It All Begins With A Thought

A Bible Study in Philippians 4:4-9

I’m going to wrap up a four-part walk-through in Philippians in this final study and we’ll look together at replacing ANXIETY with PEACE.

We are an anxious nation.

Alarmingly, I found out that 1 in 6 Americans takes a psychiatric drug [Scientific American magazine article].  Anxiety meds are second only to depression meds.  That said, I do believe meds that are used carefully are a gift of God.

But what if we turn too quickly to the pill bottle and too slowly to the Lord?

Mark Twain joked, “I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life.  Most of them never happened.”

In this presented scripture for this study, I want to point out some suggestions that the apostle Paul gives us to advance through our ANXIETIES.  And if you are thinking, “I’m not anxious about anything,” perhaps a bible study on self-denial might be appropriate later.

FIRST, we need to have right thinking.

Paul says in VERSE 4 to REJOICE.  And to make sure we don’t miss it, he says it twice:  “Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!”  (AMP)

Philippians is all about JOY; Paul uses the word some 16 times!

When he says here to rejoice “always,” he suggests JOY is more than an emotion, since you can’t command an emotion.  You can’t force someone to be happy; they either are or they aren’t.  But Paul tells us to rejoice always.

JOY, then, must be a decision, a choice.

I once heard someone say, “Happiness comes from happenings, but joy comes from Jesus.”

Actually, JOY is an act of faith.  It supposes that regardless of how things look at the time, God is still on the throne; God loves me, God is for me, even though my circumstances seem bleak, God will see me through.

That’s why James could write, “Reckon it nothing but JOY, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials”  (James 1:2 ~ Weymouth New Testament).

James knew that God can use our TRIALS for good and to build our CHARACTER.

And that’s why Daniel’s three friends could defy King Nebuchadnezzar with confident JOY: (See Dan. 3:17-18)  

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.”

RIGHT THINKING begins with choosing JOY!

The church at Philippi knew Paul lived this out.  When he visited their city, he had cast out a demon and inadvertently thwarted a money-making scheme, disgruntled businessmen falsely charged, beaten and thrown into prison, along with his buddy Silas.  You can read the whole story in Acts 16.

Sitting in their jail cell that night, they could have had a grand pity party.  Instead. they chose a worship service!

  • Wounded and behind bars, they sang hymns!
  • And God sent an earthquake unlocking every cell door without hurting anyone.

That same night the jailer and his family were all SAVED and the next day Paul and Silas were released.

All because they CHOSE JOY…despite of their circumstance.  They CHOSE to think right!

I don’t know about you, but when listening to the teaching from “experts” or pastors/teachers. scholars. I like to hear their examples to help enlighten the message.  I believe Paul felt the same way.

He gives us examples of what to think about in VERSE 8:

Paul says to turn our mind toward the POSITIVE, to FOCUS on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, to think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy.

WE ARE WHAT WE THINK!

While every SIN begins with a thought, so does every act of obedience!

Various people have been attributed to writing this poem:

Sow a thought, reap a word.

Sow a word, reap an action.

Sow an action, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

And sow a character, reap a destiny.

It all begins with a thought.

What if, when you wake up in the morning, instead of turning on the news, you read a short devotion out of “Our Daily Bread”?  I have it sent to me every morning to my Email address to read.  When you do this first thing in your day, you’re training your mind to think more positively.

Secondly, we need to PRAY right!

Verses 6 and 7 in the New Living Translation (NLT) sums this up with,

[6] Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done!

[7] Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

We are all good at worrying, but sometimes we feel ill-prepared to PRAY.

Yet, if you know how to WORRY, you should know how to pray!

  • Worrying is talking to yourself about things outside of your control.
  • Praying is talking to God about the things outside of your control.

When the ANXIETY level starts rising in your daily activities, talk to God about it.  Paul gives some hints as to how to pray right.

The word “pray” here, denotes a worshipful approach.

You come to God humbly, submitting your will to His.  You shouldn’t approach God like some heavenly slot machine hoping to hit the jackpot. You approach God with awe and respect by asking Him for what you need–and that’s called petition or supplication: the process of shifting your burden from you to God!

IT’S OKAY TO ASK.

Do you notice that in our asking, Paul says to do so “with thanksgiving”?  There’s nothing worse than a spoiled child who always says, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

We need to be grateful for what we already have, and we also need to be grateful for, however, God may choose to respond.

GRATEFULNESS in advance is another sign of FAITH.

