Archive for October, 2010


This past weekend was LOOP Sunday for the folks of Pleasant Prairie Baptist Church. Pastor Jim Tompkins has been leading the church through a study of the Good Samaritan, asking “Who is my neighbor?” The church discovered that we must get close enough to people to discover their needs, and then do what is needed to meet those needs, sacrificing our time and resources. To serve our neighbors, Sunday church services were cancelled on Oct 24th, and the Pleasant Prairie family went to work.

Service projects took place the entire weekend, and included tree felling, tree trimming, fence line clearing, brushhogging, painting, ramp building, wall and flooring repairs, food baskets to the needy, and even a ladies tea to several homebound ladies. We also had the opportunity to serve the Missouri Baptist Children’s home on J Highway with trimming, painting, fence screening and storage organization.

Services were conducted at Raymore Rehabilitation Center as well as at Beautiful Savior Nursing Home. First Responders (Police, Sheriffs, Firefighters, EMT’s and Life Flight) from Belton, Raymore, Cleveland, Peculiar, Harrisonville and Freeman were honored with large bushel baskets chock full of homemade breads and other goodies prepared by the ladies of the church.

LOOP stands for Love on on Purpose, and represents intentional acts of service and love for our neighbors in the name of Jesus Christ. The Loop in our logo represents the infinity symbol. When we ask “Are you are in the LOOP”, we want to know if you will be spending eternity with Jesus Christ.

The weekend was exhausting, and as Pastor Jim remarked, “It is easier just to go to church!” However, many commented this was the most rewarding weekend they had experienced in their Christian walk. Several firefighters mentioned they had already had a rough morning, and the Baskets of Appreciation were just what they needed. One veteran policeman mentioned this was the first time he had ever received any appreciation from a church or other organization.

Without exception the people of Pleasant Prairie commented that we need to do this every year. How do we show our neighbor’s the reality of Jesus Christ? By getting close enough to them to discover their needs, and then doing whatever it costs to meet those needs.

Some of the pictures:

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Parable of the Oppressed Widow

1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:1-8

This parable teaches us five things which are to be an integral part of our Christian walk:

  1. Always pray
  2. Never give up
  3. Pray earnestly for God’s Justice in the world
  4. God will give justice when His people cry day and night.
  5. Praying for justice for the oppressed takes great faith.

What is the connection between Justice and Faith?

Justice is not an easy thing to seek. It seems the closer we get involved with people and neighbors, the more injustices we see. Parents who neglect and even abuse their children. People who are oppressed with addictions. Politicians who seek to line their own pockets and the pockets of their contributors rather than benefit the people. Preachers who bend the truth of God rather than alienate big givers. Manufacturer’s who take advantage of cheap labor, even children in foreign countries. I could go on and on. Most of us have experienced injustice ourselves.

It can be a false accusation, a stinging insult, a theft of something precious, an abusive public official, an inconsiderate neighbor. We even experience injustice within our families, with abuse, mistreatment, mishandling of money, fighting over inheritance.

The is injustice aplenty in this world. People right now are imprisoned, or being forced to work as slaves, or forced to serve as child soldiers, and many are being murdered simply because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

Justice and Faith are Vitally Connected

In Revelations we find a strange situation. Previous martyrs are crying out to God to avenge their deaths. They desire to see His justice on earth. Instead of rushing to see their satisfaction, God tells them to be patient, and to know that several more will die.

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. Revelation 6:9-11

God told them that there were going to be more martyrs. The number was not yet complete. He told them to rest a little while longer.

That is not what we want to hear. We want the injustice to stop. We want the murdering to stop. We want the abuse, the slavery the torture to stop! But God says to REST a little longer!

The connection between justice and faith is that while we long for justice, while we plead day and night for justice, we must NEVER lose faith that God is in control, that God knows exactly what is going on. We must have faith that God cares deeply about the injustices in this world. But God has a plan and that plan will be accomplished in His time!

The Importance of Faith

Revelations reveals further that God has a plan, and we must patiently endure and be faithful to Him, regardless of the circumstances.

If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints. Revelation 13:10

Good Samaritan’s must plead and come to the aid of the oppressed, but we must never, never, never lose faith that God is in control! We must be patient and faithful as we wait for His throne to complete His work!

Who is an Intercessor?

The picture of an intercessor is found in Rom 8:26:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26

  • An intercessor helps – sunantilambanō, made up of sun, “together with,” anti “over against,” and lambanō, “to take.”

The word speaks of the action of a person coming to another’s aid by taking hold over against that person, of the load he is carrying. The person helping does not take the entire load, but helps the other person in his endeavor.

So, the Holy Spirit who indwells us comes to our aid in our spiritual problems and difficulties, not by taking over our responsibility and giving us an automatic deliverance without any effort on our part, but by taking hold of us, giving us His peace and power and help to allow us to work out our problems and overcome our difficulties.

The word “infirmities is astheneia, “want of strength, weakness.” It is the same word used for the sick people that Jesus healed.[1]

  • An intercessor pleads (huperentugchanō)

 

It is a picturesque word of rescue by one who ‘happens on’ one who is in trouble, and ‘in his behalf’ pleads on behalf of his needs, because he does not know how to express or is too weak to cry out for help.

