For quite a while now, I've been wanting to share with you my walk with the Lord to hopefully inspire you and give you a chance to spend a little time with God thanking Him for all He has done, and is able to do in your life.
I try to write; I fumble it all up; I end up deleting it.
Well, this is me writing to you as a Sister in Christ sitting down together to share some time with the God who loves us more than we can imagine.
I'm not a writer. I'm not schooled in how to preach. I may not know exactly where a Bible verse is located that I've heard and want to reference without looking it up.
But if you care to, sit with me a while. Let's come together as Christian sisters and support each other in prayer and encouragement as well as in praise for the awesome God who created us, and has plans for us.
Today I just want to chat with you. No real Scripture reference to focus on or anything like that. Just spend some time together with you chatting like old friends.
I was born and raised Methodist. As a young married woman, joined a Baptist church. We move around a lot, and finding a new church each time just wasn't a priority for me. I'm keeping it real here. It should have been, but it wasn't. For years I have not attended church. I've had a little tug to find one. I would think about it off and on, but not act on it.
When we moved back to South Carolina a month or so ago, my mother-in-law invited me to her church. It sounded great, but I didn't go. It is 40 minutes away from where I live. Our son started going to that church with his Granny (my mother-in-law), gosh a year or more ago.... He liked it. Then he started dating the Praise & Worship leader for the early Contemporary Service. Two weeks ago, he married her. Several times since moving back home, he has invited me to church. Even going as far as to offer to drive out here, pick me up, and bring me back home. Now that's pretty awesome, and still I declined. The whole while having the following Scripture run through my mind over and over again. (Thank You, Holy Spirit, for not giving up on me.)
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
(Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)
Can you say rebellious? Stubborn? That was me. Thankfully, God is slow to anger, and forgiving, and full of mercy.
When my son got married at that church a couple of weeks ago, I don't think I've ever enjoyed a wedding service so much. No, I'm sure I haven't ever enjoyed one so much. It wasn't stale. It was personal. The pastor was genuine. Was just a normal man explaining to them what they were committing to, and explaining to us at the same time what our role would be in supporting them in this marriage. He explained the symbolism of the wedding ring. He explained how a man and a woman leave their families and cling to each other as a new family. As one person. He brought up Ruth from the Bible and explained the passage, "Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God." '(Ruth 1:16) And he explained what it means to become one in marriage. I absolutely loved it. Never have I heard things explained so simply. All with Bible references. This wasn't an opinion he had. This was Scriptural.
Let me back up just a minute. I was raised in a church where you didn't speak once you entered the building. You didn't audibly say Amen. You didn't raise your hands in worship. You stood up and sat down on cue and went through all the rituals and speaking parts expected of you. The preacher would read a Scripture and then go on to tell a story that always had me wondering what in the world does that have to do with the Bible Scripture? (And in his defense, that easily could have been my own immaturity as a Christian.) I wanted a Bible Study. I wanted him to read a verse, and then explain to me what it meant. I was hungry to learn, and not getting it. I'm not saying it was a bad church. I'm saying I didn't fit there. I wanted happiness. I wanted spontaneity. I wanted free feelings, not rituals and reciting things because that's what you were suppose to do. I wanted to learn what the Scripture meant, and have that meaning backed up with more Scripture. I wanted more of what I get with Kay Arthur of Precept Upon Precept. I wanted that kind of Sunday morning experience.
So... this church where my son got married, during the wedding ceremony people laughed when something was funny. People agreed and said Amen out loud when they felt they wanted to do that. It was open. It was free. It was okay to participate in the service by responding. AND what I really loved was that the pastor didn't "preach." But instead he taught. And he backed it up with Scripture so if I wasn't sure what I was hearing was entirely accurate, I could go look it up and see if it aligned with God's Word. I wanted to be a part of this church.
Two Sundays ago, at the suggestion of my husband who I adore, I decided to go to church. I told Tom I was thinking about one right down the road from us. He was very surprised. He said why not Jimmy's church. I thought you liked it. I said I did, but I don't want it being so far away to become a thing. Tom encouraged me to go there. That's what Bonnie and I did the following Sunday. We went early so we could enjoy the praise band practicing before service. It was awesome! Drums, guitars, bongos, electric guitars, singers... and there is my brand new daughter-in-law playing the keyboard, singing lead vocals and leading the whole thing. How blessed am I? Very. This is what I call church. Sing along. Don't sing along. Raise your hands in worship, don't raise your hands in worship. Laugh if you can't help it. Say Amen if you agree... This is where I need to be. So what if it's 40 minutes away? God is there.
