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”

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Are We Living Our Lives In A Wall?

When God Tells the Story.

When God tells the story of setting aside a special nation, preparing the way for His Son in the Old Testament, He doesn’t hide the truth; the details are displayed openly for all to read and see.

The Family Tree.

God includes the LIAR, the COWARDS, the CHEATERS, the MESS-UPS, and the street-walker.  Character flaws are never a deterrent to God’s greater plan.

*[See Matthew 1:5 for Rahab’s inclusion]

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Living In Ancient Cities…

Often cities of ancient times are surrounded by thick, solid walls for protection against invading armies.  And as Christians, we sometimes build walls around our own spiritual lives for the same reasons.  We don’t want to get hurt or criticized by the outside world.  If we stay huddled together, never venturing outside the walls, except for well planned evangelism raids to the surrounding countryside; then bringing the assembled captives back behind closed gates in celebration of our own efforts.  “Oh Lord, it’s so hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.”

God’s Church was never intended to be a walled in community of believers; living inside a wall while peering out of a self-righteous window at the lost sinners; eagerly waiting for the next well planned raid into the outside world by our well-meaning church leaders.

Living In A Wall.

In ancient times, the heavy expense plus the consuming time to build solid walls for protection, led to an alternative city wall design we call a CASEMATE.

A CASEMATE
A CASEMATE

A casemate consisted of two thinner walls; parallel walls with an empty space between them.  It was faster and cheaper to build, and afforded the inhabitants extra living space.

In times of war, the space could be quickly filled with dirt and stones creating a thicker, solid defensive wall.

We too, have a tendency to use our church building as the “inner wall,” and our homes as the “outer wall.”  And in between?

A lot of dirt and stones in between to separate us from criticism, hypocrisy and self-condemnation.

The Conquest of Jericho (Text: Joshua 2:1-24): 

The reading in Joshua 2 suggest that a woman, by the name of RAHAB, was known as a prostitute and occupied her home on the outside wall.

“…for her [Rahab’s] house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall”  (Joshua 2:15 b. ESV).

The house of Rahab in the Old Testament is PICTURE

The familiar story in Joshua 2 brings to my mind a picture of a FULL CHURCH.  Can you imagine the great transformation that took place in-house of two spies, who brought her into a personal relationship with the God of Israel.

Her inn of iniquity became a house of prayer and worship and when the walls of Jericho fell, only her house remained on the wall; everyone within the house experienced salvation and her house was full!

How did this happen?  Could this happen to us in our own churches?  Are the principles laid down in this Old Testament Book be applied today, so we too, could have a full house at the coming of the Lord?

A Genuine Born Again Experience –

The Blood of Christ…

We have this pictured in this story by the SCARLET THREAD placed outside the window rahabof Rahab’s home in the wall (Joshua 2:18):

“Behold, when we come into the land, you shall bind this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall bring your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household into your house.”

All of the children of Israel had been told of the courage and faith of Rahab.  So in their daily march around the city (Joshua Chapter 6), must have taken note of the scarlet thread on the outside wall.

Rahab_PassoverI’m sure this was likened to the days of THE PASSOVER; this was a type of BLOOD on the door post.

There is POWER IN THE BLOOD!

There was enough power in this scarlet cord that two grown men hold on to its safety as they escaped from a sure death.

There was enough power in this scarlet thread to keep the walls of Jericho from falling on this house.

Rahab the harlot had a genuine born again experience.  No longer did she trust in the idolatrous gods of Jericho.  She had placed her new-found faith and trust in the God of Israel.

Is the church of today preaching, relying on, trusting in the POWER of the Blood of Jesus, or are the leaders of the congregation trusting in man devised programs and false doctrine?

A Life Lived In Holiness!

The day that Rahab TRUSTED the God of Israel would be her last day of harlotry.

The red rope [cord, thread]…

The red cord that might have stood for the house of sin, now, became a symbol of the CROSS.  Rehab’s everyday, ongoing business became God’s business.  Right in the midst of living in a wall, she had become a new creation in Christ Jesus, Saint Rehab.

Could churches today…hang a red rope outside the building, symbolizing the power that can happen by simply people grabbing hold?  How would the lost know of God’s saving grace by a simple, uncomplicated, red thread?

THERE’S POWER IN THE BLOOD!

A Passion for Souls!

Rehab’s heart passion was that of her family and friends.  One by one she compelled them to enter in.

It’s not enough that my church preach with the right doctrine.  That alone will not bring souls into the kingdom.

It’s not enough that church members live lives of holiness.  That will not fill up the church seats on Sunday.

THE FIELDS ARE WHITE
THE FIELDS ARE WHITE

The people of God’s Church must have a PASSION to win the lost!  The fields are white unto the harvest.  Where are the reapers?

A Plan of Hope!

The king of Jericho had no plan.  The doomed people within the city hung their heads over the wall while they looked sadly at their coming fate.  Their hearts were trembling from fear of the coming judgment.

Only Rahab had a plan!

Only Rahab had been given the promise of SALVATION.  Her house alone would be the ARK of safety.

As a Church, we have been commissioned by Christ Jesus to SHARE the good news of SALVATION with the lost.  We have a message of hope.  We, the church, know (or should know) the truth of Christ.

RAHAB’S HOUSE IN THE WALL

Rahab’s house is a perfect example of a perfect church.

