1, A new kind of community. Seven people selected from the early Christian church were assigned the responsibility for organizing members to meet the physical needs of the neediest members of the congregation. These would include housing, feeding, clothing, childcare, and many other responsibilities that some families would have difficulty meeting. Thousands of years later our church continues to follow this custom and others in our local communities. Unlike our spiritual forefathers, today we do not have organizational problems in meeting the needs of the less fortunate around us–or do we? If we do have problems, what are they and what are we doing about them?
2. Dorcas’s ministry. If you’re a member of the older generation in our church (like me), your early memories of an organization looking after the well being of members and others focused around the name “Dorcas,” in honor of the outstanding woman who launched beneficial services in the early church. A hard-working woman who apparently was loved by virtually every member of the church, Dorcas was strong and healthy–until what happened? Her death was followed by an amazing resurrection, one of few miracles of life being restored to a female believer in Bible times. Imagine your strong leader of physical aid in your church became ill and died. Do you think we pray enough for life to be restored under such circumstances? W
3. Giving as a way of sharing. Paul, persecution expert and commander of forces to eliminate Christians…What has happened to him now that the early Christian church has been established? Why does he care about the afflicted in the new church? Your lesson points out that Paul urged “intentional” giving—that is, a planned program to help those in need. After reading of Paul’s experience, do you sense an inner need to follow a system of planned giving—not just the 10% tithe, but more as God gives you the ability to do so? Are we rewarded by following a lifestyle marked by generosity? If so, describe the rewards that come from such a way of life.
4. Paul’s guide to living and loving well. The 12th chapter of Romans may be the most practical guide in the Bible to church success. But wait a minute, you may protest, times have changed. Can we still follow the principles of gentle love in an age of one miraculous “life-threatening discovery” after another interwoven with frightening threats of devastating nuclear war, famines and devastation of innocent people? There is so much hate and hurt in this war-stricken world, what can we do to share tender and caring love around us?
5. James the just. James is noted in our lesson this week as a brother of Jesus, a relative who wholeheartedly supported Jesus in every respect and became an outstanding leader in the early Christian church. He apparently served as the church’s first president and was the leader of caring ministries to meet the needs of the “forgotten and downtrodden.” And, undoubtedly, he was the author of the short book of James that spells out what Christian believers need to do to reflect the love and caring of Jesus. What a privilege to read and study and become close in spirit to this mighty worker for the cause of Christ!