What does the following factoid say about our culture?

The National Retail Federation projects that Americans will spend $370 million this year on Halloween costumes . . . for their pets!

It's ridiculous on so many levels: There's the folly of celebrating ancient pagan rituals; the pretense of substituting cats and dogs for children; and finally, the fiction that Americans are suffering under a down economy.

Oh, what Life Matters Worldwide could do with $370 million! Or any number of pro-life ministries . . . combined. Did you know that our entire budget for this year is a little over one-tenth of one percent of that figure ($392,000)?

How should we explain this to friends in Africa, Latin America, or Asia, where paganism is not a game and the struggle for daily survival is all-consuming? What couldn't they do with a fraction of what we waste?

Meanwhile, in Uruguay, the country's Senate has joined its House in legalizing abortion in the first trimester. The first abortion clinic has recently opened in Northern Ireland. And in China, abortions continue on a pace of 13 million per year! These three reports were found in a quick scan of headlines from just one newspaper this morning -- The New York Times. They show that we Americans have done a good job of exporting abortion culture.

What can we do? I'd like to think that with more support we could do more to fight abortion here and abroad. We could do more to counter philosophies and vain deceit (Col. 2:8).

This past weekend our board met to discuss next year's general budget and special projects. For now, we're still working on meeting this year's goals. If you'd like to help us, click the 'Donate Today' tab above. From there you can select General Fund or one of our projects to support.

Thank you!

Jesus' description of a future separation of sheep from goats in Matthew 25:31-46 has always held me in fascinated terror. I remember hearing my mother read it when I was a child of five or six and feeling an awful pang of conviction. Had I ever helped someone in such a way that would keep me from being lumped with the goats?

When I asked our president, Tom Lothamer, what he was musing about this week, he brought up this passage. And he said that on a recent reading something struck him afresh. He noted how unconscious the sheep seem to be of their own actions. When told why they are worthy to "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," they ask, "When did we do all this for you?" They seem unaware that helping people, particularly "the least of these my brothers," was actually service to Him.

I think this means sheep are those who serve Christ without consciousness of self, from an overflow of worship and gratitude. What they are conscious of is God's constant presence and protection, His watchful eye, His glorious character that exudes mercy and grace. They don't think about service in terms such as, "I'd better do this for God." Or "I need to rack up more good works." Or "It's my duty as a Christian to help so-and-so." Somehow they are honestly innocent about service to others. They display the beauty of a life transformed by the Holy Spirit.

Goats, on the other hand, seem very conscious of all they have done. Their question is, "When did we not take care of you?" They are religious about keeping score, racking up points, mindful of earning something, making their own way. It's the same attitude that comes through in Matthew 7:22 about people who profess to know the Lord but are ultimately denied by Him.

There have always been questions about this portion of chapter 25, such as who is Christ intending as "the least of these"? And what is meant when He says this is a judgment of "the nations"? Not to be missed, however, is the Bible's unavoidable emphasis on helping the helpless (Deuteronomy 14:28-29; Psalm 41:1; Proverbs 19:17, 21:13; Luke 10:25-37, Hebrews 13:1-3, 1 John 3:16-19).

What does this have to do with being pro-life?

Everything. Leaving someone hungry, sick, by the side of the road, and so on consigns him or her to the present condition. Left unattended, unless someone else steps in, he or she will die. And then the question is, will his or her blood will be held to my account (Genesis 9:5)? Will I have to answer for it?

I am my brother's keeper. I am called to be a good neighbor. I may hope and pray for others to come along, but I don't know they will. I am here. I am aware of a need. I must do something.

The Good Samaritan was more conscious of the beaten man's need of help than of its cost to himself or his own piety. He said, in effect, "If I don't take care of this person, who will?"

In the latest update from Bill and Lori Smith (10/14/12), the missionaries to Papua New Guinea write:

Real religion is a relationship with God through His Son and it is lived out in our lives among the people we touch each day. It is not something done each week . . . our religious activities . . . it is a life-transforming daily explosion of His power through my life [my emphasis]. It is reaching out to the lost and hurting around me. It is being willing to go to the place of sacrifice and be willing to be hurt and used and abused to show my love! Leaving my comfy pew and putting into action the love of God to those that need it most! . . .

We can work or we can serve . . . there is such a difference.

What a joy that as we refocus and see God clearly in our lives He eclipses the irritants, fears and frustrations. We give because He has given all for us. We love endlessly because we are loved beyond measure. Our actions speak the words in our lives.

"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word."

Paul encouraged believers in the 1st century with these words (2 Thess. 2:16-17), and they bless our hearts today. Life Matters Worldwide's mission statement echoes the thought:

Helping the Body of Christ articulate the biblical pro-life message in word and deed.

