Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Encounters with God: The friendship and the fear
Glenn Packiam and Ross Parsley - May 10, 2006

The old man walked slowly toward the tent. The people watched as he bent his well-worn frame to enter. They had seen him approach the tent many times, but each time they stood to watch. His wrinkled hands, still strong, parted the canvas as he stepped inside. And then it happened, as it always did. A large cloud, shaped liked a massive pillar, descended from the sky and positioned itself at the doorway of the tent. All the people stood in awe and began to worship. They knew what was taking place. They called it the "Tent of Meeting", for there a man could go to inquire of the Lord and meet with Him. But with Moses it was different. It was no mere "meeting"; with Moses God spoke face to face, as a man speaks with his friend (Ex. 33:11). And now as they watched the cloud-pillar at the entrance of the tent, they knew that God was with His friend.

Worship folks love that story! You probably get goose bumps just thinking about it. I mean think of it: a man speaking with God face to face as a man speaks with his friend. I love the fact that we can be friends of God. It is one thing to call Jesus our best friend; it is quite a different thing for Him to call us His friend. We like knowing that He is always there, that we can call on Him anytime; but certainly, it is more amazing for Him to call on us to do His work, to share His heart with us. Yet this is the very thing that awaits us-the joy of being His friend. I am so grateful for the wonderful way that different ones in the Body of Christ have helped us recapture the childlike innocence in our approach to God. We have learned how to call Him Father, and to crawl up on His knee, so to speak, and let Him whisper His affections to us. I am thankful for the freedom we have rediscovered in our approach to God. In a personal and meaningful way, prayer and worship have become our conversation with God. Aspiring to be like Moses, we have learned to call Him our friend and to allow Him to make friends of us.

But there is one crucial point to bear in mind: Moses' relationship with God did not begin face to face. Do you remember the story? In Exodus chapter three, the young Moses, strong and well-built, trembled in the middle of the wilderness. As the voice boomed from the fiery bush, the grown man tried to hide his face. Quickly, he unfastened his sandals, placing his bare feet on the hot desert sand. God had required him to remove his shoes by way of introduction. This was the prologue to a life-long journey of walking with God. There the former "prince of Egypt" stood, shaking and afraid. He hid his face. Why? Because he dared not glance upon the living God. Here we don't see friendship, or intimacy. This isn't "running through the field with Daddy God". This is fear, terror, awe. This is "O God, You are so holy....I'm nothing like You...Please don't strike me down!"

You see, I don't think we can really know the friendship until we know the fear. We only truly understand and appreciate God's mercy and grace in the light of His awesome and terrible holiness. That is why when God initially reveals Himself the response is usually terror. In Exodus 19 we find God "introducing" himself to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai. Billows of smoke, peels of thunder and lightning strikes are His expression of choice. The people are so frightened that they begin to back away. Moses pleads with them, "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning." Sadly, they didn't understand and rejected the invitation that God had extended. The book of Romans follows a similar progression in presenting the Gospel to us. (Remember the "Romans Road"?) Paul begins by stating that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. He goes on to add that the wages of sin is death. Then he marvelously outlines the plan of God and the miracle of the salvation that has come to us through "one Man's obedience", and how by faith in Christ we share in His life. Salvation is only meaningful when we realize what it is we have been saved from. Actually, almost every Biblical account of an encounter with God chronicles the mortal human falling to his knees and hiding his face to avoid locking eyes with the One Who is called Holy. And almost every account shows God or the heavenly messenger reaching out to the human, calming his fear and calling him to relationship.

There is a kind of fear and awe that turns to love and grateful devotion when friendship that would otherwise be preposterous and presumptuous is suddenly offered. Let me illustrate. You would never dream of a friendship with the President of the United States or the Queen of England. This is because we hold a certain amount of fear and respect toward them. Yet were they to offer their friendship to us, we would gladly accept, and would quickly become their most devoted and loving companion. This is also because of our fear and respect for them. We are devoted because we value the friendship; we value the friendship because we never thought it possible; we never thought it possible because we respected them so much that we thought them to be too great for us. When something we never dreamed possible becomes a reality, it is of infinite value to us. We were never worthy to be God's friends, but He offered it to us: at the expense of His own life, while we were His enemies. Think of it.

For our worship experiences to rival the Biblical encounters, we must make the fear of God the foundation of our friendship with Him. To drain the awe of God's holiness from our worship experience is to ultimately cheapen the intimacy of His love. To understand His transcendence is to appreciate His imminence. Psalm 25:14 says it best: "The Lord confides in those who fear Him." When God looks to share His heart with someone, He goes to the ones who fear Him. Just as it was in the life of Moses, so it is with us: the friendship begins with the fear.


