A HOUSE DIVIDED
On June 16th, 1858, as he accepted his party’s nomination to be the senator from the state of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln spoke these words:
“A house divided against itself, cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”
These are strong words that are particularly applicable today as we, the children of God, have become divided by the ideologies of race, gender, economics, and politics!
In Mark, chapter 3, verse 25, Jesus responds to the scribes’ claim that He is Beelzebub and is casting out demons. He responds to their claim with the rhetorical question: How can Satan cast out Satan? His point is that a house divided against itself cannot stand, it cannot survive. He repeats this when He states “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:” (Matthew 12:25)
Can we justifiably claim to be the children of God and at the same time perpetuate the divisions within the Church that keep us apart and in conflict?
Scripture: Luke 11:14-23
DON’T SELL GOD SHORT!
There are those times when we sell God short. We tell Him, and ourselves, that we are so dirty that He would not want us around. Or, we say that we are in so much trouble that not even God can help us. When we assume that not even God can help us we underestimate His desire, His willingness and His ability to do so.
The story of Abraham and Sarah’s encounter with God illustrates this beautifully. They are camped, resting in the heat of the day when Abraham looks up and sees three men standing before him. As custom dictates, he opens the hospitality of his house, seeing to their needs.
During the visit, they tell Abraham that Sarah will bear a son in her old age. She, overhearing this, scoffs at this promise recognizing that she is well beyond her child bearing years. Yet, the promise is fulfilled and Isaac is born.
Do you do the same thing that Sarah did when she heard God’s promise to her? Do you doubt because you think that His promise is foolish given your situation? Given that He has never failed to fulfill a promise, can you afford to doubt Him?
Scripture: Genesis 18:1-15
WHO IS YOUR NEIGHBOR?
When we are reminded that we should bear the burden of a neighbor, its difficult not to ask the question of who or what is our neighbor that we should bear his, or her burden? This is especially difficult to answer when the one needing our help is someone with whom we would rather not associate.
The Greek of the original language, the language in which the New Testament is written, indicates that a “neighbor” can be anyone, from the person next door to the person across town or further. In essence, our neighbor is all men.
The real issue here is not the definition of “neighbor” although that is important. Rather, the issue is the application of what it means to bear another’s burden. Scripture tells us that each man must carry his own load. However, there are those times when the load becomes too heavy to carry alone and help is needed. When that happens, no matter who that neighbor is, as Christians we must step in and help carry the burden.
So, the question for each one of us is this – how have I treated my neighbor when I’ve seen him in need? Have I helped him carry his load, or have I allowed him to struggle on by himself?
Scripture: Luke 10:25-37
The parable of the good Samaritan is particularly interesting on a number of levels. And, it’s as relevant today as it was when Jesus first used it to teach.
A man, whom we assume was a Judean, was attacked as he traveled from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was beaten, stripped of his clothing and left for dead. As he lay there unable to help himself, he was encountered by three men, a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan.
Because they were men of God, we would have expected that either the priest or the Levite would have stopped to help him. Neither man did; and in fact, crossed to the other side of the road to avoid him. We would not have expected the Samaritan to come to his aid because of the animosity between the Judeans and Samaritans that dated back to the time of the end of the reign of Solomon. How surprised the injured man must have been when a Samaritan not only tended to his wounds but paid the cost of his lodging and care.
In the closing chapter of his letter to the Galatians, Paul spoke to this issue of bearing the burdens of a brother, a neighbor. He wrote that while each man must bear his own load in life, he should also bear the load of another when help is needed, as was the case of the beaten Judean.
Today, we are able to do this because God showed us how by sending His only begotten Son to bear the burden of our sin on the cross as the final sacrifice of atonement for that sin.
Christ gave His life to bear our burden! What are you willing to sacrifice to bear the burden of your brother, or your sister?
Scripture: Galatians 6:1-5
In Luke 22, we read of how Jesus responded to the question of who is the greater – the servant or the one being served. His response? It is the one who serves another. It is nice to be waited upon but, we are called to be servants just as Jesus was.
Jesus illustrates this point when He washes the feet of His disciples; a task left to a household servant. His point? There is no more humble a task than to serve a brother or sister in even the most mundane of needs.
Occasionally, God reminds of this fact of service through the actions of another. On a warm Saturday morning on a dusty baseball field, in the middle of a game between two teams of second graders, one man stopped play in order to tie the shoe laces of the batter so that when she eventually did hit the ball, she would not be tripped on her way to first base.
His was a humble act of servanthood. There was no glory to be found in it, nor recognition by his peers, nor reward of any kind other than that of living out what it means to be a humble servant.
Scripture: Luke 13:1-17
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “trust” as: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. Given this definition, the problem that each person faces is this – who/what can be trusted in this sin-broken world?
