“Ah Yes, I REMEMBER It Well” – Do You?

~ Fourth and Final Commentary In The Series On The Book Of Malachi

MALACHI 4:4-6 (NLT)

[4]  “Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant-all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.

[5]  “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. 

[6]  His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.  Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

With only three verses to look at, I thought this particular word investigation would be fairly short.  Well, it didn’t turn out that way and there are many reasons why this final chapter commentary is longer than I expected. 

The Book Of Malachi certainly serves as a bridge from the past to the future for the Israelites during Malachi’s day.  And for him and for us, as the last book of the Old Testament, it also serves as a bridge to the New Testament.

So let’s use the theme ‘s statement as an outline which we can examine this passage of Scripture:  WE NEED TO LEARN FROM THE PAST – “Remember it well!”

In verse 4, God commands the people to remember the law of His servant, Moses.  The entire book of Malachi has shown us a covenant-keeping God who still loves and pursues His people even though they haven’t remained faithful to Him.  It’s not surprising that the final command of the book is to remember the Law of Moses which the people who had come to pay little attention to.

But the word “remember” conveys much more than just mental recognition:  “remember” (Heb. “zokar”) means “to bring to mind and act accordingly.”  So when God commands His people to remember the law, He’s calling them to once again become a covenant-keeping people who not only know the Law but also puts it into practice.

The idea of remembering is a common theme in the book of Deuteronomy.  The command or admonition to REMEMBER is found 14 times in that book alone and the majority of those verses are connected with the need to obey or keep God’s command.

The Book Of Deuteronomy also uses some form of the same phrases that I’ve found here in Malachi – “the statutes and rules” – 17 times in the book of Deuteronomy including this very relevant passage:  (Deut. 6:1-3)

There’s no mistaking here that the purpose of knowing and remembering the law so that the people can put it into practice.  That principle is certainly just as applicable today to New Testament Christians as it was to the Israelites of Malachi’s day.

As we know, keeping God’s law isn’t a requirement for SALVATION – which can’t be earned but completely an act of God’s grace – but it should be a result of that salvation.

LEARNING FROM THE PAST –

While reading the Scripture, we’re not only exposed to God’s LAW so we can know and understand what that law is, but we also read the historical accounts and demonstrate the blessings of obedience and the curse of disobedience.  So we look back to learn from the past as we remember God.  And once we do that, we can move onto the next step – WE NEED TO LIVE IN THE PRESENT – “TURN”

I spent a lot of time contemplating the first part of verse 6, where Malachi describes that Elijah will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.  And frankly, I’m still somewhat up in the air – confused!  But with the help of a couple other passages that shed some light on that verse, I think I can at least develop some useful applications we can use in our lives.

There seem to be two major camps when it comes to VERSE 6 –

In reading several commentaries I found some hold that the fathers here are the fathers of FAITH, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses.  Certainly the idea of the Israelites turning back to the faith of their spiritual ancestors would be consistent with the idea of REMEMBERING the commands given to Moses.  But the problem with that position is it really doesn’t explain how the hearts of the fathers are turned to the children.

The other major position if this verse deals with God restoring relationships of the family – particularly the relationships between fathers and children.  But to me, the weakness of that viewpoint is that it doesn’t fit into the ending of Malachi’s prophecy that deals with the much larger issue of the whole nation’s rebellion against God and His law.  Obviously, that impacts relationships within the family, but it doesn’t seem to be the main point of the prophecy.

Since I adhere to the idea that Scripture is always the best commentary on Scripture, we need to look together at a couple of other passages in the Bible that gives additional insight, a practice we should stay with when looking for answers in the Bible.

I have already looked up one of those passages –  Deuteronomy 6, lets notice and underline verse 2 – the purpose of observing the statutes and rules is to “FEAR GOD” – and we have seen that idea frequently if you’ve been following along in the series on Malachi [See previous Word Detective posts, 1, 2, and 3.].  And you’ll also notice here that “you and your sons and your son’s son” keep the law.  So the idea planted here is that successive generations of Israelites are to keep the Law as the law is constantly passed down from father to son.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how that’s done, the next part of Deuteronomy 6 goes on to give some wonderful guidelines on how fathers are supposed to do that.

In the Hebrew language, Malachi 4:6 seemed to be confusing at first reading.  Most of the English translations tend to translate the verse, “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers..” (NIV).

But it’s also possible to translate that phrase like this:  “And He will turn the hearts of the fathers together with those of the children [to Me], and the hearts of the children with those of their fathers [to Me].”  That seems to be consistent with Deuteronomy 6 and consistent with what is seen earlier in the Book of Malachi 3:7…

The word “RETURN” in the above verse is the same word that is translated “turn” in Malachi 4:6, another connection that seems to support the alternate translation which focuses on ALL the people turning their hearts toward God rather than toward each other.

Back to my last blog-post, the third in the series, Malachi 3:1, that prophecy is multi-layered.  The “messenger” was fulfilled at the first coming of Jesus by John the Baptist, and Jesus confirmed the prophecy with these words:

“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.”  (Matthew 11:13-14)

Jesus is clearly connecting John to both Malachi’s and Isaiah’s prophecies about the forerunner to be like Elijah. (See Isaiah 40:3-4). 

During his day as a prophet, Elijah had turned the Israelites back to God at the time of their worst apostasy when Ahab and Jezabel made Baal worship part of Israel’s worship.  John had a similar ministry.

But notice that Jesus indicates here in Matthew that since Israel wasn’t willing to accept Him as Messiah, and also refused to accept that John was the forerunner who had been prophesied in the Old Testament, so because of that, there will be a second Elijah who will precede the second coming of Jesus and he is the one who will bring to its final fulfillment of this prophecy of hearts being turned.

The angel who comes to Zechariah informing him of the coming birth of his son John, almost certainly had Malachi’s prophecy in mind when he spoke these words about John:

And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Although the angel mentions the turning of the hearts of the father to the children, the main idea here is that John’s role is to turn ALL hearts – fathers and children – to the Lord their God.

So even if Malachi is focusing on the relationship of fathers and children, the way reconciliation occurs in the family when ALL the hearts are turned back to God.  Our horizontal relationships with other people should never surpass our vertical relationship with our Heavenly Father.

So regardless of our views of Malachi 4:6, the bottom line is that it all comes down to our hearts being turned to God.

THE KEY to living in the present then, according to the passage of scripture in Malachi, is to “turn our hearts.”

I’ve already pointed out the underlying Hebrew word “to turn”, but it also can be translated “return.”  That same Hebrew word in the OT is frequently translated “repent”, which isn’t surprising and given that repentance is the idea of turning our hearts from sin and turning then back to God.

Repentance, or turning back to God, isn’t just something that we do once in our lifetime and then forget it.  It’s something that we must do every minute of every day.  The people of Malachi’s day had forgotten that and look where they ended up.

It’s easy to criticize the Israelites who had descended into lukewarm worship by merely giving God the leftovers. But the fact is, we are in danger of ending up there ourselves if we don’t guard our hearts and consistently turn them from evil and turn back to God.

LIVING IN THE PRESENT –

We learn from the past as we remember God’s law – We live in the present by turning our hearts to God.

Finally…We need to look to the future – “behold”

The word “behold” is used in the prophets to grab our attention.  It’s like God shouting to the people here to take notice of what He’s about to say.  And what follows is a message of God’s grace and mercy.

Yes, the great and awesome day of the Lord Jesus is coming!  And as we’ve seen it’s not going to be a pleasant time for those who’ve rebelled against God and refused to turn back to Him.

Before He does that, he’s going to send his messenger, either Elijah himself or someone else like John the Baptist, to minister like Elijah in giving people one last chance to turn to Him.

