START SMALL

So, I was listening to Jeff Durbin on his Apologia Radio podcast and they were discussing the upcoming presidential election and how both candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are God’s judgment on our country.  I do agree with them.  Either one of them would be disastrous for our country.  But, Jeff went on to say that many of the voters are looking to government to fix the problems with our country, when in actuality, the solution to our problems need to start at the local level, not us looking to the federal government to be our “saviors”.

When you think about it, that’s true.  If we, as a country, want to see things get better, we must not look to our government leaders as the ones who need to fix our problems.  If we want to see a positive change, if we want to see our country return to godly principles such as “love thy neighbor”, then that work needs to start right where we are.  If we want to improve the lives of those in our communities, then our focus needs to be local, not federal.

We Christians are the worst for complaining about how things are in our world, but yet, we’re the ones sitting back with our arms folded demanding the government to fix this mess.  We’re in this mess, in my opinion, because the church has failed to step up and be the light on the hill to our communities.  Churches have their attention focused on overseas missions while our local communities are falling apart.  I’m not saying foreign missions are bad, but sadly, our own country is becoming a large mission field in itself.  While we are sending missionaries to other countries, other countries are sending missionaries to us.  Our communities are filled with people who are hungry, not only physically, but spiritually.  But many churches don’t bother to reach out and fill the physical or spiritual needs of their communities.

What are churches to do?  I guess that depends on the needs present in the community the church is in.  Those needs vary from one neighborhood to the other.  Churches must take a serious look at what is going on in it’s present location and identify the needs that they must address and devise a plan to meet those needs.  It may be necessary for churches to work together in unison to accomplish their goals.  But, can you just imagine what would happen if churches started working in their communities by helping to meet the needs of their neighbors and seeing many come to Christ and then it all ripples out to other communities until we see that change we so desperately wanted to see.  And it wasn’t done by our corrupt government.  It was done by a few people in a tiny church (or a large church) and we see a tidal wave of changed hearts and lives.  And all it took was a few people taking the love of Christ to those in our community.  Not everyone will be receptive to our kindness and generosity, but it’s not for us to decide who we show that to.  We just do it.  And if we’re turned away, then so be it.  But, we just do it and let God do the work through us.  We obey and we get to witness the work of God in our community, city, county, state, and nation.

So……where and when do we start?

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SINNER’S FAVORITE VERSE

thepharisee

In this day and age, it seems that those who like their “sins” also like Matthew 7:1, which says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”  First, we must define what the word “judge” means.  To judge is to “form an opinion or conclusion about”.  When someone reminds them of what the Bible says concerning their sin, they are quick to pull that verse out and go on their merry way.  What they don’t realize is that this verse is taken waaaaaaay out of context.  When Jesus speaks these words, he’s not just referring to pointing out a person’s sins, but he’s also referring to someone judging another’s character at the expense of exalting their own self.  The Pharisee’s were notorious for doing this.  One Pharisee in particular is noted for saying as he was praying in the temple, “I thank you, Father, that I am not like this publican”, referring to the tax collector next to him who went in to pray and humbly cast himself down, beat his chest and said, “Please, God, have mercy on me, a sinner!!”  Well, he was right.  He was NOT like that tax collector.  That tax collector was humble and repentant.  The Pharisee was arrogant and prideful…..and to think he was thanking God for that!!  But, here is where the problem lies.  The people who just LOVE to throw out that verse to justify their behavior, stop at that verse and don’t go any further.

In the verses following (vss. 3-4), it talks about how we cannot go about taking a speck from someone’s eye when we have a log in our own eye.  People like to use that verse, too, but they stop right there and don’t go any further.    In verse 5, Jesus says that we are to first take the log out of our eye THEN we can see to take the speck out of our brother’s eye.  In other words, we must first work on our own selves and get our issues straightened out, THEN we can take our experience and help our fellow believers with theirs.  So, in reality, Jesus IS telling us to judge but we can’t do it in a hypocritical manner.  We have to get ourselves right with God first before we can go to someone else and help them with their issue.

