Thursday, September 27, 2012

40 Days of Prayer for Our Nation

 

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

—The words of God from 2 Chronicles 7:14

 


40 Days of Prayer is a non-partisan call to fervent prayer for our elections.
We are in desperate days as a nation as the spiritual, moral and
financial fabric of our nation is disintegrating around us.
Believers need to pray as never before.

America’s National Prayer Committee and its member
organizations are putting out a call to pray 40 days prior
to the elections (September 28th through November 6th).


Please click on the photo for more information.




I urge you to become a part of this vital prayer ministry for the next 40 days. Truly we need God’s intervention in our nation. Oh that He would send a great, sweeping revival that would move across the United States from shore to shore.

In 1974, John W. Peterson and Don Wyrtzen wrote a canata entitled “I Love America.” Below, I have included a song from this work that I hope you will enjoy.

 

 

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

Loving Father, our nation desperately needs a great movement of Your Holy Spirit. Please be merciful to us and set our nation back on a path of righteousness and obedience to You. Protect us from our enemies, from within and without, who would destroy all we hold dear.

We pray that Your perfect desires for our land will overshadow this coming election. Please promote those who have proven faithful to You into postions of leadership that we might have a renewal of godliness in our govenment.

Thank You for all You have so graciously given our nation, from its founding until this very day. Forgive us for those many times we have turned our backs on You. Revive us—bring us to life again—that we may serve You and passionately promote the cause of peace and love throughout the whole world. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, September 24, 2012

God says, “Take My Hand!”

 

8 God is fair and just;
       He corrects the misdirected,
       Sends them in the right direction.

9 He gives the rejects his hand,
       And leads them step-by-step.

—The words of King David from Psalm 25:8-9 (MSG)

 

The Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post declares a key truth to every person who yields himself or herself to God’s perfect will. King David reminds us that God is particularly interested in rejects.

You may remember that, as a boy, David had been rejected by his older brothers as not old enough, or strong enough, or clever enough, or worthy enough to fight on behalf of Israel against the Philistine enemies. But then God intervened on David’s behalf in the Valley of Elah.

Boy David proved that with God’s help he could indeed overcome and kill the fearful giant, Goliath of Gath. David proved that with God’s intervention in his life he was indeed old enough, strong enough, clever enough, and worthy enough to fight his nation’s battle against seemingly insurmountable odds.

What proved true for David remains true for us today. We modern rejects can look up and see God extending His mighty hand to us. He is fair and just. He does correct the misdirected. He does send us in the right direction. He does, indeed, give us His hand. He leads us step-by-step.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

We oddballs, we misfits, we rejected ones lift our eyes to You, O God. We trust in Your fairness and in Your justice. We feel comforted by Your loving willingness to correct our misdirection. We rejoice that You send us in the right direction.

All the moreso, Precious Father, we feel joy and great relief when we look up and see Your hand extended to us. We feel privileged and experience a great sense of relief when we realize You will lead us step-by-step.

Thank You, Loving Father, for Your mercy, grace, and great love. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Consequences

 

28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
       they will look for me but will not find me.
29 Since they hated knowledge
       and did not choose to fear the Lord,
30 since they would not accept my advice
       and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways
       and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
       and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety
       and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

—The words of King Solomon from Proverbs 1:28-33

 

Throughout the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon consistently presents contrasts. The Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post is no exception.

In verse 28, notice how Solomon ends this opening chapter of Proverbs with words directly from God:

“Then they will call to me but I will not answer...”

Solomon describes a whole series of behaviors that result in God turning His back on the sinfulness of those He desires to love. Improper behavior has consequences. Persistent, unrepentant sin has consequences. While God remains always ready to forgive those who confess their sin, repent of their sin, make restitution for their sin, and receive reconciliation and restoration for their sin, He also has demonstrated that He will turn away from persistent sin.

Nevertheless in verse 33, King Solomon ends this first chapter of Proverbs with these hopeful words from God:

“...but whoever listens to me will live in safety
       and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

While “the waywardness of the simple will kill them,” the willingness of those who will listen to God receive a reward of living at ease.

Today, we need to accept the consequences of our behaviors and confess where we have sinned. We can do so with the confidence of knowing God always responds lovingly to those times when we bow in humility before Him and acknowledge the great gift of salvation He has given us through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

How we praise You that You are a God of consequences. You punish those who fail to confess and repent of their sins. But, You lovingly forgive those who turn to You and accept the gift of salvation that You freely give.

