>Helping the Hopeless

>With the recent tragedy in Haiti, all of us are made somewhat aware of how bad some humans have it in the world. Some would say that Haiti got what it deserved (I am not one of those people). Others would see the plight of the Haitians and be moved with compassion to help those who have been displaced, who don’t have the bare necessities, or who have been orphaned by the disaster. We must all understand that the Haitians are 100% in need of foreign help. Even if you are a hard-hearted jerk and think they deserved what happened, you must realize that there are thousands of people who were faultless. Yeah, you could blame the government for not being ready, but there are still thousands of people utterly dependent upon the kindness of others and hopeless unless someone helps them without any hope of repayment.

For those of you who are Christians, if you haven’t given financially to the crisis in Haiti, then I would beg you to go to http://churcheshelpingchurches.com/ and donate to their cause. Pastors Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald are working to help the Christians in Haiti. Read what they are up to, pray about it, and give. If you don’t give to them, then give to somebody over there. It doesn’t need to be much, just give what pleases you to help other Christians.

This tragedy is awful, but there are other tragedies in the world that are much more sustained than this earthquake or the tsunamis or Hurricane Katrina. The one which breaks my heart the most is the sex trade. There are millions of women and children taken into slavery to be used as sexual objects for men with money. Here’s an article that will give you a little bit of insight into the sex trade in Thailand: http://www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=12616

Why is all of this important? As a Christian, kindness to the downtrodden paints a distinct theological picture. When we respond to people’s suffering with help, care, and love we show the world our God. Our God seeks out the weak and poor in spirit and makes those people His children and heirs of His kingdom. Being weak and poor in spirit is not dependent upon socioeconomic level. Every human is bound to sin and wickedness. We all need the mercy of God to rescue us from that pit. When His redeemed people go about showing tangible love and grace by giving and helping, we declare that God has treated us with great love and grace.

One final note: it is easy for us to get caught up in social work and leave the gospel behind. The most important part about social work is ministering Christ to people. What do starving, homeless, parentless kids in Haiti need more than food, water, and shelter? They need Christ. We must allow Christ to satisfy their physical needs through His people in order to show that Christ will also satisfy their souls eternally.

May the Lord bless you all as you go out and minister to the broken!


>God Rejects Natural Selection

>”The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”
-Psalm 9:9

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”
-Psalm 68:5

“The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.”
-Psalm 103:6

“The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.”
-Isaiah 29:19

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”
-Isaiah 58:6

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
-James 1:27

I quote all of these verses to show one thing: God cares deeply for those who are oppressed, abused, and exploited. Jesus taught this principle as the first “Beatitude” when He said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” Those who have absolutely nothing, who are destitute and abandoned. Those who have no hope and who cry out for God’s rescue. Those are the ones whom God loves most. He restores pitiful wretches so that “what is weak in the world” may “shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

This flies in the face of the Darwinian understanding of “natural selection.” Now, on some level, I do believe that natural selection is true. The weak do die off if they are not cared for. But, God does not hold the view that we should simply let the weak dissipate because they are a nuisance and a burden. Instead, He implores us to care for them. And He, Himself, promises to take care of them! Read the above verses for proof of that.

Brothers and sisters, we are all weak, blind, naked, and poor (Rev. 3:17). Yet, God has loved us so much that He restores us in Christ. Even when we were unable to help ourselves, He helped us. And our newfound responsibility is to go and do likewise to others. When we do, we will reveal the character and the glory of God! God Almighty personally cares for the widows, orphans, poor, sick, and crippled. When we act like Him, we reveal to the world who He is. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

I pray that the Spirit would convict us to be mindful of the poor, the oppressed, the exploited, the marginalized, the widows, and the orphans that are among us. May God grant them grace, truth, and love through His church.

>Glory Reveals Sin

>”And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'”
-Luke 5:6-8

Many of us remember this particular short story. This is a segment of the occasion where Jesus tells Peter to go back out and drop his nets, even though Peter insists that they have fished all night with no results. Peter agrees and ends up almost taking down two boats because the amount of fish was so great.

This story is an amazing witness to Jesus’ command over nature. It magnifies His divine nature. What I find to be so interesting is actually Peter’s response to the miracle. Notice that Peter does not say: “Wow Jesus, you’re amazing!” Instead, he tells Jesus to get away from him because he is a “sinful man.”

A striking truth rises to the surface from this story. This truth being that the glory of God reveals the pitiful state of humans. In Psalm 8:3-4, after the psalmist gazes at the magnitude of God’s creation in the heavens, he is astounded at how God would even be “mindful” of mankind. God is so awesome, as His creation reveals. And against that background, mankind is so insignificant.

