Wednesday, January 23, 2008

An Inconvenient Sunday, Part II

Forgiveness! What a feeling!

You just don’t know what you’re missing until the Lord gets a hold of your heart and SHOWS you His grace is all sufficient for you.

Everything changes.

My old feelings of vanity, selfishness, and inconvenience changed into gratefulness. And not just for God’s great forgiveness.

I was grateful the Holy Spirit convicted me BEFORE I opened my mouth and spread seeds of ungratefulness. I was grateful we had a place to meet with the body of believers. Thankful we could meet freely in a free country. Joyful I had the physical ability TO walk, to get from place to place.

Forgiveness bombarded me with fresh perspectives.

Perspectives that sent my old nature - which had been consumed with ME - scurrying back into the dark to die a supernatural death.

I was deeply ashamed of my previous attitude, and yet so appreciative the Holy Spirit convicted me and forgiveness was forthcoming.

As we drove back to the morning service, my attitude was uplifted. I felt refreshed, having experienced a work of God in my heart.

I talked to my brothers and sisters in Christ and rejoiced in those moments. Again, I found myself thanking the Holy Spirit for taking a hold of me BEFORE I made (an even deeper) fool of myself.

We sang the morning hymns, and I asked the Lord to prepare my heart to listen to Mr. Dunford’s message.

It was easy to drift back into my old way of “not listening to the missionary” however, and I had to force myself to pay attention.

That is, however, until Mr. Dunford said, “I know how you feel about missions.”

I thought, “Yeah, I don’t really think so. See, I’ve never been all that passionate about missions, and you obviously are all gung-ho.”

Then he said, “Missions are inconvenient!”

I thought, “Huh?” I had never heard that sentiment from the pulpit before.

He said it with force and passion.

I found myself drawn into the message, wondering what kind of follow-up statement he could use.

“Missions are inconvenient,” he insisted. “Because when we hear about missions, we HAVE to DO something about it.

“We are so happy in our little word, consumed with what we are doing. When we hear about the plight of the unreached people in the 10/40 window, we have to put that little world aside, and actually DO something. It’s inconvenient.”

I was blown away. I’d never heard a missionary describe what I had been subconsciously thinking all these years.

Missionaries were supposed to be all sunshine and rainbows about missions.

Not this guy. He DID know how I felt about missions, after all.

He continued to preach, and I was treated to one of the best sermons on missions I’ve heard so far.

He talked about his family’s chosen field of China, statistics on the unreached people groups of the world, and how American churches – any church, I guess – should view the changing mission field.

I believe the Lord worked in my heart earlier to especially prepare me to receive this message. I saw my previous selfishness displayed alongside the way I, as a believer, was supposed to live – with others in view, not myself.

I was convicted by the message, and when the missionary beseeched us to think self-sacrificially. I found myself identifying. I was immediately challenged to find a way to help support missions.

At the close of the service, I could barely sit still. When God moves, there is a rich joy, a fulfillment that just defies words.

I spent the afternoon repenting of my selfish ways, rejoicing in God’s forgiveness, and asking for help and guidance in the weeks ahead so that I wouldn’t fall into the selfish sin trap again.

In the evening message, Pastor preached about backsliding and falling away from the things of the Lord. I found my heart tender to his entreaties.

It’s so interesting to me that God had been working my heart, so I would be receptive to the messages He wanted me to truly hear on this one Sunday.

I mean, it’s not exactly NEWS to most Christians, since God can work any way He wants, and I didn’t exactly receive fire from heaven.

But it still amazes me that He KNOWS the inner workings of my sinful, selfish heart. That the Holy Spirit cares enough to bring conviction. That it even matters to God that I – this wretched, wicked soul – am in the place to properly commune with Him and serve Him.

Me. A tiny, insignificant piece of dust. And He loves me, cares for me, sent His Son to die for me.

It’s…impossible to put into words.

But I’m grateful. Unbelievably, beyond thoughts and words, grateful. It seems too small a word to hold to the meaning.

So, it was an inconvenient Sunday. I didn’t get out of it what my selfish soul had hoped.

Instead, God blessed me beyond measure. When God works in your heart, it’s rarely convenient. But it’s needed, and in my case, especially this case, it’s shout-to-the-heavens appreciated.


Cindy Swanson said...

"it's...impossible to put into words."

There's actually a word for that, Ann-Marie:

ineffable: incapable of being expressed in words

"For you so loved the unlovable
That you gave the ineffable
That who so believes the unbelievable
Will gain the unattainable"--Caedmon's Call, There You Go

I have often been overwhelmed with the feelings you so beautifully described, Ann-Marie. Incredible, isn't it?

Your writing is perfectly evoked the feelings you experienced and captured it for your readers.

Jennittia said...

AMEN, Sista!! It is wonderful to watch someone grow in the Lord! It is impossible not to smile at this post and groan in agreement at the last one!

Alice said...

Awesome post. There's that verse (in Hebrews?) that says those the Lord loves, He disciplines. I used to dread each time I would feel convicted and avoid hearing things that might convict me, but lately I've realized that that is the best thing. God loves me! All His kids are getting discipline, so I will too! It really changes your perspective.

SturgillMom said...

Thank you for your consistent transparency, Ann-Marie. The other day, I was feeling guilty about something stupid that I had done and Michael said, "You have such a huge conscience! You always feel guilty when you do something wrong!" I said, "At least you know I am saved!!!" I am SO thankful for the Holy Spirit who works in both of us :)