I was looking forward to gathering with my brothers and sisters this morning for worship. I’ve missed it and didn’t realize how much.
It’s been an incredibly difficult few weeks filled with many long hours on the road not knowing what to expect on the other end but totally at peace with whatever we found. The circumstances of each day left us feeling like we were standing precariously at the edge of a precipice and well aware that at any time we would find ourselves plunging to the depths of emotions and simultaneously clinging to the truths that hold us firmly.
Life and death decisions had to be made. Many sleepless nights were spent in a recliner or a cot listening to the hum and beeping of monitors, watching the numbers and lines jump erratically on the screen, listening to the warning alarms. By the time we headed home we were spent physically, emotionally and yes spiritually. Many of you know exactly what I am talking about.
Once home we were overwhelmed with all that was left undone before leaving as well as what needed to be done now that we were home. Managing a loved one’s healthcare from a distance has many challenges and moving parts. Friday brought new issues to be dealt with and a whole different set of challenges and by Saturday evening we were spent once again.
I woke up Sunday empty and in need of filling, excited to be a part of the gathering of believers. I had no idea as I headed that way what God had in store for me.
The service was beginning as I took my seat; David was serving and would join me shortly. Matty stepped up to the platform and as he prayed I began to experience true worship in my heart. My attention then turned to the baptism of two men and I rejoiced that they, who had been outside the family, were now brothers! The music began and we stood. I stood there alone, but not alone. As I sang the tears spilled out and rolled down my cheeks. The lyrics were like the healing balm of Gilead to my hurting and weary soul. God’s love enveloped me and I was being infused with His strength and comforted by the Holy Spirit’s presence in the sanctuary.
I had come into the sanctuary in a fog and disoriented from the events in recent weeks, weary and burdened even though I had spent time in private worship prior to arriving to corporate worship this morning. As a matter of fact I had watched several worship services these past weeks to stay centered but there was something different this morning.
Tony stepped up to the platform and masterfully led us through Ephesians 2:10 helping us to see that we were God’s masterpiece, created for good works and that each of us have a purpose, value and a destiny and then challenged us to join God in re-creating the world. As he preached, although for me the spiritual haze was thick, the breakthrough came, along with affirmation, in the context of worship.
I was reminded of the Psalmist’s word “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and portion forever.” “For me it is good to be near God” – (Psalm 73:26,28)
That is when I realized how I had taken attending these weekly gatherings for granted. It has been a spiritual discipline since I came to Christ. After all it’s what believers do. However, today was when I realized just how important it is for us to be part of corporate worship on a regular basis.
Corporate worship is a vital part of our sanctification, our growth in being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). Corporate worship is for building us up, our encouragement and comforting us in our times of trouble and seeing God at work in our life and the lives of others.
These are times when the Holy Spirit takes the Scripture read, the prayers spoken, the songs sung, or the truth preached and presses it right to the point of our need.
As we participate in corporate worship God loves not only to transform our minds but also to change our hearts “in the moment”. That is what happened to me today!
Thank you Matty for your prayer; Steve for the songs chosen and the heart of worship with which they were led; Tony for the truth you not only presented but made sure we understood and then called us to action. The three of you gave us the opportunity to embrace being led and to receive and respond to the Spirit’s leading and not simply pursue God on our own terms taking the lead in our times of private worship.
Because of your leadership I was able to be refreshed, renewed and to re-focus, not only to be ready for what the near future holds, but also so that I can continue to serve and fulfill my destiny!
Today was like watching one of those “picture within a picture” TVs. I was participating in the local worship service; at the same time in the smaller picture of my heart God was schooling me. I was reminded of the importance of gathering together as the body of Christ, unknowingly drawing strength and comfort from the Spirit in each one of us and centering us once again on what is important, Jesus Christ. These times together heightens our awareness that we are not alone in having our souls satisfied in Him.
I’m extremely grateful for the reminder of how important corporate worship is for believers! It is where we find encouragement in all the other spiritual habits vital to the Christian life. Believers are meant to be together, to learn together, worship together, to pray for each other, and encourage each other.
I came to the sanctuary ready for worship but experienced so much more! Thank you Matty, Steve and Tony for leading us well.
From time to time God lays something on my husband’s heart that he wants to share. Today is one of those days! (I know he really needs a website of his own, we’re working on that!) I am proud to share this platform with him. Please welcome my husband, David Lawson as he shares his heart on an ever increasing sin issue for both males and females alike!
In a recent IMB blog (International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention), “How Porn is Sidelining Missionaries” by Greg Handley pointedly addressed the problem of porn with missionaries and church planters. In his heartbreaking blog Greg pleas with porn-strugglers to get help.
