The Glory: God With Us

I was reading a story recently of the ancient Jewish people returning from a time of captivity and exile. They had spent many years crying out to Yahweh for a return to their promised land. In the process of being conquered, their temple was destroyed. For American Christians, this would be devastating…but to the Jewish community this would have been life-altering on many levels. This was the center of their culture and community. The temple was literally at the center of their city to remind them that everything in their life revolved around God’s Holy Place. 

As the story goes on, God’s weary people returned to find their glorious temple that Solomon had built; destroyed. The ruins reminded them of the slavery and horror they had experienced. After a time of sorrow, the people began to rebuild. Before they could muster the strength and resources to put the pieces of their temple (and their lives) back together…they built a make-shift gathering place of animal skins and rope to serve as a temporary tabernacle. In their minds, it was not a fitting place for the God of creation to dwell…but it was all they had. When they were finished with the temporary temple, they all met together to worship God, bring their offerings, and remember His faithfulness in delivering them from their enemies. At this moment, the Shekinah Glory of God filled the temple. What does the word “Shekinah” mean and  why do we need to know what this word means regarding God’s glory?  The word Shekinah is from the Hebrew word “shekinot” which is used in the Bible. It means to “settle in” and “dwell among.” There, in the midst of Israel’s meager attempt to welcome God, He showed up in power and “settled-in” with them. 

As a worship leader in a modern world, at times it can be hard to remind our congregations and communities that we gather with this one thought in worship: God is here with us. As a creative team, we ALWAYS ask ourselves how can we remind our people that God is here with us? Could the lights be bright enough? Could there be enough of them to display His glory? Could the sound be loud enough? Could our songs even say enough? The simple answer is no. But our goal as “Foothills Music” is to push ourselves to remind one another artistically and musically that God is with us. He meets us in our needs, in our brokenness. He fills our hearts with His glory and sends us to the world as messengers of His grace.

He is God for us. He is God with us.

Derek Henbest

Stained Glass and Fog Machines

I don't think I really get to tell a lot of people this because they either don't ask or don't care, but you may be surprised to know that when it comes to the look and feel of Foothills' Sunday worship experience, the main inspiration is medieval Europe. That's probably hard to grasp behind the hazer (what you may call a fog machine but there is a difference!), the bright moving lights, and flashy videos.

Close your eyes for a second and imagine a time where you didn't have access to books let alone a Bible and even if you did, you can't read that Bible. Today, we get to experience incredible amounts of information that is easily accessed because of the internet. Not only do I have a Bible available in my pocket, but I can also decide between almost every translation that exists! The 4th century church wrestled with the challenge of spreading the Gospel to people and they responded to that challenge through art.

Have you ever been in a beautiful chapel, cathedral, or church and just been left breathless at the beauty of what is before you? Did you ever wonder why someone would ever spend the time, effort, and money to put together such a place? In a time and world where people couldn't read, the church got creative. They designed buildings that intricately told the story of the Gospel through things like architecture, paintings, and stained glass, things we take for granted today. I could go on and on, but I hope you are beginning to catch a glimpse of the genius behind this tactic! 

I do, however, want to point out one of the most famous pieces of art, the Sistine Chapel. What is the first thing you might notice when you walk into the Sistine Chapel? The ceiling! Ever wonder why someone might put one of the most famous pieces of art ever to exist on a ceiling? The idea of this piece is that if you put something inspiring above you, then you will be compelled to adjust your posture towards heaven and into a posture of worship. The Sistine Chapel is structured so well that from the moment your eyes lay upon the beautifully designed stained glass outside and walking in, you are captured and drawn towards heaven. It is an awe-strucking experience.

I hope you're catching onto where I'm going to go next... as a visual artist and content creator at Foothills, I try to take great care to create an atmosphere that anyone could walk into and be immediately drawn into awe of who the God of the universe is. Of course that looks very different from what the 4th century church did, because this is the 21st century and today's art is dramatically different!

If you take the average person in America and want to figure out how to communicate the Gospel story to them, your challenge is not whether or not they can read but instead how to cut through the noise of constant information transferred and the increasing busyness of life. People are not so much illiterate today, rather they are overstimulated and overindulged. Today, it seems like the church in North America has lost it’s influence on creative culture. A lot of people look at our culture and run away from it but this is so dangerous! Changing culture is impossible and arguably not biblical. God does not ask us to condemn culture and replace it but rather to create it! It’s in this mindset that I find my inspiration for writing and planning worship experiences. We use every resource we can get our hands on, to bring the message of the Gospel to as many as possible and as fast as possible! 

Jay Miller