To Help or Not

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!
Hebrews 13:2 NLT

To help or not to help, that was the question.

He stood at a busy intersection, holding a sign we couldn’t read. Although the town where we live is modest in size, recently we’ve seen more homeless and indigent people standing on corners in and around our local restaurants and retailers.

As we pulled from one parking lot after our meal, my wife and I strained our necks but couldn’t read his sign. After visiting the pharmacy to pick up medicine, we passed the man again on our way home.

“I’m gonna circle around to see what the sign says,” my wife remarked.

I was glad. Of late, we’ve been paying it forward. Perhaps this was another opportunity. We neared the gentleman, but noticed he didn’t look like other people we’d seen requesting help.

The man’s sign read, “Trying desperately to help my family. Waiting for my disability check.” He didn’t appear disabled, but then again, many who are don’t. We pulled to the stop sign next to him. My wife said nothing.

“What do you think?” I finally asked.

“I don’t feel the tug,” she said. And we drove on.

God places opportunities in our path on a regular basis. More if we’ll ask Him too. But we can’t take advantage of every good opportunity, nor does God expect us to. I’m not a wealthy man. Even Jesus, with all of heaven’s riches at His disposal, didn’t heal every sickness or meet the needs of every person who wanted His help. There were times when He left the crowds to pray to His heavenly Father or to move to another region.

Knowing which helping opportunity God wants us to take advantage of takes prayer. This helps us look and listen with spiritual eyes and ears. We must ask God to send the opportunities, but we must also ask Him to let us see them. Busyness and selfishness cause us to miss them.

The tug my wife mentioned is what we refer to as God’s Spirit. We both feel it when it’s an opportunity God wants us to take. It’s an overwhelming pressure to intervene—a feeling of guilt when we let the opportunity slip by.

Ask God to show you the situations where He wants you to intervene. You can’t do it all, but you can do something.

Prayer: Father, guide us to those people and situations where You want us to help.

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Building a Lasting House

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. Proverbs 24:3-4 NIV

Houses are constructed; homes are made.

As a preacher’s kid, my daughter, Chrissy, has lived in several different homes. The trend continued during her college years. While living on campus, she stayed in several different dorms. Then when she and a couple of her friends moved off of campus, she lived in houses and apartments. After graduation, the practice continued.

Each of her dwelling places was different. Some were large, some small, some cluttered, some neat, some filled with furniture and treasures, and some sparsely furnished. Growing up as a preacher’s kid—and being a preacher myself—I’ve experienced the same.

According to wise King Solomon, it takes wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and education to actually build a house, apartment, or any type of building. But these aren’t elements I can actually measure, cut, and assemble. I believe the writer had a deeper meaning in mind.

Personally, I’ve never built anything except chicken coops and hog sheds, but even those small projects required planning, buying materials, measuring, cutting, and putting pieces together if I wanted them to do the job I built them for.

Through His parable of the wise and foolish builders, Jesus points to the importance of a good foundation—something I think the writer of these verses would agree with. The foundation Jesus referenced was more than a literal foundation made of wood or concrete. It was a relationship with Him—as well as the elements Solomon mentions.

While houses are built, homes are made by the lives of the people who live there. When the inhabitants build their lives on a relationship with Jesus Christ and live their lives with character, integrity, and principles, that home becomes a place that shines a light far beyond the walls holding it together.

When Chrissy relates the conversations she has with her oldest son, Levi, while they are reading Bible stories—when he tells her it’s a whale, not a big fish—I know she’s building her home with the right elements. When Levi understands why Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace or why Daniel was placed in the lion’s den, I help build her home too.

Make a commitment to build your home with the right elements. When you do, it will withstand any storm that may come against it.

Love Fulfills

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14 NLT

In a split second, their lives were changed.

Bobby and Jackie were a young couple with a small child. He had been called into youth ministry and was serving in a little church not far from Jackie’s home. Things were going well—until the accident.

Out of nowhere, a truck slammed into their vehicle. Jackie and their infant daughter, Angie, weren’t seriously injured, but Bobby’s life was changed forever. The wreck placed him in a vegetative state for the remainder of his life.

I was told the story when I became Jackie’s pastor. Angie was a young child without a father, Jackie was a young wife and mother who for all practical purposes had no husband, and Bobby lay in a nursing home fifty miles away.

I visited Bobby once a month, and every time one of his family members was present. They all took turns caring for him. Bobby was fed with a tube, but he still needed constant attention. Coughing spells racked his body. Fluids drained from his mouth and nose.

