Archive for April, 2012

Considering the Cause of the Poor

The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.

Proverbs 29:7

There are so many verses in the book of Proverbs about the “poor” that I think we often overlook.  In our materialistic society, whenever we hear the term “poor,” we automatically think of someone who has little or no money or things.  But “poor” can be applied to many different areas.  Some people who are “poor” have plenty of money, but they are poor in spiritual things.  Some may not have a lot of money and earthly goods, but are rich beyond comprehension.  There are different types of “the poor.”

But, whoever these “poor” are, we are told that, as righteous people, we need to be considering, or, thinking about them.  The wicked, on the other hand, “regardeth not to know it.”  The wicked person just ignores the whole situation.

I have often said that God’s people should be the most generous people on the face of the earth.  If we see someone who has nothing, and we are able to meet their need, we should do it.  Again, people can be “poor” in many areas.   But whatever their area of need, we should be working to meet it, if it is at all in our power to do so.

Some people are physically and materially poor.  They might need food, clothing, money, or a host of other things.  If we can help someone in those ways, why don’t we?  Nowhere in the Bible are you going to find anything positive said about stingy misers.  If we can help someone with a physical or material need, let’s do it.

Some people have spiritual needs.  We know the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the answer to every spiritual need.  Many people are poor in the area of spiritual things, and we have all that they need.  We should be helping them.

We are told to “consider” the cause of the poor.  Not only are we supposed to be helping the poor, but we are supposed to be actively thinking about how to do it.  How are we doing?

Jesus Loves Me (Hymn)

Jesus Loves Me
Anna Bartlett Warner (1862)

            Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.
Jesus loves me! This I know,
As He loved so long ago,
Taking children on His knee,
Saying, “Let them come to Me.”
Jesus loves me when I’m good,
When I do the things I should,
Jesus loves me when I’m bad,
Though it makes Him very sad.
Jesus loves me still today,
Walking with me on my way,
Wanting as a friend to give
Light and love to all who live.
Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.
Jesus loves me! Loves me still
Tho’ I’m very weak and ill;
That I might from sin be free
Bled and died upon the tree.
Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way;
Thou hast bled and died for me,
I will henceforth live for Thee.

Sometimes the simplest songs are the most powerful.  I think that is the case with this one.  “Jesus loves me, this I know, For the Bible tells me so.”  How true is that?  He loves me and I know it because of what the Bible says.  “Thou hast bled and died for me, I will henceforth live for Thee.”  That should be our attitude every day of our lives.  There are so many great truths in this song.  It’s sad that it is often relegated to “only” a children’s song.  We adults would do well to sing it often and pay attention to the message!

Seeing Our Works

And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there.  And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and may others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them: Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.

Matthew 15:29-31

This is a classic passage about Jesus’ earthly ministry.  He “went about doing good” and these verses show just that.  People who were “lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others” came to Him and He healed them.  That is just what He did.

During all of this healing, the multitude was watching.  They saw “the dumb to speak, the maimed to be made whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see.”  After observing these things, the multitude of people watching Jesus did something that struck me: “they glorified the God of Israel.”

While on Earth, Jesus was always doing those things that would bring glory to the Father.  In fact, in John 8:29, He says (speaking of the Father): “I do always those things that please him.”  The people saw Him and saw what He was doing.  Watching Him caused them to glorify God.

Think of the power of that thought.  People saw Jesus and glorified God.  Can the same be said of us?  When people see us and watch our works, does it cause them to “glorify the God of Israel?”

As always, Jesus Himself is our perfect example.  All of His works were perfect and they caused people to glorify the Father.  That is exactly what our works should be doing.  Are they?

All Talk, No Heart

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me…

Isaiah 29:13a

Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

Matthew 15:7-8

This is a scary passage.  It is mentioned in the Old Testament and repeated in the New.  I think that it is mentioned in both places because it is a problem that we are always going to have.  It was a problem in Isaiah’s day, it was a problem in Matthew’s day, it is still a problem today and it will likely be a problem tomorrow.

There are always going to be hypocrites.  In fact, I’m sure all of us have been hypocritical in some situation at one point or another.  But we do not have to be like the hypocrite spoken of in these verses.  These hypocrites say everything just right.  They “draw nigh unto me with their mouth.”  They “honour me with their lips.”  But there is no heart anywhere.  “Their heart is far from me.”

God wants our hearts.  He wants us to worship Him and serve Him from our hearts.  Of course, when our hearts are right, it will help our mouths to be right also.

I have heard it said that it is much easier to say the right words without having a right heart than it is to say to wrong words while having a right heart.  So many Christians today are putting on a show.  They smile and say the right things, but they have no heart for the Lord.  What a sad situation to be in.

We would do well to examine ourselves regularly to make sure that we do not fall into this category!

Moments of Realization

But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.  And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.  And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.  But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.  Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

Matthew 14:24-27, 32-33

After the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus went off to a mountain to pray while the disciples stayed in the ship.  The winds started to blow and a storm began to threaten the ship.  Jesus then performed another miracle and walked on the water to their ship.  It was during this time that Peter left the boat and walked toward Him.  After Jesus got into the ship, the winds ceased and the storm calmed.  Then the disciples said an interesting thing: “Of a truth thou art the Son of God.”

These men knew that Jesus was the Son of God.  This was not a new revelation.  They had just seen Him feed a multitude of people with five loaves and two fishes.  They knew Who He was.  But maybe seeing just how completely even the wind and sea obeyed Him drove that knowledge a little deeper into their hearts.

