Scars of Beauty

© 2020 Bill Murphy

This past weekend Carol and I got a little taste of Heaven. We attend the JCM-NATION 2019 REUNION in Jackson Mississippi – fellowshipping with old friends from both Jackson College of Ministries, and the First Pentecostal Church. Friday night’s service was held at Black’s Chapel on Robinson Road, the former home of First Pentecostal Church – where praises to God – and nostalgia reigned supreme!


The good folks of Black’s Chapel are to be heartily commended for going far beyond the extra mile to make the JCM event in their facility a resounding success. Needless to say, everyone was putting their best foot forward.  


But something somewhat ‘out of place’ to some eyes, caught my eye. Right down front, within a few feet of the pulpit, one of the cushions of the padded prayer altar had a few RIPS! Now I know that in our home, Mrs. Murphy would never allow nearly a thousand guests to see torn cushions! What would the guests think?


Oh yes, guests do often have critical eyes, and judgmental opinions. And that night, we, the JCM/FPC crowd were the guests. But, we were not the MAIN guest. Guest Numero Uno was The Lord Himself! 


As host, we have the responsibility of catering to and pleasing the guest. When those guest are of great influence and prestige, we tend to go the extra mile.

  
And then I thought – when the guest are all gone, and it’s just me and nobody, and I’m allowed to get a little selfish with my pleasures – what makes ME happy?


We all have that favorite coffee cup, you know, the one with the chip, that nobody wants. Who wants a chipped cup anyway? And isn’t there a well worn, far past ‘throwing them out time’ pair of sneakers in the closet that are simply way too comfortable to consign to the round file? Isn’t there also a T-shirt somewhere, far back in the drawer, with too many paint stains and holes to even wear to Wall-Mart. You still keep it, but only now for mowing the lawn. You continue to hang onto that thread-bare garment ‘for the sweet memories’ it holds! Don’t these worn, mangled, torn and stained items still bring a smile to your heart and comfort to your spirit? They’re no longer worthy of ‘show’ to our guest. They’re now reserved for YOU, the one that loves and cherishes them most, in spite of all their imperfections and blemishes. Rejected by the world, they still have a place in your heart.


An altar pad with no imperfections could be a new altar pad – or – one that is old – yet never used. Oops!


That night, that torn altar pad spoke to me of use! No doubt, there may have been a human eye or two that saw these abrasions as blemishes on the backdrop of a grand presentation. But God didn’t. I know that He saw them as a visual testimony that they have been put to good use – the use for which they were intended. These scars were loud shouts of praise – of honor and glory to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – witnesses that loving saints had knelt in worship and prayer. They are badges of a commitment to prayer – and they are a beauty to behold!

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I Miss Reverence

Call me ‘old fashioned, but in today’s church, I miss good old fashioned REVERENCE.  I’ll clarify that by saying, it can be missing from many churches.

I worshipped my first 20 years of life in Grace Methodist Church of Jackson MS.  Sadly, like calm and respectful reverence, Grace Church is no more.  Where I learned to grow close to God is now but an empty lot.  I feel that emptiness today.

But that’s me. 

I make no apology for the following ‘old fashioned’ definitions. They’re necessary for you to understand what I’m attempting to say -and the true meaning and understanding of those words I will use. 

REVERENCE is defined as: honor or respect  felt or shown; profound adoring and awed respect.  Reverence implies that this profound respect is also mingled with love and devotionThat’s heavy – isn’t it?

Synonyms of reverence are: respect, honor, homage, and deference. 

RESPECT means: expressions of high or special regard.

Yes I know – you’ll say that folks express respect differently today.  Differently does not necessarily mean better.  Consider the fact that public school classroom demeanor is different today. 

Generally, most weddings even today are basically respectful and reverent in nature, much as were Sunday church services way back when.  And, most brides today wear white, want order and dignity in their marriage ceremony, and prefer to be the center of attention.  This was how it was in the 50s each Sunday when we honored the ‘Biblical Bride-Groom,’ our Lord Jesus Christ.  Then we better understood a holy respect of and for our surroundings.

