Unity of Community

welcome home candle

I have lived in small communities for all but two years of my fifty years of life. And with little complaint… other than occasional inconvenience, lack of privacy and choices with regards to shopping. But overall the blessings of living in a small West Virginia community outweighs the city any day of the week for this girl. But one thing I’ve noticed as I’ve been blessed with an opportunity to travel to other places in the United States and across the sea is the church community is the same regardless of location, and where ever I’ve gone I’ve been home!

The word “community” is derived from the  communité which is derived from the Latin communitas (com, “with/together” + munus, “gift”).

The church community is ever on the decline in America because of lack of priority in families and a failure on the church to live in a manner that differs from the world, but it’s still the best thing going!  It’s a gift indeed to walk into a congregation of people that you’ve never met before and within five minutes feel like you’ve been there a life time.

Philippians 2:1-5 ~ If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Paul wrote to the Philippian Church with a few small, cost free requests. Get along. Help each other out. Have mercy. Perhaps that’s a part of the reason the church is on the decline we’ve stopped taking the time to live out Paul’s instructions.

To follow Paul’s example you must first be “in Christ”, having accepted His salvation and having the Holy Spirit dwell inside of you. That is how those people that I had never met before felt like old friends. Because the Spirit of Christ within us bore witness to one another. It’s an exciting thing! It was to Christian friends that Paul speaks to and I in turn am sharing his message in hopes of seeing at work in our churches today the unity of the community of believers. There were three things Paul mentioned that was necessary for unity.

  • Consolation – relief or support. A feeling of hope! The gospel of Christ is a full service gospel. The same words that convict the soul of a need for salvation, soothes the soul with a feeling of hope. But it is of little effect without legs to walk beside someone or arms to hug them tight in a time of trouble. That’s why the church was established so we could help one another through the hard times of life.
  • Comfort – security or relaxation. A feeling of home! When I walk into the sanctuary of Victory Baptist Church there is a joy that leaps within me. It’s my Father’s house, and as His child I feel as much at home there as I do in my living room at the house. That’s how it should be for every believer that walks through the door, whether or not it is their home church. There should be a feeling of belonging.
  • Mercy – forgiveness or compassion. A feeling of humanity! We’ve all been in need of forgiveness; and essential for a feeling of unity in the believers is mercy. As someone once said “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” Everyone who walks in the door should feel the acceptance of the Lord to come “just as I am.

Philippians 4:1-5 is a church that understands the J.O.Y. of the Lord.  ~ Jesus first, others second, and yourself last.

When you walk into your church on Sunday morning, I hope you walk in looking for that soul who needs to link with yours for consolation, comfort and mercy and a feeling that they’ve just arrived home.

Mining for Grace

Colossians 4:1-5 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

To think of Apostle Paul penning this letter, or having it written for him, while sitting in prison humbles my heart immensely. He pleads with this Colossian friends to pray that God will open a door for him to share the gospel and speak of the mystery of Christ. And here I sit today on a comfortable couch, not penning but composing the words on a computer, thinking about the day that Christ was no longer a mystery to me and wondering why I cannot muster the yearning within me that was within Paul. I may not want the answer to that question, because the answer may come in very hard place. But like I Paul I do desire your prayers that God would open up doors for me in the ministry. Key words being that “God would open” them, lest at any time Shari gets in the way.

There is a constant awareness in my soul that I am not redeeming the time, a time that grows shorter and shorter. And my speech is not always a seasoned grace. Just as salt season’s food, making it more palatable, and preserving the food; so does grace. Matthew Henry explained it well in his commentary when he said “Grace is the salt which seasons our discourse, makes it savoury, and keeps it from corrupting.” It is the grace of God that speaks to the heart of those we witness to and it is the Holy Spirit that imparts wisdom through us, enabling us to share the gospel of Christ.

