God Has Come to Help His People

resurrection-funeral-death-barrett-christ-166563-wallpaper11Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out–the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” 14Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people” (Luke 7:11-16).

Widows and orphans have always been people that God has given special care and compassion.  His heart goes out to them in their need. It is a cruel world for those who are unmarried and have children, they are amongst the most needy in our society and even more so in the Middle East where there is no Social Security or insurance plan for the unemployed.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27).

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling (Psalm 68:5).

Let’s try and get a picture in our minds of the scene in front of us. We are told in Luke 7:11 that a large crowd of people were following the disciples. Just as they were approaching the town gate they were confronted with the funeral procession. Normally there would be a band of professional mourners at the head, with their flutes and cymbals uttering their shrill cries of grief, followed by those that were carrying the boy in the coffin. When we think of a coffin we think of a wooden box but this was more than likely a long wickerwork basket used for carrying the body to the grave. I find it amazing that we don’t see the widow asking for a miracle, Jesus undertakes without a request from her. Author Ken Gire says: “It is a miracle done without human prompting.  Without thought of lessons to be taught to the disciples. Without thought of deity to be demonstrated to the skeptics. It is a miracle drawn solely from the well of divine compassion. So free the water. So pure the heart from which it is drawn.  So tender the hand that cups it and brings it to this bereaved mother’s lips.” We are most like our Lord when we can step into the shoes of those who are poor and hurting with hearts of compassion, longing to do what we can to alleviate their pain and need.

There are some situations where God does not require faith before He moves, He acts out of His own compassion, grace and mercy. I find it refreshing to know that even when I am at low ebb spiritually that He will move on my behalf outside of His requirement for expressions of faith. Jesus was not worried about being ritually unclean as he stepped forward and touched the coffin. People are what matter to Him. There is a higher law at work, the law of love and compassion. His heart, we are told, went out to her. He said, “Don’t cry.” He felt her pain. When any of His people are hurting He feels their pain. Turning to the boy, he said, Young man, “I say to you, get up!” 15The dead man sat up and began to talk. We are told that there was an awe that filled them, astonishment at such a thing. This awe was awareness that God indeed was visiting His people, how could this be! This young man was dead! Imagine the praise that went up, verse 16, as relatives and the mother herself received her son back from the dead. Imagine what pain there would be in losing your only son and then the joy of holding the one you already had to release to death.

“God has come to help His people!” (verse16).

According to the gospel writers, every funeral that Jesus went to He raised up the dead person! There was Lazarus in John 11, the Centurions servant in Luke 7:1-10, and then Jairus’ daughter was also raised from the dead in Luke 8:40-56. Alfred Edersheim in his book “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah,” tells us that the Jews believed that there would be three evidences in the ministry of the Messiah, He would cleanse lepers, heal the blind and raise the dead. Are you convinced yet that this is indeed the Messiah? God has come to help His people!

Keith Thomas

The Way of the Cross

12912757_642787695859096_677544362_n23Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it 25What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? 26If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”  (Luke 9:23-26).

In the year 771, Charlemagne became king of the Franks, a Germanic tribe in present-day Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and western Germany. He had gained an empire, but yet in his dying days, he had found out the truth that to live for oneself and to gain an empire without Christ seated on the throne of one’s life was to die a miserable death. One hundred and eighty years after the death of Charlemagne, about the year 1000, officials of the Emperor Otho opened the great king’s tomb where, in addition to incredible treasures, they saw an amazing sight: the skeletal remains of King Charlemagne seated on a throne, his crown still on his skull, and a copy of the Gospels lying in his lap with his bony finger resting on the text, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”[1]

Too many people rush about seeking for fame and fortune, desperately putting all their time, energy, and money into climbing the ladder of success, only to find at the end of their lives that their ladder has been against the wrong wall. Life is too short to have regrets about how you have spent your years in frivolous things. He tells them, and us, that if we really want to follow Him, to be His disciple, there are three things we must do: deny self, take up a life of cross-bearing, and do it daily. 

