Bible Gateway's Verse of the Day


Welcome to my blog, MB's Theological Thoughts. If you have a question you'd like me to answer, feel free to ask, either in a comment or an email. If it's a legitimate question, I'll do my best to answer it. Might take some thinking and some time, but again, I'll do my best.

29 March, 2011


What is reverence? Is it a set of motions we go through before we can be granted an audience with God? Is it a list of ideals that help us to show greater respect for God? Is it a synonym for manners? Reverence is a term that we are often unacquainted with because its meaning is so nebulous that we just take it in context like a baby learning how to speak. Many in today's society are calling for a revival of sorts. We want to make church services more reverent, and in so doing, bring our focus back to God. It is my experience that there are several ways to do this, some of them right, and some of them wrong.

Before we address what must be done to make church services more reverent, we first must address the definition of reverence, this enigmatic thing with a myriad of nuanced meanings. According to, reverence is "a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe", with another definition being, "a gesture indicative of deep respect". The latter definition, while appropriate, is not the kind of reverence we need more of. It is the kind of reverence that Ellen White is always advising must be observed, and for good reason. She writes that, as the person giving the sermon is a messenger of God's, we shouldn't be chit-chatting back and forth, being disruptions and distractions for other people that are actually trying to listen to the sermon. She also cautions that if your children are wild and unruly, you would be better off staying home (as a courtesy to others, more than to God, I think) and teaching them yourself. Yes, this reverence is needed, but it is in no way a means to ridding the congregation of lukewarmness and bringing them to a holy boil.

The former definition is probably the most appropriate reverence to practice in the house of God. It is a sense of deep respect, tinged with the awe that Jesus, creator of the universe, died in our place. I think the NIV puts it best: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8, emphasis mine). That is the sense of reverence that we should be feeling every time we step into the Sanctuary. It should not be nothing but a multipurpose room; it should be a special place where we can think about God's only Son, and His sacrifice. I mean, we are Christians, aren't we?

This is one reason that Catholic cathedrals are designed the way they are. As the worshiper enters the cathedral, before them is an image of Jesus, before which is an altar where the bread and wine is blessed (similarly to the blessing on the bread and wine given in Adventist Communion services, but we don't believe in transubstantiation and they do). To one side--I've always seen it on the left, or at "God's right hand"--is the pulpit, where the priest gives his homily. This placement is to draw attention away from the human messenger and toward Jesus, whose image is there to remind parishioners of the Crucifixion. It is not really idolatry, just symbolism (I'm not saying it's right to worship at the image of Jesus, but they aren't worshiping a false God and therefore not breaking the First Commandment). The crucifixes present in any Adventist church I've attended have been empty, pointing to Jesus's victory over death and His coming return. But other than the occasional stained glass window, those empty crucifixes are the only thing that separates our churches from ordinary auditoria.

If imagery is not present to remind us of Jesus's sacrifice, then what is left? The service content. At any part of the service, from prelude to postlude, one of the people who make the service possible can mention something that points to Christ. And if we are observing proper reverence (manners) then we can take that anecdote, song, text, or sermon, and we can use it to have more reverence (awe-inspired respect) for God.

Therein lies the problem; we have always been taught, essentially, that reverence meant manners. As a young Adventist, you probably went through the "prayer checklist", a template given you by your parents as to what you did with your eyes, hands, head, and so on. Why? It was reverent. You never ran in church (you probably did; you just won't admit it). Why? It was reverent. You didn't talk aloud during the service. Why? It was reverent. Reverence was a list of rules, not a sense of respect. It wasn't until I got to college that I really felt that sense of reverence. And still, I have found reverence in a wide spectrum of things, from the Z. Randall Stroope's loud and tumultuous Conversion of Saul to the silence of Heubach chapel when all I needed was a whisper.

Just as it is experiences that count when building any relationship, it is experiences that count when building reverence. As Adventists, we tend to become Vulcans and avoid outward displays of emotion, unless we are showing a placid happiness. I say that if anything, that practice has made us lukewarm. We are so apathetic that we don't feel anything. Throughout the Bible, what were some of the biggest events that converted people or brought them closer to God? One very notable display was the contest on Mt. Carmel. After hearing nothing from Ba'al, I would assume his followers had begun to doubt (Elijah probably didn't help with his taunts). Finally, FIRE shot down from heaven, instilling reverence into the people. This reverence, the kind that God desires, is also translated in some versions as "fear".

No, this is not a fear for one's life. It is not a worry. It is, in fact, the very essence of a relationship with God. This definition relates to a reverential awe for something or Someone. Without this reverential respect, we are lukewarm. We need to understand every time we think of God, that our Creator gave His life so that we could have life to the fullest. That alone demonstrates a selflessness that none of us is capable of. Not Ghandi, not Mother Theresa, not even you. We as humans are inherently imperfect, and a being of such perfection as God demands that respect.

