God Works While We Wait

by Louie Giglio

REFLECTION

If we are honest, we all hate to wait. In fact, most often we say something like, “I can’t believe this is taking so long; it’s costing me time I don’t have!” That’s because most of us consider waiting to be wasting. But it’s not so with our God.

God works while we wait. Even when you can’t see what He is doing, God is always orchestrating the events of heaven and earth to accomplish His purposes for your life. Trust in His unfailing love—love that moved Him to send a Savior from heaven to restore and rescue you. God’s plans for your life will not be thwarted. Wait patiently, knowing that waiting is never wasted when you are waiting on God.

MEDITATION

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Charles Wesley, 1707–1788

PRAYER

Father, I am here waiting for You. My heart and hands are open to Your purposes and plans for my life. Give me the patience I so desperately need and lead me in my waiting. Though my feelings may not be there just yet, I believe You are moving on my behalf right this minute, protecting, defending, preparing, providing. Give me grace to keep trusting in You in the face of the gale force winds of doubt that are blowing all around me. Anchor my heart in You. Amen.


Louie Giglio is the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and founder of Passion Conferences—a global movement of college-aged people living for the fame of Jesus Christ. A dynamic and effective communicator, Louie holds a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Shelley, live in Atlanta.

Just the Right Time

By Louie Giglio

REFLECTION

A Savior had been promised to God’s people for centuries. They longed and prayed for rescue. And then on the right day, in the right place, at the right time, Jesus was born. While God rarely comes at our appointed time, He always comes at the right time.

All of us are waiting on something, often wondering if God has forgotten us. In your waiting, let the birth of Christ encourage you. Just because God hasn’t come through (as far as you can see), it doesn’t mean He has abandoned you. To Him a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. This very minute He’s working for His glory and for your good. Though circumstances say otherwise, God is going to come through, on schedule, fulfilling His long-appointed plans for you. Don’t give up before the time is right.

Take hope in the manger and know that you are loved and prized by the God who stepped down from heaven and arrived at the perfect time for you.

MEDITATION

Hark the Glad Sound

Hark the glad sound! The Savior comes,
The Savior promised long;
Let ev’ry heart prepare a throne,
And ev’ry voice a song.

He comes the pris’ners to release,
In Satan’s bondage held.
The gates of brass before Him burst,
The iron fetters yield.

He comes the broken heart to bind,
The bleeding soul to cure,
And with the treasures of His grace
To enrich the humble poor.

Our glad hosannas, Prince of Peace,
Thy welcome shall proclaim,
And heav’ns eternal arches ring
With Thy beloved name.

Philip Doddridge, 1702–1751

PRAYER

Father, meet me in the waiting, the place where I long for what is not fully in view. Still my heart and give me the ability to know that You are near. I believe Your plans are good. I see it in the birth of Your only Son.

But sometimes I struggle to see beyond the haze that surrounds me. Renew my confidence as I lift my eyes to You. Be glorified in my life during this season of expectation. Amen.


Louie Giglio is the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and founder of Passion Conferences—a global movement of college-aged people living for the fame of Jesus Christ. A dynamic and effective communicator, Louie holds a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Shelley, live in Atlanta.

The Story Behind “He Who is Mighty”

by in —Christmas, —Songwriting, —Sovereign Grace Music

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He Who is Mighty is one of my favorite songs from our Christmas album, Prepare Him Room. Every time I’ve led it, which I’ve done both during and beyond the Christmas season, the response has been immediate and enthusiastic.

I asked Rebecca Elliott, one of the writers, to share a little of the story behind the song, which she co-wrote with Kate DeGraide.

For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. (Luke 1:49)
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2)

Mary, Jesus’ mother, has always been a hero of mine, and the Magnificat is one of my favorite details of the Christmas story. In the midst of all the amazing and terrifying things God was doing in her life, her response was to sing praise and declare God’s power and faithfulness! Her courage and obedience is convicting and inspiring, and I have frequently thought of her example when asking the Lord for the strength and humility to submit to His leading in my life.

