Sunday, October 18, 2015

Scripture photo: Love unmerited; and a praise to the Lord



I attended a church service today that was so sweet, so fresh, so fine, it sparked my thirst for seeing Jesus face to face all the more. Heaven's worship is going to be so wonderful, I can hardly think on it!

The service began with five baptisms at the middle service. The pastor said there were several baptisms at the early service and several more would be conducted at the later service. Upon stating their desire for baptism, the prospective baptizees must complete a four week 'new member' course prior to being immersed. Baptism at this church is a serious thing, being a weighty ordinance of the Lord, and it is not undertaken casually. Therefore, knowing this, I celebrated their obedience into the faith all the more! I always tear up at baptisms, and this one was so beautiful I did have many more tears than usual. The elderly lady sitting next to me put her arm around me and said "Is one of them yours?" I said "No, but yes, they all are, now. They are my family."

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

What a blessing to see new believers step forward and openly declare their intent to follow Jesus. Some of the baptizees were adults, some were college aged, some were younger. One man was an exchange student from China. What a wondrous display of the Holy Spirit's move, to bring a person here to be baptized into the faith and when his school term ends, will return to plant his own seeds.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6)

After some good music, "Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God almighty..." the pastor said that next Sunday the congregation will come together to vote on purchasing a house and 4-acre parcel adjacent to the existing 16-acre campus, it will complete their long-term vision. They believe they are meant to be in that spot, stay in that spot, and to grow disciples who in turn go out and plant churches in the neighborhood, county, state, nation, and the world. And they are doing this. They are committed to this biblical model, and it is a joy to see their obedience to it and the Spirit's working through them in it.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)

The sermon was at once Jesus-exalting and personally humbling as the pastor exposited the word of God and gravely and lovingly explained a parable from Matthew. What a balm to receive the word from a mature preacher who understands the scripture and is eager and sober in explaining it to his flock.

And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jeremiah 3:15)

After the sermon we had the privilege of praying over and commissioning a couple with their baby who are finishing their furlough and are returning to their mission field into East Asia. Anyone who wanted to pray aloud for this humble and obedient couple was invited forward to do so. Hands were laid upon them, tears were shed, and hope was ignited that many living in darkness would hear the Gospel and be saved.

And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (Mark 5:19-20)

I know the state of the visible church and it is not good. But the gates of Hades will not prevail against the church that Jesus is building and where there IS a solid visible congregation, it is a beautiful thing.

Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:20-22)

The worship of the Holy head of our church, Jesus Christ, no matter where you are, is a life-affirming, sobering, joyful, glad thing, and something we have privilege to do each day for all eternity when we arrive en masse at New Jerusalem at the rapture. O blessed day.

Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. (Psalm 111:1)


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