We can be grateful because God cares for us.  Whether God says, “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait,” God is still a good God–all the time!

God wants us to PRAY with THANKSGIVING, regardless of the circumstances.

When you find yourself growing anxious, give it to God, and don’t take it back!  Follow the advice of 1 Peter 5:7.

Trust that God cares for you and is at work in your situation.  And begin to act on FAITH that God will direct your steps moving forward.

Someone once said, “If your knees are buckling, kneel on them.”

Instead of worrying, why not try praying.

The “START” Bible says, “If you have a BIG God, then you have a relatively small problem.  But if you have a BIG problem, then maybe you have a small god.”  (see footnote [i].)

The giant Goliath looked at the shepherd boy David and saw a small problem.  But David looked at Goliath and saw a large God along with a target too big to miss!

Look what God promises when we give our ANXIETY over to Him:  Verse 7 says “And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Have you ever taken your family to an unfamiliar beach or a community swimming pool and see the signs posted, “Life Guard On Duty?  And when you see the posted signs, how much confidence and security that comes to mind when entering the water.

A God who is on GUARD DUTY over your hearts and minds.

God’s Word found in your bibles says God never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4).  He’s always on guard duty, 24/7.  God will bring HIS PEACE to our entire being: body, soul, and spirit in a way beyond our understanding.

THINK RIGHT, PRAY RIGHT, and lastly,

LIVE RIGHT!

This is like the Nike principle: “JUST DO IT!”  Put your THOUGHTS and PRAYERS into ACTION.

Verse 5 gives us a description of how we should live as Christian believers–with “gentleness” (NIV), or “unselfishness” in the Amplified Bible.  The idea is to LIVE with graciousness out of a humble spirit.  You don’t always have to get your way!  That means you become willing to yield your rights to another.  And that’s especially good marital advice!!

That’s a hard principle to act on for some of us.  Why would anyone want to yield their rights to another?  The rest of verse 5 tells us why:

The LORD is near.

The Christian believer has the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, within them always.  Wherever we go, Jesus goes with us.

You are never alone, the Lord is near!!

But there is also an end-times application here:  Jesus is coming soon!  His return draws nearer every day.  So, LIVE the way He wants you to live now.

In Verse 9, Paul urges the Church to follow his example, not only what he says, but what he does.  Now there’s something that most of us wouldn’t advertise in our Christian community.  “Follow my example”.  

I learned early on that my kids would follow my ACTIONS a lot faster than they would my words as they grew older.  Despite what I said, it was what I did that counted.  WORDS are cheap.  ACTION matters!

So, put it into practice!  PRAY RIGHT.  And LIVE RIGHT.

And Paul promises us, “With the peace of God to guard us and the God of peace to guide us–Why worry?”

____________________________________________________________________

FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

Footnote [i] :  NKJV, Start: The Bible for New Believers, Thomas Nelson, 1227

Video:  YouTube – Mix Give Thanks, Don Moen

Images:  Google Image Search

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Exceptions noted in the text.

 

 

 

Putting OFF the Old Things / Putting ON the New You!

THE KARATE KID STORY –

The Karate Kid is a 1984 American martial arts feel good film.  It’s an underdog story.

Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) trains the young man Daniel (Ralph Macchio) in the art of Karate for protection against neighborhood bullies.

Mr. Miyagi begins Daniel’s training by telling him the requirement of commitment that accompanies Mr’ Miyagi’s curriculum.

After Daniel agrees, Miyagi assigns Daniel to complete various lengthy, menial chores that appear to have nothing to do with Karate.

“Wax On / Wax Off”

THE EPHESIANS 4:21-24 STORY – “Putting OFF / Putting ON”  and the COMMITMENT Begins…

[21] assuming that you have heard about him, and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus  [22] to PUT OFF your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  [23] and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  [24] and to PUT ON the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  [ English Standard Version (ESV) Bible.]

2 Corinthians 5:17 says,  “Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away.  Behold, the fresh and new has come!”  [Amplified Bible]

I beg to differ with a lot of Christians living in the world today saying or thinking that they can keep on LIVING the old life and claim to be a child of God.

I’ll admit it is not easy...it’s the hardest thing we have ever done.

  • TO SHARE THE GOSPEL,
  • PREACH THE GOSPEL,
  • TEACH THE GOSPEL,
  • LIVE THE GOSPEL.

The Bible says if you are SAVED by the GRACE of God, you’re a NEW CREATURE.