Now playing: Ross Parsley - My Savior Lives
via FoxyTunes via FoxyTunes

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Greatness of Mark Roach

I had the pleasure of meeting a new-comer in the Christian Worship Music scene back in February at the re:create conference in TN. Mark Roach is a worship leader at Morning Star Church in MO and an anointed song writer. His stuff is theologically sound, heartfelt, well written and meaningful. In a word, this guy is GOOD. I want you to go and check out his website and learn more about him. Mark's debut CD is titled Every Reason Why and there are nothing but winners on this recording. You can pick up the CD through Myrrh Records. This guy's even got a video on YouTube - go check it out here.
So - if you have a conference, camp, or special event for which you need a top-notch worship leader, contact Mark Roach and see what the Lord will do through him. Mark my words, the Lord's hand is on this guy and He will use Mark to accomplish great things for His kingdom.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Breakthrough Prayer: A Conversation with Jim Cymbala

By Matt Vilkas and Scott Ross
The 700 Club

CBN.comSCOTT ROSS: Jim, this is a basic question. I don't want to be simplistic, but define prayer.

JIM CYMBALA: Prayer is the opening of the heart so we can receive all these good things that God has for us every day. It's like sitting down at a table that God has prepared for us. He says, 'I have everything you need today - all the grace, all the wisdom, all the provision that you need - but sit down at the table and eat. Don't be so rushed and so busy and try to live without My supply.'

SCOTT ROSS: Is there anything we should not pray about? What should we pray about?

JIM CYMBALA: Well, the Bible says if we ask anything according to His will, we know the Lord will hear us. So one of the things we have to check on is, are we praying in the spirit and the will of God as revealed in Scriptures? To go and pray, 'My boss insulted me yesterday. God, I pray that he comes down with a disease,' or something like that, this is not a thing to be praying about. We're to pray according to God's will. Then when we pray according to God's will, we don't have to be wondering, 'I wonder if God will hear this? I wonder if He's in sympathy with what I'm asking?' We are to pray according to God's will as revealed in Scripture.

SCOTT ROSS: What do you do when you've been praying, you've got all the formulas down, if I can use that term, done everything right, still don't get an answer - I think the phrase you use in your book is 'when the mountain won't move'? What do you do when the mountain's not moving, and you're fasting, praying, binding, loosening, casting in, casting out, doing everything you know to, but it ain't happening?

JIM CYMBALA: One of the things you have to do is pray for insight and discernment and spiritual understanding about what's happening while you're praying. Now, one of the things you have to remember is that when you pray, you don't automatically get that answer in the time frame you want. The hardest part of the prayer of faith is waiting. As my friend Dave Wilkerson and I were once saying - I think he's the one who told me - the hardest part of faith is the last half hour. In other words, you're praying and you're waiting and God says, 'Now, wait on.' That's why David says in the Psalms, 'Wait, my soul, upon the Lord.' Don't get discouraged. Don't give up because it hasn't come in your time, because many times in my life God has answered later than I wanted, but when He answered, I saw the wisdom in what He was accomplishing by waiting. God does all things well.

SCOTT ROSS: What should we not do in prayer?

JIM CYMBALA: One thing we can't do in prayer is have a spirit of anger or resentment or unforgiveness toward another person because the whole philosophy of prayer, the whole approach to the throne of grace, is that I'm only there, sinful as I am, I'm only there and can pray in Jesus' name because God has been so merciful to me and to you. The thing about prayer that reaches God's ear is that it comes from a sincere heart that wants to walk in the light and is looking to God in faith.

SCOTT ROSS: Let me contextualize this a bit and put it in historical perspective. Recent history, September 11, you guys are right there in Brooklyn. You look across the river where two towers once stood. A number of your people were in those buildings. I know thousands of you folks prayed for your folks. Some lived; some died. Why?

JIM CYMBALA: Because God is sovereign and there are mysteries that I won't understand until I get to see Jesus. We lost more, I think, than any church in New York City - four people we lost. Dozens of others just got out of the area in time. Why some perished and went to be with the Lord and why others escaped, until I see the Lord, I won't understand. But I'm still going to have faith in the fact that God does all things well, and His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts. There comes a point in life, as you know yourself, you just have to leave it with God and say, 'God, I don't understand this, but then again I'm living in a finite body and a finite mind. When I see You, You'll explain this whole thing to me.'

