I am loving this weather! The leaves are turning, the temperature is cooling, and it just makes me feel awake, alert, and joyful every day when I look outside.
In the service this week, Nikki Andrews shared that we connected to another couple of young mothers in this week's MOPS meeting -- bringing the total number of moms being reached by the new ministry to six. At the next meeting on the 24th, we'll be hosting guest speaker Denise Bailey, from Peoria Rescue Ministries, so please be keeping this outreach in your prayers.
Also, please be praying for our Elders and Deacons as we come together on Thursday of this week to nail down our 2015 Budget. We've been very blessed to have been able to surf the country's economic woes pretty well these past couple of years, but 2014 has been a little tighter, and we're having to make some prayerful (and a smidge painful) cuts across the board. Please be praying for wisdom, clarity, and faith as we finalize things this week, in preparation for next month's Congregational Meeting.
In our message on Sunday, we finished our series on Preparing Our Hearts for Worship. Over the past couple of months, we've talked about how worship is, at its core, ascribing worth to God. That can't be a once-a-week thing (what kind of worth would that ascribe?), and it can't be solely an individualized thing. It's a community effort, and it needs to be carried out, actively, daily, and sincerely. Any act of worship that doesn't include your heartfelt commitment to God isn't really worship -- it's at best self-discipline, and at worst games-playing.
We've all been called to be a kingdom of priests, actively (even messily) reaching out to the dark and broken world around us and sharing God's love and His salvation with them. No one stands between us and the Lord, but we can stand in the gap between the lost and the God who has given so much to reach them and help them -- bringing them close to Him, just like someone brought us close to Him at some point in our lives. Just like Richard shared a week ago, worship was intended to be an active, messy, visceral thing. When we sanitize it and "manage" it, we make it about our comfort levels instead of about honoring the God whom we serve.
But there are some key differences between our worship today and the worship that Jesus took part in at the Temple. The rules are still the same (for instance, it's still a religion based on blood sacrifice to cover over sins), but the players and the playing field are different. Yes, the rule of Genesis 2 still says that something's got to die to pay for sins -- but Jesus gave Himself, as a perfect offering, so that no other sacrifice is needed. Yes, God has a "holy place" on Earth -- but it's in the hearts of His church members, not in a physical Temple somewhere. And yes, God is still just as terrifyingly pure and holy as He was back on Mount Sinai -- but because Christ's blood buys us holiness as well, there's nothing about God that should terrify us.
You carry the Holy of Holies with you in your heart, and that makes every place you walk a sanctuary. So live out your life as a priest of the Living God every day, bringing that Holy Place into every interaction that you have with all those around you. If you're living a life of worship, you can't help but overflow God's presence into the lives of everyone else around you.
And enter into God's presence with joy, with confidence, and with God's warm and genuine welcome today.