When we, the Church, become as convinced of coming judgment, and as compassionate as Rahab was of the lost members of her family, we too will have a full church.

I’m disheartened, disappointed in hearing people in the body of Christ say, “Oh, I just love a smaller church!  It’s so much more friendly than a large church.”  Really? More friendly to who?

Can the Old Testament Church RENEW a challenge within our church walls to become the Church of God’s plan?

Remember again the cry of the Father:

So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full’  (Luke 14:23, N.L.T.).

 


Credits:

Bible History Daily – Rahab the Harlot Robin Ngd – 9/23/2013;  The Jericho Scenario – The Open Scroll;  The Sermon Notebook – Tearing Down the Walls; Bible Archaeology, Travel with Luke Chandler.

Bible Translations used: 

Amplified Bible, English Standard Version, New Living Translation.

Images used:

Photo Pin; Google Images

 

 

 

Discovering Our God-given Destination

Scripture Reading and Text:

[1] THE PLANS of the mind and orderly thinking belong to man, but from the Lord comes the [wise] answer of the tongue. [2] All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits (the thoughts and intents of the heart).  [3] Roll your works upon the Lord  [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed”  (Proverbs 16:1-3 Amplified Bible).

GOD HAS A PURPOSE–A PLAN FOR EVERY PERSON:

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’re going to end up somewhere else.”  [Lewis Carroll]

God does have a PURPOSE–A PLAN for every person.  Discovering this and fulfilling it is the ESSENCE of life.  Most people I think, don’t have any purpose with their lives.  I know, because that’s where I was several years ago.  We hope, wish for, but do so without a plan.  We sit idly by, waiting for a clue, something to happen.

I recently read a story about Albert Einstein [*See Footnote [i]]:

New York City Train Car
New York City Train Car

Some years ago the great thinker was on a train in New York City.  The ticket taker came walking through the train car. As Einstein reached into his pocket to retrieve his ticket, he couldn’t find it.  He frantically searched his coat pockets, turned his pant pockets inside out, but still couldn’t produce the ticket.  The ticket taker said,  “Don’t worry, Mr. Einstein, we all know who you are.  Forget about it.”  Twenty minutes later, the ticket taker came back through the car and by this time… Einstein was on the floor, searching everywhere for the lost ticket.  Again the ticket taker tried to reassure Einstein by saying,  “I told you not to worry about the lost ticket.  We trust that you purchased one, and that’s good enough for us.”  Einstein looked up at the trains employee and said,  “Young man, this isn’t a matter of trust but of direction.  I need to find the ticket because I forgot where I’m going.”

427570295_28a9ae8d99
Sitting in Idleness

 

 

The Cost of Doing Nothing–

Do you have a clear sense of where you want to go in life?  Are you headed toward that destination, moving away from that destination, or simply standing idle?

The SECRET to SENSIBLE LIVING is this:  Wise people have a SENSE of their God-given destination and have made plans of going there.

Nobody arrives at their DESTINATION in life by accident.  The only thing that arrives at its intended destination by accident is airline luggage.  In fact, without a PLAN, we drift away from our DREAMS.

Most people living in Asia, hope in “good fate” or “karma.”  Not many people are into planning.  They just accept whatever comes their way.

The FARMER and the DEVIL–

I recently read a story about a Finnish atheist.  He left his farm to the devil in his last will and testament.  When he died, the legal system was dumbfounded on how to honor his request in the will.

Finally, after weeks of deliberation, the court decided the best way to carry out the farmer’s wishes was permit the weeds and briars take over the farmland, allow the house and barn to remain unpainted and rotting, and let the soil erode and wash away.

The court had declared in its ruling, “The best way to let the devil have possession of anything was to do nothing.”  The best way to allow Satan to destroy your dream is to do nothing.

Living a life without purpose and direction–

Living your life without an ACTION PLAN, without a PURPOSE, you’ll never arrive at the desired destination in life.

WHY?  There’s a LAW that works in the natural world that also operates in our lives:

“THE SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS”:

This law in physics states that DISORDER in the universe always increases.

After your children are told to clean their bedrooms, it always has the tendency to become messy again.  This is the result of The Second Law. Simply put, the physical world is decaying and the direction of all creation is downward, not upward.

Everything eventually runs down. Everything is decaying  [*See Footnote [ii]].

2 Corinthians 4:16 (NIV):  “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

DISCOVERING YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE AND AVOIDING THE 3 “D” s:

Because of the SIN NATURE we inherited from Adam, we do not naturally lean toward God in moving toward His plan for our lives.  If we don’t attempt to ENERGIZE a proactive counter effort, the natural course of events will lead to depletion of financial resources, disintegration of our families, deterioration of our own body, and yes, the destruction of souls.  That’s why it is ESSENTIAL to develop a plan to reverse the natural direction of your life in order to transport you to your desired direction.

The Wisdom in King Solomon’s Career…

And I purpose to build a house to the Name of the Lord my God,  as the Lord said to David my father,  “Your son whom I will set on your throne in your place shall build the house to My Name and Presence”  (1 Kings 5:5 AMP).

SOLOMON had a clear objective, a plan in mind, but he knew that the TEMPLE would not build itself.  He didn’t “over spiritualize” his dream by saying,  “If the Lord wants this temple built, it will happen in His way and in His time.”  SOLOMON already understood the importance of DEVELOPING A PLAN:

Proverbs 15:22:  Where there is no counsel, purposes are frustrated, but with many counselors they are accomplished.

