But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. I Thessalonians 2:17-20
Before I was a Christian, I was attending UCLA and a member of the Alpha Phi sorority. We would sing a song every year at rush to the tune of the famous song, "We are family. I got all my sisters and me!" With a big smile and heartfelt hugs, we would belt out the song to the girls in rush, and then, when the girls who were shopping for a sorority were gone, we would wipe the smiles from our faces and separate into our own little, comfortable group of friends. We weren't quite the family we were hypocritically portraying to the outside world.
Pastor Bobby Blakey did a sermon at church this weekend on 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20. He entitled it "Church is a Family: Seeing Each Other as Brothers and Sisters in Christ." He made the point that Christians are all born again into the same family: the family of God. We are, therefore, brothers and sisters. The Greek word, brother, or bretheren, is adelphos. This is derived from delphus, or womb. As Christians, we are spiritually born again from the same "womb"/Father. Because of this, we should be passionate in loving, caring for and helping one another, just as we might help our own brother and sister from growing up in our biological family.
He layed out some practical ideas that challenged us all to show care and concern for our bretheren. Some examples were being at church on time, getting together consistently and often, and making sure to know what is going on in other people's lives. Face to face contact is ideal, but, when that is impossible or delayed, he said we sometimes need to call, e-mail or even read one another's websites/blogs! I knew I would someday get endorsed for spending time blogging!
Seriously, however, we need to find ways to love one another and invest in the lives of the brothers or sisters we encounter. Along with the great ideas that Pastor Bobby illustrated to the church, I thought of some others. Why don't we all park in the least desirable spots in the lot, thus allowing some frazzled bretheren, driving in at the last minute, to have a close spot? As our church is getting more crowded, why don't we take seats in the sanctuary that aren't the best or the preferred spots, thus freeing up spaces for others that are ideal? Instead of putting our Bible next to us on the chair, we should keep it on our lap, allowing another person to possibly sit immediately next to us during the service. Perhaps we might even strike up a conversation with him or her. We can, of course, be passionate about others and show them love in many tangible, practical ways. Volunteer in childcare so a couple can hear the Word of God without interruption and worry. Remember a person's birthday by taking him or her to lunch or sending them an e-card. Bring someone a meal and include a list of helpful scripture. Burn a C.D. full of songs that speak to a trial that a person is facing. Pray for the person who is needing comfort, and mention the prayer and ask for an update on the trial when you talk to them. Visit the new mom or sick person in the hospital, and bring an appropriate treat with you--an In n Out burger or a Ruby's milkshake, flowers, scripture upon which they can meditate, comfy socks, a scented candle, etc. Be creative! Babysit for that mom on bedrest or the couple who can't do date nights because they are low on funds. There are a million ways you can purposefully serve and love the body of Christ, just as you would love and be there for a biological sibling.
Pastor Bobby went on to mention that Satan kept Paul from revisiting the Thessalonians. In fact, Satan hates the unity of the church and the love we show for one another. We are being foolish if we don't think he is working against us in our efforts. The sermon mentioned time, money and distance/effort as the three big roadblocks that keep us from being close to our church family. If time is an issue, write out a schedule of your day--hour by hour. Look at how much time is actually "me" time--napping, reading for pleasure, watching T.V., being on the computer, shopping, etc. Make a goal to take one of those selfish roadblocks in your schedule away. DVR that television show so you can go to Bible study, cut your nap short by half an hour so you can make a phone call, or tell yourself you cannot turn on the computer until you have written that encouragement card to your brother or sister in Christ.
If money is a roadblock, look at your budget. Perhaps sacrificing eating out one time a month or not getting that pedicure or new pair of jeans would allow you to buy groceries for that family who is out of work. Maybe such sacrifice will help you afford ingredients to make a nice dinner for that couple who is new in your small group study and you want to invite into your home. If distance is a problem, think about how you can turn your negative attitude into a positive one. Use the driving time to make a thanks list to God, call that member of your old Bible study to see how she or he is doing, or to pray to or worship our Heavenly Father as you drive the commute.
Many of us, myself included, have our plates full. We are trying to balance quiet times and the ministries to our spouse, family, and church body. To ask us to take our involvement and effort with bretheren to a higher level is overwhelming and, at first, paralyzing. However, our ministries do not have to be isolated and separate. Intertwine your commitments and service, as they are not always exclusive. Combine part of your heart training of your child by working in their classroom, their high school or junior high group, or their AWANA program. This allows you time as a parent, time to minister to the church body, and time to get to know bretheren. Be a part of the Thrive marriage ministry on Thursday nights. This is a great way to minister to your spouse and marriage, while getting to know bretheren at church in a real and wonderful way. Take a member of the church body through the Partners program, which gives you an opportunity to further your study of scripture, serve the church, and disciple a brother or sister at Compass Bible Church. During your long commute to church, use the time to minister to your family and spend one on one time with them. If you bring someone a meal, have your children help make the dish or create a card for the person. You are teaching them to serve and love others, while also ministering to and loving a brother or sister in the church body. Be a ministry leader in a home group or church Bible study, allowing yourself time to get to know others and train yourself in the doctrine of scripture. There are so many creative ways to combine your time and efforts, as God wants us to be fruitful in all areas. Pray and see where the Holy Spirit leads you. Remember it isn't easy, and we have to make it a priority and a goal. Satan wants us to give up, but we must resist his tactics and barriers. James 4:7 urges, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
What a wonderful message Pastor Bobby gave to the church body this Sunday! He truthfully explained God's word and gave us all much to contemplate and apply. What strikes me most, is he that he and his family are walking the walk he preaches, which speaks even more powerfully to the congregation. May we all love our church family like Christ loves us--with passion, sincerity, sacrifice and forgiveness. As Pastor Bobby reminded us, may we delight in these relationships to the end. May you, my brothers and sisters, truly be my glory and joy as I run the race God prepares for me.