IN THE WORKPLACE: Can It Be Like “Building Bricks Without Straw”?

Making Bricks With Straw:

Wikipedia says, ” Bricks without straw is a phrase which refers to a task that must be done without the appropriate resources.”

How many times have you said to yourself and others, “If I only had more schooling, more wisdom, more talent and skills and resources in my life, THEN, I could do my job more efficiently.”  The Israelites in the Old Testament probably had the same conversation.

Exodus 5:1-23 [READ FIRST BEFORE CONTINUING].

How did your last week go for you?  Good?  Bad?  The same old thing again?  Whether you are a student, hold down a job, a full-time homemaker, how did your week go for you?  Were you eager to rise in the morning to get started on the day?  Psalm 17:15 says, “I shall be fully satisfied, when I awake”.  Well, were you fully satisfied when the alarm clock went off at 6 AM?  Or did you dread getting up, having to go to your workplace?

Some People Dread Their Work–PERIOD!

They hate their job and would love to get out of it, but often they can’t.  They feel that they are stuck there until they retire.  Maybe this describes you.  It surely describes a point in my life, where I was in a workplace that I hated for eight years.  I was always stressed, worn-out, and fed-up with my general manager position; but more unhappy with how my boss treated me and the other employees.  I felt like the fictional character in Dante’s Inferno, whose torture on his level of hell was having to roll a large boulder up a hill.  Whenever he finally had rolled it up near the top, he ran out of strength and the boulder rolled back down over him to the bottom of the hill.  He had to go down and start rolling it up all over again.  Sound familiar?

Working Can Be Hard and Torturous:

We all have felt like this about our work at times, even when we have a job we like.  We should have sympathy and what we can learn from the story revealed in Exodus 5: “Building Bricks Without Straw Increases Our Burden and Makes Us Ask… ‘Why’?”  “Why me?”

Why bricks with straw in Egypt? [Exodus 5:6-18]

A few questions arise regarding the use of straw in unbaked mud bricks:

1.  Was straw actually used in ancient times?

2.  Were bricks with straw the common practice in Egypt at the time of Exodus?

3.  Why add straw to unbaked bricks?

4.  What is the significance of this topic?

5.  What does this information have to do with me?

Throughout the Bible lands, straw was used in the making of bricks only in Egypt.  Other lands baked their bricks and it was a common practice in the culture. even in a far earlier period of history, verified by archaeology and in Scripture:

“And as they journeyed eastward, they found a plain (valley) in the land of Shinar, and they settled and dwelt there.  And they said to one another,  Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.  So they had brick for stone, and slime (bitumen) for mortar.  And they said,  Come, let us build us a city and a tower whose top reaches into the sky, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over the whole earth”  (Genesis 11:2-4 AMP).

The Biblically cited practice of adding straw to the bricks in Egypt was done with intent.  It was done so, due to the extreme cost of firing the bricks in a land without an abundant fuel source.  The Egyptians made a brilliant discovery that was not widely known.  Bricks made out of mud and straw made the product three times stronger than dried mud/clay.  The scientific reason was that straw releases humic acid into the mud, assisting in the hardening.

THE SCENE in the WORKPLACE–Exodus 5:

Pharaoh became angry when Moses and his brother Aaron asked, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness” ~ Exodus 5:1.

But Pharaoh said in verse 2“Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?  I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.”

And they said,  “The God of the Hebrews has met with us; let us go, we pray you, three days journey into the desert and sacrifice to the Lord our God…”  verse 3.

The king of Egypt, the head honcho in the workplace said,  “Why do you take the people (the workers) from their jobs?  Get to your burdens!  Behold, the people of the land now are many, and you make them rest from their burdens!”  verse 4-5.

Pharaoh commanded and delegated to the taskmasters, the foremen, the job supervisors,  “You shall no more give the people straw to make brick; let them go and gather straw for themselves”  verse 7.

So, the people then scattered and gathered ‘stubble’ for straw; the leftover scraps in the surrounding fields.  The slave-drivers started cracking the whip, pressing them to meet the task at hand; meeting the quota:  “And the taskmasters were urgent, saying,  Finish your work, your daily quotas, as when there was straw”  verse 13.

Pharaoh Typified the Pagan, Atheistic World:

The Lord means nothing to the unbelieving task-masters.  They hold Him in contempt, hostile to Him and refuse to obey Him.  They can even be hostile to the Lord’s Christian people, taking their contempt for the Lord and His Word out on the Christian employees.  The Christian workplace is made even worse, working for such ungodly people.  Ungodly employers and supervisors don’t care about the Lord or His Word or His people.  The only thing that matters is having warm bodies on the job, doing all the work; production and profits with no waste, losses, or loafing on the job.

When competition is keen or there is a recession in the workplace, their profits are at stake.  So, down-sizing the workforce is inevitable; double the work load for the employees still remaining and expecting those who are left to double the amount of work–without additional compensation.

Should a Christian worker tell his/her boss they can’t work overtime because they intend to go to church to worship the Lord or attend a Bible study?   The boss then becomes angry, thinking the Christian is lazy; uncooperative and gives the Christian employee a hard time.

The 8-Hour work day vanishes, if you are working for companies and corporations that have down-sized and doubled the work loads.  If this is your case right now and you’re working for an unbelieving, non-Christian slave-driver, your situation is not enviable.  Trust me, I have been in this situation more than once in the past.  Your stress level rises up to the peak of Mount Rainier and your patience is down to the level of the abyss.  Your hope for relief seems to have vanished.

Yes, the Lord Knows:

“Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice”  (Isaiah 41:10 AMP).

As for yourself, what can you do to break down those walls at work?  If you are a believer in Jesus, remember you are a redeemed child of God.  Jesus Christ has bought you with His holy, precious blood; cleansing you from your sins and making you an heir to heaven.

In heaven, there are no slave-drivers; no making bricks without straw.  Remembering all this, give yourself to the Lord and do the work that you are doing for Him.  Don’t work to please the slave-drivers to gain recognition for yourself.  Rather, as the apostle Paul wrote;

“Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the Lord and not for men.  Knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [and not from men] that you will receive the inheritance which is your [real] reward.  [The One Whom] you are actually serving [is] the Lord Christ (the Messiah)”  (Colossians 3:22-24).

THE WHY, WHY, WHY S:

“Then Moses turned again to the Lord and said,  O Lord, why have you dealt evil to this people?  Why did You ever send me?”  (Exodus 5:22).

How many times have I asked the Lord, “Why am I in such a workplace like this? Or, “Why did You ever send me to this job?”  We see in Exodus, even Moses became discouraged over the turn of events.

The phrase of “Building Bricks Without Straw” in today’s workplace simple means, ‘You can’t do something correctly without the necessary materials or knowledge.”  I was once working for a Mechanical Contractor in the Seattle area, that had hired me as a purchasing agent for the company.  During the pre-employment orientation,  my supervisor wanted me to do a specific task for which I had little knowledge.  My Christian response was, “If you will teach me, I will learn and do my best at the task.”  Unfortunately, the training never really came.  I decided to “fake it until I make it,” approach, which of course, didn’t or never works.  It was “Building Bricks Without Straw.”

Don’t we ask the same question of the Lord when we are frustrated in the workplace?  “Why Lord…?”  We demand an explanation when times are hard, such as  “Thank You Lord for this job but…why THIS job?”

THE CHRISTIAN AS A LABORER:

Scriptural Passages to Investigate–

The Letters of Paul:

1.  Eph. 6:5-8

2.  Col. 3:22-25

3.  1 Tim. 6:1-3

4.  Titus 2:9-10

The Epistle of Peter:

1.  1 Peter 2:18-20

When you look at the picture below, does it look familiar to your workplace situation?

I recommend that you not write all the above verses down on a piece of paper, but after reading the above Scriptures, write down one or two that lifts you up off the pile of bricks in front of you!  Then, when the stress, the hopelessness arises during the work day, pull it out and read it to yourself.  Trust me, it truly helps!

