Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Struggle

 
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NIV)

Things have not been going so well lately.

Yesterday, I told my wife I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the stuff that’s been going wrong.

But, I am not going to give the enemy of my soul the satisfaction of typing out a list of whining about that stuff.

 Don’t get me wrong. I’m not giving credit to the enemy for my troubles. At least one of them is my own fault and the rest are things that have happened just because they are the unavoidable result of things wearing out.

 As I was mulling over my woes this morning while driving to work, Announcer Steve Ware played a song by Holly Starr called “God Is.”

When all you see is here and now
and everything  is crumbling, falling the ground
this is just is a moment this is not forever.
But God is, God is,
greater than the fear you’re facing,
greater than the storm that’s raging.

The problems I have are temporary and passing away. They are momentary in the light of eternity and I absolutely refuse to let any of them diminish the glory that is due the LORD our God.

So, my response will be to praise the one true God!

Thank you, LORD, for creating the universe, the earth, and everything in it that shouts praises to your incredible wisdom, your indescribable beauty, your amazing creativity, and your unending love!

Thank you, LORD, for the light you spoke into being! I praise you that every day dawns with a glowing proclamation of new mercies!

Thank you, LORD, for all the blessings you grant me each day that I take for granted but shouldn’t. Thank  you for clean water, for sanitation, for food, for clothing, for transportation, for housing, for freedom from parasites and disease that people struggled with for centuries  but now are largely forgotten because of your incredible love and mercy.

Thank you, LORD, for all these conveniences around me that make my life so much easier. I thank you that you gave people the ability to conceive of, refine, and produce devices that make our lives easier than they have ever been since Eden. I praise you even when they fail because it reminds me that nothing made by human beings will ever be as perfect as you are, LORD! 

Thank you, LORD, for health for my family and I and your protection over us!

Thank you, LORD that you have set me in the midst of a free society where I can openly praise you and proclaim your great glory!

 Thank you, LORD, for the ministry you have given me in my work to love you and love others by serving them.

Thank you, LORD, for all the people in my life who help me with these minor, temporary struggles!

Thank you, LORD, for all the people in my life who love me even when my attitude does not honor you!

But most of all, THANK YOU LORD FOR JESUS!  Thank you that even though I am worthy of nothing good, out of your grace and mercy you sent your only begotten Son into this world to die on a cross for all my sins so that I and anyone else who truly believes in Jesus could spend all of eternity worshipping you and praising your holy name in the glory or your kingdom!

And thank you, LORD, that as I was driving home, Announcer Allen Jones played “The Struggle” by Tenth Avenue North. 

TODAY’S PRAISE
Hallelujah!
We are free to struggle
We're not struggling to be free
Your blood bought and makes us children
Children, drop your chains and sing

Hallelujah!
Death is overcome and we are breathing!
Hallelujah!
Our stone hearts become flesh that's beating!
Hallelujah!
Chains have been undone and we are singing!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Blessed Redeemer



 
Saturday’s are my “project days.”

Being a homeowner means I almost always have some project to complete on Saturday.

Saturday’s make me grateful that the LORD commanded Sundays as a day of rest.

When I first woke up last Saturday, my project list didn’t seem all that intimidating. While there really wasn’t that much on my internal list, it quickly grew as the clothes dryer quit drying clothes like it should,  a project I had forgotten came back to mind and could not be postponed, and the first project I tackled turned out to take two hours instead of twenty minutes.

Actually, that’s fairly typical.

And, I admit it had me pretty frazzled. In Biblical terms, the weeds of irritation, worry, and anger were rapidly growing up and choking off the wheat.

As I was driving on the way to accomplish the next task, my mind was swirling with all I had to do, how I was going to do it, what could possibly go wrong, what to do when it inevitably did go wrong and…

Then, “Blessed Redeemer” by Casting Crowns came into the car over Kinship Christian Radio.

Up Calvary’s mountain one dreadful morn
Walked Christ my Savior, weary and worn
Facing for sinners death on the cross
That He might save them from endless loss

Suddenly, the image of Jesus on that cross came clearly into my mind’s eye.

