Praise Him...Win Or Lose!

As I have stated before in previous posts, I really, really like the movie "Facing The Giants". It's that "football" movie about a coach who gets a revelation of some key Godly principles. He begins to apply these principles to his personal life as well as the team he coaches. The result is he coaches his underdog team to a State Championship!

What kind of principle could bring about this kind of success? The principle of praise. Coach Grant Taylor teaches his team to praise God when they win, and praise God even when they lose. This sounds too simple right? Not exactly. It is quite difficult to praise God in the rough times; especially when we lose or fail at something. Our culture conditions us to believe that winning alone is true success. And when we lose...we fail. The truth however, is that losing or failing does not make you a loser or a failure. That's one reason why we should praise God even when we lose or fail.

There is another reason we should praise God - even when we lose or fail. This reason is the foundation of the principle of praise. It is because He is simply worthy of ALL our praise. Circumstances do not change the fact that ALL praise is due Him. As a matter of fact, He never changes...even when circumstances do. When we praise Him regardless of our circumstances, we are declaring that our victory lies not in our performance, but in Him. We are acknowledging to Him that He is the only One who can change or even remove our circumstances.

God simply honors and receives praise offered to Him. Praise offered to Him in the hard times is not a product of circumstances. But many times praise offered when times are good (or when we win) is. Have you noticed that when some football players score a touchdown, they kneel down as to thank God? There is nothing wrong with that. He should get the glory. But have you ever seen someone kneel down to thank God when his opponent scores a touchdown? Have you ever seen a quarterback raise his hands in praise to God when he throws a pass that's intercepted?

To praise God in the bad times is not to praise Him FOR the bad times. It is to praise Him in spite of the bad times. Again, He never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever! He is always worthy of our praise. No circumstance will every change that!

This principle of praise can be applied to whatever you do. If you are in business you can praise Him when things are good, and when things are slow. Be grateful for who He is, not only for what He has done. This moves the heart of God. When His heart is moved His hand begins to move! And nothing moves the heart and hand of God more than His principles applied in our lives.
Praise is one of the most powerful forces in the universe because God is exalted above our circumstances. When He is exalted, He is free to be God in our lives. When He is exalted, we see Him instead of our circumstances!
I will end this post with a great example of the power of praise from God's Word. Paul and Silas were being held deep in the dungeon of a maximum security prison. They had been brutally beaten and were chained hand and foot. About midnight they began praising God and praying to Him. They weren't praising and thanking Him for being in prison and for being beaten. They were praising God for His infinite greatness. They were praising Him in spite of their circumstances. Suddenly an earthquake occurred. The chains and shackles fell off of them and the prison doors flew open. In addition, every chain on every other prisoner dropped to the ground! This powerful praise opened the heavens for God to show Himself strong in their behalf. (See Acts Chapter 16) I encourage you to apply this principle in your life. Praise Him in the good times and the bad times....and whether you win or lose!

874370: Facing the Giants: Bible Study, DVD Leader Kit Facing the Giants: Bible Study, DVD Leader Kit
By Michael Catt, Alex Kendrick & Stephen Kendrick

Facing the Giants Bible Study - Leader Kit is a small-group Bible study driven by the characters, events, and circumstances in the movie Facing the Giants. Using movie themes and group interaction, this four-week study will help group members conquer their fears, face their giants, and grow their faith. The member book also includes leader helps and icebreakers to enhance your small-group experience. Features:
  • Video-supported Bible study
  • Member Book
  • 4 group sessions
  • DVD with teaching clips and movie trailer

702899: Facing the Giants, DVD Facing the Giants, DVD
By Alex Kendrick

Created by a church in Georgia to evangelize non-believers and encourage believers, this inspiring story about a losing high school football coach with a new game plan will have your whole town talking about trusting God for the impossible! After six consecutive losing seasons and fear surrounding his life, coach Grant Taylor turns to God in desperation. Taylor and his Shiloh Christian Eagles soon discover how faith plays out on the field and off! Rated PG. Approx. 112 minutes.

