Friday, November 18, 2011

Random thoughts Related to Reverence

“Establish Your Word to Your servant as that which produces reverence for You.” (Psalm 119:38)

One of the objections that I have had in the past regarding worship services is that there seems to be a lack of reverence in the worshipers or in the place of worship. This idea may have come from the laid back atmosphere in many churches where every 3rd person seems to have a cup of starbucks or caribou coffee or is too busy tweeting something to really put all of one’s focus on God.

When I was in college, our choir toured in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic and visited (and sang in) many cathedrals. It impressed me then, and still does today, that everything - from the design of the building itself to the interior art work - was done intentionally to communicate something about God, the parishioner, or something else important. Comparing that to the large multi-purpose facilities where the worship hall doubles for a basketball court makes for quite a stark contrast.

And while I think that it is a good idea, a very good idea, to ask the question of what our building (the actual structure), the layout of our services, the seating, or whatever says about God, about us, and about what we are doing, I don’t think that we need to burn down our current building and start over (well, not for this reason, anyway). I also don’t think that the answer is that we need to have Cathedral-ish buildings complete with statues and stained glass windows (although, those should make a comeback). Likewise, I don’t want to wholly dismiss or deride the idea of large multi-purpose facilities as houses of corporate worship. We need to be willing to both ask the question and then provide an answer to that question about what the building communicates about who we are, who God is, and what we’re doing. Because whether or not we intend to say anything by what we do or how we do it – we do.

As for reverence, well that is something that no building can instill in a person. A building may be able to the reverence that is already in a person, but I’m not sure how much it would truly detract from that same individual. True reverence comes from the Word as the Lord establishes it in us and to us. And it is that reverence that can transform any building - from a cramped and broken down barn in rural Russia or a Cathedral in the middle of Europe, to a multi-purpose building in the US – into a beautiful and reverential place of corporate worship.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Walking in Righteousness

“Oh, that my ways may be established to keep your statutes, then I will not be ashamed when I look upon all of Your commandments.” (Ps 119:5-6)

So many times in life, the choices that I face and the cares of the journey can consume and overwhelm me. The opportunity to bring shame to the name of my Savior in how I work through those times is very real, and while my desire is never to give mockers cause to profane the name of the Lord, sometimes my lack of action, or my foolish action, gives them that very opportunity.

I have been thinking about these verses in Psalm 119 for quite a while, and by God’s providence I am also studying/teaching through 1st John in Sunday school. One of the issues in 1 John is the discerning between those who walk in the darkness and those who walk in the light (1 John 1:6-10). John describes these two groups in various ways and he gives examples for characterizes either category. The consistent theme is the distinction between Christians and non-Christians; between possessors and mere-professors.

This distinction is key when, at the end of the 2nd chapter and continuing to the 3rd, John describes the various groups as those who practice righteousness or those who practice sin and lawlessness. While only Jesus truly practiced righteousness perfectly, the Christian is to be characterized by righteousness where as false professors are not. It was this idea of practicing, or habitually continuing in, righteousness that drew my attention to Psalm 119:5-6.

I will not ever perfectly practice righteousness, and while my status before God is not determined by that, it is very comforting to see and know that if my heart and desire is to be conformed to Christ then He will establish my ways. So even when I sin and do give cause for others to mock my savior, this will not be what characterizes my life. And more than that, my heart and mind will (hopefully) be quickly made aware of my sin so that I might run to my savior, who is my advocate and my propitiation, so that as I respond to my own sinful behavior, I might display the righteousness and glory of God in and through my own sin and failing.

“I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments. I will keep your statutes; do not forsake me utterly.” (Psalm 119:7-8)

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