Living the Quiet Life

The Quiet Man

A 1952 film directed by John Ford, and one of my personal favorites, starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, and Victor McLaglen.  The story takes place in Innisfree, Ireland.  John Wayne’s character Sean’s quiet manner is attributed to a tragedy he experienced prior to his return to Ireland.  As a heavy-weight boxer in America, he had accidentally killed an opponent in the ring.  Devastated by the death, Sean quit the sport, vowing never to throw a punch again.  Although the movie is considered an American romantic, comedy-drama, I was personally drawn to the man’s character whose past had relegated him to a life of quietness.  The movie does the transition from the gentle and quiet man to a man who falls in love with Maureen O’Hara’s character and the interaction between the rest of the cast.  And of course, the ending is the typical Hollywood, happy ever after conclusion.  Whatever happened to that trend today?

SCRIPTURE READING: Living the Quiet Life – 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

Today, the phrase “quiet life” suggests one of rest or silent in nature.  But as Christians, we are to exude zeal and passion for the Christ we serve, right?  Taken literally in our terms, being “quiet” is in conflict with proclaiming the gospel message.  In our language, the word “quiet” refers to sound.  However, when I began to investigate the Greek meaning, it had a much broader meaning.  When you look at the ways that the Greek word is used, you see an underlying theme of tranquility of spirit.  So quiet doesn’t mean that we sit in our pews becoming nothing but bumps on logs.

We must remain faithful to Christ and serve Him however we can, not destroyed by our idleness.

The Greek language uses three words that are generally translated as “quiet” or “silent”:

  1. phimao – literally “to close the mouth with a muzzle.”  (Matthew 22:34; Mark 1:25; Mark 4:39).  
  2. sigao – normally translated “silence.”  It’s not necessarily that speech is forbidden, but that discussion should be ceased, such as in Luke 9:36.  Also in 1 Corinthians 14:14, the problem was aggressive women who were told to keep silent, since their conduct was contrary to biblical principle.
  3. And the third is our word for “quiet”, or “silence”, hesuchago.  It refers to an absence of internal disturbance, tranquility arising from within, and is used most of the time in regard to tensions and conflicts.  It’s not necessarily an absence of words but the absence of controversial speech.  [See footnote [i].]

This brings us back to our verse, 1 Thessalonians 4:11, “to lead a quiet life.”  It is a one-word verb in present tense form, meaning a continual, ongoing habit of life.  Who better than Paul himself to demonstrate this quiet life in action.

In Acts 17, Paul went to speak to the Jews of Thessalonica and several formed a mob to get him.  Rather than fight, he went on to the next city.  Look what happened (17:10):  As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea.  On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.

Not once, but twice, the very city he’s writing to about the quiet life attacked Paul.  Notice that Paul doesn’t slam them around, call them names, point fingers, or attack their character.  In love, he demonstrates resolve that more Christians need to demonstrate in this modern time.  Instead of undermining them, Paul seeks to build them up and motivate them to action.

Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit and when exercised, our lives will be characterized by inner strength and peace that Paul is referring to here.  

People should be able to see Christians as being at peace in times of conflict, not given to outbursts of anger, criticism, or violence.  Love will always (and I’m still learning this) opens more doors than anger or exorbitant emotions.

Passion is essential if we are to be solid Christians, but there are also three little letters that come before the word that make a world of difference.  When Jesus saw the multitudes, what did He feel?

COMpassion!

When we seek the quiet life, we must first seek compassion for God’s desire in our life, the needs of others as well as for our own needs.  Does this give us free rein to correct everyone we see making mistakes?  Paul warns us to …

MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!

I need to paraphrase the above:  “Keep your nose clean and keep it out of other’s lives!”  That first sounds a bit contrary to the gospel.  How can we tell others that they’ve got a sin problem if we don’t get into their business?

There’s a difference here between showing concern for an individual’s spiritual needs and becoming a “busybody”; seeking nitpicky excuses to get involved in the lives of others.  And yes, we should watch out for one another’s welfare.  Yes, we should also seek to help each other overcome our weaknesses.  And no, we can’t make these words sound like we shouldn’t seek to admonish, rebuke or restore an erring brother or sister in Christ.

Just as in the case of Paul and the Thessalonians, he saw that a spiritual need was there and it needed to be corrected, and thus he writes them in the church.  Did he try to intimidate them or embarrass them?  Did he go to a committee to back up his actions?  No!  He confronted them on his own and in the Spirit and reproofed them accordingly in love.

Now I know that most of the time, we don’t look to cause problems and blast someone.  But, I know in my own case, I’ve been guilty of this as well.  If we get too involved or to passionate about service over self-control, we wind up pushing people further away than when we started.  This goes for Christians as well as the lost.

What happens when someone who works for the kingdom makes a mistake?

