Thursday, October 18, 2018

Burdened?

Papouasie Baliem Valley By Lasthib - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

More thoughts brought on by yesterday’s post. I wrote of burdens, beliefs and buying into obedience

I’m thinking now of missionaries in Papua New Guinea. To see their photos and read their Facebook posts (what a blessing to be able to use these!), it would seem they picked up heavy burdens, not lightening their load. Unsubstantial housing, limited access to medical supplies, multiple flights and long hikes to reach a city and return to their clinic. A community lacking clean water, sustaining food supplies, restful shelter, and government capable of infrastructure.

You cannot match them for smiles, love, and prayers. They exchanged the burdens of modern life for God’s lighter burden of love. The labor they do is described by Jesus as so much better than Micah 6:7, with wonderful results:

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:40 KJV)

Please read the entire parable – Matthew 25:31-46 – because there are divisions that will be made:

And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (Matthew 25:32-34 KJV)

But, those words will not be for all the gathered nations. Some will hear:

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
(Matthew 25:41 KJV)

The choice belongs to every man. It is the same choice given to the people of Israel millennia ago:

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15 KJV)

The photo above from Wikimedia Commons only represents the area where our missionaries serve our Lord in a medical clinic. They treat every community member the same, whether a minor scrape or a serious injury. That’s their obedience to our Lord’s calling. They live their choice to follow God every single day in their service to the people around them.

It’s not necessary to go far away from our own culture. Jesus gave His Great Commission:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20 KJV)

And a departing instruction:

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8 KJV)

Seek His will in your own life for the place God will use you best. Be the witness locally, where people know you or they don’t, as far as His word will take you. God will bless your service in His name.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

If You Believe . . .

Genesis1-1Mike

Yes, Mike Wheeler is on my mind. His witness continues to be spoken among extended family and friends. His testimony was recorded some time ago, played during his funeral, and will be shared as we receive requests. How many Christians can say that people are being centered on God after a funeral?

Mike did make these two statements, and believed. Genesis 1:1 introduces us to our Creator, and John 1:1 adds a description:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 KJV)

I like what the Pulpit Commentary had to say about this first verse as John began his writing of God’s good news:

At length the moment arrived when the "Son of Thunder," who saw all the glory of the risen Lord, all the majesty of his triumphant reign, uttered these opening words . . .

If believing Genesis 1:1 introduces us to God, John 1:1 introduces us to His plan of salvation, and the following verses continue in that vein:

The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (John 1:2-4 KJV)

Though human, Jesus was not new. His message was not new, either. Mankind was made for fellowship with God. Even though man broke that fellowship, God plan include a path back to that fellowship, and that path is obedience.

Not a blind obedience, but a companionship obedience. Jesus explained that it was an exchange of burdens, not additional ones:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 KJV)

Charles P. Jones paraphrased this, publishing one of my favorite hymns in 1908, Come Unto Me:

Hear the blessed Savior calling the oppressed,
“Oh, ye heavy-laden, come to Me and rest;
Come, no longer tarry, I your load will bear,
Bring Me every burden, bring Me every care.”

Refrain:
Come unto Me, I will give you rest;
Take My yoke upon you, hear Me and be blest;
I am meek and lowly, come and trust My might;
Come, My yoke is easy, and My burden’s light.

God’s intentions came much earlier than Matthew’s words. Here’s what Micah wrote:

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:7-8 KJV)

Believe. Such a simple word, but some will not even discuss, much less believe. If you cannot believe, please be able to explain to yourself why you do not, and what can happen if you are wrong.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

What Do You Give Away?

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By Chief Petty Officer Christopher Evanson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Most of us have given something away. Birthdays, weddings, showers, retirements, multiple events during a person’s life are gift-giving opportunities. There are organizations to which we give – religious support, community organizations, children’s activities. We’ve ample opportunity to give something of value away to be of value to someone else.

Usually, there is a monetary value, but often there is sentimental value. A woman passing down a ring to her daughter, a favorite tool goes from father to son, handmade trinkets from child to parents.

We often give of ourselves, time donated for good causes, even our blood to save lives, as in CPO Evanson’s photo. A few, very few, offer their lives. Jesus says they are special people – we had one who spent his last months flying B-17s out of England toward Germany. He died 7 July 1944.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Are your friends close enough, loved enough, that you would die for them? How about for people that dislike you, speak against you, or even deny you exist? The verse we’ve all heard:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Do you read that and think “So what? God sent a man to his death. Why is that different?”

Two verses – and a few more – tell me that God gave Himself:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

And, I like one that gives Abraham’s prophetic words:

And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. (Genesis 22:8)

God will provide himself. And, He did. Not a lamb, but a full-grown ram in the thicket. Just as He provided a baby in Bethlehem who grew to spread God’s salvation, and understood fully what was being done. The four gospels tell how He lived His life, and the remaining New Testament tell how His life changes others.

Believing a creator exists is a lot easier than believing that Creator loves enough to feel what we feel, live by the limits we live by, and fight the physical temptations we fight, too.

Why?

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

How?