In this brief reply, I want to offer help to those who are struggling. If you are trapped in the struggle you feel helpless and embarrassed, I understand. But there is help! There are real and practical steps you can take to give you freedom.
As a young man, I was sexually immoral with a significant number of women, some of whom were married. This lifestyle lasted until I met my wife, BJ. And, by God’s grace, there hasn’t been anyone else since our first date. To go into detail would only sidetrack the point of this post, but I was as bad as I could be and I’m still too embarrassed to discuss most of it.
Three years into our marriage we became Christians. Overwhelmed by God’s grace and kindness, we never missed a church service. We loved the people, the church, the Word and, most of all, we loved God. But trouble wasn’t far behind. When the pastor began to preach, I began to remember and relive old relationships. The battle for my mind was on, and try as I might, I always lost. I was humiliated and embarrassed. I was afraid to talk to anyone, even my wife, for fear of receiving the rejection I knew I so richly deserved.
Help came in a way I never expected. Someone, who was unaware of my struggles, taught on Romans 12:1-2.
“I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
He suggested the path to a transformed mind is Scripture memory. I was desperate enough to try, and I chose Romans 6.
I wrote the entire chapter on 3 X 5 index cards, one or two verses on each card, and carried the cards with me when I went to work. I would memorize each card, one at a time. My habit was to read the card I was working on three times a day. I would read the verse repeatedly until I had emphasized each word in the verse.
Let me give you an example from Romans 6:1
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?”
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?”
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?”
I would read the verse until I had emphasized each word in the verse. Then every time inappropriate thoughts or images came to mind I pulled out my index cards and started working on my memorization. I read and recited the verses until the battle was over.
Before I finished memorizing Romans 6, the war was won.
Four things happened
- The enemy helped me memorize Scripture.
- My mind was no longer being conformed to the world’s way of thinking.
- My thought patterns were God-honoring.
- Love replaced lust.
One final thing
I also mediated on what I had memorized. I let the verses roll around my mind and I pondered the application to my personal life. I wondered what it looked like in my own life to be united with Christ in the likeness of His death (Rom. 6:5).
For the sake of your own life, try it!
For the sake of your family, try it!
For the sake of the lost, try it!
For the sake of the Kingdom of God, try it!
For the glory of the great name of the One who saved you, stop being conformed into the mold of this world and be a mold breaker, transformed into the image of Christ by the renewing of your mind!
I am sitting here thinking about the metanarrative (Big Story) of the Bible (the story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration) and how it explains the smaller stories in the Bible. It’s not a random line of thought nor is it a scholarly pursuit. I’m actually working on a 5 year Kids Camp series.
As I’m contemplating this, the air is pierced with the sound of a mother’s heart shattering, underscored by the quiet weeping of those too young to process such a loss as this.
Family and about 30 teens are gathered in the two waiting rooms next to ours and line the hallway, trying to sort out the circumstances that drew them all together at this particular moment in time.
The medical team had come to deliver news that no mother should ever have to hear.
The young man had made terrible choices. The night before he chose to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and was shot as a result.
“What does this have to do with the Big Story of the Bible?”you may ask. The answer is “EVERYTHING!”
There were others in the waiting rooms too. It was the church ministering God’s mercy and love declaring Gods plan of redemption as they loved on the boy’s mother, family and peers. The presence of these believers was telling the Big Story of the Bible as a whole.
They were fulfilling the purpose God had for them from before the beginning of time. In fact, they were created for such a time as this.
A mentor of mine once told me, “Times of crisis were natural times of ministry for all believers.” I understood that in terms of what “I could do.” Send cards, texts, visit the hospital, take a meal etc. Yes we should.
But it’s much bigger than that! It’s the metanarrative, the over arching story of redemption. Times of crisis are the church’s opportunity to tell the story of redemption.
Each one of us is a “smaller story” that is part of the bigger story! We are all created in God’s image for God’s glory. We are part of His plan from the very beginning. But because of the fall the world is now fractured. Without Christ we are broken, dead in our sins and without hope.
As believers we must live with our eyes wide open to the opportunities around us to share the redemption story! It is the role we play in the metanarrative.
What is the National Day of Prayer?
The National Day of prayer is an annual day of observance held on the first Thursday of May. It was designated by the United States Congress as the day when people are asked “to turn to God in prayer and meditation”. Days of prayer have a long history in America. Read more about their history
Each year since its inception, the president has signed a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. This year President Trump proclaimed May 3 as the National Day of prayer. Read the proclamation
Desperate times require Desperate measures
These are desperate times for our nation! Daily we see the moral fiber of our country being shredded. How has a country whose motto is “One Nation under God” ended up in such disarray? It is my personal opinion there are a multitude of reasons. However, I believe the two core problems are the failure of the church to share the gospel which resulted in the church’s lack of influence in today’s culture, and the collapse of the family as God established it are in the forefront.
