This is my first published book, “A LIFESTYLE OF WORSHIP – Living in the Awareness of God’s Presence.” I’m very excited and grateful for God’s blessings and the opportunity to share His Word with His body of believers all over the world. I’ve been a songwriter and worship leader throughout the years and this is a collection of my life experiences and personal studies on the subject of spiritual intimacy with God. Below is the front and back covers and my official press release and I have also provided a couple of links where you can order it if you desire. I have a few extra copies and would be glad to send you a copy at a lower cost.
My first book was released in 2015 and we are encouraged to hear that it’s being offered in many bookstores and databases around the world. What a blessing to be able to express the passion of my heart and I truly give Him all the glory for communicating through me! It has 50 chapters and is a whopping 367 pages. If you would like to order a copy you can click on the book tab at the top and it will explain details about the content of the book and links to Amazon and Barnes and Noble. SPECIAL OFFER! I have some extra copies of the book and while supplies last, I can send you a copy anywhere in the U.S. for $12.50. This is a significant discount if you order through a bookstore. I am only breaking even on these copies as I gave over $8.00 a piece for them and shipping will be around $3.00, but I just want to make it affordable for whoever is interested. I know you will be blessed with the content as it’s filled with scripture, prayers, stories, and spiritual insights that will encourage and speak to your heart. Just contact me and I will be happy to send it to you. We mail our books and CD’s to State Correctional libraries around the Country and are focused on reaching out wherever we can with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Xulon Guide Offers the Proven Keys of Real Worship and Intimacy
MAITLAND, FL— William F. Holland, Jr.’s new book, A LIFESTYLE OF WORSHIP: Living in the awareness of God’s presence, ($19.49, paperback, 9781498433815; $9.99, e-book, 9781498433822) epitomizes what true Christian worship is. The author examines worship as an expression of love to God and digs deeper to show readers that the ultimate realization of worship is demonstrated by how we live. From William’s vast experience, learning how to become aware of God’s presence changes the way we think and this completely changes who we are.
“This is an in-depth presentation of not only a musical and Biblical perspective of Christian life, but also reveals human behavior,” states the author. “This content covers biblical insights along with the practical instruction to help develop a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Christ. Personal, spiritual intimacy is not embraced by those who are satisfied with being religious.”
William F. Holland, Jr., has been a worship leader for many years, as well as a songwriter, singer, musician, and recording artist. He carries the mantle of a psalmist and has much experience singing original music and leading congregations. He also serves as a theologian with two doctorate degrees and thirty years of researching God’s Word. Combining his passion for study and his experience in ministry has given him spiritual insights that he believes can help minister encouragement. The author adds, “I pray that God can use my way of presenting the gospel as an awakening, a challenge, motivation, and stimulation for others to seek Him more seriously.”
Xulon Press, a division of Salem Media Group, is the world’s largest Christian self-publisher, with more than 12,000 titles published to date. Retailers may order A LIFESTYLE OF WORSHIP: Living in the awareness of God’s presence through Ingram Book Company and/or Spring Arbor Book Distributors.
APPLE IBOOK EBOOK PAGE
BARNES AND NOBLE
This is a spiritual resource for those who desire a more intimate relationship with Jesus. A Lifestyle of Worship, is a Biblical perspective about the beauty of being aware of the Lord at all times instead of seeing our connection with Him as an act of religious service. I pray this labor of love will edify and encourage the body of Christ to become more determined to turn away from the world and turn their eyes upon Christ. Xulon Press has made a trailer for the book and I am very excited to make it available here. If you are interested in ordering the book, I have inserted links to Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Apple ibooks into the “BOOK” tab at the top where you will find more information.
I had a great time at the Kentucky Book Fair this year. It was held at the Frankfort Convention Center and is the largest literary event of the year. I sold a few books and met talented authors along with many wonderful people. It was truly an honor to be invited and it was a truly memorable experience.
Living in the AWARENESS of God’s presence is not as easy as it might sound. I personally believe that our technical and stress filled culture has hurt us as much as it has helped us when it comes to us being free from distractions. For example, when is the last time you turned off the television and set aside the cell phone to read the Bible, study or pray? Yes, our lives have more gadgets and things may be more convenient than the old ways, but this modernization has also captured much of our precious attention that we could be spending with our Lord. We are so busy trying to squeeze in everything we need to do, there is very little time for us to be alone with Him. And, as if we are not having all the resistance we can handle from our own carnality, we have an enemy who works day and night to hinder and disrupt our spiritual focus all that he can. How can we get started on making a lifestyle change?
Here is Part one for your reading enjoyment.
A LIFESTYLE OF WORSHIP
Living in the awareness of God’s presence
REPENTANCE BEFORE ADORATION
“The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the people see His glory” (Psalm 97: 5-6).
Being in God’s presence is the highest place of spiritual joy and peace that is attainable in any existence. When we step from this realm into the next dimension, those who are born of God’s Spirit and have followed the Lord of creation will have the ultimate privilege to worship and adore Him for all eternity. For His children, the joys of His truth reveal that we need not wait to enter into His gates and courts of glory, but we can abide in this divine reality here and now!
Worship is idolizing our most valuable treasure, and those who adore the Savior of the world cannot fathom the awesome, majestic wonders that are waiting for them in the life to come. His “good news” contains the mysteries of His truth. His children need not wait until they leave this earth to enter into His gates, but they have been invited to abide in this divine reality with Him now! Though our journey is taking place in a harsh environment of darkness, and we constantly struggle in the war against our flesh and the devil, the occasional glimpse into the province of God’s holiness and His revelational truth is enough to excite and cause us to reach heavenward with fervent anticipation. It is with passionate expectation and the experiential knowledge within our soul that we can place all of our hope in His Word. I am convinced without any doubt and completely trust my life to the Alpha and Omega, the Great I am of infinity. We can look forward to dancing and singing and shouting praises to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords forever as we will never grow tired of repeating holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come. Let us continue our journey together as we learn more about who He is which will cause us to fall deeper in love with Him. May we understand how to deny our flesh so that our own carnal nature will not prevent us from living the life He died for us to live. This collection of thoughts is about loving the God of the Bible with as a lifestyle and submitting to His authority in the beauty and holiness of His presence. It is my prayer that all will allow the God who made them to “continue” being the Lord of their hearts. May your desire to abide and enjoy the abundant spiritual life that He has provided inspire you to give Him the reverence and honor He is so worthy to receive.
With so many different religious worldviews and expressions of spirituality in the world, I am sure there are many questions pertaining to the reasons and rituals of worship. It is difficult not to offend the masses when teaching dogmatically about giving our hearts to a particular religious deity, especially when people believe they are communicating with their divine “higher power” the best way they know how. It is true that worship is a deeply personal spiritual experience; however it is just as important to know “who” we are exalting as it is why. My intention with this book is not to explain about the kaleidoscope of world religions or the Biblical reasons why there cannot be thousands of philosophic paths to heaven. These writings about worship are not intended to condemn other belief systems that are devoted to other doctrines that capture the imagination of the human mind but rather my particular concentration is the Christian view that is centered on the triune God of the Bible. Even reducing our focus on this “narrow way” of spiritual interpretations, we find there are still many different styles and convictions within the umbrella of the Christian faith. With this in mind, I hope to build a sense of unity with those who seek to personally know God instead of establishing more walls that hinder and separate our mutual adoration for the Master of the universe. I believe the Father sent His Son Jesus to shed His blood and die on the cross so that we might be saved, redeemed, ransomed, and restored into His family and Kingdom and intertwined into the ultimate of covenant relationships. As we receive Christ into our hearts by faith, we become “born again” into Him and with this holy and intimate infatuation between God and humans, we are drawn and compelled by the Holy Spirit to bow down and worship the Father for His endless love and grace. This is a very compact illustration of the Christian life I am referring to, and it is in this view that I convey my intentions and sentiments throughout this work.
In this first chapter we are establishing the realities of how God will not be enthused or obligated to accept any type of attitude, offering, or imagination that is tainted with the corruption of carnality. He is holy and enjoys having mercy on the blind and ignorant, but He likewise has no pleasure listening to the babbling of religious hypocrites or clever spectators that intentionally try to play games, manipulate or make business deals with point systems or grades. “For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without (apart from) the law shall also perish without the law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law” (Romans 2:11-12). The Lord loves our offerings and sacrifices, but they must be pure and given in the spirit of brokenness and humility. Worship is only an interest and practice to those who realize the importance of prayer, love, honesty, and growing in wisdom and sanctification that stabilizes the foundation of responsibility to abide in His presence. Worship is not something we do as an occasional “high five” when life is going good, but rather it is a result of a heart that is remorseful in sorrow along with the overflowing joy of continually walking with God in a state of spiritual awareness whether in comfort or crisis. As being sensitive of His still small voice becomes a normal way of living, we realize how important it is to allow His Lordship to teach us how to have a disciplined and balanced conscience that is dedicated and discerning. We cannot comprehend who God is and what He has done without also coming into the knowledge of who we are in Him. Selah. The heart that appreciates His love and is grateful for His truth will respond to Him with praise, thanksgiving, reverence and honor, but the fulfillment of worship comes within the revelation that we have taken a holy wedding vow that seals our intimate relationship with Him as the Lord of our lives.
