I've spent some time and space here relating "Sad Stories".....It's time to remind myself and my readers that not all stories are sad, that the Ultimate Story is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that is Good News!
This past Sunday, the Lord gave us a day in which He emphasized what a blessing are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our older son and his wife have been looking for a new church home, one where the Word is the focus and where Christ is exalted. Our church qualifies, I think, but the 150 mile round trip for them is too much, especially in these days of $3.00+ gasoline. Providence led me to the Shepherd's Fellowship and thence to the members list where I found 3 men who belonged to a church in the same county where they live, albeit a 45 minute drive. After reading their doctrinal statement and looking at their website, we decided to organize a visit for this past Sunday morning.
At the same time I was discussing this with our son, I was carrying on a "discussion" via internet with another member of the Shepherd's Fellowship who lives in the same county and was greatly discouraged by his "purpose-driven" church. He decided that he should check out this church possibility as well and we planned a meeting with him for the same Sunday morning.
The whole group arrived at church in time for Sunday School, had a few minutes for introductions among ourselves and met a few folks from the congregation before going into the Fellowship Hall for the adult s.s. class. What a blessing! A well-prepared, expository lesson through the 96th Psalm. What a radical change from what we have experienced in the past and from what the young folks have been experiencing in the churches where they've been until now.
The pastor of the congregation has been on sabbatical and the pulpit was filled by one of the teaching elders who did an exposition of Genesis 2, centered on the Truth of God's Word and focused on the Glory of God.
We were so encouraged to find this congregation, isolated in the sea of "seeker-sensitive" entertainment-focused churches, standing on the Word, dedicated to the Glory of God, with leadership determined to keep them faithful to the One Who gave Himself for the Church. We were encouraged to find a brother like our internet acquaintance who is convinced that he needs to be in a Christ-honoring church and willing to pay the cost to find such a place for himself and his family. It's especially encouraging to see our son following the leadership of the Spirit of God, seeking a Biblical church for himself and his wife.
After church, we went into a local restaurant for lunch and were blessed once again by running into a man who had been an inmate in one of the prisons where we hold services every week. While he was there, he was a leader among the brothers, faithful to attend services, with a strong testimony to the life-changing work of Christ in his life. I had heard from his pastor that he and his wife were constant in their church attendance and were striving to serve the Lord in their lives.....and here he was, with his wife, having just come from church. What a great reunion we had! It was a joy to see them, to meet his wife, to introduce them to our son and daughter-in-law, to have a few moments of renewed fellowship.
High on our list of "Things To Be Thankful For" should be our brethren in the Lord. I am grateful to God for all my brethren I've mentioned here, what an encouragement they are when we see the Lord at work in transformed lives.
But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And I want to join Paul in the following exhortation to those brethren and all my other brothers, that you stand fast; and in his prayer that God comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work:
Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.