There is a lot of people who are hanging on to the old lifestyle; trusting in the material things and not living by the spiritual things.

Galatians 6:15 says,  Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation”  (NIV Bible).

Romans 6:4 says We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Thank God We Are SERVING A Risen Savior…

And the Bible tells us that we’re supposed to WALK in the newness of life.  I remember when my three children were learning to walk.  My wife and I would hold our hands out across the room, encouraging to take one step, to place one foot in front of the other.  As long as they could see our faces they would slowly move forward.  As soon as they looked down at their feet, they lost focus and would stumble and tear up.  When that occurred, I think mom and dad also teared up.  But the training, the exercise, the dedication to commitment went on.

IT ISN’T EASY –

“Yes, but we all sin–we slip, we fall down and skin our knees– and fall short of God’s glory, don’t we?”  We sure do.  We still have the old body–the outside, but thanks be to God, we have a new man on the inside!

We sure do.  We still have the old body–the outside, but thanks be to God, we have a new man on the inside!

IF we are SAVED…and we’re a NEW CREATURE, we ought to live like it, then!

I’d like to point out a few training steps in “Putting Off and Putting On” A NEW NATURE.  

I’m not a Mr. Miyagi by any means, but here we go.

THE REQUIREMENTS OF COMMITMENT:

NUMBER ONE:  We need to be FOCUSED.

There are people who will talk about everything BUT God.  In church, social gatherings, sharing on social media, etc.  They are worried about everything BUT God.  They are not worried–not concerned–about lost souls.  I don’t care if the church I’m attending has 5 or 500 members on Sunday morning or if we have carpet on the floors. We’ve got to get past all the ‘STUFF’ in the church and start focusing on putting God first and caring about lost souls.

We’ve lost our FOCUS.

It’s sad to say that there’s a lot of Christians in the world that never picks up the WORD of God, then tries to stand up and give praise to God.

You’ve got to READ God’s Word, PRAY and SEEK God’s face in all that you do.  That’s what a godly or any relationship is all about.  You can’t have a close relationship, an intimate relationship at a distance.

The Bible says that JESUS came to SEEK and to SAVE that which is lost.  That’s what our FOCUS should be.  Nothing else!

I’ve been asked over the years by some people, “Why do we even have the church?”

The answer should be, “So we can get more lost people in here so they can find salvation!”

Sure the pastors of our churches could stand on a platform and preach, and preach, and preach and you’ll get some strength from it.  But if there aren’t any lost people sitting there on Sunday mornings, what are you going to do with that “strength”?  What are you going to do with the wisdom of God when you get it… IF you get it?

If you are not consistently READING your Bible during the week, you can bet you’re NOT SHARING Christ either.

We’ve lost our FOCUS.

If you’re going around trying to find a place where you can fit JESUS into your life, you’re in bad shape.  You have to fit your life into what Christ wants you to do.  Don’t go around telling God you need to see if you can fit Him into your schedule.

Christ Jesus is my whole life!  Without Him, I’m nothing!!

Several years ago, after realizing I had been playing spiritual games with people around me, I made this vow to God NOT to listen to man and just listen to Him.

Luke 14:27 says “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follows Me cannot be my disciple.”

There are more churches today than there has ever been…And there are more church goers than there has ever been.

BUT the Bible clearly says that the HARVEST is great but the LABORERS are few.

I see something wrong with that.  Hosea in the Old Testament, chapter five, says ‘a man should go with their herds and their flocks to SEEK the Lord but they shall not find Him for he has withdrawn Himself from them.’  [Paraphrased]

I saw a marquee in front of a church, a big church, awhile back that read…

MESSAGE For SUNDAY:

HOW TO GET ALONG WITH YOUR SPOUSE

I thought, if you get close to the LORD, you’ll know how to get along with your spouse.

You’ll know how to get along with everybody!

We’ve got to stay FOCUSED on JESUS–keeping our eyes on Him.

NUMBER TWO:  We need to be FAITHFUL.

John 8:31  “…If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples”  (AMP).

Christians will go work at a job and be there every day to get their paycheck–and God will tell them to do something and they can’t do it.

The LORD called me to SHARE the Gospel message through a weekly blog six years ago.  So I’m going to keep doing what God says to do.  I’m not going to back up or slow down so others can catch up.

WE NEED TO BE FAITHFUL.

Don’t ask what you want, but ask what He wants!

