Heroic Roots

Heroic Roots

Discovering your heroic Spiritual ancestors From Open Doors

 

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised…” (Hebrews 11:39)

 

Ron Boyd-MacMillan of Open Doors shares the following insight from his teaching, “Why I need to encounter the Persecuted Church.”

 

It was early 1980’s in a village in Czechoslovakia, and I had just given the pastor of a rural church a Bible in his own tongue. It was leather bound, with a gold zipper, and was the first complete Bible he had held. I remember him sniffing it, marveling at the leather smell, playing with the zip and being almost afraid to touch the thin precious pages. Then he began to talk to the members of the church.

 

Pointing at me he said, “This gentleman is your heroic spiritual ancestor. Every time the Bible comes into a culture, it is a threat, and is opposed. So it takes men and women to risk all to bring it to us. This man has taken such a risk.”

 

I was embarrassed, but he went on to say to me, “The Bible also came into your culture. It was also a threat. Tell me, who are your heroic spiritual ancestors?” I am ashamed to say I did not have a clear idea of who these men were in my country of the United Kingdom.

 

So I returned to my country with his challenge ringing in my ears, “Find out the story of how your Bible came to you, and you will discover your heroic spiritual ancestors.”

 

What a dramatic story I uncovered. Full of spies, deaths and power politics. I learned so much about John Wycliffe, the first man to translate the Bible into English in the world of the 1300’s, when most clergy could not even recite the Ten Commandments. He formed a cadre of guerilla preachers to comb the country, with hand copied versions of the Bible, a book banned by Parliament. Wycliffe died of a stroke from the strain.

 

In the 1500’s, William Tyndale benefited from the invention of the printing press. He had to leave England to accomplish the task, never to return. At age 29 in 1524, he settled in Cologne, and by 1526 was ready to smuggle 6000 copies of the Bible in English into Britain. The whole British naval fleet was put on alert, and boats were stopped and searched. First tens and then hundreds of the Bibles got through. The bishop of London tried another tack. He sought to buy the entire print run through an intermediary. His intention was to burn them all. Tyndale got wind of it, and approved the sale, saying, “Oh he will burn them. Well, I am the gladder, for I shall get the money from these books, and the whole world shall cry out upon the burning of God’s Word.” And so it was. He burned them, and Tyndale used the money to improve the translation and print more…at the church’s expense.

 

Tyndale was captured by assassins and then strangled and burned in August 1536 for “heresy.” His last words were, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” This prayer was swiftly answered, and the English reformation was quickly fueled by a spate of translations. What a story it was. And what heroism from my spiritual ancestors!

 

+++

 

Today… Let us each thank God for our spiritual ancestors who brought God’s Word to our land.

Today… Let us ask God if we may somehow, someday, be used to bring His Word to needy people… needy in the Word… Y’a know… that place my be in our own country… state… city… or neighborhood… And yes… maybe even restoring the Joy, Excitement, Reverence of His Word in our churches.

Let us push inward through nearby closed doors and outward into our world that is spiraling out of control… with His Word in our Hands… Jesus on our lips… and His Spirit in our Hearts… Let us reenergize our commitment that all peoples… all languages… all cultures may hear and be able to read Gods Word in their native language.

Let us allow The Spirit of God to show us new ways to expedite the processes of translating His Word into all languages.

Let us not be timid or fearful to GO and take His Word wherever He sends us… even if it is simply across the street, or our workplace or into the hinterlands.

Let us…

Yes…

Let us

Embolden us Lord!



“Finding Your Way Out”

Are you in a Black Hole?

 

Yep… that swirling darkness that seems to bend or consume all light around it… That pit of darkness that eats up positive feelings… even those good things that come along.

I’m not talking about blah feelings or those times when you are simply in a grey-funk… bouncing in and out of levels depression.

 

I’m talking about those times when no matter what you try… no matter what your friends do or say… No matter what …that swirling black hole consumes all worldly efforts to escape its grip.

 

Remember these words…

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you…” (Joshua 1:5b)

 

A black hole is a place of total nothingness.

 

Consider…

It may be a time in our life when God allows the removal of the resources and supports that we normally rely on to feel secure… Maybe… our careers, our finances, our friends, even our family, our health, our comfort and so forth.

 

Know this…

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you…”

 

My experience is that it is a preparation time.

 

So…

When you find yourself in a black hole experience, don’t bounce off the walls in total frustration… or just sit in a corner and brood.

 

Wake up…

Take stock of your life.

Take a clear look at your relationship with God.

 

1st…

Ask God if there are any sins, habits, or attitudes that He might be judging in your life.

It’s important to discern whether the trial we face is the result of God’s discipline for our sin?

Or…

If He is preparing us for a future role… even a leadership role.

 

2nd…

When you enter a black hole… please do not trust your feelings.

Trust God.

Your feelings will tell you, “God has rejected you. Abandon hope. He has left you utterly alone.”

Feelings are fickle and change…

But, God never changes.

Feelings come and go…

But, God is always with us.

 

3rd…

Remember that your black hole experience is not only intended to refine and define you; it’s also intended to influence and change the lives of others… maybe even hundreds or thousands of other people.

Our adversity is not just for us, but others in our sphere of influence.

 

4th…

No matter how painful or oppressive the experience may feel… do not try to hurry the black hole process along.

Remember, when Joseph was in the depths of the pit, there was nothing he could do about it.

He couldn’t climb out, jump out, levitate out, or talk his way out.

All he could do was pray and wait upon the Lord.

 

5th…

Lean on God.

Even when you don’t feel like praying, pray.

Even when you don’t feel like reading His Word, read.

Even when you don’t feel like singing songs of faith, sing.

When you pray, don’t just talk; listen.

Be silent before Him and listen for His still, quiet voice.

 

6th…

And… Please be alert to new truths and new perspectives.

During a black hole experience, God often leads us to amazing new discoveries (He always has for me).

A black hole can be a storehouse of unexpected riches for the soul.

 

One last thought…

The black hole experience may reoccur… or at least for me they have.

Maybe I’m just a slow learner or maybe it’s the jobs He has ordered along my path… So… Don’t be surprised if you again find yourself struggling with a pesky black hole experience… Remember the time(s) before… Press into the lessons He taught you… and the promise that He is with you.

 

Draw Close… He is ever so near.

 

Dallas L. Nash



Deception

DECEPTION

 

Deception is one trying to deceive another or one that is being deceived. The synonyms are many: Deceit, double minded, fraud, trickery, guile, bluff, lying, pretence, fake, scheme, dodge, cheat and swindle. Do we see any of this taking place within the world in which we live? What about in our own heart?   

Jeremiah 17:9-10, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind

.”  You might be thinking, I don’t see my sin listed in that deception definition, maybe not, but does that mean we are free from sinning or our walk with the Lord can’t be improved? We will be looking a lot in the book of Galatians, but will address some other verses along the way. Many individuals in the Bible had set the bar high in their life, and although they were not able to do this on their own, they were at least headed in the right direction. None of us are without flaws, but if we are looking for a better life, we can find the way by learning from their goals and standards and see if they apply in our lives. Perhaps by following a new path it will lead us into making better choices which should cause us to be more at peace within ourselves. Hopefully we will then gain a more secure footing once we place it on a solid foundation.    

 

Nave’s Topical Bible provides us with some references that’s we’ll briefly touch.

“You reject all those who stray from Your statutes, for their deceit is falsehood,” Psalms 119:118.  In other words, anything that doesn’t line up with the Word of God is false. “Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit, Romans 3:13. “The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man,” Psalms 5:6b. “Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.” Proverbs 20:17 As

we observe the false ways of living, a better way would be in the book of Galatians.

