Live to Give

Do we the church cling to wealth? Do we go out in the world seeking fame and fortune, wanting more and more? Do we ignore those who are in need; do we leave it to others to help the needy?  How should the church deal with money? How should we as Christians live? After all, 1 Timothy states

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life

God gives us everything, and thus we must use it for good. If you do give, you will be blessed, not like how prosperity men talk as if it’ll solve all your problems, but God will bless. Sometimes the fear of prosperity teaching makes churches shy away from talking about giving, but we should be known as a giving church, but not to those who have it all, but to those who have nothing. God has entrusted us with gifts, it may be wealth, if it is, then it should be used to help further the kingdom.

Two Bible verses always stand out to me, and of course we must take everything in context.

Mark 10:21-22:

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (NIV).

And in Acts 2:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. (NIV).

So what we see here is a heart for giving. For the rich young man, wealth got in the way of following Jesus. He loved wealth more than God, and the Bible tells us that we are prone to do so. God knows what our weakness are, and our desires, but He wants us to put Him first. Wealth is not inherently bad, but ‘is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).’ It can be a huge stumbling block in our service to the Lord.

In the verses from Acts, what do we notice? The church put others before itself. They looked after one another and gave to the poor; don’t forget, Jesus and the disciples gave constantly to the poor. Here the Apostles and the greater church gave all they had so others could be better off. They did it without any hesitation, they trusted God would care and provide for them, and He did and He still does, for us! Therefore, we need to trust Him more and give more to those who are in need.

Can a Christian own a mansion?

Well, nowhere in the Bible does it say, ‘Thou shalt not own a mansion’. But, if there are those in need in your church, even in your community, and you have a mansion, surely there’s something not quite right there? Not that a mansion in itself is bad, but if you let that mansion and your worldly goods get in the way of loving those in need, then it is a stumbling block. I know it is never easy to part with money; it is something I certainly struggle with, we want to save money, and spend it on ourselves and those around us, again nothing inherently bad, but it can also be a stumbling block. We should give, and give all we can.

James 5 does not give the rich a good outlook if they are selfish with money:

1Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. (NIV).

If you are wealthy and do not do good with it, then it is testimony against your heart. As Christians we’re called to stewardship of the gifts God has given us, that includes wealth. If you value what you have here on this earth, whilst others are in need then your heart isn’t set on Jesus. We need to look to Him and Him only! I know that I should give much more than I do, I pray that we will all be a generous and giving church.

Let us think on James 2: 14-17

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

We are meant to meet the needs of others, if we have faith but our works show nothing, then it is as James says, dead. Let us really think of these verses and how this reflects in our lives. Let us be active Christians that play an active role in their communities, rather than academic ones who rather talk about doctrine all day rather than live out the faith.

In the Christian life, we are meant to be humble, and we are meant to give it all to God. I think Hebrews 13:5 sums up the Christian attitude nicely I think. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God is with us, He is all we need, He has given all to us, let’s give it all back to Him. Serve Him and do not hold on to the things of this world!

Pray, pray, pray!

The word of God says to ‘pray continually’. Our Father in Heaven loves to hear us talk to Him. Our lives should be one long prayer to God, a running conversation with Him. What is sweeter than communion with the Lord of Hosts through our Lord Jesus Christ? What is more amazing than talking directly to our Creator, the one who holds the stars in the palm of His hands, in the awesome power of the Holy Spirit?

Prayer is essentially speaking to God. We address ourselves to God the Father in the name of God the Son through the power of God the Spirit. But in a sense, prayer is more than kneeling and saying a few words, because everything we do speaks to God, and actions speak louder than words…

One bloke once said, there are three things a Christian should do: the first is to pray; the second is to pray; and, you might have guessed it, the third is to pray! Prayer is one of the greatest gifts God has given us, yet one, I fear, is sadly neglected by many believers in our day and age. The poet William Cowper said, ‘Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.’

Do we pray?

