Monday, March 10, 2014

When God Shows Up

Yesterday, the our worship service was expected to be busy. Due to weather issues, the beginning of the NAMB Annie Armstrong offering had been delayed. Thus, extra time was allotted to promoting that yesterday. Then the usual song(s), Scripture reading (Psalm 34), and special music. But in the midst of that a testimony by a long time member of the church touched many. This individual has been going through some severe pain and is now undergoing some new treatments which should bring relief in the coming weeks. But, as much as the testimony was about her, it wasn't. It was about those who had been supporting her, and most importantly that God was helping her through this. And although her testimony was planned, what happened next was not.

The sermon yesterday was intended to be on Hebrews 2. But the message God wanted yesterday was different. Honestly, the main points of the message could have fit well with everything else - very well, in fact. But during the testimony a couple of words and phrases were used which turned the tables on the message. A statement was made about the "trials and struggles" of others. Later, her prayer mentioned "heavy hearts". And while that is likely always true of many churches in any given week, several issues in the area lately have been especially trying on some families in our church - relationships, health matters, etc.

The Scripture reading was from Psalm 34 as noted above. But because of the length (all 22 verses) and everything else that was planned, the readings had been broken into three mostly equal passages. It was in the last of the readings that the promise of the Lord being near to the brokenhearted was read (Ps 34.18). It was at this point, God said, the message you have is the right message, but it is not the right day.

Then, the song He Is Able was sung. Amidst all that was happening and all the emotion in the room, as people were crying, in response to the testimony, but in response to their own situations, it was certainly the perfect song at the appropriate time. Then, the song Blessings, by Laura Story, was sang by one of the teenagers in the church. Her mother later told me that she had changed her choice of song (to sing this particular song) on Friday. If you aren't familiar with the lyrics, the premise is basically that God can (and does) use the pain in our life to bring about blessings as well.

I truly believe God had the attention of nearly everyone in the room. It was time for the message. And yet the message had been going on for 20-30 minutes. I mentioned to the congregation that it was time to call an audible. And instead of preaching, the time was turned over to a time of people pouring out their hearts to God over the "trials and struggles" in their release the burden of their "heavy hearts" seek to understand the "blessings" that God may be providing through the pain.

Below is a very short commentary on 8 verses of Psalm 34 (vv. 15-22), which I did very briefly before the time of prayer.

  • v. 15 - The righteous will have need to cry out, but God will hear
  • v. 16 - The evil that we see, the pain that we experience because of evil, will be cut off someday
  • v. 17 - Not only does the Lord hear the cry of the righteous, but He delivers us from our troubles
  • v. 18 - It does not say we will not have broken fact, we will, and will be crush, but God is near
  • v. 19 - see v. 17
  • v. 20 - God did not spare Jesus from dying, but God did protect His Son in the process!
  • v. 21 - the opposite of v. 17, 19
  • v. 22 - the fullness of redemption will be realized by those who believe, but destruction awaits all others.

The response was overwhelming. Many did not move - choosing to pray in their seats. Others came forward. Several filled out prayer cards to ask for continued prayer on some matters. But nearly everyone responded to God's leading in the midst of this service.

Ironically, yesterday was to be the end of a weekend revival. Because of calendar issues, it was not to be. Instead, I believe yesterday was the beginning of one. God used our time with Him yesterday to personally minister to many in the midst of their pain and hurting to prepare them for whatever He is planning on doing this coming week.

I believe God is often quite present in the midst of our time of corporate worship. Yet, certainly, some days are more special than others. Yesterday was one of those days. Yes, there was a lot of emotion, and sometimes that can be deceptive. But the emotion yesterday was different. It was private. It wasn't even directed at others. It was directed at God. And I believe His Spirit (the Comforter) was interceding and also interpreting in the lives of many (Romans 8.26-27), because God IS able to take whatever comes our way, and make us what He wants us to be (Romans 8.28-30).

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