On this side of eternity, we have been asking each other, “When is the church really a church?” Is it a church when it is gathering on Sunday morning, or is it still a church when it is scattered out in the highways and byways, in homes or throughout the Internet?
If you think, as many do, of the church as existing only when it comes together on Sunday mornings, you have to ask, “How many people does it take to make a church?” Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” (Matthew 18:20). That seems to be the very foundation of a church, so that even two or three Christians gathered together and thinking about the work of the kingdom of God is a church in action.
For many it is very hard to define a church in the New Testament sense because the early church simply met together. And what did they do? They ministered to one another, they shared their spiritual gifts, they exercised what God had given them for each other’s benefit.
What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. (1 Corinthians 14:26 New International Version)
“So that the church might be built up” means more than simply teaching, or instruction of the mind; the word is larger than that. It means “to build people up.” And what does that mean? It means everything that is done contributes to the understanding of the mind, the uplifting of the spirit, the encouraging of the heart that involves growth, understanding, and exhortation to activity on the basis of an expectant attitude that God is going to be with you, and working through you – not just in the moment but throughout the days to come.
But the point I wish to make to you is this: Over this last week I have been the benefactor of you coming together “to build people up” and, especially in my case, to build me up. Your prayers, your kind words, your sincere hearts have built me up. You have made sense to me, uplifted the spirit, and encouraged my heart. Your actions changed my attitude from anxiousness to one of expecting the Lord, which caused me to recognize Him and know He was there all along. God was with you and working through you – not just in the moment but throughout the days over these last few weeks.
Like the church of the first century, you came together, and I will forever be grateful for your willingness to allow the Lord to take your belief and put it into action.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart,
PS: John has been telling stories on me while in the Hospital’s new waiting room, the parking garage. While he exaggerated a bit, I confess, it is all true except one thing: no one referenced me as the General … as they should have! And here is one last story as we enter into our Thanksgiving.
Wanting so much to get out of the confines of the hospital, I began exploring its wings, upon which I found my way into a center of older individuals who were all rather lonely – or, at least, not talking to each other. I interrupted the silence by asking if they were familiar with my friend Tinker Bell who awakens Peter to tell him of an ambush, and warns him about the poison, but he waves her off as he prepares for a rescue. Desperate, she drinks the poison herself, causing her wings to scarcely carry her. That is when Peter knelt near her in distress. Every moment her light was growing fainter; and he knew that if it went out she would be no more. Her voice was so low that at first he could not make out what she said. He bent in nearer to her and heard that she thought she could get well again if people believed.
I flung out my arms to the children that were not there and then turned to the older people and cried. “Do you believe? If you believe, clap your hands; don’t let Tink die.”
And do you know what happened? Everyone clapped! And everyone kept on clapping.
The clapping stopped suddenly; as a number of medical staff rushed in to see what on earth was happening.
But I winked my eye to my new friends and told them not to worry because Tink lived – because believing can even overcome the power of death. And then I turned and crept out of sight.
We believe that faith indeed has the power to save. “We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Romans 3:28). What transforms us from death to life is our faith relationship with the One who died and rose again for us. Faith truly can deliver us from death. “Faith is the victory that overcomes” (I John 5:4). It’s not just faith in anything, of course … it’s faith in the risen Christ.
H A P P Y T H A N K S G I V I N G!
An announcement about our campaign will be coming soon, but in the meantime, a big THANK YOU! to all who participated, and it’s still not too late to take part.
Margie, Renton, Washington
Patti, Normandy Park, Washington
John, Lennox, Hawthorn, Australia
Priscilla, Spencerport, New York
Kim, San Diego, California
Laquita, Tyler, Texas
Dan, Placentia, California
Neil, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Lynn, Pendleton, Oregon
Gene, Murrieta, California
Stephen, Big Canoe, Georgia
William, Bayfield, Ontario, Canada
John, Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky
Lynn, Duluth, Minnesota
Allen, Exton Pennsylvania
Joanne, Lynden, Washington
Carol, Melrose, Massachusetts
Ann, Rockford, Illinois
John, North Chili, New York
Laura, Phoenix, Arizona
Amanda, Visalia, California
John, Los Altos, California
Markus, Köln, Germany
Peter, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Sara, Hopedale, Massachusetts
Jeanne, Vacaville, California
Patrick, Dundee, Michigan
Kristin, Chesterfield, Missouri
Daniel, Wayne, Pennsylvania
Steve & Colleen, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Kerry, Mason, Ohio