Proverbs 16:9:  A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure.

Proverbs 19:21:  Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand.

Proverbs 20:18:  Purposes and plans are established by counsel; and [only] with good advice make or carry on war.

Proverbs 21:5:  The thoughts of the [steadily] diligent tend only to plenteousness, but everyone who is impatient and hasty hastens only to want.  

FINDING CONTENTMENT IN PLANNING:

[13] Now listen, you who say,  “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money,”  [14] Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  [15] Instead, you ought to say,  “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that”  (JAMES 4:13-15 NIV).

JAMES isn’t opposed to PLANNING.  He is WARNING against planning without God.

The foundational question we all should ask ourselves when it comes to establishing our goals,  “Is this PLAN in keeping with God’s will for my life?”

What does it mean to be CONTENTED?

Does it mean I should have my DESIRES limited to that which I already have and achieved?  Or, does being CONTENTED mean, I should have my DESIRES limited to which I am CONVINCED God wants me to have and that which God wants me to achieve (Proverbs 16:9).

The first statement reflects LAZINESS, a sluggard’s philosophy.

The second shows DEPENDENCE on Christ’s Lordship.

GOALS that are within the will of God are designed for the GLORY of God and is pleasing to Him!!

“BUT WHAT IF I FAIL?”

Oh how many times have I asked myself that question.  When those thoughts come to mind, I turn to God’s Word (Scripture) to encourage me in moving ahead:

Sanballat’s words in Nehemiah 4:1-3:

“I have plenty of time, so what’s the hurry?”  Or, “I do not have enough time, so why bother?”

Steve Farrar, founder and chairman of Men’s Fellowship Ministries warns…

“Our continual mistake is that we do not concentrate upon the present day, the actual hour of our life; we live in the past or the future; we are continually expecting the coming of some special hour when our life shall unfold itself in its significance. And we do not observe that life is flowing like water through our fingers, sifting the precious grain from a loosely fastened bag.”

* [See Footnote [iii] ]*

“Instant Coffee Theory of Life” – (“Instant Orange Juice Theory of Life”)  – *[See Footnote [iv]*

Rabbi Harold Kushner describes this theory as similar to our tendency when you open a new jar of instant coffee.  We tend to dole it out generously at first because, after all, you have an entire jar of coffee.  But halfway down the jar, you become more conservative, and by the time you reach the bottom of the jar, you begin measuring your portions more carefully by reaching into the corners of the jar for every last grain.

In the same way, when we’re young, we tend to be careless with our time, thinking we have our entire lives to achieve our dreams.  But by the time we reach the end of our years, we ask ourselves,  “How did it go by so fast?” – We pray the same prayer Moses prayed:

“A PRAYER OF MOSES” – Psalm 90:10-12:

[10] The length of our days is seventy years–or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.  [11] Who knows the power of your anger?  For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.  [12] Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  (NIV)

How To Set Up Meaningful Goals for Your Life–

How can you develop a PLAN that will get you from where you are right now to where you BELIEVE GOD wants you to be…

In your marriage…

In your finances…

In your career…

In your ministry…

And in your spiritual life?

CLARIFYING YOUR PURPOSE:

This is a big question each of us must know:  WHAT ARE WE ON EARTH FOR?  WHY DO YOU EXIST?

The answer is clear:  “We all live to GLORIFY God.”

Clarifying Your Purpose
Clarifying Your Purpose

The “clarifying purpose” involves something that you are passionate about.  My PASSION is teaching God’s Word.  That’s how I got started in Blogging For God several years back, coining the title THE WORD DETECTIVE.

“But what if I don’t have a PASSION?”

Bob Biehl, president of Master Planning Group International, suggest SIX QUESTIONS to help you identify your PASSION:

#1.  What needs that I see in the world are of concern to me?

#2.  If I could meet any need in the world, what need would I meet?

#3.  What are the most urgent needs in my country, my community, my church?

#4.  What age group or type of people naturally interests me?

#5.  What are the major needs among my neighbors, my friends, and my family?

#6.  If I don’t meet these needs, who will?

REMEMBER, your life’s purpose should involve something for which God has gifted you with (Study 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Romans 12:6-8).  And don’t forget about your physical talents: “photography, painting, gardening, cooking, etc.”–All can be used to GLORIFY GOD!

Let me encourage you where you are:  Sit quietly and ask the Lord how you can discover a PLAN in your life in accordance to His purpose, His will; and SHARE WITH OTHERS the results– the gifts of your passion.

“A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure”  (Proverbs 16:9 AMP).

 


POST FOOTNOTES:

[i] – Billy Graham & Albert Einstein Friday Study Ministries – The First Church on the Net.

[ii] – ENERGY and KIDS http://www.kids.esd.bg/basic_principles.html

[iii] – Steve Farrar, Anchor Man (Nashville, Ten.: Nelson, 1998),  91).

[iv] – Harold Kushner, When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough (New York: Pocket Books, 1986), 158-59.

Photo Credits:  Photo Pin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Soul Fasting” (Part Two)

“SOUL FASTING” or “TRUE FASTING” (Part One continued) :

CONTINUING in Jeremiah 58 verses 6-7 (NIV).

