A Worship Time or A Time to Worship?​

Paul Critchley January 2013

Towards the end of 2012 I began to sense more and more that God was encouraging me, as part of my leadership role at Beacon House of Prayer, to draw together worship leaders and musicians for 24 hours of unbroken worship; to gather together those who had a heart to bring an offering to God, regardless of who else might listen and join in. I didn't want to greatly advertise it, but just to connect those together who had a passion to lift Him up and bring an offering, just for Him.

The result was a wonderful, rich, diverse palate of worship and praise that was vocal and musical, but most importantly heart connected and vertical.

For me, there's been a tension often between being up front and leading others in worship whilst making sure that the focus is God and not the music, the style, or the content. I'm blessed to be in a place where there is much flexibility and opportunity to sense where the Holy Spirit is leading and aiming to follow.

There's something powerful about the joining of our hearts and voices together in corporate worship; about bringing a united expression and declaration of our praises. The potential issue can be that the focus turns to the song, to the music or even sometimes to the team, the presentation, or whether we like the style or not. All this can be a distraction.

I've personally been so aware of the power of music on the emotions; how songs can draw us into a place that may not be where God might be leading, but purely an atmosphere. This is not to say that God isn't in our emotions, but a 'check' on whether it's connected to Him or the music is needed.

The goal for me is bringing something that takes us on a journey of worship and takes us to a deeper place of connection with God. If you're a worship leader or musician reading this, then let me just say that I believe our aim is to draw hearts and welcome God's presence and then to get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit move.

When we gather together as a body to worship, it should really be an overflow of our daily walk and relationship and not the start and end! If our private worship place is right, then it's likely our public worship place is too. It's very hard to have it the other way around.

We often use this phrase, 'we are going to now enter into a time of worship'. Early followers of Jesus would have no idea what we were talking about! To them everything was worship. The way they lived and for some even the way they died. Every day, hour, minute was an opportunity to worship God. I'm sure this is what God is looking for and what He loves to see when He gazes upon us.

For a long time I've held Psalm 63 as a real target. It's not a place I'm at yet, but is a real desire. David was talking here about every moment being offered to Him. I'm including the text here, because it's really worth praying out as an act of submission and desire to encounter Him more. I'm asking this again today too as I type in the words.

'You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:1-8.

Elsewhere in John 4:23, the scripture speaks about the sort of worship Father God is looking for; truthful and authentic. It really isn't about a worship time, but about our lives laid out before him in every moment.

In my city of Stoke on Trent, we are learning the reality that full time ministry to God is for every person, in every place. Yes it is about the ordained minister, pastor, leader, but it is also in equal measure about you, today, wherever you work, study, raise up family and do life.

Let these places be where we bring our offering of worship and praise and we will know His presence there because our attention to Him draws His attention to us. It becomes a place of Heaven to earth connection.

Don't save your worship for the next meeting, or even your next quiet time. Bring it now in your everyday living​

 

Stir up faith

Paul Critchley 2012

I've been really encouraged recently by the evidence of faith that is growing in those who are around me. I've been especially spurred on by seeing faith expand in my worship team.

I don't apologise for writing about worship. It's my calling from God and I am definitely speaking this to myself as I write to you. I'm on a journey of increasing faith but am so glad that God has given me freedom to stir up faith in me and in those I lead.

During worship we often sing songs that: declare God owns everything, that He's in control, that we love Him regardless of joy or pain, whatever the circumstance. We express thanks no matter the situation. Say that we surrender to His ways, sing out the authority of His name, ask for forgiveness. The list can and does go on. There really is so much to worship and thank Him for. So many subjects and themes, but our worship must also be on dislplay in our behavior and attitude as well as our singing.

Worship itself is a an act that needs our faith and trust. A belief that we can, without fear, give our lives totally over to Him, allowing Him to lead us where He wants us to go, even if it's not, and maybe especially if it's an uncomfortable place. It's a mindset that faithfully allows Him to have control of our money, our jobs, our relationships and the future we cannot yet see.

