ARE YOU ON THE TOP OF THE WORLD?

Many years ago, like in the 1970s, there was a song sung by Karen Carpenter called “Top of the World .”  The lyrics for the chorus of this song were:

I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on creation, and the only explanation I can find, is the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around, your love’s put me at the top of the world.

We often want to be on the top of the world, don’t we?  For most of us, that is simply a wish that we could get out of the dismal surroundings that confront us on a day-to-day basis.  We want to be taken out of our current situation and put on top of it so that we won’t have to deal with the issues, be hurt by others, face difficult consequences, etc.  We will be on top of the problem and it won’t be able to adversely affect us anymore.

A picture that comes to my mind when I think of escaping to the top of the world is that of  the Meteora Monasteries in Greece.  These monasteries of the Greek Orthodox Church were built high above the ground between the 14th and the 16th centuries.  In fact, they are about 1,300 feet above ground.  Wars and invasions were the norm, so having the monastery up above the fray was a way to minimize distractions, enable the monks to meditate more effectively, and, not at all an insignificant concern, it provided them a place of safety because of their incredible isolation from the world below. 

monastery-of-the-holy-trinity-meteora-greece
Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Meteora, Greece, a 14th century monastery on the cliff tops.

In fact, goods and supplies, as well as visitors to the monasteries, were transported to the top by way of ladders lashed together and baskets tied to ropes, which were then hoisted to the top via pulleys.  Now there are steps for easier access to some of the monasteries, but hundreds of years ago the way to the top was, indeed, formidable. 

For more information, see the CNN Travel article about this area at http://www.cnn.com/travel/article/meteora-greece/index.html 

It is indeed enticing to be on “top of the world”.  But is this where we are to stay?  Is this following the mandate that our Lord gave to His disciples?  I think not.

Immediately before Jesus ascended into heaven, He and his disciples were gathered together and He gave them His final instruction:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20 ESV

We are to go and make disciples, this is what the Lord commanded.  This does not sound like we are to retreat from involvement with people, does it?

In a prior post we looked at living in a cave, something that has been done throughout history. Even King David hid in a cave when hunted by Saul.  Thus, he spoke from experience when he said in Psalm 139: 

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”

Psalm 139:7-8 ESV

Simply put, we cannot run from God.  He is with us and sees us in the cave as well as on top of the mountain. 

I certainly do not deny the good work that the monks have done, and are still doing, in the Greek Orthodox Church worship that occurs in these monasteries.  Indeed, a retreat to the mountain top is exhilarating and we can experience God in a new way by stepping out of society and into a meditative cocoon, into silence and tranquility so that we can hear God’s “still small voice” [1 Kings 19:12] as He speaks to us in the way He has done through the millennia. 

But, ministry, the work of the Lord in His world and the fulfilling of His command to His disciples, requires that we interact with those who are lost, who do not have a life-giving relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It requires that we go out of the place of worship and into the world; it requires that we be the light guiding others to Christ; it requires that we be the salt that heals and preserves as we introduce the Lord Jesus to those who do not know Him by our words and our lifestyle witness.

Whether it is a cave or a mountaintop retreat, we need to come out and interact with people as we make disciples. We should obey the Lord’s command, because we love Him; and we should do it all to the glory of the Father, the Almighty God.

Father, I pray that You would enable me to honor Your Son, Jesus Christ, as I live before others in the power of His Spirit.  May my witness be glorifying to You and may Your Spirit bring others into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

ARE YOU IN A CAVE?

I dare say that most of us live above ground, we don’t live in caves.  Sometimes in the high heat of the day, I have wondered about finding a cave and living in it since the temperature is always significantly cooler than the ambient temperature above ground.  But, needless to say, I use air conditioning and I am not a cave dweller. 

However, I have been in a number of caves throughout my lifetime.  In fact, a dear friend grew up on a farm on which there was a huge cave, and she played in it long before anyone realized how big and complex the cave system was.  Later, Sequoyah Caverns, Valley Head, Alabama, was opened for public visits and we had multiple opportunities to see the inside of her childhood playhouse.  Unfortunately, it has recently been closed to the public once again! 