[6]  Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  [7] Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood? 

With the title, as The WORD Detective, I like to break down sentence structures in the Bible while I study and meditate on God’s Word for a perspective blog-POST.  Verse 6 & 7 is but one example.

INFINITIVE VERBS–

An infinitive verb is a verb with the word “to” in front of it (eg. “to loose”, “to set”, “to share”, etc.) showing action.  (See Footnote [i])

In Verses 6 and 7, I learned through and by my investigation, the importance of TRUE FASTING and the desired outcomes of my actions.  Yes, there should always be an outcome from FASTING!

My whole outlook into God’s desires  has changed my point of view towards the practice of FASTING.  Not of my desires, or the churches desires, or someone elses, but God’s desire through my fasting can and will be accomplished.

We cannot be saved by deeds of service without FAITH IN CHRIST; but our faith lacks sincerity if it does reach out in compassion.

The PURPOSE of Soul Fasting–

The FOUR INFINITIVE VERBS in Verses 6 & 7, all pertain to LIBERATION.  God says He wants our service to go beyond our own personal growth to acts of kindness, charity, justice, and generosity.  FASTING should be more than what we don’t eat.  It is obvious that this type of FAST is not a ritualistic one but for spiritual strength, bringing liberation to God’s people (the Church).

Have you ever felt “liberated” after you’ve fasted? The few times that I have fasted, LIBERATION never entered my mind.  Counting the hours so I could end my fast was all that I desired.

THE FIRST DESIRE OR PURPOSE–

The first desire of “soul fasting,” which honors God, is to loosen the bonds of wickedness (“chains of injustice”); while in our FASTING, that God would open the wicked bonds that have been placed upon you or someone else or a congregation.

Unchain the binding yoke
Unchain the binding yoke

The SECOND CLAUSE, to “untie the cords” or undo the bonds of the yoke, indicates the people who are mutually beneficial to one another, are to FAST that this oppressive yoke of burden, misguidance or direction over us is broken.

God tells His people, “If you want to FAST the way that pleases Me, start getting right with your brothers and sisters that sit next to you, in front of you, and across the aisle from you every Sunday.”  [“I don’t smoke and I don’t chew. And I don’t associate with people who do!”].

The NEXT CLAUSE, to let the oppressed go free while we are FASTING; to pray for those who are oppressed in whatever form (socially, culturally), will be set free to serve God.

The statement “break every yoke” pictures the complete destruction of the means of oppression.  Those who are then freed by God can then spread the freedom to others.

The results of “soul fasting”, pursues and continues in VERSE 7

Not only does it require God’s POWER to enact justice, it also enacts God’s POWER to enact FAVOR, BLESSING, BENEVOLENCE to those around us.

“NO NEGLECT HERE!”

God’s people were not to neglect each other.  When someone shared with one in need, it was a reminder of everything one owned belonged to the LORD.

FASTING THAT CHANGES THE HEART:

“SOUL FASTING” changes the heart and make it compassionate.

“YOU” is singular.  The statements in VERSE 7 are directed to each person, to each of us.

Notice that you are to DIVIDE YOUR BREAD with the hungry of the same food that you are eating.  We must deny ourselves, that we may SHARE with that person that’s hungry.

stock-photo-breaking-bread-close-up-180998312
Dividing your BREAD with the hungry

Second, you and I are to provide lodging to those that do not have a house–provide shelter for the cast out poor, forced from his/her dwelling, turned out of house and home.

Third, we are to provide clothing for those who lack them.  “OUR OWN FLESH” probably refers to close relatives (Gen. 37:27).  God expects us to see the situation of our family and to take care of them.

My son once told my wife and I, that in our old age, if we can’t take care of ourselves, we could come and live at his house.  Now I don’t know how our daughter-in-law feels about that proposed idea, but the compassion of family is there.

God’s people SHARE with those who lack the basic needs of life.  Those who know in their own lives the compassionate blessing He brings, should in turn extend it to others.

These acts on behalf of others becomes the outward evidence of inward faith and righteousness (Job 31:17-20; Ezek. 18:7, 16).  JESUS identified with the hungry and naked (Mt. 25:36).

“TRUE FASTING” is to be concerned with more than our physical and spiritual benefits.  God wants us to go beyond concern of our own spiritual growth.

“SOUL FASTING” is more than NOT eating.  It is the emptying of SELF in order to find what we need in Christ Jesus, in order to please God with word and deed.

THE PRECIOUS PROMISE, Verses 8-12:

VERSE 8 begins to set forth some BLESSINGS upon a life that becomes right with God:

“Then your LIGHT will break forth like the dawn, and your HEALING will quickly appear; then your RIGHTEOUSNESS will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard” (NIV).

God offers PRECIOUS PROMISES for those who FAST in TRUTH--“Soul Fast”.  To be changed and have the situation changed to those in need of change.

God wants me to know that He will honor those who TRULY FAST in order to honor Him.

FOUR BLESSINGS ARE PROMISED–

LIGHT, HEALING, GUIDANCE and PROTECTION.

I don’t know about you, my desire is to have these four blessings in my life.  It’s not a wish, but a PROMISE to us who observe the TRUE FAST.

The FIRST PROMISE of LIGHT that comes is when we are focusing our life on SELF, resulting in DARKNESS.  Unless JESUS is the center of our interest, LIFE, in and of itself, is heading towards darkness.

