This aftenoon we took a walk to the local Christian bookstore. Some of our best friends are owners of the store, so we always enjoy visiting. There is usually an opportunity to share a cup of tea and some conversation. Of course it is also a chance to browse through the books. We rarely leave without purchasing several books that we can give to someone else.
Today we purchased 3 large print New Testaments for some of the older brothers and sisters at the homeless shelter, a small book about a woman’s testimony and a book titled Foundations of Christian Faith.
After our visit Karen and I caught a local bus to the stop nearest our apartment, got off and began to walk home. Walking down the busy street I noticed an old woman, a typical Russian grandmother. She was tiny and frail and had her white hair covered with a scarf.
As we came nearer I noticed that she asked a couple who were walking in front of us a question. They ignored her and kept walking. As we approached I could see that she also wanted to speak to us so I slowed down to let her speak. Her voice was soft, and her eyes somewhat desperate. At first I didn’t understand her so I asked her, “What is it you need?”
“Can you give me some money?” She asked with great stress and humiliation in her eyes.
“Of course I can,” I replied, quickly digging into my pocket. Out came a 500 ruble note, which is worth about $16.00. Expecting only a few cents she was shocked and began to cry. Grabbing my hand she kissed it. Karen was also near tears as she watched.
Many elderly Russians are forced to beg on the streets in order to supplement their incomes. The average Russian pension is about $150-$200 a month. This is not enough to live on in
As we walked away I thought about the book that I was carrying, Foundations of Christian Faith. Too often our Christian faith is only about what we believe. Many discipleship courses are all about teaching information to new believers. I believe in teaching information. One of my favorite things to do is to stand in front of a class of new believers and impart to them some of the Scriptural basis for our faith. I have this great desire to help new believers really THINK about what it is to be a Christian.
At the same time I think the church often misses a great opportunity when we teach information, and rarely teach practical good works. Perhaps every church should have a course for new believers, teaching them to serve others, and offer practical opportunities for them to be involved in their local communities. We could open homeless shelters, feeding programs, elderly care, and teen mentoring programs or any of a hundred other ideas. This would be an excellent exercise in character formation and it would impact both those involved and those who are served. This would also show the world that Christianity, if put into practice, is a rational faith that can have a practical and useful impact upon the world.
Frankly, it sickens me to know that a small part of the Pentecostal/Charismatic church spends their time seeking for gold, diamonds and feathers as supposed signs of the Father’s love – (email me if you don’t understand what I am talking about here). Should we not, instead, be the hands and feet that show the world the Father’s love, demonstrating in a positive way how Christ has given us a new life and filled us with love for other people? Should this not be a large part of our foundations of the Christian faith? Shouldn’t the power of Pentecost flow through our acts of mercy and compassion?
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.