They Had All Things in Common

Acts 2:44 – And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

Acts 2 gives us an account of the beginnings of the church, God’s kingdom as prophesied for thousands of years. At the end of chapter 2, we see this new church gathering together, praying together and worshipping together. Then we see them freely and gladly sharing their possessions with one another.

They had “all things in common,” Luke wrote.

I want to consider this phrase and connect it to other things that are said in this context in Acts 2. They certainly had a mindset that all things they owned were to be shared with their brothers and sisters. But where did that mindset come from? What brought such an attitude in people that led them to freely and gladly share anything they had with the others?

Because they had all things in common! Let’s look at the context around that phrase to see that this new congregation shared more than possessions.

They Had All Things in Common.

  • They had in common their brokenness before God (Acts 2:36). Each one of them had crucified the Savior and Messiah. The sin, guilt and shame before a holy and just God was shared by each person.
  • They had a common need for a Savior (Acts 2:37). They all were cut to the heart. Each one of them recognized the need for salvation and turned to Jesus. Every person in this group knew that Jesus was the only way.
  • They had a common entry into the kingdom (Acts 2:38,41). Each one had gladly received the word, repented of his or her sins, and was baptized into Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of those sins. Young or old, rich or poor, male or female, they had all obeyed the same gospel.
  • They had a common practice (Acts 2:42). This new congregation of saved people “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Each person in this group had committed to doing it God’s way. He or she had also committed to be with those who were like-minded. They spent time together and prayed together. They sang together and took the Lord’s Supper together. As a group they committed to following the apostles’ teaching because it came straight from their Savior, Jesus Christ. An intimacy developed in this group, didn’t it?
  • They had a common attitude (Acts 2:46). Collectively, this group was glad and generous in their hearts. Each person stood in awe of the power of God as it was displayed through the miraculous working of the apostles (Acts 2:43). As a church their hearts were full of praise for God (Acts 2:47).

So, why did the church lovingly and willingly share possessions with each other? Because they shared the same heart. They truly had all things in common.

You Can Make a Difference!

Thanks Benjamin for this great article! Everyone, please click on the link to Benjamin’s podcast. This interview with the founders of Sacred Selections is a must hear. If you are interested in promoting life and helping families fund adoptions, you should prayerfully consider supporting Sacred Selections! — Aaron

You Can Make A Difference

Last year, I had the opportunity to go to a fundraiser dinner for Sacred Selections in Dallas Texas. I had heard a great deal about this non-profit group, but I was blown away by the great things Sacred Selections has done and is currently doing in America and around the world.

I had the opportunity to meet the founders, David and Dana Carrozza. I was quickly drawn to their passion for helping children. Below is their mission statement from their website.

Sacred Selections mission is to financially assist Christian couples whose hearts and homes are open to loving and raising a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The dream of parenting does not have to be constrained by limited financial resources. The foundation, its board and many generous donors are committed to using the blessings we’ve received to assist in the wonderful effort in creating a Christian home and family.

www.sacredselections.org

 I have seen first-hand the impact of what they have done. One of our families at the congregation where I preach recently adopted through Sacred Selections. Another close friend of my family adopted a baby a couple of years ago! I’ve seen how lives have been changed for the better. It’s such a blessing.

I’ve also seen the power of one person! Everyone can make a difference in the life of someone else. People often want to know what they can do individually to help others in their community and the world. Supporting Sacred Selections is one way you can impact many people. Every penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and dollar counts. Every prayer for the work that’s taking place through David and Dana matters! You can help a child in need. You can help a family in need.

Recently, I had David and Dana on my Podcast. My Podcast is called, “I CAN DO with Benjamin Lee.” I’ve begun interviewing people who have an I CAN DO spirit. David and Dana certainly fall into that category. I would love for you to listen to it as they share their story. Their story is powerful and it will certainly encourage and motivate you to support the great work they are doing. Please pray for the children in need. Please pray for the couples who are willing to open up their hearts and home. Let’s strive to DO GOOD.

Let’s remember the words of Jesus.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

Let’s remember the words of the apostle Paul.

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

 Click the link below to listen to my interview with David and Dana Carozza. My Podcast is available on my website www.benjaminlee.blog, icd.buzzsprout.com, apple podcast, Spotify, iHeart radio, and other podcast platforms.

 https://www.buzzsprout.com/261834/3596206

 

The Religion God Wants

When you think of the word “religion,” what first comes to mind?

James 1:25-27
But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

When we think of the word “religion,” what first comes to mind? Worshiping a god or gods? A belief system? A church building? Traditions and rituals?

If you were to ask God what “religion” is, what would He tell you? James 1 gives us the answer. In this passage we see what “religion” is and is not.

A person may be religious, James says, but that religion is worthless if he doesn’t control his mouth. So in thinking about that, if we do all the religious things that we think please God and make us feel religious, but we do not restrain our tongues, then God says, “That isn’t My religion…that’s yours.”

