First Church, Church First?

I love reading Acts, and learning about the first Church and how they lived and interacted with each other and those who came against them. Most of the early years had believers who had followed Jesus during his time on earth, or who knew him throughout his life and even those who had never met him but knew of him. It was an exciting time for the Apostles as they watched their new baby Church growing each day with converts whose life was transformed by the name of their beloved Christ. They were strong and dynamic leaders who did not shy away from discipline and teaching. There was structure and community and they each devoted themselves to knowing God more and more and encouraged their congregations to do the same. It would be unusual for a believer not to want to know more, not to want to grow and mature.

Acts 2 vs 42 – 47

Fast forward 2000 years to the Church of God today. I know many who would love their churches to be more like the church of Acts, myself being one of them. I know its not possible, and not because I dont think we can do it. We are a different generation and its a completely different world now. The first church was the benefit system for a start. It was a hard life for those who were orphaned and those who were widows. There is a safety net today that was not there then. It does not mean we don’t have an obligation to still look after these precious people anyway, but we don’t seem to think we have to. I know many older people who are using Food Banks while they are members of a church. Why? Because we dont think they are our responsibility anymore. They are. We are still a community whether we lived 2000 years ago or in the 21st century.

The church described in Acts was a healthy growing community. It was devoted to God and each other, devoted to prayer and fellowship. Church is like an organic mass of people. It needs things to grow, it needs structure and support. It got that from prayer, Gods living water and teaching. Strong leadership but not to the point it was suffocated and its voice was drowned out. We need exactly the same things to grow today. We are no different in these ways than then, even if our world is a very different place to live. We might not be able to be the church of Acts in many ways, like living as a community, but we can still care and love each other as Christ loves us. How unlike those in the world around us would we be if that is the attitude we took. If we stop being so concerned about how we look if we pray for our friends and family, the shopkeeper who is having a bad day, the officer handing out parking tickets, the guy who serves our coffee in the cafe. We would start to see change and would be known as a Christian without having to say anything because we would be so different and it would make an impact.

Living Stones

The Church of God is built of us all, we are the living stones held together by the mortar of Jesus Christ. We are a family of stones, all connected by our Lord. A family of believers who are here because the first Church who walked the Earth with Jesus, gave all they had and all they were to make sure that the Good news and the Gospel of Jesus was spread across the entire world. They died for their belief, gave up all they had, their families, homes, jobs, the lot. They wanted to make sure that until the day their Lord came back to Earth, the message He sent them out with never faded or died with Him. They did their utmost, and we are here today in the 21st Century still with His Gospel. If we sit and think of all the years the same message has been the same, how it has changed the world and peoples lives as it passed from one year into the next, we would be there for a while. Our Church family, our spiritual relatives, were martyred and tortured to make sure we go to heaven with them. They were so brave, and lived for their Lord. What about us? Will the message of hope be the same message in 100 years? How about 500? What would we give up to make sure more people go to heaven with us? Would we give our lives, desires, families, to make sure we save as many as we can? What will it take from the 21st century believers to make sure Christ is known throughout the world?

Living stones are connected and a community. It doesnt matter the miles we are apart, even if we are on separate continents. We are all motivated by the desire to honour, love and live for our Lord. He has saved us from horrors we could never describe. He has saved us from ourselves, our sins, the sin of human nature that is opposed to God. The separation that was created with the first sin has been bridged for us. That sacrifice is the most precious gift we can ever be given. If we don’t do anything else in this life, we need to make sure that is the one thing we pay attention to and accept. We learn dependence, on God and each other. We belong to a safe community that has unity in the Lord who it loves. We learn to be cared for and learn to be who we were intended to be before sin and separation pulled us away.

1 Peter 2 vs 5 “You also as living stones are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.

Come let us go up

Isaiah 2 vs 3. “Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths”.

I have already looked at Haggai, and bringing timber to build the house of the Lord. This verse is for when our house is built, our home for our Lord.

