I was given a copy by the author in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book. What a great story of sharing the love of God with those in need. Rugby boys is a testimony of a missionary who ended up on an extended stay in the Philippines. There she met several “Rugby Boys” who are named after the glue (rugby) that they inhale. An honest telling, she includes her mistakes, her bad days, and the failures. I can recommend for pre-teens on up. A great book for anyone who has a heart for missions. I give it 5 stars.
God has called us to a life worth living. He never intended for us to go from one meaningless task to another. Sometimes on our walk, we tend to get caught up in one aspect, such as parenting. All our time and energy is put into our children. Or maybe it is our ministry, or our job, or a hobby. Worse yet, we try to have our irons in too many fires and nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished. That’s why it is important that we simplify our lives as much as possible.
So how do we live this kind of life that matters?
We don’t have to be perfect Christians! There is no such thing! We strive to be better, but we live where we are. God uses us no matter our immaturity, no matter our faults, or our failures. If God was waiting for us to be “perfect” before He used us, nothing would have ever been accomplished in the Kingdom. Let’s take a look at some imperfect people that God used.
Elijah- we all know he was a great prophet of God. He challenged the prophets of Baal in boldness and power, only to run away from an evil queen and have the world’s biggest self pity party. God had to correct him.
Moses- God’s chosen deliverer. He brought over a million people through the wilderness. The Bible tells us he was the most humble man. Yet he made excuses to God, killed a man, and never got to see the Promised Land himself due to his disobedience.
David- He was a man after God’s own heart. Designed the temple, initiated praise and worship, fought the giant in strength and honor. Yet he committed adultery, had the woman’s husband killed, and neglected to teach his sons the way of God.
Rahab- Was a prostitute. But the woman saw God for who he was and ended up being in the lineage of Jesus.
Then we all know about the disciples. They lacked faith and discipline. Often, they seemed baffled and confused about everything Jesus tried to teach them. Some were stubborn; one was a robber and took silver to betray our Lord. Yet God used them all, even Judas.
We know all of this, so why do we think we aren’t good enough, mature enough, smart enough, or whatever, to be used in a big way by God? Why do we judge others as unworthy to be used? I think it is our expectations that are messed up. There is a huge difference in expecting better, looking to improve, and striving to be more like Jesus, and expecting perfection. Jesus was the only perfect person and even He had His “hour of flesh.” In addition, I think our idea of what make a perfect Christian is totally different that one another’s, and definitely different than God’s idea. We know that He sees the end from the beginning, but don’t be confused, and never let Satan lie to you about that. It doesn’t mean God is expecting you to be that end product right now. He is conforming us into the image of Christ.
Romans 8:29 (NIV), “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
I heard this on a radio program yesterday, “God loves you for who you are, not who you should be.” Let that sink in. Before we were saved, when we were still living according to our flesh, in darkness and in this world, we found out that God loved us. Despite the mess, despite the condition of our hearts, He loved us. We accepted that love and He adopted us into His family. Then somewhere along the way we decided that He loves us because He knows our end from the beginning. That He loves who we are going to be. That is not the whole truth. No wonder He tells us that the truth will set us free! God loved us when we were ugly in our sin, He loves who we are going to be, and most importantly He loves us know, just as we are. That old hymn, “Just as I am” holds profound truth.
Never allow that to be an excuse to stay the way we are. He wants better for us. His plans for us include great things. We have to allow change to take place, but be patient and allow the Holy Spirit to work your life. He has given us gifts and talents to do wonderful things for the Kingdom.
I Peter 4:10 (NIV), “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
Let’s look at a few people who used their gifts for God.
Acts 9:36-42 (NASB), “Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did. And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, “Do not delay in coming to us.” So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.”
Tabitha made clothes for the poor. To some people that might not have been a “big” deal. Her kindness touched the heart of God and He sent Peter to raise her from the dead.
Then there were the two women who cared for the prophets of God. The first was a widow who lived at Zarephath. She only had a little oil and flour and was preparing to die, but she gave to Elijah first and God blessed her with enough to last through the famine. The second, a barren woman, set aside a room for Elisha so that whenever he passed through he had a place to call home. God blessed her with a child, and then when her son died, God used Elisha to raise him from the dead. These were small things that these women did each for just one man, but God saw them as great deeds.