Blessed Redeemer, precious Redeemer
Seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree
Wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading
Blind and unheeding, dying for me

Seems now I see Him...dying for me.

“Father, forgive them,” my Savior prayed
Even while His lifeblood flowed fast away
Praying for sinners while in such woe
No one but Jesus ever loved so

Ever loved so…

Gratitude washed away my worry. Humility brought perspective. All the problems I faced were nothing in comparison to the cross. Nothing.

And yes, I did finally accomplish my last task of the day late that evening.  Supper was late, and I hit the pillow very tired and worn.

And all the weariness and worry and endless lists of things to do that won’t last past that day fade away in the light of the truth contained in the last verse of that song.

Today’s Praise
Oh how I love Him, Savior and friend
How can my praises ever find end
Through years unnumbered on Heaven’s shore
My songs shall praise Him forevermore!

 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Right Now


For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

A pastor I know recently raised an interesting point:

‘What will you be doing when Jesus returns?”

That can be a frightening thought.

The Bible says that when Jesus returns, no one will be expecting it but everyone will know it is happening.  (2 Peter 3:10 and Matthew 24:30-31 are two verses that tell of this, but there are many more.)

I don’t know about you, but it would be very embarrassing if the sky split open, there was a huge trumpet blast, and suddenly Jesus was coming down out of the clouds just as I was uttering words I would later regret directed at the driver in front of me who had committed the terrible infraction of driving exactly the speed limit.

Okay, scratch the word “embarrassing” in that last sentence and insert “heart-wrenching.”

But I do it all the time. Every day. 

Seriously, I could have a t-shirt printed with Paul’s “wretched man” lament:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:19 NIV)

That’s one reason every radio I own is currently tuned to Kinship Christian Radio.

What comes out of my radio is the full armor of God. Truth, righteousness, the Gospel, faith, and God’s own Word are there whenever it’s on --reminding me that my real enemy is not the gentleman in the Buick with a light foot, but the enemy of my soul.

Even as I write this, Kinship Christian Radio is playing a song with the lyrics:

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours.

You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame; they're the reason that You came
Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
But you died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet.

(Casting Crowns, “Jesus Friend of Sinners.”)

And the beauty of it all is that it’s all happening right now. Every day, 24 hours a day, God’s love and mercy and truth flow out over the air.

And it’s not just for some 56 year-old guy in a plaid flannel shirt who is convinced he needs to scream at the driver ahead lest he arrive at his destination ten seconds late.

It’s for the mom struggling to raise her children who needs a word of peace. It’s for the farmer working overtime in the field who is so very tired. It’s for the teen who is under a heavy burden of peer pressure to be like all her friends. It’s for the grandmother or grandfather who wonders why the kids don’t visit more often.  It’s for those who struggle with a loved-one’s illness.  It’s for the dad who works day in and day out but the money never seems enough and he worries how he’ll pay for it all. It’s for the one who just can’t seem to find a job. It’s for the prisoner behind bars who finds freedom in Christ that he never knew he could have. It’s for that person whose life of what used to be “fun” now seems shallow and pointless and just plain stupid-- and he wonders if all that stuff about Jesus is really true.

It is true, friend. Jesus is LORD. He died and rose to life for you. He loves you and He is waiting for you.

Right now.

Today’s Praise

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25 NIV)

 

 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Right Spirit



 
As a child, I remember being afraid of ghosts hiding under my bed or in my closet. They were shadowy, scary things and, even though Dad told me there were no such things as ghosts, it still felt like they were hiding in the dark corners of my room ready to…

Come to think of it, I guess all a ghost could really do was scare you. I don’t remember even the scariest ghost stories really having much more of point than some variation of the ghost jumping out and saying, “BOO!”

Still, I do remember lying in my bed somewhere between the ages of five and ten and repeating over and over, “There’s no such thing as ghosts, there’s no such thing as ghosts…”

It didn’t help much when we went to church and the pastor would say, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost…”

I considered it a welcome change when churches and clergy began using “Holy Spirit” instead of “Holy Ghost. “ There was enough of the culture assigning meanings to “ghost” that ranged from evil poltergeists to Casper.

