a peace offering. The burnt offering represents offering yourself totally to God – total obedience and total dependence. Not doing anything without the Father’s prompting (John 5:19). This is in keeping with Romans 12:1, where we are told “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” The peace offering symbolized giving thanks for God’s deliverance in an hour of dire need. Note, David gave this offering before he actually knew that God would stay His hand against Israel. Similarly, we, in faith, through the sacrifice of fasting, service and spending time in praise and worship unto God will move God’s heart.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart – These, O God, You will not despise. (Psa. 51:17)

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (Heb. 13:15)

At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God. (Ezra 9:5)

David said something quite profound in 1 Chronicles 21:13.

And David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Please let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are very great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”

David obviously knew the heart of God because later we see God relenting of bringing total destruction on Jerusalem.

And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. As he was destroying, the Lord looked and relented of the disaster, and said to the angel who was destroying, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. (1 Chron. 21:15)

This is the God we serve. If we meet God’s requirements in this season of judgment God WILL show Himself merciful.

A Call Back to the Fear of the Lord

I started out this series recognizing that one of the sins most displeasing to the Lord is that we have lost our fear of God. In Psalms 2, the Lord is rebuking the kings of the earth.

Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, And rejoice with trembling. (Psa. 2:10-11)

How can the kings of the earth fear God when we, the Body of Christ, are not serving the Lord with fear? What does the fear of God look like? Those who fear the Lord will:

  • Bless the Lord (Psa. 135:20)
  • Trust in the Lord – acknowledge need for help and protection (Psa. 115:11)
  • Depart from evil (Prov. 3:7)
  • Seek God’s instruction in every matter (Prov. 1:7)
  • Delight greatly in His commandments (Psa. 112:1)
  • Walk in uprightness (Prov. 14:2)
  • Not associate with the unstable and those with deceitful hearts (Prov. 24:21)
  • Be pure in heart and be persistently faithful (Psa. 19:9)
  • Be humble (Prov. 15:33)
  • Stand in awe of God (Psa. 33:8)
  • Understand the might of God’s hand (Josh. 4:24)
  • Praise Him (Psa. 22:23)
  • Keep the tongue from evil and lips from deceit (Psa. 34:13)
  • Seek peace and pursue it (Psa. 34:14)

Until we begin to walk in righteousness and the fear of the Lord He will not hear our cries and we will not be delivered out of our troubles. Let us fall on our knees before our Holy God and become holy as He is holy. Then and only then will we touch His heart strings for our nation.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psa. 34:17)

Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling: (Psa. 91: 9-10)

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.” (Psa. 91:14-16)

Shalom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fear of the Lord (Part 5)

At the end of Part 4, I noted that there was one church in the Revelation received by John on the Isle of Patmos that was called the Faithful Church. A remnant, if you would, with whom Jesus was pleased and promised them He would keep them from the hour of trial that was going to be unleashed upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth. I am sure you and I would love to be counted among that remnant in this hour of great trial.

We have asked and answered several questions in parts 1 – 4 of this series and I ended yesterday’s blog recognizing that the very important next question we needed to ask ourselves is, “What does God require of you and me (the Body of Christ) in this hour?” As I begin to answer this question, I want to take us back to 1 Chronicles 21 as I promised I would do.

What does God Require?

There is scriptural precedent regarding times of God’s judgment and the response required to cause God’s hand to be stayed. I am going to share some relevant passages for our meditation and revelation of what was and is required. The bible tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). God’s character does not change. What was required then is the same requirement now.

So David said to God, “I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing; but now, I pray, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” (1 Chron. 21:8)

Then David lifted up his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, having in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. So David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces. And David said to God, “Was it not I who commanded the people to be numbered? I am the one who has sinned and done evil indeed; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Your hand, I pray, O Lord my God, be against me and my father’s house, but not against Your people that they should be plagued.” Therefore, the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David that David should go and erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. ………………………….Then David said to Ornan, “Grant me the place of this threshing floor, that I may build an altar on it to the Lord. You shall grant it to me at the full price, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people.” But Ornan said to David, “Take it to yourself, and let my lord the king do what is good in his eyes. Look, I also give you the oxen for burnt offerings, the threshing implements for wood, and the wheat for the grain offering; I give it all.” Then King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs nothing.” So David gave Ornan six hundred shekels of gold by weight for the place. And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called on the Lord; and He answered him from heaven by fire on the altar of burn offering. So the Lord commanded the angel, and he returned his sword to its sheath.  (1 Chron. 21:16-27)

