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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Do you have a loving church?

Matthew 5:16 (ESV)
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

We who live comfortably in countries of peace and wealth could learn a lot from the believers who live in poor countries. Take, for example, a church named Lilly of the Valley Church, located in Desamparados, one of San Jose's poorest areas in Costa Rica.

Their pastor, Rowe, is willing to give almost everything, even his own salary, to support the growing number of missionaries from his church. Even though they could benefit from obtaining a much nicer building, their first goal is to support their missionaries working in Africa. 80% of their income goes towards preparing new missionaries and supporting those who are already in the field.

How could they survive like this, especially with a congregation of 100 members in 2004? Simply put, they live on faith. Their pastor can only conclude: "First we support the missionary work, then we live on what's left over, with what remains. Some months there's a surplus, other months there isn't. But God is always faithful to supply all our needs."

Is it any wonder their church is growing? They live according to the church of Philadelphia in the book of Revelation: "I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." (Rev 3:8)

The Philadelphian church, unlike most of the other churches in the book of Revelation, is quite different. They are aware that they have no strength in themselves, that their strength comes from the Lord: "For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2Cor 12:10b) This is why their deeds are effective. Just like the Lilly of the Valley Church, they depend solely on their Father. The Word from our Father is so precious to them that they follow it above anything else, even over their own desires. No way would they ever deny Jesus. He is too real to them. He is truly their everything!

It's no wonder that Jesus has placed before them an open door that no one can shut. They are the true witnesses of the Most High who put God above anything else. Their testimony is void of pretense but filled with compassion. They realize that the One they love is way above anything else. Their testimony touches the hearts of those who hear them, for their words are not just words. Instead, they are accompanied by compassionate actions.

No wonder those who oppose them eventually will: "…fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you." (Rev 3:9b) No one is able to deny that fact, as God's love has totally changed their heart, so much that they can't help but love others through word and action. No strings attached! They live the love of Christ as He lives in them.

Not only that, they ". . . Have kept my command to endure patiently . . . " (Rev 3:10b) Nothing can faze them. Trials and adversity are part of life, and they realize these are opportunities to experience Jesus even more fully. They know He will see them through.

They truly shine far and wide as they reflect our Father's light around them, without any strings attached!

A loving church is possible, but not without sacrifice. Are we willing to go there?

Dear Lord, help our church be a loving church. Help the things we do and our attitudes show Your love to the community around us.  In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

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