I confess; I do not like legalism. What is legalism? Legalism is following the letter of the law but ignoring the spirit of the law. Legalism is making everything black and white and ignoring the gray area.
In Matthew 23, Jesus says to the religious leaders, “Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the most important aspects of the law… justice, mercy and faith.” Then, Jesus adds, “Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!”
Think about what Jesus said… He is saying that it is commendable that someone tithe. That’s a good thing. But don’t tithe and then not have mercy on your fellow man. It’s the equivalent of someone going to church on Sunday and then ignoring someone who needs your help after church.
American Christianity has lots of legalism. We have a tendency at times to focus on minute things… things that really do not matter… and ignore more important things. We do this some with worship styles or, with what people wear to worship. A person’s attire is not the issue in worship… it’s the heart.
A legalist can cite the letter of the law and may even kind of judge you because you don’t interpret the law the way they do but then, fail to have compassion on someone. My wife has a saying.. when referring to something that isn’t good… she will say “that drinks through a straw..” That’s her substitute expression for “it sucks.” Well… legalism “drinks through a straw.”
Our faith needs to be filled with love and compassion. Yes, there are things we shouldn’t do… but let’s not focus on those and totally forget to help someone. Today, let’s not live by the letter of the law.. let’s live by the spirit of the law and help others as Jesus would.
The Lone Ranger had Tonto.
Woodrow had Gus.
Batman had Robin.
Laverne had Shirley..
Life was never intended to be a solo act. We all need help from time to time. One of the best examples of that is found in the Bible. In the book of Exodus, there was a time when the Israelites fought the Amalekites. Moses stood on a hill above the battle and held up his staff towards heaven. As long as he did, Israel was winning the battle.
But Moses arms got tired and he had to lower his staff. When he did, the Amalekites started winning the battle. So, when Moses hands were up, Israel was winning. When Moses hands were down, the Amalekites were winning. But, Moses didn’t have enough strength to keep his hands up.
Recognizing this, Aaron and Hur sat Moses down on a stone. They stood on either side of Moses and held his arms up. As they did, Israel won the battle.
Moses needed help… just like we need help occasionally. You may know someone that could use a little help. Someone who needs someone to hold tbeir hands up for a while. Maybe there is a single Mom out there who needs a little help. It gets tough trying to raise a child and work a job or maybe two jobs. Maybe there is a new teacher at your school and they need a little help. Maybe it’s a student… who needs a little help. Maybe someone needs some help taking their groceries to their car.
The Beatles had a hit song that went;
“I get by with a little help from my friends,
I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends..”
All of us need a little help from our friends at times. Look around you today. There are people all around us who need a little help. Like Aaron and Hur, hold someone’s hands up today.
Life can be tough.
Years ago, country musician Lynn Anderson sang;
“I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden;
Along with the sunshine, There’s got to be a little rain sometime.”
Maybe you feel like you are getting a thunderstorm every day!
Life is not always fair and at times, things happen that we do not understand. When they do, the only thing we can do is trust in God. I don’t understand why things happen. I don’t understand why a tornado misses one house and hits another. I don’t understand why one person loses a job but another person doesn’t. I don’t understand why one person can touch something and it seems to turn to gold, while another person has a business fail. I don’t know the answer.
In the book of Exodus, the people of Israel were in the desert of Shur. They traveled three days without water until they came to the oasis of Marah. There, they tasted the water but it was too bitter to drink so, they named the place “Marah” which means “bitter.”
Maybe you have drunk some bitter water. Maybe you have some tough experiences. Your spouse told you, “I don’t love you anymore.” Your boss said, “I’ve got to let you go.” Your kids stray. An investment goes bad. And there could be many other scenario’s. You drank some bitter water.
I don’t know why life gives us bitter water at times, but it does. But, the Lord helps us and gives us better water. The water may be bitter now but hang on… hopefully it will get better.
You may be familiar with an old gospel hymn entitled, “It Is Well With My Soul.” It’s a beautiful song that grows out of a time of adversity for Horatio Spafford.
Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters and a son. He was also a devout Christian and friends with Dwight L. Moody.
At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had.
In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business. Several days later he received notice that his family’s ship had encountered a collision. All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife had survived.
With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. It was on this trip that he penned the famous hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.”
The song goes…
“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well (it is well),
with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Is it well with your soul today? It can be.
Over the years, I’ve met and talked with lots of people. Many times, I’ve asked people to do something in the church. When I’ve made that request, many times the person will respond with, “Let me pray about that.”
Ok, I understand. None of us need to live outside the will of God. But. do we need to pray about everything? Let me explain.
God has already revealed to us, in His word, various things we are supposed to do. God has told us to worship, to witness, to serve, to give etc…We don’t have to pray about those things.. God has already said to do it!
In the book of Exodus, Israel was leaving Egypt and they came to the Red Sea. They looked and Pharoah and his army were pursuing them. So. Pharoah’s army is on one side and the Red Sea is on the other. At this time, Moses prays. God answers with, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell Israel to get going!”
I feel like God may do the same with us today. Do not misunderstand me; I’m not minimizing the power of prayer. I’m simply saying that there may be times when we don’t need to pray about something… we need to just do it!
So, is there something God has already told you to do? He’s told us to worship… give… serve… love… etc… God wants His people to worship. He wants us to serve. He wants us to pray… We don’t need to pray about those things. We just need to do it!
Wednesday night after church, the kids from Awana’s had ganged up in the foyer of the church. There were two boys who were obviously brothers and I asked their names. The oldest of the two is a pretty tall kid. I said, “You are tall.” His younger brother (who is shorter) turns around and says, “I’m….. kinda tall!”
He got a chuckle out of my wife. :)
The little boy wanted to be included in the conversation… His older brother was getting all the attention and wanted some of it. We are all like that younger boy at times. Every human being needs attention… love… affirmation… That’s how God wired us. And, you don’t have to be tall to be significant in God’s eyes.
Today, whether short or tall, whether athletic or un-athletics whether intelligent or average.. whether rich or poor… know that God loves you… just as you are.
Blood equals life. There are times when a person has lost lots of blood and Doctors are concerned that they may die. There are times when family and friends will be asked to donate blood for a specific person. The blood in our bodies carries oxygen throughout our circulatory system. Blood has always signified life.
Go back with me several thousand years. There was a time when the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt. God used ten plagues to convince the leader of Egypt, Pharoah, to let His people go. For the final plague, God told Israel to slay a lamb and put blood from that lamb on their door-posts. Then, God would appoint an angel, the death angel, to pass over the land. God said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.”
Think about that… “when I see the blood… I will pass over…” Now, go with me to the cross where Jesus died. On the cross, Jesus shed His blood. The blood Jesus shed has in it the power to forgive us our sins.
So, today, our sins are forgiven through the power of the blood of Jesus. Whatever you have done… whatever sin you’ve committed… Jesus covers our sins through the power of His blood.
“What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”