Saturday, April 23, 2016

Pray Without Ceasing

DearGod-ThankYou
Does that sound easy? There are times seems not, until we pause to think. I remember over 30 years ago listening to a motivational speaker telling about being late to a very important meeting where she would interview a Japanese gentlemen who had a very busy schedule. She began to think about what would be the worst thing that could happen – she would be fired.

But, that wasn’t the worst thing that could happen in her life.

As she entered the company parking lot, she yelled out the window with a smile that her husband and children were just fine. Losing one of them would have been much worse than losing the job she applied for and accepted.

That is exactly what we should be doing as Christians:

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Ephesians 5:19-20 KJV)

Do you believe a misled Jew wrote those words, or were they inspired by God to show us how our relationship with Him can be? I believe He loves us enough to provide guidance. Then we can give thanks always – even in a hospital emergency room Tuesday eveining with your spouse having chest pains.

Yes, we can give thanks that there is good treatments. good facilities, excellent doctors and nurses, a triage process that cuts down on waiting. Pause to think about what it was like in previous decades, centuries, and thank God for what is available now.

That’s a good process, you know – pause, listen, think, respond, to use with others. Can we be grateful for all the people that are in our life? Come one, truthfully, didn’t you think of one person as you thought? I came up with a couple – and the idea of asking God to let me know why they are in my life.  For my good, or theirs?

That’s a part of prayer, too. We are told to pray without ceasing. It’s in one verse, and not hard to understand. In fact, it would appear I was repeating:

Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV)

A nice standalone sentence that fits right in with the rest of the advice:

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly,
comfort the feebleminded,
support the weak,
be patient toward all men.
See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In every thing give thanks:
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Quench not the Spirit.
Despise not prophesyings.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

Abstain from all appearance of evil. 
(1 Thessalonians 5:14-22 KJV)


Do you know that if we do all of that, all of our lives, we still are not “good enough” to stand before God as His child? Yes, He asks that we do what He wants, but He does have a requirement in reaching Him that many will not accept.

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6 KJV)

John 3:16-18 says it even better. Excuse me? I’m called judgmental? I’m condemning? Please read the chapter. God makes the judgment, I don’t. I study His word, looking to see how what He said affected others. I see those who accept as well as those who reject. I prefer believing, but I can never, ever, convince someone else. It’s not my job.

Nope, mine is to encourage the reading of His word and allow others to make up their own minds. To help me – and them – I find it much better to pray without ceasing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Missions

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I met Pastor John Tino on-line several years ago through another ministry – that one in the Philippines. This week, Pastor Tino arrived in Dallas for a four-month ministry. I never expected to be in the same country as John, and never gave thought that we’d be less than two hours away, even by plane. Yet – he is now in nearby Dallas.

This blog isn’t about Pastor Tino, though, it’s about missions.

I believe that evangelicals think of Paul as being the first missionary and we teach children – and adults – of his missionary journeys as told in the New Testament. We tend to forget that our true first missionary example is Jesus, Christ.

Jesus left His home – heaven – to come to save the lost. He said so:

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10 KJV)

His mission was to all mankind. Angels said so:

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11 KJV)

He went about preaching and teaching and calling others to follow Him. That’s what Paul did. That’s what missionaries through the years have done. That’s what we are all supposed to be doing, isn’t?
Yes, we all have differing ministries – different gifts for serving God:

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. (Romans 12:6-9 KJV)

It’s a blessing for me to learn from people who are using their gifts to serve God’s and share His love with others. Through the internet I’ve met people I most likely would never have met without it. I see God’s love in action and I’m given the opportunity to pray for His work half way around the world.
Most importantly, I see the same messages that Jesus gave in His ministry being given both in words and in examples. The one that touches my heart today is:

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:14 KJV)
But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:14 KJV)
But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:16 KJV)

Pray for the children. Today I saw missions for children discussed in several places – in Kenya/Tanzania, Philippines, Myanmar and the United States. There are more, many more places where the name of Jesus is spoken with love and His work shown to children.

The best thing we can offer those who serve our Lord is prayer. That’s also the most difficult, because we can’t know their immediate needs. Fortunately, we’ve been given help:

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27 KJV)

Take a moment and pray for missionaries – especially ones in His service with children.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Hedge = Fence

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Sunday night our Youth Pastor used this verse:

He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him. (Ecclesiastes 10:8 KJV)

I will admit that when we first read it, I wondered how a full sermon would come from that one verse – but he gave an excellent one!