Although there’s certainly not enough biblical evidence to definitely identify this forerunner with one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11, that’s certainly one possibility.  There in Revelation, those two witnesses preach God’s Word for 3 1/2 years prior to the second coming of Jesus.  But regardless of the identity, God’s purpose is made clear.  His aim is to spare people from being cursed – separated from God’s glory; His person and the coming wrath.

So before Jesus returns to the earth one more time to carry out swift justice to those who have rejected Him, He’s going to give people one last chance to return to Him.  And the good news is…at least some people are going to have their hearts turned toward God as the result of his ministry.

What Malachi makes clear here is how we view the future is dependent on how well we’ve remembered the past and turned in the present.

If you remember God’s law (His Word in the Bible) by seeking to understand it and do it, and if your heart is turned toward God, then you can look to the future with great hope and anticipation, knowing God’s faithful remnant who will be spared from God’s wrath will spend eternity in God’s presence.

But if you fail to remember God’s law – if you fail in repentance in turning your heart to God, then if you’re not fearful of the future, you certainly should be!  Because God is holy and just, He must judge those who have chosen to rebel against Him and that judgment is going to be swift, horrible and everlasting.  It truly will be the utter destruction that Malachi writes about at the end of his prophecy.

Several people in the past have asked me, “Teacher, how about giving us some practical applications from the Word Study?”  So I’m going to list three:

#1.  We must turn our hearts to God through faith in Christ Jesus.

God’s desire for us is to turn our hearts–body, mind, and soul–to Him.  But that’s not something that we can do on our own.  Trust me, for you will find yourself in frustration when you try to accomplish this on your own terms.  Although the word Messiah or the name of Jesus is never mentioned in the Book of Malachi, is the idea of a Messiah that comes first to save God’s people and then returns a second time to judge those who refuse to turn their hearts to Him is a central theme.  Because God is holy and we are not, then the only way we can truly turn our hearts toward Him is by placing our trust in that Messiah, Jesus.  By taking our sins upon Himself and dying on the cross to pay the penalty for those sins, He’s made it possible for us to have a relationship with God in which we are able to turn our hearts to Him.

#2.  We must consistently spend time in God’s Word.

The only way we can live in obedience is to know what God’s Word says!  That means that we have to be spending consistent time in God’s Word, reading, and praying over it on a consistent basis.  A half-hour once a week on Sunday morning will never be adequate to really know and understand the Bible.  And what I’ve been personally missing lately, and I’m not alone, and is necessary and valuable for all of us, is spending time with other believers each week, where digging into the Bible is benefitting from one another’s insights in the Scriptures.

#3.  We must be intentional, living, vocal witnesses for Jesus.

In light of the possible two destinies faced by every human being – eternal life for those who have placed their faith in Jesus and eternal punishment for those who have not, our witness for Jesus Christ is essential.

Our effectiveness in our witness –

It’s likely that God has brought some people into your life that has no one else in their lives that’s going to tell them about Jesus’ love for them.  For our witness to be effective, I want to throw out three adjectives to describe what that WITNESS is to be like.

First, our witness must be intentional.  

We must strategically pray for the people that God brings into our lives and then, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, prepare, as Peter urges in 1 Peter 3:15…

That means being able to share my own testimony of my relationship with Jesus and able to use the Bible to explain how the other person can have the same type of relationship with Him.

Second, our witness has to be lived out.  Some call it Lifestyle Evangelism.

There’s nothing that will turn a person off when it comes to their relationship with God than someone whose life isn’t consistent with their words.  But at the same time, it’s not enough to just live for Jesus with the hope someone else is going to figure out your life is different than theirs.  That’s a great start, but at some point, we’re going to have to open our mouths.

In concluding this study on Malachi, the most important thing we should take away is to understand just how much God loves us.

He’s a covenant-keeping God, a promise-keeper, a God who loves us so much that He continues to pursue us even when we fail Him.  And if we’ll take and apply the principles He has given us in His Word, we’ll be in a much better position to pursue Him.

And in that same way remembering that God desires for me (and you) to pursue Him in the same way He pursued us!

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search; YouTube Music Video – I Remember It Well from the movie, Gigi.

Bible Translations Used:  New Living Translation (NLT); New International Version (NIV); English Standard Version (ESV); 

Word Sources:  Bible Hub:  NASB Hebrew Lexicon.

Commentary:  HEBREW WORD STUDY – FORETELLER OR PROPHET, by Chaim & Laura – Sept. 13, 2014 Devotionals; Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible – Malachi 4 – StudyLight.org.

WHOSE YOUR FRIEND?

MY FRIEND’S NUMBERS KEEP GOING DOWN ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE

I wonder what Facebook’s definition or their idea of the word, FRIENDS?  So many times I read comments on social media of people who claim 100’s, or even thousands of friends.  So what do most us think of people we know, that are our FRIENDS?  A companion, our next door neighbor who we barely know, the person in the next cubicle at work, etc.?  Proverbs in the Bible is a good source of wisdom regarding friendship:  “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).  “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).  The issue here is that in order to have a friend, one must be a friend.  I’ve been reading in the Old Testament Book of Amos for the last few weeks and found a principle of friendship in Amos 3:3– “Do two walk together except they make an appointment and have agreed?” (AMP).   FRIENDS ARE OF A LIKE MIND!!  And then of course, one of my favorite Bible verses regarding true friendship is found in the Gospel of John:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”  (John 15:13).

Now that’s true friendship.

 

 

 

“Shall We Gather At The River” – The Book of Revelation To John – (Part Six)

Pastor Kyle began his new series this morning regarding HEAVEN. I thought I would Reblog one of The Word Detective’s posts on a study in Revelation.

The WORD Detective

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This will be my final series study in the Book of REVELATION TO JOHN.  I hope you have enjoyed the study as much as I, and… although I didn’t address ALL the issues and questions most have in the reading, I’ve tried to highlight what the Holy Spirit was leading me to present to you.  That said, let’s look at the last Chapter in the Book, and “Shall we gather at the river”?

The River of Life – REVELATION 22:1-2:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  [2] down the middle of the great street of the city.  On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.  And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the…

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We Are Living In A Spiritual Fishbowl

 

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Several days ago, the Lord led me to do a study in 1 Thessalonians.  In His sovereignty, this study comes at a perfect time with the worlds current events.

I Thessalonians speaks about REAL HOPE in the midst of the trials and tribulation that surround us.

Warren Wiersbe written commentary on 1 Thess., “Be Ready” really sums up what we face ahead.

Aquarium/Fishbowl Experience –

What do you do with an aquarium?  What do you do when you visit an aquarium?  I just look.  The fish, for the most part are oblivious–could care less.

I remember when first married and we were as poor as a church mouse.  An aquarium sat on a stand in our duplex style apartment, with not much else in the room.  It was Valentine’s Day, and unable to afford much except exchanging Valentine cards, my wife said,  “Did you notice the aquarium?”  “No,” I replied. “Why?”  “Just go look,” she said.  There on the outside of our aquarium, on the outside of the glass, was a heart drawn in pink lipstick–“I LOVE YOU”.  But there’s more!  For fourteen cents, my wife bought an angel fish.  I must have watch that fish swimming around behind the glass for hours.  Even days later, that angel fish reminded me of my wife’s love for me and it wasn’t the amount spent, but the LOVE behind the gift.  “For God so loved the world that He GAVE…” John 3:16.

As Christians, we live in a spiritual fishbowl.  People are constantly examining us and looking at us, especially in times of stress and discomfort. They let us know when we misspeak or mess up entirely.

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There’s another reason why they watch us.  The problem is…we’re often oblivious–like fish in a bowl–we could care less what they see or even read on our social media page; which means they may be viewing the wrong things.  

