Courage to Care, Contact, Confront

In Luke 10 and Matthew 25, Jesus told his followers to be concerned with the physical and emotional needs of their neighbors. Then in Luke 19:10, he stated that the main purpose for his incarnation was to meet the spiritual needs of the human race. In Matthew 28:19-20, he directed us to have the same priority – the spiritual needs of others.

Before we can successfully carry out this Great Commission we must have the

Courage to Care

We must allow the Holy Spirit to created within us a sincere attitude of concern. We must allow the joys, sorrows, dreams and disappointments of others to become important to us. Until we have a true, heart-felt caring attitude we will not be successful “Great Commission” Christians.

Courage to Contact

The boldness of first century Christians caused them to go to public places and intentionally meet non-Christians so they could witness to them about Jesus. They were not content to form a holy huddle and hide their light inside the walls of a church building. We, too, must be willing to meet and interact with lost people so we can tell them the Good News.

Courage to Confront

In our live-and-let-live society, most of us avoid confrontations because they make us uncomfortable. The gospel of Jesus Christ is, by its very nature, confrontational. This is what Jesus taught in Matthew 10:34-37. Every person is either lost or saved, serving God or serving Satan, condemned or forgiven. The Great Commission will never be carried out until we confront the world with this knowledge.

We must allow the Holy Spirit to make us brave enough to care, contact and confront.

Battle With Sin

Why is it that Christians must have the proper concern about the sin in their lives? After all, we have been promised eternal life walking on golden streets. We have been forgiven. Our everlasting reward is guaranteed. Why should we be concerned about our sins?

The sin that remains in our lives will be a barrier to a close relationship with our Father. It will be a cloud that prevents us from knowing Him more intimately and it will block us from understanding his purpose for our lives. It will block the blessings He has planned for us. . Therefore, as his children we must continually be alert for sin. We must learn to recognize it in  its many forms.

Sin comes in many outwardly attractive shapes, sizes, colors and packages. In reality, it is ugly, deceptive and deadly, but on the surface it is often beautiful and alluring.  It is presented to us through the internet, books, friendships, magazines, TV screens, movies, advertisements and the advice of well-meaning people. It calls to us at night, in the morning and throughout the day. It approaches us at home, at work, in the park, on the lake, in the country and in the city. It invades our thoughts when we are alone or when we are in a crowd. It even calls to us on Sunday morning during church services. it can be loud or soft, bold or shy, smooth or crude.

Sin is everywhere, all the time. Satan, who is a liar and killer, constantly tempts us.

God calls for us to use all our strength to resist sin, but He does not ask for us to do it alone. He has given us the Holy Spirit and in Philippians 4:13 He promises we will be able to do all things through Christ. All things certainly includes resisting sin.

Our minds are the battlefield on which we must defeat sin. We can be successful only if we give God control of our thoughts and actions. In James 1:5 He has promised us his wisdom to use in this battle. Through the Holy Spirit He will direct our fight against sin. If we follow his directions our lives will be increasingly free from Satan.

And then we can give our heavenly Father all the glory, praise and gratitude.

The Great He Is

At the burning bush Moses asked God to identify Himself. God replied, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14) In that same verse he directed Moses to tell the Hebrew people the “I AM” sent him. Our assignment as God’s children and servants is to tell people HE IS!

HE IS the truth.
HE IS the one who forgives sin.
HE IS the only path to eternal life in heaven.
HE IS the wisdom we need to succeed in this life.
HE IS  the final victor in the battle between good and evil.
HE IS the creator and sustainer of the universe.
HE IS  the one who gives us joy and peace.
HE IS our protector from temptation.
HE IS our refuge. 

HE IS
and it is our privilege to tell everyone we meet!

Thankful For What?

John 6 tells of a problem facing Jesus and the disciples. More than five thousand people needed to be fed. The only food the disciples could find was fives loaves of bread and two fish.

Jesus took that meager lunch and thanked God for it.

But what was there to be thankful for? Five loaves and two fish? To feed five thousand people? The problem was immense and the resources inadequate. Yet He took a few minutes to show appreciation to his Father. He had the attitude of “We don’t have much, but we are truly grateful for what you have provided and we’ll do the best we can with it!”

Then He had the disciples start giving the food to the people. Give them what? Five loaves and two fish divided 5,000 ways? No! They were to share all God had provided. 

God’s power was released by Jesus’ faith. The multitude got a meal and the disciples received a faith lesson. (In fact, that lesson may had been the primary motive for the entire episode.)

His followers could not visualize one small lunch becoming a seafood buffet for the crowd. To them a large problem and small resources equaled unmet needs. But their equation omitted God’s willingness and ability to help those in need. 