We know from early church history that believers resorted to caves and catacombs to escape from the intense persecution and to bury their dead.  In fact, the catacombs in Rome show the inscriptions made by those early Christians.  

How about you?  Have you ever been in a cave?  It is quite an experience to walk hundreds of feet down into the earth, to see the formations and underground lakes. I have not gone cave-exploring, spelunking, other than in commercial tours of well-mapped caves.  The Meramec Caverns in Stanton, Missouri are some such well-known caves. 

Meramec Caverns in Stanton MO

Each cave I have visited always includes the time when the guide tells you to hold hands and don’t move, then BLACKNESS.  Such darkness that you cannot even see your hand inches in front of your face.

It is difficult to comprehend darkness like that, until you experience it.  It reminds me of the description of one of the plagues in Egypt:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.’” 

Exodus 10:21. 

Can you imagine, darkness that was so pervasive and so intense that you could feel it?   God is the Master Creator of all things.  He is sovereign.  He caused this darkness over the land of Egypt and it occurred at His command. 

The Psalmist wrote of the scope of God’s knowledge of him, of God’s love and of God’s power in Psalm 139. 

If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,”  even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. 

Psalm 139:11-12

In modern parlance, we might consider these verses as saying “God sees you even in pitch black darkness.  No matter where you go, God is there and He sees you.”

We often think of darkness and light as equal counterparts, the flip side of the same coin.  But that analysis is vastly mistaken, I believe.  Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light.  Thomas Kinkade, the artist known as the “Painter of Light” (thomaskinkade.com), said:

You have to expect spiritual warfare whenever you stand up for righteousness or call attention to basic values. It’s just a matter of light battling the darkness. But the light wins every time. You can’t throw enough darkness on light to put it out.

Scripture puts forth this concept in this way from the Gospel of John:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:5

Praise God, the Father Almighty, that Jesus Christ is the Light from heaven that shines in this dark old world. 

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

John 8:12

It is blessed comfort to know that the darkness of the cave cannot remove us from the Father’s sight.  The darkness of our sin will not eliminate our relationship with the Father if we are found in Christ Jesus, His Son. 

Praise God, and praise His Holy Son through whom we have forgiveness of sin and life everlasting. 

Father, Your word tells us that we are never out of Your sight.  We cannot run so far or descend into the earth so deep that You cannot find us, that You cannot see us, that You cannot hold us in Your hand.  Such comfort is too marvelous for us to comprehend, but for the eyes and heart of faith.  Thank You for Your word and for your marvelous love for Your children.

WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM? – Part Two

In Part One of this post, we considered the question Jesus posited to His disciples disciples: “Who do YOU say that I am?” 

In ruminating on this question, we pointed to, and quoted from, C. H. Spurgeon’s sermon, preached on January 7th, 1872, entitled “The Glorious Master and the Swooning Disciple.”  In the earlier post we looked at what happens when we have a low opinion of our Lord and Savior.  Now, we continue with the text of the sermon and consider the flip side of the question’s answer – if we have a high opinion of the Lord:

If our conceptions of the Lord Jesus are very enlarged, they will only be His due. We cannot exaggerate here. He deserves higher praise than we can ever render to Him. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high is He above our loftiest conceptions. Even when the angels strike their loudest notes, and chant His praises most exultingly on their highest festal days, the music falls far short of His excellence. He is higher than a seraph’s most soaring thought! Rise then, my brethren, as on eagle’s wings, and let your adoring souls magnify and extol the Lord your Savior.

Canterbury cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

So, what does Scripture say about Jesus Christ?  How high is our Lord and Savior?

The Prophet Isaiah testified as follows:

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.  By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.'”

Isaiah 45:22-23 ESV

Paul, in the New Testament letter to the Philippians, elaborates on what Isaiah prophesied centuries before.  Paul, speaking of Jesus Christ, said:

“Therefore God has highly exalted him [Jesus Christ] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2:9-11 ESV.   See also Romans 14:11-12.