History has demonstrated, repeatedly, that much of what men have said and done could not be trusted. Over time, what governments have promised they have either failed to deliver or, have just the opposite. The story is the same for many businesses. These failures in trust is truly the story of sinful men trying to survive in a sin-broken world.
If man cannot be trusted, then who or what can be. The answer is God; He has always been trustworthy. Scripture contains example after example of the promises of God being fulfilled over time. Where the track record of man has shown one broken promise after another, Scripture has shown that God’s track record just the opposite. Samuel wrote: As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. (2 Samuel 22)
Trust in man – be wary; trust in God – be at ease.
Scripture: Proverbs 3:5; 11:28
When we are young, we are invincible; immortal, we will live forever, unscathed. Death, if we even recognize its existence is but a badly blurred picture on the horizon of our life that is itself just barely visible. As we age, there comes a time when that horizon is visible and the picture of our death becomes increasingly sharper in focus. Eventually, we come to the point where we embrace death.
Whether we have reached the point of embracing death or not, at some point in time we find ourselves asking what it means to die. There is of course, the physical definition of death that says that once the body ceases to function there is nothing else. On the surface this seems like a satisfactory answer to the question but, somehow it seems incomplete.
The apostle John quotes Jesus saying that our earthly death is not the end. He goes on to say that it is a beginning of the next phase of life – eternal life that all will experience.
Scripture tells us, however, that there will be a difference in the type of eternal life that will be experienced. For those who deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God their eternal life will be very different from those who do make this confession.
For the non-believer, he or she will experience an eternity separated from God, experiencing the wrath that Christ felt on the cross. There will not be any path of appeal to this sentence.
For the believer, however, life will be completely different. His or her life will be an eternity spent in the presence of God in which peace will be the order of the day and suffering will no longer exist.
Scripture: John 5:19-47
What does it mean to love?
God has much to say about the answer to this question in Scripture. For instance, He tells His children that they are to love Him with all their minds and hearts. He goes on to say that not only are they to love Him, they are also to love their neighbor, i.e. one another. He is not finished, however, for He tells husbands that they are to love their wives and conversely, that wives are to love their husbands and their children. He even tells them that they are to love their enemies!
We are told to love but again, what does it mean to love? How would we recognize the act of love?
We are able to recognize it because He first showed it to us when He loved us. He broke into man’s world and gave His only begotten Son, all that He had to give, as the final sacrifice for the satisfaction of the grief that out sins caused Him. Because He did this, husbands are able to place the wellbeing of their wives and children above their own. We are able to forgive the offense of a neighbor, treating that neighbor as if the offense never occurred.
The examples of love are all around you if you will but take the time to look for them.
Scripture: Proverbs 10:12
When was the last time that you went, glass in hand, to the water faucet, turned on the tap, and only muddy, foul, smelly water flowed out? It does happen, even in this country, but it is the exception rather than the rule for most of us. Clean, drinkable water is truly a blessing that comes from God. He made the water pure and gave the skills to some of His children to keep it that way when it flows into our glass.
The fact is, we take clean water, or any of the other blessings that He has bestowed on us, for granted. We even do this with one another. The fact is that far more times than we care to admit, we just don’t appreciate the blessings that God has bestowed upon us.
We are often reminded that we don’t truly appreciate something until we lose it. The Israelites were the perfect example of that statement. They bemoaned the loss of food and drink that they had while in captivity in Egypt. They complained bitterly, and often, until God restored what they needed for survival as opposed to what they wanted for comfort.
While the story of the Israelites in the Wilderness may be a bit extreme, it does illustrate the point that we should never take God’s blessing for granted – they just might disappear someday.
Scripture: James 1:17
THE JOY OF THE CHOCOLATE BUNNY
Never met anyone who did not like a creamy, milk chocolate bunny for Easter. Large, small; it doesn’t matter what size as long as it is sweet and melts in the mouth.
Easter morning is a lot like that delectable chocolate bunny. It is sweet and it brings great joy (without adding more pounds from the sugar). We dress up in our finest and we enjoy the fellowship of others who have done just as we’ve done. We pull out all of the “stops” in our worship of God, joyfully singing, praising Him and spending time in His Word.
So, why can’t we, don’t we, continue this sweetness and joy for the rest of the year? Maybe it’s because it is just too hard to keep this level of joy going. Perhaps what happens is that we just slip back into the problems of this sin-broken world often without realizing that we’ve done so. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily needs and pressures of life. We often run out of energy before we run out of day.
There is a solution to this problem that can be just as sweet as that chocolate Easter bunny. Why not turn over those things that weigh us done. Turn over to Him what you can’t, or don’t want, to handle. Ask Him to strengthen you, to give you patience, and for help in placing the priorities of your life where He would have them be.
Scripture: Psalm 16:11