We desire, O God, to cling to Your love and grace. We revel in Your mercy that gives us a covering of the blood of Your Son for our sins. We rejoice that You have given us Your Holy Spirit to lead us away from our natural, sinful behaviors and into the glorious light along the pathway You have laid out for our lives.

Thank you for the abiding peace of Your great love for us. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Helping the Helpless, But Not the Clueless?

 

12 Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
       Do not forget the helpless.

—The words of the Psalmist from Psalm 10:12

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

—The words of the Apostle Matthew from Matthew 9:35-36

 

Dennis MillerMy favorite Talk Radio host, Dennis Miller, often opines,

“I am willing to help the helpless. But I don’t care about the clueless.”

I have enormous respect for Dennis Miller. In some very dark days of my life, God used him to bring great joy to me. I also greatly respect him and find myself agreeing with him in many areas. I also recognize that to some that may seem like a harsh statement. To others, Dennis’ statement strongly resonates. I confess that I am one with whom his statement resonates.

Yes, I know that as Christians we should willingly step forward and help people who are truly helpless. I am more than willing to do that. But, when it comes to the clueless, I think we need to exercise a bit of discernment and great care. I am particularly concerned that Christians seem to have abdicated the extending of help to the helpless to the government. This abdication has extended government’s reach into our lives. And, I don’t think that is a good thing at all.

In his 1988 book, Help Is Just Around the Corner, Dr. Virgil Gulker shares some very insightful thoughts regarding efforts to mount a campaign in the war on poverty. He begins his narrative by describing a 1977 meeting that called together of all the “helping” agencies in Holland, Michigan:

For example, our sharing at the meeting revealed that several agencies gave away clothing. The duplication was actually convenient for the agencies. In Holland [Michigan] there was no shortage of donated clothing, and so there was no reason to ration its distribution. Imposing more accountability on the distribution of clothing would reduce distribution and thereby produce a stockpile of clothing. This would require renting a warehouse. In addition, controlling distribution at each agency and coordinating distribution among the agencies would take a lot of time. The agencies saved money and time by simply giving away clothing to anyone who asked. But, one agency representative pointed out, it was apparent that some people were showing up at one agency after another asking for clothes. It turned out that some of these people simply never did laundry. When clothes got dirty, they threw them away and went back for more. After all, if you don’t have your own washing machine, why go through the bother of going to a laundromat, as long as clean clothes are always available?

Who was responsible for this behavior? Surely the agencies contributed to it by their own irresponsible style of compassion.

The same was true of financial aid. Whenever assistance is readily available, people will take advantage of it and may not even think they are acting irresponsibly. Why should a person feel guilty about accepting something that an agency or church readily provides? (An especially memorable instance of financial irresponsibility was a client’s request that a church donate money to pay his fine for welfare fraud!)

It was incredibly frustrating to realize that our way of doing things unintentionally kept people focused exclusively on their physical needs. We made it virtually impossible for them to achieve any level of self-esteem, because the helping experience was not designed to give them the help they really needed to become self-sufficient; it was geared to meeting their needs for clothing, money or whatever, in the manner that was simplest for us. Much of the blame for chronic dependence lay with the service providers, who lacked the resources and relationships with other providers to intervene more deeply in their lives. The system was betraying people.

The agency representatives reached the decision to work together more closely. In a series of meetings in the fall of 1976 we systematically gathered information about needs and resources in the Holland area. We conceived of a clearinghouse that would interview people to determine their needs and would refer them to the appropriate agencies for help. We developed a policy statement for the clearinghouse and even came up with a name—Love, INC.

We agreed that the clearinghouse:

  • should not promote any further duplication of efforts in town;

  • should conduct a need analysis of each client to determine the nature, extent and legitimacy of his or her needs;

  • should identify people who were chronically dependent, not with the intention of dismissing their needs but in order to understand their whole need and to involve them in the process of overcoming their irresponsible behavior;

  • should confirm the availability of help at an agency before referring someone to it.

Helping agencies would work cooperatively in analyzing people’s expressed needs. The clearinghouse would become a city-wide data bank on people having a wide variety of needs.

The next question was how to use the clearinghouse to bring these needy people into direct contact with church members. I suggested to the agency people that the clearing- house could be used to connect needy people not only with appropriate agencies but also with church members who could help them. Doing this, I argued, would be a way of enlisting more people, more resources, in helping needy people in the community.