NUMBER THREE:  We need to be FRUITFUL in our new life.

Being FRUITFUL means you’re SAVED AND…you’re growing in the process!

It means that God’s ministry through you reaches other people and helps them the way God is helping you.

There are people who look back on their lives saying they haven’t done anything for the Lord.  It doesn’t work that way.  Our BLESSINGS come from our labor.  That’s why a lot of people aren’t acting blessed.  They aren’t doing anything!

Galatians 6:7

“Don’t be misled:  No one makes a fool of God.  What a person plants, he will harvest.  The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others–ignoring God!–harvests a crop of weeds.”  [MSG}

 

What are you planting; producing for the Lord Jesus Christ?

NUMBER FOUR:  Being Friendly!

We need to be friendly in our NEW LIFE.

Some of the meanest people can be “church folks”.  Whether you attend a Baptist, Assembly Of God, Independent/Bible church…YEP,  we are often called the “church folks” in the community.

It’s NOT niceness that will get you into heaven…BUT IF YOU ARE NICE, God will BLESS you for it.

According to Dictionary.com, the word NICE means  “pleasing; agreeable; amiably pleasant.”

We in the family of God are not supposed to have any kind of evil communication or put a stumbling block in front of our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus for them to trip over.  Like a child learning to take their first steps, our SPEECH is supposed to be established with GRACE and encouragement and not condemnation.

Romans 7:6  says this:  “But now that we.re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God”  [MSG].

And in Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus’ words,  [24] “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  [25] For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it”  [NIV].

There seems to be a lot of folks more involved with themselves than they are with their Savior.

In a Discipleship Journal, Carole Mayhall tells of a woman who went to a diet center to lose weight.  The director took her to a full-length mirror and on it, he outlined a figure and told her, “This is what I want you to be like at the end of the program.  Days of intense dieting and exercise followed, and every week the woman would stand in front of the mirror, discouraged because her bulging outline didn’t fit the director’s ideal. But she kept at it, and finally one day she conformed to the longed for image  [Daily Bread, August 8, 1990].

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU LOOKED AT THE IMAGE IN THE MIRROR?______________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS –

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search – Settings: Advanced search.

Various Bible Translations:  Furnish by BibleGateway.com

 

 

 

 

Being Realistic In The Face Of A No Good Rotten Husband

Scripture Study in 1 Samuel 25:1-31

My Blog-post is a little early for Mother’s Day, but in this passage of Scripture that deals with a woman, it doesn’t really address mothering ways.  But after studying the verses in this chapter, I began to admire this woman.  I thought, if she displayed this type of devotion to a no good rotten drunk, then what a mother she must have been.  

Her name is Abigail.  I’ll just refer to her as Abi.

biblebeautiful1

Abi was married to…well…a no good rotten husband!  Look at the first 3 verses of Chapter 25:

070325-david-beauty-and-the-beast-1-samuel-25-dale-wells-3-728

All the events happened during a time of unrest, when King Saul was trying to kill David and David and his men were found hiding where Nabal (Abi’s husband) kept his goats and sheep.

When David’s men asked for some food, Nabal ridiculed them and then denied their request.  That made David mad, which in turn worried Nabal’s servants and so steps taken by Abi saves the day!

What Abigail did for the No Good Rotten Husband, she would certainly do for her child I thought.

You can see the mother in a woman who tends to be consistent in ALL AREAS of her life.  Here are but a few things that came to mind while meditating on this passage of Scripture–

Abigail Protected Her Husband and He Didn’t Even Know It –

Moms, have you ever been embarrassed by something your husbands has done or said? I think I just felt a virtual nudge from my wife from the other room.

Perhaps a spoken word that offended someone and so without him knowing, you reached out to that person in a mending way.

Abi basically prepared a peace-offering in this story as she went to meet David, hoping she would prevent her husband’s death.

Now Abigail didn’t condone her husband’s actions, but if she was PROTECTIVE of a No Good Rotten Husband, how much more protective would she be of her children?

Good Mothers Do All They Can to Protect and Heal –

  • They put on band-aids…
  • Kiss boo boo’s…
  • Give their newborns soft, round toys to play with.
  • Monitor TV and video games as well as computer usage.

I know you’ve heard this bible passage over and over again through the years and God’s promise in Proverbs has always comforted me while raising my three children, even after they became adults:

“Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6, Amplified Bible]

Abigail Was Protective As A Wife and all her appeals to David in the following verses of 1 Samuel Chapter 25, were based on her knowledge of the LORD:

images

Abi Was REALISTIC About Their Wrongs –

Good Mothers don’t deny or ignore their child’s wrongs.  

