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(12 quiet-times as at 27/05/17)

Singing God's promises and thanking him - Numbers 21.16-18

From there the Israelites traveled to Beer, which is the well where the Lord said to Moses, “Assemble the people, and I will give them water.” There the Israelites sang this song: “Spring up, O well! Yes, sing its praises! Sing of this well, which princes dug, which great leaders hollowed out with their scepters and staffs.”

This shows quite an amazing picture of worship. When we break it down, we can see one way that God works. We can't control what God does, but we can learn from the way he works and then apply that to our lives. So let's look at what happened. Firstly, the Israelites were on their way to the Promised Land. For us this means that we are keeping on doing what God calls us to do in the way that he shows us. The second thing we learn is that God made a promise to Moses about giving water to the people. The third thing is that the people came together and it was after this that God gave the water. Finally, the people sang a song of thanks to God for what he had done.

We're not quite sure whether this happened before they drunk the water or afterwards. But we can learn a lot about God. God speaks to us and keeps his promises. He also speaks to us as we're 'on our way' - it's much easier to turn a ship that's moving. Then the people gathered together and God answered the promise he had made. The people sung God's promise back to him and reminded themselves of God's faithfulness. So we learn that it's good to get together and sing to God, about God and about his promises. The result for the people was that they got physical water. But for us, God brings his life-giving spiritual water, shows he answers promises and gives us hope for the things we're praying to God about. So get singing, writing, playing or however you worship God! And remind God of his promises (see Isaiah 62.6 in the Classic Amplified Version which talks about putting God in remembrance of his promises. In context it's about praying for the peace of Jerusalem which we should do, but it's also a good thing to sing God's Word to him!)

Moving forward after loss - 1 Samuel 12.19-20

When David saw his servants whispering, he knew that the baby was dead. So he asked them, “Is the baby dead?” They answered, “Yes, he is dead.” Then David got up from the floor, washed himself, put lotions on, and changed his clothes. Then he went into the Lord’s house to worship. After that, he went home and asked for something to eat. His servants gave him some food, and he ate.

One thing that everyone has to deal with is loss. You may have already lost a person you loved - like a family member or a friend. When I was at school, one of my closest friends was killed in a car crash and my brother was also killed in a car accident. People I know have lost sons, friends and parents. And it can be hard. Maybe we've asked God for healing and it hasn't happened, or we can't figure out what went wrong or why people have died. The one option we have is to trust God, despite the pain and the deep hurt. I can tell you from personal experience that time is a healer. When we lose someone we love, we have to recognise that the reality we once knew is different. We have a new reality. But God is right there with us.

In the Bible bit from 1 Samuel 12, David finds out that he son has died (God told him this would happen). David had spent time asking God for the life of his Son and grieving (the son died because of David's sin). But when he knew his son was dead, David made a choice not to get mad at God forever or be bitter forever. David moved forward with his life. He ate some food (we can sometimes forget this in our pain but it's important) and then he went and worshipped God. In the future we find out that David gave birth to another son, Solomon, who became King and built the temple. David had sinned but he asked for forgiveness and God helped him move forward. God is always with us, ready to help. Make a decision to move forward. Don't bury your grief but know that God is faithful and will bring you through. And what else can we do? We can worship God despite our pain. He is worth it.

Being clean - Genesis 35.1-5

"Then God said to Jacob, ‘Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.’ So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.’ So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them."

When we worship God, it is amazing. Hopefully your church is like my church where worship is really powerful, the presence of God can be felt and seen as people worship, bow down and their lives are changed by God. Worship is absolutely incredible and unique in the world and it's only God we should worship. But Genesis 35 also teaches us that worship is not the complete picture. In Genesis, Jacob told those around him to get rid of any foreign gods they had. These were statues of other gods. But if we apply this to us today, it means get rid of those things that aren't from God - it could be things we own, things we do, places we go, people we hang out with, how we spend our time. Anything can be a 'foreign god' if it doesn't help us (or at least doesn't distract us) from God. Back to Genesis 35, Jacob went on to tell his people to purify themselves and change their clothes. When we become a Christian, what God does is like giving us a new set of clothes. He then works on the process of helping us 'wear the clothes right and to wear them well.' But we have a part to play in asking for God's help as we do good Godly things and step away from bad things and stuff that moves us away from God. In Genesis 35, the result of the people worshipping God, then getting right with God was that the fear of God fell on the whole area. The same is possible today. Passionate worshippers, living for God will point people to God!!