The agency staff members were not optimistic about this proposal. Their general view was that the churches were irrelevant to meeting needs. Staff members cited instances in which churches had unnecessarily duplicated services or had started out to provide help but then lost interest. Agencies expressed their sense of responsibility to protect their clients from church members’ passing enthusiasms. They were interested in asking churches for food, clothing and money, and even for volunteers for programs. They did not, however, envision making the churches partners with them in helping the needy members of the community.

One reason agencies did not perceive a need for church members was that the war on poverty had produced a multitude of organizations and funding streams. Agencies had appeared to meet every need. The proliferation of well-funded agencies for a while masked the fact that agency efforts unfortunately often did not alleviate the needs or eliminate poverty. The spending cuts of the 1980s would force agencies to cast about for new resources. The possibility that church members might be enlisted became more attractive as it became clear that they represented not a reshuffling of existing resources but an infusion of new ones.

In any case, in 1976, despite reservations, the agency workers admitted that a cooperative program with church members would be great if it worked.

The next step, then, was for me to go to the churches.

Dr. Virgil GulkerDr. Gulker did just that. Today, currently 157 Love INC affiliates in 30 states represent a network of more than 8,600 churches, 9,200 community-based organizations, and 100,000 volunteers meeting more than 1,680,000 needs each year. And, Dr. Gulker did not stop his involvement with the founding of Love INC.

In October, 1993, Dr. Gulker, working under the auspices of International Aid, conducted a research project. The objectives of this project were to answer two questions: First, what are the most pressing needs facing American Youth today? Second, how can the church reach out to these children and their families? By November, 1994, he had an answer and a plan and was looking for at least one church to test his ministry idea (Kids Hope USA). By February, 1995, members of Mason County Reformed, Grace Reformed of Holland, and Ottawa Reformed of Zeeland agreed to sponsor 54 public elementary school children. By 2003, members in 217 churches connected with 3,800 children. By the end of 2007, 705 churches in the US and Australia were sponsoring 9,300 children, and the numbers keep growing.

Currently, Dr. Virgil Gulker holds the highly honored position of the Servant Leader in Residence at Hope College’s “Center for Faithful Leadership.”

The Scripure passages at the beginning of this blog post illustrate God’s concern for the helpless. Because God’s love is pervasive, He also cares for the clueless. It may be that God shakes His head from time to time at what the clueless do to game the system. But, let’s not forget that He has infinite patience, which He displays every day in dealing so graciously with believers like you and me.

A cluless person shrugging her shouldersSo, is Dennis Miller right? Should we help the helpless, but turn our backs on the clueless? After all, it surely seems as if the clueless have brought their hardship on themselves.

If they make absolutely no effort to solve their own problems or reach out for a hand up, doesn’t that mean they deserve whatever plight in which they find themselves? And, doesn’t ignoring them, or turning our backs on these clueless ones, seem reasonable? Is Dennis right?

Frankly, that’s a question that you will have to answer for yourself. For me, well let’s just say that I am trying to remain open to whatever answer the Holy Spirit might reveal to me. I certainly want to help the helpless. I also want to show God’s love to the clueless the same way that Jesus would have done. At the moment, I’m just not totally certain how He would act toward the clueless.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

When we look out at the world, Gracious Father, we see so much need. So many people are hurting. Poverty has not only sustained itself over the last half-century, it has markedly increased. Far too many children go to sleep hungry every night.

We also realize that as bad as poverty may be here in the United States, it is far worse in other countries around the world. Our hearts break at the thought of the countless millions who barely eke out an existence each day.

By the power of Your Holy Spirit, please open our hearts to the needs around us. Grant us courage and the ability to wisely use our resources to reach out to the helpless. Give us Your guidance with regard to our relationship with the clueless. In all things, help us to minister to those in need as we would minister to the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself.

Thank You for speaking to our hearts and minds. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Are You “Satisfied”?

 

1 O God, you are my God,
         earnestly I seek you;
     my soul thirsts for you,
         my body longs for you,
     in a dry and weary land
         where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
         and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
         my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
         and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
         with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

—The words of King David from Psalm 63:1-5

 

Watching our frantic American culture, it appears that the people of the United States are never really “satisfied.” We flit from one enticing “flower” to the next, always hoping to find something better—something that will truly satisfy.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the parable that is often called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” The New International Version calls it “The Parable of the Lost Son.” This parable follows two other parables in Luke 15: “The Parable of the Lost Sheep” and “The Parable of the Lost Coin.”