The Barna Group–“Knowledge to navigate a changing world” says there’s “no difference between believers and unbelievers.”  

That’s tragic–it’s no wonder Christianity as we know it isn’t growing like it should.

This was definitely not the case with the Thessalonians.

Here was a church who realized they were being watched on all sides.  Paul hears about their reputation/testimony, and writes to them.

There’s a LESSON here for us.  Our reputation is at stake and the world is watching us; they need to see a DIFFERENCE is us.

1 Thessalonians 1 BACKGROUND:

This was a fledgling church (Paul was there but 3 weeks).  Paul had been kicked out, riots going on, their pastor was gone.  They were familiar with persecution.  I can imagine it was like being a Christian in Afghanistan or Iraq today.

You would think they wouldn’t be too concerned with their reputation, but the opposite is true.

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Here was a CHURCH whose reputation was faultless.  They had an incredible TESTIMONY.

WHAT OTHERS SHOULD SEE WHEN THEY LOOK AT US:  

“Your work of faith” – salvation (V. 3)

Philippians 2:12 (NIV)

“Therefore, my dear friends; as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

In our spiritual journey on this earth, FAITH gets us on the started on the right path.  Notice what Paul says about our FAITH:

1 Thessalonians 1:4-6:

[4]  For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,  [5] because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.  You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.  [6]  You became imitators of us and of the Lord, in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

ELECTION makes our FAITH possible — Vs. 4:  “He has chosen us” not vice versa.

John 15:16 (NIV):

[16]  “You did not choose Me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”

Somewhere in eternity past, God chose us to believe on Him.  ELECTION makes our FAITH possible, but not automatic.

That takes us to the next step:

CONVERSION makes our FAITH actual “because”– Vs. 5:

“BECAUSE our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.  You know how we lived among you for your sake.”

“Because” shows why Paul is so convinced that God CHOSE them.  He sees their changed life, their “conversion.”

The Gospel isn’t just some fancy speech we mouthe that most don’t understand.

No amount of persuasion can “convince” someone to turn to Christ Jesus.

What makes our FAITH actual is the powerful work of the Holy Spirit exhibited in our lives.

Colossians 2:13 (NIV):  “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.”

Our conversion, the transformation of our OLD dead nature, to our NEW nature in Christ, is what makes our ELECTION sure.

The Thessalonian church didn’t just HEAR the Gospel message, they experienced the Gospel!  It transformed their lives!!

ELECTION makes our FAITH possible while CONVERSION makes it actual.

But there’s even more.  We need to have a WORKING FAITH, a VISIBLE FAITH.

ACTION makes our FAITH visible–Vs. 6 (AMP):

[6]  “…become imitators of us and [through us] of the Lord Himself, for you welcomed our message in [spite of] much persecution, with joy [inspired] by the Holy Spirit.”

THEY, the church, became IMITATORS (of Paul and the Lord).  They acted out their FAITH and they welcomed the message with JOY (in suffering).

A baby learns by imitating/children playing “copy-cat.”  The same is true in our spiritual lives (we learn by imitating).

When someone comes to Christ, they immediately begin looking at other professing believers to see how they behave; how they act.  [ Prayer, church etiquette, sit in the back, express/hold our emotions, worship. ]

Who are you imitating?  Your spiritual parents?  Your Pastor?  Are they truly IMITATING Christ?

1 Corinthians 4:16 (Paul says)  “So I urge and implore you, be imitators of me.”  He could say that because in Galatians 2:20 (NIV):

[20]  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Paul commended the Thessalonians because they had a REAL working FAITH.  In other words, they wore their FAITH on their sleeves, visible to everyone they came in contact with.  There was a great difference between them and their pagan, unbelieving neighbors.  So Paul didn’t need to defend them, he bragged about them!

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1 THESSALONIANS 1:7

People often wonder how we can know if someone is SAVED or not.  Paul knew that God chose the Thessalonians for SALVATION because he saw the POWER of the Gospel in their lives.  He also saw their transformation in their working, visible FAITH.

DO WE HAVE THAT KIND OF FAITH?

The world should see JESUS in us!

The WORLD should see our LABOR OF LOVE – Vs. 3:  “Your LABOR should be prompted by LOVE”

Whereas FAITH gets us started on the journey, LOVE becomes the vehicle on our way.

Will Rogers once said,  “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

What is the LABOR OF LOVE?

1 John 3:18 (NIV):  

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

John 4:15 (NIV):

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

There are so many opportunities that are missed in our Christian life in reaching out to others with the LOVE of Christ.

  • At WORK:  working for the Lord or your boss?
  • At HOME:  patience?  loving our families as Christ loves us.
  • In SOCIETY:  Lifestyle Evangelism?  integrity?
  • In CHURCH:  seeking to meet others’ needs, rather than our own?

FAITH & LOVE go hand in hand.  You can’t have visible faith without real love!

Galatians 5:6 (AMP):

“For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love.”

The WORLD is watching us!  Our reputation is framed and hanging on the wall!  

They should see our working FAITH and our labor of LOVE in action.

V. 3…your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ

The WORLD should be able to SEE our everlasting HOPE!

Paul actually uses three qualities as bookends in the closing of this chapter (vs. 9-10 AMP):

[9] For they themselves volunteer testimony concerning us, telling what an entrance we had among you, and how you turned to God from [your] idols to serve a God Who is alive and true and genuine.

[10] And [how you] look forward to and await the coming of His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead–Jesus, Who personally rescues and delivers us out of and from wrath [bringing punishment] which is coming [upon the impenitent] and draws us to Himself [investing us with all the privileges and rewards of the new life in Christ, the Messiah].

FAITH gets us started on the journey, LOVE becomes the vehicle, and HOPE…? HOPE shows us where we’re going.

There’s a difference between HOPE & WISHING.  This HOPE Paul’s referring too, isn’t like dropping pennies into a wishing well.  This HOPE is like saying, “I hope tomorrow is Monday!”

The Thessalonian BELIEVERS had a real, visible, enduring HOPE.

They hoped for 3 things that we too, should hope for (VERSE 10):

#1.  They HOPED for Jesus’ return!  “…look forward to and await the coming of His Son from heaven.”  (v. 10)

#2.  They HOPED in Jesus’ resurrection, who He raised from the dead and because of the RESURRECTION, they knew too,  and they will eventually conquer death and be raised to a new life in Christ.  When Jesus returns, all those who HOPE in His resurrection can have confidence that we will live with Him forever!

#3.  They HOPED in Jesus’ rescue from God’s coming wrath (v. 10).  There’s coming a Day when God will return vengeance and wrath upon this godless and evil world we currently live in.  Those who’ve chosen God, those who’ve been transformed, those who’ve a visible faith and a labor of love…have a heart peace from the HOPE they will be RESCUED from His great wrath.

SO, WHAT DO PEOPLE SEE WHEN THEY LOOK INTO… OUR “FISHBOWL”?

Do they see CHRIST in us?

Do they see a WORK OF FAITH?  a labor of love?  an enduring, everlasting LOVE?

Do they see a DIFFERENCE in us?

If not, why would they want to become a Christian?

Whether we like it or not, we are LIVING in a public aquarium, where we’re putting on a show for the world to see.  How’s the show going?

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We need to be ready for Jesus’ soon return.  

In the meantime, we also need to be busy bringing people to Him by being imitators of Jesus, before it’s too late.

 


CREDITS –

COMMENTARY:  Enduring Word Bible Commentary:  1 Thessalonians 1 – Receivers and Responders.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maneuvering Your Way Through the Bumps In Life

PSALM 116:7-8:

[7]  Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

[8]  For You have delivered my life from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling and falling.