Maybe you are not one of these parents, but some think THERE KIDS can do no wrong.

I don’t know about you, but people…especially kids, want to get away with whatever they can get away with.  I can’t count how many times my own children when growing up…something would break in the house, or is left in the middle of the floor for me to step on or trip over, or a light switch left on in every room (still drives me nuts), and would you guess the response to the question, “WHO DID IT?”  You guessed it, all three of them, “Not me dad!”

Mothers, You Gotta Be Realistic About Your Kids Shortcomings!

If you are realistic, you’ll have a better chance to show them what’s RIGHT, hopefully heading off future mistakes!

Don’t avoid them, ignore them, or turn a blind eye to them, hoping and praying things will all work out in the end.  You’ve SACRIFICED a lot raising these kids, so I think you have a right to give some advice.

Abi was Sound In Her Advice –

Abigail’s advice to David was saturated with Godly Wisdom:

1 Samuel 25:29-30 (NIV)

[29] Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master [David] will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the LORD your God. But the lives of your enemies He will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling.  [30] When the LORD has done for my master every good thing He promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel,”

One thing Abigail does is to make reference to David’s future as KING.

I noticed here, when Abi said God would “hurl away” his enemies as “from the pocket of a sling,” got David’s undivided attention, for he certainly knew all about the “sling.”

4ebedc7fe9edd59506a4e5cbeb299935

Abigail’s Character Really Shined At This Point –

Abi’s intelligence and humility won the life of her No Good Rotten Husband and their servants.  She approached David in complete contrast from Nabal, her husband.  Look carefully at her advice in verses 26-28:

[26] So now, my lord, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, seeing that the LORD has prevented you from bloodguiltiness and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal.  [27] And now this gift, which your handmaid has brought my lord, let it be given to the young men who follow my lord.  [28] Forgive, I pray you, the trespass of your handmaid, for the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the LORD’S battles, and evil has not been found in you all your days.

IT’S ALL ABOUT BEING PROTECTIVE BY GOD…

Not reacting in a rash way, keeping a clear conscience, as my Mom would remind me when I was young.  It probably reminded David of his actions toward Saul.

What Abigail practiced towards her future husband, she would certainly practice with her children.

Mom’s, this is a great LESSON to teach kids when they are young–Don’t react in the moment because you’ll probably react wrongly.  Even we adults need to be reminded of this.

Just like Abi, tell them what the LORD can and wants to do in their life!

Abigail Was A Compliment To Her Husband –

Abi was a good and godly wife both to the no good Nabal and to the future King David.  How can we know that?  If left to his own devices, Nabal would have certainly been killed by David.  For some reason, that’s hard to understand sometimes, like Abigail, many women put up with a lot of stuff!

My first reaction in reading the verses, Why Didn’t Abi just let David rid her of the nuisance of a husband?  Nabal was a no good stupid drunk–Abigail says as much in vv. 25-26.

stock-photo-a-drunk-man-lying-on-a-couch-with-popcorn-all-over-the-place-197739248

Now I’m not insinuating to husbands reading here are inconsiderate drunken fools like Nabal.  But men do have a tendency to react rashly. We often push and we aren’t sensitive toward our kids as mothers are.

Looking back on raising our children, there was a needed balance–a sensitivity that Mom’s bring to the family.  I always knew when I said something insensitive to our kids because Dianne would give me THAT LOOK!

You see, Abigail isn’t just about the CHARACTER OF A MOTHER, but of a godly woman, wife.  

We’re not told that Abigail had any children with Nabal.  They did have servants and Abi cared enough for them that she was going to do what she could to protect them.

GOD HAD PLANS FOR HER –

It’s unfortunate that we got such a short glimpse of Abigail because I believe she played a huge role as wife of King David.  We know that Nabal eventually died and that David’s anger was avenged by God and not by David’s own hand, just as Abigail had advised.

David was like a lot of men.  Had this beautiful and intelligent woman not stepped in and given godly sound advice, David would surely have had the blood not just of Nabal, but the servants and most likely Abigail his future wife on his hands.

My take on the unfolding events in this chapter and beyond is, God saw in Abigail one who would compliment David–reason with David and balance David’s home and kingdom.

