What image do you see when you picture the ‘least of these’?

When we think about brokenness in the word, one of the quickest images that comes to our mind is the face of a homeless person.  Hungry, huddled against the cold, needing help and wanting it, but not wanting to draw too much attention because of the risk of being arrested for trespassing, or the risk of violence that often comes with being among the most vulnerable.  When we picture of the “least of these” that Jesus was talking about, most of us probably have a homeless person in our mind’s eye.

Homelessness is a problem that most of us are used to seeing. Maybe so much so that we have become numb to what causes it and whether we can do anything about it.  Let’s see if we can go above and beyond the good work we do feeding hungry and homeless people, to getting to know our homeless neighbors as people and finding concrete solutions.

For the next two months that’s what we’re being invited to do.  Let’s take God’s love to a new level.  Let’s show some of the neediest people in our community what love does!

“Let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.” 1 John 3:18

 

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www.becauselovedoes.org

#KOG2ILM  #becauselovedoes

When was the last time you had your heart melted?

When I began to learn some of the stories of the Karen people who are now attending our church, I knew God wanted me join Him to help these precious adults and their children adjust to a new home.  What I did not yet realize was how much God was going to use them to bless MY life.

The Karen families have reminded me that:

  • True joy is not defined by status or possessions,
  • Biblically defined community can still exist,
  • Simplicity is better,
  • Faith trumps circumstances, and
  • Abundant living is found through loving and serving God and people.

When I witnessed a Karen father wipe tears from his eyes as he met his own daughter’s teacher at the school’s Open House, I was reminded how blessed I am that my children could get an education.   Meanwhile, I am continuing to relive the joy I experienced watching my boys play on sports teams as I watch the Karen children excel in soccer, form relationships with coaches and players, and chatter excitedly about their experiences.    My hearts continues to melt as I am given hugs around the neck, waist, and legs.

I am so glad God “asked” my heart, “These are My children.  Will they be your children too?”

By: Connie Vigus

 

“Let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.” 1 John 3:18

 Do you want to make a difference in the lives of refugees coming to our area?

Visit http://www.becauselovedoes.org to find out out how. 

 

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Entertaining Angels

Have you ever entertained an angel? I’m not talking about singing them a song or telling them a joke.  No, Hebrews 13:1 says “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  Most of us have never met some light-filled being with wings but almost all of us have had a moment when God showed up unexpectedly in the form of someone we didn’t know.

The Bible talks about that a lot actually.  In Leviticus, the Israelite’s are given a non-negotiable command. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” In the gospel of Matthew Jesus talks about a moment in heaven that will happen down the road. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me in.  “Wait a second Lord,” the confused people will ask.  “When did we welcome you in?”  And Jesus will say “whatever you did for the least of these you did for me.”

We all know we’re supposed to love our neighbors, but the Bible has a habit of defining “neighbor” very broadly.

Since the year 2000, nearly a million refugees have come to the United States to escape political or religious persecution.  Last year, the largest percentage of them came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, Burma, Iraq, and Somalia but there are refugees from 79 different nations currently living in the U.S.

In addition to these refugees who have come to the U.S. due to persecution, there are approximately thirty-two million document immigrants currently living in the United States.  A handful of them are wealthy, educated, or both, but many of them are here because the circumstances in their own country are so bad that they are desperate to find a place of safety and hope and that’s exactly how they see us and our country.

But what about us…how do we see them?  Do we see them as God’s children?  Do we see an opportunity to make a friend and share God’s love?  Are we taking the clue that Jesus provided us, and seeing our opportunity to bless them as an opportunity to bless Jesus himself.  Let’s not rob them or ourselves of that opportunity.

This January let’s see what we can do to make a friend, to entertain an angel, and to welcome Jesus himself into our midst.

Matt Cook

Pastor, First Baptist Church-Wilmington NC

MATT COOK

KOG2ILM- http://www.becauselovedoes.org

 

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HOLD ON

For some of you, the end of 2016 was an exciting time and there is great joy and anticipation for what lies ahead in 2017. For others, we are not sure where 2016 went.  Life is beyond hectic and overwhelming staring into 2017. It is almost as if we are barely holding on.

That is where I find myself; holding on. This past summer my wife and I went to the doctor to discover the gender of our third child. What was supposed to be a joyful moment quickly turned to helplessness and fear. We learned of a severe abnormality inside our son’s brain that left the doctors with little hope that he would make it full term or have much quality of life if he did survive. In the uncertainty of that moment, I heard a still small voice from God that everything would be ok, just hold on.

Have you ever found yourself in these life moments where there are no answers? There is no other choice but to hold on. During these times, you try to pray for the best possible outcome, but hold on…is the better prayer for strength to accept the outcome of the roller coaster, also known as God’s will.

cj-tuttleAs I write this today, my son is two months old. He was diagnosed with a rare
developmental brain disorder, underwent brain surgery at 5 weeks old, but you would never know if you got to meet this cute boy.  He is thriving and defying the odds daily. The road ahead will be long, but we continue to hold on to God’s love and grace each day and cling to that still small voice from God that everything would be ok, just hold on.

I realize that not everything turns out the way we like. God’s will might not feel “ok”, or even right in the moment, but God’s plan is perfect and learning to accept that in times of trial is one of the hardest parts. My eyes and heart were opened to new layers of God’s love and grace during our time in hospital facilities as I watched other families hold on in their own unique circumstances.

I will never forget walking into Pod B at the NICU one morning and learning that a mother across from us was holding her daughter behind the curtain for what would be her last breaths in the next hour. I wanted to do something or say something to her, but what?

I could not stop thinking about this mother. I went to the hospital lobby the next day to meet a friend who was coming to visit. I saw the mother there waiting tensely in a wheel chair about to be discharged. I took that as a sign from God to speak. The conversation was brief, but what was most meaningful was being able to hold her hand and pray for God to hold on to her.

My prayer for you this new year is that you will hold on. Or perhaps that you would let God hold on to you. Hold on to the promise of Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

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God knows what you are trudging through…difficult family relationships, rocky marriage, financial issues, job loss, struggles at work, daunting health diagnoses, aging parents, watching your children make poor decisions…HOLD ON. Trust that you are right where you are this year and that God earnestly wants to use you to bring hope and light to others in your life.

Ask God to put someone in your path this year that will hold your hand as a reminder of God’s love and presence in your life, and do not miss the opportunities to hold someone else’s hand, even if it is one of a stranger.

Hold your head high and hold on for what God has in store for you in 2017. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we all ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Be Encouraged,

Nathan Tuttle

Minister to Students, First Baptist Church,Wilmington, NC

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