Worship; definition?

It was a mid-week church service, sometime in the early 1980’s.

Who was preaching? I don’t remember. Who was leading the singing? I have no memory of that. Who was playing the pipe organ, the piano, the drums and guitars? I can’t recall that either. Who was present? A few relatives, a few friends, myself and many others whose names I didn’t know. I was only a visitor, not knowing what to expect.

What was happening? That I will never forget.

The main floor and the balcony of the sanctuary was filled that evening. The preliminaries had taken place – greetings, announcements, offering, followed by hymns and praise songs accompanied by enthusiastic clapping. The congregation had taken their seats. But then…

A complete hush fell over the congregation. The silence was so deep you could have heard a pin drop. Literally. It was as if a thick cloud had descended, cutting off every nuance of noise. No foot shuffling could be heard, no throat clearing, no nervous coughing, no nothing. The quality of light subtly changed from that provided by the ordinary church chandeliers to a brilliance I’d never seen before. It was hard to keep your head up or your eyes open.

After only a few moments it was also hard to stay in your seat. Many didn’t. People began to slip off the front pews and platform chairs onto the floor, out of the side pews into the aisle. No-one spoke. Nobody even seemed concerned about it. Everyone was too affected by the manifest presence of God in the room to take notice of their companions.

About half-way back on the left side of the building, my own row was too packed with people for me to move but I couldn’t raise my hands from my lap. I just basked in the soft, cherishing, comforting presence of the Lord.

What was it like? The closest I could describe was like being wrapped in a warm blanket, sitting on my mother’s lap and hugged close.

How long did it last? I never looked at my watch so I don’t know. But gradually the cloud began to lift. The people on the floor were helped back to their seats. The pastor got to his knees, then climbed to his feet holding onto the pulpit, but he couldn’t speak. Maybe he wanted to try to explain what had happened but I don’t think anyone was listening anyway.

Because the entire congregation was worshiping, telling Jesus how much they loved him, how much they adored him, how much they appreciated him. Some stood to their feet with arms raised and tears flowing down their face. Nobody wanted to leave that night and many of us lingered for a time, too awestruck to drive home yet.

As we milled around, we discovered that several miracle healings had occurred throughout the sanctuary. Nobody had laid hands on the sick or offered to pray, but as the presence and power of the Lord engulfed them the sick and hurt were made whole. Pneumonia in an elderly violin-maker – lungs completely cleared. A cracked elbow in my school teacher sister-in-law – bone completely healed.

That was my first experience of worshiping God in spirit and in truth in a church service. I’ve had similar worship experiences since then, in church buildings, convention centers, and the privacy of my own home. God instigated, they are not for his benefit, but for ours.

So, how would I define worship? Falling in love with the most precious, most beautiful, most wonderful, most worthy person that ever existed or ever will exist, knowing that he loves you back, and telling him how you feel.

(Originally published in 2015, reposted in 2017, but worth sharing again, I thought.)

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Patience, perseverance and endurance

The following notes are excerpted from “How to Pray Less, Succeed More: Praying the Word of God,” a unit of Principles of Intercessory Prayer taught at Trinity EPC, 2016-18.

Do trials and temptations affect prayer? Short answer – Yes.

What is the purpose of temptations / trials? Think of it like strength training. Spiritual resistance training. Exercising our faith muscles, our trust muscles. Our prayer muscles.

The enemy uses trials and temptations to prevent us from living by faith, or from praying in faith. But God can and does use them to make us stronger, more effective.

Three particular areas of temptation can and do hinder a believer’s effectiveness to pray in faith: Patience, Perseverance, and Endurance.

Although the original Greek words have different meanings, they are sometimes used interchangeably in various translations. Lack or failure of patience, perseverance, and/or endurance can and do hinder effectiveness to pray in faith.

PATIENCE means remaining the same (keeping the same attitude), no matter what. Two main Greek words are translated patience: one means patience with people, the other means patience with circumstances.

  • Patience with people: G3114 makrothyméō, to be long-spirited, meaning to keep your temper; be longsuffering, have long patience, patiently endure mistreatment by other people (without losing your temper or striking back). There’s an interesting origin of this word — it literally means to have “long feathers” like eagles and other birds that fly or soar long distances. It is translated longsuffering in some verses, patient in others.

I Corinthians 13:4, “Charity suffereth long (has patience), and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,” (KJV)

I Thessalonians 5:14, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.”