No, I’m not going to repeat his sermon (thought some of this may be almost direct quotes, I’ll admit) but I want to look at where we see hedges in the Bible. The first verse that popped up was:

And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. (Mark 12:1 KJV)

No, again, I’m not going to take a deep look at the parable – just at that hedge. He set it around the vineyard for protection. That’s where you’ll find “hedge” used biblically. Satan used it to rail at God about Job:

Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. (Job 1:9-11 KJV)

Satan claimed God protected Job and that’s the only reason Job loved God. Job proved that was incorrect – absolutely incorrect! But the Bible also talks about hedges of thorns:

The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain. (Proverbs 15:19 KJV)

By his own choices, the slothful man could not break through the hedge of thorns to make headway.
Hedges were used then as we use fences now. We have cross fences on our acreage, with gates from one to another to move our tiny herd from one grazing pasture to another. While we direct their movements, it is for their protection, to give them what best to maintain their health. They still will reach as far as they can through a barbed wire fence to reach the grass they think might be better.

City people have fences, too – but they usually aren’t as prominent. Some are to corral a different kind of livestock than ours – dogs, and children. Both are within fences for their own protection – and often to protect others.

Edges = fences = protection. Now that you’ve thought about some of the fences you’ve seen in your life, consider the protection that God has provided in His word. What we see as “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not.” Why are they there?

God certainly does not need them, does He? We cannot harm Him, so He doesn’t need protection. They were written for mankind’s protection – but the majority of mankind ignores them. Genesis 2 gives us the first one that was broken, Leviticus contains a multitude but Jesus condensed the Law down to two.

How do we maintain the biblical protection God has provided? I hope to do better by spending time in His word, reading examples. Please, join me.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Purpose

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I once read how thoughtless Jesus was at age 12 when He left His parents to spend time with the priests in Jerusalem. Definitely not 21st century America where parents come under the scrutiny of city and/or state government for allowing their children to walk to a park and back home.

Is that Jerusalem trip an indictment of Jesus or His parents? Hardly. It is a description of one incident in His life. One that shows His obedience to His Heavenly Father, and to His earthly parents. There is no indication they considered punishment:

And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. (Luke 2:50-52 KJV)

There is another incident on my mind – a wedding at Cana. Once again His mother did not understand, made a minor request and her son declined. She continued with instructions:

His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. (John 2:5 KJV)

For all of her pondering after His birth, she could not see past the earthly things. She isn’t alone. His disciples spent three years looking for an earthly king and abandoned Him after Gethsemane. The religious leaders of the day never accepted His assurance that prophecy was fulfilled.

Oh, He told them, but you’d have to read all four gospels all the way through to get all the verses where He openly spoke of God’s purpose, Jesus’ reason for being here. Then you’d have to read the remainder of the New Testament as His purpose was put to work. Not until His resurrection – just as He said – did His disciples begin to understand. Not until Thomas stood before Him did he cease to doubt.

Jesus was born for a purpose.

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10 KJV)

And that brings forth questions – from people who are supposed to have answers:

Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? (John 3:9-12 KJV)

Jesus continued to speak of heavenly things with the purpose of bringing mankind closer to heaven:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 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 3:14-18 KJV)

Our purpose? To believe Him and be like Him. Thanks be to God that He’s still patiently working with me to fulfill that purpose.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Thoughts From Wednesday

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Wednesday night’s lesson covered parts of Numbers 31 and 32. Pastor covered quite a bit, but I want to focus on a request in chapter 32 by two Israeli tribes as they approach the land God promised to them.

Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle: and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle;  . . .  Wherefore, said they, if we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan. (Numbers 32:1, 5 KJV)

The plans were made. The twelve tribes would cross Jordan and subdue the land that God promised to them – even though the generation that received the promise had perished in the 40 years journey in the wilderness. The tribal leaders for Reuben and Gad looked around them, saw how good it was for their cattle and decided they would just stay where they were.

Moses chided them:

And Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here? And wherefore discourage ye the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the LORD hath given them? (Numbers 32:6-7 KJV)

He went into detail as to why they journeyed in the wilderness and basically told them they were repeating their fathers’ rebellion against God’s will. Apparently he convinced them, for they promised that they would fight with their brethren for the land, but when finished, they would return to this east of Jordan land.  This was acceptable – if they kept their word. If not, Moses said:

But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23 KJV)

I’ve heard that last part for years – and had not paid attention to where it was in the Bible. I thought it was for everyone who sinned – and they would not be able to keep their sin hidden any more than I could hide my disobedience from my parents.

Studying in context, there’s more than just being discovered – it’s passing up what God has in store, settling for what looks very good right now instead of moving forward. At least Moses was able to impress upon them that if they did not assist the remaining tribes, they could lose what they wanted.

