I felt like I was on the receiving end all day long. I went to bed last night with a full heart and an overwhelming love and gratitude for God and His family. Here’s a sample of what I got:
A sermon that served as a reminder of God’s merciful grace and His presence in my life. It seemed tailor-made for me.
Lots of warm hugs
Some sisters specifically asked how I was doing with my boys leaving home. They hugged me and told me they were thinking about me.
A couple of friends know of a confidential situation that is weighing on me. They took the time to listen and assured me of their prayers.
A new Christian led a public prayer for the first time. It was heart-felt and beautiful. I was reminded of God’s power to transform lives. I was filled with joy and grinned all the way through the prayer.
A couple of men responded to the invitation yesterday morning. Others went up to sit with them on the front row to offer support. I love that. It makes me feel good.
Last night a godly, faithful widow responded to the invitation. She mentioned a specific sin she struggled with and asked for forgiveness and help to overcome it. I was so touched by her humility and courage. My love and respect for her grew even more. She went forward to ask for help but I wonder if she knows how much she helped me?
The fellowship seemed to linger longer yesterday. We stood in the parking lot “forever” chatting. No one seemed in a hurry to head home. We talked about nothing overly significant…just flowers, school, our kids. On the way home I told Neal how dear it is to just share LIFE with so many fellow Christians.
The tone of this post is completely self-focused. And really, I left some things out that I was able to take away from yesterday. The focus of our coming together to worship shouldn’t be “what can I get out of this?” “Does it meet my needs?” We are to gather together to GIVE. We’re to bring our hearts to God (Matt. 15:8,9). We’re to bring our sacrificial offering (2 Cor. 9:7). We’re to encourage and exhort one another (Heb. 10:24,25). We’re to offer up praise (Acts 2:41-47). And yet, I couldn’t help but notice all that I GOT.
Yesterday wasn’t an isolated case. I always “get” when I gather with fellow Christians to worship and learn and grow. Even though my purpose and focus should be on bringing, giving, and offering, it’s amazing how I can leave with a heart so full of everything I have taken in. It reminds me of the saying, “You can’t out-give God” (Luke 6:38).
“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
Last night after dinner, Neal explained to his cousin, Naomi, that we have never lived close to our families, and that he would’ve liked our sons to have had more opportunities to be with their grandparents and other family members. Naomi replied, “But you’ve had your church family.”
Oh yes, we have had our church family! Whether in AL, VA, or CO, we’ve had brothers and sisters and role models and friends. When we were young newlyweds and then new parents, we had couples take us under their wing and act as our own parents would. Our boys have had adopted grandparents and mentors. What a treasured blessing! But that’s just one aspect of the beauty of the Lord’s church. Consider some other blessings of being in God’s Family:
Continual support and encouragement (Heb. 10:24,25)
The much sought after feeling of belonging and community (Eph. 2:19)
Being with people who try to treat others with love, honor, and respect (Rom. 12:10)
Available help in time of need (Rom. 12:13)
Never having to suffer alone (Rom. 12:15; 1 Cor. 12:26)
A feeling of usefulness and purpose (1 Cor. 12:14-25)
Togetherness, devotion (Acts 2:42-47)
Fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7)
Always having family (1 Tim. 5:1,2)
Being loved even when unlovable (John 13:34,35)
Being in God’s household (Eph. 2:19-22)
Pure and sincere love (1 Pet. 1:22)
Sometimes relationships in physical families are severed for various reasons. Or sometimes it’s just not possible to be with our physical family as often as we’d like because they live so far away. But God’s Family is God’s gift to us. In God’s Family we always have loving relationships.
Sadly, some have not felt the love or sense of belonging in their church family. If this is the case for you, there are a couple of things you can do:
Make sure you are doing your part to reach out, love, serve, and sacrifice for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes we are quick to point out when others let us down but neglect to consider our own lack of involvement. Maybe no one called you when you missed a service or two. Before feeling indignant, do some soul-searching. How many people did you call that week? Focus on being an active, loving, giving member of your local congregation.
Remember the church is worldwide. Perhaps you worship with a small congregation and when experiencing a difficult situation you received little to no support (and maybe even received criticism or were the object of gossip). In those cases, it helps to remember that the Lord’s family consists of more than just your local congregation. There may be another one in the next town over. You can find brothers and sisters (and their love and support) nearby and worldwide. Look for strong, encouraging members and groups on Facebook. Write letters of encouragement to stateside missionaries or those serving on foreign lands. There are all kinds of ways to connect and serve in God’s Family.
God’s people are wonderful. None of us are perfect, and we may even let each other down occasionally, but I’m thankful for this blessing of our dear church family. I can’t help but think that if we each strive to be even more close and loving in the Lord’s church, those in the world around us will want to enjoy this blessing, too.