Thinking Straight​, Living Right​

Thinking-Straight“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not CONFORMED to this world: but be ye TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). 

For the first eleven chapters in the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul deals with the great doctrines of our faith such as justification, sanctification, glorification. He deals with God’s love and goodness towards His people. In chapters 12-16, Paul deals with our great duties as the people of God. And, it all starts with the familiar Romans 12:1-2.

Basically, in this passage, Paul is saying, because God has been so good to us, it is reasonable for us to lay down our lives as a living sacrifice, surrender our all to Him, and serve Him for the rest of our days!!!

Yet, Paul makes it clear in these verses, if this is going to happen, we must understand that EVERYONE CHANGES, and whether we are being CHANGED BY THE WORLD or we are being CHANGED BY THE WORD is determined by who or what is influencing us!

images 3In other words, have to win the battle for the mind. As Christians, we must understand that the battle is (and always has been) for the mind. Whoever or whatever has the GREATEST INFLUENCE over the way we think—concerning every issue of life—will, in due time, also have the GREATEST IMPACT on how we live in every area of our lives.

Therefore, we are either CONFORMING TO A GODLESS WORLD (in our thoughts, attitudes, words, and deeds) or we are being TRANSFORMED BY GOD’S WORD (in our thought, attitudes, words, and deeds). Regardless of how we might try to justify it, there’s not a whole lot of “wiggle room” there!

Therefore, we are going to have to be very decisive, diligent, and determined about who and what we are going to allow to influence our way of thinking.  Of course, above all else, we must be men and women of the Book. We must read it, study it, memorize and meditate upon it, and not simply be hearers of the word, but doers of the word.

images- 22 Corinthians 10:3-5, For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

At the same time, we must guard our hearts against other influences, outside of the Bible, that would conform us to a way of thinking that would not cause of to love God, love others, and live humble and Christlike lives in a dark and dying world!

Proverbs 4:23, Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Just Reflecting on Thinking Straight!

Rekindling the Vision

Vision 1Pro 29:18, Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. 

Neh 1:1-4, The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, 2 That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. 4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

I absolutely love the Book of Nehemiah. It’s a book that reminds us what God can do with one man (or woman) who has a vision, or a burden from God. Nehemiah accomplished a GREAT WORK because he had a GREAT VISION that began with a burden for Jerusalem.

In the midst of his comfort as a cupbearer for the king, his heart was broken over that which broke the heart of his heavenly King. Far too many of us have become comfortable, complacent, and in some cases, carnal.

If that’s the case in your life, it’s time for a change. A radical change! 

In our last post we mentioned how important it was to have a vision birthed in heaven and found in God’s word, and how easy it is for the people of God to lose the vision or the burden they once had. As one author noted:

“Vision leaks, even out of the best of our people. The demands of everyday life gradually cause their minds to grow fuzzy, their commitment to wane, and their hearts to grow cold.”

When you think about it, there are very few things that are affecting our personal lives, our Christian homes and our churches, our communities and our country, as is a LACK OF VISION from above, and from God’s holy word. And sadly, because we are lacking a vision birthed from above, many are perishing. As William Booth once said:

“For far too long the Body of Christ has been asleep on the job while the harvest rots in the fields. The enemy has blinded our eyes to the desperate needs around us and caused us to focus on temporal things rather than the eternal values we have been called to live by.”

Far too many of God’s people are sleeping and have been blinded by our enemy and have lost their vision of the Person of God and the purpose of God for their lives, and thus, become unfaithful in their walk with and work for Christ. As one author noted:

“Find me a believer who is no longer faithful to the cause of Christ, and I will show you a man or woman who has no vision from God, no sense of divine destiny. Such people have either lost it or never had it. Visionary believers are marked by their intense faithfulness to their vision and to their Savior.”

Speaking of vision, I love the following definitions:

“Visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be. … Visions form in the hearts of those who are dissatisfied with the status quo. Vision often begins with the inability to accept things the way they are. … Vision carries with it a sense of conviction. Anyone with a vision will tell you this is not merely something that could be done. This is something that should be done. This is something that must happen.”

“Vision is a clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be. Vision is a preferred future. A destination. Vision always stands in contrast to the world as it is. Vision demands change. It implies movement. But a vision requires someone to champion the cause. For a vision to become a reality, someone must put his or her neck on the line. Vision requires visionaries, people who have allowed their minds and hearts to wander outside the artificial boundaries imposed by the world as it is. A vision requires an individual who has the courage to act on an idea.”

