Why Are We Here?

390What are we here for?

Many have asked that question throughout the ages. What am I here for? What is my purpose? As believers in Jesus Christ, we now know the answer: God created us for His purpose. Then mankind rebelled; and sorrow, emptiness, and despair filled every heart to some degree or another. For those of us who have been reconciled to God through the redeeming work and power of Jesus Christ, we are back where we belong: in God’s loving family. Hallelujah!

So, why are we still here!? This world is not our permanent home. We are “just a passin’ through,” as one old-time Gospel song-writer put it. We look for the same City as did Abraham; a City with foundations, whose builder and maker is God. So why did our Lord leave us, for a time, here in this dark, confusing, pain-filled world? I can think of at least two very good reasons: To train us and help us to grow so we can be holy and be made fit for heaven and ready for God’s tremendous and awesome presence; And to be lights and witnesses of His gracious offer of rescue and salvation to others who are just like we once were: lost; in darkness.We are ambassadors of our Precious Mighty King, the Lord Jesus Christ. And He offers citizenship in His Kingdom to whosoever will … through us.

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It is of being lights, witnesses, and ambassadors that I write today. Jesus said much about our light; letting it shine for all to see. This is no secret society to which we belong; no hidden message to which we cling. The invitation we give and our witness of its truth are to be public and obvious. He said to take the message, the Good News of His Redemption, to all the people of the world. He speaks of scattering the Word of God like seed, and of watering it; He promises He will make it grow in the hearts of men, women, and children. In the Revelation which He gave to the Apostle John, our Risen Savior, with eyes like blazing fire and feet like bronze, walks among 7 lampstands. He tells John, the 7 lampstands are the churches. The Savior and Head of the churches walks among them. He is in the midst of them. In the midst of us. I find this very encouraging. He knows each church intimately and gives words of encouragement and of correction; of praise and of rebuke. He even warns one church, that if they do not repent and go back to what they first knew, and first loved, their lampstand would be removed. By Him. Their light would go out. They would no longer be representing their Redeemer, their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. How sorrowful!

This brings to mind the vine and branches Jesus spoke of in the Gospel of John, chapter 15. In the precious moments leading to His suffering and death, Jesus taught His disciples about abiding in Him and bearing fruit. He used analogies they could understand and relate to. What is simpler than a vine with branches? The life comes from the roots into the main body of the plant and then out into the branches. Obviously, if you were to cut off a branch, removing it from nutrients and moisture, the branch would dry up and die. No branch is a self-sufficient entity. It needs to draw life from somewhere. For us, believers in Jesus, His church, His people, we draw our life from Him. Without Him everything good in us would dry up and die. All life, hope, and power would be gone. And obviously, a dead branch cannot have fruit on it. A dead branch cannot help anybody.

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In a very simple analogy, think of believers in and followers of Jesus as conduits; bringing His Water of Life to a thirsty world. Think of us as a garden hose. The water is not of our making; but it is our job to bring it to those who need it. Just as when Jesus fed thousands of people using a few loaves of bread and a few fish; He multiplied the food, passed it into the hands of His disciples, and they dispersed it to the hungry people. They were His conduits. We are His conduits today. He has chosen to give His message of life and reconciliation with God; through those who have already experienced this profound re-birth. We have been given the amazing privilege of sharing the Bread of Life and the Water of Life with those who desperately need Him.

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As I was watering our various plants around the yard, the hose kept kinking up. Every time the hose would bend and get turned on itself, the water would stop flowing. Ugh. This reminds me of the Church, as a whole. We have branches or denominations among us who are turning from the simple message that Christ saves sinners, and bending to the world; they are promoting themselves, or fighting against other believers, so they can comfortably conform to the world’s standards. As simple conduits of God’s Great mercy and grace to a desperately thirsty world, it is heartbreaking to see all the strife. What good are we to God’s Kingdom and to obeying our Master’s Great Commission of spreading His Offer and Invitation of Life; when we are promoting our “distinctives” while ignoring His distinctives? Rather than obsessing over what sets us apart from our redeemed brethren, should we not focus on that which sets all true believers apart from a dying world? Life!!! Life sets us apart! The very Life and Resurrection Power of Jesus is in us! Remember beloved, we are not here to become one with the world. We are here to offer the world union with Christ. There is a huge difference. We do not love the world by joining them in darkness. We love the world by showing them the light of Jesus.

