Today we’re going back to 1999. No, not to party. It’s freshman year of college for me and my friend invited me to a student-led contemporary worship service called FISH. I didn’t like contemporary worship music. Chris Tomlin was barely getting into his stride and there wasn’t a whole lot of quality out there (in my humble opinion). I still went and it wasn’t too bad. I actually kind of liked it. At that point, we were still worshipping with a couple instruments, people sitting on couches in the student union and songs thrown up on the wall with an overhead projector. Yeah. An overhead projector. It was low-key, but enjoyable to worship with friends in an authentic, yet informal way.
The following year, some of the senior leadership asked me if I’d be willing to lead a team. I was humbled and honored to be chosen. I had a few good upperclassmen worship leaders that helped me refine my vision of worship while studying the Bible and honing my skills. It’s one of the best experiences of my college career.
I continued that year, as well as the next and finally I was on the leadership team for FISH my senior year of college. We were now in the main performance auditorium, attendance had grown dramatically in 3 years, we were using powerpoint (woot woot 🙂 ) and we had 3 rotating worship teams. It was so much fun to be leading a growing, Spirit-filled ministry, which seemed to really be making an impact in many students’ lives.
There was a problem, though. On the outside, I was using all of the right words, studying theology and scripture in class everyday, leading worship passionately, but full of pride and ego on the inside. It was totally going to my head. I’m not sure many people noticed, but it was definitely there and Satan was using it to pick away at me more than I realized.
I craved the attention.
I loved the spotlight.
It was awesome being known.
But something was missing. Big time.
It all boiled over when one evening I was alone in my dorm suite. All of my roommates were gone for some reason and I wasn’t with them. I’m not sure why, because it didn’t happen often, but I know God had a hand in it.
All I remember is that I had this overwhelming urge to pick up my Bible and read it. Now, you have to understand, I read my Bible probably 1-2 hours a day at this point in my education. I was at a Christian University studying to be a music teacher in a Christian private school and therefore working on a theology minor as well. Lots of Bible. But it was for class. It was for a grade. I was getting plenty of head knowledge, but missing the heart more often than not. I know I was definitely growing in my faith, but it was being hindered at the same time.
I picked up my Bible and I began to read.
Just to read.
Not to know things. To hear things. To be with Jesus. To grow in my relationship with Him.
I’m not sure why I chose Romans. It’s a tough book with some deep stuff, but God knew.
All I remember is reading and reading and then all of a sudden crying. Sobbing. I knew I had been wrong and Jesus had brought me to my knees with His word given to the Apostle Paul to write to the Roman church. Those words cut through me and let loose a part of me that had been held hostage and I physically fell to my knees, in tears, and I just wanted more of Jesus. I knew it needed to be less of me and more of Him. Leading worship had to completely for Him. He reminded me of His forgiveness promised to me by His death and resurrection. He refreshed my soul and through a humble, repentant heart, Jesus lifted me up with a new attitude of humility and joy.
I can’t say there haven’t been times since 2003 that I haven’t battled pride and ego. I know it’s Satan’s go-to way to snag and snare me, but I have the power of Jesus to guide me and strengthen me.
I love the song “Touch the Sky” by Hillsong, because the lyric says, “I touch the sky, when my knees hit the ground.” That posture of complete abandon to the will and power of Jesus while offering yourself in prayer is where we need to find ourselves more often. Otherwise we begin to be tempted to think too highly of ourselves. We were made to glorify Him. It’s all about Jesus. On the other hand, the song touches on the struggle of ego and personal desire: “I bought the world and sold my heart. You traded heaven to have me again.” So often we want the things of this Earth, but Jesus still wants us. He left the glory of Heaven to walk among us dirty sinners, so that He could win us back and release us from the grip of sin. How can we not fall to our knees and praise Him with all that we are?
Before we jump to the song, here are a few favorite verses from the first part of Romans:
Romans 5:3-5 We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 8:1-2 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:5-6 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
What fortune lies beyond the stars Those dazzling heights too vast to climb
I got so high to fall so far But I found heaven as love swept low
My heart beating my soul breathing I found my life when I laid it down
Upward falling spirit soaring I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground
What treasure waits within Your scars This gift of freedom gold can’t buy
I bought the world and sold my heart You traded heaven to have me again
Find me here at Your feet again Ev’rything I am reaching out I surrender
Come sweep me up in Your love again And my soul will dance on the wings of forever
Dylan Thomas | Joel Houston | Michael Guy Chislett
© 2015 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
(I LOVE this new acoustic version they recorded live in Israel)
Heavenly Father, call us back to You daily. Remind us that we are Your creation and we need forgiveness. Call us to repentance. Pour out your Spirit on us and may You find us on our knees in praise and prayer more often. You are everything. You Almighty. You are our God. We love You. Amen.