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The king will answer, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.” Matthew 25:40 (CEV)

It was the week before Easter when our small community choir visited a homeless shelter in a nearby city. Our small town, rural environment didn’t prepare us for what we experienced. Some of us had seen them in passing, the younger ones hadn’t. They were ‘bums, or hobos’ when I was growing up. Now the more ‘politically correct’ title was ‘the homeless’.

Our stereotypes were greatly wounded by the experience. After our concert we sat with men and women who missed their families dearly. Mom’s who admitted that their choices sent their children away. Dad’s who longed to know how their little boy was, but because of the mistakes he’s made, wasn’t allowed to. The tears of remorse flowed. The stories came out.

The experience taught me to look a little differently at the man on the street corner holding up a ‘Will Work For Food’ sign. These were men named ‘John’ and women named ‘Sandy’. Moms and Dads, sons and daughters, who were faced with the same decisions you and I were faced with. They took an easier way, a way that looked better at the time but ended up being a path with stiff and harsh consequences.

There was one other thing we noticed about many of those who stayed for the meal afterwards. They had a deep love for Jesus. How can someone who uses drugs, sleeps under bridges and occasionally steals claim to love Jesus? Better yet, how can I claim to love Jesus and not have compassion (at the least) for those less fortunate, the social outcasts, he’s put in my way to love and when possible give a helping hand.

What a privilege the Father has given us to be able to show the love of Jesus to those less fortunate than ourselves! There was no money handed out that night, but all of us left richer than when we came. Our new friends were reminded of Jesus love for them and the forgiveness only he can offer. We were reminded that not only did Jesus die for all of us. He allows us to minister to one another.

It’s a hard, but true fact that our Father expects us to reach out to those who we least want to reach out to. The dirty, the failures, the ones that we’d rather turn away from. “But,” you may say, “They will just use us. They’ll just take advantage of us. They can’t be trusted.”

The Father turns to us and says, “Yes, they may. I took a chance on you. Will you take a chance on them?”

PRAYER: Father, I’d far rather turn my attention and focus towards the beautiful and lovely. I’d far rather show your love to those who will build me up for my efforts. But I realize your desire is for those who are unlovely by the world’s standards to be shown your love. Empower me to show your love in a tangible way to the unlovely people around me. Amen.

But Jesus said, “My Father has never stopped working, and that is why I keep on working.” John 5:17 (CEV)

The story of Mary and Martha is a great study in work ethics. Martha was the typical ‘type A’ personality. When there was work to be done, she found it…and in her eyes there was always work to be done.

Mary on the other hand was a ‘type B’. I’m not saying she didn’t see the importance of work. She agreed with Martha in one respect. There would always be something to do. But since work would always be there, there was no urgency to get it done. Look at the other things in life. Take time to smell the roses. Life is too short…you get the picture.

So, it’s no surprise that when Jesus stopped for a visit Martha sprang into action making sure everything was just right while Mary took some time to sit at the master’s feet. When Martha confronted the issue Jesus gently reminded her that while work was important, the more important things were to be about kingdom work and with kingdom work there is no calendar.

Jesus had a tendency to view Kingdom work a little differently than the establishment in that regard. Take for example the day he became a missing person in the family entourage home fromJerusalem. After being missing for three days Mary and Joseph found him talking to the Pharisees in the temple. When she questioned him, his response was to remind her that he needed to be about his Father’s business. Kingdom business knew no calendar or age requirements.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry he had a penchant for doing the work of the kingdom and never once do we read that Jesus told some poor sick person to see him after the Sabbath! When he saw a need, he met it.

The lesson for all of us in this isn’t that Kingdom work is the ONLY important work. Kingdom work should be a part of our everyday work existence. You are a plumber? Do it for the Kingdom. A greeter at the local discount store? Do it for the Kingdom! It doesn’t matter where you are, what you are doing or what day the calendar says.

Never stop working for the Kingdom because the King has never stopped working for you. Every day the sun rises and sets. Every day the world spins on its axis. Every day you receive the strength and grace and mercy for another day of work.

