Apart From Christ Nothing Else Matters

It is easy, at times, to get distracted by other people, including co-laborers in Christ, as we do the work of God, sharing the Gospel to all we come in contact with in our daily journey. Even when we are vigilant, pride and envy creep in like thieves in the night, faster than you can shout “Sons of Thunder”.  If you are working for the Gospel, then rest assured that the Enemy will try to slay you where you stand before you ever embark out your front door. The Enemy does not have to literally kill you to quell your zeal. He simply has to nourish the pride in your mind and the envy of your heart and get you all worked up so that you forget the Mission–sharing Christ Crucified with all the Nations.  You see, the Devil wants to keep you hostage and in the bondage of sin. He does not want you to share the truth with people-that over 2,000 years ago, on a hill called Calvary, Christ won the victory and you and I, through repentance and believing in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, are free from sin and now are servants of righteousness, sharing the love and forgiveness secured on the Cross. Satan wants to turn us against one another, ministry brothers and sisters, so that we become entangled in controversies and distracted with things having nothing to do with God. But we must strive to stand firm in the very Gospel that saved us, so that others might hear Jesus Christ proclaimed from every rooftop, roadside, mountain and valley. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Our message is clear–repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Apart from Christ, nothing else matters. Proclaim the Truth. Preach the Cross.

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Philippians 1:15-18 (ESV)

Help Me See

It’s Friday, and the rain continues pouring down as it has the past several hours. Stepping outside, the air is fresh and a little cooler than recent days. While we had a shortage of rain in May, the weather in June certainly has worked hard to compensate for any previous shortfall. I don’t know about you, but it strikes me odd how loosely the experts throw around the words drought and flood. Perhaps, the problem is in my perception or expectation.

I don’t doubt my favorite TV meteorologist’s sincerity. Really. I don’t. But, mentally, the term drought conjures up windblown sandy deserts and from the word flood flow images of rivers of water drowning the land. I don’t see either of those happening on the street where I live. Like global warming, I don’t doubt that it may be happening. I just don’t see the evidence in my neck of the woods because the glaciers in my neighborhood aren’t melting. There are no glaciers where I live.

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For most people, it is easier to assign blame than it is to proclaim praise. Other people’s flaws and faults flash before us like bright beacons warning us of approaching danger. Seeing the good in others requires more time than we are likely to give in the moment. In our hurriedness, we scurry from here to there looking at people without pausing to genuinely see them. Finding the good in those around us demands that we slow down, observe, and listen.

Our current culture tends to promote an atmosphere of blaming others for things happening in our lives while aiding our abdication of accountability for our lives. The problem isn’t our decision-making or our problem-solving. Oh no, that can’t be it. Everything is the fault of someone other than ourselves.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In my experience, when people disappoint me, I find that I forgot to give them the script outlining how I expected them to act. Simply put, I don’t control other people. I am accountable for me and how I respond and react when life hits me with different curveballs or throws hurdles in my path impeding my progress.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Romans 14:10-12 (ESV)

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Transformation occurs when the pain of remaining the same becomes greater than the pain of change.

It is important that we stop and see people, searching for the goodness in them all. They are not necessarily what we first see nor how we assess them to be after our initial introduction. We cannot know everyone’s story without them telling us who they are and how they have become who they are at the moment that our paths cross.

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The homeless are that way. They are the lost, lonely, last and least of our society, forgotten and forsaken by our culture. We don’t see them, yet they are there. We don’t believe they live where we live, but they reside in our midst. We are just blind to them. You can see them if you look.

I was reminded of this recently as I waited for my wife, Sweet T, sitting in the parking lot of our local IHOP. Sitting in my pickup, looking in my rearview mirror I noticed a conglomeration of black lawn bags overflowing from a couple of abandoned shopping carts. As I continued to observe the scene behind me, a woman looking older than her age came out of her hiding place and took inventory of the bags before scrummaging through the contents of a specific one that she had selected. Her cragged gloved hands pulled out a pack of slightly used cigarettes that she had no doubt found discarded somewhere on the streets she called home. From inside the pack, she withdrew a cigarette and a pink lighter, pressed the smoke to her lips, and lit the end of the tobacco stick. After inhaling, she released a cloud of smoke into the evening air. Her face looked relieved while her eyes revealed concern and years of hard living. As my wife drove up, the lady behind me disappeared, vanishing into the recesses of her hiding place as quickly and easily as she had appeared. I do not know her story. I know nothing about her. If I allow my mind to wander unchecked and free, I am sure I can reach conclusions, assess blame and abdicate responsibility.

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Experience has taught me that I can pass judgement on my fellow human with the ease of eagles soaring in the skies above. I refrain. I remind myself, I do not know her story. Convicted, all I can do is pray for this stranger whom it is easy to miss in the busy landscape of my life. She is after all, someone’s daughter and perhaps even someone’s mother. She is human and made in the image of God, just like you and me. I can blame her or I can help her. That is the choice God has left up to me.

Prayer:

Lord, I pray that you would allow me to see the good in others no matter how difficult it may at first be to see. Allow me to respond, prayerfully and gratefully, to those whom I encounter today and whom you have chosen beforehand to not only cross my path but enter into my life. Provide me the resources I need to help those less fortunate than me and let me serve as your vessel, your hand, your feet, in bringing them the Good News. Where there is no hope, let me bring hope. Where there is darkness, help me shed light. For your glory God. For your praise Almighty.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’  Matthew 25:35-40 (ESV)

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