You know this story very well. A very impatient son asks his father for his inheritance even though his father is still alive. He takes that inheritance and travels to a distant land where he squanders all his money on high and sinful living. A famine overtakes that land and the lost son finds himself destitute. He obtains work feeding the pigs for a farmer. The lost son is so hungry, he is tempted to eat the husks he is feeding the pigs.

Finally, the lost son comes to his senses and realizes that he was far better off back at home under the loving protection of his father. The lost son turns his back on his sin and starts home. While the lost son is yet a long way off from home, his father sees him in the distance and runs to greet him. The father wraps his loving arms around his son and welcomes him home, holding a celebration in his honor.

While there is much more to his story, the essence of it—and the reason why Jesus told this parable—is that it describes the magnificent Circle of Forgiveness. The lost son sought to be “satisfied.” But what he thought would satisfy his desires only left him lost, alone, and stripped of all that he had thought important. Only when he realized he would be better off in the arms of his loving father did he takes the steps that would ultimately bring him back home.

I’ve shared in a previous blog post:

...the part of this parable I like the best is the part where the Scripture tells us that “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

Did you get that? While the son was still “a long way off,” his father saw him. Did you ever think why the father saw his son? It didn’t just happen. The father didn’t just happen to walk by and see his son in the distance. He saw his son because he was looking for him. In fact, I believe the father stood looking for his son every single day since the son left the father’s side.

God lovingly waits to satisfy us with gifts of His mercy and grace that will not only momentarily meet the desires of our hearts, but will satisfy us for all eternity. Clara Tear Williams wrote a beautiful poem in 1875 at the urging of evangelist Ralph Erskine Hudson. Hudson had asked Mrs. Williams to write a poem that he could set to music and use in one of his evangelistic crusades. She perfectly captures the picture painted by Kind David in the Psalm at the beginning of this blog post. And, she equally captures the precise image of “The Parable of the Lost Son.”

 

Satisfied

Words written by Clara Tear Williams (1858-1937) in 1875
Music written by Ralph Erskine Hudson (1843-1901) in 1875—Satisfied



All my life long I had panted
For a draught from some cool spring,
That I hoped would quench the burning
Of the thirst I felt within.

Refrain:                                                                                        
Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings,
Through His blood I now am saved.



Feeding on the husks around me,
Till my strength was almost gone,
Longed my soul for something better,
Only still to hunger on.

Refrain:                                                                                        
Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings,
Through His blood I now am saved.



Poor I was, and sought for riches,
Something that would satisfy,
But the dust I gathered round me
Only mocked my soul’s sad cry.

Refrain:                                                                                        
Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings,
Through His blood I now am saved.



Well of water, ever springing,
Bread of life so rich and free,
Untold wealth that never faileth,
My Redeemer is to me.

Refrain:                                                                                        
Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings,
Through His blood I now am saved.

 

In his book, Songs That Lift the Heart, soloist George Beverly Shea writes about his encounter with Clara Tear Williams:

My father, the Reverend A. J. Shea, and I were on an afternoon shopping trip for Mother, as I recall. When we came out of a store in Houghton, New York, where we had recently moved from Winchester, Ontario, we met a tall, elderly woman making her way slowly up the street. She was walking in that slow, mincing step older people sometimes do, cautious not to lose balance.

Dad tipped his hat and said good-day to her as we passed. She stopped and looked up to see who was speaking. Smiling sweetly, she returned his greeting.

“Do you know who that was, son?” he asked me on up the way. I turned and watched as she continued her careful progress. Though a distinguished woman (whom I would now describe as looking a lot like Whistler’s Mother)—
I had no idea who she was.

“That,” said Dad, “was Mrs. Clara Tear Williams. She writes hymns.” There was a near reverence in his voice, and though I was only eight years old, I was duly impressed. Already, I was fascinated by music and anyone who was involved in it...

When Dad and I got home that afternoon, I told Mother about meeting Mrs. Williams, the hymnwriter. She smiled knowingly and nodded her head. Then she went to the piano bench and found a hymnal that contained one of Clara Tear Williams’ compositions.

She explained that Mrs. Williams—a Wesleyan Methodist like us—had written the words, but that the music had been written by Ralph E. Hudson, an Ohio publisher who also was an evangelistic singer.

A few years later, when I was in my teens and began to sing solos,
I memorized the hymn that Mother played that day and sang it. It was called “Satisfied.”

