Jesus Cares

My thoughts, that I share, have been drawn from two different pictures of the Lord Jesus. Luke 10 – The Good Samaritan and John 10 – The Good Shepherd. In life, through no fault of our own, we often face a cacophony of cares, concerns, trials, and burdens. In Luke 10, this traveller in need, finds that not only had he to endure his trouble alone, but also had to endure as the religious, in their pride, look down on him as they passed by. They offered no kindness or help; more concerned about being seen as ‘righteous’ than about behaving right. Such an attitude would only have added to this poor man’s condition. Sadly an experience others may be able to identify with. This story leads us to ask the question does anyone truly care? Thankfully we read in this case that a Good Samaritan unexpectedly enters the story and at personal cost seeks to restore the pilgrim traveller. This traveller had already been left unaided by those that he himself as a Jew would likely have supported in different ways, and would perhaps have expected help from, but finds instead that he is treated treacherously with a curious indifference and contempt. What a terrible picture; this bruised and battered individual is in a perilous place. Yet thankfully even from an ‘enemy’ nation and someone he didn’t know God provides a Good Samaritan. He does not treat this needy person as an enemy because of his membership of the Jewish nation, as someone differing from themselves. He treats him as an individual in need. The scandal of this parable is that such care was only found outside the house of Israel. What a challenge for us all to ensure that the first place care and understanding should be found and extended to those in need, should be from within the household of God. Though thankfully not the case here, how many could we name who have made shipwreck by finding a counterfeit care and fellowship in the world that was lacking within a church. This man’s condition and treatment reminded me of Ezekiel 34 an amazing passage that sets out a contrast between the behaviour of good and bad shepherds. The Good Shepherd says (in Ezekiel 34v16) I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up (like this traveller) that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment. Jesus the compassionate Shepherd cares deeply for His hurting sheep and, as John 10 reminds us, He knows our name. He deals with us personally, and we, His sheep, know His voice. Even in our personal circumstances when we do not understand what is going on we can rely on a precious truth that He knows our frame (Psalm 103v14). Our Saviour knows us and He cares for us. He knows our temperament, He knows what lifts us up and what casts us down. Because He knows us so well as individuals He is able, as a tender Shepherd to lead us effectively. Jesus the Good Shepherds’ care and leading is based in knowing; a knowing firmly rooted in our personal relationship and fellowship with Him. He tends the flock by tending individuals, caring for the flock through caring for the individual sheep, with compassion, and not compulsion. The Good Samartaian tends to this traveller personally and in a generous manner to ensure he is cared for and then holds himself accountable for its cost. What an example to follow! We ask again does anyone care? Some amazing people do! The Samaritan gives of his substance and time to help this one in need. We read of the Good Shepherd that He gives His life for the sheep. He says this is not about me, it’s about the sheep, I give my life to save and serve others and God glorifies Him for it. Such humility! We see this heart in Paul (Romans 9v3) as he states he would rather be accursed for the good of others. He would rather be wronged than be right, he would rather suffer loss to see a sheep saved. We rejoice in the care that we receive from God, that His heart is a heart of love. The Good Shepherd gives up His life in order that He might give us His eternal life. The hireling (of John 10) is described as one who when challenged will neglect and expose the sheep as they care more about their own life and reward than for the sheep. But, in contrast, the Lord Jesus while we were his enemies died for us – John 10v11. He gave His life for the sheep, this was not something imposed upon him, he was was not compelled, but through a depth of love beyond our comprehension (he loved us and gave himself for us – Galatians 2v20). So we ask again the question does anyone really care? The Good Shepherd not only cares but He cares abundantly, He gives His best, He gave His all, and He gives us more than we deserve or can even contain. In John 10 we read that He not only gives us Himself but through that He gives us the security of eternal life. This is a gift we have not earned or deserved and, like all the Good Shepherd’s dealings with us, He is gracious and generous. What reason do we have for confidence in the Christian life? John 10v28-29 – We are held secure by the hand of Jesus and by the hand of the Everlasting Father and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. No matter what pressures and trials come against us we have this security of the everlasting arms of a Shepherd who cares, who understands, who comes along side, who loves, who gives, and keeps on giving. What a Saviour! What an example! Yet in a world of noise and distraction we, like the sheep, need to listen attentively to the voice of the Shepherd, not distracted by the baying of the ravenous wolf (those who attack the sheep – Matthew 7v15; Acts 20v29) nor the uncaring attitude of the hireling (John 10v12) , even the arrogant indifference and pride of the religious (Luke 10v31-32). Listen carefully for the tender voice of the Good Shepherd. Knowing that the One who has loved us all the way to the cross is the One will continue to love us all the way home.

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press,
And the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?

Chorus
O yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary,
The long night dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades
Into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?

Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed
To resist some temptation strong;
When for my deep grief
There is no relief,
Though my tears flow all the night long?

