LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING ALL OF YOU AGAIN

          It’s been a blessing to be able to worship at the Church building again. I know many of us cannot be there physically just yet and we still have to maintain the rules of social distancing, but I am overjoyed to be there on Sunday morning. I look forward to the day when we all will be able to worship together in the same building, but for now I am very grateful that God has been taking care of us and giving us the wisdom and the technology we need to keep moving forward as a Church family. However, the last few Sundays presented certain challenges in my home. To be more specific, my son Andre always wakes up asking me to take him to Church. “It’s time to go to Church daddy,” he says, but I cannot take him with me because he does not understand what’s going on with this pandemic. One day, my wife attempted to put a mask on his face, he took it off and ran away so fast that we couldn’t stop laughing. So, we decided that it was best to keep him home for now away from crowds. Sometimes I wish I were as innocent as he is.
          It breaks my heart that entire family cannot go to the Church building with me, especially having to tell my youngest son “No, you cannot go to Church with me.” As a Christian parent, I cannot imagine having to say these words to my kids: “No you cannot go to Church.” Frankly, it almost sounds sacrilegious to me. The last couple Sundays, I had to wake up earlier than usual so that I could go get dress secretly and just leave the house without him seeing me, because I do not want to see him cry about not going to Church. Now, I know he is only 2 ½ years old and he is more excited about running around the Church building and play with his little friends in the kids room downstairs or the playground in the back, but I want to share this story with you because I certainly hope all of you are looking forward to come back to the Church building and see each other again, as soon as it is possible for all of us to do so. Currently, we have to take precautions because being a Christian does not make you immune to this pandemic; However, let us never lose the joy and passion of being together physically fellowshipping under the same roof. Like always, it is my prayer that “all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit” (3 John 1:2)
          I do not expect everyone to be crying on Sunday morning like my son Andre because they cannot go to the Church building, but I certainly hope we miss each other – we miss each other’s smiles – we miss each other’s hugs – we miss each other’s voices – we miss each other’s encouragement and exhortation. The apostle Paul often wrote in his letters to different Churches how much he always looked forward to seeing his fellow believers to encourage them and strengthen their mutual faith (Romans 1:8 – 13), and I believe we all should be like Paul right now. Brothers and sisters, may we always continue to grow deeper in our love for one another, whether we are present in the body or not. May we always look forward to our fellowship, because we are always united in one Spirit. “I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete” (2 John 1: 12)   
         

I HAVE THE FREEDOM TO DO ANYTHING THAT I WANT (1 CORINTHIANS 10: 14 – 33)

When my wife was pregnant with Andre, our youngest son, she stopped eating meat altogether and became a vegan, and until today our 2 ½ year old son has never tasted any meat at all. I have tried to feed him chicken, bacon, and sausage, he spits it all out every time. During her pregnancy, I tried to support her by not eating meat either, but that only lasted for a few days. I found myself going out for burgers while I was at work, hoping that Rose would not find out. I felt guilty, like I was doing something terribly wrong; so, eventually we had to talk about it and we agreed that I could eat meat away from the house, because she did get sick any time she smelled meat during the pregnancy. Needless to say, Jamal, my oldest son, and I took frequent trips to different restaurants around town. I have the right to eat meat anytime I want and anywhere I want, especially in my own house, but I freely gave up that right for the benefit of my wife and the well-being of my marriage.

In 1 Corinthians 8 – 10, Paul is dealing with a very sensitive issue among Christians in Corinth: eating food sacrificed to idols. Remember, eating the Lord’s Supper demonstrates a willing and active participation in God’s covenantal relationship with his saints (1 Cor. 10: 16-17). Therefore, the Corinthian Christians who engaged in eating sacrificial food at tables where offerings were being made to idols, and not to God, were frowned upon and accused of committing idolatry. Drawing from his audience’s understanding and reverence of the Lord’s Supper, Paul argued that eating cultic meals result in worship of and allegiance to demons, while still maintaining his adherence to monotheistic values (1 Cor. 10:19-22, 8:1-6). Even the Jerusalem council, comprised of the apostles and the elders of the Jerusalem Church, wrote in a letter that abstaining from food sacrificed to idols was an essential requirement of being a disciple of Christ (Acts 15:28-29). Now, it is important to keep in mind that Christians have received freedom in Christ Jesus (John 8:36, Galatians 5: 1) – freedom from sin and death (Romans 6) – freedom from the Mosaic Law (Romans 8: 1-4) that often prohibited Jews from eating certain foods. However, this newly found freedom cannot be used as an excuse to do evil (1 Peter 2: 16). Paul said “Eat whatever is being sold at the market place.” If one knowingly participates in a cultic meal for the purpose of idol worship, that person is wrong. However, Paul’s main concern about eating such food is not the fact that it may, at some point, have been used for idol worship but the context in which it is eaten. Anyone is free to eat anything in a nonreligious, non-cultic context, as long as it is being taken with genuine thanksgiving to God who supplies all food (1 Cor. 10:30).

