Monthly Archives: March 2013

Easter – What’s It All About?

Peninsula Community Church
March 31, 2013
Easter – What’s It All About?

Mark 16: 1-8 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back-it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Easter is one of those holidays that I love. So why is Easter so important? Well, I am glad that you asked. I would be happy to tell you what Easter means and I believe it is one of the greatest holidays. I remember Easter was one of those holidays that my mom would find a church for me to attend so at least I would be influenced in some way by the Easter story. I remember even when my mom could not afford anything else I would have an Easter basket filled with candy and goodies that would last at least a day or two. I can remember the egg hunts and finding rotten Easter eggs several days if not weeks later. I remember also whether I went to church or not my mom made sure I had a new set of clothes. I also remember as a teen and living with my dad that we would have a feast on Easter Sunday complete with chicken, ham, and leg of lamb. But, as we have seen in the skit, this morning, Easter is so much more than candy, dyed eggs, new clothes, and roasted leg of lamb. Now, there is no problem with any of these because they represent and can be symbolic of the meaning of Easter. They can be used to tell the story of Easter or at least open the door for discussion. While these are just symbols, I would like to share with you the real story of Easter.

It was an ordinary week for most people during the week of Passover in Jerusalem the last week of Jesus’ life but it is into the ordinary and the extraordinary that Christ wants to come. Jesus had come to Jerusalem for passover as it was an important custom and time of remembrance for the Jewish. For the most part, it this week seemed to be an ordinary week except that the one called Jesus seemed to be stirring up trouble. For the Romans, he was a threat to their authority. To the religious leaders, He was a threat to their control over the people and their misguided ideas about life, God, and obedience. There were others who were not sure what to do. They had heard the miraculous stories of the miracles of Christ. They had heard of the messages that had brought change to so many. But they still did not know what to do. They were confused by the arguments against Jesus. They were also a very fickle people. They praised Him on Sunday during the triumphant entry but by Friday the fear of the government and worries about the religious leaders had compelled them to cry out for his crucifixion.

The Friday of Passover in Jerusalem seemed like any other Passover Friday. The crowds were gathered to offer sacrifices and present to the priest a perfectly selected lamb that would sacrifice as a substitute that would take away their sin for that year. Little did they know that the Lamb that would take away the sin of the world forever was in town. Even those closest to Jesus did not know this, for he had been arrested the night before. Jesus faced a trial that was brought about with great haste and one that scholars now say was fraught will illegal aspects. Jesus was sentenced to die on the cross which was the most cruel form of death for their day. It s of note that the religious leaders and the government leaders attempted to distance themselves from these acts. But the fact is Jesus was sentenced and on Friday at about 3PM he died for each and everyone of us.

Because of this the emotions of those who were left were varied. In fact, the mood after Christ’s death ran the gamut. Picture with me in that moment the mood of those closest to Jesus. They were filled with fear. They were afraid of the future. They had lost hope. What if the religious leaders came after them? They were confused. They doubted His word. They were filled with questions. Why did He do this? Didn’t He say He was the savior of the world?

For some in that time especially those closest to him thought life was over. They thought He had failed. As I was preparing my thoughts I came across It reminds me of a story that was told after the battle of Waterloo.

The battle of Waterloo, was fought between Napoleon and the British. The battle was fought in present day Belgium. The commander for the Anglo coalition was the Duke of Wellington. The story is told that after the battle of Waterloo the news was transmitted from a ship out on the water. The transmission was intercepted by a person on a hill who transmitted the message on to others who were strategically placed on the hills around the town. The entire nation would eventually hear the news this way. After the battle, a sailing ship signaled to a man on the shore. The first word was “Wellington” and the next word was “defeated.” Just at that moment a fog blew in and no other words were received. The mood of the nation was almost instantly sent into a downward spiral of doubt and discouragement. But, as the fog dissipated two additional words were sent from the ship. Those words were “the enemy.” In a moment, the mood changed from doubt and a lack of hope to one of joy and one of celebrating a great victory.