Are you an Intercessor?

You may say no, but I know you have been an intercessor before. You have had a sick child before, or a sick friend or loved one. You came beside them, comforted them. You cried unto God for their healing.

You may have even done something like what Joyce Moore did in Thailand, throw yourself over someone who was being beaten.

Do not say you can not be an intercessor. An intercessor is simply someone who sees someone weak, in trouble, oppressed, and you come along side them, take some of the load and pray to God or plead with a Doctor, or an authority, on their behalf.

Why is it important that we all be intercessors?

Our eyes will be opened to see God’s power and His role in bringing His Justice to this world!

Let’s see how this worked in David’s life as we read from his Psalms:

  • Ps 69:1-3 – He is in dire straits. He is weary of crying out, he is to the point of giving up on God.
  • Ps 70:1-6 – He needs God quickly, the troubles are still great, but he is exalting God
  • Ps 71:1-5 – He has taken refuge inGod, his deliverer. He is confident of God’s power.
  • Ps 72:1-4, 12-14 – He desires God’s justice to reign in the land. He has a heart sensitive to the needs of the poor and oppressed.

The best intercessors are those who have experienced the deliverance of God in their life! Always keep your focus on the power of Christ to change lives, to deliver the lost.

You may have a child in the bondage of sin, you may have a loved one in the bondage of sin, don’t make excuses for your cold heart, get a vision of them crying out in Hell for all eternity, crying out for you, think about that til your cold heart is melted and you are on your knees crying out to God for their souls.

When Jesus comes back will he find faith in the earth?

He will if we take being intercessors seriously!

Why should we be concerned for Justice in the World?

  • Your heart for Justice reveals your heart for God!

Consider what Micah wrote:

6 “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8 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 (righteousness) with your God? Micah 6:6-8

Jeremiah reveals that there are three things that God delights in, and if we are to boast in anything, it is in that we understand God’s nature.

23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23-24

God DELIGHTS IN Justice

  • Deuteronomy 10:17-19 – For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
  • Deuteronomy 16:19-20 – You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
  • Deuteronomy 27:19 ‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
  • Deuteronomy 32:4 – “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.
  • Psalms 33:5 – He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

We are Commanded to Seek Justice, to Intercede on behalf of the weak and oppressed

  • 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalms 82:3-4
  • 5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, 6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; 7 who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; 8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. Psalms 146:5-8
  • 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Isaiah 1:16-17
  • 32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Hebrews 11:32-33

The Good Samaritan did three things that demonstrated the nature of God.

  1. He showed mercy on his wounded enemy.
  2. He demonstrated his own personal righteousness by stopping to offer help regardless of the cost or the consequences.
  3. He used his time and possessions to restore justice to his enemy.

Now think about what Jesus did for you…

  1. He showed mercy on you, wounded and dying from sin, his enemy.
  2. He demonstrated His righteousness by doing whatever it took, regardless of the cost, knowin it would take his total humiliation and horrible death.
  3. He used his time and His total self to restore justice to his enemies.

Our view of the Good Samaritan is hopefully going to produce the following changes in us:

  1. As Christ Followers, we must get close enough to people to see their needs, even those who we would not normally get close to. Our focus determines how we regard our time and possessions. We invest them in showing God’s mercy to the weak and needy. Our focus and investment reveals our heart of mercy.
  2. As Christ followers, we have a responsibility to watch out and protect those who are weak, hurting and sick. Our heart for the sick reveals our heart for our Savior. We invest our time and possessions in bringing righteousness to the weak and needy. If we are righteous before God, we can offer righteousness to the sick and weak and diseased.
  3. As Christ Followers, when we get close enough to people to see their needs, we will also discover the injustices in this world. We share God’s desire to see His justice upon all people. We invest our time and possessions in seeking justice for the weak and oppressed and enslaved. Our focus and investment reveals whether we are intercessors for justice.

Why Does the World need Intercessors?

29 Even common people oppress the poor, rob the needy, and deprive foreigners of justice. 30 “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one. 31 So now I will pour out my fury on them, consuming them with the fire of my anger. I will heap on their heads the full penalty for all their sins. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!” Ezekiel 22:29-31

God despises those who oppress the weak, and rob the land of justice. People who suffer oppression have three forces affecting their state of mind, robbing them of their ability to see God and His power. God seeks people who will stand in the gap and take up the cause of the oppressed, and cry out for justice.

There are three harsh realities faced by oppressed people such as these.

1.  First reality is a state of helplessness.

Gary Haugen, founder of a group called International Justice Mission, or IJM, surveyed seventy religious organizations that operate relief and development programs.