Word and deed. Proclamation and practice. It's an over-arching theme in Scripture, Old and New Testaments. The prophets were famous for challenging people who professed to have faith in God to also help the suffering person -- or at least stop participating in their oppression. Isaiah 58:1-11, Jeremiah 7:4-7, Zechariah 7:9-12, and 8:16-17 are just a few OT passages that come to mind.

James completes the thought in 2:12-17: 

"Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."

From our earliest days, this organization was founded on the principle that "it's not enough to say abortion [or now assisted suicide] is wrong, we must also offer alternatives." There are many ways to do that. We've made it an aim to express our beliefs in actions that establish and sustain pregnancy care centers as effective Gospel outreaches. And, through LIFT, to help Christians offer practical and spiritual support when church members are chronically or terminally ill. 

Whatever you do for Christ today, may God encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word!

Related article that may hurt to read: Pregnant and homeless on the doorsteps of a Christian megachurch

Jesus' disciples had a lot to learn. About a hungry crowd, they said, "Send them away." About a desperate mother: "Send her away." To parents with children, in effect: "Take them away!" Perhaps they were at a loss for knowing what people needed, or how to help. Maybe they were simply annoyed. 

How often are we like that? I felt something similar on a recent morning driving to work. A man was standing near the highway entrance holding a sign that said he’s a veteran and needs help feeding his family. Many thoughts swirled through my head as I passed by: Is he really a veteran? His buzzed haircut and soldierly posture vouched for him, but both could be easily counterfeited. Was he willing and able to work at any menial job, or too proud to take what's available? Why was he willing to humiliate himself? Is his situation really so desperate? Would he really buy food with the donations, or drugs and booze?

Of course, it was impossible to change lanes, pull over, and ask him these questions without endangering myself or other drivers. And it probably wouldn't have been wise for me, as a woman, to approach him at all. 

I found myself wondering if, or when, the “professionals” would step in -- people who work with the hungry, who know the right questions to ask, and have referrals to food pantries. Are they aware of this fellow? Have they tried to help and been rebuffed? Where were they?

Giving is sometimes messy, but Jesus didn’t seem to have a problem with it. 

In contrast to the disciples' hostility or apathy, a deep pity moved Him to effective, confident acts of mercy on behalf of the lost. The object of His compassion was people --those who knew they had problems and those who were oblivious. His objective was complete restoration. While not everyone responded in faith, He graciously served. 

His compassion met both immediate and eternal needs -- problems such as hunger, sickness, and sin. While laying out hard truths about God’s kingdom, Jesus did not neglect other human needs but served the whole person. 

As they followed, the disciples witnessed first-hand how perfectly Jesus expressed His Father’s compassionate nature. They heard Him say, “I feel compassion for them” and watched Him do something about it. In the course of their training, Jesus directed them to perform lowly acts of service for others, such as having them hand out the baskets He was filling with food. 

In response to situations like the one of coming across a hungry person and feeling at a loss of what or how to give, some friends have come up with a creative solution. They've begun carrying bottles of water and granola bars in their cars and handbags that can be offered in Jesus' name, along with information about local food pantries. It's a good way to avoid the trickiness of handing out cash and the embarrassment of giving nothing.

Pro-life ministries reflect Jesus’ spirit of compassion on a larger, more organized scale. They serve the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Pregnancy care centers “suffer alongside” those caught in the web of sexual immorality, unwanted pregnancy, and abortion. LIFT “suffers alongside” the dying and chronically ill. Meanwhile, the world offers counterfeit answers -- abortion, euthanasia -- that abandon people to death. 

God often uses frailty or deficiency to draw people to Himself. Physical, emotional, and social problems point to the reality of sin because they proceed from it -- their own sin, the sin of others, or the Fall in general. Sometimes, caring for these problems is our only entrée past closed doors. The people served by compassion ministries may not know it, but they also have spiritual needs. 

Evangelism and compassion go hand-in-hand. It’s not enough to educate people about abortion, or hold their hands as they weep. They may still be lost in sin. That’s why true compassion ministries will point toward the source of ultimate transformation -- Jesus Christ. Salvation from a life of sin and the penalty of death is only in His name (Acts 4:12). 

God still prepares His followers for compassion ministry. The challenge is being willing, ready, and in position to help. 

Scripture references: Exodus 34:6; Psalm 103:8; Proverbs 14:12; Lamentations 3:22; Jonah 4:11; Matthew 9:35-36, 14:14-21, 15:23, 30-38, 20:34; Mark 1:41, 6:31-44, 8:2, 10:13-16; Luke 7:13, 9:11-17, 15:20, 17:11-19; John 1:18, 13:14; Philippians 2:1; Colossians 3:12; Hebrews 1:3; James 5:11.

Related articles 
Works and Words: Why You Can't Preach the Gospel with Deeds
Onward Christian Workers

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