David’s Mighty Men

DMM-12 Samuel 23:8-21, These be the names of the mighty men whom David had: The Tachmonite that sat in the seat, chief among the captains; the same was Adino the Eznite: he lift up his spear against eight hundred, whom he slew at one time. 9 And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David, when they defied the Philistines that were there gathered together to battle, and the men of Israel were gone away: 10 He arose, and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and the LORD wrought a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to spoil. 11 And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop, where was a piece of ground full of lentiles: and the people fled from the Philistines. 12 But he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines: and the LORD wrought a great victory. 13 And three of the thirty chief went down, and came to David in the harvest time unto the cave of Adullam: and the troop of the Philistines pitched in the valley of Rephaim. 14 And David was then in an hold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. 15 And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! 16 And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the LORD. 17 And he said, Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this: [is not this] the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men. 18 And Abishai, the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah, was chief among three. And he lifted up his spear against three hundred, [and] slew [them], and had the name among three. 19 Was he not most honourable of three? therefore he was their captain: howbeit he attained not unto the [first] three. 20 And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man, of Kabzeel, who had done many acts, he slew two lionlike men of Moab: he went down also and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow: 21 And he slew an Egyptian, a goodly man: and the Egyptian had a spear in his hand; but he went down to him with a staff, and plucked the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and slew him with his own spear.

DMM-2When we read about David’s Mighty Men” in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles we can’t help but be struck with awe. God used these men – this “band of brothers,” if you will – to do some mighty exploits despite overwhelming odds.

What made “David’s Mighty Men” such mighty men, capable of such mighty deeds, and against such overwhelming odds (2 Samuel 23:8-23)?

Was it not their willingness to surrender all and risk everything in order to “gather themselves unto him,”  and make him the captain of their lives?

1 Samuel 22:1-2, David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. 2 And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.

And yet, as Christians today, we have One far greater than David—His Name is Jesus. Should we not be willing to do the same for our Lord? Should we not forsake all others, gather ourselves unto Him, and acknowledge Him as the Pre-eminent One in our lives and ministries?

In my opinion, there is something else that enabled these men-who according to 1 Samuel 22, didn’t really have a whole lot to offer-to become mighty men who did mighty exploits for the kingdom of God.

Their ability to see a God-given opportunity and seize it!

I love the words of author Mark Batterson along these lines:

DMM4.jpg“When I look in the rearview mirror, I realize that the biggest risks were the greatest opportunities… Spiritual maturity is seeing and seizing God-ordained opportunities. Think of every opportunity as God’s gift to you. What you do with those opportunities is your gift to God. I’m absolutely convinced that our greatest regrets in life will be missed opportunities.”

Let’s all rise up, gather ourselves unto our King, the Lord Jesus, surrendering and risking all for Christ and the cause of Christ, regardless of present circumstances and potential consequences, and watch what God will do.

O Lord, raise up some “mighty” men and women today, willing to risk it all for the cause of Christ!

Just Reflecting on David’s Mighty Men!

Why Are We Silent?

Muted voiceJames 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Ezekiel 16:49, Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.

2 Timothy 4:1-4, I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Isaiah 58:1, 6-7,  Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. … 6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? 7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

In his book, The Hole in Our Gospel: What does God expect of Us?  The Answer that Changed my Life and Might Just Change the World,  Richard Stearns shares a testimony of how God broke his heart for the poor, the needy, and the marginalized, or “the least of these,” while on a survey trip of sorts in Africa:

africa.jpegYet this was to be the moment that would ever after define me. Rakai was what God wanted me to see. My sadness that day was replaced by repentance. Despite what the Bible had told me so clearly, I had turned a blind eye to the poor. Now my heart was filled with anger, first at myself, and then toward the world. Why wasn’t Richard’s story being told? The media overflowed with celebrity dramas, stock market updates, and Bill Clinton’s impending impeachment hearings. But where were the headlines and magazine covers about Africa? Twelve million orphans, and no one noticed? But what sickened me most was this question: where was the Church? Indeed, where were the followers of Jesus Christ in the midst of perhaps the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time? Surely the Church should have been caring for these orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27). Shouldn’t the pulpits across America have flamed with exhortations to rush to the front lines of compassion? Shouldn’t they be flaming today? Shouldn’t churches be reaching out to care for children in such desperate need? How could the great tragedy of these orphans get drowned out by choruses of praise music in hundreds of thousands of churches across our country? Sitting in a hut in Rakai, I remember thinking, How have we missed it so tragically, when even rock stars and Hollywood actors seem to understand?

