Echoes from Zion.
It is a name conceived in the dark womb of worship.
A name that heaven won't let me escape.
I stood with eyes closed in the middle of the dimly lit room, a congregation surrounding me with hands raised in ardent devotion. The singers that encompassed me roared their praises, engulfing my ears with melodies, while the loud sounds of the rocking instruments with their bass notes thumping vibrated in my chest. The room was crammed with young worshippers who had traveled from all over the region to be a part of the student conference. I was one of a handful of adult leaders who stood among this throng of teenagers lost in the moment of worship. I, too, joined my song with theirs. Sure, this conference wasn't 'for' the adults. But worship? Worship is something that is for the King and no matter the setting - whether youth conference or geriatrics convention - it's something we all have the privilege to offer, and so offer it, I did. While my physical eyes were closed to block out distractions, my spiritual eyes were opened to envision the One worthy of the adoration we offered: This One who speaks and worlds form out of nothingness. This One who effortlessly holds the genetic DNA code for every living thing inside of his mind. This One whom we call Jesus.
As I pondered the beauty of my Lord, a familiar passion began to well up inside of me: the passion of purpose. As often happened in His presence, I found that as I drew nearer to Him, I became more aware of, not just who He is, but who I am made to be as well. It's much like that scripture where the Psalmist says, "In Your light, we see light (Ps. 36:9);" as we enter into the light of God's glory, suddenly everything becomes clearer - his goodness, his holiness, his matchless worth, but also the new nature, calling, and destiny he has deposited inside of us, his children. And it was this familiar awareness of being created for something beyond the mundane that suddenly filled my heart in that conference meeting. As I listened to the adolescent voices swell in worship around me, my heart called out with longing to see a generation worship the Lord in unencumbered, unabashed, unbridled praise.
It was a passion that the Lord had been stirring up in me for years - a passion that was born from a glorious encounter I had with the Lord in a church in Pensacola, Florida years before. This Floridian congregation had been experiencing what many would call "a move of God" for well over two years when I arrived at their doorstep in 1997. I, with thousands of others, had traveled to this unassuming Pensacola parish because we had heard the same thing: God was moving in power in the church and people were leaving the meetings completely transformed. I had stood in line (in line to get into a church, mind you!) for hours- along with the gathering crowd, waiting for the doors to open. And when the doors finally parted and my feet crossed the threshold of the foyer, a purity like I had never known washed through me. It was a tangible purity that I somehow knew was true holiness - the holiness of God Almighty - and I determined in that moment - I had to have more. As the worship unfolded, the "more" that I was seeking came. His presence rode in on the songs, sighs, cries, and even groans of those around me. I had been raised in church all of my life and never had I seen such freedom coupled with such purity. I settled in my heart that night that nothing would stop me from chasing more and more of this manifested awareness of God. I threw away my scholarship in my home state of Arkansas, said goodbye to my father and mother, and left all behind to be where God could tangibly be found. It was a costly choice and I have never regretted it, not for one day.
So, as I stood in that youth conference years later with a burning passion stirring in my heart, it was both familiar and at the same time fresh. True passion is like that: every time you feel the flames of fervor burn in your heart, it's like the first time all over again. And it was this flame of love for God and for His name to be glorified in a free people that was about to burst out of my chest. Earnestly, I cried out to the Lord, "Give me a generation of worshippers as my inheritance! Give me a line of people before the throne of grace! Let my life be a burning example, no matter the cost, just give me a generation as my inheritance!"