We may know this intellectually, but sometimes we fail to see Jesus in the proper light.  We see him as the Babe on Christmas, or as a Hollywood actor who walks through crowds with slow and steady gait, dressed in the browns and grays.  We see the poor itinerant teacher, without a place to lay His head.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV

But do we recognize Him for Who He is?  Do we think of Him as He really is?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:1-4, 14 ESV

Did you comprehend that statement of John?  The Word, Jesus Christ, was with God before the world was created and through Him were all things created.  For the believer, we should do as Spurgeon urged: “let your adoring souls magnify and extol the Lord your Savior.”

A further description of the Word is found in Revelation as follows:

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.  He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.”

Revelation 19:11-13 ESV

Who is Jesus Christ?  John’s Revelation answers:

“And he said unto me, ‘It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.’”

Revelation 21:6 KJV.  Remember Jesus’ statement to the Samaritan woman at the well?  

“’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’”

Revelation 1:8 ESV.  See also Revelation 22:13. 

May we have a high opinion of our Lord and follow Spurgeon’s urging to let our adoring souls magnify and extol the Lord our Savior!

 

Father, I pray that these words would be edifying and encouraging to those who read them.  I pray that You would use Your Word to strengthen those who are struggling today and I pray that You would send Your Spirit to convict us of our sin so that we may rejoice in the strength and majesty of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM? – Part One

At some point in each person’s life, the issue of who we believe Jesus Christ to be will be of paramount importance.  It is as true in 2017 as it was at the time Jesus was on earth. 

Cemetery monument to Watchfield village soldiers who died in WW I
Cemetery monument to village soldiers of Watchfield, England, who died in World War I

The issue was brought front and center during His ministry when Jesus directly asked it of His disciples:

“And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’” And they told him, ‘John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.’  And he asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ.’”

Mark 8:27-29 ESV

Keep in mind, Jesus is God – so He already knew what the general population said about His identity, and He knew what the disciples thought as well.  But, He wanted to give them the opportunity to think about it and to develop their answer to the question because it would shape their ministry in the future.

Peter’s response “You are the Christ” is the most affirming and exact statement of Jesus’ identity that Peter could possibly have given.  Jesus was, indeed, the Messiah then, and He still is.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the pastor at Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, England, addressed the issue of who Jesus is on January 7th, 1872 when he delivered a sermon entitled “The Glorious Master and the Swooning Disciple.”  His sermon began with the following words:

Low thoughts of the Lord Jesus Christ are exceedingly mischievous to believers. If you sink your estimate of Him you shift everything else in the same proportion.  

He who thinks lightly of the Savior thinks so much the less of the evil of sin; and, consequently, he becomes callous as to the past, careless as to the present, and venturesome as to the future. He thinks little of the punishment due to sin, because he has small notions of the atonement made for sin. Christian activity for right is also abated; as well as holy horror of wrong.  

He who thinks lightly of the Lord Jesus renders to Him but small service; he does not estimate the Redeemer’s love at a rate high enough to stir his soul to ardor; if he does not count the blood wherewith he was redeemed an unholy thing, yet he thinks it a small matter, not at all sufficient to claim from him life-long service. Gratitude is weak when favors are undervalued. He serves little who loves little, and he loves little who has no sense of having been greatly beloved.  

The man who thinks lightly of Christ also has but poor comfort as to his own security.  With a little Savior I am still in danger, but if He be the mighty God, able to save unto the uttermost, then am I safe in His protecting hand, and my consolations are rich and abounding. In these, and a thousand other ways, an unworthy estimate of our Lord will prove most solemnly injurious. The Lord deliver us from this evil.

In short, if you have low esteem for the Lord, your concept of sin will be minimal, the extent of your service will be lessened, and your security in salvation will be diminished.   

So, if Jesus were standing before you, how would YOU answer the question:

“Who do YOU say that I am?”

 

Father, I praise Your holy name as I consider the mighty work that You did in sending Your Son to be my Savior and Lord.  I pray that Your Word will be fruitful in our world today, as it was so many years ago.

