I love my children's class sweethearts.
Sometimes they are a wild bunch. Sometimes it's a crazy mix of ages and languages. They are often full of smiles and giggles. Sometimes their clothes are ripped. They are often dirty. They don't notice or care. They are just happy to be in children's class, singing "Read Your Bible" and laughing as they mimic growing like a plant.
All of my sweethearts are from families in such poverty that the American mind cannot fathom. Even many of the American homeless are better off than the majority of these families. They work in farming and agriculture and make just enough money to put the cheapest of foods on their plates. Many live in one room shacks right in the middle of the garden that they tend for the land owner. I look in my shoe cabinet and see more than a dozen pairs of shoes. I have warm weather shoes, cold weather shoes, shoes to match black outfits, shoes to match brown outfits, running shoes, biking shoes, aerobics shoes, and bedroom shoes. Most of these people have one pair of shoes: cheap and flimsy flip flops that they wear year round, in cold weather and hot weather and monsoon rains, and in all activities. They work in the fields in them, play soccer in them, walk to church in them, and walk to school in them.
Psalm 41:1 "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies."
It's easy to throw money at these situations to try to solve their problems. There is something much more difficult, though.
Would you give hugs and love on them through all the dirt?
Would you let these sweet faces crawl up in your lap even on the days they smell like urine?
Would you play with them and teach them and correct them day after day even when they can do nothing for you in return?
Would you hug the mom even with the threat of lice looming with every physical contact?
Yes, sometimes money does make an impact. Recently a woman sent us a substantial amount of money to minister to the children. She heard about them from 10,000 miles away and her heart was broken. I think she would have let every one of them crawl up in her lap, and she would have snuggled with each one as if they were her own grandchildren, dirt and all! We took the money and bought these precious babies much needed winter clothing. (They had absolutely nothing, and the temperatures were dropping.) The kids were thrilled, and so were the parents who could not properly clothe their own children. Their biggest thrill is that the "rich man" and his "high caste" partner plays with them and loves them. They know there is something special about this because in their culture, rich people and high caste people have nothing to do with poor, low caste people.
When you see the homeless man on the street, do you turn the other way? Is he too vile and dirty for your time and affection? When the drunk bum on the road staggers along through life, do you continue your Christmas shopping without thought of his eternity? Are you focused on your shopping and getting more and more stuff for yourself, your family, and your friends? Are you so busy with the season of giving and cheer that you have no time for ministering to those who have the greatest need? Are you showing them the Saviour? Are you reaching out to them, and especially reaching out to their greatest need, the need of salvation?
God shows great favor to those who consider the poor. After all, that's what He did for us. When we show love and affection for the poor, we demonstrate the character of God to the world around us. It's more than just throwing money at them. It's getting down in the dirt with them and removing the lines that separate us... just like Jesus did. He reached out to us. We were poor and dirty with sin. And yet, He invited us to crawl up in His lap. He didn't just give money to solve our physical problems. He spend time among us meeting the needs of our hearts, souls, and lives.
So what are you doing to show the love and compassion of our Saviour to those who are the lowest in our culture? Are you reaching them with the Gospel?
I love Christmas time. It's a very festive season in our home. I try to put some form of Christmas in every room of the house. Christmas towels, Christmas wreaths, Christmas candles, Christmas pine cones, Christmas blankets and pillows, Christmas bows, and Christmas garland. It's like a Christmas explosion. Decorating for Christmas is something I enjoy and have gotten pretty good at doing. But there is something I struggle doing during the Christmas season. I am terrible at it! Christmas gifts. When Christmas rolls around, it's like I have forgotten everything I ever knew about a person. My mind goes blank. I have no idea what to get them.
My husband, on the other hand, is the most amazing gift giver. He always seems to come up with the perfect gift. It isn't just the gift that he gets that excites me. It's the heart and attitude with which he gets the gift. He gets so excited! He carefully picks out presents based on what he knows about the person. He hunts and hunts until he finds exactly what he is looking for. When he gives the gift, he stands there with a big grin on his face, staring and waiting for the person's reaction. When the person bubbles over with joy, my husband's face lights up like a Christmas tree. You would think he was the one who received the gift!