When was the last time you knelt before the King of Kings? When was the last time you sought the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength? When was the last time you poured out your heart to the Most High? When was the last time you lifted up your hands and your heart to our God in heaven? When was the last time you cried out unceasingly with tears in your eyes until the Lord looked down?

I’m not just talking about saying ‘thanks’ for your lunch, an ‘arrow-prayer’ because you can’t find your keys, or a long old shopping-list you rattle-off every now and then. It’s living like Epaphras, who ‘was always wrestling in prayer for the brethren [in Colosse],’ and having the attitude of Jacob, ‘I will not let you go until you bless me!’
We complain we live in days of small things, we say, ‘God does not seem to be working in my life, or in the church anymore’. Well — why is that? Because we don’t pray! ‘We don’t have because we don’t ask’. We don’t pray ‘continually’ or ‘without ceasing’, we breeze in and out of the Almighty’s presence like we would a train station, we hardly get inside before we’re off again in a hurry, ‘getting on with our lives’. If we want to be serious about revival; then we need to be serious about prayer.  A man once said, ‘God’s works of grace are always traced to a humble saint upon their knees’. Pray in power and in faith! God pleases to use our prayers; but at present, what is there to use?

Is this true of you? How sad is this, brothers and sisters! I feel it myself so bad. I don’t pray as I ought, I don’t seek the Lord as I ought. My prayer-life is far too poor.

We simply do not pray enough. It’s all about our heart in these matters. We should never leave the Lord’s presence, whether we’re directly speaking to God or in-directly speaking to Him with our lives. J.C. Ryle says the harder it is to pray, often the better it is for your soul. However feeble our prayers and our hearts, God will listen — that is His amazing promise. Wherever we are… whether we’re in the house of God with his people; in the belly of a big fish at a total loose-end; wasting away in the darkest dungeon of gloom and despair; atop the scary whirling heights of a particular trial; lost in the wilderness of life; or in bed with the flu (last four examples — Psalm 107). If we cry out to the Lord, He will save us, and ‘if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us’ and He will ‘draw near to us, as we draw near to Him’.

Paul says, ‘always keep on praying for all the saints’. Peter says, ‘Cast all your cares upon Him, for he cares for you’. Jude says, ‘Beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life’. What was the secret to success for these peoples’ lives, lived for the Lord, and so many Christians throughout history? Prayer. Simple prayer.

Jesus, Himself, spent many whole nights in prayer. And if He, God incarnate, needed to pray, how much more do we?

It does feel, in our days, that the devil seems to be winning — he has so stifled Christians prayer-lives, so they are as practically non-existent. We need to get back to the days of old, when men like John Welch developed serious knee problems from praying too much on their knees (he prayed all night — every night)! Or when Martin Luther had so much to do one day that it would take at least ‘three hours’ with the Lord! That should be our way of life!

So come on Christian soldiers, before you arise, fall down on your knees before your Heavenly Father, who loves to have His little children come to Him. Pray and then go on praying into your day and ‘live a life worthy of your calling’.

One of my favourite hymns as a youngster was ‘Will Your Anchor Hold in the Storms of Life?’, two lines of which say:

And the cables passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy the blast, through strength divine.

That’s powerful imagery. Our hearts connected to God’s heart with Christ. With Christ we can tackle anything. Was Christ’s work completed on the cross? No! Far from it; He now stands at the right hand of God, there making intercession for all His saints.

Hebrews 4:16 reads:

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

What to pray?

There’s an acrostic, which is less than perfect, but besides being easy to remember can give us an idea of prayer and the order of it…

  • P – Praise! How should we get started in prayer? – ‘Enter into His gates with thanksgiving. And enter His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.’ This should be our over-running theme throughout our prayer-life and our kick-starter. Find something to praise Him for, it isn’t hard!
  • R – Repent! We’re sinners who can only come to God in prayer through Jesus Christ, our Righteousness. Remember God is completely holy; nothing impure can even get close. We come with repentant hearts to Him, recognising our sin and our need of Him.
  • A – Ask! With ‘praise and thanksgiving we present out petitions to the Lord.’ We should uphold each other and the whole world in prayer.
  • Y – Yield! We’re told to pray according to His sovereign will. Therefore we leave it all in His hands.