“Truth be told, the most inspired, motivated, and driven people I know are the ones who live their lives from the energy of their holy discontent. They have a constant awareness that what is wrecking them is wrecking the heart of God. Refusing to stay fed up, though, they instead get fueled by their restless longing for the better-day realities God says are coming soon. … This energy causes you to act on the dissatisfaction that’s been brewing deep within your soul and compels you to say yes to joining forces with God so that the darkness and depravity around you get pushed back. This supernatural supply of energy allows you to move forward past all the natural human-nature responses and enter instead into a life viewed from God’s point of view. In other words, your perspective shifts from that which your eyes can see to that which God tells you is true.”

Surely one of the greatest needs in our homes and churches today is for those who have never had a vision from above to beg God for one, and for those who once had a vision that burned deeply within their hearts, but something has quenched it, to beg God to rekindle the vision once again!

In other words, if we never had a vision, or if we had one, and have lost it, it might be time for us to get serious with God, get in our prayer closet, get on our knees, get in the Book, and beg God to rekindle the vision!

O Lord, rekindle the fire. Rekindle the vision!!!

Rekindling 2“Thou Christ of burning, cleansing flame, Send the fire! Thy blood-bought gift today we claim, Send the fire! Look down and see this waiting host, Give us the promised Holy Ghost, We want another Pentecost, Send the fire! God of Elijah, hear our cry: Send the fire!  To make us fit to live or die, Send the fire!  To burn up every trace of sin, To bring the light and glory in, The revolution now begin, Send the fire!”

Just reflecting on vision!

No Vision?

Vision 1Pro 29:18, Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. 

Neh 1:1-4, The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, 2 That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. 4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

As the song writer once penned, “Our hearts are prone to wander.” Not only are our hearts prone to wander from the God we love, but often from the cause that He has called us to. When we do, we begin to drift aimlessly through life. We get stuck in a rut. And, the result is that people perish, and that includes us!

As one author noted:

“Vision leaks, even out of the best of our people. The demands of everyday life gradually cause their minds to grow fuzzy, their commitment to wane, and their hearts to grow cold.”

Been there. Done that!

When you think about it, there are very few things that are affecting our personal lives, our Christian homes and our churches, our communities and our country, as is a LACK OF VISION from above, and from God’s holy word. And sadly, because we are lacking a vision birthed from above, many are perishing. As William Booth once said:

“For far too long the Body of Christ has been asleep on the job while the harvest rots in the fields. The enemy has blinded our eyes to the desperate needs around us and caused us to focus on temporal things rather than the eternal values we have been called to live by.”

Last week, while reading the Book of Nehemiah, I was once again reminded of the power of a vision birthed in the heart of a man from above. I wrote these following words in my journal and then posted them online:

The Book of Nehemiah reminds us that if there’s a work that God wants accomplished, there must be a man that God has burdened! This book is also a good reminder, if there’s a man that God has burdened, there must also be a work somewhere and somehow that God wants accomplished. This is what is often referred to as destiny!!!

Who or what are you burdened about today? What are you doing about it?

God used Nehemiah in a mighty way, in a short amount of time, for His glory and for the good of others, but it all started with a vision, or a burden that was birthed in his heart from above.

In the same way God used Nehemiah, God wants to use you and me today! Yet, it all starts with a vision, or a burden birthed in our hearts from above.

Vison 2When a man or woman lacks a vision or loses the vision they once had, the final result is wandering in a spiritual wilderness or perishing.

While some of us may have never had a clear vision, many of us once had a vision of a work to do, ministries to start, people to reach, lives to change, but for whatever reason the vision has leaked.

Do you have a vision? Have you lost the vision you once had? If so, what are you doing about it?

O Lord, rekindle the vision!!!

“Thou Christ of burning, cleansing flame, Send the fire! Thy blood-bought gift today we claim, Send the fire! Look down and see this waiting host, Give us the promised Holy Ghost, We want another Pentecost, Send the fire! God of Elijah, hear our cry: Send the fire!  To make us fit to live or die, Send the fire!  To burn up every trace of sin, To bring the light and glory in, The revolution now begin, Send the fire!”

Just reflecting on vision!

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 7

Least of these 2Matthew 25:33-46, And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 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. 41  Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42  For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43  I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44  Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45  Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46  And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

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.

orphans 2James 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.

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. 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.

Over our last six 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.

Least of theseI 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!”

wesley.jpegIn today’s post, I would like to give a few practical things we can do as individuals and/or as churches to get more involved with obeying the word of God’s many commands to care for the poor, the needy, and the marginalized, or “the least of these.”  But first let’s take a few moments and talk about the great evangelist John Wesley.

John Wesley preached a lot about money. And with probably the highest earned income in England, he had the opportunities to put his ideas into practice. What did he say about money? And what did he do with his own?

