Worship is such a critical thing that we do. It's not so much about making us feel good, but about lifting up the name of Jesus because He is the worthy One.
We are so blessed by all the friends who come to share their gifting with us and who are willing to lead us in worship. Bill Jolley came to lead at this Lampstand and he brought a team of other friends who also brought along some of their lovely family members: Jamin Rathbun, Chris Boyd, Jason Pierce. These guys poured out their hearts to the Lord and the music was awesome, but even greater than the foot-stomping and heart-felt music was the presence of the Lord. The way we can unite as we sing the truth of who God is and what He says about us really opened up our time to unite all of us in being sensitive to hearing the Spirit in this gathering time.
Matthew had a word in tongues during the worship time. This can be a very powerful experience and several people told us that it was very impacting for them personally to experience this corporate expression of the gifts of the Spirit at work. There is a great deal of Biblical basis and instruction for an expression like this. Matthew shared some of these things briefly, and I explained how we just want to be faithful to share whatever it is we receive while we listen rather than feeling we have to have an entire message “thus says the Lord.” It becomes a beautiful time of just listening together to try to understand what the Lord might want to say to us. One friend immediately shared she sensed that the Lord was saying He is shutting out the darkness. Someone else had another piece, an admonish to rise up and take the land! You have won the battle, the Kingdom is coming! The theme that emerged seemed to be VICTORY and the assurance of the Lord's victory over the enemy and the darkness around us.
We have seen God use this unique gift to bring a sense of corporate sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and a unified seeking Him for understanding. Rather than being uncomfortable or strange, it just feels like a great treasure hunt together and it gives us all practice listening for the voice of the Lord. Jesus says that His sheep know His voice so this is a good thing to be able to discern His voice!
We continued our study in Psalm 23, looking at our Good Shepherd. We are using the book A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm by Phillip Keller.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
Shepherds would lead their sheep to the rich grazing pastures high up in the mountains for the hot summer months and the easiest ways to these highlands would be through the valleys. Though there are dangers unique to the valley, the Shepherd is also very present through this portion of the journey.
This brings great encouragement to us that our Good Shepherd will never leave us or forsake us, especially when we are walking through difficult places!
Some highlights from the meeting:
*The valley of the shadow of death is never an end point. We always walk THROUGH the valley. Even if we do actually die, that is truly the moment that we step from this valley into the glorious beyond (if we are believers in the Lord Jesus)! He never leads us to the valley of the shadow of death as our end destination!
*We want to see the valleys as the way to “higher ground” with the Lord. We want to have “higher ground thinking.” We don't want to run from adversity; rather we want to accept adversity.
*There are well-watered valleys! Even in difficult seasons, He makes sure there are places of refreshing!
*The rod was mainly a weapon of defense and it was for protection and discipline. It is a picture of God's power and authority. The rod is the Word of God. It reassures us in a world of confusion and it is a comfort to know He will correct us if we get off course. We also use the Word to counter the assaults of the enemy, just as Jesus did in the wilderness (Matthew 4).
*The staff was used to draw sheep together and to the shepherd. It is a picture of the Spirit of God and how He gently leads us and and guides us.
We took time again to worship and then ended the meeting by praying for one another. I love the way the Lord moves in these times to encourage and He truly is speaking through this series on Psalm 23 which gives us oil for the difficult moments we face in life.
Matthew or Julie Wine