Loose Lips Launch Movements

The prophet Samuel truly had a unique childhood. Scripture says that he grew up in the presence of the Lord (1 Samuel 2:21). That sounds incredible but what on earth does it mean? Well, we can infer from Scripture that as a child he resided in the Tabernacle of Moses that had come to rest in Shiloh (Joshua 18:1). Whether he slept there or not, he certainly spent the majority of his childhood in the tabernacle assisting Eli the priest in ministering to the Lord.

Unlike the sons of Eli who also grew up in close proximity to God’s presence, Samuel had a love and respect for His presence. Verses 25 and 26 of chapter 2 say, “It was the will of the Lord to put them [Eli’s sons] to death…the boy Samuel continued to grow…in favor with the Lord.” God’s heart towards Samuel and the sons of Eli was a response to their heart postures towards Him.

Samuel was God’s provision for a nation in decay during a time when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Israel’s corrupt state was partly due to a lack of godly leadership in the nation but even more so to the fact that “the word of the Lord was rare in those days;  there was no frequent vision” (1 Samuel 3:1).

That wasn’t the author’s way of saying there weren’t enough copies of the law of Moses to go around but that the revelatory ministry of the Holy Spirit was virtually nonexistent. There was no one who operated in the prophetic ministry. In His mercy, God used a young boy to break the awful silence.

Verse 4 of chapter 3 records the first time God spoke to Samuel. Verse 7 states that “Samuel did not yet know the LORD” meaning he had no previous experience in hearing God much less communicating it to others. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how we look at it, because of the “prophetic drought” Israel was in there weren’t any seasoned prophets to train young Sammy in the ways of a prophet.

Not even his mentor in all other things ministry related, Eli, was able to instruct him in this area. Matter of fact, it took Eli a while to recognize that God was speaking to Samuel because, during that time, God just didn’t do that type of stuff.

In the absence of a mentor, Samuel had to go to the “School of the Secret Place” to learn about this special ministry.  He had to depend completely on the Lord to teach him directly instead of through a human agent.

Samuel, however, knew it would take more than one rain cloud to break the spiritual drought over Israel. Similar to Moses (Numbers 11:29), he had the heart to see many others raised up who could receive and deliver timely and precious words of God.

Not only this, but he desired to offer something he didn’t receive as a young, budding prophet:  mentorship. The wisdom and heart of Samuel led him to set up “companies” (1 Samuel 10:5, 19:20), or as later called “sons” (2 Kings 2:3), of prophets. These “establishments” that began in Samuel’s day continued at least for 200 years into Elisha’s day. It’s even possible they still existed 300 years after Samuel during Amos’ life (Amos 7:14).

He didn’t keep the training he received in the secret place to himself, he passed it on to others. His “loose lips” created a fertile seedbed for Israel’s “kingdom prophets” (i.e. Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah etc…) to be raised up. Similar to the disciples, Samuel’s adherence to Jesus’ not-yet-given command, “What you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops” (Matt. 10:27), launched an unprecedented movement that changed the course of a nation.

Are you enrolled in the “School of the Secret Place?” There isn’t a seminary or training school on earth that could compare with the depth of training received here.  he catch is, though, you never graduate. Another odd thing about this school is that the more you give away of its teachings, the more you get.

Let’s be lousy at keeping His secrets. After all, loose lips launch movements.

How Many Worship Leaders Does It Take to Screw In a Lightbulb?

“In Your light we see light.” (Ps. 36:9 NASB)
God is light.  He is truth and reality.  When we draw near to Him, and He draws near to us, we enter into this light.  In the presence of His brilliant light, our little “realities” are overthrown by His true Reality.
Scripture contains account after account of men and women who’s little realities buckled under the weight of the revelation of God’s Reality.  One such account, which happens to be one of my favorites, happened in the life of Asaph.  Asaph, who was one of the prophetic worship leaders in David’s Tabernacle, and later in Solomon’s Temple, wrote a psalm recounting his experience.
In the first half of Psalm 73, Asaph, with impressive vulnerability, shares about a time when he was struggling to make sense of the seeming prosperity of those who had rejected God.  Despite their arrogance and self-indulgent lifestyles, they seemed to be healthier, more at ease and even wealthier than those who were trying to live godly lives.
Reconciling this apparent injustice with what he thought he knew about God was an oppressive and wearisome task.  That is, until. 
“Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end” (v. 17).
There was a single moment when the clouds of doubt and confusion broke, and the light of God shone through.  It was when he entered the sanctuary, the place of worship and encounter.
Having begun the psalm perplexed by the apparent prosperity of the wicked, he ends it with sweet musings on the true prosperity of the one who is near to God’s heart.
These “until” experiences are the birthright of God’s children.  We have unlimited access to His presence and we are wise to take advantage of it often.
Though we are citizens of the Kingdom of Light, we still live among what Paul referred to as “this present darkness” (Eph. 6:12).  God’s people live in a time of war.  There is a real enemy and there are real weapons.  Daily we are the targets of his fiery arrows of deceit.  Our only chance of survival is to daily run into His “stronghold of light” through prayer, worship and declarations of truth.
Whenever we gather, there is someone discouraged who needs the encouragement that only comes from seeing their situation in the light of God’s Reality.  There’s someone else who may be facing a major life decision and desperately needs the wisdom that is so abundant in His presence.  Or, someone entangled in a destructive sin who’s only hope of freedom is through seeing it as God does.  We could go on and on.
Worship leaders, when we do what we do, whether in a home or on a stage, we are essentially flipping the light switch for God’s people.  We are giving them the opportunity to enter His presence and be bathed in His cleansing light.
We do this by leading His people in welcoming His presence with open hearts.  We do it by providing them with language to pour out their hearts before Him and fill the atmosphere with His truth.  We help them realign their minds and emotions with Him through skill and appropriate music.  Just to name a few of the ways.
This doesn’t only have to do with how we as worship leaders are to lead, it has to do with how we are to live and breathe.  The best guides are the ones who have traveled down the same path a thousand times on their own.
It only takes one worship leader to screw in a lightbulb.