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In 1978-1980, I commuted from home to work every day, over 100 miles each way. To keep me company on the long ride, I would listen to Paul Harvey. a conservative talk show host, true stories he told every morning.  One of my favorites was a lady who went to a local newspaper to report the death of her husband.  She took a glowing four page report to the obituary counter.  Upon seeing it, the counter’s clerk said,  “Ma’am, you should know that it costs $.50 a word to put that in the paper.”  Stunned, the wife took it back and re-wrote it.  It now said “Sam Brown dies.”  The clerk said, “I’m sorry ma’am, but there’s a 7-word minimum.”  The widow took it back and counting on her fingers wrote:  “Sam Brown dies…’88 Ford for sale.”

Somewhere, in between the humorous, quick fix Paul Harvey’s widow and the person today–who for years cannot bring themselves to go on with their life because of GRIEF (a “bump”), believe there’s an equilibrium of emotion that God wants for us.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 (GNT): 

[4]  “He sets the time for sorrow and the time for joy, the time for mourning and the time for dancing.”

The author of PSALM 116 went through the process of GRIEF and was able to find comfort in the process.

GRIEF is a natural response to loss.  It is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loses is taken away  [See footnote [i] ].

If you have never experienced the emotion of LOSS before, trust me, someday you will.

Since it is an involuntary emotion, it’s not wrong to express GRIEF, in fact it is normal.

The apostle Paul, a man who experienced loss, wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13,  “Now also we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about those who fall asleep [in death], that you may not grieve [for them] as the rest do who have no hope [beyond the grave]” (Amplified Bible-AMP).

He doesn’t say “don’t grieve,” but in your GRIEF, remember to place your HOPE in God.

PSALM 116, most commentators agree, that it’s a “Psalm of Grief.”  They are not sure of the circumstances but looking at some of the words the psalmist uses…

Vs. 3:   “death was around me”; “I suffered anguish and grief’

Vs. 10:  “I am greatly afflicted.”

So the Psalmist has been grieving, and although we’re not sure of the cause of his mourning, we do know that GRIEF can come in a variety of ways.

The most common GRIEF experienced is from the loss of a loved one.

I believe this is behind the Psalmist’s sorrow.

Vs. 15:  “Precious (important and no light matter) in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (His loving ones).”

The loss of a loved one, especially if they are young or the death is sudden, may be the hardest kind of GRIEF to deal with, but it’s not the only source.  The loss of possessions, the loss of health, even the loss of a pet.

Some commentators feel that when the Psalmist says in vs. 3,  “the cords and sorrows of death were around me,” that maybe he was referring to his own health.

A loss of health can certainly cause GRIEF, but it is also not uncommon for a person going through intense GRIEF to have a variance of HEALTH PROBLEMS; insomnia, exhaustion, head aches, anxiety, depression and more.

And GRIEF can come from a loss of RELATIONSHIP too.

Counselors often say that a DIVORCE is tougher to live with than DEATH.  They live with the ever-present loss of the partnership, the loss of companionship, and unfulfilled expectations.

That brings us now, how do we RESPOND to GRIEF.

Since there’s a variety of reasons that we suffer, I wanted to look at how we respond to it.  But as I thought about our responses, I felt the importance of what one trying to HELP the GRIEF STRICKEN should do and not do.

Let’s face it, many have not suffered these kind of losses and it’s crucial that we have some idea how to respond to others when a critical loss happens.

In my Detective investigation of GRIEF, I ran across a survey taken by Bob Russell, a preacher in Louisville, Kentucky, involving people who’ve gone through the GRIEVING PROCESS.

I’m going to borrow and share with you the 10 practical suggestions of the “do’s” & “don’ts” to help us understand how to help someone who’s GRIEVING:

(1)  Don’t avoid the person who MOURNS.

We worry sometimes about “I don’t know what to say.”  “I’ll feel so awkward at the funeral home.”  The worst thing we can do when someone is GRIEVING is to do nothing.

(2)  Don’t think you have to say the “right thing.”

The people in the SURVEY said consistently, the person who helped the most was the close friend who was just there…sitting next tom them, just listening.

(3)  Don’t treat the survivor differently.

For example, if you would have invited the couple to the party, then invite the widow or widower to the party.

(4)  Do understand the GRIEVING PROCESS takes a long time.

BE PATIENT!

(5)  Don’t think it’s necessary to bring it up every time you’re with them.

DON’T say, “How are you REALLY doing?”  DON’T push!

(6)  Do expect their EMOTIONS to fluctuate.

The survivor isn’t always going to feel badly.  Let them be happy, let them be sad, maybe all in a matter of moments.

(7)  Do be willing to reminisce.

Sometimes I think they won’t want to hear something about their love one because it might make them feel bad.

Let them talk about their memories, then you can join in with them by saying “You know one time Frank and I were…” -OR- “I remember how Frank loved to give me a big hug every time we met.”

(8)  Do be personal in your remembrances.

If you know something nice to say, then say it!  “O, your mother was so wonderful to me.”  “Your Dad’s strong faith was such a blessing to me.”

(9)  Do keep your sense of humor.  “A cheerful heart does good like medicine (Proverbs 17:22 LB).

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Vance Havner, a famous preacher, when someone would come up to him after the death of his wife and say,  “Sorry you lost your wife.”  He’d smile and say, “Well, don’t be…after all, somethings not lost if you know its location!  And I know right where to find her!”

But remember, Proverbs 14:13 (AMP) also says:  

“Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of mirth us heaviness and grief.”

So, even though we should keep a sense of humor, don’t think the laughter means the PAIN is completely over.

(10)  And Do remember, the time you are needed the most, is not immediately.

Oh, you need to be there from the start but so does everyone else.  But 6-8 weeks or 6 months later, when everyone else is gone…that’s when you’re needed most!

KNOW THAT THERE IS HELP WITH GRIEF AVAILABLE WHEN YOU NEED IT!

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FIRST, know that there is HELP from God.

It’s important that those going through GRIEF–the “bumps in the road”–know that the Lord offers some incredible resources to help HEAL.

The Psalmist here mentions several, starting with Vs. 5:  “Our God is merciful (compassionate)”.

You, or someone you know, when going through the GRIEF process, are not alone.

JESUS knows how you feel because He has been where you are.  Read the 6th Chapter of the Gospel of John sometime, where you’ll find the murder of John the Baptist’s murder.  When Jesus finds out the news of his cousin, his friend, his co-worker John, he wanted to get away from people and be by Himself.  He wanted space to GRIEVE.

Hebrews 4:15 says,  “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all–all but the sin”  (MSG).

God knows exactly how you feel and offers His compassion.

Next, God promises protection – Vs. 6:

[6]  “The Lord protects the simple and the children; I was facing death, and then he saved me.”  (TLB)

Allow the LOSS your going through, whatever it is, draw you into a DEEPER dependence on Him.

God promises DELIVERANCE from GRIEF – Vs. 8:

[8]  For You have delivered my life from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling and falling  (AMP).

Now, it’s going to take time to make progress through the journey.  But God is with you every step of the way.  He will DELIVER you!

You’ll have to experience some depression probably, but not total defeat.  I’ve said to my wife many times when hearing about the GRIEF in a church family,  “I don’t know how people go through this without the Lord; without Christian friends.”

That conversation brought me to Peter’s words to mind.

1 Peter 1:5-6 (AMP):

[5]  Being guarded by God’s power through [your] faith [till you fully inherit that final] salvation that is ready to be revealed [for you] in the last time.

[6]  [You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations.

I love the way The Living Bible (TLB) words Vs. 6:  “There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here.”

So, there’s God’s promised help in terms of His promises but He also offers help in terms of His people.

You see, God’s greatest PROMISE is heaven, but His greatest help lies in those who have undergone GRIEF and understand how essential He is to getting us through those “bumps in life.”