 

Galatians was written by the Apostle Paul. Its primary purpose was to help the Jews who trusted Christ as their Savior realize they couldn’t live their life by the rules of law they were once bound to.  They were set free by the Grace of God demonstrated to them by Jesus Christ death, burial and resurrection. It was pointed out that works cannot save an individual.  But if you are a Christ follower and have experienced His love, mercy and grace, then your motivation is serving Him and others because you’ve entered into a love relationship rather than trying to gain status by following a list of regulations. Paul’s motivation is found in

2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” Because of Paul’s strong faith in God, he shared his primary verse with us found in Galatians 2:20,”I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” He gave up his own life in order to place Christ first place in his life, and to give those that follow Christ a clear direction for them as well. Other verses that elaborate on Paul’s understanding of God are Galatians 3:11,”But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident; for the just shall live by faith.”  Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled with a yoke of bondage.”

Other references in the book of Galatians show us how the law and God’s grace don’t mix; just like oil and water don’t mix.

 

Back on the subject of deception and what I discovered is found in

Galatians 6:7, “Be not deceived God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” We understand the last part of that verse, but the part of God is not mocked caused me to dig a little deeper. Does that mean I am being deceived if I think God cannot be mocked? Others could mock me, or make fun of me; because of the faults I have which are many. The Scriptures clearly state “God is not mocked.” Hasn’t God ever been mocked?  Here’s what I’ve found. God cannot be mocked, although many have tried to do so, because He is perfect in all His ways. In Luke 23:4, “So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no fault in this man.” In John 10:30 Jesus said, “I and my Father are One.” Psalms 18:30, “As for God, His way is perfect; The Word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” Psalms 119:140, “Your Word is very pure; therefore Your servant loves it.” The final stage of gold production is refining. It involves the removal of impurities that remain after the smelting process. God doesn’t need refining; He is righteous and pure in all His judgments. We are the ones that need to be changed. Job 23:10-12 gives us a glimpse of the process he went trough. “He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”

  We may not always like the path that we find ourselves or how God deals with our situations, but keep in mind His ways are best and He can see the big picture.  The best we can see is a small glimpse of His overall plan for us, more like tunnel vision. 

 

My prayer is that I remain faithful up to the end of my life. This one is short and only what is done for our loving Savior will have a lasting value. The key is being focused on things of value and not what might keep us happy for just a brief time. In 1896 Charles Sheldon wrote a novel called, “IN HIS STEPS.” It was subtitled “WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?” It took 100 years, but in the 90’s a youth group leader at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan named Janie Tinklenberg began a grassroots movement to help the teenagers in her group to remember the  phrase. It spread nationwide in the 1990’s among Christian youth, who wore bracelets bearing the initials WWJD (WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?) Later a sequel bracelet was generated with the initials “FROG” to provide an answer to “WWJD.”  FROG was an acronym for “FULLY RELY ON GOD.” For a number of years prior to those bracelets, Youth for Christ rallies were popular. Kids would come and bring their unbelieving friends to hear a speaker, meet other like minded youth, and sing some uplifting songs. As a group we came up with the name called Colyers, the purpose was to combine college and career kids together.  There were times we would go on camping trips as a group, take a Christian film, bring along our own screen, and invite everyone in the campground to bring their lawn chairs and watch a film with us. Sometimes churches would compete with each other in Bible memorization. Some of those kids had memorized several chapters of a book in the Bible and a moderator would quiz them. A buzzer would go off and the first one that could finish the question and give the right answer, their team would gain some points. My parents made an impact on me by explaining to me everything we own belongs to God. Dad purchased a second car. One you might not have heard of, or know how they looked. It was a 1952 Hudson Hornet. It was build like a tank and looked like one too. It wasn’t a car to take me to school. I rode with some other families or took the school bus like everyone else. The old Hornet was used to haul a chapel on wheels my dad built for 5 day clubs for Child Evangelism. Inside it had benches similar to pews in a church.  It would sit in someone’s driveway or in front of their home and kids would attend and hear Bible stories. Once I got old enough to drive, my dad allowed me to drive the car and pull the chapel behind it in the Festival of States Parade that took place in St. Petersburg. Dad used his 1958 Shop Smith versatile table saw with attachments to make hundreds of flannel graph boards for numerous teachers in that ministry. He took the time to build a wooden boat to be used in a Christian Camp. He believed everything he had in the way of tools, automobiles and his talents should be used with a ministry in mind. That type of thinking is not common these days. We tend to think of ourselves first and once we’ve got our enjoyment from the toys that were loaned to us, we forget they really belong to God. My family thought differently and I believe that helped me see a deeper purpose in life as I grew in my spiritual walk.   

 

Today we may not have some of those tools mentioned or talents to be put to use, but there is a lot we can do to reach out to others. Our church has an Awana program for kids. If you are a member and have been asking your neighbor kids to attend or their parents to come to church, if it isn’t working, why not try a different approach. If you have a child or a grandchild about the same age as a neighbor kid, why not with their parents permission, take them to a toy store with you. Tell them you are looking for a gift for your child, and would like their help in picking it out. They not only would love to do that, but love it more if you asked if they would like one too. The next time you told them about Awana, they would be sure to come. A little time and a little investment could make a big difference in a child’s life for all eternity. That’s just one idea, ask the Lord to show you some other creative ideas and watch Him find them for you. The joy you will get from doing that will make it all worthwhile. A nephew of mine who lives in the Phoenix area grew up hearing about God’s love for him, but he wasn’t ready to make a commitment. A change took place because a Christian neighbor saw he was landscaping his yard and suggested they work together on the project. That neighbor’s effort demonstrated Christ love to him and caused him to turn his life around and trust Christ as his personal Savior. If we really believe what we say we believe, it will be demonstrated in our actions far greater than our spoken words.     

 



The Cross

THE CROSS

 

Today we are going to discuss the symbolism and the significance of the cross. As we approach Easter, does the cross have a more profound meaning in our lives or is it something we take for granted? When we see a Red Cross on a vehicle do we see it the same way as when we look at a cross on a steeple on a church? Hopefully we will be able to see the cross from a different vantage point and can then determine its significance in our own lives. 

 

Most likely anywhere you go in America and enter the downtown of a city or town you will see a cross. Many times it will be less than a mile from where you are parked. If you stop and eat at a restaurant, it’s very likely you will spot someone wearing a cross around their neck, on a bracelet, or sometimes tattooed on their arm, back or leg. The real question might be is that cross considered just a piece of jewelry, a symbolism of love or peace, or does it have a deeper meaning?

 

This year I believe I will appreciate the event of the cross even better than before, because of doing my own research on the subject. It began by my reading a small booklet written by Lee Strobel called “The case for Easter.” Considering he didn’t start out being a Preacher, but was a Journalist investigating the evidence of the Resurrection, at the beginning of his journey he was a skeptic, an admitted Atheist. He began his journey by interviewing people, asking them tuff questions, and then evaluating their thoughts before making up his own mind. If you care to purchase his books for yourself or give them away this season, you can receive them in a bundle for just 99 cents a piece on line. To start with, it’s not my desire to sell books from this sight, but to let you be aware of some material that I believe you will benefit from like I have. I understand copyright laws, and I have permission to share just brief excerpts from the book. It’s my desire not to take away from the Author, but if possible, help him circulate his many writings to others that may be puzzled by the events of the cross and the resurrection. 

 

As a skeptic, Lee started out by having doubts that the resurrection even occurred. He had heard that nobody was sitting inside the tomb, take the linen wrappings off, fold them, roll back the stone, or pass the guards and leave. He questioned at length Gary Habermas, PH.D., D.D. and asked him, “Doesn’t this lack of evidence hurt your case?” “His answer was, “No, this doesn’t hurt our case one iota, because science is all about causes and effects. We don’t see dinosaurs; we study fossils. We may not know how a disease originates, but we study its symptoms. Maybe nobody witnesses a crime, but police piece together the evidence after the fact.”

