If you don’t know already let me clue you in, February 14th is my most favorite of all holidays! (smile ) This is a day when I can offer gifts of love freely and of my choosing just because of love! I love that day, not because the world has chosen it as a Hallmark Day, but because it reminds me of why I love God and why He loves me! Further, it is on that day we use word pictures to reveal our love for another.  For example; King David begins I love you, Lord! But why? Better yet, why do you and I love God?

He writes: I love you Lord because you are my source of strength when I am in the pit.  I love you Lord because I can trust you to be my strength when my human strength is failing. I love you Lord because when I call unto you I am delivered emotionally, spiritually and sometimes, yes physically. When life is just too hard to bear I can know that you, God, are there. You are there in the chaos and you are there in the calm. I love you Lord because you may be in heaven but I am here on earth, therefore, may my words be few but offer a sweet aroma of my love to You. You are my rescuer, my vindicator, my deliverer and for that I am thankful.

Just sayin’ ahead of time…Valentine’s Day is my favorite, so now my question to you is this: If King David could join us this day he might say, so what would your early Valentine message say?

As we read this story in Acts 3, we recall of the story of the Good Samaritan because in both we meet those who cannot help themselves. In our 21st century culture as in the 1st-century culture, there is a caste system. There are those who are “touchable” and those who are “untouchable.”  We easily ask WWJD (what would Jesus do) but how about WWYD (what would you do?) or to make it more personable; WWID (what would I do)?

Do we cross the street and avert our gaze? Do we walk in haste so we can be on time for _____you fill in the blank? We save our pennies that we might enrich the church offering plate, but, what about those whose lives need agape compassion so that they might have enough to purchase a meal with dignity?

Jesus, Peter and John had obviously walked by this beggar for many a day yet no healing had occurred. Why now? Why only him? This was God’s timing and God’s lesson book being opened. We better not miss what He is teaching us about agape compassion for those in need, and what gifts the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon us to share.

Dr. Luke wants us to see a man who needs God’s loving touch and how we can be God’s instrument of God’s agape compassion. But more importantly, he wants us to leap, walk, and praise God for what only God can do! May God get the glory and not we ourselves. May we step into the situation as the Good Samaritan and say if more is needed I will fill it when I return.

So here’s the deal; when was the last time you or I have showered God’s agape compassion upon an “untouchable” a.k.a. the homeless person God has put in our path?

We have the best gift of all, the gospel. Are we not only offering our pennies but the good news of salvation to the “untouchables” in our society?

In Luke, we read about the scoundrels of then and we can relate to them in our day. Scoundrels and scoffers have this motto: “God won’t hold me accountable; He doesn’t care.” But, one day, like the rich man in Luke 16 and here in Psalm 10, when they do care–it is far too late. The lesson for us is to remember that God is patient but ultimately He will call for justice. The psalmist is saying there will be a day when there will be no avenue to seek God’s patient lovingkindness.

Scoundrels and scoffers have fallen for the lie that God is love and He will overlook what they do now. One day the books will be opened and the deeds of men will be revealed.  “each of us will give an account of himself to God.”  Truly,“[we] will face a reckoning before Jesus Christ who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.” [1Peter 4:5]

Whether you are the most moral person on the planet or you are a scoundrel, know this truth; God knows your situation and your heart.  God’s question is if you knew that you would stand before Him today would you be ready to give an accounting of your life?

 

Luke 18: Jesus wants us to realize that the world that we know it will soon come to a screeching halt when the Savior returns. In the meantime, like the widow, we meet scoundrels. In this parable, Jesus shows us two of them: the unjust judge and the scam artist who has bilked the widow out of her savings. As before with the parable of the unjust steward, the principle is to be shrewd when dealing with those who can and should assist us because the world is full of these unsavory characters. The judge understands his own character yet sees no need or desire to change and the scam artist thinks he has gotten away with the widow’s pension. But, it is her persistence that wins out in the end. She gets her reprieve and the scam artist gets his due.  The judge never changes his character.

So what is the point? The last line in the parable sums it up: will the Son of Man find faith when He returns. We say “huh?” God is looking for those who will use shrewdness but ultimately He wants us to come to Him who can change circumstances and people to help His chosen ones. The key is faith.  God is looking for those who will be like Joseph, faithful in and out of circumstances, EVEN when the answer is no, sometimes wait, and sometimes yes.

Beloved, you may be facing scoundrels. First be shrewd and patient. Secondly, persist in prayer. Thirdly, trust God even if God’s answering machine seems to be cluttered! He will answer in His perfect time with His perfect response.

As you read scripture try to put yourself in the 1st century. Presume for a minute that you are listening to Jesus teach and then try to understand why much of what He taught was so very difficult for them to hear. For example, it was common in that day for the Pharisees to keep a record of offenses. To illustrate his point Jesus reminded the disciples and us as well that offenses will come, [that is others will offend us] but WOE to the one that is the cause or is the offender. Jesus wanted his listeners to recognize that we are to obey this principle:  “if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. [Mat 6:14]  Sometimes it is not a two-way street. You offend but another does not forgive you. Jesus said it doesn’t matter. Your job as a believer is to not only seek another’s forgiveness but offer forgiveness. Why? Because you have been forgiven by God.

Jesus was emphatic: “you MUST forgive him” even if one has repeatedly sinned against you for this is God’s way. God does not forgive just once but many times as we err often. The reason is because that is part of God’s character!  God is a God of forgiveness; He is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and unfailing in His loyal love.

Today are we keeping a record of offenses? Are we harboring an unforgiving spirit and not obeying the teaching of Christ to forgive as he forgave?

