The church on fire

I am 52 years old and I am keenly aware of this fact.  My body is showing its age.  I don’t move as quickly because I am painfully aware of joints and muscles that before worked without having to be prodded along.  I am a realist and know that I will never be as agile as I was in my twenties.  But I’m also an optimist.  I will continue to try!  My strategy for fighting the aging process is a simple two-step plan:  learn what works and do it.

Researching dietary needs for a healthy body and natural remedies for what ails me has become an on-going process.  My diet consists mostly of raw fruits and veggies.  I do feel much better and yes, I do miss pasta.  At this age, I do better with controlling what goes into my body.  But where I am having difficulty is forcing my body to exercise.  Isn’t it strange that when I was young, I ate junk food and exercised like an Olympian but now, I eat healthy and can’t force myself off the couch most days? In searching for an answer, I have discovered my blog point for the day.

From Kindergarten and throughout all my years of schooling, I was a cheerleader.  I was on a team and thrived.  We practiced as a team and we performed as a team.  Through my 20s, 30s, and 40s I was always a member of a health club and participated in or taught aerobic classes.  A group working together and encouraging each other motivates me.  Aha, that’s it.  Now, I’m trying to motivate myself to exercise alone and it is just not working.

This reminds me of a story I heard about a young man telling his grandfather why church was not necessary.  As they sat next to the fire, the grandfather listened and patiently played with the poker in the ashes.  He scooped out a blazing hot chunk of ash and pushed it to the side.  The more the young man pleaded his case the duller that ash became until it no longer had any fire left in it.  Eventually the boy stopped, assured he had proven his case.  His grandfather pointed to the cold, dead chunk of coal and said, “This is the result of one pulling away from the church.”

When God’s manifest presence is dwelling within a Spirit-filled group of believers, He speaks through every function of the church.  His Spirit draws the seeker into the building sometimes as they are driving by or walking through the door.  I experienced this the strongest when visiting Brooklyn Tabernacle.  Mike and I were spiritually pulled toward the church.  We were anxious to get inside, as were the hundreds upon hundreds of people standing in a line stretched around the block.  God was calling us to Himself.  Once inside we stood to sing praises and it was as if my feet left the floor and I was rising into His glory.  When the three-hour service ended, it seemed as if we had only been there ten minutes. Every word spoken in song and message felt as if it were directly from Him.  I was convicted of sin and broken to repentance.  I was encouraged and challenged to continue seeking more of Him.  The prayer times were so powerful it was as if there were no roof on the building and we were one with Him.  Every hug from the members spoke His love into my soul.   As a corporate body we were burning coals in His presence.

Why are so many churches not on fire?  Why is it that we can do church but leave unchanged without hearing His voice?  I see it as a two-fold problem. First, church leaders have programed God out of the service in order to provide a slick presentation of their own skills in the predetermined time allotted.    Second, believers have ceased expecting to encounter God.  Church is about being with God.  What is on God’s heart should be our focus.  Quieting our hearts to hear His voice.  Yielding our hearts to obey His Word.  Giving our hearts to worship as living sacrifices.  When our focus is entirely God focused, we will encounter Him and leave transformed.  The evidence of hearing God on Sunday morning is a changed life lived throughout the week.

What do you think would happen, if?

Leaders threw out their schedules and clocks and prayed, “Holy Spirit of God take control of this service.”

Pastors and teachers walked away from their notes and declared, “Almighty God, speak Your words to Your people.”

Believers came into the service with hearts ready to hear a fresh word from God as they prayed, “Father, I will wait upon You no matter how long it takes until You speak truth into my heart.”

Why not try these prayers this week?  We know prayer works, so do it.  You can’t lose anything.  But you can gain a fiery heart from a fresh encounter this Sunday.  Please, write and tell me about it!

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