Broken Jar and Being Filled - John 12.3

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

I've sometimes heard talks that say that it's when God breaks us open (like the perfume bottle) that the scent of Jesus flows out from our hearts. But this isn't the right way to understand this bit of the Bible and it's not always true that being broken or crushed makes us more like Jesus. It's our reaction to things that happen in life that moves us towards Jesus or away from him, not always the thing that happens. Bad things can draw us closer to God but it's not always like that and if it was true, God would always be letting bad things happen to us! And that is the opposite of God's nature. I have found that it's when incredible things happen that I feel most alive in God. But God does allow things so that he can build us up - but this is for our good and blessing. It's not to break us apart like a perfume bottle!

You see, it wasn't the woman who was poured out, it was her perfume. And it wasn't Jesus who made her pour out the perfume. It was her choice. There's so many things to learn from this! The perfume was incredibly valuable (a year's wages) and Mary decided to pour this out on Jesus. She gave and then poured out the most valuable thing she had - for Jesus, because of Jesus and on Jesus. This is a life of worship. Our best, our most valuable given to Jesus - even at our own cost at times. We also see that the scent or her perfume filled the house. If she'd poured out a tiny drop of perfume, it would only have smelled a bit and not for long. But she gave it all and so the house was filled with the scent. The more we give, the more the 'house' is filled. The house can be your life - your church - your mates - your sphere of influence. The more we give from a place of what God has given us, the more we can see lives impacted by the scent of Jesus. Often, the costliest giving leads to the greatest things in the Kingdom of God. I often think of the Message Trust in Manchester which has impacted the UK and the world in incredible ways. It all started when one man and his brother poured out all they had into doing a mission in Manchester. So what about you? God will use all of us - our part is to decide how much!

Added 22/8/16

No place I'd rather be, Part One - Psalm 27.4-6

"One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord."

Back in the day of David (who wrote this Psalm), God 'lived' in a physical place - like the cloud and the fire that led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. David was the one who spoke about building God a physical temple building. God told him that his son Solomon would do the building work (David drew up the plans). For David, seeking God and being in God's house was the goal of his life - this is why God himself called David 'a man after his own heart'. This just means that God said David wanted to put God first in everything. It's the best way to live life!

Some of you may know a song by Will Regan called 'Set A Fire' which is has a couple of parts. The second part of the song says, 'No place I'd rather be. No place I'd rather be. No place I'd rather be. Than here in your love, here in your love.' And this is kind of the same as what David wrote in his Psalm. So the question is, do we have this same passion for God? Do you seek after God as your 'one thing'? Or are there other things that take God's place? God wants us to have lots of interests but if things are always first in front of God, let's say sorry to him and know that as we put him first, other things fall into place!

Added 29/07/14

No place I'd rather be, Part Two - Psalm 27.4-6

"One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord."

In Part One of this quiet-time we looked at the passion for God that David had and asked the question whether we have this same passion! It's quite a big challenge to think about whether we really are like this. Can we really say that God is our number one thing? In this short quiet-time we'll look at ways we can put God first and seek his presence in our lives.

First, David spoke about looking at God's beauty. This isn't some romantic thing but it's looking to God and being amazed by him. When we realise how much God loves us and what he's done for us, we'll have hearts (like in the Will Reagan song) that want to be 'on fire' for God - really living for him. Second, David said he would seek after God. If someone is hiding, to find them you have to look for them! God doesn't hide from us, he hides for us and has amazing treasures for us. Third, seeking God also helps us be protected by him. If we stay on God's path, we are protected from the dangers on either side. Finally, because of what God does for us, worship comes out of our mouth. Worship is our response to who God is - holy, awesome and amazing. As you spend time with someone (maybe a boyfriend or girlfriend) you get to know them and want to talk about them. As you spend time with God, you can't help but worship him and thank him. Even if you don't feel like it, spend time every day finding things to thank God for. He's worth it!