That returns us to Genesis 1:1, John 1:1, and John 3:16. Please take time to read surrounding verses.  In fact, read all of John, and continue through the Bible. Be like the Bereans when you read, with readiness of mind and searching to see if these things are so:

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11)

Monday, October 15, 2018

One Step

temp

Three or so years ago there was an article in “The Atlantic” debunking Alcoholics Anonymous’ twelve-step program (although it’s success has been obvious for decades) and the problem was deemed to be God. God is mentioned in five of those steps, and the article’s subject was an atheist. Thus begins the destruction of the myth of AA being of help to an alcoholic.

My son-in-law was an alcoholic and at the very least an agnostic. He had worked the AA steps, stepping over the land mines, more than once. Rehab more than once. He spoke of “a higher power”, not of God. Until he moved near the small community of Cottondale. His daughter visited the First Baptist Church of Cottondale with a friend, so he went to the Pastor to discuss Step 5:

Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

He was more open to this pastor than to anyone – he said so himself as he gave his testimony over the next twenty years. Pastor has said  “this was the most messed-up guy I’d ever met, or the most honest.” He was the most honest. Pastor responded to these wrongs by saying that he hadn’t worked with the twelve steps, but he knew one. I don’t know the conversation – I’m not certain of the verses – but I do know what changed Saul into Paul as he explained to Agrippa Jesus’ words to him:

Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:17-18 KJV)

It was the same message Jesus had given to Nicodemus:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18 KJV)

In many Bibles these verses are printed in red to indicate they were spoken by Jesus. I haven’t done that in my previous posts – simply highlighted them in green and italics. Today I’m using red because of their importance. Believing in these verses changed my son-in-law’s life. One step.

Oh, it was followed by other changes – he read the Bible in a studious manner. Who was this who said we could have eternal life? Why did He say it to “whosoever” instead of specific people? Why was it so inclusive when the world held (and still holds) so much evil?

What did this one step mean to my son-in-law when he was killed last week? Especially when Paul wrote:

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:13-17 KJV)

Jesus Christ is risen. Paul saw Him, heard Him, responded to his call to teach us all.  Mike’s belief in this changed his life and he spoke to everyone about it. From Saudi Arabia to India to Guam to Venezuela to Belize – through all of his travels on his job, he shared the gospel message. Our church shares it on a website, too. Feel free to check it out: http://fbccottondale.com

I believe I will see Mike again. Do you? Or do you still need to take that one step?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

“He Was A Good Man”

Mike-Texoma

You’ll hear that about many men – but many people have said it this week about Mike Wheeler. I’ve known him since he started dating my daughter more than 36 years ago. His obituary published this about him:

Mike served in the Navy on the USS Eisenhower where he was in aircraft ordinance. He was a member of First Baptist Church in Cottondale where he served as a deacon. Mike was an AVID drag car builder and racer. He was a lifetime aircraft mechanic and spent most of his working years at American Airlines.

But saying he was a member of a church doesn’t cover the meaning behind those words. Another church member wrote truth:

Mike never kept his Christian belief secret; he shared it with everyone he came in contact with.  His belief in Jesus Christ saved his life here on earth more than twenty years ago and saved his soul from Hell for an eternity. It was his Christ-like love for others and his desire to see all men saved from an eternity in Hell that spurred him to tell others about his own conversion . . .

Mike lived a great life because he was ready to die.  He believed in the truthfulness of God’s revelation to us in His Word. 

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21. 

Are you ready to live?  Are you ready to die? 

Those are questions Mike would have asked you. “Will you be in heaven?” “Are you sure?”

We have many in our lives who firmly believe the answer to that is:

“Yes! I know God’s plan of salvation. I’ve read and believed His promises.”

That’s my answer, but like Mike said so often, we don’t earn it. We can’t buy it. Good works won’t gain it – but having it brings good works. Jesus told Nicodemus how to gain it:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 KJV)

Paul responded to a jailor who asked a question:

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:30-31 KJV)

If you don’t believe, I have a question – why not? Learn from my sister-in-law who discussed her beliefs and wrote that if she were wrong and atheists right, nothing was lost at death. However, if she were right and atheists wrong – their souls were lost for eternity.

That’s the crux of the matter – is life eternal? If you say “No!”, are you so absolutely certain that you’ll live your life by your answer? Will you never speak of others being in heaven? Never mention a pet crossing a rainbow bridge? Never consider that if you are wrong, have you had an affect on others?

Mike had an answer for every one of those questions and he was ready to die firmly living here with Philippians 1:21 as both his purpose and his goal.

Since Mike now has full knowledge of the answer, and I believe I will see him again based solely on God’s promises, I don’t mind asking the question:

Are you ready to die?

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

(Philippians 1:21 KJV)

Mike gained. My prayer is anyone reading this will live with Christ, and gain.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Global Peace and Security

GlobalPeace

Were you aware of the Global Peace Index? It’s openly available from the Vision of Humanity organization in .PDF form. Their “About us” page begins:

Vision of Humanity - the home of peace.

