As we return from holidays and focus on the period leading up to Christmas I trust that we have all been refreshed by our holidays and are prayerfully considering how we might all serve the Lord during this period.
For those of you who are not yet aware we are to have a period of specific outreach during November. Between November 10-17 we are to have Roger Carswell, Vinny Commons and a number of their friends with us to help us, Malpas Road; Caerwent; Ebenezer, Cwmbran; Noddfa, Abersychan; and Pontrhydyrun Baptist Church work together in an outreach to our respective areas. There will be meetings, meals etc. for all ages, in various locations with varied approaches, but all of them will focus on the Word of God and the desire to explain to people the reality of the Christian message.
In a situation like this, it is easy to think it has to be left to the ‘professionals’. That is so far from the Truth. The Bible constantly gives us examples of how God used the most unexpected of people to fulfil his purpose. There is a place for every Christian in evangelism. I want to use this letter and the story of The Widow’s Offering to give some principles to help us prepare for this special event and the regular ministry of the Church.
The first thing that Mark tells us in his record of the story, (Mark 12:41-44) is that Jesus “sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.” Everything that we do in life is done under the watchful, all-knowing eye of God. We are never to do anything for God thinking that human opinion is the most important, but conscious that we are being observed by God.
Mark tells that “Many rich people put in large sums.” This part of the story is often neglected, because Jesus was primarily making a specific point, but no Word of Scripture is to be forgotten or ignored. In our particular context we can think of rich people as those who have great resources. It might be that you have the benefit of financial resources then you might want to make a specific donation for the costs of the outreach. However you might be rich in time. I would encourage all who are retired to think and pray seriously about how they can allocate time before, during and after the mission to be used by God. Please make this a priority in your calendar. If you already have things in your diary, is there any way that you can bring it earlier or delay it, so that you can be involved? It might be that you are rich in friends or contacts. It is a sad fact that as we get older in the Christian life we lose more and more contact with unconverted friends, but if you have unconverted friends pray for them, but actively invite them to accompany you. Go out of your way to meet them, transport them etc to the meetings. To enter a church is no small feat for a totally unchurched person, but it is easier with a friend. If you are ‘rich’ in any of these ways then use your resources for God.
But in the story it was “a poor widow” who came and claimed most of Christ’s attention. We often assume that she was old. She may have been, but the essence of the story is that she had very little to give, she “put in two small copper coins”. You might be a young family and the monthly budget is tight, God is able to use what you see as totally insignificant. I collect my loose change each day and recently did a count up. It was £ 135. God is able to multiply your loose change. Jesus drew the attention of his disciples to this woman, saying “this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.”
His explanation of that act is wonderful. God does not despise what is given by the wealthy – “For they all contributed out of their abundance,” so please ask God to show you, particularly the wealthy, retired, unemployed etc how you can best be used. Those of you however who feel that you are so limited by the demands of employment, poor health, family responsibilities etc, give to God what you can- she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
All of us can and must pray. Prayer should have started, but let me give you some Biblical examples how to pray and prepare:
1. Pray “that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honoured, as happened among you, (2 Thess 3:1)
2. Find friends or relatives that you can pray for and bring along –
“… Andrew… first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). … He brought him to Jesus. (Jn 1:40-42)
“ … the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (Jn 4:28-29)
3. Use literature that is and will be available for giving to people. Keith Dolman has a fresh supply of “Real Lives”.
May the Lord help all of us to take our place in the wonderful work of making Christ known.
Bernard Lewis – September 2013