Last Sunday I once again found myself in an interesting situation. I was walking through the streets of Lisbon, Portugal which is probably one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. It was interesting both because I had no plans to do so a week previous and because I’ve never had a heart for Portugal or even too much of a desire to travel there (this was much like my previous trip to Haiti).
Something that I really value about the lifestyle I have right now is that I am able to pick up what I’m doing wherever I am and go experience what’s happening in other places. I don’t just see it as a privilege, but also as a job and even sometimes as an obligation. Over the last few years I have created a reality that I walk in where I’m consistently enabled to see the Father’s work and plans in a bigger picture than I have in the past.
So when my pastor, Juanito, gave me the opportunity to help him drive to Portugal and back in one day to celebrate the anniversary of a church his friend pastors I took it!…well I actually said “let me think about it” and then I got back to him. Sometimes I can let my excitement get in the way of discernment so I’m working on making them a better team!
Once again I didn’t know exactly why God had given me this opportunity but went I for it. Come to find out, it wasn’t just a small meeting of pastors but they had rented out a premiere theatre venue in downtown Lisbon and were having Hillsong come and do worship and speak.
The funny thing is that I had heard there was Hillsong concert that weekend but decided not to go with a church group that was leaving from Malaga. Don’t get me wrong, I like Hillsong but I just wasn’t prepared to ride a bus for 9 hours to go and see them. I was just excited about getting to spend time with my pastor and see what God was doing with his people there!
When we walked up there were over a thousand people lining the street waiting to get in the door. It was a free event and they ended up filling up the venue 3 times, having to add another unexpected service. At the end of the line were some friends from Malaga that took the bus up. I said hi to them and then walked up to meet my pastor around the back where we walked straight in backstage and had front row seats reserved for us (my friends had to wait for the next service…where I was sitting front row… again)
It really is amazing because I feel like when I prioritize relationships first, other promotions and luxuries follow it. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me because that’s what Jesus did and that how we seek the Kingdom of God but usually it does amaze me. Actually sometimes I think it is harder for us to accept promotion and honor when it comes than to work hard at something not expecting any reward.
A part of me wanted to slouch down in my seat as my friends walked in after their long wait, but instead I just threw love and Holy Spirit grenades at them….
Anyways, from the time I heard about the event to the point where I was sitting waiting for it to start I noticed God was doing something in my heart. I think as human being we work like pendulums always trying to reconcile issues in our heart and many time going from one extreme to the other. One of the ever swinging pendulums for me has been how my circumstances and surroundings affect my worship. Going from Church of Christ a cappella to Baptist choir to one guitar in a mud hut to huge music festivals has changed my perspective quite a bit over the years.
One of the things that I see a lot of among my culture of worship now are strong opinions about other cultures of worship. Usually with good intentions, I’ve contributed to many a conversation with topics like “what music is God really working through?” or “which style is more likely to being you into the presence of God?”
Ok they aren’t really that obvious but many times aren’t that far of either.
I don’t mind them because these conversations are usually driven by a a hunger and desire to see God do greater things and seek out his ever moving Spirt. But sometimes they can take a toll on your heart and attitude if you don’t take your thoughts captive.
I think this had been happening to me and for some reason I found myself on the front row before a great band took the stage struggling to “get in the mood” or “connect with the Spirit” in worship. The truth is that mood, emotions, surroundings, feeling the presence of God, and so many other factors have little to do with worship. I thought I had realized this before, and I had. I mean give me a ukelele on a street corner with some homeless guys and I am good to go, but somewhere along the way some conversation I had or some thought I didn’t take captive caused me to sit in a room full of worshippers and and struggle to fight pessimism and judgement. I can’t say exactly what it was but that didn’t matter. Sin isn’t logical and it’s usually not good to take time to try and figure it out. You just decide to change and accept Kingdom reality where there is always joy, God’s presence, and worshippable music. I not only had a great time but did it twice in a row… to the same songs over again nonetheless!
I love the Father and his ever waiting open ears and arms regardless of the venue or music style. He loves it when his children are aware of him and give him the glory he is due!