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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Benevolence Revisited
Milan Ford

Today is Wednesday, September 23rd.

Nearly two years ago, the metropolitan area of Atlanta was facing an unprecedented water drought. In fact, some of the largest cities throughout the Southeastern United States were at that time prepared to declare massive water emergencies.

As of today, Atlanta has encountered more rainfall in a week than it has over the past 5-7 years. Many of the counties around the perimeter of the city have already experienced massive flooding.

Thousands of metro Atlanta residents are without power and there are countless reports of structural damage to homes, schools, and even churches. And tragically, eight people, including a 2-year old that was swept away right out of his father's arms, have died.

In a region where heavy rain and flooding is a rare occurrence, I am reminded of something I heard a pastor once say: "A movement of God can never be PLANNED, but it must always be PREPARED for."

Although many day after day have chosen to give up on HER, I firmly believe that it is during the darkest of hours, where THE CHURCH shines its greatest light.

Let's just be honest for a second here. The line is always a mile long for people who believe that churches today don't give enough to those in need.

However, I think it's time I start a new line. One for people (like me) who believe that some of our churches today may be giving too much...while we as INDIVIDUAL believers, may be giving too little.

I realize the statement above sounds a bit ridiculous, but after reading this, you may just change your mind. At least I hope so; I'd hate to be in this line all by myself.

In Acts 3, two of Christ's disciples-soon-to-be-apostles, Peter and John, were on their way to a temple to pray. As they approached the temple's gate, they saw a lame man lying in front, asking all who were entering the temple for help.

Not just any kind of help. But the kind of help most people all over the world, especially those who live in or around the city of Atlanta, are asking for now: Financial help.

So just as he had done with everyone else on that day, the lame man proceeded to ask Peter and John for help as well. And it is here where the story gets interesting.

In verse 4 of the chapter, the writer says that Peter, standing beside John, 'fixed' his eyes on the lame man. Another translation says that Peter 'fastened' his eyes upon him.

I found it interesting that the word 'fasten' in the Greek literally means "to look INTO or to fix one's mind on someone as an EXAMPLE."

I have to admit, I just love this passage of scripture. For hidden within it, lies an exchange of the heart that many believers today tend to overlook when giving to those in need.

As our churches continue to grow in size, the manner in which we have INSTITUTIONALIZED our benevolence has caused many within our communities to grow weary and frustrated with the church, vowing never to return.

Instead, other faiths and civic organizations are often the first to respond, while we as the Body of Christ wear our knees out to the bone asking God to deliver those He has already given us charge and a blueprint on how to help. Just in case you aren't familiar with it, here it is:

"Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul, neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all." - Acts 4:32-33.

When we as believers rise up and take the initiative to give those around us, the mission of the church is validated and is positioned to witness the message of Christ like never before. Our approach to giving must become more strategic if we are ever going to make a lasting difference in the earth today.

Isn't it interesting that this same lame man was laid daily at the very gate that Christ himself, before ever being crucified, would pass in order to enter the temple to pray and teach?

(See John 7:14; John 10:23)

With a ministry that only spanned a total of 3 years, it is quite possible that Christ saw this lame man during one of his visits to the temple, but decided to heal another, instead of him.

Perhaps in God's providential plan, Christ passed over the opportunity to heal this man, knowing that the day would come when Peter and John would have to return to that same temple gate in order show us all that we as believers have the same power to heal, just as He did.

Today, I challenge you to look around your community and do the following:

ASSESS what you have.
GIVE what you can.
But when you cannot give, MOBILIZE.
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