If it’s the first time, do we A) bring it before the Church publicly,  B) talk about it behind their back, or C) pull them aside and privately speak about the problem?  According to Matthew 18:15 and Acts 18:24-28, the answer is “C”.

The Bible refers to the tongue as a double-edged sword for a major purpose.  The tongue is the human body’s most deadly weapon.  In a single word, you can damage your testimony in Christ–Not just temporarily, but for the rest of your life here on Earth.

Always think before you speak!

Because this double-edged sword can also be one of God’s greatest healing instruments.  When LOVE is used to explain our position instead of our own desires for what we think is right, then not only are there no hurt feelings, but there is PEACE– the very tranquility that Paul is talking about here.

The PEACE & QUIET that we desire in our lives and in our Church cannot exist unless we maintain a proper distinction between a true loving concern for our brother’s and sister’s welfare and pure opinion-based busybodyness.

If we are to be beacons of truth, and show the world we seek peace (rest), then all of us should be able to present our lives as examples of that PEACE.

From my own experience in helping raise three children, I found that you can’t teach patience to a child while losing your mind.  You can’t teach them to save, budget, and spend wisely, while “rewarding yourself” with MasterCard.  You will not teach them to be sincere and kind, while you unmercifully gossip about the flaws of others behind their backs.

Likewise, to live in this quiet life is to be an example of those lost children of the world who might be looking for a further reason to rebel against their heavenly Father, or who might be looking into finding out what’s in store if they seek a closer relationship with Him.

There’s one more point that Paul expresses in this quiet lifestyle:

WORK WITH YOUR OWN HANDS (4:11)

old wrinkled hands.

This is a two-pronged statement by Paul.  In Thessalonica, some people within the Church quit working altogether to be ready for Christ’s immediate return, or they had given up looking for work because of the persecution that came with being a Christian.  This was going against Jesus’ teaching because simply put, if a man didn’t work, he didn’t eat.  [2 Thess. 3:10]

Failing to provide for one’s family makes one worse than an unbeliever (See 1 Tim. 5:8).  God rewards hard work and diligence with His blessing, and although from time to time, we may need assistance from our brethren (or even our government), we are not to rely on this exclusively.  Remember to be content with what you have.

The second part of this statement involves the work of the Church.  It’s important for each of us to do our part building up the body of Christ, but it isn’t important to get into the details and specifics.  We don’t need to tell the congregation or an individual that I’ve given out the “X” number of Jesus Saves pamphlets, “X” number of Bibles, witnessed to “X” number of people.  That’s not what Christ seeks.  He wants people to know who He is and how they can become involved in a relationship with Him, and not about numbers or experiences we might have within the work.  Why else would Paul write and tie all this in together?

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1 that he was glad he didn’t baptize many in the city, because of the divisions it was causing, and stated that he hadn’t been crucified for them!  He didn’t seek to brag, as the people did.  It wasn’t about the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, or HOW’S that people came to know and obey Christ.  It was that they obediently sought the Kingdom of God.

Through our work, Jesus is building, but why be proud and pound your chest saying, “I brought them to Christ!”  NO!  They came to you, you planted the seed, and Jesus was there the whole time.  You didn’t deliver them!  He did, and we should quietly respect and revere the fact that He can do that, just as it was done for us.  If I can’t bring myself to salvation, how can another person?

We must remember to be diligent in HIS work and not work for our own ambitions.  Seek a quiet life and it will all work out for His greater Glory.

Remembering how our first verse started off on how we should make it our ambition to SEEK a Christ lead life.  Ambition requires diligence and determination, not to mention patience, understanding, motivating, and persistence.

Not too QUIET.  It’s definitely a lot more than sitting still and saying nothing!  But not enough to cause us to stress over.

God will meet our needs IF…we are obedient to His will (His Word) in our lives.

The Lord wants us to practice PEACE as much now as He did back then.  Division can come from many angles in the church and be started with the tiniest of words, but if we truly seek to be still, listen and know the Word of God over our tongues, then the words that divide us will fall down and peace will create solid unity.

1 Thessalonians 4:12 reads…

We should live in PEACE with one another…live in tranquility with one another…live in Christ with one another.  We have to be willing to call Him the sole Lord of our life and be obedient to His will.

A Moment Of Quietness ~

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Commentary:  Inside Outside – Sermon by Ed Vasicek on Aug. 31, 2007.

Music Video:  Word Of God Speak – Mercy Me.  YouTube 

Bible Translations Used in the Text:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New Living Translation (NLT); English Standard Version (ESV).

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Movie Research:  The Quiet Man, Wikipedia.

Footnotes:  [i] Greek Word Studies – Friday, March 30, 2007.  The word, “Quiet”.

 

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!

grief-support

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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]

stock-photo-chiangmai-thailand-march-reading-the-new-international-version-of-the-holy-bible-on-the-262562102

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.

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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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