Monthly Archives: May 2015

Worship in the Midst of Difficulty

“…we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding...”  (Colossians 1:9)

My friend sat across the table from me, and I could see the agitation in his face.  He had just lost his job and was struggling through the emotional roller coaster that such a change of life will bring.  He has a family to care for, house payments to make, food to buy and all the other issues of modern day life.

“What now?” was his question, and “I don’t understand what’s going on” was his response of frustration.  I could tell there were more questions – mostly unanswered – and the growing presence of a big question mark filling his future.

He had acknowledged earlier in the conversation that, in general, many Christians fill their lives with busy-ness and equate their busy lives with some sort of spiritual maturity.  He was also acknowledging with that statement that his own life needed some re-prioritizing and the 12 to 15 hour days at work were a symptom of a deeper issue.

We all seek to “understand” what is happening in our lives and when we experience some kind of major event or shift we seek that understanding with even more focus and aggressiveness.  All of the sudden, when the purpose of life seems to waver, we cry out for God to explain it to us and give us some kind of specific knowledge to make sense of life once again.

But life is messier than that. Some people experience a sense of what might be called “wondering and wandering” for days, weeks, months, or even years.  Circumstances seem to dictate the path of life rather than informed decisions and a secure knowledge of what should be done next.

In Colossians, the Apostle Paul strikes a clear and pure note of truth for us to mold our response to in these frustrating times of life.  In fact, if we would focus on this principle in the midst of the good and the difficult we would certainly be on the right path and gain a secure foothold in responding appropriately to our circumstances.

Notice that Paul prays for the Colossians to “be filled with the knowledge of His will.”  He’s not praying for specific knowledge about circumstances or jobs or what school to attend or who to marry.  He’s praying to know the mind of God.  He’s praying to see the vision that God is seeing.  He’s praying for sensitivity to the Spirit of God that the Colossians may gain “all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

Paul’s encouragement to the Colossians, and to us, is that we focus our prayers to know God better and what He is thinking.  He wants us to tap into the knowledge and wisdom and understanding of God’s own purposes.  He wants us to lay aside the worries of our lives and seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.  It must start there, with the mind and thoughts of God, and then flow out into the practical aspects of our daily Christian walk (which is exactly where Paul goes in the verses following this one!).

Even as leaders, we come carrying the burdens of life.  It may be a job loss, difficulty with a friend or family member, struggles with finances, or any number of situations.  Yet, here we are to lead; to lead in worship nonetheless.  And as we come to lead, we must already have built into our own lives the habit of looking beyond our circumstances and into the heart of God.  After all, we can only lead people into a place that we’ve already been.

Our Father, we come as needy people.  We have our own ideas and plans but choose to set those aside to seek your thoughts and plans.  Father, we want to know your heart and your will.  Reveal that to us as we seek to honor you every day.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Architecture: Elements of Worship Series (Part 12)

The church is losing the significance of architecture.

The observations I’ve often made about the modern church in regards to its being enamored by entertainment are often generalizations.  I certainly understand that there are examples which are outside these trends, and I am grateful for many who think biblically and theologically before diving into the latest and greatest fads.

Another instance of an entertainment mindset is the nature of modern church architecture.   This area is not one most people would consider to be an “element” of worship.  Yet, if we desire for our worship to be holistic, we must also take into account the visual nature of our world and our understanding of how to redeem the visual.

In previous centuries the architecture of the church building was a message in itself, speaking the Gospel through its presence and design, as well as its decoration.  One can visit these structures and “see” the gospel in the artistic expressions of the stained glass, or the majesty of the spires.  Although the spoken word is silent from day to day, the “seen” word is proclaimed moment by moment.  (I explained this more thoroughly in the post titled, “Music and the Arts as Tools of Evangelism.”)

Yet, modern design is utilitarian.  The prevailing philosophy is one of high technology and practical spaces.  Buildings are designed for the best theatrical lighting and sound reinforcement.  The beauty of architecture and design is often foregone in order to spend money on “really important” aspects that are practical in nature – as well as to make attendees comfortable and at ease.  A practical building is important, but why must that be at the expense of beauty and message?  These buildings, as buildings, often say nothing of themselves.  We can have a worship service or a rock concert, a spiritual awakening or a sales meeting, because the space itself says nothing of its purpose or its message.  It is plain – and practical.

What can you do, even this week, to make your worship space more visually worshipful?

 

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