The mantra/tagline/purpose of our First Wednesday worship gatherings is “Space for God.” That means that church looks a little different on these gatherings, as we come with an expectation for the unexpected.
Sometimes, that means our service goes exactly as predicted, and people are completely blessed by it. Other times, that means our best-laid plans go completely out the window as God shows up to do something phenomenal and profound.
January’s First Wednesday was of the more unexpected variety. Pastor Arlin was ready to go for a message, but as he is known to do, he told Pastor Dave before service that freedom in worship is Priority One.
We could tell in rehearsal that Jan. 4 was going to be a special night. It’s just one of those feelings. We were jumping around and sensing the joy of the Lord like crazy. In prayer, we prayed that the cobwebs would be dusted off of us as a people, and that we’d experience a significant experience of God’s presence.
And God answered that prayer. From the first song, “Set Free,” you could sense fear melting off people as they took to heart the lyrics: “And we’ll dance… in your freedom!” I believe people just need permission and the opportunity for unbridled worship, and they’ll go there.
The whole worship team was amped; Jared, our piano player, couldn’t stay in his seat as he played with abandon. Rudy, our drummer, was smiling and singing loudly as he banged the drums. We background vocalists bounced and spun around like caffeinated kangaroos, lost in joy!
The second song–a new one, “Deep Cries Out”–saw an even greater crescendo of joy. There’s this part in the song that says, “If He goes to the left, we will go to the left; if He goes to the right, we will go to the right.” I remember in rehearsal thinking that there was no way that the congregation would do the dance steps to that (which really just involved shimmying in the articulated directions). I wasn’t even sure I’d do that. But the excitement of God, the joy of the Lord was so palpable and amazing that nobody cared how silly we may or may not have looked. We were undignified like David, moving and grooving joyfully.
You could feel something significant took place. Love of God replaced fear of man. Joy outweighed sadness and worry. The dust shook off as grown men and women danced like children. Laughter replaced sighs. Heaviness gave way to lightness. Fog gave way to clarity, as the goodness of God was evident to all, regardless of their situation. I really believe this isn’t hyperbole.
The next three or four songs were like a dream. Seriously, from “Hosanna” all the way to David Crowder’s “Only You” was this otherworldly, time-stands-still, dreamlike, tender encounter with the Holy Spirit.
There was great reverence. There was silence. There was stillness. It was like a slow dance at times, and like a joyride in a fast car other times. The songs blended into one another. Spontaneous songs rose up declaring love for King Jesus. For the second time, Pastor Dave was given a tongue and its interpretation, which stated:
For I am the Lord your God and I never leave, I never forsake my children. Would you stand and see the salvation of your God? The promises I have given will come to pass surely and soon, says the Lord. My provision for you this year is in abundance and overflowing, for I am a good God and I love to give good things to My children. So draw near to Me and seek My ways and mine alone. Look not to the left or to the right. For in Me is joy and peace. In Me is life everlasting… in Me alone, says the lord. Why would you seek it other places? Why would you seek it in other fountains? Draw near to Me like you never have. The promises I have given will come to pass. Stand and see. Lift up your eyes and see, says the Lord. I will quicken this to your hearts and your minds. I’l bring you to remembrance. You will see My goodness, you will see My kindness. You will see My love for you.
Whoa. I loved worship team vocalist Christi Lerwick’s description of her experience:
I think we turned a corner in worship last night. Or at least had an amazing upgrade. The Holy Spirit was invited to do something exciting and energizing and the people embraced Him. We all sensed the encounter and it was powerful! I can’t to hear the stories about what those encounters meant to people. For me… well, it was amazing… I sorta felt like the most popular boy in school asked me to the dance and we had the time of our life! Jesus was there… so real, so tangible. I feel like a dork but He… well, He likes me!
I know after that sweet time, I wanted to just lay on the floor and sleep. It was so relaxing and amazing. Once we finished, Pastor Arlin got on stage and, without a hint of disappointment, acknowledged that he had a message prepared, but God had other plans. It’s so amazing that God loves us enough to mess with our schedule so we can experience something profound!
For those of you who were there, what was your experience?
Share your story here.
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