Friday, October 31, 2014

Again, Corrie ten Boom

temp
I’m always blessed by reading about Corrie ten Boom. The most recent was a Facebook post about her time in prison. There was another teen there who asked her each day:  “Aunty, what is your message today?”

The examples given were simple. “Jesus is Victor," - "Underneath are the everlasting arms," - or "Fear not, only believe.” These messages were passed on.

How often do we pass along uplifting messages? Exhorting others to get through the days? That reminds me of:

Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22 KJV)

Corrie’s messages, even after the War, spoke of strength, love and forgiveness – the gospel. We differ on at least one doctrinal item, though. Corrie did not accept a pre-tribulation Rapture, writing:
She believed that such a doctrine left the Christian Church ill-prepared in times of great persecution
While I believe the Bible does speak of the rapture, it is not my job to convince anyone one way or the other. My difference does not negate her faith, nor mine. We both believe the gospel message, the need to share that message and the fact that there are many reading to receive it.

In fact, I agree that we must not focus on Christ’s return as a solution to the persecutions Christians are facing now. Jesus spoke of persecution long before Luke wrote of tribulations in Acts:

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. (Matthew 5:11 KJV)

We learn of Christian martyrs early in the New Testament, through the following centuries and still today. Do we really believe Christ will return before such display of faith will be required of us?

I believe Corrie’s family was very instrumental in preparing her for the hardships endured under Hitler’s Nazi regime. How well are we preparing our families? Do we study:

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12 KJV)

Can we prepare ourselves and our loved ones to withstand suffering – and give our reasons for our hope:

But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (1 Peter 3:14-15 KJV)

Could we do as Corrie did, long after the War:
In her book Tramp for the Lord (1974), she tells the story of an encounter while she was teaching in Germany in 1947. She was approached by a former Ravensbrück camp guard who had been known as one of the cruelest. Reluctant to forgive him, she prayed that she would be able to. She wrote:  "For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then."  In the same passage, she wrote that in her post-war experience with other victims of Nazi brutality, those who were able to forgive were best able to rebuild their lives.
We celebrate God’s forgiveness in our own lives as we worship Him in services and in His service. I know I need to build forgiveness. Do you?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Unwell

temp

My specific unwellness includes the Pharynx, Larynx and bronchial tubes, not included in the picture. Warm liquids help. Soups. Lozenges. Time, and a bit of my doctor’s prescription. This isn’t a stranger to me – it happens because of seasonal allergies. Ragweed seems to be the most virulent catalyst. Usually I stay under air-conditioning, but we took a trip over the weekend and I spent a lot of time in “fresh” air, laden with allergens.

It made me think of yeast:

Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. (Matthew 13:33 KJV)

The Pulpit Commentary tells us:

While our Lord thus promises that the permeating influence of the kingdom of heaven shall at last be entirely successful, it is unfair to so press the parable as to deduce from it that the world as such will continue to be gradually and continuously improved up to the Lord's return.

Just as the ragweed had an impact on me, yeast is used in this parable to tell us that the kingdom of heaven will have an impact – but the commentary is pretty clear that we’re not to depend on that to accomplish the spreading of the word we are supposed to do.

Leaven, or yeast, is not usually used in a good sense in the Bible, as Christ explained to the disciples:

And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. (Matthew 16:5-7 KJV)

I believe we often take things in a logical, face-value way, leaping to conclusions that are not what our Lord had in mind. In this instance, He took time to explain:

Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matthew 16:8-12 KJV)

Just as the tiny pieces of allergens have a detrimental effect on my health, the erroneous doctrine of the Pharisees, Sadducees or any misleader will have a detrimental effect on my spiritual health.

Paul used the same analogy when dealing with specific sexual sins in Corinth:

Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? (1 Corinthians 5:6 KJV)

Paul used leaven as an example of even also here:

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. (Galatians 5:9 KJV)

Next allergy season I will take greater precautions to remain separate from pollen, just as I take precautions to remain separate from sin. One has a short term effect – the other has eternal ramifications not only for me, but those who listen to my example.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Worst Boss

temp
If Ahab is remembered as Israel’s worst king, then Obadiah could have had the very worst boss:

And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly: (1 Kings 18:3 KJV)