I had also never heard a song based on the Magnificat that moved my heart in the same way that reading the passage did, so when Kate and I sat down to write a Christmas song, Luke 1:46-55 was my first suggestion for a text. In retrospect, it is clear to me how appropriate it was that we were drawing inspiration from Mary’s Song mere weeks after the births of my daughter and Kate’s son. 

I am supremely grateful to have been able to work on this song with my dear friend Kate, who is a fantastic songwriter and editor. We have talked about how humbled and joyful we are to hear others sing this song in worship. It is my hope and prayer that the Lord continues to use it to edify and encourage the church, and inspire the same awe that Mary felt when she sang her song of praise and surrender to God.

Rebecca and Kate sing the song below. You can download all the sheet music at the Sovereign Grace Music website.

Lessons on Worship Leading from 1 Timothy

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by Shane Heilman

When thinking of worship-leading “coaches” from Scripture, we’re more often inclined to think of David than of Paul. After all, David was a skilled musician who wrote history’s most influential worship songs (the Psalms) and arranged the 24/7 tabernacle worship. There is certainly much to learn from David’s life, his songs, and his philosophy of worship – lessons that could probably fill up an entire blog series itself. Yet, it’s quite possible that Paul’s writings have taught me more about corporate worship than David has.

Several years ago, I was reading 1 Timothy when the Holy Spirit expressly spoke to me some truths about worship leading. These truths instantly took the gatherings I led to new levels of intimacy with God.

1 Timothy is known as one of the three “pastoral epistles,” (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus), so-called because in them Paul is giving explicit instruction on church order to the titular pastors, some of which involves how to conduct worship services.

Here is one of the verses that stood out to me in 1 Timothy pertaining to worship leading:

First of all, then (emphasis mine), I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…” 1 Timothy 2:1

Again, Paul’s purpose in this letter is instructing Timothy in how to lead the church. In Chapter 2, Paul turns to church function, behavior, and order. First of all, Paul says (indicating primacy), pray for “all people,” which in context refers to “all kinds of people.” Paul also mentions different types of prayer: supplications, intercession, and thanksgivings. This is a comprehensive prayer strategy for the church. Paul indicates its importance as primary.

Yet how much of our corporate worship time is devoted to strategic prayer, to praying out loud for those in attendance, to praying for specific people not in attendance, to praying for each other, touching the heart of God? Songs may act as prayers at times, but prayer must also be specific and personal in corporate worship. Prayer is the primary means by which believers connect to God and to each other, yet strategic, intercessory prayer is often neglected in worship gatherings. It is often reserved only for the pastor’s pre-and-post message prayer, or maybe a prayer tossed up by the worship leader before or after the singing. In one megachurch I attended there was no prayer at all until 45 minutes into the service! Some churches do have a specific “quiet prayer time” set aside in the service to pray for specific people and needs, and this is an excellent practice.

Still, I’m not sure if I’ve ever been in a worship service that spent enough time in prayer.

After reading 1 Timothy 2 one day, the Spirit spoke to me: when were the most powerful, intimate, and life-altering moments of worship that I’ve experienced? Almost all occurred when prayer was central to what was happening in the corporate worship gathering. An elder prayed over me during the final songs of a worship set, or I prayed for someone else. The worship leader offered a powerful, intentional, effectual prayer over the individuals in the congregation, cutting us to the heart and ministering a timely, living word from God to us (these prayers were likely prayerfully crafted and delivered out of intimacy with God before being delivered corporately). The church joined together in prayer for a sick brother or sister. A brother or sister poured his/her heart out to God before the whole congregation. The examples go on and on. The conclusion was inexorable: intentional corporate prayer time is primary and foundational for an effective and intimate corporate worship gathering.

I began incorporating prayer of different kinds into my worship planning in a variety of ways. Here are just some of the ideas I began to implement:

– Hearing from God during the week and composing a Biblical, timely prayer (like a modified, personalized version of Ephesians 3, for example) that would minister to, reassure, and challenge the congregation and the individuals within it, and reciting or reading that prayer during a strategic point in the worship set. These prayers really “opened things up” in the worship gathering. It created freedom in the room for people to engage God more personally. The personal, individualized nature of the words made the gathering feel more “real,” more organic, more vulnerable.

– Asking congregants to pray for each other. Often people need a little direction, such as what to pray for, but getting people outside their comfort zone to pray and minister to the people right next to them is what the church is all about!