And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” (Num. 21:5-8)

So the Lord said to Joshua: “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you. Get up, sanctify the people, and say, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the Lord God of Israel: “There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.” (Joshua 7:10-13)

When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. (2 Chron. 7:13-15)

Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure ………………………. Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, And rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath be kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. (Psa. 2:5. 10-12)

Remember therefore from where you are fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent. (Rev. 2:5)

Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. (Rev. 2:16)

And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. (Rev. 2:21-23)

Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. (Rev. 3:3)

I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. (Rev. 3:18-19)

And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory. (Rev. 16:9)

And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. (Rev. 18:4-5)

I am sure you see a pattern running through these scriptures. Tomorrow we compare notes. For now, I leave us to meditate and reflect. 

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev. 3:22)

Shalom.

The Fear of the Lord (Part 4)

Yesterday, I promised that I would share some further perspectives arising from David’s sin of conducting a census in 1 Chronicles 21 and the parallel scripture in 2 Samuel 24, which have direct relevance to our own situation as we navigate our way through this COVID-19 crisis. However, Holy Spirit has intercepted with some other insights He would have me to share first. Trust me, it will lead us right back to our discourse on what transpired with David and the Israelites, just not today 🙂

I keep on repeating that now, more than ever, true believers of Christ must be as the Sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what the people of God ought to do (1 Chron. 12:32). I believe Holy Spirit would have me to share today two critical facts that we must hold onto and accept. These will be keys to understanding how we will come through this perilous time.

So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell. (1 Chron. 21:14, emphasis mine)

Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, So a curse without cause shall not alight. (Prov. 26:2)

The first fact we must understand and acknowledge is that God sends plagues. We see further support for this fact in the following scripture.

‘I am the Lord, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting, That there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.’ (Isa. 45:5-7, emphasis mine)

The second fact we must understand is that God does not send a plague without cause.

Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: (Psa. 2:1-5)

With regards to COVID-19, God has spoken to the nations in His wrath and distressed them in His deep displeasure in response to their opposition to God’s commands and their refusal to submit to His Lordship. Some have been affected more than others, to this point.

So, where does the church come into all of this? God has placed the church in the earth to disciple the nations (Mt. 28:19). We have been mandated by God to teach the nations to observe all things that God has commanded us. The fact that the majority of nations continue to live in unrighteousness is an indictment against the Body of Christ globally. We have failed thus far to make the kind of impact we should in the earth. WHY??

As the corona virus came into Jamaica, I asked the Father God, “what is happening?” He said this is His judgment being unleashed against the nations. He reminded Me of a word He gave me several years ago, that the state of the nations was a reflection of the state of the church. He would therefore be starting with judgment of the church. This is in line with His Word that judgment must first begin in the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). This is also in keeping with the scripture in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 regarding the link between church and nation.

When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (emphasis mine)

I questioned Father God further, “What are the specific sins for which the church is being judged?” He led me to Revelation chapters 1-3. It is time for the Body of Christ to do some serious introspection and to acknowledge and take responsibility for their sins, repent and come back to the fear of the Lord. I encourage you to read through these three chapters. I will just summarize here the things that God revealed He had against the six churches.

  • Left their first love;
  • Feared persecution;
  • Held to the doctrine of Balaam;
  • Held to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans;
  • Allowed the false prophetess, Jezebel, to teach and seduce God’s servants into sexual immorality and eating things sacrificed to idols;
  • Deceived that it is alive while it is in fact dead;
  • Lukewarm; lacking passion regarding the things of God mainly because they were comfortable with regards to material things. This led them to feel they were wealthy but instead Jesus said they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.

I did some research into the doctrine of Balaam and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.

The Doctrine of Balaam

Balaam’s name is mentioned in 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 1:11. Both cases involved warnings about the conduct and message of false teachers. You will recall, Balaam tried unsuccessfully to prophesy against the Israelites in Numbers 22. He was a prophet from Mesopotamia, who was willing to use his God-given talents for illicit purposes. Even though he knew Balak was God’s enemy, he tried to sell his prophetic gifts to help him. When that didn’t work, Balaam advised Balak that the most effective way to weaken Israel was to seduce them using Moabite and Midianite women to tempt the Israelites into sexual relationships and into pagan rituals. God’s judgment came upon the Israelites who participated (Numbers 25:1-9). According to 2 Peter 2:15, Balaam’s “way” is a choice to “love the wages of unrighteousness”. According to Jude 1:11, Balaam’s “error” is that of accommodating pagan beliefs out of greed. In Jude 1:4, we see reference to the sin of those “who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In essence then, the doctrine of Balaam is the attitude that one can be fully cooperative with the world and still serve God. However, we are instructed in Romans 12:2 not to be conformed to this world. We are further told that love of the world is enmity with God (James 4:4). However, there are some churches that teach compromise, wanting Christians to forget that they are called to be separate and holy (1 Peter 1:2). The doctrine of Balaam makes believers indistinct from unbelievers (Matthew 5:13). The doctrine of Balaam is a belief that “a little sin” doesn’t hurt (Galatians 5:9), especially if there is some financial or personal benefit to be gained (1 Timothy 6:5). A person following the doctrine of Balaam will enable sinful behaviours for personal gain (popularity, money, sexual gratification) or even participate in them (Romans 1:32).[1]