Mothers Are The Glue That Holds The Family Together –

The TRUTH is, women/mothers are most often the ones better grounded in God’s Word and are therefore guided by God’s wisdom.  

They are the ones faithful to the church, they are the ones faithful in prayer.

And men, don’t sit back, nodding your head and thinking this was God’s original plan: Women are meant to be more faithful than men in the family life.  It wasn’t, and still isn’t.  But if we don’t take our responsibility as husbands and dad’s in the Christian home, our wives/mothers will fill the void.

Men need to listen to the advice of your wives so that they might just save your life.  Just ask Nabal.  You can even ask David.

I wanted to share the Story of Abigail (“Abi”), Nabal and David because God helped me see through this situation of the godly characteristics of a godly woman and mom.

Abi did become a mother, Nabal did die, and David?  Well, David remembered this intelligent, beautiful woman just as she requested.  He married her and they had a son named Chileab.

I believe as Abigail the mom, these characteristics we looked at grew stronger…And if we think about them, these are characteristics that many of us witness today in our own moms and wives.

And young moms reading this Blog, you can take these attributes of this godly woman and practice them in your own family.

And men, we’ll know when we’ve messed up.  Your wife will look you in the eye, shrug her shoulders and say,

“Well, at least you’re not Nabal!”

wicked-smart-the-story-of-abigail-400x400Men, you would do well this Mother’s Day to say like David,

[32] Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, Who sent you this day to meet me.  [33] And blessed be your discretion and advice, and blessed be you who have kept me today from bloodguiltiness and from avenging myself with my own hand.

 


CREDITS –

SERMON NOTES: Male Role Models – Good & Bad by Brian Atwood.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search; ShutterStock.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS:  Amplified Bible, New International Version, and King James bible.

The “Honey Bee” Prophetess (Part One)

“If the ironworker won’t, the carpenters will”

There is an old saying in the construction workforce, if the ironworker won’t do the job. the carpenters will.  I was in the plumbing contractors business where I retired, and the men in the field changed the saying to “If the pipe fitter won’t do the job, the plumbers will.”  In any case, you get the point.

It suggests that if ironworker won’t do the job, then the carpenters will.  However, that also suggests the structure might not be exactly what we want or what we were looking for to begin with.  It takes SKILL to do the task.

Lets see how this plays out in Scripture in The Book of Judges:

DEBORAH: Her Name Means “Honey Bee”–

The HONEY BEE
The HONEY BEE

I’ve always been fascinated with the meanings of names and how in some instances, how we can grow into their meanings.

For an example, my full name is MELVIN DALE THOMPSON.  “Mel” or “Melvin” means “chief”,  “Dale” means “valley”.  So put them together…Chief of the Valley.  Looking back at the age of 71 years, the name meaning has some significance.  How?  That’s another story.

DEBORAH comes from the Hebrew root, meaning to speak or promise.  It’s also where the phrase “Word of God” comes from and is identical to the word, meaning “BEE”.  Did she live up to her given name?  Let’s dive into the Word and do our own investigation.

DEBORAH’S VISION:

Her vision of the world during her day wasn’t shaped by the political climate, but by her relationship with God.

Though women of the ancient world didn’t usually become political leaders, DEBORAH was what Israel needed, a woman, a prophetess who heard God and believed Him.

She is a woman who had the needed courage and with her courage, aroused the people, enabling them to throw off foreign oppression.

DEBORAH IS A WOMAN AMONG MEN!

Some consider it unexpected for God to raise up a woman as a prophetess.  But the New Testament makes it clear:  God grants the gift of prophecy to women, and they are to practice it appropriately.

Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head… (1 Corinthians 11:5 NIV).

From that verse, we find that the essential element of a woman’s ministry as a prophetess in the early church was her clear submission to the male leadership in the church (evidenced by her wearing of a veil).  If I raise the “dander” in some ladies reading this Bible study, I’m just stating what Scripture says.  If you don’t like the connotation behind “submission”, try another word: “selfless love”.

In the New Testament Church–

A woman was to use her spiritual gifting in context of order established by the church leaders–just like anyone’s Spiritual Gifts.  This is always made possible because the gift of PROPHECY never “overwhelms” the one who receives it, and the spirits of the people are subject to the prophets–                   (1 Corinthians 14:32).

Why God Uses Deborah–

Might it have been she was the only one listening to God at the time?

Deborah serves us up notice in the church today a godly example of her servant like heart, her ability to delegate, her authoritative leadership, her willingness to serve God at any cost.