The House of the Lord was on a mountain, Mount Zion, and will be there in the Millennial ¬†Kingdom of Christ. As in Israel today and the Old Testament, the Temple of God is high up. To get there, you travel up the mountain. The Temple was a beacon, a light of God’s glory. All could see it and could worship God with sacrifices and drink offerings. The City where God dwelt was sacred. It was where the King of Kings was, where the King of Israel of God lived and worshipped. This city was the most important city in the Old Testament life and worship of those who loved and lived for God. They travelled regularly there to worship and offer gifts to the Lord.

We are the Church of God. We are the beacons now, the Temple. We are to live God-centred lives as a community of believers and lovers of the Most High God. It is through us that the Church grows, through us bringing the Gospel of Christ to others and seeing salvation happen around our local communities.

True Christianity, living for Christ, loving others, having faith, is not religion. We have a relationship with God and He relates to us as His Children. It is this that makes us different. Our God wants to relate to us, to know us fully, to adopt us as His children and give us an inheritance with His true Son Jesus. No other religion in the world has this beautiful relationship to offer. That is the difference that we need to show those who are desperate. Those who have no one. Those who need love. Those who have no purpose. A life of love and acceptance is there ready waiting for them, but what are we doing to show it to them?

If we are the light on the hill, a city shining, what are we showing? Are we showing discord, unforgiveness, dislike, disdain? Or are we showing others love, joy, acceptance, hospitality? Do we love everyone who happens to step through the door of our churches?

I want to go up to the mountain of the Lord. I want to sit at His feet and just be. With Him. He is my groom, I am His Bride. The Church is the beautiful bride. She is the most beautiful bride the universe has ever seen. I dont want to go with stained gowns, with an unloving attitude to others. I want to see my Church family be the very best they can be for their Groom as well.

We are building a Church of people. Millions of us all worshipping and praising God together. Lets keep bringing our timber to the House and keep building a House for God that grows and gets more beautiful every day. This is how we make ourselves ready for Him.

Let him go?

So my youngest son started his Secondary school this week. He looked so smart and grown up in his uniform, and I thought about how this was the uniform that he may wear for the rest of his life. Jacket and tie is the uniform for many millions of office and professional workers just in this country alone. So was it right that I was so emotional and felt such a big wrench in my body that I could actually feel going through me as my child/growing boy/young man walked into the school gates for the first day of the next 5 years of teaching and GCSE work? Am I holding my child back by not wanting him to grow up so fast? Should I be this emotional? Am I able to let him go enough to explore the new world of big school and not let him feel the fear I have? Do I trust God enough to keep him safe emotionally, physically and mentally for the pressures and pleasures he will face?
I truly believe that my God has both of my children in His amazingly gentle protective hands. I know there are a lot of people praying for them, who love them, and who look out for them. They do have a support network and not just from their physical family, but from their spiritual family. I know that its not just me placing my son before God in prayer and making sure he is kept there safely. I cannot express how reassuring it is to know how many people love my little boy that much, that they spend time with him, they give time and energy to him to make sure he knows how he is loved. It is priceless and I cannot tell them enough how much we appreciate it.
So with all that knowledge, can I let my son give me back the apron string I have made him keep hold of? Can I unravel it so that he can go become the person he is made to be? The feeling of being lost is mine to deal with, not his. He won’t see tears, but only support for the big weeks he is having. I have to let him go and be a guide when he needs one, to be here at all times. He is still a child and will always be mine, but he has wings to stretch out, feeling his surroundings as he goes. I am very proud of him, and that will never change because I know God has him close to Him, in His hands, in His heart.
I can let go.

Praise is my strength

Praise, not complaining. Praise is my strength, my joy, my peace. The Word of God is where my praise comes from. Its where my strength is the written word. The Word is where my God and Saviour is. He is in every letter, every word, every book.
Have you noticed that when we complain or whine, that we seem so tired? It is as if it takes from us. What is the answer to this? The only thing that can change us from the inside out…. Praise to and of our Father God!
God and praise of, and to Him goes before us into any battle we have. It shows itself in how we react to others, how we relate to everyone we have in our life or meet in the street. It shows itself in how we spend our times with God, and even the depths we go in the Word.
God loves our praise, and if we love Him as much as we sing about in church on a Sunday, we will want to do what He loves us to do. God knows what is best for us. He loves us to praise and He knows it brings so much back to us.
There is a saying “dance like no one is watching”…. why dont we praise like no one is watching? No one to judge how we worship. No restraint. No one to laugh or tell us we are doing it wrong. Just praise as if we are in the throne room of our Father. No fear, just praise.