 

The apostle Paul, started out on a similar path, only he had a bitter hatred for Christians. He wanted to kill them until he met Jesus in person after the resurrection on the road to Damascus. Acts 9:1-6 is the beginning and change that took place in his life after his encounter with the risen Savior. “Then Saul,(later his name was changed to Paul) still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are you Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Something pointed that would stab you, the more you kicked it). So he trembling and astonished, said, “Lord what do you want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”  This was the beginning of Paul’s missionary journey. By reading more in the book of Acts, you will see what took place with his life, how his name was changed, and how he at the beginning was the most antagonist spokesman against Christianity became the most protagonist spokesman for Christ through  his faith.  Another one that saw Him in person as well as His nail pierced hands was Thomas as we read in John 20: 24-29, “Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus said to him, Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 
 
The final verse of the 20th  chapter of John is verse 30. It is the purpose of John’s Gospel. “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”  Both Paul and Thomas acknowledged Jesus as Lord, and immediately believed on Him.  

 

There are over 300 prophecies in the Bible, (things that were told in the past that predicted the future). The Old Testament concealed is the New Testament revealed. It’s possible to know about Jesus and accept Him as your Messiah if you have an open mind and are willing to learn and explore the truths written anywhere in the Bible. Perhaps the clearest indicator of Jesus in the Old Testament is written in Isaiah chapter 53, the entire chapter opens up my mind. The reason the Jews do not read that chapter any time of the year during a weekly service is that there are no parallels of that chapter in the Torah. Again, one needs to have an open mind and not form an opinion without considering all of the truths. There are other indicators in the Old Testament that draw a parallel in the New Testament other than Isaiah 53, so I’ll share some of them. Deuteronomy 18:15 is a reference of a new Prophet to come like Moses, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desire of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, “Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.”  Who did Moses say this would be is found in John 1:45, “Philip found Nathannael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote—- Jesus of Nazareth the son of Joseph.”   

 

Psalms 22: 16b-18, “They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots. That’s repeated again in Matthew 27:35, “Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which were spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” Zechariah 12”10A, “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced.” It is fulfilled in the New Testament in Matthew 27:31, “And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.”  We just touched on three prophecies, there are a lot more for those that want to explore the Scriptures more deeply.

 

If you are beginning to see that Jesus Christ was a risen Savior whose purpose was to die on the cross to save us from our sin, then you might be interested in understanding what it might have been like for Him to go through the pain He did for us on that cross. Early on in Lee Strobel’s book, “The Case for Easter,” Lee interviews among others, Alexander Metherell, M.D. PH.D., because he possessed the medical and scientific credentials to explain the Crucifixion. He began by telling the torture Christ endured before the cross. “It began after the Last Supper when Jesus went with His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. There He prayed all night. Since He knew the amount of suffering He was going to have to endure, He was quite naturally experiencing a great deal of psychological stress. The gospels tell us He began to sweat blood at this point.” “This is a known medical condition called Hematidrosis. It’s not very common, but it is associated with a high degree of psychological stress. What happens is that severe anxiety causes the release of chemicals that break down the capillaries in the sweat glands. As a result there is a small amount of bleeding into these glands, and the sweat comes out tinged with blood. We’re not talking about a lot of blood; it’s just a very, very small amount.”

 

“What this did was set up the skin to be extremely fragile so that when Jesus was flogged by the Roman soldier the next day, His skin would be very sensitive. By fogging, the back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep, deep cuts. The whipping would have gone all the way from the shoulders down to the back, the buttocks, and the back of the legs. It was just terrible. Many people would die from this kind of beating even before they could be crucified. At the least, the victim would experience tremendous pain and go into hypovolemic shock. Hypo means low, vol refers to volume, and emic means blood, so hypovolemic shock means the person is suffering the effects of losing a large amount of blood. This does four things. First, the heart races to try to pump blood that isn’t there; second, the blood pressure drops, causing fainting or collapse; third, the kidneys stop producing urine to maintain what volume is left; and fourth, the person becomes very thirsty as the body craves fluids to replace the lost blood volume.”

 

“Jesus was in hypovolemic shock as he staggered up the road to the execution site at Calvary, carrying the horizontal beam of the cross. Finally Jesus collapsed, and the Roman soldier ordered Simon to carry the cross for Him. Later we read that Jesus said, “I thirst, at which point a sip of vinegar was offered to Him. Because of the terrible effects of this beating, there’s no question that Jesus was already in serious to critical condition even before the nails were driven through His hands and feet.”

 

We could go on, but if you’re like me, I can’t hardly fathom the total amount of suffering Jesus did for me on the cross. Romans 3:23 tells me, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That includes me. I learned there has to be a sacrifice for my sin from someone who lived a perfect life, that only one was Jesus Christ. I was shown that answer in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” By my trusting that Jesus Christ sacrifice on the cross was sufficient for my sin, and I have trusted in a risen Savior, then I have the promise of John 6:37- 40, All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should loose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” This applies to you as well, if you recognize Christ died for you, ask Him to forgive you of your sin, and be open to having Him guide you through this earthly life. Then you and I will be united in Heaven for all eternity. It’s not just the cross, but who it was that died on that cross for you and I. Romans 5: 6-11, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”

 

Why not make this Easter the best ever, by not only opening up your heart to this wonderful Savior, but by coming to worship with us and learn how to grow in this new found faith. 



Hidden Treasure

HIDDEN TREASURE

 

When I was around ten years old our next door neighbor, who had a special way with kids made up a treasure hunt. We were dressed up as pirates, given maps he designed out of parchment paper with the edges burned off and details if followed would lead us to some treasures hidden in the ground. Gene Chatfield became a mentor to me well into my adult life.  It was an honor for me to attend and participate in his funeral when he died September 27

th, 2005 at the age of 86. He taught me the meaning of life and how to glean many of the treasures hidden in the Bible. On the cover of a DVD his family made of his life is his picture with the verse Psalms 16:11, “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures for evermore.” On the back side is a picture of him and his lovely wife Jeannie in the center with the following verses and statement written above and below. “Dear family and friends thank you for coming and celebrating Gene’s life and home-going. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Psalms 116:15. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8.

 

How was it possible that my neighbor, Air force Captain Chatfield, who flew 50 missions in a P-38 Lightning fighter plane in the Second World War, went from being an atheist to an outstanding Bible teacher? What caused him to make that change? The short answer was after the war there was a shortage of housing all over America. He was discharged in California, looked in the paper continuously and every time he called a rental place it was already taken. One day he saw a tiny advertisement in the paper about a home in an expensive area that was offering a room with kitchen privileges for ½ the price of places he was searching. He turned to Jeanie his wife and said, “There has to be catch to this that I’m not seeing”, still he felt led to make the call. The husband that answered the call was delightful. They told him their son was going on a mission trip of his own, and would be away for several months. Both were open to renting his room to a serviceman, so they agreed to see the home and later to take the room. Then they discovered what the catch was. They often gathered with the host family out on their patio and had conversations. It seems every time Gene would raise a question the owner would quote a Bible verse within his answer. Afterwards he told his wife, “We’ve got to get out of here, I can’t take anymore of this Bible talk”.  He started making more phone calls, but nothing became available.  One day he received a call from a military headquarters that went like this; “Captain Chatfield, we found a nice apartment for you that you can have right away.”  Jeanie was in the room when the call came in; she was in tears waiting for his answer.  Gene then politely said, “Thank you for thinking of us, but that won’t be necessary, we will be fine right here.”  It appears God was wearing both of them down and they became more receptive to what the owner was telling them.  Then one day Gene asked a question; “You live in this fabulous home, you go to work each day, what is it that you do? “  The owner replied, “I am an Aeronautical engineer and designed the plane that saved your life.”  Gene quickly realized that this family’s mission was to reach out to servicemen.  He not only had an interest in saving his life through his design work, but had an interest in his soul and eternal well being. That was the turning point when the Chatfield’s realized they needed a change of heart and surrendered their lives to the Lord. A verse that had since been important to them is found in

John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

  They discovered the treasure of an abundant life.      