But someone has to mine the salt. It doesn’t just magically appear on the table. It requires hard labor, deep digging and refining it into the savory seasoning that makes our food delicious. The same is true about the Word of God. God will gladly give us a taste of His glory, but not without us digging deep into His word and allowing it to season our soul with wisdom. It has to be absorbed into our bodies that we might have it ready to dish out to those we are given the opportunity to witness too. If you read my blog yesterday you know that I’m inclined to shortcuts. There’s not short cut on the wisdom of God either. He gives it to those willing to read and study His word.

Once you’ve had salt on your food and developed a taste for it, it’s hard to go back. It enhances the flavor. The same is true when you’ve tasted the Word of God. You want more! And the awesome thing about the Word of God is every time you taste of it, it has a new flavor and an endless supply. It enhances your life, strengthening your soul for the day to day battles. That’s why it’s so important to share it at every opportunity.

God’s blessed me with a platform to share the gospel from comfy couch in my living room. But I need to walk in the freedom that God has given me and get off the couch while there’s still time. I thank you in advance for your prayers, and I’m praying that God burdens your heart as He did mine this morning to be more like the Apostle Paul and pray that doors open to share the wonderful thing called grace.

Abbreviated Faith

I am forever looking for a shorter way to get from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’, whether it be in a car trip or on a project, there has to be a shorter method. This has often lead to disappointing results. A well-intended GPS route ended at a cow path in the middle of Marshall County, West Virginia and a four hour delay; craft project short cuts have ended in disaster; and my mandolin playing skills have suffered because I’ve found an abbreviated version of chording using only two fingers instead of four. What can I say? I’m good at finding shortcuts! But there is one regard for which I do not want to fall short on and that is my service to the Lord.

Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

We all fall short, I’m not expecting perfection; nor should you. But there are some expectations we should have.

We should expect Glorification of the Father

Philippians 1:20

According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death

As I said, I know I’ll fail. I’ve barely started the day and my thoughts went places they shouldn’t have gone, I’ve been frustrated about circumstance that I know God has control over, and yet, I’m still expecting God to receive glory from me today. I expect it because I’ve seen God use me time and time again undeservedly all because I’m willing. Not worthy, just willing. So today you and I should both expect with great anticipation that God is going to open up a door that will allow Him to receive glory because we’re willing to walk through it. Amen? Amen!

We should expect Grace of the Father

Acts 12:11

And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

I’ve lost count of enemies and friend-imies. Satan will use people that you would have never expected to come against you to tear you down, and often time in the church! I’ll be shocked one minute and then in my heart I have to say “yep, I should have seen that coming.” And sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. But the great thing is, I serve the God of all grace! I’ve been delivered so many times that I, like Peter, can say, “Yep! The Lord did that!” Otherwise I’d have been in a pickle! Don’t be shocked by grace, expect it! Not in arrogance but in the humility that if we stay on Faith Road, we’ll get to the destination that God intended. Which brings me to my final point.

We should expect Guidance of the Father

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Nothing in our life catches God off guard, as a matter of fact He may have put something in our life that we think is going to be our destruction and it ends up being a great blessing. Take a look at the life of Job. God set him up! Satan did not come up with the idea to attack Job; no, it was the other way around!  And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job.” (Job 1:8) So what do you do when God is the one Who has you between the rock and the hard place? You trust that God is the Rock, and you’ve been guided to the hard place for a purpose. You expect what God expects, Peace.

I don’t know what exactly is in store for Shari. But I know Who knows.  So today I have some great expectations, because I serve a great God! Keep serving! child of God. There’s no short cut to God’s design for our life. Live with Expectation!

Incapacitated Christianity – The Revolving Door

The door of many if not most churches seems to be a revolving door; constantly moving with people disillusioned with spirituality. God created us in such a manner that we’re drawn there. Scripture says in John 12:32And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” There is an innate desire for a relationship with God. Why some deny it and others embrace it I do not know, but I believe in my heart that everyone has it. I know personally, as far back as I can remember, there was a desire to know God and a fear of dying without Him. There was a hole in my heart, I knew something was missing. So in 1996 when that hole became whole I was excited, and I haven’t stopped being excited. But I am ever aware of the revolving door and that I too could be one step away.

