Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; Proverbs 27:23
I am certainly thankful that the Lord sent His Holy Spirit to be with us always – to comfort, guide, and even giving us those taps on the shoulders when we are about to say or do something we shouldn’t. Sometimes, however, we need an earthly comfort. A warm and fuzzy hug or a big sloppy kiss. And that’s why I’m so very thankful God gifted us with pets.
There’s no clear answer as to when we humans started domesticating animals. Some say the beginning of the 5th millennium BC, while others think it was a bit later in that millennium. But no matter, we can know it was a long time ago we became shepherds and farmers. It’s thought that dogs became our companions around 27,000 years ago! The oldest known dog remains were found in the Americas and are dated to approximately 17,000 years ago. We’ve certainly have had a long term love affair with our pets!
The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. 2 Samuel 12:1-3
Now, while this verse is a rebuking lesson for David from the prophet Nathan, it also shows us a glimpse into the everyday life of the people – ones who loved their pet companions. I can also imagine the shepherds who received the message of Jesus’ birth with their faithful sheep dogs by their sides that fateful night.
I’ve been blessed with two dogs, a few cats, some fish and even a few hermit crabs. My dog right now, Tucker, brings me so much laughter and joy. Don’t we all need someone in our lives that, when we come home after a long day, jumps for joy and begs to cuddle with them? I thank God for this companionship and the love so many of us throughout the ages have received from our furry friends.
Since the resurrection of Jesus, Christians seem to have been in an interesting battle. The concept of how we are saved has led to many sermons, books, and even paper nailed to church doors. The prevailing answer in the modern church age is, of course, that we are saved by grace. The grace of Jesus Christ dying for our sins.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9
That passage from Romans couldn’t be clearer and yet the concept of being saved by works and/or financial contributions to the church ran throughout Christendom for a long time. Unfortunately, much of our Christian thinking seems to have swung so far in the opposite direction that we have forgotten the other lessons in the Bible.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? James 2:14
As my BSGs work our way through a study of Revelation I keep hearing a few of the same messages. 1) We must repent of our sins and accept Christ today and 2) Our deeds will be counted in eternity. That balance of accepting God’s grace and also working to please Him echoes so many other Christian balancing acts.
Expressing God’s Truth while showing God’s Love
His Word is both bitter and sweet
To live in this world but not of it
Accepting chastisement as a method of God’s love for us
I wonder how many of us each Sunday (or whatever day you attend church) receive constant training on how to walk those balance beams?
This week’s Jesus Mindset focuses on being a humble servant. The character trait requires of us to first be somewhat practiced at being a loving friend. For when we take action in the name of God without a loving spirit it becomes almost impossible to be humble. I’m sure each of us can think of a person in our lives who took on responsibilities simply to gain some sort of recognition. A church body that forgets Jesus’ primary character trait – loving friend – becomes like the church of Ephesus. They were “doing” a lot and building larger, more grand buildings but doing it without love.
“The church used to be known for its good deeds,” said one wit, “but today it’s better known for its bad mortgages.”
The evolution from love of neighbor to deeds without love creates a hulking body that God eventually is clearly unhappy with. And so, we find ourselves searching for the balance. This week I will highlight three people. Two sisters and a quiet, humble man. Each has their own way of “feeding” God’s lambs. Each have different personalities. They each find a way to reach that balance of knowing they are saved by grace and yet God asks more of us.
I love this quote from the book, “The Hiding Place,” which tells the story of love and servanthood in the face of extreme adversity. This moment takes place as a member of the family is about to die. They remind her of all the amazing things she did in life because “accomplishment” meant so much to her. But in her final moments Jesus spoke to her heart and reminded her of God’s truths.
“How can we bring anything to God? What does He care for our little tricks and trinkets?” she asked. And then as we listened in disbelief she lowered her hands and with tears still coursing down her face whispered, “Dear Jesus, I thank You that we must come with empty hands. I thank you that You have done all on the Cross and that all we need in life or death is to be sure of this.”
Tante Jans, The Hiding Place
With empty, well-worn hands. Hands worn with the work for Jesus. For when we die we won’t take the certificates of recognition, the medals, the bonuses with us. But each person we have fed, in His name, will be etched in our hands and hearts.
Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37
Jesus has plenty of work for us to do. The majority of that work could be called “grunt work.” It requires us to get uncomfortable and place our trust solely in the Lord’s hands. You probably won’t receive any money for it or a headline in the local paper. What we will receive is a smile from Jesus.
My friend Betsy told me the other day how, while out shopping, she saw a homeless man in an adjoining parking lot. He was in a wheelchair. As she got into her car Jesus placed the thought in her head, “Go give him one of your ‘blessings bags.’” Her church provides these bags to hand out to anyone in need. She had never just walked up to someone and given them a bag.
But that day she pulled out of her parking spot and drove over to the man. He was struggling trying to get his wheelchair closed up so he could lie down on the same spot. As she approached the man, she could tell he was drunk. But she kept moving forward. She inquired, “Do you need some help?” And he said he did. She helped him get situated and then offered a blessings bag, which he readily accepted. As she left she acknowledged to herself that she wouldn’t have taken that action previously – some other force pressed her forward.
You see, Betsy has been a loving Christian for 60 some years. She has always served her church and family well. Recently she has been working on the “obeying God” part of her faith progression. Listening for His voice and taking action to be His humble servant. God has told her it’s time to move forward.