Week Three: Finding God’s Fingerprints on a Personal Retreat

Week Three 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 #3, Sept. 21, 2014

Something a little different – A Day of Personal Retreat

Bible:  Word Study – Pride, Proud, Arrogant, Arrogance

I looked up every occurrence of these words via my concordance and then studied what God says about it. That led me to make notes for further study on the following passages: Hezekiah and Sennacherib of Assyria (Is. 9, 37, 38), Sodom, Jerusalem and Samaria (Ez. 16), Moab (Jer. 48), Romans 11

I listened to John Piper podcast messages: Renewing Women” and “Preparing to Know Christ Deeply.”

Finding God's Fingerprints Week Three on Personal Retreat

Fingerprints:

It was my birthday and Fred was working. The day was gorgeous, and I took a day of personal retreat. In addition to the word study above, I took a one-hour walk listening to sermon podcasts.

Personal Notes:

I also rested, read, and napped much of the day. I was amazed at how much energy and focus I had Monday-Friday the week following! Reminded again that I have to take care of myself – body, soul and spirit – if I expect God’s blessing on my work.

How about you? Any place you noticed God’s fingerprints this week?

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Week Two: Finding God’s Fingerprints on Stained Glass Windows

Week Two 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 #2, Sept. 14, 2014

A large Presbyterian Church with about 300 in attendance at the traditional service

Message: Matt. 18:21-35 “The Power of Forgiveness”

Finding Fingerprints on Stained Glass Windows

Fingerprints:

First observation this week:

The sanctuary itself is beautiful. A vaulted wooden ceiling, stained glass, wonderful acoustics for the organ and bells that open the service. God made creation beautiful, and He placed in us the ability to make things beautiful.

The visual beauty was an unexpectedly effective call to worship for me.

In spite of the formality of the sanctuary, the pastor was friendly and informal in his greeting and opening remarks to the congregation. The members of the congregation were very friendly, and I felt genuinely welcomed. The passing of the peace of Christ was no rushed ritual; people were warm and chatty and seemed genuinely glad to greet one another and share the unity of the body of Christ.

The music was so enjoyable for me. I got to hold a hymnal and sing a written harmony line. I got to sing all 4 stanzas, and some of them had words like “Thine” in them. I didn’t realize how precious more traditional church music is to me. It felt like genuine worship, it just felt like a different kind of worship.

The responsive readings/prayers and the congregational affirmation of faith gave me a chance to join my voice with others in the proclamation of truth, and the written record of those words went home with me in the bulletin so I can look at them again in my personal devotional times.

The pastor’s message was both well-researched and personal. He shared about his own struggles with keeping a record of wrongs. His 20-minute message was simple but challenging. And his charge and blessing to the congregation at the end of the service was a strong and clear reminder that we step out of the doors of the sanctuary into a mission that God has given us to share Him with the world.

Personal Notes:

Again, it was not easy to get out the door to the service. I have had a lot of emotional and relational work to do with people close to me in the last week, and that combined with a busy few days of physical work left me struggling to get up and moving this morning. In addition, I had a situation with one of my kids hanging over my head, and was trying to decide whether to go ahead and address it in the morning or just wait until after church. Fred is working today, so I had to go by myself – but oddly that ended up being much easier than I had anticipated once I made up my mind that I was going. I think that instead of worrying about how he was feeling about the visit to a strange congregation, I was able to just take care of myself and any uneasiness I felt.

For the message to be about forgiveness when all week I have been hurting over the brokenness between us and some folks in our life was the grace of God. The word was a timely blessing and challenge to me.

We had Gathering (a small group that meets monthly with no particular agenda except to share with one another what God is doing in our lives by His word, in prayer, and through circumstances) with the Culleys and the Smythes last Thursday evening, and Kym posed a great question to me:

“What would it look like if the Bride of Christ DID unite in love, focus on commonalities instead of differences, and honor their uniqueness while refusing to exclude those who worship differently?”

I realized that Jesus Himself gave the answer in John 17:23 – The world will see and know that God sent Jesus and loved the world even as He loved His own Son.

How about you? Any place you noticed God’s fingerprints this week?

Week One – Finding God’s Fingerprints After a Very Hard Weekend

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”

Finding Fingerprints After a Very Hard Weekend

Fingerprints:

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.

Personal Notes:

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?

Finding Fingerprints – Looking to see what God is up to in my community

2013 was a year in which I couldn’t balance the rest of life with blogging here.

2014 was a year of making changes so that life was in much better balance.

And now it is fall of 2014 and I am finally embarking on an adventure that has been in my heart for over a year. Finally the time is right. Finally God’s call was clear to both my husband and me. Finally I am ready to go out…

Finding Fingerprints.

Sabrina Justison Finding Fingerprints

I am looking for God’s fingerprints.

I want to see what He is up to in groups of believers all over my community.

I want to find Him in liturgical worship services.

In casual house gatherings.

In contemporary mega churches.

In medium-sized traditional services.

And everywhere in between.

The followers of Jesus Christ spend a lot of time comparing notes to find the places where we disagree. I would like to focus my attention for a bit on noting all the places where we DO agree.

I want to find God’s fingerprints in places filled with pipe organ music and stained glass. In warehouses filled with folding chairs. Outside under the open sky. In someone’s family room.

I want to worship the God who is so BIG that He never runs out of ideas for making new people, each one unique from all those who have been born before.

I won’t agree with every member of every congregation on every little thing. But I will pray before I enter their doors. I will worship while I am among them. And I will write to the glory of Jesus who prayed for us in the garden:

John 17:21-23

“…that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one: I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You have sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”