Our team of ten, Lord willing, will be leaving Thursday to travel to Ecuador. There is a lot of planning that goes into these trips. It’s so important to visit the missionaries our church supports. It’s a tremendous source of encouragement for the mission workers who live abroad and it allows us to connect with Christians from around the world.
It is well known that churches who are involved in missions grow. Without mission support, we would greatly hinder the kingdom. Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world. Not everyone will become a missionary. And that’s OK. But people who do not (or cannot) go on long trips can still support missions in a big way.
When Paul was on his first missionary journey, he could have gone straight home. In fact, it would have been much quicker and more of a direct route to do so. Instead, Luke records that Paul “returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22 ESV).
We need to remember that it’s vital to encourage other Christians–both from afar and in person. They are working hard for the Lord. They labor day and night. It is not easy work, and they face so many discouragements along the way. We are excited to visit our friends in Ecuador and to meet other brothers and sisters who live in that beautiful country! Please pray for the Campbells and the work that is being done there.
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Last week we talked about our heavenly inheritance and how we need to be working. We get back what we put in. We cannot expect a free ride through life. But what will that heavenly inheritance look like? People who are not believers may poke fun and tell us that we believe in a mythical place that doesn’t exist. Or we believe in a mythical God who we can’t see. So how do we respond to that?
The reality is that none of us know what Heaven looks like. We don’t have a clue. And we should be OK with that answer. Paul says that we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Does this mean that we blindly believe that something better is waiting for us when we die? Not at all! Faith is not blind. We know that Heaven is real. God tells us that. We know that there are breathtaking places here on the earth–exotic landscapes that exude pristine beauty. Others who have been there can describe it, show pictures, etc., but it will not fully engage all of our senses until we have physically gone there. Those places here on earth are no less real just because we have not physically been there. They indeed exist. And they are incredible parts of God’s creation.
If we know this to be true on the earth, it is equally true for Heaven. Paul says, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. . . . He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 5:1, 5 ESV). God has been preparing our heavenly home since the beginning. We can only imagine what heaven will be like. But we have the Spirit as a guarantee. We know Heaven to be real and incredible and peaceful. “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.”
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Paul was a vocational evangelist. He was a tent maker by trade. He often told churches that he intentionally did not seek financial support from them, lest they come back and say he was “robbing” them. Paul worked very hard in everything he did. And he also gave. He gave of his time, money, and heart.
When he was on the beach at Miletus with the Ephesian elders, Paul said, “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'” (Acts 20: 35 ESV).
There is an old adage: “You get back what you put in.” This is true of life. The person who works hard gets promoted. The one who gives of her time, money, and energy reaps a crop of righteousness. This doesn’t mean that those who give will be materially wealthy. But it does mean that those blessings will spread and endure. Others will be blessed. Kingdom work will be blessed. The poor will be provided for. They’ll be fed and clothed. The injured will have their wounds dressed and will find healing.
But we have to be willing to give. When we have the means to give, we should be extremely generous. Ultimately, we need to be willing to lay down our lives for others. We need to be giving of our talents, our tithes, and our time. Let’s challenge ourselves to give more and see how God blesses!
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When Paul and the other prisoners were shipwrecked on the island of Malta, the islanders showed unusual kindness to them. They built a fire, welcomed them, and entertained them. Luke says that “they also honored us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed” (Acts 28:10 ESV).
A few things about this story are intriguing. After a horrifying ship wreck, the prisoners managed to make it to the island unharmed. There were guards, so the islanders had to have known that this big group of stranded people were prisoners. But they treated them with unusual kindness. And that kindness was reciprocated.
These were pagan people who first thought Paul was a god then later thought he was a god. Paul healed a man named Publius’ father, who lay sick. Then the rest of the people on the island who were sick came and were healed.
So often Christians have a misconception that unbelievers are evil, corrupt, immoral, and so on. But this is a good reminder that there are a lot of kind people out there and that, as Christians, we should treat them with kindness like we should with each other. God blessed the Christians, prisoners, and islanders for those days that they spent on the island. We need to remember that God is the same today. He blesses our conversations and relationships with everyone. We should do good to everyone.
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There are many passages in the Bible about reaping what you sow. Galatians 6:7-9 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for what one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Let us not grow weary of doing good. Why does Paul even have to say that? Isn’t it common sense that we should do good. The reason Paul reminds the Galatians not to grow weary in doing good is because it can be exhausting doing good. Helping others, being patient, exercising control, forgiving people who hurt us, it all can wear us down.
This is all the more reason why it’s important to be reminded that what we sow now is what we will reap later. Everything we do now has future implications, both good and bad. The Bible is full of references to helping the poor and giving to those in need–of not racking up debt for selfish gain. We must sow a harvest in love and generosity.
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Proverbs 11:1 says “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is a delight.” Cheating is not a new concept. People in antiquity could rig their scales so that they were unbalanced. It was a way of skimming. Weighing metals or food where it works to your favor will add up significantly over the course of many transactions. There’s a simple term for this–scam.
But Proverbs 11:1 isn’t just talking about physical scales. It’s talking about the concept of cheating, whether in business or in dishing out justices. The word “just” means balanced. It means to do what is morally right or fair. If we tip the scales of justice, we are creating injustices.
Many people tip the scales in the church. “So and so is my best friend, so she would never do such a thing.” That’s a tipping-the-scale-statement. When we cover for people because they are friends or family, we are tipping the scales. Wisdom requires us to use balanced scales. We show no favoritism and don’t turn a blind eye to sin based on who we know. If we all worked with balanced scales, it would be much easier to hold people accountable.
Paul told the Corinthians that, when he came to them, it was not with lofty speech or wisdom. But this doesn’t mean that Paul didn’t tap into wisdom when he was there. We know this because Paul continued, “Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away” (1 Cor. 2:6 ESV).
The wisdom was a “secret and hidden wisdom of God” and it was ancient. For Paul, it was important to impart this wisdom to the mature. Had he attempted to impart this wisdom to everyone, it would have fallen on deaf ears. The most effective way, then, to proclaim Christ to the masses in Corinth was in a demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
While he used a demonstration of the Spirit and of power to the larger population of Corinth, Paul also imparted wisdom to the mature. Why was this important? Because “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:14). Therefore, Paul says that “we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:13). Those who are spiritual will understand the wisdom of the Spirit.
For this reason, we need to teach Christians the importance of being spiritual. Being spiritual leads to being Spirit-led. And for the mature, wisdom is imparted.
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