April 15, 2003
Hello brother and sister musicians. I hope you all appreciate that I'm giving up watching a Rockford Files re-run to write this letter. And it's the one where he gets all messed up with the record industry, ironically enough. A two-parter, and they broke his leg in the first part, and his buddy Eddie is nuts about this girl, so he kicked Rockford in the shin on the busted leg when Jimbo said something negative about her. That's when I turned it off. Discipline!
I know I shared in "The Ham and Cheese Revelation" about how God was dealing with me about my diminished passion for Him way back in 1995 when we first moved to the Pittsburgh area. Jo was in New Orleans, and I was trying to be Mr. Mom and Mr. Business Tycoon, while holding my customary position as a member of the church worship team. I resigned from the worship team and started singing to the Lord every day. Singing to the Lord every day totally changed my life. Or maybe it's more accurate to say the Lord totally changed my life during the time I was singing to Him every day. I've been singing to Him everyday for more than seven years now. I know I'm kind of compulsive, but I've only missed two days because I was too sick to get out of bed. I wake up every morning with a song in my heart. I want to sing the song He wants to hear, and that's what I do. Then I sense His pleasure, and I know it's going to be a great day. Here again, it would be more accurate to say, it is a great day, because I've touched God's heart and He's touched mine, and life is sweet!
When I decided to quit the worship team, it was the end of a career of being on worship teams and being a worship leader and all-around worship dignitary. I actually sat with the congregation (imagine that), and sang along with the songs after that. I waited until just before my wife got back from New Orleans to resign. I told the worship leader "Walt" that God was dealing with my heart and that I needed to step down. I made sure to let him know how much I enjoyed playing music with him and his wife who played several instruments, and the drummer, and the two ladies that sang every week. There were some problems, as there always were, but I'd still rather have played music than not. One of the problems was, there seemed to be less than warm feelings between Walt and the pastor, "Andy". Another problem was Walt's musical taste was really different from mine. He was a high school music teacher and he liked very classical kinds of tunes like "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" and "Crown Him With Many Crowns." I played bass in this particular group, because it was always fun to play bass and improvise the notes, and I got to sing lead sometimes, and harmony other times. We never sang a song I loved, but it didn't seem like a problem at the time.
After Jo got back from New Orleans, I got a different job about an hour to the east, and we moved to another town and started looking for another church. It didn't take long to find one. It was a friendly church with about 300 people, a new pastor who was very nice, and a group of musicians led by an older woman who was the wife of the founder. They had her on keyboard, two women guitarists, a guy playing electric guitar, a trumpet player, drummer, bass, a couple men and a couple women that sang, and they played well-rehearsed contemporary songs and even one or two original songs, written by one of my gal-pals that helps me with the web-site. I didn't know her then.
I was beginning to wonder what my future as a musician within the church would be. I had written about ten songs since stepping down from being a worship team member, and not playing in church anymore, I was becoming somewhat antsy. The funny thing was, though, I was playing music every day now, which I hadn't done for years. For most of the last ten years, if I wasn?t playing in church, I wasn't playing at all.
One day I decided to talk to "Gretchen" the worship leader and ask if I might have the opportunity to share a new song the Lord had given me. It was called "Come Inhabit Your Praises" and I had taken Psalm 22:3 and Revelation 15:3-4 and got this:
Come inhabit Your praises/ Come inhabit Your praises LORD/ We want more of You/ We can never get too much/ But it's always enough/ We want more of You/ Come inhabit Your praises/ Come inhabit Your praises LORD/ We want more of You
Great and marvelous are Your works/ LORD GOD Almighty/ Just and true are Your ways/ King of the saints (Chorus)
Who shall not fear You LORD?/ And glorify Your name/ Only You are holy LORD/ The nations will come and worship (Chorus)
I remember telling people that this song was like Jimmy Olsen's watch. You remember Jimmy Olsen? The cub reporter at the "Daily Planet" in Metropolis. He was always getting in trouble (probably a musician), and whenever he was in a jam, he'd push a little button on the side of his watch, and it would send out a signal. Superman would pick up the signal and say, "Looks like Jimmy's in trouble, I better fly over there." That's how this song worked for me. I'd never experienced anything quite like it before. I would sing the song and God would pick up my signal, and He always showed up.
