7/22/2018

I Saw God at Bono

Do you know what I saw at Bono (Church of Christ) last Sunday?  I saw God.  That's correct.  I saw Jesus.  The Holy Spirit, too.  They were still here Wednesday!

How did I see God?  In His people…  God has some of His best people here; He lives in them and works through them.  So I tell you I saw His family, His sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of Jesus.  And they’re my family, too, because God has made us all one family.  We are not all alike… some of us are hands, some eyes, some hearts… whatever, but we’re body, and family.  God’s our Father, Jesus is our brother, and the Spirit takes us as His house.

God indwells His people.  You sit as the Holy One. The praises of Israel are your throne” (Psalm 22:3).  Since we individually are God’s temple, surely we, gathered together are a mighty temple where He comes and dwells.”  (see I Corinthians 6:19).  A couple of quotes I found I think are worth repeating and remembering:

“God has an address where He lives; it’s spelled P.R.A.I.S.E.” (from The Lost Art of Pure Worship by James Goll)  “Quit trying to find God, and start worshiping Him and He will find you.”  (from God Dwells in the Midst of Our Praise by Steve Berger).

He indwells the praises of His people, whether they’re offered as words of prayer, words of song, words of Scripture, words of preaching, words of greeting, words of information, and He hears our unspoken praises and thoughts!  The Bible tells us God the Father lives in us – “You are from God, little children, and have conquered… because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  Jesus lives in us – God wanted to make known to them the glorious riches of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).  And the Spirit lives in us – “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9).

Who could not have been grateful to be led in the prayer that Robert Clay led.  The Spirit filled his thoughts as he thanked God for our worship and our freedom to do it, our fellowship, our study together, and our kingdom work in the world?y Spirit praying through him. I was so grateful I given that blessing by God.

And the way our brother Josh Cureton read from Psalm 39. When I heard the words of v.12, "hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; do not hold your peace at my tears" ... was that not our very own prayer?

And did not brother Louis take us to the place God shows his love and unites us as a family? And the words "There is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God," is that not dying Jesus and the raised Jesus that binds us at the table?

The songs, hymns and Spiritual songs were all about the miracle of God's love for us. I thought they surrounded our prayers and scripture reading and Communion in wonderful ways. Was not Jesus himself leading our worship? Isn't this what the book of Hebrews declares (2.11-12 & 8.1-2)?

The weak link was the sermon. I admit that I worked harder on today's sermon than I have on a sermon in a very long time. Lamentations is admittedly a challenging book. But it is my prayer that the sermon showed 2 Timothy 3.15-16 to be true of this great book. Jesus joins us in our laments.

I saw God. I saw Jesus. I saw God's Spirit move in and through us today. I was encouraged. I was uplifted. I was enriched. I was thankful.

It was good to be there.

There wThThere was power loose as Josh Cureton, a farmer, a planting and harvesting man himself, read John 15:1-9 to set up the sermon and remind us of the wonderful but sobering news that we are all branches growing out of Jesus Who supplies us with nutrients of life to produce abundant fruit for Him.

More power came as Alex lead us in “Our God Is an Awesome God” and called us to bow down and worship at God’s Great Throne.  And didn’t it stir us when a young minister, Reid, stepped out as a leader.  Like so many of us in our early years of discipleship, he doesn’t have a full understanding of what he’s offering God, but he still feels a “call” to offer all he can and he wants to lead singing.  Who knows how God takes that offering and what He can make of it?  Surely something great for the kingdom!  And how thrilling it is to know that God is pushing the influence and work of Rick Griffin on down the stream of time?

So many of us don’t like announcements – we yawn and ho-hum them, check our phones, or read our bulletins.  But, think about it… in our announcements, as Danny or others make them, family love goes center stage.  They put us in mind that we are connected to each other as a family and a body… and that some precious parts are happy, some are troubled, some are weary, sick, or concerned about loved ones.  They set the stage for us to pray, weeping with those who are weeping and rejoicing with those who are rejoicing. 

More than that, they tell us about kingdom work we can do.  If we ourselves don’t see work God puts under our noses to do, announcements tell us about it, or summon us to be involved in good works that our brothers and sisters are doing.

They often invite us to fellowship together or study together.  God is in them, knocking on our heart’s door to connect with, work with, and bless, bless, bless.

So I affirm that God indwells the words of bulletins as the information in them call us to love and serve and join with each other in work or recreation. 

Is the Holy Spirit not here in power when we sing about “Surveying Jesus’ Wondrous Cross,” remembering what happened there and what it means for us, and we commune with Heaven and each other because we know we pardoned there, one and all, and now Jesus comes to the table to eat with us, and we can think joyfully about one day sitting at His Kingdom table with Him.  The Godhead rejoices as we come to the table with Them and each other! 

