Lesson 1: Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow!
For some time now, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of a “living church” – a church in which the members actively live out the faith and reflection of Jesus Christ. Those who know me know that, while I’m involved in many aspect of the church service, I’m always seeking that “genuine experience” that will move me (and those around me) beyond rote traditions. Does this mean that I’m hoping for lasers and smoke machines? Not quite. The older and more battle-worn I get in this world, the more I just desire some quiet solitude with my Lord. No distractions. No facade. Just one on one time with Jesus. Perhaps you’ve felt it, too. As the week grinds to an end on Friday night, you’re just so tired that you can’t even stand. Sabbath comes as a relief in that it’s a welcome opportunity to just turn off. For some of us, that means collapsing into a long sleep. For others of us, it may be a delicious nap enjoyed after a Sabbath meal.
Now, I’m not going to chide anyone about their “lay activities”. Rather, I want to briefly revisit the “heart of the matter”. Loving anyone entails communication and a certain degree of “gushing” – Facebook updates chronicling “I’m so excited my baby is coming to visit me this weekend!!!! I can make it through today!”, for example. Through the Book of Psalms, we get a glimpse of a man completely in love with God. And boy, did he gush.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!”
(Ps. 103:1 NKJV)
We know that love is essential in our relationship with God (otherwise, why are we doing all that we do?). However, “love”, as we use it today, can’t stand the test if it’s not bolstered by action. Look at Matthew 22:37. Then, look at yourself. Can you say that you love God with all of your heart, mind, and soul? What does that even mean? Digging even deeper, Colossians 3:1 tells us to “seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.” We are not merely to love in a fleeting, emotional way. No, the love that transforms is an active, involved love. As we contemplate the mysteries of loving our enemies, doing good to those that hate us, and praying for those that despitefully use us (Matthew 5:44), we realize that true, Godly love can sometimes be a bitter pill to swallow.
And that’s where the genuine, living church comes in. As we know, the church is made up of people. Logic would have us understand that if a church is made up of individuals, then a genuine, living church would need to be composed of genuine, living people. When the heart of the individuals is bursting with praise, then, the church should be as well. And what a difference a church like that can make!
“The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world. From the beginning it has been God’s plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency. The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to ‘the principalities and powers in heavenly places,’ the final and full display of the love of God. Ephesians 3:10”
– E.G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 9
That’s quite a tall order. Can we live up to it?