So, I played it for Gretchen and she liked it, so she decided I could play it the next week, but I had to come in at 9:00 to join the worship team for rehearsal and prayer. No problem. I was there, and she introduced me to everyone and I think people were thinking I might be "coming on board," but I had no leading whatsoever to do that. I just behaved myself until it was time for church, and had my Yamaha guitar up front, so that when they took the offering I came out of the pews and strapped on "Elizabeth" and started to sing "Come Inhabit Your Praises." I sensed a powerful anointing, which made it feel almost like someone else was singing and playing the song. The atmosphere of the room became very charged with the presence of the Lord.
When I finished, a woman around my age asked the pastor, "George", if she could share a word, and it was a very quiet, somber atmosphere. She told everyone how God had been dealing with her heart about spending time with Him and truly worshipping Him, how she tended to get side-tracked by work and family responsibilities. She said we all needed to get more focused on God. Every single person in the room knew that she was sharing what God had given her, and there was some sighing and fidgeting.
When she finished speaking, another woman came up and started moaning and almost screaming. It was offered as some kind of prophetic utterance, but I just thought it was weird. Then a couple of different men shared words that were somewhat edifying. This went on for twenty minutes at least. Finally the pastor started calling people to come to the altar and nearly a hundred people got out of their seats and came up front. The worship team got back on stage and played "Shout to the Lord" and another Hillsongs tune, and the pastor and his wife and a couple other assistant pastors started praying for the people that were standing in front and there were a few people standing behind to catch the ones that fell.
I just chilled out in my seat with my wife and our daughter Zoe, who was thirteen at the time. Jo let me know it was okay to leave, and as we headed for the door, several people told me that the song had really blessed them. I thanked them.
It was about a month later that I mentioned to Gretchen that I had another new song I wanted to share and she said she'd let me know. I didn't hear from her during the week, so I mentioned it again a week or so later, and she asked me to bring my guitar on Wednesday and play it for her after prayer group, so I did. She said she liked the song and she'd let me know when it would be appropriate. About three weeks later she asked me if I could share the song on Sunday morning during offering. By this time, the Lord had given me another song I liked even better, and I played it for her, but she said I should play the slower song. I showed up early to sit while the worship team rehearsed, and to be prayed for. When I finally played the song, the church got really, really quiet:
The first time that I saw You/ I truly was amazed/ You reached out Your hand/ And I beheld Your face/ And ever since that day/ I knew You were my friend/ I knew I had to be with You/ When You reached out Your hand
Draw me into Your presence LORD/ Draw me LORD to Your throne/ Draw me into Your holiness/ To worship You alone
I will be with You forever/ Throughout all eternity/ My love for You will never end/ And neither will Your love for me
(This song is track #9 on "Pink or Blue". If you want to hear it, go Listen NOW!)
So I walked back to my seat very. very quietly. God's presence was very real to me, as it practically always was when I'd sing to Him the new songs He was giving me. After they prayed for the offering, George preached a message and it seemed like the moment was lost. There were some comments afterward about how anointed the song was and stuff like that.
It was hard to sit or stand and sing along with the worship team on Sundays, but I knew God wasn't calling me to be part of it, and all that was available to me was to sing a song for the offering every six weeks or so, because there were other people besides me who wanted to sing a song. Often it would be a member of the worship team doing a solo, or sometimes a guest. I had a lot of songs I wanted to share, but no opening to share them. That's when I followed the lead of some of the women and children and began to participate in a different way.
I'd grab a streamer and start to twirl it, and the cloth seemed like a flame to me. I'd move around with it and just flow with the Holy Ghost from the beginning of the first song right to the end of worship time. The first couple of times I did this, satan tried to harass me, telling me I was making a fool of myself, but I couldn't just sit in my seat or stand up and sing a bunch of songs that seemed fairly dead to me. It was like these people would get together a couple of times a week to practice songs and then they'd play them in church fairly well with moderate enthusiasm, (and we all called it worship.) My desire to worship was very intense, so I needed something more, and the streamer was where it started.
