As I was going through one of my prayer journals this morning, I came across some questions I'd put down as concerns the spiritual state of the church.  I want to emphasize that these are questions and not criticisms, but I think they bear consideration.  They don't really originate in my own heart, but flow out of my reading, conversations with other brethren in Christ, and prayer.  I just thought I'd place them before any who are reading this today.
      The first question is, "Are we meeting conscious, or Presence conscious?"  In other words, do we place more emphasis on what goes on in our gatherings, or do we focus upon the One Whom we are to gather before?  We can and do spend a great deal of time planning our "worship" giving attention to everything from lighting to style of delivery.  We look at the timing of the service, the message we want to get across, and the way we want to accomplish that.  Whether we intend it or not, we can be so very aware of the meeting yet nearly oblivious to the Presence of the One in whose Name we say we gather.  People may come with many expectations of the meeting, but how many truly come expecting to have a real encounter with the Living God?
      Next I would ask, "How much of what we do in our gatherings distracts from rather than focuses on Him?"  We can become so enamored in appealing to the visual and to the emotions, that no matter how well meaning, we end up putting the focus on our senses, on us, and we're totally distracted from Him.  We can come away feeling uplifted emotionally, and yet have had no real transformational encounter with Him.  If what we're calling worship leads us away and not towards Him, than it isn't really worship at all.
     The last question to be asked is, "Has the blessing become the enemy of the Blesser?"  Think on this.  So much of what we want to happen in "church" is that we come away feeling "blessed."  I remember seeing a church sign one time that listed a number of the things it had to offer and then at the end, in large letters, it read, "Just Great Stuff!"  Whether intended or not, do we seek to offer people "great stuff," or real opportunity for life changing intimacy with God?  God does desire to bless, but as in all things, He's the One who defines what blessing is.  I remember an old Jesus music song by Dogwood that had the line, "It's a bitter persuasion, but the end is so sweet," which spoke of encountering Him in such a way that we are humbled, broken, and so, greatly blessed.  The flesh will never see a transformational encounter with Him as a good thing, but our spirit, oh, the blessing we will know.  May we seek not the blessing, but the Blesser.
    In I John 1:1, John writes, "The One who existed from the beginning is the One we have heard and seen.  We saw Him with our own eyes and touched Him with our own hands.  He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life."  The need of the church, of you and I, is to behold Him, to lay hold of Him, to "touch," to "see," to encounter, to be transformed, to worship.  May it be the deep heart desire of every pastor, worship leader and fellowship member, to never be a part of any gathering where such does not take place.  There can be no doubt that such an encounter is His desire, is it ours?

Blessings,
Pastor O  
 
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