"Are you more concerned with your standard of living or for those starving to actually live?" ~ Francis Chan
Lately I have, in an effort to grow closer to God, or "to run after him as fast as I can and see who follows" (I do not know the author of this great saying), I decided to fast from watching TV and spend as much time as I could reading the Bible or spiritual books, listening to spiritual music and worshiping, and finding ways to serve the ministry.
This was primarily a result of feeling like God was yet again calling me to take a big jump, or as some people like to say "leap of faith" in my own life. He was again nudging me to be a little more radical and to step out in faith in a new way — to rely on him even more.
I see that God really honors his word by not giving us more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13), because as he peels back the
inner layers of my heart one at at time, something deeper about myself is exposed that truly needs Him in a deeper way.
The last few months have been a lot of transition for me. So many things vying for my attention including a break-up, getting a temporary full-time position with the hopes of it turning into something permanent and having moved back in with my parents only months prior. Need I say more?
Fear set in and triggered old wounds. I began to ask questions and draw deeper and deeper into myself. I then remembered a suggestion a really good friend of mine gave me about a pastor in California named Francis Chan.
I started listening to his YouTube videos at work in place of music, and it was as if scales fell from my eyes.
It's not like I hadn't heard of the things he talks about, because I have. But Chan's commitment to living out James 1: 27, Isaiah 58: 1-9, Matthew 25:31-45, Acts 2:42 has radically changed my heart. I realize how self-focused and just plain selfish I have been.
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
True religion = caring for orphans and widows in their distress.
Isaiah 58: 6-9
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
God says he wont listen to us when we just fast if we do not care for the things he cares for: setting the oppressed free, sharing our food with the hungry and caring for the poor.
"God is not honored by good intentions. He is honored by action" ~ Francis Chan
Matthew 25: 31-45:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.
God did not only destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of the sexual sin, though that was part of it, but because the people were "arrogant, overfed and unconcerned and did NOT help the poor and needy.
Wow, God is serious about those who he considers righteous. Woe to those righteous people who do "everything right," but their hearts are far from God, they don't care for God's causes and turn a blind eye to those in need.
God has given us an important charge to care for those in need. No man is above another. (Romans 2:11: For God does not show favoritism.")
What a different picture Acts 2 paints of what makes God happy.
Acts 2:42-47: The Fellowship of the Believers
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The first century church was not about individualism in the sense that people were only engrossed with their own affairs, but instead they made it a way of life to care about the affairs and welfare of their brothers and sisters.
I realize I have been so tricked by Satan into believing two lies: 1) That God will not take care of me and 2) That I need to do all I can to take care of myself.
This mindset also comes from being raised in the U.S.— a very individualistic society based on the worship of self.
Life is about what makes me happy, what makes me feel loved, beautiful and full. Unfortunately, God makes clear we can't worship two things: God and money, or in this case, God and self. Although we need to care for self, God's commandment to love him first and love our neighbors as ourselves is because he knew it would be all too easy for us to care for "us."
How wrong I have been.
We need not get caught up in the lie of having "perfectly packaged lives" consisting of an education, job, family and retirement, when there are so many other needs out there. Not to say God doesn't have those things in store for us.
But if we are NOT living for this life, why do we get so caught up in the here and now of our lives?
"Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, 'God, why don't You do something?'
He said, 'I did, I created you.'"
Recently, I was reminded that ALL I have comes from God and I can do nothing apart from him. Serving those in need is what God considers justice.
Wow. What a God I serve? What other God cares about such justice?
You hear it all the time. People look at the world and shake their fists at God because he allows these things to happen.
But I'd like to answer one question: Why are more people not doing more about it? God makes his will clear in the Bible. When we truly know God and seek his face, we will feel compelled to love as Jesus did. If not, we really haven't changed that much at all.
God may be the controller of all things, but he does not make our decisions for us.
All of the bad things in the world happen because of sin, not because God turns his face away. Instead he gives commands in which you and I have a choice to do something about it or not.
What will your choice be?
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