SCRIPTURAL GUIDELINES FOR LABORERS:

1.  Obey those who are over you [the ‘taskmasters’, ‘slave-drivers’] unless they ask you to do that which is unethical or illegal– Ephesians 6:5.

2.  Work with proper respect and good will toward your boss— Eph. 6:5.

3.  Labor sincerely and heartily as to the Lord and not to men– Eph. 6:6-7.

4.  Do not work only when the boss  is watching or just to please those over you– Eph. 6:6.

5.  Demonstrate that you can be trusted with responsibility.

6.  Offer such service, not just to good employers but to those who are unfair.  In doing so, you are adoring to doctrine of God our Savior.

YOU CAN BE AN EVANGELIST IN THE WORKPLACE:

Concerns to consider:

As Christians, we are to seek and save the lost–it’s a heart mouth connection (Psalm 19:14).  It is our responsibility in obedience:

“Go into all the world and preach and publish openly the good news (the Gospel) to every creature [of the whole human race].  He who believes [who adheres to and trusts in and relies on the Gospel and Him Whom it sets forth] and is baptized will be saved…”  (Mark 16:15-16 AMP).

As workers, we are to give to our employers what an honorable service demands; a proper day’s work for a day’s wages.  Adoring the doctrine of Christ requires that we not pilfer (including time)–Titus 2:10.  The challenge presented in the workplace is properly balancing our efforts ‘to save and our duty to work’.

Involvement in the workplace can become a wonderful opportunity, to be able to provide for one’s self and family and at the same time, serve the Lord; making a positive impact on others.

Let your faith in the workplace be an opportunity to demonstrate the value of a vibrant faith in Christ to reach others for Jesus, including the slave-drivers!

WANTED: More Liberals In the Church!

“Then he said to me, This [addition of the bowl to the candlestick, causing it to yield a ceaseless supply of oil from the olive trees], is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, saying,  Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit [of Whom the oil is a symbol], says the Lord of hosts”  (Zechariah 4:6 AMP).

“…he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and LIBERALITY; he who gives aid and superintends, with zeal and singleness of mind; he who does act of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness”  (Romans 12:8 AMP).

This past Sunday in church, we were blessed by Andrew Damazio as our quest speaker.  The title of his message was,  “10 Signs of a Supernatural Church.” [Acts 2]

As I was having my quiet time this morning, Holy Spirit laid on my heart the above two Bible verses.  As I began to study and uncover the evidences of Sign #7 given in the morning message, I quickly discovered that more liberals are needed in today’s churches.  As Andrew stated, to be a ‘supernatural church’, there are obvious signs.

SIGN #7: Fruit of the Spirit and Giving.

The Golden Lampstand in Zechariah 4:2 is a symbol of divine testimony; the out-shining of God’s glory.

An angel was speaking to Zechariah and said to him, “What do you see? I said, I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with its bowl [for oil] on the top of it and its seven lamps on it, and [there are] seven pipes to each of the seven lamps which are upon the top of it.”

Lying behind all God’s activities with men is the reason for man’s creation; His desire to display His glory.  The human race failed as a whole to realize this grand design.  But the testimony of the glory was taken up by individual witnesses (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and others).  The enormous responsibility rested on their shoulders.

Then the testimony passed from individuals to a nation–Israel.  Ultimately, Israel failed.  So the testimony was  transferred and passed to the Church, consisting of Israelites to whom Gentiles were later added.

The Glory of God certainly blazed up anew in the Church in the beginning (Acts 2).  In the course of time, speaking in general terms, the Church has also failed.  One of the seven churches of Asia, recorded in The Book of revelation was threatened with the entire removal of its Lampstand (Rev.2:5).

The article, as beautiful in itself, has no significance by its mere form (shown in the photo).  But only the light of God blazes out from it.  This is what God is always seeking, the display of His glory in and through His people–His church.

SOLID GOLD–

The Temple’s Menorah and Zachariah’s Menorah are made from solid gold, symbolizing the light of God’s truth to the world.  Gold symbolizes holiness and purity.

THE BOWL–

The bowl is filled with Olive oil which is the source for the oil which in turn feeds the lamp.  In the Temple, the job of the priest was to maintain the oil.  Here in the bowl, it is over the lamp feeding the lamp oil directly from the Olive trees.

SEVEN LAMPS–

From the center pipe, six pipes branched out, ending with lamps.  Exodus 25:37 gives a description of the seven lamps on the Menorah.  Jesus, when He appeared to John in Revelation, chapter 1 was in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.  The lamps represented the seven churches; Christ light to the nations through the church.

TWO OLIVE TREES–

They stood near the lampstand, to the left and right of the bowl.  Beaten olive oil was fuel for the Menorah of the Tabernacle and the Temple.  Olive oil was also the chief ingredient of anointing oil used in anointing kings and priests (Exodus 30:24).

The question before us in Zechariah 4:11; if the vision essentially shows a solution of continual beating, storing and dispensing of oil, then what does the interpretation in verses 6 thru 10 mean?

The interpreting angel gives us the answer:  “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit [of Whom the oil is a symbol], says the Lord of hosts” (verse 6).

The lamp of Exodus was maintained by human endeavor in obedience to a God-given plan.  The lamp of Zechariah omits the need of human endeavor.  The vision is all about the oil and the interpretation is all about the Holy Spirit.

The puzzle of verses 6-10 is, while God clearly asserts it was going to be done through His Spirit and then emphasized, the Spirit will be the working agency of the human hand.  How does this all relate to the signs of a “Supernatural Church”?

Anointing oil’s significance is to be “anointed”; to be made sacred (consecrated); to be set apart and dedicated to serve God; to be endowed with enabling gifts and grace; to be divinely designated, inaugurated, chosen for some purpose in this life of ours.  We know this subject is important to God because the words anoint, anointed, and anointing appear more than 150 Spirit-inspired verses including 22 New Testament Scriptures.  If you are a born-again believer in Christ Jesus, you are “anointed.”  You are priests; prince and princes; heirs to the throne of God.  Say to yourself out loud, “I am anointed” [I will bring this out againin Romans 12:8].

The English word anoint is derived from ancient Latin;  inunctus, “smear with oil.”  Anointing was appropriated to equip us for the task of giving.  When God calls, He qualifies, He equips and He has already prepared us to be givers through the Holy spirit.

GLORY IN THE HEART–Romans 12:6-8:

“Blessed [are you–happy, fortunate, to be envied, with life-joy, and satisfaction in God’s favor and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of your outward condition], because the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God, is resting upon you”  (1 Peter 4:14 AMP).

Can you feel the GLORY resting on your shoulders right now?   A quick observation on the gifts and ministries of the Spirit.  There is a reason for gifts of the Spirit; something of the nature and attributes of God shown through God’s people; the Church.  Not the church building, for we are the church; we have the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God resting on our shoulders.

Examples:

The gift of exhortation is a glimpse into how God exhorts, urges, presses, spurs, warns us (Romans 12:8).

The gift of giving is a glimpse into how God desires to lavish upon us things for our good.  The giving of the gifts given is for our edification; it enables us to get a glimpse of the nature of God as He personally works in the lives of His people.  The more you exercise your giving, the better others are able to see how the particular area of life in the Body works itself out in their own lives.  I might not have the gift of evangelism but…if I want to know how to evangelize, then I should seek someone in the Body (the church) who God has gifted in that area.  Someone might not have the gift of teaching but…if that person wanted to get a handle on how to instruct, let’s say his children, you may want to observe how that gift is being used by a teacher, who wants to give then glean from him or her.  So we shouldn’t think we’re not given a particular gift by the Spirit.  At the same time, we’re not responsible for seeking to please God in areas outside our particular giving or gifts.   The gift of giving goes beyond what we think or even imagine God expects from us.