It seems that many of us have become, at best, indifferent to loving and meeting the needs of the poor, the needy, and the marginalized of our day. And, the sad thing is, God’s word, which we claim to be our Final Authority for faith and practice, has a lot to say about the topic of loving and caring for the poor, the needy, and the marginalized.

Christ’s command, coupled with the depth of poverty in the world, and the reality of wealth in our lives, has huge implications for the way we live. For when our eyes have been opened to conditions in the world around us, our ears must be open to God’s Word:

Poor1 John 3:16-18, Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels [of compassion] from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

To be clear, this is a specific reference to followers of Christ caring for other Christians in need. However, the command of Christ in Luke 10 to love our neighbors as ourselves surely includes care not just for the believing poor but also for the unbelieving poor. Such neighborly love is the natural overflow of men and women who know God. If the love of God is in our hearts, then it is not possible for us to ignore the poor in the world. The gospel compels Christians in a wealthy culture to action—selfless, sacrificial, costly, countercultural action—on behalf of the poor.

As we have made clear in previous posts, this is no small matter in the eyes of the God we claim to serve. This truth is presented clearly, both in the Old and New Testament – both to God’s Old Testament people, as well as God’s New Testament people. It is very clear that God EXPECTED His people to be a generous people, especially when it came to meeting the needs of the poor, the needy, and the marginalized  (“the least of these”) peoples of the world. In fact, as one author put it, “You can always identify the righteous by their attitude and activity toward the least of these. Always!”

lipsYet, here’s my question and the thought for today: “Why are our pulpits so silent?”

In the past 12 months, how many sermons have we preached on the topic of helping and caring for the poor? How many messages have we heard on the topic?

In far too many ways, our silence is deafening and at the same time, our silence speaks volumes!

It seems most of us who are preaching have a lot to say about a lot of issues. Some of them very important and timely issues, and some of them not nearly as important, and some are even frivolous. Yet, when it comes to this topic, in which the Bible has much to say, we have become silent. In fact, very silent!

Why?

I’m just thinking out loud. And asking you to do the same!

Just Reflecting on the Silence!

 

Least of These, Part 6

Least of these 2Matthew 25:37-40 “Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?39  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 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.”

Psalm 82:3-4, Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.  Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.

the-widow-mediumJames 1:27, Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Over our last few posts, we have looked at this matter of God’s people being concerned about and for“the least of these.” As we have mentioned repeatedly, even with the most casual reading of the Bible, especially the New Testament, one will soon come to the conclusion and conviction that, while God loves everyone, there is a special place in the heart of God for the poor and the needy, the helpless, and the marginalized.

I refer to these different groups of people as “the least of these” because this is how Jesus referred to them in Matthew 25!

Again, as I have mentioned previously, despite all of the differing opinions concerning the passage above, I have often said, “It doesn’t matter how we slice and dice Matthew 25:31-46, there just is no way of getting around the fact that our Master, the Lord Jesus, is concerned about the poor, the sick, the needy, the hurting, and the marginalized of a society, and He expects His people to be concerned for them also!”

And yet, it seems that even Bible-believing Christians often neglect “the least of these,” especially when it comes to the poor, the needy, orphans, widows, the marginalized [i.e. immigrants, refugees, racial minorities, prisoners, etc.]. In fact, it often appears that so-called conservative Christians are the most calloused when it comes to “the least of these.”  For many of us, if we do anything at all, we simply pass the responsibility off to the government, and then, when the government does do something about it,  we complain that the government is using our tax money unwisely! 🙂

When you read the Book of James, it doesn’t take long to see a lot of similarities to the Christians that James was writing to and the vast majority of us today, especially, when we read passages such as these: 

James 2:1-5, My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

James 2:14-20,  What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

leavenAs I consider what the scripture teaches, what we have seen throughout church history, and what we are witnessing today in a wholesale fashion, in my opinion, our prosperity, prestige, and power have, like leaven, slowly and subtly been destroying us, especially when it comes to having compassion for “the least of these.” As one man wrote:

“I used to think when I was a child, that Christ might have been exaggerating when he warned about the dangers of wealth. Today I know better. I know how very hard it is to be rich and still keep the milk of human kindness. Money has a dangerous way of putting scales on one’s eyes, a dangerous way of freezing people’s hands, eyes, lips, and hearts.”

