Christianity 201

November 19, 2017

Sunday Worship

Something different today: Two shorter articles on the subject of worship from two different writers on two very different aspects of worship, each of whom is new to us here at C201. Click the respective titles to read at source — we call it sending some link love — and then look around to see other articles by each writer.

Leave the same way you came in?

by Pam Larson at the blog Knowing God Through His Word

When the people of the land come before the Lord at the appointed feasts, he who enters by the north gate to worship shall go out by the south gate, and he who enters by the south gate shall go out by the north gate: no one shall return by way of the gate by which he entered, but each shall go out straight ahead. When they enter, the prince shall enter with them, and when they go out, he shall go out. —Ezekiel 46:9 -10

Notice here that if the people enter by the north gate then they are to leave through the south gate. If they enter by the south gate then they are to leave through the north gate. Now what in the world is that all about? I believe the Lord is showing us that we should never leave a worship time with Him the same way as we came in. There should be a change in our lives. God should have spoken to our hearts. He should have challenged us. Too often, in churches today, people come in and do their time, fulfill their obligation, and leave the church as they came in, unchanged! That should not be! It is as Paul said in Romans 12:1-2, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy,acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. God wants to transform your life if you will let Him! You should not leave His presence the same way you came in!

It’s Not My Personality

And David danced before the LORD with all his might, wearing a priestly garment.
“Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes.”
– 2 Samuel 6:14,22a

by Dylan Tarpley at the blog One Thing.

I love to see people begin to express themselves in worship. One of the most beautiful things one can behold is someone giving themselves fully to the Lord in worship. I love the tears, the dance, the jumping, the shouting. It’s so much fun for me. In my opinion, there is no other way to worship. The Lord craves something excessive. He loves extravagance! I believe that extravagant and expressive worship moves the Lord’s heart like few things do.

When discussing the topic of worship, it’s inevitable that someone will speak up and say, “It’s just not my personality.” or “I worship the Lord in my heart.” While I understand what they mean, and I know that they have good intentions when they say these things, this way of thinking is simply unacceptable. We do not have the right to determine how we respond to the presence of Jesus. We do not have the right to determine the worth of Jesus. This is false humility communicating itself through a subtle form of pride. This response comes out of the heart of a Pharisee that seeks to maintain control while still trying to receive the benefits that only come with surrender.

David danced before the Lord and worshipped like anyone had ever done before. His excess caused some to criticize him. He was a king, and that came with certain expectations as to how the king should behave, but David knew that there was simply no other way to respond but with extravagant thanksgiving to the One who put him in that position. David explained that he would become even more undignified. In others words, he was only going to get worse. He was only going to become more wild. I was recently thinking about this and it occurred to me that dancing was probably not David’s personality. How many military Generals do you know that spontaneously start dancing while walking down the street?

I am truly an introverted person but when it’s time to worship the Lord, I am determined to make sure that I give Him something that is expensive. I still have my struggles with my own introverted nature, but I am seeking the Lord to help me honor Him well in worship, even despite my personality. I can’t afford to let my nature influence my worship. I combat this by becoming overwhelmingly preoccupied with His nature instead. I am finding that the key is that I continue to strive to take my eyes off of myself and focus them fully on the beauty of Jesus. Join me in proclaiming like John the Baptist, “He must increase, I must decrease.”

 

September 4, 2013

Many Rooms in God’s House

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In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (John 14:2)

Heavenly Home

Today we pay a return visit to Elsie Montgomery at the blog Practical Faith.  Over a series of four blog posts, she’s been looking at the subject of our heavenly home, and all that God has in store for us.  Here are some excerpts — though you’re only getting part of her writing — click the title of each section to read each in full (or choose one) including some practical illustrations…

Room for everyone (posted in full)

In a small Alberta town near our family farm, there were more than eight churches, literally one on each corner. We often made jokes about this, but later I realized that if every person in that town went to church, there would not be enough space to accommodate them.

This will not be a problem in heaven. While I have no idea what it will look like, I do know that Jesus will be there, there is no need for the sun for His light will illuminate it, we will not need buildings of worship, and there will be a place for everyone. Jesus said so…

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (John 14:2)

Some Bibles translate “many rooms” as “mansions,” suggesting a place that is bigger and better than anything we live in here. That is possible, but the Greek word used means “dwelling” or “abiding place.”

Later in the verse, it says Jesus is preparing a place for His people. That little word “place” adds something interesting. This word could be translated “opportunity.”

