Monday, November 8, 2010
It is amazing how many official days there are. Every day seems to be the official day of something. Nov 8th is World Orphans Day, it is also Aid and Abet Punsters Day and Cook Something Bold and Pungent Day, but World Orphans Day is much more important.
The purpose of World Orphan’s Day is to facilitate public awareness of social issues surrounding orphans and displaced children’s social issues, and to engage community support for the causes.
Here are some facts about orphans.
1. It would take 80,000 orphanages with 500 children each to house all the orphans in Sub Sahara Africa left behind by the pandemic of AIDS.
2. Over 60 million orphans go to bed hungry every night.
3. 143 million children are suffering from malnutrition, and 400 thousand of those will die this year.
4. HIV and AIDS is devastating global communities, and millions are facing the horror of war and abuse EVERY day.
5. Nearly 144 million children across the world are orphans.
6. Every 2 seconds, another child becomes an orphan.
7. 6,000 children are orphaned by AIDS every day. That is a newly orphaned child every 14 seconds.
8. Malnutrition plays a part in more than half of all child deaths worldwide. Every year, malnutrition is associated with the deaths of five million children under the age of five.
In our comfy little corner of America it is hard for us to realize what these facts really tell us. Why should I as a Christian worry about these problems that have been brought on by the sinful behavior of others? Are orphans any of my concern?
God’s word tells us in James 1:27 “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us”.
How can we help? Pray! Pray specifically for those organizations whose mission it is to help the orphans. Trust God to impress upon your heart what you might do or give.
Take, for instance, George Müller, who was born in Prussia in 1805. He didn’t care about anything other than pursuing his own pleasures. His future looked bleak, but God was working in George’s life. In 1825, he became a Christian and changed from a drunken con man to a humble man who depended on God for everything.
In 1832 he became the pastor of a Brethren congregation in Bristol, England. Bristol would be the center of his ministry for the next sixty-six years. As his work among the poor in Bristol grew, Mueller saw the need for an orphanage. He read the scripture in Psalms 68:5 that says “God is a father of the fatherless”. He believed that if God was truly the father to orphans, all he had to do was to make himself available to care for the orphans and God would supply every need. So that’s what he did.
As God increased his faith Mr. Mueller built homes and cared for more and more children. The orphanage he operated had five mammoth buildings, and over the years took care of the needs of over 10,000 orphans. At his death, he was caring for over 2,000 children everyday!
Mr. Mueller never told anyone of his needs for his orphanage, his church, or his own personal needs. During his ministry he took in the equivalent of 250 million dollars for the support of the orphanages without ever asking for a dime.
Do you think that God cares about the orphans? What has he asked us as Christians to do about it? The Bible tells us in Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Rebuke the oppressor. Help the orphans. Stand up for the rights of widows.”
I think that the Bible makes it clear that we as Christians have a duty to help. We need to take the focus off of ourselves and become more concerned for all of those who need our help like the 143 million children who are suffering from malnutrition. A child under the age of 5 dies every 3 seconds from neglect, starvation, or exposure. That is 30 thousand every day, 11 million every year.
With the economic downturn here in America a lot of Christians, myself included, expend a lot of emotional energy worrying about conditions and how they will affect us. We need to take our focus off of ourselves and focus on the task that God has given those of us who have more than enough to sustain us.
1 John 3:17 tells us “If anyone has enough money to live well, and sees someone in need and refuses to help—how can God's love be in that person?