Purity is NOT an option. We pray before we begin the journey into God’s presence just like the priest that presided over the tabernacle in the wilderness. As we worship the King of Kings, it is crucial to become transparent and ask Him to forgive us all sin and inferior attitudes and thoughts. Not because it seems to be the religious thing to do but rather to invite His holy refiner’s fire that burns away any impurities that can present us to Him as spotless. We will not desire to approach Him or interact with Him if we have darkness within our conscience because sin makes us want to “avoid” God’s perfect judgment. Realizing that we must be clean before go into His holy of Holies is developing a reverential fear of who He is. This revelation changes our attitude of arrogance and melts us into humility and gratefulness for His mercy and love. God’s holiness is poured through pure vessels. Our genuine “freedom” from sin releases us to have confidence as we openly and boldly “profess our passion!” Let us pray that as our life becomes an open worship service that others will want to come with us.
As a matter of fact I have three phases of the worship experience that I have learned from the Lord and believe are crucial to bringing everyone into one accord. They are REPENTENCE – (asking Him to sincerely forgive us of our sins), PRAISE – (thanksgiving for what He has done), and WORSHIP – (continuing deeper into His presence toward His Holy of Holies). This is not a religious format but rather follows a divine order that allows us to proceed correctly. (We will explain later in more detail about the tabernacle of Moses). You see, many people stagger into the church service on Sunday spiritually “distant” from the Lord, especially if they have not taken care of “business” throughout the week. I realize it seems strange that Christians would not pray or repent daily, but sadly many times that is the case. Nonetheless, they come into the corporate meeting and are feeling the weight of guilt and sin which automatically causes them to sense that God is far away. With this much distance between them and God, no wonder they can hardly raise their eyes or open their mouths to sing. Again, this is why it is crucial for God’s people to spend time with Him BEFORE they come into the sanctuary, and for all leaders to be prepared with prayer.
Those up front must come into the realization about this revelation and be committed to leading the entire assembly into an honest prayer of repentance. To presume that everyone is on fire and overflowing with The Holy Spirit is a perfect example of not being spiritually discerning and only concerned with presenting a religious program. We must tear down the walls that are isolating us, and we must face our sins and deal with them before we can be restored! This barrier of hardness and rebellion will close our ears and diminish the amount of the message we may hear which is one of the most important purposes of our gathering together. The calloused heart is not as receptive, and our separation from God’s presence hinders our conviction if we do not ask the Lord to help us. Allow me to say that it only makes sense that His children would not want to crawl into God’s lap and lay their heads on His chest if they are saturated with bad thoughts and wrong attitudes. It is SIN that quenches the desire to worship, and sadly we hear that certain churches feel dead and cold. I know we do not want to admit it but it is because the house is filled with sin and the Lord has backed away! There is even such a drastic measure where the Lord will remove the candlestick from certain assemblies because of their refusal to deal with sin! Those who consider themselves spiritual enough to recognize this problem should pray “before” the service including intercession for the hearts of all in attendance and even the atmosphere before anyone enters the sanctuary. You see, we do not go to meet God at His house, we bring Him with us! The church is God’s people – where they meet is only a building and I’m still trying to figure out who said there had to be building at all?
A highly successful minister was compelled one day to share his thoughts on why his church was so filled with God’s power and what was the secret as to the number of souls that were being saved and healed. He asked them to follow him, and as they came to the basement door, he opened it and revealed a large group of saints who were on their knees crying out to God in fervent prayer. He humbly said; “it is not me but the power of intercession.” Can you imagine the raging fire and mighty wind of revival that could sweep around the world if every church would begin to passionately fast and pray? An assembly of believers filled with God’s Spirit is a group of disciples that have surrendered their wills and taken up their crosses. God’s remnant should pray for the body of Christ every day, the pastors, the leaders and each member of the flock. What a difference it would make if Christians would pray in the Spirit on the way to the gathering and not stop even when they sit down in the sanctuary. This focus and commitment would not only make a difference in the local assembly experience but also in the “big picture” of everything God wants to do everywhere. This is revival thinking! This is a Holy Ghost stirring of excitement! Through prayer, God’s power can be explosive and many hearts can be changed every time we meet together! Do we want the floodgates of His presence to fill our times of worship? Do we have a burden for lost souls and want to see people saved and re-ignited for God’s service? Do we desire to see His miracle power, anointing, salvation and healing compassion being poured out to those who need His touch? Is this what we are seeking when we assemble together?
How many failures will it take for us to realize that without repenting before we go on stage, our praise service will continue to be just another talent show? Just as we examine ourselves before we take communion, we must also deal with our sin and allow Him to purify us with His blood. The Christian life is a process of being sharpened, cleansed, purged, and grinded, sanded, washed and renewed and is what yielding our will to Him and willingly lying on His sacrificial altar is all about. Just like the Old Testament Priest that was very careful to enter with a pure heart, we too must keep a check on our thoughts and attitudes. If there is any garbage between us and the Lord, we will not really want to take that corruption into His presence. This is why we ask God to forgive us each time we worship – we are openly professing that we realize our need to constantly “take out the trash” and that purity in the spirit of meekness allows Him to draw near to us.
When we come before His throne we must “prepare” our hearts for the bright, penetrating light of His holiness to shine into our consciences and flood our senses with His Glory. The same reason we clean our houses when we know company is coming is a practical illustration that helps us understand why we want to have a pure conscience in the presence of God. The image of Christ is to be reflected from us to all people, but how can His perfect purity come from within or be reflected from dirty vessels? We do not step on the stage with an agenda to manipulate or perform a rock show, but we draw near and reach out to Him because we love who He is and are hungry and thirsty for His presence. God cannot and will not be contained or controlled by our religious programs or made to fit into our ministry schedule. As soon as we create a system or a formula and think we have it all figured out, we miss him. We cannot demand or command Him; we cannot manipulate Him or bargain with Him. It is true that personality is an important part of the effectiveness, but we must remember even that is a part of the divine spiritual calling that He has pre-destined for us. We are anointed to do what God has destined us to accomplish. Our ability is not as important as our availability and being prepared spiritually is more important than our instrument being in tune, our voice clear, or even us knowing the melody of the song.
THE CORPORATE ASSEMBLY
Since most people associate worship with church, it would only be natural to include the corporate assembly within our thoughts on the subject of worship. The church is a collection of individuals that contain God within the temple of their body. Though spiritually they are a “lively stone” the church of God is NOT made of natural brick. The local visible church is made up of groups of Christians that fellowship together; the body of Christ consists of every member of God’s family that is THE church of Jesus Christ. Sadly, it seems the masses have still not received this revelation. Most people continue to believe that they “go to church” or that their particular flavor is God’s favorite, and this has caused the confusion we have today. I have been entangled with not understanding the concept of the church, and I could write a book specifically about this subject, but nonetheless we must continue in our mission to preach the full gospel and with all diligence. The Lord has revealed to my heart that pride has caused me (and Him) much grief within the assemblies. What does this have to do with worship? In our intimate relationship with God, there is nothing more important than having a clean heart, but when we are infected with pride, there is nothing more destructive. We can be convinced of having pride under control and believe that our self-discipline keeps the darkness from crossing the borders into our life, but deception is the “silent but deadly” killer that can hold us captive within our mind, without us even recognizing it.
Unfortunately, this character trait of our old carnal nature is usually noticeable to everyone except the one that is blind and is especially common in those who are knowledgeable about their favorite subject and have spent much time becoming “smarter” than everyone else. Many have become lofty in their arrogance and could be doing great things for God’s Kingdom, but haughtiness has contaminated their spiritual growth, and now they have a very difficult time listening and accepting someone else that has fresh insight or wise counsel. I have said all of this because many times even though we are highly persuaded in our conclusions – things are not always the way they seem. It is no secret that all humans are like this to a certain point, but the difference between those who continue learning God’s wisdom and those who are hindered by their rebellious attitude comes down to seeking truth no matter how uncomfortable, and simply listening to God’s still small voice. He does not want us to compromise, but rather to follow the landmarks and road signs that are included on our personal “map” where He can use others within His divine appointments to help us see His truth more clearly. I realize that creative people are called to blaze their own unique trail, but there are many things associated with having the “green light” to proceed.