Added 29/07/14

Creation - Genesis 2.15-20

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’ The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

In the past, some Christians (or those calling themselves 'Christian') have apparently seen that God is one day going to re-create the heavens and the earth and have used that as an excuse for not looking after the world properly. They've said things like, 'well God's going to re-create the world one day anyway.' Others have seen that God told man to rule over the earth and subdue it, so have taken this as a bit of a license to do what they want with creation. But this is mad and it's got nothing to do with what the Bible actually says, let alone being opposite to the nature of God!

For starters, God created mankind and God created the natural world and animals around us. Why would he then want us to destroy it? Yes, use the materials and use the earth as a resource but not abuse it. In Genesis 1, we see mankind made in the image of God - the God of love, creation, the one who knows every sparrow that dies. When God told man to subdue it, he didn't mean abuse the world. Instead, he meant take care of it - be in charge of it - don't let it take charge of you in the same way a garden does if you don't look after it! Then in Genesis 2 God told Adam to 'take care' of the garden. Just as Adam was a reflection of God (God naming him), so Adam was given the job of naming the animals. We don't worship creation as new age people do; we don't worship animals like Hindus do. But we worship God, the creator of the world around us. Just as God takes care of us, he asks us to take care of the world around us. That is true worship.

Added 27.06/14

Worship Mix - 1 Samuel 10.5-7

"After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you."

This is an amazing bit of the Bible. The prophet Samuel was speaking to Saul who God had appointed to be King. As Saul went off, Samuel told him what would happen (showing Samuel was an actual prophet - someone who God uses to see into the future and say what God's heart is and what God's going to do). Saul met a real mix of worshippers - they had stringed instruments, tambourines, pipes and harps. They were one of the original 'worship on the streets' teams! Maybe this was a movement that the prophets had started in obedience to something God called them to do - get the worship out of the prophet school and onto the streets! Or maybe this was just what they did out of their love and passion for God! Either way, we'd do well to live like this as worshippers!

As the prophets played their instruments, they were also prophesying. It's true that often musical worship creates a worship atmosphere where God speaks from the Bible and in fresh ways. In the presence of God and when people come together in unity to worship, God often moves powerfully. But it wasn't just that - as Saul met up with them, he started prophesying and he wasn't even a prophet! It's like the atmosphere was changed and Saul was able to tune in to the heart of God in a new way. And then as this happened and Paul prophesied, God changed him and sent him out to do good works for God. Here's a challenge - in your church, youth work and personal worship times, are you open to see God speaking, moving, changing and empowering people? It's time to expect this as normal. We're not operating in the fullness of all God's called us into. So let's agree in prayer for God to do this in our lives more and more. Amen!

added 30/05/14

Structured, unstructured - Ezekiel 47.1-5

"The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple towards the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me round the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side. As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in – a river that no one could cross."

One of the ways people read Ezekiel 47 is about worship. Looking at the picture of the 'river', we find that the river is always growing and getting deeper - ankle height, waist height and then too deep to cross. It's just a picture of getting 'immersed' in God (being covered with him a bit like we do when get baptised and go completely under the water!)

But there's also another thing to think about and that's how we do worship. Sometimes we do worship by having a list of songs and learn all the starts and endings. Everything is pre-planned down to the deepest level. Other worship leaders sing almost completely spontaneous type songs and people get 'lost' in worship. Both are different ways of worship and can reflect our different characters! But in the picture in Ezekiel 47 we see a river flowing (and rivers flow in different directions - straight, bendy, left, right, up, down) so we can say that being flexible in our worship is good. But we also see someone measuring in the river with a measuring line, trying to find a definite height (1000 cubits). So we can see that being organised in worship is also just as good and just as honouring to God. The best thing in our worship is to prepare, be organised, but also be flexible and open to new things God wants to do. God is ordered and also spontaneous so we should be in our worship too!

Added 07.04.14

Why we worship - Psalm 28.7

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him."

I once heard Matt Redman say that worship is our response back to God for what he has done for us. Psalm 28 is a good example of this. In the Psalm, David is asking God to hear his voice, asking for mercy and asking that those who are evil would be repaid for all the bad they do. I think this is probably the kind of thing many of us would say today when we look around and see bad stuff happen. When we see the evil that people do, the injustice, people trafficking and the mess that satan creates, it makes us angry in a Godly way - wanting to see God's justice done. Don't worry, he will but he also may be calling you to do something - is there something you are passionate about? What good can you do - action, raise money, raise awareness by telling your friends and church leaders, pray! Maybe play the Tim Hughes song, 'God of Justice'.

