The Right Kind of Help
And I, if I am lifted up…will draw all peoples to Myself. —John 12:32
Very few of us have any understanding of the reason why Jesus Christ died. If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is an absurdity and there is absolutely no need for it. What the world needs is not “a little bit of love,” but major surgery.
When you find yourself face to face with a person who is spiritually lost, remind yourself of Jesus Christ on the cross. If that person can get to God in any other way, then the Cross of Christ is unnecessary. If you think you are helping lost people with your sympathy and understanding, you are a traitor to Jesus Christ. You must have a right-standing relationship with Him yourself, and pour your life out in helping others in His way— not in a human way that ignores God. The theme of the world’s religion today is to serve in a pleasant, non-confrontational manner.
But our only priority must be to present Jesus Christ crucified— to lift Him up all the time (see 1 Corinthians 2:2). Every belief that is not firmly rooted in the Cross of Christ will lead people astray. If the worker himself believes in Jesus Christ and is trusting in the reality of redemption, his words will be compelling to others. What is extremely important is for the worker’s simple relationship with Jesus Christ to be strong and growing. His usefulness to God depends on that, and that alone.
The calling of a New Testament worker is to expose sin and to reveal Jesus Christ as Savior. Consequently, he cannot always be charming and friendly, but must be willing to be stern to accomplish major surgery. We are sent by God to lift up Jesus Christ, not to give wonderfully beautiful speeches. We must be willing to examine others as deeply as God has examined us. We must also be sharply intent on sensing those Scripture passages that will drive the truth home, and then not be afraid to apply them.
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Don’t Just Celebrate…Imitate!
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.” Ephesians 5:1
I can still remember my dad standing there, coat on and hat in hand on Christmas afternoon asking me, “Joe, do you want to come with me?” His question made me uncomfortable because I knew I should say yes, but being deep into playing with my Christmas presents, going with him was not my idea of a great way to spend Christmas afternoon.
My idea of Christmas was a time to celebrate Christ’s birth by giving and getting gifts, eating some of Mom’s all-time best cooking, and lots of play time with my new toys!
My dad liked all that kind of stuff too. But every year he had something else in mind. He knew that Christmas was more than a celebration of Christ’s birth. For him, the spirit of Christmas had a deeper meaning. He knew that the highest form of honoring Jesus is more than celebration—it’s imitation.
In fact, seeing Christmas as merely celebration can have a selfish bent to it. It can end up being primarily about days off from work, parties, family, friends, games, football, gifts, and lots of great food. But imitation—not celebration—pays a higher compliment to the one whose life we celebrate.
For Jesus, Christmas was not warm, convenient, or comfortable. In our modern-day materialized blur of Christmas, we must keep reminding ourselves that the birth of Jesus put into motion the central act of God’s redemptive plan, and it came at a cost. Not only did Jesus temporarily relinquish the glorious privileges of heaven, He ultimately gave His life on a blood-stained cross where His sinless body bore the weight of my sin—and yours. Jesus presented our world with a costly redemptive gift. Which is precisely why my dad was on his way out the front door.
His mission? To visit an elderly widow who lived down the street. With no children and no family, she spent every holiday alone. And every Christmas my dad, in the midst of celebration, gave the gift of himself, sharing a few moments of companionship to help ease her lonely heart.
I learned a valuable lesson from my dad. Around all of our lives there are people who long for a touch from heaven through some caring, even sacrificial, act of love on their behalf. Who are the people you could call on Christmas day? Check your party lists. Is there someone who will go nowhere if not invited by you?
Indelibly etched on my memory are those two or three times when I stood up from my toys, grabbed my coat, put my hand in Dad’s, and walked down the street to spend an hour imitating Christ’s gift of Himself.
This year, let’s do more than celebrate Christ. Let’s honor Him by imitating the grace of His selfless and sacrificial love for us.
Closed Doors, Open windows
By: Pamela Mursch Steiner
Advent Thoughts: Today I Choose JOY!
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
to preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of JOY for mourning,
The garment of PRAISE for the
spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord,
that He may be glorified.”