The apostle Paul tells us in the 1st chapter of 2 Corinthians about how this works:

[3]  “Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  [4] who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”  (NIV).

“I HAVE TRAVELED DOWN THE SAME ROAD”

2-corinthians-1-3-and-4-comfort

I was reading a little devotional commentary that is true to the Word of God.  Dr. George Truett, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas for 50 years, told the following story of a young, unbelieving couple in a sermon.

The young couple, who had just lost their baby, came to Dr. Truett, asking him to conduct the funeral, so he did.

He said later, he had joy of seeing them both come to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Many months later, he said the young mother who had lost her child stepped forward, went to a young girl’s side and said,  “I passed through this and I know what you’re passing through.  God called me and through the darkness I came to Him.  He’s comforted me and He’ll comfort you.”

Dr. Truett said the first mother did more for the second mother than I could have done, maybe in days or months.  For the first young mother had traveled down the same road of GRIEF & SUFFERING  [See footnote [ii] ].

That’s what Paul is talking about in the help of others who are have the same experience in life.

You are never alone in your GRIEF, and know this about our heavenly Father–

“Precious (important and no light matter) in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (His loving ones)”  (Psalm 116:15).

 


CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i]:  Wikipedia, the Free encyclopedia- the word GRIEF.

Footnote [ii]:  https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/comfort-sometime…th-skin-on-them/

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  The Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Don’t Mess With My Sacred Cows!”

Although I wrote this particular BLOG 4 years ago, I thought it worth reblogging it…just because of this time of year’s celebrations.

The WORD Detective

Is Expediency Permissible?

“Nothing is more curious than the self-satisfied dogmatism with which mankind at each period of its history cherishes the delusion of the finality of its existing modes of knowledge” ~ The Philosophy of John Dewy.

As I get older in life, I have found myself getting more dogmatic about what I am seeing in a lot of churches.  Although I am now in a church environment that feels…more comfortable.  I have lived in this part of Washington State now for 10 years and have been associated with five different backgrounds of doctrine; I am definitely not complaining, but stating my desire of  ‘a better way of doing things’ philosophy.  I really hate change, so changing churches really isn’t part of my make-up.  So what is the problem here?

Some people are terrified of change. 

Any deviation from “the way it has always been” rocks the foundations…

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Our CONSCIENCE: The Good, the Bad, and the Uncomfortable

LIFE is full of decision-making, whether we are young in life or old.  

I can look back today at my childhood and often wondered in making decisions,

“Should I do this or do that?”  

My mother would say, “Always listen to your CONSCIENCE Mel.”

At the time, I had no idea what a “conscience” was, so mom would explain “It’s that little voice you hear inside of you coming from your heart.”  Now that was confusing at my young age.

Dictionary.com DEFINES Conscience as “The inner sense of what is right or wrong in our conduct or motives, impelling one toward right actions.”

If my mother were alive today and heard this definition of Conscience, she would chime in…”that’s what I said!”

And now, in the twilight of my years, I still have trouble keeping my CONSCIENCE under control.

Managing your conscience is somewhat like keeping Chayote Squash under control in the garden

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My wife tells the story of her distaste for the squash growing up in Southern, California.  She says that her dad loved it so much, that he grew it in their backyard against a wooden fence.  The vines grew uncontrolled and the squash was so prolific, they had Chayote every night for dinner during the Summer months.  Now I like squash, but every night for dinner?

Managing your CONSCIENCE is somewhat like keeping Chayote Squash under control by continually struggling to keep the vines under management.  

Our CONSCIENCES are also a struggle to manage.

THE GOOD CONSCIENCE:

Our CONSCIENCE can uphold us when we struggle spiritually.  

The apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to fight the good fight; to keep a clear conscience when facing struggles.

1 Timothy 1:19 (AMP):

“Holding fast to faith (that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence) and having a good (clear) CONSCIENCE. By rejecting and thrusting from them [their conscience], some individuals have made shipwreck of their faith.”

Our CONSCIENCE can also protect us from TEMPTATION.

In Genesis 39:7-12. Joseph was sexually tempted by his bosses wife.  Joseph followed his CONSCIENCE and resisted the temptation.  Because of his decision, he developed a stronger testimony for God.

THE BAD & THE UNCOMFORTABLE CONSCIENCE:

Our CONSCIENCE can also display a bad side which can fuel PARANOIA

Proverbs 28:1 (The Message bible):

“The wicked are edgy with guilt, ready to run off even when no one’s after them;”

Let me give you a few more bible examples of “bad consciences”:

1 Timothy 4:1-2 says,  [1] “But the [Holy] Spirit distinctly and expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding and seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach,[2] Through the hypocrisy and pretensions of liars whose CONSCIENCES are seared (cauterized)  (AMP).

That folks, is an example of a hardened conscience!

Another example I found in Scripture, was a CONSCIENCE of self-destruction in a disciple, a follower of Jesus (Matthew 27:3-5 NIV): 

[3] When JUDAS, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders.  [4] “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”  “What is that to us?” they replied.  “That’s your responsibility.”  [5] So Judas threw the money into the temple and left.  Then he went away and hanged himself.

So by EXAMPLE, our CONSCIENCES are not altogether GOOD or BAD.

Billy Graham said “Most of us follow our CONSCIENCE as we follow a wheelbarrow. We push it in front of us in the direction we want to go.”  So the issue is managing our consciences properly.  And how do we do that?

God has given each one of us the resources needed in managing our CONSCIENCES…which brings me to the BIBLE TEXT FOR THIS BLOG-STUDY, where God’s RESOURCES are revealed to help us manage our conscience.

God’s RESOURCES found in 1 John 3:18-23:

 

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Whatever you do, let your ACTIONS be motivated out of LOVE (3:18)

A good illustration of this Resource can be found in 1 Corinthians 8, where Paul discusses eating food that has been offered [sacrificed] to idols.  The question had been raised:  ‘Is it proper–the right thing to do–to eat meat that was left after the blood was used in sacrificing to an idol?’  Paul’s instruction was that it was okay. There was nothing morally wrong with it.  However, if this practice causes someone else to stumble, then avoid such practices.

LET LOVE BE THE GUIDING PRINCIPLE!

Using this RESOURCE as our guide, we should then apply this principle concerning our actions–

  • Speaking rudely to another person.
  • Social drinking.
  • Cursing.
  • Being critical of another person.

Our words, actions and thoughts should communicate LOVE to the other person.

Paul says in Acts 24:16,  “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”

Another RESOURCE noticed in John’s letter was to submit to the TRUTH.

SUBMIT TO THE TRUTH
SUBMIT TO THE TRUTH

Sometimes a GUILTY CONSCIENCE is inappropriate.  That said, there are times when I personally feel guilty because…I AM GUILTY!

The best guide in determining TRUE GUILT isn’t other people.  They may not give you very sound advice.

The BEST GUIDE is God’s Word!  It is always consistent, unlike opinions from others.  It is unchanging.

BUT there is a challenge here in becoming submitted to the TRUTH, God’s Word and accepting what it teaches.

I once read somewhere,  “The TRUTH will set you free but it will make you uncomfortable in the process.”

Here’s but one example to apply:  Maybe you are having trouble forgiving someone.

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive your [own] shortcomings and let them drop”  (Mark 11:25 AMP).

As we submit to God’s Word in the Bible, we will make right decisions in following a consistent pattern that is pleasing to God.

