There are times when I think that all the values I had been taught as a child have been forgotten, and that the world I live in now is like living in some alternate universe, where up is down and left is right and right is wrong.
It is easy to let yourself become depressed and discouraged. I am, by nature, an observer ~ and I look at today’s Church and it is easy to find many problems. I am not going to go into what I see as problems here, however ~ that is not my message today.
Today I want to tell you about what I see right about the central core, the real foundation of the Church: the Spirit of love and kindness and doing unto others that are often hidden or taken for granted, but which happen all the time in countless ways.
Today it is a dark and gloomy day, with intermittent snow showers and a feeling of damp in the air. I had attended virtual church this morning and afterward had settled for a boring cold ham and cheese sandwich for lunch because I had no energy to prepare anything more inspired. I hadn’t had much sleep last night (a chronic problem for many old folks like me) and after lunch was finding it hard to stay awake. I just couldn’t focus well on my book. I tried many different ways to cure my boredom, or find some reason not just to put my head down and sleep the afternoon away. It would at least pass the time.
Suddenly the phone rang. It was one of the young women (still a teen) from my church, and she wanted to let me know that she and her friend (another of our church teens) had left a little something on my front steps, and they wanted to alert me. I took my walker and made my way to the front door. Outside I found a bag with tissue coming out, and a little card tied to it saying it was from these two girls. They waited until I picked it up, gave me cheerful waves, and drove away.
Inside I found a selection of sweet treats, a huge coffee mug, a vanilla candle, some hand lotion, and some flavored teas. Also included was a hand-printed card of spiritual encouragement and love from these two precious girls. To say that I was touched is a major understatement.
These girls have, for the past two years, taken upon themselves the major undertaking of our summer Daily Vacation Bible School. We are a very small church and don’t have many youngsters, but we open DVBS up to the neighborhood and get a pretty good turnout. Because so many of our young wives work, there is often difficulty finding sufficient staff to fill the two weeks. These two began while they were still in high school (now in college) and have stepped up and managed the whole thing, from the invitations and advertising, to the creation of props, staffing, and organizing whatever needed to be organized. While they have been under the watchful eye of elders, they have not really needed a lot of help except for some carpentry work and this year, some IT advice. This year we actually had a virtual Summer Bible School. Each year the Bible School has been a success, with decisions for Christ being made.
They, for me, epitomize the real Church. Forget the current day “evangelicalism” marked by secularism, materialism, and humanistic excesses. Forget the gaudy and glitzy recording performers, the health and wealth heresies, the false assumption that bigger means better, and that imitating the world means success. HERE is the REAL Church: people living out the teachings of Christ, preaching the Gospel in every possible way: verbally, in writing, and in their way of living. I don’t mean all the things we DON’T do ~ but the things we DO: caring for others, considering the needs of others before our own wants and needs, remembering the poor and the sick and the elderly, and most of all, doing these things out of a sense of genuine love, not for show or for scoring points.
There is life after salvation. All too often I think people, once they have accepted the gift of God’s grace in salvation, think that is all there is to the Gospel. They have what they need, but they are often slow to pay that forward. On the other hand, I have known so many wonderful men and women who seem very quiet and unassuming on the surface, but if you look beneath that surface you find uncountable deeds of love and service. I know women who visit the jails, who go to old people’s residences to read to the residents, or write letters for them because they can no longer see well. I know women who make meals for shut-ins, without any fanfare or organization behind them. They just do it from the goodness of their hearts, and no one knows about it but the recipients, themselves, and the Lord. I know women who quietly take home the tea towels from church to launder them. I know teens who shovel walks or rake leaves for the old people in their churches, without pay and without a lot of fuss. They just blow in like magic elves and do the job and then out again and on to the next place. There are many of these silent kinds of service which are undertaken by people who don’t need praise or recognition because they do it from the heart. You all know the kind of thing I am talking about; you have these people in your churches, too ~ or you may be one of them.
The true Christian is marked by this Spirit of humility, the willingness to do kindness without overt praise, the kind of person who takes seriously the injunction to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…” as spoken by the Lord in Matthew 5:44.(NKJV)
I have come to have little use or respect for much of the culture of today’s American evangelicalism. It is far removed from my understanding of how I believe God intended the Church to represent Him on earth. Yet, in spite of everything, within the bloated excesses of much of today’s Church there is still a core, a foundation of those whose true love is the Savior and the Scripture and who take seriously the role of being God’s hands and feet on earth. They bring all the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5: 22,23 NKJV). They are the true Church, and God knows His own.
My prayer for this New Year is that all those who claim to know the Savior, who claim His name and have accepted His gift of love and grace for their own salvation, may come to take seriously their obligation to Him to represent Him to the world by their lives and words. They are people who will live with incorruptible integrity, not expedience. They will live with true morality, not just when someone is looking. They will be prepared to let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4 NKJV)
Happy New Year, dear sisters.