Yet, we make so much of ourselves don’t we? We glory in our technologies, our intellect, our possessions, our empires, our wealth. But we don’t glory in God, we don’t delight in our Maker. Read again the verse I have listed at the top of this blog. Paul is saying that his desire is that his readers would have “ample cause” to “glory in Christ Jesus.”

Look back up at this verse from Luke 5 and ask yourself a question: did Jesus come to do miracles? If so, what were His miracles for? The answer comes just a few verses later in Luke 5:24. Jesus explains that He is healing the paralytic so that those around may know that He has the authority to forgive sins. That’s why He does miracles! So that all may know that He can forgive sins!

In light of that, Peter’s response to Jesus’ miracle is rather appropriate. When Christ completes His miracle, Peter is ruined by how sinful He is compared to Christ’s holiness. Now Peter’s heart is softened and Jesus can speak forgiveness and peace to Him.

Brothers and sisters, I pray that the miracles of Jesus would continue. I know that Christ uses miracles to bring sinners like Peter (and the rest of us) to repentance and faith in Him. I pray that the church would walk in Christ’s power to heal the sick and cast out demons. However, I also pray that those miracles would not be our focal point. Above all we must proclaim the Gospel in such a way that sinners may come to Christ truly. If our end is not to glorify Christ and His cross, then the means we use are pointless before we even start.

May God grant us power, through His Spirit, to spread the heart-, mind-, and soul-changing Gospel of truth!

>Our RIghteousness, Hope, and Peace

>”For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”
-Luke 3:8b (ESV)

In this passage, John the Baptist is making a strong point that people are not justified by their bloodline. This reasoning was used by the Jews to show that they were the people of God. However, John the Baptist makes the same point that Jesus does in John 8:39 when He is responding to this same mentality. Jesus tells the Jews in John 8 that if they were of Abraham they would be doing the same works that Abraham did. What then is the work that Jesus calls people to do? Jesus makes the answer clear enough in John 6:29: “Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.'” Back in Luke 3, John the Baptist commands his audience to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”

This establishes a clear connection in my mind. When we believe in Christ, we repent of our sins and cast ourselves upon His mercy. This act of repentance and casting ourselves upon Christ’s mercy is not a one-time deal, we do it continually. Christ has established and upholds our new covenant with God (Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25, Heb. 8:1-7) being our continual Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1). Since He continues to intercede, we continue to repent (Jam. 5:16) and be transformed by the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). What an incredible work our Lord has done and continues to do! May our response of humble submission show His perfection, glory, and majesty!

Let me end by circling back to the issue of bloodlines. The mentality of these Jews has not escaped our culture. There are plenty of us who find our justification in church attendance, Sunday school, charitable deeds, and financial giving. We are not justified before God by any of those things! GOD JUSTIFIES. Remember, He can justify stones if He wants to! If we do good works without Christ then we are still in danger of God’s wrath. They accomplish nothing for us. But, Christ has accomplished incredible things for us. It is through Him alone that we are justified and considered righteous before God. Do those good works because Christ has done such a great work for you and in you. Let us proclaim boldly along with the writer of this hymn, Robert Lowry:

“This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

Praise to you, Jesus Christ, for making us righteous before God!

>Savoring Christ in 2010

>Well here we are in the second day of 2010. A decade has passed and another begins. We have all encountered different experiences, trials, triumphs, and losses. Some of us feel like we know exactly what to expect this upcoming year and some of us are in utter despair because we have no idea what is coming. Some of us are excited because we need a new start and some of us wish that 2009 would never end. For all of us, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 still rings true. We are all in a season understanding that there is “a time for every matter under heaven…” All the “matters” that needed to be addressed this last year have been addressed, and now we look to the new “matters” of this next year.

The “matters” I have to look forward to addressing in 2010 are many. They include finishing my bachelor’s degree, involvement in a healthcare chaplaincy, getting a full-time job, finding a place to live, potentially getting married, starting seminary, and continuing to serve my church. I am excited about all these things, even though I understand that along with them comes a million or so details to work out.

Most of all, I’m so thankful for the God that has adopted me as His son. I realize that no matter which “matters under heaven” are being addressed, the Lord and His care for me will never change. It brings me such great joy to proclaim with the psalmist that “your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.” Reflecting on this last year and thinking forward to this next year has reminded me so specifically of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to me personally. And not only to me, but I know that God has been “showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Deut. 5:10).

Brothers and sisters, I pray that you enjoy God this upcoming year. I pray that you rejoice in Christ because of the salvation He has brought to you! Delight in Him and allow His love and faithfulness to remain in your sight. Make seeking Him your ultimate goal for 2010. He will never fail or falter in His faithfulness to you.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” -Ephesians 1:3-4