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I am very proud of our church and the volunteers that went to Texas for a week to help rebuild after Hurricane Harvey. Their story is not mine to tell, but I can say that this is what it looks like to bring the kingdom of God to earth. This trip was the church taking care of each other as they were able. I am proud, not because we did this thing, I am proud because 14 people followed God’s call and as a church, we chose to pour our resources and our love into the lives of others.
In Acts, we get a picture of the early church. The author (most likely Luke) writes “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power, the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” (4:32-35)
Christians taking care of Christians
The Christians had legitimate needs that the early church met and it not only brought the believers together in unity, but it also drew people to the gospel. I love what our people did in Texas because it brought peace and hope. It showed God’s love to people who so desperately needed to see it. And I know this because of the responses my wife received from those that lived in the area.
And this makes me wonder how many people would think differently of Christians if this is what they saw of Christians as a general rule, not the exception.
We live in a post-Christian culture, not a non-Christian culture. One of the significant differences is that many in the post-Christian culture are aware of what the Bible says, and they know about Jesus but aren’t buying it. Many of them have attended church at one point in their life, and I think to myself, would they return if the modern church looked more like the early church?
Christians united as one, taking care of each other is part of what drew people. It was a significant departure from the current Roman culture in which they lived.
Paul writes in Philippians 2:2-4 “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Take some time to pray and ask God to show you where you can make a difference. It may be hanging drywall; it may be changing someone’s oil, it may be providing food or other resources. When we serve in the name of Christ, God gets the praise and glory.
Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
The following was written by one of our student leaders at Impact Campus Ministries, South Bend. This blog post struck me because it speaks to the way God sees us, not how we see ourselves. He is there in our darkest times because we are his, and that is enough! Here is a link to Hannah’s blog Grace Upon Grace.
If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there
The most precious thing I have ever received is the grace of God.
He tells me over and over again that I am Hannah Grace, he shows me grace; grace upon grace. He did not just show me grace as a one-time act when he died a brutal death for me on a cross. Yet even if that was the only time he showed me grace, it would be enough for me to bow down on my face and worship him out of complete reverence & thanksgiving. The crazy thing is, his grace does not stop there. That is what baffles my mind. He gives me more grace. Every. Single. Day.
I love Psalm 139. David expresses how intricately the Lord knows us. David states, “You have searched me and known me!.. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it all together…”
The part of the psalm that really blows my mind is when David says, “If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” When I read that, I think, boy! How many times have I literally made my bed in hell and camped out there for a while because I had a bad attitude, was being selfish, and totally not acting like a precious daughter of God. Way too many times. Instances come to my mind where I have pouted with where the Lord was leading me. Most recently, all semester I have pouted about how difficult nursing school is, & why the Lord did not lead me to a Christian college. I could go on about so many other moments where I have acted far from Christ-like, and by doing so, literally bathed in my sin, then made my bed in hell and slept there. I got comfortable relaxing in a place that is so far from God. For that, I am so sorry, Lord.
And yet, the scripture says, “If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.” Wait, what?
You mean to tell me that when I am a pouty, selfish, untrusting, unfaithful, little girl, the Lord follows me there too? He just is not with me when I am making him proud, but he is with me when I am “failing” miserably in trusting the Lord. That is grace.Praise the Lord that he pours out his grace upon his children each morning. I try so hard to follow him and fall short. Praise the Lord for his grace stacked upon grace that stacks up so high that it bridges the gap between me & my failures and the righteousness of God.
“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:16
Practicing the presence of God on an hourly basis is a difficult habit to attain at times. We get so busy with our activities and thoughts that we often forget God’s presence. One of my best friends, Jon, said it like this: seeing the sunset and taking a moment to thank God and acknowledge his hand in it, that’s practicing the presence of God. Talking to God and saying “I don’t understand what you are doing here God, I trust you, but I don’t get the plan here, and I am not sure I like it,” that’s practicing the presence of God.
Brother Lawrence was a monk in the middle 1600’s who sought the presence of God even in the mundane daily chores. As a practicing monk, they adhered to the hours of prayer every three hours, but he sought God’s presence even in the between times. He sought God’s presence as he prepared meals and washed the dishes. What it comes down to directly is forming good habits.
At our house, we have 2.5 acres to mow and many trees to work around. It also gives me plenty of opportunities to practice the presence of God by looking around at the beauty of creation, looking at how many things I have to be thankful for, but I also can go through a chunk of my day without my mind turning to God… unless I am purposeful about it.
Paul writes in Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally brothers (and sisters) whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is any worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Paul set’s the example of how to keep his mind on the presence of God. Think back to the numerous times he has been in prison. What is he doing? He writes to all of the churches about how to live the gospel of Christ in a world controlled by the Roman Empire. Or let’s go to Acts 16:22-25 “The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”
How often can we think about the things of God in the day? Maybe it’s a short prayer for a friend or family member as their names come into your head. Perhaps it is a quick “thank you God for the rains you sent but a huge thank you for the sunshine today.
Frank Laubach a Christian missionary wrote in one of his letters “Can I bring God back in my mind-flow every few seconds so that God shall always be in my mind as an after-image? I choose to make the rest of my life an experiment in answering this question.”
Take a few moments each hour and think on the things of God. Maybe it is his love, his grace or his mercy, or say a short prayer for whatever happens to be on your mind. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to turn your thoughts to God, and see how this helps shape and mold your day… even if it is doing routine tasks like Brother Lawrence.