– Setting aside a “quiet prayer time” for the congregation to pray for specific requests submitted to the elders (those that are not confidential, obviously), to pray for issues of local or national importance, and to pray silently or out loud for whatever is specifically on their hearts. I usually had an elder a week lead these prayers, but also left quiet time for people to pray on their own and touch the Lord.

– Calling up elders and prayer leaders at strategic points in the service to offer hands-on prayer ministry for people dealing with specific issues, often during the final few songs or in response to the sermon. Very, very powerful ministry, including healings, happen during these times when people have been broken by the Word!

A common concern amongst worship leaders is that too much “prayer time” or “liturgical time” will bog down the flow and bore the congregation. I couldn’t disagree more! When done with spiritual authority, prayer is an extremely engaging experience, even for the seeker. Furthermore, even if some people are coming to church just to be entertained, an intimate time with the Lord will quickly reveal to them that their desire to be entertained can only be fulfilled by the living God. What people are really longing for is connection, whether they realize it or not. It’s our job as worship leaders to give them the time, space, and opportunity to do that.

Another verse that struck me from 1 Timothy was 4:13: “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture.” We as worship leaders tend to underestimate just how powerful it is to simply pull out the Bible and read it with authority! There is power in the Word of God!! I always put it this way: when God speaks, people are saved, healed, and delivered. When man speaks, no one is saved, healed, or delivered. In the worship services you plan, how much time is set aside just to allow God to speak? Who is primarily doing the speaking in your worship services, man or God? I realize that the pastor will do most of the “speaking,” but let the reader understand: either a person is blabbing under their own power and wisdom, or a Spirit-filled, Bible-saturated saint is pouring forth living bread and living water, the pure milk of the Word, giving adequate time for reflection and for the Spirit of God to move. Which characterizes your worship gatherings?

One of my favorite ways to incorporate more public reading of Scripture was to memorize Psalms and recite them passionately while repeating an appropriate chord progression. SO POWERFUL! As I looked out at the congregation, I could see the spiritual and emotional response. It was like watching heaviness fall off people and watching them be set free! Memorize Psalms. When memorized, you can also “pull them out of your pocket” at any appropriate, Spirit-led time of worship. They work as prayer as well as encouragement, intercession, praise, lament, exhortation, etc.

I hope these lessons from 1 Timothy have been a blessing to you, and I hope you’re excited to see how God works and speaks in your next worship gathering as you give primacy to prayer and the the reading of Scripture. Unchain the word, let God speak, and enjoy Him as He moves and answers the prayers of your congregation!


Shane Heilman is songwriter and producer at The Psalms Project.

Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Part 8

by in —Leading a Congregation, —Leading a Team, —Worship and God

This is my final post in this series. It’s a little longer than the others, but it’s actually much shorter than it could be…The last idol I want to speak to is the idol of RELEVANCE.

Churches can become irrelevant for any number of reasons. Spiritual pride can keep us from considering that non-Christian guests may not understand our highly developed “Christian-speak.” Administrative incompetence might make it difficult for people to find us, or to enjoy being with us once they do (possibly due to crowded conditions, erratic temperature control, musty smells, etc.). A faulty understanding of what it means to be “in the world but not of the world” may result in a narrow interpretation of what external practices constitute godliness. Churches that don’t use electricity are one example that comes to mind. Each of the churches I’ve described here would bring greater glory to God by becoming more “relevant.”

However, the idol of relevance is rooted in the fear that people may not like us because we seem different from them. We want them to know we eat at the same restaurants, watch the same TV shows, listen to the same bands, laugh at the same jokes, and go to the same movies that they do. Our greatest fear is being perceived as out of touch.

Obviously, there are many times we’ll engage in the same activities as non-Christians. It’s one way that we maintain a conversation with and presence in the world. However, we’re fighting a losing battle when relevance becomes our aim – to convince the world we’re just like them. There are aspects of our culture that we clearly want to set ourselves apart from, simply because they contain so much that is opposed to glorying in Jesus Christ.

Martin Lloyd-Jones addressed the desire of preachers to be “relevant” in his book, Preaching and Preachers. His point is applicable to worship leaders as well.