Can you imagine if Peter, John, or Andrew stopped to admire their clothing as Jesus was handing them miraculous food for hungry people? Can you imagine if Philip started triumphing over Thaddeus, because he was “doing it better”? Or what if Bartholomew goaded Thomas about “not really understanding what it was to be hungry”? How silly and ineffective would they have been?! They simply took what was given from the Master’s hands and humbly passed it along.

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Let us not turn in on ourselves. Let us not become proud, distracted, or divided. As the shadows deepen and the darkness spreads, let us clothe ourselves with the humble heart of Jesus and be the simple conduits He means for us to be. Let the life and power of Jesus flow through us to those who need Him. Let our lights shine in the darkness; that is, the light of Jesus shining through us. Let the water of life flow freely through us. Let’s ask our Master to remove all the barriers and strife that keep us tied in knots and ineffectual for His Kingdom. It’s not about us, after all. It’s about Him. And it’s about those for whom He died who are not yet safely reconciled to God; who are not yet re-born into His family.

This is one enormously and eternally significant reason why we are still here. Let the Water of Life flow! The world is thirsty!

John 6:35

John 4:10-14

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Philippians 2:1-18

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The Value of Humility

The Bible repeatedly urges God’s servants to: Be courageous; and don’t be afraid.

The Bible also continually warns God’s servants (and others) to: Be humble; and don’t be proud.

These bits of counsel may seem contradictory. Yet, by looking deeper, we see they are beautifully harmonious. I believe the common sense of the world has muddled our understanding.

To many people, courage is synonymous with bold, out-front-style leadership; much like a hero dashing into a fight. Many a brash and reckless person has been considered brave. And with our flawed, sinful natures, any kind of success, victory, or heroism usually leads us to pride. So, we have often linked courage to pride. We continue this charade when we continually wink at the excesses of the egotistical especially when they are good at what they do. We have come to believe that courage and pride are flip-sides of the same coin; that we cannot have one without the other; a weakness for every strength, etc.

To some people, being humble is synonymous with being a fearful, weak door-mat; the kind of invisible, unimportant person everybody steps on and nobody wants to be. A humble attitude does not jive with our culture’s current Self-love/Self-respect philosophy. So we tag humility as fear and timidity and lock it away with the other weak, undesirable traits.

When we begin to understand the true nature of both pride and humility, the picture becomes much clearer and simpler. A mix-up has, indeed, occurred. Pride and courage do not belong together; and a humble heart and a fearful heart are not the same.

In truth, pride is closely related to fear. Pride has to gather all honor and rewards now, because it is fearful of not being paid its due. Fear screams to be noticed and calmed. Neither pride nor fear can wait; having no patience, faith, or trust. The proud heart is a fearful heart; and a fearful heart is a proud heart. Pride and fear both devastate the human heart with extreme weakness.

The courageous is brother to the humble. They are both strong in a manner the world has long forgotten; a quiet, deep trust in God. Bravery and humility are both free from the frantic cries of fear and the me-centered demands of pride. The humble heart is a courageous heart; and a courageous heart is a humble heart. These are the strongest hearts of all mankind.

So, you may ask: How can I be courageous and avoid pride; And how can I be humble and avoid fear? The answer is found, as are all answers, in the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was humility personified. He purposely laid aside His Godhood and took on the nature of a servant. Holy God touched unholy humanity. He laid down everything He was and picked up everything we were; taking our sins, our shame, and our punishment … on Himself. Yet, can we think for a moment that Jesus was weak … or fearful … or lacking in courage? Never. He faced His grim task head-on. Jesus was strong and determined; stronger than anyone else in all of history; more courageous than all other heroes combined. It took great courage to purposely lay down His might and allow Himself to suffer so intensely; for crimes He had not committed; for those who were currently His enemies; for many who would never reciprocate His love. Not once did Jesus forget who He was and what His mission was. He had a peaceful, confident strength that did not need to be on full display to be effective. Just as the setting sun and the night sky do not negate the fact that the sun is still shining in all its glory.

Subtle SunLet’s explore this trait of meekness.

Many have supposed the meekness of Jesus to be weakness. Yet, He had complete control of every situation and could have destroyed every mocker, beater, and persecutor. He held back out of love and great mercy. Meekness is great power under even greater control. If this be God’s weakness, it is vastly superior to all of man’s strength combined. Man roars at God and does not even squeak in a tiny speck of the vast universe … God whispers to man and thunders throughout the cosmos.