Fixer Upper: God’s Dream Home Edition

In a previous post, “Why Worship Is a Personal Matter (But Not a Private One),” I pointed out that Paul uses the words, or a variation of them,“build up” seven times in 1 Corinthians 14.  What’s with the fuss?  Why does he make such a big deal in this chapter about building others up?  Well, for one, it seems the building up of others was the one thing that wasn’t happening when the Corinthian believers gathered.

For me, a question that begs to be answered is, to what end are we to build each other up?  Or to put it another way, are we actually being built up into something?  Or is this building up simply spiritual routine maintenance that ensures we all survive another day before gathering again?

I believe the answers to these questions are, “yes” and “ yes.”  In no way do I want to minimize the kind of building up that enables us to make it another day.  God knows I need this.  And regularly.  However, Scripture teaches us that there is something bigger that is happening.  Something that is easily missed if we’re only focused on the day-to-day.

God is building something.  He is building us into something.  This “something” is far more beautiful than the mind could imagine.  Something so inconceivable that it requires supernatural revalation to grasp.

In the following words to the Ephesian believers, Paul reveals what this “something” is:

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Did you catch it?  Did you pick up the on the same “building” theme we see in 1 Corinthians 14?  Indeed, we are being built up into something.  We are being built up into a “holy temple in the Lord.”  In case Paul’s readers were to miss this, he puts it another way, “a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

He’s making us a dwelling place!  Not just a house but a home.  A place where He dwells in His glory (i.e. manifest presence.)  God has determined not only to live with His people but to live in His people.  This is where everything is heading.

Paul tells the believers at Colossae that God’s big plan (i.e. “mystery”) from the beginning, hidden until now, is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).  Jesus Himself dwelling in us!  We have this now in part but there is coming a glorious day when this hidden glory within will explode outward and our broken outer man will be transformed into new glorious bodies!  (I think the magnitude of this truth calls for that run-on sentence.)

Every time we gather, God, in His grace, is building us up.  Yes, He strengthens us for that day but there’s something bigger He has in mind.  There are blueprints in His hand and on these blueprints is a home, a resting place for Himself.

Worship leaders, God wants to use you to build His people into His “dream home.”  He doesn’t want to just dwell in a meeting, but in a people. What an incredible privilege, and purpose, we have.

The Absolute Single Most Important Skill of a Worship Leader

In a previous post, “If Worship Is About Him, Why Does He Make It About Us?” we considered the heart behind God’s desire for our gatherings to build up His people.  This understanding  should have an impact on what we do as worship leaders. 

Worship leaders, what builds up God’s people?  Musical skill?  Well crafted lyrics?  Soaring melodies?  “Phat” synth sounds?  Winning personalities?  Deep knowledge of Scripture?  I’m not going to tell you these don’t matter because, honestly, I believe they do.  However, there’s one “thing” that is more effective at building up God’s people than these things (and more) combined.  I’m referring to the presence of God.

There is absolutely nothing that will or can build up God’s people like His presence. And I’m not referring to that awesome reality that we call His omnipresence (i.e. His “everywhere-ness”).  I am referring to the “where two or three are gathered in my name-book of Acts-experienceable (yes that’s a word)” presence of God.  I am talking about His discernible presence or as it’s commonly called, the “manifest” presence of God.

Every “tool” employed in worship leadership, including those “phat” synth sounds, is deemed precious or worthless by the answer to one question: “Does it help others encounter His presence?”

As true as this idea may sound or feel, if it’s not Scriptural we need to move on in our search of what’s most effective at building up His people.  Does Scripture bear witness to this?

Yes, and it does so loudly!  From cover to cover there are examples of the effect that God’s manifest presence has on us but since we’ve already settled nicely into 1 Corinthians in previous posts, we’ll stay here.

In 1 Corinthians 12-14 the apostle Paul writes about different spiritual gifts.  He says these gifts are given to individuals “for the common good” (12:7) or, as he puts it later, “for building up” (14:26).  These gifts are essential to building up the church.

What do spiritual gifts have to do with God’s presence?  Everything.  They have so much to do with God’s presence that in two places Paul equates them with it.  He does so once in chapter 12, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit (i.e. spiritual gifts) for the common good” (v.7).  The second is in chapter 14, “Since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit (i.e. spiritual gifts), strive to excel in building up the church” (v. 12).  Paul uses the phrase “the manifestation of the Spirit” as a synonym for “spiritual gifts.”  A “manifestation of the Spirit” (i.e. the manifest presence of God) is anything that God does, often through a human, that brings His presence within the realm of human experience.

God’s manifest presence was His plan for building up His church in the first century and it still is today.  God intends for His spiritual gifts (i.e. manifestations of the Spirit) to be active in our gatherings today.  They are essential to our being built up.

As worship leaders, we must be aware of this and to the extent that we are able, make room for them in our worship.  How it looks exactly will be different in every church and context.

Worship leaders, let us take to heart Paul’s admonition in chapter 14 verse 12, and strive for these manifestations of God’s presence so that His church might be built up.

The ability to create worship environments that are conducive to people encountering God’s presence, is the absolute single most important skill of a worship leader.