The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
 
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PREYING WITHOUT CEASING

      The bell has rung signaling the start of a new school year. Football season is kicking off and tailgaters are ready. Food plots are being prepared as hunters anticipate deer season. And…the hummingbirds have arrived indicating…well, I’m not sure what the arrival of hummingbirds actually represents.

      The arrival of hummingbirds to my yard about this time each year has led my wife and me to become interested in birdwatching. While we are not trained ornithologists or even serious birders, we do enjoy watching these tiny birds with swiftly-flapping wings and sword-like beaks congregate around a feeder located on our back patio. While sitting at the breakfast table or moving about in the kitchen, we can observe “our” hummingbirds through the windows near the feeder.  
      If you have experience watching hummingbirds then you are familiar with the antics of these miniscule creatures…especially when more than one bird arrives at the feeder at the same time. From the vantage point of an untrained observer, hummingbird behavior is both entertaining and bizarre. For instance, one bird might perch on top of the feeder and defend his or her position as if playing “King of the hill.” When another bird arrives, this “king” (or “queen”) drives the intruder away. Sometimes, several birds simply fly around the feeder daring each other to attempt to get a drink of refreshing nectar (sugar water). Rather than relaxing, cooperating with each other, and sharing the blessings that are available, the birds constantly dart back and forth fussing, feuding, and fighting while seeking to conspire against and control the actions of one another. The incessant attacking, coupled with the lack of anything resembling even a hint of a temporary truce, inform the observer of an attitude of selfishness and distrust that seemingly exists among the birds. While I have not observed any of the birds destroying another bird, a climate of “‘preying’ without ceasing” seems to be predominant.
      Have you ever considered how, at times and to some degree or another, a church may reflect the attitude and behavior of hummingbirds? For instance, have you observed a church that gives every indication of being active with all manner of programs that promote activity and constant darting back and forth but offer little evidence of Kingdom-building from such activity? Perhaps you are familiar with a church that appears to be more intent on fussing than fellowshipping. Sadly, you may have observed church members who spend more energy defending a position rather than on being disciple-makers of people.  Do you sometimes sense that church leadership is more focused on providing entertainment to attendees rather than encouragement from God’s word and from being the example of holy living? Or, what about instances of members conspiring against or complaining about other church members rather than providing comfort or counsel where such might be needed and beneficial?     
      As the body of Christ, the church is intended and designed to grow and serve together (Ephesians 4; 1 Corinthians 12). Therefore, worshipping the risen Savior is the top priority for the body (Matthew 22:37). Concern for others, both within and outside the body, should be genuine and expressed through tangible means (Matthew 22:39). Disciple-making must be more than “lip service” or pursued only through financial gifts to a mission offering. Rather, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ must be “as you go” and “where you go” on a daily basis…365 days a year (Matthew 28:19). Further, assimilating new believers into the life of a local New Testament church is not a suggestion but a divine mandate that necessitates teaching these babes in Christ to “grow in the grace and knowledge of their Lord and Savior” (2 Peter 3:18; Matthew 28:19-20 ), to “seek first the Kingdom of God…” (Matthew 6:33), to “be kind and compassionate one to another, forgiving each other…” (Ephesians 4:32), and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31).
      Three generations ago, Ira B. Wilson wrote a prayer of sorts which George Schuler set to music. The prayer begins with the acknowledgement that “Out in the highways and byways of life, many are weary and sad” and the encouragement to “Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife, making the sorrowing glad” before the personal request to “Make me a blessing, make me a blessing. Out of my life may Jesus shine; Make me a blessing, O Savior I pray, Make me a blessing to someone today.”
      The prayer continues with a challenge that is applicable to individual Christians and to the church collectively:

                                “Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love, Tell of His pow’r to forgive;

                                Others will trust Him if only you prove True, ev’ry moment you live.

 

                                Give as `twas given to you in your need, Love as the Master loved you;

                                Be to the helpless a helper indeed, Unto your mission be true.

 

                                Make me a blessing, Make me a blessing, Out of my life may Jesus shine;

                                Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray, Make me a blessing to someone today.”

 

      Unlike the behavior exhibited by hummingbirds gathered around a feeder, the church is intended to worship rather than worry, invite rather than fight, help rather than hinder, bless rather than bicker, evangelize rather than scrutinize, encourage rather than merely entertain, exhibit selflessness and sincerity rather than selfishness and cynicism, teach rather than tear down, to cooperate rather than criticize and condemn, and to pray without ceasing rather than preying upon each other. Why? Because the world is watching and taking notes on what is being observed. In the midst of those living in the highways and byways of life, may the world see Jesus shining through you and your church.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, may I be a blessing to someone today, tomorrow, and every day. May my example encourage others to do likewise and may your church in every local expression be on mission actively, continually, and sincerely. May the world see Jesus through the actions and attitudes of your church and may many be drawn to Him. Amen.

                                 Daniel