Christianity 201

December 5, 2021

Giving Attention to the Weak

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This is our fourth time highlighting the writing of Michael James Schwab who lives in Oaxaca, Mexico serving at a home for needy children called Cristo Por Su Mundo (Christ for the World) operated by Foundation For His Ministry.  His blog is ToEnjoyGod.com. Clicking the header which follows will let you read this at its origin.

Regard For The Weak

Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
the LORD delivers them in times of trouble.” Psalm 41:1

David claims in Psalm 41 that those who have regard for the weak will be blessed by God in that he will deliver them in times of trouble (times of weakness?). David goes on to say that the LORD also protects and preserves them. And, if that is not enough, David piles on by by proclaiming that the LORD sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness. That is a whole lot of motivation to “regard the weak.”

That also brings up at least two questions: What does “regard” mean and who are the “weak”?

Regard means to consider or to pay attention to, much like one would regard their children or parents or spouse.

The weak could be anyone. It is all kind of relative. A three year old is weak compared to a five year old. A sick person is weak compared to a healthy person. A Jr. High graduate is weak mentally compared to a Ph.D. student. A homeless person is weak financially compared to a CEO. So at any given point, any of us could be considered weak, or strong, depending on whom we are being compared to.

David is King of Israel, a man of power, prestige and influence, yet reading Psalm 41, he identifies with the weak. He is weak spiritually. In verse 4 he says, “Have mercy on me, LORD; heal me, for I have sinned against you.”

He is weak physically, mentioning in verse 8 a “vile disease”.

I think he is weak emotionally because a close and trusted friend had turned against him and that betrayal has sapped his strength (vs. 9).

In response to these weakness, he calls out to God to regard his situation and have mercy on him (vs. 10).

Whatever our lot in life, we are all weak spiritually, desperately in need of a Savior; a Helper; a Rescuer. God graciously regards our situation and condescends to intervene and lift us up. Make us stronger. Our response should naturally be to look around us and see the weak; consider the weak; help the weak.

We should also remember, like Paul, that we can boast in our weaknesses because that’s when God’s power most rests on us.

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-11


Second Helping:

Here’s a bonus reading from Michael; one that’s not rooted in a particular scripture passage, but rather, a quotation from a classic Christian book.

Courage, Patience and Constancy

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. When that happens I reach for Thomas a Kempis’ classic book, The Imitation of Christ, and before I know it, I’m sound asleep. I know that doesn’t sound like much of an endorsement for such a wonderful book: “Read The Imitation of Christ and fall asleep.”

But I do heartily recommend this book because normally when I can’t sleep the reason is I have crazy, nonsensical, weird thoughts bouncing around in my mind, that I can’t stop, so I read the deep, yet down to earth, thoughts of Thomas a Kempis. I read a chapter or two until I hit upon a phrase or a sentence that speaks to my heart, and I memorize it. I repeat it over and over until it drives out all other insanity coursing through my brain, and then I am back asleep.

This last week there was a night that I couldn’t sleep and I started reading The Imitation of Christ, chapter 26, which Thomas a Kempis titled “Of the exaltation of a free spirit”. That is where I encountered the sentence “Give me courage to resist, patience to endure, constancy to persevere.”

That is a great prayer for all kinds of different situations that we might find ourselves in, but what Kempis had in mind is the Christian’s struggle between fleshly consolations with present delights and the love of eternal things. Kempis is praying for God’s help that he stay focused on eternal things that will never fade away, like love for God and man, paying attention to heavenly things, and the sweet unction of the Holy Spirit, and that he not be entangled by the necessities and pleasures of the body, or deceived by the world and its short glory.

That is a prayer that we should pray everyday because we live in a world that tempts us in every way to focus on the hear and now, to attain pleasure because we deserve it, and to indulge our desires because we only live once. Those are lies from the world and the devil and our flesh is most ready to believe them.

People talk about being free spirits, but we can only truly be free spirits when we cast off the weights of pride, untie the ropes of immediate gratification and break the chains of materialism.

God, give us the courage to resist worldly temptations, patience to endure to the end, and constancy to persevere in Your Way, no matter what the cost. Amen.

December 18, 2014

Two Sets of Stones

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Joshua 4:20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21 And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, What do these stones mean?

Joshua 4:8 So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the LORD had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down.

stones of remembranceToday’s reading is from the devotional website All About Reflections. Click the link in the title below to read at source and look around the rest of the site.

Jordan River Stones – Stones In My Jordan

by Gloria Small

It is a joy to find it true that, if we open our hearts to Him, the LORD continually teaches us. Passages of scripture that have been read over and over suddenly jump out at you and the lesson there is always perfectly timed. Just that sort of thing happened to me. I have been so blessed and thrilled by the application of this truth to my heart that I wanted to share it. The passage is found in Joshua the fourth chapter.