The 3rd RESOURCE John lays before us is to Accept the GRACE of God (3:20):

[20] “Whenever our hearts in [tormenting] self-accusation makes us feel guilty and condemn us.  [For we are in God’s hands.]  For He is above and greater than our consciences (our hearts), and He knows (perceives and understands) everything [nothing is hidden from Him].”  (Amplified Bible)

The Bible instructs us to throw your sin into the deepest ocean and leave it there. In addition, God has put up a no fishing sign:

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If you have confessed your sin and asked God’s forgiveness, then REJOICE in the GRACE OF GOD!

GRACE isn’t a pacifier for those who want to continue living in their SIN.  However, if you truly REPENT–change your direction–God’s GRACE will heal your wounds.

Finally, in verse 23, we find the RESOURCE of Putting Your Trust in Jesus.

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“Now, what does JESUS have to do with managing our conscience?”

Good question.

JESUS forgives us when JESUS FORGIVES us when we SIN, thus giving us a CLEAN HEART (clear conscience).

“If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins…”  (1 John 1:9).

BUT there’s more!

Besides forgiving you and I for our sins, He will also give you a fresh start!

A lady by the name of Louise Fletcher Tarkington wrote a poem entitled “The Lord of Beginning Again” [See Footnote [i] ].  This poem reflects the desires of many.

I wish that there were some wonderful place

Called the Land of Beginning Again.

Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches,

And all of our poor selfish grief

Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at 

the door And never put on again.

In Jesus this is possible.

We can gain victory over our CONSCIENCE.

We must follow the internal leadings of LOVE, submit to God’s TRUTH, accept the GRACE of God and put our TRUST in Jesus.

Is God speaking to you about your CONSCIENCE right now?  He wants to give you VICTORY.  Will you accept it today?


CREDITS & FOOTNOTES –

Footnote [i]:  http://fromtroublesofthisworld.wordpress.com/…/the-land-of-beginning-by-lau…

Photos:  Google Image Search

Bible Translations Used:  Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted in the text.

 

 

 

The “Salt Covenant”; Are Believers Missing Something?

I thought I would re-blog this from years past. My pastor and his wife just concluded their message and testimony on relationship in marriage.

The WORD Detective

SALT FLATS; Something is missing here!

“Every cereal offering you shall season with salt [symbol of preservation]; neither shall you allow the SALT OF THE COVENANT of your God to be lacking…with all your offerings you shall offer salt”  (Leviticus 2:13)

“For everyone shall be salted with fire.  SALT IS GOOD (beneficial), but if salt has lost its saltiness, how will you restore [the saltiness to] it?  Have salt within yourselves, and be at peace and live in harmony with one another”  (Mark 9:49, 50).

HOW THE INVESTIGATION BEGINS

I have been asked by some people how I come up with the ideas that I blog about.  To answer that I’ll give the example I used in this subject title.

When I was studying and investigating Scripture and historical evidence in my blog, “The Tabernacle; Jesus and the Cross“, I came upon the four words “salt of the covenant” in

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Living In A Dangerous Spiritual State

John 8:47 (Amplified Bible):

“Whoever is of God listens to God.  [Those who belong to God hear the words of God.]  This is the reason that you do not listen [to those words, to Me]; because you do not belong to God and are not of God or in harmony with Him.”

"I can't hear you"
“I can’t hear you”

I once was sitting in room of a hospital, waiting for the results of the physical stress test I had taken.  A nurse came into the waiting room and sat down next to me, taking my pulse and blood pressure to add to my chart.  She asked me,

“Are you nervous waiting for the test results Mr. Thompson?”

“No,” I answered.  “I’ve been praying about the results, as well as others, and He simply told me to leave the results to Him.”

My answer appeared to raise her curiosity.

“You hear from God?  Actual words?  I never hear words from God and I’ve been a Christian all my life.”

“A Godly heritage can be a powerful influence but never guarantees righteousness.”  [Dr. Dennis Davidson – Mid-America Baptist Seminary]

THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, CHAPTER 8  –

The Crowd, the scribes and Pharisees…

“Early in the morning, He [Jesus] came back into the temple [court], and the people came to Him in crowds. He sat down and was teaching them”  (8:2).

There is a back and forth questioning and answering at church on this day between Jesus, the ‘Jews’, the (“They’s”), I want to focus on before examining verse 47 in detail.

Who were the Jews represented in John Chapter 8?  (verses 30-31)

I love when I am in biblical study, to read various bible translations for comparison.  After doing so, I immediately go to the Interlinear Bible which is keyed to the Greek and Hebrew text using Strong’s Concordance.

John 8:30-31 (Authorized King James Version – AKJV):

[30] As he spake these words, many believed on him.  [31] Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;”

“in him” OR… “on him”?

They were ‘Jews’ which believed, and they continued to be so while they were believing.

Now the word ‘Jew’ in this Gospel always indicates adversaries to Christ Jesus. and as for these persons, we begin to see how superficial and unreliable their bond was to the Lord Jesus.

Over the remaining verses, these same ‘believing’ Jews took up stones to stone Him. They believed “on Him,” as some Bible translations claim, while others read believed “in Him.”   One of my favorite ‘go to’ when studying Scripture is the Interlinear Bible; the bible is keyed to the Greek and Hebrew text using Strong’s Concordance.

John 8:30 Interlinear Bible:

These things  of his speaking  many believed  ON (Strong 1519 [e] )  him.

I’m only pointing this out as one point of view to the narrative in John 8.  Of course there were those who believed IN Jesus as the Son of the living God.  It was the “inconsistency” that comes into play here, and today as well.

INCONSISTENCY TAKES HOLD – “Abraham is our father” (verses 39-41)

The gathered Jews were taking claim to a lineage to ABRAHAM and their ticket to heaven.  In reality… they were honoring themselves, not Abraham.

Jesus wanted them to see that they could be his descendants, yet lack his spirit.  Was not ABRAHAM our father JUSTIFIED by works when he had offered Isaac his son on the altar?

James 2:21-22:  

[21] Was not our forefather Abraham [shown to be] justified (made acceptable to God) by [his] works when he brought to the altar as an offering his [own] son Isaac?

[22] You see that [his] faith was cooperative with his works, and [his] faith was completed and reached its supreme expression [when he implemented it] by [good] works. 

Matthew 3:8-9:

[8] Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance  [let your lives prove your change of heart];  [9] And do not presume to say to yourselves,  We have Abraham for our forefather; for I tell you, God is able to raise up descendants for Abraham from these stones.

MAKING FALSE CLAIMS – “We have one Father, even God”  (verses 41-43)

In writing up her resume for a full-time job, an applicant described her summer job as ‘purchasing’, being responsible for accuracy of the daily cash transactions, maintaining the morale, alertness and well-being of the entire office staff.  Actually–she went to Starbucks for the coffee.

Then the Lord said,  Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips but remove their hearts and minds far from Me, and their fear and reverence for Me are a commandment of men that is learned by repetition [without any thought as to the meaning]”  (Isaiah 29:13 AMP).

There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death  (Proverbs 14:12).

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven”  (Matthew 7:21 NIV).

THE COMPROMISING EVIDENCE REVEALED (verses 43-47)

Unfortunately the world Christian has lost a great deal of significance over the centuries and no longer means “one who has turned from sin, the old way of living, trusted Jesus Christ, received salvation by Grace.

Many people who have never been born again consider themselves ‘Christians,’ simply because they say they are not ‘pagans’.  After all, they belong to a local church, attend services semi-regularly, and even occasionally… give to the work of the Church!

180-degrees-angle_318-59071But it takes Repentance from sin–a demonstrative change in direction–a 180 degree turn.

It takes FAITH in Christ Jesus, who died for our sins on the Cross and rose again to give us eternal life (Warren Wiersbe).

And already the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire  (Matthew 3:10).

The wind blows where it wills; and though you hear its sound, yet you neither know where it comes from nor where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit  (John 3:8).

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due Me” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for My name”  (Malachi 1:6 NIV).

