The Gift of “Helps”

[A note from Dr. Maslin’s daughter:

I chose this devotional by my father for February 2018. I thought something on “helps” would be good for Valentine’s Day. So much emphasis is put on romance and couples during this month. But there are so many people around us who have no one or nothing, who are hurting, alone or lonely. This is a wonderful time to reach out to someone to let them know you care. My father continues to do that for me with his writing. I had not previous read this devotion and was touched by his comments about my helping him and my mother. Caring for someone at home is not for everyone, but for me it was an honor and privilege to do so for them. They gave me far more than I could ever do for them. One way I continue to help is to keep his website going. Some of you reading this have helped make this possible with your gifts, and we thank you for those gifts. God bless you all as you serve the Lord daily in whatever way He calls you to do His will.]

There is a difference between the Fruit of the Spirit and spiritual gifts. The Fruit of the Spirit has to deal with the Christian graces produced by the Spirit filled life. Spiritual gifts are those qualities having to do with service, ministering and worship. There are three passages of scripture which list the different spiritual gifts evident in the life of the believer. Only the list in I Corinthians 12:28 mentions helps. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”

Not every Christian possesses all of these gifts. It seems to me every believer could exercise this gift of “helps” in some way. It is not showy, is content to stay in the background, but exercises a need in the church family as well as the many Christian families who make up the church. The Corinthian church had to deal with the temptation to seek the spectacular gifts. The gift of helps was not of that kind, and presented no special problem. It is so practical that I feel that it needs to be emphasized more.

There is always a need for help in the church family and the Christian family. The early church faced a need for helping the Grecian widows in the church. Evidently no one stepped forward to help, so the church appointed deacons to assist in that ministry. This was one way for the church to discover and assist people with a gift to help.

Help” is a universal cry from people in need. It may be to save from some great tragedy or to appeal assistance in a task where personal resources or energy have been exhausted. I happen to be a member in a local church where those needs are recognized in the human family and an attempt is made to do something about them. It may be extended help in areas where disaster teams are sent. It is a desire just to help where help is needed. Many opportunities to help the home-bound exist. Loving help to a lost neighbor may open the opportunity for evangelism. You cannot show you care without it having some meaningful effect.

My family lives in a gated community where neighbors care. Some may not be born again Christians but, along with Christian friends from our church, they see to it we get to keep doctor, dentist and hospital appointments. My wife and I are both handicapped and are in our sunset years. When we are the recipients of help we rejoice and thank God for the gift of “helps” as well as the person helping. We often need help even with the smallest maintenance problem. Help can save the cost of some service call.

Our greatest human help comes from our daughter. She has given up gainful employment to care for us 24/7. She is not a nurse, just a family member who has a love that cares and seems to have many different gifts of help. We will never be able to fully repay her for service rendered. We have both had our experience in a rehabilitation facility and do not want to go near one again. There is nothing so welcome as home care. For me, “helps” is a vital spiritual gifts.

I still look for ways in which I can help someone in some way. It is a joy to help someone preserve their music, especially if it is Christian music. I have been able to do that by saving the music from old cassettes and phonograph records to CD’s. I mention this only to encourage others to treasure the gift of “helps” and to exercise it in your own creative ways.

I would very much encourage the reader of this “doctrinal devotion” to examine your life to see if this is one of the spiritual gifts with which the Holy Spirit has endowed you. If so, seek ways to exercise it. When you do, you will find it brings glory to God and great joy for you.

The Unchanging Christ

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

When you utter the words of this text it takes us back to the early morning of creation, when Jesus created all things and it carries us into the future when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord. The major theme of Hebrews is the unchanging Christ. In the eleventh chapter, the writer calls the roll of the heroes of faith from Abel to David and Samuel. All of these having served their day and generation passed away but Jesus remains the same.