With the words still ringing on my lips,my eyes were suddenly filled with a vision. I saw myself standing with feet planted soundly on the top of a mountain whose range went out as far as the eyes could see. My face was set resolutely as one on a mission. In my right hand was a silver sword that was emblazoned with musical notes in filigrees along the shaft. At various places just below my stance, were young men and women who stood guard with me. As this vision filled my heart, I knew it was two scriptures coming together as a calling for my life. The first was found in Psalm 149:6 which reads, "Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand." This scripture was one that was alive in my heart as proof that praise and worship wasn't merely songs, giving, or the clapping of hands: no - this scripture proved that whenever I worshipped God from a heart of surrender, it became my weapon. If, "no weapon formed against me could prosper" like Isaiah 54:17 said, then Psalm 149:6 taught me 'the why' behind the enemies failure; and it was both simple and profound: my weapon of worship was greater than any weapon Satan brought against me. As long as the high praises of God remained in my mouth, then no matter the outside appearance or circumstance, my victory was secure. Every time I acknowledged the One true God, the sword of the Spirit was activated in my hand and this was part of the vision I was now seeing before my eyes.
The second scripture that tied into this mystical picture was found in Isaiah 2:2-3 and this is where the title for this blog comes from. I knew as I studied this vision in my heart that Isaiah's words were speaking to me. He had penned:
2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord's house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.
3 Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."
As I studied the scene in light of this familiar passage, I knew that God was calling worshipping warriors to 'ascend the mountain of the Lord' through their praise and worship; to establish God's house in these latter days through a lifestyle of devotion and fascination with Jesus. I knew that God was laying this mandate before a generation and I knew that I wanted to answer the charge. So with heart abandoned before the Lord in that youth conference, I declared with earnest conviction, "I will take up the sword of the Lord and ascend the mountain of God in a lifestyle of worship. I will live a life that awakens a generation to passionate devotion for Jesus. I will answer the call." And in that moment, I believe, heaven recorded my vow and the angelic realm stood at attention waiting for the command of God to be given to assist me in this call.
Many months later, I believe that a Divine command was given and this mandate came to me once again. This time, however, it came in a dream. In the night vision, I looked up in the sky and saw a swirling massive cloud that steadily transformed into an enormous angel blowing a gold trumpet. As he resounded the horn, the clouds parted and I saw a shadowy mountain silhouetted against the sun-setting sky. I could see a trail of worshippers walking up the mountain, each carrying blazing torches as they followed the Lamb of God himself up to the summit's peak. There was a sound of joyful worship emanating from the sojourners as they meandered up the mountain,one that I knew was born out of genuine love for the Lamb. And the Lamb himself, Jesus, had the same joy and love for His Father spilling out of his heart as he led the charge. It's a dream that, still to this day, causes tears to well up in my eyes. And the sound of joy resounding from that mountain is one that has echoed in my heart to this day.
In this dream, it's as if the words of Isaiah 2:3 had come alive. As I awakened from my sleep, the commission I had been given in that youth conference was clearer than ever before. Now I see Isaiah 2:2-3 like so: it is truly a prophecy that the last day generation of worshippers will fulfill. It seems too simple to say, "In the last days, people will go higher in their worship with the Lord and the lost will be drawn to His glory through their praise." I say, 'it seems too simple,' because what we are called to as a last day generation is indeed simple, in that we are called to simply worship the Lord, but that calling is the most powerful force on the earth today. It's the force of a blood-washed, born-again people who refuse to lose their joyful worship even in the face of growing darkness. It's the force that Jesus prophesied, "the gates of hell would not be able to prevail against" (Matt. 16:18).
So, what will the outworking of Isaiah 2:2-3 look like in the earth? Walk through the passage with me and see:
Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord. All throughout scriptures, mountains or high-places represented places of worship. From Mount Horeb to the Mount of Olives, every high-place in scripture is a place where worship is offered. Even in the temptation of Christ, Satan took him to a mountain and demanded worship from him (Matt. 4:8-9). Our Lord refused, for he had another pinnacle where he had determined to offer his worship to Yahweh: the Mount of Olives in the garden of Gethsemane where he cried out, "Not my will, but Yours be done (Luke 22:39-42)." The Lord is calling this last-day generation to follow in the steps of Jesus and ascend the mountain of worship in heart the cries the same: not my will, but Yours be done. This mount of surrendered heart and poured out worship is where the Lord is calling us to journey; it's the heavenly place of his kingdom come on earth and it comes through high praise and worship (Ps. 149:6). All of heaven is calling us with trumpets blaring to come up higher, to take our place in the heavenly processional of mountain-climbers who are now seated with the Lord in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3; 2:6). He has given us access to go from glory to glory, strength to strength: it's our job to take that next step.
