Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25
Yesterday Elaine and I went to see a dear friend who Pastors a church. He was a friend even before he was a Pastor, but we used to meet at work for prayer and Bible study. It was so good to catch up. By the time we heard all his problems ours felt much smaller.
We sat there for 3 hours…..until he got a call to pick up his daughter at school. The time had flown so fast we scarcely noticed it.
What a blessing it is to have dear friends to fellowship with. Like iron sharpening iron, we are strengthened by each other. He told us of what pain he has suffered over his next to youngest daughter. The one he never expected it from. He also said that lessons he has learned from going through that has helped him deal with issues in the church.
The hardest lessons to learn……Letting go.
He had to learn to let his daughter go, and sometimes to grow a church, you have to let some people go. A very perplexing lesson when you are in a small church and you are trying to grow it.
Sometimes God uses those we love the most to teach us the hard lessons of letting go. Sometimes it makes no sense. Sometimes we feel that the most Godly thing we could do is to grab on tighter. But God’s ways are higher than ours, always.
And it makes sense when you think about it.
He used the One closest to Himself to change the world.
I was thinking this morning…..how it’s all a miracle. No matter what we have to go through, we are here. Someone had to think of us to bring us into existence. And maybe even if they didn’t God did. It is a miracle that I believe, that any of us believes. And not only believe, because even the demons believe, but put that belief into something that started with a decision.
If someone had never taken me to church or told me about God, I have never have known that there was even a decision to be made.
Or that there was a God……and that He wanted a relationship with me.
If someone in your life thought it was important that you go to church, you need to thank God for them today. That they took you.
Maybe it was a stumbling blinding path they were tripping on themselves, or maybe it was a rock solid firm foundation. Whatever it was, they got you ready and somewhere in their hearts they thought it was right…….when many others were doing other things you were swinging your feet on a bench where you heard “the old old story, about how Christ left His home in glory.”
and it planted a seed you could never quite forget.
I am thanking God today that no matter what I go through in this life, God cracked my heart open with the light of His love……and in all these years He has never stopped. Because I heard and answered the knock of a God who wanted to know me and live with me forever. And you.
“For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” Acts 2:39
picture from google images
A modern day evangelist lamented, “Whenever the Apostle Paul visited a city, the residents started a riot; when I visit, they serve tea.”
The church in Thessalonica, like many of Paul’s churches, was born amid violent upheaval. An angry mob took offense at Paul’s work and chased him out of town, accusing him of causing “trouble all over the world.” (Acts 17:6) From my introduction to the book of Thessalonians, with notes by Tim Stafford and Philip Yancey.
The curious phenomenon of church growth during times of intense persecution is reflected in these quotes from Christians in different parts of the world.
From a believer in Malaysia:
“We are so blessed because in Indonesia they are killing Christians, but here we just have to put up with discrimination and restrictions on our activities.”
and from an Indonesian Christian….
“We’re very blessed because in Malaysia, they can’t freely publish the Gospel. Here we still can.”
Philip Yancey has an interesting observation from his travels and interviews around the world talking to believers in many different cultures and countries…….
As I travel and also read church history, I have observed a pattern, a strange phenomenon of God “moving” geographically from place to place: from the Middle East to Europe to North America to the developing world. My theory is this: God goes where He’s wanted.
Quotes and selections from the book, Finding God in Unexpected Places, I heartily recommend this book, what a blessing it was to read it.
I tend to agree with him.
But Jesus said, “A prophet is taken for granted in his hometown and his family.” He didn’t do many miracles there because of their hostile indifference. Matthew 13:58
Quotes and selections from the book, Finding God in Unexpected Places
I confess I have a speckled lineage when it comes to my church experience. Personally, I don’t believe God cares what denomination, if any, we attach ourselves to as long as it remains true to Biblical teaching. I think we can gather richness from each one, I know I have. However we dress it up or perform the ceremony what remains is God and His word. He alone knows the heart of a church.
I started out Baptist, then dabbled in the Episcopalian denomination for a short time, been a member of Assembly of God congregations, enjoyed many Methodist services with through my Grandfather, and Aunt. For the past ten or so years I’ve been part of a Non-denominational Christian church. Each one has added something to my Spiritual growth………From each one I carry memories that have enriched my faith. In each one I have experienced God’s grace. I have seen prayers answered, God’s love flowing through people. I have seen the Holy Spirit change lives and do things not humanly possible.
I remember….magical paper sacks that we received after every Christmas pageant. I remember quaking on stage, trying to remember my one line from the Bethlehem scene. I think one time I actually cried and ran off stage….but after, we received a paper sack that held the same things every year; peanuts in the shell, buried within a hershey bar, and a roll of five flavor lifesavers, and an orange. I was always scared they would run out before they got to me. A walk down the aisle to start my journey with Christ…..
I remember seeing my Pastor in rubber waders at my Baptism, warm water swirling around my white baptism clothes, giving the confession of faith; never to be the same again. Strong biblical teaching from a pastor who loved digging into meanings of Greek and Hebrew. So many joyful hours of choir practice, where my Aunt and I sang on the Alto end.
I remember ice-cream socials on summer evenings in the Methodist church yard, all cakes made from scratch, with a man dipping ice-cream at the end of the line. The beautiful marbled sanctuary…they knew how to make a church look like a church in those days.
I remember the beautiful liturgy at St. John’s Episcopal, learning when to sit and stand, knees creaking. The flip of the kneeler in the silence. People there who helped each other out after hours. I remember a spirit of love in the social hall after service when I saw Father Ray dancing a jig with a child one day. The tradition of the flowering of the cross at Easter, the Sacrifice giving way to the fragance of beauty and conquered death once and for all.
I remember prayer times, tears, laughter, and meeting wonderful people who loved God. Meeting God at the altar, prayers answered, hands lifted high, tears of communion. Learning about the gifts of the Spirit….(still have my notes) All of these precious times, a bit of Heaven on earth. A foretaste of glory to come….
Church; it’s not perfect because it is made up of people. But it’s God’s church and still a place where you can find grace, forgiveness, and love.
“One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” Psalm 27:4
If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference. A.W. Tozer
I sometimes wonder how much of what we do in the church today is just stuff. I think a lot of what goes on once we leave the building is church. The conversations we have or don’t have. They way we live within the walls of our own homes. At work. I guess you could say I am preaching a sermon to myself today.
Sometimes I ask myself why the person I see in my mind, the one I want to be, is so much different than the living breathing version of me.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if all the churches emptied out and went out into the streets on Sunday mornings like a big flash mob of love.