Today I was hanging out with some friends and their sweet two year old boy, David. David is a charmer; blonde hair, humongous eyes, and chubby cheeks you will want to squeeze until eternity. And as most two year olds are, he was quite hilarious. If a boy can make me laugh, he can pretty much guarantee he will have my attention. And of course he had great taste in women as well… because he had a serious little boy crush on yours truly. I was in awe of the attention I was receiving from this little one. At one point, he even licked my hand. I know, I know a kiss on the hand is a little more “polite” but licking? That just shows earnestness. I like earnestness.
I felt a little like Sally Field winning her first Academy Award, “you like me! You really like me!”. Now, I know what you are thinking, “Brooke, I think you probably need a date”, but the whole scenario triggered something in me.
I think that’s how we are supposed to be… with Jesus. In fact, didn’t He say that?
Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
What I love about kids is that they have absolutely no grid for social etiquette. An Adult doesn’t go up to another adult and start rubbing their head, touching their face or… licking them. They don’t generally jump up and down and squeal with delight when they are excited about something (except for maybe my friend Celina Baird– which makes sense because she is seriously the best worshiper ever).
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Jesus was saying we should go around and lick people. What I am saying is that maybe I got a little taste of what Jesus feels like when we give Him our attention like a little child would. When we don’t draw back from Him, fearing that we will be “too much” for Him. When everything in our heart for Him comes alive and is on display in the most “socially awkward” way possible.
I use to silently judge people who were being weird in worship. You know exactly who I’m talking about so don’t deny! You know, the ones who do the strange hand gestures or who gallop around like horses and who generally wear lots of sequins and puffy paint. I had all of these ideas about what was really going on inside of that person… they just wanted attention. They wanted to put on a show and help everyone see how spiritual they were. Blah, blah, blah. I am certain that I was probably right on some of those cases because, let’s face it, there are a lot of human beings on this earth that love attention. However, I know now, without a doubt, that there are plenty of “weird worshipers” in the world who worship in Spirit and in Truth. I had no right to judge what was going on in their heart because I definitely don’t like for my heart to be judged in that way either. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t think He would really care if our hearts were totally on board anyway. I think He likes weird worshipers. I think He actually loves it when we act like a child in front of Him.
I’m not God so I can’t gauge what His emotions are when we come to Him in this way… whether in private or in public. But I can tell you when that little boy was acting like a little boy in front of me, my heart melted. He really, really wanted my affection and my attention. I think this more than melts Jesus heart. When we really really like Him and let Him see our “like” of Him, He simply can’t get enough of us. It absolutely fills His heart with joy and delight.
There comes a day in all of our lives where we say to ourselves, “oh, I know why I don’t feel that same tenderness in my heart toward Jesus. I’m distracted! I’m unfocused!”. That happened to me this week. I had been frustrated at the feeling that I seemed to not be connecting with the Lord in worship and I definitely hadn’t felt as much motivation to talk to Him and spend time with Him.
Over the weekend our worship pastor had a conversation with me about preparing me to lead worship more often. I am thrilled that this is happening because I feel so alive when I lead people into the presence of God. I believe it is something He has gifted me with and called me to do. So this new revelation about distraction and lack of focus couldn’t have come at a better time.
Anyone who serves the body in a ministerial capacity understands what kind of responsibility they have to walk under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Whether you are teaching, preaching, leading worship, or greeting new people at the front door, diving into the heart of God is of primary importance. These people need to encounter God. When you’re distracted and your mind and heart are focused elsewhere it becomes a deterrent to your ministry.
Sometimes God removes our distraction for a season out of mercy and because He loves to build His kingdom… and He needs focused people to do that. If we have unsurrendered areas of our lives, we aren’t focused. Even though I felt a little jostled when God disrupted my life this week, as I spoke to the Lord about it, I felt relief when I realized… “wait a second! My mind and heart are now freed up to go DEEP with Jesus. This is exciting!” I instantly felt the presence of God rush in and began to hear His voice again.
