Thursday, February 4, 2016

Friendly Persuasion

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This thought came from a movie I saw recently where one of the characters states that getting their situation across to others would be impossible without a common frame of reference. That sent me on a search for how to reach a common frame of reference when none exists. Thus I landed on "ChangingMinds.org" and their welcome:
Welcome to ChangingMinds.org, the largest site in the world on all aspects of how we change what others think, believe, feel and do. There are already around 7000 pages here, all free and with much more to come!
And an explanation of who they are:
We are a consulting and publishing company. The principal consultant and author of this site is David Straker, an individual with a long background in a range of mind-changing areas, including (in no particular order) counseling, psychology, marketing, sales, education, business change, international management and consulting. Oh yes, and parenting. And four postgraduate qualifications in changing minds
I found all of this interesting because I would like to see some people change their minds. Not for any type of business, but because I’m interested in spending eternity in their company.

You see, our savior, Jesus, came to change people’s minds and their lives. He succeeded with enough people that a never-out-of-publication book is available today to read about what He did and said.

There are other books, too, of a completely different persuasion.

Some offer no hope after this life, intent on convincing readers there is no eternal life. They’ll tell you that existence is temporary. Others tell of different methods of reaching entirely different eternities. Thus, a common reference does not exist. But – we can all research and check what has been told in the past, so let’s begin with that in common.

Now I ask you to consider one verse in the New Testament:

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)

That’s all I ask a reader to do. Pick up a Bible and read it with an open mind.

Of course, that’s an intimidating request if you begin with Genesis 1:1. Therefore, I’d like to recommend you begin with a small book that – I believe – is a somewhat concise conveyance of the Gospel message. Let’s begin with the Pulpit Commentary notes on the first four verses:
It declares the writer's authority, based on personal experience; announces the subject-matter of his Gospel, to which this Epistle forms a companion; and states his object in writing the Epistle.
In the opening of both, he describes Jesus as the Word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 KJV)
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (1 John 1:1 KJV)

Both have a third chapter, sixteenth verse that speaks love:

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)
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16 KJV)

Ready to start?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Gift

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It really is an old, old story and everyone I know has heard it. Many of those I know are good at telling it over and over again. Both of those concepts bring hymns to mind:

I heard an old, old story,
How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning,
Of His precious blood's atoning,
Then I repented of my sins
And won the victory.

I love the melody and the lyrics to that hymn – but the last line leaves a desire for explanation – which comes in the chorus:
O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

Yes, I can sing them over and over:
The victory isn’t mine as an achievement – it is mine as a gift that cannot be earned. The Bible told me that, clearly:

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 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 2:4-10 KJV)

Never, ever, boast of achieving a home in heaven. Just remember that we are His workmanship  and that we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works.

The victory achieved is over death. That is the consistent theme of Christianity. Thirty verses in the New Testament speak of eternal life, available for all, but not to be enjoyed by all. That is just as consistent. I like the way John explains it:

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.  (1 John 5:11-13 KJV)

It’s not that simple, is it. There are strong temptations to keep anyone from believing. Jesus used some in a parable:

But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. (Matthew 13:20-22 KJV)

What keeps people from believing – stones that keep God’s word from taking root or thorns of the deceitfulness that chokes the fruits of the spirit? How are our roots?


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Continuing Attitude

Only this time it’s not Cain – but Jonah.
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Sunday night Joel Haynes, a missionary to Navajos, visited our church. His family is one our church helps to support, not only with funding, but specific mission projects through a grouop of our ladies. Feel free to take some time now to click on his name and look at their work.

After showing a video of their work, he preached a thought-provoking sermon, starting with the last verse in Jonah:

And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle? (Jonah 4:11 KJV)

Parts of the sermon tied in so well with what I was working on about Cain’s attitude that I decided to put the two blogs close together. Jonah’s attitude was evident when God called him for a specific purpose:

Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, (Jonah 1:2-3a KJV)

Don’t think too badly about him – haven’t we done exactly the same thing, not by going as far as leaving town but simply by turning our back on the Lord’s request for our time? Surely you jest – I don’t think you are that different from me and I know I’ve done it. Just look at the number of days my blog was not posted, and I believe it is something done for our Lord. I blew it.

Thankfully my attention to attitude didn’t take three days in a whale, but did take a lot longer. Still it was better than Jonah 1:4-2:10. At least Jonah had the opportunity to witness to the crew. Their prayers brought no results from false gods, Jonah knew what was happening and taught them obedience to the point of going overboard.

After reaching land, Jonah went to Nineveh, preached repentence before destruction, the people listened:

So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. (Jonah 3:5 KJV)

Great, right? Job accomplished, Jonah feels good? Not so:

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. (Jonah 4:1 KJV)

Bad attitude. Bad enough that God asked:

Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry? (Jonah 4:4 KJV)

You’ll have to do your own reading of the book of Jonah to get the full story, I want to stop here with God’s question about Jonah’s attitude.

Ties beautifully back into our asking about our own attitudes, doesn’t it? Are we doing well when we are angry that we do not understand how God works or why we’re involved in that work? Are we right to be angry when we cannot understand:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV)

Continued conversations with God is helpful in understanding. Read with me.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Attitude



I read an article last week that made me think long and hard – and do some verse checking – about Cain and Abel. The author felt sorry for Cain, and God provided some pointed explanations. You can read the article for yourself – click here.

