Updated: Dec 17, 2020
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for being our Savior, Lord and King! We love You and love being in Your presence. We pray together You'd help us hear, see and know what you desire to teach us right now as OUR King of Glory. We lift up the gates of our hearts that You may enter to rule and reign. Give us clean hands and pure hearts through Jesus' blood to understand the truths You have for us. You are our Lord, strong and mighty. You reveal Yourself so personally to us through Your Word and Holy Spirit. We thank You and seek You! In Jesus' name we pray, Amen!
The Door to Worship
I've struggled for several months to write about what I see happening in our churches this year. Numerous leaders have tried to warn the American Church about its need for repentance and renewal regarding Worship in the last several years, but the warnings have largely gone unheeded in many congregations. Then Covid came and many congregations closed their doors of Worship to minimize the spread. Many remain closed and highly restricted, keeping people away from gathering together as the saints for worship (Hebrews 10:25).
As one who has lived to help nurture Biblical, Christ-exalting, Love-filled, Holy Spirit-led corporate worship, at least prayerfully so, it’s sad to me seeing the American Church so quickly close its doors without much discussion of the Biblical teachings about worship. I've been burdened for the sake of the Lord, His people, our kids and the testimony of faith we're sharing. I believe much of the American Church has grown faint in its understanding and commitment to Worship as the calling and purpose of the Church. As John 4:23-25 so clearly tells us, true worship is dear to the Lord's heart. As such, I believe it should be close to ours as well.
Certainly the situation in our world is real and serious. No one would suggest it doesn't require wisdom, love and staying home when we're sick. Yet, as believers, have we asked what does the Lord Himself desire from us His people during this time? Are we fully glorifying Him and His name above all else? When we consider the calling of the Church, are we fully obeying Him?
I've seen first hand the intense spiritual battle often waged for ownership over the territory of the doors of corporate worship. You see, only one power can reign over our worship at a time. There is no middle ground. Both our Lord Jesus and the evil one desire full worship. Either the Lord is welcomed and honored or He sees we've got it all covered in our own fleshly strength and the evil one is given room to rule.
The blessing of 2020 is the Lord has given us a clear choice about who guards the doors of our hearts and Corporate Worship: Jesus Christ our Head through Holy Spirit OR our adversary the Devil who often works through the means and ways of sinful man. The Scriptures have everything we need to understand God's heart and directions. Holy Spirit is also with us actively speaking to us to guide us in the ways of our Father. Are we being careful to listen and see? Do we really want the full reign of Jesus, our King of Glory? Or are we keeping the doors shut to His Lordship and placing our hands on the cart of the Ark of His Presence (2 Samuel 6)?
This pencil sketch was drawn from a vision a dear sister received from the Lord one Sunday morning in church. Visions were not every day occurrences in our particular congregation, but I know without a doubt it was given for that time and also for today. It's shared with permission from our dear sister and I pray the Lord will perhaps open our eyes and ears to His heart for Worship. He had something to say then, and I believe He does now.
It was a Sunday in February - February of 2018, almost two and half years ago. Many of us were laboring hard to bring our all to the Lord and lead the congregation well before Him. It was a Sunday when the kids and adults led worship together and we were praying the praises of infants, children and adults would defeat the strongholds of the enemy (Psalm 8).
Unknown to me or others in church leadership that Sunday morning the Lord was indeed speaking directly in a vision to this sister who had entered the sanctuary for worship. A vision unfolded before her during the sermon and she immediately went home to illustrate what she saw. As a wonderful artist, the drawing above is her depiction of what the Lord revealed to her so realistically in a way she had never experienced before or since. She had no idea why she received this vision, except she knew it was from the Lord.
The Lord showed her a woman on her knees praying and pleading with a gentleman standing guard at the doors of the sanctuary. The woman was begging for the man to step aside and open the doors of the sanctuary so she and others could worship the Lord. The man refused to hear her and would not budge. He would not open the doors. The gates of worship remained shut. He stood guard while the woman prayed and petitioned. Still, no matter how tattered and worn he felt, no matter the labor or gear required, he stood unmoved in his determination to control whether or not worship was allowed of Jesus, our King of Kings by His people.
"O Lord, remove the guard at the doors of Your house! Let us enter to love and honor You. O man, let us enter as a family under the reign and rule of our Lord. Please, o man, step aside. Put down your armor, your control over the presence and ministry of our God. Our God reigns; Holy Spirit must reign! Step aside, o man, and let us worship Jesus! Open up the gates that our King of Glory may come in and we may enter to worship Him! He is our Lord! We serve no other!
In Jesus' name, the Threshold of Glory belongs to Our God. The doors of this house belong to Jesus, our King! Relinquish your hold and grip over this house, o man! We push back the gates that the King of Glory may come in! Our God rules victorious and will receive the glory, honor and praise He is due! He is magnificent, marvelous, Almighty God! He can guard and prosper this house. Let Him, in Jesus’ name! Evil one, you may no longer rule over this House of Worship! The Lord’s ways are good, right and prosperous. So we push back these gates! Step aside, o man, that the King of Glory may come in! For Jesus' sake, Amen!"