 

Over time I have found many treasures by reading the Bible. Treasures can consist of material things, but that is usually only temporal.

Matthew 6:19, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” A story is told about a former businessman who was standing in the soup line during the depression. Someone asked him, “Don’t you wish you had all the money you lost?” His wise answer was, “Yes, I lost a lot of money here on this earth, but what I was able to keep has gone on before hand.” You see he gave a lot to missionaries who were instruments in sharing Biblical treasures with others. He knew what took place in one’s spiritual lives are far more important than what they keep for themselves. Proverbs 11:28, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage.”

 

Proverbs 3: 13-15, “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and the gain of fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.” Here we have the treasure of wisdom and understanding. Colossians 2:3, tells us, “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Here we have the treasure of knowledge. Verses that have been especially valuable to me are found in Romans 11:33- 36, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has given to Him and it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever Amen.”

 This golden treasure tells me life is not all about me. God’s mind is so much wiser than mine and although I may not fully understand what He is doing at times, I can trust Him with my life and inner being. By giving Him the respect and honor that is due Him, I bring Him glory.  

 

While thinking of what is written in Romans eleven other verses come to mind that are quoted at the end of many church services. Unfortunately, we have a tendency of knowing these truths, even by memory, but don’t often take these great truths to heart. These verses are found in

Jude 24 and 25. They are known as the Doxology; praises or glory to God. “Now unto Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever Amen.”

  Although many of these verses are written to encourage those that are already believers, one that may be starting his or her spiritual journey can benefit as well.  Keep in mind in order to begin our treasure hunt, one has to have a map from which to start and they need to know what it is they are looking for.

 

By trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and asking Him to forgive you of your sins then by reading the Bible, the details of His spiritual map become clearer and more meaningful. It is our prayer that you have done that or a willing to do so. By starting to read the gospel of John, especially the first three chapters, you will find what you need to do to begin the journey and will then find this treasure hunt and its treasures more of a blessing to you throughout your life.     

 



Wrestling with God

 WRESTLING WITH GOD

 There are times we all wrestle with God. We might not like to think of it that way, but if we prefer things to go the way we wish and God has a different plan, couldn’t that be considered a conflict? Wrestling with God may not be a physical confrontation, but most of the time it affects us emotionally.  Each of us deals with difficulties differently. Some become bitter or angry when things don’t go as planned, others maintain a quiet spirit, but inwardly fall into a depressed state of mind.  It is natural when boarding a bus or airplane to want to know where we are heading. We’ve made plans for the trip, paid the fare, and have expected to arrive at a certain destination on time. God knows His plans and purpose as well, still there is a difference when He deals with us individually. He can see the long range picture while we just have a short range view. He is not so concerned when we face obstacles in our lives if in the process we turn to Him for wisdom and help. Usually there is a lesson for us to learn when going through these growing pains.  

Since I had a hip replacement 3 years ago, I understood what it was like when a good friend fell on the ice and broke his hip in two places which also required him to have a hip replacement. A week earlier another friend had his second hip replaced at the same hospital. While praying for my two friends, I began to think about Jacob in the Bible and his dislocated hip.  Tackling the story about Jacob and his hip is difficult to fully understand. The winding paths he chose to take got him nowhere. If we were able to look down and see him close up like God did, then we might understand why he went through the trauma with his hip. It appears God took drastic measures with him to get his attention which is not typically done today. For what ever reason we might find ourselves with a broken hip or another injury and may ask God for healing. Jacob had a good functional hip, but God intervened and caused it to become dislocated. Why would He do that and is there a lesson for us to learn from Jacob’s experience? We will explore just a small part of Jacobs’s life, his goals and character. There are 44 verses in the Bible that mentions Jacobs’s name. The majority of his story is found between Genesis 25:19 and Genesis 35: 19. In this snapshot we will look on his years growing up, his hip situation, and his fear in facing his twin brother once again whom he hadn’t seen in years. These events helped him to refocus and follow a different path from the one he started. There is much more to learn if you decide to read the entire story on your own.    

Genesis 25:19-28, “This is the genealogy of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as his wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian. Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the Lord, and the Lord said to her: “two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.” “So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, he was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. So the boys grew, and Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”  

“Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. Then Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with the same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright right as of this day.” And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way, Thus Esau despised his birthright.”

We can see that Jacob manipulated Esau into giving up his birthright. This was wrong on his part in making him give in when he was hungry. On the other hand, Esau didn’t place much value on his birthright. He was more interested in a short term gratification than what the value of his long term birthright might be. Jacob tricked his brother once and it was in his mind how he could do it again. It wasn’t very long before another deception would follow. This time Jacob would get his mother involved in a manipulative plan that would cause a deep division within the family. We will read about it in the following verses.

Genesis 27:1-29, “Now it came to pass when Isaac was old and his eyes were so dim that he could not see, that he called Esau his older son and said to him, “My son” and he answered him, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Behold now, I am old. I do not know the day of my death. Now therefore, please take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me. And make me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.” Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt game and to bring it. So Rebekah spoke to Jacob her son, saying, “Indeed I heard your father speak to Esau your brother, saying, Bring me game and make savory food for me, that I may eat it and bless you in the presence of the Lord before my death. Now therefore my son, obey my voice according to what I command you. Go now to the flock and bring me from there two choice kids of the goats, and I will make savory food from them for your father, such as he loves. Then you shall take it to your father that he may eat it, and that he may bless you before his death.”

 “And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth skinned man, perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.” But his mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son, only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.” And he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and his mother made savory food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the choice clothes of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she gave the savory food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob. So he went to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here am I. Who are you my son?” Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn; I have done just as you told me; please arise, sit and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.” But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” And he said, “Because the Lord your God brought it to me.” Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I might feel you my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.” So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. Then he said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He said, “I am.”

He said, “Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s game, so that my soul may bless you.” So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Then his father Issac said to him, “Come near now and kiss me, my son.” And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him and said: “Surely the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed. Therefore may God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother’s son’s bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!”      

One can clearly see how this deception was played out as well as all the lies that were told to his father. Isaac’s wife, Jacob’s mother, was just as involved as Jacob was; in fact it was her idea to deceive and carry out this plan against her own husband. Worse yet, Jacob lied about God when he was asked how he could find the animal so quickly by saying,

“Because the Lord your God brought it to me.”

For some reason they thought Isaac wouldn’t find out their deception, Esau wouldn’t find out, and somehow they thought Jacob could mention the Lord in the lie, and He wouldn’t discover it. The situation only got worse when Esau got back home and found out what had happened, we’ll read that in the next few verses.  

Genesis 27:30-33, “Now it happened, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. He also had made savory food, and brought it to his father, and said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that your soul may bless me.” And his father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” So he said, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” Then Isaac trembled exceedingly, and said, “Who? Where is the one who hunted game and brought it to me? I ate all of it before you came, and I have blessed him—‘and indeed he shall be blessed.” Verses 38-40, And Esau said to his father, “Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me—me also, O my father!” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. Then Isaac, his father answered and said to him: “Behold your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; and it shall come to pass, when you become restless, that you shall break his yoke from your neck.”   

 Jacob and Esau went their separate ways. They both married, had families, and some of their relationships worked out and some did not. Then the time had come when they struggled to be reunited. It happened this way

, Genesis 32:3, “Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, in the country of Edom. And he commanded them saying, “Speak thus to my lord Esau, ‘thus your servant Jacob says: “I have dwelt with Laban and stayed there until now. I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.” Then the messengers returned to Jacob saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks, and herds and camels, into two companies, and he said, “If Esau comes to one company and attacks it, then the other company which is left will escape.”  In verse 11 Jacob cries out to God saying, “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. Later in verse 24, “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as he wrestled with him. And He said, “Let me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, I will not let you go until You bless me!” So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” And he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me your name I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank.”