When we recognised the truth of our friendship with Jesus we were each given a measure, an amount of faith and that faith needs encouraging, excercising, stirring up on the inside. If we never feed it or give it any attention, it's not going to grow bigger or stronger.

Giving our own daily worship, meeting with others to worship, speaking and singing out God's word will all cause our faith to grow.

I am in no way making light of this and saying that a formula will do it. It can be hard, it can be an act of will. It might be out of a place where I'm saying.. 'This is the last thing I feel like doing' BUT... when we make a choice to come to Him, He will meet us in that place.

I remember well leading a worship seminar a couple of years ago. I was taking the group through the amazing truth of our right in Jesus to come to the most intimate place, the holy of holies, once reserved for the High Priest but now wide open to us because of Jesus ultimate, worthy sacrifice. It's the truth found here in Hebrews 10:19-22 'Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to Godwith a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings. I was a bit shocked when someone stood up and said... That's old stuff, Jesus is everywhere. He's all around us! Hmm.. after a swift prayer for wisdom I had to of course agree, but was able to share this: 'It is true, His presence is everywhere but He still want's us to come and meet with Him. We have friends and family 'around' us, yet without coming together we don't have relationship'.
It's that place of closeness that God loves. We were made to worship, we were designed to live in His presence. He has made every opportunity, offered every invitation for us to have that level of intimacy with Him. It's a place where he holds us, hears us, advises us, cheers us on. And yet, we often miss out on the reality of His nearness. James 4:8 says this. 'Draw near to God and He will draw near to you'

I did say that that sometimes we worship Him out of obedience, out of choice. This is sacrificial worship. It's given along with our practical tithes and offerings It's a response to God's commandment. Though this might sometimes seem a bit false or weak on our part, the exciting truth is that He sees it intentional. He values our decision to come towards Him, especially when the road is not smooth or we don't 'feel' anything. It's these times that build our faith. They work on our spirutal muscle and strengthen us in times of weakness. They give God the opportunity to train us and equip us.

God loves our worship. He is jealous for our love. If anyone ever deserved this response, It is Him. Naturally, we love it when we are encouraged by others, when we receive praise for that we've done well. Though God values this from us, He doesn't need it to grow or function or stay encouraged. It's us who need it. He's pleased in watching us as we engage with Him, as we dig into the reality of our relationship with Him. But the exercise builds us up, it benefits us, it grows our faith

So, whatever's happening today: the good, bad or ugly! Make a choice to get close. Make a choice to worship. Stir it up and sense His pleasure and passion over you as you do.
 