Deborah’s Character Development–

She was BRAVE…,

She was INTELLIGENT…

She was TRUSTWORTHY…

She was CONFIDENT–not just confident in her title of “JUDGE”, but CONFIDENT OF GOD’S WORD AND PRESENCE.

The Court of Judgement–

No large enclosed structure with columns and staircases on the outside.  Deborah ruled Israel under a PALM TREE that bears her name:

She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided  (Judges 4:5 NIV).

joan_arc_good
Joan of Arc

Now Deborah was more than an ARBITRATOR, she’s a prophetess, one who acts between God and man who lets the people know God’s will.  If I were to make a comparison of great women in history, my choice would be Joan of Arc.

Deborah is out in the “hill country” judging while her peers are at home weaving.  She goes into battle while other women are staying at home with their children.  Now before you jump to conclusions–I’m not knocking “stay at home Mom’s,” I exalt them.  It is not about what Deborah does, it’s why she does it.

God has asked her to do this task, no matter what the cost and Deborah acts in FAITH.  She probably would have been just as willing to stay at home and let the men lead.  But God calls her!  Why?  Were there no men to answer the call?

“Use them or Love them”–

Some have said that in times when men seem spiritually weak, God uses women instead.  I say it’s more accurate to say that the deeds and the faith of the women were more evident in these historical times.  Would I dare to say that history repeats itself?

The Lord gives GIFTS by His Spirit to ALL people.  If we don’t use them, they will be given to someone else.  I believe this was the case and setting, although, Scripture doesn’t actually state this as fact.

Is this a WARNING to the church?

Is it possible that God will raise up women to lead the church if the men don’t?  I don’t want to find out.

So as a man, I challenge the men to remain steadfast in their FAITH, be the spiritual leader of your family and in your church as God ordained it to be.

Judges 4:1-5:

Deborah under the Palm Tree
Deborah under the Palm Tree by Adriene Cruz

[1]  AND THE children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, when Ehud was dead.  [2] And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.  [3] And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.  [4] And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lepidoth, she judged Israel at that time.  [5] And she dwelt under a palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth-el in mount Ephraim; and the children of Israel came up to her for judgement (King James Bible).

This day was a normal day in the life of Israel.  Deborah set up court and the people came and went with their disputes settled under a Palm Tree.

Deborah then calls for Barak–

BARAK is considered by many Bible commentators as a “noble warrior.”  DEBORAH speaking for God, gives him a noble task, a “knightly” charge:

[6] And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kadesh-naphtali, and said unto him,  Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying,  Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?  [7] And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him unto thine hand.

WHERE IS FAITH?

God says GO, we say “Maybe”–Give us a sign?–Prove to me you are God?

Today we have the written Word if we want to know what God says, we can read it!

READ verses 8 thru 10:

[8] And Barak said to her, If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.  [9] And she said, I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the trip you take will not be for your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.  And Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh,  [10] And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh, and he went up with 10,000 men at his heels, and Deborah went up with him  (Amplified Bible).

In a way, this is what Barak is doing:  “If you go with me, THEN…I will go.” 

At first glance, Barak’s words to Deborah didn’t seem unwise for him to ask Deborah to come with him.  Yet the fact remains that he demanded which demonstrates Barak trusted more in Deborah’s relationship with God than his own relationship with God.

Don’t we do the same at times in our faith walk.  We are asked by someone to pray, to share our testimony with strangers, to do something our pastor asks us to accomplish in the service of the Lord…and yet, deep inside our souls, the CONFIDENCE is absent.  We even ask the pastor,  “Who else is going to help?”  Why?  The answer is OUR RELATIONSHIP with our Father in heaven.

There will be no glory for you”

Because of this, Barak would not be the one who personally defeats Israel’s enemy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army.  It would be a woman who God Almighty would reward with His glory.

Now we would probably expect this to be fulfilled by Deborah, but this PROPHECY will be fulfilled unexpectedly.

Will pick up the story in The “Honey Bee” Prophetess (Part Two).

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.

“True Worshipers” Are Paying the Price

If we are true “genuine” worshipers, according to John 4:23, we must bow down our lives so God’s will can be expressed through us.  Are you willing to pay the price of a true worshipper?

Luke 9:22 in saying,  “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be [deliberately] disapproved and repudiated and rejected on the part of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be put to death and on the third day be raised [again].”

