February 18, 2019

"Like sheep without a shepherd"

“When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34

Jesus and His disciples had just gotten away for a sabbatical of sorts (Mark 6:31). And so this wasn’t necessarily the most convenient time for a big group of people to show up. But, convenient or not, there they were. And Jesus’ response to them is beautiful, is it not? Even in this less-than-convenient moment, “He felt compassion for them”! Why? “Because they were like sheep without a shepherd”. And in His compassion, Jesus shepherded them – “He began to teach them many things” … “and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14).

And we, too, have people in our lives who are “like sheep without a shepherd”, do we not? Let us respond to them like our Savior –“[feeling] compassion for them” and shepherding them! Perhaps God would have us, like Jesus (Matthew 14:14), help them with some temporal difficulty. And in many cases He would have us, like Jesus, “teach them” – telling them the good news of His Son, informing them of His will for human behavior, comforting them with words of His compassion.

Often they will wander into our paths as individuals, rather than in “a large crowd” as in Mark 6. Maybe one of your “sheep without a shepherd” will be a hurting neighbor to whom God would have you bring some comfort from His word. Or perhaps a spiritually confused co-worker to whom you will “explain … the way of God more accurately.” Maybe a debauched co-worker to whom God would have you (lovingly!) reveal His will for human morality. Possibly a homeless person whom you will bless with a hot meal and the message of the gospel. Or an unknown but apparently lonely senior citizen who calls out to you as you walk through the nursing home … to whom you could sit and listen for a spell, and also share some hope from the Scriptures.

These sheep may not always show up in our voicemails, or at our cubicles, or on our doorsteps, or in our pathways, or upon our consciences at the most opportune moments. But even in the inconvenient moments, let us, like Jesus, “[feel] compassion for them” and shepherd them.

Moreover, brothers and sisters, remember the compassion of “the good shepherd” toward you when “you were continually straying like sheep”* – and let it move you to extend such compassion to others!

*(1 Peter 2:25, emphasis added)

February 1, 2019

‘I don’t think being silent is sufficient’

I read these words, recently, from a man who is hoping to start a crisis pregnancy center in his area:
‘It is a massive undertaking, but I don’t think being silent is sufficient. I trust that God will help us.’
And both his ‘massive undertaking’ itself, and his reason for undertaking it (the insufficiency of silence), were convicting. How much do I lift my voice on behalf of the unborn? How deeply am I bending my back, like this man, to the task of pushing back against the evil of abortion? Against the killing of the unborn in our land?

His efforts and reasoning reminded me of Proverbs 24:11-12 –
“Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.
If you say, ‘See, we did not know this,’
Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?
And does He not know it who keeps your soul?
And will He not render to man according to his work?”
Now, I don’t know whether Solomon had the unborn (perhaps among others) in mind when he wrote those two verses. But what he says surely applies to them! “Deliver those [unborn] who are being taken away to death”! “Oh hold them back”!

The brother above is faithfully attempting such “deliver[ance]”! And it convicts me. I’m helped, as well, by his ‘trust that God will help’ he and his co-laborers in the task. I’ll come back to this faith.

But first, let’s ask how we can join him in protecting the unborn. How do we undertake to “deliver those who are being taken away to death”? How do we put into practice the truth that silence is insufficient in the face of the great societal ill of abortion?

Let me give you some ideas, none of which (either in the specific suggestions, or in the broader categories) are original to me. And let me repeat what someone has said, namely that no one of us can or must do all of these things, but every one of us can and should do some, or at least one, of them.

Here are the ideas:

Get involved poiltically. Vote for candidates who will seek to protect the unborn. When opportunity arises, vote for legal measures that will protect them. Participate in grassroots efforts that attempt to protect them (like the Personhood initiatives in recent years in some states). Write your elected officials on behalf of “those who are being taken away to death”. Become an elected official who will fight for them.

Adopt. It has been wisely pointed out that, when a women is pregnant with a child whom she does not have the wherewithal to raise, the availability of loving couple who would be happy to take and care for that child can be a great deterrent to abortion. And thus it is further pointed out that we need such couples! Maybe someone reading these lines will be among them!

Start something. I don’t think I’d have thought of this category, and of the specific ideas within it, except that I’ve recently gotten news of two different men, in two different places, desiring to start crisis pregnancy centers. Neither is a wealthy benefactor. But both are men who are concerned to do something for the unborn. And if they can do so, perhaps someone reading this article could start a center, too. Or maybe, like a couple of church members recently got our church to do, you start an adoption and foster care fund. Or, like the men I’ve met through the years who started Personhood initiatives, perhaps you begin a grassroots campaign to change the law.

Give. Give to the kind of work that I’ve recently learned of two men hoping to initiate: the starting of a crisis pregnancy center. Give to such a center that is already up and running (fill those Life Forward baby bottles, Cincinnati area folks; and give to Life Forward in other ways, too - see their "Give" page, and the "Get Involved" tab on their website). The church members mentioned above persuaded our leadership of the importance of giving toward the costs and needs associated with adoption. Give to that, too!

Influence individuals. Be a sidewalk counselor in front of an abortion clinic. Influence a friend, or a grandchild, or a co-worker to choose life. Volunteer with a crisis pregnancy center.

Pray. If silence is insufficient in the face of the great evil that is abortion, surely that means we mustn’t be silent on this matter in our prayer lives, either. So pray! Pray for the unborn in general. Intercede on behalf of any specific imperiled unborn children about whom you may know (and for their parents). Pray for the sorts of actions mentioned in this article.

So there you have some ideas for “deliver[ing] those who are being taken away to death”. And the faith of the man quoted at the beginning (‘I trust that God will help us’) urges me to ‘trust’ – and to urge you to ‘trust’ – that God will help us’, too, if and when we join this brother in the fight.