OUR CAUTION–Romans 12:8:

The last part of verse 8 deals with our attitudes; our heart condition as we do the giving.  Most people think that when we talk about “giving”, we are talking about money; tithes and offerings.  That is true, but giving is much more.

Picture for just a minute a curtain rod attached above your bedroom window.  Hanging from the rod are curtains from top to bottom.  If one end of the curtain rod falls down on the carpet, then everything else slip off the rod into a pile.  Do you have a clear picture of that pile on the floor?

Now suppose that curtain rod that’s holding everything up, is called the LOVE ROD.  Hanging on the rod is your giving, your faith, prophecy, teaching, encouraging, giving aid, practical service…   Everything hangs on the LOVE ROD!  If the ‘love rod’ slips and falls, then everything hanging on it will land on the floor of despair in a heap.

Verses 9 of Romans 12 adds, “[Let your] love be sincere (a real thing)”; without hypocrisy or selfishness.  What’s LOVE got to do with your giving?  EVERYTHING!

Paul mentions three gifts:

1.  GIVING.

2.  RULING.

3.  SHOWING MERCY.

He tells us how our giving is to be administered in the exercising of all spiritual gifts.  Paul says the giving is to be used with, SIMPLICITY, DILIGENCE and CHEERFULNESS.

Simplicity–means “with sincerity; free from mental pretense and hypocrisy.”  Whether it is giving or any other exercise of spiritual gifts.  Our giving must be from a pure heart as ministers of Jesus.  Without thoughts of self; serving Him for His glory and not for our own personal gain.

Diligence–the word means “with haste” (Our word “speed” comes from this word); earnestness striving after something.  It refers to seeing the urgency of the moment, of some need around us, then reaching out to make a difference in the lives of others while still time.

Cheerfulness–This word means “with excited joy and readiness of mind.”  We get the English word “hilarious” from the Greek word.  Giving in the service of God should fill our hearts with unbridled joy, excitement.  Can you just imagine what it would be like in church during the “tithes and offerings” segment of the service and people gave “with excited joy and readiness of mind”?  Not faking it until you make it but from the heart.  It might even be called a “Supernatural Church”!

A “SUPERNATURAL CHURCH” IN THE COMMUNITY:

Romans 12:8 says, than when we do the giving, “let him do it in simplicity and liberality..”  That is where I got the idea for the title of this blog post:  WANTED: More Liberals in the Church.  You probably were a bit confused at first but hopefully you get the idea; people who are giving liberally will become a supernatural church!

The idea in a “supernatural church” is the giving as we serve and an excited heart; giving glory to your church because you want to!  Witnessing, tithing because you want to!  Being in a supernatural church is all about what the Lord wants you and I to be!


Lying Exposed: “The TRUTH Said” About Lying

“But as for the cowards and the ignoble and the contemptible and the cravenly lacking in courage and the cowardly submissive, and as for the depraved and defiled with abominations, and as for murderers and the lewd and adulterous and the practicers of magic arts and the idolaters (those who give supreme devotion to anyone or anything other than God) and all liars (those who knowingly convey untruth by word or deed)–[all of these shall have] their part in the lake of fire and brimstone.  This is the second death”  (Revelation 21:8 AMP).

First of all, this blog is not about “fire and brimstone”.  Although I don’t want to ignore the evidence either.

In my detective work into the TRUTH this week, regarding the subject matter of “The Truth Said About Lying”; how being honest with God and in our human relationships can set you free, I ran across this quote by an unknown man with the surname of Vance.

“Man is like a bird until he lives for Eternity.  He is like a prisoner in a cell until He gives the Eternal within him expression.  Just as the ripples of the meadow-brook reproduce the swell of the ocean tides towards which the brook flows; and just as the music of the rivulet in its eddies echoes the lap of the mighty sea on the beach where some day the rivulet will measure its waters; so the voices within us are the voices of the larger life for which we are destined and towards which we are going.”

THERE ARE THREE KINDS OF LIARS: “To be set free!”

1.  The man/woman who others can’t believe.  He is harmless.  Let him alone.

2.  The man/woman who can’t believe others.  He has probably made a careful study of human nature.  If you don’t put him in jail, he will find out that you are a hypocrite.

3.  The man who can’t believe himself.  He is a cautious individual.  Encourage him.

Two Irishmen were working on the roof of a building one day when one made a misstep and fell to the ground.  The other leaned over and called:

“Are yez dead or alive, Mike?”

“Oi’m alive,” said Mike feebly.

“Sure you’re a liar Oi don’t know, whether to belave yez or not.”

“Well then, Oi must be dead” said Mike, “for yez would never dare to call me a liar if Oi was aloive.”

THE TRUTH ABOUT LYING:

We all do it in one form or another, without thinking about it; even several times a day.  According to psychotherapist Brad Blantan, pioneer of the much talked about ‘radical honest movement’ with a secular point of view: ‘TRUTH-TELLING is the essential foundation to psychological health and we can only transform our lives for the better.” Lies, he believes, leave an ’emotional strain’ on our relationships.  Instead of hiding the truth, we concentrate on expressing ‘every underlying thought and emotion–even anger, resentment, and outright loathing!

According to Professor DePaul’s viewpoint is that ‘often lies are told out of kindness being the most common.  Most people lie like this at least once a day.’   She calls them the ‘sweet little white lies.’

“But what if its just a little one, …a ‘little white lie?’

Suppose someone sold a piece of property for $300,000.00 and then gave $100,000.00 to the local church.  But they said they gave the entire proceeds of the sale to the church.  You might say, “Praise God!  They are blessing the church and their generosity will be rewarded by God.”

We then tell the church members, friends and neighbors, all our relatives what wonderful blessing these people are to the church.  Then someone tells us that the actual sale was for $300,000.00; the people that we had boasted about to everyone had lied.  But we are so glad to get the money, we don’t think a little misrepresentation of the amount is going to matter.  They were really generous, weren’t they?  After all, we don’t want to anger them and hurt their feelings do we?  After all, it’s just a ‘little white lie.’

Enter Ananias and Sapphira.

You’ve more-than-likely read the text in Acts 5:1-11 before.  If not, you might to read it now before going on.

You know that Ananias sold a piece of property and laid the money at the apostle’s feet.  What a wonderful thing!  It was so wonderful that God struck him dead.

The man claimed he gave the entire proceeds from the sale to the church while keeping back a part of the price for himself.  The problem here is, not that he kept back a part of the price but that he lied about the portion that he gave.  What was in his heart that made him lie?

To whom did he lie?  Satan!

To whom did he lie to?  He lied to the Holy spirit.

The deception was conceived in his heart:  “Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life”  (Proverbs 4:23).  God already knew what he and his wife had done but when Sapphira entered three hours later, she was required to give an answer; that she conspired with her husband, to ‘test the Spirit of the Lord.’

‘White Lie’ Definition:

The Free Dictionary says, “An often trivial, diplomatic or well-intentional untruth; a minor or unimportant lie, especially one uttered in the interest of tact or politeness.”

The End of ALL Liars – Revelation 21:8:

Re-read and study the words closely in this verse.  Does the words say, “and all liars except the tellers of the ‘little white ones’?  And oh, do you notice the company the teller of lies keeps?  COWARDS, THE CONTEMPTIBLE, THE CRAVENLY LACKING IN COURAGE, THE UNBELIEVING AND FAITHLESS, THE DEPRAVED, MURDERERS, THE LEWD AND ADULTEROUS, THE PRACTICE RS OF MAGIC ARTS, THE IDOLATERS.

That is a pretty long list in my opinion.  My mother always told me ‘you can be identified by the company you keep.’

And ALL Liars”— “Big Ones” or “Little Ones”: Who ARE The Liars?  The Answers in God’s Word!

“All who are false in their statements, their promises, their contracts.”

The Word would embrace all who are false toward God (Acts 5:1-3).

