WHAT’S NEEDED IN DESPERATE TIMES

Children of those murdered, were able to tell the shooter, “I forgive you; I condemn what you’ve done, but I forgive you.”

On July 17, 2015, a young man entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina and joined a Bible Study group. The ten people in the room welcomed the young man, even though his presence was unusual. They offered him a Bible and proceeded with their study. At the end they sang a hymn and then had a closing prayer. At that point the man pulled out a gun and shot nine of the ten parishioners in the room, leaving one alive to tell the world what he had done.

SHOWING COMPASSION TO A MURDERER

Out of that horrific act, there was a glimpse of the presence of Jesus in the courtroom. At the arraignment, several of the children of those murdered, were able to tell the shooter, “I forgive you; I condemn what you’ve done, but I forgive you.” Some other family members, neighbors, and certainly the media, were bewildered by what was happening. How could anybody show that much compassion for an individual that murdered your mother, your grandmother, or your friend? The answer comes from the One who gives mercy to an undeserving people. His name is Jesus!

MERCY TO THOSE WHO DIDN’T LOVE HIM

In Matthew 15:29-39 we see Jesus healing many of the people who followed him. He extended His mercy and made them well. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking, and the blind seeing.  Once again, Jesus extended His mercy to individuals who probably had no love for him, beyond being glad He healed their broken bodies.  

MERCY AS GOD’S CHARACTER

As illustrated by Jesus, showing mercy is part of God’s character. We cannot show mercy to people begrudgingly or with ulterior motives if we are Christ followers. God displayed mercy to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. In the same manner, Jesus says in Luke 6:36, Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO FORGIVE?

Having enough compassion in your heart to reach out to the sick is one thing, but to forgive a killer, someone who has taken away a part of your family, is that possible? Paul says in I Timothy 1:15-16, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst, but for that very reason I was shown mercy, so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.

THE MERCY THAT DISPLAYS JESUS

God’s mercy is something which we must live out in our own lives to show what God is like. Are you merciful to just the nice people? The people who deserve it? Or do you show mercy to others, just as God has shown mercy to you? God’s mercy is a cup of cold water in our dry and desperate times. The character of Christ was demonstrated by those individuals in the courtroom towards the man who had pulled out a gun and shot nine of the ten parishioners in that Bible Study Group. That type of mercy displayed to the world Who Jesus Christ is. How is God asking you to display this kind of mercy in your own life to others? Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

WHEN I OPEN MY MOUTH

How do we offer answers to life?

Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert. No, He wasn’t lost, and He wasn’t sightseeing. He was brought there by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the Devil. Now the Devil was very clever, because he knew Jesus hadn’t had anything to eat during this time. The Devil made his pitch: If you are the Son of God, make these stones become bread. Pretty simple, very straight forwarded regarding what Jesus needed during this time of food deprivation.  

All that Jesus had to do was to change the stones before him into bread. After all, Jesus was and is the Son of God. He is the One who made those stones; certainly, He could change then into a few loaves of bread. But Jesus knew the evil that he was dealing with; the ruthlessness that Devil would shower on God’s children if the Devil succeeded in this temptation.

And so, Jesus responded with, It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  He was referencing Deuteronomy 8:3 when the Israelites were being reminded that their food, or manna, was being supplied by God himself. Men do not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. The Devil had two other temptations for Jesus, which Jesus also answered by quoting the Old Testament.

POWERFUL WORDS

But why? Why would Jesus keep quoting Scripture? Because the Scriptures were not only the right answer for Him, but they are also the right answer for us.  The Scriptures are what we need to defeat the evil desires of the forces of evil. They are powerful and are the words from “the mouth of God.”

IT IS REFRESHING

It is these words that the Psalmist spoke about in Psalm 119: Oh, how I love your law. I meditate on it all day long. (v. 97) He also said, Your commands make me wiser (v.98) and then he said, I have more insight than all my teachers (v.99).  I believe you get the picture as to why the psalmist fell in love with God’s law. It is “sweet” to the taste. It’s like biting into a red delicious apple on a hot summer day. It is refreshing.

TASTE THE SWEETNESS

This law, these commands, or these precepts did for the psalmist what they can do for each of us today. Jesus made this point when he quoted the Old Testament and declared victory while standing in the presence of the evil one…the Devil. But believers today don’t always love the Word of God as they should. Many Christians today only pay lip service to the Word of God and never allow themselves to “taste” the sweetness that it offers.

HOW DO WE BEGIN?

So how do we do that? How do we offer scriptural answers to the many temptations that we face daily just like Jesus did? I believe it begins with a desire. A desire to want to get closer to God by knowing His heart, His mind, His plan for our lives. We fulfill that desire every day when we take time to read His word, and to study the deeper parts of the Bible. Some people say, “That’s for the preachers and Sunday School teachers.” Nonsense! Anybody can learn from the Bible. Remember what He taught us in Ephesians 4:11, It was He who gave some to be Apostles, some to be Prophets, some to be Evangelists, and some to be Pastors and teachers.

THE ULTIMATE TEACHER

God has given us help and above all, he gave us the Holy Spirit to teach us. The Holy Spirit will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26)  

WHAT IS NEEDED: DESIRE

Immerse yourself in the Word of God and begin to love it and to “taste” it. The only thing it takes is desire. Do you have the desire? My editor has a sign hanging in her office which reads: “Sometimes I open my mouth and my mother comes out”.  Why not change that to: “Sometimes I open my mouth and the Words of God come out!”

