The benefits of a great church family

To go with today’s theme of thankfulness I’d like to expand on why I am thankful for my local church, Tulare First Baptist Church, and its senior pastor, Dr. Robert Medcalf.

For me, last Sunday’s sermon titled: “Rebuilding after the storms hit your life,” was more of a validation of the life journey I’m on right now than it was a list of bullet points that I’d never previously considered. Coincidentally (or maybe not because it’s difficult to believe in coincidences with God), I’m reading through a book by Larry Osborne titled: “10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe.”

The title of Chapter 9, “A valley means a wrong turn,” fit so neatly with pastor’s sermon that it couldn’t have been a mere coincidence that the men’s group I’m a part of was going through this chapter at the same time pastor was preaching this message.

In the context of my life two years post-divorce this message was a great one for me to hear, and a great one for everyone to hear because as Larry Osborne says in his book, it’s not a matter of whether we’re going to experience valleys in life, it’s a matter of when. Because we live in a fallen world (Rom. 3.23), we are all sure to experience bad times in life. According to Osborne, those periods in the valley can come not only as a result of living in a fallen world, but can be self-induced and even God ordained. I recommend Osborne’s book for a more complete explanation of these ideas.

I’d like to think that one of God’s life-lessons in all I’ve seen, done, experienced and had happen to me, is that the encouragement of others is vital to our survival. We can’t offer encouragement to others without first having love. The Bible talks about the importance of love and how it’s the “greatest of these” (1 Cor. 13:13); Jesus even cited its importance when he told the Pharisees that nothing was more important than love (Matt. 22:37-40).

The take-home message or application to Pastor Bob’s message centered on the idea that reaching out to others is not something we do after we’ve cleaned up from the storms of life, but something we do while we’re in the storms of life. I can attest to the effects of this in my own life as I’ve reached out to my best friend in the wake of his divorce and the pain he experienced after his wife left him a year after the same thing happened to me.

Rebuilding, whether it’s from life’s storms or the meteorological ones, tends to be more costly and time consuming because to start rebuilding one must clean up first, and cleaning up from the storms of life aren’t as easy at times as bringing in the chainsaws and dump trucks to haul away the debris. That’s why the grieving process is as important as it is. Without a healthy dose of grieving, bitterness can easily sets in and destroys your life. Grieving makes it easier to avoid repressing, reducing or hiding your emotions, which can then lead to resentment and even more bitterness.

Let me just say in closing that whether you’re now in one of life’s valleys, or if you’re going through one of life’s storms, to get through to the other side, regardless of when that comes, your focus needs to be on a solid faith in Christ. As the writer of Hebrews puts it in 12:2 — “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” If you’re not in a valley right now then the message still applies because at some point, as it’s been in my life, having faith as an anchor has been the sole reason why I wasn’t tossed into some of the traps that can come as a result of being blown about by life’s severe storms.

If you are not a part of a good church that teaches and lives out God’s Word, I’d encourage you this weekend to find one. Become part of a fellowship that loves and encourages each other. You’ll be better for it, and so will the friends you’ll make. It’s made all the difference in the world for me.

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