The Doctrine of the Nicolaitans

Jesus was proud of the church of Ephesus for their “hatred” of the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which He also “hated” but charged the church at Pergamos for pursuing these deeds. The name “Nicolaitans” is derived from the Greek word Nikolaos, meaning to conquer or to subdue people. According to the writings of the Early Church leaders, this Nicolaitan doctrine was one of compromise. It implied that total separation between Christianity and the practice of occult paganism was not essential. It is noteworthy that the two churches with whom this doctrine was linked in Revelation were Ephesus and Pergamos where occultism was a major force that warred against the Early Church. Writers note that it would have been very easy for young or weak believers to slip in and out of paganism as most of their families and friends were still pagans.[2] It seems that this doctrine deemed it all right to have one foot in both worlds and believers did not need to be strict about separation from the world in order to be a Christian. It led to a weak version of Christianity that was without power and without conviction. These are the deeds that Jesus “hated”.

Both doctrines speak to compromising Christianity with world beliefs and false religions. Compromise with the world always results in a weakened and powerless form of Christianity. Hence, the reason for the Body of Christ not having the kind of impact it should be having in discipling the nations.

There was hope even in the midst of all that God had against the churches. There was a remnant in Laodicea. This church was called the faithful church in my New King James Version of the bible. What were the characteristics of this church?

“I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. ……………………you have kept My command to persevere. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” (Rev. 3:8-11, emphasis mine)

I believe there is a remnant alive and well in Jamaica.

If we accept that God has allowed the corona virus to be unleashed and we begin to understand the reasons for His judgment, starting with the church and then the nations, the next question we need to ask ourselves is, “What does God require of you and me in this hour?” Join me tomorrow as we explore the answer to this question.

Shalom.

[1] https://www.gotquestions.org/doctrine-of-Balaam.html

[2] https://renner.org/who-were-nicolaitans-what-was-doctrine-deeds/

 

 

 

 

The Fear of the Lord (Part 3)

For those of you joining us for the first time in this series please click the links The Fear of the Lord (Part 1) The Fear of the Lord (Part 2) to review what we have covered so far. For those who have been following from the beginning, today I will be discussing the third account that I believe Holy Spirit led me to share, to highlight the importance of the Body of Christ and the nation at large coming into the fear of the Lord.

David Takes a Census

Yes, it’s King David again. For this third event we go to 1 Chronicles 21.

Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel. So David said to Joab and to the leaders of the people, “Go, number Israel from Beersheba to Dan, and bring the number of them to me that I may know it.” And Joab answered, “May the Lord make His people a hundred times more than they are. But, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? Why then does my lord require this thing? Why should he be a cause of guilt in Israel?” Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Therefore Joab departed and went throughout all Israel and came to Jerusalem. (1 Chron. 21:1-4)

But he did not count Levi and Benjamin among them, for the king’s word was abominable to Joab. And God was displeased with this thing; therefore He struck Israel. So David said to God, “I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing; but now, I pray, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” Then the Lord spoke to Gad, David’s seer, saying, “Go and tell David, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you.‘ “ So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Choose for yourself, either three years of famine, or three months to be defeated by your foes with the sword of your enemies overtaking you, or else for three days the sword of the Lord – the plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’ Now consider what answer I should take back to Him who sent me.” And David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Please let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are very great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell. (1 Chron. 21:6-14, emphasis mine)

Several pressing questions arise from the reading of this account and we will get to those shortly. Suffice it to say, David sinned against God and God brought swift punishment. It is interestingly relevant, as we are currently going through the COVID-19 pandemic, that one of the punishment options presented by God was a plague described by God Himself as “the sword of the Lord” and that it was the angel of the Lord who wielded the destruction that killed seventy thousand men. Nuff said.