Some of the Christians wanted to be able to exercise their freedom to eat whatever was sold from the marketplace and not be judged for it: “For why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it?” (1 Cor 10: 29-30, NLT). Indeed, they had the freedom to eat whatever was sold at the marketplace without fear of judgment, but Paul wanted them to consider more the collective benefit of the Church and less their own self-interest. To be more specific, there are two questions I want us to consider: a) How is your freedom beneficial (1 Cor. 10:23), b) Is it a stumbling block for your fellow believers (1 Cor 8:9). In other words, Paul is not arguing against their respective freedom to do what they think was the right thing to do, but Paul wanted them to think more collectively and less individually. Disciples of Christ need to be looking out for the collective well-being of others and not their own selves (1 Cor. 10: 23, 33), after all “Love is not self-seeking” (1 Cor. 13: 5). In the text (1 Cor.10:23), the Greek word translated “beneficial or helpful” implies a “bringing together.” Basically, Paul was asking: how is your freedom going to help bring people together, or would it just isolate you from the fellowship for the sake of exercising your rights? As Disciples of Christ, we have a responsibility to seek, not what is beneficial to self, but what enables a godly and spiritual edification of the entire Christian community.

During this pandemic, it is imperative that we continue to think about what it is that we can do to actively and positively contribute to the collective well-being of our fellow neighbors, especially those of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). I am not a medical expert/professional, but I do believe listening to their council and guidelines can provide us with a clear understanding as to how we can actively contribute to the collective well-being of our Church community. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil 2:3-4)

I love you all, Donny Pierre

WE WALK BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT : 2 CORINTHIANS 5: 7

Yesterday, my wife and I went for a walk at a local trail (Mill Pond Trail in Wolcott, CT) and it was time well spent. We got to exercise together while enjoying each other’s company and the beauty of nature. We encountered a lot of different people who were either walking, running or biking. I know with the ongoing pandemic we are limited as to what we can do and where we can go this summer, but Rose and I are determined to stay active and as healthy as possible. Walking the trail, which is about 3 miles around a big lake, we have to pay attention to the pathway and others around us as we make our way through the trees and over small wooden bridges along the way. Having the ability to see where we are stepping as we move forward is a big advantage and blessing in and of itself. Yesterday, I could not stop thinking about these words written by Paul in the book of 2 Corinthians 5: 7, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”
            Although the apostle wasn’t literally talking about the physical ability of walking and seeing, I couldn’t help but think how blessed I am to be able to see while I am walking. Without sight, a person needs someone to guide them. So often, I have seen blind people walking around with the help of a dog – a guide dog. I can even remember once I saw a blind person moving around slowly while using their hands to get a sense of touch and direction. Without sight, most people completely rely on someone or something else to guide them in the right direction. That is the purest form of faith – a faith that does not completely rely on self-ability – a faith that trusts wholeheartedly in the dark – a faith that allows oneself to be guided in the right direction without always having the slightest idea of how rugged and tough the road ahead is. That is Faith.
            Faith, it’s about “Trusting God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3: 5). It is about being totally confident that all things will work out for your good (Rom 8: 28) because you know who is guiding you along life’s journey – you trust and believe in God’s willingness and ability to guide you to your final destination. However, walking by faith does not mean being void of common sense, which is a gift from God that we need to use every now and then. Walking by faith does not mean we need to neglect certain rules and guidelines that are set in place to protect us. In Acts 9, after Paul preached in the synagogues (v. 20 – 22), many Jews were indignant and sought to kill Paul because of his prior life and reputation before becoming a Christian (v. 23). The Bible says “they were watching the gates day and night” waiting to kill Paul (v 24). When the apostle was made aware of the situation, “The disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket” (v 25). Every time I read that verse, I cannot help but ask: “Why didn’t Paul just go through the gates?” After all, he was a man of great faith – a man who was not easily swayed nor threatened by the dangers along his ministerial journey. He could have called on God to help him make it through the gates unscathed, but this great man of faith decided to escape through a window in a wall instead of having faith that he could have made it through the gates. Moreover, some of the disciples were with him, and they could’ve easily been put in danger had Paul gone out the front gate. Obviously, this wasn’t about him having a lack of faith – it wasn’t even about him being afraid for his life. I believe it was about common sense. There was a mob waiting to kill him, and he did what most people would have done: avoid putting his life in danger.
            Walking by faith must involve the use of common sense, because it is important that “We do not put the Lord our God to the test” (Matthew 4: 7). During the temptation of Jesus Christ, Satan took the Lord to the highest point of the temple and asked him to throw himself down because the Bible says God will command his angels to protect you and will not let you get hurt (Matt 4: 6). The law of gravity dictates that if you jump off a tall building, you will get hurt or could possibly die. Therefore, use common sense and don’t break the law of gravity and expect God to rescue you on your way down. That is why Jesus responded, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Yes, we have faith in God’s willingness and ability to protect and help us in our time of needs. Yes, we walk by faith and not by sight. However, it’s also important that we use common sense and follow the different guidelines that are being put forth by the experts and professionals during this pandemic.
 

