“He inhabits the praises of His people!” Psalm 22:3
Oh how much I adore the truth in that verse – I’ve experienced it first hand!
I love discussing the purpose of worship, the power of worship and the passion with which worship movingly leads us into a place of total surrender -- proclaiming scripture, uttering truth, declaring victory, crying out for help, telling of all the attributes of our Mighty yet Gracious and Compassionate Father, entering into a time of praise and thanksgiving for what He has done (and will do), claiming His Promises over our lives and standing sturdily in agreement and awe of our Shepherd, Savior, Creator, Redeemer, Healer, Anchor, and Prince of Peace! It fully transforms the tide of your restless heart and weary soul. Its intimacy enraptures you with the beauty of who He is and points your heart towards what He is capable of in your life!
Eventually I want to get in to the reasoning behind Golden Thread’s Summer Soundtrack series, but first I want to share how worship planted a seed in my heart, which inevitably led to my complete unraveling and ultimate rebuilding! Oh, the power of worship music to transform a life and radially revive a dead heart.
My heart used to be made of stone -- cold, callused, wounded, hard. In the throws of marital strife, I vividly remember my husband sitting outside on our back porch, night after night, with his Shane and Shane (specifically “The Worship Initiative” albums) music on, with his head bowed in prayer as he quietly prayed for me – his very lost wife. Listening to even a note of worship music ignited abrasive, angry, and offensive feelings within me. While desperately trying to laughably uphold my good girl reputation, I still went to church. I would purposefully run late as my husband would literally drag me along so I could skip the worst part of church service to me -- the worship music. The music used to make my whole body recoil and squirm. The convicting sounds of the music had a deep personal assault on my sin-filled, wretched heart. The resounding sounds could effortlessly penetrate this fortress of a heart when nothing else could. It could see through my smiling mask and phony façade -- straight into the depths of my heart. The Spirit’s conviction of the sin that was entangling and choking out my life was scary and I had to avoid it at all costs. Ironically, I could completely disengage from what the Pastor was speaking about during the sermon, but for some reason my soul, my spirit, and my heart could not go deaf to the poignant effect of worship music. Light was trying to get in there, but I was determined to not let it in.
That, my friend, is spiritual warfare. It’s a clear picture of how darkness rejects and recoils at the light. A colossal collision of the darkness that lived inside my heart and the light outside that was trying to break in and free me. Oh how it tremendously grieves me to write about the state of my heart back then.
The assurance that God will be present when we praise Him is promised to us in Psalm 22. He “inhabits the praises of his people.” We cannot deny that he is there with us. Even being in intense denial, I could not emotionally or spiritually disconnect when there was praise and worship music on because His presence was palpable to me. After all, I am an “image bearer” and He was the one that created this heart.
But I didn’t want to feel worse than I already did. Just let me keep running from you, God. I can manage this without help, I used to think. I didn’t need to feel more beat down. I had such a catastrophic misunderstanding of who He was. I thought He was mad at me, couldn’t wait to judge, destroy, condemn and shame me, and would happily hand out cruel consequences to me. What a surprise it was to me, when He met me with tenderness, mercy, freedom and a love that was there to gently rescue me instead.
It’s as if I was hearing the Lord sing these lyrics over me:
“Come out of hiding,
You’re safe here with Me.
There’s no need to cover
What I already see.
You've got your reasons, But I hold your peace.
You've been on lock-down , And I hold the key.
'Cause I loved you before you knew it was love
And I saw it all, still I chose the cross
And you were the one that I was thinking of when I rose from the grave.
Now rid of the shackles, My victory's yours
I tore the veil for you to come close.
There's no reason to stand at a distance anymore
You're not far from home.
No need to be frightened by intimacy
No, just throw off your fear And come running to Me.”