John 7:24, Jesus tells us “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with a righteous judgment”.  So, here we see that Jesus IS telling us to judge.  But we can’t do so with hypocrisy, arrogance, and pride.  We all use judgment everyday.  We may see a guy in filthy clothes walking down the road and we may think, “He’s homeless”, when in reality he works at a local foundry and he walks to and from work instead of driving.  Or we see some lady  in the grocery store dressed in nice clothes, wearing expensive looking jewelry, and driving a Jaguar, and she’s using food stamps to buy food.  Our first thought would be, “How dare she buy her food with food stamps when she clearly looks like she has the money to afford it.”  What we may not know is that she has an elderly neighbor who is home bound and is on food stamps and she is helping her neighbor by buying her groceries for her.  Every single one of us has looked at the actions and appearances of someone and made a judgment call based on those two things.  Sometimes our judgments are wrong but sometimes they’re right and even have saved our lives because it kept us out of dangerous situations.

The reality of this is, Jesus NEVER said do not judge AT ALL.  But what he did say was that we are to judge and we are to do so in a right manner.  If God had intended for no one’s sins to be pointed out, then He wouldn’t have intended for there to be preachers/teachers/evangelists.  Preachers (if they’re doing what they’re supposed to) stand in the pulpit each week and speak on sin.  When people use that verse, they’re doing so to justify their behavior because they have no intention of changing it.

 

AND ALL THESE THINGS….

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“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”….Matthew 6:33.

What are “these things” that Jesus is referring to?  Is it a fat bank account?  Is it a shiny, new car?  Or maybe it’s that sprawling, 3000 sq. ft. house that you’ve been eyeing in that exclusive neighborhood.

No.  It’s NONE of these.  If you go back to the verses previous to that, you will see that Jesus is speaking about our needs of clothing and food.  In verse 31, he tells us “do not be anxious” about what we will eat, drink, or wear because God already knows we have those needs.  He points to the birds of the air and to the lilies of the field and reassures us that because He meets their needs, He will surely meet ours, too.

God’s promise to us is that our needs will be supplied for.  He says nothing about our wants.  He has no problem providing us with a place to live, but He never said anything about giving us more than what is required for our needs or that it would be above our means to pay for it.  You might not need a 3000 sq. ft. house.  You may only need 1500.  He will give us what we NEED, not what we want.

If we put God first, seek Him daily, and live for Him, He will make sure that our needs are met.

IN GOD’S HANDS

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We all have found out at some time or another that life doesn’t go as we planned, which proves that WE are not in control.  Sure, we make plans to do something that we see come to fruition, but in the big, grand scheme of things, our lives are in the palm of God’s hand.  When we see our lives crumbling around us, it’s only natural to be afraid; to experience anxiety because we can’t see one second into the future.

I know this from personal experience.  I’m not where I thought I would be 9 years ago.  I’m not saying where I’m at in life is bad.  No!  Not at all!  But, it took some sadness, anxiety, fear, and a few “why me’s” to get here.  I have a job that pays more than I thought I would ever make (No, I’m NOT rich.  But I am making more than minimum wage), I live in a nice house (although it won’t ever make it on the cover of House Beautiful magazine), and I’m married to a loving, godly husband (who is not perfect, but NEITHER  am I).

As Christians, it’s a part of life for us to go through struggles.  We wake up one day and find that our world has been rocked.  It may be a problem that has been brewing over a course of several months or years (failed marriage), or it could be something that happens in the blink of an eye (tragic accident or sudden illness).  Whatever it may be, we must remember that God is in control.  He allows us to go through these trials to help us become more dependent upon Him.  It also helps us to see who our real friends are because we find out who is willing to stick it out with us.  It’s easy to sit and feel discouraged because the life we knew has changed.  But, in the midst of the darkness, we must cling to the promise that God will never leave us nor forsake us.  His timing is perfect.  His plans are perfect.  We may not understand why He allows us to go through the struggles we do, but we also have to remember that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are higher than our ways, which means, whatever plans we may have made for ourselves may be nowhere as good as what He has planned for us.

Be patient.  Trust God.  He’ll get you to where you need to be in His timing.  His plan and His timing is always perfect