The next BLESSING is…your recovery will speedily spring forth.  This recovery indicates to us HEALING or RESTORATION when unconstrained speed of LIGHT is accentuated.

The peoples RIGHT BEHAVIOR causes the righteousness of God to protect and guide them on their way.

The Advance Guard and the Rear Guard is in Place–

As the advance guard and the rear guard provide protection, so the RIGHTEOUSNESS and the GLORY OF GOD (revealed in the manifested presence), will guard against whatever came against God’s people.

Thus, REPENTANT people are surrounded by divine protection.

If the people had inner RIGHTEOUSNESS (revealed in outward acts of justice and mercy, vv 6 & 7), then…the LORD would BLESS them (Deut. 28:1-14) with LIGHT, HEALING (spiritual restoration), RIGHTEOUSNESS (high standards), and PROTECTION from trouble.

OTHER CONDITIONAL PROMISES, Verse 9:

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say; Here am I.

Under these conditions, the FAITHFUL BELIEVER could call upon God and expect answered prayer.

They had been trying to use God while at the same time, oppressing the weak and needy.  God thus was holding back His response (the COMPLAINT of vv. 1-3).

Selfish Religious Activity…

Our “selfish religious activity” will certainly have a hindrance to our PRAYERS (59:1-2).  God is ACTIVE for His people when they are ACTIVE for others.

Other Problematic Areas, (Verse 9 b.)–

If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk.

The FIRST of the problematic concern is the need to remove the yoke.

Pointing a finger of accusation and blame at another or gossiping maliciously (speaking wickedness) about another is SINFUL and it pushes God away from the accuser–the one who is doing the “finger-pointing”.

Having a critical spirit towards others during my life has been a spiritual burden over the past years.  All my “trying not to…” hasn’t worked.  So when these feelings overcome me today; criticizing others and pointing a finger, I REPENT, letting the POWER OF JESUS who is inside of me, live through me.

The Conditions for the BLESSING to continue, Verse 12:

Living as a BUBBLING SPRING!
Living as a BUBBLING SPRING!

And if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the DESIRE of the afflicted, then your LIGHT will standout in the darkness of your gloom as midday.

In verses 11 & 12, the BLESSINGS are continued:  Our LORD promises GUIDANCE, SATISFACTION, STRENGTH, and REFRESHING (like a spring).

Oh, to be GUIDED continually by God through the decisions of life; to be SATISFIED  when the world around us is on fire with thirst.

To be PLEASING and ATTRACTIVE like a well-watered garden to those around us.

To be FOUNTAINS OF JOY and COMFORT to the dry and weary soul around us.

All this and more for fulfilling certain conditions God gives us through the prophet.

And, there is even more, Verse 12.

RESTORATION and the REBUILDING of the RUINS OF MAN–

God promises to His compassionate people, that RUIN and DESTRUCTION can be overcome from His Blessed People.

Though the SIN of the fallen race eventually destroys everything it touches, God is greater than our sin.  He gives us the POWER to restore and repair what has been ruined (friendships, family, new relationships, etc.).  [See Footnote [ii]].  Oh, to be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets where people dwell.  God will enable us to put back together that which was ruined and broken.

To Fast or Not to Fast?

I hope that you just might have a better understanding of the FASTING pleases God.  The TRUE FAST, the “Soul Fast”.  So ask yourself before you deny yourself food, and that is what the Hebrew word som means: “abstaining from food and drink in the ritual sphere of Israelite worship.” [See Footnote [iii]].  Remember, JESUS own “FASTING” in the wilderness prior to the beginning of His public ministry is noted in Matt. 4:2. 

So the question isn’t “To fast, or not”, but what is the condition of our heart, mind and spirit (our souls) before, during, and after we FAST?

 

FOOTNOTES:

[i]     http://www.grammar-monster.com/glossary/infinitive_html.

[ii]   Oswalt, NIC, 507.

[iii]  Expository Dictionary Of Bible Words.

Photo Credits:

All from Photo Pin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are We MERCIFUL?

Our pastor concluded a sermon series this past week entitled: BIG FAT FAKE (week #5)–HUMBLE PIE.  He started his message by giving us the following:

Psalm 139:23-24

[23] Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

[24] See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Great verses to memorize and plant God’s Word Seed in out hearts–“Search me, God…”

Pastor Kyle had us then turn to The Sermon On The Mount–the Beatitudes, as some call it; specifically Matthew 5:3:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

When reading and meditating on Scripture, my mind often leaps in anticipation, I NEED MORE!… more explanation, more examples and more application in my daily life  [‘more is better’].

I was almost disappointed when pastor’s preaching time on the clock had run out!  And then the Holy Spirit spoke to my spirit,  “Mel, you’re the ‘Word Detective’...you get something going, start digging in the Word…press on in the meantime!”

7062800113_eda2d4c87eSo I’m not going to do a whole study of The Beatitudes, but to expand and expound my thought process in and with,  Matthew 5:7.  