Bethel Music / Steffany Gretzinger – “Out of Hiding”
So then a morning came when I was still very much in a depressed, anxiety-ridden and hopeless place that I recall praying for alleviation. I was in such distress and was willing to try anything. I was in my bathroom by myself when I heard a clear, quiet, calming voice whisper to me and say– “just play a worship song on your phone.” To no surprise, I didn’t have worship music on my phone. But I remembered the name of a band (Shane and Shane) I loved from many years previous, so I got on Spotify, searched their name, clicked play on their most recent album, “Psalms II” (for some reason it seemed the least threatening to me), and found comfort in the fact it would all over in 3 minutes. The Lord didn’t ask me to do any more than I could – which, at that moment, was to press some buttons on my phone. He met me where I was, and He did the rest.
As I was dying of thirst, He offered me Living Water. As I was starving, He offered me the Bread of Life. As I stood deserving of death and condemnation, He freely offered me a new hope. He lifted my heavy, downcast head off the bathroom floor and said, “I’ve been waiting for you my Beloved! The time has come. Come and follow me.” He inhabits the praises of His people!
I fell to my knees as I listened to the Psalms play (which that album is PURE Scripture – HIGHLY recommended)! He unraveled me with this simple melody. For the first time in years, I felt relief, hope, and lightweight. And as it was playing in my bathroom for the first time ever in this home we lived in, I was weeping -- unhindered tears of brokenness just streaming down my face like never before. God met me on the floor of my bathroom in an immense breaking point and outpouring of grief and despondency from the cisterns of my hidden heart pain. The music cut through my ready-to-be-released-buried-heartache like a knife. I was sucked into the beauty, splendor and hopefulness of the lyrics I was hearing! And honestly, from that moment on, my life has never been the same. Certainly there was immense work and painful restoration ahead, but it planted a seed in my heart that could never be unsown. Monumental cultivation began. I had turned my life over to The Carpenter – who majors in rebuilding and construction – both old and new assembly. What was to happen in the coming days, I wasn’t prepared for, but my God had come back for me. His relentless pursuit of me and my broken heart was on. He was willing to destroy the walls of my fortified heart and break down every lie I believed by ANY means necessary. It’s true – “He never leaves the one behind” (Luke 15). He used worship music to initiate the breaking off of my chains and He had come to set this captive free (Isaiah 61). It was as if scales fell out of my eyes. That moment initiated sparks of revival in this lifeless, numb, unresponsive heart. It was like an AED (defibrillator) had shocked my heart back into its proper, healthy and yet new rhythm.
“He surrounds me with songs of deliverance!” Psalm 32:7
“I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
I remember being embarrassed to tell my husband what I had done that morning. I expected him to judge me since it had become a trend for me to mock others’ devotion to worship music. But when he got home from work, I somehow mustered the words to tell him what I had done and what had happened. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “We’ve been praying and waiting for this day. I knew it would come!”
So – note to self – NEVER give up on someone – your prayers are never for nothing. It might not be on your time frame, because I was lost at sea for years – but keep praying! Fruit isn’t grown in a day, and your prayers WILL produce future fruit! Hope in the Lord and in His plans and timing – with the deep-rooted trust that the Lord is on a very personal rescue mission and is constantly interceding for your lost loved ones too! He “NEVER leaves the work of His hands!” (Psalm 138:8).
The seeds the music had planted in my heart lead me to complete repentance and brought me into a place of total humility. And that is why from that moment forward, I’ve never turned that worship music off. It is on in my home, in my office, in my car. I am proudly dependent on it. I very much had a Saul to Paul moment and now I have become a person who cannot devour enough worship music. It keeps my heart in a place of gratitude, focused on who HE is and what He is capable of! Thanking Him for the miracles He worked in my life and in my marriage!
My family and my community of dear friends have experienced the power worship music has to usher in the Gospel and change and transform a heart and life. He is a prison-shaking Savior! We see it in Acts 16 when Paul is imprisoned and begins singing songs of praises in His jail cell. I encourage you to go read the powerful story! Because of his worship, major and mighty things changed on the scene. The Lord showed up! He inhabits the praises of His people!