My wife went to a women's conference at a well-known watering hole (hint: It rhymes with pronto), and I was asked to assist with worship at the church we'd attended previously where I'd resigned from the worship team. Walt and his wife had left and they were short on musicians, so I accepted Andy's invitation. They had an evangelist from Georgia and he traveled with a couple of odd fellows. One was about twenty with bad hair. He would lie beside the podium kicking his feet while the evangelist preached. The other guy was at least 80 years old and stood about five feet high. He smiled all the time. I assisted with three services, and after each one the evangelist would pray for people and I'd play guitar while Andy's niece played keyboard and the drummer did his thing. Some folks took a tumble and some started shaking and doing things they didn't usually do in church. The last night after everyone got prayed for, the evangelist said he wanted to pray for the musicians. I was a little nervous about it, but the little old guy with the big smile came strutting up to me and placed a hand on either side of my head and POW!!!!!!!! I was down for a while.
When Jo got back from her conference she was very different. She still is different. She enjoys telling folks that I asked her on the second day, "Who are you? And where did my wife go?" Then, I said, "I don't want her back!" With Jo's encouragement, I started to dance in church, which was something only two or three women did once in a while to that point. Now, I'd maybe start twirling a streamer. Then I'd leap around for a while and was having all kinds of fun at church. Often, when George would preach afterwards, I'd jot down some of the words and thoughts that popped into my head while I was dancing and later I'd turn it into a song. So by the fall I had almost 40 new songs but had only shared two or three in church.
The title I was given by the Lord for this message was: What Is the Biblical Function of a Worship Leader?
How do we answer that question? I could give you my opinion. Then you could give me your opinion. Then the guy next door could give his opinion. That's one way to do it. The only problem is I'm not interested in my opinion. We're looking for what the bible says, not what David Benrexi thinks. Using that as my only criterion, I would challenge you to find an answer. As best as I can tell, the bible does not mention worship teams or worship leaders.
I really wanted to be part of my local church, and I really wanted to share more freely what God was giving me, but the church was set on having a specific group of people play a specific group of songs every Sunday during the same thirty to forty minute time slot. Rather than leave, get frustrated, get angry or join the worship team, I was having a wonderful time twirling a streamer and dancing for the next two years. The boys and girls ages three through ten often danced along side me and also a wonderful woman in her seventies that some people thought was a bit whacky.
I attended a concert at a Teen Challenge event a couple of years ago with my fabulous granddaughter Brittany Rose who was eight. The musician was fairly well-known and definitely talented, but he said one thing that made me sad. He said: "The only purpose for my music is to bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ." Of course the crowd seemed to eat it right up. I just felt like crying, except I must admit, I didn't really believe him. It sounded like something you say to sound more spiritual than you really are.
The reason it made me sad was because my purpose for singing is totally different. I sing to the Lord because I love Him and I have a need to tell Him, to express my love to Him. Music is the best way I know to express that love, and it brings me closer to Him, which is my greatest need. The thought of being closer to Him inspires me, and the knowledge that He wants me closer to Him thrills me. Worship isn't singing some songs while you move your hands around. I've been to more churches than I could count and I've seen that "worship exercise" that is in no way, shape, or form the real thing. When it's over people say things like, "Worship was really great today." It's almost like they're saying, "Sex was really great today." In other words, I did something, and now, I feel better.
Worship is not a "was". It's an "is". Worship is not a "what". It's a "Who".
This is a country with millions and millions and millions of Christians. Most are CLUELESS about Who God is, because they don't know Him. If you know Him, He has to be the consuming passion of your life. If He is not the consuming passion of your life, don't tell me you know Him, because I won't believe you.
Worship is love. It's a deep, deep, burning, insatiable desire for God. It's touching Him and being touched by Him. No one can do it for you. No one can take you there. You can't bring anyone else there.
You know how they say intercessory prayer is "standing in the gap"? Worship is closing the gap. It's very wonderful when God comes into the room where I'm sitting playing my guitar and singing a song that He created just for me. Here He comes and, WOW, I'm just amazed that He's right here letting me feel His love and showing me that I'm the object of His affection, someone He's in love with. We spend time enjoying each other and then sometimes instead of Him coming into my room, I go into His room. I can't take you with me, but you can go, because He wants you. Yes, YOU!!!!