Stay focused on Him and He will set the boundary lines in place. He is always faithful…
I’ve been to a lot of beautiful places in my life. From the rain forests of El Salvador to the rocky coastline of Cornwall England I have experienced images that are absolutely breathtaking. I’ve also viewed the majesty of the Grand Tetons and Colorado Rockies. I’ve seen the beaches of Southern California and been in awe of the vast wilderness of Yellowstone National Park. Heck, I grew up just two blocks from the waters of Lake Superior surrounded by the Chequamegon National Forest. Over the years I think I developed a mindset that has taken for granted the beauty of God’s creation. Yes. I love beauty in nature. I am not one of those girls that won’t camp because she’s scared of her high heels sinking intp the mud. I like to hike and swim in lakes and enjoy the general splendor of all things natural. However, I can read some of the Psalms David wrote and realize that I can’t really relate to what he’s talking about when he discusses creation.
Because, yes, I might think all of that is lovely but do I know how to encounter God in any of it? Does God speak to me through thunderstorms? Through a mountain landscape? Through a rippling stream? Through the rustling leaves of thousands of trees? Does God speak to me through orangey pink sunsets at southern dusk?
The answer is… yes, He does. He speaks to us through His creation all the time and if He didn’t, David wouldn’t have written about it. The question to us is… are we listening? I think God created all of these trees and animals and landscapes, not only to help us survive and give us something cool to look at but because He’s in all of it.
The mountains tell us He’s majestic and uncompromising and can’t be defeated.
The thunder speaks of his voice that breaks the cedars in Psalm 29.
The sun foretold Jesus in Psalm 19 as a “bridegroom coming out of His chamber”.
I might have a tiny clue how to listen to the Lord in other ways. In some of the most easy and obvious ways that is… but to hear from Him through creation is an entirely new realm that I want to discover.
What most of the church in the United States calls worship… is that lined up with the worship that goes on in heaven? In Revelation 4 we can stare right into the throne room of heaven and get a picture of what real worship is about. This scene is entirely focused on Him. It’s focused on the beauty and majesty God. The living creatures aren’t singing about their need for surrender, their desire for healing, or even their own relationship with God. They are simply smitten and in awe of Him. The eyeballs that cover their bodies are there for the express purpose of finding new revelation on the beauty and holiness of Jesus. The living creatures aren’t looking at eachother and wondering who is more talented, who is getting the most attention, who is the boldest, who looks the most spiritual, who dances the best, who is doing the most work, who has the biggest ministry, or who has the most style. When we get to heaven people, this is really what it’s going to look like. No part of heaven will be about us. None of it. The twenty-four elders are casting their crowns before His feet, speaking back to God that nothing they have done on earth is as marvelous as the Son of Man. Their hearts are absolutely driven to give Him all of themselves.
Can you handle that? I mean this will be for all eternity. I’m not sure if I can. To be honest, I’m a little worried about it. It’s easy for all of us to say that “oh, but when we get there, it will be so easy for us to worship Jesus because He will be revealed in all of His glory.” I think if most of us examined our hearts… do you think we are really ready to stand before this Holy God and worship Him night and day? Think of all the things that take precedence in our lives over intimacy with Him. I honestly thought I did pretty well in that area until I started to picture myself in the throne room for all eternity. I spend a couple of hours a day with the Lord and I use to spend quite a bit more time when I was at IHOP. But my heart is still so dull compared the vibrant hearts of these twenty-four elders and the fascination of the living creatures. We let offense, jealousy, pride, and bitterness to cloud our vision of Jesus and allow ourselves to become preoccupied with the behaviors of others rather than become preoccupied with Almighty God. Or we become preoccupied with other things like building a family, building a ministry or building our own reputations… when HE is the one that we need to be concerned with honoring first. He is the reason why we are doing all of these things anyway! Remember???
“In Him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28
Is this true in your life? Do you eat Him, sleep Him, speak Him, and dream Him? When you talk about Him do your eyes light up or do you speak about Him to manipulate and control others? Do you use Him to push your own agenda or is HE your agenda? We need to wake up to the reality of this. That we were created to worship Him with our whole hearts. That we are suppose to be looking vertically… not horizantally– trying to examine everyone else’s heart when our own needs a huge clean-up. And guess what? Our hearts won’t be cleaned up UNTIL we get this perspective. Until we are able to give God the glory He is worthy of.