Praise when we dont want to

So World Cup fever has hit again, and there are England flags everywhere I go. My house looks a bit naked as I seem to be one of the only ones fairly disinterested in what happens and who wins. But it has made me think a bit. If England score a goal, how much noise is going to be heard in all the pubs and houses across the country? How happy will the country be? Will I hear my neighbours joyful cries and see tears if they actually win the cup?

If we can do that for a football, then why cant we do that every day to God who saved us from hell and eternal suffering? Isn’t that much more important than a game which will be forgotten in a few days? Isn’t Jesus dying on the cross and saving us with His own blood better than if Wayne Rooney lives up to his name and plays well? I know that some will say I am looking at it wrong and to let them have the fun of watching the World Cup without guilt, that I am taking it far too seriously, but I don’t think I am. I am sorry if I offend those who want to watch the games and scream and shout at the referee and cry if we score or win, but how does it offend your Maker and Father when you can’t be bothered going to church or talking to Him because the game is much more important to you? When at church you dont engage because you had a late night and just want to be back at home in bed? You don’t want to spend half an hour in the Word because you can hear the national anthem and know the match will be starting soon, or you just want to meet your mates down the pub for a few quick ones instead?

This is important.

David prayed and praised for the things God did for him, and for helping him be a good King. He also praised God for the things unseen as well. Praise is so important I can’t stress it enough, and I know very well that life seems to get in the way. Things seem to happen to stop us praying and praising. Kids, work, marriage, friends, stresses, illness, even things that happen the moment we pick up our Bibles or as soon as we get on our knees. The times you read or pray are when the Devil gets worried and he will put as much in our way to stop us as he can. He doesn’t play fair and he doesn’t play nice. He will do anything to get you away from the prescence of God, and out of that close intimate relationship you have with God.

Don’t let him. Don’t let him take your times of refreshing away from you. They might be the only times you feel like life isn’t as bad as it looks, or the only times of peace in your heart you get that day. Why let him take it away? If anything we need to fight harder for those times of praise than for anything else. There is opposition to a Christian who is growing and maturing into the person God wants you to become, and looking more and more like His Son. Keep growing and keep praising. You win a battle every time you do.

 

Why are we waiting?

God does not give us the full details of our journey in life, and our walk with Him. If anything, He gives us very few details of our future, which is probably more for our protection and safety. He gives us hints in the Word that there will be issues and things that can hurt us or times we will feel persecution. John 16 vs 33

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

What an awesome verse! God knows what is out there for us, and what we will be walking through later, but that He has total control in every circumstance and every issue. He has us in His hands, and will never let go. If God wants us to go through something, He will always give us the strength to keep walking and keep fighting ‘the good fight’.

The question is, why are we still waiting and waiting, expecting God to bring the world to us? God has a plan for our life. He wants to see us do something, not wait for Him to reveal it all to us.

God is amazing, as when the next fight or hard time comes, He will remind us all of how He was there with us during the last one. He lets us know and reminds us how He won that fight, He had control of it all, He let us grow and mature each time to make sure we have what is needed for each and every situation we face during the rest of our walk with Him. We are not alone. We have the whole host of heavens armies at our side and God walking the whole road with us feeling our hurts, rejoicing with our victories and holding us when we feel like giving up.

Listen to what God is saying to you. Hear His words and where He wants to take you and the walk He wants to take you on. It might be hard, there is a uncertainty and we are unsure about not knowing the future, but He knows. He knows how strong we will be in Him. He knows the victories we will have over sin and its bondages. We are victorious, we have the best on our side.

Feeling Worship

I am not too sure if it just me, or something that happens to us all at some point in our walk with Christ. I can worship anywhere, and no matter how good or bad the worship band are, or how well or badly led the service is. Its not the outside influences that lead me to worship, its how much I want to be in the throne room of my God, praising Him and knowing He is hearing my voice as well as every other person in the world praising Him at the same time. My prayers and praise rises to Him as incense in a world full of chaos and for many of us sadness and stress.

