But Jesus told him “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ~ Matthew 4:4
Are you reading the Holy Bible every day? If not, make a point to start on one book of the Holy Bible and read through it in one week’s time. A book like Romans is a good starting point as there are many vital lessons for life presented there by Paul.
Another idea is with Proverbs. That book of the Old Testament has 31 chapters. There are, of course, 31 days in most months. One chapter a day for one month.
Are the words from the “mouth of God” worth 5 to 10 minutes of your time each day? Start today.
“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?
After Angie, her husband, and their 4 children were settled into their new home in the quiet little New England town in the summer of 1973, she started missing the job she had left at their former location many miles away. She had been so occupied with selling a home, buying a home, moving, settling the older children in new schools, finding new doctors and dentists, and learning her way around the new territory that she hadn’t thought much about looking for a job. But once they were into a routine, with the oldest children in school, and the youngest with playmates right next door, she realized that she missed interacting with the patients she had cared for when she as a nursing assistant on the evening shift at a hospital near their prior home.
She had many wonderful experiences there, working with very professional and caring nurses and aides. Some of the patients she met during that time made a lasting impression on her. As much as Angie enjoyed the time she spent with her children, she also liked being able to interact with other adults. She wasn’t one who liked to join clubs but working part-time in a field where she felt she belonged, while supplementing the family income, made her feel like she was making a contribution. The time had arrived for her to start reading the want-ads in the local paper. She knew that working the 3 PM to 11 PM shift at a hospital would not make sense, as she no longer had reliable the help that her parents had provided to take care of the children until her husband got home from work in the evening. But she thought that it might be possible to find a position in a nursing home where the hours she could comfortably work would be acceptable. Although the Main Street Nursing Home was looking for part-time help on the 3 PM to 11 PM shift, she decided to ask if management there might consider hiring her from 6 PM to 11 PM. She had worked in nursing homes previously, and she knew that was when the residents needed the most help. If she could work those hours, she wouldn’t have to leave home until after her husband had returned from work and the family had dinner together. When she called to ask for an interview, she decided not to mention the hours she would prefer. That would come later.
The Main Street Nursing Home was located in the center of the small town. Angie remembered seeing it when she and the children had visited the Town Library shortly after they arrived there. It was a lovely old New England home, white with black shutters and set way back from the road with an oval driveway in front, and large trees surrounding it. The wrap-around porch gave the large home a stately look. When Angie drove up for her interview, she noticed that there was an addition to the side of the home that was not easily seen from the street due to the many trees and hedges in front.
After she parked the car and opened the door, stepped out and saw a dime on the ground. She picked up the dime, smiled and held it thinking that she probably was meant to be there. She said, “In God We Trust,” to herself as she remembered her former patient, Bill. He was a young man who had returned from war with stomach trouble that he thought was a result of the poor diet he had eaten during the time he was deployed. However, when the problems persisted, he learned that his stomach trouble was really caused by cancer. By the time the cancer was discovered, there is very little that could be done for him, but he was willing to try the various chemotherapy drugs recommended by the doctors who were treating him, even though they all made him extremely sick. The way in which the young man accepted his fate, with tremendous faith in God, was something Angie had rarely witnessed in those she had cared for.
When Bill was first admitted, it was expected that he would die within weeks. However, to the surprise of everyone, he survived for many more months. In all of that time, his demeanor never changed. He was most grateful for anything that anyone did for him, always using the words please and thank you. Angie was not the only one who thought Bill was a very special young man. All of the others working on that floor were quick to respond when his call light went on. The nurses who were responsible for giving him his pain medication tried to get to his room before he had to ask for it because they were all aware that he didn’t like to ask. If the usual nurses were not available and a different nurse was on the floor, the others were quick to let her know when his pain medication was due.