The call of the church is to “Go and make disciples of[a all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) In order to make disciples we must first share the gospel of Christ with them. The church, instead of going out and making disciples, has built walls and hoped people came in to be disciples. We have remained inside and not reached out.
It has been said that “As the family goes, so goes the nation!” Since the beginning families have been close to God’s heart. In fact, they were God’s idea in the first place. God established the family to be the bedrock of society, to be the basic building blocks of nations, to reveal the kingdom of Christ here on earth. God’s plan and desire has always been for parents to raise up their children to know and love Him and walk in His ways. (Deuteronomy 6:6).
There is an all out war on marriage and the family. Families are not only broken but they are being redefined. The church has not stood firm on the truth of the Word concerning divorce and marriage, nor have they stood against those who seek to redefine what God instituted. Christian couples have not lived out the Word of God nor have they assumed their God given responsibility to teach their children the word so that they would fear God. Church and family have not been salt and light to a dying world. It’s no wonder we are in such a state of decay.
As believers we need to unite and pray for our nation, not because the congress and President designate this as the National Day of prayer, but because it is what God has called us to do. Yes we join in today, however it doesn’t stop there! The church, which we are a part of, needs to confess its part (both corporately and individually) in the decay of this once great nation. As a body and individually we need to intentionally set aside times to come together and pray for our nation.
How do we pray?
Pray for the church
- To teach the Word of God so as to encourage and strengthen the body
- To equip the body to minister to those around them
- To lead by example
- To ask God to reveal any unconfessed sin/unforgiveness
- To ask God for wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of His will; and strength
- To love God with whole heart and love people as themselves
- To honor and glorify God in all they do
- To grow strong in the Word; obey it and the courage to do so
- To share the gospel from whatever platform they find themselves on
- To become educated about the elections, both national and local and to vote. (Not every candidate will be a believer but each one will have a platform. Vote the platform which is closest to what God’s heart is)
- To ask God to reveal unconfessed sin/unforgiveness
- To honor and glorify God
- To be committed to growing together and staying together
- To be committed to teaching the children God’s word and how to obey it
- To share the gospel from whatever platform you find yourselves on
- To committing to put Jesus on display in every aspect of your lives
Pray for all those in authority
President, Vice President, Congressman, Senators (by name)
Police officers, local officials (by name)
Pray for Unity among authorities, individual churches, families
A nation divided against itself cannot stand. A house divided against itself cannot stand – Mark 3:24-25
Pray for eyes and ears to be opened to see the power of God as never before, to see the truth, hearts to obey and the courage to do so.
God has a plan and a purpose for everything
Remember, even though we don’t understand what is going on around us God does! He reminds us that He is with us, He will help us, He is sovereign and has not lost control but has a plan and His purposes will prevail bringing honor and glory to Him.
We can be assured, that He hears our prayers and He knows our needs. There’s great power in uniting together, turning our hearts towards God, and praying on behalf of America, our nation.
I believe we are at a crossroads in the history of our nation and there is nothing more important for us to do than pray. However, our real hope is found, not in ourselves, not in our leaders, not in the economy, not in the condition of our nation today, or any other day. “Our hope comes from the Lord.” Psalm 62:5
Learn more about the History of Prayer in America.
A few years ago I met a man named Woodrow, and I can’t get him off of my mind. I met him in a church on a Sunday morning and the following Wednesday I found myself still thinking about him.
I walked in the door of the church where David preached that impactful Sunday morning, he was preaching for our friend Tommy who had been in the hospital earlier that week. It’s a very sweet church and everyone is very friendly, so it isn’t unusual to walk in and have someone greet you with a smile and a handshake that you know they really mean. I was blessed as I watched a woman enter whose son had died tragically the week before and when the women in the vestibule saw her they surrounded her and “did life” with her. They wept with her, hugged her neck, encouraged and prayed for her right there. I overheard her say something like “I couldn’t not come and worship with my church family today”.
That interlude was enough to bless me, and to tell you the truth I could have gone home right then. I was blessed to watch the body do what the body is supposed to do, Love God with all their heart, soul and mind and love their neighbor as themselves. As it got closer to time for Sunday School to start more people arrived and they were asking Carol how their pastor was doing, was there anything they could do to help out? etc. In the midst of their concern for Carol and Tommy they didn’t overlook me standing there, they greeted me and engaged in conversation with me. Tommy and Carol have done well teaching and training their church how to truly love God by loving people.
