Saturday, November 21, 2009

Back to the Early Church

So for the past several days, I was recounting an experience and the amazing power of forgiveness that was shown to me while in South Africa. Where to go from there? Back to the early church, of course. My mind is consumed by it these days. I can't seem to get away from it, and more over I am left with the unyielding question of "What do I do with this?"

It is interesting that right now the church body that I fellowship with is in the midst of series about finances and resources and stewardship. It seems to me that the question always seems to come back around to "how much is too much and what is ok for me to keep?" Is it ok for me to have this or is it ok for me to hold on to that?

So last night at our small group, we were discussing the Lord's prayer, and specifically the Matthew 6:11. "Give us today our daily bread." So, here's the do you ask for that which you already have? And yes, I know that some will reply that we give thanks everyday for all that God has provided, but seriously, when was the last time that you prayed that, really needing God to provide you with bread that day? When did you pray that and not already have bread in your well-stocked kitchen? Or even meagerly-stocked kitchen? When did you have to plead of God to truly come through for you? When were you left with no other option than to depend on God?

When is the last time that you were unsure where your next meal was coming from? When was the last time that your pantry was bare and your refrigerator was just empty? When was the last time you swung through Starbucks because you just had to have some coffee? Or pulled through the drive-through or take out for a quick bite? Did you even give it a thought? Maybe you wondered whether you had cash on you or if you should just whip out the debit card? When was the last time that you seriously had no idea where your next meal was coming from? When was the last time that you just resigned that you weren't going to eat that day, and prayed and hoped for a better day tomorrow? And know that I ask these questions simply because they are being asked of me. I am certainly not innocent in these manners.

Here is what I struggle with these days: how joined are we with the rest of the Church? Do we struggle with the rest of the body of Christ, or is the global disconnect so great that we rarely even give the sufferings of our brothers and sisters a thought? Here's what I love about the early Church. Distance did not disconnect them. Nor did nationalities or boundary lines. They were united by their love for Christ. It superseded all other allegiances or patriotic notions. Look at the letters that Paul wrote to the Church at Philippi, thanking and encouraging their giving and supporting him in Rome. Look at the letter to the Hebrews, who are being encouraged in their giving and support of the Christ followers who are being persecuted in Jerusalem. Look at the letter to the Church in Corinth, as well as the Church at Galatia. They are challenged to continue in the collection for the Church in Jerusalem.

So, going back to Acts 4, where Scripture says that all the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. And then I am drawn back to Matthew 6:11, where we are instructed to ask God for our daily bread. Everyday, ask Him for our provision. And this isn't the first time in Scripture that we have been instructed to ask and receive just enough to get us through the day. Think back to the Exodus story while the Israelites were wandering in the desert. God provided manna from the sky for them, but they were instructed to take just enough to get through the day, and then trust and believe that God was going to come through for them again tomorrow.

So, what is it that we are supposed to hang on to? Just our daily bread? Just enough for today? Are we not to be vessels through whom blessings flow? Are your blessings flowing, or are the landing on you and coming to a full stop? What if your next door neighbor were going hungry? Would you not allow your blessings to flow readily through your hands to see that your neighbor was properly taken care of? And what about your family? Even if your family were in another city, would you not go out of your way to see that your family is properly cared for?

So now Scripture tells us that we are born into the family of God, as we are bound together by the blood of Christ and we all have been adopted in as family. But truly, are we taking care of our family? Anyone can look at the world situation and see that the family is a bit (read a lot) out of balance. While our brothers and sisters around the world are daily pleading for even a piece of bread, we drop too much money on an over-priced coffee drink without even giving it a thought.

It's time to start thinking about it...

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