The Moment Just Before

 “‘Well,” said Pooh, ‘what I like best,’ and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” ― A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

That moment is called…

Anticipation: the action of anticipating something; expectation or prediction.

Think of expectations leading to Christmas Day.

·         Boxes wrapped in colorful paper, filled with who knows what.

·         Fresh sheets on the guest bed, ready for out-of-town company.

·         Scent of homemade cookies in the oven, tempting taste buds.

·         Family traditions and memories waiting to happen.

·         Children, longing for that special toy, unable to sleep

Could it be that ….

“Anticipation is sometimes more exciting than actual events.” ― Ana Monnar

 Perhaps, unless those events surrounded Jesus’ birth.

Imagine people’s anticipation who grew up hearing the prophecies/predictions of a coming Messiah.

And then Immanuel, “God with us,” stepped into their lives, exceeding expectations.

·      Mary expected to deliver a baby boy, who was no ordinary child. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” 

·      Joseph expected the angel of the Lord’s prediction to come true, and named the baby “Jesus, because He will save his people from their sins.”

Shepherds heard the good news. “A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord….So they hurried off (with anticipation) to find the baby lying in the manger (exactly like the angel predicted) and they were amazed.”

Magi from the east traveled with gifts to see the Christ Child. And when they found him, “they were overjoyed, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”

 

Today …

·         Christ is exalted, seated at the right hand of God, the Father.

·         Good news is preached.

·         People are saved from their sins.

·         Believers worship Jesus, the risen Savior.

Only now, there’s another event that Christians anticipate.

Jesus said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:3)

Confident God’s Word is true,

 “We eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:21)

And yet, a moment just before we behold Jesus face-to-face, will not be better than being in His presence ….

Because Christ will exceed even our greatest expectations!

Must I Go to Church?

DSCN2047Must I go to church today?

As I rolled over in bed, every muscle in my body ached. I’d spent the previous day pulling weeds from my garden.  I don’t feel like going anywhere.

Excuses whined in my head:

I need the rest.

I had to go somewhere every day last week, I deserve a break.

I can listen to praise music and worship God in my home.

I can read my Bible and pray in my recliner.

I won’t be missed.

Notice the word “I” stood center stage.

 

Rolling out of bed, I stumbled to the bathroom sink and splashed lukewarm water on my face.

Am I behaving like a lukewarm Christian?

So what if I’d had a busy week. Should church be less of a priority than the multitude of other activities on my agenda?

 Is church attendance an option?

 Guilt squeezed my chest, dragged me to church where I purposely sat by myself in the last pew.

  The worship band played. I sang, but there was no song in my heart.

 Someone prayed. I bowed my head, but my mind wandered.

“See!” An inner voiced mocked. “You should have stayed home.  Coming to church out of obligation is legalism. You can go through the motions, but God sees your heart!”

I turned to Psalm 19 and followed dutifully along in my Bible as the Pastor read:

Connect

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God. And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”

As he continued reading verses 7-11, my dutiful heart became deliriously devoted.

“The law of the Lord is perfect…”

“The testimony of the Lord is sure….”

 “The precepts of the Lord are right….”

“The commandment of the Lord is pure…”

“The fear of the Lord is clean…”

“The judgments of the Lord are true….”

Notice GOD’S NAME stands center stage.

Focused on God and His Word rather than my feelings, excuses, or moods….

My soul was restored…and my mind made wise. (Verse 7)

My heart rejoiced…and my eyes enlightened. (Verse 8)

And that is why I must go to church.

For I know I’ll hear God’s Word and meditate on the ONE whose glory is revealed in the heavens. And I’ll worship the only ONE who is able to keep me from sins and forgive my transgressions because ….

The Lord truly is “my rock and my Redeemer.” (Verse 14)

There are no other options.

Which Church Does God Attend?

Amazing grace how sweet the sound…”

Voices rose in unison, but it was high school students instead of a robe-clad choir that sang the lyrics.

Harmonious music filled the building, but it was acoustical guitars rather than a piped organ that played the notes.

Florescent lights rather than religious fresco paintings stared from the ceiling.

Wooden bleachers instead of mahogany pews,

A plain wooden cross on a concrete wall instead of stain-glassed windows….

This was the scene in a high school gym, chapel service in a Christian school.

No visual match for the magnificent architecture and religious artifacts I’d witnessed on a trip to Europe where Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox cathedrals dominated the landscape.

And yet, in this remote, unassuming school, God’s Spirit was present.

Wooing teenagers; igniting hearts for Christ.

Youthful hands, raised heavenward, proclaimed God’s holiness.

Troubled souls came forward and asked for prayer.

As a parent, I worshiped with the student body; observed a glimpse of God’s grace and glory revealed in “His church” which isn’t made of bricks and mortar.

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

 Can I wrap my mind around that fact?

Regardless of church affiliation or denomination, as a follower of Christ, I belong to the:

Body of Christ (Romans 12:5)

Bought with His blood (Acts 20:28)

Brought together as one to “worship Him in Spirit and Truth” (John 4:24)

“For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16)

 Surely the splendor of a cathedral is reminiscent of Solomon’s Temple; a microcosm of God’s own beauty and majesty.

But Jesus told a Samaritan woman the place of worship isn’t important. How people worship matters.

“Woman, believe me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4: 21, 23,24)

God is spirit, He is everywhere.

And “the spirit or the soul of man, as influenced by the Holy Spirit, must worship God, and have communion with him. Spiritual affections, as shown in fervent prayers, supplications, and thanksgivings, form the worship of an upright heart, in which God delights and is glorified.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)

Even in this place….chapel service at a high school gym.