In this message, we learn that we don’t just worship, we are worshippers.
Alright! Welcome to Valley Creek Church. If this is your first time with us, I’m really glad you’re here because this is a big weekend in the life of our family, because this is the release weekend of the album “By Cloud By Fire.”
And it’s not just exciting that we’re releasing a CD. This is a big deal because this isn’t just about a CD. This is about a vision realized. The very first thing I ever heard God say to me about who we were supposed to be as a church was, He told me that we’re supposed to be a worshipping church – a church that wants to worship Him, that wants to encounter the presence of God, a church that wants to experience Him and declare His praises, and sing new songs to the Lord and create a culture of song-writing where we’re prophesying and singing forth and just lifting up the name of Jesus. And so this isn’t about a CD; this is about a vision realized. And so I’m incredibly proud of our worship team, which is close to 200 people, the people on the platform and the production and the prayer team.
I’m proud of them for writing these songs and capturing this truth and putting it down for us to sing, for going after that vision. And I’m proud of you for choosing to follow, to step out of your comfort zone, do some things maybe you wouldn’t do on your own, but to become a worshipping church and encounter the presence of the Living God of the universe and make this place a worshipping church. You see, this CD – the best way I can say to you is these are our family anthems. They’re the anthems of our family. They don’t just belong to the people that wrote the songs. They belong to us. In other words, these are your songs. These are prophetic declarations of what we believe and how we live and who our God is and how He has moved. This is our theology. You want to say, “What do we believe?” Listen to these songs. There’s 12 of them, beginning to end. Just listen all the way and they will tell you about everything you need to know about what we believe about who God is and humanity and how He engages with us. This is the story, in a sense, of the last two years of our journey captured in song and sung back to God.
And all those songs we just sung a few minutes ago, they’re all birthed out of what God has been doing in this place. And so I told you a few weeks ago, I don’t normally do this, but listen; you need one of these. Okay? If this is your church, which may to you mean you show up once a year, I don’t care what that means to you – if this is your church, you need one of these because these are your songs. These are your songs. And you need these anthems washing over your mind and over your heart to be reminded about the goodness and the greatness of our God, who he is, what we believe. If you ever want to have the full experience out of following Jesus in a life-giving local church, you need to partner in moments like this. You need one of these playing over your life. And not only do you need to get one for you, you need to buy a bunch and give them out to people.
Coleen and I are going to buy them. In all seriousness, she already did last night. We were going to buy them in 10 packs. She bought 15. She bought more than I thought we were going to buy. [Laughs] She came home and said, “Honey, I bought a lot and some shirts too.” I said, “Well, good.” Good thing we believe in the product.
And we are buying like 10, but she bought about 15. I said, “We’re going to give them to the kids’ teachers and to our neighbors and to our friends, because this is like the greatest invitation you can ever give anybody, because you’re giving them the presence of God captured in song.” And as they play it, as they drive down the road and check out what your church is all about, snot bubbles will be coming out of their noses.
God comes and sets them free. Okay? So you need to get some and give them away, because those are amazing invitations. And I think it’s a perfect weekend for the release of the CD because we’ve been in a series called ‘Upside Down Church.’ We’ve been talking about the church that can turn the world upside down, and the church that turns the world upside down is a worshipping church. And so if you’ve got a Bible, flip over with me to Acts 16. Acts Chapter 16 – “The church that turns the world upside down is a church that chooses to worship.” Listen to me; I don’t know what you think about worship. I have no idea what you as an – I can tell you what we as a church believe. I don’t know what you as an individual believe.
I mean, maybe you just tolerate worship. Maybe worship to you is the boring part of the service. Maybe you just think it’s singing songs. For some of you, you’re grateful there’s worship because it gives you 30 minutes to have a cup of coffee or to come late and you still feel like you made it to what the whole thing is about. I don’t know what you think about worship, but I know this. We need to change our perspective, so we can change the experience we have with the Living God of the Universe. Okay? Acts 16 starting in Verse 16 – it says, “Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved. She kept this up for many days.” Okay, pause. Can we all agree that would get really annoying?
