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!

The Least of These

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.”

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 will 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!”

Whether we are talking about orphans, widows, those mired in poverty, immigrants, refugees, racial minorities, or other various groups of people that have been marginalized by mainstream of 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.”  And, by the way, we should not be silent either!

While we have often made many of these matters a political issue, there’s nothing political about them. This isn’t a matter of politics, but a matter of principle! Our concern isn’t what others might say, whether they be our politicians, preachers, or our peers, what we want to know is this: “What does God have to say about it?”

For the Bible-believing Christian, that’s all that really matters!

While I don’t presently live in America, of course, I keep up with the issues of the day – including the “hot button” issues of the day. When you think about it, the “hot button” issues of the day, more often than not, deal with “the least of these.”  And sadly, people, yes, even God’s people, tend to let politicians, political commentators, and public opinion, rather than the principles of holy scripture influence and guide their way of thinking on these “hot button” issues concerning “the least of these.”

Brother and sister, this ought not to be!

We have been saved by and serve a compassionate God, therefore, we should be a compassionate people. In other words, the things that break the heart of God should break the hearts of God’s people, especially when it comes to the “least of these.”

Least of these 2Over the next few reflections, we will consider a few of these groups who would be considered “the least of these,” and I am praying that we will pause, ponder, and pray, asking God what we should do and how we should do it!

Just Reflecting on the Least of These!

Our Black Eye

Black eyeLuke 6:27-49,  But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, 28  Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. 29  And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. 30   Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. 31  And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. 32  For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33  And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 34  And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.35  But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. 36  Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. 37   Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38  Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.* 39  And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? 40  The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. 41  And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 42  Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye. 43 For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 44  For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. 45  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. 46  And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? 47  Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings [in the previous verses], and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: 48  He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. 49 But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.

If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you no doubt know that, in far too many ways, Christians and the churches of Jesus Christ in our country (USA) have a “black eye.”  We have a “black eye,” or a soiled reputation, in the eyes of the lost and dying world in which we have been called to reach for Christ. That is our mission!

Of course, more often than not, we claim that we are being “persecuted for righteousness sake,” and in some cases, this is absolutely true; And yet, if we were truly honest, we would have to admit that we are all too often guilty of “self-inflicted persecution and pain” because of our pride, our lack of compassion, and, to be quite honest with our unwillingness to simply obey what we often refer to as the “red letters of Jesus.” As one author noted:

When outsiders [those outside the church, the ones we need to be reaching] 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. Do the negative images that people have of Christians get your blood pumping? Keep in mind, the terms and concepts that outsiders throw at us are loaded. Sometimes the criticism is meant to push our buttons, but that is not always the case.

GanhdiThat’s a powerful quote right there. Take a few moments to ponder it’s words and then consider the words of our Lord above.

We should prayerfully ponder these words of Christ, as found in Luke chapter 6, and then ask ourselves, “Is this a good description of my life today?”  Are these words of Jesus above, a good description of our church, and other churches like ours today?

If not, we might want to ask God to change our hearts and change our churches, for the sake of Christ and the cause of Christ in our communities and country!

Just Reflecting!

Johnny

P.S. I just heard a great message preached by Bob Gray II recently. It’s called, “Spiritual PTSD.”  It is definitely worth listening to and would go along the lines of this article today.

*A little side note here: Our Lord’s words in verse 38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you …” is not referring to giving money, but giving forgiveness. I don’t necessarily think it would be wrong to use the passage to refer to our giving,, but that’s not it’s primary message. Context matters!

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!