Advent is a time when churches, religious groups and civic organizations look to meet the needs of the poor, hungry, unemployed and hurting people of all ages. This year, 2020, is particularly difficult as we live with the daily effects of the global pandemic. The need is even greater this year with the vast number of people sick and out of work. I have an 80 year old friend that faithfully works at the city food bank in her town sorting and filling bags of food for the hungry. I am amazed by the long lines seen on the news of people waiting in cars to get bags of food. Many of those seeking help have never had to ask before as they had always been self-sufficiently employed.
One verse in our Christmas story brought this to mind. Luke 1:56 speaks of Mary staying with Elizabeth for 3 + months then going home to Nazareth. “Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.” Scripture said that the angel appeared to Mary when Elizabeth was in her sixth month, “In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,” Luke 1:26 Doing the math, it would seem that young Mary who was only just pregnant came to her cousin Elizabeth when Elizabeth was six months along. Staying with Elizabeth in the last months before John was born, when Zechariah was not able to talk (Luke 1:20), was probably a great comfort, blessing and help to this aged mother and father to be. We are not told in scripture that Mary was present when John was born, but I would imagine Mary stayed until John was born and then returned home.
In this one verse God shows us that we are to be supportive of each other and stay the distance. My friend could go and help out occasionally at the food bank but has made it a priority to give of herself 3 days a week. Many I know, prior to Covid, went regularly to nursing homes to share, sing and pray with residents or visit those in hospitals. Another friend had a brother that had a severe accident and the family ministered to him and nursed him back to health after being released from the hospital. Ministering to those in need shows godly character as we give, are compassionate, merciful and kind.
Even with Covid restrictions, find a way to meet someone’s needs this week. It could be a phone call, text, card or letter to a friend you know is lonely or sick. Maybe you can make cookies or bread to leave on their doorstep. Know that things done to serve others out of love pleases God. Jesus told us in John 13:34-35 ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Let the world see your love for Jesus through your actions of service towards one another.
As I have reached the end of the book of Philippians, I have been encouraged each time I have written by the JOY that Paul conveys in this short letter. Our last portion is Philippians 4:14-23. Paul applauds the Philippians for their unending support for him spiritually and financially. He praises their generosity towards him even when others have forgotten. It truly made him feel loved and cared for.
14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. 15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this.16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once.17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness.18 At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. 20 Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen. 21 Give my greetings to each of God’s holy people—all who belong to Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send you their greetings. 22 And all the rest of God’s people send you greetings, too, especially those in Caesar’s household.23 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
As I read this closing portion of Paul’s letter, I was reminded that this month, October, is Pastor Appreciation month. These words and their stated generosity that is over and above that which others had done spoke to me. I asked myself, what have I done, how have I shown my appreciation to God’s servants at my church? Would they consider my generosity and loving care a love that goes over and above?
For their generosity and loving care, Paul pronounced a blessing promise on these believers and all of us in verse 19. “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Paul knew the one who took care of him and was sovereign over all his needs. God had placed those believers there in Philippi to take care of His servant Paul. We can know that same assurance of His care and love though our faith in Jesus. Don’t we need to do our part in taking care of the servants He has placed in our midst?
Consider this and count it as JOY that God has blessed you by giving you faithful servants in your life that love Jesus and love and care about you. How will you express your generosity this month towards those who serve you faithfully in the name of Jesus?
Psalm 28 is a thankful response from David for God’s deliverance. I want to focus on the verses 6-9. What was David thankful for in these verses that we know to be absolutely true of God?
Praise the Lord! For he has heard my cry for mercy. God is accessible, He hears our prayers. 7 The Lord is my strength and shield. God is our protector. I trust him with all my heart. God is trustworthy. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. God gives us joy.
8 The Lord gives his people strength. God gives us strength to meet the day. He is a safe fortress for his anointed king. 9 Save your people! God saves those who believe in Him. Bless Israel, your special possession. God blesses. Lead them like a shepherd, God is our good shepherd. and carry them in your arms forever. God is eternal and saves us for eternity with Him.
For which of these attributes are you most thankful today? I had a friend tell me yesterday that when times are hard she focuses on her joy in the Lord. What about you? As you go through today, meditate on God’s goodness and blessings towards you, then take time to thank Him.