Read: Matthew 28
There is a lot of promise in this Scripture. Jesus doesn’t just tell us to Go, but he also lets us in on the fact that “All authority,” in heaven and on earth is His. That means he is in charge. It also means that everything and everyone must submit to His authority, and it is under the name of this authority that we go into the entire world and do the work he called us to.
For most of us, that work of making disciples is right here in South Jersey. It’s with our neighbors and friends, our co-workers, and with those that God brings across our paths. It also happens when we reach out beyond our areas of comfort into the lives of those who may live in a different community or culture than ours. And for some, it means reaching out across oceans to people we have never met. To make a disciple begins with reaching out and connecting with those that God brings to us. We meet their needs and ultimately share with them the answer to their ultimate need which is how to deal with their sin problem. Sin leads to all sorts of negative results in this life, but even more, sin against a holy God results in death. (Rom 6:23) As Christians, we have the answer, and we want to share this answer with whoever will receive. That answer is found in the free gift of Salvation that is offered to us by the one who has all authority.
When Jesus rose from the grave after his crucifixion, he took authority over both sin and death, and when we place our trust in him, He gives us the gift of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins. We no longer need to fear death, and we have a glorious hope for a future. And so we are now as his disciples called to go and introduce others to this great message of salvation, and to grow, as well as help others grow, into maturity as followers of Christ.
But let us remember, that this work is not ours alone. Jesus said that He would be with us always, to the very end of the age. We will never be left alone to do this work. The one with authority is with us, and has given His Holy Spirit to live in us, go with us, and work in and through us. That means we can go forward in great confidence that He will work, and help us in accomplishing His mission.
Written by Pastor Jamie Cupschalk
May 21, 2013
Read: Deuteronomy 15:11
Camden, New Jersey. When you see the name of that city, what goes through your mind? I know for me, prior to working there I always would think of Camden as a city to fear, because violence, drugs, and poverty cover those streets. But little did I know my image of the city was not entirely correct.
I am a Division of Child Protection and Permanency case worker in Camden City. As I tell most people though my office is across from the police station, my job is on the streets of Camden, serving those who are violent, drug addicts and poor. And at the end of the day I may leave grateful I survived, but I mostly leave with a broken heart for the people of that city. And knowing that my God’s heart must break so much more for his people, only makes me desire to return the next day.
In my experience I have come to see the way some people live, in tent city, abandoned houses or under bridges, and had to remind myself I am still in America, and I am only a few miles down the road from my own home. My first case in my job was a family of five children and a single mother. And to be honest this mother made an accidental mistake, and did not abuse or neglect her children in any way. In fact, in my opinion she did everything possible to keep her kids thriving. Her home was on one of the worst alley’s in the city. Honestly, most people would hear this story and think, she must of made some bad decision that landed her there. But the truth is poverty is often not a choice. This woman was actually in a severely abusive relationship with her husband, and knew she had no other choice but to leave for the sake of her and her children’s lives. However she had absolutely nothing. She found out that she could go to school to become a nurse for free if she was a Camden resident, so with all of her children she had no choice but to live in a rundown home where she could afford rent. This family was by far one of the most respectful and positive families I have ever met. The second I stepped foot into their home, I knew God was calling me to utilize my position to shed some light into a dark situation. Through my job, we were able to provide uniforms for the kids for school, and beds so that each child had their own.
God doesn’t call us to ask the questions, or judge the circumstances that lead people to be poor. He only commands us to love the poor and give to them. As the verse indicates there will always be poor people in the land, and so we must be open handed toward them. Our job is not to think that we are better or more deserving than them. Because when it comes down to it we have what we have only because God has provided.
God is calling us all to stop judging the poor, or to not be fearful of them, and realize that they too are people who need to be cared for. And though I would not advise giving money to beggars, I would encourage offering to buy them a sandwich. Continuing to open handedly give generously will not just help another it will leave you feeling wealthier than ever.
Prayer and Worship: Listen to Leeland’s “Follow You”. And reflect on the words, and pray for God to show you where He wants you to follow Him.
