Sunday, March 27, 2016

Lesser People

Lesser People
March 28, 2016
Matthew 25:40  "And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.'"

There are some lesser people that live in my household.  When I say lesser, I mean younger and certainly shorter.  My youngest child is two and when I pick her up in my arms you can clearly see the size difference between the two of us.  In fact, there are many differences between this little one and me.  Not only is she shorter, but she can't hold a job at two and even if she could have a job her marketable wage would be so much less than mine.  Her muscles are age appropriate so she isn't very adept at carrying larger loads than me.  Not only that, but she can't do calculus let alone conjugate all her verbs; she can't even cut up her own meat at dinner time.  She is clearly inferior to me by many measures.  Despite her inferior metrics in comparison to me, when I pick her up in my arms I am declaring her value to the world.  She is so precious to me, of far more worth than any worldly treasure, yet she measures significantly lesser than me on many scales.

While the absurdity of my analogy is quite clear, the point to understand is the difference between lesser in measure yet still of significant value.  There was a crowd of children around Jesus and the people of greater social importance suggested the children should be ushered away.  These children, some of which were probably orphans living on the streets, were considered of lesser value to society.  They offered nothing and only created a burden.  They were oftentimes a nuisance and the lack of social programs at the time did little to provide for them.  If one of these children died, it would have been a burden off society's back.  But Jesus declared their value, however, by suggesting they mattered to the heart of the Lord.  He said that by taking care of a person considered lesser than yourself on any measure was akin to taking care of the Father.  The statement elevated the worth of these particular children, separating value to the heart of God from any earthly measure.  God said they mattered to Him and by taking care of them it would be a blessing to the Father and, in turn, bring honor to you.

But the "least of these" is not relegated to street orphans.  The street orphans were at that time, the lowest of the social classes.  Few street orphans exist in modern cultures so lets examine who the "least of these" are in your life.  Any person who measures less than you on an earthly scale is lesser.  There will always be someone who is less educated than you, less wealthy than you, less attractive than you, and lesser in whatever other measure you'd like to contrive.  And when you discover who  that person is in your life, there will be someone lesser than him.  Jesus wasn't simply saying you only had to take care of the lowest of the low, but that even the lowest of the low is still of the same value to Him as you.  Jesus said you were to take care of everyone, EVEN the lowest of the low who can't offer you anything in return.  If there is nothing for you to gain by taking care of someone, then you have discovered who the lesser person is in the equation, the "least of these."  Everyone is of great value to the Heavenly Father.  If you have value to God than so do I and so does the person who just cut you off in traffic and the even person who causes you stress in the office.

When Jesus elevated the value of the lesser people, He did so with a promise.  The promise is that the Lord is keeping score, tallying up the things you do for those who cannot do anything for you in return.  He was also saying that He was keeping a tally of how poorly you treat those around you, too.  If the Lord is taking notice, keeping track, than it is for a reason.  I have no doubt this will all be calculated in determining your reward in Heaven.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Luke 12:34, Luke 14:10, 1 Cor 15:58, James 2:1-9

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Short-term Memory

Short-term Memory
March 21, 2016
Philippians 4:6  "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done."

The Lord instructed the Israelites to put up stones of remembrance.  Apparently this is because humans have short-term memories.  The stones of remembrance were similar to modern day monuments, not meant to be worshiped but used as points of historical significance for reflection.  Several examples of this can be seen throughout the Bible.  One specific instance, after the Israelites had left Egypt and the Lord had provided a miracle in crossing the Jordan, the Lord required them to take a large stone for each tribe and set these twelve stones up for all of history to see.  The stones were to be used as a reminder of what the Lord had done for them.  Seeing it in stone was to make a lasting impression on their minds and for future generations to see and understand the work of the Lord, to bolster their faith.

Another example of this was when the prophet Samuel put up an Ebenezer, literally translated as stone of help.  This was a large stone set up in monument fashion to mark the place of significance when the Lord provided significant help.  Again, it was meant to inspire faith in those who saw it and recounted the story of the Lord's help in times of trouble.  Today, we often forget all that the Lord has done, for us and throughout history.  For some reason our memory seems to be short-term.  We think that because He hasn't done anything for us lately that He must be retired, that He just isn't in that line of work any more.  Nothing can be further from truth; you've simply forgotten to mark the times of prominence when the Lord showed up in your life.  Look back through your life and try to identify those monuments of remembrance you've put in place.  Chances are you've neglected to accomplish this in the physical sense.  When was the last time you erected anything to commemorate what the Lord has done in your life?

