I just returned from a week in Europe, the longest and best portion spent in Austria with an amazing group of women serving as missionaries in surrounding countries (Czech, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Ukraine, and Latvia). They were there to meet God.
I was there because my sister invited me. My sister was there because she was invited back to lead worship for the women’s retreat. I ended up with the wonderful task of running sound and media at the back of the room during worship and meeting times as well as taking photos throughout the three days, so I had the unique view of seeing God move in hearts and watch the women respond. I noticed several things.
1. Worship was immediate and deep. Before three words were sung the entire room of 40 women were singing—loudly, boldly, and urgently. There was no “easing into it,” no “waiting for the mood to strike.” It was as if moments like this were rare and precious and they were determined not to miss a minute of it. Each time they gathered together this intensified. There was no mistaking their love for God and desire to meet with Him and it was evident that He honored that.
2. Worship was nearly as unique as each woman. There was no set pattern, no pretense, no expectations. There were raised arms, bent bodies, tears, smiles, the works. Response to what the Spirit of God was doing in each heart and mind was evident.
3. Worship didn’t stop with the music. Attitude of prayer and worship continued throughout the day — and this doesn’t mean these folks walked around like monks with a vow of silence, just that it was clear that gratitude and communion with the most Important Person in their lives was constant.
4. Identification and confession of sin was common — a habit that seemed as normal as breathing. I found the contrast here to be striking: The typical American pew sitter probably has more sin to unload than all 40 of these women put together, yet these women were quick to respond to the Spirit’s revelation and repent, confessing to God and one another — then moved forward in happy freedom. We can learn a huge lesson here…
5. God is Everything. Not just for Sunday. Not just for a few minutes each morning. He is Everything, all the time. He is food and water and breath and life. He is not compartmentalized, minimized, or any other kind of ized.
Granted, I was seeing these women at a retreat — where we expect to meet God and experience life change. But hearing their stories over meals and watching them in all kinds of settings, I could tell their dependence and reliance on God was greater than the typical American Christian. And I’ve been to dozens of retreats over the course of my life, and this was not typical in my experience.
I have been challenged over the last several months to not be a Babylonian even though I live in Babylon. I could tell these women were doing a masterful job at just that. And because of that, God spoke. In different ways to different hearts, but He responds to those hearts that worship freely, that depend on Him, that despise any sin that has crept in, that want badly to shine a bright Light in the dark places, and to glorify Him above all else.
God speaks to the listening heart.