What about us? Do we find this lesson easy to understand in our minds, but difficult to incorporate into our lifestyle? Do we ignore God’s power when we consider how we can solve our big problems without limited resources?

We read Jesus’ words about moving mountains and we say “I’m going into the earth moving business!” Then we run head-on into problems like stubborn children, monthly bills, a distant spouse or an uncaring boss. And what do we do? We compare the size of the problem with the size of our resources and become discouraged.

God wants to help us every day with every problem. But his power will be limited in our lives if we do not demonstrate faith in his ability and desire to care for us.

Desert Experiences

Are you in a desert right now? Are you living in a harsh environment, surrounded by unpleasant people and unfair expectations? If so, don't despair! God has often used such situations to prepare his people for great acts of service.

He used the desert to prepare Moses to lead the Hebrew nation out of slavery. He sent Jesus into the desert after the first public proclamation of his divine mission. Paul spent time in the desert after discovering his life goals were completely wrong.

God dictated a completely unique agenda for each of these journeys. They were not a time for vacation or amusement. Jehovah confronted these men with themselves and with Himself. Each had to wrestle with God's view of his own past and future. Each was forced to acknowledge the Creator's rightful place as provider, ruler and commander. Yet each emerged with an understanding of God's will for his life and a dedication to follow that, wherever it led.

Are we willing to emotionally and spiritually go into the deserts He provides and spend time one-on-one? Are we willing to allow Him to show us our mistakes and weaknesses so that we can be changed? Are we ready to accept our total nothingness and acknowledge His complete power and wisdom in all parts of our lives?

He knows when we need to be removed from the daily rush and pressure of our schedules. After He has our attention He can show us who He is, who we are, what He wants to become within us and what we can become for Him. Such insights are often seen more clearly in the school room of the desert.

Until we fully and gratefully accept our dependence on Him we will not be ready to serve Him. When He puts us into the empty, harsh places we must accept his way of doing things and learn from the Master Teacher.

Disciples’ Easter Weekend

(Friday Night)
We thought He was the Messiah,
The true and only one.
We thought He would restore us. 
We thought He was God's son.
But now He's dead and in the tomb.
We don't know what to do.
He said "I will not leave you."
But we're scared, through and through.

(Saturday)
Years ago we left families
And followed, just like He said.
But then they nailed Him to the cross.
Our hopes and dreams are dead.
Should we run or should we hide?
What is left for us here?
A week ago it was different.
I can still hear the crowd's cheers.

(Early Sunday Morning)
Hey! He's not in the tomb!
Mary just brought us the word.
She says He's back from the dead.
It's the best news I've ever heard.
Can't wait to see Him for myself.
It's almost too good to be true.
Maybe he'll heal the sick and teach
Just like He used to do.

(Later Sunday)
Jesus just came into the room
There's no doubt about it.
Everyone needs to know. 
Let's all go out and shout it.
He is alive! He is alive!
You better believe it, friend.
He is all that He promised.
I'll never doubt again.

My Protector

I recently received this from my Sunday School teacher, David Martin and wanted to pass it along.
As I have shared with the class before, I am a world-class worrier. An anxiety expert. A virtuoso of vexation. While I have gotten better in this area over the years, it is still an on-going battle. So you can only imagine where my mind drifts during this pandemic. 

Last night I was engaged in another worry war. Coronavirus numbers grow. Quarantines abound. Even toilet paper is being hoarded, for crying out loud! These are target-rich times for all of us worry specialists. Wednesday night as I started to engage in a festival of foreboding, God led me to Psalm 35:1-3.

1 Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
    fight against those who fight against me!
2 Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for my help!
3 Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers!
Say to my soul, “I am your salvation!”  ESV

When David wrote these verses he was most likely being pursued by Saul who wished to put David to death. Now, I have never been stalked by a spear-yielding Israeli king, but unfettered worry is an enemy that can cause physical, emotional, and mental harm.

What spoke to me in these verses was the power and action and aggressiveness. David is asking the Lord to fight his fight for him. He was crying out to JEHOVAH TSABA* to go toe-to-toe with his enemies. Whoever messes with David, is going to have to deal his Father. My Dad is bigger than your dad. 

David is pleading with God to bring his holy weapons to the fight. "Take hold of shield and buckler**/Draw spear and javelin." Just imagine the God of the universe taking hold of shields, spears, and javelins all on our behalf against our enemies. As Mr. T used to say, "I pity the fool."

My most thoughtful, well-reasoned, and insightful worry-reducing ploys and tricks pale in comparison to what God can bring to the fight.

When I read the last two lines, I wanted to shout it out loud.  David  acknowledged that God is his salvation. Not the Israelite army. Not his warriors. Not man-made weapons. But God alone.  Even David, a man after God's own heart, needed God to speak that reassurance to him.