If you look at the church today, it appears we are far more concerned about political power, our comfort and convenience, and making a name for ourselves than we are to becoming servants, to serve “the least of these.” As one author noted:

The church has forgotten the incisive words of Jesus in the parable of the sheep and the goats: that Jesus is most likely to be found among the poor, the hungry, the unclothed, and the imprisoned — not necessarily in the places of worldly power: Congressional offices, courtrooms, or the hallowed halls of the White House.

The same author wrote these words:

Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he told us to serve the least. He knew that if we would serve them, we would become agents of change. Despair would change to hope. The reputation of his bride would change. And along the way, our hearts and minds would change. We need that in the church today!

And another author wrote:

LazarusDo we take Jesus seriously today? When the least of these are hoping to pick up the crumbs that fall from the Church’s table, I wonder what kind of gospel we are preaching. Let me say this as clearly as I can: The gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be separated from caring for the widow, the orphan, the hungry, the sick, the prisoner. … Preaching the good news of eternal life while ignoring present pain is an emaciated and impoverished gospel. True righteousness means that we feed, we heal, we touch.  It’s the kind of faith that cannot be practiced in isolation. To truly love the orphan, the child prostitute, the widow, and the prisoner requires relationships, and perhaps this relationship aspect is what we have lost as a Church. … Truth be known, my experience is that those who have met the child of the streets face-to-face, those who have hugged the orphan in the slum, those who have looked into hungry eyes, those who have held the child of the prostitute become far more generous. I know it impacted me that way; tithing simply wasn’t enough anymore. But true Christian charity—in the 1 Corinthians 13 usage—begins not with our pocketbooks, but with our hearts. Bottom line: You cannot be intimate with God and distant from those he loves. … As C. S. Lewis says, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought the most of the next. . . . It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” This is the concept: Out of intimacy with God our hearts are filled to the point of overflowing, and that gush of God’s love overwhelms every need we encounter. We become the hands and feet to do what Christ did when he walked this earth. We heal, we fill, we are the salve for a hurting world.

Let’s consider two very important numbers when it comes to “the least of these” that one author shared:

The first number is 2.5 percent. That’s the percentage of income that self-identified American evangelicals give to Christian causes—their churches, mission organizations, Christian colleges. Not 15 percent, not even the biblically mandated 10 percent tithe. Just 2.5 percent. My experience tells me that there are a lot of Christians out there for whom the tithe is just a starting point; their gifts put them well above the 10 percent threshold. Factor them in, and this means, overwhelmingly, we as believers are giving back to God in a 0- to 2-percent range. Unfortunately, that 2.5 percent is not the really devastating number. This is: 97 percent of that tiny 2.5 percent we give goes primarily to benefit other Christians. This basically means that of every $100 of income earned by American evangelicals, about five cents touches those who have not heard that Jesus loves them. A nickel. 

And, then he adds these sobering words:

MoneyDo you know that the average American church spends around $330,000 for every conversion? And that is defining conversion very loosely, including the children of church families who become church members. Three hundred and thirty thousand dollars! What could a church in Mozambique do for its AIDS-stricken community with that same $330,000? Or how many sex-trafficked girls in Thailand could be given the hope of a future where they do not sell their bodies? Or how many children in a Mexican village could learn to read, master a vocation, and also learn that Christ died for them with what it takes to secure one conversion in the U.S.? Does God value American souls so much more?

So, the issue isn’t that we don’t have the resources to care for the poor, the needy, the helpless, the widow, the orphans, the immigrants, and the refugees, along with funneling much more money to reach out to the over 7,000 Unreached People Groups around the world. No sir! That’s not the issue. We have the money and the manpower to make a huge impact “around the corner” and “around the world” among the least of these.”

Here’s the issue: IN MOST CASES, WE ARE SPENDING IT ON OURSELVES!

In 1890 Frederic Huntington wrote, “It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity.”

Bible“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians . . . pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.”

Just Reflecting on The Least of These!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Least of These, Part 5

RMatthew 25:34-40 “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:35  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: 36  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.37  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?38  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?39  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40  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.”

Leviticus 19:34, But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Deuteronomy 10:19, Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

R1Hebrews 13:1-2, Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

As we have mentioned previously, even with the most casual reading of the Bible, especially the New Testament, one will soon come to the conclusion and conviction that, while God loves everyone, there is a special place in the heart of God for the poor and the needy, the helpless, and the marginalized. I refer to these as “the least of these” because this is how Jesus referred to them in Matthew 25!