Written by Sarah Johnson
May 20, 2013
Read: Proverbs 22:6
Proverbs 22:6 says that we should start children off the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Often times we think of working to serve our children in a group setting. But what if we invested in just one child? The company I am fortunate to work for, Big Brothers Big Sisters, facilitates one to one mentoring in the community and every day I get to see Gods workmanship in front of my own eyes. Watching an adult put an investment into a child to take them the way they should go helps children in our own community be less likely to turn to any risky behaviors. It’s not hard to serve our children. Quality time, talking, just doing something fun together with a child is what The Lord wants us to do. Pray today for what you can do to invest in a child’s life so that they can come to know The Lord. Pray for how He can open your eyes in order to help a child and serve God. Sometimes the smallest things can have the biggest impact.
Written by Emily Berger Dempsey
May 19, 2013
The Bible is very clear about what’s really important to God. He wants us “to be conformed to the likeness of His Son” (Rom 8:29). He wants us to look like Jesus in our character and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us to His image. In doing so, we attract others to Christ when we put on His attributes, which include tender mercies, kindness… (Col 3:12), and above all, love (v.14). A heart dedicated to God must be prepared to serve Him (1 Sam 7:3). We are to be ready to do good works (2 Tim 2:21). Jesus said “You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Act. 1:8). Are you being His faithful witness? Are you grateful for the opportunities God gives you each day to reach out to others? Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture…a little service, a good deed, word of comfort or encouragement, you can change a person’s life. God gives us what we need, so we can give to others in their need.
“The love of Christ compels us…that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again (2 Cor 5:14-15). This must include serving Him by serving others. We are called to live each day for Jesus. We know through His Word, that God wants us to care for others. Jesus is our shining example of that; He never lost sight of His people and was always ready to serve them, heal, comfort, meet their needs, etc. Just think of these amazing examples He set for us.
He fed the five thousand (Lk 9: 10-17)
At the Last Super, He washed the feet of His disciples
He healed the ten with leprosy who called on Him to have pity on them (Lk 17:12-15)
He comforted His disciples “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (Jn 14:13)
At a time when He was experiencing the most painful and humiliating kind of death…death on the cross…He still thought of and showed concern for His people
“Woman, behold your son” (He entrusted His grieving mother to the care of Peter) and to the disciple “Here is your mother” (Jn 19:26-27)
Today, you’ll be with me in Paradise” (told the criminal on the other cross who acknowledged Him to be God)
“A Christian is a living sermon whether or not he/she preaches a word”. Out of love and concern, we should let our service to others be our sermon to those in need. God puts us all in each other’s lives to impact one another in some way. Simply go out of your way and serve others or keep asking, “May I serve you?”
Written by Fred Twum Acheampong
May 18, 2013
Read: Matthew 12:15-21
These few verses, found from Matthew and Isaiah , serves to describe Jesus’ task on Earth. When God sent his son to Earth, he was tasked with the redemption of a broken and fallen world. He was to “proclaim justice to the gentiles”, to let the world know of God’s endless grace. Not once will he “quarrel or cry aloud”, as he is above the sins of humanity. By coming to Earth, to serve among the least of these – the beaten and the forgotten – Jesus gave devoted his life to better ours. With Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, we have been blessed with a life with God, rather than suffer condemnation in Hell. Yet we cannot take this selfless gift for granted, to pass it off as an everyday act of kindness. With this message of hope and opportunity, we are to spread the news, to teach the world of God’s eternal love. We need to help those in need, and give our own love to those around us.
Lord, please help me keep your word in mind and help others who I know can’t repay the favor. Let me grow and mature in your image.
Written by Liam Fleming
May 17, 2013
Read: Matthew 5:1-16
This scripture shows how you should act as a Christian. You should not brag. It will not make you a better Christian. God said do not let the right hand know what the left hand is doing. This means you do not need to tell everyone whenever you do a good deed.You are the salt of the earth so you should preserve God’s world. You are the light of the earth so should also share it with everyone.
Dear Lord, I pray that people know to preserve the gospel but also share it.
Written by Connor Fleming
May 16, 2013
Read: Matthew 25:31-36
The first thing that really comes to mind when I read this is the response given by both the sheep and the goats. Both say the same exact thing when confronted by Christ., yet with totally different motives. The sheep speak from complete humility, not even realizing the good they have done, nor the obedience they have shown. While the goats use the same answer as a defense to their flat out ignorance and obvious lack of concern for the least of these.
When thinking about serving its easy to focus on the act of helping those in need but it’s much harder to intentionally forget what we have done (and as a result of that maintain our treasure in heaven) and do our very best to make sure all glory goes to God.
