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I sat down in church last Sunday and glanced across the aisles, my eyes skimming people I’ve known for years. Our kids grew up together. Some taught in Sunday School. Others helped with Vacation Bible School. A few taught in our Christian school.
I’m sure they called down more than one of my children for misbehavior during class.
So many ministries down through the years.
My mind’s eye flooded with memories. Church picnics, small group meetings in homes, dinners in the fellowship hall.
I’ve prayed with these people over their children, their aging parents, their families. We’ve shared burdens, lifting up one another. So many heartaches, so many answered prayers.
“Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)
My church isn’t perfect. I’ve attended there 20 years, and during that time, I’ve never met a single perfect person.
But that’s what church is about.
Church is full of imperfect, sanctified souls.
My station is usually at the piano, but this morning, I enjoyed a day off to worship and reflect.
“Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16
I can’t sing a single song all the way through without tears springing up, my voice breaking. I do more good playing the piano than I do singing (I feel sorry for the people in front of me).
Do you know why that is?
It’s because of two monumental occasions in my life.
About 6 years ago, our worship pastor passed away unexpectedly. He was only a few years older than me. The music team and I had served alongside him for years.
He died on a Saturday.
We falteringly gathered the next morning to worship, our church body broken and hurting.
I sat at the piano, aware of sniffling and soft crying rippling throughout the sanctuary. The pastor attempted a prayer, and oh, how he grieved.
It took a long time to regroup from that loss.
Today, a bench sits out front with his name engraved on it. We picked ourselves back up and moved on, but oh, how we miss Paul.
We will always miss Paul.
Ever since that day, I’ve been unable to lift up my praise without tears.
Tears of sadness, and yet – tears of joy, for I know where Paul is. And we’ll be there too someday – in our perfect church.
“That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:27)
The other reason I cannot sing without blubbering is due to the fact that during that same time period, I experienced an inner turmoil of doubt within my heart.
The conflict rose from deep inside, for I still performed all my outer church duties, no one ever suspecting my internal darkness.
Until the time of Paul’s death.
I came face to face with my sin, repented of my struggle, and experienced a fresh sense of commitment. And slowly, I emerged from the deep abyss, my soul reawakening, renewed, refreshed.
And I am so thankful.
So thankful for grace.
For a second chance to serve God.
I cannot sing of God’s grace without tears, and you know what? I’m glad I can’t.
I don’t ever want to take advantage of God’s grace again. But only through accountability to this body of Christ will I accomplish this goal.
This body of Christ, these sisters and brothers –
they are my family.
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10-11)
I am thankful for:
Farmer John, the elderly gentleman who lost his wife and stood on the brink of death himself two years ago. He just remarried and took his bride to the beach, and looks as shiny as a new penny!
The two brave little brothers, who just this morning stood up front holding hands, leading the whole church in a stanza of “Jesus loves me”.
The family who, through the tragic loss of their son due to drug addiction, founded a safe house. Through this ministry, many lives have been changed and shaken free from the vices of this horrible monster. These men have in turn minister to our church, and we are beyond blessed. Sometimes I’m not sure who the bigger beneficiary is.
My 8th-grade teacher, Mr. Hildebrand – now 87 years old, armed with an artillery of “amens” and raised hands, praising God for His faithfulness. He was saved years ago out of a life of total deprivation and since then, he’s never forgotten what he was saved from, never ceased to praise his Savior.
My own parents, a former pastor and faithful wife, who never give up on God, and never cease to encourage others with their presence and words of encouragement, even though their health is drastically altered.
You need a church family, and here’s why:
1. To encourage and uplift one another.
Life is hard enough to do on your own. You need brothers and sisters in Christ who will pray for you and they need you to pray for and uplift them.
2. To be accountable to one another.
It is because others prayed and came alongside me that I was able to return to a strong faith in God. We encourage each other to stay on the right path.
3. To be Shepherded by a pastor who teaches the Word, and to learn from him and other wise servants in the church.
This enhances growth in the Christian life.
We sang my favorite song this morning (of course I got choked up halfway through).
It’s called, “Grace Unmeasured”, and I leave you with the video to reflect on the blessings you have in your church and the riches of grace available in Christ.
Do you have a home church to attend? If not, what is holding you back?