When we help just one person at a time we are working for Him. When we do an outreach that reaches dozens, hundreds, or even thousands, God doesn’t see that as any more significant. We need to stop looking at our shortcomings, our lack of recourses, or our seemingly lack of time. It’s not us, it’s Him. He gets it done. We commit our way to Him and He does the behind-the-scenes work.
So maybe we are afraid of failure. We may have thought we heard God and stepped out only to find out it wasn’t Him after all. It’s happened to us all. If we let that stop us, we will never get anything done. If you missed His voice, you don’t remedy that by deciding to not listen to any voice. The answer is to practice hearing Him. Get to know Him better. Start small and do the things you know He has asked, like paying tithe, reading your word, giving to the poor, raising your children in the admonition of the Lord, and loving your neighbor. When we obey in these small things, we learn to hear Him. Our flesh is crucified and our spirit grows not only stronger, but closer in relationship with the Father.
There is risk in everything! Which do you think God is more pleased with, someone who steps out and stumbles, or the one who sits on his rump and refuses to step out at all? Be a David, be an Esther. The world needs more Corrie Ten Booms, more Tabitha’s, more like the widow at Zarephath.
I think about the prophets in the Old Testament. They lived in a time when God’s chosen people were in blatant sin and rebellion. They had broken every command that God had given and on top of that had made idols with their own hands, worshipped the false gods of the nations around them, even going as far as offering their own children to the god Molech by casting them into the furnace. These profits had to preach a ‘turn or burn’ message. These were the words that God gave them to speak. But those men, most of them, prayed for mercy, wept and lamented over the sin of their people, sorrowed over their sure destruction. What kept them motivated? God’s promises. His promise to Abraham that he would father a great nation. His promise to David, that one of his descendants would sit on the throne forever. God’s promise to save a remnant who He would bring back to the Beautiful City, Jerusalem, and His promise of a savior, the Messiah. The promise of His continued love, to those who did as He commanded.
We have it so much easier. We don’t have to shave our heads, cook over cow dung, marry a prostitute, tell our families and neighbors that the enemy will triumph over them, will dash their babies to peices. We get to tell them that God loves them, wants to bless them. Our object lesson is LOVE. We get to show them how much they mean to the one who created them. We can’t be like Jonah, with his attitude of, “they should get what they deserve.” He is a great example of a prophet that was NOT motivated by love. God had to force him to go and tell Nineveh that He was giving them another chance.
God never asked us to quote scripture at people. We use scripture to learn about God, and who He is, encourage ourselves and one another, those in our family, who know the language of heaven. We use them to declare God’s will over our lives and those of others. Quoting scripture to someone who isn’t saved is like speaking French to a Mexican, they aren’t going to understand what you are talking about. God did ask us to show people how much He loves them. It is important we know scripture, that we are intimate with the Word. But that isn’t so that we can prove our expertise and by our understanding of scripture somehow convince the lost of God’s love. They don’t recognize God’s word as TRUTH. They don’t know it’s alive and living. Think of it this way. If you told your husband at the breakfast table that it was against Canadian law to eat toast on Tuesdays, what would he say. “I’m not Canadian.” Or if one of your children tells a friend, “you can’t watch that pg13 movie, my dad doesn’t allow it” what would you expect the friend to say? “He’s not my dad.” So why do we think giving an unsaved person scripture about do’s and don’ts will convince them they need to be saved. They aren’t part of the same family, or a citizen of heaven like we are.
There are Churches who quote scripture, (mostly out of context) who are portraying God as a hard task master who is ready to punish them for their sin or who hates them because of their sin. They interrupt funerals of fallen military men and women, screaming at mourning family members. They stand on street corners and spout off about the end of the world, doom and destruction. How many people are they bringing into the Kingdom. The media depicts God as a foolish old man, or an angry deity ready with a bolt of lightning. They depict Christians as bigots, and self-righteous, and unforgiving people. Or even worse, they show us as the crazy psycho people who live in corn fields, killing torturing others.