While I also have few literal stones of remembrance myself, my wife and I have given our children names with significant meanings.  After suffering a miscarriage my wife feared her body could not carry a pregnancy to term.  Very shortly after the miscarriage, my wife pregnant again, started to miscarry.  Thankful she did not this second time, but gave birth to a beautiful girl.  After the horrendous pain of losing a baby we did have a new life  and gave her a name of remembrance.  Her name, a very Biblical theme, means blessing and beauty from ashes.  While it may not be apparent to everyone who walks by, this stone of remembrance is significant to my wife's and my faith.  So, I will ask you again.  What can you put in place to remember what the Lord has done for you?  It is an instruction from the Lord.

You are required to remember everything the Lord has done for you, but how can you do this if you have not taken the time to commemorate the points of significance?  The Lord instructs us to document this in the good times, that way we can hold fast to His faithfulness in the bad times.  In Philippians we are instructed, when we have anxiety about a huge mountain in our lives, to remember what the Lord has done for us, remembering ALL the Lord has done.  But again, how can you remember ALL that the Lord has done if you've not done anything to commit the memory to stone?  The reason for your anxiety is possibly because of your short-term memory.  If you have a prayer request, a prayer of desperation, then pray and remember.  Except don't just remember a few things the Lord has done, you are supposed to remember ALL that the Lord has done for you.  Here is some homework.  Take out a piece of paper and start from your childhood, documenting everything the Lord has accomplished for you.  I have a feeling when you've finished the list, that your anxiety will dissipate, your faith will be bolstered, and you might even realize the answer to the prayer request.  Remembering is not a recommendation, it is a requirement during your prayers.  Maybe you've not seen the answer to the prayer because you've failed to remember and acknowledge what the Lord did for you in the past.  Try marking it is stone; it will certainly be worth it going forward.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Josh 4, 1 Sam 7, Ps 118, Eph 5:20, 1 Thess 5:16-18

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Feed with Truth, II of II

Feed with Truth, II of II
March 14, 2016
Matthew 4:4  "Jesus answered, 'It is written: man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

It is true you need the Lord's Word to survive.  The Bible clearly says you cannot live by bread alone, but by the Word of the Living God, His Truth.  These truths are not self-evident and must be taught from Scripture.  No man has the proper logic to reason out what is true and right and pure.  Only the Lord can establish Truth and with that Truth comes boundaries.  These boundaries are a line we are instructed not to cross; if we do cross the line it is sin.  Truth then becomes an absolute.  It is either the Truth or it isn't the Truth.  There is no middle ground on the Lord's Truth.  He is either for something or against something, polarizing to the point of being offensive to the world.  If this offends you, then you obviously subscribe to the idea that the Lord's Truth's have varying degrees, as in a continuum.  The Lord doesn't have a scale of sin; He does not have a scale where truths eventually blend into lies.

The Lord is determined to teach us His Truths.  To this end we have Scripture and the Holy Spirit to lead us on the path of finding and discovering His truths should we desire to know.  Unfortunately, few of us have a passion to discover His truths and consequently rely on the church pastor to communicate to us what is the Truth.  This creates difficulty because your local church pastor cannot possibly teach you all you need to know about the Lord.  The church pastor has many church members all with different degrees of understanding.  It is physically impossible to feed each member with the full amount of Truth needed in their respective lives.  This also puts too much pressure on the church pastor as He is often pulled in many directions with how boldly he should preach the Lord's Truths.  He knows they are polarizing to the point of offending and many a church pastor tiptoe around the deep truths, lest he offend someone who then decides not to come back to his church.  We have to grow the church; it cannot be filled with the same people year after year, therefore we must do with it takes to keep each new person who comes right away.  But this has a backward effect, leaving our churches filled with saints who are ill-equipped for daily living, daily thriving.

If you had cancer and I had the cure, would you want me to dilute that cure down with water or would you want the full potency to rid you of your ailment?  Likewise, we must not be ashamed to speak boldly of the Truths found in Scripture, Truths about lust and greed and anger and jealousy.   Your pastor might be great but he is a man subject to the pulling of his own daily struggles, especially the struggle to find balance on how to take the appropriate stand.  Sometimes pastors don't even take a stand, avoiding certain topics altogether, like homosexuality and divorce.  After all, we don't want to step on too many toes.  When I read through Scripture though, Jesus wasn't afraid of offending anyone.  In fact, more people hated Him than loved Him.  It was a small percentage of disciples that clung to His full teachings, His Truths.

