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Where is the Reverence???

I remember growing up in New Hope Baptist Church, which had a congregation between 300 and 400 people. The church building was average size and was just a block away from Morning Star Baptist Church where my grandparents still attend to this day. I remember the other kids and me laughing at people running up and down the aisles shouting on Sunday mornings. We would always end up getting scolded by one of the adults. I can still hear the fast beat of the drums, along with the people’s hand claps and my mother keeping up on the piano. I remember the pastor whooping and hollering during his sermons and my mother playing chords, as if she were a background singer to his sermons. The summers at the church were filled with Vacation Bible School, and I began honing my vocal skills by singing in the youth choir. Sunday morning services would last for at least three hours and then there was still the evening service for that night! The elderly mothers of the church wore their hats decorated in magnificence and always smelled like roses or peppermints. The deacons and trustees always wore suits and ties. We would always wear black on first Sundays because of communion, and I remember the hand fans that had Martin Luther King’s picture on them that we used because it was so dang hot during the summers! I’m not sure if the church had central air or not. This was my reality back in the early 1980s and I’m sure the same or similar experience existed years ago dating back to post-slavery.

So why am I reminiscing? Because back in those times, I believe that there was a more sincere reverence for the Lord in the church. Now please understand that I’m not suggesting that folks didn’t have sin issues. I’m not saying that the churches back then were free of gossip, slander, doctrinal error and even scandal. I just believe that there was more of a reverential fear of the Lord compared to the present times. For example, when I was a kid, the nicest clothes I owned were reserved for church. I believe that is where the term “Sunday’s best” came from. The tradition was to look our very best because we were entering into the Lord’s sanctuary and it was regarded as holy. When I think about all of the special instructions that the priests of old had to follow and the holy garments that they wore when coming into the presence of the Lord, it was because of a deep reverence for Yahweh. I believe that God has never changed (despite the fact that we are now under grace) and would appreciate us at least trying to show some reverence. What happened? Many people still dress up for church, but the new trend is to dress down and be casual. “Come as you are,” so to speak. Granted, I know some people cannot afford nice clothes, but we should always look presentable when entering into the Lord’s sanctuary, if possible. Nowadays I only dress up when I go to my parent’s church and my suits and ties seemed to be reserved now only for special occasions like weddings, banquets or a special night out on the town. Wow… I thought gathering with the saints to celebrate the Lord was supposed to be a special occasion. It seems like the things that were once considered to be sacred no longer matter. When I read in the book of Exodus about the numerous details and excellence that was done in regards to building the Ark of the Covenant and its accompanying pieces, I wonder if God is longing for that same kind of reverence to be shown to Him in this hour. I am thoroughly convinced that there is a standard of excellence that the Lord expects, but we are so blinded by this thing called grace that we forget Yahweh has not changed one bit! We need to lay prostrate before Him because I believe that we’ve gotten way too comfortable with Him and He is grieved. You know; the “Jesus is my homeboy” mentality. Hmmm… We probably need to be very thankful that He is slow to anger and is withholding His wrath from us.

Flashing back to my childhood again, I think about how I and others got scolded for various behaviors (even playing with toys) that were considered inappropriate inside the sanctuary because it was held in high regard. During church we were supposed to be attentive and involved in the service. However, it is now common to see people on their cell phones texting, checking Facebook statuses and checking email while sitting in service! Even worse, cell phones ringing! Lord help us! Like I said earlier, nothing is SACRED anymore! But I have been guilty of some of these very things, and for me, it didn’t stop there. The Lord corrected me even in not showing up to church or ministry commitments in a timely fashion. We can show up to our jobs, movies and concerts for our own selfish reasons but we get real lax when it comes to church or doing the Lord’s work. Is the Lion of Judah now an alley cat? Is the Rose of Sharon now a weed? Has the precious Lamb of God become a donkey? Have we “progressed” and supposedly received so much new revelation to the point where maybe too much flesh is in the way? Or maybe this is because many are worshipping a god of their own making and NOT the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (That is a separate blog post coming in the near future)

This lack of reverence has spilled into almost every aspect of the present institution of church. For example, worship has become more about us than Him. While this is not in every church, I believe many have forgotten that worship is to honor Him alone and that it is not about showing off vocal and musical talent. It is not about what is pleasing to our ears but what is pleasing to His ears. Recently, my pastor mentioned how we can raise our hands at a football games to clap and cheer for a team, but not lift our hands during worship. How sad! I can even recall the times I have visited a prominent church here in the Atlanta area and on two separate occasions the dance team performed (not ministered) to a SECULAR song. Now I’m not saying that all songs outside the Christian or Kingdom genre are bad, but this was in the sanctuary! If the priests of old would have done something like that in the temple, God would have struck them down dead instantly! Read Leviticus 10:1-3 about what happened to Nadab and Abihu when they offered up something that was unsanctified, unholy and that which the Lord did not command. They offered up defiled worship because they did not regard the Lord with a proper reverence and it cost them their lives.

