Lena VanAusdle, wife of our Associate Pastor for New York City, Lewis VanAusdle, is visiting Cincinnati this week. She manages our Good Works program which includes Youth Corps. Shortly, we will be considering a number of Good Works grant proposals. Today was the last day to submit a proposal. The Good Works advisory committee will evaluate, prioritize and decide which projects to approve. You can see the status of current projects on our Good Works website that is managed by Lena at https://www.ucg.org/members/outreach/good-works .
We hope to have more direct news about Good Works for pastors to talk about in their congregations. It is our hope, too, to make some presentations at summer camps and the Feast of Tabernacles not only about Good Works, but also Youth Corps.
Speaking of young adults, I would like to comment about the Malawi mission that Brennan and Michala Hilgen are on. They have lived in Lilongwe, Malawi, for almost a year and a half and have taken over some of the VanAusdles’ duties now that they have been reassigned to serve in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The Hilgens have taken on an initiative to secure land for a farm and Feast site. Michala writes an exciting blog describing what they are doing. Their most recent post is May 24, 2018, and can be found at https://becomingmzungus.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/were-landowners/ . It is entertaining, as well as serious, about their contribution. I applaud their conviction, dedication and determination in one of the poorest countries in the world.
Yesterday, we held a U.S. regional pastor video conference in which we discussed several ways in which Ministerial and Member Services can better work with the needs of our congregations and ministry. The ministry is now more directly overseen by the regional pastors. We hope to deepen that relationship by relevant and closer contact between MMS, the ministry and the brethren.
Some Assembly Required
When God started working with the nation of Israel, He called them a “congregation in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38 Acts 7:38This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spoke to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give to us:
American King James Version×).
In the book of Leviticus, God listed the weekly and annual Sabbaths. Each one of them is linked to a holy and commanded assembly: “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times” (Leviticus 23:3-4 Leviticus 23:3-4 3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; you shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.
4 These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
And the Apostle Paul also emphasized coming together in Hebrews 10:23-25 Hebrews 10:23-25 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
24 And let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works:
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.
American King James Version×: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25 Hebrews 10:23-25 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.
American King James Version×).
So, a vital part of setting aside time for God is to make certain that we congregate together on the Sabbath/Holy Days. During this time, we “stir up love and good works” and “exhort” one another. It’s a time to be spiritually fed through the messages given, and it also provides us an opportunity to nurture relationships with one another!
One challenge we all face, in our technologically advanced world, is that it has become increasingly easier for us to miss out on “face to face” conversations and interactions! Much of our communication with one another is through e-mail, text messages, “tweets” and the like. Even when it comes to church services, we may feel that we don’t have to go to the assemblage of brethren. They can come to us via the Internet. While this may be seen as a convenience, there is a huge downside. What are we missing out on?
When we meet on the Sabbath, it is for more than just being fed and getting all we can for ourselves. It’s a time to give of ourselves and to be there for others. It’s a time to show love, to encourage and comfort one another, to stir each other up to good works and strive to become better Christians. All of this is best done in person! Singing together makes us feel together. Online we may just hear the music, but usually, we don’t sing along with gusto. It is just not the same as being there!
When you attend church services, do you consider what you can bring with you to leave behind? Who will you impact?
When we come to church services, we need to think about who we can lift up and how we can bring them joy. For example, do we think about those with limited mobility who may come with canes, walkers or sit in wheelchairs? They may ache for someone to come and pay attention to them. Make a point to visit with these people and take time to listen to what they have to say. Don’t do all the talking—hear them out. They may have very few people who will do that and one way we can show love to our brethren is to be thoughtful to them. This is something we miss out on if we’re not there in person. We can’t do this online.
Our church community needs everyone to come together. When we walk into services, we all need to make it a point to talk to people of various ages—from young to old! Ask ourselves: “What can we do to comfort, sympathize, inform, support and show genuine love for somebody?” Talk to the pastor. Get to know him better and ask him about his sermons. No doubt, he is a man who does far more than just speak!
God has a purpose for people meeting together and sharing in worship of Him. Have you been missing church services when you could have been there? I would encourage each of us to remember that being together at church services gives us encouragement, identity, support and a feeling of giving to others. Our absence hurts the positive and constructive spirit that our congregations could benefit from. It also hurts us, because we miss out on a weekly opportunity to put God’s Word into action through fellowship with one another. Brethren, let’s come together weekly to “stir up love and good works”!
Remember, to be a complete Christian, some assembly is required.