I sat in a sideroom of the prayer room one Tuesday afternoon during a fasting meeting and listened as one of my prophetic mentors explained to me that I was about to enter one of the most pivotal, horrific, and beautiful seasons of my life. That was in November of 2008 and on the previous day I had an absolutely disrupting encounter with the Lord. Today I remembered a part of that conversation. She explained a similar encounter and journey she had years before.
“It was the most difficult season of my life. It had a lot to do with love. A lot of ‘Sermon on the Mount’ type stuff.”
A lot of ‘Sermon on the Mount’ type stuff. That sounds nice. That doesn’t sound too bad.
Boy, was I wrong.
I don’t care who you think you are, but if you think you are good at the Sermon on the Mount, you are delusional and probably arrogant. I’m pulling no punches here. I love Jesus, but this Sermon is absolutely the most flesh-killing tool He operates with not to mention the fact that it is completely offensive… in a good way :/.
This weekend I was driving down the road with my new friend Rachel who was visiting for our Winter Gathering. She told me she felt the Lord wanted to free me from the bondage of worry (ahem) and that He wanted to free me from the bondage of the ‘need to be right.’ Oh yes. That’s what she said. And the problem with this is that Rachel happens to be the sweetest person I’ve ever met in my life so I couldn’t accuse her of impure motives.
But here, I realized what the Lord was saying was that that all of this really wasn’t about who is right or wrong… it was about self-preservation. Do I care more about preserving my reputation or do I care more about pleasing Him and becoming a humble peacemaker? It’s not the question that is so humiliating but the fact that my answer is so obvious when I allow the Holy Spirit to examine my heart. It is moments like these that I don’t want to waste. Moments that I know the Father is doing something so beyond the actual circumstance I’m in. He sees so far ahead and we stand there, grasping for control when we will never really have it. We really think we’re ‘big stuff’ and then we realize that we have no idea what we’re doing. We’re idiots. Idiots with a great inheritance. Sometimes God doesn’t actually care if we’re right or not. Sometimes He just wants to show us the idol of approval in our lives.
It makes me feel like a child. Like a two year old being potty-trained.
Oh yeah. That’s how I’m suppose to feel.
Which brings me back to another incredible vision I had this weekend.
Dancing. Dancing in my pink bedroom with the ruffled canopy bed in the background. I was eight. And I was worshipping. And He was dancing too.
And then we were in a field of flowers, dancing wildly, spinning and spinning and spinning. Then a drastic change in scenery.
Suit of armor, like Joan of Arc. Swinging my sword, cutting off the heads of demons, challenging the forces of darkness.
Back the camera up. I’m not Joan of Arc. I’m a child. I’m a little child wearing a miniature suit of Armor and the Father is standing right beside me and He’s huge. HUGE.
A massive dragon flies toward me. It was not nearly as big as the Father but it was A LOT bigger than me. I thrust my sword through it’s belly and it was forced backward with ease. I threw that silly creature back so effortlessly as the Father looked on in pride… even though I knew He was giving me all of the power to do it in the first place. It was more like He enjoyed the very sight of me… not so much that I was some crazy, skilled warrior.
There happens to be more to what I saw but I’ll keep it to myself for now.
The point is this– He’s God. I’m man (lady). Whether you’re a retired 78 year old worldwide evangelist or a four year old child, we are children of God and children have a very limited understanding of what our Dads are up to; why they do the things they do. We just go with the flow and let Him handle it, knowing that whatever happens it is for our good…
23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. John 4:23-24
I read this verse this morning and was brought back to a moment several years ago when I was hanging out with with my friends in Dallas. We were at a friends loft having a barbecue and decided to gather in the living room to worship. Some people were dancing, some were swaying, and pretty much everyone was singing. By the look of things, everyone appeared to really be getting into it. But then, someone spoke a word and interrupted our quaint little worship setting. He quoted that scary verse in Isaiah 29:13 that says, “these people come near to me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” The guy didn’t finish the verse which goes on to read, “their worship is based merely on human rules that have been taught.” As you can probably guess, our worship session came screeching to a halt. It made us all question where our hearts really were in that moment.