PRAYER: Father I thank you for the work you have given me to do. There are days when it’s tedious. There are days when office politics come close to driving me insane. Help me to remember that the work I do is for your Kingdom. Thank you that you never stop working on my behalf. Amen

Shout praises to the LORD! He is good to us, and his love never fails. Psalm 107:1 (CEV)

We have entered into the period of time the church celebrates as Lent. Lent is that time for reflection leading up to the passion of Jesus Christ. Like many church traditions, Lent began for good reasons, as an avenue of worship and remembrance. As time has warn on, Lent has become more ritual that relationship building.

For some Lent is nothing more than a new set of church activities and responsibilities. For others it’s a time of sacrifice. For others, Lent is simply that period of time leading up to yet another chocolate holiday.

This year, take some time to focus on the original intent of this period. Revisit the gospels and read the accounts of Jesus’ last days on earth. Read each gospel account to grasp the differing views of the writers. Read it from different translations. Reading different translations helps to gain new perspectives.

Meditate as you read on the fact that all of this was done with you in mind. Every step Jesus took on the way to the cross was taken for you. Your name was imprinted on his sandals. Your face imprinted on his mind.

As Jesus made his way toJerusalemhe endured opposition, but you were worth it.

As Jesus made his way toJerusalemhe was well aware of the trials he would bear on your behalf, the beatings, the floggings, the spit in his face, the nails in his hand. But you were worth it.

As Jesus made his way to Jerusalem He knew the urgency involved. He knew that he had to do this so that you would have the gift of freedom and eternal life. He pressed on in the face of adversity because you were worth it.

As Jesus made his way toJerusalemhe knew some would take advantage of him. His mercy would fall on those intent on their own selfish gains. But he continued on, realizing he’d be forgotten by some because you were worth it.

As Jesus made is way toJerusalemhe never lost sight of who he was. Son of God. Creator of the universe. God incarnate. Master designer. Worthy of all honor and praise. As he looked over the city he wept. His tears weren’t because of his own impending pain, he wept for you. He wept for you because you were worth it.

What great love your Lord Jesus has for you. A love that is available regardless of your sin. A love that is available in spite of your past. A love that is available to you because in the eyes of the master, you are worth it.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. As we enter this season of Lent help me to revisit your passion in a sense of awe and thanksgiving for all you have done for me. Thank you for your grace and forgiveness. Thank you that in your eyes I was worth the pain you bore. Amen.

The words of the LORD are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times. Psalm 12:6 (NASB)

I heard it again just this last week. Every once in awhile I hear it. Someone speaking authoritatively about the Word of God. The saying goes something like this, “The Bible is irrelevant. Nothing but a bunch of made up stories written over a period of time. Meaningless for today.”

Every time I hear some rendition of that claim I think back to guy I knew years ago I’ll call Harvey.Harveywas the plant know-it-all at the factory I worked at. If you needed an opinion on something you could go toHarveyand he’d tell you EXACTLY how things are, were and should be.

There were two basic problems withHarvey’s words. First of all his opinions were rarely based on fact and quite often his statements were proven wrong by conflicting evidence before they left his mouth!

Secondly, when the facts were presented toHarvey, he would simply deny their validity and go on his merry way. Content in his own ignorance.

One day I joined our group a little late.Harveywas already in full fire on the topic of the day, the topic of his choosing. “The Bible is just a book. Too full of contradictions for me. That’s why I don’t go to church and why I don’t read it.”

Normally I kept my mouth shut. I enjoyed watching and listening toHarvey. This day was different. Not wanting to get into an argument, I simply askedHarveya question, “So, have you ever read the Bible?”

Harveystopped, stuttered and said, “Well, no. I just heard that it has contradictions.” With that, a very red facedHarveywent on to a new topic of discussion!

There are lots ofHarvey’s in the world. People who don’t pay attention to facts and are so set on their own opinions they miss the truth completely. They are content in their own ignorance. When they can’t prove it wrong they simply choose what parts to believe!

There has never been a book so maligned, so studied and so scrutinized. Yet science continues to prove that the Bible is completely true in all it says. No one else can make that claim. No other book has that kind of security.

