Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Man of Mercy

But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion… (Luke 10:33)

In most of the world’s history, the taking of prisoners during warfare was a rare thing. Undoubtedly, there are some armies that still have a take-no-prisoner approach. Their philosophy is that war is war and there is no room for mercy. Mercy is the operative word here. For if someone is shown mercy, they must be cared for.
Someone once said that the Christian army leaves their wounded on the battlefield all too often. Left at the mercy of the enemy who shows no mercy. Sometimes people can seem pretty insensitive to others in their pain. Have you ever felt wounded and no one stops to see if you need aid and comfort? Sometimes I have been devastated by feeling very alone and battle weary while others around me seem so indifferent. When they are your fellow soldiers in Christ, it can be almost intolerable.
In the midst of the worst pain, there is a God who loves to show mercy and loves to see mercy. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus wanted to make a point about the one who is our neighbor. He’s the man of mercy who shows mercy.

I. A MAN OF MERCY CAN BE ANY MAN. But a Samaritan...The contrast of religious people who were supposed to show mercy and the Samaritan who deserved no mercy is hard to miss. Jesus said a priest and a Levite walked on past a man who needed mercy… while the despised Samaritan stopped to help. Sometimes being despised and rejected fills you with resentment… and sometimes it fills you with mercy.
II. A MAN OF MERCY WILL INTERRUPT HIS JOURNEY AND ALTER HIS AGENDA. ...who was on a journey...Who among us has been passed by someone while we were too busy with our own business? Who among us has been too busy to hear the Spirit’s promptings? People in need of mercy are God’s business. We need to know that when we stop our busyness and tend to God’s business, God’s agenda is advanced.
III. A MAN OF MERCY DEALS WITH THOSE GOD PLACES IN HIS PATH. ...came upon him...There is an intentionality in God’s design. He brings us to the needy so we cannot claim we didn’t know. He makes it plain to see. And then He watches to see if we see.
IV. A MAN OF MERCY SEES THE PERSON IN NEED. ...and when he saw him...Sometimes we can see the need without seeing the person. We can practice our religion without ever showing mercy.
V. A MAN OF MERCY FEELS WHAT GOD FEELS. ...he felt compassion…God’s heart is a compassionate heart that empathizes with us in our circumstance. When Jesus told this parable, it made the religious people uncomfortable with their lack of mercy and with the one who showed mercy. Have you been hurt while in need of mercy or hurt attempting to show mercy? If you’ve received mercy, you must show mercy and tell others about the God of mercy. The man of mercy goes and does likewise.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Product of Humility

And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)

An old technique popular with some horse trainers is called “hobbling”. To hobble a horse is to tie the front and back legs together with enough rope to allow him to walk, but restricts him from running and kicking. A horse that is apt to run wild is just not very useful. When his movement is restricted, the horse recognizes that someone else is in control. He is introduced to superior authority. A horse that is frequently hobbled begins to get the idea that he must respond to the desires of his master and not his own. In this way, the hobbled horse becomes humbled. And a humble horse is a useful horse.
Some of my most painful experiences in life have been humbling ones. These are times when I have felt humiliated. But I have found that God is not as concerned with my feelings as much as my character. So at times when I needed to learn how to become more like Him, I was humbled, so I would be more responsive to God’s leadership. God will humble us when He wants to use us. He cannot use prideful human beings. We are too prone to go our own way when left to our own direction.
When we learn that God is the Master and He is in the lead, we can humble ourselves before Him. We glorify God when we come to Him in humility and ask direction. When we seek His face and His will, He is glorified. It is then that He is indeed Lord of our lives. Our passage today tells us that God loves us enough to humble us. Humility is a prerequisite to learning.

I. THE LORD LEADS US TO HUMBLE US. It is God’s intention to lead us to a place where we recognize that we are not in control. God may lead us into places of helplessness so we are ready to follow Him. God will place us in the lifeless desert to create a thirst for His living water.

II. HUMILITY IS A PRELUDE TO A TEST. When we find ourselves humbled by God, we should expect to be tested. Since God is the Teacher, we should know that any learning must be subjected to evaluation. Life’s tests are the laboratory that proves God’s principles for living are true and relevant.