False toward human beings (Romans 1:31-32).

In Revelation 21:8, in the Greek language everyone or ALL the liars who speak contrary to the truth, who speak the truth with the intention to deceive, ie – ‘to persuade a person that a thing is different from what it really is by telling only part of the truth; or suppressing some circumstance which would have led the hearer to a different end to the true conclusion.’

Lying, falsehood, error, deceit — Biblical References:

1.  OLD TESTAMENT:

Exodus 20:16; Proverbs 6:12;Lying lips are extremely disgusting and hateful to the Lord” ~ Proverbs 12:22.

2.  Varying Greek words in the NEW TESTAMENT: pseudes, pseudomai, pseuda, pseustes – False lies:

a- Ephesians 4:25; 1 John 2:22;  “Do not lie to one another, for you have stripped off the old (unregenerate) self with its evil practices” ~ Colossians 3:9 AMP.

– Greek words apatas, apate, exapatao – deceive:

b- Ephesians 4:22, Ephesians 5:6; Galatians 6:3.

– Greek words plane, planos – deception, error:

c- Matthew 24:4; Galatians 6:7; Ephesians 4:14.

– Greek words dolios, dolioo, dolos, doloo – false, deceitful:

d- Mark 7:22; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Peter 2:1.

SOME BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF LYING:

1.  Serpent~ Genesis 3:1-5.

2.  Cain ~ Genesis 4:9.

3.  Abraham ~ Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18.

4.  Isaac ~ Genesis 26:6-11.

5.  Jacob ~ Genesis 27:6-35.

6.  Laban ~ Genesis 29:15-30.

7.  Hebrew midwives ~ Exodus 1:15-30.

8.  Rehab ~ Joshua 21:6; 6:17, 22-25.

9.  Ananias and Sapphira ~ Acts 5:1-11.

Spiritual source of lies, deception, error–God cannot lie; contrary to His character of truth:

a- Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:18; Titus 1:2; John 8:32, 36; 1 John 2:27.

Lying is the character of Satan:

a- John 8:44; 1 John 4:6; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:10.

Fallen mankind identified with Satan’s character:

a- 2 Corinthians 11:3; Romans 1:25 – Psalm 58:3 says, “The ungodly are perverse and estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.”  PORKY PIES says, “We start consciously telling lies at the age of six.”

Lying, deception, falsehood in man derived from Satan – ek. diabolas

a- John 8:44; Acts 5:3, 4.

Christian behavior should represent and manifest God’s character of TRUTH:

“Let you Yes be simply Yes, and your No be simply No; anything more than that comes from the evil one” ~ Matthew 5:37

a- Ephesians 4:15, 25.

Should not misrepresent the character of God:

Luke 3:14; Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9.  INCONSISTENCY of such misrepresentations; James 3:14; 1 Peter 2:1; 1 John 1:6;

“If anyone says, I love God and hates his brother [in Christ], he is a liar… ~ 1 John 4:20.

SEVERITY of PUNISHMENT:  Acts 5:1-11; 13:6-11; Revelation 21:8, 27; Revelation 22:15.

Religion is the hotbed of lying, deceit, falsehood and error:

John 8:44, 45; Romans 16:18; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 11:3, 13-15; Ephesians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:13; 2 Peter 2:3; 3:17; 1 John 2:26; 2 John 7; Jude 14.

WHAT SHOULD ONE’S ACTION PROGRAM AGAINST LYING BE?

1.  One must not exaggerate in a wrong, lying way.  In other words, not to “color” one’s speech with untrue things; not to use or imply superlatives (SUPERIORITY) – in resumes, job interviews, social get-together s, etc.

2.  One must not use “little white lies” (lie even in the smallest way–you’re still a liar!).

3.  One must not lie, but often use wisdom and diplomacy; carefully selecting one’s words before you speak–or just keep quiet.  These are many things which must be kept secret.

4.  One must not be a ‘living lie.’  Pretending to be a Christian believer but failing to personally study the bible in depth.

5.  One must not spread lies of others any further (“The Rumor Mill”).

— In regards to religious matters.  To avoid that trap, one must study to know the Bible thoroughly, personally, and first-hand.

— Also, if one supports churches and pastors who deceive people, then one takes part in their work of deception; becomes a liar and deceiver themselves.  Consider what the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus and Colosse:

“And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness”  (Ephesians 4:24 AMP).

“Do not lie to one another, for you have stripped off the old (unregenerate) self with its evil practices”  (Colossians 3:9 AMP).

Again, one must keep away from lying by acting in LOVE and keeping certain things in secret.

LYING is wrong.  WRONG-DOING has its consequences:

God can forgive one’s lies if one leaves the way of lying and asks for forgiveness (repentance).  ‘I’m sorry’ is not repentance.  Repentance is the transformation, the complete renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).  But that doesn’t mean one escapes the practical consequence of one’s lies.

When I was a child, my mother would say, “I always know Mel when you are lying.  Always tell me the truth and you won’t suffer the consequences. In the early 1950s, “detention” was not part of the punishment; it was Capital Punishment, Eucalyptus twigs and dad’s belt.  Did I still lie?  Sorry to say, yes I did but telling the truth has been ‘tattooed’ on my psyche forever.

Believers must NOT lie, but to be honest and dependable in everything they do.

Those who are around Christian Believers must be able to trust them.  Consider even this:  If someone lies just once, will people trust one after that?  But again, this does not mean one should always tell all that one knows–of course not.  Many things must be kept private without telling anyone.  Jesus answered the Pharisees question, of which kind of commandment is great and important in the Law in Matthew 22.  Notice His plain and simple reply in verse 37-40:

“You shall love the Lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect)This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself.  These two commandments sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

“Have LOVE for your neighbor as for yourself.”  Follow that rule in your speech, your answers; see to it that certain things, regardless how true they might be are left unsaid.  So, one must not always say or tell all one knows–but, if one intentionally gives a wrong impression of some given matter by omission (by leaving out something), then that can amount to lying.

A NOTE:  There are many forms of lying;

1.  Giving false witness or false statements: In our Judicial System, that is called “perjury” and punished by the courts.

2.  Attests or declarations:  Same as lying.

3.  Giving or making a false appearance to others:  That’s a ‘liar’.

4.  Also cheating such as at study tests:  Yep, that’s lying.

I could go on and on with exposing the truths about lying.  But I think this Blog Post has given you a pretty good idea what God’s Word has to say about the subject.  If lying has become real to you and your lifestyle, pause and pray with me this prayer:

Father, my life has been full of untruths lately.  I repent of my lying;

being not truthful on many occasions, to others and myself.

Please forgive me and have your Spirit direct me down the path of righteousness.

In Your Son’s Name Jesus.

Amen


Peeling An Onion: The Many Layers of Biblical Prophesy

WARNING TO READERS OF THIS BLOG POST!

Please grab your Bible before the investigation of “onion peeling” begins!  I’ll wait for you.

The Many Layers: DUALITY VS TRIALITY

I view Bible study as a person peeling an onion.  There are many layers and as you peel the onion, it gets stronger the farther down to the core you get.

Herbert W. Armstrong followers say that Bible prophecy was often dual in nature.  There was “a duality” where the prophecy came true, not just once but multiple times.  I would suggest this about “duality”- it’s limiting.  Think of one that has already occurred twice and will again:  The Abomination of Desolation.

There is also a prophecy about Tyrus that occurred in the past and may yet be repeated (Ezekiel 26:2-14).  This at the same time is one of the most amazing prophesies, yet often, the most abused.

First, what did they get right?  Tyre was an ancient seaport city, an island off the mainland that was part of the city.  An allowance was made for those passing through, to stay on the island part of the city, rather than tie up traffic on the mainland.  It gave Tyre a real advantage, in that it was able to take on approximately of twice as much traffic in a typical port city.