James also says that there are two main indicators of what God calls “pure and undefiled religion,” and that is:

  1. Taking care of the helpless, especially the fatherless and those whose spouses have died. Take a look through the Bible and see how many times God emphasized the care of the helpless (widows, strangers, orphans, poor, etc.). Jesus, in his parable in Matthew 25, says that this is what kind of heart he is looking for when He returns in judgment. Did we care for the “least of these” children of God?
  2. Keeping ourselves unstained by the world. Moral purity. Restraining our tongues, and using our speech for edification. Going to a church building and performing our “religion” is not what God is looking for. Again, look through the Bible to see what God has to say about those who go through religious services and perform traditions and rituals, but do not restrain their passions and tongues. What God wants is purity. What He wants is for us to live in holiness before Him in our hearts and mouths.

So, if you and I want to be “religious,” God has consistently told us what kind of religion He wants. It’s pretty simple!

Micah 6:6-8
“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Lost The Power Forever

I’ve never read, “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens, so we ordered it. We are currently reading this short story. We’ve watched a lot of movie versions of the book, the kids’ favorite is the Muppet Version.

As we were reading it the other night, we came to the part where Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s old friend, came from the dead to visit Scrooge. As Jacob Marley is about to depart, Scrooge sees tons of spirits moving through the sky, moaning and crying. They are crying because they had the opportunity to do good for their fellow man and did not do it. Now they are dead and they have to roam the earth to see all the misery they could have helped to relieve.

Here is a quote from the book:

Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his curiosity. He looked out.
The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a doorstep. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power forever.

Think about that statement, they sought to interfere in human matters but had forever lost the power. While they were alive they had the opportunity to intervene in the human suffering around them, but chose not to do so. Now it is too late for them. Sad, isn’t it?

What about us? We have today, and we have opportunity.

James 4:13-17 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Two men who told God about their giving

Compare Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and tax collector in Luke 18 with what is recorded about Zacchaeus (a tax collector) and Jesus in Luke 19. One thing you will see is that the Pharisee in Luke 18 told God about how much he gave, but so did Zacchaeus in Luke 19. But one was justified (saved, received, accepted), and the other was not. What was different about Zacchaeus in the way he talked to Jesus about his own giving?

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men–extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:9-14)

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
(Luke 19:1-10)

Here are a few contrasts between the Pharisee and Zacchaeus:

  • Luke 18 says the Pharisee trusted in himself that he was righteous. The Pharisee was a religious man who wanted to look good and justify himself. Luke 19 shows that Zacchaeus had a humble heart that zealously sought out Jesus.
  • The Pharisee talked about his giving because he wanted to sound like an impressive servant of God. Zacchaeus was defending with himself against the accusations of those standing outside his house saying he was a sinner. The heart of Zacchaeus was not one to brag to Jesus, but he was pleading with Jesus saying how much he wanted to be right with God. He wanted to be in a relationship with God, he didn’t try to impress God.
  • Zacchaeus knew he was lost and needed salvation. We see in Zacchaeus that when he saw he had mistreated someone, he made it right. The Pharisee was too blinded to his own lost condition. He only noticed the flaws in others, not in himself.
  • Both men helped the poor, but one did it as a religious duty to check off his list and to show to all how awesome he was. The other gave because he truly had compassion for those in need.

Are we a Zacchaeus?

Sacred Selections Adoption

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
(James 1:27)

James says that pure religion is to care for the widows and orphans. God wants us to help the helpless, to care for those uncared for, and to draw in those who have been cast out.

One very good way that Christians are caring for the helpless is through adoption. It is one thing to cry out about how children are being treated, but an entirely different thing to bring those kids into your own home. God bless those families who have God’s heart and care for those wonderful children made in God’s image. And God bless those who are supporting those families who are adopting children.

Today, I am referring you to an organization called Sacred Selections, a group of Christians that help to financially assist families in the process of adoption.  Here is their mission statement:

Sacred Selections mission is to financially assist Christian couples whose hearts and homes are open to loving and raising a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The dream of parenting does not have to be constrained by limited financial resources. The foundation, its board and many generous donors are committed to using the blessings we’ve received to assist in the wonderful effort in creating a Christian home and family.

Whether you are interested in adoption, or would like to support families who are doing so, please visit their website. Pray about it. See how you can help Sacred Selections and help families fulfill what God calls pure religion.

Ways to Donate: Here is Sacred Selections’ page on the various ways to donate.

For example, here are a couple of ways you can donate. There are more details on their website.

  • You can do a one-time or regular donation through Paypal.
  • You can also use Amazon Smile and designate Sacred Selections as your preferred charity.
  • Directly sponsor a couple who is adopting.