Luke 9:23 continues in saying,  “…If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself]”

STOP right there!  Jesus has presented us a decision to make; coming to Him in worship.  Remember Hebrews 13:15 says, we are to constantly and at all times be offering up a sacrifice of worship and praise. Luke gives us points of preparation in paying the price of “true worshipers”. 

#1.  “Deny oneself; forget your outside interests”, quit giving attention to others around you in church services.

Jesus continues preparing us to worship in verse 23:  “…take up his [our] cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, dying also.”

#2.  Follow Jesus’ example in living, by dying, if needed to “self”.

Romans 12:2  “take up our cross daily and deny self”.  “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the (entire) renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude]…”

#3.  Get a new attitude about being a “True Worshiper” in Christ Jesus.  How? By the “daily” renewal of your mind.

Leaving ALL your STUFF outside before worshipping!

Luke 5:11,  “And after they had run their boats on shore, they left everything and joined Him as His disciples…”

If you are a believer in Jesus and a “True Worshiper“; not a pretending worshiper, you are a follower of Christ; a disciple. You are going to have ‘leave everything that is in your boat on shore and join Him in worship’.  The leaving it all behind continues in Luke 5:27-28.  The tax collector named Levi, leaves his lifestyle behind, to follow Jesus as His disciple.

The Cost of discipleship in Luke 14:26:

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate hid [own] father and mother [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God]…”   Amplified Version.

“If people come to me and are not ready to abandon their fathers, mothers, wives, children, brothers, and sisters, as well as their own lives, they cannot be my disciples.”  God’s WORD translation.

God is telling all of us that if we want to truly be His disciples and be true worshipers of Him, you are going to have to pay the price of separation; not in a corporeal, but in a spiritual way.

Going after it!

Luke 14:27 goes on to say to us that  “Whoever does not persevere and carry his own cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple.”

If you are reading this blog, desiring to be a “True Worshiper” of Jesus and you are willing to pay the price of discipleship this next Sunday, you’re going to have too have, an attitude change; not give up, cave in and quit.  If you still don’t feel acceptable to God after your formal worship time, don’t give up.   Jesus says you are to “persevere” which means you’re to be “resolute, persist in doing, be stubborn” in “Going after it”; to be a true worshiper in Christ Jesus.  Verse 28 tells you to “calculate the costs” to see if your willingness is sufficient to finish what you started.

Spiritual Maturity

I was part of a men’s bible study a few years back in my neighborhood.  One morning, a study participant asked this question to discuss.  “What does it mean to be spiritually mature?”  There were several different answers given but I like the answer that was given that brought the discussion back to the Word of God.

Matthew 19:20-21,  “The young man said,  I have observed all these things [read verses 18-19] from my youth; what do I still lack?   Jesus answered him,  If you would be perfect [that is, have that spiritual maturity which accompanies self-sacrificing character], go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; and come, be my disciple [side with My party and follow me],”

I like how Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies and the Amplified Version of the Bible defines “being perfect”:  “have that spiritual maturity which accompanies self-sacrificing character”.  Jesus is saying that your good works, your church title, your college degree in ‘church stuff’ won’t make you perfect for following Christ and in worshipping Him. 

What is CHARACTER?

Character is:  Doing what is right, not because of what society says is right; what’s right is what God’s Word says is right!  It’s not what I feel is right about worship and praise and serving God based on others definitions.  Also, when you do right because of what’s right, God’s word says you will prosper;  “have riches in heaven”.  “You will never rise above your limitations of your character”.  If your character doesn’t want to give up anything, then there isn’t a sacrifice in worship; no price is paid.

Releasing your Benjamins

In Genesis 43-45, we see the principle of releasing your Benjamins in discipleship and spiritual maturity.  It becomes “sacks full v.s. wagons full“.  In todays vernacular it would be “trailers full“.  The rich man in Matthew 19, wouldn’t give up his “Benjamin” (verses 23-26).

Who are the “everyone’s” in Matthew 19?

Matthew 19:29  “And  everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My sake, shall receive many times as much…”  NAS version.

The “everyone’s” are you and me.  If you are “persevering”,  if you are self-sacrificing in character and your desire to worship and serve the risen Saviouris in your spirit, you have planted a seed.  Christians today live in “hope deferred”.  You will have to plant your best seed to reap the fruit harvest of worship.  Now is the time, not next time you enter the sanctuary of your church.

Hebrews 13:15  “Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His Name.”