Today we can find a church and a pastor who stands for just the right amount of Truth to which we want to subscribe.  Too much Truth, no problem, there is a church down the road who will tell you want you want to hear.  Our problem today isn't the amount of Churches, it is the quality of preaching the full Truth from the pulpit.  We reason it is the Holy Spirit's job to convict a person's heart.  This is completely true, but the Holy Spirit cannot do His job if we aren't doing ours; speaking the Truth in love.  But this would require us to speak the FULL Truth of God's Word, not just the comfortable and easy parts.  Jesus said we are to live by EVERY word that comes from the Lord.  He didn't say we should live by four out of five words that come from the Lord.  If a person's soul requires the Truth, then he needs ALL the Truth.  It's time pastors stand up for the full Truth to which we are called, to take a stand, bodily speaking the Truths found written with the Blood of Jesus.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Deut 8: Is 28:16, Is 53:3, Matt 10:22, Matt 21:42, Matt 25:5-7, Mark 13:13, Lk 11:32, Lk 21:19, Acts 17:11, 1 Cor 15:1, 1 Cor 15:58, 1 Cor 16:13, Eph 6:13, 2 Thess 2:15

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Feed with Truth, I of II

Feed with Truth, I of II
March 7, 2016
Hebrews 5:12  "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!"

You need food to live, which should come as no surprise.  The body of a human is a peculiar thing, though, it does what it must to survive on the food it has.  It does not always live in the ideal state, with the proper balance of vitamins and nutrients coming from the food sources it has available.  Today, most of us live in a society where we can eat properly, feeding our bodies the healthy foods needed to thrive.  Sadly, many choose to eat poorly, taking in bad calories and an insufficient supply of a proper food source.  This is especially true of protein.  While I'm not espousing an Adkins type diet, the human body requires a protein source to stay alive.  This is scientifically undeniable, but an appropriate amount of protein is often mishandled.  There are many sources of proteins, each carrying its own measure, which must be consumed by a human in the amount required by his or her body.  But what is that required amount?  It's more than you think.

A female growing a baby inside of her needs plenty of protein, way more than most people understand.  Remember she is providing a food source of protein that must be sufficient to increase her blood volume, create and sustain a new organ (the placenta), and feed the baby, all while maintaining her own body's required amount.  In round numbers, the average female needs 100 grams of  protein a day during a pregnancy (please consult your doctor as to your specific amount).  Let me put that in perspective.  A pregnant female needs to eat four to five chicken breasts or sixteen eggs PER DAY to get the required amount of protein.  That's way more than most pregnant females actually consume.  Likewise, if a man is trying to maintain a certain percent of muscle mass, he must consume at least 1 gram of protein per lb of body weight.  If he weighs 200 lbs, then he needs 200 grams of protein which is almost three dozen eggs or eight large bowls of oats per day.  Regardless of your preferred source of protein, the amounts seem huge when put in perspective, allowing you to realize how difficult it is to get all the protein into your body that is required during certain times in your life.

This is also true with spiritual food.  Your soul needs nourished with the Word of God in order to survive.  Your soul must be fed with Truth, God's Truth.  Most of us are slightly aware of it, but few understand the amount required.  Like your body, your soul needs constant food.  Also like your body, you can feed your soul poorly or you can feed it properly.  Your body will consume any type of calorie you feed it, but how it processes that specific calorie is up to the type of calorie you give it.  Your soul is constantly being fed everyday, whether you realize it or not.  But is needs proper protein to thrive; it needs the Word of Truth.  Most of us don't feed our soul everyday with the Word of Truth; we feed it with poor musical lyric choices, social media, distracting gossipy opinions of co-workers, and negative self-talk.  Without realizing it you can have a malnourished soul.

So, how much does it take?  How much spiritual protein do you need everyday?  The amount can be determined by your ailments.  Like a properly nourished woman, she develops few if any medical complications during the time of caring for her unborn child.  The moment she has physical symptoms the primary care provider is going to ask about her protein intake.  If you, as a Christian, live with worry, doubt, fear, and heartache then you are not getting the appropriate daily amount of God's Truth.  If you live in a constant state of paranoia or are unable to focus on the Lord's plan for your life, then you aren't getting enough daily Truth down to your soul.  If you cannot forgive but instead hold on to any amount of bitterness or resentment, then you haven't had your required amount of Truth recently.  If you lash out at the person who cut you off in traffic then you could stand a larger daily dose of the Lord's Word.  You alone control how much Truth you consume a day and that Truth is what is required if your soul is to thrive.  You might go to church every Sunday, but if you aren't feeding your soul Truth everyday, then you probably aren't getting enough of God's word.  If you need to be reminded of God's truths on a frequent basis, then you aren't getting enough of it.

While most of us get some amount of spiritual truth on a regular basis, few of us get the full daily amount we need for proper living.  Examine your life and consider the fact you aren't getting enough daily Truth for thriving.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
Ps 25:5, Ps 119:11, Pr 23:23, Jer 7:28, John 1:17, John 8:32, John 16:13, 1 Cor 3:2, 1 Peter 2:2