A God Who Cares

“But Nineveh has more than 120,00 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?  —  Jonah 4:11

 

Frequently God’s people expect that there will be a shield over them to protect them from the savage blows of life. Yet God’s people are as vulnerable as anyone else. Jonah does something terrible here, beyond the frightfulness of his flight from God earlier in the story when he wanted to escape rather than perform his mission for God. Here he actually sits down to wait for the destruction of the people of Nineveh.

Now the Lord is not interested in seeing people suffer. He sent the prophets and His Son so that people might turn to Him and live. Isn’t it strange that Jonah should be more interested than God in the punishment of evil doers?

The greatest miracle of the Book of Jonah is the concern of the Lord for the forgotten people of the world. Those who should have known better were sure that these people on the outside deserved only the wrath of God. Yet we learn that the Lord desired only the repentance and return of these people so they might be spared.

The love of God reached far beyond Israel. This is a foreshadowing of how that love reaches down even to us. Sheltered as we are momentarily by the love of God, may we be as concerned as God is for those about us who need His mercy. God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”(2 Peter 3:9)

God cares, do we? I remember a song I was introduced to as a teenager. It has challenged me for years. Let its words challenge you:

Do You Really Care?

I look around in the place that I live,

I see people with so much to give,

Yet there are those who are dying to know,

Just that somebody cares.

Do you really care, do you know how to share,

With people everywhere, do you really care?

Will you take the dare, spread good news everywhere,

The cross of Christ to bear, do you really care?

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No Loose Laces

The children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan…took of the accursed things.  —  Joshua 7:1

 

One person’s actions can affect an entire group. This truth became clear to journalist Sebastian Junger as he followed a platoon of soldiers. Junger watched a soldier accost another soldier whose bootlaces were trailing on the ground. He didn’t confront him out of concern for his fashion. He confronted him because his loose laces put the entire platoon at risk — he couldn’t be counted on not to trip and fall at a crucial moment. Junger realized that what happens to one happens to everyone.

Achan’s “bootlaces were loose,” and we learn from his story that sin is never private. After the great victory at Jericho, God gave Joshua specific instructions on how to deal with the city and its loot (Joshua 6:18). The people were to “abstain from the accursed things” and to put all the silver and gold “into the treasury of the Lord” (vs. 18-19). Joshua told the people this, but they disobeyed his command (7:1). The interesting thing is, not all of Israel sinned; only one person did — Achan. But because of his actions, everyone was affected and God was dishonored.

As followers of Jesus, we belong to one another and our individual actions can impact the entire body and God’s name. Let us “tie up our laces” so that we may individually and together give God the honor and glory He deserves. Remember: private sins have public impact.

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Taking Risks

“…it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  —  Acts 15:25-26

 

In his book Stuntman! My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life, Hal Needham reflects on taking risks. Needham has slugged it out in fist fights, raced cars at high speed, walked on wings of airborne planes, fallen off horses, and has even been set on fire! He risked his life to entertain film audiences and to distinguish himself as a top Hollywood stuntman.

Paul and Barnabas were also “men who have risked their lives” (vs. 26). But their motivation was far different. Their goal was to exalt Christ through the preaching of the gospel. As a missionary in the Roman Empire, Paul faced hazards that resulted in shipwrecks, beatings, persecution, and imprisonment — just to name a few (2 Corinthians 11:22-30). But Paul was more than willing to take these risks to make Christ known.

Many believers take risks to spread Jesus’ good news. But fear of rejection causes others to remain silent. Have you been passively sitting on the sidelines ignoring opportunities to share the gospel? God has provided His Spirit to empower you (Acts 1:8) and His Word to make the message clear (Romans 1:16). Ask God for the courage to speak up and witness for the Savior. Taking the risk will be well worth it. Lives are in the balance. Will we rescue the perishing?

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When the Joy Spills Over

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord , O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all my iniquities; who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.”  —  Psalms 103:1-5

 

Do you ever feel as though you were going to explode with joy? These days, I take a little more time to think. In my thinking, many experiences come to my mind that were times when joy just spilled over.

I remember the night in September of 1973 when I realized that I was a sinner and surrendered my life, by faith, to Jesus Christ and believed in my heart that God raised Him from the dead. He saved me! O, what joy!

I remember the Wednesday night in prayer meeting when I experienced God’s call on my life to preach His Gospel. I was scared to death, but there was an inexplainable joy and peace that overflowed my life.

I remember the day that Shirlon and I spoke our vows to one another. It was a hot day, but it was a great day. With the loving support of our friends, we left the church that day to begin a life-long new adventure. My heart was filled to overflowing.

With the birth of each of my children, my “joy bucket” just spilled out everywhere. In each of their successive phases of life, the joy grew to be greater and greater. I take such joy in my children!

Now, I am wading around in the river of the love of my grandchildren, I can’t believe how wonderful and precious they are! I have discovered a place in my heart that I did not know was there. The joy is just spilling over!

David knew. Look at the things that caused his joy to spill over:

*  God  pardons our iniquities.

*.  God heals our diseases

*. God redeems our life from the pit

*  God crowns us with lovingkindness and compassion

*. God satisfies our years with good things

*. God renews us like the eagles.

Do you know this joy? It supersedes circumstances. It comes from within. It comes from a true relationship with God. It comes when there is a sensitivity and gratefulness for what He has done. Is your joy spilling over?

