Faithful or Faithless?

“Be strong and courageous. 
Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the Lord your God goes with you; 
he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat 
and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 
After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. 
Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake,
and he was alone on land. 
He saw the disciples straining at the oars,
because the wind was against them.
Shortly before dawn he went out to them…”
Mark 6:45-48 (NIV)

“And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20 (NIV)

He was an unwanted child and knew it. It became terribly obvious one day when he was 5 years old and his parents traded him for an old car. Was it any wonder then that he grew into an anger teenager who got into trouble with the law? The people who were most obligated to love and care for him abandoned him at the time in life when he needed them the most! The Lord suffered with that young man because He felt the pain of abandonment just as the teenager did. The haunting cry of the Good Shepherd from the cross “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken Me?” haunts us and we will never know the full meaning of His grief.

One of the most wonderful promises the Lord ever made to us is that He will always be with us regardless of how many storms we face in life. So often we may feel rejected or abandoned by the Lord, yet He is faithful to the end.

This theme of the Lord’s faithfulness needs to be preached and reflected on often to keep our heads above water when adversity tries to swamp us. We are safe in the sovereign hands of our Lord regardless of how upsetting our situation is.

The disciples, as seen in Mark 6 obeyed the Saviour when He ’made them’ start sailing west across the Sea of Galilee. Their obedience to Jesus got them into life threatening trouble. Yet Jesus was watching them all the time as Mark tells us. After they had worked hard Jesus came. However, they had to endure a horrific time until the Lord finally intervened.

The precious promise given to Joshua and again to the disciples at Jesus’ ascension needs to be treasured by us in times of trouble. Thank God for being ever faithful.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow—
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

-T. O. Chisholm

It Costs To Be A Good Samaritan

“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was;
and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 
He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.
Then he put the man on his own donkey,
brought him to an inn and took care of him. 
The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper.
‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return,
I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”
Luke 10:33-35 (NIV)

The story of the good Samaritan is familiar to all of us. One detail we usually miss is that the Samaritan paid a significant price to help the Jewish man.

First this kind man made himself vulnerable by kneeling down beside the victim. The robbers who beat up the victim could have been hiding and ready to spring on anyone who stopped to lend a helping hand. It might have cost the helper his own life for stooping down to help the victim.

Next the Samaritan took from his first aid kit oil, wine and wrappings to help purify the wounds and stop bleeding.

Then the kind man put the disabled man on his donkey and came to an inn. It is likely that the Samaritan was late for his appointments. So it cost him in time to help the victim.

Then he told the innkeeper to care for the man and put the cost on his account. The next time he came by he would reimburse the innkeeper. It cost the good Samaritan a considerable sum to help this stranger.

The Gospel is illustrated beautifully in this story. Life and sin beat us up leaving us helpless and totally unable to do anything for ourselves. Jesus comes and lovingly, tenderly binds up our wounds, brings us to His Father’s sphere of influence and by His death and resurrection pays in full for all our sins. Joseph Hart wrote a beautiful hymn depicting our state outside of Christ and the wonderful invitations to come to the Saviour for free salvation that cost Him so much. Read this delightful hymn right now and find yourself “lost in wonder, love, and praise.”

Come, you sinners, poor and needy,
weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
full of pity, love, and power.

Come, you thirsty, come and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
true belief and true repentance,
ev’ry grace that brings you nigh.

Let not conscience make you linger,
nor of fitness fondly dream;
all the fitness he requires
is to feel your need of him.

Come, you weary, heavy laden,
lost and ruined by the fall;
if you tarry till you’re better,
you will never come at all.

I will rise and go to Jesus!
He will save me from my sin.
By the riches of his merit,
there is joy and life in him.

– Joseph Hart

Running The Race

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”
Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

The Christian pilgrimage is likened to a battle (1 Timothy 6:12), to walking (2 John 1:4), and a race (Hebrews 12:1) among other analogies. Hebrews 11 is often called the faith chapter of the Bible and it lists men and women of faith from creation on through the Old Testament times. They testified to the worth of trusting the Lord and how sacrifices made here produce rewards in the future. They longed for a better country—the Celestial City as John Bunyan called heaven in his great book “Pilgrim’s Progress”.

As the writer to the Hebrew Christians urges believers to patiently “run…the race”, he refers them to the giants of the faith (see Hebrews 11). They were people who were the “great cloud of witnesses” testifying to the worth of suffering for the sake of the heavenly reward. We are “surrounded” by these people, and they cheer us on as it were.

We also have many such witnesses in the last two thousand years who have willingly laid down their lives for the faith. Foxes Book of Martyrs relates the stories of many children of God who paid with their lives because they identified with the Christian message.