III. HUMILITY TEACHES US THAT OUR LIVES ARE DEPENDENT UPON CONTACT WITH THE SUPERNATURAL. Our faith in God grows when we see Him break into our world. When we learn that we are truly helpless without Him, we can come to him as a dependent child, waiting on His command, leaning on His shoulder, and learning of His love. Are you in need of being humbled today? To humble yourself before God is honorable.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Saved For Himself

But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him. (Psalms 4:3)

I once knew a musical instrument maker that made instruments to sell. You could walk into his shop and they were lined up, hanging on the wall. Each instrument was unique to itself and not a mass-produced copy. Each had its own tone. He would be hard pressed to tell you which one was the best. It would depend upon what you were looking for. But if you asked him which instruments he thinks are the best for him, he would take you to the back room. This was the place where the public had no access. Here he wwould show you a few instruments that were so exceptional that he saved them for himself. They were not for sale. They were for his private collection. They were examples of superior craftsmanship.
In the grind of daily living in a fallen world, it is easy to believe that our lives have no value outside of ourselves and a few people who are close to us. We can be lured into thinking that our one life is far too insignificant to matter in the grand scheme of things. We may have already been told as much. Living with the feeling that we have no worth can be very painful. But the truth has not been told or heard until we hear from God.
What the world throws away, God picks up. What the world breaks, God mends. The psalmist gives us an idea of a proper sense of self-worth. It’s a good word for us to remember today.

I. GOD SAVES PEOPLE FOR HIMSELF. God does not accumulate possessions as treasures. He is not concerned with things. He is concerned with souls. That which is eternal matters to God. People are His treasures. We are treasured because we have value to the collector. He collects us so that we will serve His purpose.
II. GOD SAVES THE UNGODLY TO MAKE THEM GODLY. God saves the worst because only He can make them the best. There are none beyond the restoring power of God’s Spirit. The most ruthless enemy of God, the most ungodly among us can be saved. God’s purpose is saving men to make them more like Him.
III. GOD SETS APART THE GODLY MAN FOR HIMSELF. Only godly people will be in God’s presence. When we are saved, we are transformed. We are picked up, fixed up, and cleaned up so that we can come into His presence. We can choose to be ungodly and practice ungodliness. But after we are set apart for God, it is never the same. When we are ungodly, we do not enjoy the fellowship of God.
IV. THE LORD HEARS WHEN THE GODLY MAN CALLS. God is delighted when His people cry out to Him. Like a maker of fine instruments, He loves to hear the music that the instrument plays. The beautiful music is a reflection of the maker. Our cry to God is a testimony to all creation that He is worthy to be praised. It’s all about Him.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Smelling Up The Place

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; (2 Corinthians 2:14-15)

Pigpen was probably my favorite character in the comic strip “Peanuts”. I guess he became my favorite when we began to see Charlie Brown on television. When I saw Pigpen walking while the cloud of dust that surrounded him shimmered, it seemed to communicate that there was an “air” about him. And the air was never pleasant to those who he encountered. Everyone seemed to wish he’d clean up his act!
The air that surrounds the believer should always be fresh. All too often our attitudes and demeanor have offended people more than the truth of the gospel message. Good news should always be shared with humility and honesty. When our message is condescending, it dishonors the Lord. When we look down our nose at the ones who are caught in the trials of life, it kind of smells up the place. We should clean up our act.
Paul wrote that there was a certain aroma that accompanied a true believer. It should be a sweet smell. One that is pleasant.

I. THE AROMA OF LIFE SHOULD SURROUND THE BELIEVER IN CHRIST. Springtime looks ahead beyond the end of winter. The stale air we have breathed while enclosed within the walls of our homes is replaced. Anytime we meet someone, we should be like a breath of fresh air.

II. THE FRAGRANCE OF CHRIST IS AN ATTRACTIVE FRAGRANCE. For those who love life, Christ is attractive. We should be joyful in our journey.

III. OUR LIVES SHOULD “SMELL UP THE PLACE” EVERYWHERE WE GO. Our presence should be a testimony of the presence of Christ. He who lives in us cannot be hidden.