Is God’s love in you? We certainly don’t want to hear the words that Jesus spoke in Matthew 25:45,46 “I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers, you were refusing to help me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
My friend Richie Owens has written a song that addresses this issue
Somewhere In Time
By Richie Owens
A newborn baby cries
As tears filled his mother’s eyes
Her joy is eclipsed by her fear
As men on drugs with guns and knives
Run up and down the streets outside
And there’s no future for this baby here
Somewhere a child is safely playing
Somewhere there’s plenty all the time
Somewhere life is pure and perfect
She cries, "why can’t that somewhere be mine"
Are we not called to lend a hand
Glad to do all we can
To save the drowning in the sea of life
We cannot win this world by might
By corporate power or legal fight
But by His spirit reaching out
And turning on the light
Somewhere a little girl is hurting
Somewhere a man's crossed the line
Somewhere hopes and dreams are shattered
And we need to find somewhere in time
We claim to love Jesus
Live our lives at his feet
While he scours the dump
In search of something to eat
Somewhere there’s no help or guidance
Somewhere no one sees the signs
Somewhere life's just too busy
And we need to find somewhere in time.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Music has always been very important in my spiritual life. An uplifting song can be very meaningful. The message in a song can leave a lasting impression. One song that has left an impression on me is titled “Your Kindness”. I first heard the song in 1985 when it was written and recorded by Leslie Phillips. It is one of those songs that stays with me. The lyrics still speak to me.
“Waiting for angry words to sear my soul.
Knowing I don't deserve another chance.
Suddenly the kindest words I've ever heard
come flooding from God's heart.
It's your kindness that leads us
to repentance, Oh Lord.
Knowing that You love us
no matter what we do,
makes us want to love You too.”
The idea for the song comes from a Bible verse that we can find in Romans 2:4, “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
What leads us to repentance? Is it anger? Is it fear? Is it God’s law? Is it your Pastor? No, the Bible says it is the kindness of God. Paul puts in another way in 2 Corinthians 7:10. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.” I like the way God inspired Paul to put that. Not just sorrow, but godly sorrow.
I remember as a child being told to tell my sister that I was sorry. Did that make me sorry? Did it bring about repentance? No, it was more likely to make me plan my revenge. Being sorry seldom brings about change. We are usually just sorry we got caught. True godly sorrow brings about repentance, and true repentance brings about change.
What is it that brings us to Godly Sorrow? What causes us to be truly sorry for our sins, to bring us to repentance? It is when we realize how much God loves us and when we see the kindness that he has shown to us and to everyone.
Romans 11:22 shows us a little different viewpoint on God’s kindness. “Consider, then, the kindness and severity of God: his severity toward those who fell, but God’s kindness toward you—if you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you too will be cut off.” Paul here is talking about his Jewish countrymen who had not accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Because of their unbelief God had to cut them off, just as he will cut us off if we don’t accept Jesus as our Savior.
Knowing that God has a severe side along with his kindness brings us to an interesting question. Should the severity of God bring us to repentance? Should the fear of punishment be the catalyst that makes us repent? I think that our criminal justice system should make us realize that fear of punishment does not bring about repentance.
For many years I helped with the Pathfinder Club in my church. A couple of times a year we would take the kids camping. When you take kids camping, you can get into some very interesting discussions. On one trip I had a Pathfinder ask me a question. They wanted to know, why does God torture people in hellfire for all of eternity for bad things they do in just a few years of life? How do you answer such a question to some kids sitting around a campfire?
It's no wonder that so many people find it difficult to reconcile a God who is perfectly just with a punishment that is clearly unjust. Fortunately, the Bible is very clear on this teaching.
First, we must remember that God is love (1John 4:8). The Bible says as much as we love our children, God loves His even more. And you are His child!
Second, the Bible does indicate there is a hell. Jesus says there is (Matthew 10:28). But here is what Jesus says about hell in Matthew 13:40: “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world.” What can we learn from this verse?
First, hell won't exist until “the end of this world.” Wouldn't that mean nobody today is burning in hell? Second, it says the tares (in this case, it means the wicked) are burned. It is a real place where the wicked will be burned.
But the Bible doesn't say hell will last forever. It teaches that hell destroys the wicked, once and for all. It makes it clear that hell is a place where the wicked perish in fire. They will burn up as “stubble” and will “become ashes” (Malachi 4:1, 3). Psalm 68:2 says, “as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.”
Even the most popular verse of the Bible supports this position. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Notice that the wicked “perish.” They die. They cease to exist. Only the righteous have everlasting life.