The thing is, even though “Holy Spirit” is a better description, the third person of the Trinity is much harder to get a handle on than the Father or the Son.

I think that’s because we picture the Father and the Son as having human features. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is most often depicted as a dove because of the imagery mentioned in Mark 1:10, John 1:32, and Matthew 3:16 at Jesus’ baptism. I think it’s important to note that all three of the passages of scripture above describe the Holy Spirit’s movement as being dove-like, but not His actual appearance.

If you really start to look for the Holy Spirit in scripture, He’s not hard to find. He comes up in the second verse of the Bible, where the Spirit is described as “hovering” over the waters of the formless and empty Earth. As we go through the creation account, it was God’s word and the power of His Spirit that created the universe and everything in it.

The Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon with power in the book of Judges and the Spirit gives Samson power to tear lions apart and defeat enemies.  Samuel receives power from the Holy Spirit in 1 Samuel 10, then it comes upon Saul, and then upon David. Micah says he is filled with the power of the Spirit in chapter three of that book, and Mary is told it is the power of the Holy Spirit that will overshadow her and cause her to be the mother of Jesus.

Acts 10:38 says Jesus was anointed with power and the Holy Spirit to do good and heal those oppressed by the devil.

Jesus Himself tells His disciples: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 ESV)

When that day comes, as described in Acts 2, it is a powerful event with a mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire resting on the disciples. Those drawn from all over Jerusalem were “cut to the heart” by Peter’s sermon on that day and three thousand were baptized.

In Romans, Paul tells us the power of the Spirit has freed us from the power of sin that leads to death and that we will overflow with confident hope through this power.

In First Thessalonians 1:5, we are told that the gospel comes to us not only in word, “but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

And, in 2 Timothy 1:7, it says, “… for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Far from being some scary specter hiding in a dark corner and waiting to jump out and scare us, it is the Holy Spirit that created us and the entire universe, that fortifies us, that brought Jesus to us, that fills us with the power to witness, that frees us, that gives us confident hope and guidance, that is our guarantee of salvation, that directs our prayers when we have no words, that fills us with love and self-control and all the fruits of the Spirit, and that enables us to say, “JESUS IS LORD!”

It is that Spirit that is present every day on Kinship Christian Radio in word, in preaching, in teaching, and in song and it changes hearts and minds and lives for all eternity.

Today’s Praise

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 KJV)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Right Word

 

Words have been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the words “See Dick run” at the bottom of the school-book page. Reading and writing came easily to me. (Not so much with the ‘rithmetic.)

Many years later, I would attempt to major in some of the sciences, but I seemed inevitably drawn to a major in English with a concentration in writing. (Yes, that had something to do with the ‘rithmetic.)

This occurred despite it being made abundantly clear that, although being a writer is considered “glamourous” by some, 99.99% of writers definitely do not make a lot of money. I believe the exact words were something to the effect of, “So, you want to be a writer? Well, be prepared to live under flat rocks and eat bugs.”

I suppose that’s because we live in a world where words are common and almost anybody can put words on a page.

And that’s where the Bible is different.

The Bible goes way beyond what mere human beings are capable of in terms of words on a page.

As a writer, I am amazed and astounded by its complexity, the uniformity of its symbolism and metaphor, its cohesiveness, its depth, its breadth, and the timelessness of this, the greatest book ever written. Nothing compares to it.

While the Bible is fascinating and miraculous to me as a writer, it’s overwhelming, astounding, and breath-taking to me as a Christian. In other words, it’s not the words in themselves or the way they are arranged, it’s the power behind those words.

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11 KJV)

That’s a familiar verse to many, but I recently stumbled across this verse about His Word:
Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (Jeremiah 23:29 ESV)

Indeed, it was the fire in His Word that convicted me when my life had slipped into sin and broke my heart of stone. It was His own Word that brought me back to Him.