Concerning the passage above, I have often said, “It doesn’t matter how we slice and dice Matthew 25:31-46, there just is no way of getting around the fact that our Master, the Lord Jesus, is concerned about the poor, the sick, the needy, the hurting, and the marginalized of a society, and He expects His people to be concerned for them also!”

R2And this would include “strangers” or better known today as refugees and immigrants!

This matter of immigrants and refugees has become such a “hot button” issue in the United States, and, of course, politically speaking, it is a complicated issue. Yet, for the people of God there’s nothing complicated about it.  We are to love and care for the “strangers,” “aliens,” or “foreigners.” We are to love and care for refugees and immigrants. Case closed!

R3Let’s briefly talk about refugees. The refugee crisis is one of those human tragedies for which there seem to be no real solutions, at least that is what some would have us to believe. Some options may be better than others, but there is nothing that can honestly be called a solution. Nevertheless many countries, including the United States, could do a lot better. The immediate problems are the masses of desperate men, women, and children, fleeing from the wars and terrorism of the Middle East and Central America, who are flooding R6into Europe and the United States. And sadly, not all of them make it alive!

The United Nations defines a refugee as “Any person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

According to the those in the know, there are over 25 million people that would meet this criteria today. That number is certainly growing daily, given ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. And about twice that number – 40 million — are “internally displaced,” uprooted and forced to seek shelter in their own country. Over 42,500 such people, each and every day, are forced to flee their homes and seek protection elsewhere.

You would think that anyone with a sense of decency and humanity would want to help those who have been through harrowing experiences and have arrived, exhausted and desperate, on the shores of Europe. A few weeks ago, I posted these words on Instagram:

Christ’s commands for us, as found in the Bible, coupled with the depth of poverty—both physical and spiritual—persecution, and pain around the world, along with the reality of the abundance in our homes and our churches, have huge implications for us to ponder as American Christians concerning the refugee and immigration crisis in our world today! 

The question is, “What Can We Do?”

1] To start off with, we can see what the Bible has to say about what our attitude and actions should be when it comes to refugees, whether from the Middle East, Northern Africa, or Central America. Far too many of us are getting fed an unbiblical way of thinking from our politicians and political pundits, rather than seeking principles from God’s word!

2] Of course, we can pray! When  was the last time you brought this great need to your heavenly Father? 

3] We can give! Jesus made it very clear that where our treasure is, the will be our heart also. Look for some organizations that are working with refugees and start supporting them.

4] We can go! Whether on a short term trip or to serve full-time, nothing will help our heart more than to see the need up close. Prayerfully consider visiting one of the many Refugee Camps around the world.

5] Start looking around for refugees that live in your community. You’d be surprised to find out how many there may be! 

R5

A few year’s ago my wife put together a brief video concerning the Syrian Refugee Crisis, which I used at our home church to show our Christian school students, as well as our Bible college students. I would encourage you to check it out!

Just Reflecting on The Least of These! 

Least of these, Part 4

Least of theseMatthew 25:37-40 “Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?39  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 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.”

orphans 1widowsJames 1:27, Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

When one reads the four Gospels one thing becomes very clear, wherever Jesus went He drew a crowd. This seems so unlike many of us today. Rather than attracting people, we often find ourselves repelling or chasing people away. Notice what one author noted about this very matter:

Now, a decade later, the image of the Christian faith has suffered a major setback. Our most recent data show that young outsiders have lost much of their respect for the Christian faith. These days nearly two out of every five young outsiders (38 percent) claim to have a “bad impression of present-day Christianity.” Beyond this, one-third of young outsiders said that Christianity represents a negative image with which they would not want to be associated. … 

GhandiWhen outsiders claim that we are unChristian, it is a reflection of this jumbled (and predominantly negative) set of perceptions. When they see Christians not acting like Jesus, they quickly conclude that the group deserves an unChristian label. Like a corrupted computer file or a bad photocopy, Christianity, they say, is no longer in pure form, and so they reject it. One-quarter of outsiders say that their foremost perception of Christianity is that the faith has changed for the worse. It has gotten off track and is not what Christ intended. Modern-day Christianity no longer seems Christian.

Another author wrote:

While we’ve been charged to “equip the saints” for works of service, the brutal truth is that most of us have reduced our expectations of “serving” to a once-a-month tour of duty as an usher or greeter. We’ve settled for serving ourselves and serving as an event rather than serving those in need and living a new way of life that Jesus has called us to. There’s got to be more to church than this. … Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he told us to serve the least. He knew that if we would serve them, we would become agents of change. Despair would change to hope. The reputation of his bride would change. And along the way, our hearts and minds would change. We need that in the church today.