The purpose of hell, according to the Bible, is to destroy sinners forever and create a universe without sin. That's going to be a great place to live, don't you think?
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Recently my son got married in a beautiful church wedding. It was a lovely ceremony and we had a wonderful time visiting with friends and family. It was especially nice to see two people so excited and happy to be getting married.
Weddings are wonderful joyous events. There is a lot of time and expense involved in preparing for a wedding, because it is such an important symbol of a loving relationship. Marriage is the most intimate of all relationships on earth. When God wanted to express the love He has for His people He could not have chosen a more powerful image than the church as His bride.
In Ephesians 5:25 the Bible tells us, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her”. When a bride and groom are in love, they can think of nothing else but each other. That is the kind of love God has for His church, His people.
The symbol of marriage between God and his people occurs in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 54:4 the Bible says, “For your Maker is your husband, The Lord of hosts is His name”. And in Isaiah 62:5 it says, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you”.
In the New Testament the symbol of the bridegroom is used in the parable of the ten virgins found in Matthew 25. I’m sure you are familiar with the story. The parable says that God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps.
The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep. In the middle of the night someone yelled out, He’s here! The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil. They answered, there might not be enough to go around; go buy your own. They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked.
Who does the bridegroom represent in this parable? Jesus is the bridegroom, and the parable refers to his second coming. The point Jesus wanted to make is that He will return at an unexpected time. The bridesmaids knew the wedding was near; they could read the signs, but five of them wasted their opportunity to be prepared. When the bridegroom came, they weren’t ready. One of the most fearful teachings in the Bible is there is coming a day when it will be too late for those who do not know Jesus to be rescued.
We want to be ready don’t we? We want to be in the group that says, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. We want to be the bride waiting for the bridegroom to come. We want to attend the great marriage feast. God’s people in the last days are referred to as the bride of Jesus.
Revelation 19:7,8 says, “For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints”. The King of the universe came into the world to find a bride at the price of his own life, and He will come a second time to marry his bride and take her into the infinitely beautiful chambers and gardens of his love and joy forever. No earthly honeymoon can be even remotely close to what Jesus has in store for his bride.
In 1 Corinthians 2:9 we learn, “Eye has not seen, or ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him”. During the time that Jesus lived here on the earth, a man would never consider getting married unless he had a house for his new bride to live in. Jesus has promised us that he will prepare a place for his bride. We can find His promise in John 14:2,3 where it says, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also”.
Jesus has promised to prepare a place for you. It will be more awesome than anything you can possibly imagine. The most beautiful places on Earth will be nothing compared to what Jesus is preparing for you. No earthly honeymoon can be even remotely close to what Jesus has in store for his bride.
No relationship on earth is more fundamental than the marriage relationship. The very core of our culture and civilization rests on this basic institution. When a bride and groom are passionately in love, they can think of nothing else but each other, it is an obsession! This is the kind of love God has for His bride, and what He desires us to have for Him.
Today Jesus is asking for your hand in marriage. What will your answer be?
Sunday, April 4, 2010
When I was growing up in Colorado, my pastor was Pastor George. I can still remember him teaching on the scripture 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. 1 John 1:9 became a favorite verse.
Over the years I have come to realize that there is a problem with this verse. The problem is not actually with the verse, but that many Christians don’t believe it. They say they believe, but their actions show they don’t feel forgiven. This idea isn’t new. Jesus addressed it in a parable found in Matthew 18.
While settling his account with his servants, a man was brought before the king. He owed the king 10,000 talents. When it was decreed that he and his wife and children were to be sold for the debt, he begged for patience and promised to pay the debt. The king forgave his debt and released him.
The servant then went out and found a fellow servant who owed him 100 denarii and demanded payment. The man begged for patience and promised to pay the debt, but the servant had him thrown in prison. When the king found out what the servant had done he told him, “shouldn’t you have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you”?
When this story is told, the point that is usually brought out is “You can’t be forgiven unless you forgive.” It is a very valid point. The idea is found in the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:12, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”.