It is a revelation to finally see that pride blocks the arteries of our soul and is responsible for spiritual heart disease that can bind us as slaves to ignorance and blindness. Arrogance will produce a calloused conscience and even resentment where we spend more time criticizing the way everyone else lives instead of having compassion and demonstrating how Jesus wants to live in US! How close we are to Him depends on how pure we choose to be, and the amount of my mind that I allow God to transform will determine the level of worship I will release back to Him. Now you are beginning to understand what this book is about.
For many years I have taught and written about worship while trying to explain that it is more than a religious church service. Like most people, my studies and experiences have influenced my theological views and molded my convictions into what I believe. In my quest to find the mysteries and wonders of God’s glory on earth, I have seen bits and pieces of His super-natural power, and on these rare, occasions my faith has been strengthened. I am convinced that we must have a spiritual “vision” of purpose, which is an internal clarity of God’s will that is given through the intimacy of seeking Him personally all the while maintaining the fervency and zeal about His Word. Sadly, in my spiritual journey, the assembly has repeatedly been a place of hurt, misunderstanding, rejection, and disappointment; however this does not mean that God is not blessing His people all over the world that are seeking His face. There are pockets of disciples that have chosen to be remnant warriors and are accomplishing His will and manifesting His glory. The body of Christ is a living organism and He will not allow it to fail. God is in control and everything is going according to His plans.
The message of the hour is the same as it has always been, and that is for God’s people to abandon their wills, take up their crosses and follow Him. If we allow Him to change us, He will use our investment to change others. Amen. I have always thought I had much to offer and had no shortage of enthusiasm or willingness to be involved, but it has been my perception of how things “should be” that has frustrated me and hindered my spiritual development. We all believe we are right and want to control what we are involved with, but if this selfish audacity is not surrendered through conviction from the Holy Spirit, we will win the devil’s gold medal for being a champion of discord and strife. Instead of being a blessing for the Lord Almighty, we can actually become the leaven that He is trying to protect His people from. It is common for the average assembly to have these difficulties, but there is no excuse for the lack of discernment about our own carnality. Within our hearts we must become less while allowing Him to become more, or we will continue living as our own worst enemy.
Though the core of God’s faithful saints are alive and well, we must realize that the majority of the religious masses are still in the playpen spiritually speaking because they have not made a decision to surrender their will. Seeing this revelation, we can understand why the mighty rushing wind does not blow through the buildings and the services are consistently dry and stagnant. My disappointment of not seeing the power and presence of God in the assemblies is now put in the perspective that the general church population is not living a consecrated life and thus is not “able” to participate in God’s required level of spirituality. Sadly, this “normal” way of living is common, but in order for the manifestations of God’s glory to be revealed, there must be a desperate seeking of His presence within the life of the believer. When will we realize that the corporate assembly is a direct reflection of the passion for God in the life of the individual? Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that God’s power being manifested in the corporate services cannot happen – I am saying that it must happen in the heart first! We cannot put the cart before the horse by expecting to lie around on the couch all through the week watching TV and automatically be overwhelmed with the glory of God’s presence on Sunday mornings (or any time).
As a divine principal, there must be sowing before the harvest and there MUST be an investment before we can reap a return! If we are waiting for the Shekinah clouds with lightning and thunder from God’s majesty to fill the sanctuary – we are probably going to be disappointed. Again, I am NOT losing my faith or compromising but just trying to see the “big picture” of what the glorious church is all about. Yes, the Lord desires to move mightily when His children meet together, but He cannot manifest the literal glory of His throne when the majority of the members do not believe it and do not even want it! Since we are the “temple” of the Holy Ghost, I believe this mystery is being revealed unto those seekers that have become determined to give their entire life to God and know His absolute truth. Even if the traditional local assembly ends up meeting in the isolation of homes because of persecution, the power and presence of God will still have the same endless possibilities as it ever did. When God’s people become less and allow Him to become more, there will be no limit as to the amount of His glory that will be revealed to the world. The “whosoevers” will NOT experience Christ behind the four walls of a service because they are not there! Our mission is to go into the highways and byways and allow the lost to SEE the light of Jesus everywhere we go and in every word we say! Our heavenly Father desires for us to worship Him in Spirit and truth and to manifest miraculous healings and miracles because He loves us and wants to encourage our faith. He longs for men and women to release their gifts into the body so all might be edified and excited; however, foundations must be laid before the house is built. If our corporate meeting preparation is donuts and coffee instead of intercessory prayer, then we have received the dividends from our investment.
As a worship pastor, I have burned the midnight oil practicing and looking forward to leading the people to God’s throne. Before services I have been like an expectant father pacing the floor, praying and excited because I just knew that something amazing was going to happen – and it did, we were given the opportunity to become wonderfully saturated in His presence! However, as I still have this exciting expectation, I now realize that I was so focused on the phenomena that I missed the fundamentals of having agape love and compassion for His saints. I thought I was being sincere because I really wanted everyone to see God’s glory. Of course there is always the crowd that does not really care about worship at all but I was not being sensitive that many were in need of a friend, a prayer, or just someone who cared. I was like Moses who asked the Lord to please show him His glory, and there is nothing wrong with this until we begin to decide “how” we want to see Him and then enthusiastically build a religious agenda around it. It is true, He desires to show us His intoxicating splendor, but He wants to develop a “balance” within us where we can see the big picture of what HE is trying to do. He desires to be our Master where He possesses our minds! He is calling for us to yield our will and allow Him to rule on the throne of our heart as LORD – not to develop another entertaining program! When we learn that PRAYER will open the eyes of our hearts to know His truth, and become determined to make this a constant awareness within our consciences, we will truly walk in the power of His Spirit with confidence and victory. It will not matter if there are ten or ten thousand, we will enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise! When His highest law of love becomes the center of our focus, we will abide in the heavenly peace and joy that only comes from resting in His bosom. We will not fully appreciate the blessing until we have willingly made the sacrifice – he that has an ear let him hear.
Allow me to say, we are to believe in the “full gospel” that is the New Testament representation of His Kingdom with an unlimited supply of spiritual gifts, but please hear my message; the most valuable treasures of wisdom are learning how to demonstrate the fruits of His character! Maybe the reason we have not “seen” the manifestations like we have dreamed is because we “believed” the gifts were evidence of being filled with His Spirit, and in this, confusion the gifts became more important to us than being transformed into His image. Amen or oh me. God is not a faucet handle or a cosmic vending machine but demands holiness and humility and in His sovereignty will do what HE wants to do whenever and however! May we also remember that most of the time He can only intervene according to the conditions of faith and obedience. Whatever the situation, it is our responsibility to ABIDE in Him as His ambassadors and representatives of His Kingdom, and, hopefully, others will be convicted and inspired to seek Him – what else can we do? Yes, God’s people will be filled with His power and with signs and wonders following, but the beauty of holiness and the perfection of His endless love must become the REAL demonstration of His church! The Father longs to reveal His wonders to those who desire to see heaven on earth, but it will not be within a heart and mind controlled by carnality.
The flesh loves to control our thoughts, and because he has “called the shots” for so long, he thinks he runs our lives (and most of the time he does). BUT when Jesus becomes the “Lord” of our hearts, this old default system of emotional feelings is not supposed to control us; as followers of Christ, we are called to be led by the Holy Spirit – but you may ask “what does this have to do with leading others into worship or praising His Holy Name?” Well, though sometimes life seems simple, when we look a little deeper at the war between the flesh and spirit, we begin to see a divine order that God has implemented within the fabric of our being. It is based on principles that come from His infinite wisdom and perfection. This “absolute truth” can be recognized as the foundation of the highest knowledge and is a direct reflection of God’s omnipotence. When we yield our trust in mortal intelligence and allow Him to fill us with His divine reality, the world will be able to see Him “within us” more clearly.
In corporate worship, all of our fatigue, worries, apathy, fear, anxiety, depression, sin and strife must be checked at the door, or we will definitely hinder our mission instead of help. Whether we are leading worship or have just come to receive from The Lord, we must be “on guard” to be tested in our feelings because our flesh does not want to give God praise, neither does our will want to die (we want our rights), and of course the enemy does NOT want to see us be “anointed” in our assignments. Whatever we bring in with us – the people will see it and be affected by it (good or bad). If we hold on to the baggage that is keeping us miserable, our spirits cannot enter into the holy of holies, and we hinder the spiritual atmosphere. Yes, of course there are times when we are facing adversity and are feeling the stress of a crisis, but it is how we “project” these feelings into the environment and the intentions within our conscience.