A demon-possessed girl following you around everywhere, shouting over your life.
I have a whole lot of jokes about old girlfriends that I could insert right there.
But wisdom just says to leave those and move along [Laughs]. She’s crazy!
That would get annoying. “Finally, Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you, come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.” So he set this poor girl free. “When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews and are throwing our city into an uproar. They are turning the world upside down by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice. The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas. The magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.”
“Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.” Couple of thoughts for you; first thing is this. There is always a reason to worship. There’s always a reason to worship. Paul and Silas are beaten; they’re stripped, all for setting this poor demon-possessed girl free, and they’re thrown into jail in the inner cell and it says they’re worshipping. Okay, they’re worshipping! I don’t know about you, but if I got tossed into the inner cell, beaten and all that kind of stuff, I wouldn’t be worshipping. I’ll be crying for my mommy. This is what I’ll be saying, “I want my mommy.” [Laughs[ And if I was going to be singing, I’ll probably be singing the blues or a country tune.
You know, like ‘I lost my dog. I lost my truck. I lost my job. I lost my girl.’ If it’s that girl, maybe it’s a good thing. That’s what I think we’re missing, but they’re worshipping. Why? Because worship has nothing to do with your circumstances; it has everything to do with your God. Worship is not about your circumstances. It’s about how great your God is. It’s not about what’s going on in your life. It’s about who you have and his name is Jesus. And so we don’t find these guys sitting there, talking about how bad their life is. We hear them singing about how great their God is. I mean, listen to this – Habakkuk 3 17 and 18 – “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Sounds like a pretty bad day. Even though everything is falling apart, I will choose to worship.
That should be the posture of all of our hearts, because worship is not about a feeling; it’s about a choice. And maybe today your life feels like it’s falling apart and you have to make a choice to declare the goodness of God. In fact, it’s really interesting to me. It’s usually the people with the worst circumstances who are the most passionate worshippers. It’s usually the people who are going through cancer, who have lost a loved one, who have a chronic issue in their life, who are having some level of brokenness; they are the most passionate worshippers. Why? Because they’ve hit rock bottom and they’ve realized the rock that’s at the bottom is Jesus. They’ve hit rock bottom. They’ve got to the end of it all and they realize the rock at the bottom is Jesus. He is the cornerstone, the foundation on which they stand. Beneath it all they’ve discovered it’s Jesus, and so they start to worship and praise. I mean, the darker the dungeon, the more powerful the praise that’s realized out of our hearts. And the opposite is also true.
When we feel like our life is all together and everything is great and we’re just kind of sailing and cruising through life, we don’t need to worship Jesus because we’re too busy worshipping ourselves. I realize that sounds strong and harsh, and it is, but it’s true. When your life is good and you think you got it all together and you think it’s because how great you are, you have no need to worship Jesus because you’re worshipping yourself. You’re like, “Why would I worship someone else? Someone should be worshipping me. Look at what I’ve got going here.” In fact, the great danger of comfort in our life is once you start to pursue comfort and you discover it, you start to worship that comfort and you start to worship yourself for creating the comfort. But worship is not about us; it’s about Him. And there’s always a reason to worship, and sometimes all you can do is worship. It’s declare his goodness in the midst of your brokenness. In fact, you say what actually happens when we worship? Here’s what happens. When you worship there’s a couple of things that happens. First thing is this – I forgot, so I got to look at my notes. It is, it reminds you who is in control.