 

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Too Busy

“But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.'” – Luke 10:41-42

 

Busyness to many is a blessing, but to most is a bane. Busyness is one of the many indicators that we are in the last days. God told Daniel to shut up the prophecy of his book “until the time of the end,” when, many will rush here and there and knowledge would increase.” Sound familiar?

In this account of Jesus’s visit to the home of Mary and Martha, we see such a contrast in the choices of two, close sisters. In Mary we find one who contently sits at the feet of Jesus while in Martha’s case she is struggling to serve. One is at peace while the other is in pieces.

When asked to assist in the situation, Jesus does the opposite of what world wisdom and equity would require. He calls Martha’s actions into question and commends Mary for her inactivity in sitting at his feet in worship. Who would put such a premium on waiting  as opposed to working? God.

Seeing busyness from the Lord’s perspective requires that we ask ourselves some serious questions:

How do we get too busy?  We get too busy when we become involved in unnecessary things. Some things, in light of eternity, just don’t matter. We get too busy when we become involved in uncontrollable things. There are circumstances, people and things that are beyond our control or sphere of responsibility. My favorite saying of late is: “This  is not my circus and these are not my monkeys. We also get too busy when we become involved in unfruitful things. Some things pay no dividends in the Kingdom of God and drain our time and energies. Jesus encouraged His disciples to “shake the dust off their feet” when encountering unfruitful people.

Why do we stay busy?  The number one reason why we tolerate such a busy lifestyle is because we want to be in control. Busyness, we think, gives us control. The truth is, involvment in everything gives us influence in nothing.

Secondly, we stay busy because we believe that eventually, it will bring us the satisfaction we are longing for. I have seen so many seeking this satisfaction discover that there was only frustration at the end of their journey. Satisfaction does not come in what we do but in realizing who we are in Christ!

Unfortunately  we end up staying busy because, after a while, we believe there is no other way or alternative. What deception! We settle for the leanness of the wilderness when we could have the rest of God in the promised land!

How can we escape busyness?  We must change our perspective. Those with the most do not necessarily live the most. With God, it is not how much you’ve got and how much you do, but how close you are to Him. Life, our life, is measured by closeness. I learned years ago that a chicken is most active when you separate him from his head. That says a lot to me!

Second, we must clarify our priorities. I am amazed how so many plan for and think through lesser things and give no thought to their purpose and eternity. Why are we here? What have we been tasked to do by our God. What contributes to our purpose and what distracts us from it?

Additionally, we must choose His path. Our lives ultimately come down to the choices we make. Jesus invited us to come to Him and find that His direction is perfect for us and His burden is perfectly matched to us. (Matthew 11:30) Will I go my own way or will I surrender to His?

In the challenge to a busy life, I have found no better admonitions that Exodus 14:13, STAND STILL, and Psalms 46:10, BE STILL.

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Off and On Christianity

Many Christian’s lives are like the proverbial DVD clock. They have a power source from which to draw, but like the unset, blinking clock that flashes on 12:00, their Christian walk is stuck in neutral.  There is no progress — no purpose.

The key to progress and purpose is found in reading the instructions. The only way to know the proper course of action is to discover what the Expert Designer says about each step in the process.

God has given us an unabridged instruction manual: the Bible. The only way to navigate life in a pleasing way to God is to “live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”(Matthew 4:4)

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is alive and powerful, it is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between the joint and marrow. It exposes the innermost thoughts and desires.”

It is the Word that keeps us real. It is the Word that calls us out when we are pretending to be what we are not. It is the Word that bumps us out of the “flashy, holy neutral” we find ourselves in.

We were never meant to be useless. We were never meant to be nothing. We find our identity in what God says about us. We find out what God says about us in His Holy Book.

You were not created for a life of flashing insignificance. You were called to a purpose, to a wonderful plan that involves knowing God and making Him known. Let’s move past the flash to the function.

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When We Do It On Our Own

“But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the Temple of the Lord to burn incense on the Altar of Incense.”  –  2 Chronicles 26:16

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What a joy Uzziah’s life must have been in those early years. He was the king at 16 years of age. He was personally instructed in the fear of the Lord by Zechariah. His military successes were unmatched and his fame spread everywhere. He was a rock star…so to speak!

He was greatly helped…until he became powerful (vs. 13). Many times, with greater power comes greater pride. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6, Prov. 3:34). Uzziah’s attitude ruined him long before his actions. We would all do well to heed this warning.

Uzziah’s pride lead to his unfaithfulness as he entered the house of the Lord. Unfaithfulness is linked to attendance when we do things our own way (vs. 16)! This unfaithfulness had its consequences.

Leprosy is not just a skin disease, it is way more than that. Leprosy manifests its symptoms outwardly on the skin, but the real damage is what is done inwardly to the nerve endings. Leprosy numbs the nerves. In other words, the individual loses all sensitivity and feeling. Pride is the leprosy of the Christian. It defiles and desensitizes. It destroys fellowship with others and one’s testimony in the world.

Doing things our own way has both short-term and long-term consequences. I think about Abraham and his first child. God had promised Abraham that He wouldmake him a great people. After some time, Abraham was persuaded to help God out by having relations with Hagar. In the short term it created a family division. Multiplied over thousands of years, it created the long-term world conflict that we experience today in the Middle East.

It is our choice: do things our way and face the consequences or do things God’s way and fulfill His purposes. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and he will make your paths straight.’

 

 

 

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