Friday, January 30, 2015

Christian Filling Station

I grew up in a little church that people often referred to as "The Filling Station." I was pretty young at the time and wasn't sure what they meant. How could our church be compared to a gas station? So I asked my grandmother what they meant by that and she explained it to me. She said those people who visited our church on Friday nights usually had their home church they attended on Sundays. Ministers and laymembers alike would come to our church and say the same thing. They always felt like they could get refueled at our church.

Now our church was nothing fancy. We didn't even have an indoor bathroom. That didn't make any difference to those who stopped in to fellowship with us. The real reason they came was to experience something that few other churches offered...a real encounter with God! Don't get me wrong, I am not saying our church was the only church who had it right, but many churches had their rituals and routines. So often formal churches schedule everything into the service except for God to have His way. Members know when to say amen, what hymns to sing, and can even follow along with the minister as he gives a sermon. I believe you have to have order and structure because you will create chaos and confusion if that is lacking and God will not be able to work in that situation. I Corinthians 14:33 says "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." But there's something wrong when you walk in the door of the church and right back out after service is over and you are not changed. There needs to be something more than a gathering of individuals with similar beliefs meeting at the same time each week and going through the same motions time after time and no change takes place.

Our church believes in the power of prayer. We know that prayers changes people and prayer changes things! God is in control of everything! If He allows us to go through a trial or set of circumstances it is for a purpose. He is trying to help us to grow and become the men and women of God He wants us to be. Sometimes when our brothers and sisters from other churches were weary from the spiritual warfare they were battling in their own lives, it was a source of refreshing to come to our church and lay their burdens down. The atmosphere was a little more casual and the focus was on God not each other.

I was at the gas station pumping gas when the Lord started speaking to me about how He wants His church to be a filling station for Christians and non-Christians alike. I want to share what He spoke into my spirit as I filled up my gas tank and I hope you will be able to take something away from this and maybe turn your place of worship into a filling station as well.

First of all, God reminded me of the times I had seen the gas stations so full that each pump had cars lined up waiting for their turn to fuel up. What caused the rush to that station? Generally it was because the cost of gasoline was dropped significantly lower than the competition. It was advertised on a big sign for all to see. What kind of advertisement does our church have? What signs are we holding up in our day to day lives? How are we living our life at work, with friends, at family functions, or even when we think no one is looking? We should live our lives in such a way that others would stop and take notice. They would see something unique and special about us, something they would want for themselves.

When those gas prices drop low, I will admit I quickly call/text my close family members and tell them where I got gasoline and how cheap it was. I encourage them to hurry on over and fill their tanks up, too. It's a great value and I don't want them to miss out on it. Do we as Christians ever do that? Do we ever call or text a friend or family member about the amazing life-changing things God is doing for us? Do we encourage them to walk with God and be saved? Are we telling them how wonderful our Lord is so that they don't miss out?

Next, God showed me how people were patient enough to wait in line for something they felt was worth waiting on. They weren't sure when they would be able to get gas for themselves, but they wanted it bad enough to wait for it. They could see the pump ahead of them and they could count the cars in front of them, yet they didn't move because they didn't want to lose their place.

It reminds me of the five foolish virgins in the Bible. Do you remember that? Matthew 25:1-13 where it says: 1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4. But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6. And at midnight there was a cry made, 'Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him.' 7. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8. And the foolish said unto the wise, 'Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.' 9. But the wise answered, saying, 'Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.' 10. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with Him to the marriage: and the door was shut. 11. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us.' 12. But He answered and said, 'Verily I say unto you, I know you not.' 13. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. The wise virgins didn't want to lose their place in line for the bridegroom. They are like the people who want to get a good deal on the gasoline prices. They want to wait their turn.

Another thing God dealt with me about is that we are all at different levels. When we are the gas station some people just want to top off their tank. They are not even close to running out of gasoline but they want to make sure they have a full tank for whatever journey they are on. Some may not be able to afford a full tank of gasoline so they just get whatever they can to make it as long as they can before needing to refuel. Others are skimming by nearly on fumes. They just hope they don't run out before it's their turn at the pump.

Christians are a lot like that. You have some Christians in the church who just seem to have a full walk with God. They wake up reading the Word, praying, and asking God for direction for their day. They fill up first thing in the morning so they can be sure they won't run out of gas regardless of where their path leads them. They are wise.

Some Christians are struggling along. Maybe they haven't been saved long. They don't understand a lot of scriptures, but they want something from God. They aren't running on a full tank but they are trying. They are in line. They see the value of walking with God and they want to get to the point where they are filled to overflowing.

Then there are those in the church who are fair-weather Christians. Blowing by life without taking the time to properly fill up. They rarely look at the gas gauge to see if they need to fill up or not. Barely getting by on fumes, running until they are just about out of gas, and then start praying they can make it up to the pump to get more. They are the ones who constantly pray at the altar for deliverance under the conviction of God, but turn around and they live however they want through the rest of the week. God will not always strive with man. It will be the time to make a decision one day and they should hope they do not wait too long.

Our filling station should not just be a church. It shouldn't be a one time each week experience. Each day we should talk to God through prayer. We need to hear from Him and that is done by reading God's Word, the Holy Bible. Throughout the day we need to be monitoring the condition of our heart (looking at the gas gauge). Did we offend someone when we said something in anger? Were we rude to the person ahead of us in line? Were we salt and light to the world? Did we think to pray, or start our day in a hurry and left God out altogether? I remember a poem that really makes this point clear:

No Time To Pray
I got up early one morning and rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish that I didn't have time to pray.
Problems just tumbled about me,
and heavier came each task,
"Why doesn't God help me?" I wondered.
He answered, "You didn't ask."

I wanted to see joy and beauty,
but the day toiled on gray and bleak;
I wondered why God didn't show me;
He said, "But you didn't seek."

I tried to come into God's presence;
I used all my keys at the lock;
God gently and lovingly chided,
"My child you didn't knock."

I woke up early this morning,
and paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.

In order to stay fueled up, we must read God's Word. We must study it every day and pray fervently. We will grow much closer to God if we will take the time for Him. I read a sign one time that said, "What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were thankful for today?" What if God would give you the same amount of time that you give to Him. Would you find yourself being ignored? Would you ever cross His mind? Would you have any time together? God loves you so much that He sent Jesus, His only begotten Son to die on the cross at Calvary for our sins. Talk to Him. Listen to Him. Pray and get filled up. He will meet your needs. He is much greater than any need you will ever have.