Helping the Hurting

MarkHelping 1 3:1-6, And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. 3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. 4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. 6 And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.

Even a casual reading of the four Gospels, the Book of Acts, along with much of early Christian history will clearly reveal that Christ and the early Christians seldom, if ever, said, “NO,” when it came to helping the poor, the needy, the marginalized, the hurting, and the helpless.

While Jesus and those early Christians were often criticized and persecuted, especially by the religious elite, they were never criticized or persecuted for a lack of compassion for the hurting. NEVER!

So, here’s the question: How about us today?

Unfortunately, I am afraid this is one of the biggest criticisms of many of us today: NO COMPASSION for the hurting and the helpless, especially if it crimps our style, affects our comfort and convenience! 

In fact, many, if not most, Christians have remained strangely indifferent to the human suffering around them!

Just reflecting!!!

 

 

 

Which Path?

Which Path 2Even the most casual study of the New Testament will readily reveal that the early church found their spiritual identity and uniqueness, not in any man, ministry, or movement, but in their Master the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus was their Master. Jesus was their message!

Again, a brief look at the Book of Acts and the various church and pastoral epistles will reveal that the early church, unlike the church today, wasn’t overly concerned with finding some “New Path.” At the same time, they definitely weren’t concerned with reaching back to the past to relocate some lost “Old Paths.”

Yet, they were very concerned, in fact, they were consumed with finding and following HIS PATHS!  

O how we need this message today!

Of course, HIS PATHS are found in the Bible. They begin with our submitting ourselves to the Pre-eminence of Jesus Christ [Colossians 1:16-18]; loving God with every fiber of our being, and loving others (including our enemies) as we love ourselves [Matthew 22:36-40]!

Of course, we must not stop there. If we are to faithfully follow in HIS PATH, we must love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (yes, even those with whom we disagree), as He has loved us [John 13:34-35; Ephesians 5:1-2]; we must love righteousness and hate iniquity [Hebrews 1:9; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Peter 1:13-16]; separate ourselves unto Christ and from all that is unholy, according to the Word of God [1 Corinthians 6:14-20; 2 Corinthians 6:17], while at the same time, walking in humility and meekness, rather than pride and arrogance, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit [Ephesians 4:1-4; Philippians 2:1-8].

If we desire to continue down HIS PATH, we will have to follow the example of our Lord Jesus and be lovingly concerned about the poor, the needy, and the marginalized in our world, and that would surely include immigrants and refugees [Proverbs 21:13; Luke 4:18; Matthew 25:31-46; James 2:14-20; 1 John 3:16-18; Hebrews 13:1-3].

Of course, if we are to be faithful followers on HIS PATH, the path that He has set before us in the Scriptures, we will have to be faithful stewards of our time, talents, and treasures as we give ourselves to doing our part in fulfilling the Great Commission “around the corner” and “around the world” [Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8].

His pathHIS PATH can be found clearly in the Holy Bible, which is our final authority for both faith and practice. What we believe and how we live should be determined, not by our family, our friends – including our preacher friends, where we attended Bible college, etc., but by God’s Holy Word!

As you can well imagine, I haven’t listed everything, but that listed above will surely keep most of us busy for a season or two.

So, while so many are arguing about the “NEW PATHS” and the “OLD PATHS,” why don’t we just get on HIS PATH and do what we can to make a difference in our world!

Path 1

 

“Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.”  

– Pro 4:26-27

Victories on the Journey

Journey 3Deuteronomy 1:6-8, The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: Turn you, and TAKE YOUR JOURNEY, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto … Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land …

Deuteronomy 7:1-2, When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:

VictoryDeuteronomy 9:3-5, Understand therefore this day, that the LORD thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD hath said unto thee.  Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

I love the Book of Deuteronomy. It’s a book that reminds us to learn from the lessons of the past, heed the admonitions for the future, and go forward on our journey, cross our Jordan River, and enter the Promised Land. As I mentioned in our last post,

Journey 1Most of us recognize that the Christian life was meant to be a journey with Jesus. Unfortunately, many of us get stuck in a rut. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a rut or wickedness, and probably not a rut of worldliness, but a rut all the same. It’s a rut of complacency. As my brother, Pastor Joe, used to refer to it, quoting a former Laker’s coach Pat Riley, “The Complacency Disease.”

Over the past few days of reading Deuteronomy there have been so many tangible lessons to take to heart. So many! One of the lessons I pondered upon this morning, while reading the last two passages above, was a really good reminder:

It’s never about who we are, or what we have done, that gets us into the Promised Land and brings about victories in the Promised Land, but it’s always about Who God is, what He has done, and what He is doing. And it’s all for HIS GLORY!

As we walk with the Lord on this journey with Jesus, which we call life, we will see many blessings and experience many victories, but let’s never forget, it’s never about who we are, or what we have done, that gets us into the Promised Land and brings about victories in the Promised Land, but it’s always about Who God is, what He has done, and what He is doing. And it’s all for HIS GLORY!

IN OTHER WORDS, LET’S STAY HUMBLE ON THE JOURNEY!

“Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.”

