Steppin’ Out: Reflections on Global Day of Worship

Global Day of Worship1

It’s now the 364th day of the year (sorry I started writing this on 30th December and I’m only finishing it on the 31st).

Today, I was challenged as I went to New Creation Church (I’m in Singapore at the moment) for the final service of 2012. I was there during the first service of the year (watching it via livefeed in a movie cinema) on 1 January 2012 when Pastor Joseph Prince announced the theme for the year: Unceasing Fruitfulness.

Today, the challenge was from Psalm 90:12 – that God might teach us to number our days because there will be days that aren’t lived for God and which will be completely lost. God can (and does) redeem those days that were lost, but only in today’s terms.

I can say that 2012 has been a year filled with God’s fruitfulness in my life.

One of the highlights for me was the privilege of being able to organise Global Day of Worship for Perth this year.

The story was one of God’s orchestration, because frankly, I had never organised something like this before.

It all started a few months earlier as I was on Facebook posting a photo (as I often do) of something I was about to eat. At that moment, my friend Wendy Yapp Facebook-messaged me and joined me into a conversation with Global Day of Worship director, Eunice Barruel.

Within minutes of our chatting to each other (via the keyboard and my dessert’s subsequent melting) we struck a chord and Eunice asked if I could coordinate GDW in Perth.

I was hesitant at first.

I’m sure you’ve all had that feeling – when faith and doubt fight it out and you are left really not sure of what to do. So I said to Eunice that if I could get a team together, then I would do it.

When I said “team”, I meant “musicians and worship leaders”, which really was quite short-sighted of me. Not long after, it became quite apparent that the task was bigger than just getting musicians together to facilitate worship: there was venue hire, logistics, marketing and a whole lot of other peripheral (but important) things to organise too.

But within a week, some of the core group of musicians had agreed and so I guess I had to eat my words and commit to organising GDW.

One of the things I learnt was that sometimes we need to just step out in faith. Hebrews 11:8 says that “by faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”

I think we seldom understand the gravity of what Abraham was doing. If you think about it, it was much more than a man going after God’s promise by faith. Can you imagine what Abraham must have gone through?

  • He was being asked to change his religion.
  • He was being asked to abandon his culture.
  • He had to leave behind his extended family and his property.
  • He had to move a lot of people and possessions; presumably he had to explain himself to a lot of people who were questioning what he was going to do.

And for what? The writer of Hebrews says that Abraham had no idea where he was going. He just knew that God had promised him a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God. And so, in faith, Abraham stepped into the unknown. In that same step, he also left everything that was known.

I’m not saying that I have experienced anything that dramatic, but organising GDW was a step of faith. I had no idea how it would work out. People used to ask me “how many people are you expecting to come?” and I would say, “I have no idea. I haven’t even really thought about it. I suppose, a hundred?”

But beyond just a worship event, and beyond the fact that we would be participating in a world-wide 24-hour continuum of praise, I believed that GDW had to be something which was also a step towards unity amongst worshippers in the city.

So part of the process of assembling the team was also about getting musicians and worship leaders from different churches involved.

We had some anointed worship leaders with whom I had worked in the past, but then more prominent worship leaders came on board, including Mel and Daron Crothers and Michael Battersby. In the end, there were musicians from 10 different churches on the team. This was only something God could have done!

And I believe that this is just a stepping stone to further expressions of unity amongst worshippers in our city.

As GDW drew near, I was re-reading some of my old posts, and I came across this in my very first post:

Even though we had doubts when we stepped out, like Peter we sensed the voice of Jesus steadying our steps and keeping us from sinking.

We’ve also felt the call to unite chuches in worship. Can it happen?

I didn’t know what to expect when I wrote that on 4 December 2011.  But just a year and 150 posts later, God showed me that it can happen!

I could not for a moment imagine that on the night of GDW, over 250 people from different churches would show up in passionate, rousing worship and intercession, inviting the rule and reign of God into our city.

It was more than the night of course: it was also the brothers and sisters from different congregations appearing out of the woodwork, offering help with planning, promotion, advice, logistical support and prayer cover. It was indeed a team effort!

If there was any doubt that God was a covenant-keeping God who is able to fulfill his pomises and plans, one of the worship leaders also shared with me before one of our rehearsals a passage of Scripture that (unbeknownst to her) had been a life theme that I had carried ever since I was baptised in 1991. It was from Jeremiah 1:5-10:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with youand will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

This passage was actually prophesied over me during my baptism by the mother of one of the worship leaders on our team 21 years ago. The next I heard it declared over me was in 2007 when I led a mission team to Japan to conduct a worship seminar. And now, here was the verse again. I knew that what we were doing with GDW was not only significant for the city, but it also significant for the nations.

To hear that Word released at such an opportune time was overwhelming – I sensed that God was reassuring me even in the moments when I was constantly asking the questions: who am I? and why am I even doing this?

I have a lot more to share about GDW, but I will probably leave it for another day.

But I will conclude with this: we are all on journeys and I have definitely not arrived by any sense of the word. But I’m glad that God often marks our lives with milestones to remind us that He has plans for us and that He will fulfill the dreams He puts in our hearts. Being part of GDW was one of those moments.

