What Have You Done For The Least of These?

According to the National Retail Federation, a group that compiles information about consumer spending for major American holidays and events, an estimated 165.3 million people will shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday.

They break the numbers down like this:

  • 39.6 million will shop on Thanksgiving day
  • 114.6 million will shop on Black Friday
  • 66.6 million will shop on Small Business Saturday
  • 33.3 million will shop on Sunday
  • 68.7 million will shop on Cyber Monday

When looking at Black Friday, it appears there are two opposing groups.  There is the group that loves finding bargains or just enjoys the social aspect of hanging with family and friends.  For many in this group it has become a family tradition that they look forward to each year.

The other group thinks anyone who will stand in line for hours or jostle with other shoppers just to get a bargain must be a little crazy.

Before I continue I must confess I belong to the later group.  I have never gone shopping on Black Friday.  In fact, I try to get my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving and avoid the stores as much as possible from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  Dealing with crowds is just not my idea of fun.

I certainly understand the many who love to shop and who enjoy the social aspect of the day, but I must confess it bothers me a little to see all the money we spent buying more “stuff” when our homes are already full while so many in other countries do not even have clean water to drink.  Or, in our country so many are homeless.

Think of the number of wells that could be dug in Sierre Leone or other countries for the money spend this weekend.  Think of the food that could be donated to food banks here in our inner cities.

I certainly hope I do not come across as a Scrooge trying to take the joy so many get from Christmas shopping.

I just try it might be good when we start writing down our Christmas shopping list to go beyond thinking of our immediate family or circle of friends and look around to see those in need.  Perhaps we could cut down on our own shopping list and help others.

Just a few suggestions:

  • Check out your local food bank or homeless shelter and see what they could use to help the needy this winter.

aaaa.jpg

  • Check out https://www.worldhope.org/ and donate to help provide clean water or healthcare to those not fortunate enough to be born in the USA.

bbb

 

  • Check out https://www.compassion.com/ and sponsor a child so that they can go to school and get nourishing food and healthcare they need.

aaa.jpg

  • Check out Mariatu’s Hope on Facebook and give clean water to a village or help for a new born.

78535549_1560144444124682_5037075569586470912_n.jpg

Remember Jesus told us:

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Stand Firm – Love Well

My church has been doing a sermon series on the book of Daniel.  At first glance you might wonder how a book written thousands of years ago has any relevance to today.  As I listened to the messages each week I found it clearly spoke to our current culture today.

As a Christ follower I often find myself in total disagreement with the values all around me.  Much of society speaks and acts in ways so opposed to the words of Jesus Christ.  Everywhere I look – entertainment, fashion and especially politics I find much to disagree with and can often find myself feeling overwhelmed.

How should I respond to my culture when I am so many times in disagreement with it?

Probably each generation thinks they are the first ones to face this perplexing situation – when our own values and lifestyle seem so different from the lifestyles about us.

But we are not the first.

Looking at Daniel we see a young man taken by force from his own home and placed forcefully into a totally alien culture.  The food was different, the religion was different, the customs were different.  Even his name was changed from a name that meant “God is My Judge” to Belteshazzar which meant “Bel protects his life.”  His very identity as a believer in the God of Israel was challenged by this new name honoring an idol god of the Babylonians.

I struggle with the friction between speaking the truth, not backing down from the principles I strongly believe to be right and showing the love of God to those whose beliefs are different than mine.

How do we “stand firm” but “love well.”

Daniel is a good example of that.

He and his friend stood firm on their foundation of faith refusing to bow down to idols and continuing to speak to God when the king said they could pray to no one but himself.  They were willing to lose their lives for their belief in God.

However, if you read Daniel’s interaction with the king he was always respectful and never spoke in anger or showed irritation with the king.  He served within the Babylonian government and obviously worked for the good of the government disobeying only when his basic belief in God was challenged.

We need to follow his example.

Stand firm – never compromise our principles even when it may led to persecution or difficulty.

Love well – never treat those who disagree with us with disrespect or hatred.

My pastor ended Sunday’s sermon with a powerful question:  Do we truly love our enemies as Jesus told us to do.  We often say to “hate the sin, but love the sinner” but in truth do we love the sinner?

A great example of this today I feel is how so many famous Christian ministers are calling for the church to pray for Donald Trump.  We should do so.  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who are in authority over us.