So, where does a mere human, easily swayed toward pride and fear, gather the deep peace and confident trust necessary to be humble and courageous in the face of difficult troubles or even stunning victories? From Jesus.

Let’s be strong in the power and might of our Lord Jesus Christ; in the grace and strength only His Holy Spirit can give. We gather this strength directly from Him by abiding or dwelling in Him. Jesus likened this power transfer to a branch attached to and gathering its life from a vine, possibly a grapevine. (See John 15.) David and Jeremiah both compared this power transfer to a tree reaching its roots deep into the soil and tapping into a nearby ample water source. (See Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17:7-8.) Practically, this means spending time in Jesus’ presence; talking to Him, listening to Him, and learning from His written Word, the Bible.

So let us reject pride and fear as the weaknesses they are, and use our Lord’s great strength to courageously, humbly, and meekly serve Him. In this way, we can walk gently and kindly among men as He did.

Ephesians 6:10

“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”

Psalm 27:13-14

“Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous.Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”

Matthew 8:26

“Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.”

John 13:3-5

Jesus knew that the Father had given Him authority over everything and that He had come from God and would return to God. So He got up from the table, took off His robe, wrapped a towel around His waist, and poured water into a basin. Then He began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel He had around Him.”

John 14:27

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” ~ Jesus

Romans 8:15-16

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, ‘Abba, Father.’  For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.”

 James 3:13

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.”

 James 4:6

“And He gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposes the proud
    but gives grace to the humble.’”

 1 Peter 3:8

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”

How Good is God?

There are two things we don’t often understand very well: The absolute and amazing goodness of God; and our own need to respond to His goodness with worship.

When our lives are not going in the direction we so desperately want them to go; and our minds are overcome with sadness and anxiety; or our hearts are heavy with fear; what can we do?

We may run to family or friends and confide our struggles: Some of whom may offer compassion or sound advice; while others may only frustrate us, because they simply do not or can not understand though they may genuinely try.

We may attempt to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps; digging in and struggling to solve our own problems with resolve and increased effort.

We may give in to despair and turn to any number of things to distract us or to numb our pain.

What else can we do?

We can pray.

You may say, “Hey, I’ve been praying!” And I would reply, I believe you. But I would also say, keep praying. In fact, pray more, pray often, pray without stopping. Make it your aim to touch the very heart of God.

Here’s what I mean. Seek God to find God. Cry out to Him. Pour out your sorrows and your needs to Him. Spend time in His presence. Wait. Listen.

Seeking God is more than asking and getting what we need. Seeking God is learning about Him. Coming to know Him. Growing to understand that what we need and what we long for, whether we know it or not, is Him. He is the end of all Journeys, for a Christian. He is the answer to every question. Until we understand this, we often think of the Almighty Creator of the Universe as merely a means to an end; a supply sergeant filling our requisitions.

Oh, Christian, our Lord is far more than this! He wants us to have the wonderful privilege and experience of knowing Him. He wants to share Himself … with us! He designed us for just such a relationship.

One thing I have learned about God is that He is good; not just nice, or kind, or a little patient … He is extremely good. We are not used to such goodness here on earth. We have become jaded, hardened, fearful, and suspicious. We no longer understand such absolute, pure, tremendous goodness.

Our definition of a good God may include something about Him answering all of our requests immediately and in the affirmative. Yet, He is too good for this. Yes, you read that right: God is much too good to do this to us. He is no cosmic shopping channel. He has His own mind and His own plans about how things ought to go with us. He is quite a bit more experienced and wiser than we are at this life thing. It would behoove us to trust His judgement. And His love for us.

Do ask God for what you honestly think you need; but then trust Him to make the best and wisest choices for you. Remember, His definitions are quite a bit different than ours.  He is for us and He is good. We can trust Him.

So, when your mind is troubled and your heart is fearful, purposely think on how very good Your Lord is. Take your mind where you want your heart to go. Fix your thoughts on the goodness of God, and let them dwell there. I can tell you from personal experience that this really helps. King David testifies in the Psalms that this is very effective in lifting us out of our sadness and desperation.