Something else I notice is that some churches show an undying devotion to a leader but not to God, just like the Israelites who were desperate for a king more than God Himself. Well the result was not a good one because we know what happened with Saul. (See I Samuel) As a matter of fact, all of the kings failed because they were mere men. However, people will give away their money and lust after a chance to meet with the pastor. Yet they don’t have a hunger to be in the Lord’s presence. There is no devotional life of prayer, no studying the Word nor simply learning to sit in His presence at home. As a result, of this lack of reverence, there are many places of worship that have become places of entertainment and charisma, and the Holy Spirit does not dwell there.

I know that I have different areas of my life that need much improvement to reflect a sincere love and devotion to the Lord. If we are truly disciples, then we should be disciplined in showing reverence to the Lord in the various areas of our lives. We have become too big in our own eyes and that has caused us to not regard Him as Lord, but more of a spiritual Sugar Daddy who will bless our mess. We want to be on the throne just like Lucifer did. I pray that we get back to the proper place of fearing Him and desperately removing ourselves from the throne so He can take His rightful place in our hearts. Funny how we are so quick to refer to the old school church as outdated (guilty as charged), but one thing they had over this newer generation is a sincere reverence for God Almighty.

Nathan Allen Copyright© 2012

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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Spirituality

 

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Struggle Vs. Resolve

“I’m a work in progress.”

“God knows my heart.”

“This is something I just struggle with.”

These are all familiar statements that are commonly made by many people who profess to be in the body of Christ. I’ve made these statements several times myself, but have since shied away from them because I know now that they really are excuses. True enough many of us are in fact walking out our deliverance in various areas of our lives. Romans 12:2 says, “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.” (NKJV) If we have truly repented then we are dedicated to living a life that is pleasing to the Father. So if this is the case, then we allow the Holy Spirit to redirect and restructure our lives in such a way that will help us not give into sin so easily. However, the problem is that so many people confuse struggle with resolve.

One sign in one’s life who really wants to be free is the presence of accountability. James 5:16 says “Confess your trespasses one to another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (NKJV) If you have hidden sins in your life that no one else knows about, then you are lying to yourself when you make statements like, “I’m a work in progress.” People don’t embrace accountability because it means that they can’t simply do whatever they want. The truth is that confrontation does not feel good and most people don’t others getting in their business. God will put people in our lives to walk with us. Iron sharpens iron. However, without accountability, you will likely continue to fall over and over again. Those who have confused struggle with resolve will likely reject correction and find ways too justify their sinful behavior. Yet, some of these same folks will say that they are a work in progress. Please… Get real. Are you really progressing, or has your behavior not changed at all, except for the fact that you might go to church and know how to speak “Christianese?” Without anyone to be accountable to, you will become numb to your situation the more that you go unexposed and find comfort in the idea that you can get away with your sin issue. It’s funny how it is forgotten that the Father sees everything and He knows us better than ourselves. People are always talking about “God knows my heart.” Well according to Mark 7:20-23 that is not a good thing. The scripture says, “20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” Wow… This scripture made me stop saying that “God knows my heart” altogether!

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From my own experience of walking out deliverance in certain areas of my life, I recall vividly that the Holy Spirit really came alive and began to give instructions. Sometimes instruction came from the suggestions of others who knew my situation as well. For example, if fornication is something you want to be free from, then the Holy Spirit will begin to instruct you on restructuring your life. This might mean that you stop hanging out at clubs where there is temptation. It will likely involve other things like getting an Internet filtering program, avoiding certain types of music and movies, getting rid of the phone numbers of sexual partners and distancing yourself from them. These would be the actions of someone who is truly struggling with sin, not someone who has just resolved to be that way. I remember a time about five or six years ago when I was in the shower. I would often times pray and engage in praise and worship while cleansing. This time I was heavy because I knew that I was still in bondage in certain areas of my life. I began to cry and lament. Then the Holy Spirit dropped a bombshell on me and said very plainly, “You’re not desperate enough.” Whew! What I realized from that day forth is that someone who is struggling is DESPERATE and HUNGRY for change. You get to the point where you no longer care about who knows your business and are willing to pay whatever costs necessary to get free. In Matthew 5:29-30 Jesus says, “29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (NKJV) I believe this is where the rubber meets the road and what separates the wheat from the tare. Someone who is struggling will make the sacrifices in order to live a repented life. Someone who is lying to themselves and who has resolved that a sin issue is just a part of them won’t make the necessary changes to be free because they haven’t truly experienced godly sorrow. They are only concerned with people finding out and in fact only experience worldly sorrow. THEY ARE NOT STRUGGLING!

A person who has confused struggle with resolve will NEVER change. A person who honestly struggles will eventually change and get to the point where they really are free from that sin issue. It may be a bit of a journey, but the length of that journey is largely determined by their decisions. The Apostle Paul stated that we must die daily to our flesh and crucify it (paraphrasing). This is not an easy task for everyone.   

I can honestly say that there are people in my life who know my issues. My own journey has been rocky and the Father has shown me other issues in my life that get in the way of my walking in total freedom. But I am able to find comfort in the fact that my struggle is in fact lessening and that smooth sailing is on the horizon if I’m willing to make the right choices. Being transparent may not always feel good, but that is largely because of pride. However, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Hopefully, you will be honest with yourself about your situation. There is a distinct difference between struggle and resolve.

Nathan Allen Copyright© 2012

   

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2012 in Spirituality

 

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