There are some that feel that to deny oneself would be not to do anything pleasurable, not to ever eat chocolate, or go see a movie. They say that to deny oneself means to do nothing that would be fun. However, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). If to follow Jesus means to never enjoy life or never to have fun, it sure doesn’t sound like it would be a life of living to the full. So what does it mean?

  • To deny ourselves. I believe that this means that pleasing our Lord is to be a higher priority that pleasing self. We must put His will first and foremost in our lives.  If we can imagine a throne room in the temple of our hearts (1 Corinthians 3:16), Christ needs to sit there, and not ourselves. He must rule and reign. The Greek word translated as deny means not only to say no to something, but also it is used to refuse someone. William Barclay, the Bible commentator, further defines it, saying:

Ordinarily we use the word self-denial in a restricted sense. We use it to mean doing without something, giving up something. For instance, a week of self-denial is a week when we do without certain pleasures or luxuries, usually in order to contribute to some good cause. But that is only a very small part of what Jesus meant by self-denial. To deny oneself means that in every moment of life to say no to self, and to say yes to God. To deny oneself means to obliterate self as the dominant principle of life, and to make God the ruling principle, more, the ruling passion, of life. The life of constant self-denial is the life of constant assent to God.[2]

  • You and I, as disciples, need to take up our cross daily. A cross was an implement of death. When a man was seen carrying a cross, people knew he was on his way to death. A life of purpose (a life of dedication to Christ), i.e. real life, has a way of coming to us when we dethrone self and place Christ at the center focus of our lives. This life that we have on Earth is but a seed to be sown into the lives of others. Selfishness is gone when an attitude of heart that is dead to self reigns. Paul the Apostle was a great example for all of us in his words: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). To be crucified with Christ is to live with the purpose of doing God’s will daily, even when our flesh life craves the opposite. This is a Spirit-controlled life.
  • We are to follow Him. Many seem to follow the way of self. They bow at the shrine of I, Me, Mine, Myself. To the follower of Christ, his heart is to be like Jesus in every way that He lived His life. We are to follow His example. He modeled to us how we are to live. Christ Jesus has bought us, not with silver or gold, but with the most valuable thing that He had: His blood, His life in this world. Jim Elliot, one of five missionaries who died seeking to reach the Auca Indians of South America with the message of Christ, said this: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” (Shadow of the Almighty, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Page 15).

These notes are taken from the Bible study on Luke in the middle column, the study called 20. Peter’s Confession.

Keith Thomas

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word, Luke Volume One, Printed by Crossway Books, 1998. Page 342.

[2] William Barclay.  The Gospel of Matthew, Vol.  2. The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, Pa.: Westminster Press, 1958) p. 167.

How Much Are You in Debt to God?

6a00d8341c7a9f53ef0133f0e2bcaa970b40Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:40-42).

Jesus went to have dinner at the invitation of a Pharisee named Simon. During the meal a woman that was known as a prostitute in the area came and washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and anointed Him with her expensive perfume. Simon’s thoughts betrayed him to the Lord. He judged Jesus for allowing this known sinful woman to draw near to Him and touch Him. Jesus spoke a parable about two debtors.  Although Jesus was speaking the parable to Simon, it is also applicable to all of us. Every one of us has a debt of sin that we have brought upon ourselves.

At the time of Christ, a denarius was the take–home pay of a man for a day’s wages. One had a debt of the equivalent of a month and a half’s wages, and the other’s debt was equal to one–and–a–half-year’s wages. The Lord was acknowledging that, outwardly, the sinful woman’s sin was of the sort that spiritually was a high debt, but at the same time, He was pointing out that even though Simon thought that he was morally a better person, he could not pay his debt of sin either. Both were unable to pay. Every one of us is spiritually bankrupt before this Holy God to whom we have to give account someday (Romans 14:12). Let’s use the analogy of being an Olympic long jumper. Maybe you can long jump eight feet as compared to Bob Beamon’s Olympic world record achievement in the long jump of 29 feet, 2 inches. However, if you both had to jump across Niagara Falls, a distance of 1800 feet, both would fail. It matters not whether you are a 50-denarii sinner or a 500-denarii sinner, no one can meet the demands of a holy God.  Jesus put it this way:

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).