Other than being Ahab’s governor, we don’t know Obadiah’s background. While there are several men by that name in the Bible, some believe:
According to the rabbinic tradition, the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches, this is the same individual as the prophet.
Matthew Henry sees it a bit differently:
Who this Obadiah was does not appear from any other scripture. Some of the ancients imagined him to be the same with that Obadiah that was steward to Ahab's household … But that is a conjecture which has no ground. This Obadiah, it is probable, was of a later date, some think contemporary with Hosea, Joel, and Amos; others think he lived about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, when the children of Edom so barbarously triumphed in that destruction.
1 Kings tells us a bit more about this Obadiah:

For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.) (1 Kings 18:4 KJV)

For all the differences in their trust in God, Ahab trusted Obadiah:

And Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts. So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself. (1 Kings 18:5-6 KJV)

Obadiah knew that Ahab blamed Elijah for the drought – even though Elijah simply gave God’s words. Obadiah trusted that Ahab would kill if crossed. When Elijah told him to go and tell Ahab that Elijah was found, Obadiah was rightly concerned:

And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth. (1 Kings 18:12 KJV)

Eventually, Obadiah believed Elijah’s promises:

And Elijah said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day. So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah. (1 Kings 18:15-16 KJV)

There are several lessons here. First, Obadiah did not leave Ahab. His witness made no changes in Ahab’s life, but Obadiah was able to serve his Lord even while in the service of the worst boss. He was able to save lives, too.

Obadiah was afraid of dying – aren’t we all? As much as he loved the Lord, and as trusted as he was by Ahab, he was certain that a misstep would cost him his life. He voiced his concern to Elijah, not afraid of him. Believing Elijah, he returned to Ahab, as instructed – and did not die.

What fear keeps us from responding to God’s commands? Are we so afraid of what He’s asking that we make excuses? Obadiah was only a messenger. Can we be God’s messenger, too?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Faith and Loneliness

temp
Recently on Wednesday nights Pastor has been teaching us about the life of Elijah. Other than being a Tishbite, we don’t know of his family or background. We hear of him first as he stands before King Ahab:

And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. (1 Kings 17:1 KJV)

And there wasn’t. Last night’s lesson began over three years later:

And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. (1 Kings 18:41 KJV)

As Elijah said those words, there wasn’t even a cloud in the sky. He had faith in God’s words to him that there would be, but Elijah still sent his servant to check seven times before the cloud appeared.

And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. (1 Kings 18:43-45 KJV)

A major point in the lesson was that we cannot count on every biblical promise being applicable in our own lives. Some of the promises are specific to a person / time / place. Some are unconditional, but most are conditional, such as John 3:15-17. We can cause ourselves serious problems when we cling to a promise that does not belong to us.

Or, when we expect our problems to be solved by one incident, one act of faith. Which reminds me of a coming lesson where Elijah sounds very defeated:

Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. 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. (1 Kings 19:2-4 KJV)

He had done as God asked. He faced a powerful king, withheld rain, defeated false priests, proven God’s word was true and returned rain to the land – and this queen promised him death. Elijah felt lonely, so defeated, that he asked to die.

He didn’t, and it’s worth reading further to find out how he was reminded that he was not alone. Neither are we.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Think Fruit

temp
In 71 verses, we find fruit/s 82 times in the New Testament. I think that makes understanding “Why?” rather important to Christians, don’t you?

The first usage is an excellent place to start, with John, the Baptist. I suggest reading Matthew 3:1-12, then coming back to concentrate on fruit:

Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: (Matthew 3:8 KJV)

Luke uses the same quote:

Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, (Luke 3:8a KJV)

My favorite scripture that describes these fruits is:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 KJV)

(Note the fruits begin with ἀγάπη – that beautiful Greek word (one of four translated as “love” in the New Testament) that means the unconditional love between God and man. Christ used it twice in speaking to Peter in John 21:15-17, though Peter didn’t use it to answer Him.)

The first fruit we should display is God’s love.

The second usage of “fruit” may be just as important:

And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (Matthew 3:10 KJV)

Much later, in Matthew 21:18-22, we see Jesus’ response to a fruitless tree. A bit earlier than that, Jesus used John’s words in describing what happens to trees without good fruit:

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (Matthew 7:17-19 KJV)

Back to Galatians to see descriptions of evil, corrupt fruit:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 KJV)

There are God-promised consequences for specific deviations from God-given commandments. To believe these have changed, I would have to be shown a scripture reference. As I continue to read and study the Bible, I do not find where these scriptures are shown to be in error. Feel free to point out to me my error.

