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Friendly Support

  
When we go through difficult times, we look to family and friends to be there for us. We need them to be our strength and to hold us up. Imagine though, what it would be like in the darkest time of your life if your family and friends turned on you. Imagine if they insulted you instead of offering you hope. Imagine if they accused you of doing something against God instead of praying for you. Your agony in the situation would be multiplied.

Job was facing just that. As he cried out to God, his friends mocked him and chastised him. In Job 19:13-19 he shares his struggle. He said, ““My relatives stay far away, and my friends have turned against me. My family is gone, and my close friends have forgotten me. My servants and maids consider me a stranger. I am like a foreigner to them. When I call my servant, he doesn’t come; I have to plead with him! My breath is repulsive to my wife. I am rejected by my own family. Even young children despise me. When I stand to speak, they turn their backs on me. My close friends detest me. Those I loved have turned against me” (NLT).

I can’t imagine having to go through my most difficult times without the support of friends and family. What happened to Job still happens to people today. They are left to go through struggles on their own. Their friends turn their backs in them when life gets tough. Their hope and strength fade away without support. As believers, we must support people who are struggling. We must offer them the hope that is within us. We must hold them up in prayer when they don’t have the strength or will to pray for themselves.

Each of us know that the Golden Rule is to do unto others as we would have others do unto us. We need to treat people the way we want to be treated. We need to visit the sick in the hospital, comfort those who are broken, defend the defenseless, guard the unguarded, offer water to the thirsty, and food to the hungry. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said when we do these things for the least of these we are doing it for Him.

As Christians, we can’t be like Job’s friends who were self-righteous and pointed out the faults in other people. We need to be like the ones Jesus talked about in Mathew 25. We are to be the ones who offer help to those in need. We are to pick up those who’ve been knocked down. We are to give another chance to those who have used up all their chances. We are to offer grace to those who least deserve it because that what Jesus did. Look around you today. Who is hurting? Who is broken? Who is down an out? Go to them and be what they need. You are doing it for the Lord as much as you’re doing it for them.

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Christianity Is A Verb

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Our Wednesday night small group wrapped up our series on “Unstuck” last night. The video portion that included commentary from several people was challenging. Each person that spoke on that video had a question or comment that got them to be the hands and feet of Jesus to others around them. They also inspired me to do more than I’ve ever done for others, so I want to share with you in hopes of it challenging you as well.

One of the first things Mark Batterson mentioned in this segment is that Christianity was never meant to be a noun. It has always been intended to be a verb. When we allow our Christianity to become a noun, it leaves a bad taste in other people’s mouth. It becomes who we are and not what we do. Jesus said, “Go into all the world. Preach the Gospel to every nation. Make disciples of all men.” Those are all verbs that command us to do something.

There was also a lady on the video who shared her story of how God has used her. She was asked the question, “Who are three people you know who don’t know Jesus and need you to be His hands and feet to?” She couldn’t answer that question. Instead of thinking it didn’t apply to her, she prayed that God would increase her circle of influence. God began opening doors for her to minister to others through washing laundry, helping with résumés and providing necessities for. All because she didn’t think her Christianity should be a noun.

The next part that really spoke to me had to do with stats. Did you know 25,000 people in the world will die today from starvation? Did you know that 5,760 children will become orphans today? Numbers are numbing. They don’t cause action usually. Names are what matters. If you want to see the names and faces of some orphans behind those numbers, click here. I dare you to click that link and move beyond a stat to the face and name of an orphan who needs your help. The real question here is, “Are you ok with this?” Can you live in the house you live in, drive the car you drive, eat at the restaurants you eat at and still be ok with the numbers above? If so, your Christianity is probably a noun.

Mark Batterson said, “When all of the rules and regulations, all of the traditions and institutions, all of the liturgies and methodologies are peeled back, what’s left is the Great Commandment: Love The Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. That is Christianity in its purest form. It’s not enough to love God with 2 or 3 out of the 4 listed. We must find ways to love with all 4. He didn’t give us a choice. He said to do this was the greatest commandment.

Finally, Mark challenged me with this phrase, “On the final day, God isn’t going to say, ‘Well thought, good and faithful servant’ or ‘Well said’. He is going to say, ‘Well done.'” It’s not enough to think of others or to say, “Have a good day; stay warm and eat well” to the cold and hungry according to James 2:16. God is looking for us to stop using Christianity as a noun and to start doing something with it. If your circle of influence of others who need Jesus is too small, I challenge you today to pray what that lady prayed. Ask God today to increase your circle of influence and to give you courage to do something for others because you aren’t ok with where you are.