The law was given that men and women would see their need of a Savior and turn to Him and be saved in order to have their sin–debts cancelled. We can all improve our lives and characters to a certain degree, but we cannot, by ourselves, cancel out the debt of sin that is against us. Author R. Kent Hughes puts it like this:

What we must understand is that the condition for being forgiven is to realize that we are broke and insolvent, where we are accomplished moralists or accomplished sinners. This is the problem—people keep trying to persuade God to accept the currency of their own making. Some submit the currency of integrity. “God, I work with compulsive liars. The only honest man I know is myself. Surely I am acceptable.” Others would argue that their domestic currency ought to make it. “In this X-rated world, my life is a wholesome G. I’m faithful to my wife. I love her and my children. I am a good husband, father, and son. I reckon that’s all I’ll need!” Social currency is a favorite too. “I am truly color-blind. My money (lots of it) goes to the needy. I volunteer at the crisis pregnancy center. I really do care. The world needs more people like me, and so does heaven.” Church currency is perhaps the biggest delusion. “I live at church. My goodness will surely be accepted.”[1]

It is good for our hearts to consider regularly where we would be in life if not for the Lord interrupting our path and Jesus coming and eternally changing our lives with the Gospel. Those kinds of thoughts should give us a new appreciation and gratitude for Christ.  If there is a lack of love toward Christ in us, it is because of a lack of awareness and consciousness of the debt of sin that has been paid. How much in spiritual debt are you? Isn’t it time to come to the Lord and have Him graciously pay your debt for you? Turn to Him today, acknowledge your sin to Him that He may forgive you and have your debts paid for by Christ’s substitutionary work on the cross for you.

Keith Thomas

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word Series, Luke, Volume One. Wheaton, Illinois. Crossway Books, 1998. Page 280.

If You Are Willing, You Can Make Me Clean

maxresdefault-112While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 13Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 15Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:12-16).

There were two kinds of Leprosy in Jesus’ day. One that was rather like a very bad skin disease, while the other was a disease that started from a small spot and ate away the flesh until the wretched sufferer was left with only the stump of a hand or a leg.  It was literally a living death.

The man in our passage was covered with Leprosy (verse 12). The Book of Leviticus gave very specific instructions about various skin diseases, Leprosy being one of them.  Lepers could not live inside the town, obviously that meant that they could not go to synagogue or the Temple. They were outcasts of society. The leper was to cry “Unclean! Unclean!” wherever he went: he was to dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:45-46). They had to carry a bell everywhere they went and if anyone should come within 50 yards of them they had to ring a warning to them. Leprosy was a contagious disease.

Dr A. B. Macdonald, in an article on the leper colony in Itu, of which he was in charge, wrote, “The leper is sick in mind as well as body. For some reason there is an attitude to leprosy different from the attitude to any other disfiguring disease.  It is associated with shame and horror, and carries, in some mysterious way, a sense of guilt, although innocently acquired like most contagious skin diseases. Shunned and despised, frequently lepers consider taking their own lives and some do.” Often the leper came to hate himself.  That is the kind of man who came to Jesus; he was unclean and Jesus touched him. It doesn’t seem as if this man came with anyone else if he was part of a leper colony.  Somehow he heard of Jesus and sought Him out.

We are told that without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). The leper had the faith to go in search of Jesus. The passage tells us, “While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy (verse 12). He risked being stoned for being in the town. It was evident to all he was a leper because he “was covered with leprosy.”  There seems to be a courage born of desperation that brings him to Jesus. There is a humility in the leper for he casts himself on the ground, and with his face in the dirt, proclaims his words of faith, “if you are willing, you can make me clean.” There is no doubt in his heart that Jesus can do this.  If there is any doubt at all it seems to be about the willingness of a Rabbi to even associate with him.  He knew Jesus to be a holy man and was afraid to cause him to be unclean by being near Him, but his was a courage born of desperation.  To come into contact with a leper would demand that anyone wash his clothes and be ceremonially unclean for the rest of the day. There seems to be no hesitation in Jesus. He is willing to heal.  How long had it been since this leper had been touched? I wonder if he was moved in his spirit at the touch of Jesus.  He felt Jesus’ compassion and love! I believe that we would all have wept if we had seen this untouchable being touched with the love of God.

