Make Him Known Among the Nations

This morning, I had the privilege of leading an epic worship time at Faith Community Church. Epic in the way young people use that word these days, but also epic in theological and prophetic scope.

Isaiah 12:4 says this:

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name
Make known among the nations what he has done
And proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things
Let this be known to all the world.

Too often, we practise a self-serving worship: a worship that, to be sure, focuses on God but then asks: what can God do for me in return? At the very least, we want to end our worship time feeling good. There’s nothing seriously wrong with that, because God blesses us as we bless Him. As Tom Inglis once said, worship is something God cannot give Himself. When we give God that which He cannot give Himself, He gives us what we cannot give ourselves.

But in Isaiah’s song, what starts as a personal act – of thanksgiving – must also end in proclamation: of declaring God’s name among the nations.

This month is Missions Month at FCC and today specifically, we were going to pray for the nations. I wanted to make sure that our worship this morning wouldn’t be “run of the mill” but that it would take our focus beyond our church and to the nations of the earth. I prayed that perhaps even in the midst of worship, God would awaken mission callings in the lives of His people.

John Piper says:

Worship … is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God.

So I challenged our team to play and sing prophetically; that our worship this morning would be a prophetic act of declaring God’s fame amongst people groups who wouldn’t know how, but we would stand in their place nevertheless in prophetic prefigurement of that day when those groups will stand before the throne of God in worship.

We were also privileged to have our missionary to East Timor join us on the worship team. I had asked if he could translate the chorus of one of the songs into Tetun (the native language of East Timor) and then I thought it would be even more powerful if he sang it on stage. As I told the team yesterday, there are two types of missionaries: program missionaries and presence missionaries. Program missionaries go to a people group to implement a program, e.g. a program of relief, a program of education or even a program of evangelism. Presence missionaries prayerfully and sensitively mediate the presence of God in the field. They don’t necessary go with an agenda, but they go in God’s Spirit and power. My brother was a presence missionary, a worshipping missionary.

Our set culminated in singing “How Great is Our God (World Edition)”, scripted in the languages of most of the mission fields targeted by FCC. Here are the lyrics:

The splendour of the King
Clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
Let all the earth rejoice

He wraps Himself in light
And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

How great is our God
Sing with me “How great is our God”
All will see how great
How great is our God

Chorus (Noongar)
Borun Maarman Yira
Kwiyalakinda Borun Maarman Yira
Moort ginaning Borun borun
Maarman Yira

Verse 1 (Tagalog)
Walang hanggang Hari
Aming tinatangi
Lahat ay magpuri
Lahat ay magpuri

Verse 2 (Bahasa)
Terang-Nya bersinar
Kegelapan t’lah sirna
Sujudlah pada-Nya
Sujudlah pada-Nya

Chorus: Chinese
我神真偉大, (wo shen zhen wei da)
歌頌祢聖名, (ge shou ni shen ming)
真偉大, (zhen wei da)
全地都看見, (quan di dou kan jian)
我神真偉大。(wo shen zhen wei da)

Chorus: Japanese
Nante idai na
Warera no Shu arata wa
Zenchi wa shiru
Idai na Kami

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end

The Godhead three in one
Father, Spirit, Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

Chorus: Tetun
Jesus Nia boot loos
Kanta ho hau  Nia boot loos
Hotu sei hare Jesus
Nia boot loos

BRIDGE
Name above all names
Worthy of all praise
My heart will sing, how great is our God

Here’s the setlist:

// We Speak to Nations (A)
// You are Good (Houghton) (A)
// Jesus Son of God (A)
// Prayer for the Nations by David Yow
// How Great is Our God (World Edition) (A)

Here’s the recording of this morning’s worship: 

I also want to take this opportunity to thank the amazing servants on Team 3 for facilitating such a significant time of worship this morning. May God continue to lift up our eyes to see the fields that are white unto harvest!

Should I Be Enjoying the Worship?

Last night, I held our first mentoring group meeting: a cosy group of guys in the worship ministry hungry to grow together and learn from each other. We had really interesting discussions, sharing our journeys, our dreams and our understanding of worship as we began to work our way together through Bob Kauflin’s book, Worship Matters.

The whole thing was actually initiated by the youngest in our group. I actually didn’t know him very well, but he came up to me one day after our church service and asked if I could mentor him. I looked at him and thought: “first, I don’t really know this person; but two, what a display of courage and humility to ask such a question of anyone”. And so I said “yes” and then we got a couple of others along and that’s how we started our group.

Anyway, last night we were talking about how worship as a lifestyle and the traps of idolatory and one of the guys asked: “is it worship when I’m playing FIFA?”

Good question.

If I believe that the whole of our lives offered to God is worship, then I suppose the answer must be “yes, I am worshipping when I’m enjoying playing games on my console”. Perhaps the issue is one of intensity rather than direction.