I AM Blessed
Paul Critchley March 2012
Particularly in the times of our own struggles and difficulties, which are without doubt part of life's journey, we can be tempted to be drawn into a place of believing that “good things” always seem to happen to “everyone else”, We can be taken to a place of focus on our troubles rather than the greater perspective of our blessed position in Christ. We can quickly come to a place where we are soon unable to see the amazing grace, goodness and provision of God. I've definitely been in that place where other people seem to be doing really well, their lives seem fruitful, their situation is great.and the truth is that in those times my attention can turn selfishley into a place of focus on my apparent lack.
It's one of our enemy, the devil's tactics, to distract us from looking on and declaring the goodness of God over our own lives and to be overwhelmed by thoughts of short term 'fixes' that only hold empty promise of temporary happiness. Instead of grateful hearts and worship, we think on what could be “if” we were someone else, “if” we had something else, had a different job, lived somewhere better... we could make a list of “what if's”.
I read recently this quote. “Comparison is an ugly game that no one wins”. It steers us away from the reality of God's heart for us as His children. Those special ones that He dotes on. Remember? He chose us, He adopted us, He drew us, He looked out for us even when we far off. He ran to meet us, He flung His arms wide to greet us, embrace us. He celebrates us! Wow, it seems to me that God demonsrates how much He values us whilst we can so quicky devalue all that He is and has given to us!”
Philippians 4:8-13 speaks about the power of fixing our thoughts on things good, true, and praiseworthy, finding our joy in the Lord, not in self or circumstances. As Paul writes this letter He's living in a place of perfect contentment even though it's thought that he is writing from His prison cell! He's living in a place of amazing faith in Jesus who's able to give him strength in every situation, no matter what the outward appearance. Paul's focus is on how blessed He is, not how terrible his position is. What a testimony!
I began to dig deeper into this with my own worship team recently. We all began to list what gifts we had been given, what we were grateful to God for, those things tangible, those relationships He'd given to us, those abilities He'd given to us. We began to focus in on what we have rather than what we don't have. There were different things for each one of us. A living example of God's personal connection with each of our lives, how He interacts with us, know us intimately, blessing us personally! So, we then began to look at how we were or could bring those blessings back as offering, being prepared to be generous with all He has given, being open handed and not holding anything too tightly. It became even clearer to me, the importance of taking time to worship Him not only with our mouths but also with the practicalities of serving Him out of His great provision for us.
Our lack of gratitude, our focus on the negative rather than the positive can become a dangerous downward spiral. Again, Paul shares this observation in Romans 1:21: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” It's an important warning to us about the importance of having a thankful heart. It also, to me, speaks not just about giving God thanks for His blessings because we should but also of the benefit to us in doing this, keeping our hearts and attitude in a positve place.
There's no doubt that daily living comes with it's difficulties, but we don't live it alone. Even our challenges, especially our challenges bring strength and character if we allow God to shape us and mould us in the process. So, I'm not sharing that everything in our world must always appear to be perfect but I am encouraging us to take heart out of the rich blessings He has given to us. To stir up our faith and our level of thanksgiving.
There is an old song called 'count your blessings'. I've found it really helpful on a practical level recently to speak out my blessings, could you speak out yours down today,write them down, literally name them one by one.
Allow your grateful heart to rise up in worship, let your heart, mind and spirit rise above your daily challenges and be put into perspective in the light of God's love and favour for you.

 

Why not declare the truth to yourself.... I AM blessed.
 

What’s in a word?

posted 1 Dec 2011 07:32 by Paul Critchley   [ updated 15 Mar 2012 15:07 ]
As part of my own Journey with Jesus and my working with worship teams and congregations I’ve looked at all sorts of definitions of the word ‘Worship’ There are as many descriptions as there are expressions so, I thought I’d explore a bit deeper with you some that I’ve found helpful in not only understanding the word but living it out.
It starts with a ‘D’
Worship can't just be something we do but something we desire to do. The bible says that. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”. 2 Corinthians 9:7. In other words, Our worship is a gift we give to God. The truth is He often gives back to us in worship so much more than we give him but it begins as a gift from us to God. One of the greatest songwriters of the Old Testament, King David, wrote this, "One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple." Psalm 27:4
David’s deep heart reaction to God was that he wanted to, more than that, He chose to worship. If you spend some time delving into the book of Psalms you can see the consistent intent of David, even in troubled times, of which He experienced many. He turned his attention to God, the one He’d found to be faithful and the one He declared to be worthy of praise. In fact, throughout the book of Psalms the words praise and worship appear 165 times in Psalms. It was David's deep desire and something that He declared out loud!
Now give me an ‘A’
It’s one thing to have a heart to worship but what could it look for us right here and now? How can I turn my desire into Action....One expression of our worship is remembering to thank Him. “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I know only too well, the reality of life is that ‘stuff happens’. However, It’s good to recall God’s goodness, to remember His faithfulness. It’s only with the gift of hindsight that we can see what God has been doing, even in difficulty. Building character, causing us to lean harder into Him, learning to trust Him more. It’s all good. Often, our worship is most significant when we offer it to God through pure obedience.
Jesus himself gave us an amazing example of this this as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane . He was worried and upset. He did not want to die. He didn't want to go through all the suffering he knew lay in the near future but still, he prayed, "Not my will but thine be done." Luke 22:42. It begs the question...What am I willing to sacrifice? Jesus has made the ultimate one for us of course but what am I prepared to offer? talents, time money? What could it be that God is asking of you and me today?

