Nehemiah 10: We will not neglect The Temple of our God.
Part of the pledge that’s signed by the civil, religious, an family leaders (and then ratified by the people) is a commitment to pay attention to the support of the Temple. The “not neglecting” part isn’t about attendance at worship services. Instead, it concerns their physical support of their place of worship. While it’s clear that our meeting houses are a far cry from the Temple in everything from architecture to national significance to actual worship practices there’s still the “House of Worship” connection. The Temple is where they worship and our churches are where we worship. In fact, the issue at hand presents a pretty strong connection between Temple and church. The people of Nehemiah’s day pledge themselves to proper support of their Temple. They’ll see to it that every resource necessary for its operation is provided. Today, I thank God for those who support the church like that. Because of their faithfulness the energy of the church can focus on doing the ministry it’s called to do rather than on endless fundraising that the bills might be paid and the maintenance might be done.
Take Away: Thank the Lord for faithful supporters of his work.
Having a small role in a big deal
Exodus 17: But Moses’ hands got tired.
The first of what will be a seeming unending number of battles is taking place. Their background as slaves affords these Israelites little preparation of combat. King Amalek, on the other hand, is a fighter with a trained and disciplined army. He sees the Israelites as easy prey and attacks them. The thing he doesn’t know is that Israel is under the protection of God Almighty. God’s man, Moses, climbs to a high point and raises that famous staff to the Lord. When he does, it’s almost as though God’s power flows from heaven, through that staff, into Moses, and then out to those defending the nation. These slaves fight like soldiers. However, Moses’ arms grow weary and he lowers the staff. When he does, the tide of the battle turns and Amalek’s forces begin to gain the advantage. Two men, Aaron and Hur, come to the rescue. They provide Moses a place to sit and then they hold up his arms and staff. Victory is theirs. As I read this story I see that God’s teaching them that (in the words of Jesus) “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Their victory on this day is clearly linked to Moses, the staff, and the action of Aaron and Hur. It’s a great victory, the first of many, but there’s no way they can take credit for it. Also, I can’t help but comment on the support of Aaron and Hur. Neither is God’s man for this moment. Clearly, that’s Moses. However, they become literal “supporters” of God’s man, lifting him when he can’t go on. Generally speaking, that’s our role in life too. We lend our support to those God is using in unique ways. In so doing, we play a small role in the big deal of God’s work in this world.
Take Away: It’s nice to have a part to play, even when it’s mainly just supportive of others.
Responsibility of seasoned saints
Galatians 6: So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good.
The church is, obviously, an imperfect body. After all, it’s filled with imperfect human beings. Within its number are mature, settled saints and new, raw believers and folks everywhere in between. It’s a challenge to be a part of such a diverse family. The Apostle reminds the “trained” and “mature” believers that they have a responsibility to enter into “a generous common life” with those who’ve gone before and at least implies that they’re to do the same with those who are trailing behind them on their spiritual journey. He knows that this kind of communal living takes effort and can be a real energy drain so he frames the issue using a familiar crop growing illustration. The farmer works the fields, not because he likes what he’s seeing right at that moment but because of what he believes is coming. As “seasoned saints” patiently love and encourage others within the body of Christ they do so with two truths in mind. First, they remember where they came from and how others accepted them when they were young, frustrating, inconsistent believers. Second, they anticipate what the Lord’s going to do in the lives of these folks. The language he uses is that of self-responsibility: “Let’s not allow ourselves…” he says. Some folks haven’t yet gotten beyond the children’s end of the pool. Those who are experienced, capable “swimmers” are to, in Paul’s words, “Work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.”
Take Away: There are people at all stages of spiritual growth in the family of God.
You get what you pay for
2Corinthians 11: My needs were always supplied by the Christians from Macedonia province.
One reason some of the members of the church at Corinth don’t value Paul’s ministry as much as they value that of others is that Paul served them free of charge during his time with them. Others have come their way with hard luck stories and claims of greater enlightenment. They’ve asked for and received offerings from the church there. Now, when Paul writes to them in authoritative tones they tend to discount his ministry to them because they didn’t pay for it. Paul’s about to join the traveling preachers in stating his credentials and sharing his hard luck stories, and both are much more impressive than those of the traveling preachers they’re listening to. The Apostle wonders if he cheated them by letting churches elsewhere support his ministry during his time in Corinth. He thought he was doing them a favor, making it clear that he wasn’t in it for the money, but now he wonders if they’d be more inclined to listen to him had they supported him during his time there. Paul makes it clear that he’s not sorry he ministered to them as he did, so I don’t want to make more of this than is there. Still, it’s a point worth consideration. Generally speaking, people value that which costs them something. If it’s just handed to them, they think it’s worth what they paid for it. In this passage, I see that, on one hand, sometimes it’s best to just give our ministry away, making it as easy as possible for people to receive it. On the other hand, though, it’s fair and right that people support those who minister to them and, in fact, their doing so increases the value of that ministry in their eyes.
Take Away: We tend to value that which costs us something.
Friends and family
Proverbs 17: Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.
I’ve lived long enough to know that “all kinds of trouble” comes to every life. Sooner or later its each person’s turn to face disappointment and be let down by people and circumstances or be betrayed by their own humanity. At such times it becomes easier to see what and who matters the most to us. I’m thankful today for family of both the “blood line” and the “relationship” variety. There’s power in positive relationships. Even when we’re at the end of ourselves, we can draw strength from those dear ones who stand with us. I’m reminded today that, first, I need to appreciate precious friends and family and not take them for granted even though they love me enough that I could probably get away with it. Also, I remember that I’m privileged to be such a friend to some. It’s an honor, but it’s also a responsibility that I must take seriously no matter what the “weather.”
Take Away: Thank the Lord for friends and family and, thank the Lord for the privilege of being friend and family to others.