PRAISE GOD FOR OUR FREEDOM TODAY, JULY 4, 2017

THIS IS A REPOST OF THE ENTRY LAST JULY 4TH AND IT EXPRESSES MY THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS TODAY, JUST AS IT DID THEN.  I PRAY THAT THE GOD OF ALL WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE, PEACE AND MERCY WILL USE THESE WORDS TO EDIFY YOU AND BRING GLORY TO HIMSELF, AS WE CELEBRATE THE FREEDOM FROM TYRANNY THAT WE ARE BLESSED WITH IN OUR COUNTRY AND AS WE CELEBRATE THE FREEDOM FROM OUR SINS THAT OUR LORD HAS PROVIDED THROUGH HIS SACRIFICIAL DEATH ON OUR BEHALF.

Today, Independence Day, July 4, 2016, we celebrate the fact that we are a free people.  We do not have the tyrannical rule of those who subjugate the people for their own profit.  We do not have the fear that our property will be confiscated if we disagree with the sovereign over some issue.  We do not have the fear that the government will prevent us from worshiping God according to our own beliefs and the Scripture.  Indeed, we don’t even have to give honor to those who guaranteed these freedoms for us.

Harold Wittenborn 1943
Harold Wittenborn, my father, a loving Christian witness, and a veteran of World War II. He has now gone to be with the Lord.

But on this day, July 4, we stop to celebrate all those who served to give us our freedom.  The soldiers who fought in the various wars, World War I and II, the Korean and Vietnam Conflicts, and a host of other conflicts around the world, both past and present.

Marine officer
My son, now retired from the USMC, was preserved by God through conflicts overseas.

We celebrate those who survived the wars and returned to their families, and we remember those who are no longer with us, whether they died on the battlefield or in the subsequent years since their service.

But, freedom without some standard, some constraint, some guideline is really nothing other than anarchy – everyone doing that which seems fitting (and profitable for) themselves.

In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

Judges 17:6 (KJV)

When we abandon the governing standard, we have undermined the very freedom that allows us to select that standard as our own.

I suggest that Scripture presents the standard that we should follow – the Old Testament Law of God as given to His hand-picked man, Moses, is the standard that shows us how we are to live.  It applies to those under the Law in the Old Testament and it applies as an indicator of God’s character to those of us who live in New Testament times, following Christ’s death and resurrection.

Flag
Old Glory flying high.

Today, it is right that we should honor our flag, our military, our Constitution and our Country.  God has blessed America with incredible riches, beauty and power.

However, it is also right that we offer our thanksgiving to God for the country in which we live.   The men who founded our Country had incredible vision and were confident that they had been led by the Hand of God in their decisions and focus for the new land. 

President George Washington, in his first inaugural address delivered April 30, 1789, stated:

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations and whose providential aides can supply every human defect; that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes; and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge.  In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow citizens at large, less than either.

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.

Today, let us give thanks for the vision of our Founding Fathers and for the courage of the men and women who forged the way into the land, who established this marvelous country, and who preserved it, some with their lives, for freedom to be upheld and sustained for future generations.

 

USED praying hands
Praying hands.

 

Today, let us also give thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died for our sins so that we could be covered in His righteousness before God the Father Almighty.   His death and resurrection grants us freedom not only for the here and now but also for eternity.  His sacrifice granted us freedom from spiritual death, from sin, from the power of Satan and from the power of our sinful nature.

Father, we give thanks to You for this day, as we celebrate our Nation’s independence. The song “America the Beautiful” reminds us of your constant blessings on us. Your grace and your mercy have been given to us in full measure, abounding fully to your glory.  As we celebrate our independence today, may we be aware of your hand in the workings of our country and, moreover, may we be aware that true freedom comes only from You, and for that we give You thanks.

WISDOM AND HUMILITY CARRY THE DAY

As adults, when we are asked a question, our most frequent response is to give an answer – usually with our chest puffed out just a bit and our head held a little bit higher.  We have been asked to pontificate and show our intelligence as we provide the individual standing before us with the information desired.

However, the wise response is to investigate the issue and then give an answer. Whether it is in the realm of the law, medicine, or any other discipline, the ability to identify the issue and then know where to look to find the answer is supremely better than just rattling off an answer based on what you recalled from yesterday, last month, or last year.  Indeed, knowledge is important, but wisdom is far better.

Scripture has much to say about the know-it-all and wisdom. 

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Psalm 111:10

Taylor school
A college education may indicate learning, but real knowledge comes from reverent fear of the Lord.  Praise God for Christian universities such as Taylor University, Upland, Indiana, that provide a quality education while fostering Christian growth in their students as well.