Every single agency polled said that throughout the course of their work around the world they encountered “serious situations of abuse … *including+ forced labor, sex trafficking, corrupt seizure of land, and corruption in the public justice system.”[2] Unfortunately, when aid workers tried to confront the injustices they saw, they received little to no help from local authorities. David drew this observation:

The absence of an effective public justice system blocks every step the poor take to change their social condition. For example, the staff of a renowned aid and relief agency reported to IJM that coercive labor was undermining its efforts in Southeast Asia to enroll kids in school. Young children were being forced to roll cigarettes for seventy to eighty hours per week or to weave carpets in makeshift factories. Though these practices are illegal throughout the region, the guardians of the law look the other way. If they refuse to stop the slave owners, to whom can the children turn for help?[3]

Talk about a state of helplessness! Just imagine if that were your child. Suppose your eight-year-old daughter was denied enrollment in your neighborhood elementary school and was then forced by threat of violence to roll cigarettes for ten to twelve hours a day. And then suppose that when you as the parent rushed to the police chief to register your complaint and demand your child’s freedom and insist that she be allowed her rightful education, rather than jumping into a squad car to go arrest the perpetrator of this injustice, he simply shrugged his shoulders and walked away.

Would you feel helpless?

2.  Second reality is the state of hopelessness.

Joyce and David Moore could have simply been another tourist in Thailand, gone home, and wiped the injustice of that country out of their minds. After all, the situation was hopeless. What could they do?

With Jesus Christ we are never hopeless. They sold everything they had and moved to Thailand. We support Joyce and David as they do what they can to bring the Hope of the Gospel of Christ to boys and girls who were hopeless.

Are they stopping the injustice, the slavery, the abuse? Not totally. But they are making a difference. They aren’t closing their eyes, they are interceding on behalf of the hopeless.

What are you doing? Who has the hope of heaven because of your intercession?

Jesus Christ descended from heaven to earth in order to bring hope to the hopeless, regardless which continent they call home. And I, like you, would feel utterly and completely hopeless if I were staring at the prospect of either starving my entire family or selling one child into slavery. I would feel hopeless upon selling that child as I considered her prospects for the future: What do you suppose becomes of a twelve- or fourteen-year-old virgin who begins prostituting herself lest she face beatings and even death?

These are seemingly hopeless situations.

3.  Third reality is a state of fear.

In 1993, a Pastor Keith Grimes (head of TTT, Teaching Teachers to Teach) visited Kalingalinga, Zambia, and he heard about its great pride: its singing boys. He auditioned scores of them to form a choir to tour the United States. He called it the Zambian Acappella Boys Choir (ZABC).

The choir generated huge donations. One ministry budget statement that CT obtained reveals that the choir in one year brought in $1 million.

The rosy promises made to the choirboys before they left home turned into a nightmare for them in America. For nineteen months, the boys were made to sing four to seven concerts a day. If they were tired or sick, they would be threatened. When not singing, they were made to dig a swimming pool hole at the headquarters by hand. They were housed in a trailer. If they complained about anything, their “boss” would cut off the gas so they could not cook. Denied any medical care, several of the boys became seriously ill. When they were much later rescued and given check-ups, three of the boys proved to have positive tuberculosis.

Pastor Grimes told parents that American donations would fund the construction of local schools. Moreover, their boys would receive cash stipends that they could send back home. While on tour, his staff would provide tutoring for the boys, and upon their return to Zambia, they would be the first students in a newly built schoolhouse.

The boys kept singing in the hope that some of the funds collected were being sent home to ease the poverty of their families. After more than a year of bad treatment, the boys realized that no money had been sent home to their families. They began to resist their “boss” who quickly moved to deport the three oldest boys.

His crime unraveled when the U.S. Department of Immigration officials began to question the boys and discovered what had happened. At first, it was hard for officials to believe that a choir had been caught up in human trafficking and exploitation.

After direct conversations with Pastor Grimes, it seemed the case would be dismissed because there were no signs of shackles or bruises on the boys’ bodies. And because lawful contracts had been signed, even though none of the people who signed them had a clue what those contracts said.

A constant state of fear is all that these boys knew. Fear of being abused if they misbehaved. Fear of being sent back to Zambia penniless if they happened to fall ill. Fear of the temper of a man named “Pastor.” Fear for their families back home. And to think that these fear-stricken boys were ushered from church to church, day after day after day, forced to sing about God’s grace and love and peace—does that idea make anyone else sick?

GOD’S EXPECTATION FOR HOW VULNERABLE PEOPLE CAN BE PROTECTED

Psalm 82:3-4 – “Enough! You’ve corrupted justice long enough, you’ve let the wicked get away with murder. You’re here to defend the defenseless, to make sure that underdogs get a fair break; Your job is to stand up for the powerless, and prosecute all those who exploit them” (MSG).

Defend the defenseless; make sure underdogs get a fair break; stand up for the powerless; prosecute all those who exploit them—these are the expectations that God has of his followers, the church of Jesus Christ: defend, stand up for, prosecute. Sounds like a pretty tall order to me. Does it to you?

Even very small steps can lead to very big progress where slavery and injustice are concerned. We can start small. We just must start. Will you ask God for ONE person you can be an intercessor for?


[1]Wuest’s Word Studies – Volume 1: Word Studies in the Greek New Testament.

[2] A.David Batstone, Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It. HarperCollins 2007, p. 84.