We were made to worship just as a plant was made to seek the sunlight. We will worship something, even if it is our troubles, our selves, or the ideal lives we think we must have.  Worship is different than we think it is. It is not a ceremony where everything is perfect, hushed, and practiced. Worship is, among other descriptions, an attitude toward God; a deep wonder at and appreciation for Someone who deserves such appreciation. This is even sweeter, when this worship stands alone because of love and admiration; regardless of favors given or not given.

When we take our thoughts and our focus off of our troubles and off of our frustration at having these troubles, and fix them on our good God; an amazing thing happens. We enter into an appreciation and love for which we were created. A need which we didn’t realize we had, begins to be met. The relief and joy which move into our awareness often eclipse the very things that were filling our focus and heavily pressing on our hearts.

Oh Beloved Christian, enter into this worship of your good God. Talk to Him, then listen to Him. Spend time with Him. Read His Word, because there He describes Himself. Look at Him; gaze at Him. Then you, too, will whisper in awe, or shout with joy, God is so very good!!!

Psalm 27:4

The one thing I ask of the Lord

    the thing I seek most—

is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,

    delighting in the Lord’s perfections

    and meditating in His Temple.

Psalm 28:6,7

Praise the Lord!

    For He has heard my cry for mercy.

The Lord is my strength and shield.

    I trust Him with all my heart.

He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.

    I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

Psalm 63:1-8

O God, You are my God;

    I earnestly search for You.

My soul thirsts for You;

    my whole body longs for You

in this parched and weary land

    where there is no water.

I have seen You in your sanctuary

    and gazed upon Your power and glory.

Your unfailing love is better than life itself;

    how I praise You!

I will praise You as long as I live,

    lifting up my hands to You in prayer.

You satisfy me more than the richest feast.

    I will praise You with songs of joy.

I lie awake thinking of You,

    meditating on You through the night.

Because You are my helper,

    I sing for joy in the shadow of Your wings.

I cling to You;

    Your strong right hand holds me securely.

Psalm 86:5

“O Lord, You are so good,

so ready to forgive,

so full of unfailing love

for all who ask for Your help.”

John 4:23,24

But the time is coming—

indeed it’s here now—

when true worshipers

will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way.

 For God is Spirit,

so those who worship Him

must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Philippians 4:4

“Always be full of joy in the Lord.

I say it again—rejoice!”

Tell me a story …

In this post, I will discuss two time-honored methods of passing memories, histories, and stories to others. The first is oral history. The second is written history. Both of these are gifts from God, in my opinion.

Do you remember *Roots, the television mini-series from the late 80’s? And the sequel, Roots: the Next Generations? Alex Haley knows the family stories of how Kunta Kinte, his ancestor, was captured in Africa as a young man trying to get wood to make a drum, and was taken to America where he was made a slave. Alex knows all the family stories since Kunta Kinte, but nothing before him. As Alex searches for the specific link between his family and Africa, he sits for hours in the Gambian village of Juffure listening to a tribal historian, or griot. Extremely fatigued and nearly asleep, Alex finally hears the story of a young man who went to cut wood to make a drum and disappeared. This is the story! It matches exactly! Alex rejoices and cries, “Kunta Kinte, I found you!” I absolutely love this part of the story.

Alex, being a writer, has already recorded the family history and now adds the newly-found African link. Until Alex, most, if not all, of the family history had been oral, passed from parent to child, grandparent to grandchild, elder to younger. Wonderful. And the Gambian tales, painstakingly memorized and rehearsed from generation to generation by the griots were detailed and accurate. Marvelous.

Did you know that many old cultures in the world have an oral tradition of a world-wide flood? Intriguing.

My Mom told me many wonderful stories of her youth. One person who really stood out in her childhood was her Uncle Charlie. He lived at a nearby farm and was well-known as a person who drove much too quickly. Yet, this was before automobiles were common.  You see, Uncle Charlie raced about on his horse wherever he went. The country road which separated the tobacco fields from the farmhouse was hilly and full of ruts. Mom remembers her Uncle galloping his horse which was pulling an old farm wagon along that road when the wagon wheels hit a bump. Uncle Charlie flew backwards into the wagon bed with only his feet sticking up while the horse continued its dash.

