Where We Worship

I stood with hands raised high in worship as the sound of the praise band resonated throughout the auditorium.  It had been a long time since my soul had been so touched by the sweet harmony of voices and instruments.

Being in a new place brought back some of my old insecurities.  Could I ever feel completely at home here?  Would my gifts of service be needed here?  My husband and I had visited this congregation several times over the last year and always left knowing that God was doing something special here.  We had also sensed that God was doing something new in us,  stirring within us our passions to serve Him in new ways.

As these thoughts crossed my mind, they were quickly swept away by the peace that overcame me in the Spirit's presence.  His presence was so powerfully felt that I wondered why I had allowed myself to be so complacent for so long.  For as long as I can remember, it seems my soul has been searching for more of Jesus.  There had to be more...didn't there?  I'd surrendered to the call to women's ministry and I'd taken advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves.  But I've always been left standing there feeling empty and wanting more, needing more.

Was God calling us to get out of our comfort zone once again?  Was He calling us to leave where we currently serve?  Was He calling me to leave the only denomination of worship that I have ever known?  Did denominations even matter, really?  After all, I believe the important thing is whether or not the Blood of Jesus is being preached.

I've come to realize in recent months that we, as Christians, can get so picky and defensive about our own denominational beliefs that it can cause us to become stubborn and judgmental.  We pick apart the scriptures to prove that our way is the right way and forget that there's only one way to God and that's through Jesus Christ.

"You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life" - John 5:39-40.  

We quickly quote our favorite verses to support our opinions and forget about God's opinion or the feelings of those we argue with.  These religious blinders can cause us to miss out on opportunities to stand together as one body of believes in Christ to accomplish more than any of us can on our own.  These religious blinders reflect the heart of  Pharisees and Sadducees in the scripture.  These Pharisees and Sadducees are alive and well today.

As I stood there in God's presence in that moment, I heard the sound of a very familiar voice singing on stage.  A voice that I hear singing around the house.  A voice that has faithfully led worship where we've attend for years.  It was the voice of my husband.

I looked up and noticed the tears streaming down his face. That was the moment that I knew I could never stand in the way of his being used by God in any capacity.  In that moment, my doubts disappeared and I knew we were both in agreement with the Holy Spirit as to where He was leading us.

There will be those who do not understand.  There will be those who think denominational ties are more important than partnering with other brothers and sisters in Christ who have been given a similar vision.

What needs to be remembered by all is where our loyalty should truly lie.  Our loyalty should not be to a church or denomination...our loyalty should be to God.  We are to love the church, His bride, but where we worship is not as important as WHO we worship.

We are each on a unique journey in this life.  We are not all called to minister to the same people necessarily, or even in the same way.  We are called to be obedient to Christ and what He instructs us to do in our current season of life.

We are called to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and build one another up...not tear one another apart with our judgmental attitudes and pride.  We are called to know and love the scriptures, but love the One who inspired them even more.

I could never say this better than a post I read by Melissa Moore years ago on her mom's blog and I'll close with that.  (By the way, her mom is Beth Moore, one of my favorite Bible teachers!).  Melissa says:

There was a long stretch of time during my first several years of theological education that I did not pray. At all. I sat in classes and sermons and rather than receiving the word of God, I listened for leaders to make a theological mistake. And then I would sit around with other students and we would talk about the theological mistakes and whatnot. And we did and said all of this in the name of piety. We would “humbly” explain how we revered the word of God and we didn’t want anyone distorting it or tainting it or mishandling it. Now, don’t get me wrong, those kind of statements are appropriate and noble but when you add a very hard heart, a critical spirit, and a lack of intimacy with God to it- well, it simply isn’t authentic and things go downhill. Very fast. Now this is not everyone’s experience but it was mine. For a season. Thank God He allowed me to live on. My Mom was the most instrumental person in my life in helping guide me out of that dry season. She would often say to me “this is not bearing good fruit in you, Darling… have you spent actual time with the Lord today?” I no longer had the love of God in my heart and it was starting to surface in the way I criticized and looked down on other people and in the way I neglected time with Jesus Himself (see John 5.42).
But the catch here is that during that dry season I was studying Scripture more intensely than I had ever studied it before. Yet I was no longer engaged with the One to whom Scripture points, Jesus. I was no longer receiving life itself. This is a good reminder for all of us who love to study Scripture and my heart leapt for joy when Dr. Hayner preached on this very issue during orientation. Those of us who tend to assume that our spiritual maturity is directly equal to how much Scripture we read on a particular day would do well to keep this verse at the forefront of our minds.
Now, I am not saying that a person can be spiritually mature without reading Scripture but what I am saying is that a person can study Scripture rigorously and not be spiritually mature. Indeed, Jesus said that a person can “diligently study” the Scriptures yet refuse to receive life in Him altogether. The difference here is profound and chilling. There is a right way to read the Scriptures and a wrong way- the wrong way is to read them spiritually detached from the One to whom they point. So, all this to say, I am looking forward to a year drenched in study of the Scripture but I am grateful for the warning and all I know is that I don’t want to go back to that dark place again.
I want to end this blog post with a poem that was also a part of our chapel service but coincidentally is a poem that one of my dear Professors from Wheaton used in his classes on the first day. It made me feel at home. You’ve probably heard it before but it blesses me anew each time I read it.

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
[Sir Francis Drake]


Mindy Whipple said...

Thank you for sharing. GOD has moved us on after many years and though there are insecurities in stepping out of our comfort zone there has also been a greater opening of hearts and growth in new areas.

Lynn Langford said...

Insecurities definitely rear their ugly head when we step out of our comfort zones! I'm praying that God would not only do a great work through us, but in us.

Blessing to you!