On a Friday afternoon some 2000 years ago the message that was transmitted to the world was “Christ defeated.” A fog of fear and doubt swept the country side including those who had been with him during his ministry. We see this as the disciples of Jesus ran and hid from the Roman guard and from each other. But, on Sunday morning the fog was cleared away and the rest of the message arrived. “the enemy.” What is the whole message? “Christ defeated the enemy!” What did he defeat? He defeated fear, doubt, sin, the grave and even death. Even death would no longer the power that it once held because of this one event.

While that was a great message then, what does it mean for us today?

Everything changed after the resurrection. Christ defeated the enemy: death and sin. Christ brought hope. Christ confirmed our faith. Christ proved His word to be true and trustworthy. The message is one of hope, victory, and healing. If you want see a person who is truly broken look for the person who has no hope. The person without hope is one who lives a desperate life and a life that that struggles with issues. But hope is the lifeline that helps us through the deepest, darkest days of life. Where do we find hope in a world that is so broken? Where do we find hope in a life that disappoints us over and over again? The truth is, that hope finds us. As we’re walking down those dark and lonely roads of life, Jesus comes to us and opens our eyes to see God’s plans to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future.

But how do we make application of this into our lives? What does hope really mean to us? Hope is not just a cute expression that we use when there is nothing else to say? It is not an expression we use without thinking about the full meaning related to the word? Hope is not an arbitrary word but it is filled with meaning especially when it is attached to the act of Christ Resurrection. We have hope for today and we have hope for tomorrow and more so we have a hope after this life.

Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all…As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength. (G. K. Chesterton, Signs of the Times, April 1993.
A man approached a little league baseball game one afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded, “Eighteen to nothing–we’re behind.” “Boy,” said the spectator, “I’ll bet you’re discouraged.” “Why should I be discouraged?” replied the little boy. “We haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!”
One of the greatest benefits we have in Christ’s resurrection is that we now have hope.

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James – Loving our Neighbor the Way We Love Ourselves.

Peninsula Community Church
March 24, 2013
James – Loving our Neighbor the Way We Love Ourselves

James 2:8-13 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

As we have noted in our previous messages in James, this text today is a continuance of the previous verses. Together these verses answer the question, “What is good religion?” In other words how do we live out the work of God that has come to transform our inner man by way of salvation. James intimates later in the book that “faith without works is dead.” This is in reality the focus of these verses as they serve to illustrate the theme of James. The outward expression of our faith will either confirm or disconfirm our heart’s motivation.

James begins this passage by stating, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Notice this passage begins with the word “if.” The word “If” is a conditional word that warrants consideration of what follows.

In this passage there are three issues presented by James. The first is that James reminds us that we are to love others as ourselves. Second, James addresses the issue of marginalizing the law or narrowing the scope of how we are to obey the law and what laws we are to obey. Third, James reminds us that how we judge others is how we will be judged. For that reason, he reminds us that mercy will triumphant over judgment.

Let us look at the first issue. James says that if you really want to know what kind of religion you have all you need to do is answer the question “Do you love your neighbor? The point being made here is that good religion is measured in part by how you love those around you. He categorizes this by referring to the words of Jesus who summed up the law in two phrases: love God, love people (Matthew 22:36-40).

In Christ’s wisdom, he added the caveat that we are not only to love our neighbors but we are to love them as we would love ourselves. Now granted, we need to understand that in some ways this is a subjective term as we all struggle at times to understand how to love ourselves and each of us will express our love in different ways. Many times we treat others badly as we have a wrong view or understanding of ourselves. How do you love yourself? Loving ourselves means we give loving care to self and to others.
We live in a struggle to forgive. We live with regret. We live with guilt. We live with a sense of failure and mistakes made. As a result of these things, we have a distorted view of ourselves and therefore we have a distorted view of others.

