Look at the birds

“Are you not much more valuable than they?”
Matthew 6:26

It was a frosty January morning many years ago and I was in the kitchen of a new widow’s home trying to help her prepare a budget now that there was only her income to pay the bills.

With my experience in finance I carefully went over all her expenses and compared the total with her income. There was no way we could make ends meet for her. She needed her car for transportation to work. Her son required medicines for his many medical issues but she did not have health insurance.

We pared the expenses down as far as we could. Still we could not make income match expenses. Finally I suggested she needed to sell the house and move into more modest and less expensive accommodation.

It broke her heart to hear what I suggested. I urged her to go to a professional financial counsellor that the church would pay for and get advice there. She shook her head and the tears started.

Suddenly a beautiful red cardinal landed in a tree outside the kitchen window where we were working and began his glorious song of praise to its Creator.

I was inspired. I reminded her of the context of our verse for today. Jesus had just been teaching the people that they should not worry about clothes and food. Life is more important than that, He said. Jesus then called on the people to look at the birds and consider that they did not sow seed or reap harvests, neither did they store the grain in the barn.

Jesus then put the question to His hearers, (Matthew 6:26 NIV).

“Are you not much more valuable than they?” 

He went on to say that worrying about things would not add any time to your lifespan.

Jesus argues from the lesser to the greater. God values people more than birds and He sees to it that the birds get fed. So, why not believe He will see to it that we get fed?

I said to the widow, “I don’t know how you will get your finances in order but somehow God will do it and that cardinal outside the window is telling us that fact.”

The dear woman had enough experience walking with God to accept that things would work out somehow. And things did work out for her, and God made provision for her that we could not see at the time.

Are you one who trusts God when you cannot know how He will provide? Do you realise how valuable you are compared to the birds that He feeds every day? Will you not trust this amazing Creator God who organizes things in the world so the animals are fed?

You can be certain of a good reception by Him if you will come with your burden and remind Him that you are more important than the birds. Tell him that you need His care and you will trust Him to provide for you now and forever. He has promised never to turn away anyone who comes sincerely and in faith. Come, and come today.

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When Is Enough, Enough?

“I have learned to be content
whatever the circumstances.”
Philippians 4:11 (NIV)

In the minds of type “A” people the very thought of being content is negative. To be at ease in one’s situation is not a concept these people understand. They are driven people whose reach always exceeds their grasp.

Type “A” people are work obsessed and they feel driven to compete with others and come out on top. So they find themselves discontent with where they are and are always seeking for the next conquest. For them no amount of prosperity is enough. They never arrive and always see themselves as needing to climb the next rung of the ladder.

In my years of ministry and doing many weddings, it has been interesting to observe that there has been a significant shift in the places brides register to obtain their wedding gifts. Formerly they would register in the usual department stores we all frequent. Now many young couples register only in high end places.

We go in fear and trembling to the exclusive places and see that a one place setting of desired china costs more than we paid for an entire 8 place setting a few weeks ago. Something seems to be wrong with this picture.

Jesus once said (Luke 12:15),

“…a man’s life does not consist
in the abundance of the things he possesses.” 

As I look at mature people I can see the same phenomenon almost universally. Rare is the person who buys a Chev when they can afford a Cadillac. Most people cannot afford more expensive housing than they have. So we cannot be distressed with the young when we can see similar traits in ourselves.

Sadly, if we are those people who think that enough is not enough, we will be always dissatisfied with life and where we are at. Jesus never owned a home, He never wrote a book, He never established a company, He never invented and patented some great device, He was never more that a few miles from where He was born. He never led an army, He was only on the public scene for 3 ½ years at the most. He held no degrees from a prestigious university or place of learning. He was a penniless preacher.

Yet He revolutionized the world which now reckons years from His birth, His followers through the ages have established many hospitals, universities and other social institutions for the improvement of society and the alleviation of suffering. Some of the most brilliant minds of the ages have bowed the knee and called Him Lord and God.

His followers were willing to be tortured and die horrible deaths for His sake. No one in history has done so much with so little. No wonder that Paul could say he had learned to be content with what he had. He had Jesus and that was enough.

Do you measure the value of your possessions like the early Christians? Do you find in Jesus everything you need for this life and the next? Is He enough?

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Help When It Is Needed

“he often refreshed me…when he was in Rome
he searched hard for me until he found me. ”
2 Timothy 1:16 (NIV)

I have had the privilege of knowing many people who, in varying ways, have “refreshed me”.

Some have sent get well cards, others have called on the phone just to check up on me. One friend, who lived a couple of hours away from me, had occasion sometimes to travel past my city en route to a business destination. Sometimes, when passing by, he would call to catch up on my news. Other friends have invited us out to dinner at a local restaurant and delighted us with spirited conversation on a variety of topics.

It is so good to have people who love us and try to encourage us in various ways. Those who suffer as the Apostle Paul did really appreciate those who come alongside to assist them in one way or another in their time of trial. Paul’s affliction was imprisonment in a Roman jail.

Visiting people in jail is not for the fainthearted. I have gone as a pastor to people in various lockups. To hear the electric door slam shut behind you before the one in front of you opens is ominous indeed. Sometimes I have had to go through several locked doors to gain access to a prisoner.