We are all appalled by those things, but is it any better when we turn a cold shoulder to someone in need? When we are more concerned with how someone looks or smells, than the condition of their soul? How are we portraying God when we are too distracted to help, too busy to go out of our way for someone who needs Him. God says that it is HIS GOODNESS that turns hearts to repentance. He uses us to show them His goodness.
I John 3:17 “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”
Hebrews 13:16 The Message (MSG) “ Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.”
We all have ample opportunity to show God’s love. It starts in our homes and radiates out through our lives to those we touch in small ways throughout our days. We have to be ‘rooted and grounded’ in His love. If we aren’t we’ll reflect the world around us, instead of the Father’s heart. God’s love is ‘shed abroad’ in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Not confined in a closet. Shed abroad. Scattered to the wind, cast on many waters, an endless supply, and more than we will ever need. His love doesn’t run out. It is there for us personally, and then more for us to share. We can’t always love people with our own human emotions, let’s face it, some people are hard to love. But we can always love people with His love. It isn’t an emotion. It is a gift, we just have to choose to use it.
Sometimes we can backslide into a place where we aren’t motivated by love anymore. We may be working out of a sense of duty or for self seeking reasons. A good litmus test is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
The Message (MSG)
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Have you given up on someone? Do you look back on their past mistakes? Are you waiting for them to fail? Do you lose patience and are easily irritated with others? (That was a big one for me!) Are you filled with pride and self-righteousness? Do you put yourself constantly before others? (Now I am not saying don’t take care of yourself, especially you mom’s, we have to have time for us and down time, that’s not what I am talking about). If you answered yes to any of these things, or all of these things, then check your motives.
We know we are walking in love when we expect the best for others, put them first and keep going, keep praying for them.
Isn’t that what God has done, and continues to do for us?
This little book by Van Crouch is a must read. It is a book that in very simple terms, shows you how to handle bad situations. I recommend it for every person who follows Jesus. It is simple enough for pre-teens, but is geared for adults. There is a bit of humor in his books, just like hearing him in person. A great gift idea for someone going through hard times, or in a dry place. I give this book a solid 5 stars.
Comfort and Compassion
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for…” Isaiah 40:1
There are a lot of hurting people in this world, the result of the fall, Satan’s attacks and our own stupidity and wrong choices. Jesus comforted the hurting and had compassion on their plight. He told the woman caught in the very act of adultery that he didn’t accuse her. He told the woman at the well, who was living with her wrong choices, that he had living water for her that would change her life. He fed thousands who had empty bellies and empty hearts.
We see in the fourth chapter of Luke, Jesus standing in the Synagogue in Nazareth where he was raised and quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, “The spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.” Then he tells them that he is the fulfillment of this scripture.
What is the good news? That God loves us that his son came to show us that love and how to love others. Jesus demonstrated compassion and comfort. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:1-2, “Are you strong because you belong to Christ? Does His love comfort you? Do you have joy by being as one in sharing the Holy Spirit? Do you have loving-kindness and pity for each other? Then give me true joy by thinking the same thoughts. Keep having the same love. Be as one in thoughts and actions.” The good news is that what we have received from Jesus, we can share with those other hurting people. His compassion and comfort came out of a heart filled with love. His compassion healed the man with the withered hand in spite of the consequences he would face from the religious people. His compassion drove the demons out of the Gaderine, healed the sick, cleansed the lepers and it forcefully nailed him to the cross. The compassion of Christ was so great that the grave couldn’t hold it, or the five hundred others that came up with him.
Jesus told us that we are to preach this good news of God’s love and compassion. The wonderful news that he sits on the throne of grace in all authority and power then gives us the same authority and power her on earth. The good news that he hasn’t left us here alone, but has sent the Comforter, His Spirit to guide us and teach us. Jesus never put conditions on his love; he just wanted to help people. Search the scriptures and you’ll see he never turned anyone down. Sure, in his home town, in the same chapter quoted above in Luke, he said a prophet couldn’t do much for his own, because of their unbelief, but he still wanted to help them. He never said, “It’s your own fault, deal with it,” but he did tell us, those who say we love him, “what you’ve seen me do, you do it!”