Has it been a perfect seventeen years of utter bliss in our church? Of course not. My pastor always said “If you find the perfect church, don’t join it, you’ll mess it up!” But I remember the feeling of that hole of uncertainty and I have no desire to return to that life. So why do people leave the church?

They’re Wounded

I’ve seen my fair share of hurt feelings in the church. Sometimes it was an unintentional mishap, and other times it was stupidity at its finest. But it ended with someone leaving the church. And I discovered another hole in my heart. I understand the pain that Apostle Paul felt when he wrote to Timothy saying “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica.” 2 Timothy 4:10 It hurts when a brother or sister in Christ walks out on Christ.

I’m sure they would argue that they did not walk out on Christ, but instead would say they walked away from that place. And if indeed they left there and went to another body of Christ with a good heart toward their previous church then I would say “Amen. I’ll miss you, but I wish you well.” But they generally don’t go to another church they just stop and fall out on Christ. And the wound will not heal without the balm of Gilead. Jeremiah 8:22 wrote “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” When you walk away from Christ, there is no healing for that wound.

They’re Weak

A Christian who fails to read the Word of God, or attend church regularly is weak. It’s as if they’ve started on a long journey having passed up the eight course dinner, eating instead a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And they grow weary. And things that would not have upset them, has now been magnified; or they just gradually lose their appetite. Either way the end result is they no longer desire to be fed the Word of God.

I blame some of those on the body of believers who fail to disciple new converts. I was blessed with brothers and sisters who did not leave my side as a new child of God. They called me and encouraged me to stay faithful. We had breakfast and lunch and talked about the Word of God. There was multiple opportunities to come to the church for fellowship, revival and prayer. And day by day I grew in strength and had no desire to leave that banquet table where I feasted.

They’re Weighted

Probably one of the hardest to see walk out that door. They didn’t get upset with anyone, they may have been grounded in church for many years, but they just have too much of the world on their shoulders. Often times its family issues, finances or work. They just can’t drop it at the altar. Every day they carry this load of care on them and it keeps wearing them down. And it breaks them. And it breaks the heart of Jesus Who would have gladly taken that burden from them if only they would have allowed it. They’ve forgotten Matthew 11: 29-30 where Jesus said “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I’m not casting a stone at any one of these incapacitated Christians, because I’ve been too near that revolving door myself when I could have just thrown my hands in the air and said, I can’t do this, I’ve been wounded, weak and weighted down with the sorrows of life. But HALLELUJAH!  I’ve always been made aware that in the worst of times it’s better to be with Jesus than alone.

I love ya today, and I’m praying that if you’re stepping toward that revolving door, you’ll step away. Don’t let Satan feed you the lie that walking out on God will fix anything. That’s God’s church you’re walking away from. If it is a Bible preaching church it belongs to no man. Stay in the game.

America the beautiful… a tad “too” independent

Jude 1:4

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

My Pastor preached this verse in a sermon many years ago, under the title “Creeps in the Church.” It’s another one of his many sermons that I am reminded of periodically, as if God is reminding me, “Don’t become one of them, Shari.” Them? The creeps. Antinomians (those who believe grace excuses immorality.) This is not a God Bless America blog,”This is a God Blessed America, and now we’re blowing it” blog! There is an urgency in my soul to tell every Christian I meet not to buy the lies of dead religion. Who told you that church was no longer important? Who told you that your children would “eventually” come back around? The creeps, that’s who told you.

The creeps believe that once you’ve been saved you can live in any manner under grace. And while I am a “once in grace always in grace” believer, I also believe you had to have obtained genuine grace, and once you do, you’ll not live in habitual sin. The Holy Spirit will be will be on you like white on rice, and you’ll know that you should not. But America, our Christian nation, has become so independent in our lives that we think God’s got us covered regardless of our whether or not that life is backed up by Bible principles. We’re not the creeps… we’re the decent people…

We have decent sins.