GROWING UP IN CHURCH

I was reading about a church in Florida which is for “Exvangelicals.”

I, like a lot of you, grew up in church. It was the same church that my dad went to, my aunts, my grandmother, and about half of Wrightsville attended. Most of the weddings, church suppers, Christmas eve services, funerals, family activities, and even the Boys Scouts met there. We even had an evangelist come once a year to stir up the spiritual fire. That fire always seemed to burn out a few weeks after the evangelist left town.

CATECHISM CLASS

Not being a Christian then (I didn’t get saved until I was 16 years old), I saw everything through a set of eyes that reflected the world’s standards.  I didn’t have spiritual eyes that could see everything through the lens of Christ. The one thing I remember from those years of growing up in church was catechism class. Pastor Wilson met with a dozen of us 6th graders every Saturday morning for about 6 weeks. Now, I don’t remember the particulars, but I do remember Pastor Wilson emphasized: “None of these facts matter if you can’t back them up with Scripture, because Scripture is God’s Word given to man.” For a dumb 6th grader who knew little about the Bible, those words would have a great impact on me later in life.

THE REASON FOR THE HOPE YOU HAVE

I do not believe that the Apostle Peter ever had to go to catechism class, but he learned the same truth which I learned on those Saturday mornings. Peter wrote in I Peter 3:15, But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. As Pastor Wilson would say, everything we believe, we need to be able to back up with Scripture.

THEY NEVER ASKED THE QUESTION

Growing up in the church, I had a lot of friends who learned the same songs that I did, who heard the same Sunday School lessons and attended the same youth group as I did. However, they never asked the questions: “Why did Jesus die on the cross for their sins? Is Jesus God? Are the Scriptures the only source of truth that can provide hope for Christians everywhere?”

EXVANGELICALS

I frequently remember Pastor Wilson’ words. Just this week I was reading about a church in Florida which is for “Exvangelicals.” This is a church with all of the trappings of an evangelical church, without the presence of someone “telling” you what to believe. If you have a problem with hell, fine, this is the church for you! Tired of people telling you what the Bible says about sexuality? Then settle in, because you have come to the right place.

OUR SOURCE OF TRUTH

Sadly, this movement is spreading throughout the country. It reminds me of those friends that I had growing up in church. They believed that if you want to be a Christian, just act like a Christian; you don’t have to believe like a Christian. Acts 17:11 says: Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Remember, it is essential that the Scriptures always be our source of Truth. It provides an awful lot of answers. Gee, I wish we would have had some Bereans in the church that I grew up in!

OUT OF THE MOUTH OF A 5TH GRADER

“We don’t know.” What we do know is this: We need to trust God no matter what.

It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving and everything was going well with my class of 4th and 5th graders. They were beginning to understand the importance of the resurrection and how vital it was to the Gospel. A man (the God-Man) died on the cross and within three days He was walking around, talking to everyone, even to the skeptics (sorry Thomas!)

“I AM THANKFUL I NO LONGER HAVE CANCER”

It was at that point that I decided to give everyone a chance to say what they were thankful for., To avoid repetition and to get the class thinking a little deeper, I instituted a rule: Nobody could repeat what someone else said! Uh oh! They were a little nervous, but it worked. We went around the room, and everyone said something.  (Some variations on the family theme were still repeated, but that’s okay!) About halfway through we came to a young girl and what she was thankful for caught me completely off guard. She quietly spoke words that I wasn’t ready to hear: “I am thankful that I no longer have cancer.”

SOMETIMES OUR DREAMS TAKE US FAR, FAR WAY!

Every child who shared what they were thankful for was sincere in what they said, but to hear those words out of the mouth of a 5th grader made me think of Isaiah 55:8: For my thoughts, are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, declares the Lord. No kidding! We dream, we think, and we pray. However, in the end, if we truly want to obey Jesus Christ, we will follow His lead. Sometimes it takes us just where we want to go. Other times, it takes us far, far, away!

BUT GOD THOUGHT DIFFERENTLY

For example, I didn’t always want to be a preacher. During my High School year, I had a love for drawing. I was always sketching something, whether I was supposed to or not. (We’ll save that for another ReCharge!) My plan was to become a graphic artist and I would attend Moore College of Art in Philadelphia. A lot had transpired that senior year. I was leading a local boys club, I was teaching Bible Studies, and I got to speak at my church. It was there that a gentleman, who I had a great deal of respect for, came up to me and said “Bill, you’re going to become a preacher.”  I thought to myself, “No I’m not, I am going to become a graphic artist.” But God thought differently. And so, I began to pursue the pastorate.

Why does God allow some things to happen to us that are so good and encouraging to our souls and at other times it seems like He leaves us seemingly alone; unable to defend ourselves?  To answer that question, I would need a few more ReCharges or you could go Pastor Addison’s Thanksgiving sermon, where he did a great job in explaining this whole dilemma. The answer to the question is very simple: “We don’t know.” What we do know is this: We need to trust God no matter what. We need to trust Him when we see the answer and when we don’t. We need to trust him when we survive cancer, as well as when we have just been diagnosed with it. Romans 8:28 is used often but rarely believed. And we know that all things work for the good to those who love God.   Remember, you can trust what the Bible says, you can trust what the Spirit says, and finally, you can trust the God who loved you so much, He was willing to die for you! It took a 5th-grader’s simple thanks to remind me of that.