The last reference in the New Testament is one I’ve used often:

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 KJV)

That scripture takes us back to Genesis 2:9, the tree planted in His garden:

And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9 KJV)

Please note that the tree of life was not included in the “Do not eat”:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:16-17 KJV)

The tree of life fruit is freely given. Please, take some time to become a knowledgeable fruit inspector:

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:20 KJV)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Is He Enough?

temp
Looks like something from a cave’s wall – or modern art, but it’s not. It’s a photo from an electron micrograph of an ebola virus. Amazing that something that small has nations responding around the world. Scary, as headlines focus on death statistics as well as the number of people in quarantine. Those numbers grew exponentially, from a small family, through hospital contact and travel interaction.

Yet – in America one man was diagnosed, and died. Two people fighting the illness were brought from west Africa and were cured. Two nurses, infected while caring for the dying man, are being treated at the same facilities where two people were cured. Those statistics are pretty good, aren’t they?

While checking a number of resources to verify just how concerned we should be, within an hour’s drive from Dallas, I not only discovered we’re just fine (and so is everyone else) but learned from one of the patients.

I read a quote from “Ebola survivor Nancy Writebol, an unassuming Christian missionary”:
“The night that they put me on the airplane to evacuate me and bring me back to the U.S. … I was very, very ill and not sure that I was going to make it across the ocean — not sure if I would see David again or our [two sons] again,” Writebol said. ”And I remember, as they put me on the airplane, that I just told the Lord, ‘Lord, I don’t know what’s going to happen and I need your help.’”
And that’s when she said she felt God responding to her with an important question:
“Nancy, if I take the boys, if I take David away from you and if I take your life and you are with me, am I enough?”
What an answer! Is God enough at any time in our lives? I remember what Esau said to Jacob who offered riches as he returned:

And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself. (Genesis 33:9 KJV)

Or Isaiah’s description of those who never have enough:

Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter. (Isaiah 56:11 KJV)

What God offers is much more than enough:

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9 KJV)

If God took our loved ones, and us, to be with Him, is He enough? Consider what He has offered?

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:13 KJV)

Believing in Him, Nancy Writbol tells us:
“I just rested in God’s arms and in his presence and in his peace that he was enough,” she said.
Do we? No. We read headlines and are concerned for ourselves and our loved ones. We do not consider asking ourselves, is He enough? I believe He is when we follow His instructions:

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)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Thanks For Participating

DavidBedSet
I want to thank everyone who participated in last Saturday’s craft bazaar. All the different activities provided over $5,000 for specific mission programs this coming Christmas and we are grateful. Two bed sets were donated for a drawing, one is today’s graphic.

All of this was a lot of fun, some hard work, considerable time spent – but the result is funding for three specific mission projects that will help them in many ways.

Physically closest is a church’s mission to assist the homeless. The pastor was once told that it would be impossible to fund a church for homeless people who have no income. Regrettably, they forgot the one Man who founded His church:

And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. (Matthew 8:20 KJV)

That was His answer to a man who wished to follow Him – a reminder that on this earth, He had nothing – but His life to give for us.

Geographically a little further away is the Blessed Hope Boys Academy in Alabama.
Blessed Hope Boys Academy is a program that is a minimum of 1 year requirement. In this 1 year, young men receive schooling through our A.C.E. Curriculum, hear preaching, learn how to work, memorize Scripture, learn songs, build character and are away from all of the distractions of the world.
Several of the boys visited our church this summer and were such a blessing to us as we listened to their stories and heard their testimonies. They reminded me of the Bereans in their descriptions of searching for truth:

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 KJV)

Third, and half a world away, is a project very dear to our hearts – orphanages in a war-torn country. I won’t draw attention to the location, but assure you it provides what John describes as pure religion:

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27 KJV)

There is something I really do appreciate about our church – missions is a top priority. One quarter of our tithes go directly to missions, including the three mentioned here. Missionaries we support come visit us, as do others seeking support. We get to meet them, shake their hands, hear their testimonies and their stories of working in fields that are white:

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. (John 4:35 KJV)

It is a blessing to be a part of their ministries. They could not be in the fields without our support. We could not be in those same fields without their calling. Together, we work on the 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)