  • Patience with circumstances: G5281 hypomonḗ, cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy: patient continuance during unpleasant circumstances (an attribute of God himself, available to us from the indwelling Holy Spirit):

Luke 21:19, Jesus told the disciples, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” (KJV) He was referring to persecutions they would face.

Romans 15:5, Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:

James 1:4, “But let patience have [her] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Perfect here means mature, completed, finished, nothing left undone or lacking.

Hebrews 10:36, “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”

Side notes…

What will of God is he talking about? Whatever God has given YOU to do, which includes his written word and his personal assignment for you. Not everyone is called to be a pastor, or a missionary, or a school teacher, or an electrician, or a computer technician – each believer has his own assignment, God’s will for you.

What is the promise referred to, in this verse? (10:23 and 35 also refer to a promise, as do other verses in Hebrews and other NT books.) Our eternal inheritance.

Hebrews 9:15, “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance — now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (NIV)

In Hebrews, this promised eternal inheritance is referred to in several previous verses. The kingdom of heaven / God and all that entails. Eternity. Eternal life. Ruling and reigning with Jesus.

Hebrews 10:16-17 gives us the bedrock answer to this question: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”

There are necessary steps to actually receiving the new covenant, our eternal inheritance, the promise: receiving Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit, thus being inhabited by God’s spirit. The “promise of the father” that Jesus spoke of in Luke and Acts refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Several other scriptures to meditate on: 2 Cor. 1:20 and 7:1 (promises, plural); Hebrews 8:6 (better promises); and Hebrews 12:28 (we are receiving the kingdom, present tense.)

PERSEVERANCE means continuing an action, no matter what: G4342, proskartérēsis, persistency:—perseverance. From verb proskartereō, meaning to continue steadfastly. In the New Testament, it always refers to prayer:

Romans 12:12, “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant (persevering) in prayer;”

 Colossians 4:2, “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;”

Ephesians 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”

ENDURANCE means remaining in place, no matter what: G5278 hypoménō, remain, undergo, have fortitude, not recede or flee; absolutely and emphatically, under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one’s faith in Christ. This word is sometimes translated longsuffering or patient.

1 Corinthians 13:7, (Love) “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

James 1:12, “Blessed [is] the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”

Note: 2 Timothy 2:3, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”  In this verse, “endure hardship” is one Greek word, G2553 kakopathéō, to undergo hardship, endure afflictions, suffer trouble. It is a combination of two words, kakos meaning evil, and patheo, meaning passions.

REMINDER:  “But let patience have [her] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:4)

Perfect — mature, completed, finished, nothing left undone or lacking, necessary to Praying Less, Succeeding More.

 

It’s not what you might think

January 25, 2019

“What is going on, Lord?” I asked him very early this morning. I had been praying about the situation in Washington (the shut-down, etc.). His response:

Things are being shaken.
The outer “chaff” is being separated; falling away so the inner core, the heart, can be revealed.

The camouflage, masks, false pretenses are being seen for what they are. They are coming off.
True character, motives and intentions are being revealed.

I am knitting together what should be together.
I am splitting apart what should be apart.
Loyalties are being shifted into proper alignment.

Some who have stood together, not because they wholly agreed but for their own personal agendas, will turn against each other.
Some who have stood apart, not because they wholly disagreed but because of misunderstanding, suspicion or fear, will join forces and strengthen each other.

This battle is not over.

The Great Re-Arranger

I was thinking to myself this afternoon about the times I asked him, Who are you, God? and about how he had answered — Trail Guide. Teacher. Empowerer. Friend. Warrior.

I wasn’t really asking that today, but he interrupted my thoughts to say, “and Great Re-Arranger.”

Suddenly some events of Joseph’s life came to mind. Joseph, the dreamer, youngest son of Jacob, owner of the many-colored coat, had an agenda, an itinerary and plans for his day. But his jealous brothers changed all that. Some plotted to kill him, one plotted to save him, but he was sold into slavery and they all lied to their father about his fate.

Joseph’s agenda, itinerary and plans were all rearranged. And so were those of his brothers! (Genesis 37; 50:20)

Saul the law-enforcing Pharisee had a wonderful career, zealously defending the Law of Moses. On the road to Damascas, he had an agenda, an itinerary and plans for his day. But a jealous God changed all that! His agenda, itinerary and plans were all rearranged – and his name was changed too. (Acts 9; 26)

Have you made New Year’s Resolutions for 2019? Do you have an agenda, itinerary, plans for the year? You should probably hold them lightly.