So, the first obvious question is, what was so sinful about David taking a census that caused God’s wrath and displeasure to come against David and Israel? This is not stated explicitly in the passage. However, there are a few clues that can lead us to make some informed deductions. In Part 2 of this series, I noted that David never lost a battle. In fact, in the chapter preceding 1 Chronicles 21, we see David conquering Rabbah and, in another battle, destroying the Philistine giants. Could it be that David had become puffed up because of all his success? Before I answer this question, it would be insightful to ponder the purpose of conducting a census. My research revealed that, in David’s time, a census was conducted in preparation to draft soldiers and for the levying of taxes. Several writers note that it seemed David’s intent was to increase his royal power in a way that contrasted with humble reliance on God. Throughout the Old Testament, there was a continuous emphasis on “the human kingship of Israel being dependent on God’s divine kingship. For Israel’s king to build up the same kind of power common to pagan kings was tantamount to repudiating God’s kingship over Israel.”[1] Other writers note that it could also have been a case of David forgetting that the people did not belong to him but to God and if God had required them to be counted He would have given that instruction. I tend to agree with the thoughts of these writers. In particular, I couldn’t help but note that this last point is supported by the words Joab used when trying to discourage David’s action.

And Joab answered, “May the Lord make His people a hundred times more than they are. But, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants?………….(1 Chron. 21:3a, emphasis mine)

From all that has been said, there is strong evidence to support that David’s motivation for doing the census and the fact that God had not instructed him to do so were at the root of God’s anger. Let us remember that God is always interested in the condition of our hearts (1 Sam. 16:7). Further support that pride was at work in David’s heart was the fact that, despite Joab’s questioning David in an obvious attempt to dissuade him from pursuing this course of action, David refused to listen or even stop and ponder for a moment about the warning that was being sounded. This is how pride operates. When a spirit of pride is at work we become unteachable. The prideful person believes he/she knows more than anyone else and his/her way is the best way. It is so easy for pride to enter into our hearts. I noted in my series “The Many Faces of Pride” that pride is the cardinal sin. It was pride that caused Satan to be cast out of heaven and he tapped into Eve’s pride to cause the fall of mankind.

Isn’t it therefore interesting to observe in the beginning of this 1 Chronicles 21 passage  that it was Satan himself who moved David to take the census. The parallel scripture in 2 Samuel 24 says,

Again the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” (2 Sam. 24:1)

We know that the Bible does not contradict itself when studied as the whole counsel of God. We note in the Book of Job, that Satan had to seek permission from God before he could oppose Job. In this instance, it is obvious that in saying that “the Lord moved David against the Israelites” this move was actually accomplished via temptation from Satan. It is also evident here that Israel was not in God’s good books. This fact was not so evident in 1 Chronicles 21:1. We don’t know what sin had been committed but God’s anger was definitely against Israel. Consequently, God fully intended to bring punishment on the nation and He knew that David’s vulnerability, because of pride, would cause him to yield to Satan’s temptation. In one action God achieved two objectives – the punishment of Israel and David’s recognition that his heart was not right.

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; …………………………. (2 Sam. 24:10)

In the 1 Chronicles 21 account, it appeared that it was only after God had struck Israel that David acknowledged his sin. However, in the passage above it says that David’s own heart condemned him. In other words, his conscience was pricked and he acknowledged that he had sinned.

Having said all of this, what is the message to each of us individually and to the Body of Christ collectively? God does not allow a plague to come upon nations without a cause.

Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, So a curse without cause shall not alight. (Prov. 26:2)

Like David, we need to do some serious soul searching. As we have seen from the three accounts I have shared, God is patient with us but there comes a point when He MUST in His righteousness administer judgment to bring things back into order. He must cause those who have rulership in the earth, who have become so full of pride and arrogance (including some church leaders), and who have forgotten that all authority is given by God, to recognize that there is One higher than them to whom they are indeed subject. It is God’s desire that we would willingly obey His commands and walk righteously. However, when we have been given opportunity time and time again to get our house in order there comes a time when rebellion must be met with draconian measures for the saving of ourselves from an even worse fate.

I end our discussion here for today. I know the attention span is short and I have already stretched you beyond your limit. Tomorrow, there is another perspective that I want to share regarding the way in which God meted out punishment to Israel, which has direct relevance to our own situation as we navigate our way through this COVID-19 crisis. Stay tuned.

Shalom.

[1] https://www.tenth.org/resource-library/articles/why-was-davids-census-a-great-sin