"Prophets...stood up and, inspired by the Spirit, predicted that a severe famine would over take the entire Roman world...the disciples decided they would send support to the brothers and sisters in Judea, with everyone contributing to this ministry according to each person's abundance." Acts 11:27-29
Everything I own, wear, eat, drive and hold dear, has been provided to me, as a result of the financial support of Christians. They were inspired by the Spirit, to give as God prospered them, to the cause of Christ. It was passed on to me. I am grateful for the heritage of this passage of Scripture.
When I was born, my father was the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Wilmer, Texas. When I came home from Baylor Hospital in Dallas, a medical institution established with the sacrificial giving of Texas Baptists, I was moved into the church parsonage of a Baptist church.
When I was educated at Baylor University, I received scholarships, and grants provided by generous Christians. My seminary education was underwritten by gifts from churches who gave to the unified stewardship program of the Southern Baptist Convention. It helped reduce the cost, and shortened the length of time needed to complete my degrees.
After being raised in a pastor's home, serving on the mission field, on staff of the local church, and as pastor of Baptist churches for 30 years, there is nothing of value held in my name, that wasn't first given in the name of Jesus. My family has been richly blessed, by the generosity of God's people.
Before Obamacare, we found out our insurance policy, at our first church out of seminary, had no MAMAcare. Dana and I were facing the birth of our first child, without any healthcare coverage. To put it in perspective, I was earning $15,000.00 a year. The hospital bill for our first child would be $2,500.00. When the church found out their policy was insufficient, they threw a "Money Tree" Party and raised the financial support, to pay for the birth of our child, Ashley.
I still remember bringing Dana and Ashley home from St. Francis Hospital, and then showing up at the church office to announce the news, "She's paid for!" The horse laugh coming out of the Senior Pastor's study was a bit chilling. The next words I heard were, "You just made a down payment!" He had four daughters. He knew what he was talking about. Thanks for the heads up, Leon. You were right. But, I digress.
The support of the Christians in Antioch, for their brothers and sisters in Judea, is a vital sign of a healthy church. Generosity is in the Spiritual DNA of a believer. When they heard of a need, they met it, giving as God had prospered them. They didn't get the calculator out, to cut a check for a cause. They didn't quibble over how tightly the last decimal point was to be squeezed. They gave out of their abundance to a family member in need, and placed it in the hands of reliable messengers. They made sure it was delivered in a timely fashion, to those who needed the support more than they did.
"Jesus did not die by fractions on the cross." Dr. Jack McGorman, New Testament Professor and Greek scholar
Note to self: The next time someone wants to argue over the validity of a 10% tithe, remind them Jesus gave 100%. It isn't a sacrifice until you have given it all.
The knot between "The Haves" and "The Have-Nots" was not tied by government fiat, but by The Spirit of Christ. Giving to those in need is not a mandate of the government, but it is the mission of the church. A stingy Christian isn't a sign of God-ordained frugality, but a creation of one's own selfish desires.
In his book, "The Tragedy of American Compassion", Marvin Olasky, documents how the welfare state expanded, in the early 20th Century, after progressive Christians grew impatient with or disdainful of the time-tested Judeo-Christian model of bonding with those in need. Bonding was eventually replaced with a bloated bureaucracy. In 1989 the United Hebrew Charities said: "If every person possessing the capability should assume the care of a single family, there would not be enough poor to go around."
The need for the support of the persecuted church has never been more obvious. In a recent speech, Sen. Rand Paul, described vividly, how all over the world, the evidence is growing of an Islamic Jihad against Christians. This is no accident, or coincidence, and should come as no surprise. Satan hates the name of Jesus. His church, as the Body of Christ, is going to be attacked, until it is either defended by friends, or annihilated by enemies. The battle is raging all over world. Expect it to arrive, to a neighborhood near you, very soon.
The persecuted church is nothing new. The 2nd-century Church Father Tertullian wrote that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church." His implication could not be clearer. The church not only survives, but thrives under persecution. It can withstand being opposed, but it can't survive being ignored, or compromised.
Once the church no longer makes a difference, it no longer matters. Make a difference in someone's life today. Invest in their greatest need. It may not have anything to do with money. Praying for someone is the greatest investment you will ever make in them. Talking about someone often deteriorates into a withdrawal from their net worth, not an investment in them. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!