Here’s the video again if you missed the event:

Photograph courtesy of DTW Photography and Darren WoonVideo courtesy of Peter Liddicoat and Visual Reality Productions.

God Will See to It

In my post yesterday on giving and worship, I talked about Jehovah Jireh – the God who provides.

My wife the theologian was quick to point out that the literal rendering of that name actually means “the Lord sees”.

When rendered that way, the meaning is even richer.

Think about it.

Before you ever had a need, before you ever faced a challenge, God had already seen it. God sees.

As Abraham and Isaac went up one side of the mountain, a ram was already ascending from the other side. The provision was already being made so that at the very point of need, all that Abraham had needed was supplied. God will see to it.

And in the midst of that provision, Abraham’s response was to make the sacrifice, to worship.

Another translation of the name is “he will be seen”. In other words, in God’s provision, He will be seen.

So Jehovah Jireh is our God who provides. He sees the need and He sees to the provision so that in that provision, He will be seen!

Hip-Pocket Worship

I like money. There! I’ve said it. (Hopefully, I don’t love money). If you were honest, you would more likely than not admit that you like money too.

Why? Money makes life more comfortable and convenient. It helps you meet your basic needs, but can also supply you with some of life’s luxuries as well, depending on how much of it you have.

Money in itself, of course, has no value. In most countries, it’s a crumpled piece of paper with special ink printed on it. In more sophisticated countries, it’s difficult-to-tear plastic. But even then, it’s inherent value is negligible. It’s value lies in what it can be exchanged for.

At cell group last week, we were discussing why God puts so much emphasis on money, giving and tithing. One person thought that it was important for us to bring our tithes “into the storehouse” to support those who do the work of ministry within the church. Now, I admit that there are some verses in the Bible that talk about collecting funds for the priests, leaving things behind for the poor etc.

But if we think of money just as resource, i.e. a means to fulfill God’s work, then I think we underestimate just how powerful and unendingly resourceful our God is. Put simply, God doesn’t need our money to accomplish His work!

I believe that, at its core, God puts a lot of emphasis on money because it goes to the root of who or what we put our faith in, and therefore, it is entirely an issue about our worship.

We can put it another way: money is the currency of the world. Faith is the currency of heaven.

The writer of Hebrews tells us plainly: “without faith, it is impossible to please God” and that God “rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb 11:6).

In Luke 16:13, Jesus puts money into the frame as far as worship is concerned. He said:

No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

The last sentence there is almost a non-sequitur. Why didn’t Jesus just say you can’t serve God and your career, or your comfort or your self-image? Instead, he posits money right in the centre of the issue, and no less, “Money” with a capital “M”.

The reason is this: the more we rely on money, the less we will need to rely on God.

I had a friend who recently left a salaried job to start his own ministry. My immediate concern for him was how he was going to support himself and his family. I’m sure he wrestled with that issue at a greater level than I ever could imagine. But at the end of the day, he decided he would live by faith; he would put His trust in God to supply his needs. His job was to simply answer God’s call and to obey.

Since stepping out into this new ministry, my friend has had all his needs met. He was sponsored on a holiday, invited to speak at various events, asked to provide consultancy services to a church. God lined up all the work for him without his having to solicit money or opportunities from people. God is paying him to do a job he loves (or we could say, as the writer of Hebrews says, God rewards those who seek Him).

In 1 Chronicles 21, David had just sinned against the Lord, and a great plague had broken out against Israel. The Chronicler describes how David went to Araunah to buy his threshing floor so that he could offer burnt offerings to God there and arrest the plague. Here’s what transpired (vv 23ff):

Araunah said to David, “Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases him. Look, I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give all this.”

But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

Now, I don’t think that 50 shekels of silver really made a dent in David’s hip-pocket. After all, he was the most prosperous king Israel had ever had. But David knew that giving wasn’t all about the hurt and the pain of sacrifice. David understood that giving went to the heart of worship.

After the sacrifice was made, God answered with fire from heaven and the plague stopped. But more importantly, this site, the threshing floor of Araunah, would be the designated site for the temple which David has blueprinted and which Solomon was to build. The foundation of worship is giving.

This same site goes by another name: Mt Moriah. Generations ago, in Genesis 22, God tested Abraham’s faith by seeing if he would sacrifice his son, his only son, whom he loved, on the mountain. When Abraham demonstrated to God that he was prepared to freely give, even the thing most precious to him, God provided a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. And Abraham called the place “the Lord will provide” (Jehovah Jireh).

Isaac, the only begotten and beloved son, and the substitutionary ram caught by the thicket are, of course, types of Christ. Our giving to God can never overshadow His generosity towards us in giving us His Son to die in our place. And so, our giving is rooted in God’s overwhelming generosity. Freely we have received, so freely we give!

And God makes it abundantly clear. When we are prepared to give, He stands ready to provide for us and to reward those who seek Him.

At the heart of the issue of money, giving and worship then is this: will Money be our provider, or will Jehovah Jireh be our provider. Who do we trust more?