Actually, before diving into God’s Word, it’s important for us to take Jesus’ Sermon as a whole, not just one Bible Verse, before we come to the details.  It’s like the cliché, “missing the wood because of the trees”.  We become ready to fix on certain particular statements and not realize that this Sermon On The Mount of Jesus, cannot be understood except in the light of the whole.  They build upon each other–each verse.  That being said, “Are We Merciful?”  Then “Search me, God…”

Matthew 5:7 :  (NIV)

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”

Dealing with MERCY–What MERCY IS NOT…

MERCY ISN’T:

1.  Pretending to have a heart of care and compassion.

2.  It is NOT Self-Seeking – Not trying to act nice so that others are nice to you.

3.  It is  NOT Self-Righteous – Like the Pharisees who thought they were getting brownie points from God by giving to the poor.

4.  It is NOT bothering to show kindness only when you think something’s in it for you.

I’ve given a few examples of what MERCY isn’t, so the obvious next step….

WHAT IS “MERCY”?

I found by reading various Commentaries [i]–that a good place to start is to compare MERCY with GRACE:  “GRACE is especially associated with men in their sins; while MERCY is especially associated with men in their misery.”  While GRACE looks down upon sin as a whole, MERCY looks especially upon the miserable consequences of sin.

So MERCY really means, “a sense of pity plus a desire to relieve the suffering.”  That is the essential meaning of being MERCIFUL; it is pity plus action.  So the professing Christian has a feeling of pity and your concern about the MISERY of others leads to an ANXIETY to relieve it. Another way to describe it:  “an inward sympathy with outward acts in relation to the sorrows and sufferings of others.”  

A New Testament Illustration –  The Parable of the Good Samaritan:

4167350841_79b2491375

JESUS gives us a parable in Luke 10:25-37, that is an old familiar story about The Good Samaritan.

On his journey he sees a poor man who has been in the hands of robbers, he stops, then goes across the road to where he is lying.  The others who have passed by the scene, have already moved on.  They may have felt compassion and pity, yet they have not done anything about it.

But here is a man who is MERCIFUL; he is sorry for the victim, goes across the road, dresses the wounds, then takes the man with him and makes arrangements for his well-being; until he can get back on his feet.  THAT’S BEING MERCIFUL.  Now that doesn’t mean only feeling compassion; it means a great DESIRE, a desire to do something to relieve the situation.

TRUE MERCY IS COMPASSION THAT GOES INTO ACTION!

JESUS is the greatest example of this kind of MERCY.  He saw those in need, showed compassion by doing something about it:  He healed the sick; made the lame walk; gave sight to the blind; made deaf ears hear; and gave life to the dead.

“But that’s JESUS!”

The Word of God asks us these questions:

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity [Amplified Bible says, “a heart of compassion”] on him, how can the love of God be in him?”  (1 John 3:17 NIV).

“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food,    If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well, keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”  (James 2:15-16).

Suppose someone you know is living without the “Armor of God” ( Ephesians 6:11-17) without Spiritual food?  Will you and I be content by feeling sorry for them?  Or, will we spiritually show TRUE MERCY and do something about it!

“…the MERCIFUL will be shown MERCY.”

What happens do you suppose, to persons who are not full of TRUE MERCY?  What happens to the MERCILESS?

— WHAT HAPPENS TO THE UNRELENTING BOSS?

— WHAT HAPPENS TO THE CUTTHROAT BUSINESSMAN?

— WHAT HAPPENS TO THE ABUSIVE FATHER?

— WHAT HAPPENS TO THE MANIPULATIVE MOTHER?

What happens to any of us who refuse to put our COMPASSION INTO ACTION?

For those of us who are content to say, “That’s a shame”, “Look at those poor people”, “That’s too bad for him”, “That’s a pity what’s happened to her”, “I really feel for them”, “Isn’t that something?”, and the list goes on.  We’ve all thought or made similar statements from afar.

Whether they are glaring words, or passive, we will have to answer for not being MERCIFUL.  Scripture warns us all with these words,  “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged…because judgement without MERCY will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful”  (James 2:12-13).

AN “UNMERCIFUL SERVANT”:

JESUS says in Matthew 18:33-35:

[33]  And should you not have had pity and mercy on your fellow attendant (servant), as I had pity and mercy on you?  

[34] And in wrath his master turned him over to the torturers (the jailers), till he should pay all he owed.  

[35] So also My heavenly Father will deal with every one of you if you do not freely forgive your brother from your heart his offenses.”

Some people think after reading that passage of Scripture…“Well; doesn’t that teach that I’m FORGIVEN by GOD only as I forgive others to the extent I forgive?”

I believe that’s the wrong understanding, for two reasons:

1.  If you and I were judged strictly on those terms, it is reasonable to say not one of us would be forgiven or see heaven.

2.  If that is the interpretation of the Beatitude and parallel passages, then we cancel out the doctrine of GRACE from the New Testament.

If that is your thinking, then you must never again say ‘we are saved by grace through faith, and not of ourselves’, we must never read again those eye-opening words of the Gospel, telling us that ‘while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’, even ‘when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God’, or ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself’.

Scripture Must Be Interpreted by Scripture…ALWAYS!

We must never interpret Scripture by contradicting other Scriptures–‘rightly divide the truth’.  

Applying this all, the explanation is perfectly simple:  JESUS is really telling us to say to ourselves,  “I am only truly forgiven when I’m… TRULY REPENTANT.”

‘Repentant’ means, I realize I deserve nothing but punishment, that I am FORGIVEN because of GOD’s MERCY and GRACE–His LOVE for me.