Pray the Bible, particularly the Psalms. There’s a psalm for every occasion, when we need His strength (27), when we are seeking His forgiveness (51), when we are struggling to come to terms with the wickedness in the world (73), whatever, wherever we are, pray the word and seek His will. And then ‘wait on the Lord’ and watch the results! As well as being reverent, we need to be bold in prayer.

Lamentations is another great book for prayer; harrowing and sober, but essentially a call to prayer; well worth prayerfully studying. There are tons of illustrations of prayers in the Bible, not least the Lord’s template for prayer.

We should pray for the faith to ‘move mountains’. Then go and live that prayer! Matthew Henry said, ‘Thanksgiving is good; thanksliving is so much better’, we ‘live according to his purpose, pray according to his will’.

Where to pray?

Pray ‘in your closet’ — just you and the Lord, no distractions; phone off, Bible open, heart ready. Take time. Don’t be short in prayer! Go for a ‘walk and talk’ with the Lord, His creation can be so inspiring. Worry about nothing, pray about everything.

Pray with the Lord’s people. It’s always so important and always so encouraging — coming to the Lord together and bringing praise, big requests, little worries, the lot, to His throne of Grace. C.H. Spurgeon declared that the prayer meeting is the ‘engine-room’ of ‘His Majesty’s Ship Church’. It is the most important meeting of the week! And some churches don’t even have one! The prayer meeting is more important than a Cabinet meeting in Ten Downing Street. Get over that one!

Prayer-partners/buddies, and meeting with one or two believers every now and then, is another great way of coming to the Lord. ‘Iron sharpens iron’, and I don’t know about you, but I can be so stirred by simply joining with a brother or sister in prayer. There’s absolutely nothing like it.

Family prayer-times are so important too. If you’re blessed with a God-fearing family, make the most of it!

Go forth and pray!

Now, go and pray in the Spirit, He is our guide and counsellor, He lays on our heart matters for prayer, He ‘intercedes with groans that words cannot express,’ He draws us so much nearer to God, He strengthens us, builds us up, helps us experience the amazing love of God, and glorifies God (‘man’s chief end’). And let’s persevere in prayer (Lamentations 5:19-22), especially as we kick-off this new year!

More holiness give me,
More sweetness within,
More patience in suff’ring,
More sorrow for sin,
More faith in my Saviour,
More sense of His care,
More joy in His service,
More freedom in prayer.

Come, my Saviour, and help me,
Comfort, strengthen and keep me;
Thou each moment wilt save me,
Thou art saving me now.

More gratitude give me,
More trust in the Lord,
More zeal for His glory,
More hope in His Word,
More tears for His sorrows,
More pain at His grief,
More meekness in trial,
More praise for relief.

More victory give me,
More strength to o’ercome,
More freedom from earth-stains,
More quest for the throne,
More fit for the kingdom,
More useful I’d be,
More blessed and holy,
More, Saviour, like Thee

(Philip Paul Bliss)

Music As a Form of Worship

The phrase ‘Let us start worship’ or ‘Let us begin worship’ is one that never sits easy with me. The term ‘Worship Leader’ for me doesn’t seem to be a biblical principal. In this post, I am to pick apart these terms and phrases and suggest what I believe we should be actually doing instead.

Is Worship something we turn on?

I do hope that no church flicks a switch and suddenly they are in ‘worship’ mode, I would be extremely concerned if it did! In my interpretation, worship is something that we are, we are made to worship. It is also not just solely music and singing, as we can sometimes think; in fact music is just a small part of what worship is all about.