When you worship you’re reminding yourself who is in control. The second thing is it changes your perspective. 2nd Corinthians 4:18 says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Worship changes your perspective. It moves your eyes off of the circumstances you see to the God that you cannot see. It changes your perspective from the temporary to the eternal. It moves your vision from an earthly view to a heavenly view. It changes your perspective. And the last thing is this. When you worship you’re declaring truth. You’re declaring truth over your life regardless of how you feel. I mean, that’s why David was always worshipping. David, the guy that wrote most of the Psalms, the original worship tunes, he is always worshipping and yet David is running from Saul, hiding in caves. His friends are betraying him. He feels like God hasn’t delivered on the promises, and yet he is always worshipping. Why? Because David knows he needs to change his perspective and declare his truth and understand who is in control, that even though there are no grapes on the vines, yet I will choose to lift up my God.
And you say, “Well, isn’t it fake if I worship when I don’t feel like it?” No, that’s called faith. It’s not fake to worship when you don’t feel like it. It’s faith. Faith is being sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see. It takes faith to lift up the goodness of God when you don’t really feel like worshipping or when you really aren’t into it or when your heart’s really not in the moment. That is not fake. That is faith. It’s believing he is great regardless of what’s going on. And you say, “Well, how do I get started in worship?” You get started by going back to salvation. Jesus says, “He who has been forgiven much, loves much.” The reason we don’t have a lot of worship in our hearts to pour out to God is because we forget how much we have been forgiven. If you will go back and focus on how much he has forgiven you fully, completely, abundantly, then you will naturally have love in your heart to express back to him. Okay?
There’s always a reason to worship. Second thing is this. These songs we sing are a reflection of who we are. Paul and Silas, they’re sitting in jail and they’re worshipping. And what I want you to notice is they’re worshipping in jail, not just in church, because worship doesn’t just happen in here. It happens everywhere in our lives. And they don’t even have the ‘By Cloud By Fire’ CD, and yet they’re worshipping.
And because they’re singing about God, we know everything we need to know about who Paul and Silas really are. In fact, the question I would ask you is this. If we looked at your playlist, your iTunes playlist music, what would that tell us about who you really are? Matthew 12:34 – Jesus says, “The mouth speaks of the overflow of the heart.” In other words, whatever is coming out of your mouth was first in your heart. Your words are a reflection of what’s going on inside of you. Whatever is in here will come out of here and whatever comes out of here tells us what’s in here. Your mouth betrays your heart every single time.
Like for example, have you ever said something to somebody that you regretted? And then you go back to him and you apologize and you’re like, “I’m really sorry I said that. That wasn’t me.” Do you know what I’m talking about? Come on, don’t tell me I’m the only one that’s ever done that.
Like, “I’m really sorry.” I said, “That wasn’t me.” Actually it was. The reason it came out of your mouth is because it was already in your heart. The mouth speaks of the overflow of the heart. So let’s project that to songs. The mouth sings of the overflow of the heart. So the question I want to ask you is, are you singing about booties and dollars or hope and heaven?
Just call it what it is. Don’t be afraid to call it what it is. Right? Are you booties and dollars or hope and heaven? Are you declaring the anthems of this world or are you declaring the anthems of heaven?
Which one is your heart more aligned with and then what does that tell you about what’s actually happening in here? You see, here’s a really interesting thing. I bet there are things you will sing that you would never say. [Laughs] Somebody wanted to laugh and I’m like, “No, no.” Think about it. There are things you will sing, just driving down the road and just coming out of your mouth, that you would never in a million years sit down and say to somebody in a conversation. You will easily sing about booties and dollars and sex and drugs and death and destruction, things you would never say to anybody else, but you’re singing. And on the flipside some of you, when you come into this place, there’s things you will sing when you worship together that you would never say to anyone else. Like, “Holy Spirit, come and fill me. I love you. God, I want more of you. You are in me and you are with me.” That you would never say anywhere else. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” In other words, songs are a prophetic declaration over your life.