But where is the call for pray for Nancy Pelosi or Adam Schiff?  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who persecuted us.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum – which ever politician you would view as the enemy, I challenge you to pray for them.

Let us Stand firm but love well!

 

 

Do I Reflect Being With Jesus?

Every Sunday I meet after church with a small group to study the Bible and right now we have started walking through the book of Acts.

One story in chapter 4 of that book really makes me stop and examine my own Christian witness.

Peter and John had been brought before the religious leaders who were disturbed at the message they were sharing with the people.  A message that Jesus had risen from the dead.  A message of hope for salvation in those who believed their report.

After careful questioning they ordered them to never speak or teach again in the name of Jesus.  They answered that “We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard. “

History tells us that they did not stop but later it is reported that in Thessalonica it was said of the followers of Jesus “they have turned the world upside down.”

What caught my eye in this passage of scripture is the religious leaders description of Peter and John.  They were amazed at the boldness of these ordinary men who had no special training in theology.  They recognized these two as men who had “been with Jesus.”

How was it these ordinary fishermen became bold and successful messengers of the Good News that Jesus Christ died and rose again and that belief in Him led to salvation?

They had spent time with Jesus.

Examination of my own life makes me question.

Does my witness to the goodness of Jesus reflect that I have spent time with Him?

My language, my attitude, my compassion, my awareness of the needs of others, how I spent my time and my money – would people say of me that “she has been with Jesus”?

That is my prayer today.

Heavenly Father, help me to spend time with you – in Your Word, in Your house, with fellow believers, in quiet times of worship.  Help me turn off the television, the internet, stop fussing about having a perfect house.  Keep me from the things that would distract me from time with you.  Then, help live in practice of what I profess to believe.  Help me treat others so that they will know I have been with You.

 

 

 

 

How Do You React When Persecuted?

It’s the holiday season and so it begins.  Many Christians complaining because people are saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  I hear claims that we cannot now say “Merry Christmas.”  But no one is stopping us from saying that.  A few employers may ask their people to use the “Happy Holidays” response to customers, but they still can wish a “Merry Christmas” outside their employment.

Is this persecution?  I don’t think so.

Last Sunday was the National Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  Want to know about “real” persecution.  Read my post:

“Miracle Boy”

Now that is persecution!

Reading today from the book of Acts I was impressed again with the early church’s reesponse to persecution.

Ater the apostle were jailed for preaching about Jesus and warned not to do so again, they immediately went to the church and there was a prayer meeting.

Now, if that was us I think our prayers would be:

Lord, we are being so persecuted.  Please save us!  Please destroy the power of our enemies.  Protect us!

But that was not their prayer.

They prayed:

“Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.  You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:  ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.   They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.  Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.  Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Consider their threats and make us bold to keep sharing your word.

Let’s stop worrying about whether others say and let’s just keep sharing the love of God.

 

 

Is Your Body Suffering?

Today I went to church.  I walked from my car in a public parking lot with my Bible in my hand and never once felt afraid.  Entering the foyer of my church, I visited with fellow worshipers in front of large windows without once looking to see if anyone was watching us.  When it was time for the service to start I joined with others as we sang loudly and our musicians played loudly without worrying that someone might hear us and report us to the police.  My pastor stood up and gave a sermon reading from the Bible without any fear of being dragged out of the church and off to jail.

For me the worst persecution I might face because of my beliefs is hearing some comedian make fun of Christians.  But I really know nothing about real persecution

Today was the National Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  I wonder how many churches actually took time to pray for their brothers and sisters who face real difficulties because of their belief in Jesus Christ.

The book of 1 Corinthians compared the church to a body.  In that chapter it states:

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it…”

One group who documents persecution in other countries has listed North Korea as the country with the worst persecution of Christians.  To be a Christian in North Korea is to be seen as an enemy of the state.  If someone is found to be a Christian they are treated as a criminal and sent to labor camps or even killed.  Their family also faces harsh treatment.  They cannot meet openly and it is very dangerous for them to gather in more than groups of two or three.  Because being a Christian is so dangerous, it is even hard to know if someone you meet is also a believer as everyone has to remain secretive about their faith.