What does Jesus have in mind? I don’t know, but this is exciting. I do know that heaven will be grand because Jesus is involved in its preparation. I could be a place of opportunity, suggesting to me that in heaven, each person will enjoy life to the full, having greater occasion to live as God intended, something we cannot do here because of our own sin and the sins of others.

The disciples were sad that Jesus was going to leave them. I wonder what they were thinking when He explained what He would be doing before they joined Him. Typical of Peter, he wanted to go with Jesus right then, but Jesus said he could come later. (John 13:36)

For me, I hear the same word, later. Some days I long to leave this dwelling place and be in the one that Jesus is preparing. Yet He says later, perhaps because that place is still being made ready. Whatever the reason, I need to make the very best of this place where I am, using it to serve and glorify the One who is most interested in where I live when I leave here. I also need to tell others about these many, many rooms which means there is room for everyone, and all people need to know they can be included.

Eternal Treasures

…Some consider it a great honor to be invited to a great home such as the White House to dine with heads of state, or the mansion of a famous entertainer or sports star. I can imagine those, but to walk into the dwelling place of God surpasses my imagination.

The invitation is simple: “Whosoever will may come.” God has no list of elite or influential people and invites everyone. In fact, those who hear and respond are at the other end of the social spectrum…

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26–29)

Jesus often displayed a special concern for the broken and down-trodden, perhaps to emphasize that those who would dwell with Him forever didn’t need any special qualifications, only that they RSVP with a “Yes” and mean it, following Him with all their heart.

When all who respond arrive at His door, they will find a banquet prepared for them (I can imagine that). As we enter our eternal dwelling place, we will not look back. No matter how good life might be here, all of it will be shabby in comparison…

Home-making and Housekeeping

The ultimate home is where God lives. Sinners who are estranged from Him have indeed “gone for a walk” and some may not even care to go home. Yet others of us long for that place. Sometimes I am caught up in the thought of eternal life with Him, even saying aloud, “I want to go home.”

More often, I say it when life is hard and because the idea of home for a Christian is in deep contrast to this alien life here on earth. Here, I am a citizen of heaven living on earth as an ambassador, and find great appeal in being with God in the place He prepares for me.

This morning, I’m again prompted to think about this heavenly home where God lives. This is not to be confused with a building or house for public worship. A church is often called “God’s house” yet it is only a building where God’s people meet. The temple of Solomon was called God’s house also for God was represented as dwelling there with His throne in the Holy of Holies.

Sometimes the whole universe is represented in Scripture as God’s house, built one story above another. But the highest heaven is represented as the house of God, reserved for himself for his own dwelling. The psalmist expressed this in verses such as, “To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens” (Psalm 123:1) and “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven…” (Psalm 11:4)

There is a sense where the house of God is closer than heaven. Because He lives in His people, those who genuinely believe in Jesus Christ are called the temple of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling place of God. Collectively, we are His household living here on earth, along with the saints who have gone before us and live in His heavenly home.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19–22)

This places on me a responsibility because…

[click the title above – this rest of this one is really good, also!]

Many rooms and house cleaning

…these words were first spoken to disciples who were poor, sinful people. I wonder what they thought when they heard it. What could they imagine from “many rooms”? Did they have any inkling of what their small band would become? Did they have a clue that one day we would live in God’s many rooms, rooms enough for millions of His children?

Knowing something about the heart of God, I’m sure there will be sufficient and suitable accommodations for all sorts of persons as well. People from every nation, condition and circumstance, great sinners and moral people, weak and strong, babes in Christ and those more mature will have an eternal home. As today’s devotional reading says, there is in heaven enough for the happiness of everyone who hearkens to the call of the gospel.

For those, there are two promises regarding a dwelling place. Heaven is the eternal result for those who believe in Jesus Christ, but there is more. In doing a simple Greek word search, I discovered that this verse uses the same word as the one translated, “rooms”….

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)

The Father and the Son, also the Holy Spirit are looking for many rooms in many hearts, yet this is a personal invitation to anyone and a statement about what happens to those who love and obey Jesus: That person is loved by God and becomes a room, an abiding place, a home for Him!

Now how is all this practical? I think of the many rooms that I have been in and how they affected my life. I also think about the many people I’ve met and know, and how each one affects my thoughts and actions. This verse about God making His home in me must be taken literally. When I let that impact me, then I cannot go anywhere or be with anyone without being aware that I am the dwelling place of God. That changes my life and so it should.