When I was fearful, it was His Word that told me that I have nothing to fear, even if I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23:4)

When I was confused by all the differences in doctrine and theology, it was His Word that reminded me to keep the main thing the main thing. (Matthew 23:24)

When my heart was broken by the death of a loved one, it was His Word that assured me we would be reunited. (John 3:16)

When I doubted my faith, it was His Word that assured me the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life is an absolute guarantee of my salvation. (Ephesians 1:14, 2 Cor. 1:22, 2 Cor. 5:5)

When I have been tempted, it is His Word that assures me there is always a way out. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

When the news of the world seems overwhelming, it is His Word that assures me we shall overcome. (1 John 4:4)

After all, it is His Word that created the universe and every good thing in it, simply by speaking it into being. (Genesis 1) It is by His Word that we live. (Matthew 4:4)

It is His Word that is the sword we carry into the battle against the enemy of our souls. (Ephesians 6:17)

His Word is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing soul and spirit, cutting to the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

And, it is His Word in the living person of Jesus Christ that became flesh and walked among us, bringing us new life and light and which will never be overcome by the darkness around us. (John 1: 1-4, 1 Peter 1:23)

It is that Word which goes out over the air from Kinship Christian Radio every day, 24 hours a day.

And it is undoubtedly the right Word.

To God be the glory!

Today’s Praise

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 ESV)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

God in a Box





If you look back on the blog post for August 27 of this year, entitled “The List,” there is a picture of one full column of my actual vacation list. The heading for the second column (which you cannot see) is labeled “VACATION BOX.”

The Vacation Box is a plastic tote which holds many of the items I regularly take on vacation like extra fishing line, a spare pair of sunglasses, a filet knife, a rain suit, and other items. Many of these items are permanently stored in the Vacation Box. Since these items do not entirely fill it, the Vacation Box also doubles as my suitcase, carrying clothes, toiletries, and other items.

It’s very handy to have everything one needs in a big rectangular bucket.

Well, I recently had occasion to enjoy a mini-vacation in the Brainerd area. The forecast included rain, wind, and cold, so I diligently packed quilted flannel shirts, flannel-lined jeans, (My fondness for all things flannel is not a secret—particularly if it is plaid flannel.) warm socks, and a rain suit.

I had planned to depart on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., but there were bills to pay, garbage to take out, and seemingly endless scores of minor details that absolutely, positively had to be done before I left.

Finally, at 1:20 p.m., I plopped my exasperated self in the driver’s seat of my truck with my boat in tow and the back of the truck loaded with a mini charcoal grill, a heater, an inflatable bed, a bucket of camping kitchen utensils, rods, reels, my tackle box, a folding chair, and numerous other items.

Before I turned the key, I prayed out loud, thanking the LORD for the opportunity to enjoy this time, asking for safe travel, and that He keep my family safe while I was gone. I ended the prayer with, “And, LORD, if there is anything which I have forgotten which I need, please bring it to my attention now.”

I paused.

There was no voice from heaven. The LORD was silent.

“Amen,” I said, and drove away.

Four hours later, at 185 miles from home, with only about 30 miles to go to my final destination, I stopped for one of those “necessary” breaks and purchased some dish soap. As I put it in the back of the truck, I did hear a voice:

“Where’s the Vacation Box?”

It was my own voice, and it was very shortly answered by the very same voice saying,

“Right next to the door where you left it.”

All my warm clothes, my toothpaste, my toothbrush, my filet knife, my sharpening steel, my, my, my…

And my blood pressure pills, too! (You can insert your own punch-line after that sentence.)

Why had the LORD not answered my prayer? Why had He let me drive away without all that stuff I needed? How could He let me ruin my vacation like that? All I had was the clothes on my back! What If I got wet? What would I do?

As it turns out, a pharmacy in Brainerd was easily able to contact my local pharmacy and provide me with a five-day supply of my prescriptions at a reasonable cost. Likewise, the Brainerd Salvation Army Thrift Store provided a very nice dark blue corduroy shirt (Okay--not plaid flannel, but at $3.95, who’s complaining?) a white T-shirt, and a like-new pair of brown denim jeans. (What’s wrong with brown denim?) A big-box store had warm socks on sale, and toothpaste and a toothbrush certainly didn’t break the bank.

