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May 19, 2018

For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution
for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. (Romans 15:26, NIV84)

This past Sunday, we looked briefly at Paul’s project to raise money for the poor in Jerusalem. He mentions it in several places in his letters.  It clearly occupied his thoughts and energies over a long period of time. The offering was important because it had huge symbolic value. It represented a coming together of Jews and Gentiles.  Not only that, the initiative was coming from the Gentiles! The world had never seen anything like it before, so it was a powerful witness to the Roman world.

Paul also came under harsh criticism from Jewish people for his ministry among Gentiles, so the offering was also important for stifling critics who charged him with compromising Jewish values. Here were Gentiles supporting the Jews, not undermining them. The offering therefore served as a vindication of Paul’s ministry.

Last, but not least, it relieved genuine suffering among the poor. Paul’s Big Project was not for church planting, but for “diaconal needs.” It is interesting to note how the Bible comes back to this over and over again. For example, when we looked at the centurion, Cornelius, a couple of weeks ago, one of the key things that is cited about his piety is his generosity to the poor. In fact, it is mentioned twice (Acts 10:4,31). The angel who spoke to him specifically said that God remembered [his] gifts to the poor.”

This Sunday we are once again making an appeal for resources to support our annual summer mission projects. We are sending a team to Boston to assist another church, and also supporting World Relief’s work among refugees in Jordan. Like Paul’s project, the offering has symbolic value. “Deed ministry” crosses all kinds of language and cultural barriers. It also catches the attention of skeptics. Above all, it helps those in desperate need.

What is remarkable about the giving of the Gentiles in Macedonia and Achaia is that they were desperately poor themselves (cf. 2 Cor. 8:1-4)! Paul says they gave during severe trial … that is, when things were NOT going well. They also gave out of extreme poverty” … that is, in a way that was completely opposite to how the world expects people to give. And, amazingly, they wanted to do it!

It is hard to ignore that kind of generosity. God certainly does not ignore it. As the angel reminded Cornelius, God has a good memory. We need never fear that he will not know about, or forget, the gifts and sacrifices we make for his sake.

Would you pray about making a special offering this weekend, above and beyond your regular giving? For the Lord’s sake?

See you Sunday!
Frank

Frankly Speaking ©2018, Frank Boswell | office@huntvalleychurch.org | (410)-771-0690 
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