Church isn’t what we think it is. Some people think it is a building. Others think church is what we do when we are in a building at a certain time. But church is so much more than that. If you are a follower of Jesus – someone who has surrendered their life to God – you are the church. When believers get together, it is called a church gathering. There are a large number of church gatherings that are emptying out at a steady pace. There are many and varied reasons for this but the underlying reason is that church gatherings are dry. For too long the church has been busy with all sorts of things instead of creating an environment where people can experience God. People are not experiencing God in church gatherings because the church is not praying like it should. When we pray for others, things…
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. (Psalm 30:11–12)
We head to church this weekend with heavy hearts. The cloud of the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision hangs over our corporate worship — and we don’t even yet know or feel all the consequences of the historic decision. The sense of sadness over a political decision is unlike many of us in the Christian community have experienced in our young lifetimes — the nationwide legalization of so-called same-sex marriage in the highest, most powerful court of our land.
Sadness and grief are unavoidable, even critical, to the Christian life (Romans 8:17, 35–37). But in Christ, they never need be the dominant or prevailing condition of our souls. The emotions may be overwhelming for a time — disappointment, depression, or disgust. However, for all who have been rescued from sin and promised an eternity of sinless safety and satisfaction, sadness will not ultimately win the day.
The Eyes of Faith in the Face of Defeat
David knew nights of intense terror and grief, and he knew the relentless, reliable, and irresistible power of our joy in God.
I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. (Psalm 30:1–3)
David looked in every direction and saw defeat. His opponents were bigger, stronger, and more in number. His circumstances suggested all was lost. But God. God rushes to offer help to the helpless, to bring healing to the broken, to restore life to the dying, despairing, and defeated.
In fact, God never left. For those who are his, he is never far off. His help, his healing, his life, and his joy are ever-present, however dark our days may be.
Joy in the Mourning
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:4–5)
Where sin is tolerated and even legislated, we will see the wrath of God. God’s holiness and justice cannot coexist with proud (though pitiful) marches against his name and his will. The world will taste the consequences of its iniquity, and God will be vindicated — every decision judged, every sin punished.
But God’s wrath and judgment are not the only word for our sin-sick world. We all deserve his anger for millennia and more (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Left alone in our sin, we’d all weep every morning, noon, and night for the rest of our lives. But the God of infinite justice is also a God of immeasurable mercy. Therefore: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
For those with faith in God, no setback, no misery, no loss can be lasting. Christ conquers our greatest fears and pains, not always swiftly, but surely. The suffering and loss cannot outlast the life he purchased for us on the cross. For the Christian, joy comes with the morning, after the morning, and in the mourning. And so we sing (Psalm 30:4), even in the midst of severe sadness.
Real Pain, Real Opposition
As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed. To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy. (Psalm 30:6–8)
As the American soil underneath our feet trembles, threatening to crack and crumble, we know where we stand.
My father was a praying man, he was a friend of God. But he didn’t have much but his faith, I used to find it odd. He had eternal struggles but he was committed and his faith never wavered, he remained passionate to the gospel and forever loyal to our lord and savior. Father and I had our issues and constantly he used to yearn to save my soul. but a lifetime of my sinning eventually led him to pursue some different goals. In his righteousness, my father preached about morals and warned about the cost of lies, and gathered us around him and talked about the kind of things you’d only see on Poltergeist. My father lived as if the world was his congregation and he always delivered the purest gospel, I remember how we didn’t have a lot but had enough to give to the homeless food…
“Isaac Hann was a little-known Baptist pastor who served a small church in Loughwood, England, in the mid-18th century. At the close of his ministry the membership of his church numbered twenty-six women and seven men. Underneath the list of members for that year this poignant note appears: ‘These are the men that remain at present, though not above four of these do in any shape keep their places [attend].’
Rev. Hann would be unnoticed today, one of those pastors who never quite ‘made’ it. But when he died at the age of 88, his parishioners placed a commemorative plaque in his honor of the wall of their little meeting house. It reads in part:
Wit sparkled in his pleasing face,
With zeal his heart was fired;
Few ministers so humble were,
Yet few so much admired.