I'm saddened to think that there are millions and millions of Christians that have never visited God in His holy place or felt His presence for more than a fleeting moment. Imagine being married to my wife for twenty-seven years, and I only see her once or twice a year, and then it's for a minute. Why even get married? But I'm blessed. I'm having a love affair with my wife. When I think about her, I get excited. And I think about her all the time. But we've been spending lots of time together for a long time. And God and I have been spending lots of time together for a long time too. If that makes anyone jealous, good!
Quickie illustration here, concerning what worship really is. Picture a harbor with three ships sailing out to sea. Relation-ship, wor-ship, and fellow-ship. Relation-ship is easy to get on board. All you have to do is believe that Jesus died for your sins, that God the Father raised Him from the dead so you could have everlasting life. He did all the work, and all you have to do is believe. That is your ticket to relation-ship. But wor-ship, you can only get on board by loving Him. Why that's hard for so many people, I don't know. I suppose it's because they don't know Him. To know Him is to love Him. He loved us first, so all we have to do is love Him back. Ask God for a greater revelation of His love for you. I still do that. It's "more than amazing, more than marvelous, more than miraculous" as one song says. Enter into worship. It is voluntary. If you want to do it, you'll do it. What happens is when you spend time sailing on the wor-ship, you will have fellow-ship with God, which is His heart's desire. To have fellowship with you, because He loves you. It's too cool for words.
Well, that about wraps it up. I hope I've answered the question for you adequately, or at least asked it adequately so you can seek the truth. James 4:8 says, Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Meditate on that truth. God sent us a wonderful saxophonist named Anthony Shuford when we recorded this song back in the summer of 2000.
Draw near to God/ And He will draw near to you/ Draw near to God/ And He will draw near to you/ Closer/ Closer/ This is the time/ The time to draw near to God/ And He will draw near to you
He is longing/ To be near you/ His love is so strong/ Come to His side/ And His love will overtake you/ His love is so strong/ And it's here that you belong
This song can be heard at HERE. It is track #9 on "Draw Near to God". You'll dig the sax, I promise.
Thanks for reading the newsletter. Help me to reach more musicians by sharing this message with other musicians. I received so many encouraging comments the last couple of weeks, I want to share some just to publicly thank those who were so sweet to me. Your thoughts are taken very seriously here. So please share your heart with me and I'll share mine. God will bring something good out of it.
Peace be with you!
David Benrexi 4-15-03
Letters from readers:
The Holy Spirit revealed to me last night how we ARE His praise. He inhabits our praises (Ps.22:3), just like He inhabits His temple (John 14:23). We are His temple (1 Cor.3:16). When He inhabits us, He inhabits both His temple and His praise at the same time. We are His praise. His praises endure forever (Ps.86:12)! They never end. We abide forever (1 John 2:17). Love you, Chris (IL)
Just wanted to let you know that I was encouraged as a "musician" by reading your article yesterday. You reminded me of the fact I need to see myself and my music from God's point of view and you also reminded me of how crafty and deceiving the devil is particularly when it comes to finding ways to discourage God's children. Thank you for your encouragement. I walked to my guitar after reading the article and God gave me the beginnings of a new song.
Love it, love it, love it. Reading your newsletters and insights is like getting a breath of fresh air - and that's the truth! (smile) so thank you.
Amen David, Amen!
When Jesus prayed for US in John 17, His Spirit-led, from the will and plan of God was this ... "That they might be one, EVEN AS WE are one." There is no competition or pecking order in heaven. Jesus is never jealous of God or the Holy Spirit. Each has their own position and purpose, but neither is greater than the other (although to 'hear' them talk about each other, they are continually glorifying the others rather than any self-glorification) They DELIGHT to the will of each other i.e. Jesus delights in pleasing the Father and His Spirit; The Father delights in pleasing Jesus and His Spirit within us, and the Holy Spirit delights in pleasing Jesus and the Father. Our examples - having the same heart and Spirit as God. One with Him and one with each other. Thanks for teaching this truth through your music.
Love, Carole (MT)
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