Of course, excessive FIFA-playing may easily cross the line into idolatory – just don’t ask me when that line is crossed.

The natural progression is to then ask this (in the context of corporate worship during Sunday services): “is it okay for me to enjoy the worship?”

I remember a worship leader who used to ask the question: “church, did you enjoy the worship?” and when everyone resounded with a mighty “Yes!”, he would say, “Wrong! Only God should enjoy the worship”. Darn, a trick question! I hate trick questions, especially after I am feeling enthused after a great time of worship which I genuinely did enjoy.

I’m now pretty sure that whilst our worship is for God to enjoy, our enjoyment of our own worship completes the cycle of God’s pleasure in our worship.

This is apparent in the Westminster Catechism, that “man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever”. No point glorifying and not enjoying. Otherwise, it’s just forced, or as they say, a duty rather than a delight.

John Piper says this:

Because God is unique as the most glorious of all beings and totally self-sufficient, he must be for himself in order to be for us…. His aim to bring praise to himself and his aim to bring pleasure to his people are one aim and stand or fall together

CS Lewis said it this way: 

We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment.

In other words, our enjoyment of God is in fact the starting point for our expression of praise, but then our satisfaction in Him itself brings pleasure to His heart. And so the cycle of enjoyment continues.

With this fresh understanding, I started to enjoy the worship – guiltlessly! And so should you!

From the 10/40 Window to the 4/14 Window

As a person who feels his calling is worship, I actually get simultaneously excited and intimidated by missions.  On the one hand, I believe that missions and worship are completely interconnected in the way that John Piper describes, that is, worship is both the fuel and the goal of missions. So it excites me whenever I hear about how God is moving in different nations around the world.  But it also freaks me out to think that one day, God may call me out into the field.

For now, I have reached a compromise.  I’m good to go on short-term mission trips to urban centres where there are at least some modern conveniences.  It doesn’t have to be a four-star hotel, as long as there is running water and I don’t have to bring a shovel.  So, I’ve been on mission trips to Hong Kong, Singapore and Sapporo, and yes, there are unreached peoples in those cities, would you believe.

Yesterday, I was really moved and excited when Pastor Benny Ho shared on “New Megatrends in Missions” as part of Faith Community Church’s Missions Month.  The message was prophetic, futurist and visionary, not only because Pastor Benny was able to clearly dissect the latest trends in missions, but because he put Faith Community Church right into the frame in terms of how, as a church, we can also flow with those trends.

One of the trends he shared was that the missions movement was shifting emphasis from “the 10/40 Window” to the “4/14 Window”.  This was the first time I had heard of the 4/14 Window.

Essentially, it was referring to the age group 4 to 14 years of age.  The idea here is that it is easier for a person aged 4 to 14 to come to Christ than an older person.  Allied to that concept was that a person’s effectiveness and impact in the kingdom of God shouldn’t be limited because the person was young.

Pastor Benny shared about the 8-year old preacher, Moko, from Sulawesi Indonesia.

In an area where persecution of the church is rife, Moko’s preaching is drawing crowds. Many are giving their lives to Jesus.  As Moko conducts his rallies, he is accompanied by another 8-year old named Selfin who is anointed in the working of healings and miracles.  So whilst Moko preaches, the preaching of the Word is accompanied by signs and wonders as Selfin ministers.  As a result of their ministry, communities in Sulawesi are being transformed.

I think for too long, the church has marginalised our kids. We relegate them to classes where they can colour in pictures, watch colourful performances and earn smiley-face stickers whilst they complete worksheets.  I think God is restoring the rightful place of children in our churches and giving them a mantle for ministry that will well excel those of adults!

I think about this in the context of worship.  Years ago, I was teaching on warfare worship at my church training school.  I observed that one of the trends in worship was that we would begin to “bring in the little ones” and realise their potential.

In the classic text on warfare worship in 2 Chron 20, the chronicler notes in verse 13 that all generations participated in worship and intercession before the Lord (to which God responded by routing the enemy forces):

 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.

This makes it very clear that “little ones” participated in enforcing God’s victory.

Look at Psalm 8:2:

From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise, because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

And Matthew 21:14-16:

The blind and the lame came to [Jesus] at the temple, and he healed them.  But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David”, they were indignant.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.  “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise?’”

I can think of worse things children can do than to shout “Hosanna to the Son of David”. And yet, many churches today are like the chief priests and teachers of the law who see the children as disruptive, rather than leaders of worship (or any other ministry for that matter).

The word “ordain” means “to establish”.  My reading of this is that God has established a capacity to praise in people from a very young age. In fact, I believe that He has established the capacity not just to praise.  Jesus, as a twelve year old taught in the temple courts and astounded his hearers.  Josiah became King of Israel at the age of 8 and was a reformer of worship.  Despite his age, he was able to lead an entire nation in following after God.