A college education may indicate learning, but real knowledge comes from reverent fear of the Lord.  Praise God for Christian universities such as Taylor University, Upland, Indiana, that provide a quality education while fostering Christian growth in their students as well.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

And he said to man, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom and to turn away from evil is understanding.”

Job 28:28

What is the “fear of the Lord”?  The answer to that requires more space than as a footnote to this post.  But, suffice it to say at this juncture, the following excerpt from “What Does it Mean to Fear God?,” an article posted October 22, 2016 by Dr. R. C. Sproul in the Ligonier Blog gives us some guidance when thinking of the fear of God as noted in the Wisdom Literature of scripture:

The focus here is on a sense of awe and respect for the majesty of God. That’s often lacking in contemporary evangelical Christianity. We get very flippant and cavalier with God, as if we had a casual relationship with the Father. We are invited to call Him Abba, Father, and to have the personal intimacy promised to us, but still we’re not to be flippant with God. We’re always to maintain a healthy respect and adoration for Him.

So, we know the source of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.  Where does humility come into the picture?

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,…

Colossians 3:12

So, what is humility?   Someone named Anonymous said “Humility is a strange thing – the moment you think you’ve got it, you lose it.”  

C. S. Lewis says that “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” In other words, it is the quality of “self-forgetfulness”.  Rather than, “Me first,” humility allows us to say, “No, you first, my friend.” 

This does not mean that we must be passive followers; humility does not require that we lose our voice or that we cannot lead.  In Numbers 12:3 we read the following about Moses, the man who told Pharaoh to let God’s people go, the man who led the children of Israel through the wilderness for 40 years, the man who spoke directly with God and who received the 10 Commandments on tablets of stone:

“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”  (NIV)

Moses was humble and he didn’t seek his own welfare when attacked by his family.  God stood up for him when he was attacked by his siblings.  Read the rest of Numbers 12 to see the conflict between Moses and his brother and sister over Moses’ Cushite wife. What happened to them is priceless; but, if I may cut to the chase, I would simply summarize the story as  – spoiler alert — 

Humility Wins!

Of course this, too, is consistent with scripture.  See, for example, Psalm 147:5-6 where we read:

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. (NIV)

In the Lord’s calculus, wisdom comes from Him and man’s humility trumps man’s pride every time. 

Father, thank You for Your Son’s sacrifice that cleanses us from our sin and that results in life everlasting for the believer in Him.  Thank You that we can come to You, acknowledging our lack of understanding, and that You will lead us and teach us in the way of righteousness. Grant me humility and enable me to see when I am acting in disregard of that quality.  Then give me the grace to repent and return to Your side. 

 

A LITTLE HELP, PLEASE!

On a vacation many years ago, our young grandson saw the teeter-totter after his older brother sat on the end at ground level.  Almost instinctively, he wanted to be sitting on the other end.  Of course, the problem is that when one is sitting on the lower side, the unoccupied end is up in the air.

see saw
Papa assisting young grandson on the teeter-totter.

He didn’t know the words “A little help, please!” but he knew that his Papa would lift him high onto the teeter-totter seat.  So far so good!

But, then, after settling on the high end, he realized there was more to a teeter-totter than just sitting on the seat!  There was the weight differential between siblings and gravity was not his friend!

Once seated, he wanted to do it himself.  This was, of course, an abject impossibility since he could not even hold himself steady, but he didn’t realize that.  His spirit of “I can do it-ism” (is that a word?) was running rampant.

So, Papa stood behind the young teeter-totter rider, holding the seat and guiding the ride so that the older sibling could go up and come back down without such a jolt that the little guy would be thrown into the air.  In other words, Papa helped even though the little one believed he was doing it all by himself.

There are times when we, as adults, find ourselves in situations which overwhelm us or which are so complex that we cannot unravel the situation.  It is at those times that we should say “A little help, please!”

When we come to the end of our rope, our Lord is standing there ready to catch us.  Whatever the need is, our Lord is more than able to handle it according to His will and for your benefit.