The Providence of God works many changes in our lives; our places and experiences and relationships are all constantly undergoing changes. We are in one place today, but we do not know where we will be tomorrow. Peace and war, joy and sadness, pain and pleasure, prosperity and adversity, life and death are common alternatives in our human existence. But Jesus Christ is immutable. He never changes.

Jesus is a true friend. Isn’t it easy to lose friends? How often friends become enemies when they learn too much about us or we learn too much about them. Jesus is our special friend. He is a friend that cannot be influenced by others. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Human leaders are often unsafe to follow. Many have been led to ruin by following unsafe leaders. The Captain of our salvation will lead us to glory. He is a true friend, teacher, and guide.

The writer to the Hebrews had been speaking about others in history who had spoken the Word of God and passed away.. Turning from these mortal companions, he bids us to think of Him who lives and is forever our teacher, helper, and companion.

It is the essential nature of Jesus to be immutable in His person. The same yesterday! How far back that takes us! Before the mountains were brought forth, before the planet was formed and before the stars were flung into space! Jesus is the same as when Job said: “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” He is the same as when David sang of His everlasting kingdom. He is the same as when Isaiah painted that matchless picture of the suffering servant of Jehovah. He is the same as when the star stood over Bethlehem. He is equal to God the Father in all perfections. He is unchanging because He is the incarnate God.

Jesus is the same today. That calls us to reflect upon His message and work. He is unchanging in His purpose. Every salvation project will be completed. He has no abandoned projects. We need to be consciously under the government of God. That may be a disturbing element, but in all our plans we need to say: ”If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” (James 4:15)

Jesus is an unchanging teacher of divine truth. The teachings of history, philosophy, and science may be the jest of tomorrow. Which of Jesus’ teachings need changing? The Lord’s Prayer? The Sermon on the Mount? No, these are eternal verities just as much as every word which He taught. His word endures forever. He has the answer to all of life’s hard questions.

Jesus is unchanging as the Redeemer from sin. The cross is the eternal fact looking backward. Christ is the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. The Cross is the central fact of the present with every Gospel message that goes out to the ends of the earth. Jesus will be consciously remembered in the future. John reviews who Christ is, and what He has done for us, and promises that His dominion will be eternal. 

“And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5,6)

All earthly ties will be broken for all of us, but there is one bond that will never be broken which is our relationship with Him. That is a bond that can never be severed. The bond between Christ and the believer is eternal.

The Light We Need

I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

In the first of these two passages, Jesus is the Great Revealer. In a marvelous figure, He gave us some some more deep insights into His character. John returns to that revelation in I John 1:5 and reminds his readers, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” God is light, Jesus is the Light of the World, and we are the light of the world as we reflect Him who is the Light we all need.

Imagine what this meant to the early Christians of the first century. Imagine their lot. Many of them slaves and poor. Their homes imperfectly weatherproof. They had no books, no music, no fire, no light except a rushlight giving an unsteady glimmer while they partook of their food, waiting for the dawn of a new day. The spiritual darkness of others was more gloomy still. Circumstances forced early Christians to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, not at the time of year when He was actually born but when the Romans were having a pagan holiday. His actual birth was probably in April when the earth swung back again back to the light of spring.

What does the figure of Light mean and affirm for us? Almost every part of our enjoyment depends on the illumination of the sun or artificial light. Without the light and heat rays, darkness and death would reign. This was a bold assertion. Jesus was saying that He was as important to the moral and spiritual life of man as the sun to their physical life. Here Jesus reveals Himself to be the promised Sun of Righteous in Malachi’s prophecy: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” (Malchi 4:2)

We shall be led by the light just as Israel was led by the pillar of fire by night. Jesus promises that “he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness.” We hate things in our own lives about which the pagans had no conscience at all. Because Jesus has turned on such a light that dirty immoralities and dusty deeds seem wrong and are wrong. Let Jesus stand beside you, in imagination, as you do this contemplated thing, or take this risky adventure, or cover up your conscience with excuses and lies. In the light of His presence you will see what is wrong and realize it ought not to be there.