Notice what God says, “I” am against Tyre (Ezek. 26:3).  He is personally orchestrating these events.  God says He will “cause many nations to come up against you.”  Now in verse 4, notice that “they” shall destroy walls and towers or buildings.  But then God will scrape her dust from her.  This is a recorded event to prevent Nebuchadnezzar from getting her valuables:  “Tyre transported herself to an island a half mile out in the sea.  The conqueror destroyed the city on the mainland and left.  But more than two centuries later, Alexander the Great took the ruins of the old city, even scraping up the dust, and made a causeway to the island, thus fulfilling the prophecy exactly” [Amplified Bible footnote: page 1221]; (Ezekiel 26:12).

However, it was not yet “scraped”.  Wikipedia points out, “Jesus visited Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 15:21; Mk. 7:25).  In fact, while much of the island is in ruins, there is still a modern city remaining.”

It is true, part of the island is used for fish nets, prompting some to declare the prophecy in Ezekiel 26 as “fulfilled”.  However, as you can see in the above photo, the entire island is not a wasteland.

This is the difficulty–or maybe not.  Ezekiel 26:14 simply says, “you shall never be rebuilt” and that hasn’t happened; the ruins still stand.  The parts that have been rebuilt are not on the ancient ruins; the ruins today are a great tourist attraction.

Still, you have to admit, the ruins still stand and there is abundant activity upon the island.  Then there is verse 19 to consider:  “For thus says the Lord God: When I make you a desolate city like the cities that are not inhabited, when I bring up the deep over you and great waters cover you.”

The Key is not DUAL, but TREBLE:

verse 3:  “I’

verse 4:  “They”

verse 7:  “I will bring…Nebuchadnezzar”

verses 8-11:  “They” – obviously referring to Alexander the Great and perhaps other that came after.

verses 13-14:  “I” – the wording reverts back to “I”.

It appears the scraping will continue, as it came in waves before and after Nebuchadnezzar.  However, not to be “under water” until God, “I” comes along to “make you Tyre a bare rock” (verse 14).  That is when they will be “built no more.”

While you can argue the new developments don’t wipe out the prophecy, it is another to state the island is already under water.  Indeed, verse 21 tells us plainly, even the ruins will not survive because “Though you be sought, yet you shall never be found again.”

THE DEPTH OF THE BIBLE:

The Bible is not a book you can just read once, then set aside.  A Christian must keep his or her nose in “the book.”  Multiple lessons that can be gleaned from various passages must be read then meditated upon; until God’s Spirit says something to your spirit.

History always repeats itself.

King Solomon says In Ecclesiastes:

“That which is now already has been, and that which is to be already has been; and God seeks that which has passed by [so that history repeats itself]”  (Ecclesiastes 3:15 AMP).

The Book of Esther has many layers and lessons to be gleaned.  However, prophecy is portrayed in a multilayer.  Not only can it occur over a long period of time but specific prophecies repeat themselves.  Unlike some Jewish rabbis and scholars, the Book of Esther’s history not only can be repeated but it does!  A question then comes-up:  Is the lesson about how we ourselves take control of or should it be “Thy Kingdom come”?

The Three Layers of The Book of Esther:

The first layer is the historic truth.  The events that took place were approximately 500 years before Christ.  Esther, along with Song of Songs are the only books of the Bible that the name of God is not mentioned directly.  God’s sovereignty is demonstrated in both books, Esther perhaps more than any other.

The second layer is a foreshadowing of the gospel: Haman is an image of Satan and Mordecai of Jesus.

The Bible says the crucifixion was planned before the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8; 1 Peter 1:20).  Therefore, all the events of the Law and the Prophets, orchestrated by God is in expectation of the crucifixion (Luke 24:26-27; Acts 2:30-31; 1 Peter 1:10-11).

There is no word for “cross” in the Old Testament and that is why the apostles sometimes referred to the cross in Hebrew “ets” (Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:39, 13:29).  Ets” can mean “tree,” “wood” or “a wooden structure.”

In the Book of Esther, “ets” appears in 7 passages; the place of execution (Esther 2:23, 5:14, 6:4, 7:9, 8:7, 9:13, 9:25), which translated as “gallows”.

Villains were executed by hanging on this wooden structure and in the story of Esther, the righteous hero is almost hanged there.  Then the same wooden structure suddenly transformed the situation of defeat to victory.  Like Israel on Mount Moriah, Joseph in the pit and Jonah in the fish.

Mordecai is almost killed then miraculously saved, then elevated to second place in the kingdom having his throne above all other thrones.

The third layer in the Book of Esther is interpreted symbolically, foreshadowing end time prophecies.

Haman symbolizes the Antichrist and Esther, the interceding Church with Mordecai, the Messianic Jewish movement.  The historical events took place in Persia which is equivalent to modern-day Iran.

There was an evil man called for the destruction of the Jews, like Ahmadinejad is today.  There was a confederation of 127 nations during Esther’s time, reminiscent of the United Nations.

The closet word I could find in biblical Hebrew for “antichrist” was the word “tsorer.”  Haman is referred to as “tsorer” four times and translated “enemy” (Esther 3:10, 8:1, 9:10, 9:24).  Like Haman, the Antichrist will try to kill Yeshua (Jesus) and (Christians); unite the nations and attack Israel (Revelation 13; Ezekiel 38-39; Zechariah 12-14).

The root of antisemitism found Esther 3:6:

“But he (Haman) scorned laying hands on Mordecai.  So since they had told him Mordecai’s nationality, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews”.  Where this satanic figure, so offended at the Messiah figure, not satisfied just to kill the Messiah but he wanted revenge on all his relatives. (anti-Semitic, anti-Christ, anti-Christian spirits come from the same source).

Esther is a beautiful model, today’s, “Bride of Christ”; the Church (Ephesians 5:23-32; Revelation 12).  She’s enjoying bridal intimacy of worship with the king.  She has Jewish roots but no one knows her secret.  She tries to avoid the current circumstances, yet gets caught up in the horrible tribulation concerning the Jews.

She is challenged prophetically; her own destiny and her privilege of bridal intimacy for the purpose of interceding for salvation of Israel (Esther 4:14; Romans 11:11-15).

Though Esther is traumatized by the calling, she risks her life with intercession for the Jewish people.  She decides to accept her prophetic destiny through her beauty, grace, prayer, and fasting.  The pending disaster turned to victory; the kingdom delivered to the saints (Many who know of bridal intimacy with Jesus Christ, are being called to end time Esther s today.

During these events in the Book of Esther “many of the people s of the earth became Jews” (Esther 8:17).  This signifies two things for us to see:

1.  A great harvest of souls for the gospel during the Tribulation.

2.  Many saints reconnecting to the covenants of Israel, the Jewish roots of faith.

THE “CORE” OF THE ONION:

The Book of Esther points to a positive prophetic destiny for the nation of Iran.  While Persia was the source of conflict to antisemitism, it is also the source, the “core” of the onion of the faith bringing victory.

The great kings of Persia, Cyrus and Ahasuerus, covenanted  with the people of Israel 1000 years before Islam.  Their roots are in biblical faith and not Islam.  Their partnership goes back more than 2,500 years.  I believe there will be a strong underground Church in Iran in the end times, if not already there today.  Growing in numbers, standing in faith and identifying with the remnant of Israel.

The Micro-scale and Macro-scale of Peeling the Onion:

The real answer on the micro-scale is that we believers, in today’s churches, are responsible for our actions in bringing out problems and plans before God.  On the macro-scale side, we really need God’s Kingdom here directing all of humanity.

On both scales, we need to make our choices within the framework God has laid down in His law; His Word.  It is the breaking of His law that causes all the suffering and problems we see all around us.  It’s the not seeking Him out that causes the most pain in the world.

I hope the next time you find yourself peeling an onion in the kitchen, you are careful to notice all the layers.  And when you get down to the “core”…who knows what you will find.

