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I recently had the privilege of helping provide the music for the wedding of two young friends of mine, Jon and Bethany. They are a wonderful couple, both very gifted in music, both devoted to God and to serving His people, particularly in the area of leading worship. Their journey through friendship, courtship, and engagement was a joy to observe, as they have lived pure lives, and put God first in the choices and decisions they've made.

At the rehearsal, we worshipped and our pastor invited the presence of God. His presence began to fill the room, and the bride and groom were undone as the Lord began to minister to them. It was a beautiful, powerful moment.

A thought struck me as we were there together in the glory of God. As gifted and talented as Jon and Bethany are, the Lord was not there manifesting His presence because of their gifts and talents – they weren't playing, singing, or doing anything 'gifted' at the moment – He was present, glorifying Himself and making Himself known because the lives Jon and Bethany live are pleasing to Him. They have determined to seek God as their reward, and in that moment, He was rewarding them among their friends and family by being found. 

Here's the phrase that came to my mind –

Your gift will make room for you, but it's your life that will bring the glory of God.

Your gift and talent will cause people to notice you, and they'll make way for you, just like at the gift table at a wedding. If people are crowded around the table, when they see you coming with a gift for the bride and groom, they'll make room for you. But when the bride and groom are opening gifts, although they appreciate the stuff they get, what really blesses them is receiving those things from people they know and love.

People will make way for us to serve them when they see we are gifted, but what they really need – and what they are really hoping for – is the glory of God (God Himself to show up). That will happen, not if we can play the guiltar or sing well (although, hey, it helps!), but if the lives we live honor God.  Develop the gifts God's given you in every way you can, but use them as a tool to express what's in you, don't depend on them. Develop a worship life, and depend on God. When you draw near to Him – in your own time of worship, or when you're leading others – He will draw near to you.

I love how God has given us powerful, tangible pictures in the Bible to illustrate spiritual principles. Through the true stories of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, we can literally see how God desires to relate to man, and how man is expected to live his life before God. I’m a visual guy, and it’s so much easier to understand something by having a picture or a 3-D model to take a long, studied look at, and then to make observations, explanations, and applications from.

For instance, we see Moses going up the mountain to meet with God face to face, and we understand that man is designed to ascend to a higher place, with the capacity to break free from the pull of earthly things that cloud our view of Him, and distort the clarity of His voice as He speaks to us. We can see the reality of the spiritual principle that if we draw near, or come up, to Him, He will draw near to us.

We see David going out to meet the Philistine giant Goliath, with only a sling and some rocks. David is incredulous that while this heathen champion is disparaging not only the people of God, but the Name of the Lord Himself, the whole army of Israel fears the giant man more than the Great I AM! Now, rock throwing is generally considered to be more of a mischievous activity than an act of war, but in this case we get it – David is moved to fight for the honor of the Name of the Lord, and because He’s trusting in God to vindicate Himself, the weapon doesn’t matter, what counts is possessing the faith to act!

Get the picture (pun intended)?  I Cor. 10:11 says, "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the age have come." A picture really is worth 1,000 words! For a worship leader, musician, or singer, one of the most important pictures the Bible paints for us is of the Levites, particularly the portion of the tribe of Levi that was separated by David and his leaders to minister in music to the Lord.

Primarily in the books of I & II Chronicles, as we watch how David made assignments of the Levites to their particular duties and how they carried them out, we can see some clear examples of who we are to be, and how we are to serve in this calling God’s given us. It’s interesting to see how those called to serve in this capacity did so when the Kingdom was intact and things were going great, and when, well, not so much.

I’ve been looking at the different portraits of these guys that the Bible paints for us for around 20 years, and I’m still finding fresh insights that help me understand who I am, what I’m called to do, and how I’m supposed to fulfill that calling.

In the next few posts, I’d like to take a closer look at the Levites. Who were they? Why were they chosen to serve the Lord and His people in this capacity? When, where, how did they fulfill their duties? As we look at this together, my hope is that God will more fully develop inside each of you the picture of who He created you to be.


"Worthy is the Lamb."

These are some of my favorite words in all of the Bible. The truth contained in that four word phrase from Revelation 5:12 is powerful, eternal, awe-inspiring, all-encompassing, and offers us a timeless definition of what worship is all about. Say it out loud, to Him, right now — "Worthy is the Lamb!" 

What’s He worthy of? Well,…everything!

Because He is the Creator — not just the assembler of existing things,
but the originator of all things, and has chosen to create us to love and serve
Him, giving each of our lives unique purpose and the incredible
privilege of being able to let Him live in us, which brings praise to
His Name — He is worthy of our full attention, obedience, time,
energy, and every resource within our grasp.

Because He is always right — not just correct, but upright, righteous,
honorable, just, completely true and incontrovertibly wise — He is
worthy of all honor and glory, worthy to be obeyed and magnified.