[3] Ibid.


My daily reading brought me to Jeremiah 23 and suddenly it seemed that God was speaking directly to ME through these verses. Something has been bothering me lately about the state of the Gospel message in the United States. It seems that there is a consistent ‘theme’ being presented by Christian radio stations (KLOVE) and by media preachers, that God loves us no matter where we are at, that He is always there for us, and that He will get us through whatever problem we are facing. After all, God is a caring loving God. It seems we have switched our preaching and our gospel message to a man-centered appeal. After all, it is all about ME, isn’t it.

We all need a god who is on our side, who is there for us, to help with our problems.

KLOVE had a gal call in with a real heartbreaking story about being young, pregnant, and her boyfriend dumping her. She was in church feeling all alone and abandoned. Then the pastor seemed to be speaking directly to her when he said, “God will be a husband to you. God will love you better than any earthly husband.” She felt so encouraged and touched by that message. Then she proceeded to tell how she had met someone new, a great guy, had become pregnant AGAIN and had been dumped, AGAIN. But sure enough, while sitting in church, another pastor said the same thing, “God will be a husband to you!” Now she is with another ‘great’ guy.

I am not questioning her sincerity, nor her love for God, but the thought ran through my head,”if God is your husband, why did you cheat on Him?” Are you going to keep going back to him every time some jerk gets you pregnant and dumps you? When will you learn to stop having sex before marriage?

Smooth talking preachers want to tickle the ears of their listeners. They don’t want to explain that God is a God of Justice as well as mercy. Sure, He loves us unconditionally, but when God’s love touches someone, it will always change them! God will always work to bring His justice and righteousness into our lives! God’s mercy and love is ALWAYS given with the intent of bringing righteousness and justice into our lives.

God’s mercy and love is ALWAYS given with the intent of bringing righteousness and justice into our lives.

“Do not listen to smooth talking preachers”

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to his people: Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you, filling you with futile hopes. They are making up everything they say. They do not speak for the Lord! They keep saying to those who despise my word, ‘Don’t worry! The Lord says you will have peace!’ And to those who stubbornly follow their own desires, they say, ‘No harm will come your way!’ “Have any of these prophets been in the Lord’s presence to hear what he is really saying? Has even one of them cared enough to listen? Look! The Lord’s anger bursts out like a storm, a whirlwind that swirls down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not diminish until it has finished all he has planned. In the days to come you will understand all this very clearly. “I have not sent these prophets, yet they run around claiming to speak for me. I have given them no message, yet they go on prophesying. If they had stood before me and listened to me, they would have spoken my words, and they would have turned my people from their evil ways and deeds.Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the Lord. “No, I am far away at the same time. Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the Lord. “I have heard these prophets say, ‘Listen to the dream I had from God last night.’ And then they proceed to tell lies in my name. How long will this go on? If they are prophets, they are prophets of deceit, inventing everything they say. By telling these false dreams, they are trying to get my people to forget me, just as their ancestors did by worshiping the idols of Baal. “Let these false prophets tell their dreams, but let my true messengers faithfully proclaim my every word. There is a difference between straw and grain! Does not my word burn like fire?” says the Lord. “Is it not like a mighty hammer that smashes a rock to pieces? “Therefore,” says the Lord, “I am against these prophets who steal messages from each other and claim they are from me. I am against these smooth-tongued prophets who say, ‘This prophecy is from the Lord!’ I am against these false prophets. Their imaginary dreams are flagrant lies that lead my people into sin. I did not send or appoint them, and they have no message at all for my people. I, the Lord have spoken! Jeremiah 23:16-32

“Am I a God who is only close at hand?”

We hear preachers say that God is always there, always ready to forgive, but God asks the question here, “Am I a God who is only close at hand?” The answer is NO!, God can be far away at the same time! We may confess a sin here and there, but our life and the intent of our heart still denies the Word of God. Our confession is only because things are not working out. Absent is a heart felt desire for God’s Lordship of our life!

How long will this go on?

“Have any of these prophets been in the Lord’s presence to hear what he is really saying? Has even one of them cared enough to listen?”

Preachers, instead of pleasing our people with futile hopes, and heart wrenching stories, God calls us to spend time in His presence. Instead of modeling your messages after the latest ‘popular preacher’, isn’t it time we spend time in God’s presence, hearing from His Word what we should proclaim to our people?

We need to preach a God-centered Gospel. We need to proclaim mercy, righteousness and justice, for in these God delights (Jer 9:23-24) We need to stop preaching “God in the Box” sermons. God is not just someone we can call upon every time we need some help. We can’t carry God in a box. He is close, but He is distant as well. Sometimes everything won’t be alright.  Sometime God will work what He wants. And what He wants is our total devotion and obedience to His Word! He is God, and we need to spend time trembling before His mighty power!


Coming alongside those who suffer.

The Good Samaritan gave us an example of caring for the Weak and the Powerless, even when they are strangers. We need to look at our responsibilities when it comes to those in the world who are hurting because of disease and sickness.