Compassion is a quality sorely in need today. If we want to be like Jesus, we have to reach out beyond ourselves to those He loves and wants to touch. Jesus told him to go and show himself to the priest so that he would be inspected and having been found clean, would be able to be brought into the community of the faithful. Love the unlovely, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ!

Keith Thomas

 

 

Got Faith?

touch-hem-of-garment-e1441463639189You’ve probably heard of the famous line on many billboards and magazines: “got milk?”  How about being asked the question: “got faith?” Let’s take a quick look at some heroes of the Faith. George Müller lived in the 1800’s and was well known for trusting in the Lord God of Heaven to provide his every need while building orphanages and caring for those who would fill them.

In Bristol, England, George Müller operated one of these orphanages for two thousand children. One evening he became aware that there would be no breakfast for them the next morning. Muller called his workers together and explained the situation. Two or three prayed. “Now that is sufficient,” he said. “Let us rise and praise God for prayer answered!” The next morning, they could not push open the great front door. So they went out the back door and around the building to see what was keeping it shut. Stacked up against the front door were boxes filled with food. One of the workers later remarked, “We know Who sent the baskets, but we do not know who brought them!”

Or perhaps you are well familiar with the great “Hall of Faith” as outlined in Hebrews chapter 11. In verse 38 we read about how many before us have walked in such great faith as to live a not so glamourous life and some even die very badly for their “faith”.

Which leaves us with something that we may ask ourselves – “How in the world can I obtain a faith like that?”  I want more faith, but how do I get it? Do I just not “believe” hard enough? What do I DO to get more Faith? Or do I just simply “ask” for it? Luke chapter 8 sheds some light on these questions. A man named Jairus was in desperate need of Jesus’ healing power to save his dying 12-year-old daughter. Jairus was the ruler of the synagogue and believed that Jesus had the power to save her from the brink of death. A few verses later we meet a woman who had “an issue of blood” for 12 years. She somehow believed that if she just touched the very hem of His garment, she too would be healed, along with Jairus’ daughter. One thing they both had in common was a great, great need. When one is in dire need of physical healing especially, either for ourselves or a loved one, it certainly does bring us to a place to seek the Healer Himself. Regardless of the outcome, their faith was the “evidence of things not seen.” Let’s dig a little deeper though and find the one hidden thing that had given these two such faith in Jesus’ ability to help them.

Jairus was a “Ruler of the Synagogue”.  The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible states that the Ruler is a “Senior official in the synagogue of NT times. His function was to take care of the physical arrangements for the services of worship, the maintenance of the building and fabric, and to determine who would be called to read from the Law and the prophets or to conduct the prayers. The office was sometimes held for a specified period, sometimes for life.

This man was inundated with and Knew The Word of God.   He heard it all the time. He knew what the Law and the Prophets (OT Bible) said. What sets him apart from many people of the same time period who knew the Word, is what he did with the Word. He believed it and acted upon his belief.

Let’s now look at the woman who was healed from her issue of blood. In Matthew 9:20-21 we read that she came from behind and “touched the hem of His garment.” The hem is the key word here that says volumes about her. In Numbers 15:38 the Israelites were commanded to put “fringes in the borders of their garments” with a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. Fringe and Hem are the same word in Greek: Kraspedon, meaning “A common noun for a wing, the skirt or corner of a garment.” Herein lies the source of this woman’s great faith. She also Knew the Word of God. How do we know that? In Malachi 4:2 it says “But unto you that fear My Name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings. She knew where to go, Who to go to, and how to be healed because she knew the Word of God and Believed it also. The common thread here is that they both had such a faith in Christ Jesus stemming first from their Knowledge of the Word of God. Then they believed. Then they acted.

Many, many people say they believe the Word of God, but do they even know the Word of God? In Romans 10:16 we read in the NIV “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message…” The Greek word for hearing is akoḗ, meaning “doctrine taught and received with faith.”

Are you lacking in faith? Do you want more faith? Read the Word of God. That’s where faith comes from.

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord; And in his law does he meditate day and night” (Psalm1:2).

Mike Engel