But, you say, there are laid-back weddings and laid-back church services today.  Yes there are.  

So I ask – why can we have a reverent marriage ceremony on Saturday afternoon, and in the same church sanctuary it’s a (Christian) rock concert Sunday morning? 

HONOR means respect and esteem shown to another. It can apply to the recognition of one’s right to great respect or to any expression of such recognition.

DEFERENCE implies a yielding or submitting to another’s judgment or preference out of respect or reverence.

HOMAGE adds the implication of accompanying praise.

I mentioned a (Christian) rock concert above. 

At some point in time, ‘praise’ became firmly welded to ‘worship,’ as if the two were one and the same.  This is not true.  (Think about it.)  But that’s another study.

First of all, praise and worship should only be directed toward GOD!  To do otherwise is idolatry – if not bordering on it.  Correct?  Think about this also.

That said, although I well understand that Psalm 100:1 says “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”  I do not believe that every time we direct praise and worship to Him, that it must be at full volume.   1 Kings 19 tells us that God didn’t speak to Elijah in the wind, earthquake, or fire… but in a still small voice.  

Praise and worship cannot be measure with a decibel meter.  Should it be?  The presence of God’s Spirit cannot be controlled through the sound board. 

Because my ‘quiet’ praise and worship is (and should be) directed toward God (and to him only), no other individual has the ‘right’ judge my praise.  (That right and privilege belongs to God’s alone.)

‘But you should be an example to others,’ I hear. 

 I think not.  In most instances yes.  In praise and worship, no.  Why?  If I lift my voice with ‘drummed-up’ vocalizations – when my true praise is more quiet in nature, I’ll be exhibiting false praise – and that would not be good.  Doesn’t God want our true and genuine praise?

This brings up the question –does our Lord really need cheerleaders?  If the ‘fan’ needs a cheerleader, he’s not much of a fan (of the home team – or of God!) True?

We hear a lot about ‘sanctuary cities‘ today – cities set aside and apart from the laws of the nation – cities which harbor illegal aliens. 

The house of God is also a sanctuary.  It is a place set aside for the explicit purpose of instruction, prayer, praise, and worship of God.  It may be a multi-purpose facility, where areas (or times) are set aside from everyday activities.  But during ‘church time,’ when that area is set aside for GOD – it should be a place of focus totally upon HIM.  I like to think of it as barefoot church, where He wants to meet with us on a skin-to-skin personal level, just as He did with Moses at the burning bush, when He instructed Moses to take off his shoes.

Before we have guest in our home, we wish to make them feel comfortable.  We want to present a feeling of both comfort and cleanliness.  We vacuum the carpets. This is done out of our deference to them.  Yet if it is raining or snowing outside, and they take off their shoes at our door, they’re doing so in deference to us.  These are simple acts of shared respect.

Should we not at least show similar respect and deference to the house of God?  In truth, we should show more respect and reverence for HIS ‘house!’ 

Consider funerals, where the deceased is the one being honored.  We EXPECT reverence and respect to be displayed by one and by all, regardless of age. 

Doesn’t the Lord of All, The King of Kings, The Almighty, the living GOD HIMSELF warrant the same honor, homage, deference, respect and REVERENCE as poor ole Grandma in the coffin – or as a daughter at her wedding altar?  Why can we not expect reverence in the house of worship, no matter where/what that might be?

In 1960 we had teenagers, guns and schools.  The difference between 1960 and 2018 is that teenagers in 1960 who had access to guns – went to school and left their guns at home – or on the gun rack in their truck in the parking lot.  Sadly you know what many teenagers today have done with guns at school.

The common denominators in 1960 and 2018 are: teenagers, guns, and school.  The difference is: In 1960 we had self respect, respect for others, respect for teachers, parents, laws, country… and our future.  We had a true reverence for life!

Have we really lost it altogether?  

This is why is miss reverence.  It seems to be so difficult to find today. 

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