If you take Jesus and His brother James’ words above, it isn’t hard to see that God is looking for a people who have a love for the unloved, a heart for “the least of these.” Who are these folks? Well, according to Jesus, they are the poor and the needy, the immigrants and the refugees (strangers), the sick, and those in prison. James adds to the list, by referring to the fatherless (orphans) and widows?

In other words, our Lord Jesus attracted people, especially “the least of these,” because He loved them and cared for their needs, and not simply their “spiritual needs,” but their physical needs. Here’s the kicker, Jesus has commanded us to love and care for them them too!

Yet, if we were truly honest and looked at our own lives and many of our churches, most of us would have to admit that we are spending very little of our time, talents, and treasures to care for “the least of these.”

orphans 2In our last post, we took a brief look at the poor. In today’s post, let’s take a few moments and consider the orphans. Did you know that there are 153 million orphans worldwide?  That would be nearly half the population of the United States. And sadly multiplied millions of these end up in the sex-slave trade industry. There are 400,000 orphans in the United States who are waiting to be adopted.

That’s 153 million children “around the world” and 400,000 children “around the corner” who are waiting and longing for someone to love them. As Christians and churches, what are we doing about this great need? As one author noted,

ghandi 2We are to love our neighbor as we do ourselves. Yet we think more about our Sunday bulletin than we think about the orphan crisis in our world. We believe the church is to be like a city on a hill and a light to the world, but we’re more concerned about the new recessed lighting in our lobbies than we are poverty in our city. I’m not convinced that we’re really convinced. … I’m not convinced we even know what it means to love our neighbor. I’m not convinced we care. I’m not convinced because if we did, it would change the way we live.

Hey church, we might want to get our priorities straight! Someone once said, “Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it. But, I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”

Just Reflecting on The Least of These!

“You can always identify the righteous by their attitude and actions toward the least of these. Always!”

The Least of These, Part 3

Least of theseMatthew 25:37-40 “Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?39  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 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.”

Open hand.jpegDeuteronomy 15:7-11,  If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:  But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.  Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee. 10  Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. 11  For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

Psalm 82:3-4, Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.  Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.

Proverbs 19:17, He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.

Stopping earsProverbs 21:13, Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.

Luke 18:22, Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

Above are just a few of the literally hundreds of passages in the Bible that deal with this matter of caring for the poor. This matter of showing compassion and care towards the poor, whether “around the corner” or “around the world,” is no small matter in the eyes of the God we claim to serve. This truth is presented clearly, both in the Old and New Testament – both to God’s Old Testament people, as well as God’s New Testament people. And there are very few topics in all of scripture that are emphasized more than this truth!

It is very clear that God EXPECTED His people to be a generous people, especially when it came to meeting the needs of the poor, the needy, and the marginalized (Jesus referred to these as “the least of these”) peoples of the world.

In fact, as one author put it,

“You can always identify the righteous by their attitude and actions toward the least of these. Always!”

Of course, in this quote above, this author, no doubt, had Jesus’ own words in Matthew 25 in mind when he penned the words above.

Children in povertyAs one author noted, “One billion children in our world live in poverty. That doesn’t simply mean they have no Internet access or nice homes. It’s more than the fact that they are hungry or have inadequate clothing. It means they’re desperate; it means they are children being sold—or selling themselves. It means some are living in prison conditions more deplorable than you can imagine. It means twenty-one thousand children die of preventable causes every day. Twenty-one thousand children. Our God loves every one of them deeply, passionately, and he calls us to be the hands, feet, and heart of that love. He calls all of us to live out his love for them.”

He continues with the following words, “In northeastern Brazil, in Thailand, in India, and in a thousand other places around our globe, adolescent prostitution plays a major role in regulated and unregulated commerce. Every year in Brazil, 250,000 adolescent and preadolescent girls enter the sex trade. And child prostitution is just one face of the problem for those Jesus called ‘the least of these.’ Starvation, human slavery, entire people groups in refugee camps, profound generational poverty, imprisonment in subhuman conditions. Not exceptional; it is the normative for millions—perhaps billions—of people. Take a look at the numbers: 2: Number of children murdered each month inside the walls of one children’s prison in Brazil. 29: In the time it took you to read the previous page, twenty-nine children died of preventable causes. 1,100,000: More than one million children are locked in prisons, usually in subhuman conditions: block-wall and steel-bar cells with little light or outside air. Their toilet, a hole cut in the concrete in a corner of the cell.”

