“Come in, come in! Welcome to our church. You are the honored guests in this house this morning. Please feel right at home. We are so glad you could join us today, and we pray you will be blessed by the service.”
The Pastor of this small congregation was a tall, thin man with balding hair. Outdated horn-rimmed glasses framed his steel blue eyes. His much too large suit jacket hung on his frail body. I was glad that his smile and greeting helped me overlook his physical appearance.
Walking to the middle of the sanctuary, I pulled my young daughter into a pew. We were running a few minutes late, as I had some trouble finding the church. New to the town, I was looking for a place of worship that shared the faith I possessed and lived by. I really prayed this church would be right for us.
The music started, and I became lost in it. It was a beautiful time of praise. It was just as I had hoped for. The songs were familiar and anointed, and definitely ushered in the presence of God to prepare my heart for the sermon.
The Pastor got up to speak. My heart was ready, my spirit anxious to hear. Opening his big, overstuffed Bible on the podium, he read my favorite passage of Scripture, I Corinthians 13, the “love chapter.”
Oh, my heart was stirred and excited! The “greatest of these” is love! That is the end of the chapter. There is no greater thing than the love we have for God and for one another. Was the Lord of my life showing me so quickly the foundation of the church, so that I would know I was “home?”
I had been taught as a child that without love, all else fails. Nothing else matters if love is not prevalent in how I live. The love of God should be the driving force in all that I do.
I found myself intently focused, that I may hear the sermon that this fine Pastor would deliver based on God’s greatest gift of love. He began his “five-point” outline, which was scrawled on a crumpled piece of paper. I soon realized that the words he spoke were as worthless to me as the scrap of paper they were written on.
Point #1 - To love God means to love others more than we love ourselves. As he spoke, I heard Jesus saying that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. He makes it clear we are to love ourselves FIRST.
Point #2 - To love God means that we give most of our income to the church, not caring about our family’s needs. And I heard the Lord say that any man who does not care for his family is worse than an infidel.
Point #3 - To love God means that we obey the Pastor in all things, never questioning what he asks us to do. And I heard the Lord say to beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, for he may try to devour me. Pastors lead their people. They do not dictate.
Point #4 - To love God means never speaking unless the Pastor asks for our opinion. And I heard the Lord say that He fills our mouths with words He wants spoken, for the Holy Spirit lives in each of us.
Point # 5 - To love God means that only when we adhere to the Pastor’s rules can heaven be ours. And I heard the Lord say that today is the day of my salvation, and nothing can take me out of His hands. No good works can save me. No wrong choices can separate me from Him.
I grabbed my daughter’s hand and ran out the door while the final hymn was being sung. The sting of rain hit my face, and I stood for a while and let it wash over me. I needed that refreshing rain.
Driving home, I began to pray for a lost man who was leading people astray. Deceived by the enemy of his own mind, he was masquerading as a loving Pastor called by God.
I will continue to pray that one day this man will be able to remove the costume he unknowingly wears. Finding the true meaning of the “love chapter” will allow that costume to fall away. He can then be robed in the righteousness of God, a robe that will set him free!
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