Discipleship In Apprenticeship (Part Two)

An Apprentice in Training

And then there’s the THIRD MOMENT in our Apprenticeship:

Bartimaeus Followed Jesus

More precisely, Mark tells us that Bartimaeus “accompanied Jesus on the road” (Mark 10:52 AMP).  There is no substitute for “following“.  Mark uses several metaphors to speak of discipleship.  But Mark’s favorite metaphors are:

the Way,

the Road,

the Journey,

Venture.

Over and over again Mark refers to Jesus as walking on the road with His disciples as they accompany Him as He teaches them all.  It is while they are walking the Way, their understanding grows of the truth of God; small at first then filled out and fruitful.

What is Apprenticeship?

According to the literature handed out at many Trade Union Headquarters, its “a combination of on-the-job training with related classroom instruction under supervision of a journey-level person.  Where the workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects.  After completion of the apprenticeship program, the worker’s journey-level status provides an additional mobility journeyman.”

It’s on the Way; on-the-job training where in the process disciples learn.  Not merely the meaning of discipleship but more importantly…how to live it.

It’s on the Way they learn what it is to have their profession of loyalty to Him, colliding with a world that ridicules loyalty and mocks the idea of discipleship.  We should see immediately that what counts above al else concerning discipleship training, isn’t how much we understand but it’s what we do with even a little that we understand.

Speaking for myself, I have long thought many people think of discipleship in Christ’s company, as something like going to school.  That is partly due to the many church programs entitle “Discipleship Training.”  The school curriculum has to be learned so discipleship has to be learned.  The problem arises, while school learning is largely abstract–we have to learn historical concepts, scientific theories, mathematical axioms.  While school learning is abstract, discipleship is entirely solid as concrete.

When Jesus came upon some people who claimed to be His followers yet preferred the abstract to the ‘concrete’, He turned things around on them and said, “Why do you call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’ and yet you dont do what I command you?”

If we want to learn what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ, we mustn’t think it’s like going to school.  Instead we must understand its like being that apprentice; the plumber; the brick layer who doesn’t read 30 books and announce “I think I’ve got it now!”  They learn from a journeyman plumber or brick layer.  He or she learns on the job while doing, while observing; learning through many mistakes that the attending journeyman corrects in their doing.

Disciples live in the company of Jesus Christ.  He is both the Way we are to follow our companion on the Way, both simultaneously.  Discipleship isn’t armchair acquisition of theories and axioms about the Christian life.  Discipleship is a matter of doing in the company of our Journeyman, who has done it all before us.  It is far more important we live a little, that we understand; than it is to understand much then fail to live it.

Once Jesus had made Bartimaeus to see, He didn’t say, “You’d better start studying for the exam.”  What Jesus did say, “follow Him!”  Bartimaeus was to follow-up his deliverance from blindness with following after Jesus forever.  There is no substitute for following.

While there is certainly no substitute, there are many evasions, side-steps to avoiding the Way; venturing off the Road.  Paul Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is the allegorical tale of Christian the pilgrim on his journey to the Celestial City.  Along the way, Christian encounters ‘side-steps’ and ‘evasions’ in his travels.  Although the book was written over three hundred years ago, this stirring narrative still bears the power to challenge and encourage readers on their own spiritual journeys.

One side-step is doing nothing;

Doing nothing while throwing around religious clichés, stock expressions, code-words on the church front.  Some examples might be peppering our conversation with words such as “saved”, “blood”, “the almighty” and so on.  Now there is nothing wrong with the words by themselves, but it’s often assumed when used, they must be from a long-time follower on the Road.  At the same time, if someone doesn’t use this vocabulary or can’t, it’s assumed she hasn’t even begun the journey.  Both assumptions are false!  To often tossing out the Christian code words often is a cover-up in evading the Road.  The test of discipleship isn’t what we say but what we do.  That’s why the apostle Paul write, “If you are children of the light, then walk in the light.” ~ Ephesians 5:8

Another evasion is substituting rites and rituals of the church for faith and obedience;

Baby Dedication as a sign of God in His mercy, makes a provision for this particular child in anticipation of the day she or he owns, owns for herself, owns for herself in faith.  The provision of grace and mercy that God has fashioned for any given family.  But if we think that Baby Dedications as a substitute for faith and obedience that anticipates, then we are dabbling in voodoo.  Do I think Baby Dedication is wrong?  Absolutely not.  The reasons for doing so in substituting a church practice for obedience is the issue here.

In the service of Dedication, parents declare publicly that they themselves, at this moment are walking the Road.  They want their children to come to walk with them.  If, however, the parents think Baby Dedication in the church renders the child’s subsequent discipleship, they are being deceived.

Only One Thing Matters:

When Jesus called His disciples to follow Him; urged them to follow ever closer, He knew and they knew that they understood very little.  They in fact likely understood only one matter:  Life in His company was going to be better than life not in His company, being sure their understanding grew.

Mark’s understanding swelled…until he could write the gospel narrative.

Peter’s understanding was enlarged…until he could write his unparalleled letters.

But they didn’t begin there, they began with a simple following, perforated with:

— incorrect assumption;

silly rationalizations;

glaring mistakes;

sometimes a zeal which overwhelmed wisdom in their doing.

All that mattered was that now, they were on the Road, undertaking the journey as apprentices; learning from the Journeyman Himself.

Receiving the Light:

If we have received only enough light for one step, let’s be sure to take that one step.  Does it ever occur to us we can take only one step at a time in any case?  Does it ever occur to us that Jesus Christ is light; enough for one more step today and we go ahead and take it?  And then that same Light will be bright enough for another step tomorrow?

“The Making of a Disciple” begins with Bartimaeus:  Our need of illumination and resources for living brings us to shout out to Jesus, “Have mercy on me”.  It all begins as we hear our Lord’s response to our cries; take heart and have courage since help is around the corner.  It matures as we follow Him on the Way every day, receiving greater confirmation.  He is the Way only because He’s also Truth.  And for this reason will prove to be our life.

“But he who practices truth [who does what is right] comes out into the Light; so that his works may be plainly shown to be what they are–wrought with God [divinely prompted, done with God’s help, in dependence upon Him]”  (John 3:21).

I pray that the focus on following Jesus in discipleship has been enlightening in your apprenticeship.  If it has, you are well on the Way to be filled and fruitful life!

Disciples In Apprenticeship (Part One)

THE CRUCIAL CONVERGENCE:

Several years ago William Nolan, an American surgeon, wrote a bestseller entitled: The Making of a Surgeon.  I didn’t personally read the entire book, but the book reviews remarked, ‘”it describes the fundamental cost of a medical education; the sacrifice one makes to acquire surgical expertise; the disruptions to the family life as emergencies have to be dealt with; the low pay of an intern and the resident.”  Part of the book’s purpose was to justify to the public the staggering incomes of American surgeons enjoy and to improve the public image of MDs.

Mark the apostle has written a bestseller too!  “The Making of a Disciple”.

Mark addresses the matter of discipleship more thoroughly than any other gospel writer.  Unlike Dr. Nolan, however, Mark doesn‘t write through the leading of the Spirit, to justify huge incomes of disciples (Disciples, he knows are promised anything but riches.)  Neither does he write to improve the public image of disciples (It’s impossible to improve the public image of those who follow an unkempt Jew, soon to be executed between two terrorists at a city garbage dump.)

Then why has Mark written this book?  I uncovered possibly two reasons:

FIRST–He wishes to encourage those who are disciples now and how they became Jesus’ disciples; to give them a fresh heart in the view of the savagery in front of them through the emperor Nero.

SECONDLY–Mark is confident in his writing that God will use this book, “The Making of a Disciple” to enlist even more disciples of Jesus Christ.