Does Jesus care when I’ve said “goodbye”
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches
Till it nearly breaks,
Is it aught to Him? Does He see?

I ask again, does anyone really care? Let me, from the words of that hymn, and from the example of the Good Samaritan and the Good Shepherd, answer with a resounding and emphatic YES! – while others may not – Jesus Cares! He cares about your soul, about your sin, about your salvation, about your safety, about your service, about your situation, about your sanctification, He cares about you!

Humility

Micah 6v8 says …and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God. This verse doesn’t simply present some good suggestions but is one that states some requirements. An action; to do justly. An affection; to love mercy. An attitude; to walk humbly. It is to the last of these that I want to share a thought. Humility is the condition we read of in the first three beatitudes of Matthew 5. It is how the Christian life begins, by poverty of spirit, recognizing our dire and desperate condition that drives us to dependence on God. But here in Micah we are told this attitude of heart is not only how we start out but also how we ought to walk. Humility speaks to attitude but our actions can either display or betray that humility as true or false. Pride/self/ego/I, the upright pronoun, is a most subtle enemy against the new life in Christ. People spot it easily if we look down on others, or if we seek to draw attention or praise to ourselves. However, it can lurk just as easily in the more introverted personality as well as in the more extroverted one. Spurgeon once said that “true humility is thinking rightly of yourself, not meanly.” There is much wisdom to chew upon in that saying from Spurgeon! Another puts it more practically saying that humility is not thinking less of yourself (meanly), but thinking of yourself less! Thoughts that are consumed with self whether that be following the evil of our hearts, or thinking how good we are and how much we have done. But equally on the other hand if we think that we are of no use, have no gifts, crippled by what we think others think of us, thinking we have nothing to offer anyone or that God could have no use for me. Then in all these cases we are thinking about ourselves a lot! And as humility is thinking about ourselves less and God and others more, we are not displaying humility. Yes, to live in humility is to see ourselves as God sees us, to truly know and see ourselves in the light of His Word, it is to recognize our condition, but it is also to embrace the calling of God on our lives. To recognize that while we are indeed sinners saved by grace we are also servants of God and He has a work for us to. It is to forget about self in the service of others and our God. So I challenge you as I challenge myself myself to fix our eyes firmly upon Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. To turn our gaze daily upon Him and away from self, that we might fulfill together the command of Micah and the requirement to walk humbly with our God as we seek to live out and proclaim the justice and mercy of God to the world around.

Past Times

Past Times

In the wisdom books of the Bible there is tremendous truth, yet that wisdom is often simply stated and does not always follow a line of reasoning or argument. Therefore, due to the lack of context, we find the need to meditate on its words and thoughts to uncover and understand its messages. Ecclesiastes 7:10 speaks of the folly of saying that the former days were better than the days we live in. This is a truth that speaks to those who take a general look at the past through rose tinted spectacles, thinking the former days were better than the days we live in (or that the men and women of the past were supermen and superwoman, made of different stuff). Yet even worldly wisdom would help us here and it only takes a meager look at history to show that each age had its own special evils and its own special goods. But this is a call to a wisdom that deals with a mindset that goes much deeper than this. Even as the world moves towards the Lord’s return, this wrong worship of the past has at its root to question God and His methods and how He rules over the world today, and to question where and when He has placed us. This verse reminds us that, while we live in different days, we must recognise that God is sovereign over today and tomorrow just as much as He was over yesterday or the past. This understanding that God is in control today should bring us present comfort not concern, and should lead us towards trust. To say the former days were better is not only to question God’s rule but also reveals a faith and a trust that needs to change. Looking and learning from the past (and remembering) can be a necessary exercise but we need to trust God as to where He has placed each of us as we serve Him together. Our opinions about the past should not be used to dictate our expectations, our attitude, or our activity in the present, except to encourage us and spur us on. Undoubtedly there were saints of God in the past who we can learn from but we are called to be saints in the days in which we live; not setting low standards or expectations for ourselves or not trusting God. We need to continue to cultivate the art of being thankful in prayer in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, of being busy in the work of God in the day we find ourselves in, and trusting a great God wherever we find ourselves. We are called to live and serve and worship in the present and not in the past. The reality is, the God of the Bible is our God, the God of the past is our God, and the God that the saints of old trusted and served is the God that we must trust and serve in our own generation; no matter what that is like. He has a plan, and we are part of it, so as we pass through trials and troubles, as we work and witness, let us trust the God who reigns over all history; including today.

For the God on the mountain, is still God in the valley
When things go wrong, He’ll make them right
And the God of the good times, is still God in the bad times
The God of the day is still God in the night!

We have been given the gift of a little time let us use it wisely, redeeming it, and trusting the Alpha and the Omega, the God who holds all our days, and us, in His sovereign hand.