My vacation was not ruined. I had a wonderful time in God’s creation and truly did not suffer at all. I even caught some fish.

On the drive home, I realized Jesus had conducted His entire ministry with nothing more than the clothes on His back and that which His Father had provided in exactly the right amounts and at exactly the right times.

There was no suitcase at the foot of the cross--only my sin.

God had indeed answered my prayer. I had specifically asked to be told if there was anything I needed which I had forgotten.  I didn’t actually need any of that stuff in that box because that box could never, ever contain all of God’s love, grace, mercy, blessings, and power.

Today’s Praise

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the oceans dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

(The above is verse three of “The Love of God” by Frederick Lehman, written in 1917. Lehman said these words were found penciled on the wall of a patient’s room in an insane asylum after he had been carried to his grave.)

 

 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hardwired





All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children. (Isaiah 54:13 ESV)

Pretty much every item made by human beings has a tag or a label or something on it that tells who made it.

My watch says “Casio” on it, the microwave next to the Kenmore stove is a Sharp, and the refrigerator is a Magic Chef. (I have no evidence of this last machine ever performing any sort of magic whatsoever.)

So, do we bear the name of our Creator on our souls?

I recently came across a mention of a study called, “Hardwired to Connect” in a book by Chuck Colson called “The Faith.”

When I looked it up, I found  the full name of the study was “Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities” It was conducted by the Commission on Children at Risk, a team of 33 pediatricians, research scientists, mental health specialists, and youth service professionals. The co-sponsors were Dartmouth Medical School, YMCA of the USA, and the Institute for American Values. The results were published in 2003.

What that study found was that human beings are, indeed, hardwired from birth to form relationships. And, it’s not just on a behavioral level. The study found physical effects on gene transcription and the development of brain circuitry. The very core of our biology and our chemistry drives us to form deep, nurturing, and lasting relationships with other human beings.

With good relationships, children are physically better able to cope with stress and to establish and maintain good and lasting relationships as adolescents and adults. Likewise, a lack of deep trusting relationships as a child was linked to higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression, attention deficit, conduct disorders, thoughts of suicide, and other problems which are becoming more and more common in our society.

And, the study found that spiritual and religious development was actually good for children. The study found that across races and cultures, children are predisposed to seek out spiritual and moral meaning. Children who find it enjoy stronger immune systems, more positive attitudes about life, reduced risk of injury, less drug abuse, and a host of other benefits. (Given that information, isn’t it odd that so much effort is being expended by so many groups to free our children from religion?)

Yes, all of those appliances in my kitchen have their maker’s names on them and every one of them came with an Owner’s Manual, so the findings of Hardwired to Connect come as no surprise at all to those of us who have read the owner’s manual our Creator wrote.

Today’s Praise

But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:16 ESV)

 

 

 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pot Blessing



 
I am a huge fan of the church potluck. 

Actually, I have taken to calling them “pot blessings” because, as a Christian, I no longer buy the concept of “luck.”  I believe God does not believe in coincidence. (But that’s a subject for a different post.)

Anyway, I recently had occasion to study 1 Corinthians 11: 17:22 and it certainly made me wonder about its connection to the pot blessing:

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. (ESV)

The early Christians were in the habit of holding “love feasts” or agape. (Yes, that’s the same word we now use to refer to genuine, selfless Christian love.)

This agape feast began from the very foundations of the early church. It included a meal, followed by the Lord’s Supper. In the culture of the day, sitting down and eating with another person was a sign of trust and fellowship. (Hence the disapproval by the Pharisees when Jesus ate with “sinners” as referred to numerous times in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.)

So, the agape feast was understandably a natural outpouring of Christian love in those early days when the Holy Spirit was moving in power over thousands of people.

Unfortunately, it rapidly went wrong, as Paul’s vehement words for the Corinthians attest. Most Bible scholars date Paul’s writing of this letter at about 57-59 AD, or less than thirty years after Jesus died on the cross and rose again.

Despite abuses, the practice continued for a long, long time—presumably in the manner intended with the focus on fellowship, sharing, and Jesus.