When John Mark wrote his gospel for Christians from Rome in the year of 65, there were five “house churches” and five small congregations within a city populated with approximately one million people.  Think of that for a moment:  100 Christians approximately, in a city of one million.  Obviously, church discipleship programs were not very popular in a time of persecution involving five house churches.  Mark wrote his gospel to encourage these people and to enlist others who weren’t disciples yet.

THREE QUESTIONS:

. Then how does one become a disciple?

. What characteristics are attributed to those who have been enlisted?

. What distinguishes disciples from onlookers?

I won’t take the time of course to examine the entire Gospel of Mark, so I chose to examine one small section that encapsulates the process where disciples are made.  The section I chose was exactly where I had been reading in my morning devotions this week.

THE FIRST MOMENT of DISCIPLESHIP–Bartimaeus was BLIND:  Mark 10:46-52

When Jesus was coming up out of Jericho on His way to Jerusalem for the Passover Celebration, He stopped… after hearing the poor blind beggar sitting along the roadside, crying for mercy.  At the sound of his cries, we are told that “Jesus stood still!”

“Then Joshua spoke to the Lord on the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, and he said in the sight of Israel,  Sun, be silent and stand still…and you, moon.    And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed…   There was no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man”  (Joshua 10:12-14).

Is there a thing more remarkable than “Jesus Stood Still”?  In Joshua, there was one thing to cause the sun to stand still.  But here in the gospel of Mark, we have before us a man who cause the God who made the sun to stand still.

[46] “Then they came to Jericho.  And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, a son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.    [47] And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, saying, Jesus, Son of David, have pity and mercy on me [now]!  [48] And many severely censured and reproved him, telling him to keep still, but he kept on shouting out all the more,  You Son of David, have pity and mercy on me [now]!  [49] And Jesus stopped (stood still!) and said, Call him.  And they called the blind man, telling him, Take courage! [Take heart!] Get up!  He is calling you”  (Mark 10:46-49 AMP).

What a wonderful, amazing picture we have before us.  The Omnipotent God stopped in His tracks; held in place by the cry of a needy soul for His mercy.  He was on His way to Jerusalem to accomplish the redemption of His people to fulfill the will of His Father.  Nothing could stop Him; nothing could detour Him from His work:

.  Not Herod!

.  Not Satan!

.  Not the Pharisees!

.  Not His Disciples!

But one solitary, helpless soul…one beggar crying for mercy, looking for help and believing Him, crying to Him– stopped the Son of God in His tracks…And Jesus stood still.”

In the 1st Century, there was no N.F.B available (National Federation of the Blind); no social assistance programs.  Blindness always entailed poverty.  Bartimaeus was blind and poor symbolically; he lacked both enlightenment and resources.  Yet he had heard the man from Nazareth, Jesus, was in the neighborhood.

“Called out in a shout”:

Sitting on the well-traveled road, he must have heard the people in the vicinity talking about the approaching Jesus and His disciples.  He began shouting, hoping this man could relieve him of his darkness and his resourcelessness.

The first moment in the making of a disciple is a clear admission.  That, however much we may know, or how much expertise we think we have in a matter; when it comes to a deep-seated issue of life, we haven’t a clue how blind and poor we really are.

Be sure to notice one thing in this story:

Bartimaeus doesn’t have any understanding of Jesus.  He doesn’t call out “Son of God” or “Savior” or “Lord”.  Any of these endearing terms would mean he had recognized the deity, the Incarnate One.  He can only affirm Jesus is related to Israel’s great king David.  Now “son of David” means “Messiah”.  So was Bartimaeus possessed with unusual foresight?  Absolutely not!  More than likely, in his desperation he called out to the wonder-worker, hoping Jesus might be God’s agent in remedying the world’s wrongs; vindicating the victimized, even granting sight to the blind.  He hasn’t yet apprehended this Messiah is also “Emanuel”; God-with-us, the Incarnate One.  For this reason, he makes no confession of faith.  He simply calls out with a shout, “Help me, help me!”

When does discipleship begin?

It doesn’t begin after theological know-how.  Discipleship begins when we recognize the muddiness and impoverishment in our lives.  We simply ask for help like Bartimaeus.  We have to be persistent with our plea–“help me”, even in an unsympathetic crowd telling us to be quiet.

Discipleship is in truth–the Apprenticeship Begins!

Discipleship is much simpler than most of us can imagine.  Our slightest admission of our own need and Christ’s availability renders us disciples-in-the-making (‘apprenticeship‘).

If someone tells me he’s certain about very little of what the church says, even of what the church says about Jesus, yet feels that Jesus has light to shed; truth to impart and strength to lend.  If that person says,  “All I can do for now is try to do the little that I do know,” that person is a disciple.

At the same time, discipleship is more challenging than people imagine because they have to keep-on-keeping on in the apprenticeship despite detractors.

Do you ever wonder about a large number of people joining the congregation, then slowly drift away, never to be seen again?  About pastors who persuaded the church conference hierarchy they were called of God to the work of the ministry and are now selling life insurance?

As much as we need to perceive our spiritual blindness, our spiritual poverty, we have to persist.  Bartimaeus persisted by calling out to Jesus.  He persisted because he knew unless Jesus helped him, he would always be blind, resourceless.  His persistence came from his unsatisfied craving.  It was enough to stop Jesus in His tracks and have Jesus say, “Call that fellow”.

THE SECOND MOMENT of Disciples in APPRENTICESHIP:

The urging to “Take heart” or “Take courage”.  Someone in the crowd that particular day who heard Bartimaeus’ plea and sympathizes with him says, “Take courage!  Get up!  Jesus is calling you.”  This wasn’t a fluffy suggestion to cheer up.  While there is only one reason to realistically take courage, the one reason happens to be the profound and sufficient reason.  Jesus Christ is in the neighborhood!

Since Bartimaeus is blind, he can’t see how close Jesus is.  The truth?  Jesus is so close to him where he is right now as He could ever be.  There are other situations in Scripture that these words were spoken and welcomed–“Take courage.”

“And behold, they brought to Him (Jesus), a man paralyzed and prostrated by illness, lying on a sleeping pad; and when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralyzed man,  Take courage [take heart!], son; your sins are forgiven and the penalty remitted”  (Matthew 9:2 AMP).

The Greek word used is “charseite,” “Be of good cheer”; “Courage!” in the imperative.  The words are not a suggestion; not a recommendation of our Lord nor is it wishful thinking on the part of the hearers.  We are commanded to take heart, take courage.  We must be of good cheer; and this only is because Jesus has heard our plea; turned to us and isn’t going to overlook us, pretending He didn’t hear us.  We may and must take courage because our Lord and Savior, at this very moment, is pouring out upon us what we need most.  He meets us precisely at the point of our pain; our distress; our confusion and fright.  And we do take heart, for as He speaks His Word to us, it becomes His deed within us.  “Take heart” means, He our Lord, has lent us His heart.

Jesus doesn’t come waltzing onto the scene, with a camera-ready smile saying, “Cheer up folks, its happy hour!”  Rather, just as we cry “Son of David, have mercy on me,” because He had come into our “space.”  So now that He is here (for has He not turned to us and called out to us, albeit through those already disciples?).  His even greater closeness has made effective and believable the Word which makes and sustains disciples–“Take heart”, “Take courage”.

In the upcoming Part Two post; Disciples in Apprenticeship, I will give you the third momentto consider in our apprenticeship:  Bartimaeus followed Jesus.

Asking or Questioning God–“Is There A Differnence?”

A QUESTION or QUESTIONING?

I’ve been reading in the mornings this past week in the Gospel of Mark.  I came to chapter 8, where ‘4,000 souls were fed with 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish’.  They not only had enough but they had more than enough:

“And they ate and were satisfied; and they took up seven [large provision] baskets full of the broken pieces left over”  (Mark 8:8 AMP).