As Melissa sketched what the Lord had shown her, she didn't understand why she had been given the vision, only that it was so real to her and clearly from the Lord. Not only was it unfolding before her, it also seemed to be happening in the future. She just didn't know when.
For me personally as the Worship Director, this vision immediately meant a great deal as soon as I heard about it and saw the sketch. At the beginning of 2018 there had been a renewed commitment to seek and follow the Lord amongst the church leadership. Already at this point in the year, though, the evil one was resurrecting an old tactic to come against the growth of worship of the Lord in that Body.
Though few people ever knew about the daily spiritual battles that had been waged against Worship there, the evil one was adept and knew he had another opportunity to dig his heels in with new leadership. As February began, the spiritual battle for worship was so real and palpable to me again. Only a few of us knew what it was like to live through eight years of a regular affront from the Adversary. What was churning again was nothing new.
Since the spiritual battle was again before us, this vision confirmed its reality to me and was an enormous blessing from Holy Spirit. It was an unsolicited Word from the Lord that the battle was again real. The Lord knew I and others were already on our knees begging for the gates of worship to be lifted up all the way so the King of Glory could come in and so we His people could worship Him freely together in the Spirit and in truth. We were praying against the division being waged by the evil one. We were working hard to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We were also working so hard to love others as ourselves. Not all wanted to exist as part of the family. The battle that had been waged for 8 years was never against flesh and blood but the evil one used individuals to create constant disunity and disruption to love of God and one another.
In that immediate time period, the Lord did answer the woman's prayer to allow the gates of worship to be re-opened. Dear friends were committed in prayer and worship during that time. A man and a woman both came under conviction by Holy Spirit at key moments to speak truth and light into the situation and the evil one was defeated. He was not allowed to shut down the ministry of worship that was growing.
In 2018 it was a blessing to hear and see the Lord move and work in Victory! He's able and did so in miraculous ways in that immediate time frame! The lesson was clear: spiritual warfare is real, intense and requires our prayers, worship, readiness, armor of truth, the Spirit, courage and conviction! We must not relent in speaking truth when it‘s needed. God’s kingdom and people’s lives are at stake. We know this very well.
The Message Now!
Sadly, I believe the enemy kept digging His heels in after that point in 2018. The leadership gave permission for the wisdom of man to rule and the guard took his place again at the doors of the sanctuary. The evil one knew how to appeal to us in that setting. We could grow a bigger congregation as long as we would bow to his ways and surrender the headship of Christ and Holy Spirit in worship. As many American churches have discovered over the last couple of decades, our culture loves certain things and if we give people what they like, they do come in the doors. Our church buildings and salaries get funded; our programs and "missions" grow into mega churches, and our kids have fun. Somehow though, the culture and people have not grown more Christ-like. Deeper love of God and love of one another has not necessarily become the marks of the American Church. Perhaps all the fluff was not really Christ at all.
When Worship is no longer understood as the first calling of the church (which includes both of the greatest commands to love the Lord and one another), we end up discipling a form of godliness that has no Holy Spirit, transforming power. If Worship of our Lord is given second place or third place or altered to look the part but isn‘t in the Spirit and in truth, then we have allowed the evil one to own the guard and the territory at the door of Worship. This is dangerous territory. And we’ve seen the results.
As Lovers of the Lord have long been laboring and praying on their knees for true worship to be desired and prioritized in our churches, several questions need to be asked in the context of this year's events. The vision from 2018 is a Word for Today as the Doors of Worship are still heavily guarded in our flesh.
1. Has the American Church forgotten its first love and calling to worship and glorify the Lord together? Hebrews 10:25 reminds us not to forsake the gathering together of the saints for Worship of the Lord. Revelations 2 and 3 are quite direct in its warning to the churches not forget to Love the Lord and one another.
2. Did most of the American Church so easily relinquish the territory of Worship over to government decrees and to the thinking of man during Covid because it had already forgotten its first calling to Worship the Lord together years earlier? Is it possible the Church has already followed other gods in its thinking, planning and practices as Jeremiah 5:19 suggests? Many refer to the bondage created by 501c3 tax regulations. Perhaps the American Church grew comfortable and lukewarm and the fall of worship to the state was the logical, consistent outcome of years of a weakened foundation.
3. Could it be the American Church has grown so Biblically illiterate it no longer sees when the world is transforming the Church rather than the Church transforming the world? We love quoting Romans 12:1-2 but have we sincerely asked ourselves if we've been transformed by Holy Spirit? Giving our lives in full surrender to Jesus is a pure, acceptable form of worship. Have we really surrendered everything, even church growth and our plans to the Lord, or are we enthralled with trying to grow our earthly kingdoms just like the world does?
4. Could it be that Church leaders and congregants have become so enamored with our positions of social standing, possible influence and even our feelings of being needed and wanted that we have lost our courage to stand for the ways of the Kingdom of God? Has the Lord been trying to show us we’ve become more of a carefully marketed, managed social club than a family of faith worshiping and loving the Lord and one another together?
