Monday, September 24, 2018

Different Prayer Lists


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.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Truth or Consequences

Yes, there is a town in New Mexico named Truth or Consequences – and there used to be a television show by that same name. We also live daily with truth – and the consequences of whether or not we believe it.

Politically, it makes a huge difference. With the advent of social media, the truth has been stretched to the breaking point more than once, and the consequences are being felt around the world.

Fact checking has become a big business. The linked Hill article lays it out early in the article:
Oxford Dictionaries' International Word of the Year for 2016 was "post-truth," defined as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."
For Christians, we’ve heard about truth all of our lives:

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. (John 18:38 KJV)

Non-Christians believe we are working on emotions and personal beliefs, not objective facts. That’s one reason I like the books written by Lee Strobel. “The Case for Christ” gives facts, though I doubt anyone can actually be objective. We all have reasons for our research, and Strobel’s goal was to disprove Christianity based on facts. Instead, he came to understand what prompted Pilate’s question:

Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. (John 18:35-37 KJV)

We Christians believe the words Jesus spoke were written down by men who heard – and believed – what He said. We see the lives changed by His words. We read His words – and those in the Bible that were given to prophets centuries before, when His coming was promised.

Some people discuss Christianity with a believer, and make a determination as Felix did – not right now:

And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. (Acts 24:24-25 KJV)

Felix knew of the tremendous change in Paul’s life. Knew that at first he was putting Jesus’ followers in prison then one day that all changed and Paul went to prison for speaking of Jesus, for telling His story. Felix sent Paul back to prison. Festus left him there – until Agrippa came.  Read Acts 26 for the whole story, but finally Festus gave an answer that so many do today:

And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. (Acts 26:24-25 KJV)

Yes – some think we are crazy, but as Paul – we firmly believe we speak truth when we tell God’s good news. Then we have the third response, much as this from Agrippa:

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds. (Acts 26:28-29 KJV)

Yes – so many are almost persuaded, and as Paul, we wish they were as we are today. No longer in bonds for being a Christian (well, in most places. Not so much in others), able to discuss our beliefs openly without derision, but with an open mind to study the words as the Bereans:

And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 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 17:10-11 KJV)

Spend time with Christians and the Bible. Be ready to determine the truth – whether those things were so. And, to understand the consequences.

Monday, September 10, 2018

All Things . . . For Good

Sunday’s class study was the final verses of Romans 8. They contain a couple of items that are a bit hard to understand. Let me begin with:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 KJV)

I have seen that used so often as a stand alone verse, but you and I both know there have been tragedies that appeared to refute that verse. Just this summer, within a week’s time, there were three toddlers in the news because they had wandered just a bit, found water enticing, and drowned. That is certainly a part of “all things.” We cannot see that they “work together for good”, even when we know their parents and extended family loved God.

Unfortunately for all of us, humans die. We’ve come to accept the death of a person who has lived a “lifetime”, but humans die. From conception through a hundred-plus years, humans die. From incurable diseases to tragic accidents, with and without another human’s help, humans die.

Religion is thought to have sprung up from a desire to live again. As a Christian, I point to the Bible as my own belief that it is not a human desire, but a God-conceived and verbally given hope that does survive along with faith and love. So, we read this verse in context with the full message Paul wrote to the Romans. No verse in the Bible is worthy to stand alone, though many appear to.

The verses above this one is necessary to put it to practice, to know that even in sorrow and pain, that God has a plan in place. The second part of the verse points to others, too. One of those above I have used just this morning – a sister requesting an unspoken prayer for her brother; a pastor requesting prayer for a tiny baby with a young mother who lost their father/husband.

What can we say in the presence of such pain, when it appears nothing worked for good? Paul gives us that, too:

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)

We needed it in 2011 when a lovely mother left a widower, three children and another baby when cancer took her life. Her husband taught us that hope went much further than human death when he wrote – and shared with us on this link – his pain and his faith.

Do you love God and have responded to His call to His purpose? That purpose is outlined in the single, most memorized, most used, verse in the Bible:

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)

Accepting that God exists, loved His creation sufficiently to provide an eternal life, and we get to spend it with Him sounds too simple. But, it is the first step to learning so much more. None of it detrimental to our lives, all of it working together for good in God’s eternal plan. He promised. I believe He keeps promises:

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life,
Nor any form of earthly strife,
nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers,
Nothing from hell’s own bowers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor far away, nor here at home,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,
Nor false God or wrong teacher,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God, 
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:38-39 KJV)
(and my own, poor, additions)

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Just Thinking About What I’m Hearing


By Toffel - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

There are literally hundreds of channels on DirecTV. Most of them we are NOT interested in. We could drop all ESPN, direct sales, pay-for-view, and still be happy with what's left. By accident we discovered INSP. This morning there have been three shows on (no, I'm sewing, not watching - but I do hear them) and all three have dealt well with discrimination and how to accept diversity. These were shows from 1955-1975 - Gunsmoke, Daniel Boone, Bonanza.