In my years at Houghton College in the mid-1960s, we often sang this beautiful hymn. I imagine that it touched many hearts down through the years. That’s probably why Donald Doig—a Houghton College graduate and professor of voice when I was in school—included this song in his album named after this hymn. With lush orchestral arrangements by Ronn Huff, this tenor solo ranks, in my mind, as one of the finest musical expressions of God’s longing to draw men, women, boys, and girls to Himself. I hope you will enjoy listening to this wonderful recording as much as I enjoy bringing it to you.

 

 

We need to examine our lives. Do we keep running here and there trying to find something that will satisfy? Do we actually believe that a new car or a new home or a new husband or a new wife or a new job or a new church or a new friend or ... will actually make us “satisfied”? Only God can truly satisfy the longings of our hearts. When He created us, He stamped His image on us—what theologians call the Imago Dei: the image of God. Part of that “image” is a longing to return to Him through the power of the resurrected Christ. God has made provision to cover our sins with the precious blood of His Son, Jesus. He has given us His Holy Spirit to draw us ever closer to Himself. He longs for us to yield our will to His perfect will.

Today, why not surrender fully to Him and become truly “satisfied”?

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

In the quietness of this moment, Precious Father, we surrender our hearts, our minds, our souls, and our strength to You. We give you our hopes, our dreams, our wills. Please take us and mold us into obedient servants who live only to glorify You and bring honor to Your matchless Name.

Thank You for being the well of water that is ever-springing. Thank You for being the bread of life, so rich and free. Thank You for Your untold wealth that never faileth. Thank You for being our Redeemer. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Passive Christians

 

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high,
      he led captives in his train
      and gave gifts to men.”

9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from Ephesians 4:7-16

 

One of the saddest traits of the modern American evangelical church is that largely it has adopted the culture of our decadent society. Oh, the church has been quite careful to craft this adoption of culture in terms that paint over some of the most overt aspects of depravity. Largely, however, the thinking that motivates decisions within the body of Christ—the church—have as much to do with appearances, acquisition of material possessions, presenting the “right” image to the watching world, as it has to do with obedience to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even as our American culture has become increasingly passive, so the church has become passive, as well. This passivity is seen most clearly on the preferential willingness of modern American Christians to give money to help the poor and needy, rather than get down into the trenches and put some skin in the game by directly and personally reaching out to those in need. It shows itself in the willingness to purchase pre-packaged programs to teach our children and teens, rather than to invest the kind of time necessary to study God’s Word so that we can teach our young people without someone else preparing a lesson plan.

Far too many Sunday School teachers spend their preparation time cutting out craft items related to the Bible story than studying the Bible story and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach them so they can teach their students.

We’ve become so passive in our culture that we would rather watch sports than participate in sports. We would rather watch how to prepare meals than get into the kitchen and prepare meals of our own. We would rather load the car up and head for the nearest amusement park than sit around a table and learn games that help us bond as a family.

“Sounds like you’re pretty old fashioned to me,” you may respond.

I think I need to plead guilty to that charge. But part of my old-fashioned ways comes from longing for a time when we moved through life at a far less frenetic pace. Today, we have allowed “activities” to take the place personal development and collegial interaction. Many, many evangelical Christian families today have their children involved in every conceivable sports teams, drama classes, dance classes, tennis lessons, golf lessons, skating lessons, gymnastics, and on and on. I assert that none of these activities have value compared to what’s been lost because families don’t spend quality time together.

If you have to choose to set aside church youth group in favor of soccer games, then your priorities are mixed up. If you choose to take your child or teen out of youth choir, so they can participate in the latest community musical theater, you are sacrificing things that have eternal value for things that have only the most fleeting, temporal value.

In our passivity, we have become a frantic people. We rush here, there, and everywhere trying to capture a sense of well-being that only comes from genuine investment in real hard work and real family fellowship. We have substituted the appearance of action for actual action.

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, the Apostle Paul tells us that God has given gifts of forthtelling His truth—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers—for a very definite purpose: “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” In other words, passively sitting in church every week, listening—or not—to the sermon does not bring you to a place of Christ-likeness in your spiritual development.

You are listening and learning and enfleshing the truth of God’s Word so that you can serve! You are not being mentored to sit and passively watch the world go by. Nor are you being mentored to passively flow from one frantic activity to another—never having time to actually do anything. Rather, far too many evangelical Christians simply spend all their time moving from one activity to another without any real investment of who they are in those many activities.

If my blog post seems too harsh for you today—toughen up! Living for Jesus is hard work. It’s tough to live a life of obedience to Christ. It’s difficult to bend your will to God’s will. But, the rewards of doing so are simply overwhelming.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

Precious Father, we plead with You to help us set aside our passivity. We want to become active believers who actually do the work in this world to which You have called us. We want to stop following the culture of this world. We want to stop trying to emulate the American culture within the walls of our churches.

