**Warning this may be lengthy**
Church meetings I do believe are my favorite time in the whole world. Lots of folks, who may or may not know one another travel from near and far inorder to listen to some guy get up and talk who may or may not actually know them all that well. This might sound like any speaker at any convention or gathering, but not so, because we are all bound to one another in Christian love coming with the expectation not of good food and good fellowship (though those are a given), but that the Holy Spirit would desend on us, and give the preacher what we are all in need of hearing, and giving us the ears to hear and a heart to understand. Hopefully when it is all over, we won't just have some amazing stories and good laughs, but we will have something more precious than gold to get us through the time when we aren't together worshipping the Lord, and something that we can take home and implement in our daily lives, so that we might walk closer to God.
That said, this has been a great month. Our weekend meetings kicked off with the trip to Jasper, and Zion Rest Church. All of the amazing and hummorous events have been pretty much told by everyone else on here, but I want to tell you about a couple of sermons that we heard. That was the 4th weekend in April. Then the 2nd weekend in May we went over to Vero Beach for a meeting at Antioch Church, and deacon ordination. Then this past weekend (3rd) we travelled to Winter Garden for their annual meeting. Next weekend (4th), we plan to head up to MacClenny for their meeting. Finally the end of this month, the days before the 1st Sun in June (May 30-June 1), Gary and I will be in Alabama at Elgin's Crossroads to hear Elder Clifford Gowens for their annual meeting while some of our friends down here will be at Little Zion's meeting.
The really amazing thing to me about all these meetings so far (and even the sermon that Bro. Buddy preached yesterday), is that they have all been along the same topic. In my experience, it's not all that uncommon, though still pretty neat, for preachers in a meeting as they follow one another to have similar topics, and to build on one another. However, in my memory, I cannot say that I have had a particular sermon topic, seem to follow me around from meeting to meeting.
It all started with Eld. Ben Winslett at Zion Rest on Sat. Morning. He told us that God has a will, something He desires or determines to do, and then he told us about that will, and that it is perfect and soveriegn. That He wills to bless His people and that He wills for us to walk upright, and when we don't He wills to cast down nations and punish people. He continued on to prove to us that because God has a will, we do as well. He used Genesis 1:26, saying that if we are made in His likeness, then we have a will as well. He went on to explain that we have a will according to our nature, and that our nature is a sinful one, and thereby our will is not a perfect or holy will like the will of God. Bro. Ben closed with explaining that because we now have two natures, that we have two wills, one to follow after the things of God and the old one which wars against those things. He said that while God always does God's will, but we don't; however, we much let the mind or will of God rule in us, to strive to be like Christ who was obedient ot the perfect will of God and to follow Him more perfectly and be a true disciple.
Then Eld. Sam Bryant got up told us some about the things that God wills for us. He wants for us to have joy and peace, comfort and all we stand in need of, but that he requires us to live an upright life. He told us how the children of Isreal time and time again, allowed stubbornness and willfullness to get in the way of following God and as a result they didn't lose their heavenly home, but lost out on the joy of their salvation here, they lose out on the blessings we get while we live. He taught us that we can limit God, not by being able to constrain him, but by disbelief, disobeying, and throwing away the opportunities that God gives us for blessings.
Sat night, they took it a step further, from telling us about the will of God and how we should align our will as already born again Children of God, to the heart of the matter. Bro. Sam started with II Chornicles 16:9, and told us how God is looking for a person with an upright and perfect heart to follow Him, and how He will use that person to show Himself strong, and bring glory to His name. He told us that not only did our will need to be in alignment with God's but that the best way to be of service to our family, friends, church and country, is to have a heart like His that He might use us to accomplish his purposes. One example he used was that of Elisha, who left all willing to serve God by being a servant to His prophet Elijah.
This idea of accountablity to the Lord continued with Eld. Charles Kitchens at Antioch's Meeting. He preached on Fri. night about our responsiblity to the Grace of God. He told us how because God has done such great things for us, giving us grace when we deserved eternal damnation, that we have a responsiblity to serve him. When we do so, he will bless us more and more, but when we refuse to serve him, he will take away those timely blessings, using Isaiah 1:18-20. He told us that we have the responsiblity here, to serve the Lord, care for his Church and his people.On Sat. morning, Bro. Charles preached on respect, saying that, respect starts by respecting God and you can see if you have respect by how you live not what you say. The beginning of that is to understand as Solomon did, that all in this world is vanity and that they only purpose and good we can have is to respect/fear God and keep His commandments. He also pointed out that this means that we respect those in immediate authority: parents, pastors, husbands, bosses, government, etc. After all, we are taught in many places that if we don't love those who we can see, then we lie when we say we love God; and if we can't obey simple laws laid down in Gods word to obey certain people in a position of authority then we don't have respect for His word or Him. He closed with saying the best way to show appreciation for all He has done for us, is to obey his word, and remember to praise him and thank him in our prayers, and to acknowledge Him (not merely luck) to others.
It was good to sit in the deacon ordination service Sat. afternoon as well. I haven't seen one since my father was ordained when I was in high school, and as we are considering ordaining deacons it was a wonderful reminder. I just wish that church discipline issues had been addressed, because I believe as a people it is where we are failing to make a firm stand and I feel like if we don't keep up the vineyard/garden that he gives us to tend, then He will never send us an increase, because we don't respect Him enough to follow through, and like His word says, prune back that which is dead, leaving it to Him, to bring it to new and better growth.
Finally this weekend we got to hear a couple of good sermons this weekend from Elder Gary Hall at Winter Garden (use to be New Hope) Church. The one that particular stuck out to me was his sermon on Sat. afternoon. He started by telling us that there is a scriptural parallel to natural planning, planting, and harvest. He said that every year he grows a garden, and if he were to tell his brother that he wanted to have some okre, squash, some tomatoes, maybe some green beans and onions, that his brother would be happy to help. If when he got there though Bro. Gary had no seed, he would tell him lets go get the seed. Bro. Gary said, now what if I said that it cost too much to go and get that seed, I know where there's some cheap over here, they are cocka-burrows, and thorny bushes, and dandelions, and stuff such as that? He said that it would be crazy to thing you could get squash from cockaburrow seeds. In the same way, we need to do like Proverbs 4:23 says and guard our heart/mind. Those things that we think about and dwell on are the things that we will have affect our lives. When we continually doubt the Lord, and doubt his word in our thoughts, we will grow up to have a fearful attitude continually in dispair, but those who plant seeds of hope in their thoughts will be optomestic, trusting in the Lord. He talked about there are things to refuse to let our thoughts dwell upon, and whenever these things enter our mind we must strive to instead to remember what II Corinthians 10:2-5 says, that although we are made of flesh, we are not to follow after fleshy things, not to give the devil a stronghold in our heart, but to bring all of our thoughts into subjegation in Christ, asking ourselves, is this something that the Lord would be displeased for us to dwell on. He told us that if we would do these things that we would be more pleased with the spiritual crop that we reap than with the natural crop that we reap, and that those around us would be happier in our company as well.
Then Bro. Buddy who didn't hear that sermon, yesterday morning preached on the exact same topic in I Peter 1:13-16. Telling us that we are to keep our minds holy, separate from this world. That as one would gird up his loins we are to gather together our thoughts, and dwell on only what is good, and when we have trouble and when we have doubts and fears, we are to look to all those things in I Peter 1:1-12, at how God has saved us eternally, how that salvation is secure and how then he gave us knowledge of these things that we may have peace.
These sermons on guarding our mind and heart, on following the will of God have been great for me. I worry, too much, and have been guilty in the past of looking at Gary and saying that I can't control my thoughts. I simple will have to do better.