Righteousness and Justice. The Hebrew words are translated “righteousness” and “justice” in English. These words that are mentioned over and over in the Old Testament; these words that our God uses to describe himself; these words the prophets used to discuss the powerful and merciful actions of our God; these words the Bible uses and uses and re-uses to paint a picture of God’s holy will and his children’s responsibilities as God’s holy people. Giving people what is right. Treating people fairly. Equally. With generosity. Showing mercy and grace. Lifting up the fallen. Being kind to the orphan, the widow, and the stranger in the gate.
“He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow.”
For many years now the Central Church of Christ has committed to showing that kind of tzadeqah and mishpat to the entire Amarillo community. This church family understands that to reflect the glory of God we must reflect God’s eternal attributes and faithful characteristics. So, in Jesus’ name, we feed the hungry and clothe the naked, comfort the grieving and mend the broken, minister to the least of these.
For many years now the Central Church has also committed to seeing the world with Kingdom of God eyes instead of Church of Christ eyes. This congregation understands that the eternal reign and love and salvation of God is much bigger than any one group, much bigger than any one faith tradition or set of rules and practices. So, in Jesus’ name, we worship and work, minister and pray, serve the Kingdom with and beside all who call him Lord.
And when both of those ideals toward which we’re striving come together in an unprecedented partnership, well… we can only praise God and marvel at his matchless goodness and grace.
The Central Church of Christ is now partnering with the Southlawn Assembly of God to duplicate food pantry and outreach efforts throughout the poorer neighborhoods of Amarillo.
Yeah, you’d better read that sentence again just to make sure you read it right. Church of Christ. Assembly of God. Partnering.
Southlawn pastor Jared Middaugh and others at their church have been convicted by God’s Spirit to stop looking in and start looking out. They want to see the city with God’s eyes. They want to serve. They want to put the needs of others ahead of their own. They want to be more Christ-like. They’re no longer content to just do church; they want to be church. They want to feed the hungry in Jesus’ name. They want to clothe the naked and free the prisoner and comfort the afflicted. But this is a new move for them. They need some direction. Some advice. So they called Mark.
(Let me just say right here what a blessing — what a joy! — to belong to a church that has this kind of reputation in our city. Another church wants to start an outreach ministry to the poor and they call us! Praise God!)
And Mark jumped right in. Immediately. We’ll help. We’ll partner with you. We’ll serve together and learn from each other. And we’ll do it in the name of Jesus to the glory of God. Mark brought the idea to our staff and we jumped in immediately. Yes, we’ll partner with them. We’ll work with them. We can teach them and they can teach us. Our God will use this cooperative effort to multiply exponentially what neither of our two churches could do alone. Mark then brought it to our elders and they all jumped in immediately. Of course, we’ll do this with them. Yes, we’ll give that church some money to get it all started. We’ll send our Prayer Breakfast and Loaves & Fishes volunteers to Southlawn every week to work side-by-side with these fellow Christians. We’ll share resources and share manpower and share our lives in sacrificial service to others!
(Did I mention this is an Assembly of God?)
The ministers and staff here at Central were joined in our daily prayer time this morning by Jared and their worship minister. We shook hands and introduced ourselves, we laughed some and smiled a lot. I was blessed to share the holy words of Psalm 146 that describe our righteous and merciful God who takes care of those in need. And then we prayed. Mark and I prayed on behalf of our staff. Steve prayed on behalf of our elders. Jared prayed on behalf of Southlawn. We thanked God. We blessed one another. A couple of us shed a tear or two, tears of joy, tears of amazement, tears of wonder. It’s overwhelming, really. Hard to believe. Overwhelming.
I have prayed that my kids and grandkids would someday be a part of a cooperative, non-denominational Kingdom of God on this earth. I have prayed that denominational barriers would be obliterated, that Christ’s disciples would be united by his blood and in his name, that we could someday really unite to show this unbelieving world that our God in Jesus really is changing everything. That we would all be one in Christ; that, as our Lord prayed, we “would be one.”
“I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me.”
I’m blown completely away that I’m actually experiencing some of that here at Central in Amarillo. I’m amazed we’re able to do this. I’m encouraged. I’m uplifted. I’m thrilled. And I have no idea how this is going to all turn out. I just know that God’s will is being done here on earth just as it is in heaven.
Oh, yeah, we have plenty of differences with those folks over there at Southlawn. There are dozens of ways we differ in belief and practice. Almost as many differences as you and the person who sits right behind you or right in front of you or six pews over from you every Sunday morning. But we have Jesus. He died for us, he calls us, and he commands us to live radically sacrificial lives to blow away the powers of this age. And we’re all interested in that.
Please join me in praying for this cooperative effort. Join me in thanking Jared and the children of God at Southlawn for this holy opportunity. May our merciful Father use us to his eternal glory and praise.