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Nov 12, 2017

Gather-Grow-Go

Gather-Grow-Go

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 3-4

Speaker: Pastor Chris Riedel

Series: Gather-Grow-Go Series

Category: Faith, Hope

Keywords: community, disciples

As we gather in community, we grow as disciples of Jesus Christ and we are then sent out to spread His word.
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Devotional

"May God our Father himself and our Master Jesus clear the road to you! And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you. May you be infused with strength and purity, filled with confidence in the presence of God our Father when our Master Jesus arrives with all his followers. 

One final word, friends. We ask you - urge is more like it - that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance." 

 

1 Thessalonians 3:11 - 4:1-2,

 

The Message

I remember about 25 years ago sitting at a table with a few women as the conversation turned to a ministry that served a battered women's shelter. Women from the church baked casseroles a few times a month to be delivered to the shelter each week. One of the women at the table scoffed and said, "You know, most people at churches do things like that, less out of real concern for others, but more to make themselves feel good." 

I was stunned by her brashness and her skepticism. I wondered if and how the church had hurt her. At the time, I remember thinking that I honestly couldn't care less why an individual might choose to serve others. I was just happy those women would get a good meal to eat. 

Remembering that story got me thinking though that maybe the "why" is a legitimate question. I see countless people - both church members and not - giving to the community with their time and their talents as well as with their money. Why does the church encourage service? Why does anyone endeavor to "do good"? Why volunteer for the homeless? Donate to the food pantry? Offer to do yard work for an elderly neighbor? Give to a building campaign? Rock a newborn in the nursery? Why? 

Does the acceptable Christian life require these things? Is there a checklist we need to complete? Are we earning our way to heaven? Are we trying to prove to the community and the Lord that we aren't sinful and self-absorbed? Do we think maybe Jesus will be impressed by that photo we post on Facebook showing our good works? 

The Bible tells us specifically that the answer to those questions is "No". Ephesians assures us that it is by grace we have been saved through faith and not by works. If this is why we are doing good, we might want to take a breath and understand the full measure of what it is that Jesus did for us on the cross. Those reasons - checklists, requirements, rules - make our giving a fearful response done out of a spirit of lack. We look at ourselves and perceive what we don't possess. We aren't sinless, we aren't selfless, we aren't good enough. And here's the thing: On our own power we never will be. So we work harder and give more. 

The Lord sees our lack and He's not surprised and He's not deterred. He pours into us every good and perfect thing: strength, confidence, purity, joy, gratitude, charity. And it is this truly overwhelming abundance of good that allows us to serve, to give and to love our community. 

What if we approach the road ahead of us - our broken world, our church's need, our neighbor's hurt - without focusing on the roadblocks and on our inadequacies? What if we stopped trying to prove our worth? 

What if instead we look at our gifts and talents as abundant? What if we see ourselves as wonderfully made by our Lord with unique abilities that He has specifically granted us for purpose? What if we stop to marvel at how very, very much He loves us and how perfectly He equips us? 

I think when we do that, the road ahead seems clear for us. We look out into the world and see immense, deep need. And yet, with this new perspective, our response is not tinged by the realization of our lack, but instead is fueled by the confident awareness of the abundance He has poured into us. In that way, we know that we can run - or better yet, dance - down the road before us, so overflowing with abundance that we can't help but spill out the good, good news to all of His people in every corner of His kingdom.

Prayer

Gracious, giving, generous God. We look at the need in our world and we are filled with fear. We look at our lack and we feel unworthy. Let us change our perspective today to realize that You have given us every good thing in abundance. Let us dance through Your kingdom so overwhelmed with with hope and gratitude for Your goodness that we splash every good and perfect thing to everyone around us. Amen. 

Written by Jennifer Skinner, member of Arcola Church and a Texan (Texas Longhorn to be specific!) living in beautiful Virginia with her very patient, funny husband, and three very impatient, funny boys/ball players. She is also a blogger, The View From Behind Home Plate, who writes about finding extraordinary grace and blessings among the cleats and dirt and testosterone that fill her ordinary days.