I chose, via internet, a church called New Life Church located in Alexandria, MN. I went online and read a little bit about the church and their vision prior to our arrival. I prayed that God would breath "new life" in our hearts. Lord knows we could all use it daily. We arrived to a warm hand shake and a welcome from the church greeter. We began worship with both modern and hymn type worship. After the first song, the Pastor ran up to the stage thinking he had one more song before he had to speak, and he made the parallel "may we all take a moment to catch our breath from running from Christ. " I smiled. I know much too well how to run from things, but this was a new journey, I was actually running to Christ this time.
The Pastor talked about making right choices, now more than ever because the secular world and the church world were starting to look eerily similar. Secular and the Church used to be more easily distinguished, but now there were more and more divorce rates, complacency, and tolerance becoming the normal. We can get so concerned about someone seeing us, as a Christian make mistakes, we would rather cover it up than admit it before others, hence masking our need for Christ even more. He asked us if we thought the Church was any better than our current Government in regards to who we trusted and IF we can trust. For many it appears that the Bible is beginning to simply look like an Archaic way of thinking...
The Pastor took us to 2 Corinthians Chapter 11-12:10. Paul is talking about boasting on the Lord and all God has done. He's talking to the secular world and explaining that he is no different then they are, except that "something" has now changed in him. He tells us that he was actually worse than them being whipped 40 lashes minus 1. I learned that 40 lashes meant the same as the death penalty. Minus 1... so his life was spared within inches of his life. He talked about how he doesn't feel it necessary to hide his shortcomings or weaknesses, because that way, people will see him for who he is and also see Christ for who he is. Oh, by the way...if you've been keeping up with my Facebook journey, I've determined being vulnerable and open is amazing...I guess Paul did too.
We went on to talk about what changes a person from living for God on Sundays to making Him your entire life. And what God wants from us in return. Acts Chapter 2 reminds us that we need to Repent (turn away) and be baptized. He reminded us in the time Acts was written, it wasn't like today's church when newcomers would find their way to Jesus and be baptized in the safety and love of surrounding believers, and everyone claps and cheers. Instead, it was making a public announcement in front of the secular world...and it wasn't popular. I thought back at the day Tony, our children and myself were baptized at Roy Lake, SD. Tony was nervous because Pastor Fearing and Pastor Snaza were going to make us make our confession with some believers, but also in front of all the beach goers. I scolded my husband. "What? Are you ashamed!" I lashed out. It wasn't until I got down to the beach that my heart understood. There on the beach, drinking Coors Lights and Bud Lights, and smoking cigarettes were about 10 of my closest "old party friends" about to watch the show. I took a deep breath, I promised God my life and I was dunked under the water...asking for a new life in Christ. Needless to say, I didn't get an applause from my group of "old friends".
The Pastor also reminded us that living for Christ is tough. But a different tough than living in the world. He clarified by saying, when we are not living for Christ, we can make some poor choices that make our life tough, but that's different. That's self inflicted. Living for Christ means that we have to make a decision to stand firmly rooted in Christ. You may have to fight through some simple inconveniences to do what God has called you to do. It means you might temporarily loose friends, you may not be the popular kid at school, or work, you might not be invited to parties...but you will be the one Christ calls on when they are calling on eternity.
This Pastor had shared with us his scare of cancer. He said he doesn't know why he was lucky enough to be called to go through liver cancer, not only once but twice, (yes his words were lucky enough...) because he stated that sometimes when you are shook to your core, it becomes quickly apparent why you are really here. You are here for one purpose, to connect and help others connect to the love of Jesus Christ.
The Pastor ended the sermon by reminding us that the only thing that separates us from those that have been incarcerated is that we just didn't get caught. He's right. He had us turn to 1 Corinthians 12 and reminded us of the fact that we are all a part of the body. We are all needed and valuable. Some are hands, some are feet, some are eyeballs. He asked what it would be like if we didn't have eyeballs. It would be hard, right? I instantly thought of a couple I loved at our home church. Hoot and Mable. Mable couldn't see. It would have been hard for her to get around in life if it wasn't for her husband Hoot. Hoot held her hand tenderly and walked her around carefully and patiently being her eyes for her. They were in love and you could tell.
Perhaps that is how the church should look like...I guess...just like Hoot and Mable. Some of us aren't eyeballs, so those of us that can see should use our hands and patiently and carefully walk others through difficulties in life, bearing with one another. And, you should just be able to tell, we are in love... with Christ.
Thank you New Life Church for allowing us to share in your service and your prayers and for locking arms with other believers throughout our communities. Our Family agrees with you and all you do for Christ. In Jesus name. Amen!