Strength and Joy in Numbers – November 22, 2015

I didn’t grow up in church.  So when I started going as a teenager, I was very shy and apprehensive.  I didn’t think I’d like it.  When I rode the church van for the first time, and walked through the doors, I wanted to see what was going on.  See, I had a cousin who started going, and she seemed to really be having fun.

The pastor and his wife there had a profound influence on my life. They loved, accepted and made me feel welcome.  The pastor’s wife heard that I could carry a tune and of my musical training in the school marching band, and encouraged me to sing.  Eventually, she believed that I could sing a solo in front of the church.  I wasn’t so sure and was scared that I wouldn’t hit the higher notes.  Yet, she nurtured my love of music and told me to use it for God’s glory.  Though I don’t sing professionally, and spent many years of my life in karaoke bars not singing for the Lord (which is a part of my life where I had walked away from God like the prodigal son – by His grace I came back), I love singing in church today because of her.  Mostly I just sing from my pew and give thanks.  My daughter loves to sing too, and she plans on majoring in Worship Arts when she goes off to college next year.  I believe God was able to help me pass on my love of music because of the woman at church who made the difference in my life.

I’m so grateful that God give us fellowship.  I’ve been able to lean on my church family during times of struggle and heartache.  I heard a phrase once that pain shared is pain divided.  I believe that is definitely true.

Now, I’m definitely not saying that going to church is what saves us, or makes us Christian.  No, the Bible says that in order to be saved, we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, that he died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected on the third day, and that our sins are paid in full because of Him.  He is faithful to forgive us and save us if we ask Him to forgive us and come into our hearts.  But I learned about the love of Christ through having people like my pastor, his wife, and kind believers that I met at a youth camp that summer explain it to me.

The Word says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.  For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.”  In our church family, we as believers lift one another up and hold one another accountable.  We help keep one another faithful to our Lord.

My church family also brings me joy and makes me laugh, and I love that families can share with others the good things that God is doing in our lives too, like when we give praises at our church on Wednesdays during a time right before service where we also take prayer requests.

I’ll never forget one of the first times that I went to youth camp as a teen with my church.  I had a friend my age, and she and I were ornery.  At the camp, you could buy postcards to send home, and they also had a “mail call” and would call names of anyone that had received a postcard or letter.  Campers could also “send” postcards to one another.

Well, my friend and I had this bright idea that we were going to play a joke on our pastor.  We bought a postcard and addressed it to him, and then covered it with bright pink lipstick prints.  We howled with laughter as his face turned bright red as they called him up to the podium and the person calling his name said, “Brother, it looks like you have an admirer.”  We still stay in touch with that pastor and his family, and he laughs whenever he remembers that story.

Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

I encourage you to be a part of your local church services today.  Sometimes it takes a little while to find the church that is the right fit for you, but you will find that being a part of a family of believers who meet together regularly is fun, and many churches have lots of activities and volunteer opportunities.  I know most of us like to eat, and many churches have fellowship luncheons/dinners occasionally.

Plus, if you’ve never heard a large group of people singing “Amazing Grace” or “My Chains Are Gone,” it will give you goosebumps.  That’s what it’s all about after all.  Christ set us free from shame and condemnation, so that we can enjoy worship and give thanks to Him with all of our hearts.

“Lord, I thank You today for our church families.  I know for me I have learned what genuine family love is through my church family.  Thank You for the opportunity today and every week to gather in worship, to sing and hear of all of the ways in which You bless us.  Help us as believers to reach out and encourage someone in the Lord today, and if there are any reading this that don’t know of Your grace, I pray that You will speak to their hearts so they can understand how much they are loved by You.  Let us tell of Your great love and mercy, and be examples in how we live.  I pray that You will get the honor and the glory in all that we do.  Thank You Lord for your love.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

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