 The Bible gives us a very short story about Jacob’s hip. I don’t claim to have all the answers as to who it was that spoke to Jacob and why He allowed this to happen to him. It appears to be an Angel of God. One who was sent by Him and had the authority to cause Jacob’s hip to become dislocated. I’m not as concerned as to who it was he wrestled with as much as why this incident took place. I realize this was a long introduction up to this point, but it was necessary to understand the character of Jacob and the deceptive manner in the way he handled difficulties. When reading the earlier part of this article it is clear that Jacob wanted to be one step ahead of his brother Esau. He wanted to get there first, just like in running. For those of you that had hip surgery or know someone who has, you don’t run with a dislocated hip. Jacob was scared to meet his brother after all the years they were separated. Once again he was working on a plan that would minimize his losses in the event his brother would become hostile towards him. God, knowing all things, knew the heart of Jacob. It was His idea to cause this hip incident which kept him from running away from his brother, but more importantly his own problems. Jacob and Esau did meet again as we’ll see in the following verses.

Genesis 33:1-9, “Now Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and there was Esau coming, and with him were four hundred men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two maidservants. And he put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children behind, and Rachel and Joseph last. Then he crossed over before them and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. And he lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, and said, “Who are theses with you?” So he said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Then the maidservants came near, they and their children, and bowed down, and Leah also came near with her children, and they bowed down, Afterward Joseph and Rachel came near, and they bowed down. Then Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company which I met?” And he said, “These are to find favor in the sight of my lord.” But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.”

On that day Jacob and his brother Esau were reunited and their past was not an issue. In the future other conflicts would surface that we won’t discuss here. What is important is realizing one cannot successfully solve their own problems without the help of God. We can see Jacob was overly anxious to receive a blessing from God. Later on he received that blessing when God was ready to give it to him; he just went about it the wrong way which caused him the agony he encountered. Sometimes in our anxiety of trying to make things happen quickly in our own lives we may try and take a shortcut, many times that gets us into trouble. Perhaps the lesson for us, like Jacob had to learn, it is better to be in sink with God rather than to be ahead or behind Him when traveling through life. Still in spite of our doing a thing our own way, God is patient, loving, and merciful to us and doesn’t hold our failures against us. Jacob was an imperfect person just like we are. There are many reasons why I believe the Bible and know that His writings are ordained by Him.  If man were to write an autobiography, he would highlight his achievements and omit his failures. God wants us to see both sides of Biblical characters so we can compare ourselves to them. None of us are identical, but by reading and learning from them, it will help us look at our own lives and circumstances.  Then we can evaluate our situation and adjust to a better change that God may want to show us.  By allowing Jesus Christ to take charge of our lives and circumstances and giving Him permission to lead us each step of the way then life will take on a new meaning and give us that inner peace we long for.          

 

  

 



Your Navigator

YOUR NAVIGATOR

 

Navigation systems have been around for years. It’s only been a short time that man has discovered them. Thirty miles away from my former home in North Carolina is a town called Bat Cave, you might have guessed it; bats live in caves in that area. Bats use echolocation to navigate and find food in the dark. They send out waves from their mouth or nose; when the sound wave hits an object, it produces an echo. They can detect an insect as small as a mosquito in complete darkness. Whales use sound waves to navigate in the water. We call that Sonar which is short for Sound Navigation and Ranging. Scientists first studied animals in order to gather data in developing electronically activated navigation devices.  

 

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite based system which is an aid in navigation. It is made up of a network of 24 satellites placed into orbit by the U.S. Department of Defense.  GPS was originally used for military operations in the 1980’s. Today the government has made the system available for civilian use. In the mid 70’s I had a pager clipped to my belt which allowed me to receive a beeping signal which displayed an electronic phone number from someone wanting to reach me. If I was on the road, I would have to locate a telephone booth in order to make a return call; we have progressed a lot more since then.   On the internet we can now pull up Google Earth and with new 3D imagery see cities, land, oceans, and mountains all with a click of a button. In joking we probably discussed which came first the chicken or the egg?  The real question should be did the animals come first, that God created which have built in navigational detectors, or the scientists and engineers who more recently invented electronic GPS devices?  In Colorado we see thousands of geese this time of year. They are migratory birds coming mostly from Canada and heading farther south. There are more than 650 species of North American breeding birds heading towards a warmer climate, more than ½ are migratory. A female bar-tailed godwit was recently found to have flown 7,145 miles nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand without taking a break for food or drink, the journey took nine days.  A study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and PRBO Conservation Science fitted satellite transmitters on 16 birds and tracked their flight. They were born having a built in navigation system. We’ve heard the phrase bird brain; even though it’s small in size we are no match to the birds when it comes to navigation. Some of these  birds have never made the long trip before, going sight unseen, and if they were off just 2 degrees, they would have missed New Zealand altogether.  

 

While pondering these thoughts, I began to wonder why God didn’t give us the ability to navigate like the animals we’ve discussed rather than needing to use handheld devices. Then the following thought occurred to me: These animals were created with different sensors in order to survive against harmful predators, be able to obtain food, and to exist in their particular environment. They use their instinct when needed in all situations. . Their length of life is relatively short compared to humans.  God designed us differently for a reason. When we study the Bible we begin to realize He is our guide.  The way we might think of it today is: He is our GPS.  He will lead or navigate us through a multitude of situations and we can never lose our way if we are reading and following His way.  Since God knows everything, He could have provided us with much more of this information 100 years ago, but He is more interested in our getting to know Him rather than just giving us more knowledge.  His desire is for us to have a relationship with Him.  So how can we do that?   Looking for answers in life from the Bible, learning for the sake of learning is not what He has in mind for us. 

2 Timothy 3:7 tells us, “Always learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

   

 

It’s interesting to note the more knowledge we have, the smarter we think we become. Consequently, our feelings for God or belief that we need Him are set aside or used only as a last resort. As we become more independent, we become less dependent on Him. He is aware of that and sometimes gets our attention through pain or hardship in order to help us rethink our priorities in life. When we are young we think we can take all kind of risks and that no harm will come to us. We believe we will live forever. Once we realize 60-70% of our life has passed, we might become more open to where we might live once our time on this earth has ended. Some people may not want to consider, or talk about it.  They try and maintain a distant, non-talkative stance on the issue. Some may feel no one can really know, so let’s just forget about it and wait and see what happens when it happens. It’s interesting to me that many people plan for their retirement years, have a savings plan, look for ways to become debt-free, but at the same time give no thought to an after-life. At one time I thought that way, but by the guidance and help from friends, I have complete confidence where I will be taken after death. I now look at my life here on earth as merely basic training in preparation for the next one. So how can I be so confident in my next 100-200 years or longer?  It’s because I continue to read the Bible, have put my trust in God’s hands, and have received that inner peace that only He can give. The following verses found in the Bible have spoken to me and have given me that security and hope are found in the Bible. 

 

The hope I have in following Jesus Christ is found in

Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” I can honestly say because I trust in the Lord I have that perfect peace and rest that He and only He can bring me each day. The thought, whose mind is stayed on Thee means, fixed or focused on Christ. It’s not the only thing I think about, but He is the motivating focus in my life. The desire to please Him first is my primary goal. By doing so, I follow His mission and plan to share His good news of salvation to others and act according to what His will is for me. There is a song that goes like this, “On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.” So what is sinking sand? It is everything this world has to offer, a new home, a new car, money in the bank, a secure job, being active in or following sports, or traveling anywhere in the world. That by itself is not wrong, still it doesn’t compare to an intimate relationship one can have with the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Another verse about peace is found in John 14:27, Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” 1 John 2:15-18, “Do not love the world or the things in the world; if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world… the lust of the flesh… the lust of the eyes…  and the pride of life… is not of the Father, but is of the world. The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

 

My hope is being in heaven with Jesus.

