Tag Archives: Worship Team Devotionals

Humility

Humility

 

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5b (ESV)

 

Biblical worship is rooted in humility.  Humility is the awareness of our value in contrast with the value of God and others.  This does not mean that we are called to be self-deprecating to a degree of believing we are worthless and unlovable.  However, as worshippers, we should have a genuine realization of our lowly condition, while maintaining that we are simultaneously made in the image of God, and growing into the image and likeness of Jesus.  Humility is also being fully aware of who the scriptures say we are as the children of God (1 John 3:1), while at the same time maintaining the recognition of his infinite worth.

Pride begins with us thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought.  It is the enemy of worship because pride is an inaccurate assessment of our own worth.  The Bible clearly teaches that God resists the proud, and will not allow their worship to reach his ear (James 4:6).  Pride whispers to the heart that we deserve certain privileges, possessions and power.  The result of this is a sense of entitlement that can quickly saturate our hearts leading us into sin. 

D.L. Moody said, “A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility”.  Humility is a foundational element of worship.  In the presence of God, we humble ourselves before him not by acclaiming ourselves, but through ascribing the worth, attributes and character of God.  Humble worship is taking our eyes off of ourselves, and turning our gaze to God. 

Service is the anecdote to the sickness of pride.  Jesus, who stands as the perfection of heaven wrapped in flesh took no pride in being God, but humbled himself by taking the form of a servant.  So, the one who is a follower of Christ must follow in his example of kenosis (the emptying out of) by emptying our lives of self and walking in worship before God.  Toynbee argued that the self-love is the universal religion of mankind.  A life focused on love of self is a life walking in direct disobedience to the greatest commandment given in scripture -  to love the Lord wit hall your heart, soul and might (Deuteronomy 6:5).  

What do we have that did not come through grace?  Nothing.  When we love our own will, agenda, attributes/talents, or accomplishments more than God, we become filled with pride, and have forsaken loving God, for loving ourselves.  Pride is sin, and must be confessed as such, then repented of.  In my own journey of leading worship, I have had to make this a continual practice, since pride is something I wrestle with greatly, and far too often sin as a result. 

I am not prescribing a way of living free of pride.  That would be hypocrisy in it’s purest form.  I am encouraging us as worship leaders to be aware of the pitfalls of pride, and choose humility – especially in a public role of leadership.  If we have been called to lead our church in worship, we must model worship elements such as confession and repentance.  Only through faithful repentance from the sin of pride, and intentionally putting on humility and service can we effectively lead the people of God in worship.  After all, as leaders we are first called as servants.

My prayer for us is that our hearts will be teachable and that we will learn what it is to walk in humility before God and man.  I pray that our lives would reflect hearts that are set on the prize of knowing Christ above all.  May we continue to confess and repent of sin, and grow into the image and likeness of Christ; who though was God, chose humility for our sake.

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Worship is the End

Worship is the End

As a songwriter, much of my devotional life has been drenched in music. My quiet times have often been an exchange of revelation from God through the scriptures, followed by writing a song in response. I deeply value the role music has played in my personal worship life. It has also been an irreplaceable tool in many of our churches. While music has been a great joy to me, it has also come with some distractions.

There was a time when I had developed an extremely unhealthy habit when it came to worship and music. I became convicted that my devotional time was spent in large part striving to get fresh material to write a new song. I didn’t desire God, I desired the benefits of God. This reduced my spirituality to a simple Santa Claus kind of situation. I would come to God with my well crafted wish list in hand, and after I had read it to him I waited for some magical experience to happen. I came to the conclusion that my selfishness had overtaken every area of my life at this point. It was so bad, even my “worship” was given out of selfish gain. While that is embarrassing to say, my guess is that many of us have been guilty of this same thing.

There is nothing wrong receiving from God in worship. To that effect, it is true that we have nothing of value within ourselves to bring to God at all. We simply come open handed before God who is both our all-sufficient King, and our gracious Father. The danger for us is when we worship under the guise of bringing sincere praise, while in our hearts it isn’t God we desire, but his benefits.