I’m also convicted that Jesus is preparing a place for me, but what kind of place have I prepared and maintained for Him? He lives here in my heart! Without trivializing this astonishing reality, it definitely makes me want to take out the garbage, clean up the clutter, polish the remaining contents, and freely offer them to His use.

Related: Song – Big House by Audio Adrenaline

Heaven

August 25, 2011

A Hunger Deep Inside My Soul

Both on and off the blog, I get comments from people who remember particular songs and are able to find them here. Especially a couple of the older songs from the three different Psalms Alive CDs Maranatha Music produced many years ago. 

We often underestimate the power of song.  Psalm 84 has been the source of many worship songs.  We can think of a few, but imagine the themes of scripture expressed musically over the past 2,000 years; the songs that were lost over the ages, and the songs that were written for use in one local church setting that were never heard beyond that church’s walls.  Here’s “How Love is Your Dwelling Place” from Psalms Alive (Maranatha Music).

The hunger deep inside the Psalmist’s soul for God’s word, God’s law and statutes, and being in God’s temple is a recurring theme throughout the Psalms. When you read the text of the Psalm you’ll also recognize a popular worship chorus from our own generation in verse 10 (and if you grew up Pentecostal or Charismatic, one from your parent’s generation in verse 11). It’s interesting that the writer’s desire to be in God’s presence is twice expressed in language that could refer to a tabernacle or building, and how that contrasts with our world today where we see declining church attendance and even church closures.

Psalm 84

New International Version (NIV)

    For the director of music. According to gittith. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.

 1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
   LORD Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
   for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
   for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
   and the swallow a nest for herself,
   where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
   LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
   they are ever praising you.

 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
   whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
   they make it a place of springs;
   the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
   till each appears before God in Zion.

 8 Hear my prayer, LORD God Almighty;
   listen to me, God of Jacob.
9 Look on our shield, O God;
   look with favor on your anointed one.

 10 Better is one day in your courts
   than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
   than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
   the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
   from those whose walk is blameless.

 12 LORD Almighty,
   blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Here’s a version of Better is One Day by the group Petra:

Do we regard the presence of God with the same passion?  Can we say with verse 10 that in terms of the things of this world, the presence of God in ratio to the things of this world rates at better than 1,000:1 ?

May 29, 2011

Church: On the Other Hand…

Sometimes when we’re reading Christian blogs, we try to read between the lines to figure out where the writer stands on various issues.  If you read this blog and its companion, Thinking out Loud, over the past few weeks, there have been a couple of references to the house church or organic church or simple church movement, as well as an article about how we can get so addicted to all things church that we can miss Jesus; so it would be easy to assume that I’m a bit soft on the whole brick and mortar church thing.

But that would be a mistake.  This week I attended two different morning services and later today I’ll watch two different online church services which are rebroadcasts of brick and mortar church gatherings.  I’m the biggest cheerleader I know of in my local area for what local churches are doing. 

This morning I was reminded of this verse in John 2, which falls at the end of the passage where Jesus clears the temple (the first time) and possible where we get the expression, “Now the tables are turned.”

NIV John2:17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The NLT has it as “passion” while the New Century Version uses “strong love.”  The quote is from Psalm 69:9 —

NIV Ps.69:9 for zeal for your house consumes me,
   and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.

— which is interesting because it equates zeal for God’s “house” with the seriousness of those who insult God Himself.

Living in Canada, which is nearly 50% nominally Roman Catholic, we’re familiar with the French language which uses “tabernacle” as a swear word.  It’s a rather grievous term, as is any unnecessary mention of God (the French say Mon Dieu) or Jesus, but it betrays its origins in a great respect for the building in which worship is conducted.

Today, many of our church buildings are multi-purpose structures used for a variety of weekly events; having community-friendly or seeker-friendly auditoriums — the word ‘sanctuary’ is no longer in vogue — which are free of crosses or other religious icons or symbols.  People show up in jeans or shorts and t-shirts and are often seen drinking coffee during the songs and sermon, while the kids go running wild before and after the service starts.  It’s hard to imagine that being seen as worthy of generating a swear word!

Maybe those things are externals, and are less important now than they were a couple of generations back because we see those things as superficial when it comes to defining deep faith.  I’m not sure.  But I do think we need to rediscover the Psalm 69/John 2 verse, which the NASB takes a step further, quoting the Psalms passage in John in capital letters:

17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.”

~Paul Wilkinson