Least of These, Part 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The question is, “What Can We Do?”

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

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

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

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

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

R5

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

Just Reflecting on The Least of These! 

Least of these, Part 4

Least of theseMatthew 25:37-40 “Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?39  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

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

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

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

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

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

Another author wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just Reflecting on The Least of These!

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

The Least of These, Part 3

Least of theseMatthew 25:37-40 “Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?39  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact, as one author put it,

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

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

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

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

Another author wrote the following words:

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

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

Sobering words, that’s for sure!

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

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

Just Reflecting on The Least of These!!!

The Least of These, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just Reflecting on the Least of These!

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!!!