IV. LIFE SMELLS LIKE A FRESH SPRING MORNING. LIFE SMELLS LIKE EASTER TIME. When the Old Testament sacrifices were offered, they were referred to as a sweet savor. God was pleased with the death of the sacrifice. It pointed to an ultimate sacrifice. One that would bring life. So on one particular spring morning, somewhere outside Jerusalem, what should have begun to smell like death only brought forth the aroma of life. The cross and the empty tomb smell like life to us today. The only reason that we are sometimes found offensive to others should be because of the conviction of the Holy Spirit who lives within. The truth is offensive. Our manner of conveying it should never be.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sincere Servanthood

If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:26)

I remember seeing a cartoon once where someone was following the footprints of another. The one following was concentrating on the footprints so intently that he bumped into the one who made them when he suddenly stopped. As the leader began to walk again, he was reminded of the one following every time he stopped. The one following would always bump into him, causing us all to laugh. The episode communicated to me that you couldn’t follow much more closely than that.
Sometimes we are following the Lord so intently, looking down on His footprints, that we aren’t watching the Lord Himself. We don’t stop when He stops. Even when we are following, we can be following too closely. Like a car that cannot stop in time, we bump into areas the Lord does not want us to go to. Sometimes the lessons are painful. God is glorified when we learn to follow Him rightly. Jesus gave the disciples these words in the context of impending danger. He wanted His servants close to Him in those kind of times. And He still does.

I. A SINCERE SERVANT WILL BE CLOSE TO THE MASTER. When we take servanthood seriously, we should strive to be where we can be used. The servant should be in the presence of the master. The master should not have to search for the servant. The servant should be readily available and immediately responsive. Being close to the Master will give us a sense of His desires. A sincere servant will take the initiative in doing what he knows to be the will of the Master. The sincere servant does not always have to be told what to do. He knows to do what the Master wants done.
II. TO BE CLOSE TO THE MASTER, A SERVANT MUST FOLLOW. A servant learns to follow closely. Following at a distance reminds us of Peter’s denial and removal of himself from the experience of the crucifixion. By not being close to Christ at the cross, Peter lost intimacy with the Savior. Christ calls us to die to self. He calls us to the cross. There is no way to be a sincere servant of Christ without the experience of the cross. When we follow Christ closely, and seek to know His will, know that it begins at the cross.
III. THE GOAL OF SERVANTHOOD IS HONOR. Honorable service to God honors God. And it has its own reward. God will honor the servant as well. To be honored is to be recognized for the effort. To be honored is to be appreciated. God loves the sincere servant. The sincere servant appreciates the opportunity to serve. The sincere servant aspires to be an honorable servant. The honorable servant honors the master.
Are you a sincere servant to the Master today?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Something Worth Sharing

For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established. (Romans 1:11)

Some people come to visit and you’re happy to see them come...and happier to see them go. Let’s just be honest. They leave you with more problems than you had before and probably at least one other mess to clean up. You wish that they had shared something worth sharing. Have you ever been around people who are always in a crisis? Their lives are in such a wreck that it’s often hard to know how to help them. These folks can drain the life out of you when they come around. But I must admit that I have spent a lot of my life being one of those kinds of people. I often wondered why the people I visited never seemed to call me back. I often wondered why they didn’t come around. One day I painfully realized that my tumultuous life was draining the vitality from theirs. I never had anything to share with them unless it was focused on me. It’s amazing how glad others are to see you when they think you care about them at least as much as you care for yourself!
Turning our focus away from ourselves is an intentional process. But with God’s help, we can begin to see what He sees and care about what He cares about. Paul’s letter to the Romans opened with his desire to share something worth sharing.

I. PAUL WANTED TO SHARE THE BEST PART OF HIMSELF...AND IT WAS NOT HIMSELF. The best part Paul desired to impart is that which was of God. We have nothing to share of eternal value except spiritual blessings. A spiritual blessing comes only from God.
II. PAUL WANTED TO SHARE THE BASIC PART OF HIMSELF...AND IT WAS NOT HIMSELF. The basic part of Paul’s being was no longer centered on self. God was the foundation, or the first part. We begin with the foundation or basic part. Paul’s life had a new beginning with God.
1. We can share our stories. Testimonies encourage us because they encourage others. We can know that we are not alone in the world.
2. We can share our burdens in prayer. To know you are the subject of someone’s prayer is a precious thing. It tells us we have great value.
3. We can share the gospel. The gospel is not only about salvation. It is about sharing the news of knowing a mighty good God in some awful bad times.
When we share blessings that only God can give, people will be sad to see you go!