A Strategic Farewell
Begin your devotional time with some breathing prayer. Breathe out worries and cares. Breathe in thanks and praise. Repeat.
Read Acts 20:25-38
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
We need to be extremely careful what we think and especially careful about what we say. Our words have tremendous power.
Dropping a child off at college is a daunting parental passage. As you prepare to leave your dear one in a noisy college dorm, you wonder, “Is he/she ready for the challenges of college life? Will they find good friends? Will they be OK?” I was always overcome with emotion, so the best I could do was blubber some encouraging words and give a big hug. The apostle Paul, on the other hand, was able to use this farewell moment with the Ephesian elders strategically, and in so doing remind us how to keep the church vital and alive today.
The reason Paul was so focused is that, like a seasoned parent, he knew what these church leaders were about to go through–and it would be far more stressful than freshman dorm life. Today, in some parts of the world, persecution from “savage wolves” (29) is a daily reality for Christians. In other places, the church has jettisoned God’s Word and weakened itself. Either way, Paul challenges us to be on the lookout for any form of opposition, whether from within or without.
So how can the church remain vital and alive in the face of opposition today? Paul offers two directives. First, he says, “Keep watch over yourselves” (28a, my italics). We shouldn’t tell the world to live by God’s Word when research shows that Bible reading among churchgoers is declining. The best way to bring biblical values to secular society is for the church to rediscover its own Book. Second, Paul says, “Be shepherds” (28b). The image of a shepherd caring for God’s people reverberates throughout Scripture (Psa. 23; Isa. 40:10,11; Jer. 3:14,15) and finds its culmination in Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). If we want to know how to strengthen the church today, the quick answer is this: live like Jesus.
Think of one thing you could do–whether big or small–to strengthen your church. Make a note on your calendar to do it before the end of the week.
Loving Lord, I thank You for those who have given me encouraging words. Help me to carefully choose my words. I want to lift people up.
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