Through just these few things we’ve looked at it’s pretty clear that our worship is not a one-hour thing we do to God or even for God (we can so easily get caught up in duty instead of building a relationship). It’s not about showing up at a building at a set time every week. Worship is about living out our everyday lives in connection with an amazing God who, although He deserves and commands our worship, chooses to call us His friends. Mind blowing!! Worship is a way of life and I’m still learning how to walk it. I’m encouraged to get up when I stumble. I’m amazed by God’s outrageous grace to restore me when I blow it! I’m living in a place like no other and challenged daily to be real, giving it all to Him.
John 4:24 The message version of the bible puts it this way: "It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before Him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration."
Let’s end with an ‘R’
So, be real, remember you’re made for worship and ask Him to help you live it out every day, giving Him glory.
 
Trust Me. I Know What I'm Doing!
posted 27 May 2011 14:20 by Paul Critchley   [ updated 15 Mar 2012 15:08 ]

Trust is not something that is easily done. Sometimes it means letting go of what you believe and what you feel is rational and putting it in someone else's control. It means letting things leave your control and having hope that the person (or thing) you are trusting in comes through.
Of course, there are easier times to have trust. It seems a lot easier to trust God after receiving a financial inheritance or pay rise, or getting a new job, or having something good happen to you. It seems so much harder to trust Him when things aren't going right.
In my own personal walk with God I have faced many challenges. I particularly remember leaving the security of my 'day job' to pursue a call to lead worship. I remember driving to an appointment just after I had handed in my notice and shouting out loud in my car, "This is scary, but it's exciting!" There was something about the reality of letting go of what had been my physical security (my pay cheque, my every day routine), to trust and follow God, not knowing where He might ultimately take me.
What an amazing beginning it was, experiencing God's favour and opportunity to serve. Life seemed so good and I was utterly convinced in His purpose for me and His ability to more than sustain me. Funny then how a few years in, crisis shook my foundation. I thought I was absolutely solid in my walk with Jesus. I had held on to my favourite Bible verse, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and never rely on what you think you know, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path' (Proverbs 3:5-6), but the truth was I was in financial difficulty. I had told my family that I wasn't sure how we were going to pay our bills or provide food for the next month.
The reality hit me and I began to question my decision to pack in my job. I searched my heart to see if I had offended God. I even wondered if He was listening to me!
Right in the middle of this I had a call from a friend inviting me to lunch and to chat. He didn't know my situation, but I was looking forward to sharing my difficulty with Him. This event unfolded and it's something I've spoken about but never recorded until now.
My friend and I met at a local restaurant for coffee and sandwiches. As we sat down, we had just begun our conversation when I noticed a lady enter the room and walk up to the bar. She caught my attention because I noticed that she walked to the end of the bar and turned back around without placing an order. Now she was heading for me! She sat down on the sofa next to me and said hello to my friend who she said she knew was a Christian leader in the city. Her next words were directed to me and they went like this, "Are you a Christian? Do you need some money?" Well, apart from being shocked at her knowledge of my situation, if not my name, what could I do? I had to say, "Yes, I do". Then the most amazing thing happened. She reached into her bag, pulled out her cheque book and pen and said, "What's your name?" As I told her, she wrote out a cheque for a £100 and placed it into my hand, got up and left the bar. I remember vividly the picture on my friends face! He said, "Did that really happen?" It was an amazing moment and very timely for me.
So, why did she come in? How did she know I was in need? I guess I'll never know. Was the amount of cash going to cover my needs? No, but what I strongly felt God impress on me was this, 'Trust Me. I know what I'm doing!'
He had, out of His kindness caused me to get close to Him. To cry out to Him, even to question Him and with a token offering had caused me to reconnect my trust to and in Him.
No matter how difficult things appear to be or how much we are struggling, the ultimate truth is that God is right there with us. While we may not always be able to depend on our jobs, our banks, or even our Government, we can always depend on God. Nothing can stop God from keeping His word.