The word of the Lord passes the three tests of time in flying colors. It’ is a word of purity. Some may say that it’s old fashioned in its approach to life in the area of relationships, sex, and ethics, but how do you argue a philosophy built on unconditional love, forgiveness, grace and eternal life.

The Bible has passed the tests of science. Time and again the dates and times of the Bible have been proven to be true, as have the principles for daily life. Outdated? When did ‘doing unto others as you’d have them do to you’ become outdated?

Lastly, the word of God passes the test of permanency. People have been trying to disprove the word of God for thousands of years. Yet it remains the standard for healthy living physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The words of people can’t be trusted. They may speak in ignorance; they may speak to cover their own mistakes or build their own egos; they may speak to deceive you. God’s words are always meant to build you up, even if they are words that seem harsh. You can trust God. He’s never been proven wrong yet!

PRAYER: Lord, there are so many voices out there trying to sway me to this belief or that belief. Thank you that I can trust your word. Help me to fashion my thoughts, actions and attitudes by the words you have given me. Amen.

Please help me, LORD! All who were faithful and all who were loyal have disappeared. Psalm 12:1 (CEV)

Talk to anyone from ‘the Good Ole’ Days’ for very long and they’ll tell you things have changed. My Grandfather sold real estate for over 30 years. The way he did business back then would never fly today. Too many forms to fill out, regulations to adhere to and protective measures to put in place. Much of Grandpa’s business was done with a handshake and a smile. Why? Because a man’s word was good back then.

Not so today. Politicians tell every group what they want to hear. Those enlisted to protect the public can’t always be trusted to treat everyone the same. Vows made at the altar are sometimes broken before the day is finished. Even those called to minister for the Lord fall by the wayside because of moral, ethical or spiritual collapse.

I stopped at a local fast food place the other day. Since I was in a hurry I used the drive through to order a sandwich. As I pulled away with my purchase I parked to double check my order. It was wrong! I went into the building and explained my situation to the young lady behind the counter. She was very polite and apologetic. “OH! I’m so sorry! Keep this one and I’ll get you the right one.”

With that she turned and got the crew working on getting me the right sandwich. In the meantime she apologized continually for the mistake. I finally said, “It’s okay! I’m not upset. It’s fine.”

At that point she said, “Well, you see, we’ve had people come in very angry. I’m not used to people like you who aren’t upset.”

As she handed me my correct sandwich I smiled and said, “Well, the difference is, I’m human. I know we all make mistakes.”

As I got in my car I thought of how my one small gesture of kindness and understanding had most likely made that young woman’s day. I didn’t pull out a Bible and start preaching to her. I didn’t hand her a gospel tract or explain how people should be more careful. I simply showed her the love of Christ.

Being faithful begins with you. Be faithful to yourself by realizing your own faults and living with the understanding that you are human. You will make mistakes. You will falter, perhaps even fall. But God’s grace can lift you up. When we realize our own weakness, it’s far easier to deal with the mistakes others make.

Secondly be faithful to your God. As a Christ-follower you are the representation of Christ’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness for others to see. Your heavenly Father knows your weakness. He knows you will fail him every day. Yet, in spite of your inability to follow his laws, in spite of your lack of commitment to him, he loves you and wants a relationship with you. Faithfulness to God begins with a proper understanding and acceptance of who you are and deepens as you grow deeper in God through study, prayer and worship (corporate as well as private).

Lastly, be faithful to those around you. Be a person of your word. If you make a promise, fulfill it. If you fail, confess it and ask forgiveness, realizing you may have damaged a relationship, but you have done everything in your power to restore it. Put the feelings of others before your own rights. In essence, “Be Jesus in Skin” to all those around you.

At the end of the day, may all those who have come in contact with you know the answer to the question “Where have all the faithful gone?” They will answer with your name.

PRAYER: Father I’ve been unfaithful in so many ways. I’ve lost sight of who I am. I’ve grown far from you. I find myself demanding my rights before protecting the rights of others. Empower me with your spirit to be a faithful person so that other will see Christ in me. Amen.

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February 2012
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