SCOTT ROSS: Are we doing what we're supposed to be doing as the Church?

JIM CYMBALA: In Acts 4, when Peter was released, the first persecution of the church, they prayed. Paul says in 1 Timothy, 'First of all, then, I want men and women in the church to pray.' I don't think it's our 'first of all' priority. I think we've pushed teaching and the music and worship to a place that it doesn't really hold in Scripture. Not that those things are not important. And we've lost the element of prayer. In other words, how many churches in the cities of the listeners and the viewers here today, how many churches in these cities have prayer meetings attended by the pastor, where corporately everyone comes together and says, 'Wait a minute. If these promises are true in the Bible - 'Call upon me and I'll answer you,' 'Ask and you shall receive' - well, let's do it.

SCOTT ROSS (reporting): In May 2003, Jim Cymbala and his congregation did just that. A member's niece was kidnapped in Trinidad. She had been held prisoner for a week. They knew they needed a miraculous breakthrough.

JIM CYMBALA: They were asking half a million dollars. This is a rampant thing now going on in Trinidad and Tobago. She brought it on a Tuesday night, with great faith and urgency, to the front of the church. I let her take the microphone and tell the story to the people who were gathered here to pray. When we found out that her niece was being held, and God knows what was going on there, and could die, could be sexually abused, we began to call on the Lord like Paul said, 'I travail like a mother giving birth till Christ be formed in you.' I mean, our church became like a labor room. It was incredible. People began to cry out to God in prayer and with faith. Out of nowhere, the next day the call comes from Trinidad. The kidnappers just looked at her, put her in a car, drove her down the road, tossed her out, unhurt, unharmed, no ransom paid. God still answers prayer, and nothing is too hard for Him. So viewers that are watching today, whatever the problem is you're facing and you say, 'God could never do that,' you're wrong. With God nothing is impossible.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Easy Four-Step Evangelism

In church, we often challenge our people to tell others about salvation through Jesus. We encourage them over and over to be open with their faith. The problem is that we do not always equip our people with the tools they need to do this. I found the following plan at, a website filled with great tools developed by Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forrest, CA. This is a simple, non-threatening plan to share the good news with another. Check it out or, better yet, try it out today!

An easy method for sharing your faith
by Rick Warren

It’s just like when a baby is born into a family. That baby doesn’t understand everything. That’s the purpose of a church family – to help babies grow spiritually.

Rick Warren

You’re going to Heaven because someone cared enough to tell you about Christ.

Who have you cared enough to tell? Who are you taking to Heaven with you?

If you just have a vague idea in your mind, it’s never going to happen. You need to get specific.

One way to do this is to write down the names of six people you want to take to Heaven with you. They may be friends, family, or co-workers. They’re people you care about, people you can invite to church, or people you can share the Good News with.

George Gallup did a survey that said in America there are 34 million people who said, "I would go to church if somebody invited me." Do you think you might know one of those people? Probably!

The world is far more ready for an invitation than we are ready to invite. So take the challenge. Write down the names of six people. Then pray and ask God to give you an opportunity to invite them.

Your first thought might be, "I don't know what to say!” Below is a simple four-step tool to help you.

Then at the proper time when you’re talking with someone who wants a purpose for living and the hope of Heaven – but hasn’t a clue how to get either one – you can ask, "Have you ever established a spiritual base for your life? These are the four things you need to do to get into Heaven.”

B – Believe
You must believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for you and showed he was God by coming back to life.

Do you believe that? If yes, then you’re one fourth of the way there already.

A George Gallup poll said that 87 percent of Americans believe this. That’s why Christians celebrate Easter. Do you believe? Then say, "I believe Jesus was who he said he was – God – and he proved it by coming back to life.”

A – Accept
You need to accept God’s free forgiveness for your sin.

Would you like to accept that? I don't know anyone who’d reject it.

Why would you? If you’ve got this one, you’re half way there. Do you agree, "I have sinned, and I need to accept God’s free forgiveness for my sin”?

C.L.A.S.S. 401
C.L.A.S.S. 401Help your church members learn to share their faith effectively through their personal testimony and open their eyes to spiritual lostness in your community and around the world. C.L.A.S.S. 401 is the fourth in a four-part C.L.A.S.S. series.
S – Switch
Switch to God’s plan for your life. That means you’re going to say, “I’m no longer going to do what I want to do. I'm going to live the plan God made me for. I want to know God’s purpose for life and from now on God’s going to call the shots, not me.”