 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming to hear him. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1)

Which group do you find yourself in? Jesus told us to judge ourselves first. Our motives are revealed by what we say or do. We complain or murmur and God sees it all while those whose hearts are yearning for God’s touch are coming to hear. The sight is not pretty.

Stop and look at this group of tax collectors such as Matthew and Zacchaeus and the sinners such as the Samaritan woman at the well. They sit on one side of the aisle or church and on the other side are you and I.  Jesus sat and ate with the tax collectors and sinners. Do you and I? If truth be known, we play favorites; we choose to sit either alone or apart from those whose touch might rub off on us.

The tax collectors and sinners came to hear Jesus but the religious leaders only came to judge and complain.

Yes, I am a Pharisee and you probably are too. God’s mirror is pretty clear; we do not love others as God did. He proved it by sending His Son. What do my actions reveal to God about my heart?

As we read Luke 12 and 13 we come face to face with the hypocrisy of the religious leaders but also the populace. All are guilty of what we are guilty of–condemnation of other’s level of spirituality. We love to stand righteously before others failing to look within our own hearts to see what Jesus sees.

Take for example the barn builder. He sees himself as one who has completed all that is needed for a righteous life. He can sit and smugly say all is well when indeed God sees him as a fool. Then there are those who come to Jesus to tell him of the tragic deaths of some Galileans. Their faulty hypothesis comes across as well as they make a judgment call based on one’s birthplace.  Jesus correctly reminds them that as a Jerusalemite, they too are in the same boat.

The truth is bad things happen to ALL people regardless of where they are from or who they are. The important thing is to look within your own heart and judge yourself first before making assumptions about another’s person’s salvation.

So what are we to learn? Bad things happen to both good and bad people. The most important thing is if something bad were to happen to you this very day you are ready to meet God. You may not know that today may be your very last day to wake up and smell the roses. In fact, it may be your name is on God’s calendar to leave this earthly domain.

Do you qualify as a hypocrite?

 

 

Prov 30 One of my enjoyments, of which there are many, is to browse in the bookstore near to us. I could spend hours reading, browsing, picking out books but when I return home, the book I love most is God’s Word and it is waiting for me each morning as I awaken with wonderful words of blessing.

It seems that our author, Agur, also loves to read also love as well as he asks:  “Who has ascended into heaven, and then descended? Who has gathered up the winds in his fists? Who has bound up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? – if you know!”  Later, another lover of books and truth would write that it is He the very son of the Most High and “he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” [Is 9] Or how about the Apostle John who wrote about Him in the book of the Revelation saying: He is the “Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end!”

Agur asked: What is His Name and what is his son’s name—if you know! The inspired Word of God tells us that His Name is Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Do you know the One who came to save His people from their sins? 

Matt 1:21 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit:  Aaron Burden/Unsplash + Author’s caption

Some years ago I read “The Secret Garden” to my third graders and they were spellbound. What made it so special was that the garden had a magic key that if found would open the door. A robin digging in the dirt revealed its contents and was indeed the key to a  neglected but beautiful garden. She transformed it into a garden of delight and reunited a father and son.

In John 19, we meet the religious leaders who sought to have Christ crucified so they would not be defiled. Yet, two others, who were “secret disciples” reminded  them that this was not “kosher.” These unknowables became notables by their actions on a late afternoon. They shook off their silence and boldly went to Pilate with their request that they alone be allowed to remove Christ from the cross and bury Him. By this, they along with Pilate were saying the execution was unjustified. By this, they became the true defiled as they handled the dead body of our Lord and Savior, Yet their outward defilement was cleansed by the Savior’s blood shed on that cross. By this, the True Passover was handled gently by their hands. By this, they chose to stand alone and risk rejection but their outward loss became their inward gain. By this, they were exclaiming I once stood silent but I will be silent no more when God opens the door of divine opportunity.

God’s ways are not our ways. As man was birthed in a garden and then died in a garden, so a dead man would be buried in a “secret garden” owned by a “secret disciple” whose faith was blooming to be ‘re-birthed’ in that same garden three days later. They may not have voiced their faith openly while the man Jesus was alive but now they would seek to bury him with dignity. They bravely sought a private audience with Pilate and opened their coffers of rich spices and found a place of burial, a neglected but prepared “garden” tomb.

Where have you been silent when you could have spoken?

Are you also a “secret disciple” expecting another to come to Christ without your testimony and let a divine opportunity to pass by?

Learn from these two so you will not have to hear in eternity: why did you not tell me about Jesus?

Are you a procrastinator or an anticipator? Procrastinators use many delaying tactics to not complete tasks but anticipators move full steam ahead because they are driven by time and details. Joshua is the latter but now after 5 long years of war he is weary. Yet, parenting is never done when you have procrastinators in your family!

Procrastinators don’t know how to “un-procrastinate.” They have a to-do list but find other distractions along the way to completion. Satan uses this deadly d to keep us comfortable where we are. He includes fear of the unknown, or you don’t have the right xyz or it is ok to compromise.  He doesn’t tell you about those future minefields that lay ahead. That’s why procrastinators need a Joshua in their life.

The Joshua’s know that procrastinators can’t see the forest for the trees and that they need a plan with simple small steps which precise directions: “Go, walk through the land, map it out, and return to me.”   They also need a buddy system and Joshua did just that.  “Pick three men from each tribe.” Procrastinators always need the assistance of others to keep on track to complete the project and to keep the motivation going.

Do you know a procrastinator? How do you help them or even yourself if you fall into that camp?