Sunday, March 30, 2008

Church today

Last week it was announced that we would have a guest speaker in church today and, I admit, I wasn't looking forward to it. I don't know why, but I like the regularity of a single pastor preaching every week. But I knew I would be there this morning because I am participating in a skit for the Women's Retreat in a couple weeks and we were meeting before church to rehearse.

Some days it just seems like God reaches down and places things along the path, just for you. Just so you can see his hand as you walk along a road whose destination you are uncertain of. Today was one of those days.

We met early to rehearse our skit, and then two of the members had to leave to get ready for their Sunday school commitments. That left me and Shannon talking for a while, something we don't normally get the opportunity to do without the interruption of kids or other people. As the conversation progressed, I shared with her a burden I have been carrying in my heart for months. It just came out in the conversation and we had a good talk. And she prayed with me. And I realized that this was fellowship. This is what had been lacking in my life the last couple years. God's love shared through the lives and words of other believers. There was no condemnation, no disappointment, only genuine concern, love, and prayer. And so I entered the worship service with a portion of the burden lifted.

I opened the bulletin and right there was a prayer focus for the beginning of the service and this week. It was Isaiah 49:13

"The Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones."

It was as though that verse was there for me. I took comfort in its words as we began to sing. I don't remember the name of the song, but one of the worship songs today spoke of the name of the Lord being a tower of refuge. It is His name that has the power to save. And again I was thankful. Thankful that He has saved me, and thankful that He is my refuge and my strength.

The sermon today was about being God's chosen people, from 1 Peter. The last point was that being chosen should change how we live. And though I've read this verse before, it stood out today and I saw two things I don't know that I've seen before. The passage was from 1 Peter 2, verses 11 and 12

"Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Life such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."

That verse hit home. I am called to live my life in such a way that others, especially those closest to me, who are with me day in and day out, see Christ in all I do. Forming close relationships with those around me is good, but not if I get sloppy and begin living like they do. I am called to be set apart so that others may see God. I am not called to be 97% like them and 3% different. My life should be distinctly different, and that is sometimes a hard way to live. I want to let my guard down around the ones I am close to, but in doing so I am tempted to fall into their patterns and their attitudes, which are not to be my own. And so I remember that HE is my refuge when I am weary, not other people. And HE is my strength when I am weak and don't think I can live to the standard He has put before me. I am to be an example to the non-Christians He has brought into my life, not the other way around. I am to be love to those who cannot yet see where it comes from. I am to be a light to those who are in darkness.

The two things from the passage in 1 Peter that I don't remember noticing before are in verse 12. The first is that little clause that says, "though they accuse you of doing wrong," . It doesn't say IF they accuse you, it says though. We will be accused of things. We will probably be falsely accused. But our duty is to please the Lord, not men. We are to remain faithful to Him, not swayed by the opinions of man. And that is much easier said than done. But our reward is in heaven, not here on Earth, and we do well to remember that. This Earth is a battleground, and we are at war. Our victory is certain, but we do not claim the prize until the race is won.

The second clause that caught my attention is at the very end of verse 12. We are supposed to live righteous lives so that those who don't believe "may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." The impact our actions have is long lasting. We can do what is right over and over and over and never see any result. But those deeds testify God's righteousness to the end and He may use them to draw others to Himself years later. It is not our job to save people. It is our job to remain faithful and obedient to Him so that His work may be carried out through us.

And, with my burden still on my heart, I suddenly find myself singing a song that has long been a favorite of mine. Once again, I can't help but feel as though God reached down and put this song in my heart today as a reminder that He is still God, He is still sovereign, and He is still in control.
Trust and obey,
for there's no other way
to be happy in Jesus,
but to trust and obey.

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