As a child, John Wesley knew grinding poverty. His father, Samuel Wesley, was the Anglican priest in one of England’s lowest-paying parishes. He had nine children to support and was rarely out of debt. Once John saw his father being marched off to debtors’ prison. So when John followed his father into the ministry, he had no illusions about the financial rewards.

woman.jpegWhile at Oxford University, Wesley had a life-changing experience, an incident that changed his perspective on money. He had just finished paying for some pictures for his room when one of the chambermaids came to his door. It was a cold winter day, and he noticed that she had nothing to protect her except a thin linen gown. He reached into his pocket to give her some money to buy a coat but found he had too little left. Immediately, the thought struck him that the Lord was not pleased with the way he had spent his money. He asked himself, “Will thy Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful steward?’ Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money which might have screened this poor creature from the cold! O justice! O mercy! Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?”

Perhaps as a result of this incident, in 1731, Wesley began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. He records that one year his income was 30 pounds and his living expenses 28 pounds, so he had 2 pounds to give away. The next year his income doubled, but he still managed to live on 28 pounds, so he had 32 pounds to give to the poor. In the third year, his income jumped to 90 pounds. Instead of letting his expenses rise with his income, he kept them to 28 pounds and gave away 62 pounds. In the fourth year, he received 120 pounds. As before, his expenses were 28 pounds, so his giving rose to 92 pounds.

giving.jpegWesley felt that the Christian should not merely tithe but give away all extra income once the family and creditors were taken care of. He believed that with increasing income, what should rise is not the Christian’s standard of living but the standard of giving.

This practice, begun at Oxford, continued throughout his life. Even when his income rose into the thousands of pounds sterling, he lived simply and he quickly gave away his surplus money. One year his income was a little over 1400 pounds. He lived on 30 pounds and gave away nearly 1400 pounds. Because he had no family to care for, he had no need for savings. He was afraid of laying up treasures on earth, so the money went out in charity as quickly as it came in. He reports that he never had 100 pounds at any one time.

Wesley limited his expenditures by not purchasing the kinds of things thought essential for a man in his station of life. In 1776, the English tax commissioners inspected his return and wrote him the following: “[We] cannot doubt but you have plate for which you have hitherto neglected to make an entry.” They were saying a man of his prominence certainly must have some silver plate in his house and were accusing him of failing to pay excise tax on it. Wesley wrote back: “I have two silver spoons at London and two at Bristol. This all the plate I have at present, and I shall not buy any more while so many round me want bread.”

Another way Wesley limited expenses was by identifying with the needy. He had preached that Christians should consider themselves members of the poor, whom God had given them money to aid. So he lived and ate with the poor. Under Wesley’s leadership, the London Methodists had established two homes for widows in the city. They were supported by offerings taken at the band meetings and the Lord’s Supper. In 1748, nine widows, one blind woman, and two children lived there. With them lived John Wesley and any other Methodist preacher who happened to be in town. Wesley rejoiced to eat the same food at the same table, looking forward to the heavenly banquet all Christians will share.

For almost four years, Wesley’s diet consisted mainly of potatoes, partly to improve his health, but also to save money. He said: “What I save from my own meat will feed another that else would have none.”

In 1744, Wesley had written, “[When I die] if I leave behind me ten pounds … you and all mankind [may] bear witness against me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.” When he died in 1791, the only money mentioned in his will was the miscellaneous coins to be found in his pockets and dresser drawers.

John Wesley, accordingly, offered four questions to help his hearers decide how to spend the money. They were:

  1. In spending this money, am I acting like I owned it, or am I acting like the Lord’s trustee?
  2. What Scripture requires me to spend this money in this way?
  3. Can I offer up this purchase as a sacrifice to the Lord?
  4. Will God reward me for this expenditure at the resurrection of the just?

Needless to say, God did a special work in Wesley’s heart and he took this matter of caring for the poor, the needy, and the marginalized very seriously, and so should we!

brainIn addition to Wesley’s four questions above, let me offer a few practical considerations that might free us up to do a little bit more for Christ and the cause of Christ among “the least of these.”

A FEW PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS:

  1. Pastor and pastoral staff do a thorough study on “the least of these.” Prayerfully study to see what the Bible has to say about our responsibility towards to poor, the needy, and the marginalized.
  2. After the pastoral staff does this study, take a few days for prayer and fasting, seeking God’s guidance concerning your church and “the least of these.” 
  3. Do a Midweek Bible Study or a series of Sunday night messages on “the least of these.”
  4. Start challenging the pastoral staff, then the rest of the staff, and finally, the church family to set aside a certain percentage of their income for “the least of these.”
  5. Look over the church budget and see where cuts could and possibly should be made to have church funds available for “the least of these.”
  6. Set up a “least of these” budget item in the church account. 
  7. Before building or adding on, have a serious time of prayer and fasting and ask God if it’s really necessary, at the moment, in light of “the least of these.”

Children in povertyJust Reflecting on the Least of These!

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!