THe Glory
     A pastor friend once related to me how a question asked of him as a young man by a seasoned evangelist, transformed his life and ministry.  As part of a group of men in his particular denomination gathered in one of their regular meetings, the elder brother asked them two questions; the first being, "What is happening in your church right now that cannot be attributed to human effort, inspiration, or activity?"  He was shaken, but it was the next question that broke him.  The evangelist asked, "If the Holy Spirit were completely removed right now, would it have any effect at all on you and the ministry and people of your church?"  He couldn't get away from those questions.  He was a young man who was receiving a lot of recognition in his part of the body for taking a church, and as he put it, "had it humming."  He'd made use of all the latest methods, and was following all the latest church growth strategies.  Everything was functioning like a well oiled machine.  The problem was, the church is not a machine, but the Body of Christ, a living, spiritual organism.  Like Isaiah, he was undone, and so began a journey in Him and the power of His life that continues to this day, always seeking to go deeper in Christ.
     Those questions will undo us if we allow His Spirit to truly search us with them.  As my friend also has put it, "It's not so important that we get the right answers, as that we ask, or are asked, the right questions."  To the ones just shared, He has spoken another.  It cuts into my heart, and may well do so with yours as well.  The question is, "What will happen in your fellowship's worship time this week that will be completely unexpected, that could only be defined as a supernatural 'God thing?' "  Are we willing to allow Him to search us out on this?  Are we willing to allow Him to show us just how "predictable," our gatherings truly are?  Do our people come knowing just what to expect in the worship, and, unconsciously or not, "knowing" what to expect from God?
     In an article, Larry Sparks wrote, "God wants to show up in ways that bust open our 21st century safe, spiritual boxes, as we come face to face with the fear of the Lord."  Fear of the Lord.  Not heard much I think in too many of our gatherings, yet Acts 2:43 says that the early church moved in the fear of the Lord, and "many signs and wonders took place."  Many like to replace "fear" with "awe" and "reverence" with "respect," but one cannot read the whole of New Testament scripture and deny that the church had a holy, reverential fear of God.  Not a carnal fear, but a holy one.
     We are fast approaching what the church calls, Pentecost Sunday, celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the church after the resurrection of Christ.  I wonder though, whether Pentecost and the work of the Spirit, haven't been relegated to a kind of old family album that we take off the shelf, look at, have warm memories of, and then place it back till the next "Pentecost Sunday."  Sparks writes, "The church has all but abandoned the Pentecost experience in the pursuit of relevance."  Dare we allow the Spirit to examine us as to the truth of this statement?  
     My particular part of the Body of Christ has an old hymn that goes, "Heaven came down and glory filled my soul, when at the cross my Savior made me whole."  Oh, that heaven would come down again, or, more correctly perhaps, that we would come up to heaven, by way of the cross, and truly become whole.  I think we've devalued the glory of God, thinking it more a matter of "heart flutters" felt in response to a moving song, or the enjoyment of a good message.  Is this really His glory?  Pastor Jack Hayford, a much respected part of the Promisekeepers movement, tells the story of how the church he pastored, a church of no reputation, was transformed.  Not by a brilliant strategy, or focused activity, but by the glory and wonder of God alone.  It happened on a New Year's day when he had come into the office for a few minutes to tie up a few loose ends for the coming Sunday.  As he was leaving, he happened to open the door to the sanctuary, and in there, he saw a kind of mist hovering over all.  His only thought was, "This can only be the glory of God."  What do we do with something like that?  Dismiss it as just something from "those people?"  Or, was it truly His glorious presence.  From that moment on, the church experienced a mighty move of the Spirit, and nobody could take credit but Him.  As a young pastor, I heard a man named Charles Strickland preach that you could build a church in the midst of a garbage dump, and if the glory of the Lord was upon it, people would run to it. Oh, for the glory of God to truly come upon us.  To call Him awesome and then experience Him as such.
    More than 30 years ago, a professor at the Bible College I attended said this of our part of the Body of Christ; that we were like a shiny, beautiful locomotive in a railroad museum.  Wonderful to look at, but unable to go anywhere because there was no fire in its engine.  Powerless, stationary and static.  Do we just label that "negative," or do we dare to seek Him out on this, allowing Him to show us the truth in it?  Jesus said that "if you (very flawed humans) wish to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those that ask Him?"  Let us ask Him, cry out to Him.  No longer a "showpiece" church, but His Body, moving in power, in the fear of the Lord, alive.  Laying hold of Him as He lays hold of us.  A church and people whose only thought of relevance is that we be relevant to all His glory.

Pastor O
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   May 2019   
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