May 1, 2009
Jeff Bryant singing He Is Altogether Lovely. Brother Jeff is a very talented individual and really anointed of God.
May 1, 2009
Jeff Bryant singing He Is Altogether Lovely. Brother Jeff is a very talented individual and really anointed of God.
Whatever you did for one of the least of these . . . you did for me. Matthew 25:40
When a friend cared for her housebound mother-in-law, she asked her what she longed for the most. Her mother-in-law said, “For my feet to be washed.” My friend admitted, “How I hated that job! Each time she asked me to do it I was resentful, and would ask God to hide my feelings from her.”
But one day her grumbling attitude changed in a flash. As she got out the bowl and towel and knelt at her mother-in-law’s feet, she said, “I looked up, and for a moment I felt like I was washing the feet of Jesus Himself. She was Jesus in disguise!” After that, she felt honored to wash her mother-in-law’s feet.
When I heard this moving account, I thought of Jesus’s story about the end of time that He taught on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. The King welcomes into His kingdom His sons and daughters, saying that when they visited the sick or fed the hungry, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40). We too serve Jesus Himself when we visit those in prison or give clothes to the needy.
Today, might you echo my friend, who now wonders when she meets someone new, “Are you Jesus in disguise?”
Lord Jesus Christ, You can transform the most mundane of tasks. Help me to love others in Your name.
When we serve others, we serve Jesus.
Matthew 25:31–40 is a powerful reminder of Jesus’s care for those who are hurting. In fact, since the “least of these” (v. 40) in Matthew consistently refers to followers of Jesus (see 10:42; 18:6), the passage implies we are likely to find true believers in Jesus in circumstances of great suffering. Those who are not in such suffering are judged on their willingness to serve and join with those who are. When they do, they encounter Jesus Himself (v. 40).
When have you most strongly experienced the presence of Jesus through being with someone who was suffering?
Forgiveness can be defined as letting go of both resentment and the right to return hurt. On the other hand, unforgiveness demands that the guilty one pay for the wrong he or she did.
According to these definitions, unforgiveness looks very much like justice, and forgiveness seems inequitable. That’s why we have such a hard time with it. Forgiveness goes against our natural sense of fair play. Yet God calls us to forgive those who don’t deserve it!
To avoid offering a pardon, we dwell on the wrongdoing until our desire to retaliate seems totally justified. Convinced of our right to be angry, we demand repayment, thinking, Releasing a person from deserved punishment is unfair!
The Father faced the same dilemma. All humanity had sinned and deserved eternal separation from Him. He couldn’t simply forgive sin arbitrarily, because He’d then cease being just. Our forgiveness is possible only because divine justice was satisfied by the Son’s payment for our sins. As a result of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, God is free to righteously forgive us.
When we accepted the Lord’s forgiveness, we gave up all rights to hold anything against anyone else. An unforgiving heart is miserable because it is far from God, who is the source of all peace and joy.
Does the thought or sight of someone arouse harsh feelings within you? Holding onto a grievance will keep you imprisoned in emotional turmoil, but letting go will set you free. Christ has provided the key of forgiveness. Take hold of it, unlock the door, and walk out into the light.
“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:4-6)
Seeking the Lord is a familiar theme throughout the prayers and songs of the Psalms, and the phrase “seek the LORD” appears 26 times in the Old Testament. Always, with no exceptions, both the term and the phrase imply an intense focus, a singular purpose to find the Lord. “But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).
Please note the other action terms: the one who seeks also “looked” and “cried” while seeking. Both of the additional concepts imply a conscious awareness of the biblical reason for our prayer. “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18). “The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).
“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee; O let me not wander from thy commandments” (Psalm 119:9-10). “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). If we are to find the Lord, we must seek him with the intensity and singularity of purpose represented in these passages. HMM III
Adapted from Treasures in the Psalms, Henry M. Morris III, 348-349
We will again read in the Song, giving the language in its correct form. The bride hears the Bridegroom knocking at her door, but she excuses herself from rising to admit him, and acts as unkindly to him, as, alas, we too often have done to our Lord Jesus. The whole story is rehearsed in choicest song in—
Observe her indolent excuses. How cruel she is to her friend! How selfish! How self-indulgent! Have we not cause to blush, as in her conduct we see our own?