Psalm 40:6 "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required."
What does God want? What gift is He looking to receive? When He opens up our gifts to Him, what is He looking for?
Is He looking for an obligatory gift? Is He pleased when we give Him something that we feel we have to give?
What does He want?
Have you ever received a gift that you knew the person only gave it because they felt they had to? It wasn't heartfelt. It was merely given out of a sense of obligation. I have received those kinds of gifts. I have also given them many times. It makes me feel so shallow. And it should!
What makes my husband such a great gift giver?
1) He thinks about the person, who they are, and what matters to them.
When we give to the Lord, we need to do the same thing. What is God like? What matters to Him?
Psalm 40:5 "Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered."
Do we realize how much God thinks about us? Do we realize how much He does for us each and every day? Do we realize what He has already done for us? He dotes on us. He treasures us. He loves us deeply! So what kind of gifts would matter to Him?
2) He gives out of a desire to please the receiver of the gift.
Psalm 40:8 "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart."
David didn't do things out of obligation. He delighted in pleasing the Lord. It was in his heart! It was his passion and desire. It isn't just the gift that matters. It's the heart with which we give the gift.
What gifts does our God want? What is His desire? He wants us. He wants our hearts. He wants us to delight in Him and in serving Him.
When my husband gives me a gift, I certainly enjoy the gift, but what I enjoy more than anything is seeing the joy and excitement plastered across his face as he gives the gift. His heart is in it because he loves me.
What does our Father in Heaven want? He doesn't want us just to sing. He wants us to wholeheartedly praise Him in song.
Psalm 40:3 "And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD."
He doesn't want us to just sacrifice and give offerings. He wants us to delight in serving Him. He wants to look on our faces and our hearts and see our joy as we give to Him gifts of love, praise, trust, and service.
Do we give Him obligatory gifts? Or are we searching out the perfect gifts to give to Him with joy?
There is a scary phenomenon that happens here during monsoon season.
The streets are full of danger on a normal day, but during monsoon the dangers reach a new level of insane. One day while driving my scooter on a paved road, I reached a section that was a large puddle. My daughter was riding on the scooter behind me. The rain was pouring down and we were ready to get home and get dry. I slowed down and started driving through the puddle. Halfway through the 20-foot pond, the front tire of my scooter suddenly plunged into a deep, unseen hole. The scooter came to an instant stop, slinging me into the handlebars of the scooter and slinging my daughter into my back. I was able to keep us from toppling over, but my feet were now soaked in the muddy water. It took some effort, but I was able to get the scooter out of the hole. My hips and waist, however, were sore and bruised from the sudden jolt and stop. I was pretty happy to be on firm ground after that.
Psalm 40:2 "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."
David was pretty excited about getting on firm ground too! He was in a pit that caused pain and agony. God lifted him out of that pit and put David on firm ground. If we are saved, God has done the same for us! He has set us on a firm foundation. He has set us on a new path. We are new creatures in Christ. Having assurance of salvation is powerful! Knowing that I am out of the pit and established on the Rock helps me to walk confidently in Him. He has established my goings on this new path and has even given me clear instructions on how to navigate this new path. I will never again walk on that old path because He removed me completely from it! Sometimes, however, my walk mimics how I used to walk on that old path. It is during those times that I need to remind myself where He brought me from, as well as where He placed me now.
Do you remember the pit you were in?
Do you remember the day He lifted you up out of the pit?
Are you on the new path walking confidently in Him because you are sure of your salvation?
Are you walking on the new path, but acting like you are still on the old path?
David knew exactly how we feel so often. Something gets said that isn't right. Maybe it's inaccurate. Maybe it's insulting. Maybe it's offensive. Maybe it is said intentionally. You get a little heated. You just want to respond. As your heart burns within you, the temptations come.
Psalm 39:3 "My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned..."
Yes, David knew how we feel sometimes. But what did David do?
Psalm 39:1 "I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me."
David held his tongue. He knew the battle was the Lord's, not his. He knew it wasn't his job to defend himself or to bring the enemy low from his lofty perch.
