Helping Hands

In Luke 10, in verses 10-37 there is the famous account of the Good Samaritan. Jesus is speaking to a lawyer and he begins with the question, what can he do to inherit eternal life. I’ve been told that a good lawyer will ask questions that he already knows the answers too. Jesus replies with a question, asking him what has he read in the law. Very clever of Christ because he would have realized that this lawyer would be very knowledgeable of the law and what it says. The lawyer answers and says “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”  (v.27)  A correct answer and Jesus acknowledges that but the lawyer wants to really to get the win here, and seemingly prove his case and asks the question, and who is my neighbor? As I was reading the account it got me thinking and wondering the same question that the lawyer had asked. Who is my neighbor? Is my neighbor the folks that live on either side of me, or perhaps could I consider everyone in my neighborhood my neighbor? Really not that bad of a question if you ask me.

Today we can turn on the news and within a matter of minutes, we see stories about all kinds of death, hurt, destruction, illness and really just madness. With recent terrorist attacks in other regions of the world, I think it can become easy for us to come to the conclusion, that I’d rather not have any neighbors. If I can take care of me, myself and I then all other needs just become secondary or even non-existent.

This account in the Bible has never become more relevant. We see a Jewish man that is “stripped of his raiment, and wounded, and departed, and leaving him half dead.” (v.30) He’s obviously not in a good spot and yet what is to come is rather disturbing in one sense. A priest, which represents a religious man, comes by this wounded man and, “when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.” (v.31)  A priest is the first one to see the helpless man, and he we could say represents a religious man. As a Christian I feel like we are always being criticized, and it may even be fair to say that all those are considered people of religion share constant criticism, but God help us if we get to a point, where we see something and decide to not only let someone else handle it but rather take ourselves way out of the picture, and ‘pass by on the other side’ so to speak. We live in a society where everyone has to have their needs met right away and we are inconvenienced when we are asked to assist someone else.

Next, a Levite comes along, and his reaction is actually worse. “…when he was the place, came and looked on  him, and passed by the other side.” (v.32) It’s not that he glanced over, or tripped over the man, but he saw, he took the time to gaze upon, and then made the decision, to not even walk by but to take himself to the other side of the road and then pass by.  Today I think we can all relate in a sense. I remember in school seeing a fight break out and I never really wanted to get involved, and it seemed that the crowd that gathered around to watch didn’t either. Even if one person was getting annihilated everyone just waited for someone else to handle the situation. It’s sad that so many times in churches this same thing happens from time to time. We hear of a need, but we are too busy, or we have the ‘someone else can do that’ mentality. I have been guilty of that. But the fact of the matter is if I am able then I should help my neighbor and as a Christian I believe that is part of the following of Christ, to help those in need when I can.

Lastly, a Samaritan comes and takes care of the wounded man, cleaning up his wounds, and he even goes so far as to bring him to an inn and further take care of the man. (v. 33-35) Now we read that and honestly, we don’t really think that the Samaritan did anything that amazing. But what he did do was use his resources his animal, clothing, money, and energy. Something that we can do all do to help the needs of others.

But at the time of the story Jews and Samaritans hated each other. They had no dealings with one another. But yet the Samaritan helps this Jewish man to the ultimate degree and then some. When Jesus asks the lawyer who he thinks proved to be a good neighbor, the lawyer can’t even bring himself to say Samaritan, he just says, “he that showed mercy.” (v.37) 

So can I challenge everyone with this, as I have been challenged – it doesn’t matter what color, race, creed, gender, social status is can we be a Good Samaritan, because it doesn’t matter if someone is a homosexual, or a drunk, or a drug addict, or rich, or homeless, or black or white, or purple or fat or skinny or a pastor or a satanist. We all are neighbors of each other even though it may mot be a geographical sense. We all have neighbors that are in need. We probably don’t have to drive far and we’ll see a neighbor in need. Let’s put aside these barriers of why we can’t help someone else and instead come together like chain links and help those that needy. People may have less than us but that doesn’t mean they are less of a human than us.

 

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” – Matthew 5:43-44

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Sow and Let God Grow

Matthew 9:37 – “…The harvest is truly plenteous, but the laborers are few.” 

This verse to me has always been convicting and humbling. We live in a world where there are billions of people (the harvest) and yet finding people to be committed to the ministry of reaching them with the Gospel is as stated, being few laborers.

I think that sometimes, and I myself am guilty of this, we find ourselves doubting or even tired of the work (ministry). We have doubtful questions: well, these people never come to church anyway so, why bother to knock on the door. No one comes to evening services anymore so, why have them? I want to sleep in instead of getting up on Saturday morning and going out and visiting. I have often thought, well what if I say something stupid or dumb to someone while trying to share the Gospel and get rejected or look like an idiot.

But my friends do not doubt, do not be fearful, don’t get frustrated and don’t quit the work. Ask God for divine appointments. In Matthew 13:1-8 we have the parable of the sower. We see different outcomes of what happens to the seeds that are attempted to be sown. The first, “the fowls came and devoured them up.” (v.4). The second, fall onto stony soil and they become scorched because they had no root. (v.6). The third, are fallen onto thorns and then the thorns choke the seeds. (v.7).  But lastly, we see that some made it on good soil and brought forward much fruit. (v.8). 

I think that sometimes in ministry all we see, and if we aren’t careful, all we focus on is the seeds that we try and plant and become choked out, devoured, or even scorched. But friends we can’t get caught up on the seeds that did not grow the way we wanted. All that we are, is simply sowers. We may think that there is no point, we have not seen any fruit from the seeds that we have planted. But evangelism is more than what we can see. Isaiah:8 – “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” What a great comfort!

Farmers don’t just plant seeds and expect growth overnight. In fact, sometimes they plant a crop, some time has passed, they begin to think that that there won’t be any substance. Later, unexpectedly something appears. But if the farmer never plants any seeds then they will never know what can possibly be grown. If we don’t plant seeds- pass out tracts, share our testimonies, invite people to church, visit different people then it’s no wonder that we don’t see any fruit. James Merrit in his devotional book called 52 Weeks With Jesus, stated “Jesus won’t do our job- we are to sow. We can’t do his job- he is to grow. We can do our part but only Christ can reach the heart.”

You see it’s not so much was my delivery of the Gospel flawless, or that someone has to get saved every time that I share the Gospel and if not then the opportunity was a bust. No friends, we have no control over when and how the seeds that we planted are grown. That is up to the work of God. Personally, there were many sowers that planted seeds in my life. There is the possibility that those that shared testimonies and the Gospel with me thought, “you know I don’t think he is ever going to get it” or perhaps “this really has just become useless”. Only to their pleasant surprise one day I accepted Christ as my Savior.

Had seeds never been planted then who knows how I may have come to faith or if I would have come to a belief in Jesus Christ. The fruit came many years later. But don’t give up planting seeds. You never know what growth can come about. But just remember that is all in God’s time, and we can’t do the growing. John 3:30 – “He must increase, but I must decrease.” 

There is a world of people that you reading this can reach that I may never. As II Timothy 1:6 says, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.” Let’s get stirred up, be bold, and be confident not in ourselves but in the amazing work of the Holt Spirit and because “God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 

“Our tendency is to write off people in our minds: friends we think would never be interested in Christianity; colleagues who seem to sinful, ‘too far gone’; or family members who say conversations about ‘your religion’ are off limits. When I start thinking this way, I need friends to remind me that no heart is too hard for the Holy Spirit.” – J. Mack Stilles.

Feeling The Heat

You ever gone to the ocean and think to yourself, you know the waves don’t look to bad, I’ll go in for a minute or two. So, you walk out about waist deep or so, when out of nowhere a wave comes and knocks you. And just as soon as you stand back up, guess what, here comes another one, right on top of you. Now you aren’t sure when you are going to be able to stand up. You’re struggling for air and you’re being sucked right under, and the one thing that seems to cross your mind is, when is this going to end?

You know life can make you feel this very way as well. You’ve had health issue after health issue and you think I’m finally start to be okay, then you go to the doctors for what seems like a routine checkup, and they tell you some not so routine news. Now they must do some not so routine testing.

There was a time in my life where I thought the same thing, it was just one thing after the other. Trial after trial with no end in sight. One glorious day I asked Jesus Christ into my life, and to be my Lord and Savior. What a truly tremendous decision that I made and one that I have never regretted and I am not ashamed to proclaim to others.

But I had a problem.  You see I misjudged the waves. I thought that now I’m a Christian, life would be easier, life would be smooth sailing. I realizing it wasn’t and it hasn’t been. Although there have been some wonderful moments of victory that the Lord has allowed me to have. I have lost friends and loved ones, there have pain and suffering. Granted some of that has been self-inflicted due to my rather poor decision making. I have often asked myself, “God, when are you going to give me a chance to breathe? Is there an end in sight?”

It is in Isaiah 48:10 I find my comfort and encouragement. “Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” You see there is a point in the trial that you are facing. There is a purpose that you are going through what you are going through right now.

A furnace is a place is prepared for gold. A furnace makes gold purer than it was before. The trials, or furnace we can say, is divinely appointed by God and are meant to make us purer and more holy.   Job 23:10 – “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” The furnace is not meant to hurt us, but provides grace. God knows just how much heat we can take in the furnace. Isaiah 43:2 – “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” And lastly, when we come out of the furnace there is a benefit. Romans 5:3 -4,  “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope.”

I don’t know how long it seems that you have been walking through a valley or a fire so to say, but what I can tell you is that there is an end. That you will make it the other side to that shore. And there can come peace unlike any other in the midst of your storm. And yes it is difficult to be joyful and thankful during those times that we are in a furnace and in a trial or a storm. But it’s not in vain friends! That is the time to snuggle close to the Lord and let him walk you through and know that you are not alone, you will make it, and you will be better for it.

 

II Corinthians 12:9-10,  “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

 

 

Thank You

 

That time of year again. Sports are on all in full swing, except for baseball (the Cubs though, who would have thought). Flannels are back along with the millions of selfies that everyone posts with their pumpkin spiced lattes or some other caffeinated drink. And then probably the most awesome day of the year arrives, Thanksgiving. Turkey, ham, gravy, taters, family, football, and left overs for about a month, what’s there not to love about it.

Then yet again there is all the social media posts, seems as though it never fails during holidays. Hey why not, I know I’ve posted typical holiday things from time to time. But along with all of the ‘I’m thankful’ posts, have you ever really stopped and thought what are we truly thankful for? Or are we even thankful at any other given time during the year besides November.

I find myself thankful when it’s convenient.Like when I have an 8 O’clock class and I wake up at 7:53 and still make it on time. Or perhaps other times like when I walk into class and have no idea we are having a test and manage to squeak out a passing grade.

But what happens after Thanksgiving has come and gone. Do we just forget all the things that we are thankful and just go ‘back to the grind’.

This year I find myself more thankful for the family that God provided for me than ever before. You may think, wow you’re never thankful for your family that’s shallow. But that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is this year, I have realized that there are so many of my friends out there where Thanksgiving is the last thing they want to take part of. Their home life is not one they want to discuss, there are no happy smiling selfie pictures or pictures of Turkeys and backyard football games. My heart breaks for them. How tragic that for whatever that is that home life that they know. I need to do a better job reaching to my friends that find themselves in these situations. I need to have more meals with them, invite them over more often. Maybe have them over for Thanksgiving or Christmas, instead of just saying I’m sorry that you’re going through this I’ll pray for you.

2 years ago I spent Thanksgiving at Crossroads Rescue Mission and about a year after that I spent it in a Hospital bed wondering what my life had become. But I thank God this year I was able to gathered around the table with loved ones and enjoy their company.

My challenge to you, whomever you may reading this, is let’s not just be thankful in November. But all the time. There may have been a time this Thanksgiving where everyone shared what they were thankful for. Take time everyday to do that. Take the time to reach out to someone and let them know that you are thankful for them. Let’s move past the happy Thanksgiving texts and snapchats. Let’s be thankful daily! We have much to be thankful for no matter what situations we may find ourselves in.

 

 

Where Do You Go On Sunday?

Most conversations of today are about politics, do we vote Trump? Hilary? Do we even vote or put a third party down. We talk about the 2nd amendment and who’s walking in and out of the bathrooms of Target.. Or if you are like me you still love America, so of course with the Olympics here I find myself watching many sports that I otherwise would probably not watch. But hey it’s great seeing my country bringing home so many Gold medals this year.

But lately there has been something on my mind that doesn’t fall under any of these categories. As a Christian Sunday is my favorite day of the week, because church is on Sunday. For some Sunday is great because of NASCAR, NFL football or other sporting events. And believe me I love sports.

Here is what is troubling for me and should be alarming to my fellow Christians. Go to church Sunday morning, took a good look around. Now return Sunday evening, again, take a look around. You will probably notice a different crowd and perhaps fewer people in the congregation. So why is it that Sunday morning there may be a larger crowd than Sunday evening? Do we really think that just one hour on Sunday morning is enough?

I fear that many Christians have become or are becoming just a Sunday morning only crowd. Now I will say that things do come up sickness, being called into work, etc. But we should have desire in our hearts to gather together. In Hebrews  10:25 we are instructed not to forsake the assembling of ourselves. That word forsake means to leave or desert. God has never left us and will not forsake us so why should we forsake the gathering our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Now I love church I love listening to a choir, I love hearing someone sing a special or a young person play an instrument. I need preaching on Sunday morning and Sunday evening. Yes I can learn on my own but I need to be under someone that has more knowledge and understanding than I do. I also need to hear from God and be convicted, encouraged and shown new things through the preaching of the Word of God. But why has Sunday evening lost its importance? Why is Sunday evening when we plan to go out, or get together with others or do anything but attend church. I love what  one preacher said, he stated one evening “I don’t schedule church around my schedule. I schedule my schedule around church.” That ought to be our mindset and attitude. I am baffled at churches that don’t have Sunday evening church or just cancel it. I love what my Pastor has often said,  “If it’s just me and my wife here we’re still going to have church.”

I love summertime because there is so much happening at the church. VBS, Jr. High camp, College & Career activities it’s wonderful to see the youth and the leaders getting fired about these things. But if we and (myself most definitely included) need to emphasize the importance of being in church not only Sunday morning, but that Sunday evening is just as important as well as mid service or prayer meeting. Because if we ourselves aren’t in church, then why would the next generation be in church or see the importance.  Before I got saved, I did everything that I could to avoid church and I missed out on many great blessings. That I am a child of God I don’t want to miss out on hearing of someone getting saved, or a powerful testimony, or an encouraging song, or hearing from the Word of God and getting my heart stirred up. Many are praying for revival in America, but my prayer is that we see revival in our hearts first and in our churches.