Although the spouse had been sadly negligent, and so had grieved her Lord, and made him hide his face from her, yet she still loved him, and therefore was intensely earnest to find him again. She hoped that perhaps her Lord would listen to others, even if he closed his ear for a while to her, and therefore she begged the daughters of Jerusalem to speak to him on her behalf When we are in darkness, the prayers of our brethren may be of great service to us.
The song represents the Daughters of Jerusalem as saying—
To this enquiry the Bride replies—
2 Corinthians 11:26
When you live and preach the Gospel in volatile regions of the world, you deal with issues that believers in more civilized nations never have to think about. Some of these challenges simply go with the territory of working on the front lines of the Gospel, and there is nothing that can be done to change it. This is why God gives special grace to people whom He sends to difficult parts of the world. His grace empowers them to successfully live, preach, and minister in environments that others would consider chaotic and even bordering on the insane.
On occasion, representatives of other very large ministries have come to the other side of the world to look at our work. After seeing what we have accomplished and obtaining a better understanding of the many problems we face in fulfilling our divine assignment, they leave amazed that we are able to do what we do. But we are able to do it only because we’re recipients of God’s grace and anointing. Without these two factors, it would be impossible to make such a major impact. All the glory goes to Jesus!
One of the issues we have faced is the criminal element that exists in the vast expanse of the former Soviet Union. Because the region is so huge, it is very difficult for the government to control the “mafia” that works in every area. Thus, many parts of this precious nation where God has called us is controlled by hoodlums and bandits. These criminals try to invade every sphere of life and get their hands into everyone’s pockets.
Several times these very dangerous criminals have attempted to beset our own organization. But as we listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit and carefully obeyed His promptings, God enabled us to circumvent meticulously laid plans that the devil was inspiring these thieves to execute against us. Had these plans worked, it would have robbed us of ministry finances and seriously affected our ministry. But thanks be to God, we successfully survived each of these planned attempts to destroy our ministry!
The situation I just related to you is not something you probably have to think about in your city or town. You live in a civilized system where police are available to help and where the mafia doesn’t hide in the shadows, devising sinister plans to take advantage of you. But for people who live in other, less civilized parts of the earth, such criminal activity is part of the norm of life that must be dealt with, considered, and taken into account when making plans.
When the apostle Paul wrote to us about the things he endured as he traveled to take the Gospel to new places, he let us know that thieves and bandits were also a constant concern to him and to his fellow travelers. He wrote that they were “… in perils of robbers….”
In Perils of Robbers
I want you to notice that the apostle Paul uses the Greek word kindunos for the second time in this text. As noted in yesterday’s Sparkling Gem, it is the Greek word for extremely dangerous.
Paul faced many dangers as he went about fulfilling his ministry, but one danger he constantly faced as he traveled was the threat of robbers. The word “robbers” is the Greek word lestes. It refers to a plunderer, robber, highwayman, or bandit. This was a bad breed of bandits who were very cunning in their thievery of others and who used weapons and violence to achieve their wicked ends.
In the ancient world, robbers and thieves hid in the ditches and caves along roads that led from city to city—particularly along main routes of travel. This is why some Greek expositors translate the word “robbers” as “highwaymen.” This term especially applied to bandits who ambushed those who traveled by roads. Considering how frequently Paul and his companions walked, we can easily see why Paul faced “perils of robbers.” This gives a whole new idea to the phrase “highway robbery”!
Just imagine for a moment that you are traveling to the farthest ends of the earth by foot. You are physically carrying everything you need for that journey. The luggage piled on your back is filled with the clothing and cash you need for your journey. You know that pillaging, predatory plunderers are hidden in the ditches and caves along the roadside as you pass by, just waiting for the right prey to come by. You also know that these bandits are famous not only for stealing, but for wounding and killing their victims. Yet there is no other road for you to take if you are going to get where you need to go.
