Tuesday, September 16, 2014

When We Hear “No.”

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Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. (Matthew 15:25 KJV)

That’s just the middle of the story. I recently saw that verse posted and thought how much we’d love to hold on to it because we worship Him, call Him “Lord” and most certainly desire His help. We are just as gentile as she was, too:

And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. (Matthew 15:22-23 KJV)

How hard was it for this woman to plead with a Jew? Yet, He did not answer her. She continued. She believed He could heal her daughter. She persisted to the point that His disciples asked Him to send her away. Did you ever wonder why they didn’t send her away?

But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. (Matthew 15:24-26 KJV)

Instead of sending her away, He explained that she was not among His responsibilities.  He had a purpose, a focus on the children of Israel. She worshipped and begged for His help. His response sounds harsh, doesn’t it? He compares His work with the children of Israel as sustenance that should not be given to dogs. Did He just refer to her as a dog, an insult? Should she be angered, leave in disgust, give up?

And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. (Matthew 15:27 KJV)

She accepted the position He suggested. She was willing to lower herself to whatever position was necessary to receive crumbs.

Then we read His response:

Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. (Matthew 15:28 KJV)

What if she had accepted the initial lack of response? What if she had left after He said only Israel was to receive? What if she had not accepted crumbs? Her daughter would have died.

Our Lord approached His Father three times asking that the cup be removed. All three times the answer was “No.” He knew what to expect yet bowed to His Father’s will.

What are the lessons for us? For me, I understand that not all I want – or think I need – fits into God’s plan. I may be on the edge of the crowd crying out for His mercy just as this Canaanite woman. It may appear that He’s not paying attention. This woman’s faith in Jesus’ authority and His ability was sufficient to keep her at His side until she received a positive response.

Now, do I have sufficient faith to stay close to Him, continuing to plead my case? Is what I’m asking as important as her request? Is my faith sufficient to continue beyond one – or two – or more “No” answers?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Christ Is Preached

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For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:27 KJV)

There is a video several acquaintances have shared where an attractive lady confronts a street preacher and tells him he is turning people off instead of turning them to Jesus. She tells him the correct way is to live as Jesus teaches us and others will see our lives and want to learn more. He, on the other hand, is preaching that we are sinners and without Jesus, eternity will be spent in hell.

Either way, a portion of the gospel is given. Can we say, as Paul did:

What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.(Philippians 1:18 KJV)

What does attract people to our Lord? Why do Christians even care? As a politician recently asked, “What difference does it make now?” My answer is, an eternal one.

I am very concerned about some loved ones who are ignoring God. Another who states there is no God. And, their active Christian family members who assure me there’s no problem – they are good people who help others. I agree that they are, but I’m concerned because of what the Bible tells us in all the counsel.

There are several scenes in the Bible that give us a description of God's throne. The one on my mind is described in Matthew 25:31-46. No, I won't copy all of the verses here, but it would be a good idea to read them all to understand where my thoughts led - and see if those thoughts can be followed.

But first, let's take a look at a couple of other verses:

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

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

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:18-20 KJV)

To me all of this means that faith is necessary (backed up by Hebrews 11:7 - go ahead, look it up), but once there is faith, there will be good works. Please, take time to read around these three verses. Are there other verse that would negate any of them?

And think of how they fit in Matthew 12, when the sheep ask:

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? (Matthew 25:37 KJV)

Or, when the goats ask:

Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? (Matthew 25:44 KJV)

Do you find it strange they virtually asked the same question - when did we see you? One group responded to needs, while the other group did not even recognize the needs of their fellow man. Faith will bring forth good deeds – the fruit of believing Jesus and his teachings. The Bible also tells us how to have faith:

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

… and, why:

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

There were two destinations – the same two taught throughout the Bible – heaven and hell. I am concerned for my loved ones and want to share all the counsel of God. The entire word of God, the Bible.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Let’s Make It Personal

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Do you know a Christian in Syria? I do. And when I read a devotional post this morning, I thought about him. The question in the post was:
What if a known radical Muslim member of ISIS or Al Nusra Front called up their church and said, “I’ve had an encounter with Christ. I need someone to come and bring me a Bible and help me learn more about Him”?
Remember the description of Paul’s purpose after Stephen’s death?