When you become a Christian, you put a sign on your life that says, "Under New Management!" Now you’re doing God’s plan for your life. After all, your plan hasn’t worked out too well.

If you’re willing to do this, you’re three quarters of the way there.

E – Express
Express your desire for Christ to be the director of your life – the manager. The word in the Bible is Lord.

Are you ready to express that?

After explaining the four steps, ask the person if he or she is willing to take them. If he or she is, and if he or she has never invited Christ into his or her life, lead in this simple prayer:

“Dear God, I believe you sent your Son, Jesus, to die for my sins so I could be forgiven. I'm sorry for my sins, and I want to live the rest of my life the way you want me to. Please put your Spirit in my life to direct me. Amen.”

If you get the privilege of praying that prayer with someone, explain to the person that he or she has just crossed the line. The person has verbally put his or her trust in Christ. Let the person know that even if he or she doesn’t understand everything yet, that’s OK.

It’s just like when a baby is born into a family. That baby doesn’t understand everything. That’s the purpose of a church family – to help babies grow spiritually.

Then, congratulate the person. They’ve just joined the family of God.

Does that seem hard? Do you think you could do that with somebody?

I was talking to one of our church secretaries and she said, “I’ve been a Christian for many years, but I’ve never led anybody to Christ.” After I shared this simple technique, she said, “I can do this! My dad is not a believer and we’re not close, but I believe God wants me to call him.”

She picked up the phone and called him and explained the four steps, and he prayed that prayer and started crying. He gave his life to Christ. Now her dad is going to Heaven.

She told me, “If I hadn’t listened to the prompting of God and hadn’t obeyed what he said, my dad would be headed for Hell.”

Who is it that God has brought into your life to share the Good News with? God wants to use you.

Our theme at Saddleback for the 21st century is this: “Send us around the world with the news of your saving power and your eternal plan for all mankind.”

Have you written those six names yet?

Until next week,

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Enter Conference

This year's [Enter] conference has been postponed; I leave this post in place to encourage participation next year!

In September of '06 I had the chance to take a good bit of my worship team from Temple, TX to the Enter Conference at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. This was an incredible experience on so many levels. The community that a team builds on a trip like this is invaluable, in addition to the training we received at the conference. There were some very practical sessions such as Rehearsing a Praise Band, Audio/Visual Techniques, Song Writing, Choir Leadership, etc. Even more valuable was to spend time in worship with 800-900 other worship team members from all over the country. I had never experienced worship with so many people being so focused and worshipful as this. It was as if everyone was truly there for a common purpose: to worship God and build a unity of spirit with other believers. The song kept coming to my mind; I Will Never be the Same Again, and I am not. This conference experience was truly a spiritual marker in my life and I am changed as a result.

Now, to worship the Lord so genuinely has its rewards, and when we ventured out to the Garden of The God (my title; it really is called the Garden of the Gods - but I know who really made it!) and experienced the glory and majesty of God's creation, it was even more sweet. It turns out that the time I spent hiking around in His creation, I found myself genuinely worshiping Him there, too. It was all so BEAUTIFUL! I told some of my team members that when God created Colorado, He was just showing off. In Romans 1:20, the Lord declares:

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Well, I'll tell you this; I experienced the Lord in worship and I've experienced Him in is creation during that great week, and I need no excuse. He is more real to me now than ever before, and that is partially because of this experience that I had with my team in Colorado. If I was to recommend one conference for Worship Leaders and their teams, this is the one! Please check out the conference website here, and find a way to get there in 2007!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Our Trip to California

We had the opportunity to take a trip to the Saddleback Church in California(you, know, Rick Warren!) to attend a worship conference at the church back in the summer of 2005. The conference was amazing, but we also combined the trip into our family vacation and got to visit Disneyland, the beach, the aquarium, and other fun places. It was an amzing trip. Please check out the pics at It was a great time!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Evangelism of Worship

Deep worship that reaches the unchurched
by Rick Warren

Although unbelievers cannot truly worship, they can watch believers worship. They can observe the joy that we feel. They can see how we value God’s Word and how we respond to it.”
Rick Warren

At Saddleback we believe worship services can be deep, meaningful, and accessible to the unchurched. Your church members shouldn’t have to choose between whole-heartedly worshiping God and having a place where they can bring their unbelieving friends to have the Gospel presented to them.

When we speak of worship, we are talking about something only believers can do. Worship is from believers to God. We magnify God’s name in worship by expressing our love and commitment to him. And unbelievers simply cannot do this.