What I mean by that is I can feel His presence to the point of tears just walking in, because I am so overwhelmed at the overflow of love and His presence and how unworthy I am to be in His presence, that it's all I can do to fight back tears. And a few sneaked out. I won't lie. I tried to stop it and hide it, but Bonnie noticed and asked if I was sad. I told her no, they were happy tears. Last week was all about getting back to the presence of God with other believers. About being so overwhelmed with thankfulness that He can love a sinner like me. Knowing Christ paid for all of my past, present, and future sins. It's all taken care of. I'm not worthy, but Christ has made me worthy by taking my sins away and paying for them so I don't have to. Christ is the bridge to the Father. I felt overwhelmed with love. Almost like a "welcome home" from God. Glad to have you back. Enjoy what you've been missing... that kind of thing.
Yesterday, I went again for the early Contemporary service. And this time most of the songs we sung in praise and worship I already knew from The Message radio station, and KLOVE, and AirOne and just playing Top Christian music on Alexa at home. Tom called me (he's currently working in Alaska, so he splits his time between Alaska and being home in South Carolina) while they were still practicing before service started, and he asked what in the world was all of that. I laughed. I said it's the practice session for the Praise and Worship team, and they are rockin' it! I love it! He asked why I was answering the phone during church. I said no one was here yet, it was just practice.
This past Sunday was less about being overwhelmed with being in the presence of God, and more about praising and singing and swaying and tapping my feet with praise, thankfulness, and freedom of worship. I could stay there for hours.
Let me encourage you today. If you have not been to church in a while, why not go back. Just the one time. See if you feel like that's where you need to be. If not, visit another church. Maybe you've even had friends or family invite you to church, and it was just easier to decline, than take a chance and give it a try. I've been there. I've done that. I get it. But if you have the slightest inclination that it could be good for your soul, take a chance. Go. You don't even have to tell anyone you are going. You can hide in the back. It's not about who sees you. It's about sitting with God in the presence of brothers and sisters in Christ. There is something supernatural about being with other Christians in church. Remember that Scripture...
"For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them."
(Matthew 18:20 ESV)
It's true. God doesn't lie. And His promises are always fulfilled. Spending time alone with God is important. It's vital to get through this life, in my opinion. But there's just something unexplainable about meeting together with other brothers and sisters. Don't miss out on this blessing. It can do wonders for your soul.
Let us pray and agree together in Christ...
Thank You, God, for churches that teach Your Word, honor Your name, and help equip us with the knowledge we need to get through day to day living. I pray for each one reading this prayer and praying along with me. Help them, Father.
For the sister who has a burden so deep, she can't even speak it out loud... encourage her. Help her take up the full armor of God and fight the true enemy. Not the circumstances he throws at us, but the culprit behind our battle, the devil himself. There is power in Your name. Your power is immeasurable. Open up the flood gates in her life and fill her cup to overflowing, that she can see she is not alone. So she can see the victory is already her's in Christ. Take her burden. Help her lay it down at Your feet. You want to help her. She just has to ask You.
For the sister who is lonely, work in someone near her to reach out to her. Invite her to church. To tell her how You are a friend who will never leave us or forsake us. You are with us even when we don't feel You there, You are. And You love her. Wrap Your love around her like a warm blanket so she can feel You near. Comfort her. Encourage her.
For the sister who is sick, give her healing in the name of Jesus. Maybe there is no cure. Or maybe it's something that goes beyond the physical. Whatever it is, Father, You are our Healer. You are greater than any disease. Sometimes, Father, healing is not the answer. Sometimes the answer is to refine us through sickness, through trials, through suffering. We know that all things work toward good for those who love the Lord. So if healing is not the answer, then I pray that You teach her, that You guide her, that You give her the strength to go through the sickness so that she can be an example to others how to live even if things aren't how she wants them to be. She will meet doctors, nurses, and so many others because of her sickness that otherwise she never would have met. She can be a testimony to them all. Even if she never knows how she touched someone's life.
For the sister who cries herself to sleep because her life isn't where she wants it to be, let her cling to You. Let her continue to read Your Word. Because there is healing in Your Word. Let her continue to pray and fight the spiritual battle going on all around her. She's not helpless. She's a child of God. She's Your daughter, and You care for her. Give her everything she needs to get through this time. Because she needs You. And I hurt for her, Father. Whisper through Your Holy Spirit the Scriptures she learned as a child. Help her open her Bible to find encouragement and promises from You. Because again, God, all of Your promises are fulfilled. Thank You for that!
There are many others with specific needs not mentioned here. I pray for every single one. Let there be an outpouring of Your Holy Spirit to reach every person praying with me now. Every circumstance. Every problem. Every mountain of impossible situations. Because nothing is too hard for You. Whatever it is that's going on, teach them how to live through it, because one day their child, their friend, their co-worker, will be faced with a similar situation, and they are going to need love and support and understanding. The understanding that can only come because the person encouraging them has been through it too. And it does pass. It does get better.
In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.