I was thinking about the circumstances which had brought us to this particular place on this Sunday morning and was thanking God for all Carol and Tommy had invested in us in both ministry and friendship over the years. I was suddenly aware of someone speaking to me. His voice is what drew me out of my fog, but it was his smile that drew me to his heart.
He stood before me with a smile the size of Texas and he said “Hi, I am Woodrow!”. I replied, “Hi Woodrow I am BJ”, as I reached out my hand to shake his. Woodrow’s hand went right past mine as he wrapped his arms around me and gave me a huge bear hug, all the while he was smiling and his eyes were sparkling. It wasn’t a lengthy encounter, in fact as soon as he gave me that great big hug he was off to greet someone else who had caught his eye. It wasn’t too long after Woodrow parted that I realized he was a thief, you see Woodrow in the twinkle of an eye had stolen my heart. I still can’t get him off of my mind.
What I didn’t tell you about Woodrow is that he was about 70, he only came up to my shoulder, he had large ears and the cutest face on which he kept that huge smile. His heart was like pure gold! Woodrow had special needs; some may even say he is “simple”. Except for that brief engagement, I don’t know much about Woodrow personally, other than he lived with his parents until they passed away. At that time his niece Lynda and her husband became his caretaker. They were unable to care for him anymore and at the time of our meeting he lived in a home with others who had special needs. Lynda and Clint took him to their home every weekend and brought him to church on Sunday, Woodrow’s favorite day of the week.
Although small in stature, in my eyes he was a spiritual giant who lived out God’s plan and purpose for his life with everything he had. In his simple, child like faith Woodrow was doing that which God wants from us more than anything, to Love Him with all our heart, and with all our soul and with all our mind; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It was obvious that God lived in him. One day Woodrow will stand confidently before God’s throne perfected in love, sporting a grin the size of Texas, and perhaps while giving Him a bear hug, he will hear God say “Well done my good and faithful servant”.
What about you?1 John 4 tells us that loving others is what gives us confidence before God’s throne in the Day of Judgment – how are you doing with that? Will you stand confidently or will you bow in shame? Just askin’.
Woodrow thank you for invading my space and stealing my heart! I want to be just like you when I grow up. Woodrow passed away a few years ago now, but he still lives on in my heart and the heart of many others. My prayer is that I will never be able to get Woodrow off of my mind!
Today a community is grieving the tragic loss of one of their own.
I am well acquainted with the loss of friends and family, each one has left a huge hole in my heart, and the grieving process is never easy. However, twice in recent years the news of a tragic loss has impacted me like none other.
A little over three years ago the message was delivered via a text.
I’ll never forget the impact of those words, it was as if someone had punched me in the stomach and knocked the wind out of me. Waves of nausea washed over me. My ears began to ring and my vision went dark, I thought I was going to pass out.
Still gasping for air I dropped to my knees and began to pray but words eluded me. I heard a sound I didn’t recognize. There it was again. I’m still not sure whether it was an audible sound or that I simply heard it in my spirit, a groaning that seemed to come from my heart. All I could eek out was ” Oh God!”
Today was the same.
Earlier this morning the phone rang, and my daughter’s voice quivered as she delivered the tragic news.
As word is getting out and the body begins to absorb the news, I’m finding once again that my response is not uncommon.
Person after person is telling me of being weighed down with an incredible mantel of grief that nearly crushes the very breath out of them.
Heaven is being bombarded with the intercessory prayers of the saints, begging for mercy, peace and comfort for those who are left behind. Sometimes with words, sometimes with deep, deep groaning.
Once again we join the fellowship of suffering by all who knew her, groaning under mantles of mourning.
For the second time I’m wondering…
Could it be in that weeping and carrying the mantle of mourning, that we are allowing those who are suffering to “breathe” and take care of business. That is until the time comes when they are taken by the hand by the God of all comfort to walk them through – Piercing their darkness with His love, Healing their broken hearts, Turning their mourning into joy again!
If that is true, I’m all in!
In closing, I am reminded that we are called to a life of both weeping and rejoicing—but with a twist. Romans 12:15 challenges us to look outside ourselves to the needs of others. We are to, Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Here’s the twist!
If we rejoice only in our own successes, we miss the wonder of celebrating the power of the Lord, who desires to accomplish His purposes in and through others as well.
If we mourn only our own losses, we miss out on the opportunity of “being there” for those who are hurting by showing them compassion and therefore making God known to a hurting world!
Life is filled with the extremes of joy and sorrow, victory and defeat. But we have been given the privilege of entering into those moments in people’s lives to see the grace of God at work.
Don’t miss it!
I leave you with this thought.
There is HOPE in Christ for both the family and the community! This is the only thing that can calm our grieving hearts.
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.Romans 8:26-28
To read previous blog click here Joy Comes in the Mourning!