God bless you, I love you, and keep up the faith.
Donny Pierre

JUSTICE, MERCY & FAITHFULNESS: MATTHEW 23: 23

            Before going any further, please take the time to read Matthew 23 in its entirety so that you can better understand what is written in this article. Did you read it? Alright, let’s get to it. Now, I want you to think about the harsh rhetoric (sons of the devil, brood of vipers, whitewash tomb, snakes, hypocrites) Jesus used in this passage of Scripture to refer to the religious leaders known as “The Scribes and Pharisees.”  Many Bible commentators and theologians believe Matthew 23 to be “The unloveliest chapter in the Gospel,” because of its scathing rebuke that does not quite fit the loving and peaceful message of the Gospel. Unfortunately, I am only going to focus on verse 23, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
            The Scribes (teachers of the Law) and the Pharisees were religious leaders during the time of Christ. They were experts in the Law of God, although there were some differences between their religious views and practices (Mark 12: 18). The Pharisees were very popular and influential among the common people, and they firmly believed in outward forms of piety (Matthew 23: 5) and strictly upheld Jewish traditions (washing of hands, not working on Sabbath, not associating with sinners etc.). Jesus’ ministry and mission challenged everything they stood for. Jesus challenged their teaching on “washing of hands” in Matthew 15: 1 – 20. Jesus challenged their understanding of who their neighbor was in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10: 25 – 37. He also challenged their teachings regarding working on Sabbath (Mark 3: 1 – 6). They were bitter enemies of Jesus and His cause, which is why they wanted Him killed. However, in Matthew 23: 23, I want us to consider Jesus’ scathing rebuke of the Pharisees’ emphasis on one aspect of the law and total neglect of the more important matters of the law. The Scribes and the Pharisees were known to strictly uphold the laws concerning tithing in the temple, but they failed to uphold God’s laws regarding justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Jesus was not against their faithful adherence to “tithing laws,” but it was hypocritical and unbecoming of them to totally neglect “justice, mercy, and faithfulness,” which are basic characteristics of God (Psalm 9: 8, 16; 89: 14). Also, it is worth noting that Jesus said “Justice, mercy, and faithfulness” were more important matters than tithing according to God’s law. Neglecting these things that are very important to God are the reason why Jesus said “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees.” The things the Scribes and the Pharisees neglect seem to be of a greater concern for others, the common people, unlike themselves. Also, it is possible that Jesus had Micah 6: 8 in mind, although it was not an exact quote: “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Even in the Old Testament, God always put a great emphasis on “Justice, Mercy and Faithfulness”
            I believe we, the disciples of Christ, must not put a greater emphasis on certain things in the Bible and neglect other things that are as important to God: Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness. When reading scripture, it is important that we wholeheartedly embrace all of God’s Word, especially the teachings regarding “Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness.” To neglect these doctrines would result in a scathing rebuke from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The other day, my friends, my wife and I watched this movie called “Just Mercy,” and I would encourage everyone to see it. The movie is based on a true story that happened in Alabama back in 1990 where a person was wrongly convicted for a crime he did not commit. That man was placed on death row. But, a young Harvard educated lawyer from Maryland decided to go there and make sure that proper justice was rendered, because he believed the law must serve everyone equally. In the end, after his client was exonerated, the young lawyer said in front of the US Senate, “If we can look at ourselves closely, and honestly, I believe we will see that we all need justice. We all need mercy. And perhaps, we all need some measure of unmerited grace.” Disciples of Christ must stand for everything written in the word of God, unlike the Scribes and the Pharisees. Proverbs 31: 8 – 9 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” (NLT).

Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness
Donny Pierre

BREAKING DOWN DIVIDING WALLS: EPHESIANS 2: 14 – 15

So often when people talk about Church, they tend to have specific and different ideas of the Church – ideas that can be marred by cultural perspectives, personal experiences/expectations, or unfounded teachings. Therefore, it is important to use a biblical approach in developing our understanding of “the Church” as an entity created for a specific purpose. In Matthew 16: 18, Jesus said “Upon this Rock, I will build my Church.” I believe the “Church” was conceived in the mind of Christ and birthed on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The Holy Spirt started the Church through the work of the apostles on that day; over three thousand people were baptized and added to the Lord’s Church.
            The Church is a community made of members of Christ, built on the “Rock of Ages” and the foundation of the Apostles’ teaching (Ephesians 2: 19 – 22, 1 Peter 2:5). The Church community is God’s dwelling place where everyone is welcomed, unlike the Jewish Tabernacle (Exodus 25) and the Temple (2 Chronicles 4-5). The former was built by Moses in the wilderness and the latter by Solomon in Jerusalem with the sole purpose of being God’s dwelling place among the people of Israel. The Herodian Temple during the time of Christ was divided by walls to keep gentiles, women, Jewish men and priests in their respective courts. The Gentile courtroom was right outside of the temple and to enter inside could cost them their lives because it was forbidden (Acts 21: 26 – 36). These literal walls in the temple were a reflection of how racially and religiously fragmented their society was at that time. The Jews hated the Samaritans (Luke 9: 51 – 56, John 4: 9), women weren’t equal to men (John 4: 27), gentiles were called uncircumcised in order to keep them away from the “Holy of Holies” (the presence of God), the wealthy did not associate with the poor, and religious leaders like the Pharisees thought themselves to be better than the rest of the people who they classified as sinners (Luke 7: 36 – 39). There was no sense of cohesiveness in the first century community, and Jesus wanted to build a community – a dwelling place for God – where everyone could belong: Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles, women and men, rich and poor alike. The Church must be a community where members of Christ are united as one and not divided by racial walls, gender walls, and socio-economic walls (Galatians 3: 28). It is our responsibility to make sure that the Church of today continues to reflect God’s original design and purpose: A spiritual community without dividing walls of any sort
            In the 1st Century when the Church was established, after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, Jewish Christians struggled to accept non-Jewish believers in the Lord’s Church. They used the law to promote and perpetuate these walls, which led to ethnocentrism and elitism that only exacerbated the hostilities between them. They wanted to maintain and impose their Jewish way of life on the gentiles, such as circumcision, washing of hands, and observing special holidays, which would only help rebuild the walls Jesus tore down in the first place. That is why Paul said in Ephesians 2: 14 – 15, “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.”
            The only way Jesus could break down these walls and unite everyone into one community was by putting an end to the legal system that created them in the first place. Without the work of Christ many of us today would be living without hope in this world (Ephesians 2: 12). In the fourth chapter of the book of Ephesians, Paul reminded us to “Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of [our] love. Make every effort to keep [ourselves] united in the Spirit, binding [ourselves] together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, One God and one Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all” (Ephesians 4: 1 – 6). Brothers and sisters, let us continue to endeavor to keep the bond of unity in the Lord’s Church, regardless of the dividing walls that exist in the world.