More than anything, Father, we want to live lives that are pleasing to You. We want to grow in our awareness of Your leading in our lives. We want to follow more closely the pathway You have laid out for us. We want to become people who stand out, not because of success as the world measures success, but because we have invested all of ourselves into following You.

Thank You for giving us wise counsel through the testimony of Your Word. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

“Did Anyone Even Notice?”

 

10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

—The words of the writer of Hebrews from Hebrews 6:10

 

“Why should I continue to go out of my way doing kind deeds for others? Nobody recognizes the sacrifice involved on my part. They just take what I do for granted!”

Ever feel that way? How about this?

“I guess I’m foolish to continue giving money the way I do. Because the business has done well others ask for help as though I owed it to them. Why if I added up all I’ve given as a Christian during my life time, the total would stagger people … No, on second thought, it probably wouldn’t mean a thing to anybody, except me!”

“Some of the best years of my life I gave to those people, but now that I’m older, they act as though I never existed. When I was younger I think we respected age more than they do now-a-days. I guess I feel as though the contribution I made in my time should entitle me to at least a sense of dignity during these, my closing years.”

“Because I do a good job teaching Sunday School, people just assume it comes easy for me. I wonder if they realize how many nights I’ve stayed up making sure my words would be clearly understood the next morning, or the numerous times my family has not gone somewhere on Saturdays to protect my lesson preparation, or the hours I’ve invested in prayer? But lately I have a feeling the class is getting a lot more from me than I am from them, and their response makes me wonder if it’s really worth all the effort I put into it!”

Do you identify at all with the kind of things I’m saying? Having invested a great deal in ministry of one kind or another, you’re now wondering if anyone even notices what you do.

In October of 1978, the Christian radio station where I volunteered for an on-air shift every Saturday morning from 6:00 a.m. to Noon held its annual banquet. Rev. David R. Mains of The Chapel of the Air was the scheduled speaker. For three years I had prayed asking God to show me a truly godly man who could speak to me in a way that would transform my life.

As I sat in the audience, Rev. Mains began a message based on one of his broadcasts that had the same title that I have used for this blog post. As I listened I felt my pulse quicken and my attention became riveted. I was hanging on every word. While I cannot possibly recreate that moment for you in this blog post, please let me share a few of the words he said that evening that literally changed my life forever.

Twice now I’ve read through J.R.R. Tolkien’s massive three-volume set, The Lord of the Rings. And, each time I’ve made it all right through the thousand-plus pages of excitement and adventure as little Frodo Baggins and his company perform superhuman exploits while saving Middle Earth from the dark cloud of the evil Lord Sauron. But, when Frodo returns home to the simple shire from which he came, and none of his fellow Hobbits appreciate, or are even aware, of his heroics, I have to confess, both times tears came to my eyes as I tried to read.

“Frodo dropped quietly out of all the doings of the Shire, and Sam Gamgee was pained to notice how little honor his master had in his own country. Few people knew or wanted to know about his deeds and adventures,” writes Tolkien. And, in those words, I’m afraid the author describes the experience of too many faithful, but unsung, Christian warriors.

Well, I presume there have been many days you’ve attended a worship service to be encouraged, but instead heard the one preaching give yet another challenge. Or, you came to worship disheartened and felt the sermon only added to your pain. But, then I’m glad you are here today, because I’ve felt a divine nudge to focus our thoughts on Hebrews chapter 6, verse 10:
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”
And, those words, interestingly enough, come from a writer I can’t even credit. Because no one’s sure who penned the book of Hebrews. If I resay in my own way what was written, it comes out like this — “Be reminded that God is aware of all your efforts on His behalf.”

Let me give you the verse and that sentence again—Hebrews 6:10:
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”
And, I put it this way in my key sentence for this time together: “Be reminded that God is aware of all your efforts on His behalf.”

What I’m sharing is not just represented by this isolated text. This truth, about God being sensitive regarding all we do in a quiet fashion for Christ and his Kingdom, is found consistently throughout the Bible. Allow me to share a couple of other examples.