We all know the story about the fratricide, but sometimes we remember what we’re told instead of what we read ourselves. So, here are some verses to read:

And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. (Genesis 4:3-5)

Attitude. Cain was very wroth – and you could see it in his face. We aren’t told why God did not respect Cain and I do not believe it was simply the difference of a blood offering. That’s pretty evident in God’s question in the next verse:

And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? (Genesis 4:6-7a)

I’ve read several commentaries on the part B of verse 7. Frankly, I’m not going there in this discussion, and part A is pretty clear: If you do well, won’t you be accepted? We’re back to attitude.
Cain isn’t shown to ask about what was wrong with his sacrifice. It isn’t recorded that he asked God, “Why?” But we are told of his wrath. The next thing we do know:

And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. (Genesis 4:8)

We do not know their conversation, but it could not have been friendly. Had this happened today, there would be a lawyer handy to take the words and create a defense for Abel – the death would be caused by something Abel said. Surely he set his brother off because nothing like this had happened before. But, that brings us back to attitude, and that creates lies:

And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper? (Genesis 4:9)

God knew the answer to that question just as He knows all about us. It’s the omnipotence thing – He knows. We will acknowledge that at some time, perhaps only before His throne as we bow before Him. It will be much better for us if we do it know and understand what is required of us:

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)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Bargaining




I'm still thinking about Tuesday’s Genesis 18 reading. I covered the angels’ arrival yesterday – but toward the close of this chapter we see Abraham bargaining with God:

And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:23-25)

Abraham had no books written to describe or explain God. What he had was a personal experience for decades, times he spoke with God and God made promises. One important promise had yet to be filled, but Abraham did not bargain over that – he and Sarah simply laughed.

The bargain was over Sodom. God was headed there:

And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. (Genesis 18:20-21)

I don’t believe it was just because Lot ended up in Sodom. Perhaps Abraham believed there were some just men in Sodom. He must not have believed it strongly, because Abraham’s bargaining went from fifty to ten:

And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake. (Genesis 18:32)

I know the rest of the story. There were not ten men. Only one. Not even Lot’s sons-in-laws believed what could happen. I understand that. There are several loved ones – family and friends – who leave me with Lot’s feelings. They will not listen, but scoff and are offended by the message.

I fear there are some who hear the message, follow along for a while, but feel the pull of what had been home and – as Lot’s wife – turn back to what was comfortable, what was known. Weighed against the unknown, it certainly tugged at her, though it was the wrong thing to do.

Pray for those now, that they will listen, ask questions, seek to know the why for our belief, our faith, in what we cannot see. That can place them in God’s grace:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Ephesians 2:8)

Always one of my favorite verses – along with:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hospitality



Tuesday’s reading included Genesis 18. It covers very well the arrival of angels – which may be why in Hebrews we’re told:

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2)

After the greeting, Abraham went to great lengths to make his guests feel welcome:

Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. (Genesis 18:4-8)

It took several people to complete the preparations for these guests. It made me think about how we welcome people into our homes, and how we welcome them into our church.

I truly believe our church does welcome visitors. I like meeting them and welcoming – though I don’t see to it they have cakes upon the hearth. I know several people who have joined our church because they do find it friendly and welcoming.

I don’t believe it’s simply because we’re kind and hospitable but because we are interested in their souls. It’s part of being a follower of the man who was hospitable to children:

And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 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 18:15-16)

He welcomed crowds, and looked after individuals. He asked His Father to look after those who followed Him:

For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. (John 17:8-9)

In Genesis 18:5, Abraham offers a morsel of bread. What we offer our visitors is an opportunity to hear and learn about the bread of life:

For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:33-35)

That is the best thing I can offer in my own home, and totally appropriate in God’s house. Come in, any time.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Standing Room Only


And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. (Nehemiah 8:1-2 KJV)

Temple rebuilding meets a a feast  day. The first day of the seventh month is the Feast of Trumpets:
The Feast of Trumpets marked the beginning of ten days of consecration and repentance before God. It is one of seven Jewish feasts or festivals appointed by the LORD and one of three feasts that occur in the autumn. The Feast of Trumpets began on the first day (at the new moon) of the seventh month. Its name comes from the command to blow trumpets (Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1-6). It is also called Rosh Hashanah, which means “Head of the Year,” because it marks the beginning of the Jewish civil calendar.
This is held ten days before the Day of Atonement – a time of preparing one’s heart for the atonement for past sins. It is good for us to understand the importance of such an occasion, where it falls in Jewish life – then, and today.

In Nehemiah 8, the congregation is assembled to hear the reading of God’s law given to the Children of Israel.

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: (Nehemiah 8:5 KJV)

Ezra “stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose” (v. 4) much the same way our own pastor stands before our congregation, but we usually remain sitting in our pews. There are missionaries and/or evangelists who visit who begin their sermons by saying, “Let us stand for the reading of God’s word.”

And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. (Nehemiah 8:6 KJV)

Not very different from one of our own services, right? Prayer, blessings, head bowed, worshipping our Lord.

Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. (Nehemiah 8:7-8 KJV)

We cannot assume this congregation would be considered literate. Perhaps the majority could not read the law on their own. We are blessed to be a very literate nation and God’s word is available freely to all in a multitude of ways. And, there are ministers, such as mine, who cause the people to understand. That is an awesome calling. The Bible calls them people with beautiful feet:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! (Isaiah 52:7 KJV)

How about some standing room only celebration of God’s word? How are your feet perceived?