I have seen footage of Indian children in an orphanage engaging together in militant intercession and travail.  I have seen pictures of children in the SuperKids Church in Malaysia laying hands on older folks and praying for healing.  And now, I have read about Moko and Selfin in Sulawesi.

I believe that the 4/14 Window is more than just a new megatrend in missions but that a revival is starting to spread around the world that will unleash a new harvest force of children whose anointing and spiritual impact will surprise us all.

 

Worship: Treasuring God Above All Else

Here is a great definition of worship I recently came across whilst reading John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad.  Piper says (at 231):

Worship is not a gathering.  It is not essentially a song service or sitting under preaching.  Worship is not essentially any form of outward act.  Worship is essentially an inner stirring of the heart to treasure God above all the treasures of the world –

a valuing of God above all else that is valuable

a loving of God above all else that is lovely

a savouring of God above all else that is sweet

an admiring of God above all else that is admirable

a fearing of God above all else that is fearful

a respecting of God above all else that is respectable

a prizing of God above all else that is precious.

In other words, worship is right affections in the heart toward God, rooted in right thoughts in the head about God, becoming visible in right actions of the body reflecting God.

Wow, no wonder Paul says in Romans 11:36 that “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things!”

Blessing the Lord

One of my favourite Psalms, both for personal encouragement and as a great service starter is Psalm 103:

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

We bless God out of the fullness of knowing that He is the source of every blessing:  forgiveness, redemption, lovingkindness, mercies, good things and youthfulness.  Our lives are complete because of His blessings through the finished work of the cross.

The Psalmist expresses two actions:  the first (in verse 1) is our action towards God in blessing Him.  The second (in verses 2 to 4) is God’s action in blessing us.

The contrast cannot be more apt.  Our blessing of God is pithy compared to the way He blesses us, reflected in the economy of words used by the Psalmist in verse 1 to describe our human action (“bless the Lord”) compared to the torrent of imagery which follows in verses 2 to 4 describing God’s action in blessing us (He “forgives”, “heals”, “redeems”, “satisfies” and “renews”).

And here is the crux, as John Piper describes it:  when God blesses us, we are being added to, our lives are enriched.  But when we bless God, God is not being added to or enriched in any way.  By magnifying Him, we do not make Him any bigger. When we bless God, we recognise His richness and bounty, and express our thanks and praise for it.

So let us remember to bless the Lord at all times and let His praises be continually be in our mouths!

 

Worship is the Fuel and Goal of Missions

I’m reading John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad at the moment and have really been challenged by the depth of his thinking, particularly around the topic of God’s glory.

If you ever need a clearer statement about the intersection of worship and missions, go no further than the first paragraph of Piper’s treatise, where he says this (one of the most thought-provoking and challenging book openings ever, at least on the subject of worship):

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.

Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God. “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice, let the many coastlands be glad!” (Ps 97:1). “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” (Ps 67:3-4).

But worship is also the fuel of missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish. Missionaries will never call out “let the nations be glad!” if they cannot say from the heart “I rejoice in the Lord … I will be glad and exult in you, I will sing praise to your name, O Most High ” (Pss 104:34; 9:2). Missions begins and ends in worship.

If the pursuit of God’s glory is not ordered above the pursuit of man’s good in the affections of the heart and the priorities of the church, man will not be well served, and God will not be duly honoured.

And that’s just the beginning of the book! I can’t wait to read more.

I think a lot of Christianity these days is about easy-fixes and simple solutions. I think it is important that the way we live our Christian faith should be tempered by a child-like approach to God. But it is also important that we have an intelligent faith that asks deep questions; that seeks to understand God’s ways (like Moses did).

Here, we see the importance of what I call apostolic worship. I don’t believe that we truly engage in worship until we grasp God’s desire to gather the nations, not that missions is the ultimate, but because the redemption of the nations is God’s will, and God’s will is ultimate. This is the overflow of God’s desire for His glory to be manifest amongst the nations.

As we encounter God in worship, let us, as apostolic worship leaders, seek to complete the circle: start in worship – go in missions – bring the nations, as Piper says, into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory in worship.

 

New Stuff (and Some Old)

I had a quick run to the Christian bookshop this morning after breakfast and picked up some stuff.

CDS

  • Passion: White Flag
  • Matt Redman: 10,000 Reasons
  • International House of Prayer Student Awakening: Joy
  • Bethel Music: The Loft Sessions
  • Hillsong United: Live in Miami

Books

  • Craig Groeschel: What is God Really Like
  • John Piper: Let the Nations Be Glad (I’ve always wanted to read this book. It is the seminal volume which links worship and missions and gave us the famous line “worship exists because worship doesn’t“).

Reviews on some of these items will appear in future posts so keep reading!