Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Recipe For Soup

temp

That Sour Rye Broth doesn’t look very appetizing, does it? Perhaps it would be better if there were some herbs? Pastor used these verses as part of Wednesday night’s lesson in our study of Elisha:

And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets. (2 Kings 4:38 KJV)

“Dearth” is an excellent descriptive word. It almost looks like “death”, and means a scarcity or lack. It comes from Middle English’s “derthe”, which is a shortage and dearness of food. Very appropriate for this time, and the “students” studying at Elisha’s “Bible college” (well, that’s what I think of us as a decent description) were in need of physical nourishment. One went out to gather herbs:

And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not. (2 Kings 4:39 KJV)

This one was sent on a mission – gather herbs. He found something else and it looked good, must have smelled okay and would surely fill the need so he brought them home, cut them up and added to the soup. Then there’s that one, small, phrase “they knew them not.”

So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof. (2 Kings 4:40 KJV)

Ask someone who has had food poisoning – it’s not worth it just to have eaten a meal. There are substances that are very harmful, though looking at them doesn’t give us a clue. I had a grandnephew who loved cantaloupe, and was in ICU for listeria. Looked great, but was “death in the pot.” Elisha, a man of God, had an answer:

But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot. (2 Kings 4:41 KJV)

No, I cannot think of meal – any meal – that thrown into a pot will remove something harmful.  However, I firmly believe that following God’s directions will. Elisha was a man of action, and a man of God. He accomplished miracles before – and after – this one. Following his directions cleansed the poison.

So – how does that apply to us? We aren’t making soup, we’re living our daily lives. How can this be applied to us?  Pastor gave an example that I like.

God has laid out “recipes” for our lives – the “ingredients” that should be in a Christian’s life. The Bible is full of commandments, admonitions, exhortations, good examples and examples where people went terribly wrong. God has told us, over and over again, what is to be part of the “soup” that makes up our lives.

There are ingredients that look good and we think they will add spice to our lives. They don’t. There is no nourishment and in many cases the result is actually harmful. The one man who thought it was good ended up harming many.

So, get to know the recipe – the Bible – and check the ingredients in your life before adding what could end up taking it away. Excellent lesson in four verses!!

Friday, January 30, 2015

All Paths Lead Where?

temp
I don’t know where I acquired this remake of the M*A*S*H directions, and it points in all directions instead of one – but it does remind me that there are multiple religions, and even greater divisions within those religions. All tell us they are the way to God. I wasn’t surprised then to run across a blog entitled “All Paths Lead To God.”

Yes, the author writes:  “Pick a path, any path–it will take you to God. Trust me: you will stand before Him one day.” But, he doesn’t give the scripture I have given in the past and will probably use again:

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. (Isaiah 45:22-23 KJV)

Nor does he quote from the New Testament one of my favorite verses:

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11 KJV)

Nope. He simply uses:

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

He simply – and in less words than I use – states:
There are many roads to God, but only one will make you holy and only one will bring you home.
Oh, let me tell you, that short, simple blog brought home the message we often ignore. Every individual that ever lived will stand before our Creator. Whatever path we have taken, there is one destination. What happens before His throne should be in our minds. The Bible gives so many statements, so many examples, tells us completely, that we cannot be unprepared.

But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-37 KJV)

That’s not even taking into consideration our deeds. We will be condemned by our own words. And, He has heard them all. We will stand before Him without a defense, guilty.

I’m not waiting – I bow my knee before Him now and confess, just as I will then:

For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:11-12 KJV)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Bible?

Candles
I was reading about a famous woman who was reported to have embraced Christianity later in life. I wanted to learn a bit more about her conversion, located her own statement of faith, and was saddened. In "About My Faith” she wrote about when her “journey” was made public. Yes, I have picked a tiny portion that spoke to me, but it says a lot:
"I had no intention of going public about my spiritual journey and in no way wanted to be tagged with the fundamentalism that Born-Again Christianity has come to be associated with. I found myself having to defend my action before I was entirely sure what it meant. I did feel reborn, I couldn’t deny that, but it had nothing to do with the perceived doctrines of fundamentalist Christianity."
Her perceptions appeared clarified a bit later:
"Words like ‘Thou Shalt,’ ‘Salvation,” ‘Lord,’ and ‘Repentance,’ drowned out one of my favorite Sufi poems by Hafiz" where the refrain has God knowing only four words, "Come dance with Me."
She stopped Bible study classes and comes to the conclusion that "experiencing the divine was more important than mere belief in the divine":
"From time to time, there have been the awakened ones, conduits of perception, who, by fully embodying Spirit, have shown us the way—Jesus, Muhammed, Buddha, Allah, and others."
However, she continues to feel like a Christian:
"Some will say that because of all this I am not a true Christian. So be it. I feel like a Christian, I believe in the teachings of Jesus and try to practice them in my life. I have found Christians all over this country who feel as I do. They may not have been ‘saved’ yet they hum with divine spirit."
It reminded me of another woman, a fellow blogger, who spent time studying God’s word, called herself “Christian” but now disavows that label in a continued spiritual search.