Jesus twice sent out his disciples with very clear and concise instructions. Those same instructions apply to us as His servants:

  • Matthew 10:8 – Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
  • Luke 10:8-9 -“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’

Heal: Therapeúō – attendant, servant. To voluntarily wait upon, minister to, render service, heal. Pictures the physician’s watchful attendance of the sick and man’s service to God. Therapeuo means to serve as therápōn.

Therápōn-denotes a faithful friend to a superior, who solicitously regards the superior’s interest or looks after his affairs, not a common or domestic servant.

Therápōn approaches more closely the position of oikonómos, manager, in God’s house.[1]

One who heals the sick is a friend who closely watches over one he considers his superior. One who heals the sick is actually functioning as a manager in God’s house!

The reason this is so important is the actual meaning of the sick that Christ sent them out to minister to.

SICK: asthenés: “Without strength, powerless, weak, without physical ability. By implication, meaning afflicted, distressed by oppression, calamity. In a moral sense, wretched, diseased, i.e., in a state of sin and wretchedness[2].

Our attitude toward sickness and disease reveals the state of our heart-whether we are fit to be managers in God’s House!

The Role of the “Watchman”

Ezekiel explains the Code of the Watchman. God sets some people up as Watchmen over His people. They are to warn the people of impending danger.

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, 3 and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. Ezekiel 33:1-7

Now at this time both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel and Judah had already been taken into captivity. Both nations had gone on a massive sinning spree – worshiping false gods and graven images and turning their back on their one true God time and time again.

Isaiah had prophesied over 100 years earlier, to the Nation of Judah who had witnessed their brothers to the North taken by the Assyrians. They thought they wouldn’t be captured because THEY were so religious, beloved by Jehovah. They were proud of their “RELIGIOUSNESS” and wondered why they were having trouble with the Assyrians too! They were trying everything to win God’s favor and support. They were even fasting. But here is what Isaiah said:

Isaiah 58:3-12

3 “Why have we fasted, but You have not seen? We have denied ourselves, but You haven’t noticed!” “Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast, and oppress all your workers. 4 You fast ⌊with⌋ contention and strife to strike viciously with ⌊your⌋ fist. You cannot fast as ⌊you do⌋ today, ⌊hoping⌋ to make your voice heard on high. 5 Will the fast I choose be like this: A day for a person to deny himself, to bow his head like a reed, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to the Lord? 6 Isn’t the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh ⌊and blood⌋? 8 Then your light will appear like the dawn, and your recovery will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard. 9 At that time, when you call, the Lord will answer; when you cry out, He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you get rid of the yoke among you, the finger-pointing and malicious speaking, 10 and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday. 11 The Lord will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose waters never run dry. 12 Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will restore the foundations laid long ago; you will be called the repairer of broken walls, the restorer of streets where people live.

The people of the Southern Kingdom thought they were being religious, thought they were being “Good God-fearing Jews”, yet God through Isaiah revealed their selfishness. He revealed how they were neglecting the poor, the hungry, the afflicted. Their hearts and their purse strings were closed to the needs of those around them.

But God said that if they would share their bread, bring the poor and homeless into their home, see to the needs of the afflicted, then recovery would appear quickly. The Lord’s Glory would be their rear guard. When they satisfied the afflicted ones, their light would shine in darkness, the Lord would lead them, satisfy them and strengthen them. They would be called the repairer of the broken walls.

Obviously, as God promised, Israel was judged for its sin. The people did not heed the warnings of Isaiah and others. The watchmen failed to turn the people to the Lord, and to doing what pleased the Lord.

In a way, Israel had “died,” when she went into captivity, and now she would need to be reborn and restored to her rightful place as a healthy and whole nation before God. Ezekiel said if that was to happen, the watchmen would have to assume their proper place. The people would have to heed the calls of the watchmen.

The church age has come along now, and we are to prepare a bride for our Savior. This world is dying, the people are ignoring the sound of God’s trumpet, and instead of being WATCHMEN, many of us have closed our eyes and said there is nothing I can do. Is that the excuse you want to give Jesus?

Jesus warned His disciples:

Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:36

The way that we can stand before Jesus is by heeding His commands to manage God’s house. Note what Jesus warns:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 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. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “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. 35 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, 36 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.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “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.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46

Many parts of our world—including, much of the bottom half of the continent of Africa—have been decimated and “put to death” by serious but treatable diseases.

1.  Respiratory infections

  • Death toll: More than 4 million people each year.
  • Mostly pneumonia and other diseases of the lungs, windpipe or bronchial tubes,
  • Most victims are under five.
  • Often associated with AIDS.

2.  HIV/AIDS

  • Annual Death toll: More than 3 million deaths
  • Infection rate: Some 39.4 million people in the world live with HIV.
  • Africa has over 14 million AIDS orphans.
  • Child Impact
    • Currently, less than 10 percent of HIV-positive children in need of treatment are being treated.
    • Each day, 1,500 children worldwide become infected with HIV, the vast majority of them newborns.
    • Less than 10 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women receive drug therapies to prevent the transmission of HIV to their infants.
    • Every 14 seconds a child is orphaned by AIDS.