As important as this idea is, I want to look at this story from a different angle than you may have before. The first thing we are made aware of is that the man in the parable has a large debt of 10,000 talents. Just how much is 10,000 talents? A Greek talent was 82 pounds or 1,312 ounces of silver. A denarii was a workers daily wage and was about 1/10 an ounce of silver in weight.
Let’s do the math. One talent equals 13,120 denarius. The man owed 10,000 talents. The man’s debt was 131,200,000 days wages. It would take 360,000 years to pay off. Are you getting the idea that this is a LARGE debt?
An entry wage worker in the United States makes approximately 16,000 dollars a year. 16,000 times 360,000 is approximately 6,000,000,000. The man owed 6 billion dollars. There was absolutely no way this debt could be paid. The people listening to Jesus tell this story knew that this was an impossible debt to repay. You would never know that to listen to the man.
In Matthew 18:26, he says, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’
What was the man thinking? Unless his name was Bill Gates, there was no way he could ever repay 6 billion dollars. There are only about 100 people in the world that have those kinds of assets. Fortunately the king was compassionate. But very soon after having his debt forgiven the servant goes and finds someone who owes him a few dollars and demands payment. How much was the servant owed? The Bible tells us that the debt was 100 denarii. A denarii was a day’s wages. If we use 60 dollars as a day’s wages, the debt was 6,000 dollars.
I want to introduce another concept. Forgiveness is two way street. Not only do we have to forgive others to receive forgiveness, to be forgiven we have to accept forgiveness. There have been cases in the United States where people have rejected pardons. According to the law a pardon can be rejected, and must be affirmatively accepted to be officially recognized by the courts.
George Wilson was pardoned by President Andrew Jackson. Strangely, Wilson refused to accept the pardon. The case went before the Supreme Court in which the court stated: "A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential, and delivery is not complete without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered; and if it is rejected, we have discovered no power in this court to force it upon him."
I don’t think that the man in the parable accepted the pardon. Even though he was forgiven a 6 billion dollar debt, as far as we know he never said thank you, he just walked away. The first thing he does instead of falling at the feet of the king in gratitude, was to go out and try to collect a debt owed him.
Why do you think he did that? Maybe he was simply greedy. His huge debt had been forgiven, but he wanted the money that was rightfully his. I think there is another possibility.
What if he hadn’t really accepted the king’s offer of pardon? Maybe he was intending to pay the money to the king on his debt. He had pleaded with the king to have patience and he would repay the 6 billion dollars. Maybe he didn’t like charity. Maybe he didn’t want to live with the sense of obligation that the forgiveness might give him.
He had a hard road ahead of him if he was going to pay off 6 billion dollars, 6,000 dollars at a time. Just 999,999 more payments like that and the debt would be gone.
As ridiculous as that seems, there are many Christians who have the same attitude as the man in the parable. They have a terrible debt of sin. It is even more than 6 billion dollars. Paul tells us in Romans 6:23, ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’.
Even though the amount of the debt is so clearly stated, some Christians feel that they can repay the debt by their works. Jesus has promised to forgive our sin debt. 1 John 1:9 tells us, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’.
It is my job to install windshields. One day a customer was watching while I was installing his windshield. The urethane that I was using seemed irresistible. He just had to touch it. He got urethane on his hand. He didn’t want me to know he had touched it. I noticed he was quietly rubbing on his hand with a shop towel. If you try to wipe urethane off, all it does is smear and make a bigger mess. When I noticed his problem, I offered him some solvent that helps clean the urethane up. He said that he didn’t need any. As I worked I noticed him continuing to try to clean up. By this time he has it on both hands and has gotten it on his coat. Urethane doesn’t come out of clothes. Finally I just got a shop towel and soaked it in solvent and gave it to him. By trying to clean it up himself he had made a monumental mess. Have you ever made a big mess of your life by trying to clean things up yourself? I know I have.
Jesus has offered to forgive us of our sin debt, no matter how ridiculously large the debt is, and he has promised to clean us up. Let’s take him at his word. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.