Here are Christ’s words in Revelation 2:2-3 to the church at Ephesus:
“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.”
In Acts 10:1-4, do you remember the message of God’s angel to Cornelius, the devout centurion? That passage reads:
“At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God...”
In the Old Testament, the prophets even make use of this truth to try to tenderly draw Israel back to God. Listen to Jeremiah 2:1-2:
“The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown.”’”
Here’s Isaiah 45:14:
“But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’”
In verse 15, God responds:
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”
Maybe the awareness of such a truth is what prompts Nehemiah to feel comfortable adding several times to the record of his deeds, words like these from Nehemiah 13:14:
“Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services.”
When I was younger, I used to chuckle at those verses, feeling they showed a lack of spiritual maturity on the part of Nehemiah. Now, I identify very much with his feelings. Yes, as a servant of God, Nehemiah had accomplished what the Lord had asked of him. But, the ingredients of human frailty and shortcomings were also a part of the mix of his time. So, because of the lack of perfection in what was accomplished, Nehemiah recounts his efforts for good and writes, “Now God, please don’t YOU miss what I’ve attempted to do!”

Have you ever felt that way?

Before she died, my mother talked about the time many years ago, when, as lay people with three young children, she and my father were deeply involved in getting a new church off the ground in downstate Illinois. Now that ministry is quite large. But then, the going was nip and tuck. Why I have personal memories of countless guest speakers being served endless meals at our home. And, I remember my mom and dad as laypeople doing yeoman duty in a thousand different ways. Worn out from probably too much serving, my mom told me of sometimes almost dreading to go to another meeting. Then one evening, a now nameless preacher spoke on the subject of God keeping Himself apprised of all we do on His behalf. “The Lord is not unaware of your sacrifices,” he reminded the congregation. And, my mom said it sounded so good, she just wept.

Well that’s what I believe God wants to say once again to you, some of God’s most special children. And, he’s simply using my voice to convey His thoughts your way!

You ask, “Did anyone really even notice? ...
  • The work for God we did in that hard land so far away?
  • The poor who found hope because I was kind and anonymous?
  • The phone calls I made that brought encouragement?
  • The hundreds of times we were there when the choir met?
  • The way the sanctuary was always clean?
  • The letters and reports and bulletins that were typed so carefully?
  • The meals that were taken to people in need?
  • The notes of encouragement I wrote?
  • The babies to whom I showed love?
  • The countless small, but generous deeds, we performed considering our limited resources?
  • The records that were kept so carefully?
  • The many trips I made to the hospital?

Really now, did anyone notice? I mean was even one person aware of my efforts?

The answer my friend is “yes!”—God was aware. He didn’t miss a thing! Every bit of it was taken in by Him. And, I know it’s not a profound truth, but to me it somehow seemed important that you have this verse brought to your remembrance:
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”
Now I’m aware that it’s not a normal thing to pray in the middle of a sermon time. But, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to bring some of you before the Lord right now. Will you pray with me?
Our Father in heaven—could I ask You to minister now in a special way to our dear ones gathered here in this place today who sense others receive credit for their efforts, but not them. I would think You should be able to identify with the feelings of these people. After all, You seldom receive the thanks You deserve for Your numberless acts of kindness on our behalf and those many times of love unacknowledged. Be close to them, will You, as they experience this same pain You have known so long?

I would be grateful, Father, if You could handle the details of letting this believer and that one and many others as well, know that indeed their names are ever before You—yea they are written on the very palms of Your hands. Like Nehemiah, I feel many would say right now, “Remember me, O my God, I’m the one who’s been trying to be faithful in Your service.”

Could You through a special word or letter or surprise or answer to prayer or just any one of the countless ways You involve Yourself in this world, see to it that they are soon reminded once again that You observe everything and care very much? Thank You, Father. And, I pray in the Precious Name of Jesus. Amen.
Just a final quick word. If you’re looking for a way to respond in obedience to this reminder from the Lord, let me suggest that you memorize Hebrews 6:10. If you do so, the truth of this moment will always be yours.
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”
Once again, here’s a sentence to help you remember the thrust of this time together: “Be reminded that God is aware of all your efforts on His behalf.”

__________________

 

I cannot begin to adequately express how much that sermon meant to me on the cold October Saturday night more than 34 years ago. David Mains words touched a deep wound in my heart that had far too long kept me from obediently following Jesus. I hope that, by sharing these words with you at this singular time, God will touch you in some very special way, just like He did me.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

Thank You, Precious Father, for the words from the writer of Hebrews that affirms Your recognition, Your love, and Your appreciation for we who belong to You. We want to surrender the totality of our lives to You, so we may serve You with all of our hearts.