Desperation brought about by my woundings sparked an interest. Peering in with curiosity made my distrust, doubt, dread and fear of the Lord turn into examining. Examining quickly turned into a partaking; partaking turned into reverence, reverence into awe, awe into adoration, adoration into captivation, captivation into total freedom, freedom into delight, delight into worship, worship into love, and love into magnificent joy! Not because these weren’t incredibly trying and tumultuous times, because they were!
“But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. A hope does not disappoint!” (Romans 5:3-5)
Investing in matters of God’s economy does not ever return void or empty. We have an earthly lens at which we view things, from which all things shift, change and pass away. Yet, His Word, His ways, His purposes, His covenants, His timing, His economy are unchanging, always-for-your-good, unshakable, endless, forever-present, continually-productive and will never let you down. Leading to fullness, richness, and life abundant. In suffering AND in celebratory seasons – and everlasting fruitfulness is fashioned: joy, peace, hope. Everything your desire-seeking heart searches for. It freely awaits you.
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him!” 1 Corinthians 2:9
“No one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.” Isaiah 64:4
His music speaks and tells the truth about who you are - how loved, delighted over and adored you are! You are chosen and ransomed and He has mighty things planned for you and your precious life!
Step into His presence and experience the great exchange! He turns mourning into joy, grief into dancing, shame into significance, failures into purpose, brokenness into wholeness, bondage into freedom, scarcity into abundance, defeat into forgiveness, striving into peace, performing into acceptance, regret into repentance, weakness into strength, hopelessness into healing, torn into transformed, the old into something new.
Worship, praise, and prayers change the entire atmosphere. They instantaneously shift the focus off us and on to something greater! They challenge us to look up and out instead of down and in. The picture of a captivated and yielded heart, a bowed and enraptured heart, and rightfully on the throne is Jesus. Inviting and opening the door for the Holy Spirit to come and be apart of those moments does something!
Even if you don’t have the words yet, the music will. It’s a beautiful place to start. Whether you are hopeless, hurting, or lost and aren’t sure what to pray or you are crying out begging for help and healing. Maybe you are looking to surround your home and your family with songs of deliverance – go shout out truth and cover it with His promises and defensive and offensive battle cries! Use worship to pray for guidance, answers, freedom, joy, deliverance, help, growth, calming of seas, wisdom, healing, change, hope, restoration, revival, life abundance and wholeness!
Worship is about intimacy. Entering into a moment of raw vulnerable emotions and encountering security and shelter - moments to know and to be known. It's a time to cry out for whatever you're praying for. It helps to recall scripture and declare lyrics of assurance in times of uncertainty and need. It brings peace. It's a picture of surrender. Choosing to worship Him despite how we feel or what we are going through. It matures and grows you. Worship fashions trust and a secure attachment to your Father- allowing the Lord to come into your circumstance, however hard that is – and develop a confident intimacy. The flawless intimacy we all desire and need. Based on His love that is not passive, never disengaged, and always keeps its promises. It ushers in the joy of the Lord. Worship crosses the barrier and breaks the boundaries between our heads and our hearts. May it sink in. I know that it calmed my restless and fatigued soul. May music plant seeds of revival in your heart and in your home too.
God has laid it on my heart to share my personal playlist with all my favorites and go-to’s. There are 94 days of summer, so naturally there are 94 songs! My challenge is for you to listen to a song a day and let the words wash over you. We are posting song lyrics every Monday on our social media platforms, so make sure to follow along!
My prayer for you is that you invite worship to become a norm in your life. No matter the circumstance, make Him your anthem. Hope awaits you at the press of a button.
Claim His promises and proclaim the truth! May we be a people who praise Him and cry out to Him in the valleys, storms and rough seas AND on the mountaintops and sunny days!
“If the stars were made to worship, so will I” – (Hillsong United),
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Psalm 100: 1-5