If we are leading in some type of ministry, we should pray through the situation or allow someone else to take our place until we can gain composure. If we are falling apart in front of everyone, we can bring more sorrow and discouragement to others that are struggling. I have witnessed members of the band that came in upset, and it seemed as if they were carrying a dark cloud of frustration and hopelessness into the camp. Many have never realized that oppression can be emitted into the atmosphere, and these attitudes with out of control emotional storms going on in the background can hinder and distract the service. I was visiting a church one evening, and they were having a pot-luck dinner in their recreation building. I was standing in line and could not help hearing the conversation behind me. A young adult was talking to an older member about how dark and depressing her life has been and how it was a struggle to even get out of bed in the mornings. She went on and on about her problems and how she seemed to live in a fog of sadness and felt that her future was hopeless. The older member was trying to laugh and make light of the conversation by reassuring her that things would get better. The interesting and disturbing discovery about this story is that as I finally turned around and introduced myself, this person was the worship leader. I had already been informed that the church was struggling in this area and the main complaint was that it seemed sleepy, without enthusiasm, and spiritually dry. It did not take a rocket scientist to realize where the problem was coming from.
To say the least, it is very important to check our baggage at the door if we are going to demonstrate leadership ministry. Being in the right frame of mind along with a clean heart and being prepared makes a huge difference. If we are not ready to be used, we need to just fall on our knees right there and repent so that He can take over the service which is what He wants to do anyway. And if there are others that are struggling and we know about it, we must have the courage and boldness to advise that they sit this one out until they can deal with whatever is coming against them. Enthusiasm is infectious but so is depression, and it is essential to be sensitive as to what kind of influence we are projecting. Let us not forget that the devil is trying to attack all of God’s people, and he especially loves to turn up the heat right before we go to church. How many times have husbands and wives become involved with an argument on the way to church and it ruined the occasion for both of them. This is exactly what Satan is trying to do, not just with the ones involved but to bring static and chaos to the entire congregation in order to quench the atmosphere which could interfere and deflate the meeting.
Many people know that altars in the church are a familiar part of the “furniture” of the sanctuary as much as the pulpit, pews and baptismal, but they can be anywhere we designate as the secret closet of prayer. The point of altars is the hope that we will allow God to ALTER us and my prayer is that we never develop such a familiarity with the beauty of consecration that we forget why God is calling us to “live” on them. The physical structure itself is just a symbol that represents a consecrated “meeting” place with God. The conscious altar is within the holy sanctuary of our hearts where we stay alert and focused on our thoughts and behavior and His constant presence. Those who have a serious personal relationship with the Lord have learned that staying on His altar is walking in His Spirit – and the only way to live the abundant VICTORIOUS life! In simple, straight to the point language – we as disciples of Jesus Christ need to spend more time being ENGAGED with Him! In the midst of the church services and in any situation where the souls of others are in danger, we as Christians should have them at the top of our prayer list. If we are in the corporate assembly, we should be praying that everything that is done in the service can be used by God to touch the hearts of the listeners. We should be praying for the music and that each word of every song would be a divine appointment to every heart that carries God’s message and with the conviction of the Holy Spirit and that through this miracle the individuals will deal and respond to God’s voice. When I lead worship or teach the word, I trust that God’s power is touching every person in some way or another. It is a blessing to see people being stirred and challenged by God and then have the courage and faith to find their way to a place of prayer. It is awesome to see hearts break from the weight of sin or faith being released to receive healing and restoration. Can all this happen in the worship service? Absolutely! I have been in services where the power of God fell so heavily that the entire service was nothing but worship and praying. This is the beauty of being in a church body that is committed to ALLOWING the Holy Spirit to be in complete control.
Allow me to say something here without the intention of siding with traditional rituals or emotional chaos that is confused with God’s glory, because I believe we can become legalistic in both extremes (and I have seen both). I realize that in most churches there are time restrictions and children’s ministries that need to be released at certain intervals. And I understand that many people are set in their routines and do not like anything weird or different when it comes to their church programs. However, I believe it is noteworthy to mention that our time of assembly has been called by God and is in accordance to HIS affairs – not ours. If we truly have every intention to follow Him in everything and we are convinced that our life and ministry should be controlled by Him, why would we think that it is strange if He wanted to do something that was not a part of our agenda? Actually it is difficult to understand why the churches proclaim that they would love to see revival and a tremendous move of God to revitalize and “set on fire” the hearts that are flickering with enthusiasm, yet the first time something happens that seems odd or out of order everyone becomes uneasy. It seems more like we want Him to bless our ideas and our programs exactly the way they are, without Him “modifying them or making changes. I would hope that everyone would agree that our worship services have wonderful potential to uplift and encourage the entire church, but we must realize that it will take more than talent or expensive equipment – it will take prayer. Yes, hands can be laid on those who are hurting and seeking, and prayers of hope and inspiration can be spoken over those wanting more of His Spirit and a deeper dedication to Him, but there is no substitute for the “one on one” intimacy of an individual bowing before God. The Lord knocks but we must open the door.
Altars can be traced to the beginning of civilization as places of sacrifice along with the concept of pledging allegiance to the one you trust with your soul. So how does the modern prayer altar in the church sanctuary connect with the Old and New Testament references to surrender and self-denial? The first thing is obvious with both of them; they represent death. We know that altars were used in the Old Testament as places where blood was shed to cover sin and where animal sacrifices and incense were burned. Our minds think of blood drenched boulders or burning coals of fire which can bring intimidation but again these images are an external illustration of the internal work where Jesus changes who we are. In the book of Exodus we see a treasure of spiritual blueprints and mysteries that explain God’s design of salvation. Understanding our faith recognizes the cross is not only the foundation of our righteousness but a divine predestined “altar” that held the ultimate sacrifice of all eternity.
Let us be clear in our presentation of the gospel to the lost; God does not desire to kill us or burn our fleshly bodies, but He is dead serious about transforming our spirits, minds, hearts and consciences. He knows the only way any of His children can walk in His power and under the control of His Spirit is to cast down the authority and influence of our old nature. An Altar can be a place where we crawl into Father’s lap and rest our heads on His shoulder. It is a place of trust and security, where we can pour out our problems, confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, seek God’s face, listen for His answers and feel His presence. It’s not that we couldn’t do the same thing sitting in the woods or walking on the beach, but in church it is a special place we can use to intimately connect with Him. We can bow and kneel before Him as a way of humbly submitting before God; we can weep and seek His face, worship, praise, shout and dance in the glory of His holiness. We kneel at our couch or on a log in the forest but the point is that we desperately need to pray more as we ask Him to help us live for Him. It is a place of surrender, a place where we bring serious concerns to the one who made us. It is a private abode where we pray and petition God, a secluded place where we intercede and stand in the gap for the burdens of our heart. “He that dwells in the “secret place” of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust (confide)” (Psalm 91:1-2).
Sadly many churches have become too proud to bend their knees and have removed the altars to become more dignified. Some of the modern organizations of today now view Christianity as a bloody and savage gospel and are unfortunately falling away from the foundational truths of redemption. The new age seeker sensitive philosophies of ministry avoid the altars of sincere meditation in exchange for watching videos about political world events or psychology lectures. Technology can help the church but can also distract the masses from Jesus with entertainment and the “feel good” stories that compromise truth. It is wonderful to have a positive message that encourages us but let us also stay focused on Christ and never eliminate the need to constantly examine our hearts and turn away from sin. Yes, it is uncomfortable to deal with our personal issues and take the bold stand to not allow our flesh to lead us but – our lives depend on it! Many Christians have become way too relaxed with their daily sins and are deceived to think they can slide by with a lukewarm Pharisaic attitude. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove [demonstrate] what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
Have you ever fallen on the bed on your face or on the floor and stretch out before God as an act of submission and reverence? An altar represents a place of our weakness – but a portal to His infinite power. Selah. “And He said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak – then am I strong” (II Corinthians 12: 9-10). The Oxford dictionary American edition gives the meaning of the word prostrate as: “cast oneself down in humility or adoration, to lay flat on the ground as an act of submission, worship and humility, to be reduced to a helpless condition, a state of coming to an end or exhaustion.” In this we see that God wants us to realize we cannot “fix” ourselves or anything in our own strength and reminds us NOT to “lean” on our own understanding but on His everlasting arms. He wants us to stop trying to act self-sufficient and to allow Him to live HIS life through us. His perfect way is for us to trade our strength and ideas for His strength and ideas. When we lay down our will and obey only HIS voice, we will become the “vessel” of honor that God can offer His clean, pure, living water for all who are thirsty for His presence.