Please help us, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, to bend our wills to Your perfect will. Encourage us along the pathway You have laid out for us. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

________________

Author’s Note: I am indebted to my spiritual mentor, Rev. Dr. David R. Mains, who many years ago, as described in this blog post, preached a message at a radio station banquet taken from his radio broadcast, The Chapel of the Air, entitled “Did Anyone Even Notice?” I have quoted extensively from this message to form the basis of this blog post. My gratitude for the enormous influence David Mains has had on my life remains overwhelming.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Ministering to Christ Today

 

32 “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

—The words of Jesus from Matthew 25:32-40

 

As the Scripture at the beginning of this blog post indicates, God longs to bring a ministry of healing to those in need wherever they may be within society. He wants to bring a healing of mind, heart, soul, and body. And, God wants to bring about that ministry of healing through His dearly loved children.

Often God uses His children to reach out to the most destitute and downtrodden—the most needy—of the world. So you see, the opportunity is still yours that was afforded those who served Christ when He was on His earth walk. Wouldn’t it be unfortunate if you or I missed out on this privilege because of ignorance?

If I may, I would like to illustrate such ignorance by sharing a very personal illustration. You’ve probably realized by now that many times when a writer shares from God’s Word, he or she speaks not only to the readers, but also to himself or herself. This blog post is certainly one of those cases. For I have struggled mightily with this very subject in my own walk with the Lord throughout my entire life.

When I was a teenager, every year our youth group traveled the twenty miles or so to the county seat of McKean County—a borough called Smethport. We went there to visit the McKean County Home, a place where the most indigent elderly people in the county spent their last days.

I need to insert a parenthesis here and explain that I’ve always been blessed, or cursed, with a hypersensitive sense of smell. To explain this gift or curse let me tell you that whenever my wife lights a candle in our home, she has learned that it’s best to tell me she’s doing so. Otherwise, within seconds of the candle flame igniting, I will be asking rather pointedly, “What’s burning?”

So, in our visits to the McKean County Home when I was a teenager, frankly, I was repelled by the way the residents smelled—in fact the whole place reeked of the odor of death and decay. I dreaded our trips to the McKean County Home. We would sing—that wasn’t so bad—but then we would each single one of those residents out and engage him or her in conversation. My extremely heightened sense of smell assailed me and made me want to vomit. One year, our youth director took me out into the hallway and clapped his hands hard in front of my face. “Snap out of it!” he said. Then he quoted the passage from today’s Gospel Reading. “When you talk to these poor people you’re ministering to Christ! Now get back in there and show these people some of God’s love.”

I did as I was commanded. It was one of the hardest things I ever did. I wish I could report to you that I achieved a great victory that day. Sadly, I didn’t. Years later in college we were required to participate in service projects each Sunday. And in my freshman year, as a ministerial student, I was signed up to visit a large state home for the mentally and physically handicapped adults and children on the former Shaker estate near Sonyea, New York. The smells were ten times worse than the McKean Country Home. Many of these unfortunate bedridden souls continually moaned, or drooled, or worse. After my first and only visit to the facility, I decided I simply didn’t have what it takes to be a minister after all. I changed my college major to Writing and Psychology and abandoned all efforts to become a pastor.

If you’re reading this blog post today about ministering to Jesus and you respond by saying, “No way! That’s not for me!” Believe me, I understand. I’ve been where you are. But do you know what, looking back I realize to my shame that I missed a great blessing by not making a second visit to Sonyea—and third, and a fourth, and a tenth. I missed the opportunity to minister to people in desperate need. I missed the opportunity to minister to Jesus.

Yes, you and I have an opportunity to minister to Jesus if we allow ourselves the privilege of reaching out to those in need. It may not seem easy to do so. The rewards of ministering to Christ simply cannot be measured. That’s because such ministry is worth everything.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

We thank You for the privilege You give us this day to minister to Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, by ministering in His name to those most needy. Frankly, we’re more than a little frightened of what You might require of us. But we also know that whatever ministry to which You may direct us, we will reap a great blessing from obediently saying “yes” to You.

Please help us overcome any natural reluctance we may have that will keep us from reaching out to the most needy people in our world. Give us courage and strength to obediently follow Your will for our lives.

Thank you for the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to move forward on the pathway that You have laid out for our lives. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

________________

Author’s Note: I am indebted to my spiritual mentor, Rev. Dr. David R. Mains, who many years ago preached a message on his radio broadcast, The Chapel of the Air, entitled “Christ in Disguise.” That message encouraged me to reflect on events in my own life that formed the basic foundation for this blog post.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.