"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matt. 6:31-32 NIV)Read it all here.
What's his promise? You put God first, you put his purposes first, you put his Kingdom first, and you will be first place on His providing agenda. All the things that are mentioned in this text, "All these things will be added unto you."
What things? The necessities of life. Food, clothing, shelter, daily bread, appropriate clothing, appropriate housing, the basic provisions of life so that you don't need to worry-and that includes everything your congregation needs to do the mission and ministry God has called you to do-including a place to worship, pray, and care for others!
Let me close by sharing the story of a friend, the Rev. Matt Kennedy (known to many of you through StandFirm) and his congregation, the people of Good Shepherd, Binghampton, NY. Good Shepherd fought to leave TEC with their property and lost in the courts. They had to leave the church, the rectory and their memories behind them. The Diocese and TEC were so unkind to them in the process, that when they came in to take possession of the buildings, they removed Good Shepherd's signs directing the poor and the homeless to the new location of their soup kitchen!
But God had so much more provision, so much more in store for Matt and the people of Good Shepherd. The local Roman Catholic priest heard that Matt, his wife Anne+ and their four children were being evicted from the rectory and had no place to go, so he offered them the rectory of a vacant Roman Catholic church right there in town! The old rectory at Good Shepherd Episcopal had only 3 bedrooms, one bathroom upstairs (for a family of 6), and no air conditioning. The new rectory they moved into has 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and air conditioning.
But it gets even better.
Matt was praying about the vacant Roman Catholic church and within days of his prayers, the priest called him up and offered the church, the storage facility, the parking lot, and the attached school to the people of Good Shepherd rent-free. The whole campus was appraised at $720,000, and Matt and the people of God Shepherd had saved up only $150,000 to purchase a place to worship. Buying the property seemed out of reach. They did not know this, but the priest was also on the finance committee of the Roman Catholic diocese. He came back to Matt and said, "We can't offer you the building for $720,000 - we are going to knock off $200,000 and offer it to you for $500,000... and with the equity you will have in the building, you should have no problem getting a loan for the balance of $350,000."
And that's exactly what Matt and the people of Good Shepherd did. So right now, within four months of losing their court case and being evicted, they are worshipping in a church with a sanctuary that is four times the size of their old one, a parking lot that can accommodate 100-120 cars (as opposed to the 10-car parking lot they used to have) with a huge storage space, a rectory that is finally comfortable for Matt and his family, and a day school whose income is paying for their mortgage!
And as a result, their church is growing. They are attracting 20-30 college students from the local college every Sunday. They are growing in numbers, and in faith!
And so will you, as you put God first, you put his purposes first, you put his Kingdom first, you too will be first place on His providing agenda.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Phil Ashey of the American Anglican Council (AAC) has a super column here called Do not worry" - a devotional and a testimony. Here's an excerpt where he gives a powerful illustration of how God does provide and in ways we could never dream: