One of my first experiences at a ‘Night of Worship’ was in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, led by the worship leader Dennis Jernigan. I was 16 years old and one of my best friends invited me to attend the Night of Worship with her. I was eager to go, and I had no idea what to expect. But God…
My heart was beating to know God more. I grew up in church and “knew God”, but the desire for more was unquenched. I hungered to know Him more deeply. I sought to understand Him more intimately. As a 16 year old, my thoughts we on homework, friendships, choir practices, a few boys … and God. I attended youth group with my friends, but there was always something missing. My soul was searching to know God personally, beyond what I learned from my parents, my youth group, my youth pastor, and thru friendships.
During the Night of Worship, I weaved between listening to the voices around me singing, observing expressions of worship I had never seen before, and participating in a realm of worship I had never experienced. At one point during the evening, Dennis gently said, “Lift your hands to the Lord” … and I did. I had never lifted my hands in worship before. The moment my hands were surrendered, heat filled my palms. The Holy Spirit touched my hands. I didn’t fully understand what I was experiencing, but after that moment, my life was forever changed.
My friends and I continued attending Nights of Worship with Dennis Jernigan. They were crazy and wild. We would worship for hours, dancing before the Lord. Every single time, we would leave the church drenched in sweat. Those sweet moments with the Lord began to build upon a foundation of worship I would grow in.
Twenty years later, and I am a changed Worshipper.
Worship is a force that changes people. When all our affection, our attention and adoration is focused on the worship of Jesus, everything changes. As we worship, He changes the atmosphere. I am forever changed in worship. I am changed when all my affection, my attention, my adoration is focused on Jesus. Worship is our response to Jesus. When we are surrendered in worship, we are surrendering to Jesus. His great love for us changes us. And our response is more worship of Him.
Dennis Jernigan’s story is one of redemption and response. After experiencing the love of Jesus, he was redeemed from a homosexual lifestyle, and his response was worship. As his life was changed by Jesus, he began leading worship… leading others into response toward Jesus. His journey as a Worshipper has profoundly impacted mine. His songs spoke profound truths I would sing continuously, carrying the melodies beyond the Nights of Worship and into my daily life. One Night of Worship can change everything – Here is a quote from his testimony.
“Upon my graduation from OBU in 1981, God began to move in supernatural ways that even I couldn’t see! One of these instances was a simple music concert. A group called The Second Chapter of Acts was going to be in concert in Norman, Oklahoma, and I knew that I was supposed to go. By that time in my life I was looking for anybody who was real, someone who had a real walk with the Lord. Among Christian musicians, I was looking for more than entertainers. So, I went to their concert. I knew by the words they said and the music they sang that these people were genuine, and the message was born out of times of desperation in their own lives. I needed hope. As I listened to Annie Herring speak and sing I was overwhelmed by the love she spoke of. This was the love I had dreamed of but still couldn’t believe was available to me! So I listened very intently with great expectation–until she came to the song Mansion Builder. This song caught my deepest attention because of the simple phrase, “Why should I worry? Why should I fret? I’ve got a Mansion Builder Who ain’t through with me yet?”18 All of a sudden she just stopped in the middle of the song and said, “There are those of you here who are dealing with things that you have never told anyone and you are carrying those burdens and that’s wrong–that’s sin and you need to let those hurts go and give them to the Lord. We are going to sing the song again and I want you to lift your hands to the Lord–and all of those burdens that you are carrying, I want you to place them in your hands and lift your hurts to Him.” This was all new to me–worship and praise. I had always thought before that this was just an emotional response that didn’t really mean anything. But you know what it did for me? As I lifted my hands, God became more real to me than I had ever imagined! The lifting of my hands was more than a physical action. My hands were an extension of my heart! I realized that Jesus had lifted His hands for me–upon the cross. I realized that He truly was beside me and that He was willing to walk with me and carry me and just be honest with me. And I could be honest with Him! At that moment, I cried out to God and lifted those burdens to the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, I can’t change me or the mess I’ve gotten myself into–but you can!” And you know what? He did change me!”
Worship changes everything. Jesus’ love for us changes everything. Our response to Jesus changes everything.
Have you been changed in worship? I’d love to hear your story! Feel free to share and comment.
In Him ~ Leslie