We can sit here and say, "Don't chat back and forth with your friends in church; when you do, you are an instrument of the Devil," or we can tell people to take a seat and greet people instead of standing up. But none of that matters. Isaiah paints the picture of our obeisance plainly: "We are unfit to worship You; each of our good deeds is merely a filthy rag. We dry up like leaves; our sins are as storm winds, sweeping us away" (64:6). No matter how many times you refrain from talking during the sermon, kneel in submission when praying, or even try to be respectful of God, it will never be enough. No one can please God by obeying the Law (Galatians 3:11). So why should we even try?

Let's decide once and for all what it means to make our services more reverent. Instead of focusing on our actions, we should focus on the content. Yes, we should listen to the sermon; in being respectful of the speaker, we are being respectful of God and His message. But we should also realize that without your heart in the right place, you might as well stay home. Open yourself to receive Christ, and He will fill you. That's what being reverent should entail. When we're so focused on what to do and what not do do while in the Sanctuary, we inevitably lose sight of the reason Christianity exists: to praise and thank the One who made it possible for us to live.

Your Brother in Christ,


  1. Great article. Too bad SDA doctrine is based on the writings of a racist cataleptic. Your Christian ideals are spot on, but your background are way off if you are putting stock in a religion that revers a woman who stole a great deal of her work.

    Best wishes.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    You are misinformed in saying our doctrines are based upon the writings of Ellen White. They are, on the contrary, based entirely on Scripture. (

    What, if any, evidence do you have to enforce your claim that she was a racist? In fact, she was an opponent of slavery, as were many members of the Millerite Movement.

    And to answer the accusations of plagiarism, much of Ellen White's writings were based on the new developments of the time. She quoted countless sources, sometimes without bothering to give credit, but this was before the MLA and way before the current academic standard of writing.

    Do some legitimate research before you go accusing.

  3. For someone who does not follow Mrs. White, you are quite quick to defend her. I do not wish to cause trouble, I only wish to point out that perhaps you should take a good long look at where your doctrine comes from. Having doctrine based on the Bible is fantastic, ignoring parts of it is not.

  4. Dear Anonymous,

    Did I not just say (and provide a link) that our doctrines are based on Scripture? I don't have the space to defend all twenty-eight of them, but on our website we give clear references to Scripture for every single one of them.

    I defend Ellen White because your accusations are unfair ad-hominem fallacies that shouldn't be permitted in any proper debate.

    I implore you again, do your research, relying on inside sources; most of the external critics are just plain wrong.

  5. Your article is fine, a bit "I know it all, listen to me", but you sound quite high and fallacies...implore... Using complex language is often a sign that someone is reaching beyond their true intelligence level.

    As is well said by one writer...

    "In brief: "smart" characters using long words when short ones would be better. Characters afflicted with this trait often seem to go out of their way to over-complicate their speech, probably because writers think that this is the only way to show that someone is more intelligent than the average writer. This could also be the trait of a particularly anal-retentive character who always has to be right, the trait extending so far that the character always has to use exactly the right word — never using "blue" when "azure" would be more accurate, for example."

  6. Dear Anonymous,

    I do believe that there is a difference between being artful in one's speech and reaching beyond one's intelligence level. Nice job in insulting me.

    God gave me the gifts of speech and song. I can't help but be this articulate. And if you really knew me, you would know that I am indeed very bright. I don't mean to boast, but I feel that I have to in order to answer you. God gave me a powerful brain, and I feel sorry that you have to insult His gift.

    P.S. I hope you have a warm and sunny day tomorrow; here in Washington, the weather is bipolar and it'd help to know that at least somebody is having appropriate Spring weather.

  7. "When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but with the humble is wisdom." (Proverbs 11:2)

  8. Pride of God's gifts without acknowledgment of self is quite different from pride in oneself. You may see me as self-exalting, but I instead aim to say what needs to be said, to call attention to things like legalism and traditionalism. Jesus did it. Luther did it. Ellen White did it. And I feel called to do it too.

  9. This is too much. For the sake of yourself and those around you, please, examine your personal attitudes. You will not hear from me again on this Blog.

    You are truly one of the most fearful people I have ever had contact with.

  10. Dear Anonymous,

    I'm sorry that I've driven you away, but here's a question to think about: if I was a pastor instead of an active layperson, would you be treating me differently? I am trying to get people to view Christ in a more uncomplicated life, and the only way I can do that is to preach.

    I do not try to exalt myself; I try instead to exalt Christ. Somehow, you see it as personal pride, and that hurts me. There is nothing I hate more than a haughty spirit, and I have devoted my life to serving the Lord.

    Be at peace.