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient”  (Ephesians 2:1-2 NIV).

Because the “they’s” were not truly God’s children, they could not understand God’s Message as John 8:43 indicates:

Why do you not understand what I say?

It is because you are unable to hear what I am saying. 

[You cannot bear to listen to My message; your

ears are shut to My teaching.]

The ‘religious’ become so wrapped up in their own way of thinking, they couldn’t understand the Truth.  The Jews were unable to understand because they refused to listen receptively to Jesus [selective hearing].

Satan, “the father of lies and all that is false” (8:44), used their stubbornness, pride, and pre-conceived notions to keep them from believing “IN” Jesus.  Do you know anyone like that?

It is no surprise to know, Satan too is a ‘fisher of men.’  And the bait is whatever will lure stock-photo-businessman-takes-the-bait-to-the-hook-275973842us to take the hook of sin.

It usually appeals to a natural desire–such as our need for intimacy or success or security.  He uses legitimate needs to hide his real intent, which is to get us to disobey God’s Word.  He knows that to entice us to take the bait; he has to hide the hook.  And he’ll make it look as appealing as he can.

Being Prepared –

Don’t be surprised, when sometimes you wonder if God exists.  Filled with questions that you feel at times like an unbeliever.

As followers of Christ, we are in conflict with God’s enemy, the devil, the father of lies.  We wrestle against him and “the rulers of the darkness of this age”  (Ephesians 6:12).

Two of the pieces of armor God has provided for us when we are attacked by DOUBT are “TRUTH” and “the shield of FAITH” (Eph. 6:14-16).

As we then soak our minds with God’s Word, our FAITH will be strengthened.  The best protection against Satan’s lies is to know God’s TRUTH.

Good communication involves more than ‘good speaking’ qualities; it requires ‘good listening.’

So why were  “THEY”  such poor listeners?

It wasn’t because Jesus failed to communicate the message, but because they didn’t want to hear the truth–because it made them face up to their need to change.  It is hard to tune into heaven’s message if our lives are full of earthly static.

Jesus intentionally challenged His listeners to test Him (verse 46):

“Who of you convicts Me of wrongdoing or finds Me guilty of sin? Then if I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?”

Jesus welcomed those who wanted to question His claims and character as long as they were willing to follow through on what they discovered.

Jesus’ challenge is clear to the two most frequent reasons that people miss when meeting Him:

  • they never accept His challenge to test Him, or
  • they test Him but are not willing to believe what they discover

In verse 47, Jesus answers His own question as to why the “they’s” couldn’t believe:  “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear then, because you are not of God.”

Jesus was speaking to those who thought they followed God.  They had a notion that they were of course, Children of God, but never yielded to Him in depth of allegiance that is the core of real belief.  It is a dangerous spiritual state.

TRUTH is an abstract concept and difficult for some people to know and appreciate.  So many people today get so involved in the fallen world system that they no longer recognize God’s truth (John 18:38).  God’s truth is a foreign language they cannot understand.

A RELIGION or A RELATIONSHIP?

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well  (1 John 5:1 NIV).

Do you want a load to weigh you down or a love to lift you up?

Do you want impossible rules that do no good or an impeccable relationship that does the impossible?

Do you want a religion that leads to nowhere but eternal death, or a relationship that leads to eternal life?

Your answers will determine your ability to hear the truth in your choices that you make.

ARE YOU LISTENING?

 


CREDITS:

Photo Credits: Google Search Images.

Commentaries:  John 8:47 Commentaries: “He who is of God hears…” – Bible Hub.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible except where noted in the text.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A GUIDE For Witnessing In A Christ-like Manner

you will be my witnessesIn my reading of Scripture every morning, my set-aside devotional time, there’s one book in the New Testament that refreshes my spirit over and over again.  It was the first book of the Bible I read through after I was “born again” in 1972.  The book, The Gospel Of John.  

Many truths set forth in John’s gospel have made a great impact on my Christian life.  First and foremost, there is no greater honor than to be a part of God’s work of telling others about Jesus.  So this is where I want to begin; sharing from my own experiences and giving a beginning guide to today’s oft forgotten term… Witnessing to others about Jesus Christ.

We hear from pastor’s sermons at least once a year from a familiar passage in Acts 1:8  “and you shall be My witnesses…”  Now if we take that verse to heart, seriously, maybe we need to reevaluate our preparedness to obey Christ’s command.

WHAT IS A WITNESS?

WITNESS Definitions:  Merriam Webster;  [2] One that gives evidence;  [5] public affirmation by word or example.

The word WITNESS we are most familiar with comes to us from the legal sphere, derived from the root meaning “to bear in mind,” “to be careful.”  Thus a witness in the field of law is one who has the knowledge of something by recollection and experience and who can tell about it accurately.

Biblically speaking, A WITNESS is born when one is born again, that is, when you experience the POWER of God in your own personal death, burial and resurrection. In that sense, Christian Witnessing is not optional, nor is it mandatory.  It is inevitable.

When I first had knowledge of what a witness was, and internalizing Jesus’ message in Acts 1:8 of being “witnesses” in the community, this next little tidbit was added to my spirit: 

The word MARTYR: “comes from the Greek word for “witness”.  Early Christians were often put to death for the “witness” of Christ Jesus.

Boy, after having that scary thought placed in my mind, I needed some real motivation if… I was going to be a witness for Jesus.  But where was that motivation going to come from?

A GUIDE to Being A WITNESS:

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In John chapter four, JESUS is passing through Samaria.  He comes to Jacob’s well, tired from His journey and He sits down (John 4:6).

Now the disciples have gone into a nearby town Sychar, to buy food (John 4:5, 8).  The Bible says it was about the sixth hour which most likely be around noon.

LUNCH TIME!

In my last job before retiring, I was required to be at my desk by 6 AM.  So by the time lunch time rolled around, I needed to get away from the office, where I could sit down, get a bite to eat, and relax.  Many times, several of my co-workers would show up at the same place.  I didn’t invite them to come.  They just showed up!

In this portion of Scripture, we see Jesus’ human side and see that He is tired and evidently hungry, just like when we get tired and hungry.

Notice how Jesus uses a common physical thirst to cause the lady at the well to ask questions about deeper eternal matters.

I was intrigued once more to focus on their discussion.  Remember, they are total strangers to one another–not co-workers, not BFF’s, but strangers.

STEP #1.  Jesus arouses the woman’s curiosity with a promise; the quenching a natural spiritual thirst common to all mankind.  That spiritual thirst which people try to satisfy through giving into the flesh, drinking in the world’s views and Satan’s lies.  Sadly, only a few drink of the Living Water offered by the Lord.

John 4:13-14:

[13] Jesus answer her, “All who drink of this water will be thirsty again.  

THE PROMISE…

[14] But whoever takes a drink of the water that I will give him shall never, no never, be thirsty any more.  But the water that I will give him shall become a spring of water welling up (flowing, bubbling)  [continually]  within him unto (into, for) eternal life.”

By Divine Appointment – A Personal Story

Working for a large company for over fifteen years, starting as a truck driver and working myself up through the ranks to Branch Manager, in February, 1985, the company was sold, and my services were no longer needed.  I was to be replaced by new management.  Although I was given a decent severance pay package, my self-worth was definitely damaged in the process.

Two weeks later, I received a phone call from an old business associate, who had heard through the grapevine reasons for my termination.  He asked the question–“Would I be interested in taking a job out-of-state?”  “That depends,” I answered.  “Where is ‘out-of-state’?”  HAWAII.  So, two days later, I found myself sitting in front of the president of large Hawaiian Wholesale Plumbing Company on the island of Oahu.