After this observation, Jesus and His disciples at once get into a boat and go to the district of Dalmanutha (or Magdala).  When they arrive, guess who arrives to greet them?  The religious leaders of His day:

“The Pharisees came and began to argue with and question Him (Jesus), demanding from Him a sign (an attesting miracle from heaven) [maliciously] to test Him”  (verse 11).

Look at Mark 8:12 and notice how Jesus reacts to their questioning:  “He groaned and sighed deeply in His spirit”.  Is there really a difference between asking God the Father a question and questioning our Lord and Savior?  Does Jesus ‘groan‘ and ‘sigh‘ when we ask in prayer? That depends!

The Difference by Definition:

Dictionary.com defines a ‘question‘ this way:  (noun)–“a sentence in an interrogative form addressed to someone in order to get information in reply.”

In today’s modern technology, we have available to us GPS tracking devices.  These amazing devices are invaluable when visiting a city you are unfamiliar with in finding an address; from point A to point B.  But I can vividly remember getting into some heated discussions with my wife while I was driving; her designated duty was to read a map, give accurate directions to me, then folding the map back up as it was before(I never could do that); then re-insert the map back into the car door side pocket.  Many times I would have to stop at a gas station and ask the question:  “Do you know how to get to such and such street?  I need directions?”  Boy, am I dating myself or what?  Many gas stations today don’t even have attendants.

The Macmillan Dictionary defines ‘questioning’ as, “showing that you have doubts; a questioning tone in one’s voice”.  In verse 11, the Pharisees did not just ask Jesus a question but were questioning Him.  There voice tones might have sounded like this : ‘Let’s see what you can really do Jesus; like performing a miracle.’  Jesus knew that they were “questioning” Him.  That’s why He responded with a question:  “Why does this generation demand a sign?  Positively I say to you, no sign shall be given this generation”  (Mark 8:12).

Reasoning in ‘Questioning’ Has Its Doubts:

Reasoning will often bring second thoughts with it and the enemy, the devil, knows this and will seek and seize upon the occasion and devour us, “like a lion roaring in hunger”1 Peter 5:8.

The Word and The Lie of Second Thoughts–Genesis 2 and 3:

“And the Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden [delight]”  (Gen. 2:8).

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying,  You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;    But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and blessing and calamity you shall not eat of it you shall surely die”  (Gen. 2:16-17).

God’s command was plainly stated to Adam and Eve:  ‘Eat from every tree in the garden except…one tree.  The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  If you do…you will spiritually die!’  There should be no doubt here.

The First Recorded Words in the Bible from Satan:

THE ‘SUGGESTION’ and THE ‘CONTRADICTION’–

“Now the serpent was more subtle and crafty than any living creature of the field which the Lord had made. And he [Satan] said to the womanCan it really be that God has said, You shall not eat from every tree of the garden?”  (Gen. 3:1).

Satan introduces second thoughts by getting us to reason; words that are open to contradiction through “questioning”, the “whys” the “what for s” in the happenings in our lives; giving us doubts about what God has already said in His Word.

Eve replies to the serpent’s questioning,  “We may eat the fruit from the trees of the garden, except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden.  God has said, You shall not eat it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die”  (Gen. 3:2-3).  The seed of doubt had been placed in the woman’s heart.  Eve begins to mix-up the words that God spoke, with her own interpretation; her own thinking.  God never told them they couldn’t touch the fruit; and ‘second thoughts’ are introduced by suggestion.

THE CONTRADICTION:  “But the serpent said to the woman,  You shall not surely die”  (verse 4).

Our Preoccupation with Asking “Why”:

In our questioning, our “How come s”, the “whys”, the “what for s” is an attempt at gaining control.  If I could understand the “why” things happen, then maybe I can affect the “what”.  The fallacy, is that we think we are the ones running the world and not God.  The fact is, I’m powerless over my friends cancer.  I can ask questions about God, the way He runs the world from today until tomorrow but I am still just as powerless–just as confuse.

There is one true power God has given me in all my confusion–the Power of Prayer.  Every experience a person undergoes, God creates two possible scenarios:

1.  What will happen if you don’t pray.

2.  What will happen if prayer takes place.

Even though we are not in control, we can do our part to arouse God’s mercy through heartfelt prayer.

John the Baptist’s questioning.

At Jesus’ baptism, we know that John the Baptist was there:  “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John to be baptized by him” ~ Matt. 3:13.

Then in verses 16-17, John hears the Word of God:  “And when Jesus was baptized, He went up at once out of the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he [John] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him.  And behold, a voice from heaven said,  This is My Son.  My beloved, in Whom I delight!”  John saw and he heard who Jesus was; God’s only Son, the Messiah.  But now see where the “questioning” comes into John life and circumstances.

THE CIRCUMSTANCE:  “Now when John was in prison heard about the activities of Christ, he sent a message by his disciples”  (Matthew 11:2).  John the Baptist knew who Jesus was.

THE “QUESTIONING”:  “Are You the One Whom was to come, or should we keep on expecting a different one?”  (verse 3).  John had found himself in a circumstance that he was powerless.  Suggestion and then doubt entered his heart which conflicted with and confused what he already knew.

1 Peter 5:8 us to be vigilant and cautious at all times in our circumstances; for that enemy of yours…

King David’s State of Mind–Psalm 13 [READ]

Verses 1-2:  In his ‘circumstances‘:

1.  He feels forgotten by God; forgotten forever.

2.  He is agonized at God’s silence toward his prayers.

3.  His relationship with God seems broken.

4.  He questions [questioning] God’s providence and protection.

5.  He thinks that God has turned His face away from him.

6.  He is in a state of being forgotten.

7.  “How long” is used 4 times in the first two verses showing an inner struggle; a “questioning” in doubt. David knows the goodness and faithfulness of God, yet devastated by God’s silence in time of need.

8.  His heart is filled with sorrow everyday with constant anguish, grief and pain.

9.  He constantly wrestles with his thoughts; there is warfare going on in his mind and heart.

10.  His enemies are victorious over him; he feels crushed by those who are against him.

The question for each one of us: “Are there questions in our lives that we face each day like Davids?”  Of course there are!

Now Notice the Change of Direction (verses 3-6):

“Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; lighten the eyes [of my faith to behold Your face in the pitch like darkness], lest I sleep the sleep of death.  Lest my enemy say, I have prevailed over him, and those that trouble me rejoice when I am shaken.  But I have trusted, leaned on, and been confident in Your mercy and loving-kindness; my heart shall rejoice and be in high spirits in Your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”

~ His questioning and complaining turns to prayer for help.

~ He prays for attention and answer: “Give light to my eyes” (Psalm 13:3 NIV).  Strengthen my faith and revive my spirit; “My eye has wasted away with grief; It has become old because of all my adversaries”  (Psalm 6:7 NAS).  Having problems and difficulties from co-workers, who at times seem like you enemies?  Are you hiding in caves as David and his men did?

~ His prayers changes his perspective of his circumstances:

“I have trusted, leaned on, and been confident in Your mercy and loving-kindness…”  (verse 5 AMP).

His prayers bring faith, hope and assurance [a new confidence]:

FAITH:  “NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title-deed) of things [we] hope for, being proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]”  (Hebrews 11:1 AMP).

HOPE:  “For in [this] hope we were saved.  But hope [the object of] which is seen is not hope.  For how can one hope for what he already sees.  But if we hope for what is still unseen by us, we wait for it with patience and composure”  (Romans 8:24-25 AMP).

Psalm 13 ends with Verse 6:

With praise and thanksgiving; with the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord, David’s situation had not changed as so often our particular circumstances haven’t changed.  But David’s perspective had been changed from questioning to Praise and Thanksgiving!

Remember God’s two possible scenarios he gives each one of us in our questioning:  “What will happen if you don’t pray” and “What will happen if prayer takes place.”

I hope the information given in this blog will give you increase in your faith and hope; with confidence in your circumstances today.  Even if you are not seeing it at present.  Remember, we are not just living in the enough but the more than enough.