Thursday, July 19, 2018

NEVER GIVING UP

I Was Just Thinking About – NEVER GIVING UP.

A few months ago, I was in a conversation with a young Pastor about ministry, mentoring and whether or not one had Biblical heroes – those who stood head and shoulders above their contemporaries. After listening to my choices (Caleb in the OT; Epaphras/Barnabas in the NT), it seemed that he became pious by stating, “my only hero is Jesus.” That statement is true enough but misses a larger point – Caleb followed the Lord wholeheartedly throughout his life; Epaphras labored in prayer for God’s people that they would stand firm and be fully assured in all the will of God; Barnabas knew how to embrace others as an encourager and instill hope and possibilities for others. Any one of my heroes would share that one should never give up but always press on toward the goal and prize (Philippians 3:13-15).

In Our Daily Bread for Thursday - July 19, 2018 the following was shared: “My coworker Tom keeps an 8 X 12 glass cross on his desk. His friend Phil, who like Tom is a cancer survivor, gave it to him to help him look at everything through the cross. The glass cross is a constant reminder of God’s love and good purposes for him. That’s a challenging idea for all believers in Jesus, especially during difficult times…The apostle Paul’s life was certainly an example of having a cross-shaped perspective. He described himself in times of suffering as being persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed (Second Corinthians 4:9). He believed that in the hard times, God is at work, achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen (vv. 17–18).”

When Jesus was calling and training disciples, a scribe asked Jesus: "What is the greatest commandment of all?" Jesus replied that there is one standard set for God’s people and His chosen servants. In Mark 12:29-31, Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 when he answered: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One Lord,  and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” To love the Lord with “ALL YOUR MIND” is sometimes challenging.

I have personally and recently interacted with two of God’s special people who have been facing the challenge of depression, despondency and moments of involuntary confusion. From firsthand experience, there are moments when lethargy and a sense of uselessness occur. During such times, certain things come to the confused and despondent mind/brain. At such times, one is wise to be reminded of Isaiah 41:9-10, “You are My servant. I have chosen and not rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will surely help you; I will uphold you with My right hand of righteousness.” 

Additionally, a contemporary worship chorus is helpful to review. It is based upon Psalm 119:105 –
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path…
When I feel afraid, Think I've lost my way,
Still you're there right beside me. And nothing will I fear
As long as you are near. Please be near me to the end….
I will not forget Your love for me and yet
My heart forever is wandering. Jesus be my guide,
And hold me to your side, I will love you to the end…”

An older Hymn written by Fanny Crosby (1903) shares:
Never be sad or desponding, 
If thou hast faith to believe.
Grace, for the duties before thee, 
Ask of thy God and receive.
Refrain
Never give up, never give up, 
Never give up to thy sorrows,
Jesus will bid them depart. 
Trust in the Lord, trust in the Lord,
Sing when your trials are greatest, 
Trust in the Lord and take heart.

If you are downcast, discouraged, despondent or depressed, read and believe Galatians 6:8-9, “The one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest, if we DO NOT GIVE UP.”

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

JUST BEING THERE


I Was Just Thinking About the importance of  – JUST BEING THERE.

A friend shared a Charlie Brown Graphic that contained one of Charley’s timely and pithy comments: ”Be the reason someone smiles today. Even if it means just being there.” I added a comment: “IF ONLY one could remember the importance of JUST BEING THERE for the needy, lonely, helpless, hopeless, forgotten, disenfranchised, widow, orphan, burdened.... IF ONLY we were mindful to weep with those who are weeping, and to rejoice with those who are rejoicing... IF ONLY we would remember our responsibility to edify and encourage one another... IF ONLY....”

Shortly after reading the Facebook post, I read the devotional, Insight for Today by Charles. R. Swindoll. His post was on Matthew 5:14, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” He shared the following observations and thoughts: “Matthew chose the strongest Greek term in all his vocabulary when he wrote, ‘mourn.’ It is a heavy word—a passionate lament on behalf of one who was loved with profound devotion. The term conveys the sorrow of a broken heart, the ache of soul, the anguish of mind. It could (also) include several scenes: Mourning over wrong in the world; Mourning over personal loss; Mourning over one's own wrong and sinfulness; Mourning over the death of someone close. Interestingly, this particular term also includes compassion, a sincere caring for others. Perhaps a satisfactory paraphrase could read: How happy are those who care intensely for the hurts and sorrows and losses of others. At the heart of this character trait is compassion.”

It caused me to think about practical applications of God’s Word. First, Ephesians 4:11-12 (NLT), “The gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” A functioning Biblical Christian is to use the developed gift by the work and effort to edify the Church. To do so, one has to JUST BE THERE. Second, the Biblical Christian is to implement Galatians 6:2, “Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ.” To carry the burden of another is best served by JUST BEING THERE to help carry the load and to encourage the one who is laboring under its weight. Third, Romans 12:10, 13, 15. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Outdo yourselves in honoring one another…Share with the saints who are in need. Practice hospitality…Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” These are not actions that can be efficiently carried out unless the Biblical Christian makes time to JUST BE THERE.

When a person is lonely, they need the personal presence, call or word to lift their spirit. When a person is grieving, in a non-preaching way, they need to hear and prayerfully inculcate (to cause of influence one to accept an idea or feeling) the words of Second Corinthians 1:3-7,  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God…If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which accomplishes in you patient endurance…And our hope for you is sure, because we know…you will share in our comfort.”

Biblical instruction is caught as well as taught. It should never be allowed to be a tradition to which one subscribes but a truth that one embraces and does. There are countless numbers of people with whom you can have a valid and helpful ministry by JUST BEING THERE. In some situations, words are inadequate. The reality of compassion, a smile, a tear that may be shed – all speak more than volumes one could read about interpersonal relationships. Despite one’s busy schedule, just stopping by with a word of concern or cheer will benefit the one who is lonely or nearing a threshold of despair. To share a joy or mourn a loss, JUST BEING THERE will assist one to know about the care and compassion Jesus Christ wants His followers to show and do.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

GRACE ALONE


I Was Just Thinking About – BY GRACE ALONE.

Over the years, books and hymns have been written, blogs have been posted, sermons have been delivered on the subject of the grace of God. Grace is defined and understood as the freely given and unmerited favor of Almighty God. It requires acceptance and acknowledgement that it is all of grace found in God alone and bestowed by Him in one’s life. It is never based upon the works of man or his self-promotion. There are countless events when grace is exhibited where the response could’ve innately been one of vengeance or vindictiveness.

The Apostle Paul was very precise when he address the subject of God’s amazing grace. Ephesians 2:1-10 (NASB) states a person’s condition apart from amazing grace, namely, being dead in trespasses and sins (verse 1). That which makes the distinctive and defining difference is found in two words used by Paul. He emphasized: “God who is rich in mercy” (verse 4) and “by grace you have been saved through faith” (Verse 8). When thinking about the rich mercy of God and His grace, some words from hymns come to mind…
Wonderful Grace of Jesus, Greater than all my sin.
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt.

I was lost but Jesus found me,
Found the sheep that had gone astray.
Threw His loving arms around me,
Drew me back into His way.

Paul (when his name was Saul) had a personal and memorable experience of the meaningfulness of the grace of God when he was confronted by a vision of Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9, NASB). A summation of his experience and encounter is given in verses 3 through 5, “Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? And Saul said, Who are you, Lord? He said: I am Jesus who you are persecuting.” This would result in the conversion and transformation of Saul from being a persecutor of the church to a proclaimer of God’s grace to the church and to as many others with whom he was given opportunity to share the Gospel. Later on, Paul would share his commitment to the Gospel and his ministry when he gave his testimony and statement of commitment to the elders and believers in Ephesus. He is preparing to leave them. He did not know what was ahead of him in terms of risk and danger. He exclaimed to the brethren (Acts 20:24, NASB), “I consider my life of no value to myself, if only I may finish my course and complete the ministry I have received from the Lord Jesus—the ministry of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

The underlying and undergirding of all ministry is to emphasize that it is by grace alone, in Jesus Christ alone, and received by faith alone. During the scope of his ministry and care of the churches, Paul had the opportunity of speaking to the Corinthians believers about tithing and offerings (Second Corinthians 8 and 9, ESV). His powerful and conclusive statement is given in 9:8, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” The thrust is obvious. God’s grace will abound to you so that you may abound in every good work. We are to be conduits of God’s abounding grace so that it will touch and impact other lives to seek and abound it in as well.

In John Bunyan’s book (1795), Grace Abounding To The Chief of Sinners, he wrote about his personal struggle with temptation and fear. For an extended period in his life, this was a spiritual struggle. One day he came to a resolve and wrote: "Being now ready to sink with fear, suddenly there was, as if there had rushed in at the window, the noise of wind upon me, but very pleasant, and as if I heard a voice speaking, Did’st thou ever refuse to be justified by the blood of Christ? and withal, my whole life of profession past, was in a moment opened to me, wherein I was made to see, that designedly I had not: so my heart answered groaningly, No.  Then fell, with power, that word of God upon me, See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh.  Hebrew xii. 25.  This made a strange seizure upon my spirit; it brought light with it, and commanded a silence in my heart, of all those tumultuous thoughts, that did before use, like masterless hell-hounds, to roar and bellow, and make an hideous noise within me.  It showed me also that Jesus Christ had yet a word of grace and mercy for me, that He had not, as I had feared, quite forsaken and cast off my soul…"

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.