Think about how we respond and relate to others because of a faulty view of who we are. Think about some of the responses we exhibit:
We are suspect of another’s love because we have been wounded by those who supposedly loved us.
We find it hard to trust others because we have had broken trust lived out in our lives.
We abuse and use others because we have been used and abused by others.

The saying that is used so often bears mentioning here, “Hurt people, hurt people.” “Restored people, restore people.”

How do we love ourselves? First, we need to have a personal relationship with God and we need to develop that relationship every day. We need to read, study and apply the Word into our life. Second, we need to deal with unconfessed sin as soon as it is recognized. Third, we need to develop relationships with other believers not to just input into others lives but to also receive from the wealth of their experiences and the fullness of their understanding of God and the ways of God. Fourth, we need to understand that we are a creation of God and that we are His children. We have been redeemed, set free from sin and have surrendered our lives to the one who is able to sustain and direct our lives. As Clayton’s testimony bore out yesterday, there is a point where we have to release control to Him. And He will set us up for just such a discovery in our lives.

We should also note that too often we define love only as a feeling rather than an action to be taken. Love is a part of the will and not just an emotion. You might be asked why you love someone though they might not deserve it “Why I am doing this?” You can answer, “It is the right thing to do.” “How do you feel?” “I do not know but I am doing the right thing.” We should not be motived by emotion, but because it is the right thing. Our emotions can change with or without notice.

The point being made is that love has been and continues to be the ruling principle of dealing with mankind. It is how we deal with people on a daily basis that measures our religion. To love your neighbor as your self, is to do the right thing. It is not a question of feelings but it is a decision of the heart and the mind.

The second issue is that God calls us to obey all of the law and not to be selective in how, when and where we will be obedient. Man’s innate desire is to obey only part of the law or to be selective in which laws he will obey. In Luke 10:25-37 a lawyer came to Jesus and posed the question of who one’s neighbor is. It is noteworthy to observe that the question was one that attempted to minimize the sphere of who one’s neighbor might be. Rather than accepting the law of God at face value, the lawyer was attempting to reinvent the law and diminish the scope of who one’s neighbor might be. In essence, he was trying to discriminate in terms of who his neighbor was. The spiritual leaders of the day were always trying to bend the law to their favor and to limit the sphere of influence the law would have over them. The question posed was a means to diminish the understanding of who one’s neighbor might be and not to expand the scope of understanding.

This was one of the big issues of James’ day. Rather than living in obedience to the law the leaders of the day would either marginalize the law or they would expand the law to cover issues never intended to be covered. For that reason, James addresses the issue of how and which laws we obey. He presents an argument that some individuals obey some laws and disobey other laws. They become selective in the laws they keep but James reminds us that we cannot pick and choose which laws we obey and which ones we do not. He relates this to us by reminding us that when we break one law we are guilty in essence of breaking the whole law. The bottom line is that we sin by way of both commission or omission. The idea here is that sin is sin and is a result of a sinful nature and the failure of man. That is why we must guard our hearts against settling into a belief that we on earth have reached a point of sinless perfection.

This is illustrated in the story of the woman that was in the process of being stoned but Christ intervened and came to her aid. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who was caught in the act of adultery. They were pressuring Jesus to act on the law of Moses that stated that one caught in adultery should be stoned. It is amazing to observe Jesus’ response. He spoke to those on the sin and stated that the one without in should cast the first stone. While there has been some debate on what Jesus wrote on the ground, it is my belief that he wrote each man’s name down and began to lust there sins.

James returns to discussion of favoritism by reminding us that in showing favoritism you sin. In 10 and 11 he gives us an analogy using other significant analogies. He goes to murder and adultery. Many believe that if we have not done the big sins we are ok. We can a have little bit of gossip, favoritism and be all right. However, we must understand that the law is not one that is multiple choice. We don’t pick six and do our best. We must keep the whole law.