The context of this chapter is, of course, the passing of the children of Israel over the Jordan into the Promised Land. The LORD had instructed Joshua to tell one man from every tribe to pick up a stone from the midst of the Jordan and to carry it to Gilgal. There Joshua was to set up those stones as a memorial of what the LORD had done for them that day and what He had done at the Red Sea (Joshua 4:20-24). The word for this stone is “eban.” The Holy Spirit brought to my mind the “stone of the help,” Ebanezer, that Samuel had set up when the LORD gave them the victory over the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:9-14).

Yet, there were two sets of stones mentioned in Joshua chapter four! That is something that I had read before but it never really registered. There is also a set of 12 stones that Joshua set up in the “midst of the Jordan” (Joshua 4:9). It is this set of stones that are “there unto this day,” that the LORD has used to bless my heart.

Jordan River Stones – What are these Stones?

When the LORD applied the stones as a lesson to my life and heart it seemed everything I heard or read re-enforced the truth. Isn’t it a wonderful thrill when that happens? The Spirit asked me, “What means these stones?” My soul had to answer, “these are the stones of the help that the LORD has allowed to come into my life.”

As I look back through it now, I can see those stones. They have not been “stones of stumbling.” Rather, the afflictions that I have seen have been building material. God has been building upon the foundation He laid in my life with those stones. Not only that, He is the one who carries the burden! What JOY!

Where are those stones? In the midst of my Jordan! I am still traveling through my Jordan, walking upon the dry ground He has prepared for me. Along the way, I see those “stones of the help” that are constant reminders that “He who has begun a good work in me, will be faithful to complete it” (Philippians 1:6).

These are stones of remembrances of battles He has won, of steps of faith taken in His Name. Those stones will remain there until “the day of Jesus Christ” and they are built upon His foundation that is under me and will be until I reach my final home with Him. How my heart filled to over flowing with love and gratitude when this lesson came flooding over me.

Jordan River Stones – Conforming Me

The process that we constantly go through, as the LORD conforms us to the image of His Son, is not always an easy one. It seems we ever learn from the “rocky places.” It is the oasis of His Word that refreshes us with springs of living water. These times of encouragement from the Spirit of Christ living with in us help us along the way. The Word that is “spiritually discerned” fills us and gives us His strength to “keep on keeping on” as we journey through our own Jordan, knowing this promise that is sure “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The lesson of these stones has brought me peace and joy in the midst of the battle. So if it looks like the waters of your Jordan are about to overwhelm you, look around for those stones.

July 1, 2014

Lay Your Burdens Down

With a few exceptions, we try not to “borrow” devotions from the same source more than every six months, but Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at DailyEncouragement.net are an exception. This is my personal “go to” devotional blog, and I try to make it the first click when my computer boots up in the morning, but sometimes email interrupts!  When I read this, I thought of the video I wanted to include with it, Chuck Girard’s Lay Your Burdens Down, and then realized a few days later that they had the same idea. There’s also a great illustration in the middle of this that I hope to remember. To read today’s devotion at source, including pictures and other suggested videos, click this link.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19). “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

In our final session at the chaplaincy training conference this week we heard Doug Clay share a message on coming to Jesus for our needs. He based his message on the story of the blind man in Mark 8 who came to Jesus to be healed and then came back a second time because he saw men as “trees walking”. Doug shared that this illustrated a persistence in coming to Jesus concerning our needs. One of the lines I really liked from his message was, “Starve your doubts and feed your hope”.

Following his message he asked the various leaders on our chaplain team to come to the front and then extended an altar call for any who may have come to the conference with a special need for which they wanted prayer. I think he was only expecting a few but long lines formed. As I observed the lines I thought of the burdens these people were bearing. For some it was a physical need, for others perhaps a matter in their marriage and family. For others it might have been a financial burden. Perhaps it was a special challenge or hard time for some in their ministry. Brooksyne and I sure recall going to meetings with a heavy heart due to ministry matters in past years.

As I observed the line I considered the burdens those we minister to are enduring. Encounters we have in the course of our chaplaincy, notes and prayer requests we receive from Daily Encouragement readers and those in our church and churches we have served. It was a long line in my mind as I considered specific situations people have and are experiencing.

One of our favorite writers is Robert J. Morgan, a pastor in Tennessee who shared an interesting illustration: he had been on a long trip and was travel weary as he walked through the airport. He was physically relieved when he spotted a long moving sidewalk and headed in that direction. It was here that the Lord spoke to his heart.

He had a bag in each hand but in his fatigue he didn’t even think to set them down. “I was still carrying my load while the moving sidewalk was carrying me. Not until halfway down the hall did I have the presence of mind to release my bags and let the moving sidewalk carry them for me.”

Can you can identify with Morgan’s illustration? In regard to my burdens I tend to set them down (trust) and then pick them back up again (doubt).

As we write this message today I consider several I know who face heavy burdens, part of the long line of people who need God’s tender touch.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” In Scripture God often emphasizes the unit of time we call the day.  In fact it’s the very first unit of time that is referred to in the Bible and the most frequently mentioned starting with Genesis 1:14.

