I heard a great message today by Michael Yousef. http://www.leadingtheway.org/ “Surely Not Me … And Definitely Not Them
It is definitely worth a listen. You can read my babbling later.
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Heb 13:2
The really nice thing that is coming out of my circumstances is, God is using my circumstances to pare me down to what I really believe, to seek that which I do not understand (About God), and to test the things I claim I believe.
One of the big tests and refining fires of God is to see if what I say I believe is: A. Godly (Is there a genuine Biblical basis for what I claim?), B. Not just in my head…”knowledge puffeth up.” Does this belief actually live in my heart. Does it walk, or just talk? C. Where this knowledge is weak, that I get opportunities to apply it in the “real” world. Nothing defines you better than your circumstances and opportunities those circumstances offer, to be like Jesus. In my weakness to obey, God is my strength to be obedient. That is when it lives in my heart.
I find the answers to:
Do I live the commands of Jesus Christ, to love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my mind, all my soul and my strength, and do I actually love my neighbor as much as I love myself?
Do I have the strength of character to take my eyes off my circumstances and look the Lord straight in the eyes? Do I have the courage to live out my love and faith in the midst of my circumstances?
I read in the Bible: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:38 KJV
Here is a conviction that is being driven into my soul. That verse says that I am to give. It is an active tense verse that calls for immediacy of action. It begs a large question of me. Am I ever ready, and ever-present in my observation of life that I am waiting for the opportunity to give? If I give, am I being genuine in my love toward that person, or am I doing it out of “religious obligation”? When I give, have I already begun adding to my ledger the anticipation of getting something in return?
Why do I give?
My prayer is that God use the Holy Spirit to make me into the very character and likeness (I know, that was redundant), of Jesus Christ. He gave for two reasons: 1. Obedience, and 2. Love of God, and Love of Mankind. His LOVE is what led to His obedience. It was not a religious obligation, it was a genuine act of grace and love and mercy. He gave what He was rich in. He gave sacrificially.
Here is the big point God is trying to bore into my very thick skull. Give out of love. Give what you have. Jesus Himself did not have a home. He lived off the kindness of strangers, sinners, and the disciples. But what He did have, he gave even unto death.
Now comes the hard part. Being unemployed means not having the goodies I had when I was employed. And there may come a day soon, that I will be homeless. My Debtors are calling daily, some are suing, and, even though I have over 100 applications out there, I am getting crickets.
Here is WHY I am sharing this intimate detail with you: Those are my circumstances. I can tell you exactly what I would have done in my Pre-Christian life. I would have panicked, paced the floor, gotten angry and taken it out on my loved ones, and generally would have made an ass of myself.
What God is teaching me in these circumstances is that, He is able to carry me, and continue to change my character into the character of Christ.
So now comes the test.
Do I get so involved in how unlucky I am, how I am a loser because I am unemployed, because I cannot even buy my family the very basics of life? Am I so wrapped up in my apparently overwhelming circumstances that I forget that I am being made into the image of Christ?
This morning, while the Spirit of God was showing me these things, He asked me, am I willing to give as Christ gave? Of course, in my best legalistic, and Hyper-Calvinist voice, I reminded the Spirit, I have NOTHING! What can I give? I have to beg for just the basics of life!
It was then he reminded me that I belong to God. I belong because of the Salvation that I have accepted in Jesus Christ. God is teaching me, through my circumstances, that I can give to others even though I have “nothing”. What I do have is a lot of time and my body.
I have a heart that God has healed. I have a mind and heart for the downtrodden, that I never knew existed. I have eyes that can see the differences between a taker and a person in genuine need. When I see opportunities, do I respond with the Love of Christ, or do I keep my head down, my eyes averted, and focus on my own problems. Are MY circumstances more important that the Love of God?
Am I afraid to trust God that, when I approach a stranger, my giving will be a blessing from God?, That HE will be my courage, and my blessing? That it is HIs desire that I be just like His Son? Do I trust God that He will empower me and make me able?
Jesus becomes manifest in our lives when we obey Him, out of Love, and desire to be like Him. It is not a duty. It is not a forced obligation. It is an external expression of the Love of Christ being revealed in my heart. It becomes a gift from Christ when I give it to a person who happens to need a smile, a kind word, or a blessing.
