ABIDE IN ME
Easter has come and gone, and I am sure many churches are already starting to think about what their Christmas services are going to look like. I’ve been in church ministry for many years, and I know the turnaround from Easter to Christmas is not as long as one would hope! I’ve come to realize that when one is in full-time ministry, it can be hard to really capture the reality of what we celebrate as a community. We get so caught up in all the moving pieces, that we sometimes go through the motions with our hearts unmoved by the reality of the celebration. If you are pastor or serve in ministry in any capacity, you get it. If you are not, well, welcome to our world!
Abide In Me was a song that came out of one of these celebrations where my praise was present, but my heart wasn’t stirred. I just got a notification that this song reached over 1 million streams on Spotify. To try and articulate words to describe my gratitude to God and all those who have supported my music ministry over the years is impossible. All I can truly say is glory to God! He is good!
It was an Easter weekend where the song was birthed. A weekend I truly will never forget. For many reasons! A few years ago, during Holy Week, we decided as a church to have morning and evening prayer and worship services. I use the term services very loosely. It wasn’t a service per se. It was just a small group of passionate believers coming together to sing, pray and just be together. It was beautiful. Well, in hindsight it was beautiful. In the moment, I am sure my attitude wasn’t something to boast about. I was probably thinking, “ah, another task, another to-do list in an already busy season!” As the music pastor of our church, Christmas and Easter are usually the seasons that are jam packed for me. Not to mention squeezed into those seasons are usually a bunch of meetings, admin work, quarterly planning meetings, budgets due and the list goes on. Please don’t read this as if I am speaking bitterly or with a spirit of jadedness. I am in NO way speaking with that tone, I am just sharing the reality of the position. Our staff knew that in these seasons of ministry, they needed to be wise with what they ask me to do. I always appreciated their wisdom and discernment. I was asked to only lead worship one time for one of the evenings that week. I had a lot going on to prepare for our Good Friday services, Holy Saturday service and Resurrection Sunday services, so that was all I was able to commit to. I remember cramming in that prayer time with our community before I had to run back upstairs to the sanctuary to lead our band and choir’s rehearsal for our Resurrection Sunday services.
My good friend Jon, who is one of our pastors, led the prayer time and I led the time of singing. It was a moment I will never forget. Jon walked us through Abiding in Christ. He read us John 15, and it was such a beautiful time in the Lord’s presence as a community. If you haven’t read John 15 before, I strongly recommend it. Even if you have read it before, let’s read it again.
I Am the True Vine
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:1-11, ESV)
After our time together, I ran upstairs and got straight to the next task. I was so blessed in the moment, but I quickly had to shut that off, change gears, and get onto the next task at hand. Sad. Rehearsal went great, God blessed our time together. Honestly, I pinch myself often. I had the privilege of serving with some of the greatest people in the world. That night when I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking of John 15. I kept thinking about the words Jon shared at our evening prayer time. I felt overwhelmed (in a good way). My family was sleeping, I was alone on the couch downstairs with my guitar and my Bible. My favourite combo. Verse 6 was keeping me up. “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” In that moment, I felt like I was just this branch that was withering away, being tossed around by the wind, from one task to the next. Not connected to the Vine. I honestly just felt disconnected. Abiding in the Lord was not happening. Now, this has only happened a few times in my life as a songwriter. I actually get a bit nervous telling you this. I grabbed my guitar, and it was a matter of minutes before the entirety of the song’s lyrics and melody flooded my heart. The song was complete in less than ten minutes. Melody, lyrics, progression, arrangement. I honestly felt like the Lord sang these words over me. Now, the reason I am hesitant in sharing that, is because as a songwriter who has had many experiences in training and equipping other songwriters, I’ve had many writers come to me and share a song with me and tell me, “God gave it to me.” They’d play the song for me and in my head I’d be thinking, “Don’t you dare blame that on God.” “Maybe God wasn’t done with the song, just give it back to Him.” “God is a much better writer than that!” In all seriousness, I felt a tangible sense of His presence and I truly believe He sang these words over me. I cling to Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) that reads,
“The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.”
I believe I heard Him sing over me that night. Now you can hear the song wherever you stream music and think differently, but it ministered to me in the moment and continues to help me cling on to Jesus today.
Leading with my friend Jon at the prayer night, running the rehearsals for Resurrection Sunday, doing all the admin for the whole weekend and making sure everything was set with our tech teams etc… these are all not bad things! They are good things, and I truly believe God used it for His glory and that Jesus was magnified and glorified in our services! But sometimes, like the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42), we get worried, upset and anxious with many things that are not the priority.
Fun fact before we wrap up: Did you know that priority was a singular word when it was used in the 1400s, and it remained a singular word until the 1900s when we decided to change it to priorities. I find this fascinating. It seems like Martha had many priorities, but look at Jesus’ response to her, because if you are the same as me doing many good things for God, maybe Jesus is speaking these words to you too:
“But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’”
This is such a beautiful reminder. Jesus says few things are needed, actually scratch that, just one thing and Mary chose the one thing. Priority. Jesus is saying one thing matters. Sitting at His feet. Spending time with Him. Abiding in Him. Present in His presence. This is the one thing that Mary chose that Jesus endorsed. May we be reminded when life gets busy and we are caught up in what we would consider good things, that we get our priority in order. Abide in Him.
My life looks a lot different these days. Since burnout I’ve created healthy rhythms of work and rest. I have resigned from my position at my previous church as music pastor and am currently the director of INDOUBT and the new host for THE INDOUBT SHOW. Our desire is to continue to point people to Jesus, and remind our listeners and viewers that it is such a gift and blessing to abide in Christ, the one who calls us each by name and invites us to draw near to Him and Him alone.