So can we just turn it on with a flick of a switch? No! We don’t start worship, and we don’t just begin in worship, we should be worshipping God in all our thoughts and deeds, in our actions and in our words.

There is no start, and there is no end. To be frank, no one can lead you in worship. No man can lead you in worship to God, only the Spirit can give you the words to say, give you desire to praise such an awesome God we serve. You don’t just go to church where someone there helps your heart focus on God, that’s all through the Spirit, through your own heart and through you as an individual before the Lord. We worship collectively as individuals.

Music isn’t all worship

Let’s be straight here as well. Music is only a tiny fraction of what worship actually is. The Bible says:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

Worship is everything we do, it is a way we can communicate with God, it is a way we can give Him praises, and it is a way in which we can actually remember truths and passages from the Bible. If you look at hymns for example, their purpose is often to help people remember key truths about the Bible and about God. Are we losing that today?

Nonetheless, music isn’t worship. Music is a tool God has given us, to help us and to give it back to Him. Martin Luther said, ‘Next to the word of God the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.’ However, I think, we, the church, can get too focused on just one facet of what worship is. We will rehearse, practice and make a fantastic performance on stage, but what is our prayer life like? Do we spend time with God? Do we read our Bibles? Do we show a Christian life by our actions always? Sometimes we focus on one facet that we forget all the others which are just as, if not even more, important. We may get excited over a song, but we have to ask the question — do we get excited because we love the tune, love the music, but not what worship is all about?

I’m not against ‘Worship Leaders’ but..

I understand the need for someone to help keep everyone in tune, in focus and in musical cohesion, but let’s be straight here, no person actually leads worship. If anything the Spirit helps us in our singing praise, but again no person should be in a position like this, it is though as if it was just a title given to someone to sound spiritual.

Again, I am not against someone at the front helping the congregation sing and what not, but it’s the term that I have problems with, can it not be just an ego situation?

So is Music bad?

Certainly not! Music is a great gift! (Psalm 71:23; 105:2; 150: 1-5, Colossians 3:16; Revelation 14: 3-4) and one we should cherish and love to do, it allows us to be creative and it allows us to express ourselves when words fail us. Nonetheless, we must remember that it is all about Him, the mighty God, the One we are told to hold in reverent fear as well as love and adore. When we sing to our Father we do need to be serious and mean what we say. If we sing ‘I surrender all’, for example, then we should surrender all to Jesus, rather than merely singing for the sake of it (or because it’s catchy and modern) then going home and forgetting all about it. Jesus told the Pharisees that they were hypocrites and, to be frank, we can be very hypocritical in our music.

Music shouldn’t also be about using the latest snazziest catchphrases. For example, in recent times ‘oceans’, ‘waves’ and ‘storms’ having been doing the rounds. Before that it was ‘dry bones’ and I can keep going on. When we write music as worship, it should all be from the heart, about what God is telling us, and what we have been through, not what is trendy. Let’s be frank, modern songs/hymns have produced some amazing and great songs that really come from the heart, but there are also a number which just sound like they have been regurgitated time and time again, the same phrases, the same things being said. When we describe God, surely there are more ways of saying ‘You are awesome’ or ‘You are great.’ Don’t get me wrong, these are amazing truths, but sometimes it feels to me that less time has been put into the lyrics and more time into the production quality. Lyrics are important! Sometimes I can’t resist rewriting certain songs for my own personal use, and I’ll probably go on a massive rewriting spree now with many others because sometimes the tune is great but the words are so weak.

When we worship, via music, via songs, we must ensure it comes from the heart and that we mean it. We must also be prepared to learn, to be prepared to be challenged. We must acknowledge all aspects of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

Now I love music, I love music in churches, but I just wanted to write this. I think sometimes we get the wrong concept of what worship is. We don’t start or begin worship, when we sing we actually join in with the choruses in heaven, but our whole life is worship, of one form or another. Live a life that worships God, love Him with all your strength and yes praise Him in music, but always remember Who you are worshipping.