Donny Pierre

HE WHO IS WITHOUT SIN CAST THE FIRST STONE

          One of the most popular verses in the Bible is found in Matthew 7: 1, “Judge not, or you too will be judged.” Frankly, this verse became somewhat of a cliché – one that is easily misunderstood, especially when it comes to people’s inability or unwillingness to accept constructive criticism and biblical exhortations. However, in John 8, we read the story of a woman who was caught in adultery and the scribes and Pharisees brought her to Jesus in order to condemn her to death. The Scribes and the Pharisees were not as interested in upholding the mosaic law as they were in trapping and accusing Jesus of breaking the law or blasphemy. It’s not too far a stretch to believe they probably planned the whole thing from the beginning, because where was the man she committed adultery with? According to the law they seemed eager to uphold, both persons involved in the act of adultery must be condemn to death (Deuteronomy 22: 22). Their primary objective was always to challenge the messiahship of Jesus Christ in front of the people and prove Him to be a fraud (John 8: 6).
            Regardless, I want us to consider how Jesus dealt with the entire situation. The teachings of Christ up to that point have been about love, forgiveness, grace and compassion – teachings that challenged their understanding of the law (Matthew 5: 21 – 48) and their very way of life. Although Jesus said “I did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill the law” (Matt 5:17), the Jewish leaders certainly saw Him as a threat to their religious system. When the Pharisees told Jesus, “The Law of Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” Remember Jesus came to fulfill the law and not break the law; therefore, this situation presented quiet a dilemma – one that the Pharisees probably thought would turn out on their favor. However, what Jesus said next did not only dissuade the Pharisees and the crowd from their self-righteous path, but they were also “convicted in their conscience” (John 8:9) of their own imperfection and unrighteousness. Jesus said “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” Jesus wanted them to judge themselves first before judging that woman: “First, remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt 7:5). Their conviction led them to believe that they were not worthy of accusing nor condemning that woman. We too must be convicted of our own imperfection and unrighteousness before being preoccupied with someone else’s.
            It is important to understand that Jesus did not approve of what the woman did, but in His name we all can be forgiven, in His name there is no condemnation (Romans 8: 1). When all the accusers walked away disappointed unable to condemn the woman per the law of Moses, Jesus addressed the woman and said, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more” (John 8:10-11). Jesus acknowledged that the woman was guilty of what she was being accused of, but unlike the law of Moses that brought condemnation, unlike the Sadducees and the Pharisees who did nothing but accusing people and pointing out their incompetence in regard to keeping the law in order to elevate their religious status, Jesus offered that woman grace. THE LAW CONDEMNS THE BEST OF US, BUT GRACE SAVES THE WORSE OF US. Grace challenges us to live better lives (Titus 2: 11-12) that’s why Jesus said “Go and sin no more,” and it challenges us to see others through the eyes of Christ. The teachings of Christ were always meant to challenge our way of thinking, our way of life, and our views/beliefs in order to bring necessary changes to transform our lives. Jesus came not only to save us but to change us from the inside out. Only when we allow Jesus to truly transform our lives can we really understand what it means to not cast the proverbial stone at another sinner.
             The Bible says in in Psalm 103: 8-12, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

May we all continue to strive to be more like Christ,
Donny Pierre

HE WHO DOES NOT LOVE DOES NOT KNOW GOD

If someone were to ask me to describe the entire Bible in one phrase – one phrase that captures the very essence of the bible in its entirety, I’d say: “It is the story of God’s love.” God created humanity out of love. He provides and cares for us out of love. He disciplines us out of love. He sent Jesus to save us out of love. He commands us to love one another because He is love. Frankly, I am not sure I have the right words to talk about agape love and do it justice, given the current unfortunate circumstances in our country. Therefore, I’s like to share with you a few verses I’ve been thinking about this past week and let the word of God speak for itself.

1 John 4: 7-11
            “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4: 20 – 21
            “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

Matthew 22: 37 – 38
            “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Proverbs 31: 8 – 9
            “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”

Matthew 25: 41 – 45
            “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
            “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’  “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

Matthew 5: 43 – 48
            “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

            I particularly love the words Jesus spoke in Matthew 5: 43 – 48 because they challenge our modern day understanding of love and who we ought to love. Jesus says “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Who do you consider as your neighbor? Join us online Sunday morning as we talk about this subject.

BEING TOGETHER

I have five siblings (4 sisters and 1 little brother), and we all grew up in a small confined space. I love my sisters and little brother deeply, but there were times when we did not quite love each other that well – those of you with siblings might understand exactly what I am saying. We were always on top of each other, fighting with one another, and always in one another’s business. There was no sense of privacy because we got to spend, what felt like, too much time together and we did not have our own personal designated space. Even at school we couldn’t escape each other’s presence. Although there were half a dozen of us, our lives felt somewhat like the movie “Cheaper by the dozen.”