“Our Lord attracted sinners because He was different. They drew near to Him because they felt that there was something different about Him. That poor sinful woman of whom we read in Luke 7 did not draw near to the Pharisees and wash their feet with her tears, and wipe them with the hair of her head. No, but she sensed something in our Lord – His purity, His holiness, His love – and so she drew near to Him. It was His essential difference that attracted her. And the world always expects us to be different. This idea that you are going to win people to the Christian faith by showing them that after all you are remarkably like them, is theologically and psychologically a profound blunder.” (p. 140)

Jesus possessed an “essential difference” that people, both religious leaders and prostitutes, were aware of. That difference included a profound humility, an unshakeable joy, and a servant heart. Ultimately, it was a refusal to bow to the god of this world, and an unyielding commitment to love His Father and obey His will. (Jn. 2:24-25, 5:30) Jesus related to sinners because He had come to give His life as a ransom for them. He hung around the “low-lifes” of his day enough to be accused of engaging in their sins (Lk. 7:34), yet we never get the impression he attended parties to prove that he was just like everyone there.

I could provide links to a number of church websites right here that would illustrate pursuing the idol of relevance. (After poking around the Internet, I’m convinced that truth is definitely stranger than fiction.) I decided not to do it, though. Like me, you may find it’s too easy to be tempted to self-righteousness, uncharitable judgment, or false accusation. I think the following description of the church in Acts succinctly communicates the distance that exists between the church and the world, and how God adds to His people in spite of it – or perhaps because of it. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women. (Acts 5:13-14 ESV)

What I believe every Christian pastor and leader needs to answer are questions like these: Are people who visit our church more aware of how different we are or how similar we are to them? Are the people in my church growing in their likeness to the values of Jesus Christ or the world? Do the songs we sing and the references we make communicate the supreme treasure of God’s Word or the godless pride of our age?

On a more personal note, as a leader I want to carefully watch my own intake. It’s revealing to measure how much time I actually spend reading, studying, and observing the thoughts of non-Christians for the purpose of being “relevant.” How much is necessary for me to enable meaningful contact with the world around me? That’s a question I need to answer from the Lord’s perspective, not mine or the world’s.

I’m in the middle of reading Os Guiness’ book Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance. It’s an excellent read. I think this quote says what I’d like to say better than I ever could:

“By our breathless chase after relevance without a matching commitment to faithfulness, we have become not only unfaithful but irrelevant; by our determined efforts to redefine ourselves in ways that are more compelling to the modern world than are faithful to Christ, we have lost not only our identity but our authority and our relevance. Our crying need is to be faithful as well as relevant.” (p. 15)

“Father, by your grace make us faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ – in our words, our deeds, and our thoughts. And like the early church, we trust that more than ever believers will be added to the Lord.”


Bob Kauflin currently serves as the Director of Sovereign Grace Music for Sovereign Grace Ministries in Louisville, Kentucky.

Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Part 7

I’m in the middle of a discussion on idols that can tempt us when we gather to worship God on Sunday mornings.

Today, I’d like to talk about the idol of REPUTATION, especially as it’s revealed in the lives of leaders. God commends a good reputation in Proverbs: A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. Prov. 22:1 That means God wants our lives characterized by virtues such as godliness, integrity, and faithfulness. However, I’m never to seek my good name at the expense of God’s name. I must never be more concerned about my reputation than God’s.

The idol of reputation is subtle. It’s masquerades behind holy acts, but reveals itself in unholy responses or thoughts. It’s sad, sobering, and scary that I can use the act of worshipping God to try to make myself look better in people’s eyes. I’ve done it countless times. Here are a few ways I’ve seen this idol express itself through the years… “I wonder if anyone will notice that outstanding piano fill…” “My voice is SO much better than hers.” “That was a GREAT song selection I made this morning!” “What do you mean you want the singing time to be cut short by five minutes?!” “Why don’t they ask me to sing more?” “I don’t need to rehearse like everyone else.” “I could NEVER sing in the choir. I’m a soloist.”