Because He is love personified — not just good, but goodness itself,
unendingly merciful, gracious, wonderful, and kind — He is worthy of our unbridled expressions of deep, deep love and adoration.

Because He is our Redeemer — not just someone who bought us for a price, but the innocent Lamb Who in His flawless perfection took our place, dying the death we deserved to die, delivering us from darkness and translating us into the glorious light of His eternal Kingdom — He is worthy of all praise, glory, honor and thanks, in the form of whispers, shouts, whistles, songs, tears, applause, leaps, [endless list]

Because His worth is immeasurable, incomprehensible, and everlasting, the worship He is worthy of is also. Think about that for a moment — what God is really worthy of being given can never be completely satisfied, or exhausted, or come to an end. He is so glorious, so magnificent, so holy and without flaw that all His creation proclaiming and demonstrating Who and how He is 24 hours a day for eternity can’t even come close to representing Him fully!

That’s why the twenty-four elders in Revelation keep casting their crowns at His feet and falling down before Him. They are in constant awestruck wonder at every new aspect of His person, character, and nature that He is revealing! That’s the singular aim of God — to continually reveal Himself, His limitless glory, throughout all worlds to all creatures.

Rev 5:8  When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Rev 5:9  And they *sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
Rev 5:10  "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."
Rev 5:11  Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands,
Rev 5:12  saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."
Rev 5:13  And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever."
Rev 5:14  And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshiped.

There’s so much more to be said about this, and how foundational an understanding of the infinite worth of God is to the concept and practice of worship. Yet, there’s enough in these scriptures to keep my knees bowed and my mouth proclaiming His praise for all eternity.

Worthy is the Lamb!


Flaps Down

Posted: May 26, 2008 in Uncategorized

I had an interesting thought a few months ago, as I was with our church elders on a Sunday morning, preparing for a corporate worship meeting. Someone else was leading worship that morning, but I was thinking about how the Lord might want us to navigate through the meeting in order to come into His presence in as full a way as possible.

I began to see a picture in my mind of a plane flying with its flaps down, and I had the sense that there would be a moment in the meeting where we would experience something related to that. Now, the first thought I had was that putting the flaps down on an airplane creates drag, which doesn’t seem like a good term to apply to a dynamic worship experience. The second thought I had was, ‘I need to spend less time on the Google flight simulator this week.’

I didn’t really get what God was saying to me right then, but have you ever had that sense that, even though you don’t fully understand, you just know it’s God? That’s how I felt, so I didn’t dismiss it, I began to ponder what He might be saying.

As we started the meeting, one of the leaders exhorted us to yield to God and begin to move towards Him in prayer, praise, and worship.  The worship team began to lead us in a free flowing song without specific words, allowing us each to bring a song from our hearts as an offering to the Lord. Eventually, we came to a moment where you could feel a bit of a lull, where the natural tendency for a worship leader would be to . . . do something — go to the next song on the list, start the fast song — let’s get this crate off the ground!

Suddenly, I knew we were at the "flaps down" moment, and I understood what that meant. The flaps on the rear surface of an airplane’s wings not only create drag when extended, which is good for slowing the plane down to land, but they also create lift, which is necessary for takeoff. Spiritually speaking, of course, we really want lift — leaving earthly things (or at least a preoccupation with them) behind, ascending into a fuller awareness of God’s presence, a place where He will reveal Himself to us as He really is, so we can give Him the worship and honor and praise that He’s really worthy of.

The worship leader or others leading the meeting have three choices at these moments:

1) Give it more throttle — exhort everyone to clap harder, play the fastest, loudest song known to modern man, or employ some other means of trying to get off the ground in our own strength, just hoping we’ll clear the tree line by offering time;

2) Don’t do anything. Just let it crash to the ground, then pick someone specific, like maybe the sound guy, and look at him incredulously, as though it’s not working because he did something, or

3) Put the flaps down! Don’t just rush on, but don’t quit either. Focus on the purpose, move forward with your sights set higher. Take a deep breath, find some faith, and let the wind of God gather under your wings to lift you upward into a wonderful awareness of Him. Search for God with the realization that, if you’ll seach for Him with all your heart, He will be found!

Right in that moment on that particular Sunday morning, I could almost literally feel it as the worship team began to put the flaps down. They began to play and sing as one, doing what they are anointed to do, leading us into an extended period of beautiful, purposeful worship and praise to the Lord that He came and inhabited, according to His promise.

I don’t remember how long we sustained that moment of incredible ‘lift’ into the heavens, but when we finally did move on to some written songs, it was with a great sense of unity, joy, and thankfulness. We had come into the presence of God together, and were now able to worship Him together in spirit and in truth.

The next time you find yourself at this kind of a juncture in a worship meeting (or even in your own time with the Lord), I encourage you — put the flaps down! Let the wind of the Spirit carry you higher than you can go on your own, don’t worry about how long it takes to get there, or how long you plan to stay — just go with it, enjoy the process of free flight with the Living God!