DVD Features:
  • Region 1, Closed Captioned, Widescreen
  • English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Thai Languages
  • English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai and Chinese Subtitles
  • Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Feature: "The Facing The Giants Story"
  • Commentary from the Director, the Producer and Screenplay Co-Writers
  • Small Group Study Guide Featuring Scenes from the Movie
  • Fumbles and Funnies: Outtakes
  • Cut from the Team: Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Interview with Mark Richt, University of Georgia Head Football Coach
  • Interview with Michael Catt, Sherwood Baptist Church Senior Pastor
  • "With You" Music Video

Simplicity = Power In Worship

One thing I've noticed about humans over the years I have lived (being that I am a human) is that we have a natural tendency to make things complicated. Things can start out simple, but we tend to drift down the path of complication as time passes. I am convinced the root of this tendency is pride. Not that it is necessarily evil...but it does affect our effectiveness in many ways! Corporate worship is a good example. As we humans make our attempts to polish, perfect, and perform...things get complicated. Bottom line: When things get complicated we focus more on us than God.
Isn't worship all about focusing on Jesus? If more effort is being expended to keep the "well oiled machine" going...our focus is removed from God and placed on our own efforts. This is pride. Simplicity is not a lack of proficiency. Simplicity is the means in which we hone our focus on Jesus. The truth is Jesus is not impressed by what we can accomplish, unless He is glorified in it. Let's allow Jesus to search our hearts to make sure our motivation in worshiping Him is simply to glorify Him and not ourselves.
This brings me to worship lyrics. In a corporate setting, simplicity is the key to our focusing only on the King of Kings. There are many songs being sung in corporate worship today that should not be. Not because they are bad songs, and not because they are not anointed by God. But because they have so many words that most people are focused more on the overhead monitor, and getting the words right, than on the object of our worship...Jesus. Many of the "overly-wordy" songs sung in worship are great ballads (love songs) that should be sung to Jesus in a one-on-one setting.
The best Scriptural example I can recall is that of King David. David took a very complicated worship system and made it radically simple. Under the Old Testament Law, worship was a very complicated sacrificial system. If not done properly, people died! However, David, the psalmist comes along, throws up a tent, and puts the ark of the covenant in it on top of the mountain. He even comes into this tent often and simply worships God. Many of the songs he used in his worship (now the Psalms) were written while a shepherd boy, tending the flocks out in the fields.
God honored David's method of worship because it was pure and simple. He allowed access into His very presence even though this simple procedure was still under the Old Covenant. David led many people into God's presence this way. There was nothing complicated about it because David had no pride in this. Why should this be so significant for you and me? Because David's worship (David's Tabernacle) is a foreshadowing of what was to come. It was a look ahead to the New Covenant in which the one-time sacrifice of Jesus provides you and me access into God's presence through our worship, not a completed system.
God has graciously gifted us with the vehicle of music as a powerful way to worship Him. This involves our voices, instruments, and our bodies. Seek Him for simplicity in the ways we worship Him. It is true that we progress in our own abilities and styles as time passes by. But it is not "going back" to simplify things in worship. Remember, in the corporate setting it is our goal to focus on Jesus with our whole being. The singer and the musician as well should be able to focus keenly on Jesus, not the chord charts or the words. When Jesus is the focus our worship becomes powerful and lives are changed.

087370: Pure & Simple Blended Worship Pure & Simple Blended Worship
By Alfred Publishing & Carol Tornquist(COMPOSER)

Hits from the most popular Christian songwriters---Michael Frye, Tim Hughes, Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, and many others---are paired with favorite hymns as tasteful, contemporary medleys. These easy piano arrangements feature lyrics, suggested fingerings, phrasing, pedal markings, and easy-to-read notation. Easy Level Piano Sheet Music.
Titles: Beautiful One, with O Come, All Ye Faithful * Blessed Be Your Name, with At the Name of Jesus * Here I Am to Worship, with O Worship the King * How Deep the Father's Love for Us, with I Stand Amazed in the Presence * How Great Is Our God, with Praise to the Lord, the Almighty * How Great Thou Art, with God of Wonders * It Is Well with My Soul, with Be the Centre * Jesus Paid It All, with The Wonderful Cross * Majesty (Here I Am), with Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise * On Eagle's Wings, with Be Thou My Vision * The Risen Christ, with Christ the Lord Is Risen Today * Softly and Tenderly, with Draw Me Close * 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, with In Christ Alone.

Is Your Worship Really Worship?

