God has been blessing us! He has been sending us new people; many of them have been returning and we can see some growth, such as we saw last Sunday. But as wonderful an experience as this is it also means that God is giving us all new responsibilities that go along with new people. Here are some areas where you can assist our efforts to help people:
Volunteer to help with children. As we add more adults we are adding more children. We are excited about the increasing number of people who are saying “I’ll help!” But we still need more helpers. I would appreciate it if you would call Bob Umbanhowar and Kathy Downs and offer to help.
Where you sit makes a big difference. As our Worship Service gets more full we have noticed that some of our later arrivals have had trouble finding seats. That means we need everyone’s cooperation. Here’s where you can help:
1. Sit toward the front and center of each of the two sections of seating and leave the rear seats for our guests.
2. Everybody prefers an aisle seat, but remember that many of our guests will leave if staying means crawling over people on the aisle.
3. Please take notice of newcomers sitting alone and go sit next to them. Sitting by yourself in church can be very lonely. Introduce yourself to them and let them know you are glad they are here.
Offer to help our newcomers. Many of our visitors have said this is one of the friendliest churches they have visited. That doesn’t happen by accident. It must continually be worked at by members who recognize they have a God-given opportunity to bless people. Notice people who seem unsure of themselves. Just walk up and introduce yourself and say, “Can I help you find something?” Go out of your way to be friendly. Introduce them to someone else so they can make several friends. Invite them to lunch. Remember, people aren’t looking for a friendly church; they’re looking for friends. I really appreciate the wonderful way in which so many of us are responding to outsiders. Let’s keep it going!
When Christians talk about abundant life in Christ, they share some common beliefs and have points where their ideas diverge. Ask 10 Christians to define abundant life and you may get 14 answers. But Scripture is clear that our new life is a reality. 2 Corinthians talks about this life when it says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away and new things have come.” Jesus said “A thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Paul talks about God doing “exceeding abundantly, beyond all we can ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Throughout Scripture we see God blessing people, and promising blessings to people. Proverbs speaks often about ways we can become prosperous. Is God trying to tell us that prosperity is the sign of the abundant life? Because many in the Bible and throughout history have had lives of struggle, suffering and pain, yet seemed to experience abundant life.
We sing about it, we preach and teach about it, but what does “abundant living” really look like? Like most of the things our Lord taught us about kingdom living it has to do with a succession of small events that, when put together, make a very large life. Abundant living doesn't show itself just in magnificent conversion experiences, or awesome miracles, or martyr-type deaths. Instead, it is seen in the giving of food to the hungry, or water to those who are thirsty, or being hospitable to a stranger, or clothing the naked, or ministering to the sick and hurting. So subtle are these things in themselves that those who practice them regularly will say, when commended for them at the Judgment, “When did we do these things?” and the king will say….”to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine...you did it to me….and these will go away into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:40f) Why? Because that is the abundant reward that seems to accompany that kind of abundant living. And that kind of life is urged upon us all.
When Albert Einstein was a very famous man one of his neighbors found out that her ten year old daughter had been visiting his house. The woman asked her child about this and the child explained: “I had trouble with my homework in arithmetic. People said that at No. 112 there lived a very good mathematician. So I asked him to help me. He was very willing and explained everything very well. He said I should come whenever I have a problem too difficult.” Alarmed at the child’s boldness, the girl’s mother went to Einstein to apologize. Einstein said, “You don’t have to apologize. I have learned more from the conversations with this child than she has from me.” This story really captures my imagination. Imagine having access to one of the greatest mathematicians in history and finding out that he is willing to help you with your math!
And yet there is a greater scene that captures my imagination: having access to the Creator of the universe and finding out that He is more than willing to listen to my requests. That was one of the amazing facts Jesus tried to convey to people during his ministry. He compared God to a judge to whom a woman came seeking justice for her cause. Because of her persistence, even though she had no standing in the community, she received it. He likened His Father to a friend who at midnight was approached by a neighbor seeking provisions. He got his request because of his persistence. So he insists “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” What is He saying? That your Father in heaven is more anxious to answer your prayers than you are to pray! In case we haven’t gotten the point He concludes with this gem: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
It is incredible to think that someone could have access to assistance beyond their wildest dreams and yet never take advantage of that fact. And yet many Christians do this all the time, in spite of the plain teaching that God wants us to come to Him for all our needs. Remember your Friend in High Places!
An Army nurse was infamous in medical circles because of her tendency to wander away from the medical camp onto the battlefield itself. Occasionally, she would personally drag in a soldier who was in dire need of medical attention. More than once, she was reprimanded because she brought in not only American soldiers but also enemy soldiers. One day, an officer discovered her on the battlefield and asked her what she was doing there. Her answer is a classic statement of purpose. She said: “I’m looking for the wounded, sir. That’s my job.”
Oh, that we in the church of Jesus Christ had such a clear understanding of our purpose! If you have gotten the idea that Christians have often turned the church into a special club it may not all be in your imagination. In fact, any group called into being for a purpose needs to continually assess its present progress in light of its mission statement. It is so easy to become “something else.” Our mission statement has three unifying ideas. Simply put, they are: 1. Win people to Christ, 2. Help them grow up spiritually, and 3. Train them to minister to others. That doesn’t mean we don’t do other things also. But all those “other things” had better by related to numbers 1,2, and 3 or we should change our mission statement.
I am not only concerned about the church as a body understanding its purpose, but each person within the body as well. The Lord hasn’t called each of us to be just a better parent, or mate, or employee (as important as that is). He also puts His Spirit within us so that we become interested in the eternal welfare of others as well. Jesus spoke often about our purpose and even established the priorities for us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40). A child of God who has begun the blessed task of learning to love the Lord with all his heart, soul and mind usually proceeds to learn to love his neighbor as himself. In other words, he can’t help but stray out onto the battlefield looking for the wounded. That’s his job. Bring some wounded with you to church this Sunday and let us help you love them into the Kingdom.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship