Compassion

Blessed is he who considers the poor; The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. (Psalm 41:1)

What an interesting promise from the Lord.  He’s not promising to keep us from experiencing trouble. God is promising that He will deliver us in a time of trouble. What’s the prerequisite for this wonderful promise? Simple compassion.

Do you take time to think about those who are poor?  Or do you brush them off as nuisances or lazy slackers who are just out to take some of your hard-earned money?

Jesus said, Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38) Jesus was saying you’ll get what you give.

God told the Israelites, “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:21) God was saying that we’re no different from the “stranger”.

I know that at times my heart can get quite calloused towards others.  What I fail to realize is that my own callousness backfires and the one that’s really hurt is me.  I receive less from God because I’m giving less to others.  Give that opening verse another look.  Interested in what God promises?  Consider others.

Crossing the Line

Then Saul said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor.” (1 Samuel 28:7)

Saul was facing desperate times.  The Philistines were gathering for battle and Saul didn’t know what to do.

Saul was nothing if not impulsive.  He had a history of making rash decisions that led to big blunders.  Toward the end of his life he would make the biggest mistake of all.  Saul’s indiscretions led him farther and farther from God until God was no longer answering his questions.  Rather than fix things with God, Saul once again decided to take matters into his own hands and decided to ask for advice from a medium, a person who claims to contact the dead.  Some of you might be thinking, “What’s so harmful about that?”  The Scriptures specifically forbid it and for good reason (Lev. 19:31; 20:26).  Demonic activity surrounds such practices, and in case you were unaware, Satan is the father of lies.  You may think you can handle getting cozy with the devil, but you’re only heading for hurt.

What are you facing right now friend?  Are you facing big decisions?  Don’t look for shortcuts.  If you think that God is silent, then figure out why. Don’t “cheat” and look to the wrong things.

Foolish

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good. (Psalm 14:1)

The truth that David declared sounds pretty ridiculous in this age of smart-thinking scientists.  The brilliant minds of our age would scoff at David’s conclusions. Some of my smarter pals at school would call me an idiot for agreeing with David.  Yet I think David got it right when he said it was foolish to think there is no God.

Professors tell us that if you are smart enough, you will gaze at the amazing Rocky Mountains and declare they are simply products of natural forces.  The world has us thinking that gazing up at the night sky on a desert evening should make us wonder at the “big bang”.  The intelligentsia has us trained to think that looking at the beauty of a tropical flower, a bird in the sky, or a whale breaching off the coast are simply results of random chance mutation.  But is that so?  We had to be trained and taught to conclude that there is no God.  Those conclusions don’t come naturally.

Belief in God is not a convenient truth, because it leads to the truth that we are accountable to our Creator. Want to know more about what God is really like?  Look at His Son.  Jesus explains to us exactly what God is like, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

“The Missing Sandal”

Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” So he took off his sandal. (Ruth 4:8)

The Israelites had an ancient law intended to make sure that a family’s bloodline continued. If a husband died before his wife had any kids, then the closest relative was obligated to marry the widow and keep the family name going.  If he refused to fulfil his obligation to his dead relative, a sandal came off, the wife would spit in his face, and he would be known as the guy who lost his sandal.

The whole point was to continue the lineage and heritage of a family.  When Ruth’s husband died, his family had an obligation to continue his family name.  There was a relative who was qualified to do this honor, but when asked, he refused.  He lost his sandal and Boaz was able to step up and fulfill that role.  We think about the story of Ruth and Boaz as a love story, but it was also a story about continuing the family name.  Boaz would be known as the ancestor of King David and Jesus Christ, all because he stepped up and did what was right.

Beloved, we all have an obligation to continue the heritage of the family of God.  Sharing your faith with others may seem scary, but it’s how God’s family continues. It’s a good work that produces amazing results.  Don’t lose your courage.  Don’t lose your sandal.

The Big Softie

So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord. And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel. (Judges 10:16)

Now I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about God, but He’s really just a big softie at heart.

Because of His love for us, God will at times “chastise” us, or allow trouble into our lives, for the sake of getting us to turn from our sins.  A good parent will do what it takes to keep their child from playing football on a freeway.  Yet I’m like that rebellious child. I get enticed by the fast cars and noise and think the freeway is a fun place to play the game of life.  I find my Good Father will lovingly do whatever it takes to get me to turn around and stop walking towards that evil highway.

Once we turn around though, God shows His true colors.  He’s not angry with us over our sins, as much as He is grieved over what we are doing to ourselves.  When we get those amazing moments of clarity, realize we’re heading for disaster, cry out to Him for mercy, and most importantly actually turn around from the highway to hell, He quickly and lovingly responds with mercy, forgiveness, and help.  Do you need to turn around friend?  God isn’t trying to destroy you, He’s trying to save you.  Turn around.

Real Courage

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Caleb Beller:

Act 14:21 “And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch”

The term “hero,” describes a broad spectrum of individuals. Heroes range from fictional to non-fictional. Real heroes to me are the ones who run in when our natural instinct says run away! When Paul finished his mission, he could have headed directly home. It would be only half the distance of retracing his danger-filled steps. He was rejected in Antioch, nearly killed in Iconium, and stoned in Lystra.  Why would he go back!

Act 14:22 “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”  Like Desmond Dawes, in the movie Hacksaw Ridge, Paul seems to say, “just one more.” Paul’s focus was not on the pain but the people. He saw souls whom Jesus had died for. Paul knew how hard it would be for these new believers to grow in such a hostile environment. Paul didn’t just preach love, he lived it. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

Have you been rejected or hurt while trying to reach people with the Gospel? Are we avoiding those places for fear it will happen again? Family members, colleagues? May Paul’s courage inspire us to go back into the flames, clothed in the love of Christ, with the hope of the Gospel.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Barefoot

Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:15)

It happened to Jacob when he was fleeing his brother and heading to the land of his ancestors.  Alone and afraid of what lie ahead, Jacob lay down that night with a stone for his pillow.  God spoke to Jacob in a dream and told him that He would be with him and help him.  Jacob awoke from his dream and exclaimed, “Wow, God was here, and I didn’t even know it” (Gen. 28:16)

It happened to Moses.  Tending his flock on a mountainside, Moses’ attention was drawn to a bush that was on fire.  God began to speak from that bush and told Moses to take off his sandals because he was standing on “holy ground” (Ex. 3:5).  God continued to speak and told Moses that He was calling him to a great adventure.  Moses didn’t need to be afraid because God was with him.

Joshua was about to face his first battle in the conquest of the Promised Land. It would be a long, fierce war. Joshua needn’t be afraid.  God was with him.  He just needed to take off his sandals and acknowledge that fact.  Holy ground is where God is.

Are you facing challenges?  Beloved, God is with you.  Acknowledge His presence.  You are not alone. Take off your shoes.

Second Chances

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” (John 21:15)

One of the things I learn from the resurrection of Jesus is that God might not be finished working when I think He’s finished.  The disciples might have thought all was lost when Jesus’s body was laid in the tomb, but in three days He rose again.  Peter might have thought that he had irreparably ruined God’s call on his life when he denied knowing Jesus before Jesus died.  Yet after the resurrection, Jesus sought out that knucklehead Peter and set the record straight.  Just as Peter had denied Jesus three times, Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him.  With each affirmative answer, Jesus said the same thing – “Peter, get back to work.”  Peter had been called to be a shepherd over God’s people, and Peter needed to get back to what Jesus had originally asked him to do, despite his failings.

Where are you today friend?  Are you in that pit of despair, thinking that you’ve let the Lord down too many times?  Do you wonder if God could ever love a knucklehead like you?  Just like Peter, Jesus is looking for you.  He’s looking to turn you around and put you back to work.  He is not finished with you.

The Central Sanctuary

…then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide… (Deuteronomy 12:11)

Before Israel made it into the Promised Land, Moses could guide the nation and teach them God’s ways because the people all camped together.  Yet once they entered the Promised Land, that would all change.  The nation would begin to spread out, and the danger they faced was that everyone would start doing whatever seemed “right in their own eyes”, instead of following God’s ways. To deal with this, God would set aside a special place, a “central sanctuary”, where truth was taught, and people learned how to follow God.

Today, our nation is pretty well defined as everyone doing what seems to be “right in their own eyes”.  I’m not sure if the problem is that we don’t want to walk in a way that pleases God, or if we simply don’t know what it means to please God.  We certainly need a place to be taught by God.

Beloved, your church ought to be that kind of “sanctuary”.  While the rest of the world experiences a “famine” for God’s Word, church ought to be a place of feasting.  There’s nothing wrong with sermons that make you “feel good”, and there’s nothing wrong with topical sermons per se, but the real question is, are you learning what pleases Him? That may not always be what pleases you.

Know Your Boundaries

“… this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance—the land of Canaan to its boundaries. (Numbers 34:2)

Before the Israelites crossed into their Promised Land, God spelled out their boundaries.  Boundaries help me know when I’m in the right place and when I’ve crossed a line into a place I don’t belong.  A boundary tells me that my kid’s ball is in the neighbor’s yard and no longer in mine.

Some people don’t respect boundaries.  They might be over at your house way more than you wish they were.  They might be that person who stands just a little too close for comfort.

As believers, there are places we belong and places we don’t belong.  We don’t belong in sin.  We don’t belong in rebellion against God.  We don’t belong in hatred.  Those are lines that shouldn’t be crossed.  Just as there are places we don’t belong, there are also places we do belong.  We belong in the presence of God.  We belong in grace.  We belong in hope.  We belong in holiness.

Do you know your boundaries?  Do you know where you are right now?  Which side of the line are you on?  The land God has for us is a good one.  David wrote, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” (Ps.16:6)

God has a beautiful place for us.  It’s where we belong.