Now, I'm wondering why some people think this subject hasn't been addressed since 1861. Also wondering why these same ideas - without anger, cursing, sex - aren't being addressed in television shows today. Instead, we get the anger, cursing and sex, bad guy winning, no closure with justice. And it is reflected within society, social media, and media. Just running through my mind. As is the way to get this out of our lives:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8 KJV)

Best part? You don't have to be a believer in God or Christ to follow this suggestion.

But – if you do honor the Bible, you might think about these verses, too:

Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. (Proverbs 23:6-7 KJV)

A lot of time the middle of that verse is quoted “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” out of context. We aren’t to allow a person not interested in our bests interest to determine our best interests. It is up to us to know what is best for our lives.

As Christians, we know that there are some things we are not to do, and there are plenty of people willing to help us do them. And, there are simple verses that tell us what God wants from us. Among my favorites are:

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)

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40 KJV)

And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? (Deuteronomy 10:12-13 KJV)

Do these definitions of what God requires sound like they would cause trouble and division? They shouldn’t if we treat everyone we meet with the same love God provides for us. Otherwise, Paul describes what happens:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity [love], I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity [love], it profiteth me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 KJV)

Charity, biblically, is love. Let’s do it and use it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Johanan the son of Kareah


People carried away into captivity

By the time we leave the immediate descendants of David - moving into II Kings, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel – the untold half of Solomon’s wealth ceased to be, an inheritance and kingdom divided into Judah and Israel. Beset by Chaldeans, subject to destruction by Nebuchadnezzar.

When we read Daniel, we shouldn’t forget there were people who were not taken to Babylon. They remained in Jerusalem, under the care of a governor, Gedaliah, appointed by Nebuchadnezzar. You can read of him in Jeremiah 41, but I’d suggest reading YouVersion’s Chronological Bible readings to see how the books in the first paragraph mesh together in history. They will introduce you to the main characters in Jeremiah 42, where the leaders of Jerusalem come to Jeremiah, make a request, and a promise:

Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near, And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the LORD thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:) That the LORD thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do. (Jeremiah 42:1-3 KJV)

We’ve done that, too, haven’t we? Gone to pastor or friend, maybe more than one person with us, asking for advice and their help. When we were told there was help, there would be an answer, did we make a promise, as these people did:

Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us. Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God. (Jeremiah 42:5-6 KJV)

Good or bad, we were ready to hear the answer and follow through with actions. We knew that Jesus ended His prayers with “thy will be done,” and we were prepared to hear, whether it be good or evil – we promised to obey. Then, when the word came – we didn’t. They didn’t either. What God answered comes down to “Trust me, do as I say and you will be fine. Deny me, do as you wish, and you will die in a foreign land.” Go to Jeremiah 42 and read it all. Did I misstate at all?

So, Jeremiah gave them God’s answer, and in spite of their promise, it was rejected:

Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there: (Jeremiah 43:2 KJV)

I won’t ask if we’ve ever read God’s word, learned what He requires of us, and rejected it. The rejections that concern me the most are those who either 1) do not believe God exists; 2) do not believe John 3:16; and 3) do not think John 3:18 applies to them at any time in their lives.

There are people who do not believe Jesus included them in parables. They do not see themselves in Matthew 25:31–46, especially verse 46. They don’t see themselves as tares in Matthew 13:24-30, either. There’s another group that believes both of these parables mean good works will save you, whether you believe in God or Jesus (forgetting John 3:16 altogether) and ignore Paul’s explanation in Ephesians 2:8 – which must be considered with James 2:17-20.

I know that’s a lot of clicking on links, but it is necessary to get the full story as to why Johanan ended up dying in Egypt instead of living protected as promised by God in Jeremiah 42:11. They were not able to keep their promise because they did not have faith that God was able to keep His.

Ask yourself, “Do I believe in God? Do I believe He is able to keep His promises? What has He promised me? What have I promised Him? Am I keeping my promise to God?” We are the only ones who know the answers. No one else can answer for us. Are you able to share your answers with other people you love?

Friday, August 24, 2018

Who’s The Father?


DNA Helix

This past week, CBS This Morning had a segment on an adoptee who found her birth father through DNA, along with a sister that she could be very close to. The New York Post had an article where she learned from DNA that the man she thought was her father wasn’t. DNA pretty much defines who are ancestors are. At present, DNA tested correctly hasn’t found to be wrong.