True Christianity teaches us that serving and humility goes hand in hand. Jesus Himself disrobed, clothed himself like a servant, and washed His disciples feet. One of the lowliest, non self centered acts one could perform at that time and He was God, the God.
Dear Lord, please forgive us for our sins, the ones we have thought, said and performed. Please give us servants hearts that want to please you, our brothers, and the least of these, but not ourselves. Amen.
Written by Brian Fleming
May 15, 2013
Read: Matthew 5:43-48
Though it was not part of the law, of the commands of God he had given to his people, it became said or understood that you were to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Yet Jesus confronts this false teaching by telling his followers to love their neighbor and to pray for those who persecute them, because just like us God’s common grace is upon them.
So wow, not only do I need to love my neighbor, who is someone who might be similar to me, who might live in the same area as me, or who might even be someone I consider myself better off than that I will go to help, now I need to think about the world of my enemy. I need to think about those in a world that is not like mine. I need to pray for those I would rather sit back and judge. For after all; how did they get there? How could they do that? How can they live that way? But no, Jesus calls us to love and pray for more than those who I am more comfortable to love, because doesn’t everyone else already do that? Doesn’t most everybody do good deeds?
Jesus commands us to pray for our enemies. The same Jesus who asked God’s forgiveness for those that tortured him, the same Jesus that pardoned a thief amid a moment of indescribable personal pain, the same Jesus who came to save a people who constantly turned their backs on him. That Jesus loved his enemies.
I found that in times where I may find I have someone in my life that I could consider an enemy, or someone not like me, or someone that I could judge, when I pray for them I may get to see God at work in their lives, but I will definitely see God at work in my life as he breaks down the barriers and walls of judgment and hatred in my own heart. As we submit to him God can burst into our lives and the Spirit moves us towards the new creation he has designed us to be.
Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours. Lord soften my hard heart and it’s judgments. Help me to follow Jesus. Fill me with your Spirit so that I may love not just my neighbor but my enemy. “Create in me a clean heart oh God, and renew a right Spirit within me.
Written by Janine Fleming
May 14, 2013
Read: Matthew 4:18-22
Being a fisher of men is going out to tell about God’s word and who Jesus is and what he did. Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John at once left their fishing nets and followed Jesus. This was done knowing that there was something different and special about Jesus. Just like they became fishers of men, we should reach out to others and serve them, invite them to church and help them. Let your relationship with God grow and grow and help others so they can know Jesus.Let me remind you that even if it is someone that is hard to like, you still invite them in to know God because God wants them to know Jesus too.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to teach others about your love and to know your one and only son. Let us know that you are here with us as we love others. Let our relationship with you grow deeper everyday. Forgive our sins and help us to understand your love. In Jesus name, Amen.
Written by Erin Fleming
May 13, 2013
Read: Philippians 4:1-4
As humans we have a selfish nature about us. What can I get out of this? We tend to blockout the needs around us because we are so focused on our own busy, hectic lives.When I think of Christ the first thing that comes to my mind is sacrificial love. Unconditional, never ending Love. Christ came into this world as a human, he knows our struggles, our pain, and our hardships.
The King of Kings came into this world not to look down on us, but to serve. He came to meet the needs of those around him, selflessly.
As we go through our busy lives, we need Christ! We need his strength and guidance.Invite the Spirit in daily to lead you and guide you. Ask God to keep you focused so that you are not distracted by the ways of this world. Open your eyes and heart to the needs around you. And pray that the Lord uses you for His glory. Sometimes God will present us with opportunities that may be out of our comfort zone, but I want to encourage you to step out in faith, and you will be amazed at how God can work through you.
A few years ago now the Lord laid it on my heart to visit assisted living where most residents suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s. To be honest at first it was overwhelming and upsetting. But my family and I kept going back! We have developed close relationships with many residents. Not only are we ministering to others but we are being ministered to as well. Many residents do not receive visitors..they are “forgotten”…. Think about that for a minute-how does that make you feel? Imagine feeling alone. Not remembering who you are, or where you are. Even though the world has forgotten them, God Hasn’t!
So please go out and share the greatest gift you have-the love of Christ!!! Show and tell the forgotten, they are loved! Spend time investing in their lives and truly experience the overwhelming amount of love the Lord has for us.
Written by Stephanie Wiley
May 12, 2013