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Are We Goats Thinking We’re Sheep?

I’ve got Haiti on my heart this morning. Partly because I’m headed back in a few months and partly because we watched a video from Richard Stearns from World Vision last night. He reminded us of the scripture in Matthew 25:35-40 where Jesus told of the day where God will separate the sheep from the goats. Jesus said that He will turn to the sheep and say, “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ (MSG)”

What stood out to me last night as he read that scripture was the response of the sheep. They said, “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ (MSG)”. They didn’t even realize it was Jesus they were doing it to. They were doing those things because God’s love compelled them to.

That’s a stark contrast from where the Church is today. The Barna Group released the results of a study yesterday. They interviewed over 700 self-professed Christians and asked a series of 20 questions about attitudes and actions. In the end, only 14% of self-professed Christians were found to have the attitudes and actions of Jesus. Another 14% had the actions of Jesus, but not His attitude. The results show a lot more and if you like, you can see it here.

If we add those numbers together, barely a quarter of Christians act like Jesus. He spent His time in ministry to the poor, the hurting, the outcasts, the leppers and the unwanted. He spent very little time with those who were looking for power and prestige. He made it clear that He wanted us to do the same. You can see that in what He said in Matthew 25. The ones who made it to Heaven were those who fed the hungry, gave drinks to the thirsty, sheltered the homeless, gave clothes to the poor and visited those who were sick or in prison. When is the last time we’ve done any of those things?

We’ve spent millions building bigger, more stylish churches and only thousands on taking care of the poor. I look at those results of the Barna group and ask myself, “What area do I fall in? Do I have both the attitudes and actions of Jesus? Am I in the 28% or in the other 72%?” Those are tough questions that God and I are going to work through. I encourage you to ask the same questions. If you’re not in the 28%, what can you start doing today to move in that direction? How can you be one of the sheep instead of a goat?

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True and Undefiled Religion

On day four of our trip to Haiti, we got up early because we had a lot to do. We ate breakfast and split into two groups. One group would head to the market for an experience they’ll never forget and the other went to the hardware store to buy the supplies we needed. All around us were a sea of people who continuously walked by like waves coming on shore. Busses, taxis, motorcycles, trucks and cars added to the madness as they weaved in and out of the people.

Upon arriving at the orphanage, we said our hellos to the staff while the kids were in school. It wasn’t long before word got out that we were there. Kids and locals started showing up quickly. We began to work on the things that needed to get done. Not long after, it was time to go to the Roboto feeding center. We packed up and headed over knowing what we were going to, but not understanding what we were about to experience.

As the trucks drove through Gonaives, it was clear we were moving into an area that was so poverty stricken that it made the place where we were working look like a good part of town. Houses were no longer built out of concrete and mortar. These houses were built from scrap wood, tarp and tin. People stared at us as we slowly made our way through the broken roads.

When we arrived at the feeding center, the sound of children singing filled the air. You could hear the joy and anticipation in their voices. The building was simple, yet sufficient. We walked in to see around a hundred children piled on top of each other. Many were seated at a long table while others were stacked three and four deep around the table against the walls. They were excited, but patient as they waited until it was time to eat.

All of the children bowed their heads as the prayer over the food was prayed. A shout of “amen” came from the children and the food began to be distributed orderly. Plates with nothing more than beans on top of rice were handed to the kids. They quickly ate and made way for the next group of children to eat. Children with their brothers and sisters fed their siblings first even if they never got a bite. This could be the only meal most of these kids would eat that day.

We headed back to the orphanage with our hearts full. We finished building a cabinet for the kitchen, leveled a table in there too, built a stool, poured a slab of concrete in the stairwell and did various other maintenance. At the end of the day, it was time to say goodbye to these children who had captured our hearts. We gave them pillows, food, supplies and new underwear as we left. The ride back to the guest house was full of tears.

God was able to do exceeding and abundantly more than we thought we could on this trip. I’m not sure whose lives were changed more, theirs or ours. We saw God move and plant seeds on this trip. We got a taste of what God calls true religion. It’s hard to go back to religion as we knew it. This was pure and undefined religion we experienced. Anything less simply won’t do.

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