The whole idea of us fighting against our flesh is referring to our old nature and allow me to say that our will does NOT enjoy spending time on God’s “fire pit.” “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30) is referring to how the flesh must yield and submit to God’s Spirit in order for Him to rule and reign within us. Just because a sacrifice is lying on the coals does not mean it stops talking and complaining as the battle never ceases about who is in control. It is very common to see a “living” sacrifice crawl off the altar and change its mind about sanctification when the heat becomes extreme. We all go through the same emotional roller coasters in our everyday encounters and have plenty of opportunities to have our private “heart to heart” talks with God, which means it is OUR responsibility to make sure our carnality remains constantly in check so that it can live in its designated place – the graveyard. The refiner’s fire can burn away all of the filth and trash of our corrupt, selfish identity, leaving only the clean and pure, sparkling gold identity and character of Christ, but our discipline is a crucial part of the process.
Everyone agrees how the “normal” Christian life should be constantly evolving. We start out as a sculptor’s block or a potter’s raw lump of clay and very patiently, Jesus the “Master artist” intervenes each day trying to make us what He died for us to be. He has a vision of what we are supposed to be and does as much as He can to develop His purpose – as we ALLOW Him. If we were inanimate objects, it would be so easy to create us and admire us, but what hinders our progress is that we have a “built in” will and freedom of thought with the ability to live how we choose. If we obtain the revelation of how life is supposed to function, we can surrender our wills, and He can move forward with His creativity. But if we are stubbornly determined to live the way we want, our destiny may remain unfinished and the “author and finisher” will be very disappointed. This journey of becoming spiritually mature includes a constant awareness of the reality of “yielding” because it is the only way we will ever be transformed into His image. The altar is God’s workbench where He makes attitude adjustments and timely modifications.
There are other types of “alterations” like when we remove material or hem a garment in the world of clothing. To alter means to revamp or transform something from the way it was and now it is something different. Think about the word “repent” for a minute. It does not necessarily mean to cry or fall on our face or roll around on the ground. We may do all these things in the process, but the real meaning is to “convert” who we were – into something new. “Turning” to God implies that we stop going away from God and start moving toward Him which is what the gospel, the church and our Christian faith teaches. Our worship songs and the sacraments contain the invitation to personally examine ourselves from the “inside out,” and that is where the real alteration takes place! Every sermon should encourage anyone to take care of any spiritual “business” that is needed and should always point to JESUS as HE alone is the only one that can forgive and restore. In Joel chapter 2, verse 17 we read, “Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, spare thy people O Lord, and give not your heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, where is their God?” The priests would come from the porch of the temple to go to the altar and in between this area they were being reminded by the prophet to intercede and weep before the Lord on behalf of the sins of the people. Joel was preaching and compelling the priests to blow trumpets and to call a solemn assembly. He wanted them to sanctify a fast and bring the elders together and for everyone to fall before the Lord and repent. And NOW God is calling His people to wake up, rise up and do the same! Humility is an awareness that we are laying, walking, talking, thinking and abiding on God’s altar of holiness so that He can “alter” us into His image. Lord may our altars not just be pieces of ornate decoration. May my conscience not become calloused but broken with the burdens for souls. Stir me Father; ignite my passion for your Word and your ways. Convict me of my sins and my coldness to your Spirit. Oh God may the altar of my heart stay wet with my tears of love for you and your people, amen.
I must admit that even though I have been given the privilege to lead worship over the years, it has not really been a “zippidy-doo-dah” continuous flow of joy and contentment. Do not misunderstand me; it is beyond words to be surrounded by His Spirit and there is no higher place of love and joy than to be saturated with His presence. However, these mountain top experiences many times do not come without negativity, struggles, and attacks that are determined to hinder our mission. They are especially focused on those who lead and are always ready to bombard us with influences that carry discouragement and accusations about how disappointing it is to witness the congregation’s lack of desire to lay down their inhibitions and be at one with God. It is sad for me to say, but I believe that very few people in God’s family really know how or are interested in personal worship. I say “sad” because worship is a type of spiritual thermometer that can measure the joy levels within the individual’s heart. I understand that most of us are intimidated and embarrassed to show our emotions in public, and that comes from our old nature that wants to keep our spiritual life “private.” I have actually heard people tell me they believe their spiritual life is such a personal matter they will not even discuss their views. Of course, sadly this includes witnessing, but this is just another example of our discomfort with the subject. Now brother, do not be ridiculous; you cannot tell what is in the conscience of anyone by the way they act! Well, we may not be able to see the intent, but we can know that if people are overflowing with the Spirit of God, they will not be “acting” like a demon or ashamed or intimidated to express their allegiance to Jesus. Yes, we know the devil would love for all Christians to keep their faith to themselves, so the “light” of God would remain hidden under a basket! It is worth considering that if someone refuses to be “open” with their spiritual fervor, if they are also silent in their prayer life because when anything is filled to the point of running over, we can be assured that it will spill out! May we realize that if we are not accustomed or familiar with His presence in private, we will not feel comfortable in giving Him praise and exalting His name in public. Selah.
We will learn and discover the reasons behind this fact as we continue to grow and see our own lives through the eyes of His will. I have struggled with trying to understand what God is seeking from us in the world of corporate worship, and to be honest it seems that most of my life I have been chasing a mirage. I believe when we arrive in heaven, the atmosphere will be more super-natural than we can imagine. The worship will be indescribable glory along with the sights and sounds which there could be no human words to illustrate or explain. I believe the translation of words from the book of Revelation were given so that we could comprehend with our limited mentality, but in that realm the expressions are far higher and more developed because they are from another dimension. However, within the imagination of my heart (and I’m sure many of you have seen it also), is a portion of this vision being manifested while we have been here on earth. I have dreamed of feeling the mighty rushing wind of God blowing through the sanctuary and the Shekinah cloud of God’s glory being witnessed by His saints. I have prayed and believed that God desires to speak and demonstrate His power to all who would reach out by faith and embrace the truth of His Word. I have awakened on Sunday mornings and literally been convinced that the building would shake and the glory cloud would fill the sanctuary as Isaiah experienced. Yes, I am a dreamer, and if I do not experience this level of His presence in this life, I know I will be engulfed in this type of awe and wonder in the next life. I know the New Testament saints saw with their very eyes this magnitude of His power, and I have not given up on being in the right place at the perfect time to still be a witness of this spiritual reality. One reason why this does not manifest may be the lack of faith and the ho-hum attitude of the saints. Another reason that could be hindering the move of the Holy Spirit is the lack of reverential fear and Godly sorrow for willful sin. This is why repentance always comes before worship as we cannot go into the holy of holies with a filthy mind and a dark, corrupted heart.
Our flesh man loves to control our attitude and because he has “called the shots” for so long, he thinks he runs our lives (and most of the time he does). However, when Jesus becomes the “Lord” of our hearts, this old system that is led by our emotions is not supposed to control us anymore; we are commanded with a higher calling to be led by the Holy Spirit! But what does this have to do with leading others into worship you might ask? Actually everything! All of our fatigue, worries, apathy, fear, anxiety, depression, sin and strife must be checked at the door, or we can very easily become more of a hindrance than a help. The church does not need any more negativity – it needs purity, dedication to God’s truth and “infectious enthusiasm.” It does not matter whether we are just sitting in the congregation or preaching the sermon; we must learn to walk in the power of positive thinking, powerful confession and the joy and strength of The Holy Ghost. Many have not received the revelation about preparing to enter into God’s presence and the responsibility of getting into the position to be used. Some are curious to see God move in signs, wonders, and miracles but have never considered themselves as the one God desires to use. Others have never seen God move and really are not interested to know anything about it. It is because they are content to have church just the way they like it – comfortable and controlled. The truth is that most Christians are not spiritually prepared when they get to church, and they do not really want to be used but have settled on watching and judging.
The revelation of what God is waiting for and what He loves to receive from us will come when we finally understand there are no spectators in the realm of worship or the Christian life for that matter. Everyone that is saved through the blood of Jesus participates in praise and worship because that person has the eternal love and grace of God to be thankful for. Allow me to go further; His blood covenant is a promise to make us heirs to everything He has in exchange for our love and worship. Jesus gave His life to us – the love of His heart, and all He wants in return is the expression and dedication from our hearts. It is a shame that His children do not care enough about Him to devote their “precious” time to studying and praying about God’s needs. Many see church as a show to watch but have never thought that they are a part of God’s program. It is much easier to let someone else do it because that way they can spend their time and energy judging and criticizing! If everyone was lifting holy hands and magnifying His Name, we would not notice everyone or everything else. It takes commitment in prayer and seeking God’s face to be prepared for worship, and to be honest most people are not willing to get that involved. Nevertheless, we cannot make people drink at the rivers of living water; we can only offer to take them there.