In Afghanistan no expression of faith except Islam is permitted.  To become a Christian is seen as betrayal of the family, the tribe and country.  Anyone who becomes a Christian is exposing themselves to death even by the hands of their own family.  They are considered to have brought shame on the family and the family honor must be protected at any cost.

In India it is the radical Hindu nationalists who view Christianity as alien to their way of life.  Christians are often physically attacked and churches burned or bombed.

In Myanmar persecution of Christians (and other ethnic minorities) is backed by the army which leans toward Communism.  More than 100,000 Christians live in camps for displaced persons, deprived of access to food and health care.  Buddhist monks have taken over churches and made shrines to Buddha on the church property.

These are only a few of the places where the body of Christ is suffering.  The causes range from corrupt government to the various other religions of the world.

But today as fellow Christians are suffering, I have to ask myself if the body of Christians in America share in any way in their suffering.  Where are the prayers?  Where is the concern?

I believe a large part of the problem is we simply do not know how we can help.  Here are a few suggestions:

  •  Become informed.  There are several organizations that can help you gain more understanding of the persecution taking place around the world.
  • Pray.  We often under estimate the power of prayer.
  • Write letters to those who are in prison.   Many who have been released from prison have testified how much getting letters meant to them, giving them courage to endure.
  • Become a spokesman for helping the persecuted church.

The writer of Hebrews tells us to “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

Here are a few organizations that work with the persecuted church.  Check them out and learn what you can do to help.

  1. OpenDoors: One of the most well-known ministries advocating for the persecuted church. (Write, Pray, Donate, Advocate, Learn)
  2. Voice of the Martyrs: Another well-known ministry that raises awareness and provides support for the persecuted church. (Write, Pray, Donate, Advocate, Learn)
  3. Samaritan’s Purse: Their ministry focuses on providing physical and spiritual aid to people around the world. They also provide opportunities to donate to the persecuted church. (Donate)
  4. PrisonAlert: Prison Alert is part of Voice of the Martyrs. (Advocate, Write, Donate, Pray)
  5. Be-a-Voice: Part of Voice of the Martyrs as well. It focuses on providing prayer points and writing letters to the persecuted church. (Pray, Write)
  6. icommittopray.com  (Pray)

Part of the body of Christ is suffering?  How does it effect you?  Are you suffering with them?

 

 

Do All You Can

Today’s devotion was the story of Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana found in John’s Gospel.  Every time I read this story I try to imagine how the servants must have felt when Jesus had them filled up the jars with water and then told them to take it to the guy in charge of the wedding feast.

Questions I have:

  1. Did they hesitate at all?
  2. Did they taste the water first to see how it tasted?
  3. Could they tell the change in the water by just looking at it?  I’m guessing that wine would look much different than water.
  4. Did they hang close by to see the man’s reaction when he tasted the wine?
  5. What stories they must have had to tell their family that night about this miracle!

My first few times reading the story I wondered why Jesus had them fill the jars with water.  Could he not just have spoken and had wine fill the jugs?

Of course the answer is open to anyone’s interpretation but here is mine.

  1. They could verify that the liquid in the jars had been water and that Jesus did not somehow find wine and put in the jars.
  2. More importantly, they would be a part of this miracle.  They could say “we filled the jars with water for Jesus.”

And my own personal take away from this is that I should not just sit and wait for Jesus to meet a need.  I need to be willing to do what I can.

My husband often says:

Picture4

Picture2

Picture3

When I have done what I can – God will do what I cannot.

Do not mean to imply that we do what we can before we ask God or trust Him.  But too often I think we tell someone we will pray for their need when we should also ask what we can do to help meet their need.

Often we are helpless.  But many times we can and should be the hands and feet of God to meet a need.

If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?  Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.  1 John 3:17-18

 

 

 

 

With Awe and Reverence

14462-sunset-mountain-silhouette-person-arms-raised-social.1200w.tn

 

Great and holy God

awe and reverence

fear and trembling

do not come easily to us

for we are not

Old Testament Jews

or Moses

or mystics

or sensitive enough.

Forgive us

for slouching into Your presence

with little expectation

and less awe

than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.

We need

neither Jehovah nor a buddy—

neither “the Great and powerful Oz” nor “the man upstairs.”

Help us

to want what we need…

You

God

and may the altar of our hearts

tremble with delight

at Your visitation

amen.

Frederick Ohler