If you want to contact them directly:

 

 

 

Please, let us make a small upper room

And she said to her husband, “Look now, I know that this is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly. Please, let us make a small upper room on the wall; and let us put a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; so it will be, whenever he comes to us, he can turn in there.” (2 Kings 4:9-10)

For today’s MDB, I want to go back to the verses we considered yesterday as we reflected upon the character of the Shunammite woman. This woman demonstrated great humility and contentment, and the Lord rewarded her for it. But for today, I want to consider her husband. Read the above verses and think about the relationship of a husband and a wife. Think about the fact that she could come to her husband with a request, that he listened to her, and he actively supported what she wanted to do.

He was approachable. There are men like Nabal (1 Samuel 25) that were not approachable, but not the husband of this Shunammite woman. They had the kind of marriage where she knew she could come to him with such a request.

He listened to her request. The man could have dismissed her, cut her off, told her her idea was silly or you fill in the blanks. That’s not what happened. They were a team in this marriage, a partnership. He considered her viewpoint, he took time to think about what she was asking. The husband listened to her dreams/visions/plans.

He supported her in what she wanted to do for the Lord. “Let us make…” implies that she wanted him to be a part of this project, too. She didn’t say, “Let me make.” They were a team. It wasn’t, this is “your thing” or “your project,” he was involved also. But to support our wives means more than just writing a check. We need to be emotionally and verbally supportive as well. If he rode her the whole way through the project reminding her of how much it costs and how much of a hassle it is, then that is not supportive, is it? Think about it, she asked her husband to take on a building/remodeling project for a man who would only occasionally come by. I’m sure he could have fired off several practical reasons as to why that wasn’t a good idea, but that’s not what he did. He supported her. That’s what we as husbands need to do, too.

This couple is like the Priscilla and Aquila of the New Testament church (Romans 16:3-5; 1 Corinthians 16:19), who showed great hospitality and sacrifice for the church. They were a team and a partnership working for Jesus, and as husbands that requires that we have the kind of heart like his husband of the Shunammite woman. The heart to be approachable, to listen and to fully support our wives.

What it means to visit

James 1:27 tells us to visit the orphans and widows in their affliction, but what does it mean to visit someone? We are going to look briefly into how God visits us, and it will help us learn a lesson on what it means to visit others.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27).

How God Visited us

God is praised by David in Psalm 8 for “visiting” mankind. David asked, “What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you take care of (visit) him?” This is quoted in Hebrews 2:6 to show that God cared for us and “visited” us by sending us Jesus.

Our Lord examined us with His loving and divine eye, and knew that we needed redemption. He saw the need and took care of it, at great cost to Himself. He did not look at humanity and say, “Boy, those guys are in bad shape, somebody should do something about that.”

“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people…” (Luke 1:68-69).

This Greek word for “visit” is used in many other places in the New Testament to praise God for visiting us with a Savior (Luke 1:68,78; 7:16; Acts 15:14).

What it means to visit

I remember being taught this concept by an elder in Columbus, Ohio, named Jeff. He told us about how the word “visit” means to scrutinize with the eyes. Jeff took us with him on visits and he showed us how to visit. For example, you go visit a widow who is struggling. You see that she can’t pay her bills. Her lawn mower is broken down and she can’t mow the yard. She has very little food in the fridge. You turn around as you are leaving and say, “If there is anything I can do, let me know.” Have you “visited” in the Biblical sense of the word?

The word “visit” in James 1:27 means “to look after; examine with the eye; or to go see.” So why would we go see an orphan or a widow and “examine” them with our eyes? Simply put, it is to see how we can help them.

Look at Jesus’ parable of separating the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25). What made the difference between the sheep and goats? Did they “visit” the sick (Matt. 25:36,43)? Meaning, did they look out to fill the needs of the least of the brothers of Jesus?

Take this to heart, men. Let us first understand that we must be active in “visiting” those who are in need. But we also must understand what it means to visit…to look and see how we can be of help. God did it for us.

How do you define abundance?

I heard this true story and I needed to share. There was a lady that decided to personally support a preacher. One hot summer the air conditioner went out on her car and she had to make a decision. She couldn’t afford to fix the AC and continue to support the gospel preacher. So she rolled the windows down on her car and kept on sending monthly support.

“For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality—at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; as it is written, ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.’” (II Cor. 8:13-15).

I wonder how we define “abundance”? I wonder how Paul would have defined “abundance”? Once my retirement account is where I’d like it to be, or once my vacation is paid for, or once my kids are through college, or once I get the house remodel done, or once my savings account is at a level that I feel secure, or once, once, once…

Too often we define “abundance” as anything we might have left over after all of our wants and desires are taken care of. The problem is that there is no end to our wants and desires. Would we ever sacrifice our comforts so that the gospel of Jesus might be preached? Would we put off a “nice to have” for the needs of others? This is a challenging thought for me today.

How do you define abundance?

Listen to this great sermon Sharing in all Good Things by Ralph Walker

“The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him” (Galatians 6:6).

Preview for next week’s MDB: We will have 5 articles next week (March 28-April 1) by Shane Blackmer devoted to Love in Relationships.