The Least of These

Least of theseMatthew 24:12, And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” 

Matthew 25:35-40, For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

While reading these passages this morning, two interrelated thoughts came to my mind:

  • When sin and selfishness are left unchecked in our society and our lives, it won’t be long before our hearts become calloused and cold, and our love for God, as well as our love for others begins to grow cold. 
  • How we treat the poor, the hungry, the sick, and the marginalized, “around the corner” and “around the world” reveals much about us, and our love for Christ!

Cold heartAs I mentioned yesterday, Christ’s commands for us, as found in the Bible, coupled with the depth of poverty—both physical and spiritual—“around the corner” and “around the world,” along with the reality of the abundance in our lives and churches, have huge implications for us to ponder during this Thanksgiving season!

Just Reflecting!

Yes, Thank God for the Blessings, but Don’t Stop There

Thanksgiving-1Psalm 67:1-7, God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah. 2  That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations. 3  Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. 4  O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah. 5  Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. 6  Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us. 7  God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.

As we approach Thanksgiving, all of us would readily admit that God has been good to us, in fact, very good to us. God has blessed us in so many different ways. Let’s consider just a few of the many ways God has blessed us:

  • He has saved us
  • He has given us a copy of His Word in our language
  • He has changed us, and continues to change us on a daily basis 
  • He has provided us a place to live, clothes to wear, and food to eat
  • He has given us good health
  • He has given us a wonderful spouse
  • He has blessed us with wonderful children and grandchildren
  • He has allowed us to live in a country with religious freedom
  • He has given us a good church family and spiritual leaders who have been a blessing
  • He’s given us a good job and the abundance that few in history have even known

With this last blessing in mind –the blessing of abundance–it might be worth pondering what one author noted:

“For if we have clean water, sufficient food and clothes, a roof over our heads at night, access to medicine, a mode of transportation (even if it’s public), and the ability to read a book, then relative to billions of people in the world, we are incredibly wealthy. Economics professors Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert observe how the standard of living essentially common among us is extremely uncommon in human history. They write, ‘At no time in history has there ever been greater economic disparity in the world than at present.’ Speaking specifically about present-day Americans, they conclude, ‘By any measure, we are the richest people ever to walk on planet.’”

Yes, this Thanksgiving season, let us be grateful for all of His blessings, including the blessing of abundance, but let us also be reminded that He blesses us so we can be a blessing to others.

Thanksgiving 2As I posted earlier today,

Christ’s commands for us, as found in the Bible, coupled with the depth of poverty—both physical and spiritual—“around the corner” and “around the world,” along with the reality of the abundance in our lives and churches, have huge implications for us to ponder during this Thanksgiving season!

This Thanksgiving season, let’s be sure to be thankful, but let’s not simply stop with being thankful for what God has blessed us with, but let’s do something with what we have been given for the glory of God and the good of others — those who don’t have what we are thankful for!

Just Reflecting!

Sheep Among Wolves

Sheep 2Matthew 10:7-8,  And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8  Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

Matthew 10:16-25,  Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. 17  But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; 18  And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. 19  But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. 20  For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. 21  And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. 22  And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. 23  But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. 24  The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. 25  It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?

While reading Matthew 10 this morning, among other things, three thoughts really grabbed my attention and were a source of pondering:

  • The command to GO is a command to proclaim the Gospel to a lost and dying world, AND to bring help, healing, and hope to the helpless, the hurting, and the hopeless!
  • While Jesus has sent us into a dangerous world filled with wolves, He has sent us as sheep, and expects us to serve in the spirit and nature of a lamb, in fact, in the spirit and nature of THE LAMB — the Lord Jesus Himself!
  • If the world hates us, let’s be sure they hate us for HIS “NAME’S SAKE,” and not simply for our lack of conviction, compassion, our callousness toward the hurting and the helpless, our critical and condemning spirit, or our lack of Christlikeness.

Unfortunately, I am afraid we are often hated for all the wrong reasons!

As the people of God, we should be reflecting the light, life, and love of Christ. The question we have to ask ourselves is this: “Are we properly portraying the life, love, and light of Christ in a dark world?”

“My life helps to paint my neighbor’s picture of God.” —John Goetsch

Sheep 1As the author of The Calvary Road noted:

Then further, He (Jesus) was the silent Lamb. “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.” Facing the calumnies of men, we read, “He answered nothing.” He never defended Himself, nor explained Himself. But we have been anything but silent when others have said unkind or untrue things about us. Our voices have been loud in self-defence and self-vindication, and there has been anger in our voices. We have excused ourselves, when we should have admitted frankly our wrong. On every such occasion the Dove had to take His flight, and withdraw His peace and blessing from our hearts, because we were not willing to be the silent lamb.

This is biblical Christianity!

O Lord, as You send us among the wolves, help us to continue to walk and work in the spirit and nature of a lamb, and above all, the nature and spirit of THE LAMB OF GOD—holy, harmless, and helpful to a hurting, helpless, and hopeless world!

Just Reflecting!

Hearing and Obeying the Word

1Matthew 7:24-29,  Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26  And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. 28  And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: 29  For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

If you have been a Christian for any length of time, and if you have been in the ministry even for a short time, you have noticed — not only in the lives of others, but in your own personal life and ministry, how easy it is to not hear and obey the words of Christ.