These are the more obvious self-exalting kind of thoughts. I’ve been guilty of all of them. However, the same root can manifest itself in anxiety and self-deprecation as well. “I wonder if people will like the worship today.” “My stomach is tied up in knots before every meeting.” “Worship was just terrible this morning.” “Don’t ask me to sing or play a solo.”

These responses are often rooted in the fear that we won’t get the credit and acclaim we crave. Because we’re afraid we won’t be honored, we make excuses, we aim low, we nurture unbelief, and give in to anxiety. In short, we fail to honor God. In both cases, our goal is the same – to improve what others think of us, rather than what they think of our Savior.

While musicians and pastors are no more sinful than anyone else, we do have particular temptations that we need to be aware of. Since much of what leaders do takes place in front of people, we can be tempted to steal glory from God. That is what I mean by serving the idol of our reputation. Of course, non-leaders can serve the same idol. As we sing praises to God, we can wonder if we’re singing in tune, if we look passionate (or contemplative) enough, or if the people around us are REALLY worshipping God.

Years ago, I was in England at a large Christian conference. During one seminar, we were led in corporate worship by a guitarist whom I thought was average in every respect. As he finished what I would describe as a sorry time of worship in song, the elderly gentleman to my side turned my way. With a glowing smile, he asked, “That was simply lovely, wasn’t it?” I wanted to say no, but the Holy Spirit caught my tongue before the answer slipped out. What I realized was that only one of us had been worshipping God during that time. And it wasn’t me. I was busy worshipping myself, exulting in my knowledge of worship, my experiences, my training, my background. Needless to say, God wasn’t impressed. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Is. 66:2b ESV) May God grant us grace to truly seek His reputation above our own each time we meet to worship Him.

For more on this topic, download the following free messages from the Sovereign Grace site:
Glad to Be a Doorkeeper by Pat Sczebel
Heart Attitudes for the Worship Team by Bob Kauflin


Bob Kauflin currently serves as the Director of Sovereign Grace Music for Sovereign Grace Ministries in Louisville, Kentucky.

Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 6

by  in —Leading a Congregation, —Leading a Team, —Worship and God

Today I want to focus on the idol of RESULTS. I’m referring to the mindset that views worshipping God as a means to attain a more desirable end, like increased attendance, evangelism, mutual ministry, or individual experiences. “Results-worship” might underlie comments like these: “We stay away from certain biblical topics because people just don’t like to hear them.” “Livelier meetings keep the guests coming back.” “It didn’t seem like God was with us this morning because all we did was sing, share the Lord’s Supper, and hear God’s Word preached.” “We make it a goal to have everyone receive a “touch from God” on Sunday morning.”

Of course, it’s right to want the church to grow, desire to see people saved, provide opportunities for mutual edification, and expect that people will encounter the living God in evidential ways when we meet. However, we want to do all those things so that more and more people will be able to see the surpassing greatness and glory of Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, it’s a false dichotomy to ask whether meetings are for God or for us. They are for God in their end, they are for us in their effect. However, when we’re talking about ultimate purposes, there’s no question. Everything we do, we do so that the glory of God might be seen, magnified, and cherished. So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1Cor. 10:31 ESV) And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3:17 ESV) For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:36 ESV)

John Piper has succinctly stated, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” (Let the Nations Be Glad, p. 11) That applies equally to everything else we do. Personal ministry exists because people don’t honor God for His power and compassion. The church needs to grow so that more people might honor and love God for His mercy, grace, and truth. We want people to encounter the active presence of God’s Spirit so that they might prize Him above every experience, feeling, or sensation. We want every Christian to know that God’s steadfast love expressed in the substitutionary death of our Savior is better than life itself.

So, God’s glory is the end of our worship, and not simply a means to something else. In the midst of a culture that glorifies our pitiful accomplishments in countless ways, we gather each week to proclaim God’s wondrous deeds and glory in his supreme value. He is “holy, holy, holy.” There is no one, and nothing, like the Lord. If you’re a leader in God’s household, remember that no good can ultimately come from fixing your people’s eyes on anything greater than the Savior Himself. The Lamb is the One we will be exalting above all else for all eternity. It’s only right that we exalt Him above all else now.


Bob Kauflin currently serves as the Director of Sovereign Grace Music for Sovereign Grace Ministries in Louisville, Kentucky.