As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. (Acts 8:3 KJV)

His reach went even further:

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2 KJV)

What we have today is absolutely threatenings followed by slaughter – taped and in color on screens across the world. Suppose, then, that we received the request:

And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. (Acts 9:10-12 KJV)

We know nothing of Ananias’ background to make an informed decision why God called upon him. We do know that when God calls, He provides what is necessary to accomplish His task. But – a vision? Would we consider it simply a dream? The result of the wrong meal selection? Precursor to an upset digestive system?

I can assure you, I expect my response would most likely be stronger than Ananias’:

Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. (Acts 9:13-14 KJV)

Could I enter the fiery furnace? The lion’s den? Paul’s hotel room? Even when our Lord tell me:

But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. (Acts 9:15-16 KJV)

Would it help for me to know that he would suffer? Would I get up, go to that ISIS member and call him “Brother”?

And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. (Acts 9:17 KJV)

Would I believe God still cares about whether or not a lost soul comes to Him? One soul that would have an impact on others? Do I believe that God hears my prayers, answers them, and has a use for me in His planning? That He would give me a task I was capable of fulfilling? Do you?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Miss Me?

I haven't gone far, but I did get a bit overloaded. Starting tomorrow, I'll be teaching 5th-6th-7th grade girls during our Vacation Bible School.  You are welcome to join us at First Baptist Church of Cottondale from 9:30 to Noon.

I've also been typing recipes for our fund-raiser cookbook that will be on sale October 18. Our goal is to have at last 125 pages in a 8.5x5.5 plastic bound book - and I'm at 52 pages today, with several more to type in. I'll also be posting pictures of some of the crafts available that day from our ladies missions group.

Yes, I'm still reading my Bible. Yes, I have several items that I wish to include on the blog - but right now I do not have the free time to cover them correctly. Within a couple of weeks, my schedule should slacken and I'll return to writing, too.

In the meantime, let me know if you have any prayer requests - there's always time for conversations with our Lord! God bless each and every one of you. Oh, yes - I could use a few, too.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Meat of the Matter

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I’ve used this graphic before, when discussing New Testament meat and milk. I’ve touched on the subject in other posts about mature Christians, too.

But not until Sunday did I make the connection to a servant’s heart and the true nourishing meat offered to us.

For more than a year now, our Pastor has done a series of sermons on Christ’s life. We’ve just finished with the Lord’s last Passover with His disciples and the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Sunday morning Pastor’s sermon was on Pecking Order and the dissension among the disciples as to who was greatest. This wasn’t a new discussion, it happened before, even with a mother involved. (No, won’t reference that – look it up.) Evidently James got the message:

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. (James 3:13-16 KJV)

It is a servant’s heart that leans on God’s wisdom – and is well fed. That came in Sunday evening’s service from a visiting church planter:

Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. (John 4:34 KJV)

No, that was not the centerpiece of his sermon – read on about fields white unto harvest. But, it did speak to my heart, especially after yesterday’s post.

Christ’s true nourishment was doing God’s will. What is ours?

We need water, too. Especially the water Jesus gives:

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:14 KJV)

Twice in the verse do we read “I shall give,” so we know the source of this living water. Do we know how to take it? Or do we keep repeating the words of the disciples, that continually echo through centuries:

Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. (John 14:8 KJV)

What is sufficient for us to believe? For Paul it took being struck blind on the road to Damascus. For Thomas, it took seeing Jesus standing before him:

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. (John 20:29 KJV)

It took me more years than I wish to admit to before I understood and received that blessing. So many years before I gained greater appreciation for the many people I know who have sought and achieved a servant’s heart.

