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I've recently recommended a book called Love Your Church by Tony Merida (available from The Good Book Company). On that same sort of theme Wendy has written a really encouraging post for us to read and reflect on. Enjoy!

I should say right off the bat that I have struggled with being part of a local church for most of my adult life. A few things seemed to make it trickier: my husband is not a Christian, I homeschooled my children, I don’t watch universally popular programs or sports and the people I loved deeply seemed to up and leave to serve God on the other side of the planet. Mostly though I struggled with church because I was inward looking. I do not have a heart like Jesus, and it did not even occur to me that I should want one. That is going to be a long work in progress and the fact is I still struggle. Gathering on Zoom weekly has felt exposing, ‘booking tickets’ for church is weird, my home family don’t fit the church family model, I watch even less TV and sports than I did previously and, yup, people still up and leave to serve God on the other side of the planet. And yet every day I am filled with a deep unexplainable gratitude and love for my local church, Village Church, Emersons Green. Here are a few of the reasons why:

  1. Every week I am reminded that Jesus is my Saviour. I stand alongside a myriad of people and with all our differences I see this one common unifier, ‘in Christ’ and in their faces I am reminded of my salvation too.

  2. Similarly, I am reminded of where my home is – that my citizenship is in heaven. Before lockdown, Jonny referred to our little church making known ‘the manifold wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.’ That really struck me. I cannot find the sermon to reference it properly but simply put our tiny band of people make a statement in the heavens – I love being a part of that.

  3. The Church reminds me of what is important and what really matters, each time I get frustrated or upset in some little way about something at church Jesus uses that to remind me of where my heart is (usually not a good place) and what is of true value. In that recognition He also gives me the Holy Spirit to help me make steps to change.

  4. I know my church family love me and intercede on my behalf, this is especially evident when they stop in their tracks to pray for me about something immediately. I love that level of care and concern.

  5. The Church and especially my homegroup is a body of people with whom we can genuinely share each other’s sorrows and double joys.

  6. I love being taught by my leaders, I know it must take them an absolute age to work through and prepare a talk or study for us each week and I really value their insight. I love it when they make a comment on a book to read or a reason they’ve stopped watching a certain program or made a life change and I want to copy it. I love the gentle challenge of things I would not have thought myself and I love listening to them, like trying to pick up good food to take home with me.

  7. Similarly, I love learning how to pray from my brothers and sisters. Recently one of my homegroup has been praying using the same refrain at the end of her prayers ‘we love you; we trust you; we worship you’. This has been a prayer game changer for me, as I ask myself these questions mid-prayer, both my own and other peoples – Do I love you Jesus? Do I trust you? Can I worship you in this situation? Will I worship you in this situation?

  8. Under a banner of restrictions, I love noticing others bursting at the seams wanting to sing praise to God. (and yes I am particularly referring to Sarah).

  9. I like the joy of being obedient. An odd thing I didn’t discover until recently, but I do think there is an obedience linked to being part of a local church and attending regularly and within that obedience comes a peace and a joy.

  10. Finally, being at church is like light and life to me and in a world like ours that is a rare and a beautiful gift to be immersed in once, twice, or more a week.

I've been reading a book called Lover of God, an introduction to the 18th Century theologian Jonathan Edwards. Apparently, at the age of twenty-three, Jonathan Edwards fell in love with a woman called Sarah Pierpont. Lover of God records one of his romantic reflections on Sarah and I used it to pray for my daughters and for the daughters of members at the Village Church. This is my prayer:

Father, I pray that our daughters would know that they are loved by you, the One who made and rules the world; I pray that there would be special seasons in their lives where you come to them and fill their minds with delight, and that they would hardly care for anything except to meditate on you; I pray that they would know that you will raise them up out of the world and into heaven, where they will dwell with you and be loved by you forever; I pray that in light of your love for them they would disregard and care not for all the world with the richest of its treasures, and that they would be unmindful of any pain or affliction; I pray that our daughters would be conscientious in all their actions, that they wouldn't be persuaded to do anything wrong or sinful, that they would be sweet, calm and kind; I pray that wherever they go they would sing and be full of joy; I pray that they would love to be alone, to walk and to wander, conversing with you, the Almighty, Amen

Yesterday morning we acknowledged Ben and Jase as new elders of the Village Church. As part of that we asked them three questions. Here they are:

Will you seek to shepherd God's flock at the Village Church; will you care for the members and watch over them, willingly and eagerly?

Will you seek to set an example to the members of the Village Church, in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity?

Will you seek to teach the Word of God to the members of the Village Church, in season and out of season, patiently and carefully?

They both answered, 'With God's help I will.' Let's pray that God will help them to do these things in the coming weeks, months, and years, for the glory of Christ.

Hebrews 13:7 says: 'Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.' Hebrews 13:17 says: 'Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.' In light of these verses the members of the Village Church were also asked a question. Here it is:

Will you remember to pray for Ben and Jase; will you listen to them speak the word of God to you; and will you encourage them as elders so that their work will be a joy, not a burden?

We answered, 'With God's help we will.' Let's pray that God will help us to do these things in the coming weeks, months, and years, for the glory of Christ.

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