3.  Malaria

  • Death toll: Between 1 million and 5 million each year.
  • Facts: In Africa, 3,000 children die every day from the preventable disease.
  • Ninety per cent of deaths are in Africa, home to the most deadly form of the virus.
  • Less than five percent of people at greatest malaria risk have insecticide-treated mosquito nets to sleep under.

4.  Diarrhea

  • Death toll: Kills around 2.2 million people each year.
  • Caused by dysentery, cholera and a host of lesser-known scourges – is a symptom of infection from bacterial, viral and parasitic organisms like microscopic worms. Most diarrhea-related deaths, particularly in children, are due to dehydration.
  • How is it spread? Contaminated water and food.
    • Each year more than five million people die from water-related disease.
    • Every 15 Seconds a child dies from a water related disease.
    • 84% of water-related deaths are in children ages 0-14.
    • 98% of water-related deaths occur in the developing world.
    • Poor peoplel living in the slums often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people lving in the same city.
    • At any one time, more than half the poor of the developing world are ill from causes related to hygiene, sanitation, and water supply.
    • Eighty-eight percent of causes of diarrhea worldwide are attributed to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation or insufficient hygien.
    • Only 62% of the world’s population has access to improved sanitation–one that ensures hygenic separation of human exreta from human contact.

5.  Tuberculosis

  • Death toll: Two million people die every year.
  • Infection rate: About 2 billion people are infected with TB and over 8 million new cases develop each year.
  • TB is a frequent killer for people with AIDS. African states suffering from the HIV pandemic have experienced an annual 10 percent rise in TB cases.

Jesus called the hurting “His Brother’s”. When we look after the sick, we are looking after Jesus. It is time to see those villages, cities, nations, continents … entire people groups … brought back to life.

This is where you and I come in.

It’s time we open our eyes and look after them like watchmen of the Lord!

Much like Ezekiel, we, as followers of Jesus Christ, bear the responsibility for sounding the horn and alerting all who have ears to hear that the only way rebirth and restoration can occur is if we help to stop the hurting that is taking lives even as I talk. What does it take to be a Watchman for the Hurting and Sick?

Choose to look.
Choose to see.
Refuse to look the other way.

In his newest book, The Hole in Our Gospel, World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns tells this compelling story of a trip he made to Uganda just over a decade ago:

His name was Richard, the same as mine. I sat inside his meager thatch hut, listening to his story, told through the tears of an orphan whose parents had died of AIDS. At thirteen, Richard was trying to raise his two younger brothers by himself in this small shack with no running water, electricity, or even beds to sleep in. There were no adults in their lives—no one to care for them, feed them, love them, or teach them how to become men. There was no one to hug them either, or to tuck them in at night. Other than his siblings, Richard was alone, as no child should be. I try to picture my own children abandoned in this kind of deprivation, fending for themselves without parents to protect them, and I cannot. I didn’t want to be there. I wasn’t supposed to be there, so far out of my comfort zone—not in that place where orphaned children live by themselves in their agony. There, poverty, disease, and squalor had eyes and faces that stared back, and I had to see and smell and touch the pain of the poor. That particular district, Rakai, is believed to be ground zero for the Ugandan AIDS pandemic. There, the deadly virus has stalked its victims in the dark for decades.

Sweat trickled down my face as I sat awkwardly with Richard and his brothers while a film crew captured every tear—mine and theirs. I much preferred living in my bubble, the one that, until that moment, had safely contained my life, family, and career. It kept difficult things like this out, insulating me from anything too raw or upsetting. When such things intruded, as they rarely did, a channel could be changed, a newspaper page turned, or a check written to keep the poor at a safe distance. But not in Rakai. There, “such things” had faces and names—even my name, Richard.

[Back in Uganda,] two crude piles of stones just outside the door mark the graves of Richard’s parents. It disturbs me that he must walk past them every day. He and his brothers must have watched first their father and then their mother die slow and horrible deaths. I wondered if the boys were the ones who fed them and bathed them in their last days. Whatever the case, Richard, a child himself, is now the head of household. Child-headed household, words never meant to be strung together. I tried to wrap my mind around this new phrase, one that describes not only Richard’s plight but that of tens of thousands, even millions, more. I’m told that there are sixty thousand orphans just in Rakai; twelve million orphans due to AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. How can this be true? Awkwardly I asked Richard what he hopes to be when he grows up, a ridiculous question to ask a child who has lost his childhood. “A doctor,” he said, “so I can help people who have the disease.”

“Do you have a Bible?” I asked. He ran to the other room and returned with his treasured book with gold-gilt pages. “Can you read it?”  “I love to read the book of John, because it says that Jesus loves the children.”

This overwhelmed me, and my tears started to flow. Forgive me, Lord, forgive me. I didn’t know. But I did know. I knew about poverty and suffering in the world. I was aware that children die daily from starvation and lack of clean water. I also knew about AIDS and the orphans it leaves behind, but I kept these things outside of my insulating bubble and looked the other way.[3]

Under Rich’s leadership World Vision now serves more than 100 million people in nearly 100 countries, demonstrating God’s unconditional love for all people all around the world. Indeed, God did have a job for Rich to do, and he has a job for you and for me as well. But first we must be willing to look at the tough issues. We must be willing to see—really see—the effects on people’s lives. And we must refuse to look the other way.