Whatever you are singing, you are prophesying. You’re declaring that version of truth over your life. Are you declaring the anthems of this world or the anthems of heaven over your life? It’s literally a prophetic declaration. And Satan knows this truth. That’s why he goes after the music industry so hard to get tunes that are catchy, so that we’re singing things that we don’t even realize that we’re saying. And all of a sudden we’re talking about death and destruction and brokenness and all. I mean, if you would just stop and think about the things we sing, you would be mortified at some of the words. In fact, I was thinking about this before service. I was thinking, “Think of some of the things you sing. Would you ever want the people in your life to do those things?” Probably not, and yet we sing them and we think it’s fun, which is all part of this thing that I’m just trying to give. The songs we sing are a declaration of who we are.
Like, this week on Tuesday when the iTunes thing auto-populated of the album when it was released, we had it and we were playing it in our house. And my little girl, she’s in the season of dancing and she just loves to dance, and so she started running around the house dancing. And we have this great little iPhone video of her doing it, and she didn’t give me permission to share with you, so I’ll do my best rendition. She was just running around and she was singing the ‘You are worthy’ song [Singing]. Okay, she did it much better than that and Andy sings much better than that. But she just runs ‘you are worthy’ [Singing] just over and over. That’s all she has been doing the entire week, and I was thinking about it. Do I want my six-year-old singing and dancing to ‘You Are Worthy’ or to ‘Shake That Booty’?
Do we want 16-year-olds singing and dancing to ‘You Are Worthy’ or to ‘Shake That Booty’? Do we want 60-year-olds singing and dancing to ‘You Are Worthy’ or ‘Shake That Booty’?
That wasn’t supposed to be that funny.
Do we want you singing and dancing to ‘You Are Worthy’ or ‘Shake That Booty’? Your eyes and your ears are the gateway to your heart and to your mind. And whatever you’re putting in there, over time your heart will align itself with. Whatever is washing over your heart and your mind, eventually you will begin to by faith believe that that’s your truth. Romans 10:17 – The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing.” So whatever I’m hearing, my faith in that thing is growing. So if I’m hearing only the anthems of this world, my faith in the brokenness and the darkness and the destruction of the world is growing. But if I’m hearing the anthems of heaven, my faith in the hope of heaven is growing. Whatever is washing over your heart, you are believing that truth.
Like it or not, that is what the Bible teaches us. It’s what you start to believe. And I know in my life when my heart craves the anthems of this world more than the anthems of heaven there’s a problem. I’m drifting from Jesus and it’s kind of a radar flag for me. I’m like, “Okay, time out. There’s something going on in here. I’ve got to come back and recheck in.” And I know some of you are looking at me and you’re like, “So what? You’re telling us we can’t sing secular music? This is like a celebration of the CD. Can’t do secular music?” No. If that’s what you’re hearing, you’re not listening to what I’m saying. What I’m saying is let’s be wise. Let’s be wise. What do you want washing over your heart? I mean, some of you look at me when I say, “Hey, you need to get this CD.” And I can tell by the look on your face you’re like, “Yeah, bro. I ain’t never buying that CD. I don’t want it.” Okay, if you don’t get it, I really don’t care [Laughs]. What I care about is, I want the anthems of heaven washing over your heart because that’s the only way to dislodge the anthems of the world that we find ourselves constantly seeing. The choice is yours.
It’s really hard to passionately pursue after Jesus if you declare the anthems of this world as your main song. That’s what I’m trying to say to you. But if you declare the anthems of heaven even if you don’t feel like it, even if you’re not sure you really believe it, you’ll be amazed that how your heart starts to gravitate towards that, because by faith you begin to believe because that’s what you’re hearing. In fact, if you’ve been here for any period of time, you’ve heard me say this before and I think this just shows you how much we believe in this truth. I realize our services are about an hour and five to an hour and 10 minutes long every weekend, and I know your life is busy. You’ve got a million things going, kids and activities and sports and hobbies and lunches and breakfasts and dinners. Okay, I get all that stuff. I know it’s hard to be here for an hour and five to an hour and 10 minutes, but here’s what I would say to you. If you’re so busy that you can’t make the hour and five to an hour and 10, I would rather you come on time and leave early than come late and stay to the end. I would rather you be here for the worship than the sermon is what I’m telling you if you can’t make both.