Journey 2“My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus’ words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to Him. ”

Just Reflecting!

 

Get On with Your Journey!

Journey 1Deuteronomy 1:6-8, The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: Turn you, and TAKE YOUR JOURNEY, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto … Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land …”

Most of us recognize that the Christian life was meant to be a journey with Jesus. Unfortunately, many of us get stuck in a rut. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a rut or wickedness, and probably not a rut of worldliness, but a rut all the same. It’s a rut of complacency. As my brother, Pastor Joe, used to refer to it, quoting a former Laker’s coach Pat Riley, “The Complacency Disease.”

Journey 3Occasionally, we become comfortable and a spirit of complacency sets in, even in good and godly places, and we have to be “nudged” to get on with the journey God has set before us, and possess the “lands” that God has for us to possess!

Are we willing to take the first step?

A Few Questions Worth Pondering:

  • Have we become comfortable where we are?
  • Is a spirit of complacency setting into our heart and life?
  • Has God spoken to you in the past about more to the journey?
  • What are we going to do about it?

“Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.”

Journey 2“My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus’ words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to Him. ”

Just Reflecting!

 

 

 

The Call Is His. The Choice is Ours!

Follow 1Matthew 4:18-22,  And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.  And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.  And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.  And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

The disciples of Jesus LEFT BEHIND their father, family, friends, future ambitions, financial security, and everything familiar to them to FOLLOW JESUS, and with absolutely no idea where they were going. When we CHOOSE TO FOLLOW JESUS, we will always leave someone and something that we love behind. Always!

When a man chooses to follow Jesus, he will often be taken down an unknown, unfamiliar, untried, unappreciated, and occasionally, an unsafe path. ‪The good news is Jesus will always be with him on his journey!

Follow 2

The question is, “Are we willing to follow Jesus regardless of our present circumstances and potential future consequences?”

The call is His. The choice is ours!

“My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus’ words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to Him. ”

Just Reflecting!

Your Idolatry and Mine

idolatry 1Exodus 23:24-25, Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images. And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.

1 Thessalonians 1:9, For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

As I read the above passage in Exodus last night and the passage in 1 Thessalonians this morning, I was reminded of a very important truth. It’s a simple truth, yet, often a painful one. Every country and culture has their own set of idols in which the people serve. Some are easy to distinguish, some are not so easy.

IT’S ALWAYS EASIER TO SEE THE IDOLATRY IN ANOTHER CULTURE THAN THE IDOLATRY IN OUR OWN CULTURE. ALWAYS!

I was recently in Thailand, my wife and I have served in Laos and Cambodia, the idolatry there is so clear to me as an American Christian. Temples, priests, altars and idols are everywhere.

China is a different story!

You will seldom find temples, priests, altars, and idols in this country. Yet, this country is as idolatrous as Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. China’s idolatry just comes in different shapes and forms. A lot like our’s in the good old U.S.A. I like what one author noted:

“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. What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” 

Christians and churches, if not careful, may find themselves worshipping someone or something other than “the living and true God.”

idolatry 2Every once in awhile, it would help if we would do a little self-examination in light of the scriptures:

  • Is there anyone or anything that is keeping me from total devotion to the “living and true God”?
  • Is there anyone or anything that fires me up more than I am “fired up” for the “living and true God”?
  • Is there anyone or anything that keeps me from following the word and ways of the “living and true God”?
  • Is there anyone or anything that is keeping me from following the “true and living God”-the Lord Jesus Christ-wherever He might lead me?

1 John 5:21, Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

Idols 3John’s words above, are important for any age, including ours, and we may want to consider them, while, at the same time, keeping in mind what another author noted, “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.”

Just Reflecting!

“And the Lord was with Joseph”

Joseph“And Joseph was brought down to Egypt … And the Lord was with Joseph and he was a prosperous man …”  (Genesis 39:1-2).

Very few men in the Bible suffered the injustices that Joseph suffered, and very few of us ever will. He was sold into slavery by his own brothers. Joseph was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife. Imprisoned, forgotten, and left to rot in a prison cell.

Yet, all along the way, “the Lord was with Joseph.” 

The story of Joseph is a good reminder for all of us today. Joseph’s life, trials, and troubles, remind us that regardless of our circumstances, if we will remain faithful to God, and the ways of God, we can rest assured that the Lord will be with us, and that He is working behind the scenes to fulfill His purpose.

“And we know that ALL THINGS work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to HIS PURPOSE” (Romans 8:28).

O Lord, forgive us for looking at circumstances that are less than comfortable and pleasing in our own sight. Help us to to see Your Hand in all that comes our way, and when this isn’t possible, help us to trust Your heart!

Just Reflecting!

Peter, Do you really love Me?

Peter-1John 21:15-24, So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?  Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

This question, “Do You Love Me?” which Jesus asked Peter still echoes through the ages. Jesus didn’t simply ask Peter if he loved Him once, but three times. And, in front of the other disciples. Can you imagine?