As worship leaders we have to be aware of the difference between the essence of worship and the benefits of worship. The essence of worship is where we must set our affections – on God alone. His attributes, his character and his name. All of our love, devotion, adoration must terminate in God, not the benefits of worship. What are the benefits f worship? They include deliverance, healing, marriages restored, families strengthened, evangelism, church growth – all good and honorable things. However, we must guard our hearts from worshipping for the benefits of God, rather than worship God simply because of who he is.

This week as we lead worship, I pray we are reminded that worship is the chief end of man. It is what we were created for. There is nothing greater, nothing more worthy to spend our lives on, that to glorify God with our lives. We were purposed to glorify God with our whole lives and find the greatest of pleasures in him. While the benefits of worship are treasured gifts to us as the people of God, the worship is the chief end.

Reflections:
Have you ever diminished your worship to becoming a barter system? (I’ll do this for you if you do this for me.)
How do we celebrate and receive with joy the benefits of worship without elevating them above the Giver?

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Advent

14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:14

 

Advent is defined as the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.  Advent also came to be known as the first season of the church year, which contains the Sundays in December leading up to Christmas.  The advent is special to us as Christians because it is through the arrival of Jesus that God’s love was demonstrated toward mankind.

The advent first finds a group of outcast shepherds who are at work in the field. The same men who’s testimony would not stand in court due to their profession, would now be entrusted with the greatest message imaginable – the coming of Christ. From the text, we read that an angel arrives to share with them the news of the birth of the Savior.  Moments later the men bear witness to an entire host of angels who worship God and in a unison refrain declare his glory.  Here in this passage describing the incarnation, we see an extremely dramatic and unique combination of worship and evangelism.  This is a descriptive account, so we need to be very careful not to pull more from the text that we should. I do, however, find an important reminder to us from this account for those called to lead worship in the local church. That is that worship and evangelism can be a powerful combination to help propel transformed lives.

The result of this encounter for the shepherds was a belief so strong that they were compelled to leave their flocks and share what they had seen with passionate conviction.  Luke 2:17-18 says, “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” We see here that their testimony of the birth of Jesus was very convincing, and their lives had been forever changed.

As we lead worship, the Gospel must be the centerpiece of the songs, media and liturgy we choose.  Each element of a service should in some way direct the hearts and minds of our people toward Jesus, and his Gospel.  Whether we are singing of the love and forgiveness of God, or his sovereignty and holiness – authentic, Christ-centered worship is a wonderful compliment to the proclamation of the Gospel.  What I am not talking about here is a hyper emotive frenzy in any capacity.  What I am calling for is tangible, real, humble, genuine worship from our hearts in response to the Gospel of Jesus.

My challenge to us this season is not to sing the songs of Christmas as the soundtrack to a given season, but to sing the story of the incarnation: God becoming man. Advent is about sovereign design, prophecy fulfilled, a new covenant arriving, the love of God displayed. We aren’t singing songs of empty emotion, we’re singing the story of the long awaited Messiah.  My prayer is that this advent season, our hearts will be filled with worship. In the words of Isaac Watts, may we be continually compelled to “repeat the sounding joy.”

Reflections:

What theological truths do the songs of Christmas remind me of?

In what ways do the Christmas songs you’ve been singing reveal the Gospel?

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Extraordinary Love

Extraordinary Love

34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:  just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (ESV)

Love must be the means and the end of Christian worship. Affection for God is a prerequisite for approaching in worship, and is modeled for us in Scripture from the Jewish Shemah in Deuteronomy 6:5, to the new law given to us by Jesus in Matthew 7.  What God has called us to is the truth that worship must flow out of love for God and love for people.

