I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
And now here we are,
standing inside your gates, O Jerusalem. – Psalm 122
I always feel drawn close to the presence of God, and I always learn more than I thought possible; it’s true every week. But this Sunday in particular – September 28 (photo above) – I found myself soaking in more of God than I could contain. The worship was authentic and emotional, the preaching was both instructive and inspirational, and my adult-ed class fed me even though I was the one teaching.
I shouldn’t be surprised. When we come to church with open hearts and minds, intentionally putting ourselves in a place where we purpose to strengthen our faith and encourage our brothers and sisters, we will always encounter blessing.
POOR IN SPIRIT: Rebekah built her sermon around the first of The Beatitudes, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
- “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
- “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”
- “Blessed are those who recognize they are spiritually helpless. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”
- “They are blessed who realize their spiritual poverty, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” (Matthew 5:3 – four versions)
Once it’s posted, you can find Rebekah’s message at “Weekly Sermons.” The series begins with an introduction – September 14 – and will last several weeks.
For me, the first Beatitude is the perfect word to compliment my recent 13-week study from Paul’s letter to the Romans. The whole point is this: 1) Humanity is broken, and we have lost the foundational connection to God we were created to enjoy. 2) We cannot achieve a restored relationship with the Creator by our own efforts. 3) Realizing our spiritual poverty opens the door to redemption through Jesus.
The law highlights our spiritual bankruptcy; Jesus then steps in to actually be our sufficiency.
Rebekah retold the story of the self-righteous pharisee and the tax-collector. The pharisee expected God to be impressed with his piety, as well as everyone else within earshot. The other man approached downcast, castigating himself; “God, please be merciful on me, a sinner.” –Luke 18:9-14
“The tax-collector went home justified,” Rebekah said, “because his own spiritual poverty left room for God’s great compassion and love.” Again, I recommend listening to yesterday’s message once it is posted (probably Tuesday).
WORSHIP: I’m fairly reserved when it comes to worship; typically not teary-eyed or much of a hand-raiser. But this week my heart fell wide open while we were singing the song, “Let the River Flow.” The singing created an opening for the Spirit to pour into me, and then flow out beyond. I let the river flow, and God touched me quite profoundly.
Seriously, friends, if you don’t make worship a regular part of your routine, then do yourself a favor and become involved a faith community where it’s all about Jesus. If you show up at WFPC, your receptors will pick up this constant “buzz” of electricity, a spiritual presence that permeates everything we do.
- It’s not about the preacher (although she really is amazingly wonderful).
- It’s not about the music (although our Praise Band is beyond awesome, and the sanctuary choir rocks).
- It’s not about the mission (although we’re the most active church I know in this area).
- It’s not about the facility (although our beautiful campus is state of the art) ….
BUT… it is about the open-spirited hearts and minds of the people who meet here, the Living Gospel that animates our witness, and the wide channel of Love that the Spirit has opened between God and this world.
So get hooked up with church. There’s absolutely no downside to becoming more active in a vibrant faith community. It may well transform your entire life!
In love, and because of love – DEREK