5. Could it be we in the American Church are now reaping the closed doors we deserve as we long ago handed over the keys of the Gates of Worship to the Kingdom of Man? In practice, many have built the American Church on good looks, awesome experiences and a good coffee bar. Might we already have the most wonderful news and Savior to share? Jesus saves; we can't. He is the rock upon which God's Kingdom is built; we can trust Him and rejoice in HIM alone!
6. Could we be seeing the grace of God in this moment trying to get our attention to return to our first Love-Love of Himself and One Another, the Two Greatest Commandments? Has the Lord given us this time to reflect on what we've been doing and perhaps repent and change course? As a good, good Father, He always stands ready to forgive and restore, but it only comes after repentance and confession.
7. Do we need to ask ourselves who is standing guard at the Threshold of Glory in our hearts and at the doors of our congregations? Is the Lord really reigning or are we standing guard in our flesh? If we relinquished full control of Worship to our Lord, how might that affect our decisions and priorities? Might Holy Spirit feel welcome amongst His people? Might a testimony of a move of God begin to grow? Might our club membership approaches be torn up and replaced with Love of the Father and each other? Might we love those already in our midst and understand the Lord's heart and love for them? Might that be part of the test for us in the congregations and in leadership positions?
8. Dear Church Leaders, who has been praying and pleading for the Gates of Worship to be lifted so that Jesus, the King of Glory may come in with a fresh love of Holy Spirit’s reign in our lives? Have you heard any cries? What might just happen if we begin to live in Love of God and One Another once again with Worship of God reprioritized? I can remember several times I was told Worship was no longer the most important aspect of the church. Have we truly dug into what it means when Jesus says our Father is seeking true worshipers in Spirit and in truth. He wants that (John 4:23-25). It's not a verse and truth we can skip over, but we have. Who has been laboring for this and pleading, praying, yes, pleading and praying for the good of the Lord and people we love? Might the Lord Himself be pleading with us to reprioritize Worship of Himself? Might we need to lessen our wants and desires for certain music, certain people, the latest trends, or the comfy time? Might we need to repent of our pride in trying to build God’s kingdom through the world’s ways, our ways?
9. Dear fellow believers, do we have the courage to stand up and pursue the full Kingdom of God or are we so comfortable we really don't desire the Kingdom of God which manifests itself in righteousness, justice, mercy, humility, love and restorations? Is Church our social club first and community of Worshipers second? Is it time to really seek the Kingdom of God above all else first? Do we trust the Lord to provide the rest? Do we trust the Lord to give us courage, directions and provisions for the next step of our journey with Him? Seeking first the Kingdom of God means we will leave the earthly behind at all cost and a fire is ignited inside us for the manifest Glory of God.
10. Dear unbelievers and the youngest generations amongst us, accept our apologies as a Church for trying to gain your interest through trivial means rather than staying grounded in the ways and priorities of the Lord. Could it be we the American Church put our hand on the cart of the ark of the covenant, on God's presence, and tried to grow worship and our congregations through our own strength and personality? Did we forget the order and requirements of God for worship and not trust Him?
Dear Lord, if you are trying to get our attention, we want to respond faithfully to You. Perhaps this Vision from the Lord given in 2018 can speak not only then, but also to us today. Let's open the Gates of Worship and let the King of Glory enter and His people worship Him! Let's return to trusting our God to build His Church and renew our understanding of Worship as the first calling of the Church! He's looking for obedience on a narrow path not only for each person but also for His Church.
In this unusual 2020 environment, we know families can make decisions that are safe and right for themselves and others, but church leaders, we must keep the Gates of Worship open without restriction. We ourselves cannot grow the Lord's kingdom. He asks us to worship Him in the Spirit and in truth, not forsaking that privilege for His blessing and ours. The control we seek to have over the Gates of Worship are not just in taking attendance, registering certain numbers, or masks or no masks. The controls we have sought to have over worship have included seeking certain demographics, certain sounds and looks at the expense of loving others. We have pursued the world and not been internally transformed. We have marketed worship and guarded it with our hands tight on the reins.
In 2021, dear American Church, let's labor anew for Worship in the Spirit and in truth. There are congregations loving God and loving one another with faithfulness and intention. The Lord is blessing that during this time. Go find them and follow the Lord's call for true worship. We are never perfect in our worship here on earth, but the Lord Himself can teach and instruct us. He covers us with His blood and gives us clean hands and pure hearts. As we humble ourselves under your Lordship, O God, make us a people after your heart with Gates flung wide open for Your presence and reign over us! For Jesus' Glory! Hallelujah! Amen!
"Lift up your heads O Ye Gates,
that the King of Glory may come in!
Who is this King of Glory?
He is the Lord, strong and mighty!
He IS the KING of Glory!"
So, lift up your heads, O Ye Gates,
that our King of Glory may come in!"
Psalm 24 ~ A psalm of ascent ~
We Worship You, King of Glory!
COME IN, O KING OF GLORY!
We Lift Up the Gates of our Houses of Worship so You can rule over us and in us, O Lord!
Be Lord and King In Your Church!