“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of God.” ~ Galatians 1:10
We all want to please God. As Christians we would certainly like to be considered servants of God. The hands and feet of Christ. But are we living that way? Are we more concerned about what others think or what God thinks?
I know that I’ve spent the majority of my life worrying way too much about what other people think of me and my actions. When our faith is strong and our vision is focused on the Eternal, we can more easily dismiss move past that flaw and live our lives without hindrances.
Whom do we want to please? The Maker of the universe or man?
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.” ~ Luke 21:34 [NIV version]
In this verse the Lord is warning us to be careful how we live our lives. If we aren’t mindful about this, we may get worn down by the anxieties of life. It’s happened to all of us at some point.
What is it that you are doing, or not doing, that is leading to anxiety? Are you spending too much time surfing the internet, scrolling through social media sites, or conversing/arguing with strangers online?
Maybe it is time to replace that activity with more time spent with God’s word.
I saw a great meme on Facebook. Don’t say God is silent when your bible is closed. Open the bible today, every day, and hear what God has to say in your life.
Sharpen your faith. Be careful how you spend the hours of your day.
As Christians if we have a strong foundation built on Christ’s word, then we are much less likely to be deceived. In today’s culture it is very easy to be deceived and start thinking right is wrong and wrong is right.
To do this we have to start filling our mind each and every day with God’s Truth. What is His truth? It is found in the Holy Bible. The book of Romans, written by St. Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) is jam-packed with the principles of Christian faith. It is a great source for deciphering what is truth in today’s culture and what is blatantly against God’s Word.
“In Him lie hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” ~ Colossians 2:3
Doesn’t everyone want an abundance of wisdom and knowledge? Not really. Many people, by their actions, prove every day that they are not interested in those vital attributes. I’ve been certainly guilty of that. However, as Christians we should strive to learn more each day. We do that by spending time in God’s Word. We learn it and we start putting into action.
One Sunday I preached about Jesus’ encounter with the leper in Matthew 8. What an incredible story told in just a handful of verses. It seems as Jesus was coming down the mountain from delivering the greatest sermon in the history of mankind (the Sermon on the Mount), a leper came and knelt before him. The audacity of this leper! Imagine the moment. The crowd is pressing in behind Jesus and they’re taking up the whole road. When out of nowhere a leper appears and throws himself at the feet of Jesus.
Now lepers were outcasts…the most unclean of the unclean. It was illegal for them to even be on the road at the same time as a non-leprous person. Imagine the gasp that went through the crowd as this unclean leper steps into the middle of the road and brings the whole entourage to a screeching halt. All eyes are on Jesus and this leper. In one collective intake of breath, all wait to see what would happen.
Bible scene historical reenactment play with a leprosy man
Almost every time I read the Bible, I am blown away by Jesus. Jesus could heal people with a word. He could heal them from far off. He could heal them by telling them some outrageous thing to do and if they had enough faith to obey him, they would be healed. In this instance, Jesus does the most shocking, unthinkable thing. He touches the leper!
In my mind, it wasn’t a nice little “lay your hand on the cheek” sort of touch. The leper would have been clothed in rags from head to toe. He was on his knees. In what must have sent shockwaves through the crowd, Jesus probably got down on his knees and reached up and removed the lepers coverings…his veil and his head covering. He would have looked at this outcast of society directly in the eyes and reaching out and placed his non-diseased hands upon the flesh of the diseased man. Why would Jesus do this, when he could have healed him with a word?
In my opinion, Jesus was into shocking those around him. He had just got done preaching to the crowds. He had told them “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” Instead of being like so many who say the grandiose mottos and catchphrases of Christianity, Jesus knew that the best way to drive his point home was to do.
One of the many things that I admire about Jesus, and why I want to be so much like him, is that he was not just a talker…he was a doer. If he told people to “love others,” he went out and did it. If he told people to “do to others what you would have them do to you,” he went out and did it. He was so unlike the many church goers that fill up our churches on Sundays but live without love and compassion and faith the rest of the week. This must stop if we are going to change the world!
In January we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr Day in the United States. Why do so many admire this man? After all, he was a living, breathing man not unlike us. The thing that I think made MLK Jr a hero is that he didn’t just talk his faith, he walked it. He had the courage to do what he knew needed to be done. There were many who spoke out against segregation and inequality, but few that would put themselves out there to be stoned, spat upon, hit, jailed, mocked, ridiculed, and killed. The people that we look to as hero’s, were hero’s because they “did” what they knew needed to be done.
What about you and I? Jesus touched the leper in one of the most touching and loving stories in the whole Bible. Do we touch the lepers in our society? Do we practice what we preach? If we truly did, this would would be a much different place. If we followers of Jesus really imitated Jesus, there would be a lot more people attracted to him and to his church. When we leave our church buildings after our weekly “sermon on the mount,” we have to “do” it! We have to go against our societal and religious norms and reach out to “touch the leper.”