When we are brought into the light we “shall not walk in darkness” when we follow Him. To follow Him is the true deliverance from the midnight of the soul, the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of impurity, and the darkness of sorrow. To follow does not necessarily mean that we have reached our goal, but that our faces have turned to it and our heart’s desire is to attain it.

When we follow Him we become light to the world. We reflect Christ. We take the principles of the Christian religion into our everyday life, in society, in business, and in politics. Christ is either a stumbling stone or a sure foundation. Trusted, loved, and followed, He is light for our path. When He is neglected and turned from we stumble in the dark. Only the one who follows Him is given the light that he might not walk in darkness.

Walking in Truth

Truth has always had a prominent place in the scriptures. Jesus presented Himself as “the way, the truth and the life.” The apostle John is called “the elder” in this instance, which may signify an officer in a New Testament church or signify a mature experience in the ministry. The focus in his message is his personal joy over what he discovered in this house church: “I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.” (II John 1:4)

We have the keys to understanding what John meant when he talked of “walking in truth” from two sources in his letter: (1) The idea of walking in the truth is similar to the phrase walk in the light from I John. Walking in truth leads to both joy and love, because the way of truth is the way of Jesus Christ, which is the way of discipleship. (2) Walking in truth is the essence of obeying “a commandment from the Father.” To fail to walk in truth is a disappointment to ourselves as well as others. “Walking in truth” is equal to “walking in the light.”

The truth of this joy is what inspired my brother-in-law with reference to his three daughters, to mention it on his tombstone: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

John had experienced this joy because of His love for the truth which he shared with everybody that loved the truth. It is this love for the truth that motivates us to continually search the Scriptures. God’s plan for us is revealed in His Word which always contains the pursuit of truth. This is what we want to do when we have received Him who was the personification of truth. It is the love of the truth that inspires us to holy living.

To walk in truth involves a pursuit of truth. There is one place we should not go in our pursuit, and that is to anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. To do this it requires spiritual discernment which enables us by “testing the spirits,” because there are truly false prophets in every age.

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” I John 4

Only God Can Make a Tree

We have a beautiful tree in our front yard, and every time I look at it I am reminded of two things – the frequent mention of trees in the Bible and select words from Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree…

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;…

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

It is interesting and significant how God used trees to express man’s experience and to gather the history of the human race around them. I shall mention briefly several of these trees.

Tree of Condemnation

One of them I would call the Tree of Condemnation, which was intended as a tree of testing, but became a tree of condemnation. “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, ‘You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.’” (Genesis 2:15-17)

In the early chapters of the Bible we have a creation that God pronounced as “good.” There was no sickness, sorrow, weakness or tears. There were no broken hearts until man sinned. In the last chapters of the Bible we have much the same world. We have a new heaven and a new earth. Sickness, sorrow and death have been forever banished. The sad story of sin throughout the human race describes all that goes on in between.

Tree of Despondency

Another interesting tree is the one I call The Tree of Despondency. The Juniper tree is known to us mainly for the discouragement on exhibit there. The first few Chapters of I Kings 19 relates the details of Elijah’s flight from Jezebel to the shade of the Juniper tree: “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” (I Kings 19:4)

Tree of Fruitfulness

In Psalm One we have the Tree of Fruitfulness: “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:3) To be a fruitful Christian we must be deep-rooted Christians. Those deep roots come from “meditating on God’s laws day and night.”

Tree of Redemption

There is another very important tree which Peter describes: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (I Peter 2:24) This is the tree which I will call the Tree of Redemption. There Jesus died bearing the curse of the law: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)

Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is yonder in the eternal ages. “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1,2) Then the flaming sword which kept open the Tree of Life is sheathed forever.

The Tree of Redemption is the most important one for your consideration at this time. Only as you realize the significance of Calvary will the Tree of Life mean anything to you.