When an older man across the hall from Bill noticed that the nurses seemed to spend extra time in his room, he complained to Angie one day about the younger guy getting so much attention. He wondered what the heck was so special about him. At first, Angie didn’t know how to respond. It really wasn’t right to talk to one patient about another, but it appeared to her that the older man was jealous of the attention that Bill was getting, and she wanted to let him know that he need not be. She reasoned that if they had both been patients in a semi-private room, they would know just about everything about each other’s condition, so she took a deep breath and walked to the door and closed it before turning toward the man to tell him about Bill’s situation.
“I really shouldn’t be talking about other patients,” she started, “but since you asked, I guess I should tell you. When he first came in, he had a lot of company. He was a basketball player in a local high school before he joined the Army and went to Vietnam, so a lot of people know him. I don’t know if people got tired of visiting or if they just didn’t like seeing him getting so sick, but most of them have stopped visiting. Seems like only his parents and sister visit now. I guess that is one of the reasons that we feel like we should spend more time with him. He is only 23 years old, and he’s going to die soon. He has tried everything the doctors have offered, but we just don’t know yet how to cure stomach cancer. I’m not sure that any of us feel sorry for him as much as we are kind of in awe of him, because he really never complains.”
“Oh! My God! I had no idea!” the older man exclaimed, and thoughtfully followed with, “I’m glad you told me. I think I needed to know that.” For the remainder of the time that he was a patient, he asked what kind of a day Bill was having. Angie thought that breaking protocol was perhaps not a bad idea at times. But she didn’t tell the other patient about the condition of Bill’s body after he lost so much weight that there was little flesh on his bones. She didn’t think she could adequately portray how much his body had been ravaged or how much pain he endured, anyway. The nurses worked constantly to keep bedsores under control by changing his positions frequently and putting fresh dressings on his wounds, and they all admitted to each other that his condition broke their hearts.
Instead of going to the break room when she had time for a break, Angie chose to visit with Bill, with the hope that some of his acceptance of the Lord’s will would rub off on her. Sometimes she simply sat with him while he watched something on television or dozed off for a few minutes. He thanked her for doing so. One evening when he requested a cola drink, Angie discovered that there wasn’t any in the refrigerator on their floor, so she went to the break room and bought one for him from the machine. When she brought it to him, he noticed that it was in the type of cup that comes out of a vending machine, rather than the usual hospital cups. He asked her if she had bought it, and she acknowledged that she had done so because there wasn’t any available in their refrigerator. He told her that wasn’t right, and he should pay for it. She said that was nonsense. They went back and forth for a few minutes when he declared that she had to at least take a dime out of his drawer, because his mother always told his sister that a girl should always have a dime on her, in case she needed to make a phone call. Angie thought that was the sweetest reason to accept a dime. She thanked him and put it in her pocket, thinking that it was the kind of gift she would always treasure.
Bill died shortly after that. She felt that she was most privileged to have been one of the last people to be with him before he drew his last breath. It was a profound loss to everyone who cared for him. For many days there were no new patients in his room, which seemed to make his absence even more profound. Angie believed that he was with the Lord, but she felt that she would be comforted if she would receive some kind of sign of confirmation, so she prayed that one would be given to her. A short time later, she was on her way into the hospital with another nurse one day when she spotted a dime on the steps. She stopped abruptly declaring, “That’s mine.” As she bent to pick it up her thoughts were of Bill, and she smiled. She looked at the words, “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the dime, and she smiled again. It seemed like a sign… a reminder that although there were many things she didn’t understand, she knew that God was in charge, and she needed to trust. The other nurse remarked that she never saw anyone so happy to find a dime. Angie felt that was her own personal connection, so she didn’t have any desire to explain her reaction.
As time went by, she noticed that she often found a dime here, and a dime there. Perhaps she had found money in the past, but she couldn’t remember ever finding dimes so easily. After a while, she didn’t find them as frequently, but it seemed that every time she was feeling troubled by something, or had a difficult decision to make, a dime would land in her path. She would think that a girl should always have a dime on her, and that she needed to keep trusting in God. Of all the patients she had cared for when she worked there and at other hospitals, Bill was by far the most spiritual one she had ever encountered.
With the newfound dime in her pocket, she approached the nursing home believing that she would get the job if God wanted her to.
“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.