We were out last night to a wonderful time of worship at a local church. The singing was wonderful and the presence of God was manifest. It was a great time. I really enjoy such times though I find the attendant feelings quite fleeting. I love to sing and worship. One of my favourite songs is one by Tim Hughes “God of Justice” one of the lines is “keep us from just singing, move us into action”. Matt Redmond alludes to the same thing in “The Heart of Worship” when he says “I’ll bring you more than a song…”
I recently had a conversation with a group of clergy in Edmonton and I shared with them that many of my friends of Street Hope hold the book of James as their favourite Bible book. These clergy were a bit surprised and we explored a bit why that would be. One key reason is James’ insistence on equality before God but the really important element is his emphasis on the practical activity of following Jesus. Singing is not enough for James. He insists on visible incarnation of faith. His gospel is that because of Jesus we can now be outward and visible signs of the invisible Kingdom of God. We are transformed from sinners to sacraments!
My favourite book for years has been Romans. I love to dig in and find ever deeper depths of theological understanding but in the last number of years I believe I have discovered a new key to this deep, rich book. Romans 1:5 gives us this key calling readers to “an obedience that comes from faith”. This theological treatise is not meant to lead us solely to wonder and worship but to obedience, which comes from the faith that so thoroughly justifies us.
It is not just in the moments of singing that I experience God’s manifest presence but even more profoundly in my day by day experiences. Even through my absent minded mistakes he shows up. I forgot to bring my “Master Plan of evangelism” book to our study this Wednesday. Everyone else had theirs. I suggested we read from the Bible and chat about that and the folks were very gracious. We looked at 1 John chapter 2 and had a great discussion of John’s advice not to sin. We had a fulsome conversation about the consequences and scars left because of our wrong choices and behaviours. Then we talked about the pardon we can find because we have an “advocate” or lawyer, Jesus the only righteous one. As he pleads on our behalf we are cleansed and made right with God. What a relief this pardon brings us.
We do not want to sin! We know the consequences in the here and now, perhaps better than most, but we are grateful for the peace we can have with God. This causes us to want to sing his praises but more to be obedient in our activities!
This week a guy who has been experiencing the bitter consequences of a lot of bad choices may have begun his journey back. He prayed for the first time in a long time this week. He asked God to bless someone he was having real difficulty with. Linda and I were so touched and encouraged by this small step. It was better than a “Hallelujah” any day. We are praying that we will see more ‘turn around’ activities in this difficult friend’s life.