We all have had and will have similar experiences where we stop and simply say “Of a truth thou art the Son of God.”  Maybe not those exact words, but definitely that thought.  It might be a need that the Lord meets in an unexpected way or it might simply be seeing the vast canopy of stars and thinking about God’s creation.  Whatever it is, we should be mindful of and thankful for these little “moments of realization” that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.

Our Five Loaves and Two Fishes

But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.  And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.  He said, Bring them hither to me. 

And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.  And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

Matthew 14:16-18, 20-21

I was thinking a little more about this passage.  I’ve heard many sermons preached on the feeding of the five thousand.  They usually deal with the disciples doubt or the miracle itself.  But I keep coming back to verse 18: “…Bring them hither to me.”

Five loaves and two fishes are not a lot of food.  These probably were not giant loaves of bread or huge fish, either.  Five small loaves of bread and a couple of fish.  To be honest, I could probably eat most of that myself.  In the hands of the one who owned them, it was enough to keep them fed for a day or two.

But when brought to Jesus, that small amount of food was enough to feed five thousand men, plus women and children.  And it was enough to pick up twelve baskets of leftovers.  If there would have been one million people, that small amount of food would have been plenty.

It is the same with our lives.  We all have talents and abilities. None of us are perfect.  None of us have every talent and every ability.  But we all have something.  We each have our “five loaves and two fishes.”

We can do one of two things with what we have.  We can keep it and use it for ourselves.  That is what most people do.  They take their talents and abilities and use them to make money, which they spend lavishing comfort and entertainment on themselves.  They might use them to increase their popularity or fame, but it is still all about them.  They are taking their loaves and fishes and having a nice meal of them.

On the other hand, Jesus says “Bring them hither to me.”  We can give our talents and abilities to Jesus, and He can not only provide for us with them, but multiply them to be a blessing and help to a multitude of others.

The choice is ours.  What will we do with our “five loaves and two fishes?”

Bring Them to Me

And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.  But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.  And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.  He said, Bring them hither to me…  And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

Matthew 14:  15-18, 20

Iin this passage, we find the disciples questioning Jesus.  I don’t think that it was a defiant questioning, just a “it’s not possible” type of questioning.  Jesus had told them to feed the people.  They responded with the fact that they had but five loaves and two fishes.  They cannot possibly feed such a multitude of people with five loaves and two fishes.

Then Jesus said something that we should take to heart every time we think that He has called us to do something that cannot be done: “Bring them hither to me.”

What seemed impossible, and, humanly speaking was impossible was really just an opportunity for the Lord Jesus to perform a miracle.  When Jesus tells us to do something, we need to do it.  If it seems impossible to us, we need to “bring it to Him.”  Held in our own hands, what we have is not much, but when given to Him, we can see it multiplied many times over.

Whatever it is that we have in our hands, it is not much.  If we try to hang on to what we have and use it for ourselves, we won’t see much done with it.  However, if we give it to the Lord, He can do wonderful things with it.

“Bring them to me” always produces a greater result than “keep it for ourself.”

God Has a Better Plan

And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.  And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.  But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.  And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.  He said, Bring them hither to me.

Matthew 14:14-18

We all know the story of the miracle in which Jesus fed all of this multitude of people.  He had mercy on these people and started healing them and helping them.  When evening came, his disciples started to get hungry.  In their defense, they also started to realize that the other people needed to eat, too.

Their plan was reasonable: send the people away so that they could go “into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.”  There is nothing unreasonable about that.  They were men and they were thinking as men think.

However, Jesus’ plan was different: “…give ye them to eat.”  Jesus told the disciples to feed the people.  Of course, the disciples (again thinking as men) reasoned that there was no way to feed a great multitude with but five loaves and two fishes.  That’s not a lot of food.

The difference here is that God sees things that we do not see.  We are bound by human limitations; God is not.  We can not see a few loaves and fishes feeding very many people.  God can see that little bit of food being plenty to feed an entire multitude of people.  We can only divide what is already there.  God can multiply what is there.  In fact, God can make something out of nothing.  Multiplying a few loaves and fishes is not a problem for the One Who created the fishes and who created the plants that produced the grain used to make the loaves.

We need to be careful not to try to limit God to what our human reasoning says can or can not be done.

How Firm a Foundation (Hymn)

How Firm a Foundation
John Rippon (1787)

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

This is one of my all time favourite hymns.  He has given us a  “firm foundation.”  Every verse is an encouragement for the trials of life and I especially like the last verse: “That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”  If that isn’t encouraging, I don’t know what is.

Agnus Dei

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every on to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

Isaiah 53:6-7

Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

Revelation 5:12

This post is entitled “Agnus Dei,” which, in Latin, means “Lamb of God.”  I have been thinking about the theme of Jesus being the “Lamb of God”  a lot lately.  The Bible speaks often of us as sheep, and it often refers to Jesus as a Lamb.  He is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”  The inspiration for this thinking came from a strange source: a painting.  The painting was also titled “Agnus Dei.”  It was painted by the Spanish painter Fransisco De Zubaran in the 1600s.  I came across it the other day and haven’t stopped thinking about it.

It depicts a lamb, laying on the ground, bound but not struggling.  (Isaiah 53:7)

The lamb is spotless and pure.  (“But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:” -I Peter 1:19)

Looking at that painting, I saw what it represented: Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross.  He was bound and sacrificed for me and you.  He went willingly.  He was the perfect Lamb and the perfect sacrifice.  He did it all for us.  He was, in the words of Isaiah, “brought as a lamb to the slaughter.”  He knew what was going to happen, but He went willingly without argument.  What a perfect Lamb and a perfect sacrifice!