As I watched Bobby’s family tend to his special needs, I realized what the apostle Paul meant. For the committed Jew, the law consisted of the Ten Commandments, the ceremonial laws, and the laws added by the religious authorities. For Paul, it was simply God’s moral laws, and all of them could be obeyed by merely loving one’s neighbor.

I’ve seen enough love for the wrong reasons. The consequences are never pretty. But loving for the right reason paints a beautiful portrait. I can experience and demonstrate love because Christ has loved me. While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me and now gives me the opportunity to love for Him.

Loving others sets an example. As I watched Bobby’s family perform the unpleasant parts of caring for an invalid, I was reminded of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. The example was inspiring. My loving others gives an example to those who desperately need to see love in action.

When I love my neighbor as myself, I also point them to Christ. My words may not crack the hard shell of someone who doubts or disbelieves in Christ, but it’s hard to argue with acts of love. They say what my words can’t adequately speak.

Just ask, and God will give you myriad opportunities to put love for others into action.

Fear Not

The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid?
The
 Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?
Psalm 27:1 NLT

I dropped the pans on the floor, and a loud scream rewarded me.

When my son was an infant, I worried that ear infections had affected his hearing. Rather than take him to the pediatrician, I decided to perform a home test. As my wife sat at the kitchen table with him cuddled in her arms, I dropped a heavy pan. His screams reassured us his hearing was okay.

Humans are born with two innate fears: falling and loud noises. I saw the second in my son; I witnessed the first in my grandson. After he started walking, I noticed he hesitated when approaching a ledge or when he got too close to the edge of a chair or the couch. I didn’t have to say, “Watch out, you’ll fall.” He naturally knew something was different.

I’m sure David was frightened by many things, but he had the sense to know he shouldn’t be. God saved him from lions, bears, enemies, and a jealous king. He gave light to his path and provided a protective wall.

I may have been born with only two fears, but I’ve accumulated many more: fear of those who can harm me physically, fear of financial failure, fear of relationship demise, fear of not being loved, fear of emotional abuse, fear of unemployment, fear of depleted retirement savings. Yet I’m reminded of what Paul told Timothy: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV).

Fears seem to come naturally in my human experience, but if I’m only created with two, they shouldn’t. As with David, experience should teach me I can depend on God for salvation and protection. He has saved me from the greatest fear I could ever have: spending an eternity apart from Him to pay for my sins. Even if my life is taken by others, my soul is secure.

I can also depend on God to guard my daily steps. I may incur sicknesses—even life-threatening diseases—but He provides ultimate protection. Since the imperishable part of me is safe in His arms, I can live without fearing the other things that assault me during my life’s journey.

Don’t live with a spirit of fear, when God says, “Fear not.”

Prayer: Father, we thank You for allowing us to live a life free of fear.

Sin Sick

No, it’s because of your wickedness! There’s no limit to your sins.
Job 22:5 NLT

“Have you anointed her and prayed for her healing?”

My wife suffers from various physical ailments—too many, in fact, for her young age. She has undergone numerous surgeries to remove tumors that could have turned deadly. Then came surgeries to repair hernias, remove a gallbladder, take off planter’s warts, and repair carpal tunnel. She still needs to have herniated disks in her back and neck repaired. To top off these issues, she suffers from fibromyalgia, degenerative arthritis, and neuropathy. Every trip to the doctor seems to entail another medicine or a further diagnosis.

Had Michelle lived in Job’s time, there would have been any number of good church folks who would be telling her she sinned. Though a righteous man—declared so by God and himself, Job was accused by several fair-weather friends of having sinned against God. Why else would he be afflicted by boils and have lost most of his family and possessions? Even his wife told him to curse God so he could die and get his miserable life over with.

Job maintained his innocence, and at the end of the story God corroborated his testimony. Sickness is the bane of living in a world tainted by sin. The world God originally created was free from sickness—and all of the other results of sin, and the new world He will create at the end of time will be identical.

While sickness came when sin entered the world, all sickness is not the result of individual sins. If this were true, my wife would be one of the greatest sinners in the world—when in fact she is quite saintly. God can and does use sickness as a means of disciplining or punishing those who revel in willful sin, but having a cold doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve committed a particular sin.

When my pastor friend asked if I had anointed and prayed for my wife, my answer was yes. But she hasn’t been healed. Just as sickness is not always the result of sin, so God doesn’t always choose to heal our sicknesses when we ask. He is sovereign. I must trust His plan.

If you’re sick, examine your spiritual life. If it’s in order, pray for healing, but leave the results to an all-wise God.

Prayer: Father, we entrust our health-related matters to you. If sin is the cause, convict us. If it’s not, then give us courage to trust You and endure.