“…when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father…” (Matthew 6:6)
Those who believe, and belong to the Lord, know it is important to stay close to Him, to love and worship Him. We need to spend time in His word, but it is most important that we get alone every day and pray to the Lord. His son Jesus emphasized prayer to His disciples; He spoke about how to pray and He would often go off to pray by Himself.
Prayer will help us keep close to God; so pray, give thanks, pour out your heart, and ask the Lord. Listen for Him to answer, whatever is His will, for our Heavenly Father always knows what is best for us. Pray for others, and pray for your loved ones. Do not miss out: spend time each day…
Elisabeth Elliot (née Howard; born December 21, 1926) died this morning (June 15, 2015) at the age of 88.
She was a beautiful woman of whom the world was not worthy.
Here is her brief testimony, told in her typically understated way: My parents were missionaries in Belgium where I was born. When I was a few months old, we came to the U.S. and lived in Germantown, not far from Philadelphia, where my father became an editor of the Sunday School Times. . . .
Our family continued to live in Philadelphia and then in New Jersey until I left home to attend Wheaton College. By that time, the family had increased to four brothers and one sister. My studies in classical Greek would one day enable me to work in the area of unwritten languages to develop a form of writing.
A year after I went to Ecuador, Jim Elliot, whom I had met at Wheaton, also entered tribal areas with the Quichua Indians. In nineteen fifty three we were married in the city of Quito and continued our work together. Jim had always hoped to have the opportunity to enter the territory of an unreached tribe. The Aucas were in that category—a fierce group whom no one had succeeded in meeting without being killed. After the discovery of their whereabouts, Jim and four other missionaries entered Auca territory. After a friendly contact with three of the tribe, they were speared to death.
Our daughter Valerie was 10 months old when Jim was killed. I continued working with the Quichua Indians when, through a remarkable providence, I met two Auca women who lived with me for one year. They were the key to my going in to live with the tribe that had killed the five missionaries. I remained there for two years.
After having worked for two years with the Aucas, I returned to the Quichua work and remained there until 1963 when Valerie and I returned to the U.S.
Since then, my life has been one of writing and speaking. It also included, in 1969, a marriage to Addison Leitch, professor of theology at Gordon Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts. He died in 1973. After his death I had two lodgers in my home. One of them married my daughter, the other one, Lars Gren, married me. Since then we have worked together.
She was the author of several books, many dealing with themes of suffering, loneliness, singleness, manhood and womanhood, and family.
Among her best-known books are those that told the story of her first husband, Jim Elliot, and their mission together in Ecuador: Through Gates of Splendor (1957), Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (1958), The Savage My Kinsman (1961), and The Journals of Jim Elliot (1978).
Oh, God, revive us. Set a fire deep into our bellies that can not be quenched. Draw our hearts back to You, create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us. Do not let us give lip service only while our hearts are far from You. Lead us to repentance. Forgive us, God, for building idols in forms of self gratification, pride, fear, and political correctness.
Heal us, Father. Touch the deep wounds with Your healing balm. Where we are proud, help us to humble ourselves. Where we have been offended, help us to forgive. Where we have offended, help us to seek forgiveness. When the enemy comes in like a flood, lift a standard against him. Help us to not forget where we come from so we may have compassion on others.
Do not let us give lip service only, we do not want to be…
“Most Christians want to pray but don’t how. They are unable to carry on a simple, sustained, satisfying conversation with God. Thus, after a few minutes in prayer, they run out of things to say, get frustrated, and give up. Sound familiar?”
Two weeks ago I had the blessing to be able to sing in our ward (congregation) choir. We sing fairly regularly, but with the business of summer travels, this would be our last until the fall. But I was still overjoyed to sing. We sang one of my favorite hymns: Did you think to pray.
Over the course of my life and experience with my faith, I’ve found that music is one of the easiest ways for me to worship God, for me to receive inspiration (or revelation, or both), for me to understand the gospel better, and ultimately for me to feel the Holy Ghost near to witness of truth and of my Heavenly Father’s love. This experience was no different :-)
We sang an arrangement of this hymn, put together by the lovely Amber, our director, and for me, this is what made all the difference. Unfortunately, after…