What is it that makes us get into arguments on social media? What is it that drives us to verbally humble those who speak ill of us? Pride.
David knew this was a temptation for him. He chose to keep silence altogether. It wasn't that he didn't say bad things. He didn't even speak good things because he knew those things would have been said in pride.
Psalm 39:2 "I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred."
David finally broke his silence, but notice who he spoke to:
Psalm 39:3-4 "My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am."
He didn't speak to the enemy. He spoke to the Lord. What did he ask the Lord to do? He asked the Lord to humble him and to help him battle his pride. He lumped himself in the same group as every other person, and called himself vanity.
Psalm 39:5 "Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah."
He was declaring that he was no better than his enemy. He was just as vain and just as needy as all other men.
Struggling to keep your silence? Are you tempted to react to someone's attack? Is your heart burning within you?
Psalm 39:7 "And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee."
Wait for the Lord. Turn to Him. Remind yourself that you, too, are weak, sinful, and needy. Humble yourself.
"If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be." -Charles H Spurgeon
Going to the doctor doesn't scare me. Getting shots does not frighten me. Having my blood drawn for blood work doesn't bother me. But do you want to know what I struggle with when visiting the doctor's office? Do you know those spring-loaded lancets? They are the finger poking things the nurses use to prick the tip of the finger. The spring-loaded ones are conveniently cocked and ready. The nurse simply has to touch the release button as the lancet is placed firmly on the fingertip. With a distinct, loud click the lancet shoots the blade into the tip of the finger. Why does that bother me? Every time I hear that click noise I jump. It startles me. No matter how much I am expecting the noise and try to relax, when I hear that loud click I jump. When a blade is being shot into your skin, that is not the best time to jump.
One day I went to visit the doctor. I had to have my finger pricked. I told the nurse, "You need to hold my hand tightly because when I hear that click I will jump." I made it a habit to warn nurses who were using the spring-loaded lancets of my reaction. Nurses would then take a death-grip on my hand and would proceed without incident. Unfortunately, this one nurse did not take my warning seriously. She held my hand, pressed the release button on the lancet, the click sounded it's deadly intent, and I jumped. What should have been a simple, small prick was now a nasty cut that sliced across the tip of my finger.
Pricks turn to cuts when you jerk away.
Psalm 38:2 "For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore."
David was being pricked. The arrows of the Lord's conviction were sticking him. It was uncomfortable. David didn't jerk away. David didn't reject. David knew God was doing a healing work in David's heart. David needed the conviction and the chastisement because he had sinned. How did David respond?
Psalm 38:18 "For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin."
Acts 2:37 "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
When the people of Acts 2 heard Peter's message, they were pricked in their hearts. The Gospel convicted them and they responded with repentance.
Later in the book of Acts the high priest, the chief priests, and the captain of the officers gave a much different response. They heard the truth about Christ. Peter and the apostles refused to stop preaching Jesus.
Acts 5:33 "When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them."
They were not just pricked. They were cut! Why? The same sword (God's Word) that pricked the people of Acts 2, cut the heart of these men because they jerked away. They rejected. They were not interested in the healing that the Lord was offering.
Stephen preached the Gospel in Acts 7, and got a similar response.
Acts 7:54 "When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth."
Those men that he preached to rejected God's Word, and Stephen became the first martyr.
Standing close by, consenting to his martyrdom, was a man named Saul. Saul was vicious in his pursuit against Christians. He threatened and pursued Christians. Yet, God was already working in Saul's heart. On the outside, he was dedicated and determined, yet God's Word was pricking his heart. When he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus confronted Saul about his response to the pricks.
Acts 9:5 "And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."
He was not rejecting God's work in his heart. He was not cut to the heart, but he was kicking. Later he submitted to the pricks and repented. He responded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
What are you doing when the Word of God pricks? How do you respond to conviction?
Do you jerk away and reject? It will cut your heart and make you angry and bitter. It will cause you to lash out at those who speak the truth of God's Word.
Do you kick against the pricks? Do you fight the work God is doing?
Or do you, like David, submit to conviction?
Psalm 38:18 "For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin."