The Miracle of the Church

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, 
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 
Matthew 16:18 ESV

That afternoon, I sat with my shotgun in hand, waiting and watching to catch the perpetrator of the recent crimes, but the sly fellow never appeared. Nevertheless, by morning the evidence of his skullduggery was again on display, and my zucchini squash plants lay in ruins. Mr. Groundhog never showed his head, but the evidence of his deeds was a clear reminder that a mere garden fence would not keep him at bay. Yet, I did not give up on our vegetable patch. I replanted and strengthened the fence and was delighted to discover that though the zucchini crop was a bust, we reaped tomatoes, peppers and green beans in abundance that year. In the same way, when we grow spiritually fatigued, discouraged and disillusioned by scandal among church leaders, fellow church members, or ourselves, we must not give in to despair. Instead, remember that attacks are not a sign of defeat. Rather, the impact of our spiritual garden attacker does not, will not and has never destroyed the success of all the crops.

Photo by Greta Hoffman on Pexels.com

After all, it would be no miracle if God’s church grew unimpeded throughout the centuries because all Christians were perfect. The miracle is that, in spite of our glaring shortcomings, scandals and weaknesses, God has continued to build His church, and after two thousand years she remains alive and well. Each time the enemy has broken through the garden fence, God in mercy knelt down and went to work in His garden. He didn’t tell Peter He needed a perfect church to build His Kingdom. Instead, God’s promise was that by the miracle of His grace, He would rebuild the garden fence, replant the damaged rows and in the end reap an abundant harvest that no power of hell could ever destroy!

Time to Bloom

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 1 Corinthians 12:18 ESV

Once we were edging and weeding several hundred feet of perennial beds on a large estate, in preparation for the owner’s weekend visit. On the crew that day, we had a new employee named Waldemar. So as not to overtax him, I started Waldemar on a stretch of the bed which only needed some light weeding. After working on the other side of the house for an hour, I came back to check on my new friend and found to my dismay that he had not only pulled out every single weed, but he had also taken out all the primroses which were just beginning to pop out of the ground. “Waldemar, where are the flowers?” I asked. My poor friend stopped what he was doing and glanced back along the empty bed with a bewildered look.

“Just because they aren’t blooming yet, doesn’t mean they aren’t flowers.” I explained

Looking back, I can see that I should have spent more time training and I had forgotten how many years it took for me to learn which were the weeds and which the flowers. The church is a lot like that perennial garden. Just as in today’s verse, God has planted each of us where He designed and each of us blooms in our own season. While we are just beginning to grow, we might not look much different than the weeds. So, let’s be careful this week in how we treat others. Every part of God’s garden has something growing, and even flowers that have finished blooming still have value. Some older plants with only green leaves give a nice backdrop to the younger blossoms that are just opening. Others, even with only wilted tops, give quiet example as they simply rest, knowing that surely one day it will be Springtime again!

I hope you like today’s video that tells the story as well as includes the hymn “In the Garden” (It’s my favorite!) I was so blessed to have a new volunteer come along with me this week to visit my Thursday morning memory care friends.

The Gift of Altar Call

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. Romans 12:1 Amplified Bible

John Brown* stood about 5’5” in his stocking feet but he was a spiritual giant in our lives while he, was our pastor. Though he had been through all the same training as other pastors in our denomination, his sermons always had the earthiness of the potato farm he had grown up on in Maine. I still remember his messages about the work of harvest and the barns filled with potatoes drying on the shelves. But of all the talents that Pastor Brown brought to the table, his gift of altar call outshone them all!

The root of why he delivered an impassioned altar call each week was rooted in his experience while he served overseas in the military as a young man. To outward appearances all was well. He had a good home a bright future and his whole life lay ahead of him. But despite what others thought, during that time, he felt lost and lonely, wondering what was the purpose of it all. He told us that his loneliness turned to despondency and depression till finally one evening he sat with a revolver in his hands wondering if it would be better to simply end things there. When he was at his lowest point, Jesus spoke to his heart, and gave him hope. Right there, John dedicated his heart and life to the Lord and to his service and made a promise that whenever he had opportunity to preach that he would always give people the opportunity to come to the Lord in prayer.

Though I myself responded a number of times to those altar calls for various struggles in my own life, I simply took his gift for granted, till, one Sunday when a visiting evangelist was preaching. I have no idea what the guest speaker preached on that day, but at the end, he gave an altar call, just as our pastor normally did but no one came forward. Now at that time our church had close to a thousand in attendance on any average Sunday morning. The organist continued playing softly for a while, and the choir sat quietly in their places, yet the altar still remained empty. A bit embarrassed, the evangelist turned and asked Pastor Brown if he could dismiss us in prayer. I had already begun wondering what was for lunch and was gathering our bibles when our diminutive pastor stepped up to the microphone, cleared his throat and began, “Now I don’t think some of you people were listening much to the sermon this morning.” Pastor Brown began. He went on to impress upon us our need for responding to the message, and before you could bat an eye there were twenty folks at the front asking for prayer. Now that’s the gift of altar call, and I am so glad that our pastor had it in spades!  He taught us that no one can tell from the outside what is hidden inside our hearts. How about you? Are you ready and willing to open your heart to the Lord today? God is listening and able to help you and I right now – but He will never drag us to the altar. He is leaving the choice to us!

* The name has been changed to preserve the privacy of his family.