Oh, oh, oh… Is God not in the way our kids enthusiastically run to rattle their coins (and greenbacks) into their treasure box?  Of course He is!  And was He not equally present and smiling as adults joyfully gave to keep moving God’s work of this little part of the kingdom forward… and frowning as others ignored this grace?

I’ll stop for now… because I think you have surely picked up the point I’m making. 

BREAK

I hope you saw what I was saying and that perspective enriched our songs and prayers and Scripture reading and announcements.  Did you notice the songs were about God’s family and the sweetness of the fellowship we share with each other and our God?  I hope so… Paul said he wanted to “sing with understanding,” because singing feeds our souls with more than what the preacher or Bible class teacher say.

But I want to add more to what I was doing before…

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were here in our sermon last week.  Perhaps it was delivered by the most imperfect of men, but the words were studied, and prayed over, and came from the Ancient Words… about what a church energized by God can do in the world, messed up or not.  And we clearly heard God’s call for us individually to get busy to do our part. 

Last Sunday, I saw God in the foyer after worship ended as I got information from a dear sister… telling me of how she and her family, already greatly strapped in some ways but stepping out in faith, have offered a from-the-heart gift to Jesus by deciding to house and feed Him – really one of “the least these my brothers” – but Jesus, to be sure, since He said doing it for “the least” would be exactly the same as housing and feeding Him.  Wistfully, I thought about how badly we need to create a way for us to “testify” of the good works God is doing through us.

Don’t we all glimpse God on Sunday mornings when we have one of those special times of prayer requests… someone comes before us (to us) asking for support (first through prayer but always other ways following), and we get the blessed privilege of circling up and putting our arms around a beloved one, or each other… Last week, it was Pam, as we and she prayed together that she can be more useful to the Lord in ministry… and Mary Jo and Jagger as they were trying to sort through their wishes and worries about their dear mother and grand-mother, and we and they prayed God’s gentleness and mercy for the ordeal she faced.  We called God and He joined those two circles with His ear and His power and a smile at His people! 

Then God is present and smiling, too, as circles of people stand ‘round when all’s said and done and catch up with each other’s news or make plans to be together.

Don’t doubt it… God was present when this church’s shepherds gathered last Sunday afternoon to discuss, plan, and pray for the precious “sheep” here, and for our continued dedication and service and vision for God’s mission. 

Don’t doubt it… Our women unanimously know God joined their Common Thread fellowship, as they shared food and love, welcomed newcomers, and heard Anita Keith’s Spirit-guided words, from-the-heart words, bristling with blessings for all from her wisdom and experience and servant-heartedness.  God joined each table to forge new bonds, or stronger bonds, between sisters in Christ who share Him as their Common Thread.

God came to visit those who joined the lively discussion that launched itself as the Auditorium Bible Class wrestled with understanding David know that God was there with wisdom and power. 

Our youth group played together… sure, God is in that… and He’s surely present as Bryson opens and explains the Word for them.  God’s there, planting His seeds… some to sprout soon, some to take a generation to grow, but to grow – what He plants always grows.

It doesn’t end with Sunday midnight.  Monday, a quiet member, about as unobtrusive as we have, showed up at my desk to discuss with the joy of the Lord the pleasure his heart gets from his support of a good work in a faraway city, and the good that is being done be his little offering with homeless and troubled children.

And I must mention Wednesday night… the sweet communion of a meal together, a “steering committee” putting its heads together to plan future blessings, middle Darrell leading us in lively songs, and Christian veteran Dud Owens speaking of faith (as if he knows how it works and what it does in a lifetime on the job).  Surely you saw the Spirit walk him up the stage stairs with his cane and well-worn King James Bible.  Then, in classes, we felt God’s presence as we studied and discussed and ministered (Ladies’ Class mailings).

For wherever two or three people come together in my name, I am there, right among you!” said Jesus (Matthew 18:20 PH).

Satan makes us think that even in the church we’re “us” and “them,” but really we’re just “us,” and God makes us so much better together!

The greatest benefit and blessing we get by assembling together is not some well-phrased and eloquently-delivered sermon by Richard or Bible class lesson by Jody or Mark or David… or our ever-so-faithful children’s class teachers.  Those things are special ingredients in the recipe, for sure.  But the greatest blessings are in being family, together, getting to love and be loved, challenge and be challenged – fellowshipping, giving to and receiving from the redeemed people God has gathered together.  Our greatest blessing being together is being reminded God loves us and we are His family, that He indwells our praises, and exits these doors with us to face our respective worlds with faith, giving out His salt, light, and love.