The next several months was a time in my life I have reflected on in detail for years. For my stay was for a brief time.  At the time, A Divine Appointment wasn’t even a thought. But God had set His plan in motion long before I had a clue.

After accepting the new job, part of my negotiated package was housing and a company vehicle to use until my family and automobile arrived from the mainland.  Since the president’s daughter and son-in-law lived nearby and also worked at the same office, I carpooled with the young man…for over two months.  Our conversation varied during the heavy commute, from family to music choices (the car radio was always active), to Hawaiian lifestyle compared to mainland lifestyle.  Then one day he asked, “I’ve noticed you go to church every Sunday.  What church do you attend?”  The opportunity at the well was there and I took it!

I answered his question with a question; asking him his religious background and did he have a personal relationship with JESUS; a few weeks later led him to Christ.

Hawaii wasn’t the place for my family and I to live, and I returned to the mainland; unemployed to employment…and back to unemployment… all with three month’s time.

WHY?  God had a DIVINE APPOINTMENT in mind and I had the privilege to be a part of.  It wasn’t until I returned to my original starting point did I fully understand the details in my going.

Divine Providence brings always amazing things and Jesus doesn’t want you to miss the opportunities He gives you.

Three simple truths we can hold on to here as laid down by Jesus to help all Christians in their daily witness.  For after all, when we leave our front door in the morning, we don’t go out witnessing; we witness as we go.  It may be today, next week, next month or off and on through out the calendar year.  But know this: God wants to use you.

So how can we follow the simple example of Christ with confidence that Jesus is going to use us?

The FIRST THING I noticed that Jesus did was to make a connection.

The woman who lived a sinful life came out to get water and He makes the connection with her.

You have family members, friends and co-workers just like this lady and you need to be making connections.  Jesus made the connection in being obedient to His Father who was sending Him to Galilee.

All Divine Appointments that are set up for you come about as you are obedient to the Lord’s call on your life.  

Divine Providence brings all glorious things into existence.  Jesus doesn’t want you to miss the opportunities He gives you.

Is there someone in your workplace that you want to reach for Christ?  Is there a neighbor, a family member you’ve been praying for?  Ask the Lord for a connection.

Jesus had a need for water and the lady had a way of getting water from a well that was very deep.  The depth is around 70 feet to the water line with a depth of about 105 feet (Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Jacob’s Well).

The point being Jesus, being a man, had a NEED that could not be met without her help.

We all have some needs that we cannot meet and there is someone who is bound by sin who can help you meet that need.

This is a wonderful opportunity to make a connection. It may be an answer to a question about work, home repairs, a physical task you cannot do on your own.

Make a connection with someone who would be shocked that you even noticed them let alone asked them for help.

The lady at the well asks,  “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”  (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans) – (John 4:9)

A Little History About Samaritans –

Samaria is right about center of Israel.  When Israel fell to the Assyrians, Samaria was theacts_1_8_1 place where the poorest were left behind.  They intermarried with other races and brought in a false priest.  Add to that, they began false worship and twisted Scripture while rejecting everything in the Old Testament except the first five books of the Bible (2 Kings 17).

There are many PREJUDICES that keep people from hearing the gospel message of Jesus.

PREJUDICES of the people who are living in sin.  They convince themselves that obedient Christians don’t want to associate with them or care about their needs, problems or concerns.

Jesus’ lifestyle was to be out among sinners, ministering to the sick, the needy, meeting practical and spiritual needs to all who would accept what God was doing through Him.

“Must needs”  (John 4:4)

After looking at different bible translations, I like the KJV version the best:  “And he must needs pass through Samaria.”

Interesting TRUTH can be found here that the Holy Spirit wants us to grasp in our efforts to fulfill our part in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

“Must needs” in application means it was a necessity, a compulsion and Jesus’ destiny to go through Samaria for the sake of His mission.

There are THREE ROUTES Jesus could have taken.  But Jesus had to go through Samaria to lay down a foundational work of the gospel, because it was His Father’s will for Him (John 4:34).

THE SECOND TRUTH the Holy Spirit wants us to get hold of:  Jesus drew attention for temporary satisfaction to eternal fulfillment.

The core of Jesus’ mission at the well as defined in John 4:10 and 13 is to move the lady from what she does know to what she does not know.  He does this in stimulating her curiosity resulting in her asking a question about Him (John 4:12).  She wants to know who this man at the well is:

“Are You greater than and superior to our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well and who used to drink from it himself, and his sons and his cattle also?”

Through Jesus’ example, our goal is to get people from thinking and talking about what they know and talking about and asking they about what they don’t know.

How can we guide the conversation in our connections to talk about what they don’t know?  

One example, when people begin to talk about the problems their family is having, move them to ask about a Christian family that had the same problem, maybe your own family, but do not have them now.  

Point how Jesus did a work in their lives.  Remember the goal here is to be walking in obedience to the Lord.  The focus is to be speaking to people you connect with.  

Let the Lord lead you to the Divine Appointment; to a heart that is prepared to receive what the Lord has for them at that time on their life.

An important note to remember in witnessing to others: Jesus pointed the women’s attention to what matters in eternity.  There is a contrast to what will satisfy PHYSICAL Thirst (water drawn from a well by labor) and to SPIRITUAL Water that will bubble from the inside given by Jesus.

In this incident at Jacob’s Well, the Samaritan lady makes a request, “…Sir, give me this water so I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water!” (John 4:15).

This lady typifies many of the people we come across daily in our witnessing.  Because they are bound by SIN, they are so slow to respond to the things of God.

Like the lady at the well, many HEAR the gospel message, yet still want the things of God for all the wrong reasons.  In other words, she and those like her, still need a purifying of the heart.

People who are carnal in their thinking and not yet surrendered to the Lord (Matthew Henry Commentary).

In John chapter four, we see that Jesus had to break the barrier that kept her from understanding.

The TRUTH that must be presented to all, including Christianity is FIRST,  the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ and all that He is.

The SECOND is the revelation on oneself.

It begins with the realization that LIFE lived without Him being Savior and Lord will not do; that one must be enlightened by the Holy Spirit that he is in great need of GRACE & MERCY of God.  Use your own testimony of how God’s Grace & Mercy made things new in your life.

The THIRD TRUTH I discovered is that the Lord wants us to grab hold of and pass on to others the importance:  What is a TRUE WORSHIPER?

Jesus said,  “You [Samaritans] do not know what you are worshiping [you worship what you do not comprehend]. We do know what we are worshiping [we worship what we have knowledge of and understand], for [after all] salvation comes from [among] the Jews.  A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers.  God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth (reality).”  (John 4:22-24 AMP).

Most of the people we come in contact with are like the Samaritans in a sense who have chosen a partial knowledge of God’s Word.  They, like the Samaritans, have selective worship.  They choose which portion of Scripture they like and disregard the rest.

No one can worship in spirit and truth without an honest heart, seeking God’s will through the whole council of the written Word.

That doesn’t mean that a worshiper has to know ALL of God’s Word, but they must have a heart desire in seeking the Lord’s will and a willingness to live out what has already been revealed to them.

Those who want to WITNESS as Jesus did must point out the Lord is looking for the worshipers who approach God through his spirit, to attain a closeness and intimacy with God–a new relationship.

TRUE WORSHIP is when the spirit, the immortal and invisible part of oneself, speaks to and meets God, who is immortal and invisible (William Barclay).

This study in John chapter four is but a GUIDE towards your making connections in your community.  Simply use what you have already been given and He will make the way for you to WITNESS for Jesus.

God has a DIVINE APPOINTMENT for you to keep–be ready and willing to keep it!!

 


CREDITS:

Photos & Map – Google image search.

The New Testament Meaning of “Witness” [Founders – by Ernest Reisinger]

Bible translations as noted in the text.