My goal now is to spend more and more time with those who serve, in conversations and communications, that I might learn more and more how to be nourished by the will of God, as Jesus was. Our example:

Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. (John 13:13-16 KJV)

Why? He gives that answer, too.

If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. (John 13:17 KJV)

Knowing isn’t the happiness, is it? Doing is the meat of the matter and doing brings happiness!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

“Not So Much”

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The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9 KJV)

You know, those two things just are not always compatible. That’s why when I saw that graphic posted on Facebook, my response was: “Not so much.” Then, I wondered how biblical my response really was. Look with me at those who lived their lives they way they wanted to.

Let’s start with Eve. She had instructions, but that fruit really looked good and surely her instructions were in error and it couldn’t possibly hurt anyone, could it? She lived her life the way she wanted to – for a moment, then lived with the consequences. Check it out in Genesis 3.

Moving on, let’s look at Moses. He was sent out of Egypt because he followed his heart and killed a man. He overcame that, built a family and was comfortable when God called him. Check it out in Exodus 3, where God lays out the program. Then read Moses’ answer:

And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee. (Exodus 4:1 KJV)

It is so easy to follow our hearts! Even when God has spoken to us. As a man after God’s own heart discovered (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). He saw a woman, liked her, and with his power, took her. It cost her husband, it made her son king, but brought division into David’s family for generations. Because he followed his heart.

Let’s move on to the New Testament. Saul was following his heart and his religious training when he made “havock of the church”, imprisoning Jesus’ followers (Acts 8:3). As Moses did, he met and talked with the Lord, and ceased to “live it the way you want.”

Satan tried to get Jesus to follow His heart, too. Check it out in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. Satan offered this world – without death. Jesus died. And I think the explanation lies early in the Lord’s prayer (check it out in Matthew 6 and Luke 11):

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. (Matthew 6:9-10 KJV)

After we acknowledge who He is, praise His name, call for His kingdom – then we seek His will. Not our own. We need to count the cost, as Jesus taught:

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. (Luke 14:28-30 KJV)

God finishes His work, even when it means death on a cross, knowing what it will accomplish:

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

Trade what God has in mind for me simply to live life the way I want? Not so much.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hear and Learn

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And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it. (Deuteronomy 31:13 KJV)

Maybe before, but certainly since Moses, Jews have written their history. Anne Frank wrote hers for two years, keeping her thoughts in the diary she received when she was thirteen, and losing her life to the  Nazi Germany when she was fifteen. She wrote of every day life while living imprisoned by hatred that desired to wipe her people from the face of this earth. There have been many that tried to achieve that same goal. All have failed.

I expect she heard and learned, as generations before her:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7 KJV)

Thus, since the before Moses, children have been diligently taught – but not all parents were diligent. Some know nothing thereof:

Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan; Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof; (Judges 3:1-2 KJV)

The children of Israel certainly know of war today. We know it only from a distance, and attempt to distance ourselves further from it, afraid it might touch us personally. Perhaps we should heed David’s words:

Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD. (Psalms 34:11 KJV)

David was repeating what had been passed down to him:

And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, (Deuteronomy 31:13a KJV)

He did not fear facing Goliath, he knew God was with him. He knew the power and authority of the Lord. He knew who would deliver him:

David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee. (1 Samuel 17:37 KJV)

All of this went through my mind as I read an anniversary article about Anne Frank. I believe we have been remiss. We have not taught her story in order that today’s children might hear and learn. To an extent, I agree with Francine Prose who wrote in that article:

What could be more "useful" than to view that era through the mind and eyes -- and in the words -- of a girl who wanted us to know who she was and what happened to her. And what could be more necessary than the story of a girl who wanted to grow up, to become a writer, to lead a full and normal life -- and was prevented from doing so, by the forces of prejudice and hatred, on a beautiful and otherwise ordinary August morning.

However, to ascribe prejudice and hatred as the reasons for her death denies the reality of an evil our generation has not taught to children either.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9 KJV)