Why? Because I know you will changed more encountering the presence of God than listening to me teach. I think in the American church we have overemphasized the sermon and underemphasized the presence of God. What a lot of us think is, we get here 30 minutes late and we walk in and we’re like, “Yeah, we still made the main event.” No, you actually just missed the main event. You missed the main prize. You know the prize fight they save till the end? They do all the boring fights first? Okay, in church it’s actually the opposite. The main thing is in the beginning where we’re encountering the presence of God, and that’s the very thing that opens up our heart to be able to receive the truth that God wants to put inside of us anyways. In some ways it’s honestly pointless to listen to sermons if we’re not worshipping, because nothing is really getting in there. I realize this is strong. [Laughs] You’re like, “Is John telling us not to come and hear the preaching?”
No! Again, you’re listening to what I’m not saying.
John is saying an hour and five minutes really isn’t all that much, but if you can’t make it all, I’d rather you come and be focused on meeting with Jesus than hearing a sermon, because you know what we’ve done in the American church? We have idolized the sermon. We literally worship the pursuit of knowledge. That’s why most of us feel like we had church if we got the sermon, but we don’t feel like we had church if all we got is the worship. Maybe that’s backwards. It’s pride that says, “I don’t need the worship or don’t want to worship.” And it’s pride that says, “I’ll worship God the way I want to worship. I don’t want to raise my hands. I don’t want to open my mouth. I don’t want to sing. I’ll worship in my own way.” That’s not worship then, because worship is declaring the glory of God the way that He wants to be worshipped. And what you have to remember is, we don’t just worship; we literally are worshippers. It’s our identity.
1st Peter 2:9 says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” – ready? – “that you may declare” – verbal expression – “the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” The primary calling of your life is to be a worshipper. It’s not the great commission. It’s not to make disciples. It’s not to change the world. It’s not to invite your neighbor to church. It’s not to be kind and be a better spouse or parent or student. It’s to be a worshipper. Adam and Eve were created in the Garden to reflect and reveal the image of God. We are now created to reflect and reveal the image of God, to be a worshipper, to declare his truth. Who you are always determines what you do. And you were created by God as a worshipper, which means you will always worship. The question is, are you worshipping the right thing? Because every person in this room, you are worshipping. You worship.
You may not worship Jesus. You may not worship here. You’re worshipping something. Maybe it’s a job or a hobby, money, your kids’ activities, spouse, a sports thing; I don’t know. You’re worshipping something. Is it the right thing? Okay, you’re worshipping. And the last thing is this that worship sets us free. These two verses again – “About midnight” – Verse 25 – “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, worshipping, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.” So catch this. Paul and Silas are in jail. It’s midnight. They’re singing and worshipping, and it says the prisoners are listening to them. These are hardened criminals. These are angry people. These are guys stuck in jail and it’s midnight and they’re not saying, “Hey Paul, shut up. Be quiet over there. We don’t want to listen to your nonsense. We’re trying to sleep over here.”
No, they’re tuned in. Why? Because the sound of heaven always captures the hearts of men. The echo of hope is what we’re all listening for. That’s what worship is. It’s an echo of hope that radiates out. It’s a declaration of heaven, and all our hearts long for heaven. That’s why when we hear worship we don’t resist it. There’s something about it that draws us in, because our hearts were created for heave and it’s showing us the way home. And so they’re worshipping and it says the presence of God comes, shakes the whole thing. World turns upside down. The foundation is broken open. Prison doors shake loose and they’re set free. They’re completely set free in the prison, which teaches you and I that the way out of your brokenness is through worship. The way out of your bondage is through worship. And not only did they get set free, the prisoners got set free. All of the guys that weren’t worshipping, all of their chains and all of their doors broke open.