Today’s Faith Action Item
My friends, this week I challenge you to “touch a leper” in your life. Some outcast, some down on their luck person, some abused child, someone whom society and the church typically turns their back on and looks down upon will come into your path. “Touch the Leper!” I dare you…and watch what God does in your life and in the life of that leper!
– James Smith serves as a preacher at Cornerstone Christian Church in Cynthiana, Ky. He is an author of The House that Richard Built (ebook released in 2012 from All Star Press) as well as numerous magazine/study guide publications. He is also a regular presenter at training seminars and conferences on a number of issues. James serves as the Mayor of the great town of Cynthiana, Kentucky.
— originally published in Jan. 2012 at allstarpress.com, edited and re-published here.
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave… ~ 1 Kings 19:11-13
This really struck me when I first read it. Maybe we have it all wrong when we refer to events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires as “acts of God.”
In this story about the prophet Elijah, God wasn’t in the wind that came first. He wasn’t in the earthquake that followed. And He wasn’t in the fire after that.
What God was in was the “gentle whisper.”
With the recent tragedy in Nashville, Tennessee, it’s important to remember that God was not in the tornadoes. He is in the spirit of the resilient community that steps up to help their neighbors and the people they don’t know. He is in the compassion shown by people from miles away that have no connection to Nashville but want to step up and help.
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” ~ Psalm 77:11-12 [ESV]
Let’s be grateful. Let’s be grateful for all the times that the Lord has watched over us, protected us, guided us. For the times when He didn’t answer that prayer that we thought was the most important thing in the world.
Make a list of all the times that Jesus has blessed you in your life. Keep it by your nightstand as a regular reminder.
Do you have a friend who is down on their luck? Who is the first person that comes to mind when posed with that question? Reach out to that individual today. It could be a phone call, an email, a text, an in-person visit (if feasible), or even a letter.
How would you feel if you were in that person’s shoes and a friend loved you like this. Don’t delay. Show the love of Christ to that person today.
Stop everything your are doing and worship Jesus for 5-10 minutes. Find a quiet place where you can do this. Pick out a time of the day when you have free, and don’t say you don’t have any free moments… we all do. We all find time during the day to waste on meaningless activities. Replace one (or more) of those times with 5-10 minutes of worship.
Worship Jesus, thank Him for your blessings, and create a daily habit in the process.
On Sunday the world found out that beloved NBA superstar Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash. If that wasn’t tragic enough, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others, including a wife, husband and daughter, were also killed.
It shook so many of us. It didn’t matter if we were an NBA fan or if we had ever seen Kobe play. The tragedy was shocking for several reasons. Here were 9 vibrant people suddenly taken, each leaving behind many loved ones and family members. Kobe Bryant represented someone who was, for lack of a better term, “on top of the world.” But, his wealth and fame couldn’t prevent his life from ending at only 41.
NFL player and pro-life advocate Ben Watson summed it up perfectly in a Facebook post:
“There is nothing more common to the human experience than death. It touches everyone and everything on this planet. It is a part of life yet it is a fear evoking, painful mystery that we rarely get accustomed to. For many of us it looms in the distance, quarantined in the dark corners of the mind until suddenly our own mortality grabs us unexpectedly and stares us squarely in the face. Over 150,000 people die daily, largely unnoticed, but when icons expire unexpectedly it shakes our souls. If someone in good health, adored by millions across the globe, who had reached the pinnacle of earthly success, could not extend his days what hope do any of us have in this journey called life?!
The tragic loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others reminds me of my own mortality. And it’s scary. I do not fear what happens after physical life but on days like today I do fear the uncertainty of the process and the circumstances surrounding it. Days like today remind me that life is a vapor. We are here today and gone tomorrow yet sometimes we live as if tomorrow is promised, so engulfed with the worries, desires, and frivolous pursuits of life that we lose sight of the missions, callings and divine purposes of our existence. True age is not calculated by years on the planet. In actuality, we are as old or young as our expiration date. Days like today remind us that unlike many other things in life, no one knows the day or hour of his last breath.
We all have an appointment with death that we can not cancel. It is appointed for man to die once and then the judgement. As final as it seems from this side of the chasm, physical death is not the end but a continuation of life; a transition from the mortal into the eternal. We will all live forever either in the glorious presence of our Creator and King or in eternal separation from Him. As the sand trickles through the hour glass, the most pressing question of life is not quantified by materials acquired, relationships cultivated, or goodness imparted. Our justification before a holy God, our life eternal, can only be acquired through repentance and faith in the shed blood of His Son; a free gift of salvation for all who believe.
Days like today call for raw emotional response and loving embraces, prayer and solemn reflection. They feel surreal until tomorrow’s morning concretizes their reality. May the Lord bring comfort to the friends family and loved ones of the Bryant’s, Altobelli’s and other victims in this time of tremendous grief.