Sunday, August 28, 2011

The church hunt continues

We tried out that church from last week and the answer between us was a resounding no. The message was not one of love, but one of fear. I saw no hope in what was said. It makes me want to get up and share the GOOD news. That although it is true we can nothing on our own, not even turn to God, that with him nothing is impossible.
So I was very glad to also go to church this morning and hear a message of hope - that in the garden, God was giving Adam and Eve a chance to repent and restore relationship... that he wanted relationship with the Israelites, but in their fear they chose law... that Matthew 5 shows us how much we need God, and should lead us to cry out, "Jesus help me!" and how God desires we come to him as children who believe all the promises he has given us, even when we can't see how.
We drove up to Carlsbad to go to the Bethel church plant: The Awakening. It was a small church and met in the senior center (as do 2 other churches). The people were so friendly. God moved - well stirred me up at least. We sang 3 songs - it took an entire hour. Then we prayed and worshiped for about 20 more minutes. Then the message. Afterward we visited with people in the church and it was 3 hours from when we arrived to when we left. That sounds about right. ;) But my poor husband missed most of it. He got only a couple hours of sleep before having to get up and work to put in a full day before we drove the 40-45 minutes to church. So he hung out in the lobby to keep from cutting zzz's in the service. I think we both liked it, but felt it was a long drive for church, especially with Jerry's schedule. They did tell us about another church that is much closer that is similar. We hadn't heard of it, so we will probably check it out next week.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Church hunting

Looking for a church is never easy. The concept itself is a paradox - you go into a group of people you've never met and who are coming to worship God and learn from his Word and judge them based on what you see and hear. We are looking for a church, but not trying to judge them, but still find which one is right for us. It is a difficult task - there are some things we can easily look at - beliefs, mission of the church, ministry types which will tell us some important basics if we belong there or not. Then there are the trickier things. So you go into church and see people raising their hands during worship - great, they like to praise, but how does that translate into relationships with other people. It seems silly, but all these things go through the brain when evaluating a church.
But there are other things that are more telling about a church. Is the presence of God there? This is mostly something that can't been seen with the eyes or heard with the ears. But it is certainly essential in a church.

Let me get away from the concept and be specific. Last night we visited a church. I was really excited to go (despite the headache I had all day). Jerry brought this one up the day before and it seemed very promising to me. First, it has a Saturday night service, which is pretty much necessary for us since Jerry works Sunday mornings. Second, they believe in healing. We really want to see this happen. I have never regularly attended a church that believes in this to the point they have a healing center. That they actually see these things happen. I have fallen in the lukewarm middle of believing in something, but never seeing it. So I want to see it in person! Third, it is like 5 minutes away! We were considering driving 30-45 minutes to try out a church. This is much easier.

So what did I think? Pro's & Con's...
*I'll start with the con. I felt that the preacher was yelling at us. We was very blunt in what he had to say, and even the things that were kind, he seemed upset about. It was weird. I felt like I was getting a mixed message at times between the words and the tone of voice.
*Pro's - everything else.
**The worship was just that - worship. It wasn't the best team in skill, but not bad. I didn't know a lot of the songs, but that didn't keep me from talking with God.
**The pastor came up and greeted us before the service. That was nice.
**In the information they gave about the church to first-timers, it said they have mentoring ministries for both men and women. That got me excited, because we need mentors in our lives. It is great (& unique) when a church has a way to set up that kind of relationship and not just hope or expect that will happen in a small group setting.
**Okay, this is going to sound odd. There was a guy who came and sat in the front row (we were in the 3rd) just after worship started who clearly didn't fit into regular society in his appearance. Yet, like most people who I have observed like that, he seemed super friendly and oblivious that he was "different." The fact that this guy was there told me that this place was friendly and welcoming, because he wouldn't have been there if it wasn't.
**Lastly, and this is my favorite part... after the message, they have a time of worship and ministry, where they open up the front (there was a lot of space) for people to come up and pray and respond to whatever God is doing in their lives. He invited people up for healing, to accept Jesus, or whatever they needed. I was amazed at how quickly people poured up front. We went up as well and prayed individually. I sat there talking to God and felt like I was the only one there, with tears streaming down my cheeks.

So in conclusion. We both agreed that we will try it again. There are two senior pastors (who I believe are brothers) and maybe the other guy has a softer tone of voice. ;-) That time at the end was amazing. I love that they leave time for God to speak to our hearts and for us to respond. He said when they started doing that it changed the church, and I can imagine so. I hope we like this church enough to go regularly. I really want to find a church where I feel at home, and see this as a possibility.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Notes from the message I listened to this morning

Just because a man sells a million books, doesn't mean the favor of God is on his life.
Sometimes the devil uses Christians to distract us from our purpose.
"A believer with a clear focus is the most dangerous thing in the universe."

It is really easy to strengthen the voice of that which competes for your affection. What makes a voice strong? The attention I give to that option empowers it to appeal to me. Say yes to something (God) so completely that everything else is a "no."

"It is possible to say yes to the big picture so strongly that all things that enemy uses bounce off like a bug on a windshield... you got to get the windshield clean now and then, but it doesn't stop the progress."