If we resort to walking through the outward forms of worship, without our hearts being engaged steadfastly on God, we have entered into a dangerous and lifeless way of approaching Christianity. We must foster fresh passion and affection to be our motivating factor in serving God. There is a group of people mentioned in the Scripture who were well versed in scripture, models of morality, and governors in the church.  However, when Jesus confronts this group – the Pharisees – they are painfully rebuked for their outward forms of worship, but their hearts not being connected to God. 

In the modern day church, one of our primary concerns must be an awareness of our hearts. We get very good at playing church and walking through all of the right motions, but our hearts can be disguised in works. The outward forms of devotion are never the problem – the heart is.

We must be aware that the reason for bible study, scripture memory, church attendance, small group participation, serving in the local church – all of these core outward religious motions is not so we appear holy. The reason is for us to gain more of Christ, and for him to have more of us. These are the tools in our arsenal, they are not the target.  Jesus is the target. The sickness sets in when these spiritual disciplines become an end in and of themselves. Love must be the blazing center of our faith.

While we are called explicitly to be people of the word, and of prayer, and and of faith, we are namely called to be people of love. Love is the single mark to the world that we are the disciples of Jesus (John 13:35). The thing that prevents us from legalism here is the understanding that the love we are called to walk in cannot be attained out of our own strength, wisdom or will. This love comes from, and is sustained by God.

As worship leaders, one of our temptations is to lead without love. We must contend to walk in love as disciples of Jesus. We also must be careful we don’t love songs more than the people we lead singing, or our methods more than the message, or our style more than biblical faithfulness. We must continually put to death our sin nature, and choose to walk in the light and life of Jesus. The fruit of first loving God, and then loving people is eternal. This week let’s allow the Holy Spirit of God to fill our hearts with passionate, life-giving love for Jesus, and authentic, grace-filled, love for people, as we grow to be like Christ.  

Reflections:

Are you walking through the motions of religious activity, or building a thriving relationship with Jesus?

Realizing that love is a command (2 John 1:6) and also that love is a choice (Matthew 5:43), what steps are needed to ensure you are walking in obedience to Jesus by living out love?

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Reclaiming Joy in Worship

Reclaiming Joy in Worship

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

Many different moments may flood your mind when you think of things that bring you the greatest joy in life. Maybe it would be Christmas morning with your family as presents are being exchanged. It could be a short getaway with your spouse to a special place, or seeing your kids grow up before your eyes.  My prayer for us is that we would include in this category rich moments we have experienced in worship.  That our greatest joys would be infused with times of intimacy and deep communion with God.  The moments we authentically experience joy in God echo throughout the rest of our lives, and into eternity. Perhaps one of the reasons worship services in the modern church lack vibrancy and fail to exude with passion is that we have overlooked the importance of joy in worship.

John Piper clarifies what Christian joy is: “First, it is not an act of will-power, but a spontaneous, emotional response of the heart. Second, it is not superficial and flimsy, but deep and firm. Third, it is not natural, but spiritual.” This translates so beautifully into the corporate worship context. Worship that pleases the heart of God is not mechanical and restrained, but is saturated in zealous passion and affection for Jesus.  

Piper continues on the subject, “God is glorified most not merely by being known, nor by merely being dutifully obeyed, but by being enjoyed in the knowing and the obeying.” If our hearts are captured by God, out of gratitude our lives will in turn display Christ-like character. This type of joy in worship avoids being immature and merely cosmetic, but thrives with meaningful and significant praise.  Often time we focus on the perceptible forms of worship, because we want to believe that obvious forms of worship are overflow from inward affections.  Even though the form of worship is important, the joy overflowing from our hearts is central to biblical worship.  The joy we experience in worship is a spiritual joy, not natural happiness.  

God greatest source of joy is found in himself,  and everything he does is to glorify himself.  God invites us to join in his joy by bringing him glory as worshippers of Jesus.  We experience lasting Christian joy by placing our affection, our adoration and our hope in God alone.  As we lead God’s people in worship, my prayer is that our joy would be rooted in Christ and sustained by Christ alone.  May we would find exceeding joy in not merely knowing about God, but by enjoying God

Reflections:

Why is joy so important – so important God commands us to be joyful?