To the house of the God of Jacob. The God of Jacob is a covenant keeping God. He's the God who encountered Jacob while he dreamed at Bethel which is translated, the House of God. It's the place where angels ascended and descended & where the Lord himself stood and made himself at home with Jacob and entered into covenant with him (Gen. 28). He's the God who let Jacob 'catch him' in order that He could bless him and so that Jacob could see him face to face (Gen. 32). The Lord is calling us to the same place - to the place of knowing God face to face. To the place of knowing that God desires to bless us abundantly, and that as we give Him permission to make himself at home among us, He will give us access to the heavenly realm. He is looking for a generation with whom He can 'be himself'; a generation with whom he can come and dwell in all of his supernatural, glorious power. This comes as we, like Jacob, lay our heads down and dream - not about bigger ministries or sales numbers or making a name for ourselves - but dream about Him - the God who is our one obsession.
He will teach us His ways and we will walk in His paths. In my dream, the trail of worshippers was following the Lamb up the mountain. Jesus, as the Lamb of God, is the one who came and showed us what the life of a worshipper looks like and to put it simply - it looks like sonship. It looks like obedience. It looks like love. In following Christ's ways, I may be led to the slum houses on the wrong side of town or I may be led to the White House to stand before dignitaries. But this much I know: if I follow Jesus, I am always led right into the heart of the Father. My mandate of worship is not too have a bigger crowd in my church service, it's not too have the best known song of the year on K-LOVE radio - no, it's to live a life that follow's Christ's example of absolute, complete devotion to the Father, knowing that as I follow Him, whether I am walking in fame or obscurity, I am before the throne of God with a confidence that comes from the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony. Jesus is my example as the ultimate worshipper. He is the one I follow. Not the next big worship leader. Not the next big preacher. Not the next big fad. Jesus may lead me to learn and glean from these leaders and preachers, but when all is said and done, I am called to keep my eyes on Him and Him alone. I want to learn his ways and walk in his paths. Only then will I be led to the Father.
For out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. This is where the title, "Echoes of Zion," is most readily found. Imagine now a generation of passionate pursuers of God standing on the mountains of worship. Put yourself in my vision. Put yourself in my dream. Feel the gentle wind of the Spirit blowing across your face as you stand on the high-places with God. Feel the cool steel of the sword of Yah in your hand or the glow of the torches burning around you. Picture that processional of worshippers following Christ up the mountain. And now listen. Can you hear it? Can you hear the voice of God's people singing His praises as they journey up the mountain of God? Can you hear the sounds of joyful recitation of the word of God echoing off of the mountain's peaks and down into the valleys below? It's the echoes from Zion. Imagine now standing in that valley below you, a world that is held captive by the echoing of God's praises and God's holy word reverberating from a worshipping people. Imagine as one by one the lost are so captivated by His praises, they they, too, begin to take their place in that holy processional of grace, joining on the journey up the mountain of our God.
This is the mandate I've been given. This is the mandate I cannot escape: to create echoes from Zion. It is my commission to stand on the mountain of God with his word in my heart and his praise in my mouth, calling a generation into the fullness that Jesus brings. I am calling all worshippers to stoke the fires of first love again. I am calling all dancers to shake off the dust of disappointment & discontent. I am calling to one and to all,"Come! Let us go up to the mountain of God where he will teach us his ways. Come! Let us resound his praises from the mountain tops with glory in our voices and thunder in our dance. Let all the earth stand in awe as they hear of our God's goodness." Worshipper, grab your sword, grab your torch and, together, let us us climb the mountain of God and make His praises ring to the lost world around us. Let us lift our voices in a joyful sound. Let us live our lives as The Ultimate Worshipper lived His. Now is time. This is the day. Will you join me in answering the call? Will you join me in creating echoes from Zion?