"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25)
This morning I found inspiration in "Marlboro Country". No, I did not smoke any cigarettes! What I mean is, I went to church in Marlboro, MA and had a blessed and inspiring time.
(For spelling purists, the official legal spelling of the central Massachusetts city is "Marlborough" and not "Marlboro" although you often see it spelled the same way as the cigarette brand. That's also true for the Town of Foxborough where the Patriots play, often spelled "Foxboro" and for about a dozen other Massachusetts communities whose legal names - going back to the antiquated English of the 1700s - end with that silent "ugh" which is a product of a bygone era!)
Many of you know my wife and I are Members at Bread of Life Church in northern Worcester County. It's a long way from the immediate Boston area where I now reside, and it's a long story why we attend there. Bread of Life Church held their service on Saturday afternoon due to the snowy weather forecast, and I was working so I couldn't attend. It was with much surprise that I awoke today to discover that in the immediate Boston area it was pouring rain but that we'd had no snow whatsoever! I decided to venture out and go to church at New Hope Community Church (Assemblies of God) where my good friend Rob Woods is pastor and where two of my kids attend. The drive was easy. There was really no snow at all falling until the Natick/Framingham line and what snow was falling was not sticking this morning. I arrived at church about twenty minutes early. Well, I quickly learned they were functioning with a delayed opening so I was thirty-five minutes early! (Rob and Shelley Woods drive in from their home in Worcester where they did have a fair amount of snow! Thus, the pastor called for a delayed opening!)
I didn't mind being so early. It felt good to just sit and listen to the musicians and singers practice. One lay leader in the church sat next to me and conversed for a couple of minutes. He asked how my week went and I muttered some sort of an "O.K." to him.
"No problems, huh?!" he excitedly said.
This was one of those moments when if I'd been a female, I think I'd have burst into tears. Without realizing what I was saying or doing, I said in a soft but shaky voice, "Oh, no, I've got big, big problems; and that's about all I want to say about it."
I think he as a little taken back and said he'd pray for me. Then he moved on to greet other people. A couple of days ago I made the mistake of overly dwelling on some negative circumstances. The next thing I knew, two Elton John songs were playing over and over in my head: "Sad Songs" and "Levon". From the viewpoint of secular music, in many respects they're good songs, but from the viewpoint of God's perfect plan and redemption, those songs will do nothing for you. (Well, actually, they will do something for you- they'll just drag you down.) Today, I was in the house of the Lord, and it was absolutely the right place. New Hope Church is technically speaking a "storefront church". I don't like that term because it conjures up images of tiny, run down, inner-city churches with hysterical and emotional preachers and people banging tambourines and acting fanatical. In fact, this church shares its space at 204 Main Street with a Brazilian Baptist church which holds its main services on Sunday nights. The church sanctuary must seat at least two hundred. It's a modern, attractive facility. The seats are modern and very comfortable. There is also a fellowship hall and other rooms.
The musicians were having some kind of trouble with their sound system. I guess it was a faulty amp. that the electric guitar was hooked up to. There was a lot of distortion. Even so, the musicians pressed on and we had a good worship service. Pastor Rob Woods preached a good sermon on Abraham. A lot of the sermon was very basic, but there's one line that stuck out for me and that I found myself "chewing on". Pastor Rob said, "It was when Abraham became lethargic that he got into trouble!" He spoke about the danger of allowing ourselves to become lethargic in our Christian walks. Honestly, I've struggled off and on with leghargy over the past twenty years or so, and I've found that numerous other Christians have confessed to the same thing. This is an area where the forces of darkness attack us and so often we stupidly give in to it!
As a former pastor, I am fascinated to watch how other pastors function and operate. I was very surprised that New Hope Church was having their Annual Business Meeting right after the morning service today. I only had the Annual Business Meeting once or twice on Sunday right after the service, but I did hold probably six or seven Special Business Meetings at that time over the years. I hated having a business meeting right after the Sunday service. (We used to usually hold our Annual Business Meetings on Saturday evenings.) I would become so stressed out about the upcoming meeting that I would have a hard time preaching and praying. Rob stated his Meeting would be short as all the elected offices were uncontested so the elections were really just a ratification, and then they were going to briefly go over the Financial Report. Rob was very upbeat. As pastor, I hated when offices were uncontested. I felt it reflected a church that really didn't care. As much as I hate to admit this, I know I struggled with "seeing the glass as half empty" when I was pastoring. Rob seems to "see the glass as half full". Rob's almost twenty years younger than I am, but I suspect I could learn a lot from him.
Yes, I had a good, inspiring time in Marlboro Country today. I'm motivated to press on despite many problems and setbacks in my life. If you live anywhere near Marlboro, MA, New Hope Church would be a great place for you to cheeck out! Seriously.
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