Another author wrote the following words:

Blind spot 2Not long ago God began uncovering a blind spot in my life. An area of disobedience. A reality in God’s Word that I had pretended did not exist. More aptly put, I had lived as if it did not exist. But God brought me to a place of confession before him, before my family, and before the faith family I lead. Today more than a billion people in the world live and die in desperate poverty. They attempt to survive on less than a dollar per day. Close to two billion others live on less than two dollars per day. That’s nearly half the world struggling today to find food, water, and shelter with the same amount of money I spend on french fries for lunch. More than twenty-six thousand children today will breathe their last breath due to starvation or a preventable disease. To put it in perspective for me, that’s twenty-six thousand Joshuas and Calebs (my two sons). To put it in perspective for the church I pastor, if this were happening among the children in my community, then every child eighteen years or younger in our county would be dead within the next two days.…

Blind spotFrighteningly, though, I have turned a blind eye to these realities. I have practically ignored these people, and I have been successful in my ignorance because they are not only poor but also powerless. Literally millions of them are dying in obscurity, and I have enjoyed my affluence while pretending they don’t exist. But they do exist. Not only do they exist, but God takes very seriously how I respond to them. The book of Proverbs warns about curses that come upon those who ignore the poor. The prophets warn of God’s judgment and devastation for those who neglect the poor. Jesus pronounces woes upon the wealthy who trust in their riches, and James tells those who hoard their money and live in self-indulgence to weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon them.

Sobering words, that’s for sure!

So, I guess the question worth pondering as we read these words, is simply, “What is the church of the Living God doing about this great need ‘around the corner’ and ‘around the world?’ Better yet, ‘What am I doing about it?’”

“Where have we any command in the Bible laid down in stronger terms, and in a more peremptory urgent manner, than the command of giving to the poor?”      – George Whitfield

Just Reflecting on The Least of These!!!

The Least of These, Part 2

Least of theseMatthew 25:34-40 “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:35 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: 36  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.37  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?39  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 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.”

James 1:27, Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

James 2:14-20, What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 

1 John 3:16-18, Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

Jude 1:22, And of some have compassion, making a difference:

As I mentioned in my last post, even with the most casual reading of the Bible, especially the New Testament, one will soon come to the conclusion and conviction that, while God loves everyone, there is a special place in the heart of God for the poor and the needy, the helpless, and the marginalized. I refer to these as “the least of these” because this is how Jesus referred to them in Matthew 25.

While there is some disagreement on exactly how to interpret it, I have often said, “It doesn’t matter how we slice and dice Matthew 25:31-46, there just is no way of getting around the fact that our Master, the Lord Jesus, is concerned about the poor, the sick, the needy, the hurting, and the marginalized of a society, and He expects His people to be concerned for them also!”

Least of these 2Whether we are talking about orphans, widows, the poor, immigrants, refugees, racial minorities, or others marginalized by mainstream society – and for the mission-minded Christian, I would add “unreached people groups”– God has not been silent on the church’s responsibility to show compassion and care for “the least of these.” 

Most of us, who have known the Lord for any length of time, and have done much Bible reading at all, know and understand that God is compassionate and that He expects us to be a compassionate people. We also know that God loves the poor, the needy, the helpless, and the marginalized. And yet, for many of us, there seems to be a great disconnect between what we KNOW and what we DO!

Isleeping in churchf we are not careful, we can slowly and subtly be lulled into a state of satisfaction, safety, serenity, and may I say INDIFFERENCE, neglecting the many needs of “the least of these,” both “around the corner” and “around the world,” rather than being stirred within by a deep discontent and a desire to do something for them!

Someone has said, and rightly, I believe,  “The church has forgotten the incisive words of Jesus in the parable of the sheep and the goats: that Jesus is most likely to be found among the poor, the hungry, the unclothed, and the imprisoned — not necessarily in the places of worldly power: Congressional offices, court rooms, or the hallowed halls of the White House.”

Over the next few reflections, we will consider a few of these groups beginning with the poor that would be considered “the least of these,” and I am praying that we will pause, ponder, and pray, asking God to break our hearts and fill them with the compassion of Christ, as we seek to know what we should do and how we should do it!

Just Reflecting on the Least of These!