Whatever obstacles we face as Christians, we have not had the experience of the martyrs. We read in Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Today renew your determination to run the race “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)

He is our inspiration and our goal. Consider praying the following hymn as you face today and may you find the joy of the Lord your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

O Master, let me walk with thee 
In lowly paths of service free; 
Tell me thy secret, help me bear 
The strain of toil, the fret of care.

Help me the slow of heart to move 
By some clear, winning word of love; 
Teach me the wayward feet to stay, 
And guide them in the homeward way. 

Teach me thy patience; still with thee 
In closer, dearer company, 
In work that keeps faith sweet and strong, 
In trust that triumphs over wrong. 

In hope that sends a shining ray 
Far down the future’s broad’ning way, 
In peace that only thou canst give,
With thee, O Master, let me live.

– W. Gladden

God At Work

“’But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’  
Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’  Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah,
for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, 
but by my Father in heaven.’”

Matthew 16:15-17 (NIV)
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

“Dear friends, now we are children of God,
and what we will be has not yet been made known.
But we know that when Christ appears,
we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
1 John 3:2 (NIV)

When my children were preschoolers, I recall them bringing to me drawings they had made of something for my approval. My job was to try and figure out what it was they had drawn. To them it was obvious. But to me perhaps it was a cow, a horse, a dog, or even a cat. All I could determine was that it had four legs of varying lengths. As the child got more proficient at sketching the image improved in accuracy yet lacked exceptional accuracy.

When it comes to our new life in Christ, we must confess that it requires the Lord’s initiative entirely. Paul tells us that no one seeks the Lord (Romans 3:11), Paul also says that it is God Who quickens the spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-5). So, when Peter made his glorious confession of his Master’s identity, Jesus told him that he did not determine that by himself. Rather it was the Father in heaven Who revealed that truth to Him.

This is a humbling thought as we owe our salvation to the Lord from beginning to end. Yet it is an exalting thought because we are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). The Lord is truly at work in each one of us gradually reforming us to do good works! What an honour!

In order to keep Peter from regarding himself spiritually clever, Jesus explained to him that knowing the Master’s identity was something revealed by the Father. Peter did not come to this wonderful truth simply by himself. The Holy Spirit must be our teacher as well. In John 16:13 (NIV) we read

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes,
he will guide you into all the truth.
He will not speak on his own;
he will speak only what he hears,
and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

As God created the universe in the first place so He is active restoring His people on a daily basis so that when they enter the Celestial City they will be perfected in the image of Christ. Read the following hymn written by A. Toplady. He uses strong language that is unfamiliar to many of us but rings true to biblical truth. Note how helpless the believer is and the prominence of God at work in every verse.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Weary By Noon

“The apostles gathered around Jesus
and reported to him all they had done and taught. 
Then, because so many people were coming and going that
they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 
‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ 
So, they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”
Mark 6:30-32 (NIV)

“Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus,
tired as he was from the journey,
sat down by the well. It was about noon.”
John 4:6 (NIV)

One quote that seems to have many variations and sources goes as follows: “Come apart and rest or else you will come apart.” Yet, some people seem to have boundless energy and can work much longer hours than most of us. We look at them in action and wonder what it would be like to be so full of energy. At many convenience stores I have seen a product for sale in 5-8 ounce bottles that purports to increase energy. I never tried it as I have no idea whether it does what it is advertised to do or even if it is safe to use.

The Master knows what it is like to be weary and not only rested Himself (John 4:6), but urged His disciples to take time off as we see in Mark 6:30-32. We observe that the retreat was one where they, 1. went by themselves and, 2. to a solitary place.

We need to follow our Lord’s example and create times for relaxation and restoration lest we fall apart. Do you take advantage of the day of rest each week that the Lord built into creation for our good? Do you care for your health by getting needed rest each night? Do you seek to care for your health in other ways? We are stewards of our health as much as we are stewards of our money. Why not start by planning your Sunday next week and do something different like going on a hike, a bicycle ride, start reading a book, having an afternoon nap. Have a complete change of pace from the busy life you lead for one day each week. Sunday can be so special if we see it as a gift from the Lord for our good and our pleasure.

Safely through another week
God has brought us on our way;
let us now a blessing seek,
waiting in his courts today;
day of all the week the best,
emblem of eternal rest.

While we pray for pard’ning grace
through the dear Redeemer’s name,
show thy reconciled face;
take away our sin and shame;
from our earthly cares set free,
may we rest this day in thee.

Here we come thy name to praise;
let us feel thy presence near;
may thy glory meet our eyes
while we in thy house appear;
here afford us, Lord, a taste
of our everlasting feast.

May thy gospel’s joyful sound
conquer sinners, comfort saints;
may the fruits of grace abound,
bring relief for all complaints;
thus may all our Sabbaths prove,
’til we join the church above.

– John Newton