As most of you who have followed this blog the past few months know, I have been working through the grieving process since the passing of our son this past May. Most of the time I seem to be doing just fine, continuing to go through the motions of life every day. There have been some difficult days, and there have been some wonderful days.
Particularly as we have approached the Christmas season, there have been waves of grief come over me from out of the blue…totally unexpected and catching me off guard. I expressed my feelings to friends and family, sharing my frustration with attempting to Christmas shop and send out our usual Christmas letter. I have felt locked up inside, unable to render enough energy to handle these basic functions of preparing for Christmas. Most people have responded with love, compassion and understanding…helping to relieve the pressure that was building inside and freeing me to not cave in to the expectations of the season by doing more than I was capable of doing.
Others attempted to remind me that I should think about the family that I still have here and not spoil Christmas by my lack of participation. This was done in a spirit of good will and encouragement, and I understand where they are coming from, but as I tried to explain…this is not something I am doing deliberately. It is something that is occurring from ‘out of the blue’, totally unannounced or expected. Not something I can control….it is grief…pure and simple…well, maybe not so simple…rather complicated when you think about it.
However, as I read these verses today, I recognize what Christ came to earth to do for us ..especially in the verses that say:
“To COMFORT all who mourn,
To CONSOLE those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
the oil of JOY for mourning,
The garment of PRAISE for the
spirit of heaviness…”
and remarkably, that has given me “COMFORT”, JOY, and a GARMENT OF PRAISE!” It has unlocked something inside so that I am able to CHOOSE JOY in place of the mourning. I am deliberately choosing to put on that “garment of praise” and rise above the “spirit of heaviness” that has been pulling me down. That is not to say that there won’t still be times when the grief will hit me, but claiming God’s Word gives me the strength to stand up against the sorrow and not allow it to drag me down.
This reminds me of another one of our Christmas Carols:
“God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” (click here to hear)
“God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ, our Savior,
Was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r,
When we were gone astray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy!”
And may the Lord be glorified as we preach these “good tidings” of comfort and joy everywhere!
Through The Bible
Jeremiah 33:2-3 (NIV) 2″This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it–the LORD is his name: 3’Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
Are you in turmoil about a situation in your life? Is it hard to understand the reasons and purposes God has for you at present? Does it seem that God has removed His hand from your circumstances? Ask the Creator who formed you. Go to the One who knows all things and has all things in His hands. Listen to His word as He speaks to you. It declares that He works all things together for good to those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28)
Call out to Him and He will answer. He doesn’t say He might. He doesn’t say when, but He will answer. Our problem is that we cannot see all the factors and events of the future. They are all present before God. They are unsearchable to us, but they are the work of His hand. Your loving Father invites you to ask Him. He will not reveal them to us unless we ask. He will reveal parts of His great plan, and we will see parts of the great puzzle of life fall into place.
His revelation will not always give us complete understanding, but it will give us peace knowing He is on the throne of heaven, ordering all things, and working out all things for our good. He is always at work. Watch for His hand. When things don’t make sense, call out to Him.
Consider: Need His phone number? Try Jeremiah 33:3.
1 John 4:16,18-19 (NIV) 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19We love because he first loved us.
Love is the first in the list of the fruits of the Spirit. It is not that what we so often call love is all that God is. God is not a sentiment or emotion. Love is one of the attributes of God, just one of the fruits of the Spirit, though it is first and foremost. It is like saying, “Bob is friendly.” It doesn’t mean that all friendliness is Bob. The difference is when we see genuinely unselfish love, perfect love, we know that it came from God.
In this perfect love that is a part of the very nature of God, there is no fear. You realize that the One who is over all things will see you through whatever comes into your life. Like a child in the arms of their strong father, we are safe and secure. If trouble should come through the door, Daddy will deal with it. If I have done something wrong, Daddy might discipline me, but never too harshly, for He loves me.
If we fear, we have not discovered the fullness of His love. We are still anxious about what He will bring our way. We wonder if He won’t get fed up with us and send us away. But when we see the extent of His love, we will never fear these things. That is where we find peace in the midst of a storm. The more we see that unconditional love, the more we love Him in return. Love begets love. You can’t help but love someone who loves you so unconditionally.
Consider: If you want to love Him more, think about the extent of His love for you.