2019

I’ve been reading opinions and prophecies from around the world about 2019, from both secular and spiritual sources. The majority are optimistic and encouraging, although some contain cautions as well, warning about continued opposition from certain areas.

Overall things will improve, they say, socially, politically, and spiritually, eventually. There may be a bit of conflict beforehand — but 2019 will be a good year, even a great year. It all depends on who you believe.

Those messages weren’t all alike, of course, but they were similar. That was thought-provoking to me, considering they came from all corners of the world, from varied spheres of interest. All those from spiritual leaders encourage continued prayer.

And so I prayed about it.

“What should we expect in 2019?” I asked the Lord. Here’s what I believe he told me:

“Confusion and uncertainty will affect many in the body of Christ. Am I believing right? they will ask themselves. Am I praying right? Did I vote right?”

“Why?” I asked him. The answer was just a short list with no further description or explanation:

  • Flashpoint
  • Critical mass
  • Paradigm shift

I had to give those things some thought, and do quite a bit of research to be sure I knew just what they were (see below). Then I thought some more.

Apparently those things will happen, or begin to happen, in 2019.  No doubt any one of them would cause and/or contribute to confusion and uncertainty around the globe, including across the church world. After a while I prayed again and asked, “How should we respond to those things?”

“Having done all to stand, STAND,”  he said, emphasis on STAND. 2019 is going to be an interesting year, I think.

————————————————-

Flashpoint: Chemically, the lowest temperature at which vapors of a volatile material will ignite, when given an ignition source. Gasoline and spark plugs in a car engine, for example.

In International Relations, a flashpoint is an area, or a dispute, that has a strong possibility of developing into a war. Political pundits today include the Middle East as a major flashpoint.

Critical mass: The smallest amount of fissile material needed for a sustained nuclear chain reaction, such as in a nuclear power plant. (A supercritical mass would result in an explosion, such as the atomic bomb in WWII.)

This concept is used in other contexts, such as group dynamics, where it refers to the smallest percentage of people in a group needed to trigger a change. On occasion it takes quite a long time, not to mention lengthy persuasive arguments, to acquire the needed percentage. Amending the U.S. Constitution to allow all citizens to vote, for example.

Paradigm shift: Paradigm refers to a pattern, model, or overall concept accepted by most people in an intellectual community, because of its effectiveness in explaining a complex process or set of data. A paradigm shift is a change caused when someone discovers data that disproves the pattern or concept.

One notable scientific paradigm was believing the Earth is the center of the universe, that the sun, moon and stars all revolve around the Earth. That changed with the discoveries of Copernicus and others (telescope) in the 17th Century.

“Justification is by grace alone” (Romans 1:17) was a major paradigm shift in the religious world instigated by Martin Luther and resulting in the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century.

Class Notes – weeks 1 through 18 uploaded

To access any of these notes, click on the page (above) Principles of Intercession Class Notes: Introduction, and a drop-down menu will appear.

These notes appear in the order in which they were presented and discussed in class. No subject titles are listed for individual weeks, and frequently our discussion of a particular topic took up several classes.

Class Notes 11: Summary will give you an idea of what information was being covered for weeks 1 through 10. A lengthy Expanded version of the Summary is also available.

Questions and/or comments are welcome.

Principles of Intercession: A new section added

Beginning in the Fall of 2016, I began teaching an adult Sunday School class, Principles of Intercessory Prayer (intercession).

I have begun uploading my notes from those classes to this blog.

If you decide to read or study using these notes, please take the time to read the many Bible passages that are mentioned. Topics covered in the study include:

  • Definitions of intercession and prayer; not the same thing
  • Why pray? Prayer is God’s idea, his command
  • Authority of the believer in prayer
  • Knowing and praying the will of God
  • God’s faith needed to pray in faith
  • Hindrances to answers: doubt, unbelief, sin
  • Power of your words, before, during and after prayer
  • Gifts and work of the Holy Spirit
  • Intercessors of the Bible
  • History of revival – Great Awakenings / Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

Over the last 40 plus years I have collected, read and studied many books on prayer and intercession. At some point I may try to list those as an addendum. Many of the thoughts, ideas and principles contained in my notes have been prayerfully assimilated over the years from quite a few of those authors. Thus they may seem familiar to you.

One book that I purchased in bulk and gave away to class members and others is “Authority in Prayer, Praying with Power and Purpose” by Dutch Sheets (published 2006). I highly recommend it to anyone serious about participating in intercessory prayer.