As a worship leader, have you led your church by modeling joy for people?

How do you find joy in the midst of tremendous pain and suffering?

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Leading Worship and Discipleship

Leading Worship and Discipleship

19 Go therefore and  make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)

When we stand before our churches as worship leaders, there is a great responsibility being entrusted to us. Sometimes the measure of success has been evaluated by how many people you can get to sing, or raise their hands, or respond in some way.  Often times the importance of what is happening in the hearts and minds of people can go undetected from our limited perspective.  We must remember that outward forms of worship, apart from us growing in obedience as disciples of Jesus is a recipe for disaster every time.

The mandate given to the church in Matthew 28 is to go and make disciples.  What does this have to do with leading worship you ask – everything.  I would contend that discipleship is the very fuel for worship. When our minds are saturated with correct theology, our hearts are filled with tenacious love, and our lives marked by ever increasing obedience – there is a beautiful collision.  As worship leaders, it is vital to see the connection between leading worship and the discipleship process.  As we lead in worship, we are assisting in making disciples.

Dallas Willard says of discipleship, “…you lead people to become disciples of Jesus by ravishing them with a vision of life in the kingdom of the heavens in the fellowship of Jesus.  You do this by proclaiming, manifesting and teaching the kingdom to them in the manner learned by Jesus himself.”  When we step in front of our church and lead people in worship, various things are happening in order to make disciples.  We are proclaiming God’s worth and glory, teaching the scriptures and theology through song, modeling what Jesus-centered worship looks like.  We are teaching, through word and music – what is is to be a disciple.

Pray for the people that you lead in worship.  Pray that their lives would continually be shaped into the likeness of Christ, and that together you would grow in Godliness.   Pray that together, you would grow as disciples of Jesus, and that your continued discipleship would be fuel for worship.  

 

Reflections:

As a worship leader, have you neglected first becoming a disciple? How and why?

How and when will you start a healthy conversation with your worship team about the importance of discipleship both for the team, and your church?

What steps do you have in place to ensure your continued growth not only as a worship leader, but first as a disciple?

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What We Bring

 

What We Bring

“9“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted….14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said,  “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” ” John 6:9-11,14 (ESV)

 

One of the most unique and special things about leading worship is being a part of people coming to know Christ.  God works through our worship services to bring conviction and repentance in the hearts of men and women.  The only way this happens is when he draws them to himself.  Worship begins with God’s initiation.  As we lift up Jesus Christ, and sing the story of his infinite worth, we are never fully aware of what God is doing in our midst.  We see in part, he sees in full.  Even during a time of singing, praying and studying the scripture together, someone could be surrendering their lives to the Gospel.  

I am grateful to be apart of a worship community that is aware of what God can do through our simple acts of service.  In this account in John 6 of a boy who was available to Jesus, we are shown how much God can do with so little to work with.  I often feel this way when God uses us to lead in worship.  Regardless of what we think we might offer in talent, skill, or personality – in comparison to the one we worship – we don’t bring much at all.  This is when God multiplies the little we do offer and does something amazing with it.  This way of approaching ministry protects us from being tempted to bask in any of the glory.  God  is the one who gets all of the credit.  

This weekend as we lead in worship, let’s be mindful of the weight and importance of what we do in seeing people drawn to the Gospel.  Let’s also be reminded of our role, and service of God.  We should be mindful to remember that all gifts are given by God to bring glory to himself.  God is obsessed with us bringing him glory.  Corporate worship begins with us as individuals, gathering together to bring all we have been given in response to our great God.  The little we bring can be multiplied when we offer it to the God who loves to share himself with us.  That is when what we bring can bring glory to God.

 

Reflections:

When was the last time you offered something to God and saw him do something amazing with it?

When was a time you tried to take credit for something only God could have done?

Pray that God will use what you bring to bring glory to himself.

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