Tag Archives: devotion

This is my church

A story in Larry Davies’ Turning Points: “Every Sunday for nearly three years Walter had a routine. Just before 10:00 a.m. he would open the doors to Epworth and prepare the church for worship. If the weather was cold, he would build a fire in the old wood stove. If it was hot, he would open all the windows and distribute the hand fans with a picture of Jesus on one side and an ad for a local funeral home on the other.

Next, Walter would open the Bible located on top of the wooden pulpit and read the selected Scripture for that week. Then it would be time for prayer. Often there were folks in the community included on Walter’s list. The latest national and world news would be mentioned. But always, Walter ended every prayer with a plea for God to remember and bless his beloved church.

Every Sunday, Walter had a routine, but what makes this story so unique is that with very few exceptions, Walter began and ended the Sunday morning worship service … alone. Alone? Why? Many years ago, Epworth church was built on land donated by a neighboring farmer, but if for any reason they stopped meeting regularly, if Walter stopped opening the church doors every Sunday, the property would revert to the original owners … Epworth church would cease to exist.”

One Sunday, a family new to the area came to the church. They were attracted to the small chapel and curious about what happened there. They decided to stay and worship.  Then they came back, inviting their neighbors. Before too long, more people attended. A minister was hired. During all that time, Walter remained faithful. The circumstances tempted him to give up, but he wouldn’t. When asked why, he responded, “This is my church.” That was it.

God is doing new things among us. This is our church. We, too, must remain faithful!

Please note the important dates before us as we seek to discern God’s direction and ask for His blessing. Next Sunday, we gather at the Table of the Lord for Communion. Following the service, our annual church conference will take place. Significant items will be presented. Be there. This is our church.

 

Joy

My friend Don invited me to accompany him and his son on a mission trip to Ghana thirteen years ago. While we were in country, we visited schools, churches, and prisons. We were hosted by a remarkable man, James Baidoo, whose passion for Christ and for His church was incredibly inspiring. While pastoring his church, he was mentoring young leaders and planting new churches. His access to high government officials opened doors for us to share the Gospel in a variety of settings.

We went to several prisons where I preached in conditions that would make American prisons look like plush resorts. On one of those occasions, we were standing in an open courtyard. Above us in a cell block, a group of Muslims were shouting, trying to drown out our worship service. Everywhere we went, there was a hunger for the hope of the Gospel.

We attended several worship services with James and his people. Listening to some of his prize students in Bible study and worship, we realized that God’s work was being done with skill and devotion. Speaking to those congregations through an interpreter was both challenging and rewarding. The people were engaged and vocal as they heard God’s Word. There were times when I was pretty certain that the interpreter was preaching a better sermon than I was!

There were many lasting impressions from our time in Ghana. James, in humility and joy, let us see his handiwork among students his churches sponsored; in prison ministry where he developed teachers, leaders, and counselors; and in churches where he mentored those who were discipling new  believers and leading new congregations.

As encouraging as these scenarios were to each of us, our best shared moments occurred when these Christians in Ghana gave their offerings. I can only describe it as a demonstration of joy. Several offerings were taken in each service. There were different purpose for each. There were no wealthy people present; many had little to give … but they gave. Plates were not passed. People didn’t walk forward to put their gifts in a receptacle. No, they danced to the altar, singing and laughing.

Everybody participated, including the three Americans. I have video of those moments. I will be glad to share that with you for a fee.

It was such an honor to be among such people. We were humbled by their hospitality and their dedication. We learned a great deal from a gifted leader and a joyous people.

All of that experience flooded back to me this week. I want that joy in my life and in yours. We probably won’t be instituting an offering dance any time soon, but we need to exhibit more joy in our worship and certainly in our giving.

Most of you understand that our ministry budget calls for weekly income just above $30,000. The last four Sundays our offerings have totaled: 8/31 – $9,949; 9/7 – $21,369; 9/14 – $19,584; and 9/21 – $10,215. You don’t need a major in math to know we cannot continue like this. No, we won’t be dancing to the front this week, but inserting some joy and dedication could really help