For some reason, I felt a stirring to dig deeper into this verse today. I went to the Sonic Light web page and found some commentary by Dr. Thomas Constable where he speaks about worshiping in a spirit of truth,
…This worship can include physical matters, such as singing and studying, but it comprehends the spiritual world as well as the physical. It’s basis is the spiritual work that Jesus Christ did in His incarnation and atonement. It’s method is spiritual as contrasted with physical; it does not consist of merely physical actions but involves the interaction of the human spirit with the divine spirit.
I have a lot of friends that love to express their worship to the Lord through dance. I admire the freedom that they have to express their love in this way. I wish I was at the point where I felt I could do the same! In reality, I know that this resistance to be wild before the Lord is a symptom of the fear of man. I know that most of these friends are sincere in their love for the Lord in this way. I also know, that just because you dance, does not mean you are experiencing “true” worship. We can just as easily go about the motions of dancing as the Jews did in their legalistic forms of worship. I also know that someone can sit on their rear end and have a deep interaction of worship with the Holy Spirit that is just as profound as what is going on on the dance floor. When we try to involve guilt in the area of worship, we are partnering with a religious spirit just as much as if we were sitting on our rear ends out of fear (which means, I too have partnered with a religious spirit!).
The Jewish leaders were good at putting the burden of religion on men’s backs, weighing them down. They thought that “true” worship had to do with their animal sacrifices, their weird rules and regulations and just plain piousness. They tried to make everyone feel guilty because they weren’t worshiping the way they thought God should be worshiped. But when Jesus came, He changed all that. Worship wasn’t about what we did anymore. After the cross, worship became about Him and how we had access to Him through the Holy Spirit. Worship became truly interactive communication with the Lord that was based on our relationship with Him, not about trying to please individuals who might otherwise condemn us.
I just know that I want to be a part of what Jesus changed about worship. I know that someday the Lord is going to give me the courage to be able to dance freely before Him. It’s something I desperately desire to do. In the meantime, I’m going to remember what true worship is. That it’s not designed to be some way for me to impress other people with my spirituality or to please people who think I should be worshiping a different way (because that, like I said, is a religious spirit).
All I want to care about is that my worship is pleasing to Him. Because that, my friends, is true worship.
Yesterday was a fasting day. I was in the prayer room during the 4-6 set, taking in all the sights and sounds of a few hundred Jesus lovers gathered to cry out for mercy and pour their hearts out at His feet. I took note of my posture as I was observing the Lord moving on various people in the room. Standing up, I had one hand in my pocket and another grasping an Ozarka water bottle. For a brief moment I had a flashback of myself in this same physical posture at a show in perhaps Dallas or Little Rock, a Bud Lite or a Heineken in hand enjoying the idolization and glorification of the talent of human beings… not to mention the seduction of rampant immorality in these bars and clubs.
Now, I do have to mention that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having fun and enjoying an art form. I have been to shows that have actually inspired me to love God more (though these were performances by Christian bands) and it wasn’t just words but music that awakened something in me.
I think of King Herod in Acts 12 “On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a mere mortal.” Immediately , because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.”
Not that audiences in most concerts are shouting at the muscians “You MUST be a god!” (though I have to mention that some of them do scream things similar to this), but the majority of bands are completely idolized for their talent. If you think about the hundreds of women (whom most of the musicians take advantage of) that follow them from town to town, this might conclude some of your questions. What about the posters plastered all over the walls of teenage bedrooms? These kinds of things don’t happen to normal folks.
What I love about IHOP is that when outside people visit, more often than not, most of the people don’t have any idea who is playing on stage. They haven’t come to oooh and ahhhh over the musicians (though they might respect the gift God has given them), they have come to seek the living God.