After graduating middle school, I received a scholarship for boarding school, and I can unashamedly admit that my siblings and I were elated. They had one less annoyance to deal with, and I felt like I was free of them for the first time. “Yes, I get to have my own room and not see your faces every day,” I told them. I know this may sound harsh to some of you, but that was the mind of an introverted teenage boy. Needless to say, boarding school was a challenge because I never understood how much of my academic success in middle school was attributed to the rivalry between me and my siblings. In our home, it was always about: who was going to get their homework done the fastest so we could have access to the TV first. I know this may not mean much to our young people nowadays, but we only had one TV in our house growing up (old school TV with antennas) with no Wi-Fi, no phones, and no tablets. Trust me, it wasn’t the apocalypse. Our rivalry was about: who was going to get the best grade? Who was going to be the first one not to get in trouble with mom and dad by the end of the week? Who was going to be the first one to snitch when mom and dad got home from work? Who was better at this, who was better at that? We spent a lot of time feuding and pushing each other, and I believe all the rivalry strengthened our bond as we learned how to take care and look out for each other.

Being at boarding school, it did not take long for me to realize that I somewhat missed the dynamics and structure of my family. I didn’t have a cell phone until I got to college (how can a teenager make it through high school without something as essential as a cellphone, I know right); so, it was not easy talking to them. We didn’t have FaceTime (Wait! What? No facetime), we didn’t have text (Hold up, wait a minute), we didn’t have social media (So, what exactly we do with    our time?). Trust me, life was different for a teenager back then where I grew up. Therefore, my siblings and I we actually missed each other. When I got to go home every other week-end, or they got to come see me on campus, we actually looked forward to those moments and enjoyed being together for once. We had limited time together, so we cherished every moment we got to spend together. What am I saying? I am grateful for technology, especially during this pandemic, but nothing will ever replace a human touch, a hug, sharing a meal with someone, exchanging a laugh while playing together.

Life was meant to be lived together, and I know we are limited as to how we can be together physically; however, I hope and pray we are all longing to be in each other’s presence again. Having been away from my Church family, my community, friends, colleagues and extended family members for so long has afforded me enough time to reflect on the importance of all these people in my life. There is a reason why the bible has so many verses that talk about the importance of being together. Many of us know these verses as the “One Another” passages, such as: love another (1 John 4: 7), live in harmony with one another (Romans 12: 16), build up one another (Romans 14: 19), accept one another (Romans 15: 7), care for one another (1 Cor 12: 25), comfort one another (1 Thess. 4: 18), pray for one another (James 5: 16). There are many other “One Another” passages that I could mention, but I hope these few deepen the desire within you to be together again physically.

I want to leave you with one more verse that I believe sum up the essence of this article: 3 John 1: 13 – 15, “I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to write it with pen and ink. For I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face. Peace be with you. Your friends here send you their greetings. Please give my personal greetings to each of our friends there” (NLT).