Certainly each of us knows about burdens and we can readily identify with the Lord’s statement that “each day has enough trouble [burdens] of its own” (Matthew 6:34b). A commentary considers the meaning of the daily text in this way: “God daily carries us as a manifestation of His protective and sustaining care.” Such an interpretation brings to mind “Footprints in the Sand” written by Mary Stevenson during her teen years in 1936 as she endured major obstacles in her young life.*

What assurance His Word brings. Believing friend, God is bearing your burdens today, and wants to lighten your load. He loves you, and the trial you are presently enduring does matter to Him. He is faithful and He will see you through to the other side! Don’t try to shoulder your burdens for the heavy load will surely break you.  Instead lay your burdens down at the foot of the cross. Jesus will meet you there.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

*I didn’t want to edit the devotional, but I’ve always heard “Footprints” credited to Margaret Fishback Powers. Either way, the illustration applies. (At least a half-dozen people have claimed the poem was ‘theirs,’ Powers is widely considered to be the author of record.)

June 30, 2013

Heretofore God Has Helped Us

 

1 Samuel 7

New International Version (NIV)

So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord. They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord. The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all.

Samuel Subdues the Philistines at Mizpah

Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord. So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.

Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader[a] of Israel at Mizpah.

When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer,  saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

Wow! It’s hard to believe it but 2013 is half over already. The passage today ends with the classic words in the KJV, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” though I much prefer the NCV’s and CEB’s “The Lord helped us to this very point.”

I know this has been a rough year for many of you, as it has for us, but I believe that you believe that God has been with you “up to this point” this year, or you probably wouldn’t be reading this. I have to believe you would have deleted all the bookmarks in your computer and cancelled all your blog subscriptions to this and other resources like it if you thought for one minute that you were totally abandoned by God.

But no, you have persevered and are persevering. And you’ve made it halfway through 2013.

This passage is also the source of a line in a hymn that some find most awkward and archaic, “Here I raise my Ebenezer;” in the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. These are the original lyrics:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

Some people would like to remove the more obsolete phrases and words from the catalog of songs we sing today, but it’s interesting that the “Ebenezer” phrase is retained in David Crowder’s contemporary version of this hymn.

Yes, sometimes we should update the lyrics so that a new generation can understand, but other times we need to explain the phrasing we have: Samuel was so thankful for God’s provision that he took a stone and raised it as a monument to God’s help.

We’ve all seen historical plaques on roads and in cities which signify that something important once happened here. In Samuel’s day the technology and money wasn’t available for that type of remembrance. I don’t know what he did that distinguished this stone from any one of a number of rocks that were lying around, but the people knew. There was something that made this distinct, and we know from other scripture passages — such as when Israel crossed the Jordan river — that when God provided, the people expressed thanksgiving by making a physical representation of their gratitude.

How do you show gratitude for how the Lord has helped you “hitherto” in 2013?

February 25, 2012

There is a River

The most interesting part of this blog is the part you never get to see: The discovery of all the wonderful things God is doing in the lives of unique individuals as reflected in the Christian blogosphere. Today’s post is part of a much longer story that will be especially of interest to women, and because the blog is relatively new, you’re encouraged to visit Faith Rises and go back to the very first post in January of this year, and follow Faith’s continuing story. You can probably read the whole narrative (to date) in less than 30 minutes.

After combing through, I decided to stay with the most current blog post — the one that led me to Faith Rises initially — that will be most meaningful to those of you for whom tears of been part of your experience this week.  The original title was Two Rivers.

Once, when I was invited to speak at a Women’s Conference to share my story, I opened by saying that I had cried a “river of tears”… That may not sound very encouraging, to some people, but I knew that there were  women present who could relate, because they too had experienced the pain and disappointments that lead to crying lots of tears. I knew, because I had been there…

Sometimes people, in an effort to be comforting,  may say,” I know how you feel”… but it’s much more of a comfort when you know that someone has actually experienced circumstances similar to your own. As women, we feel things so deeply, and “crying a river of tears” was the best way that I could describe the heartfelt sadness that accompanied me through this difficult time in my life. I knew that I was not the only one to feel this way.

Many mornings,when I was having problems with my health, and praying for a miracle, my husband would wake to hear me quietly crying, with my head sunk in my pillow. He would try to comfort me, but after a while, I think he just wanted me to let go of what he considered to be an “obsession” with wanting to have a baby. But I was not obsessed, and I would not let go.

In spite of all my tears, I knew in my heart, that there was another river…

Psalm 46 says that,

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble… There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God,…God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early… Be still and know that I am God…”

Sometimes we need to have a good cry, and that’s OK,… but we mustn’t cry as if there’s no hope… There is true comfort in knowing that God sees our tears, and will answer our prayers. Just remember,

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!”

Again, at risk of repeating myself, I strongly encourage you to read Faith’s story.  This link should take you to the oldest January ’12 posts where you can begin.