John 14:1-3, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Fathers house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” The key verse in the Bible for one who wants to turn away from his sin, and wants a new joyful life is found in John 3:16-18, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life;” “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  

 

Once a person accepts Jesus Christ as his own personal Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit enters into his or her heart. He is the one who reveals the Truth of God’s Word to them which causes them to want to learn more about Him. Many times they develop a desire to memorize Bible verses which help them grow in the faith. They become keenly aware of activities taking place around them in the world and begin to discern the difference between good and evil. Satan, the evil one, restricts and suppresses these truths. He knows his time will be coming to an end and he wants everyone to forget Jesus Christ and the joy they will receive from knowing Him.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6, “If our gospel is veiled, (Hidden) it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age, (Satan) has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”   In other words, Satan doesn’t want people to know the truth. He will bring up all kind of things that have happened to them or their family in the past in order to keep them from listening and hearing the truth that God wants them to know. God wants to open our hearts and ears so one will hear and believes the truth. Since we are born with a free will, we can stubbornly close those thoughts out of our mind, trying to keep us from hearing the truth. In spite of this battle going on inside of one’s soul, God will see to it that His Word will not be forgotten, and He will bring it back to their mind in various ways and at various times. Isaiah 55:11, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the things for which I sent it.” 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

  Once a person trusts in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, and desires to follow Him wherever He leads them they automatically bond with other believers. I have met hundreds of Christians in the United States and from other parts of the world from east to west. Their backgrounds and culture may be different, still there is a common bond because of fact that Jesus Christ dwells in each of their lives and that common bond is what makes the relationship work. There are other friends I have known for 50 years, who have been successful in business or I have known since High School days, although we have certain things in common, the intimate bonding is not there because Satan keeps a wedge between us.  As a result there is not a common spiritual bond.

 

So why are all of these thoughts important? It’s because I know the consequences my friends will face if they just float through life and ignore the message. What is the message? It’s simply that by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, recognizing we are sinners, and He died on the cross to save us from our sins, then through faith we will have eternal life. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people, if there is no evidence that Christ is the center of one’s life and their focus is only on themselves instead of Him, then they will be in for a big surprise at the end. I care too much to see that happen to them.

Romans 14:10-12  tells us this, “…For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written as I live every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God”, so then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”

It’s not about what we’ve done for Him or others, but what He’s already done for us that we can have salvation.   

 

As I begin this New Year, 2017, I’m looking forward to getting to know God in a deeper more meaningful way. By finding and reading a Bible, you can let Him speak to you as well. This year could be the best New Year of your life. The choice is yours; I hope you’ll join me. We can grow together in learning these truths. In conclusion, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



“God the Son”

GOD THE SON

 

God the Son, is that right? Shouldn’t it be Son of God? By changing the order of the words are we implying that Jesus Christ is actually God? If He’s the Son, doesn’t that mean He is lower than God? We know in our human life that a father precedes the son, so isn’t the same way in the spiritual world? Why do we capitalize letters in front of Jesus’s name? Should He be elevated as high as God in the Old Testament? These are great questions that have passed through my mind also at one time. Considering this is the Christmas season and you’ve probably heard someone say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”  Let’s explore some references and then I’ll leave it up to you to make up your own mind, fair enough?   

 

Even though there are hundreds of belief systems in the world, they usually have the same thing in common. That is, they either elevate man by trying to make him like God or try and reduce God to man’s level. That ideology seems easier to accept rather than attempt to fathom how much greater God is than mortal man. Ask yourself this, “If God is merely man, how does He keep all the stars and galaxies in place, the sun to rise in the east each morning and set in the west? How about all the amazing created things we see all around us? If man is elevated like God, what makes that individual greater or more special than the rest of us?”  Rather than listening to someone, who has developed what he or she thinks one should believe written only a short time ago, let’s reach back hundreds of years and see what God is trying to share with us today. If we are open to learning, and willing to listen; could it be He has a message for us that might draw a connection between what we may think of God, and the baby we celebrate on Christmas day?

 

By beginning with the Bible which has been around for centuries, we will try and see if it will shed some light on these questions. Instead of reading what someone else may say about the Bible, why not let the Bible speak for itself by comparing one Scripture with another?  If God has a message for us, He should be able to convey that message to us within one book and not as a substitute for another man’s written opinion. Some may be thinking isn’t the Bible just a book written by men? That’s a legitimate question, so we will begin with a verse where the Bible tells about itself.

2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The events in the Bible were written over a 1,600 year span of time. Forty different authors were used to carry out a central theme. Each one was different from the other.  Dr. Luke, who wrote the book of Luke, was a physician while Peter, who wrote the book of Peter, was a fisherman. Those books and others in the New Testament were written within 50 to 100 years after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Some of the Old Testament books date back as early as 1,450 BC. (Before Christ)  Although we don’t have an exact timeframe on the book of Job, some Biblical Scholars think it could be the oldest book written. It is the first of the wisdom books in the Old Testament and ties in well with the Epistle of James in the New Testament with the theme of suffering and practical living. The overall theme displayed throughout both the Old and New Testaments is Redemption and our need for a Redeemer and Savior to place us in good standing with God.  

 

How could all the writings happen the way they did? The beginning of the verse

2 Timothy 3:16 starts out, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.”

Inspiration is God divinely interacting or leading the authors of the Scriptures in their writings to reveal a God given message to all mankind. Considering how it ties together in so many ways, it is totally different from any other book. God used the authors without changing their own personalities and abilities.  It was God-breathed.  If we accept the fact that the authority of the Scriptures and its writings, ultimately came from God, then we should be able to accept and recognize other supernatural events that have taken place in years past which would give us guidance and wisdom for the present and future. Now we’ll dig a little deeper into how something that was spoken in the Old Testament will give us some clarity and understanding to the birth of Jesus Christ written in the New Testament.

 

Last year at Christmas time we referred to a verse in the Old Testament which was Isaiah 9:6.  We will use this as a foundation or platform to learn more about God and what was said about Jesus Christ. At the time this was considered a prophetic verse which predicts events that will take place in the future. These prophesies were written by the prophet Isaiah around 700 BC. Of course he couldn’t know of these events; it had to be revealed to him through the inspiration of God. We will elaborate on its meaning as we continue this devotional.

Isaiah 9:6-7a, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.”

 

This is a pivotal verse that ties the Old and New Testament together.

“For unto us a Child is born,” hadn’t taken place yet and wouldn’t for 700 years afterwards. Since God knows everything from eternity past to eternity future, He’s the one who had to instruct Isaiah what to write at that time, as well as, the others who will provide us will more insight. Back to the thought of God the Son, what does the New Testament say about this Child? The book of Matthew is the beginning of the New Testament. The theme is Christ the King, the genealogy and birth of Jesus and His early life. Matthew 1:18-24, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, “for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son, and called His name Jesus.”

 

A lot is taking place in the first chapter of Matthew. We may be more familiar with God the Father, but hadn’t thought of Him being God the Son, and now the introduction of God the Holy Spirit. Each one has a separate role or responsibilities, yet they are still the same God. This is what we call the Trinity. There is not an adequate illustration to describe the trinity, some think of water which can be solid like ice, a liquid, or steam from a kettle, all being used differently, but each is water. All three characteristics and attributes of God are far more complex than water, but our human mind can’t adequately comprehend it. Now why do you think it was necessary for Mary to be conceived by the Holy Spirit?  Why was the virgin birth important? Jesus had a heavenly origin, He was not born like us, but always was. If Joseph were His true father, then Jesus would only be a human being and not the Son of God. Life is in the blood, and we’ve inherited a sinful nature passed on through the blood of former generations. The Scripture tells us in

1 John 3:5, “He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.”

Because of that, Jesus was the perfect sacrifice and substitute for our sins. We need the faith to believe that or we will not receive the benefits of salvation either in this life or the next. For those who believe, their future home will be in Heaven.  

