Saturday, September 29, 2018

Watch your step!

We are so blessed to live in a country where we can worship freely. There are still a multitude of people in this world who must live 'undercover' because of their belief in Jesus Christ - because it is not a 'permitted' religion within the country where they reside. The places of worship for these individuals are sometimes the tiny living rooms of a group of believers where someone opens the meeting with prayer, shares a thing or two from the scripture, all the while longing for a trained pastor to be their shepherd. In some senses, those believers are closely worshiping together in much the same way the early church did - or even as the nation of Israel did until Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem. They open their homes, gather under a large tree in shade of the day, or find a shelter somewhere just so they can be together and share from the Word of God. This is the heart that drives them - not that they have to 'go to' church - for they 'are' the church.

Watch your step when you enter God's house. Enter to learn. That's far better than mindlessly offering a sacrifice, doing more harm than good. (Ecclesiastes 5:1)

Solomon was charged with the responsibility of giving God's people a place of permanent worship - he built the Temple in Jerusalem - the first "physically permanent" structure for the presence of God. Up until that time, God's presence had been enclosed in a tent-like structure we know as the Tabernacle. It was "portable" and served Israel well during the time they moved throughout the wilderness, were on the move while taking the land of Canaan, etc. David had longed to build God a "permanent" house for his glory to indwell, but that task was passed on to his son, Solomon. Solomon gives us some words of "wisdom" about coming into the "house of God". It is a warning to those who would choose to worship at the throne of God - no matter where the 'location' of that worship may be. He reminds us that we are not to enter God's presence flippantly - but with mindful care. I wonder how many of us head off to churches around this world on our day of worship (whether it be Sunday, Saturday, Friday or another day of the week) without even so much as a consideration of why it is that we are going. I imagine that there are many of us that can say without a doubt that there is absolutely no "fore-thought" in that "church attendance". In fact, it is more of a social gathering than a time to seek God, learn of him, or celebrate his presence.

In Old Testament times there was a great deal of preparation that went into worship. Hearts and minds were "cleansed" - thoughts focused - bodies prepared. Why? Because they were entering into the presence of a holy God (even if they didn't 'go' anywhere to do so). Solomon reminds us that we are to use "care" in entering God's presence - coming into God's house is really another 'gathering place' for entering into his presence. The attitude of heart that he reminds us we need is one of serious attention - in other words, we have made provision to learn. We have centered our focus so that we are open to learning what it is that God is about to share with us. In the presence of God, revelation is available. Careful attention to being readied to learn is what we need to glean from this scripture. When we are "open" to receive from God, there is an expectancy that reaches out toward God in worship and in attentiveness to the sharing of the Word. We must enter to learn - come with a purpose. Learning comes as we become "acquainted" with the object of our attention. If we are attempting to learn the task of driving an automobile, we spend some time learning about what makes it work, how it is maneuvered, what distance it takes to stop its forward movement, and what steps we must take to ensure safety in our driving ventures.

So it is with coming into a position of being open to receiving from God - we have to become acquainted with the object of our attention. That suggests we have to place our attention on him - being eager to learn of him. This is the beginning of our journey - many are preparing to gather somewhere this week. What a tremendous thing it would be if we could enter into his presence this week with a fresh determination to learn of him - careful to enter with purpose, attentiveness, and great anticipation of what it is he has to offer us as we gather together! Don't forget to make room for Christ in your worship experience - after all, it is the real purpose of that experience. Enter into his presence - he is waiting to bless you with the best gift of all - HIM! Just sayin!