Vision of Humanity is a guide to global peace and development for people who want to see change take place. We publish intelligent data-based insight, anchored in a broad worldview.
The crises currently engulfing the world are truly global in nature. Without peace we will be unable to achieve the levels of cooperation, inclusiveness and social equity required to begin solving these challenges, let alone empower the international institutions needed to regulate them. Our coverage of these global crises is anchored by peace, conflict and development data and research created by the Institute of Economics & Peace.
This is connected to  Economists for Peace and Security, which describes itself as:
. . . an international network of economists, set up to establish economics of peace and security as a fundamental part of the academic discipline of economics. EPS has paved the way to the fulfillment of this aim by setting up academic chairs, a peer-reviewed academic journal and by promoting economic analysis on conflict and security. Our economists provide expertise for social scientists, citizens, journalists and policy-makers worldwide.
In some ways, the above sounded good –but I read Daniel this past week and highlighted:

And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. (Daniel 8:23-25 KJV)

Many men have strategized and implemented plans to control the world. Some were fairly successful, as empires ebbed and flowed. Jesus explained to His disciples that this is going to continue:

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. (Matthew 24:6 KJV)

We have seen borders expand - and many contract - but not all have gone away. They have changed, but I cannot imagine what it will be like without borders anywhere. There have been religions since the beginning of mankind. While some things have changed, many have retained doctrine for thousands of years because people believe God exists. Mankind has had laws, too, and many of those originally written remain in effect today by citizen's votes.

Does it sound reasonable to do away with religion? Does it sound reasonable to do away with borders? There was a song writer who did imagine what it would be like:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you

I cannot imagine giving up the ability to make choices to rely only on the hope that the "international institutions needed to regulate" "the levels of cooperation, inclusiveness and social equity required" are able to provide peace. My mind tells me those same institutions are working for new rules, new enforcement.

It has been – and remains – my belief in God that allows me to understand that He provides peace:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 KJV)

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:6-7 KJV)

My Bible also tells me the bottom line of what my God requires:

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8 KJV)

Monday, September 24, 2018

Different Prayer Lists

Pray-book

The flash sure caught the upper right hand corner of this little photo album I use to hold “prayer cards.'’ Our church doesn’t have a central administration as denominations do. Each church is independent, though there are affiliations among pastors – a network, if you will – and that works for missionaries, too.

We don’t send money to a central denomination office, we send to missionaries. In order for them to get funding, they go to a number of congregations on “deputation.” Each congregations vote on whether or not they feel called to support the mission field.

The prospective missionaries prepare “prayer cards” and leave them with people who ask for them. Our understanding is that the 4x6” cards will serve as reminders as we specifically pray. Our church supports sixty missionaries, give or take a few as changes are made in their fields. No – we do not give sixty their total support. They get similar support from a number of other congregations.

The way we figure our support has changed over the years. Before we arrived, fifteen percent of the congregation’s total tithes each month was divided between the missionaries and their checks were mailed that month. Today, twenty-five percent of tithes, plus any specific donations to missions or specific missionaries, is mailed out each month. That has worked well for us.

And, over the years, I’ve gathered about fifty cards. Most of them I remember specific things when I think of them. One is a mission family who came home for some of my Beloved Husband’s jambalya and rice on a snowy winter day when we wondered if they would have to spend the night! Another was a missionary who was named for Corrie ten Boom, just spelled a bit different. Another spent weeks in our church’s mission department and we got to know very well. Another we supply with food stuff quarterly, and clothing, as he works locally with homeless. Another we can’t describe or mention by name because where he serves is dangerous.

Yet all of them are in danger daily – just as we are. Accidents happen everywhere in the world, and so do natural disasters. When I read of earthquakes in Papua New Guinea, I add prayers for safety for our mission on that island. I also add prayers for the small planes that ferry them in and out. I see on Facebook the medical needs of the people they serve, too.

See? Missions is personal for me. Prayer is active. I’ve seen the examples in Paul’s letters to the churches he established on his missionary journeys. Read a few of them. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles is a good one, but the individual letters, such as Philippians is outstanding. Read, too, the words Christ spoke in Revelation about the seven churches. There were more, but these messages are specific and applicable today, too.

I won’t give as many specific verses as I usually do – but there are a couple that give Jesus’ words following His resurrection:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20 KJV)

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8 KJV)

That’s the instructions we’ve received, but we are all called to different jobs. Not everyone can be a missionary, a preacher, a teacher, but everyone (whosoever) can be a believer in Jesus and serve the same purposes in many different ways.

Oh, as I’m sitting here typing, my other reminder popped up. I have an Echo app on my iPhone for my short term prayer list. The first three on my Echo list are for missionaries in the field who shared specific prayers.  Two are in my card album, one is a family called from their home in Nigeria to a country foreign to them. We are not in the same “denomination”, but they are my brother and sister in Christ, standing in need of prayer. The third item on my Echo list is my “Salvation List.” These loved ones have mentioned to me specifically that they do not believe – in God, in souls, in what the Bible says – and I pray that their closed hearts would be opened to God’s message.

In closing – would you say a prayer for me? That my blogs really do encourage Bible reading and prayer? That people who drop by here will continue to seek time with our Lord?

Thank you.