At the end of the Psalm, the writer David thanks God that God has heard his cry for mercy and then speaks out exactly who God is. And this is why Matt Redman said what he said about worship being our response back to God. The Psalm writer David (the original mass market contemporary worship song writer!!) was expressing who God is and what he does - the Lord is our strength, our shield, the one we can trust and the one who helps us. So what was David's response? It's the same as ours should be - our heart leaps with joy (remember this is a decision not always a feeling) and with a song we praise God. When you know how much God has done, you can't help but praise him. Yes the styles may be different across the globe, but we join with creation to praise God for who he is and what he's done.

added 15/09/13

Distinction - 1 Corinthians 14.7-8

Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe ('flute') or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?

OK so we'll take a few liberties here as this bit of the Bible is actually Paul talking on speaking in tongues (which is when God gives us another language which we can pray with) in a public worship service and is saying that tongues need to be interpreted in order to be understood. (Other times we pray in tongues but we don't need them to be interpreted as it's between us and God). But in a public service we need to know what's going on - it'd be like going to a service where we couldn't understand the speaker because they were speaking in a foreign language.

But for the sake of this quiet-time let's think about a conventional kind of worship band with acoustic, electric, keyboard, bass and drums. Each of those covers a different range of sound frequencies and notes. But if everyone in the band just thrashed away it may be hard to hear who is playing what! (Some people struggle to know what's what anyway!) But when a band really works is when they each play unique parts that fit together to make a complete sound. A good sound isn't everyone playing full-on but when each sound can be heard distinctively. And this is what our Christian lives should be. We shouldn't be making a big old sound like a clanging cymbal that hurts everyone's ears (see 1 Corinthians 12) but each one of us 'playing' (doing) the unique 'instrument' (calling) that God has given to us. Back in Matthew, Jesus told his disciples that they should be like salt, adding God-flavour to this world. When the world hears and sees the beauty of our 'notes' (lives) played together in harmony, they will see Jesus.

Added 07/06/13

Worship Indoors and Outdoors - Psalm 150.1 | TOP

Psalm 150.1 says this, "Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens."

In recent years, God has raised up an international prayer and worship movement as one of the things he's been doing in the earth. IHOP in Kansas City, MO, USA is the place many people will have heard of. But God is doing many creative worship things. One of them is getting worshippers outdoors and outside of the four walls of the church. A couple of us played in a park in 2010 and then found out about some guys who have seen people come to faith when worshipping outside near Newport in Wales. Inspired by this, four of us went to London during the 2012 Summer Olympics and took guitars. The reaction was quite amazing with even the notes of the guitars and no words drawing people, soothing hearts, bringing healing and more! This was in response to the call of God and is found right there in the last Psalm, 150. The first verse gives us a command to praise the Lord. We should praise God in his sanctuary (the church) and praise him in his mighty heavens. I see this as praising God outside of the church. This doesn't mean stacking up a band and playing outside (although it may do!) It's an attitude of worship to God, expressed in our hearts and through music. But it may also mean playing 'outdoors'.

If you visit www.xpmedia.com/video/11878/a-gospel-of-power you'll learn about the testimony of Dr. Leanna Cinquanta who has seen amazing things happen in India. One of the true stories she recalls was when she felt God lead her to go to the Ganges River with her guitar and do spiritual warfare through worship. As she played her guitar, people were drawn towards her to find out about Jesus. She also worshipped in her heart inside a temple (Joshua 1.3) after God made a way for her. One day she was playing and no-one was gathering but watching on. She realised a chief priest from a local temple was walking towards her and chanting. She was a bit worried but she started singing songs about the blood of Jesus. Suddenly the priest ran back into the temple as if having seen a guardian angel. The people then flocked around her because they had been waiting for a demonstration of whose 'god' would win out. Of course, there is no contest with God and as a result she was able to hand out many leaflets about Jesus! This same power is in all of God's people so ask Jesus to use you!

 

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