The Church Fulfilling the Watchman Role

We, as Christ’s followers, have the opportunity to be known as “the people who came alongside,” the people who patiently suffered with those in need. This is our call, friends. This is our mission—to love people in practical ways so that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father, who is in heaven.

I want to mention three truths about who we are as the church of Jesus Christ before we move into this week’s personal application.

1. The church is the greatest dispenser of hope that the world could ever know; it has the hope of heaven, where no one will be afflicted by disease.

Let these words of life wash over you today:

Romans 8:22-25 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. innisbrook For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Colossians 1:5: “The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope.”

Hebrews 6:17-20 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

It is because of faith in Christ that we have this hope. It is a hope that our government cannot provide, our academic institutions cannot provide, our corporations cannot provide, and even our families cannot provide. Rock-solid hope is only found in Jesus Christ, the One who overcomes all trials and all tribulations, including death. And including, certainly, sickness and disease. Don’t keep the hope of glory to yourself. Dispense your hope! This is why you are alive today.

2. The Church Is The Greatest Dispenser Of Healing That The World Will Ever Know.

Someday there will be no disease.  That will be the same day that there is no more sin. Disease is a manifestation of the effects of sin. First Peter 2:24 assures us that Christ carried our sins to the cross so that we could be freed to live the right way. In this sense, his wounds became our healing. As a result of Christ’s work on the cross, we have direct access to the Great Physician, the One who alone by his own power can heal.

23 Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 24 News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon-possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all. Matthew 4:23-24

Are there people in our world today who need that same type of assurance? It is our job to dispense this divine access to healing to those who are sick. Pray for those who are sick. Pray for their salvation. Pray for their healing. Pray for their lives to be freed from the bonds of disease and used for God’s glory. We possess what no medicine can provide: the ever-ready power of believing prayer.

3. The church is the most credible watchman for the World.

The church must blow the trumpet of warning alert all people that we’re officially at war with these diseases.

We have enough information about HIV and AIDS—as well as other pandemics like malaria, cholera, and others—to speak up. And because of our knowledge and our role as the church of Jesus Christ, we have the responsibility to act on behalf of those who are suffering with no voice.

PERSONAL APPLICATION

Consider whether you are using your resources and influence for the eternal good of others or for the temporal good of yourselves.

Brian Carlson is a youth leader at a large church in Colorado Springs who decided to get off the sidelines and take action on behalf of those suffering with HIV and AIDS in Africa. Here is how it happened, in his words:

God began drawing me to a defining moment in 2003. I was unexpectedly broken as I attended a Promise Keepers event for pastors in Phoenix. I arrived there expecting to be challenged and refreshed as I connected with others attending the event.

However, when speaker Bruce Wilkinson took the stage, my view of God and of the world was turned upside down. Through his teaching my heart grasped the horrific fact that 33 million people were dying worldwide from HIV and AIDS; 22.5 million were infected in sub-Saharan Africa alone. But what grabbed my heart most of all were the millions of children left vulnerable and in utter poverty due to the death of one or both parents.

Dr. Wilkinson then began to share his dream for Africa and how God had done surgery on his own heart. He said that God had “ripped open his chest, pulled out his heart, dug a hole in Africa, threw his heart into the hole, and filled in the hole with dirt.” In other words, his heart was no longer his own, and he must follow wherever God took it.

As the weeks went by, I returned to my safe, comfortable view of God. I was no longer ignorant of the AIDS pandemic and the millions affected, but its importance and relevance returned to the lowest rung on the priority ladder of my heart.

Three years later, while attending the 2006 Willow Creek Association Leadership Summit, God rekindled the fire in my heart and led me to a second defining moment. Bono, the lead singer of the band U2, became the conduit of God’s calling. In an interview with Bill Hybels [senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church], Bono challenged the church to rise up and truly become the body of Christ. Bono questioned: “Why isn’t the church responding to the greatest social crisis of our day … why has the church been slow to the dance? The church has always been behind—racism, apartheid. Why is it that way? … The church has been very judgmental about the AIDS virus. [They say that] these people have been living sexually irresponsible lives. If there’s a car crash with a drunk driver, do you drive on? Christ won’t let the church walk away from the AIDS emergency. It’s the leprosy of our age.[4]

Brian found himself at another crossroads that day: would he continue living a safe, comfortable life, or would he use his resources and his influence to engage?

It’s the same question I have for us today.

Each of us has been gifted by a very gracious God with resources, capabilities, capacities, talents, ideas, and influence. Will we use those things for eternal good? Or will we waste them on toys and trinkets that certainly will not last?