That is why, in 2:8-11, James elaborates on the fact that favoritism makes one a lawbreaker. The message is, Don’t think you are keeping the law of Christ while you are practicing favoritism. It is as much a contradiction as if you claimed you were keeping the law just because you were not committing adultery even though you were practicing murder. James’s language is stark and emphatic in 2:9: If you show favoritism, you sin.

In the final part of the verse James stars that we are to speak and act as if you will be judged by the law. We are to live as those who will be judged under the law of liberty. Notice that James defines it as the law of liberty. While the law points to our sin, Christ redeems the law and uses it to free us because we do not realize our need for freedom until our sin is recognized. this leads us to a final point. Be careful how you judge others as you will be judged by the judgement you give others (Matthew 7:1). We must show mercy because mercy always triumphs over judgement.

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James – Who Is Your Favorite?

Peninsula Community Church
James – Who Is The Favorite?
March 17, 2013

James 2:1-7 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

While we were in Florida this past week one of the discussions that occurred on a number of occasions was who was grandma’s favorite? This actually was comical at times but Michelle summed it up the best. We were all grandma’s favorites. That was the character and representation of who grandma Winter was. She had the capacity to make everyone believe that they were her favorite.

God is like that. God does not show favoritism. All are on equal footing at the cross. Because God shows no favorites, He also calls the church to show no favorites. We are to somehow make everyone feel they are God’s favorite. And yet as we live out our lives we encounter people who make this a difficult proposition. In the passage before us, James deals with the prejudices evident in the church of his day. He bases his comments on the condition of the church at the time. The issue at hand was that there were those within the church that made decisions about a person solely on their outward appearance and not the condition of their heart.

This addressing of favoritism is in keeping with James’s reputation as “the Just.” James’s term for “favoritism” is the Greek word “prosopolempsia.” This particular word is one that is not used in secular Greek literature. It is a compound word that literally means “to take hold of the face.” It is used to describe someone who makes an immediate judgment of people based on their appearance. It is a word that has been formulated to describe a situation in the church of James’ day. The problem was apparently a common concern in the New Testament church. James’s use of the word is similar to that used by both Peter and Paul. God’s impartiality is asserted in 1 Peter 1:17 where Peter connotes that God judges impartially. In Acts 10:34 Peter understood that God shows no impartiality. Paul in Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25 and Romans 2:11 infers God’s impartiality toward his people.

James calls on the church to avoid showing favoritism. We must note that in James’ letter there were no divisions between the verses. So, for us to fully understand this passage we must read it in context with the previous verses because there is continuity from 1:27 to 2:1. James says instructs the church to not show favoritism because that would be an instance of “being polluted by the world.” Impartiality is a necessary outworking of our faith because we must administer the same standard of justice to being impartial as we do to “look after orphans and widows in their distress.”

The problem for James is that there were those who preferred the rich and well to do above those who were poor and limited in their ability. The rich and well to do were given the best seats in the church and were applauded for their efforts. The problem however is that they lacked the character needed as passionate followers of Christ. This is illustrated by James’ reference to the fact that the very people they honored were the very people that were taking them to court and suing them for the least of issues.

Today, we experience prejudices of all kinds: wealth versus poverty, the haves and have nots, one’s nationality, one’s denominational leanings, one’s size/weight/height, one’s birth as in the North or the South, and so. It is noteworthy to see that today we have reversed the roles in many ways. Today there seems to be a prejudice against those who are wealthy. The wealthy are being demonized as if they were the cause of all of America’s problems and if somehow we were to diminish their value then we would be better off as a nation. How absurd is that? But that is the point that James is making. Every person has value in God’s eyes. Every believer has a place in the Kingdom.

