I bid you a warm welcome on this lovely April day. Today I've got a devotion running on Proverbs31.org and Crosswalk.com about worship. God has taken me on a journey to transform my worship. If you've got a few minutes, I'd love to share my testimony about worship. Let's go back in time 10 years, when we started attending our church, Vineyard North Phoenix.
I stood in worship, arms raised, with tears and mascara streaming down my face, and dripping onto my shirt. This wasn’t a new response. When my husband and I started attending our church, worship brought me to tears. My husband stopped asking what was wrong. After weeks of handing me tissues, he knew I was fine, just emotional.
At first, it embarrassed me to be emotional in worship. After all, I wasn’t a new Christian, having accepted Jesus as my Lord over 35 years earlier. And I wasn’t new to contemporary worship. In fact, I had led the worship singing at a previous church. But this was different. I was new to this level of openness and intimacy with God, and it touched me in a very deep place.
The question begged to be asked, “If I was a Christian for decades, why hadn’t I known this level of intimacy through worship?” The answer is simple, yet took me a while to process and fully understand: I’d always focused on serving God, including serving Him in worship. I saw singing as a gift, and wanted to return that gift to God through some sort of music ministry.
However, I was so intent on serving in worship that I missed out on the most important part – actually worshipping. Amazingly, when I stopped “doing” worship, I learned what it meant to “be” a worshiper.
For years I had served God in worship; including singing in a youth choir, then a Christian band, being in the choir as an adult and finally leading. It seemed I’d faced a congregation all my Christian life. However, 12 years ago my family moved across country and I was an unknown in my church. At that time I fully expected to get right up on stage as soon as I could. But during my prayer time, I heard the Lord clearly speak to my heart and tell me not to sing in front of others. In fact, God continued, I wasn’t even to let people know I could sing.
This was a bittersweet time for me. It was hard to face the front every Sunday. I prayed weekly for God to change His mind: “Please Lord, make it obvious when I can sing again on the worship team. In fact, have the worship pastor put something in the bulletin so I know it’s You!” But it didn’t happen. So I settled into being a member of the congregation.
Over time, something happened in my heart. For the first time I wasn’t worried about hitting the right note, or how I sounded, or if I looked properly worshipful while I was singing – I was just worshiping! As the technical concerns of serving in music ministry slipped from my shoulders, God completed the work He intended when He asked me to stop singing publicly. He showed me He much preferred receiving my adoration in worship than hearing my well-blended harmonies.
I think this must have been what Jesus tried to tell the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Jesus had been traveling, and stopped for rest and a cool drink in Samaria. There He met a woman drawing water for her daily needs. Jesus asked for a drink of water, and in typical Jesus fashion, the talk progressed from H2O to the life of living water He could offer her. This passage is textured with meaning, and one theme is worship.
The conversation continued, and after having her private life revealed by a stranger, the woman asked Jesus about the right place to worship: Was it on a mountain where her ancestors worshiped, or was it in Jerusalem? Jesus’ answer was rich and full. He told her, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24 NIV).
The woman wanted to be right with God, and to make sure she was in the right physical place for worship. But Jesus wanted her in the right spiritual place. It didn’t matter where she worshiped God, but how she worshiped. I was like that woman. God wanted to get me in the right spiritual place for worship, and moved me 2000 miles away from home to do it.
As I look back over my experience, I see how easy it was to let familiar words breeze through my mouth, without my heart being fully engaged in worship. It’s amazing that I could plan lunch and sing praises at the same time. But when I truly worship in spirit and truth, my heart is laid bare before the Lord and distracting thoughts vanish. It’s as if a door opens to the deepest place in my spirit and God steps in and fills me up – my mind, my heart and my soul. In those moments of intimacy, God can work miracles.
Without meaning to, I’d held the Lord at arm’s length during worship for years. It was emotionally easier to concentrate on the details of the music, rather than open myself to God’s work in my spirit. Although it was uncomfortable at first to be that open in the presence of the Lord, I’ll never go back. After seven years of learning to worship, God did have the music pastor put a note in the bulletin, and I’m back on the worship team. But I’ll never sacrifice being a worshiper for serving in worship again.
Let the tears flow!
In His Love,