It is my concern that both instances are defined by rejecting the Bible as God’s word.

I’ve spent several years encouraging people to read their Bible. I do not have the education or background to point to theological studies that indicate the Bible is what it says it is. I know I agree with Bereans and Peter that scriptures need study and may be hard to understand.

From other writings I’ve not included here, I believe both of these ladies set limitations on their expectations. I also believe that the Bible must be approached with an open mind. It needs to be viewed as any study – there is much to be learned. Some will be easily understood, but questions will remain to be chewed over later. As with feeding infants, meat comes later. There will come a time when we should be teaching, not rejecting:

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14 KJV)

Yesterday’s blog on the importance of prayer for missionaries applies here, too. Please add these two unnamed ladies to prayers for those seeking God.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 KJV)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I Met A Missionary . . .

EarthRise

"NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise" by NASA / Bill Anders

. . . last Sunday night. That’s not an unusual occurrence. Several times a year we have visiting missionaries – some going through deputation, some we’ve supported and while they are home on furlough.

Each them brings a bit of the calling and they share that with us. I remember so many of them!  They are all different – yet alike in so many ways. So often we can’t even mention where they are serving because of laws within their country of service. Oh, the citizens are responsive and growing in faith – but the governments decline to accept them as missionaries. Reminds me of some of Paul’s travels:

But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. (Acts 9:24-25 KJV)

No, most of our missionaries do not have enemies “laying await”, but one does. His name, location, work absolutely cannot be mentioned here. In his situation, it could cost his life. Still, he tells of people who want to hear God’s word:

And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (Acts 17:19-20 KJV)

As missionaries from around the world visit our small country church, I think of our world as seen from the moon in “Earthrise”, God’s creation containing all mankind. And, He has a message for all mankind. Paul spoke that message in a number of places. To one, having some confusion, he taught:

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1 Corinthians 14:33 KJV)

The foundation of his message didn’t change. It was given to him by Jesus, a call to be a missionary:

To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:18 KJV)

He spoke of where he gave this message and what the hearers were to do:

But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. (Acts 26:20 KJV)

Missionaries have continued to do this same work from that time to this – with support from our local churches. They need us, just as we need them, to complete the work God has set for them to do. It’s a partnership. Financing first comes to mind, but that’s only a small portion. Of greater help are prayers.

Brethren, pray for us. (1 Thessalonians 5:25 KJV)

Simple. Repeated:

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: (2 Thessalonians 3:1 KJV)

Again:

Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. (Hebrews 13:18 KJV)

Funding is important, give as the Lord blesses, but prayer sustains both the sent and the sending.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Our Own Prisons

temp
If you grew up going to Sunday School, you’ve heard the story of Joseph. We’re studying his life Sunday mornings. Last week he was sent to prison by a spurned woman. This week we focused on what he did in prison.

But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper. (Genesis 39:21-23 KJV)

He had gone from the pit where his brothers intended for him to die (well, except for Benjamin who was not involved and Reuben who intended to take him home to their father), to problems with a promiscuous wife (Potiphar’s, not his), on to prison – all of that simply for telling the truth and maintaining his integrity. Yet, wherever he was, God saw to it that Joseph prospered. Sunday’s lesson covered four things for us to think about when we are imprisoned.

Hold it right there – No! I do not expect any of my readers to be incarcerated by the government. But we do end up being imprisoned, or severely limited in what we do. Frankly, for us right now it’s health issues. We had to cancel a wonderful vacation we planned as Beloved Husband’s health turned. We are limited by time spent in Outpatient and in doctor’s offices. There are many ways to lose the freedom to do as we please. Now, back to the lesson.