Here is the simple definition of worship that we operate on at Saddleback:

"Worship is expressing our love to God for who he is, what he’s said, and what he’s doing."

We believe there are many appropriate ways to express our love to God: by praying, singing, obeying, trusting, giving, testifying, listening and responding to his Word, thanking, and many other expressions.

God - not man - is the focus and center of our worship.

God is the consumer of worship
Although unbelievers cannot truly worship, they can watch believers worship. They can observe the joy that we feel. They can see how we value God’s Word and how we respond to it. They can hear how the Bible answers the problems and questions of life. They can notice how worship encourages, strengthens, and changes us. They can sense when God is supernaturally moving in a service, although they won’t be able to explain it.

When unbelievers watch genuine worship, it becomes a powerful witness. In Acts 2 – on the day of Pentecost – God’s presence was so evident in the disciples’ worship service that it attracted the attention of unbelievers throughout the entire city!

2007 Saddleback Church Worship Conference,
June 26-28, 2007

Whether you’re a worship leader, pastor, vocalist, instrumentalist, lead youth worshiper, song writer, or play any other role in developing a weekly worship service, this conference has something for you. Come, learn, experience, participate!

Learn more >>

Acts 2:6 says, "... a crowd came together.” We know it was a big crowd because 3,000 people were saved that day.

Why were those 3,000 people converted? Because they felt God’s presence and they understood the message.

I believe both of these elements are essential for worship to be a witness.

God’s presence must be sensed in the service. More people are won to Christ by feeling God’s presence than by all of our apologetic arguments combined.

Few people, if any, are converted to Christ on purely intellectual grounds. It is the sense of God’s presence that melts hearts and explodes mental barriers. Worship without this yields few evangelistic results.

I believe there is an intimate connection between worship and evangelism.

In the first place, the goal of evangelism is to produce worshipers of God. The Bible tells us that "the Father seeks worshipers” (John 4:23). When we recruit worshipers, that’s called evangelism.

On the other hand, worship provides the motivation for evangelism. It produces a desire in us to tell others about Christ. The result of Isaiah’s powerful worship experience (Isaiah 6:1-8) was Isaiah saying, "Here am I, send me!” True worship causes us to witness.

Few people, if any, are converted to Christ on purely intellectual grounds. It is the sense of God’s presence that melts hearts and explodes mental barriers.”
Rick Warren

In genuine worship God’s presence is felt, God’s pardon is offered, God’s purposes are revealed, and God’s power is displayed. That sounds to me like an ideal context for evangelism! I’ve noticed that when unbelievers watch believers relate to God in an intelligent, sincere manner it creates a desire to know God, too.

Worship with sensitivity
Because genuine worship can have such a profound impact on unbelievers, we need to be very mindful of their fears, hang-ups, and needs when they are present in our worship services.

This is the principle Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 14:23: Paul commanded that tongues be limited in public worship.

His reasoning? Speaking in tongues seems like foolishness to unbelievers. Paul didn’t say tongues were foolish but only that they appear foolish to unbelievers.

"So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?” (1 Cor. 14:23 NIV)

I believe there is a larger principle behind this advice to the Corinthian church. The point Paul is making is that we must be willing to adjust our worship practices when unbelievers are present. God tells us to be sensitive to the hang-ups of unbelievers in our services! Making our worship services accessible to the unchurched is a biblical command. I didn’t think up this concept – Paul did!

Making worship understandable
Making a service “comfortable” for the unchurched doesn’t mean changing your theology; it means changing the environment of the service – such as changing the way you greet visitors, the style of music you use, the Bible translation you preach from, and the kind of announcements you make in the service.

The message is not always comfortable. In fact, sometimes God’s truth is very uncomfortable! Still we must teach “the whole counsel of God.” Being accessible to the unchurched does not limit what you say but it will affect how you say it.

We must make both the worship and the message understandable.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit miraculously translated the message into words each person understood. The crowd of unbelievers said, “We hear them telling in our own languages about the great things God has done!” (Acts 2:11 NCV)

This caused them to be converted. Even though God’s presence was evident in the service, they wouldn’t have known what to do if they hadn’t been able to understand the message.

The unchurched are not asking for a watered-down message. The unchurched expect to hear the Bible when they come to church. They just want to hear how it relates to their lives. They can handle a clear, biblical message when it is delivered in terms they understand and in a tone that shows you respect and care about them. They are looking for solutions, not a scolding.

A clear message coupled with genuine worship will not only attract unbelievers, it will open their hearts to the power of the Gospel. As they feel God’s presence and understand the message they will walk away changed.

Until next week,