Brian introduced The Third Project. This was a challenge the middle school students attending Woodmen Valley Chapel to practically respond to the AIDS Pandemic in Africa. We challenged students to live with “God first, others second, and me third.” This taught students to see that just because a child is born in Africa to a mother dying of AIDS in a hut, she is no less important than I am. In fact, biblicaly speaking, she’s more important. “God’s first, this girl is second, I am third.” As a result students raised over $44,000 for AIDS orphans in Africa in six months. They truly caught what living third is all about.

Realizing that he now needed a place to invest those funds, under the guidance of church leadership, Brian partnered with a local organization that was doing work in Africa. He also went on a trip to Swaziland to visit a ministry leader named Pastor Themba and a local community of Christ-followers who needed help supporting the more than 150 orphans in their immediate area. Brian’s middle-schoolers had just the funds Pastor Themba’s congregation needed.

“Changing the lives of 150 orphans may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of people around the world affected by HIV and AIDS,” Brian says. “It would be easy to become discouraged or disillusioned in the face of such a crisis … but Jesus Christ came to serve, rather than to be served … Then he told us to go and do the same.”[5]

Probing Questions

1. “When you hear the terrible statistics associated with HIV and AIDS, do you consider that part of that number is you?” – that part of that number is brothers and sisters in Christ half a world away and even in our own backyard? Do I?

2. “What might need to shift in your life so that your initial reaction to global pandemics is the realization that those statistics include your brothers and sisters in Christ, people for whom we as believers are accountable?”

  • Perhaps it’s a shift in perspective—HIV and AIDS are not reserved for those who have been sexually irresponsible.
  • Maybe it’s a shift in priorities—God does have a role for you and me to play, but he won’t force his agenda onto our lives.
  • Or it could be that what’s needed is a simple shift in pace—some of us are so busy doing good work that we are missing the great works God wishes to accomplish through our lives.

What shifts in your mind and heart might allow you to become an advocate, an activist, for one person who is suffering from a terrible disease? I hope you’ll carry that question with you this week.

Determine a Place to Start

The point I want to make is that the institutional church can do nothing to solve the disease problem in the developing world. This world is under the curse of sin and we need King Jesus. But Christ-followers who rally together and choose to invest their resources and influence wisely can make all the difference in the world. We are the greatest dispenser of hope and healing the world will ever know. All we must do is choose to start.

I want to invite you to do just that this week. I want to invite you to start. Here’s how I’m going to issue that invitation: I’d like for you to take some time after this service—this afternoon, or sometime this week—to think of someone in your sphere of influence who is struggling with a physical illness. Maybe it’s as severe and life-threatening as the diseases we’ve talked about today, or maybe it’s a chronic condition that compromises their quality of life in more subtle ways. Write down that person’s name, and then consider these three questions, before God:

  • What needs do I see in this person’s life?
  • What can I pray on his/her behalf?
  • What action can I take to help?

I hope you’ll accept that invitation. And I hope that many of you will share with me what God did as a result of your willingness to serve!

Becoming a Good Samaritan journey began last week, and for the next four weeks we will continue to discuss ways that we as a Christ-following community can become Watchmen for the hurting, the weak, the forgotten and the oppressed of the world.

The St-Hilaire train disaster

The St-Hilaire train disaster was a railroad disaster that occurred on June 29, 1864 near the present day town of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec. The train, which had been carrying many German and Polish immigrants, failed to acknowledge a stop light and fell through an open swing bridge into the Richelieu River. The widely accepted death toll is 99 persons. The disaster remains the worst railway accident in Canadian history.[1]

The Grand Trunk train carrying between 354 and 475 passengers, many of them German and Polish immigrants, was travelling from Quebec City to Montreal.

At around 1:20 a.m. the train was approaching a swing bridge known as the Belœil Bridge over the Richelieu River.[4] The swing bridge had been opened to allow the passage of five barges and a steamer ship. A red light a mile ahead of the bridge signalled to the train that the crossing was open and it needed to slow down. However the light was not acknowledged by the conductor, Thomas Finn, or the engineer, William Burnie, and the train continued towards the bridge.

At 1:20 a.m. the train came onto the bridge and fell through an open gap. The engine and eleven coaches fell through the gap one after another on top of each other crushing a passing barge. The train sank into an area of the river with a depth of 10 feet. 99 people aboard the train were killed and 100 more were injured.

The engineer, who had only recently been hired, claimed that he was not familiar with the route and that he did not see the signal.

This world is on an express train headed straight to Hell. On this train are the weak, the sickly, the powerless. How is that train going to stop if we don’t signal them. How is that train going to stop if we are not swinging the Light of the Gospel.

4 You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. 5 So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. 6 They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them. 7 “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, you abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. And though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve. 9 Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord. 10 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. Ezekiel 34:4-10

Are you management material? Are you willing to be a Watchman in God’s House?


[1] Complete Word Study Dictionary, The – New Testament.

[2] Complete Word Study Dictionary, The – New Testament.

[3] Rich Stearns, The Hole in Our Gospel. Thomas Nelson 2009.

[4] Brian Carlson, “I am Third,” as published in The Woodmen Journal, Volume 1, Issue 4, June 2009, pp.17-18. http://www.woodmenjournal.com.

[5] Ibid, p. 19.