Illustration – The story is told about an upscale, conservative church. One Sunday morning, about halfway through the service, a young man entered the church. He was barefoot and was wearing a pair of those jeans that revealed his underwear. He was also adorned with multiple piercings which included a metal ring in his ear that had caused the hole where the ring was inserted to be almost one inch in diameter. He was also tattooed on almost every part of his exposed body. Because the church was crowded, the young man couldn’t find a seat and the ushers had already seated themselves. The church was both surprised and aghast that the young man walked straight down the main aisle and sat on the floor right in front of the preacher. A quick rumble of whispers began when an older elder stood up and began to move toward the young man. Some of those attending the service thought at least someone is going to deal with this problem but to everyone’s amazement the older, conservative elder removed his jacket, took his tie off and removed his shoes and sat on the floor next to the young man. The rumblings turned to tears as they were overwhelmed by the actions of the elder. Needless to sat, no one ever forgot this simple act of kindness.

In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. So one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned. “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” That usher’s prejudice not only betrayed Jesus but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Savior.

Let me be quick to make an observation about prejudices. We need to understand that there is a difference between showing favoritism and tolerating sin. Today, there is a call for tolerance which is no more than a cloaked verbalism for acceptance of sin. God has always been against showing favoritism but he never supports the toleration of sin. In this passage, James is not calling us to accept sin. Too often liberal interpretations of such scripture lead some to believe that we are to tolerate sin and sinful actions. As we think of tolerance the problem is that too often tolerance is a one way street. Those that preach a strong tolerance message are often intolerant of others.

Rather than tolerance James is dealing with favoritism that is based on the outward appearance. Do you remember the story of David’s selection as King? As Samuel and David’s father were reviewing the possibility of David’s brothers being King. God spoke to Samuel that it is not the outward appearance that counts but the internal expression of God’s grace. The fact is, God is not interested in the size of your bank account or what you wear, he is interested in the character of your heart.

As I was preparing for this message I came across a phrase that would be useful for our understanding. The phrase is “compromised by the superficial.” The phrase in essence states that too often we are misled and misguided by the outward expressions of others. It might be their emotional exuberance. It might be their intellectual prowess. It might be the flaunting of their wealth, but all of that is insignificant if the heart does not match up to the outward expression. We can be easily seduced and compromised by the superficial. How many have gone into business or have married someone because they were comprised by the superficial. It is for that reason that God calls us to a deeper relationship with Christ.

Before we move on let me make this one comment. The idea of favoritism does not mean that we do not have people that we hang out with more than others, it simply means that we do not credit of discredit others simply by their outward dress or facade.

The second area that needs to be addressed is the idea of tolerance. We have already mentioned this briefly. The problem is that tolerance gives way to and allows sin to go unchecked. In the secular world view of today we find that people are calling for tolerance; but in essence this most often is focused on the acceptance of one’s sin or and bad behavior. Look at what we are being asked to tolerate: dishonesty, sexual perversion, abortion, alternative lifestyles, bad behavior, drug addiction, alcoholism and the list goes on.

Rather than tolerate sin we are called to root out sin. The writer of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Paul in Colossians 3:5-15 also speaks to this. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Today we are being called to accept everyone regardless of their outward appearance and the facade that they present. How about you? Are you showing favoritism? Are you exhibiting prejudicial actions?

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James – How is Your Religion? Part 2

Peninsula Community Church
March 3, 2013
James – How’s your Religion? Part 2

James 1:26-27 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

We began to look at the subject last week of what is “good” religion. We will continue that discussion this week but will look at the later verse. As we read this text, we find that as a whole James deals with three key issues. First, he addresses the subject of controlling our tongue. Second, he addresses the issue of having a compassionate heart illustrated by caring for widows and orphans. Third, he deals with the issue of a pure life as represented by his call for us to live unstained by the world.

As you will recall from last week, bad religion is defined as rules and regulations being more important than the inward heart of the man.

As we look at this passage today, we must understand the historical position in which James found himself. In those days, as we have noted in past sermons, widows were treated very badly. If a widow’s spouse died and there was no one to take care of her she most likely ended up on the streets. When this occurs she most likely became poor and destitute. It was from this context that James defined good religion as caring for the widow and the orphan. In other words, passionate followers of Christ must exhibit a compassionate view toward those who are incapable of helping themselves.