Another day, Uncle Charlie was driving past when he saw his brother’s house on fire. The whole family was out visiting, and no one else was around. The dutiful brother dashed to the house, entered, and looked around to see what he could do. He knew there was no phone in the house to call for help. The neighbors were too far away. The fire was spreading rapidly. There were no garden hoses with water pressure like we have today. There wasn’t even running water in this home, just a pump in the yard. There was no one to fill buckets so he could use them to douse the fire. He quickly realized this fire was too big to fight alone. So, Uncle Charlie decided to save some irreplaceable items. Maybe some photos or heirlooms. He frantically darted around. The fire was everywhere. Panic grew. Hurry! Hurry! He made his decision, and rushed from the house. Uncle Charlie had entered the burning home, and had heroically saved an ordinary feather pillow.

Written language has to be one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. Next to language itself, this extension of language, this ability to preserve thoughts and facts, is astounding. Through the ages some scribes have carved symbols into stone, others have etched in wet clay, while others have stained animal hides. The discovery of papyrus and then paper rendered the process of writing much easier. As a result, we have the stories, musings, opinions, and histories of people who lived hundreds and even thousands of years ago.

Unfortunately, it has not always been easy to protect ancient documents. The world has lost much through wars, fires, floods, and the slow decay of time. Even so, much has been preserved. Please see http://carm.org/manuscript-evidence for a very interesting comparison of ancient manuscripts.

My favorite written documents are the 66 Books of the Bible. We have man’s early history, which may have been taken from the oral histories of Adam and Methuselah, which may have been passed on by Noah and Abraham along with their stories. Eventually, it was all probably recorded by Moses, much as Alex Haley did with his family tree in Roots. However this happened, it had to have been orchestrated and inspired by God. The Pentateuch, or Books of Moses, are too harmonious and profound to have been designed by man or to have been an accident.

We also have the writings of prophets and the chronicles of kings. We have the honest despair and triumphant praises of a man after God’s own heart, and the proverbs of the wisest man who ever lived. We have the foretelling and fulfilling of pivotal events; the most important of which are the extremely detailed prophecies and promises of the Messiah, who was to come and suffer for the sins of the world.

The New Testament books include the recorded history of God walking on earth as a man, Jesus Christ (the Messiah); profoundly beautiful letters to believers in Jesus; and a recorded Revelation about the return and coronation of Jesus.

There is nothing else like the Bible in the entire world. To fully appreciate that these are actually God’s musings, opinions, and accounts of history, is to be stunned and awed. What a breathtaking treasure!!!

The following verses are 2,000 years old. Just think about that! wow.

“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

“So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:19-20)

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

*Alex Haley was sued for plagiarism by Harold Courlander, the author of The African. Haley admitted the deed and settled with Courlander. The plagiarism did not include facts in Haley’s family tree.

Why do we sing?

I have long been intrigued by the etymology or origin of words. And I am fascinated by the process of change made to a word by subsequent generations and their particular cultures.  Over time, a strong meaning may slowly fade into the background, while a newer usage moves to center stage. This is good to keep in mind while enjoying older literature. Archaic or lesser known meanings add new life, color, and nuance to an old text.  This is true with the word, celebrate, which originated in the 15th Century.

According to William Whitaker’s Words, the word, celebrate, comes from the Latin, celebratus; which means to perform, frequent, honor, glorify, publicize, advertise, discuss, or bandy. In short it denotes, to keep in mind. To preserve.  In Dickens, they used to “keep Christmas.” Yet, in current American English usage, the popular meaning of celebrate is to party, revel, enjoy, have fun, and be merry. Do you see the difference?

I believe that celebrating once meant honoring or keeping some person, event, or belief paramount by taking part in a remembrance of some sort. I love this. I miss this. Yes, we ought to celebrate with fun, family, and especially joy. Yet, when the glory and the memory are lost in mere frivolities, the heart is saddened. (Commercialized Christmas is a good example of this.) At least one purpose for a celebration, then, is to insure that something precious is never lost, but is kept fresh, and is passed on to future generations.

So, when most Americans under 40 know very little about American history, or when many Christians understand very little about what Jesus said and what the Bible teaches, concern grows. Are we enthusiastically raising our voices, yet forgetting the reasons we can sing at all?

The Jewish people were given four festivals a year by which to remember God’s goodness to them and His holiness, yet, they kept falling into idol worship.