Look at how David punctuates the last line. It is not a mere period, but an exclamation mark. It is meant to be shouted.  Celebrated. Declared from the mountain tops. God is our salvation!

Will this completely obliterate worry from my life? Not likely.  I have spent many years honing the craft of consternation. But Psalm 35:1-3 will certainly be a powerful tool in my battle against worry.

*JEHOVAH TSABA:  The Lord our Warrior
**A buckler is a small shield.

FOUR STEPS IN DOING GOD’S WILL

There are four steps that have to be taken before I can carry out God’s will in my life. If I fail in any one of them I am allowing myself to be less and do less than He has planned for me. And it is a sin to be aware of my state of “less than God plans” and continue in it.

These steps are wanting to do His will, understanding His will, having the courage to attempt His will and allowing the Holy Spirit to empower me so that I accomplish His will.

The desire to do His will should begin with gratitude for my salvation and the blessings He has so freely  given since then. It should include a recognition that my greatest happiness is possible only when I am doing exactly what He directs, tempered with the acknowledgment that He disciplines those of his children who are disobedient.

The understanding of his will is rooted in private and corporate study of the Bible, along with time alone with Him, voicing my prayers and listening for His response.

If the desire and understanding are present, then I must have the courage to attempt those specific actions He requires. If I falter at this point, I may have to spend more time in steps one and two so that I have a greater assurance that He will protect me and provide for me. He is the “God of detail” and He will clear a path for me as I attempt to be obedient.

As I continue in my obedience I must remain humble and aware of my limitations. I am not expected to do God’s work alone. He is the mover and shaker of the universe but He empowers me to carry out the specific actions He has for me.

When I incorporate each of these into my daily prayer of “Lord, show me what you want me to do” I will hear Him say “Well done, my child.”

Eating from Trash Cans

A woman had three sons, each of them married with children of their own. All three were scheduled to arrive at her house at 11:00 for lunch on Thanksgiving Day.

For days she carefully planned the menu. Most of Wednesday was spent cooking desserts. She put the turkey in the oven at 5:00 Thanksgiving morning.  The table was adorned with her best dishes and gleaming, polished silverware. By 10:45 everything was ready. She had done her best and she was pleased with her efforts.

Then she heard voices and strange noises from the area behind the house where the trash cans were stored. When she looked outside she could hardly believe her eyes. There were all three of her boys, along with their families, sitting in a circle around the trash containers. They were eating from the trash cans.

Using the can lids as serving trays they were eating potato and apple peels, carrot tops, and orange rinds. As she watched they scraped out what was left from the discarded vegetable cans and frozen food boxes.

She rushed outside, horrified at their behavior. “All of you come into the house this instant,” she cried.” This is crazy. I have a wonderful meal for you in there. Why would you want to eat garbage out here when I have turkey and mashed potatoes and hot rolls and apple pie on the table in the kitchen?”

The oldest boy replied “I’m sure you have a good meal inside, but we don’t deserve any better than this. We have neglected you lately and this is all we have a right to expect. It’s good enough for people like us.”

The middle son also refused. “This is really not so bad, Mom. If you’ve never tried it you don’t know what you’re missing. Would you like to join us?”

The third boy confirmed the decision to stay outside. “I’ve talked it over with my family and we don’t believe you really have anything any better inside. You can’t prepare a meal like you described. We think you are lying to us.”

The foolish, ungrateful  behavior of these children causes us to feel outraged. But we act in similar ways toward God when we refuse the banquet of blessings he has for us and accept, instead, the trash offered by the world.

God prepares a menu of blessings for us every day.  (Psalm 23). He knows we don’t deserve it but He continually offers us the best He has. Of course we don’t deserve his goodness, but He chooses to bless us anyway. To say He cannot bless us is to deny his power. To say He has not or will not bless us is to contradict his word. When we live in guilt, ignorance and denial we are as foolish as the three sons.

Bits & Pieces, Odds & Ends – 9

The Holy Spirit will work to cause Biblical information to become spiritual illumination that will lead to personal transformation, if I let Him.

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As a Christian I take great comfort in the fact that God always keeps His word. Can others take such comfort knowing that I, as a child of God, will always keep mine?

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Wouldn’t it be wonderful if after my death my family had “He loved God by loving others” engraved on my headstone?

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When I was growing up my mother told me “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do if Jesus was with you.” Now, as an adult, I need to add “Don’t express any opinion you wouldn’t express if Jesus was with you.”

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I did not do anything to achieve my salvation, but I must do everything in my power to clearly express it every day.

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John and Andrew asked Jesus “Where do you live?” Jesus answered “Come and see.” (John 1:38) The invitation was to come closer, spend time together, become friends. And that invitation is still open to you and me.