I have had moments during service at church, especially during praise time, where I’ve felt touched and moved by the Holy Spirit in a personal way. I’ve shed tears of joy as I felt an overwhelming sense of God’s love for me. I’ve shed tears of gratitude as I’ve experienced God’s grace and mercy reach out to me in my personal struggles. For the first time, last Sunday, I felt moved by the Holy Spirit to feel burdened for my church. For the first time, I found myself weeping over the spiritual state of our congregation. I don’t write this in judgment as I, myself, am included in this body of believers.
As we were singing songs of praise to God, I felt a deep sadness in my heart as God revealed a truth that I, we, have been avoiding and denying, each in our own way. The reality before me was clear, we are spiritually dead. I found myself crying out to God for mercy. As tears rolled down my face, I kept repeating the words, “Have mercy on us, Lord. Have mercy on us.” Almost immediately I was overwhelmed with a sense of compassion for the members of our congregation and I was given a glimpse of God’s immense and unconditional love for us. He hasn’t given up on us and there is hope in Him and Him alone.
“Have faith in God,…whatever you ask for in prayer,
believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
It is befitting to mention that our church is going thru a difficult transitional period right now. We have been without a pastor for the last 8 months and, not surprisingly, we have been losing members. Although we have faithful members of the church, including elders and deacons, who are trudging on despite the circumstances, we are definitely in need of a shepherd who can lead us in God’s path.
I am currently studying the book of Mark as part of a summer women’s bible study that I’m helping facilitate. This past week, I found myself meditating on the passage about the withered fig tree in Mark 11:12-14. When Jesus saw that the fig tree had leaves but no fruit, He cursed the tree to never produce fruit again. In a lot of ways, we are like that fig tree. We have all the markings of a functional church, our service runs smoothly, we have programs in place, we have fellowship activities from time to time, we send members on mission trips every year, etc. But I can’t help but wonder if these are all just leaves that we’re displaying and concealing the fact that we’re producing no fruit.
God’s judgment is a harsh reality we all need to face but we also must not forget that His love is greater. Immediately following the story of the fig tree, we read about Jesus driving out the merchants from the temple courts as He declares in Mark 11:17 that “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” In the same way, I feel that God is calling us to clear away the clutter and get on our knees and become a house of prayer that continuously seeks His will. The passage ends with, what I believe, is a message of hope. Jesus tells the disciples in Mark 11:22-24 to “Have faith in God,…” and reminds them that “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Just as Jesus cursed that fruitless fig tree, I believe that He can just as easily revive a dying tree.
“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing.”
The truth we need to know and live by is the fact that we are completely and utterly dependent on Him for our survival, sustenance and growth. John 15:5-8 echoes this truth clearly, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
We may not have a pastor to lead us right now but Jesus has and always will be our Shepherd. I believe He will guide us through these uncertain times. All we need to do is trust in Him and continue to walk faithfully right behind Him. In the meantime, I’ll be spending a lot of time on my knees, lifting up our church to Him, our sole provider and source of life.
Have a blessed rest of the week!
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