 

Jesus knew before his entrance on this earth what his mission was. He became a man, grew up and died and rose again to become our Savior.

John 17:1-8 is a conversation between Himself and God the Father, who couldn’t look at our sin except through Jesus Christ our substitute. The conversation that took place gives us some insight and understanding that Jesus fulfilled His mission here on earth and now He is looking forward to returning back to Heaven. Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to Heaven and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may Glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is life eternal, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have Glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, Glorify Me together with Yourself, with the Glory which I had with You before the world was. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.”

 

Back to our verse in Isaiah 9:6, Jesus is our Prince of Peace. By our trusting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will receive that inner peace.

John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

We won’t experience worldwide peace until Jesus Christ returns to earth once again. Writings about that are found in the book of Zechariah 14 and other passages that are prophetic events, things yet to come. What is most important at this point is not that you understand future events, but that you know that Jesus, who we celebrate at His birth, is more than just a baby. He was born for the purpose of becoming our Redeemer and Savior. He came to die, rise again, and can live in your heart. Once you have accepted Him as your personal Lord and Savior, you will grow in your walk with Him and He will guide you into all truth on a daily basis. The Bible, referred to as God’s Word, is a living book. You will learn more daily about Him and how He works in your life if you are willing to listen and read His Word. Each day can be sweeter regardless of what you may be going through.

 

We would love to have you visit us at Gateway Baptist Church where we all learn together. This year Christmas falls on Sunday, we would love to have you visit us that day as we celebrate His birth. If you are reading this and live some distance from us, we can correspond by mail or by a phone call. In closing, our church wishes you a Merry, Merry Christmas.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Hall of Faith

HALL OF FAITH

 

Hall of Faith; shouldn’t it be called Hall of Fame? No, they are vastly different. Someone listed in the Hall of Fame is usually an athlete who has excelled above others in a particular sport. They might believe in Faith, but their accomplishment largely depends upon their hard work in training, long strenuous hours, and a motivation to exceed outstanding goals others. Overall it is accomplished by an individual’s desire to maximize their efforts and win a prize. We admire someone who has mastered such a feat which has placed them in the Hall of Fame. Anyone reading this who has achieved that goal, we applaud you. If there is a difference, who is it then that would be placed in the Hall of Faith, how did they get there, and exactly what is it?

 

Open the Bible to Hebrews 11:1 to see what faith is by God’s definition,

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him….that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

In the Hall of Fame there is a man made goal and a cheering crowd. In the Hall of Faith it is all about those who seek to please God regardless where the path may lead, even if they don’t see the end goal, and the cheering crowd is not the motivation for their faith.

 

We can see several names recorded in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. Verse one starts describing things that are hoped for, but not seen. This is the substance of our faith. In verse six we discover that without faith it is impossible to please God; not highly unlikely, or it probably can’t happen, but the verse strongly emphasizes it is impossible. That implies man can’t please God without supernatural intervention. So the question that needs to be asked is, “How can it be possible for a sinful man to reach even the basic element of faith?” We will need to dig a little deeper in order to find the missing pieces of this mystery.

Mark 10:27, “Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, the just shall live by faith.” So all things are possible with God, but not with man and through Him, faith is made possible to the just. Justification is the declaring of a person to be just or righteous. Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”  

So by trusting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we receive the faith that is necessary to follow Him. We are not capable of exercising that kind of faith alone without God’s leading in our lives. Just as God provides us salvation through Jesus Christ, He also provides us the faith to follow Him. That first step is needed and it is referred to as saving faith. An earthly example might be a car. You can have an automobile with the highest horsepower motor in it, but if you don’t have fuel, you won’t be going anywhere. In the case of faith in the spiritual sense, you need to commit your life to Jesus Christ first, and then His spirit will live within you; He’s the one who will guide you through a faith-lived life. The more you trust in Him and not yourself, the greater your faith becomes.    

 

This is different than faith in a chair to hold you up. You don’t even have to think about that or that your car is dependable enough to get you to work. Although there are several names listed in the Hall Of Faith in Hebrews 11, for the sake of time and space we will focus on Abraham. Through a series of events that challenged his life and the journey he was placed in, we hope to learn some lessons that will strengthen our own personal faith. Abraham had several intimate conversations with the Lord Himself.  However before Abraham, the lifestyle of those on the earth had moved farther and farther from God so he caused the flood to take place. Afterwards God told Noah in

Genesis 9:1, “…to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.” At that time they all spoke the same language. In Genesis 11:4, “They said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

This displeased the Lord and He confused their language so they couldn’t understand one another’s speech. He then scattered them over the face of the earth so they ceased building the city. Therefore the name is called Babel. In spite of their rebellion, God was determined to rise up a leader who would follow His plan. That’s where Abraham came in. It’s difficult to find a definite timeline between the Tower of Babel and when Abraham was born. The Scriptures indicates he was born after that time period. We know he was a key figure used in sharing the truth about how God communicated during that time to both individuals and nations. At first he was called Abram, as we read on we will see why and when his name was changed to Abraham.

 

Genesis 12:1-9, now the Lord said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed  So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy five years old when he departed from Haran. Then Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the Terebinth Tree of Moreh, and the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord, so Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South.”

 Today we have Atlas Maps, GPS’s, or we can Google Maps Plus; we also have cell phones and can call or text anywhere in the world. Abram had to trust the Lord completely to lead him into unknown territories, as well as supply his food, his safety, and to direct him to people he had never met before, many who were unfriendly and questioned his plans and purpose.  

 

Genesis 17, God appeared to Abram again when he was ninety-nine years old, He said, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless, and I will make my covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him saying: “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations, no longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.” “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name, I will bless her, and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.”

 

Abraham truly loved and worshiped the Lord, but he doubted that God could do everything, especially allowing him to have a child at 100 years of age through Sarah who was 90. God said to Abraham,

“Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.”

Abraham then tried to do things his own way, His faith had not yet come to full maturity. As a result he caused unnecessary problems to come his way. I can relate to that. Perhaps it was back in the 70’s when I first saw a bumper sticker that said, “Why pray when you can worry.” It’s amazing how often we try to fix our own problems first, and then when we find out that doesn’t work, we turn to God to help us through a seemingly difficult situation that’s impossible with us, but not with Him. We know we should seek Him out first in prayer and the reading of His Word, but many times we look at Him as our last resort rather than the first.  

 

Yes, through unusual circumstances God’s plan went forward and Abraham’s faith was increased. This past Sunday our Pastor made a statement that fits this story. He said, “I do not set the course on how to live my life; the Lord does. The best place is to be on the course God has chosen for me.” He then referred to

Psalms 119: 105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” We need to live life one step at a time and let the Lord direct our steps. Once Abraham got back on track and began to trust the Lord in all circumstances, he was asked to stretch his faith in a most unusual way. Because of it, he turned out to be the leader God had intended him to be. Before I share these verses we need to keep in mind just how much God loved Abraham and the plans He had in using him. Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” It was his faith that saved him even though he didn’t know who Jesus Christ was then. He had saving faith that was put together by God to look forward to the day our redeemer, Jesus Christ, would die on the cross for his sins much like our looking back to our salvation through Christ in the past. Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

 

The unusual circumstance Abraham was placed in is found in

Genesis 22: 1-19, “Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, Abraham!” and he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, Take now thy son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for a burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”

 

“So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him.  For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

 

“Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The Lord- Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” “Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son — blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.”   