Our problem, however, is that we, often, are too prideful to ask for help.  We need it, we know we need it, but we cannot seem to say the words, even to those who love us and who are in our physical family as well as our church family of believers.

Scripture repeats over and over again the admonition that we are to help others.

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Acts 20:35 ESV.

Help the weak, both believers and non-believers. (For further reference, see 1 Thessalonians 5:14.)

“Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

Philippians 4:3 ESV.

Helping here was to be extended to missionaries who labored with Paul, and may require giving funds or providing housing; providing clothes or preparing a meal.

“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”

2 Corinthians 1:11 ESV.

Helping includes more than merely giving money; it includes praying for the ministry of others.

When Jesus was healing and teaching, a Canaanite woman came to Him seeking healing for her daughter who was severely oppressed by a demon.  He did not respond immediately, and the disciples told Him to send her away.  He said that He was sent to the house of Israel, distinguishing her since she was a Canaanite.  She then persisted in seeking relief for her daughter as follows:

“But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.”

Matthew 15:25-28 ESV

I find it easy to ask the Lord to help me – but it is far more difficult to ask for help from others.  This should not be so.  By refusing to tell others of our need, we are denying them the blessing of obeying the Lord’s command to supply the needs of others.

Christian, if you have what others need, open your hands and give.  Christ gave His life for you; we surely can assist others in their time of need. Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading as you seek to help others.

If you have a need, swallow your pride and tell others of the problem.  Find a care group, an individual, an Elder, Deacon or the Pastor at your church, anyone who you feel comfortable speaking with and share the need or concern.  Pray with them and then let the Lord lead them in assisting you toward resolution of the problem.

christ-of-the-ozarks-missouri-1968-3
Christ of the Ozarks, Missouri, USA (circa 1965)

The Lord is still in our world helping others as He did with the Canaanite woman; now He uses our hands and feet to do His work.  Allow us to do so by seeking help.  It is available through those He leads by His Spirit to work in this world.

Father, may I be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and may I respond joyfully to the needs that present themselves to me.  And, may I give to others so that Your Name may be glorified.  

 

GOD WITH US NOW, NOT JUST AT CHRISTMAS

Jesus had fed the 5,000, had healed the sick, had cast out demons, yet the Pharisees demanded to see more signs, more miracles — show us a sign and we will believe!  Matthew 12:38.  It as if they thought that Jesus would deliver a sign upon demand!  How foolish of them, we say; how arrogant could they be, we say; how could they treat the Son of God like that, we say!

Are we not like them?   We demand that God would resolve our financial difficulties, perhaps by God letting us win the lottery.  We demand that God would miraculously take the disease away, on our immediate timetable, of course.  We demand that God intervene and solve all our problems when we try to buy a new house or car, although we have not financially prepared for the purchase.  Just one more sign!

Our God can do these things, of course.  He is omnipotent so there is nothing that He is powerless to accomplish.  But we miss out on His presence if we simply look for Him in a massive display of His power on our behalf.  We forget that He has given the believer in Jesus the gift of life, both here and for all eternity, through the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Talk about massive display of His power!   We forget that He is with us, in fact He is in us through His beloved Holy Spirit.

Flower garden in Maine from Bette
A flower garden along a lake in Maine

We see evidences of God’s presence everywhere we look, if only we use our heart’s eyes.  A beautiful array of flowers, a stunning scene along the lake, an encouraging word from a friend that comes just when we needed it, a gentle rain or glittering rainbow, or provision He makes for our needs when we cannot see any possibility ahead of us.

The Pharisees did not need to see additional signs as evidence for them to believe in Him – Jesus had provided sufficient evidence that He was who He said He was.  He had healed the sick, raised the dead, responded to questions in ways too deep for these “thinkers” to understand. 

They didn’t need additional signs, and neither do we.  In short, we don’t need to seek spectacular displays of God’s work to know that He is the Savior.  The most spectacular display possible occurred 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ died the death that was rightfully ours and then when God raised Him from the dead. 

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

1 Corinthians 15:20 ESV

 He is with us today, we don’t have to wait for Christmastime to realize this.

“Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”

2 Timothy 1:13-14 ESV

Oh that we would know that the Holy Spirit is resident within us, and that we would realize that we have “God With Us” in a way that those who lived prior to Pentecost could not imagine.  We don’t have to wonder where He is, nor do we have to go to a specific church or place to pray.  He is with us 24/7 and there is nowhere we can go that is outside His reach. 

Read Psalm 139 as you ruminate on how all-embracing God’s knowledge of you is. 

We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God.   He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.  

A. W. Tozer (1897-1963)

I pray that each of us will have open eyes to see His presence in our lives each day.

 

Father, You are Lord of the Universe, King of Kings, Creator of All, and You are the Lover of my soul.  Forgive, I pray, when I am so besieged by the difficulties, trials and concerns of the day that I fail to see Your hand, active and working in each of those situations.  Forgive, when I expect spectacular evidence of Your involvement in my life even though I ignore Your Word or the reminders that You provide in the chirp of a bird, in the sound of the wind, in the rustling of the leaves, in the antics of woodland creatures or the family pets.  Thank you Father for Your constant presence through the Holy Spirit.  May I be more sensitive to hearing Your call as You work in my life today.

IS THIS WHAT IT APPEARS TO BE?

Have you ever seen something that just looked odd?  Like there was some inconsistency in what you were observing?

When we were on a trip recently, we were sitting in traffic when a mini-van pulled alongside of us.  The name on the … well, here is a picture of the vehicle:

Yellow cab in Virginia
The gray Yellow Cab.

In case you are not looking at this in color, the cab is gray.  The name is in black.  And, the name of the company is “Yellow Cab”.  [Please note, I am not in any way saying that the company is bad or that the driver of the cab was inconsiderate.  I am only commenting on the difference between the name and the color of the taxi.]

I started laughing and Bill then noticed the inconsistency and he, too, chuckled.  A discussion then ensued about why we were laughing – what made it funny. 

Obviously it was the inconsistency between the yellow in the name and the gray of the vehicle.  Yellow cabs, by definition, are yellow, at least that is what they usually are! 

That discussion then went into a discussion of how upset we are when we think something is one thing when, in fact, it is quite different. 

Christians are to be imitators of Christ. 

“You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

John 13:13-15 ESV

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35 ESV

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20 ESV

“… For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people.  And in Antioch, the disciples were first called Christians.”

Acts 11:26 ESV

Disciples of our Lord are to follow Christ’s example and His commands; that is what the title Christian implies – we are followers of Christ.  And, His example at the Last Supper was that of being a servant to others, with the specific commandment that His disciples love one another, just as He had loved them.   Before ascending into heaven, He directed that the disciples were to make disciples, baptizing and teaching others.  In Acts, we read that the early church met together and did what Jesus directed, and they were first called Christians in Antioch.

So, service, love, teaching and obedience to our Lord are central characteristics of a Christian.   How does that fit with someone who puffs themselves up before others, and then belittles folks behind their back?  How does that fit with someone who refuses to participate in helping those in need?   How does that fit with someone to will not associate with other believers in church?

Jesus had something to say about those who say or do things for the wrong reasons:

“”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

Matthew 23:23 ESV. 

The hypocrites arrogantly tithed absolutely everything, but they ignored those in need!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.  So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Matthew 23:25-28 ESV. 

From a spiritual perspective, the what is on the outside is irrelevant: it is the heart that matters.  The hypocrites looked good on the outside, but inside was a different story!

I thought about that gray yellow cab and wondered if that was a picture of me. 

When people hear me speak of my Lord and Savior, the outside identifies me as a Christian; but then when they hear me blast the restaurant server, do they still see me as a Christian?  When I drive my car, with its fish decal on the back representing me as a Christian, and then I cut someone off, is my driving witness consistent with what the decal affirms?  

In other words, is my witness inconsistent with my heart?  Do I look like one thing in actions and in words while the underlying heart condition is vastly different?

Am I really what I appear to be?  Are you?

Am I a gray yellow cab? 

Father, forgive me for the times that my actions are inconsistent with the message that You have directed me to present to others.  Forgive me when I am more like the hypocrites in Scripture than I am like the Christians who unashamedly presented Jesus Christ to all who came to them.  Give me strength and the ability to do Your will as You direct and empower.