In other words,  if I am truly repentant, realizing my position before God Almighty, and realizing I am only forgiven in that way, then of necessity… I shall FORGIVE those who trespass against me.

In the Operation of God’s Grace–

When GRACE comes into our hearts with FORGIVENESS…it makes us MERCIFUL–

None of us has by nature a ‘forgiving spirit.’  And if you have such a spirit, you have it by one reason only:  You have seen what GOD has done for you in spite of what you deserve, and you say,  ‘I know that I’m truly forgiven; therefore I truly forgive’.

 ‘Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy’.  Because they have already obtained MERCY, therefore they are merciful.  What makes me MERCIFUL is the GRACE OF GOD.

“Let every man examine himself”

I’m not asking you what sort of life you are living.  I’m not asking whether you do this, that or the other.  I am simply asking this:

“Are you merciful?”  “Are you sorry for every sinner, even though that sinner offends you?”

THAT IS THE TEST!

‘Blessed–happy, happy, happy–are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.’

~

Footnote:

[i]  Exerts quoted from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones “STUDIES IN THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT” – WM. B. EERDMANS PUBLISHING COMPANY Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Discipleship Is Character Development!

God’s Spirit was speaking so strong to my spirit over the last two days, regarding DISCIPLESHIP in the churches.  So I was prompted to begin my investigation with the Letter of Paul to the Philippian Church:  “Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:]”  (Philippians 2:5 AMP).

As I prepared my WORD investigation on discipleship, I thought about things that I needed to hear.  So what I am about to uncover is just as much for me as it is for you.

I certainly agree with one preacher who said:  ‘God is more concerned with our CHARACTER than our comfort.  He is more concerned with our HOLINESS than our happiness.  And He is more interested in us as a PERSON than our possessions.’

Before I get started in the discussion regarding DISCIPLESHIP training in your particular church setting [my church setting], there has to be a test to take for each one of us individually:

* THERE IS AN I.Q. TEST TO TAKE:

Before getting your Driver’s License, you had to go first to the State Department of Motor Vehicles (the D.M.V.), taking a written test first and passing the questions on general road safety: road sign identification, local speed limits, auto safety, etc.  This State requirement is not only for first time drivers but new residents in that particular area of the country–each state has their own requirements.

I remember taken this written test back…let’s just say I was 16 years old.  I received a study brochure, read the sample questions, and thought I was ready.  Well, evidently I wasn’t ready because the D.M.V. employee, after checking my answers, informed me that I had NOT PASSED the written test.  She underlined my wrong answers and said, ‘you can come back in a week and try again.’  “ONE WEEK?” I asked.  “But I have to get my ‘learners permit’ to drive,” raising my voice in sheer panic!  What are my friends going to say?

Well, after really studying the DRIVING INSTRUCTION booklet, coming back exactly one week later, I PASSED the test;  I was much better prepared to begin my journey as a California State approved…a learner and authorized vehicle operator.

NO CHEATING ALLOWED!

Believe it or not, I found a CHEAT SHEET on taking a Department of Motor Vehicles written test before becoming a licensed driver on- line: dmvcheatsheets.com/   Sorry folks, CHEAT SHEETS won’t help you in becoming a DISCIPLE!

–“DISCIPLESHIP” INSTRUCTIONS – Passing the 4-I.Q. Questions of DISCIPLESHIP–(PHILIPPIANS 2:19-30 NAS).

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE:

verse 19:  “But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition.”

verse 20:  “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.”

verse 21:  “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.”

verse 22:  “But you know of his proven worth that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.”

verses 23-24:  “Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me;  and I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall be coming shortly.”

verses 25-26:  “But I thought it necessary to send you Ephaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need;  because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard he was sick.”

verse 27:  “For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.”

verse 28:  “Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly in order that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you.”

verses 29-30:  “Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard;  because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.”

 

# 1.  The Test of COMMITMENT (INVOLVEMENT):

The Greek word for commitment, I found quite interesting:

(1) The verb; In the sense of “doing or practicing.”  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary continues the definition of COMMITMENT by using the Greek word, prasso (STRONG, 4238), “to do, work, practice,” is said of continuous action, or action not yet completed.

* Timothy and Epaphroditus have something in common.

Their willingness to go whenever their leader sends them to go:

“But I hope and trust in Lord Jesus soon to send Timothy to you” ~ Php. 2:19

“I thought it necessary to send Epaphroditus [back] to you” ~ Php. 2:25

We are living in a generation that hates responsibilities and ignores commitments  People do not want to be personally involved anymore.  They can attend church if…they have the ‘mood’; offer their help sometimes.  But if it involves personal commitment, they find it difficult to do.

* In the contrary, JESUS said the mark of DISCIPLESHIP is LOVE.

We cannot LOVE without INVOLVEMENT:  “By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves]” ~ John 13:35 AMP.

The Author of our salvation already commissioned us to go (Mark 16:15).

* COMMITMENT is a question of INVOLVEMENT.

Now I’m not just talking about stripping the wallpaper off the women’s Restroom at church–and that IS important.  You cannot be committed unless you become involved:

“I heard the voice of the Lord, saying,  Whom shall I send?  And who will go for Us?  Then said I, Here am I; send me.  And He said, Go tell this people, Hear and hear continually, but understand not: and see and see continually, but do not apprehend with your mind”  (Isaiah 6:8-9).