But – they couldn’t see past what they wanted. And, I wondered what I passed up in the past. Doesn’t really matter now, and no one will be interested in my “I could have been . . .” Neither am I. I know where I am and how I got here. By the grace of God, I’ve learned that Paul’s type of contentment is good. I am content in that I know I am now in the place God wants me to be. That provides a great deal of peace for me.

No, I don’t have all I want. Not hardly. I do have enough to be eternally grateful for what the Lord has provided, to thank Him daily and to speak of Him every opportunity. And I appreciate the lessons He provides through examples thousands of years ago, applicable today.

That’s one reason I encourage the reading of His word, receiving His messages.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Scripture

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I was reminded today that Paul did not have a Bible, whether it was KJV, ERV, NIV, NKJV or another other version available today. What he had was the Tanakh, which combines the Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim. From Wikipedia:
The three-part division reflected in the acronym "Tanakh" is well attested in literature of the Rabbinic period.[2] During that period, however, "Tanakh" was not used. Instead, the proper title was Mikra (or Miqra, מקרא, meaning "reading" or "that which is read") because the biblical texts were read publicly. Mikra continues to be used in Hebrew to this day, alongside Tanakh, to refer to the Hebrew scriptures. In modern spoken Hebrew, they are interchangeable.
Jesus is described as reading publicly in Luke 4:15-21. What He read was from Isaiah in the Nevi’im:
contains two sub-groups, the Former Prophets (נביאים ראשונים Nevi'im Rishonim, the narrative books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings) and the Latter Prophets (נביאים אחרונים Nevi'im Aharonim, the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel and The Twelve minor prophets).
The Torah contains the books written by Moses, the books of the Law, but can cover much more:
The term Torah means instruction and offers a way of life for those who follow it; it can mean the continued narrative from Genesis to the end of the Tanakh, and it can even mean the totality of Jewish teaching, culture and practice
The third portion, is the Ketuvim,
The Ketuvim are believed to have been written under divine inspiration, but with one level less authority than that of prophecy . . . Found among the Writings within the Hebrew scriptures, I and II Chronicles form one book, along with Ezra and Nehemiah which form a single unit entitled "Ezra–Nehemiah".[4] (In citations by chapter and verse numbers, however, the Hebrew equivalents of "Nehemiah", "I Chronicles" and "II Chronicles" are used, as the system of chapter division was imported from Christian usage.) Collectively, eleven books are included in the Ketuvim.
I took the easy way, Wikipedia, and it is a very high level, overly concise commentary. Paul, on the other hand, had been studying these writings for years, under Gamaliel, a doctor of Jewish Law. He had so much to work with – and did not recognize Jesus as the expected Messiah. For the years of Jesus’ ministry, he had to have heard about Him, even if he never heard Jesus speak.

We have Jesus’ words – usually printed in red to make them stand out and have us take notice – yet we’re not better than Paul until we take notice. After he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he preached:

And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. (Acts 9:19-20 KJV)

He used his personal experience with Jesus, a few words only, and his knowledge of God’s words to Israel to convert in two continents.

Why, then, when we have so many tools, is it so hard for us to read those same words and preach Christ as the Son of God?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Our Enemies?

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There is a much more readable explanatory grid on Wikimedia’s Commons. I ran across these while looking for a graphic to go with my subject today – Enemies. I was reminded that Jews were not the only enemies of the Third Reich. I was also reminded that – while we do not place fabric labels on prison pajamas – we label our enemies with hateful words, curse them with colorful phrases, apply biblical descriptions with a relish that is unseemly from followers of Christ.

Even though we’ve been taught:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (Matthew 5:43-44 KJV)

And, we’ve been told why:

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? (Matthew 5:45-46 KJV)

Oh, we cling to these verses and pray for those we do not love. But we sort of ignore similar verses in Luke:

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. (Luke 6:35-36 KJV)

Do you see the additional information Luke gives us in Jesus’ words? Let me focus for a moment on those words:
… for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

The next verse, Luke 6:37, is often thrown in the face of Christians (by those who do not follow Christ) as examples of hypocrisy. I think they missed an even greater example in verse 35. Christians too often are not kind to those who are ungrateful and especially to those who do evil, sinning against God.

You disagree? Really? You can give examples of doing for the ungrateful? I can too. Wonderfully dedicated missionaries who work in our area, nearby cities, our state, our country, other nations – some who have died at the hands of what we consider evil. But . . . what about ourselves, in our daily life, when we condemn others? When does that move from discernment to judgmental?

Yes, Christ defined judgment and who would face it – please remember, it was His place to judge. He also taught us what to do when we’re facing evil:

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 KJV)

Continue reading all the counsel of God.