SPIRITUAL HABITS | Worship is a Fire
The heart is a heavy wood, sitting in a hearth, cold and waiting. Worship is the fire that sets it ablaze.
Like you, I’m living into many lessons these days. Some are old lessons I’ve needed to re-learn, and others are new lessons in which I need to master surrender.
Worship is an old lesson for me. It’s the oldest lessons that are often the very best lessons.
Yesterday morning I spent an hour ministering to the Lord. Yes, that’s a phrase I’m going to start using again, old school as it may sound to some.
MINISTERING TO THE LORD?
I don’t tell you that I spent an hour in worship to sound like a hero. In fact, I felt anything but as I entered the time. And spending an hour in worship, “ministering to the Lord,” is not just for worship leaders. I had the benefit of being able to take my instrument with me into that space. But if I didn’t have it, or couldn’t play, I’d find another way.
Another way to minister to the Lord.
He was there. I was there. And my attention was on blessing Him with the 60 minutes available to me.
I didn’t ask for a blessing this time; I wanted me to leave that place having blessed, praised, adored, and thanked, my Lord.
It’s interesting; in a world bent on declaring human relationships to be the ceiling of transcendence, even many in Christ’s Body have begun to think that ministry to one another is the end all and be all of faith.
I don’t know that because I’m guessing; I know it from the words I hear being used.
Thin ice is about to be tread upon. But I do so with great confidence.
Ministry to people is not the end goal of faith.
It never was.
It never is.
It never will be.
This idea matters, very, very much to the follower of Jesus.
I’m not saying that ministry to people, in all its forms, does not matter. My goodness, no. It matters, very much.
But it’s not of ultimate importance, nor is it to be of ultimate focus, no matter how much it feels like it is. And on this basic, biblically unrivaled truth the Church has stumbled and fallen for millennia until we find ourselves in seasons of confusion, cynicism, and bitterness—and we slowly drift from our First Love and First Priority.
MY LORD IS ENOUGH TO HEAL THE WORLD
As far as we know, we will cross the line of this life into the next with not even one person on our arm, even those most dear to us. They may hail our boat as it leaves shore, but we leave this life alone (but not lonely, as Bonhoeffer would say).
Please hear me; all our relationships matter, and the Gospel compels us, by love, into the world to see what our Father is doing and to do it right along with Him. Things need to be fixed, families need to be renewed, love needs to be lavish, justice needs to be lifted, care and friendship must be nurtured. Yes, yes, yes.
But our primary relationship is the only one that will actually heal us, deliver us, restore us, minister to us, and free us from all manner of shackle and hell.
I’m not enough to heal the world. Neither are you. And, in contrast to the idealists of our time, neither are we in our collective humanity. That kind of thinking presumes we’re all unbent, unmarred, able to be our best selves without help. It’s not true. Sin runs, its been said, like a crimson mark through each one of us; just when I’ve judged another, I see my own crimson in the mirror running alongside my great glory as an image-bearer of God.
I will one day walk into the presence of Jesus, look into His eyes, and understand.
We think we’ll have a gaggle of questions to ask Him upon passing through the veil. I’m increasingly convinced we won’t have those questions once we step into eternity.
We’ll look into the eyes of love, of Eternal Ecstasy and Joy Incarnate, and learn the vocabulary of Heaven in that instant:
“Oh.” There it is. The entry vocabulary of Heaven.
We will simply understand, and we’ll have eternity to explore that unhindered awareness of Love Manifest.
HAVE YOU LOST YOUR TASTE FOR WORSHIP?
Many followers of Jesus, in the disorientations of the last year(s), are losing their capacity and connection to worship. It happens honestly enough.
For many reasons, we simply find ourselves outside of environments in which rich worship is curated, experienced, shared, and infused with the Spirit’s life. We don’t pursue it; it used to pursue us, or at least be provided by our weekly habits and communities.
And our hearthfires slowly, imperceptibly, grow cold. We became “smart,” “aware,” “present” to everyone and everything around us. And we can lose the precious in exchange for something far, far less—we lose the very thing that fills our hearts and brings fullness to the days and nights we bear and live—an awareness of the Spirit’s presence.