Worship takes me to a place of intimacy with my Lord which drowns out the stress and noise of life, and I love to be there. In a way, it is where I get refreshed and find a peace and calm I don’t feel anywhere else. I miss those times so much, even if I only miss one time of worship, whether in rehersal with my Husband or in my fellowship during the week or on a Sunday. I can feel it inside if there is a time that is missed, even if by illness. I feel the intimacy go ever so slightly. It takes a good praise time to place myself back where I know Christ is.

I feel that God waits for our praise. He watches us as we go about our days and weeks, and waits. He sees us get up and sees us go to bed. He inhabits our praise and loves to hear us and sing with us. We dont have to set a time apart to have a ‘quiet time’. We can praise Him anywhere, and everywhere. We can praise in our work, our friendships, our family and our church. If God Himself wants our praise and us to be intimate with Him, then what is stopping us? What could ever be more important than this? How can we put anything before the Lord of Hosts who wants time with each and every one of us? How would we act if the Queen of England or the Prime Minister wanted a personal time with us, and to just sit and talk and have fellowship with us? How would we feel? Really important? Privileged? Better than others? The King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Maker of Heaven and Earth wants just that. He wants to be intimate with us, to be our friend and Father.

Next time you really worship, stop and think about how the Spirit brings you closer to God. Do you feel like you can touch God Himself and at times can hear the very angels join with you? I think its the best place to be, and want to stay there for eternity.

the call of worship

We are made for worship, and to worship. If you feel called to do this as a job full time, then be careful. It is a high calling and a very stressful one at that! You are the one to lead your congregation into worship and the Throne room of God weekly, and perhaps mid – weekly as well. It is a calling demanding sacrifice and massive commitment. My husband spends many sacrificial hours on worship and some of the stuff that is in the background that others do not notice, but expect to be there any way. It is a commitment that we as his family help with as much as we can, and are glad to do it to enable our church family able to worship better and better each week that passes. My husband loves his job, and the calling he has on his life.

What motivates our family? Not recognition. Not a kind of coolness for being part of the worship team. No, it is a calling. Worship is a calling. If you want the other stuff, then look somewhere else for your kicks. This is a very serious part of the church life, and if it goes wrong, it goes very wrong! When it goes right, then WOW!

We cant think too small in worship. There is nothing that can be too big. God is not too big and can never be too small. Our worship reaches up to heaven itself. To God Himself. Angels will join you in your song, and have the power to fight in your prayers. This is so amazing and wonderful but mind blowing at the same time!

Dont focus on the four walls of your meeting place. Worship blows through them. Dont focus on the worries of the week before or ahead of you, God is your shield and strength. Dont focus on finances, God will provide. Focus on how you spend your time with Him and how you can become more like Him day by day. There is a much bigger and better picture going on that we do not see. Its bigger than we can possibly imagine.

The praise that John saw

We read in Revelation that John was taken up to heaven, and he wrote down what he saw and heard. The book is amazing and one of my favourites. To see eternity and where we will be going, must have been breathtaking. I can’t wait for eternity and spending it with my Father God.

As well as all John saw, he writes down what he heard as well. He listened to the angels praising and the sounds of heaven.

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come…”

This is reality. This isn’t some dream John had. This is what goes on 24 hours a day, as a constant praise to God going on in the heavenlies. We hear lots of noise, lots of bustle and business. To go somewhere where there is total quiet to sit and wait on God is near impossible. There is music everywhere, but not the music of God. Not the music that praises Him alone.

The best we have is the praise and worship songs that are written by those who love God and some lived many centuries ago. Fill your mind with these songs of worship. Fill your mind with words of praise from the Word of God. Take your focus away from the world that is full of self pleasure and brokenness. Redirect it towards heaven and fill yourself with the images of glory that we can read in Revelation. It may cause you to fall face down in total worship and honour to the Heavenly God. He reigns in heaven and earth, and deserves our devotion.

As we worship Him more and more, we become less like the world, and more like Him who we worship. We become more like Jesus the more we devote time and pleasure to reading His word and face down in front of Him.

When we get our priorities right and put God and the worship of Him first, then everything else falls into place in our lives. As soon as that priority changes away from Him, then things can start to fall apart.

Keep your eyes focused where they should be. On the Most High God.

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