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a student of John the Apostle, refers to the practice in his writings. So did Pliny the Younger about 70 years after Jesus. Hippolytus of Rome, (170-235AD) also mentions them, as does Tertullian (160-225 AD).  By the middle of the third century, the connection of the meal to the Lord’s Supper had faded away, but agape feasts were still being held.

Sometime between 363 and 364 AD, the Council of Laodecia forbade the use of churches for agape feasts, but they did not fall into complete disuse until shortly after 692 AD when the Trullan Council declared that those who held love feasts in churches should be excommunicated. (The same council declared that honey and milk should not be offered on the altar.)

It wasn’t until about a thousand years later that several small Protestant denominations, in an effort to return to the practices of the early church, revived the agape feast. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, brought the practice to America after his conversion in 1735.

Now, the case can be made that the common pot blessing held in church basements all across this country are not technically, historically, or Biblically connected to the agape feasts of the early church. Certainly, the current practice is not connected to the Lord’s Supper. (Although I did find a pastor on one website who jokingly referred to the three sacraments of baptism, communion, and potluck.)

Nonetheless, although we may not be consciously attempting to duplicate what took place at the time of the apostles, I think a blue graniteware roaster full of scalloped potatoes and ham next to a quivering mound of red Jell-O with bananas hovering in it speaks volumes about love.

Today’s Praise

I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:11 NIV)

 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Being the Light


 

The question recently came up at a Bible Study I attended as to whether Christians really are being the light Jesus called us to be.

There was a moment of silence as we all pondered that question.

Eventually, a discussion arose and there were mentions of how the media portrays Christians and its general unwillingness to portray followers of Jesus in a positive light, so most people really don’t know what those being Christ’s hands and feet are truly doing.

While that’s true, it’s also important to remember that one of the principles Christians adhere to is:

"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” (Matthew 6:2 NIV)

So, our giving and our work is intentionally outside the spotlight—as it should be.

At the same time, that makes it easy to believe Christians really don’t do much to help others.

That’s simply not true.

Internet searches to try and nail down exactly how many dollars are given in Jesus’ name or how many lives are benefitted by people being His hands and feet don’t bring forth raw data very readily at all.

Only when I pulled up a list of America’s top 50 charities did I find that the vast majority are either Christian now or were when they originated—but that information doesn’t reveal itself until you start digging into the history and the mission statements of the individual charities.

When I started really digging into it, I found charities like Compassion International, Food for the Hungry, World Vision, Samaritans Purse, and many, many others that feed millions and millions of starving children all over the world. And, they don’t stop there. Those same organizations cure disease, bring clean drinking water, shelter and clothe people, educate and house the needy, fight injustice, lift people up, fight abuse and violence, offer disaster relief, and help in thousands of ways all around the world, seemingly without end.

And those four organizations are just a tiny fraction of the organizations out there being the light. There are thousands more.

Dr. Alex McFarland, a Christian author and religion and culture expert, points out that the majority of the hospitals and school systems (including America's ivy league schools) – were all originally founded by churches and Christians.

Sure, people calling themselves “Christians” have done some pretty lousy things over the span of human history, (The Crusades and The Inquisitions come to mind.) but let us not forget that the Abolition of Slavery was a Christian movement and that Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership of the Civil Rights Movement was based on his Christian beliefs.

And, when it comes right down to it, the real light that shines from Jesus isn’t about mass-market numbers anyway. There are no billboards that say, “Have Salvation Your Way!” or “You Deserve Eternal Life Today.”

Jesus died for everyone on that cross, but souls come to Him one at a time, on a personal level.

It could be from our own witness, from the joy and love evident in all we do and say, from preaching in your local church, from the pages of the Bible, and even from what goes forth over the airwaves of a Christian radio station.

Yes, there are polls and research that say we don’t know enough about God’s Word and we could certainly give a lot more of our time and financial support to the cause of Christ, and they are true.

We can and should so better.

But, take heart my friends. Jesus is alive and well. The light does still shine in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

Today’s Praise

He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. (Titus 2:14 NLT)