God has been really good to me, blessing me more than I could ever deserve. Over the last 45 years, I have preached full-time for 18 years, and part-time for 21. In the 18 years of full-time preaching, I have preached for 5 churches: Cedar Grove church of Christ in Rogersville, Alabama; Huntsville church of Christ in Huntsville, Arkansas; North Main church of Christ in Winters, Texas; Farmington church of Christ in Farmington, Arkansas; and, Prairie Grove church of Christ, in Prairie Grove, Arkansas. I really have no complaints about the way that I was treated; because, they treated me better than I deserved. There are things at all of those churches, that I look back and wish that I had done differently, but there are strong and joyous memories of the people at all those different places.
What is really interesting to me, is that there are people from all of these churches that read this blog on a regular basis — even those churches that it has been 35-40 years since I preached at “their” congregation. I don’t really believe that it is because I’m special, I believe that it is because Christian love and fellowship is special. We are bound together because of what Jesus did, and who we are in Him — and time does not deteriorate that bond. Nearly every day, when I look at the pages where my blog has been linked to Facebook; I see the names of people from all those churches, that have read and “liked” the devotional thoughts for that day. Every time I see one of those names, my heart swells with the joy of the memories that I have from all these different places. I am so grateful for the opportunities that Jehovah God has given me, and for the joy that fills my heart as I remember all the people from those different places.
For the last two weeks, my early morning devotional reading has been the book of Philippians, and reading Paul’s letter has called all these thoughts to my mind. As I have read the first chapter, about the joy Paul feels as he remembers, and prays for, the Philippian church; I cannot help but be drawn to my own memories of these churches. But this morning, another thing came to my mind. I want you to read carefully the following words from Paul:
My prayer for you is that you may have still more love — a love that is full of knowledge and wise insight. I want you to be able to always to recognize the highest and the best, and to live sincere and blameless lives until the day of Christ. I want to see your lives full of true goodness, produced by the power that Jesus Christ gives you to the praise and glory of God. (Philippians 1:9-11, The New Testament in Modern English — J. B. Phillips)
I was reading Philippians this morning from Phillips, the 8th different translation I have read; and I will probably read from a couple of more, before I move on to Galatians. But let me show you that same passage from the NIV and ESV, to give us a better look.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (NIV)
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (ESV)
The voice of God speaking through Scripture has a way of convicting you when your read with the “eyes of your heart open.” I don’t always do that, but this morning I did — and as I thought about Paul’s relationship with the church at Philippi, and in particular this prayer — I knew that I needed to be praying this prayer for the churches where I have preached. I need to be praying for the churches, and the people, that were so good to me and have brought me so much joy.
I would encourage every preacher to pray this prayer for the churches where they have preached. I would encourage all Christians to pray this prayer for the church where they attend, and other churches where they have attended in the past. May God help us all, to always think of other Christians with joy about the past, and anticipation for the future. Peace.