This post is directed to those who are responsible for leading congregations/public gatherings into the presence of God. (This includes church leadership.) "Praise" and "Worship" as mentioned in this post refers to that time and medium employed during a public gathering in which folks gather corporately to draw closer to God.
So is your worship really worship?  True worship is hunger for God. God didn't make it complicated! Hunger for God is simply a strong desire to be as close to Him as possible. His Spirit in us and upon us makes it supernaturally possible for us to get as close to Him as we're willing to. It is His Spirit that generates our own hunger for Him; our desire to be near Him. "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24)
Without hunger for God our worship is at best a polished performance. I'm a musician, and if you are like me, good performance, great talent, and high proficiency can be very impressive. And sometimes the line between impressive and authentic can be clouded. However, the more hunger one has, the more genuine their worship. True worship is what affects others as it revealed as authentic, not impressive.
Over the past 5 and a half years Connie and I have visited numerous churches. In very few have we found a simple hunger for God. This is not to be critical, but to point out the need for our worship to be worship. Listen to me carefully. The greatest attraction to your church is Jesus. After all, it's about Him. It is not about music style. It is not about the content of your set-list. It's not about the talent. It's not about the proficiency of your team members. It is ALL about Jesus....and hunger for Him. When people hunger for Him, He comes and changes lives. I fear this eternal concept is too simple for some who are convinced that true worship success depends solely on the methods and procedures.
Let me propose a test for you. This may sound a bit ridiculous in this day and time, but hear me out. Take some time and take your worship team into a room with no instruments, no sound system, no overhead monitors, no smoke, and no flashing lights. Worship God there. Not individually but corporately. Not prayer, worship. Worship leader, lead your team into the presence of God with nothing but your bodies and your voices. If there is hunger for God you will enter into His presence. You may have to labor a bit, but persist! Focus on the One who deserves ALL the focus. Persist until you break forth into His presence.
Today's younger generations are being indoctrinated on the premise that worship is all about music style, content, presentation, and how sensational the presentation can be. But if they are not being taught by demonstration that the heart of all worship is hunger for Him,  worship will be a presentation (at best) only drawing those who are impressed by man's abilities...not God's. Jesus, in referring to the cross, gave us a valuable key, that also plays out as an infallible principle today. He said, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." (John 12:32)
So I'll ask you once again. Is your worship really worship?

Is God Judging The U.S.?

Let me begin with one God is not judging the United States of America. God is not judging America's sin. God judged the sin of the whole world over 2000 years ago when Jesus hung on the cross. All the sins of mankind were placed upon Him as He paid the price for our righteousness.

God is not passing judgment. What is happening to the U.S. and most of the nations on the planet today is this. We are moving farther and farther away from the God who has blessed our nation over the past 200 years. We are distancing ourselves (as a nation) from the God upon whom our nation was founded. God hasn't changed. He is still the awesome, loving, and all-powerful God He has always been.

The 91st psalm begins like this: "Anyone who dwells in the shelter of the Most High (that's God) will abide in the shadow of the Almighty." To live in the shadow of Almighty God is a good thing. Why? Because according to the psalmist this makes God our "refuge and fortress". Having God as our refuge and fortress means having God's blessing and protection. Anyone knows that a refuge and a fortress are safe places. The thing is though, America is not so safe any more. We've made the choice to exit the refuge and fortress by choosing to move away from God and His principles. By excluding God we've opened the door to immorality in all shapes and forms, hatred, murder in our schools, and outright perversion. Our exclusion of God has degraded and weakened the U.S. on the international level to the point that she no longer positively impacts the world as she once did.

Let me use the umbrella as an example of protective covering. It is designed to keep us dry when it is raining. The key is that we remain under the umbrella. While there we are protected from the rain. It is our choice whether or not we remain under this protection. If we choose to walk out from under the umbrella...we get wet. As we choose the way of sin (as a nation) we also move away from God. As we move farther away from Him we no longer receive the blessing and protection knowing Him provides. Please remember, it is impossible to oppose God by choice and remain close to God.

To dwell in the shelter of God, and to live in His shadow (covering) is to make Him the God of our nation once again. But it must be our choice to return to Him. It's that simple. The good news is, He waits eagerly for the United States of America to return to Him. He has never left us. Instead we have left Him.

The truth is, it is humanly impossible for the U.S. to return to God as a nation. No amount of work or tradition or ritual will bring us closer. There is no religion or denomination that can do so. There is no earthly leader who can do so. Yet...there is still hope for our nation! Yes, this is humanly impossible but not with God. Jesus said, "The things that are impossible with people are possible with God." (Luke 18:27)

We must cry out to God for His divine intervention. There is no other way. The church in our nation must return to Him! There is no other way. Revival in our land must be more important than our own personal agendas and kingdoms. Without heavenly won't happen. Without corporate crying out to Him there will be no divine intervention! Just as moving away from God is our choice, coming back to Him is our choice. What will you do? The choice is yours and the time is short.