Community

Community

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous. 1 Peter 3:8

Recommended Reading – Romans 12:9-16

One of the most distinctive changes between the Old Testament and the New Testament was terminology. In the Old Testament, God and Israel’s relationship was theocratic: God was King and Israelites were His subjects as defined by divine covenants. But in the New Testament the relationship became familial: God is Father and Christians are His children (Romans 8:12-17). The phrase “children of God” occurs ten times in the New Testament, not at all in the Old Testament.

Families live “communally”—that is, they hold things in common. The Body of Christ, therefore, is a family community that shares in the grace and gifts of God equally. And the New Testament is filled with images of what that community of believers should look like. It should share in love, unity (community), forgiveness, tenderheartedness, compassion, courtesy, generosity, and more. Family members are to love one another as God the Father loves the family (Ephesians 4:32).

Consider ways that you can become closer to your brothers and sisters in the Christian community—both in your own family and the family of God.

The church is a community of the works and words of Jesus.
Donald English

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Faithfulness in Our Calling

Faithfulness in Our Calling

“He went out to meet Asa and said to him, ‘Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.'” – 2 Chronicles 15:2

Asa was the king of Judah from 912-872 B.C. He reigned for 41 years and was known as a good king who served the Lord with great zeal. He reformed many things. He broke down idol worship to foreign gods; he put away male prostitutes and even removed his own mother from being queen because she worshiped an idol. The Scriptures say that as long as he sought the Lord, the Lord prospered his reign.

However, Asa was not totally faithful in his calling. There came a time in his life when he made a decision to no longer trust in the God of Israel. He lost his confidence in God as his deliverer. The prophet Hanani came to Asa to inform him that God’s blessing was no longer on his life because of an ungodly alliance he had made.

Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war (2 Chronicles 16:8-9).

There are no guarantees that if we began well we will finish well. The life of Asa tells us this. It is only through God’s grace that we can be faithful to our calling. Each of us is capable of falling away from God. Pray that God will keep you faithful to the purposes He has for your life. He strengthens those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.

Giving ‘Til it Hurts

Giving ‘til It Hurts

On the next day, when [the Samaritan] departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.”
Luke 10:35

Recommended Reading – Luke 10:25-37

What is the most you have ever given, spontaneously, to a person in need? A dollar? Five, ten dollars, or more? How about the equivalent of what you earn in two days? There are 260 working days in the year (52 weeks x 5 days per week). Divide 260 into your annual salary and see what you come up with. Would you give that much money to a person in need—someone you didn’t know?

That’s what the “good Samaritan” did who stopped to help a man who had been beaten and robbed on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. The Samaritan tended to the injured man’s wounds, then took him to an inn and gave the innkeeper two denarii—the equivalent of two days’ wages—to look after the injured man (Matthew 20:2). He even promised the innkeeper he would cover any additional expenses incurred when he passed that way again. Writing a check for two or three hundred dollars today sounds like a lot. And it is! But love and compassion are costly and require sacrifice.

Giving until it hurts means we have crossed the line between convenience and sacrifice.

The limit of giving is to be the limit of our ability to give.
C. S. Lewis

Doing Something

Doing Something

But when [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Matthew 9:36

Recommended Reading – Matthew 22:36-40

While walking in the crowded streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, an American Christian tourist saw the poorest person he had ever seen—a tiny woman with bare, dirty feet; she was clothed only in a threadbare black garment which she used to cover her face. After she vanished into the crowds, he prayed that God would let him see her again so he might give her the foreign coins in his pocket. Before too long, he was amazed to see her coming toward him. He stopped her, frightening her, and held out a handful of coins and gestured for her to take them, which she did. Although he couldn’t see her face, he could tell that her eyes were grateful as they parted ways.

He had no idea who the woman was—Arab, Christian, Jew, or other. And he knew he would never see her again. But he knew she was desperately poor and that he, with his sunglasses, camera, and nice clothes, was rich by comparison. She had nothing; he had everything. And he had to meet at least part of her need.

Having the life of Jesus in us means having His hands and heart toward those in need. We can’t do everything, but we can do something.

My neighbor is anyone with a need that I am able to meet.
Haddon Robinson

Multiplied Thanks

Multiplied Thanks

For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God. 2 Corinthians 9:12

Recommended Reading – 2 Corinthians 9:11-15

The founding pastor of a large church led the congregation to pray for a serious need the church had in its early days. When God met the need in a dramatic fashion, the story of that miraculous intervention was told around the world. Years later, the pastor would say that wherever he traveled, Christians would ask him about the miracle answer that God provided in their hour of need.

Good news spreads! Paul wrote to the Corinthians and told them that their generous gift to the church in Jerusalem was causing “many thanksgivings to God” to be offered up—and not just by the recipients of the gift in Jerusalem. In addition, other Christians in other churches were glorifying God for the obedience and generosity of the Corinthians’ gift. That is always true whenever we give. We thank God and the recipient thanks God—and everyone who hears about the generous gift thanks God, too. Sowing the seed of a gift results in the multiplied fruit of thanksgiving.

You may never hear all the thanks that arise from your gifts and good works. But don’t let that stop you. God hears them all.

A giving Saviour should have giving disciples.
J. C. Ryle

So Sow

So Sow

He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
2 Corinthians 9:6

Recommended Reading – Galatians 6:6-10

Once when Rosalind Goforth grew discouraged with her missionary work in China, she wrote the words of 2 Corinthians 9:6 on the blackboard in her home and she looked at them daily. “This promise remained constantly before me,” she later said, “an ever-present incentive to sow bountifully the Gospel seed…even though it often seemed the seed was being cast on stony ground. The day came, however, when my beloved husband and I were permitted to see bountiful harvests of souls reaped for our Master in that region.” Indeed, the crowds at Jonathan’s rallies sometimes numbered 25,000, a multitude unheard of in Chinese evangelism. Multitudes came to Christ during their career, and fifty Chinese converts became ministers or evangelists.

We have a large assortment of seed to sow—our Gospel witness, Gospel literature, our testimonies, our tithes and offerings, our acts of kindness and charity. The Bible promises that those who sow faithfully will reap a harvest. We can only reap if we sow.

So what Gospel seed can you sow today?

He who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.
Saint Basil (330-379)

Yes You May – Forgiveness

Yes You May—Forgiveness

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Isaiah 1:18

Recommended Reading – Isaiah 1:16-20

Earlier this year a man in Woodland, California, lost his wallet and decided it had been thrown in the trash. He climbed into a large garbage dumpster, but the sanitation truck came by while he searched through the debris. Hoisting up the dumpster, the truck poured the trash, including the man, into its giant interior and continued toward the landfill. It took a terrifying hour for the man to climb up through the debris and signal the sanitation engineers. He barely escaped being compacted.

Have you ever heard anyone say, “I feel like garbage”? Sometimes we feel dirty, sinful, like a person in a dump truck. Isaiah 64:6 says, “We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags … our iniquities…have taken us away.”

But Isaiah also said, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). The Lord offers complete forgiveness of all our garbage through Jesus Christ. And yes, you may receive it today.

Break down every idol, cast out every foe; now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
James L. Nicholson, in the hymn “Whiter Than Snow.”