color-pencil-drawing-coloring-colored-pencils-159825

It can be an interesting thing to pastor a church.

On the one hand, you see amazing things. God is clearly at work in your congregation and He is showing His handiwork in ways that are unavoidably beautiful. On the other hand, there is consistent opposition to His work. It is certain that the devil has come to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).

The truth is that, in Gospel ministry you will see amazing things, but it will come at a cost.  Yes, God is good. And yes, life is hard. The pain that come from a tough life coupled with the opposition from the “thief” can be difficult to overcome.

But, there is good news. Sometimes this kind of opposition can be a clear sign that God’s work is in fact taking place. And, Christ Himself told us to take heart, for he has “overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Here are three things that you can do during tough times to partner with God in His good work! So, the next time that you face opposition in your life or ministry, draw clearly, draw near, and draw close!
(1) Draw clearly the picture of God’s goodness and His work. Let us clearly declare and proclaim the good work of God when we see it. There is power in testimony and praising God for the work he is doing. May we be a people who spend more time talking about the good things that God does than the difficulty that we face.
(2) Draw near to the Lord. God is already the victor, may we bring his work against the opposition/difficulty in this life. Identify that God’s good work does meet opposition with the Enemy, who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. With this, we should not fear the opposition, but in awareness of the opposition, bring God’s work on the cross and in the Spirit against the attack/difficulty (e.g. “I pray the work of Christ in this particular situation by the power of the Spirit”). James says draw near to the Lord and he will draw near to you. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. May it be so with us His body!
(3) Draw close to one another.  2 Timothy 2:23-24 warns us about what can happen in a body that is divided in the midst of conflict. Paul writes to Timothy, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” By contrast, Hebrews 10:24 invites us not to give up meeting together and instead to encourage one another all the more!
Let us bind together and encourage one another in the Lord throughout the various circumstances of life. God’s good work will continue to be done! In times of opposition, may we draw a clear picture of God’s good work, draw near to the Lord, and draw close to one another.

“In the end the heart longs not for any of God’s good gifts, but for God himself. To see Him and know Him and be in His presence is the soul’s final feast. Beyond this there is no quest.” – John Piper

colorado-rocky-mountains-national-park-nature-path

Over the past seven weeks, I have been teaching a class called “Worship in Spirit and Truth” at Greenwood community Church in Greenwood Village Colorado. Today’s blog post is born out of the thought, discussions, and teachings from that class. Primary to the class is the idea everybody worships where they know it or not. This is a biblical idea at its core but can also be seen from a philosophical, psychological, or sociological perspective.

Think for a moment about some of the definitions you may have heard for the word “worship.” You may have heard it defined as singing songs with the church context. You may have heard it defined is offering sacrifices to a god or gods. But, a simple, accurate, and biblical definition of worship is the offering of oneself to a person, persons, thing, or cause. Romans 12:1 says that our spiritual act of worship is to offer our very selves to Lord.

In other words, everyone gives their lives, their very selves to something. Whether is a person a thing or a cause everyone offers themselves to something. You could worship yourself for that matter. What do you give your life to? It could be a job. It could be a relationship. It could be money. It could be God. And so worship is something that every person on this earth engages in whether it is known or not.

All creation just by its very existence worships the creator. Psalm 19 says the heavens declare the glory of God. Day day after day they pour forth their speech. This is something that creation does just by its very existence. This is why Jesus said in Luke 14:40, if those are silent even the rocks will cry out. In this way there is a worship of the Creator that happens just by the very existence of creation.

In his book, The Worship Pastor, Zack Hicks talk about three circles of worship. The first is the one we’ve just described. Worship on a macro level. All of creation worships the creator. The second, smaller circle, is what happens when an individual offers themselves to Lord in worship. This is surrendering to the Spirit of God. This is following the voice of the Shepherd. This is aligning ones will to the will of the Father. And this is something that happens only by the freeing of the Spirit of truth.

A smaller circle within that circle is what we call corporate worship. This is what happens when God’s people gathered together corporate proclamation of God’s covenant. This is what happens on Sunday morning in churches all across the world. This is what happens in homes in small groups offer up praises and prayers to the Savior. It’s the meeting of God with his people, his children, his body. And what we do in singing songs of worship is just one small part of that small circle. It is only a portion of the great umbrella of worship, wherein everybody worships something whether they know it or not.

So what do you worship? What do you give your life to? How does that affect what you are doing this very moment? For this moment, and the moment after it, and a thousand moments, add up to a lifetime of worship. And I say, it’s worth knowing who we worship.

“Part of the sacrifice of praise is singing music that is not necessarily our heart language.” – David Clifton

love-699480_640

This week, I attended “Spirit and Sacrament” at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. The seminar was put together by Andy Piercy (Director of Worship Development for the Anglican Mission), with a great deal of help from John Witvliet (Director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship) and Glenn Packiam (Lead Pastor of New Life Downtown in Colorado Springs, CO). Each of these men had a significant amount of insight and tools to contribute.

One of the gems of the week came from David Clifton (Director of Music and Arts at Apostles in Knoxville, TN), who said the phrase above: “Part of the sacrifice of praise is singing music that is not necessarily our heart language.”

This statement was so clear, so succinct, and carried with it such an incredible message that it has stuck with me for the days since hearing it. This is an idea that others have communicated before, especially in worship contexts that are trying to figure out how to engage multiple generations and cultures in a unified corporate worship. But, this was the first time I have heard this connected to the idea of it being a sacrifice of praise.

What Clifton references here, is the idea found in Hebrews 13:15, which says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (NASB). And, it only follows that as we seek to continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, we must throw off anything that can hinder this fruit. Now, if you have been around worship circles for any amount of time, you understand that the hinderances to this kind of sacrifice are numerous. What Clifton gets so right in this statement is the connection between the heart language of the worshiper with the sacrifice of praise that is to be made. This is especially true in corporate worship, where one must be willing to give up his or her own self in order to offer corporate praise to the Lord. That sounds like a sacrifice to me! Each worshiper must be willing to give up his or her own preference of heart language in order to join in the heart language of the full body as God is glorified.

In this way, “Worship leaders become language coaches for the church,” said John Witvliet. The worship leader learns how to invite the full body to engage in a sacrifice of praise, whether it is specific to their individual heart language or not.

And so, we make a joyful noise unto the Lord, unifying our hearts and our language to the glory of God the Father!