  • Sunday school is no more important than the quality time I spend with my family on Sunday morning, neither is Sunday Worship, evening Service or Wednesday evening services. (And the children see… God is second, or third, or even further in place.)
  • I don’t want to offend people with the gospel by constantly talking about Jesus. (And you didn’t know that you were the only gospel they were going to get.)
  • I don’t pray over my food, it makes people around me uncomfortable. (And yet God provided the job and the means for us to eat while 10,000 mothers weep because they have nothing to feed their babies.)
  • I’ve done my time in church service, let the young people take over. (See my first point, they’re not there.)

What we’re saying is I don’t need God in my life. We have declared our independence from the God who brought us liberty to live in this place.  We’re not antinomians, or are we? They are adulterous, lying, thieves who justify their behavior by the blood of Jesus. And yet James 4:17 says “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

It’s a sin issue for the creeps and for the “decent people.”

I pray we declare our dependence again on the God of All creation. God, help us to be a blessing to You, You’ve already blessed us.

Mr. or Mrs. Weather Forecaster… Mother Nature is a Father

I thought it was just me. And then I met Dr. Sebby Volpe at a wonderful revival at the Hillcrest Baptist Church in Spencer, WV last night. It turns out, it bothers him too!

Mr. or Mrs. Weather Forecaster, Mother Nature is a Father. You may say, “ But Shari, that’s trivial, it’s just something they say by way of entertainment.” No, it’s another something they say that makes light of God’s omnipotence. The weather belongs to God.

*BIBLICAL EXAMPLES. Scripture contains many examples of God controlling the weather and using it to direct people and nations…

More recent:

  • GEORGE WASHINGTON. In a famous painting, General George Washington is shown crossing the Delaware River on Christmas night 1776. With snow falling, his forces were able to surprise and defeat the enemy. This victory fanned the revolution’s fading embers. Weather continued to play an important role in America’s Revolutionary War.
  • DUNKIRK. In June 1940, 400,000 British and French soldiers were trapped on the north coast of France at Dunkirk. The Nazi forces were only ten miles away and could have cornered Allied troops. However, at this time thick fog and clouds settled over the beaches. The English Channel also became unusually calm, and many small boats from England were able to ferry soldiers across to safety. The protective weather pattern lasted nine days while the men were evacuated. The Allied army was thus preserved to fight another day. Winston Churchill called the evacuation of Dunkirk a “miracle of deliverance.”

Source: http://christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-c023.html

Now, for an even more recent example.

I was saved in 1996. And for the first time in my life I understood what the gospel meant; and because of that I couldn’t get enough of it. I was in church every time the doors were open, and often when they weren’t. At that time in my life (and I’m not much better now) I hated winter driving. I don’t think I can relay to you the depth of my hatred for it. I just didn’t do it. So on a Wednesday night (church night for those of you who don’t go) our weather forecast was calling for heavy snow. I was heartsick. And God knew I was heartsick. So I began to pray, and all day I prayed, “God just keep it away until after church, then let it fly, but please don’t let it snow in Calhoun County, West Virginia today, I need to go to church! At the time I was working for a print shop and I would run into the office every once in a while to check the radar. That evening the snow was all across the state, except… (insert smile here) in the donut-hole over Calhoun County, West Virginia. Our church released at 8 p.m. and I just made it home before the donut-hole collapsed.

Please don’t think that I’m saying I have any great power. But a new Christian girl, who loved God so much, and wanted to hear His word, served a God, Who for her stayed the weather. Believe it or no, it’s the truth. That’s the God I serve. I’ve experienced countless events be it weather, people or circumstance related where God moved in such a way that I knew it was as Winston Churchill said “a miracle of deliverance.” Maybe not to the magnitude of his, but every bit as real in my world.

So when I hear a weather forecaster say, “Mother Nature’s fury….” It makes me nauseous. Because I know for a fact, it is my Father’s mercy that keeps Him from blowing us off the map with our constant disrespect for the sovereignty of God.