Everybody was set free, which is why I tell you even when you don’t want to worship it’s not about you. You worship for the person sitting next to you, who may be there in bondage and brokenness with no energy or strength to worship for themselves, but when you worship the presence of God comes and not only sets you free, it sets them free. We worship for those who can’t worship for themselves. The presence of God is the greatest change agent and evangelistic tool on the face of this earth. When God comes, heaven comes to earth. Dead things come to life. Hope is restored. Freedom is released, and God goes where He is wanted. Can you tell I have a burden in this? Because this is who we are as a church. There should be nothing we’re more passionate about than this. I mean, I’ve told you before. When we worship some of you are like, “What is actually happening? Are we just like singing these songs over and over again?” No. Then what’s happening? The Bible tells us the God inhabits the praises of his people. He is enthroned on our praises, which literally means this.
When you’re worshipping in the spiritual realm, like this morning where we’re together and we’re worshipping, in the spiritual realm right here in the center of the room, you can’t see it but by faith you believe it, because He said it. Your praise is making a throne for Jesus, where Jesus himself comes and sits as leader and lord over your life. And when he comes, he comes and he brings healing and hope and forgiveness and redemption and joy and peace and love and breakthrough. And all the things you need in your life show up when Jesus comes and sits on the throne of your praises. That’s why we worship. The heart that worships Jesus lives free. The heart that worships Jesus sets other people free. The church that turns the world upside down is a worshipping church. So all this is it’s a tool. Like, “All of this is about us?” No, this is a tool. This is a tool that will help you take a next step in this area.
Everything in this church is always about you listening to God. I’m not telling you what to do. I’ve always said, “What is the Holy Spirit saying?” You take the next step on your journey with Jesus. What’s your next step? This is a tool. Some of you, your next step in worship is just to come back to service next week. Some of you, your next step is to come and be here for the worship portion of the service next week. Some of you, your next step is to open your mouth and actually sign for the first time. Some of you, it’s to raise your hands. Some of you, it’s to sign during the space that’s just the music and the worship leaders telling us to declare greatness, or gratitude to God, or whatever it may be. Some of you, your next step is to put this in your iPod or in your car CD player on the drive to let the anthems of heaven start washing over you. Some of you, it’s to worship in private. I don’t know. You will have a next step. Will you take yours? You see, ‘By Cloud By Fire’, the title of this thing is a reference to the Israelites following the presence of God, out of bondage into the promised land.
By day they follow the pillar of cloud and by night it was a pillar of fire. The presence of God, wherever it went they would follow. And we have a little saying around here at Valley Creek Church. It’s called ‘follow the cloud’. Wherever the presence of God goes, we want to take a next step in that direction because we take the next step with him we’re covered, we’re protected, we’re loved, we’re safe. We’re provided for. Our identity is declared. All the things we want to know have happened when we just pursue the presence of God. And in Exodus 15, as soon as they get set from bondage, following the cloud for the first time in their life they stop and they sing a new song to the Lord. They become a worshipping people. When you follow the cloud, the presence of God, you will always have a new song to sing.
My hope and my prayer for you is that your heart will always have a new song to sing.
We are a worshipping church.
And you are a worshipper. You may not feel like it. You may not believe it. You may not be excited about it. You may think that is way far from where you are on your journey with Jesus, but I’m going to declare it and speak life over you today that you are a worshipper.
And we don’t worship because we have to. We worship because He loves us. We love because He loved us first. We worship because of the overwhelming, overflowing love of Jesus. That’s why in this church we spend so much time talking about the greatness of God instead of the brokenness of ourselves, because when you catch a hold of the greatness of the love of God you can’t help but step out of that brokenness and start to express back your gratitude, your love and your devotion for who He is and what He has done for you. And so I believe in this moment, in this place some dead things are coming to life in your heart. I believe some hope is being released. I believe freedom is taking place and some shackles are being broken off of you in the name of Jesus.
We’re going to believe that’s true because the world turns upside down when we make His presence the focal point of what we do.