First thing was – don’t give up:

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:9 KJV)

We may not be aware of just when that “due season” might be, but we know that God keeps His promises, and He is able to accomplish His will. Then we learned – do your part:

The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat. (Proverbs 13:4 KJV)

That’s the verse in the lesson, but I’m reminded that there are a large number of examples for us in the Bible of people who did as they were asked (some, Jonah comes to mind, had to be asked more than once) by God to do something way outside their comfort level. Next we learned – do be faithful. The lesson’s verse was II Timothy 4:2a-b, but I like:

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 3:15 KJV)

We can’t be ready always without being faithful to our Lord. Without faithfulness to His word, His will, we’re simply giving our own opinions. Mine won’t get you a cup of coffee.  His provides salvation and eternal life. Your choice.

Finally, and a subject I’ve written about recently – do trust God’s timing:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: (Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV)

That’s hard to do – even with the Psalmist telling us:

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. (Psalms 27:14 KJV)

That, and prayer, can provide peace, even in our own prisons:

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, January 26, 2015

Shunnamite Sequel

temp
Gehazi is in the book of Second Kings, chapters 4, 5 and 8. In chapter 4 we find him traveling as a servant with Elisha, stopping at a home at a lady’s request:

And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. (2 Kings 4:8 KJV)

Our church has a small apartment, a bedroom with small kitchenette and bath, set aside for traveling missionaries – much as this great woman created for Elisha:

And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither. (2 Kings 4:9-10 KJV)

Elisha did stop, and appreciated the kindness, wanting to repay her, and asked Gehazi to bring her to him so he could offer her a return on her kindness:

And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people. (2 Kings 4:13 KJV)

I love her answer! To me it means “I’m happy where I am.” Gehazi had a suggestion, though. The lady was childless and her husband old. Perhaps one miracle would please her. So, she had a son.

I’m going to skip a bit – you can read the rest of this story in chapter 4, where the child died, Gehazi followed directions but no response, then Elisha restored the son to his mother. That has lessons of its own. I’m skipping to chapter 8:

Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the LORD hath called for a famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years. And the woman arose, and did after the saying of the man of God: and she went with her household, and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years. (2 Kings 8:1-2 KJV)

Apparently she was widowed by this time – there is no mention of her husband in the household. She followed Elisha’s suggestion and survived the drought, only to return to find her land confiscated.

And it came to pass at the seven years' end, that the woman returned out of the land of the Philistines: and she went forth to cry unto the king for her house and for her land. (2 Kings 8:3 KJV)

For that time and place (as it is in many lands today) it would be difficult for a woman to be heard before a court, much less the king. God prepared for her to be heard:

And the king talked with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done. And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he had restored a dead body to life, that, behold, the woman, whose son he had restored to life, cried to the king for her house and for her land. And Gehazi said, My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life. (2 Kings 8:4-5 KJV)

Timing. There is nothing like God’s timing. This woman looked after God’s prophet. She was rewarded not only with a son, but her son’s life was returned, she was cared for during a drought and the way prepared for her property to be returned. God directed her path.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:6 KJV)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Beyond Help

temp
That’s a screen capture from an NBC video. The mid-air accident in 2013 was well covered. Two aircraft, no longer airworthy and aflame. Skydivers escaping from them, each left on their own. The news called it a mid-air miracle. As reported in The Aviationist:
Several skydivers had cameras strapped to their helmet and filmed what could be a disaster. However, shocking footage aside, the collision did not cost the life to anyone: miraculously, all the skydivers jumped to safety, one of the pilots used the emergency chute, whereas the other pilot managed to land its Cessna A185 back at the airfield in spite of the damages on both fuselage and wing.
All involved were experienced, which helped considerably, but not all experienced people involved in accidents – especially one such as this – survive. Looking back on this one, I thought of others who were faced with horror, lacking experience, yet survived to change the world.

And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there; (Matthew 27:35-36 KJV)

Even Peter, who had taken up a sword in defense when He was arrested, had abandoned Him. Some were brave enough to stand at the foot of the cross:

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! (John 19:25-26 KJV)

The thief wanted Him to be a savior, too:

And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. (Luke 23:39 KJV)

He did not save Himself, but did one of them:

And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:41-43 KJV)

What changed this scenario from a group of people who were abandoned by a false prophet into a group that with a few weeks stunned Jerusalem? One simple act.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (Matthew 28:6 KJV)

“He is risen, as he said.” Jesus did what He said He would do. They not only had the fulfillment of prophecy, they had fulfillment of His personal promise. He appeared to them, too. For some, that was not enough:

And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. (Matthew 28:17 KJV)

The ones that didn’t doubt went on speaking of Him, sharing with others, until their reputation preceded them:

And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; (Acts 17:6 KJV)

Which is less than believable – that two planes with skydivers – and their pilots – can survive a mid-air collision, or that God does so love the world?