So, who is the Father? Jesus taught us to pray to Him:

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13 KJV)

There doesn’t appear to be physical DNA that proves God is our father, so how do people know we are truly His child – or another father described in the Bible:

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:44 KJV)

The father of lies.  Have you ever told one? Even one that was supposed to be a kindness to another person? Yep, that’s still not truth. Does that separate us from God? The Bible says it does:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23 KJV)

Paul knew well enough this truth, and spent a couple of chapters before this verse explaining why this is truth. This is not so much an indictment as a statement of fact from people who care. As the Pulpit Commentary puts it:

It does not look down with contempt upon human nature. But it deals with facts as they are. And yet, if it speaks of human nature as sinful, it is in terms of pity and compassion and desire to save.

It is not said in judgment, but it acknowledges that God has placed standards, and we all have failed to live up to them. That’s why He provides both mercy and grace. All we have to do is have faith.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 KJV)

Please note that works do not/will not provide salvation in God’s planning. However, as verse 10 shows, we were created for good works and God’s plan ordains that we should do them. There is a huge difference between doing good works because we love God and doing good works thinking we will please Him. And no chance at all that good works without believing in Him bring salvation. That is so terribly clear, yet I hear people say: “No, they doesn’t believe in God, but they’re good people doing good for others.”  Please, please, please find the verse in God’s word that initiates that belief.

So far, there were two things given by God for our use in reaching Him.  The Ten Commandments and the books of the Law, which Jesus filtered down to two essentials:

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40 KJV)

That takes care of the Law compliance, but we’re told Jesus fulfilled the law as the Son of God. He explained about faith – about believing – which has always been essential, even with the Law:

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. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:14-19 KJV)

Yes – John 3:16 in context. Not everyone will be saved. Some are condemned only because they have not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Jesus had to explain this to a religious leader of the Jews.

Do you require additional explanation? Do you believe? That really determines who is our Father, doesn’t it?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Why Wouldn’t We Do It?


Bible primer, Old Testament, for use in the primary department of Sunday schools (1919)

June of this year, Greg Morris began a blog, “But If Not,” with these words:

“Do not worry, my friend,” he told me. “If God does as we have discussed, I trust that he will bring about something wonderful from it.”

Do not worry. The irony could not be more apparent. It was he, not I, that was headed home to a hostile country. It was he, not I, that had already received death threats from former Muslim friends who awaited him there. And it was he, not I, who sought to comfort others in the hours before his departure.

The title comes from scripture – there are four in the KJV with the phrase, but this one is applicable:

But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Daniel 3:18 KJV)

Do you know the fiery furnace from Daniel 3 – it’s a childhood Bible lesson – but if not, you can read it all by clicking here: Daniel 3:8-30.

It begins with local people making trouble for those who love and serve God. If you don’t know who three are, go back and read Daniel’s first chapter. And if that’s not enough information, try Jeremiah and the latter part of 2 Kings. In Daniel 3, the Chaldeans have interacted with the Jews since their king lost a war and royalty were taken to be of service to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon c. 605 BC – c. 562 BC. The book’s author, Daniel, isn’t included in this story – a question I’ll have to be answered in eternity.

His three companions from chapter one are the center of attention. They purposely disobeyed the king’s command, which was was set up by people discontented with Jews in general. The goal was for them to die, and Nebuchadnezzar had the fire stoked so hot that the soldiers carrying the condemned men died putting them in the furnace.

All they needed to do to keep from being killed was:

Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: (Daniel 3:10 KJV)

Just a few moments of the day, fall down and worship an image. Simple – do it, don’t die; don’t do it, die a fiery death. They didn’t – believing God would take care of them. He did.

So I wondered: why wouldn’t we do it? Do we have a reason for not taking just a few moments to act as though this statue was important? Just a few moments, and we’ll live. Why wouldn’t we want to live?

Then I got to thinking of the missionaries I know. One is similar to Morris’ friend – spreading God’s message of eternal love and life in an area where the government could demand the death penalty. Yet that missionary has been doing spreading the gospel for years. My offering helps send him to talk to people that hate what he has to say.

So my question gets turned back on me – he’s doing this because he loves his fellow man. He loves the country that doesn’t want him. We could be carrying the same message to people who may not want to hear us, so why wouldn’t we do it for people we know?

It’s embarrassing? It might make people angry? It might cost us friends and/or relatives? It certainly made the Chaldeans angry that people thought differently, that people worshipped different – and believed their God would protect them.

And, He did protect them. Perhaps the real question is, why don’t we believe God will do the same for us? Do you have an answer?