Apparently the Christians in Asia had all deserted Paul and left him to his term in prison—except the man in our verse. How pitiful to be bereft of any friends, save one, when in difficulty. It is well said that misery loves company.

Perfect strangers have contacted me when the church they occasionally went to would not bother with them. Some ministers explained that they only had time to serve the needs of regular worshippers at their church. Others simply did not return the call. In various ways the ones who called me had found out that I would visit anyone who asked.

That is my job description, I am a pastor to pastorless people.

If you find yourself alone in your suffering, then you have the privilege of turning to the One who also knew what it was like to be alone. Friends had forsaken Him, and a supposed friend delivered Him into the hands of enemies. He was physically abused, lied about, mocked, and finally executed after the judge five times declared Him not guilty.

You can be sure Jesus can understand and feel with you in your sorrow. He was called a “Man of sorrows”.

In Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV) it says of Jesus,

“…we have one who has been tempted in every way,
just as we are…
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  

Because Jesus experienced sorrow like ours, it makes coming to Him an encouragement—because He understands and has the ability to truly help us.

His invitation to come is without qualification. It is an indiscriminate invitation. It is for whosoever will to come. None are excluded but those who exclude themselves. Come and come now.

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Day Of Decision

“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…
But as for me and my household,
we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15 (NIV)

In our text for today Joshua, the leader of the Hebrew nation, called on the people to make a momentous decision. He urged them to make a life changing choice. It was a call to whole hearted commitment to the Lord so that their future would be all that God had promised to those who loved and served Him.

The people knew that there were times in the past that their forefathers had chosen to serve other gods and they paid a great price for their infidelity to the Lord. Their lives were cursed, their future was ruined and they came to shipwreck for their folly.

Here Joshua urges the people to make a decision that will profoundly impact their future. They were on the threshold of a momentous determination. On the day people marry, they make just such a momentous choice as they pledge to forsake all others and keep to one person only until death parts them.

In various contexts we arrive at a place in life when we make a resolution that impacts our future. Be it a decision to take a certain career over others, enter marriage, or choose to have children, we come to a crossroad and make a choice between going to the right, or going to the left.

You and I are challenged in life to commit our way unto the Lord. Scripture tells us to come to our Creator in prayer and bow before His authority and accept His will for our lives. We begin our lives as rebels against the Lord and we are to repent and cease living for ourselves and commit our entire future to serving the God Who made us.

When we cease living life as it pleases us in order to please the Lord, we then enter a special relationship with the Lord. We agree that whatever He brings our way we are determined to accept and seek to keep living to please Him and not ourselves. It is the common experience among Christians that when we are pleasing the Lord we find that it also pleases us.

This can help solve the problem of pain in our lives. We have agreed in principle to serve the Lord—whatever comes. So when sorrow and difficulties seem to cloud our way we turn to the Lord for grace to live each day for Him.

On His part, the Lord has promised to sustain us through whatever comes (Isaiah 41:10). This assurance of daily grace is all we need to follow faithfully the Good Shepherd. Will you make that momentous decision to follow whatever comes?

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Thanks For What?

“always giving thanks to God”
Ephesians 5:20 (NIV)

She was a young woman with three children ages 6-10. One morning very early she woke up to find her husband in great physical distress. She called 911 and then a neighbour to come and be with the children while she followed the ambulance to the hospital. She had sent her husband to the Emergency Department of the hospital a few days earlier because he was complaining of symptoms that seemed like a heart problem. He had been sent home with the diagnosis of stomach upset.

When she went into the Emergency Department she was escorted into a family waiting room. No one else was in the room. The ambulance had already arrived and a specialist was attending him. He came out to her once to inquire about his health history.

She told him it was all in their records as he had visited a few days earlier complaining of symptoms. He rushed off to find the information he needed. Meanwhile she called her sister who lived a half hour away to come and attend the children at home to relieve the neighbour.

A half hour later he came into the room and briefly said, “I am sorry but we could not save him.” The new widow looked around the empty room wondering who he was speaking to and then it dawned upon her that he was talking to her. She had to identify her husband and the nurse who escorted her into the examination room was kind and gentle.

Now it was time to go home and break the news to the children. As might be expected they all were shocked and wept. For the rest of the day people came and went. Some brought food, some offered help of any kind and some simply wept with them.

That night as the mother prepared the children for bed she told them that they were going to have family prayers as usual. As they sat on the floor of the girls’ bedroom she told them that when each one prayed they were to include something they were thankful for.

She felt that even at such a tragic time it was important to remember the good things God had given them. She was following the teaching of our verse for today.

When it came to the 6 year old boy’s turn to pray he thanked God that the ants were on the outside of the house and they were on the inside. He offered a very simple word of thanksgiving but it was real and he meant it. There was no doubt also that God heard and understood.

Perhaps you suffer greatly and cannot see anything good in your situation. Can you think of some small thing like the little boy who, hours earlier, lost his father whom he loved greatly?

In the confusion of our thoughts and the pain of our sorrow, let us still thank God for prayer, for His attention to us in our grief, for the fact He understands our pain. God witnessed the horrible suffering and death of His beloved Son as Jesus died for our sins. Yes, He can be sympathetic with us. Why not find some reason for thanks amidst the pain and sorrow you now feel?

God hears every prayer whether you are young or old. Come and come now.

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