In Ephesians 1:16, Paul thanks God for his brothers & sisters in Christ. Spend time in prayer today praying for your friends in the faith.
As a church, we do a good job of loving each other during trials & tragedy. Just don’t forget them in a few weeks/months. Grief lingers.
Proverbs 18:24 (ESV) says, “… there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” That’s what a real church family looks like!
I’ve been spending time with someone special. To be honest, I’ve known him for a while. We were on-again, off-again for years, and although I was always the one who got busy or bored and drifted away, he welcomed me back with open arms every time. I’ve never known someone so patient; he’s obviously smitten for me.
Have you ever read Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages? I highly recommend it, if you haven’t. This guy I was just telling you about really seems to like our quality time together, but words of affirmation score pretty high, as well. He has written me so many love notes that I’ve lost count. Come to think of it, he also showers me with gifts for no particular reason, so I would add gift-giving to his languages, too. He’s a keeper, for sure.
I suppose when I think about it, I’ve made a few sacrifices for him – I have given up free time, attempted things outside of my comfort zone, donated money – but nothing compares to the stuff he’s done for me. I don’t even know where to begin, but I do know that if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Perhaps it is apparent by now that I’m referring to my relationship with Jesus. I owe my entire life to him, and I’ve given him plenty of reasons to doubt me and walk away from our relationship, but he has been stubbornly faithful never to leave me. In 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (ESV), we read that we have “eternal comfort and good hope through grace” because of Jesus, and I can attest to that fact through my personal experiences. I also believe firmly that Romans 8:38-39 is right on target when it says that nothing can separate us from his love.
How would you describe your faith-walk with the Lord in relationship terms? Is he your confidante because you talk to him often and openly? Are things strained and distant between you? Are you just pals who hang out every week or whenever you happen to make it to church? Maybe you’re not sure where things stand, and you don’t have a know-that-you-know-that-you-know kind of assurance in your faith. If that’s you, then I encourage you to check out 1 John 5:13, which reminds us that we can be certain of our eternal plans. If you’re not even sure about what a faith-walk looks like, then talk to your Life group leaders or pastors; they’ll bring you up to speed. Wherever you are in your faith-walk, know this: you never have to walk alone. There’s a reason we use the term “church family,” because we’re in this together.
In the hopes of sending the kids out of the house each morning in the right mindset, I taped a Dr. Seuss quote to the door that reads: “Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.” Similar to the cliché about having only one opportunity to make a first impression, if you see someone infrequently, then your attitude and actions from that day will stick in their memory, whether good or bad. Unfortunately for parents, it seems like the times when you want the kids to make the best impression, they do completely the opposite and act like hyenas in a boxing ring.
As a church family, we have a similar opportunity every week to make a good impression. Every detail matters – from having enough greeters in the parking lot to enough toilet paper in the restrooms, from the printed bulletin to a handshake during welcome time, from the music to the sermon. What do we want visitors (and members, for that matter) to remember as they leave the building each week?
I’ve been guilty sometimes of showing up to church in a grumpy mood, stressed out or preoccupied. It pains me to think that I may not have smiled at someone who really needed to be uplifted that particular day (even more than I may have) or didn’t go a few steps out of my way to say “hi” to a new person because I wasn’t feeling sociable. Those aren’t the things I want them to remember. I want them to remember having a personal encounter with God because of their worship experience that morning.
Psalm 111 provides a great example of a lasting impression. The author begins by declaring, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation” (v. 1, ESV). Surrounded by people who are creating a first impression of us (and Christ in us, consequently), will we put aside the distractions and focus on giving thanks to God with all that we are?
The good news is that even though we are human and screw things up more often than we’d like to admit, God is still so gracious and faithful. Today marks another fall and another new school year for us as a church family to strive to live authentically (albeit, imperfectly) in community together. Looking back we can claim dozens upon dozens of people baptized and hundreds of lives changed. God deserves our praise and thanksgiving! The psalmist wrote, “He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and merciful” (v. 4). But, looking forward our hearts must still ache to say, “Oh, there are more stories God has for this fall and into the new year.” If we are faithful to live out our calling as a church family, just imagine the stories we will be telling in the fall of 2015. And what about the stories to come in the years that follow? It starts now! It starts today!
Originally posted June 2, 2013 (revised)