Jesus had a real problem with some religious people of His day. They kept the kosher laws, the temple etiquette, and even tithed a tenth of their herb gardens. They absolutely loved the best seats in the banquets, and the greetings in the marketplace; they were truly enjoying themselves. Yet, they had forgotten their God’s character. They were exhilarated with the outer observances, but had forgotten the inner reasons.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he reminded them not to use the Lord’s Supper as a time for selfishness and excess.  They were doing the right thing, communion, in the wrong way. Were they having fun? It sure seems like it. Some were getting drunk and feasting. Yet, they weren’t fulfilling the purpose of the celebration: to remember the Lord’s death until He returns.

So, should we lay aside delight and joy to recall God’s merciful kindness with somber faces and gray apparel? Not at all. What an oxymoron that would be! We have been truly blessed! What does a King have that we do not have? We are redeemed and are given many great and precious promises!  We are heirs and joint-heirs with Christ.  Joy and gladness must reign at our celebrations, but the reason for the joy must be the honored guest.

Celebrations are lovely and necessary, refreshing and joyous. Yet, all is empty if the celebrants only remember the glitz and the fun. Most anyone can hold a party. Let’s freely give to our young that which is important in the remembrance. Let’s remind ourselves of history. Let’s rehearse God’s truths and His goodness to us.  This greatly helps us, and also pleases Him.

So, beloved, let us preserve the heart of the matter, as the heart of the matter.

When we remember God’s faithfulness and His promises in a celebration, joy and rejoicing are a natural result. No long, morbid faces or hearts, please. Yet, we do not have fun for fun’s sake. We are advertising, practicing, frequenting, and glorifying precious jewels of memory which are so dear to us, we never want to lose them.

Let us sing, but mostly, let us rejoice in why we do.

Psalm 103:2 “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And  forget none of His benefits;”

“Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me,” Isaiah 46:9

“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD  gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name.” Malachi 3:16

“… and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:24-26

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

“I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder,” 2 Peter 1:13

“So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it,” Revelation 3:3a

Jesus, are you hungry?

1 Corinthians 14:1 a “Pursue love, …”

1 Timothy 6:11 b “… and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.”

2 Timothy 2:22 b “… and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

What if we each embarked on a pursuit of love in Jesus Name to help the hurting?

The disheveled young man sat hunched on the hard and sharp landscaping rocks in the temporary shade of the building. His clothes were newish but dusty and a bit too large for him. His shaggy sun-bleached hair nearly covered his eyes. The scrubbed and happy family approached on the sidewalk. They were on their way to celebrate Father’s Day in the restaurant; a treat from a grown daughter.

The father of the family noticed the despondent human and immediately felt his heart lurch. “He looks tired and hot. Thirsty. Discouraged,” the man thought. To the younger man he said, “Hello, how are you?”

As the family passed by, the young man managed a soft, “Fine.”

Soon seated, the family began to settle down, survey the menus, and joke with the waitress. The air conditioning was working well, and the ice water was refreshing. All around them were happy families honoring their fathers. Yet, the young man sitting alone outside in the shrinking shade in the June heat would not leave this dad’s heart.

“Would you all mind if I took something to drink to that young man out there?” the dad asked. The family looked up, a little surprised. “Maybe ice water? A chilled water bottle? He might even be hungry. Maybe we could take him some food in a take-out container. We can put it on a separate ticket, and I’ll pay for it.”

Everyone was thinking, but one soon joined in. “Why don’t you go ask him if he wants anything, first.”

“If you come with me.”

So it was decided. The dad and one daughter excused themselves and made their way back into the glaring hot day. There he sat; the young man in his narrow strip of shade.

“Hello again.” the man began. “Are you hungry? And thirsty? Would you like something to eat and drink?”

“I’m hungry!” said the young man jumping to his feet and taking a few steps toward the restaurant with a huge smile on his face.

The young man had misunderstood. Apparently, he thought they were inviting him into the restaurant to eat with them. Awkward. Only a split second to decide what to do. Explain it to him? “No, you can’t come in. You must sit in the heat. We’ll bring your food to you in a styrofoam box.” No! That would never do!

Why not share their table? If they could feed him, surely they could give him respite from the heat. They could also offer hospitality and friendliness to someone who looked to be very alone. So, in they went, the three of them to join the others. The waiting family members were surprised and taken aback, at first, but soon genuine love and warmth flowed around the table and amongst the diners.

That was the beginning of a long but blessed day. The family and the young man spent the entire day together. In the end, the family helped him on his way home, but he enriched their lives, as well. They met a Christian brother who had fallen on very hard times. He had been homeless for several months by the time the family met him, and he had experienced some very desperate days and nights. Yet, his quiet, gentle, and well-mannered character was intact, and perhaps strengthened by hardship. He had no bitterness; there was no whining or complaining. Only a quiet strength and sweetness. Amazing.