We could reach the world this way – could change the world this way. One person at a time, one smile, one hand reaching out in love, one crust of bread, one warm blanket at a time…
Really, what does He want? You could ask dozens of people and get dozens of different answers. Those answers would range from- obedience, praise and worship, money (tithes and offerings), time, energy, loyalty, attention, commitment, and the list could go on. All of those things are true, but doesn’t that make God sound like some ego-maniacal, dictator who lounges on a throne demanding attention and glory? Who wants that for a Father?
Simply put, God wants you. I know cliché. But He wants your heart. He asks all of those other things from you because those things benefit us. Let’s break this down a little. God doesn’t need your money, but He asks us to give 10% (tithe for the running of the Church and the support of the staff) and offerings (to help others), because He knows that “if we give, it will be given back to us”. (Luke 6:38). Also when we give to God, He promises to “Open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing” (Mal 3:10). God wants us to praise Him because praise “stills the enemy and the avenger” (Ps 8:2), it makes Satan shut up and stops his actions against us. He asks us to work because He works with us (I Cor. 3:9). He doesn’t sit while we work, in fact “He works while we wait.” We work because the Church toilets need cleaning, those little noses in nursery need wiped. Those things bring us together as a family.
God is love! He doesn’t just possess, show, or talk about love, He is love. It is the very nature of God (I John 4:7). That’s why He loves everyone. He loves the drug addict, the prostitute, the serial killer, the child molester, everyone! But don’t be deceived they are not His children, or part of His family. His children are the ones who have surrendered their lives to Him. Those are the ones he promises to take care of. Because He is love and He wants all to be His children, He asks us to work together with Him to build His family. He doesn’t want this love to remain one sided. What does it benefit them if He loves them, but they never experience love for Him? Those others who have Satan as their father (and they don’t even know it), they need to be reached. They need to know God’s love. How can they be reached if we aren’t co-laboring with Christ.
Our ‘work’ for God, those things all mentioned in the first paragraph, and any other thing God may have asked of us, should come out of our love for God. If they are coming out a sense of obligation, duty or fear, the motivation is wrong. Even worse if they are coming out of self-righteousness and pride, it’s going to be harmful to you instead of helpful. What motivates your work? It’s easy to “grow weary in well doing” (Gal. 6:9) if we have the wrong attitude. I know I’ve been there. I’ve screamed in my head, “What do you want from me!” on more than one occasion. I had allowed the thoughts to take root in my heart that I was doing so much for him already, but that somehow that wasn’t enough, that He was demanding more. That I was lacking. Those are just a bunch of ugly lies, God doesn’t demand, we have a choice. At my worst moments of fear, illness, weakness and depression, God patiently reminded me that He loved me, that He wasn’t asking for a slave (being forced), but that He wanted a daughter who served from a heart of thankfulness and love. I had gone back to Egypt (slavery) when He wanted me in the Promised Land (a place of rest, provision and peace).
God showed His love for us through the ugliness and the shame on the cross. Jesus not only poured out His life’s blood on that tree, but also His great love and longing for us. When we know Him, (not know about Him with our reasoning mind, but know Him intimately in our hearts), we understand what He wants. He wants a relationship with Him, two way conversations, and fellowship. He wants us to spend time with Him, not in work or service but in relationship. Get these pictures in your head. First think about how you feel when your child obediently cleans their room, to the best of their ability. Now think of your little one sitting on your lap, with each of their little hands on either side of your face, looking into your eyes, and saying “I love you”. Which one touches you more?
Sure their room needs cleaned and we have to teach them responsibility, it’s for their own good after all (sounding familiar?), but first we want their love. The Church needs cleaned, bills need paid, and the lost need reached. But first and most importantly we need to accept God’s love for us, and love Him back, build a better relationship with Him. We don’t do that by work, but by sitting in His lap. All of those other things will get done and with the right motivation. Sounds easier, freer, and way more fun!
“Yes I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” Jeremiah 31:3