I don’t enjoy long business trips, but sometimes God uses them to catch my attention and speak to me. One trip that stands out is a visit I made to Trinidad in 2004. I didn’t want to go, but during the trip was overwhelmed by the number of Christians God put in my path daily, and the way that God spoke to me through these encounters.
For the last ten days I have been in the USA. I don’t like trips that include weekends away, but I do like visiting the US. Except when the trip is as crammed as this one has been! I have taken three flights so far and have one to go, visited three cities (LA, New York and Miami), and stayed in five different hotels. There have been two particular blessings attached to visiting Miami last. One is that I have been able to visit an old haunt in Key Largo where Marilyn and I have holidayed three times. The owner of the small but wonderful hotel where we stay has become a friend, and it was good to meet up with him again. He managed to squeeze me in a booking for two nights, allowing me to wake to a beautiful view of Florida Bay each morning. It is eight years since Marilyn and I were here last, and I know we need to return soon, hopefully to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in 2019.
The other blessing was attending Harvest Bible Church in Miami on the Sunday morning. I have been reading a book entitled ‘Vertical Church’ by James MacDonald, the minister who founded the first Harvest Bible Church in Chicago. Vertical Church has challenged me on many levels, and I was keen to worship at a Vertical Church while in the US.
The Miami Vertical Church is small. They rent a hall from a larger Episcopal Church and hold 09:30 and 11:00 services each Sunday. I’d guess there were about forty people at the 09:30. The service began with worshipping God in song, moved to prayer and a Bible reading, the offering, and then the message and a final song. There was a certain simplicity in everything, yet everything was done to a level of excellence that I believe was truly honouring to God. It left me wondering why some of our services have become so complicated? Perhaps it is because we spend too much time casting our eyes horizontally, instead of looking vertically towards God?
Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. (Ephesians 2:20-21 NLT)