Week One of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!
Sunday #1, Sept. 7, 2014
An Assemblies of God service with about 200 in attendance.
Message: Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 “Eternity”
First, observations about the church service.
This was way cool: those who need prayer simply step into the aisles when invited, and believers gather around them to pray. No one need come to the altar down front. No special pray-ers are in charge. The body ministers to the needs with love and prayer.
Communion was celebrated, and the pastor very clearly, succinctly and warmly explained that they practice “open communion” which means that membership at Church XYZ is not necessary, just salvation in Jesus Christ. He also explained that the elements would be passed in trays, that each person should take the two cups stacked together and find the bread in the lower cup, and that all believers would hold the elements until all have been served and we would partake together. It made it easy to participate in the observance of the body and blood of Christ for even a first-time visitor. There was no fear of offending others or embarrassing oneself.
Communion meditation from I Timothy 1:15-17 spoke to a specific hurt in my husband Fred’s heart. The pastor gave the illustration of us reaching out to receive God’s grace with one hand while we allow the devil to twist the other hand behind our backs with condemnation. God wants us to reach both hands heavenward in gratitude and freedom, knowing that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1)
This church’s former pastor of 20 years was in attendance that Sunday and it was beautiful to see the respect and affection with which the current pastor acknowledged him and his shepherding of the congregation there. There was no sense of defensiveness, no need to protect his own position, no competitive nonsense.
It was not easy to get to church this morning. We had just left our home church of over 9 years, and it was painful to make that final separation. But this weekend I was ready; I was excited. And I got sick. “Girl stuff” had me flat on my back in bed Friday night and all day Saturday trying to deal with feeling lousy.
Then we had a very difficult conversation with one of Fred’s siblings about some long-standing hurts that just can’t seem to be healed. That had Fred really down last night and this morning.
We pushed through anyway, and I found great encouragement in the devotion below from Frances J. Roberts’ Come Away My Beloved. And then the motor on the well pump broke, and we found our house without running water. *sigh*
We got there anyway, and the conclusion of the sermon encouraged all of us to articulate what “crazy idea” God had placed in our hearts, to what effort with eternal value we felt drawn. And I smiled, because this feels like just such a crazy idea.
From Come Away My Beloved, “The Last Great Outpouring”:
Behold, you stand on the threshold of a new day. For I have truly great things in store for you. Yes, you have not power to conceive what I am about to do. For I will bring to pass a new thing. You will rejoice exceedingly. You have heard of the showers, but I say to you: I will send a mighty downpour. Many have cried out to Me from hungry hearts and have received of My fullness and seen My glory; but I say to you: In the day of the great deluge which is coming, many will come to know the reality of My power who have until now not even dreamed of such a thing.
Many who are scoffers and many who are honest doubters will find themselves swept away on the swelling tide of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For this is the time of the last great outpouring. This is the day of preparation for the coming of the Lord. Many shall rejoice together in the Spirit’s work who are now at sword’s point over doctrinal disputes and barriers of tradition.
But let your heart be encouraged; for a new day is dawning: a day of repentance and a day of gathering for My people. For they shall not continue to be barricaded and isolated behind walls of prejudice. I am the Lord, and I will be worshiped in sprit and in truth, and not in the bigotry of sectarianism and narrowness of denominationalism. The world is waiting for a robust Church to minister to its needs; and how can an ailing, dismembered Body bring healing to a sick and dying world?
Surely I will pour out My Spirit, and by prophecies, by signs and wonders, by many different types of miracles, and by healings, I will reaffirm the veracity of My Word and bring the message of the Gospel of Redemption to many who would otherwise never give heed. I am the Alpha and the Omega. Stand firm in Me. Never waver.
Be faithful regardless of apparent failures and discouragements; for My word shall surely be fulfilled, and your eyes shall see revival in proportions such as never before witnessed in the history of the human race.
Keep your eye on the end of the course. Victory is secured already. Do not let the hurdles cause you consternation. Stay in the running. Truly, I am at your side. According to each day shall your strength be; and the race is not won by the swift, but the obedient shall receive the prize.
How about you? Any place you noticed God’s fingerprints this week?