We can be sure that Paul and his traveling companions were alert the whole time they traveled on those roads. They most certainly took authority in the Spirit and bound the evil forces influencing the bandits who lay in the ditches and caves, waiting for them to come along. But because Paul uses the word kindunos (“perils”), we know this was an extremely dangerous predicament.
Yet even this danger was not strong enough to stop Paul from doing the will of God. He and his companions exercised authority in the Spirit and courageously walked on, traveling through regions so dangerous that others dared not even venture there.
You may not live in regions of the world where you have to think about highway robbers, members of the mafia, and other criminal elements, but God might be calling you to venture into new areas of ministry or business that seem to entail risks and dangers. You may feel like there are hidden dangers awaiting you at every turn. In these cases, don’t allow yourself to retreat in fear! You must do your best to faithfully follow God’s call. Use the common sense God has given you; gird yourself with the power of the Holy Spirit; and head in the direction where God is calling you.
It doesn’t matter how difficult the task is that lies before you—if God is the One leading you, you can do it. God isn’t going to give you an assignment you can’t do. Remember, many others have had to fight the same fight of faith before you. They have faced the same questions you face. They have walked the same road you are walking. They followed the call of God, and they victoriously accomplished God’s plan. If those believers could do it, so can you!
So put fear aside, and get ready for a journey of faith. Think soberly and stay alert as you let the Holy Spirit lead you down the path toward your destination, allowing nothing to deter you from your goal. As you do these things, the day will come when you produce more fruit for the Kingdom than ever before!
Lord, I ask You to help me put aside fear and to believe that You will protect me as I follow Your call on my life. I know that You would never give me an assignment that You didn’t think I could do. The fact that You’ve asked me to take this path means You are confident that I am capable of succeeding. Naturally speaking, I would feel fear at the prospect of taking such a step of faith. So please help me to permanently put away that fear and to trust that the Holy Spirit will carefully lead me past every danger and risk that lies along the way.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that I am fear-free and ready to follow the Lord wherever He calls me. Even though there are dangers and risks along the way, the Holy Spirit will carefully lead me so I can circumvent every area of danger and move forward safely toward my goal. The Holy Spirit sees everything; He knows everything; and He has my best in mind. Therefore, He supernaturally leads me down the right path, alerting me along the way when there is something that could hurt or hinder me. Because I am led by Him, I dodge every attack the enemy has planned for my life.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Are you fearful about the future? Apprehensive that the bottom might fall out? Concerned at the prospect of some future calamity? The only answer to quelling such fears is SURRENDERING to our wise, all-knowing sovereign Father.
“Those who listen to Me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.” (Proverbs 1:33b) (See Proverbs 31:25; Jeremiah 17:7, 8)
Are you experiencing a difficult relationship in the family or at work? Perhaps you are perplexed by an association in which you feel misunderstood or mistreated. Again, the answer to inner peace lies in SURRENDER.
“Therefore, as God‘s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12, 13)
Are you fearful that you might not be able to maintain control over your finances? Concerned that they could slip away, or be diminished by a bad investment, or by an economic crisis beyond your control? Again, SURRENDER is the only hope for inner peace.
“Riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations… Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” (Proverbs 27:24; 23:5) (See Psalm 25:12, 13)
Are you worried about your health? Of getting cancer? Or growing old? Are you fearful that a family member might be stricken or die prematurely? This side of eternity there certainly are no guarantees of a sublime, pain-free life. So again, the answer lies in SURRENDER to our wise and loving Shepherd.
“Those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 49:23b)
But SURRENDERING our will to His does not come easily. The reason? “We seek what one might call a relative omnipotence: The power to have everything we want, to enjoy every thing we desire, to demand that all our wishes be satisfied and that our will should never be frustrated or opposed. It is the need to have everyone to bow to our judgment and accept our declarations as law. It is the insatiable thirst for recognition of the excellence we so desperately need to find in ourselves to avoid despair… ” (Thomas Merton)
Humanly, it would seem that achieving inner peace would be dependent upon our ability to consummate and maintain control over our lives in every area. His condition for our peace, however, is based on our categorical, unconditional SURRENDER to Him and His sovereign will. Jesus demonstrated His SURRENDER to the Father in praying, “Not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39b) Do you choose to do the same?