I certainly do not want to seem like I have mastered the art of leading worship or have come to a complete understanding of how to worship Him; in fact, the more I learn the more I see that I do not know. Whenever I feel that I have figured something out spiritually, I usually end up going back to kindergarten and starting all over again. I honestly believe that God does not want us to become so good at our “religious rituals” that we lose the meaning of why we are doing them. He desires for all of His leaders to take baby steps according to the directions of His voice because to become over-confident in our human ability is to become filled with pride and will leave us working exclusively in the emptiness of our flesh. When we lead corporate worship, we must be “on guard” to detect and avoid distractions that are trying to hinder the Lord’s intentions, all the while praying for everyone to become involved and to make the connection with Him. It is no secret – our flesh does not want to worship, our wills don’t want to die (we want our rights), and of course the enemy does not want to see us be “anointed” in our assignments or live in the awareness of God’s presence. Whatever attitudes we bring in with us – the people will see them and be affected by them (good or bad). If we hold on to the baggage that is keeping us miserable, our spirits cannot enter into the pureness of His presence, and we can actually hinder the spiritual atmosphere. There is no doubt about it; we are attacked many times because the devil does not want God’s glory to be manifested. He hates to see God’s house filled with people that are being blessed with God’s miracles and weeping and crying holy, holy, holy to the Lord God Almighty. The devil would much rather see a dead, dry religious service filled with man’s philosophies and everyone bored, sleeping and daydreaming about what’s for lunch.
Even when the music is technically good and the people are applauding, it does not necessarily mean the Spirit of God is flooding the atmosphere. It is common for people to release their emotions and appreciate the professionalism of clergy. Many love these comfortable services because there is very little conviction and hardly anything is required of them. They can continue keeping their heads in the sand, and their fleshly natures are very satisfied to do just that. Allow me to say, the church is only as spiritual as the people’s personal relationship with Jesus. Where there is a flaming fire of His presence, the body ministers to each other in Agape love and spiritual unity. In the church of the “frozen-chosen,” sadly the happiest moment of the day is when the last amen is said so they can go out to eat.
Do not put your faith in a human, but look beyond this natural realm into God’s dimension. No pastor, minister, or book can produce the kind of miracle power that we need. They can preach and try to explain what the Lord wants from us, but they are just messengers. Others can sing and play while stirring us to tears, but that is not the only purpose of our meetings. They (along with us) have been called to plant “infectious enthusiasm” into the world for the purpose of inspiring and convicting others to know God. Our prayers increase our faith to believe what His messengers are saying in order that we might be changed from being a normal spectator to a minister of fire! God wants us to catch hold of the revelation, then go out and spread it to someone else. Every person that is saved is a minister and representative for the Kingdom of God. It is common after a great service for the masses to go home, lie on the couch and talk about what a great performance that was or how that sermon sure nailed old sister so and so. This is not revival! We have missed the point if all we want is to be emotionally pumped up, soothed and entertained. The anointing is to be like a contagious virus that inspires us to “pass it on” or INFECT everyone we come in contact with. Great sermons or awesome times of worship are not to be collected like antique glassware and put on a shelf but are meant to stimulate us to tear down what we have created and begin to build our life according to God’s divine blueprint! Christ sends a person as a divine appointment to get our attention and prick our heart with conviction and instructions about our need to change.
Unfortunately many times we are so caught up with being entertained that instead of DOING what God was trying to say, we absorb it as just another “feel good” experience. We should be weeping with the burdens for the lost and crying out to God to show us how to have the courage to witness and be used in divine appointments. We wait on revival not understanding that God is waiting on us to pray and fast so we can be used within His grand design. We think that ministers are the “only” ones who plant God’s seed, but actually their calling is to pass out sacks of seed to us! Worship is all about loving God for who He is and wanting to do everything we can to please Him! What more can you say than “I love you” – and what more can you give Him than your heart? This is a song I wrote on New Year’s Day in 1989 called, “I give my heart to you.”
(Verse 1) There’s been many, who’ve called you Lord
And some didn’t even know why
Some called on you for all the wrong reasons
And others that didn’t even try
Then there are the ones who called your name in vain
Like it was your fault everything had gone wrong
But for those who are sincere – their cries you’ll always hear
Your love is deeper than any words could say in a song
(Chorus) Lord, I finally see
What you’ve always wanted from me
Of all of the things, that I could say or do
You want me to give my heart to you
(Bridge) What gift could I give to lay at your feet?
What kind of treasure could I bring?
Silver or gold, or costly perfume
Or a song of praise proclaiming you as my King?
(Chorus) And Lord I finally see
What you’ve always wanted from me
Of all of the things that I could say or do
You want me to give my heart to you
Lord help me as I give my heart…to you
FROM FACES TO FINGERPRINTS
Worship teams are musically coordinated bands of warriors that go before the congregation and lead them into Gods holy presence; what happens when we get there is filled with mystery and awesome “wonder” that no one can really explain. Their main focus is to present an offering of worship that becomes the sweet fragrance of God’s presence. Worship leaders realize their calling is to be used as vessels to allow God to be poured out through them, which includes listening to God’s direction so the Holy Spirit can touch the heart of the listeners exactly where they need His intervention. Seeing the time of worship as a manifestation of God reaching out to those who need His ministry takes the idea of a song service to a complete other realm. Those who feel their job is just to lead a song have missed the point altogether. A song leader is not the same as a minister of music – worship leaders help bring the soul into God’s presence. If I did not believe that God was going to appear every time I lead a corporate service, I would not feel that I was in the right frame of mind and spirit. Pastors, teachers, and anyone involved in the Lord’s ministry must extend their faith and lean on God’s anointing to provide the divine appointment of discipline, healing, and encouragement because without the anointing of God, it becomes no more than a religious ritual. Worship is not entertainment, a program, or a performance. It is pouring out our hearts to God, bowing down before Him and telling Him how much we love Him.
There are many different styles of music in the world with everyone having a wide variety to choose from. But why are certain people drawn to music they describe as their favorite? Is it style, the message, the rhythm or an inner relation to the “soul” of the sound? I believe that far beyond the notes, chords, and rhythms, there is a spiritual force behind music whether good or bad. Since God created music, we can know that it has always been a part of His heavenly vision of holiness and honor, but unfortunately the devil always tries to imitate and produce a counterfeit for everything the Lord creates. As much as true worship edifies the spirit of man the devil’s perverted music brings the opposite to the mind and heart. Demons are assigned to watch us and have been referred to as “familiar spirits” because they are familiar with our lifestyles and desires and manipulate us with these connections. For example, much of country music has long been associated with the hurts and pains of broken hearts, and disappointments with love relationships. Those who can relate to these experiences become linked or bonded to this emotional attachment, and so it becomes like a friend that understands their innermost feelings. Some heavy metal and rap are examples of how musical movements can promote an attitude that represents rebellion against authority, an “in your face” aggressiveness, and a “shock” factor. Young people who are infected with rebellion become connected to this brazen arrogance as a way of relating to and expressing the hardness of their identity. With commitment and loyalty they surrender their souls to the message and become calloused enemies of the cross. Some may argue that the words are what make the difference while others may believe it is the words and music style together. I play music every week in the church that has the same rhythms and chords of other types of music, but God’s Word within the melodies carries the “Bread of life” which is the power of His gospel. The music from the dark kingdom also carries a spiritual power and influence that can implant a demonic barrage of death and depression. Not all music is innocent as familiar spirits have an insight on how to feed the human nature mentality and keep the negative character traits stirred up which in turn causes more strife. This merry-go-round of emotional turmoil is the mission of the angel of light. He is the author of confusion and chaos, and works around the clock trying to prevent the masses from finding true love and peace by generating twisted lies and false hopes of contentment. The only genuine peace and freedom is found in Jesus Christ, so it only makes sense that Satan works very hard to distract all people from finding Him!
I have been writing Christian music for years and have given away many recordings of my songs to as many people as I could. It has puzzled me how many people would take the songs but never comment on them at all. It has also surprised me with those who claim to be Christians how they did not care for this kind of music. I have come to realize that if people are not walking with God in a personal relationship, they will not feel comfortable with expressions of intimacy to God. Those who keep their distance with God will also keep their distance from music that worships Him. If people avoid God’s presence, then it only makes sense they will also be uncomfortable with anything that can take them there. We choose what we love and have free-will to live the way we want. We can claim to be anyone or anything, but it is the heart that reveals our purpose and true identity. If we choose to love God, we will follow Him and everything that is connected to knowing and loving Him more. If our hearts enjoy living in carnality, we will manifest and promote the flesh and the love for the world. God is ready to help deliver us from our frustration and emotional misery but waits patiently for us to surrender our will to Him. What will it take for us to have a serious desire for a complete change from the inside out? Many of us have idols that we love and yet would never admit that we worship them. They may be food or sex or money or anything that consumes our thoughts. These can be types of images within our minds that we think about and faithfully serve, allowing them to lead us and control us. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image of any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Exodus 20:3-5).
