Sunday, April 29th, 2007 | Author:

[I shared this message at my church on April 29, 2007.]

Have you wondered why Tom & I are here? We just kind of showed up a couple months ago and started taking up space. Well, there’s a reason. We’re hoping to move back up here on the hill. My mother has signed over some land to us, the woods over there that I used to play in as a kid. We’re planning to sell the big old house we’re in now and build a nice little one, right smack in the middle of the woods. That’s the plan, God willing. So we thought we could reconnect with the community in Glen and here we are.

Being here each Sunday has brought back a lot of memories.
- When I think of Sunday school? I think flannel boards. I loved flannel boards. I always wanted to be the one to put the people on or take the animals off. They were great fun.
- After our individual classes, we would all get together in the middle of the room and either Marty or Bessie would play piano so we could sing – and sing we did, loud and long.
- And we always finished with “Onward, Christian Soldiers” as we stomped up the stairs, making as much noise as possible. The adults never had to guess when we were finished.
- This sanctuary was almost full most Sundays, and over-full at Christmas and Easter. In never-ending amazement, we watched each week as the Egelston’s came in and filled up a whole pew.
- We would leave the doors wide open in the summer – and sometimes our German Shepherd, King, would come in and wander around until he found us. Then he’d lay down by our feet until we were ready to leave. A well-churched dog.
- In third grade, we all memorized John 3:16. On children’s Sunday in June, we took turns marching up front to recite it in front of the whole church. I was terrified … but I did it.
- And then we were each presented with our very own Bible. I can remember wondering why they would entrust something as important as the Bible to me – with my name in it, too. I felt very special.
- And every summer, of course, there was Vacation Bible School. I don’t know who spent the winter dreaming these things up, but it seemed like every year we would have a new project to make — always, always out of popsicle sticks and yarn. I can’t remember what even one of them was, but I know we always had fun making them.
- When we were in 7th grade, our Sunday school class graduated upstairs with Harold Pierce. That made us feel very adult. It was always clear how much Harold loved teaching us about the Bible. He would always get excited when one of us grasped a new concept. In retrospect, it’s very apparent how much he loved the Lord. He would have to have, to put up with the bunch of know-it-all 7th graders that we were.

It’s nice to have these memories, and I thank God for mine … but we can’t live on memories.

When you come back to a place that you haven’t been part of for awhile, I think you see some things differently than the people who have been here all along. For instance, I haven’t gotten a day older in the past 30 years – some of you, on the other hand … I’m teasing, but I do want to share some of what I’ve seen here in the past few months.

- I’ve seen familiar faces that have opened their arms and their hearts to us. That doesn’t happen many places these days.
- I’ve seen that this beautiful building has been well-maintained. Enders may not be mowing the lawn anymore, but someone has taken his mantle and wears it well.
- I’ve seen Biff in church every Sunday. I confess, that surprised me — probably as much as me being here has surprised him! God is full of surprises.
- You’ve added this Early Bird service, where regular folks like me can share what the Holy Spirit is doing in our hearts. Before I’m done, you may want to re-think that idea.
- On the other side of the coin, we stayed for the congregational meeting a few weeks ago. We listened to report after report, and, frankly, it was depressing. If you looked past all the cheery voices, most of the reports pointed to a shortage of funds.
- We were also here for the joint Easter service. Because we’d been attending this early service, I knew we were missing the people who attended the later service. And Easter always brought people out of the woodwork, so I was expecting a full house on Easter morning, but — they weren’t here! I was heartsick! Where were all the people?

I’ve spent a bit of time praying and thinking about these things, and asking the Lord questions. In fact, I’ve been making a real pest of myself about all this —and I believe He’s given me an answer.

Now, some of you are probably thinking, “Who does she think she is, waltzing in here after all this time? She thinks she’s got answers to the things we’ve been wrestling with for years!”

Well, you’re free to ignore me, of course, but this is who I think I am: a child of sin, forgiven by Jesus Christ, and filled with the Holy Spirit. I also happen to love the people of this church very much.

As for the answer I have, it’s right here in the Sermon on the Mount, one short verse, Matthew 6:33:

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”

Instead of seeking God about the lack of money, instead of seeking God about the lack of people, instead of seeking God about keeping this place going, I believe we need to seek God … because He’s God. We need to seek His kingdom for our own hearts.

And instead of just praying about all the horrible things that people in this world do, we need to pray about all the horrible things that we do. I once heard a story about God’s Holiness and our sinfulness.

Imagine we’re all in college, and there’s just one final exam. To pass this final exam, you need to get 100. It doesn’t matter if you get 99 or 21. If it’s not 100, you fail. Well, we all fail. There’s not one of us that can get 100 on God’s Holiness scale. But because He’s a merciful God, he sent Jesus to suffer for all the 99’s and 21’s – and He, of course, got the 100 we can all claim, when we confess that we didn’t earn it ourselves.

Nonetheless, Jesus exhorts us to seek His righteousness. A grateful, humble heart desires to please God, even knowing that we would never be able to pass the test on our own.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”

Last week Jayme told us about different seasons we go through, and I remembered other seasons I’ve been through of seeking the Lord — seasons where every thought, every feeling, every action — revolves around seeking the Lord. Where nothing on this earth matters, except drawing closer to God.

I’m sure many of you have been through this process. I discovered that as we seek God wholeheartedly, as we seek to make His righteousness our own, He starts a fire. Sometimes it’s a little match, sometimes it’s a blow torch, and sometimes it’s a forest fire — but always He burns off the dross that gets in our way — and we come out the other side cleansed and purified, a more fitting vessel for the Holy Spirit.

One time when I went through this process, the Lord prompted me to write a song. I’d like to teach you that song this morning. I invite you to sing with me as you get hold of the melody. And I invite you to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. All these things surely shall be added to you.

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c1998 Jean Leonard, all rights reserved

Can You Feel the Heat?

Can you feel the heat? He’s coming closer.
He’s burning off the dross.

Can you feel the heat? He’s coming closer.
He’s burning off the dross.

1) He’s the Father. He’s Holy.
We’re His children of sin.
Still He loves us and wants us close, closer to Him.

2) He’s the Savior, our only hope.
We’re the reason He died.
Then He rose up and set us free to follow in stride.

3) He’s the Spirit. He leads us on.
We just need to obey.
He will cleanse us and comfort us and show us the way.

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Category: Christianity, sermon
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