Grace, Peace, and Love
Donny Pierre

DO NOT TAKE YOUR PRAISE LIGHTLY

            As disciples of Christ we tend to place a greater value on reading Scripture and prayer than we do praise. Praising God is as powerful and as important in the life of a believer. The Bible says in Romans 15: 4 that God’s Word provides encouragement and hope. The apostle Paul taught us in his letter to the Church in Philippi that prayer can relieve stress and anxiety, because it helps us relinquish all control over to God (Phil. 4: 6 – 7) and we no longer worry about the things that trouble us (Matt 6: 25 – 34). Also, the Bible describes the Word of God and prayer as part of the “Armor of God” that all soldiers of Christ must wear to go to war against the enemy (Eph 6: 10 – 20). Let us not forget Hebrews 4: 12, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The Word of God and prayer are immensely powerful in our spiritual journey. However, let us not take our “Praise and Worship” lightly, because it is equally important to God.
            In her book, “Music Medicine: The Science and Spirit of Healing Yourself with Sound,” Christine Stevens discovered through clinical research that singing or listening to music can help reduce stress, prevent illness, and even strengthen the immune system. Christine Stevens (MSW) is a therapist who often used music to help her patients heal. If scientific data can prove the benefits of singing and listening to music in therapy, we can rest assured that the same is true for believers singing praises unto God. When we are praising God with songs and Hymns, we are also praying and recalling scriptures in the process. Many of our worship songs are literally taken from the Bible. For example, At the Waterbury Church of Christ we love to sing “The Greatest Command.” “Love one another, for love is of God. He who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love…” Some of you cannot see these words without singing the melody, and we all know where these words come from: 1 John 4: 7 – 11. “As the Deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you,” that is from Psalm 42: 1. There are many more songs I could mention to show you the correlation between singing, scripture and prayer. Singing is about expressing our gratitude to a good God for who He is, what he is done, and what He is about to do (Psalm 13). Singing is about being in the presence of the Lord and understanding that we are filled with the Holy Spirit that intercedes on our behalf. In the book of Acts 16: 25 – 26 we read of Paul and Silas being arrested and thrown in prison. While they were in prison, the Bible says “They were praying and singing hymns to God… suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.” HALLELUJAH PRAISE THE MIGHTY NAME OF JESUS. That verse gets me excited every time. Praise has the power to break every chain that is holding us down: chains of depression, chains of anxiety, chains of fear and anger. God can work on our behalf when we are praising Him. God defeated King Jehoshaphat’s enemies as they were praising HIM. Listen to what the Bible says in 2 Chronicles 20: 22 “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.”. Brothers and sisters let us value “Singing and Praise” in our lives more than ever before, because the enemy is not happy when we are singing praises unto God.
            Although we may not be together in the Church building to sing, we can still worship and fellowship in our own home because God is always worthy to be praised. Remember, when Israel was taken captive by the Babylonians away from their home and the temple, they found it hard to sing praises unto God in a foreign land (Psalm 137: 1 – 4). However, God wanted them to understand they ought to praise Him regardless of where they were in life. Social distancing might be keeping us apart physically, social distancing might be keeping us away from the Church building, but it cannot stop us from lifting our spirit and our voices singing and praising our Lord and Savior. As long as we have breath within us, we have the means to praise (Psalm 150: 6).

PRAISE THE MIGHTY NAME OF JESUS
Donny Pierre

A Lasting Legacy of Faith: 2 Timothy 1

            As a parent, one of my greatest responsibilities is to “prepare my children for adulthood,” and I would like to believe all parents highly regard this responsibility as part of their legacy. We all received some type of legacy from our parents, whether that legacy is one that will last through several generations is another question. The Bible itself teaches us that “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children” (Proverbs 13: 22).
            Blinded by the materialistic aspect of our culture, most legacies tend to revolve around money/finances. For example, whenever we hear the word inheritance we are most likely thinking about money, business, real estate, or some type of financial asset. Please, I am not so cynical to think that parents shouldn’t leave a financial legacy for their children in order to help them have better lives. However, the best legacy one can leave his family is a legacy of faith – one that is rooted in love and built with grace. In 2 Timothy 1, we can clearly see how Paul is praising Lois and Eunice for leaving a lasting legacy of faith for Timothy. Lois, Eunice’s mother, played a major role in her spiritual upbringing and so did Eunice in Timothy’s spiritual walk with God. This week-end as we celebrate Mother’s Day, I want us to take the time to appreciate the spiritual role that mothers and grandmothers have played in the lives of so many in the Church. The time spent teaching their kids how to pray, reading scripture to them and making sure they understand the importance of Church family/assembly.
            In the Old Testament, God made it clear to the nation of Israel that it was their responsibility to leave a legacy of faith to the next generation. Before entering the Promised Land, Moses told the Israelites “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up” (Deuteronomy 6: 4 – 7). This is a very well-known piece of Scripture in the Torah (The Jewish Bible/Canon) – one that many Jews still recite today in their Shema (Jewish Prayer). They understand the importance of passing on a lasting legacy of faith to the next generation. As a matter of fact, in the book of Judges 2: 10 the bible says “After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel.” There is a great danger when this legacy of faith is not passed on to the next generation, because they will end up forsaking God altogether and live according to their own evil desires (Judges 2: 11). This responsibility is not only the job of mothers and grandmothers, but it is the entire family’s responsibility.
            This being said, I am also well aware that parents are not the only one to bear that responsibility, although “Faith starts at home.” However, children must learn how to build upon that legacy and carry it on to the next generation themselves. There are many young adolescents who may choose not to carry on that legacy, but it does not mean we shouldn’t do it. God wants us to leave the next generation a legacy of faith, and I am grateful that many parents have taken this responsibility seriously.

Happy Mother’s Day
Donny Pierre