It is critical to note that compassion cannot be mandated or regulated. Someone has said that compassion is a spontaneous emotion that arises from the individual caregiver’s spiritual reservoirs. Trying to regulate or mandate compassion would be absurd as it is an issue of the heart. To understand this it would be helpful to define a couple of terms. The term passion means to have powerful or compelling emotions. The term compassion means to suffer along side. Notice that passion can be an individual emotion but passion to be effective must be worked out alongside or with someone else, preferably the one in need. We can be moved emotionally by our passion but it is compassion that moves us into action.

Good Religion is illustrated in our compassion to the widow and the orphan. To understand why James would reference these groups we only have to look at the religious leaders of Jesus day. In Luke 20:45-47 we see a scathing report from Jesus on how the religion of the Scribes was outward focused rather than inwardly motivated. “And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.'”

You see that the Scribes were known for their outward piety and expressions of holy living but their hearts were far from where God could put a stamp of approval on their lifestyle. In Micah 6:8 Micah defines what is required of us as passionate and compassionate followers of Christ. He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? In Matthews 9:26 we see the heart of Christ as well. We see that he manifested a heart of compassion. Matthew stated that When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

A heart of compassion is best illustrated by the Good Samaritan who chose to help the one he found by the roadside. The religious leaders of the day had left him on the side of the road because their appearance was more important than their compassion for one left to die. We see the heart of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:33. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. The fact is that most of those who need our care will in some ways be rejected by society.

While James uses the orphan and the widow as his focus of good religion we could easily put any other group of people in this category. For example, it is very likely if he wrote this text today he could have stated that good religion is caring for the unborn child. He did not do that as abortion was not an issue in his day. Abortion is most likely the closest things for us in that the unborn child is helpless to care for itself. Rather than helping them from conception to the grave we have a decided as a nation that we can abort at will even up the point of birth, in some cases. Not only could this be the widows and orphans but could also be those with aides, those with severe disabilities and handicaps.

The real question is do we have a compassionate heart to help those who are less fortunate and truly need our help? The fact is we cannot help everyone but we can help those within our sphere of influence and those we come across. Those we reach can then be in a place where they reach others and the circle of help is extended beyond what we can do individually, and, if each church were to do their part then so many could be reached for Christ.

We should also mention that compassion does not mean that we leave common sense at the door. In fact, common sense is our best weapon to fully minister to someone. I remember a family that attended our church in New York and came to us to ask for help. As a leadership team, we felt we were to help them financially but as time went along we found that different members of the board would find this family in interesting places. One member of the board was at a business lunch in a very high priced establishment and across the room was this family and all of their five kids. A second member of the board was out with his wife at an upper end restaurant and here was this family. The end of the story was that after some investigation it was found out that they were scamming the church and other churches in the area. We met with them and needless to say they did not take our counsel lightly and were extremely angry. They were upset not that they were hurting others or that they were in the wrong but that they were caught.

It is for this reason that James issues the admonition that we not be stained by the world. The fact is we can be abused and used but that does not mean that we should not respond to those who are truly in need. The term unstained means that we are without moral blemish. This does not mean that we never sin or do anything wrong it is a matter of being positioned to quickly seek forgiveness and allow the sin to be removed.

When I use to wear ties all of the time, when I would arrive home Michelle could tell exactly what I had for lunch by looking at my tie. I was so glad for the Tide pen that came out. When I would spill something I could now easily clean it up so that there would be no stain. Asking for forgiveness is like this. I get soiled by the world but I quickly move to eradicate the sin by way of forgiveness. This is why Jesus gave us the Lord’s prayer the way he did. A part of our daily prayer should be “forgive us of our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

So how is your compassion this morning? Do you honestly care for others? Do you use common sense when dealing with others? How’s your spiritual life today? Is it soiled by the world’s views? Do you immediately ask for forgiveness when you are soiled by the world or fall into a sin? Its your choice…..

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