This morning, I said that I worshipped. In my case, I put on my guitar and walked around my home worshipping Jesus. I sang two songs total over that hour. They were just a starting point, and I moved in and out of them, singing the songs, singing prayers and thanksgiving, and making noise no one but Jesus will ever here. I sang in the Spirit, sang with my understanding, and was silent for periods of time.
It took me about 15 minutes to finally fix my gaze on the One to whom I was ministering with thanks, and praise, and adoration.
Then, it happened.
I passed through a veil. Nothing obvious happened. I just sensed the Holy Spirit present, filling me and the room. I found my anxieties dissipating, my fears diminishing, and my affections reorienting. I felt clarity again, felt perspective return. I began to get impressions, words for people, Scriptures, insights, prophetic inklings that fueled my prayers and gave me hope for situations I hadn’t had before that time of worship.
I’ve known that space before, in corporate worship environments where I let go of my incessant thoughts about myself and the ills of the world and adored, blessed, and praised. Like you, I’ve experienced that when others are leading worship, and at times, when I am leading worship. We’re ministering to the Lord. It shifts the room and the hearts in it.
Every time, especially if I stay with it long enough, worshipping in the car as I drive in the country, or singing in my house as I turn up the Spotify list, or playing my instrument until the songs and prayers that pour out of me are raw, and true, and essential—God meets me.
Sometimes my emotions are touched. At others times, I just did it because it was the right thing to do and I trust God met me. At still other times, a weight is lifted and I come out of the secret place a different person.
GETTING BACK ON SINGING TERMS WITH JESUS
Last year had a few weeks in it where God and I weren’t on speaking terms. He was silent, and I was bewildered and angry. I could barely lift my voice. The best I could do was to mentally sing the songs with which I would wake up, in the middle of the night, melodies and lyrics circling in my head and creating a rut in my brain.
Even then, worship mattered. I know it mattered. It kept me this side of the brink, and slowly, over time, became a space of healing.
I believe this, from my seat. It is the forsaking of the powerful experience of worshipping and meeting with God in music that is confusing many in the Church today. We get smart, and the story becomes about us and people. It feels so right, but the ministry modality is corrupting.
Jesus didn’t live His life for others; He was living His life for His Father, and the overflow gave Him power and perspective for ministry to others.
Take a drive for a hour with a song of worship that moves you on repeat. Or stay at home, lock the doors, close the windows, and turn up worship music that connects with you as you dance in the loving presence of your Lord.
If you play an instrument, choose two songs and move in and out of the words and the music until you get past the music and find yourself worshipping, thanking, praying from the depths of your being.
Songs are a place we go.
A place we to meet with God.
Let’s use them.
HEARING THE SPIRIT OR BECOMING SAVVY ABOUT CURRENT EVENTS?
This morning, I lost myself and found myself in worship once again. I found myself reclaiming a sweet trust for which I’m longing in these days. I felt empowered to minister to others, and had the privilege of giving a word from the Holy Spirit to a friend who God met through it.
My other option is to lose my spiritual sensitivity and to not to get words or Scriptures for people. I’ll just get by, doing my best, and blessing with the strength and wisdom and gifts I have.
Maybe I can be happy being smart and keenly aware of my social media content stream and the algorithms that deliver exactly what I want to hear based on the words in my post yesterday or the search I performed.
The people around me may continue on without the encouragement they desperately need from the Holy Spirit, from someone who is willing to linger in the presence of the Lord long enough to begin to hear His voice speaking.
But when eyes light up because the Spirit said something through you? Honestly, that’s addicting. You felt loved, they felt loved, and the arms of the Lord were surrounding you both. That’s some serious bliss, right there.
And that sensitivity, that hearing heart, is nurtured in the secret place of worship.
Friend, find your way to worship; do whatever it takes. Even visit an event or location where extended worship is on the docket. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to happen. And then, it needs to happen again. But once, for now, is the next step.
If you know what I’m talking about, then you know what I’m talking about. If not, try one of the ideas I mentioned above, and see if it doesn’t strengthen you.
Ministry to the Lord is our first and highest purpose. It is engagement with our destiny in its purest form, and it is the space in which we slowly discover our true name (Rev. 2:17).
May a fully invested time of worship, with you in the middle of it, move from being a memory you have to a current experience. May the Lord help you find your way to it. I’m praying for that.
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