  • Have you ever noticed how easy it is for us to DISREGARD the sayings of Jesus, especially the difficult ones?
  • Have you ever noticed how easy it is for us to JUSTIFY why we aren’t doing what the Bible says we should do?
  • Have you ever noticed how easy it is to SHRUG OFF any command that contradicts our comfortable life style?
  • Have you ever noticed how we tend to CONFORM OUR FAITH AND PRACTICE around the “American Dream,” rather than allow our faith to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ?
  • Have you ever noticed how easy it is for us to RATIONALIZE why we aren’t doing what the Scriptures plainly say we should do?
  • Have you ever noticed how the “faith of our fathers” is easy to talk about, and preach about, but actually living, loving, and serving like Christ, and the early church, now that’s another story.

2THE WISE MAN HEARS AND OBEYS THE WORD OF GOD, regardless of what others say and do, and regardless of how it spoils his purpose and plans for his life!

Just Reflecting!

Spiritual Health Crisis

Shine“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven” (MATT 5:16).

In the midst of these dark, discouraging, and often depressing days, may we never forget that the great need of the hour is for the light, life, and love of Christ to flow through us. Let us remember that the Christians road to maturity, and the manifestation of Christlikeness for the glory of God, is found in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-16).

Might we be committed to reading them. Studying them. Meditating upon them. And, above all, loving and living them on a daily basis!

Mental healthWe don’t simply have a “mental health” crisis in America. We have a “spiritual health” crisis of epic proportions. And the needed prescription can be found in God’s Word.

And, it starts with you and me!‬

Just Reflecting!

Debtors

DebtorRomans 1:13-16, Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

CT Studd 2

Unlike most of us, the apostle Paul was willing to leave his comfort zone (Jerusalem, Judah, and the Jewish people) to go to the uncivilized pagans of his day.

Unlike most of us, Paul willingly surrendered, served, and sacrificed much for Christ and the cause of Christ among the “Unreached” peoples of his day.  What inspired him to do so?

Paul clearly understood that he was a DEBTOR to do so. He owed a DEBT to his glorious Lord and Saviour, as well as a DEBT to those with little hope and little help!

CT Studd 3Paul was CALLED and SEPARATED BY GOD, and he SURRENDERED TO GOD’S PURPOSE for his life. How about us today? God’s calling and His separating us unto a work accomplishes very little, if we don’t SURRENDER!

Do we see ourselves as DEBTORS? And, if so, what are we doing about it?

Just reflecting!!!

 

Are We Stirred by the Idolatry?

IdolActs 17:16-17, Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. 17  Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.

Jeremiah 2:13, For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

The apostle Paul stood and looked upon Athens and saw the temples, the idols, and the altars. What Paul saw, no doubt, made him sick to his stomach. Yet, it not only made him sick to his stomach, it stirred his heart and will to action.

He chose to do something about it!

Most, if not all of us, have had experiences much like this. We have witnessed the idolatry around us and God has stirred our hearts, often to a place of deep sorrow and a desire to do something about it. Yet, this morning, while I was reading this passage and pondering upon it, I had to ask myself this question:

“How about the idols in my own heart?”  

More often than not, when we think of idolatry we think of those bad things “around us.” And, we should be concerned about the idolatry “around us.” However, think about this for a moment. Are we struggling with idolatry “within us”? As one author penned:

“We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.”

It is so much easier, and so much less painful, for us to become stirred about the idolatry “around us,” and yet, at the same time, ignore and neglect to deal with the idolatry “within us.” We want to focus on that which is on the outside, but over and over again, Jesus makes the point that it’s all about what’s on the inside.

The heart is the battleground for the gods of this world!

What it comes down to is simply this, an idol is ANYONE or ANYTHING that comes between us and God. ANYONE or ANYTHING that would steal our heart’s affection from the true and living God.

An idol in our heart could be father, family, friends, future ambitions, or financial security. An idol in our heart could be a man in our life. It could be a movement. It could be methods of ministry. It could be money. It could be, well, why don’t you go ahead and fill in the blank!

For most of us, the idol in our heart is that thing (someone or something) we have struggled with over and over throughout the years. And, the Holy Spirit has been faithful to point it out to us. Yet, we ignore His pleas. As another author wrote:

“Old gods die hard. They hold on, they creep in, they quietly clutch at us. Perhaps when we meet Christ, the old gods fall silent for a while. But they regroup. They wait for their time, and they aim as high as ever. They want to rule our hearts again.”

Sadly, for most of us, we can clearly see the danger of the idolatry “around us” and we are sure to point it out. Yet, at the same time, we ignore the idolatry that is “within us.” And, because of this, our relationship with the True and Living God isn’t what it should or can be!

Jeremiah 31:3, The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

“You can’t understand the seriousness of idolatry without understanding the jealousy of God. And you can’t understand his jealousy without some understanding of his relentless, powerful love for you.”

IdolatryO Lord, help us to see the idolatry that is all AROUND US and, at the same time, help us to see the idolatry that is WITHIN US, and then help us to be stirred to action by what we see!

Just Reflecting!