The reality of this verse settled into me, 'I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted' (Job 42:2).
So, today, what struggles do you face? What challenges are in your life? And most importantly, where are you putting your hope? Who are you putting your trust in?
Maybe this assurance will encourage you today. Allow God to speak it into your situation and to feed your faith. 'We have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.' (Romans 5:2-5)
The Place of Divine Exchange (Paul Critchley) September 2009
posted 15 Jan 2011 13:10 by Paul Critchley   [ updated 15 Mar 2012 15:08 ]
Hebrews 10:19-22, James 4: 8
Back in 1997, when I started taking steps out of my employment and into what was to be God's unmistakable call on my life, I knew that if I was to fulfill what He was asking of me, I'd need Him more than ever. I wasn't sure at that point in my life that I had faith enough to do what He was asking. The practicalities of living seemed a big deal to me and whilst I somehow knew He was bigger, the stepping out of my comfort zone still demanded an awful lot of letting go. The more I 'let go' the more it seemed that God was willing to take me on, open amazing doors of opportunity and providing for my family in amazing ways I could never have dreamt of.
The deepening of my awareness regarding the critical nature of intimacy with God took a huge step up just prior to making my first recording. I'd known from the moment I became a Christian that He had given me music for a reason and that it was for Him. It wasn't until later years that I knew I was to be an 'usher'. Someone called to bring others into His presence. Late one night I had a very clear revelation God was physically aching because His created ones, the ones He called 'special' - that's you and me - weren't spending quality time with Him and He called me again to do something about it. He called me to make an invitation in music to enter the throne room of God, to come into the place that Jesus had made freely available for us. Here's the truth found in Hebrews 10:19-22:
'Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.'
In the months that followed God gave me all sorts of insights into the significance of 'throne room time' and during a seminar question time I had one of those areas challenged. I had someone in the meeting stand up and declare 'why do we need to come to the throne room of God when He's everywhere?' Slightly stunned at the force of the point, I gladly accepted the fact but also was able to share this belief: Just because God is everywhere, it doesn't mean we spend any time with Him. It's the same challenge we meet in our human relations. We make time, we choose to meet, we have conversation and sometimes we just even take time to 'be' together. It's my belief that He's looking for those will make the journey to be with Him.
It still amazes me that in spite of God's welcome through Jesus, some of us still hesitate to come into that place. A place I believe of divine exchange. It's not only the place where we come and pour out our worship. It's also the place where He wants to pour out who He is over us.
In a very clear picture God showed me that there is often resistance to 'coming in' because although the curtain into the meeting place was torn on Jesus' death, the curtain was still hanging and for some was still perceived to be a barrier.
God has since shown me two things specifically which I believe are meant to be an encouragement to us. The first was a picture of him holding back the curtain with one hand and beckoning us in with the other. The second was the image of a changing room. I was talking with a friend about the whole subject and joking that it was like a changing room scenario with people being afraid to open the curtain for fear of seeing someone get changed. Then it dawned on me. It is absolutely a changing room, a place of transformation, equipping and readiness to carry out whatever it is God is calling us to. I believe that this is why sometimes we hold back. We know that when we meet in that intimate place we will never be the same. We will be changed. Sometimes it's not a comfortable thing but this is the place that holds all we need for service, for living and the fantastic place where we connect our worship to Him who is worthy with the personal call on our lives to follow Him. God's promise is this in James 4: 8: 'Draw near to God and He will draw near to You'.All of this is so much a journey and a development of the understanding of relationship with Jesus. It is a releasing of the purpose of God to be a people who carry His name out of a place of spending time with Him. As we find ourselves engaged in life, let's not deny ourselves the privilege of encounter with our God. Let's live in the assurance of His love and intimacy which both draws us and equips us.