I was fifteen when I first encountered the presence of God. I wasn’t searching for God and didn’t think about what might be on the other side of an invitation, I just had nothing better to do on a Sunday night so thought why not. And the guy I liked was going to be there so it was a given really.
On the outside, the service was nothing special. ‘Chuch’ was in the ground floor of the Twin Towns Services Club. Above the room where they met was levels of pokies, restaurants, bars and bistros where later I would regularly buy hot chips and gravy with the other youth for Sunday lunch. Walking in I noticed a few coloured lights hung strategically, an overhead projector up the front for the congregation to be able to sing along and the team casually dressed, thongs, barefoot, nothing flashy.
As the music started the emotion took me by surprise. Tears began falling in a steady stream down my face and I wasn’t really sure why.
Tears were not my norm. I was strong. Hard. In control. I didn’t cry, especially not in public. But there I was undone in the presence of God.
The Bible says mountains melt like wax before the Lord. That night the walls of my heart melted.
As the service concluded, I responded to the invitation to accept Jesus. The new Christians counsellor, Kane came and chatted to me about my decision and allowed me to ask questions.
“If God is real, why do bad things happen to good people?”
“If God really is in heaven watching over us, why is there evil, pain and suffering?”
My analysing mind wrestled with the reality of God but it was too late, my heart was convinced. My intellect and emotions weren’t making the calls; the presence of God had connected Spirit to spirit.
That night, I knew I was different. Mostly I was aware that I wasn’t alone anymore. I ‘d never known I’d even felt alone until suddenly that feeling strangely absent. You never know what’s on the other side of salvation. Only He knows what you are missing.
This first encounter with the presence of God sparked my fascination for worship. It wasn’t about the songs or the team who sung them. Worship was the vehicle God used to meet with me. It was raw and it was beautiful.
The tension of this night still drives me today. The desire to bring excellence and the best I can offer because Jesus and His Church deserve it, all the while knowing no amount of excellence can change a heart for eternity.
This first encounter anchors my faith every time we gather in corporate worship. Acutely aware that people are standing in the congregation who are just like me that first time I walked in. They don’t know Jesus yet, but I as we lift Him up I’m trusting He will reveal Himself.
If it hadn’t been for the church, specifically Tweed Heads Christian Life Centre, I may never have encountered Jesus. It feels only natural to bring my very best as a reflection of gratitude and value to both Jesus and His Church.
On the other hand, I know full well, it wasn’t the magnitude of the lights, the sound, or the skill level of the musicians that drew my heart that night. Those things didn’t change hearts then and they don’t now.
The power lies in the unseen and no amount of lights, sound or musicianship can make up for the presence of God. The thing is, it’s not one or the other. It is both.
That night birthed in me a deep desire to pursue more of the presence of God. And alongside this desire a passion to see worship offered that reflects His glory.
A burning desire to cultivate a space where the Presence of God dwells and then to get out of the way as much as possible.
Why is it that some songs, services or worship leaders seem to carry such anointing?
If it’s all about Jesus, why waste our time with creativity and bringing our best?
What is true worship?
It would serve us well to develop a solid worship theology.
For years I’ve had on my heart to publish some thoughts on A Pilgrimage to Worship. I guess you could say this is the beginning, where it all began for me. To follow, a collection of stories and experiences linked to biblical studies of worship from the Bible.
As I conclude with my own first recount of encountering the presence of God I invite you to do the same. There is power in reflection. Write it, share it, speak it out, or simply ponder over it as you are driving next. The point is to go back to the beginning, where it all started. Your first encounter with Jesus. Invite to Holy Spirit to bring to remembrance any memories of significance. Happy Writing.
All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the centre of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence. (The Message)
The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord,
At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. (New King James Version)