I have seen several different styles of music and speaking ministries through the years and have noticed that churches and ministries are like faces in that all are different yet all have the basic components of singing and someone bringing a message. It is true that many are doctrinally off the grid, but usually the differences are “how” the music and sermon are being presented and of course the higher the level of anointing the more powerful it will be! For example, one speaker can bring a word that is accurate but in a “low key” mundane delivery, and a congregation just sits there yawning. Another speaker can preach the same message but inject high energy, charisma, and enthusiasm, and the people will shout and rejoice, testifying how blessed they were to hear such a powerful message. If both are anointed and both have delivered God’s divine truth, what is the difference? Allow me to say that it does not matter what arena you would like to consider – presentation measures effectiveness, and there is not one person that was ever given a vision that did not want to be as effective as he could possibly be.
Could a powerful presentation generate a strong impression of respect and authority? Absolutely! Could a listener’s interest be increased by a speaker’s level of passion? Yes! If what you are doing for God is not causing you to be on fire, what makes you think it will cause your listeners to be challenged? Who ever said Jesus was quiet and presented boring lectures? When you know that what you are saying is the difference between life and death, you will have confidence in your words. Amen. When you have been given the calling to deliver a divine revelation, and are transformed from an orator to a messenger that holds the antidote that can save the world, I promise you are going to have a tank filled with zeal, excitement and urgency. Jesus knew that what He was saying was not just a strong conviction – but absolute truth filled with the ultimate authority and power of Almighty God that could deliver the soul. Each word was dripping with spiritual illumination and had the power to pierce the mind and heart that left the listener dumbfounded – and still does! Did Jesus run around and do backflips to prove His charisma? Of course not – but I promise that when He opened His mouth something very profound came out. Everything He did and said had a purpose because He was zeroed in on His Father’s business. Should we not be the same? This is an hour when serving cereal is not enough – God wants His ministers to serve the filet mignon Word of the hour! He wants us to live each day like it could be the last day before His return! This will not happen when we have too many irons in the fire and are overwhelmed with the distractions of this world. Many times we are not the victims of being bound with the fetters and chains of bondage – we are the ones who caused it. Only when we make the determined decision to let go of our toys and become saturated in God’s presence will we ever become who we were called to be.
There is nothing wrong with examining what we are doing, how we are doing it and making sure we are delivering His ministry the way He desires for us to present it. I realize that many will respond and say, “This is the way I’ve always been and I do not need to change anything,” but this may not be as much about changing style as it is allowing God to breathe life into our work. Is being spiritually passionate a “style” or an overflow from a heart that has been to the mountain and seen God? Now is not the time to serve leftovers or just go through the motions! It is time to re-structure the way we think church should be and hand it over to Him. It is time to throw away the religious agenda and remove the bondage of religion. God’s people are thirsty for His presence and want to be free in His Spirit and will search until they find it! I have heard people say they worship the Lord quietly and are afraid of acting fleshly, but do you actually believe we will contain our emotions in heaven? Anyone that has true joy will explode with an outward display of gratitude. If emotions can be manifested with crying when something happens that hurts us or makes us sad, then why can’t people release joy and praise to their God? And for those who claim to be quiet natured, do not tell me you are quiet when your favorite team scores or how “low key” you would be if you won the lottery. Whatever means the most to us in our lives is what we are going to focus all of our energies and emotions into and what we are going to give our highest attention. If we are low on passion with our ministry, it could mean that we are simply being distracted with too many irons in the fire and are splitting the enthusiasm with something or someone else. Walking in God’s presence is our highest priority, and He will not share His glory with anything else including how highly we think of ourselves. For example “trying” to pray is very intense spiritual warfare and is no match for the faint hearted. We know we need to seek God’s face and find that quiet place, but it is not as easy as it sounds. We will say to ourselves, “after I finish this page I’m typing or after I finish reading this chapter, I will pray.” This is a good one; “I will wait until tonight while everyone sleeps.” But many times we end up working late, taking a shower, becoming very tired and mumbling something about trying again first thing tomorrow, and then wonder why our relationship and anointing is growing weak. God supplies the power, but we are called to supply the discipline. If we cannot control our flesh, then God cannot fulfill His destiny in us. Many wait on God – while God is waiting on them!
You would not think that we could become lethargic with our ministry style, but it does happen. We have heard the illustration of how standing water can become stagnant versus the freshness of a moving stream, and if you have been around the church world for a while, you can look back and see how things have changed from what they were a few years ago. Technology has played a part in the way things are done and styles have contributed also, but hopefully, the Covenant truth is the same – just packaged in a different container. Knowing when to change and how to change is important to keeping the people enthused and being anointed for new spiritual growth. If we sing the same songs and teach the same message every time, it will become boring, and that produces a dry, “packaged” heavy atmosphere similar to a funeral home. Many churches need spiritual CPR to “revive” them back from the dead, and obeying God is the only thing that will make a difference. We realize, the most important part of our ministry is “proving” to people how much we love them. Sheep must know that we will walk across the desert to help them and that we are truly sincere. If we are so busy with our lives that it seems we do not care about people, it is time to start over or let someone else be the Shepherd. A true Shepherd is focused on God and the sheep!
One way we can bring some excitement into our services is to stop thinking that only one or two people are to provide the entire ministry. Pastors need to mentor other ministers and let them exercise their gifts to bring variety into the mix. Have the worship team learn new songs and encourage singers and musicians to minister special music or do special concerts. Be creative with props, prayer lines, and messages from God. Have guest speakers and ministries in to stir up some enthusiasm and get out of the comfortable rut of doing things the same way. This can fall into a traditional, religious parade of going through the motions because they feel obligated to earn their salary. Pastors that ignore God trying to get their attention, and continue being stubborn doing things their own way, will live in disappointment. When people are truly seeking the presence of God and are not being spiritually satisfied, they will venture out to find the love, joy, peace and nourishment they are craving.
I realize the most important foundation of what we do must be based on the Holy Spirit leading us and moving through us, and we can see that God does not just move in one specific type of church. There are times when God moves in Baptist and Methodist churches and there are times when He moves in Holiness and Pentecostal churches even though the styles are like night and day. This can only mean that obedience has everything to do with the level of God’s presence, and the pastor has been given the mantle to know what to do. I believe it is purity and sincerity that God sees in the heart of His people that causes Him to want to fellowship and bless those who are gathered in His name. The ones who choose to allow Him to lead their services and that desire to be free in His Spirit prove how much they really want Him to lead the service. We cry out how much God is welcome in our midst, and in our prayers we invite Him to come, but it seems to be a contradiction when we refuse to let go of our control. We shout about freedom and how we are yielding to His Spirit, but with our programs and time limits we hinder Him from doing what He wants to do.
All preachers, teachers, and worship leaders have natural personalities just like everyone else, and the congregation gets familiar with them just like you would with a good friend. Leaders that are involved with public speaking on a regular basis learn, grow, and develop their presentation and style of communication over time, and that is normal. Not many people really think about it, but in a church setting there is a fine line between being led of the Spirit and leaning on the abilities of the mind. Yes, we live in a flesh body and must use our minds in cooperation with our mouths in order to express thoughts, but the idea of the anointing is to be used as a channel for God to speak through. Saints do not want to hear a human philosophy – they get ready and drive to church because they want to hear what God is saying. People who are serious about their walk with the Lord will not be satisfied with a dry, boring service because God’s music and words are to be filled with power and excitement. The excitement level of the pastor controls the thermometer of the personality of a congregation. The calling includes spending time in God’s presence and being fearless as they lead the frontline into battle! A dry, “survival” church presentation sets the tone for a dry church just like a pastor on fire will ignite an assembly to praise, energy, love, to move in their gifts, labor in the outreach ministries and evangelize the community. I have said for many years that as the people go the church goes, and I feel that pastors have such an impact on the personality of the assembly that we can also say – the passion for Christ in the pastor can influence the level of enthusiasm of the entire church!
I believe the most important contribution we can make is to pray. When we read about the great revivals, we discover the fire was ignited with prayer. The devil is not alarmed with us bragging about how filled with God’s Spirit we are. And he is not worried in the least just because a new church building is being built. However, he begins to panic when God’s people repent and fall on their knees and begin to cry out to God. If we know that demons tremble when we enter into our prayer closet, then why don’t we spend more time in there? If we believe our prayers can change us and all those around us, then why are we spending so much time watching television? Why don’t we open up the church every night for prayer? Because we are TOO BUSY with our own lives and our flesh has laid down the law to not take this “Jesus thing” to the extreme! Our carnal nature says that an hour on Sunday is enough because we have more important things to do! Allow me to ask you, will you begin to rearrange your life today and give The Lord what He wants? Will you take control over your will and allow Christ to renew your mind so that you can re-prioritize your life? Or will you continue talking about prayer and worship as very noble ideas but never actually becoming personally engaged with Him? He lives in the Holy of Holies, but you must be willing to go through the tabernacle to know Him and live with Him.