I believe that God has a personal calling for each and every one of us and obedience to His call becomes the evidence of our maturity and discipleship.

Sometimes God may lead us to a place that we didn’t want to go.  As mature Christians, we defy all hardships; ignore personal risks; jump and say goodbye to our comfort to follow Jesus our Lord.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Why?

Because we are followers of One who left the comfort of heaven-sent by His Father to join us in battle to commit His life for ours.

Now there is a pattern to follow in our character development.

# 2.  THE TEST OF COMPASSION (INTEREST?):

–Timothy stands head and shoulders compared to others. 

Paul has a very exceptional comment about him here in Philippians.  It’s as if he examines all other believers, that he alreadyknows, then concludes that he has no student like him.

So, how did Timothy become different from the other followers?  It’s not because of his intellectual knowledge or his abilities.  Here is the answer:

“For I have no one like him who will be so genuinely interested in your welfare and devoted to your interests” (Php. 2:20).

–Paul then admonishes the believers in Philippi–Honor men like Epaphroditus.

What makes him so special, a man of honor?  It wasn’t because of his special ability but because he’s a man who has COMPASSION; a genuine interest for the people who are in need of his help.

Philippians 2:25 says, “…who you sent to take care of my needs.”

Epaphroditus had a great excuse to forget the welfare of others around him because he was ill, deathly sick.  Others would have probably thought about his situation because of how lousy they have felt.  BUT not Epaphroditus.  He was more concerned with the anxiety; that the news of his illness made to the brethren in the church at Philippi rather than his own condition.  That’s COMPASSION!

# 3.  TEST OF CONSISTENCY (INTEGRITY?)

I published a blog not too long ago entitled:  INTEGRITY in a World of Changes.  If you haven’t already read it after reading this particular topic of DISCIPLESHIP development, you might go there afterword.

* Paul’s Description of Timothy.

Paul describes Timothy as the one who has proven integrity:

“Timothy’s tested worth…he has toiled with me zealously in [serving and helping to advance] the good news (the Gospel)”  (Php. 2:22 AMP).

It means that he is CONSISTENT–“tested worth” in his faith and ministry in sharing the Gospel with others.  Timothy accompanied Paul almost his entire missionary journey.  He suffered the same persecution that Paul experienced.  Yet, he didn’t give up!

And when the time came to stand on his own two feet, far from his mentor, he continued his ministry without any hesitation.  Timothy is an example of consistency and integrity in the service for Christ Jesus.

#4.  THE TEST OF COOPERATION (IDENTIFICATION?):

Timothy’s sharing with Paul through thick and thin; through joys and sorrows; through riches and poverty; through sickness and health (Php. 2:22).

Next, Epaphroditus sharing with Paul in all kinds of situations:

–in the house.

–in the work.

–in the battle.

–even in fulfilling their responsibilities of bringing the GOOD NEWS of Christ to his gospel ministry:

“[He has been] my brother and companion in labor and my fellow soldier, as well as [having come as] your special messenger (apostle) and minister to my need”  (Php. 2:25 AMP).

–Epaphroditus:  MY BROTHER – (PARTNER in Care).  The words imply his personal care and compassion; as a member in the family picturing what a brother in Christ should be during times of persecution, trouble and need.

*  He risks his own life to defy his own health for the sake of his brother Paul and the Philippian brethren.

–Epaphroditus:  MY FELLOW-WORKER – (PARTNER in Work). The implication here is about his TEAMWORK.

*  With other believers by sharing in the same task; with humble submission.

*  SUBMITTING himself to the decision of the brethren who sent him to assist and help Paul in prison.  Then…sent him back again by Paul to Philippi.

*  He obeys without any complaint because he always did his part in the task assigned for the Lord.  Empowered by his own love for the Philippian Church.

–Epaphroditus:  FELLOW-SOLDIER – (PARTNER in Battle).  Implies his WILLINGNESS to fight for the cause of God’s kingdom.

*  A true soldier of Christ who is willing to die for the sake of God’s glory!

–Epaphroditus:YOUR MESSENGER – (PARTNER in Responsibility).  Implying his single-mindedness of fulfilling his task to carry God’s message; the Gospel of Christ Jesus.

“KOINONIA” – (A PARTNERSHIP, SHARING CHRIST IN THE FELLOWSHIP):

DISCIPLESHIP involves SHARING in a partnership with the Trinity–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In turn, DISCIPLESHIP involves SHARING with people whether they are believers or non-believers.

We’ve learned our CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT requires our commitment to the task at hand.  We will need to “prasso” or to “practice” what we’ve learned from Timothy and Epaphroditus as DISCIPLES:

*  To be involved in community SHARING our LOVE.

*  To be committed to Christ !

*  To have compassion for others (coming from our LOVE for Jesus).

*  Being consistent in our character; our INTEGRITY.

*  Identifying with others in SHARING in their needs; their comfort; their joy and sorrows.

*  Being obedient to God’s Word in partnering with Him in the tasks at hand.

*  SHARING the message, the Gospel of Christ.

LOVE Is Like A “CURTAIN ROD”.

Everything that you practice in DISCIPLESHIP hangs on the ‘curtain rod’ of LOVE.  If one end of the curtain rod falls from its place, everything hanging on the rod slips off on the floor.

Your CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT hangs on that principle.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you keep the LOVE ROD in place.