Folks talk of “God appointments.” This, most assuredly, was one of them. It’s as if God took an unsuspecting, yet willing, group of Christians and together used them as one vessel to scoop His beloved child off the scorching summer streets and send that child back to his loved ones.

The dad shuddered to think, “What if we had ignored him and pushed away all our compassionate inclinations?” He had done that before. Many times. What had changed his heart? Jesus had. The Lord had brought this man to the point of desperation. Illness. No money to pay bills. Lawsuits. Repossessions. Possible loss of home. This man knew what it felt like to be penniless, and to be practically invisible in a society where worth is measured by outward appearance and bank account balance. He personally knew the pain, injustice, and absolute randomness of poverty.

This man also knew God’s word. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells His Disciples about a time when he “comes in His glory,” and “will sit on His glorious throne.” Jesus describes two exchanges between the King (himself) and others.

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;

36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’

37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?

38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?

39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘ Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;

42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;

43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’

44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’

45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

(Do these actions make the sheep righteous? I don’t believe so. I believe that, because the blessed sheep are already righteous, they care for the “least of these.” I believe their actions are the fruit of their salvation which is by grace. It is as if the King examines the fruit of their lives right in front of them to expose what is in their hearts.)

John 13:12-15 “So when He (Jesus) had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.'”

Romans 12:13 “… contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”

1 Corinthians 13:3 “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

1 Timothy 5:9-10 “A widow is to be put on the list only if … having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.”

Hebrews 13:1-3 “Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.”

James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

James 2:14-17 “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”

1 John 3:16-18 “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”

Starve the Pride, Feed the Humility

A little child is relieved when Mama or Daddy says, “That’s okay, you’ll do better next time.” We all love a second chance, a fresh start, or a clean slate.  Every Christian has been forgiven of serious sins against our Almighty God. And we are so grateful, that our hearts swell with worship and love toward our Savior. What a blessed gift is this forgiveness! We are clean! We are free!

So, why is it so hard to forgive others when they trespass against us?

“But you don’t know what he did!” some cry.

“She can’t hurt me that way, and get away with it!” others vow.

It is very ironic that those of us who revel in the forgiveness of our Lord, still hold grudges against our brothers and sisters. Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 18:21-35.

Yet, I don’t want to dwell only on forgiveness, but on the flip side, repentance. Repentance is a lovely gift. It springs from the humility planted by the Holy Spirit as He works in our hearts.

Humans are so stubborn, that we often cling to our opinions and rights as if we were falling from a high cliff and those were our only handholds.  Yet, we are often in the wrong. We bruise someone’s heart, and insist they shouldn’t be so sensitive. We push our opinions, when someone just needs a listening ear. Often, we act as if everything is about us, when in reality it’s all about Jesus.

So, when we have been real jerks, have no doubt that others have noticed. Our spouses, siblings, children, co-workers, neighbors, associates, or friends are probably smarting from our harsh remarks, or are deeply wounded by our thoughtless actions. Since we are human, even when we do not intend to hurt anyone, we can still leave paths of devastation in our wakes.

“I’m sorry,” are just two little words, but they are, oh, so powerful.

“I think I hurt you, and I am so sorry,” delivered with sincerity, is very freeing.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you, but I see I did. I apologize.” Offered with the softness of humility, this is like cold water to a thirsty heart.

Have you ever been wronged and keenly felt the sting and injustice of it? Then, the person who did the deed came and humbly took responsibility and offered a heartfelt apology? Do you remember what that did for your heart? Granted, this does not always happen, and we should let go of the hurt even if we never receive an apology.  Yet, when it comes it is sweet, isn’t it? Well, we can do this for others. If we discover we have hurt someone, let them see us repent.

Sometimes, we are afraid that if we apologize or even back down, we will lose something: our status, our standing, our pride, our reputation. Yes, well, we may lose those. And that may be a good thing. Instead, we will develop characteristics of far greater value, like those of Jesus: love, kindness, gentleness, goodness, meekness, and temperance.

What do we protect, feed, and nurture? The stubborn pride of our sinful natures, or the wise humility of our new natures?

1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

1 Peter 5:5 “… and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Proverbs 16:18-19 “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud.”