THE WINDOWS OF HEAVEN
Many are asking, where is this glorious church? It is within us! And may I add that its level of manifestation will depend on how serious His disciples are determined to be about praying! As most Christians will agree, a person receiving Christ as Lord and Savior is the most important miracle that can happen, and everything we are called to do for God should be a “link” in the chain of proclaiming the gospel that is connected with salvation. Included in this super-natural package of life changing gifts from heaven are being filled with the Holy Ghost, being healed physically and emotionally and being delivered from the bondages of sin — just to name a few. We know that faith plays an important part of our invitation to experience the abundant life that was provided at the cross, and this all begins with the hearing and understanding of God’s word. What does all this have to do with worship? Everything! If we believe that worship invites God to come into our midst as we reach out to Him, and this exchange prepares our hearts to receive His Holy Word – then we are now ready to discover the revelation of what can increase the anointing and power in this expression of intimate love. (Yes there are levels of God’s presence; the tabernacle of Moses was an example of a progression of maturity that becomes more intense the closer one draws near to the Holy Of Holies.) So what is this big mystery? It is fervent PRAYER! And there are no substitutions! Oh Billy, everyone knows that! Oh really? Maybe sometimes we forget the connection of our basic foundations about how prayer fuels the “engine.” God has designed the Church with Divine order (not legalism), and prayer has been given to His people as a KEY that will unlock His glory. Let’s start with how the worship team receives these prayers (along with their own) to help increase their anointing and turn “songs” into a musical, spiritual, surgical procedure – this anointing rolls out the red carpet for the seed and gives more control to God to inspire the “spontaneous” and generates a stronger presence of God so the messenger can bring the “due season” word with more authority and power. As this “living” word becomes a quickened revelation to the heart and spirit, it generates faith that releases God’s super-natural miracles – YES! Praise God! All assemblies desire to see revival and the Holy Spirit filling the people and the services, but the windows of heaven are locked until the key of prayer opens them. We can complain all day long about how the corporate assembly is dry and dull, but if we truly desire our spiritual life to be better than it has ever been, we are going to have to start doing things we’ve never done!
For example, if a lost person is in the sanctuary or someone is in need of a miracle and we have not prayed, we are not focused, we are bogged down with apathy, we are burned out and tired, we do not have a direction or discernment, even may be entangled in sin and distracted and satisfied with having a “safe” service of singing some songs and giving a dry lecture then going out to eat – then we have failed our mission. If we are not led by God’s Holy Spirit, and if we are not worshipping in spirit and truth, and if the word is just a boring history lesson, then we are going to be held responsible for being lukewarm. God has not called us to organize Him out of His own Church, which is why He does not give us the control to do all the planning. The Lord hates a religious ceremony (where He is not invited) – it offends Him when we try to control it all on our own because He knows that dead ritual can become a personal “idol” where we worship our own accomplishments and abilities, and of course this does not glorify His Kingdom or bring true spiritual change to anyone. How can souls be saved without the convicting power of the Holy Spirit? How can there be changed minds without the anointing that “flips the switch” in the brain and causes the heart to see truth? How can there be miracles if God (who has all the power in infinity) is not welcome to come into our services and walk among us? Religiosity is the disease that plagues the church world and has lulled to sleep many who claim to be followers of Christ, as it is true that lukewarm people are satisfied with a lukewarm church.
When we meet in the prayer room before service it is an important time to focus. When I lead, I ask forgiveness not just for me but for all those who might not have “released” their sin. Leading the entire congregation in a simple proclamation to repent can change the atmosphere of the room and tear down the walls of sin that can bring freedom to all of us. Many times the spirit of discouragement “sneaks in” and these hindering spirits need to be addressed as a confrontation takes place. There is nothing wrong with praying in the middle of the service and rebuking the devil from the premises because that is what God’s spiritual authority allow us to do! Just because our buildings have the name church over the door does not mean the enemy cannot come in and try to set up camp. Amen! Again to be “prayed up” is being able to sense what is happening and making sure we are dressed for battle. The church has not only been given a shield for defense – but also a sword for offense! It is time we take the act of praying “specifically” more seriously (souls saved, growth, raising up leaders, revival, more outreach, more enthusiasm, etc…) A strong, healthy, spirit filled church does not just fall off a tree but is birthed and matures through “white hot” prayer! The level of spiritual power and purity in a church depends on the people’s personal relationship with God that is developed in the prayer closet of spiritual intimacy with Him. Let us who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness remember: the stronger God comes into our lives, the more fire He brings, and that means more “responsibilities” that require our flesh to spend more time on His Holy altar! Selah. (Is there any wonder why most churches choose to just get their feet wet instead of jumping into the deep water?) When we sing all the songs that cry out for His fire of holiness and the discipline of yielding our will, do we really mean it? Do we really understand that for us to have more of Him – there must be less of us? We all hold the key that can unlock the power of His presence but how many will use it?
The end of Part One
First, it is crucial to decide whether or not we really want to change and next it is time we faced the facts and stop blaming the devil for making us lukewarm. The dark side can only tempt and influence us but it is always our responsibility to say NO! The truth is, we have all of God we want and if we really desired to have more of Him we could certainly have all that we desire. Nothing is stopping us from being filled to capacity – except our will. Most Christians would agree that it is the quiet time of prayer and intimate fellowship with the Lord that is the most important aspect of our life and yet we continue “allowing” our relationship with Jesus suffer. Why? Because until the conviction to change becomes stronger than the desire to remain the same we will continue exactly as we are! Learning to know and love God is the meaning of life and without us developing the personal self-discipline to learn how to bring worship into a “lifestyle” we will continue trying to fit God into our schedule instead of allowing Him to “be” our schedule. In this book, the idea is for the reader to correlate the concept that Jesus is with us every second and how this awareness can transform our thinking. We must be trained in our sensitivity and discernment just like we are trained in any other area we are passionate about. Just how much do we really want to have Christ sit as Lord on the throne of our heart? Worship is still a deliberate act but living in His presence would be the ultimate worship experience that would allow us to “become” a living breathing worship service!
It would only seem natural that I would be called to write a book with as many years I have spent writing. I LOVE TO WRITE! When I was growing up, I never dreamed that I would develop a passion for writing. I use the word “develop” because it seems I was a late bloomer when it came to sitting behind a desk everyday. When I was young I loved to draw and any type of art related activity. As a kid growing up, I also dreamed of being a biologist. From the time I can remember, I was interested in plants, insects and animals and spent most of my waking moments throughout my childhood collecting and examining nature. Once again, it seems that my formative years gave way to a season of teenage insanity and as I look back on it, this window of time was a critical crossroad where I felt like a puppy that had been dropped on the side of the highway. I needed solid direction but just never had a support system that knew how to help me. Nevertheless, the Lord watches over us and by His mercy and love, He can make a way within a life that that does not seem to have a way. It is never too late to fulfill God’s will, to get on track and accomplish the mission that God has assigned. I have been given a gift to write music and I am grateful for the opportunities to sing and play, but in the last few years I have felt the burning desire to pour out my heart through writing articles and essays about our walk with God. I am growing and learning each day and every morning I have an expectation that good things are going to happen and that God is going to use me in a new way to accomplish His plans.
I love to create and those of you that are hard-wired in this way of thinking can understand what I am talking about when I say that I must “express or explode.” When I was young, as I was saying earlier, I was not so much into reading or writing but I LOVED to draw and would sit for hours and hardly blink an eye while allowing my imagination to keep my inspirations flowing. Then at a young age, I added music to my “ventilation system” and discovered that I really felt a connection within my soul to the energy and thinking process of playing an instrument and singing at the same time. No doubt, many people do not have the patience to do such things which explains why few learn to play instruments. I remember as a youth, sitting in my room days, weeks, months and years focused on playing the same chords and the same songs over and over. I realize this sounds like a serious mental problem, but if you think about it, it is exactly what people do in the world of sports, hunting, chess, body-building, sculpting or whatever the subject may be where it requires a long time to increase your ability and sharpen your craft. So, over the last few years I have fallen in love with writing and as my wife Cheryl will testify, I log in probably four to eight hours a day and I never become bored or tired. I get up in the morning and never need to ask myself – what shall I write…I just sit down and start writing. I know that sounds strange but it reminds me of the music prophecy that was given to me that said God would make me live the words that I write. At the time this seemed to be in the context of songwriting but now I can see that it also included the gift of other types of writing. I remember in the movie Forrest Gump, how one day he started running and he ran continuously for what seemed like months until one day all of the sudden he stopped – and said he just did not want to run anymore. I pray that if the day comes when I do not want to write anymore or play music that God will have the next “station” ready for me to step into so that I can keep pressing forward in this journey of serving Him.