Purpose 3God had a specific purpose for Peter’s life. He had a path for Peter to take. By the way, Jesus has a purpose for your life and mine. He has a path for us to take too. Peter was called to be a fisher of men (Matthew 4:18-22). He was called to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, beginning in Jerusalem (Acts 1:8). Yet, Peter allowed his fears to overwhelm and overcome him. He denied Christ and went back to fishing, not for men, but for fish.

Now, was the moment of truth, Jesus was calling Peter back to Himself and to His calling.

If you have been saved and serving Jesus for any length of time and if you’re anything like me, you know how easy it is to take our eyes off of Jesus, get caught up with the things of this world, and forget our high calling in Christ.

Peter 2If we listen carefully, we too will hear Jesus asking, “DO YOU LOVE ME?” It’s easy to say we LOVE JESUS, but if we truly do LOVE HIM, we will FOLLOW WHEREVER HE LEADS and OBEY WHATEVER HE DEEDS, regardless of our present circumstances and the future consequences!

Let’s not sing,  “I have decided to follow Jesus,” unless we really mean it!

As one author noted, “My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus’ words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to Him. ”

O Lord, help us to love You with every fiber of our being and demonstrate that love for You by our obedience—not only in that which is comfortable and convenient for us, but all that is commanded by You!

Just Reflecting!

God’s Purpose for My Life

Purpose 1.jpg“I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished THE WORK which Thou gavest Me to do”  (Jn 17:4).

“My kingdom is not of this world … And for THIS CAUSE came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth” (JN 18:36-37).

As I read these words this morning, on the 41st anniversary of my salvation, I had to ask myself these three questions:

  • Am I as passionate about BRINGING GLORY TO GOD today, as I was in the past?”
  • Am I as passionate about FINISHING THE WORK GOD HAS GIVEN ME today, as I was in the past?
  • Am I as passionate about PROCLAIMING THE TRUTH found in God’s Word today, as I was in the past?

Purpose 2Our Lord Jesus lived for one thing and one thing only – to glorify His Father!

And because He did so, His life had purpose, He was focused upon that purpose, and He was faithful to that purpose.

Our Lord Jesus clearly understood His purpose, and this was His passion in life!

How about us today?

A Few Questions Worth Pondering Today:

  • Is finding, following, and finishing the work that God has for us the great passion and pursuit of our life?
  • Are we becoming entangled with the things of this world?
  • Can we honestly say that we are more devoted to the cause of Christ and the Christ of the cause today than we have ever been?
  • Has the fire that once burned within our hearts for Christ and the cause of Christ dwindled?

Purpose 3O Lord, on this very special day, I beg You to help me to remain faithful and fruitful in the call and cause of Christ for my life and in this world! 

Just Reflecting!

Because Thou Hast Done This Thing, 2

Abraham“I and the Lord will go yonder to worship … And said, By Myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for BECAUSE THOU HAST DONE THIS THING, and not withhold thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee …”  (Genesis 22:5, 16-17).

As we mentioned in our last post, the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Mount Moriah (as found in Genesis 22) is a sobering reminder for all of us who claim to be people of faith, followers of the Lord Jesus, and a people who want to worship the one and true living God.

This story reminds us that true worship of God is actually a matter of faith, obedience, surrender, and sacrifice. And, when we are willing to SURRENDER and SACRIFICE that which is nearest and dearest to our heart -even that which God has given to us- it is an act of spiritual worship that is both pleasing to God and eventually results in the blessing of God.

For Abraham, Isaac might have been his promised child, his only son from his beloved wife Rachel, and the apple of his eye, but it would have been very easy for Isaac to also become an idol in Abraham’s life. And, God always has to deal with the idolatry in our lives, even if the idol isn’t a statue or a shrine. And, He often deals with it in a painful way. Concerning idols and idolatry, I like what one author wrote:

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. What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. 

For some of us, our idols are found in family or friends. For others of us, it’s in our financial security or our future ambitions. And, still for others, its the familiarity of a good church, home, job, etc…

Someone has said, “The human heart is an idol making factory.”

Understanding this helps us to understand why so many of us, in fact, all of us, struggle with making the “hard decisions” when it comes to following Jesus. Oh, there are many decisions and choices that are “easy” to make, but its those difficult ones that get the best of us.

Path 1When it comes to bringing your only son, the one your heart adores, to Mount Moriah, now that’s another story.  And, when it comes to doing what Jesus wants us to do. And, in many cases, when it comes to going where Jesus wants us to go, that too, is another story. And, I think we can all attest to this!

Why is this? Because it isn’t really Jesus that’s ruling our hearts and lives, but the idols that we really serving. They have control! 

Again,  I like what 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.

A few more questions worth pondering at the beginning of 2018:

(1) When God begins to speak to my heart, and there’s a “hard decision” to make, do I first ponder all that Christ has done for me with a heart of gratitude, or does my mind wander to someone or something that makes it difficult to make the decision?

(2) Are there any reoccurring words that God has spoken to me over the years that, because of someone or something, I keep ignoring or neglecting?

(3) When will I stop wrestling with God and simply SURRENDER and SACRIFICE whatever or whoever it might be on the Mount Moriah God has for me?

Just reflecting!

Self-2“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”  — C. T. Studd