Thursday, September 24, 2020
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
"Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me." Psalm 23:4 (NLT)
When you were a child, did you worry about what might be under your bed or in your closet at night? Things look different then. Simple shadows of tree branches can mimic scary creatures. Especially for children who do not share a room with siblings, the nighttime can be stressful before sleep overtakes them. Nightlights were the magic in our house. My daughter still does not like to sleep in a dark room. She isn't afraid of monsters. Watching Scooby Doo when she was little cured that. But she still feels more secure if she can see everything.
I wish I could say that adults never struggle with fears in the night, but I can't. When all the sounds are quieted and everyone else is sleeping is the time when our minds can run wild. Though distracted by activity during the day, once we are alone with our thoughts we begin to examine things that were said or done, whatever we heard on the news, anything stressful that we experienced during the day, those things that we are anticipating that could go wrong or simply whether we are adequate in our positions in life.
Sadly, monsters exist in many forms. Anything that we feel threatened by or that causes fear can be the ugly ogre that we heard about in fairy tales. And in the current times, we see them growling on the street corners, hear them screaming from the streets and dread that they may attempt to enter our own homes.
Can you feel that churning in the pit of your stomach? Does your eye twitch or your heartbeat speed up? I'd be lying if I said these things never affected me. As I listen to the news and witness people tearing down statues and burning down buildings, all while the churches are being ordered to remain shuttered in many areas, my brain goes into overdrive. We live in a nation that is approving abortions of even full-term infants, perversions of all types being "normalized", criminals being set free, our liberties being denied and our way of life changing rapidly. I admit that it scares me and I don't like it.
Thankfully, our Lord has assured us that we are not alone and that because He is with us and in full control, we do not have to live in fear. He has always been aware of what would take place on this earth. We have an enemy that is determined to claim this realm for himself and to create an environment in which our psyches are overwhelmed by the things of this world, including the monsters that we sense around us. The last thing he wants is for any of us to hear and follow Jesus.
One of the first sections of scripture that we learn as children is Psalm 23. There we are reminded that we are the sheep and He is our Shepherd. Dear readers, I wish that I could assure you that the evil that is playing out will go away and that we will return to our peaceful lives. I really wish I could, but I can't. For one thing, I cannot see what will happen tomorrow. Also, scripture warns us that evil will strengthen as the time nears for Jesus to return. The only One who knows when that will be is God Himself. We need to be on our knees in prayer and to put on the full armor of God. We need to be studying the Word so that we are informed and so that we will have the Sword of Truth which is the very Word of God to use against the enemy. We have to remember Who is in charge and Who to run to when we are afraid. His power, grace and mercy will calm and strengthen our hearts and minds.
I pray for each of you as you navigate the days ahead. May you be swept up in the huge arms of our Father and may you find security, peace and love there. The monsters may roam about but He is greater than any of them and will shelter you if you turn to Him. God bless.
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Monday, September 21, 2020
Sunday, September 20, 2020
In chapter ten of the Gospel of Mark, a man appears before Jesus and asks, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus, as part of his answer to this man’s question regarding salvation for himself, takes the opportunity to remind us that only God is truly good. This was not meant as a deflection or to pivot to another topic. Jesus wanted to remind us all that God and only God is truly good. By His very nature, He cannot be anything else.
Right after this statement, Jesus replies to the man, “But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’”
The man, without hesitation, responds that he has obeyed all of the laws and commandments since he was a small child.
If we were to look at his statement from the perspective of Mosaic Law, we would simply stop here and say that he has achieved salvation and that he is square with God. Seems simple enough right. Using today’s language, we would say that Jesus was asked a “softball” question.
For those who aren’t familiar with this term, it means that someone is asking you an easy to answer question that requires no real thought. In fact, the answer is so obvious that even a small child could answer it. A good example would be asking a politician a question about his or her favorite flavor of ice cream instead of asking a question about policy or stance on a particular issue.
It is evident that this man is sincere and would like to know what he must do to have eternal life. If given the opportunity, we, too, would ask Jesus the same or similar question. It is only natural to want to know whether or not we are on the righteous path.
So, Jesus could have easily said to the man, “You are doing everything you are supposed to do. Have a good day.”
But, he doesn’t.
Jesus tells him, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Just obeying laws and commandments or saying that you are Christian isn’t enough to truly inherit eternal life. It starts by believing and then by acting in a Christ-like manner. You can’t call yourself a follower of Jesus and a child of God simply by saying that you are and refusing to help those in need.
In chapter two of his book, James writes, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Believing is not enough. We must each day of our lives devote ourselves to feeding those who are hungry or giving water to those who are thirsty. It is not enough to simply say that you will be praying for them and that the Lord will provide. The Lord has provided for the needs of others by putting us exactly where we need to be at the exact moment. We are given opportunities daily to minister to the physical needs of others and also to their spiritual needs. As His children, we must demonstrate to the world that we are doing good in His name and that any honor or glory is done in His name.
Let’s go back to the story of the man asking Jesus about eternal life and what he must do to receive it.
The scripture tells us that, after hearing Jesus' command of selling all of his possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor and following him, his face fell and he went away sad. I am sure that he felt that what he was doing made him righteous. After all, he was obeying the laws of Moses.
As the man departs, Jesus tells his disciples, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
If we truly are Christians and follow the example of Christ Jesus, we, when presented with the opportunity to help, should do so without hesitation. Doing good in the world starts with us. We must share our blessings with others and overcome our desires for possessions. If we desire more of what this world has to offer, then we are possessed by it. When that happens, we are seduced by this world and begin to turn away from the Lord. Evil begins to infect us and darkness fills our souls.
Paul, in chapter twelve of his epistle to the Romans, writes, “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”
When we allow our possessions and greed to get the better of us, it is so easy for evil to work deeper and deeper into our lives. Conquering evil in the world starts with us conquering the evil in our own hearts and the only way to do that is to do good by helping those in need.
Remember the words of Jesus to the man. When you sell your possessions and give the money to the poor and follow the lead of your Savior and master of your life, Christ Jesus, you will have treasure in heaven.
Don’t simply call yourself a Christian, but show the world that you are truly a follower of Christ Jesus by serving one another and by giving food, drink and shelter to those who are in need.
Remember the words of Jesus, in chapter twenty-five of the Gospel of Matthew, when He says “I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.”
As you go through this week, be an example to the world. Show the world the goodness of the Father by doing good to those in need. When you do that, you will stand firm in His grace.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.