 

We observe that Abraham trusted God completely without question. He knew what was asked of him, yet he rose early in the morning knowing what the stakes would be. When Isaac questioned his father on why they weren’t bringing along a lamb, Abraham calmly said, “God will provide.” Isaac also had complete trust in his father whom he loved and admired greatly. God had complete control of the situation by providing a ram caught in a thicket. He made it all possible by placing the ram at the right place, the right time, and kept it quiet, out of sight until the last second of time. Although at the time Abraham and Isaac didn’t know the purpose for this, God felt both had demonstrated their reverence and trust regardless of what they were asked to do. Abraham also remembered the promises he was given in using him to multiply the earth. He probably wondered how this could be possible if he sacrificed Isaac, but his faith in God and assurance God would provide the sacrifice needed was strong enough to obey. He knew it was a miracle that God allowed him to have Isaac in the first place by providing his birth at his old age. Regardless of many mistakes Abraham had made in the past, God was always faithful to him to take care of him and his family. No doubt both of their faith was greatly increased along with those of us today that read this story and believe God is able to do things where man cannot. A favorite verse of mine is

Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” As was mentioned earlier in Genesis 15:6, the verse is repeated again in the New Testament in James 3:23 with an added thought, “Abraham believed God and it was counted on to him for righteousness and he was called a friend of God.”

 

Theologians that have studied Genesis 22 sometimes call this a typology Scripture. They mean the behavior or type of Abraham is likened to God the father. Isaac was like Jesus Christ who willingly laid down His life on the cross for us. At the time of Jesus death, burial, and resurrection only Jesus Christ and God the Father fully understood the necessity of the cross, not even his disciples, or followers understood. The one main difference in the story is that Isaac was a sinner just like us, and his death could not take away our sins. We know Abraham loved Isaac and so God the Father loves His son Jesus Christ. It was necessary for Jesus to die and be raised again to become a substitute for our sins. God required animal sacrifices, in times past, to provide a temporary covering of sins and to foreshadow the perfect and complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews is rich with explanations about the purpose of Jesus Christ death on the cross and the benefits for the believers.

Hebrews 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 4:14 and 15, “Seeing, then, that we have a great high priest, that is passed  into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 10:4, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” Hebrews 10:11 and 12, “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering often the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God.”  Hebrews 7:24-28, “Jesus Christ, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore he is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Encouragement

ENCOURAGEMENT

 

There are only a few letter differences between encouragement and discouragement. The word courage is the base word and center of both. One is a positive look at life while the other isn’t. Of course not all D words are bad or E words good, but  let’s consider some D’s such as doubt, disbelief, discontentment and discouragement.  The E’s appear to have a happier outlook such as enthusiasm, energy, excitement and encouragement. How we look at life many times determines how we act or react to a given situation. I had been preparing another devotional and was half way through it when I felt the need to write about encouragement. Perhaps it’s because we soon will be facing an upcoming Presidential election. Regardless of the outcome, if we approach the results with the right frame of mind, then we should be able to continue on, unless of course, we feel we have been going the wrong direction and sense the need to change.   

 

A few years ago I heard a story about someone who faced unbelievable tragedies in his life. The person interviewing him asked,

“How did you possibly keep going on?”  His answer has stuck in my mind ever since. “I learned I had a choice to either be bitter or better, there is only one letter difference, and I chose to become better from what I went through.” What a statement. Not only was his life changed in a positive way, but his attitude affected many others, including mine. Dave Ramsey has written several books and can be heard on several radio stations. He has helped thousands of people to reduce their debt, pay off their home early, learn to budget, and live within their means. He has a live session where people call in; tell of their financial situation and together they work out a solution. Many times when someone calls they ask him how he is doing. His answer usually is, “Better than I deserve.” More recently I head a discussion from someone in a difficult uncertain business who said, “I’m too blessed to be stressed.”

 Other people have learned to cope with changes and difficulties so why shouldn’t we?  Are we thankful for what we have been blessed with or do we concentrate more on what we don’t have? 

 

A song has been popping up in my head so I stopped to look it up and was surprised to see when it was written. In 1883 Daniel W. Whittle wrote,

“There shall be showers of blessings: This is the promise of love; there shall be seasons refreshing, sent from the Savior above.” Then the chorus is repeated after each verse, “Showers of blessings, showers of blessings we need: Mercy-drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.” The Bible is full of promises for blessings if we choose to learn and walk in the way God has intended for us. The very first verse in the book of Psalms begins with a thought of blessing.  Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.” Psalm 1:2, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.”

From those two verses we can see that the blessed man is one who delights in the law of the Lord and gives that preference instead of listening to those who are trying to lead him astray.   

 

It was my privilege while living in North Carolina to be involved with Celebrate Recovery on a weekly basis for a seven year period. It is similar to AA, but more of a ministry based outreach. Meals were provided ahead of time and then we sang songs and broke up into prayer groups where we were able discuss how our week had gone and to try and stay focused on what really matters. Before dividing up in smaller groups, we all stood together and quoted the Serenity Prayer. I believe the words are good for all of us to know, not just those struggling with addictions.  It was authored by an American Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr 1892-1971. The best known- form is:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that You will make all things right, if I surrender to Your will. So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.”   

This is recited together at every Celebrate Recovery event. Of course we need to pray on a personal basis to the Lord, but by praying this prayer in unison beforehand; it sets the stage for personal prayers in our discussion groups.

 

As of this writing we don’t yet know the outcome of the upcoming election. Still should our trust be placed solely on a President or other elected officials? God is the only one who knows what will unfold in a month, a year or several years ahead. We hope you look at the many blessing you now have and those you will receive in the future. Changes in life are inevitable; it’s how we face them that is most important. Like the Serenity Prayer, we need to seek the wisdom to know the difference. If we do that and look at each situation in a positive light, our lives will be better for it and others watching may be motivated to do the same.

 

Jeremiah 17:7, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will come from yielding fruit.” This verse is similar to Psalms 1:3, “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”

We all go through life experiencing changes. Some may be harder to accept than others. Still by studying God’s Word and learning the depth of His love for each of us, we will be able to grow like the tree whose roots are deep and not bothered by the storms of life that come our way.    

 

A song Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote came into being after observing the reaction of their three year old daughter. She was trying to make a picture for her Mom. She had all the items she needed. A variety of water color paints, the brushes and paper, all was going well until she dropped the paint in the middle of her drawing. The more she tried to correct the mistake the worse it got. She ran into the kitchen with the drippy mess and this is what she said

, “Oh Mommy,” she sobbed; “I tried to make you something beautiful, but just look! I dropped some paint, I tried to fix it, but it just got worse and now look!”  I’m sure this event prompted them to write the song “Something Beautiful.”  Here are the words, “Something Beautiful, something good. All my confusion He understood. All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife, but He made something beautiful of my life. If there ever were dreams that were lofty and noble, they were my dreams at the start, and hope for life’s best were the hopes that I harbor down deep in my heart, but my dreams turned to ashes and my castles all crumbled, my fortune turned to loss, so I wrapped it all in the rags of life and laid it at the cross.”

Whether a child or an adult we will all face disappointments, no matter what your position or responsibilities are now. You may not get the Presidential candidate you want. One of them will also be disappointed, because only one can win. When it’s over we’ll need to accept the fact that God knew beforehand what the results would be. Life will continue to go on; our role should be to remain in constant prayer for whoever it is and to do our best in any vocation He has placed us in. Whether retired, a laborer, or President of a company, we will be interacting with other people. Each of our roles is important, especially to God. So keep on smiling, be happy, and see how you can be an encouragement to others. You’ll be surprised to see by doing so, that you will be more content within regardless of the difficulties you’ll face in life.