My sins were very many. Do I love others with the same gratitude and joy that I love God for my forgiveness?
I have hands: I can open a door with a smile and a “God Bless You”. I can carry a package for someone, while I show love to that someone.
I have a heart: The Spirit of God will reveal to me the ones He wants me to touch, and when I am in doubt, I will touch anyway. Love and Grace and Mercy are more fresh and delightful when given with reckless abandon. It doesn’t mean you are stupid for going where no one else will go. It means you trust God to carry you because you are giving away the love God has shown you.
I have feet: I can walk however far it takes to help someone.
I have the Love of Christ: He said He has not come into the world to judge the world, but to save it. Do I look on the helpless, the needy, the lost, the ones who are lost in their circumstances, just to judge them unfit for my love, my mercy, my grace, my gift? Or do I see an opportunity to share the Joy, love, mercy, and grace God has shown me?
“Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Luke 7:47 NKJV The words of Jesus
Is my heart so hardened by my circumstances, or my “Religious Wisdom”, that I cannot see that it is my arrogance God is trying to cure? My sense of self-righteousness is broken on the rocks of those in need. My heart is being molded into the Character of Christ when I step out of my circumstances and learn to give, even out of my need.
“Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.” Luke 7:44-46 NKJV – The Words of Jesus
Am I really willing to do for others what I say I am willing to do for Jesus?
I can push a shopping cart that an elderly person is struggling with. I can put a shopping cart away for a soccer mom who is harried by her circumstances. I don’t know what God is doing in her life, but maybe, just maybe, my act of kindness will be that one act that God uses to help her turn a corner.
We do not know what we are doing when we are urged to show kindness to a stranger. That stranger may be at a breaking point that my kindness will heal. This is a gift from God, and not of my own doing. A smile is medicine. A hug is security to someone so lost in their circumstances that they believe they are alone. Giving will soften a hard heart, both mine and theirs. Love has turned my cynicism into a willingness to believe that Jesus’ love will be translated to another person when I demonstrate it.
Am I willing to give love to the unlovely? Am I willing to give my time for someone I cannot even stand being around? It is easy for me to help people I love, or even like. It takes Christ in me to help me to love my enemies, pray for those who spitefully use me. It takes the courage only Love of Christ in you generates to kneel down and give water to someone who may be out to ruin you. Doing this in love is a blessing to them, and will soften their heart. Given for any other reason is poison.
My friend from England, an Engineer, used to tell me that I am such a jack-ass that I kick the door down, shoot everyone in the room, THEN try to determine who the bad guy is. He was right. Now, can God turn that behavior into someone who is willing to open the door, and give to everyone in the room, despite who is worthy of the gift? Yes. He can, He does and He will.
Do I wait for the Big moments. Do I want to be Moses, and be known as the friend of God? Do I want the lime light? Do I want the return on the gift instead of being willing to give out of my need?
I know myself well enough to know that I am always looking for the big moments. God will fill me with His love, grace and mercy, but my understanding of its significance is revealed in my behavior. Is there enough evidence to convict me of being like Jesus?
I praise God that I lost my job, if learning these things is what it takes to make me aware of the power and love of God.
My Prayer: My Heavenly Father. I praise your name. I glory in your mercy and grace. I pray, Lord, that you take all of us “Religious Bigots” and turn us into the very image of Christ. This especially applies to me. I am grateful you are turning my lip service into a real walk. I confess that I only had a head knowledge of you, before these circumstances. I glory that you love me enough to discipline me. I am grateful that, instead of casting me aside as completely lost, you sought me out to redeem me.
Glory to God. I praise your name. You are the helper of the hopeless, and the defender of the weak. You are my Lord. Jesus is my Savior and my Lord. Thank you for turning my heart of stone into a heart that loves. Keep me constantly in your eyes, and deliver me from my own foolishness.
I pray because I am bought with the price of Jesus’ blood, and am redeemed by His sacrifice.
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” I Cor 6: 19 – 20
Jesus did not come into the world to make bad people good. He came here to make dead people live.
Let’s be about it!
I love you,
David G. Perkins