Friday, February 16, 2018

ORDINARY PEOPLE

As the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ began, immediately after the temptation by the devil (Matthew 4), one of the first things Jesus does is to call disciples to follow Him. As they are called, He assures them they will become extra-ordinary men as they follow and serve Him. The first four men chosen were fishermen. He promises them that while they have natural skills of fishing for fish, he will give them the spiritual skills so they can fish effectively for the souls of people. Jesus introduces them to the concept of reproduction. In order for them to learn this concept and implement it will require instruction, demonstration and training. The words are significant when Jesus says to the first four men he chooses, fishermen by occupation, as you follow Me, "I will make you fishers of men." It is the process of learning how to develop the skills and gifts to effectively reach their generation for Jesus Christ. There will be and are many lessons to learn, but The Rabbi, the Master Teacher has committed Himself to that particular task of fashioning them into all of what He wants them to be. The task will be challenging, sometimes daunting, and the opposition to their learned skills great. They will need tenacity if they are to reach the vast cross-sections of people in their day. Jesus Christ is convinced they have proven their tenacity from their years of fishing for fish. He is confident they will have that same determination to reach the lost with His Gospel.
Why did Jesus Christ select those who would become His disciples and apostles? Did they have the unique skill sets for the work of a disciple? Did they have special gifts that Jesus saw and that He wanted to expand in them? What was it that made Peter, Andrew, James and John to immediately respond to the call of Jesus Christ? What would happen to the family fishing business? What about parental permission and their employees - should they have been consulted them about this major change taking place?
One of the things we notice in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, is who He seeks out and those whom He calls for special ministry tasks. More often than not, He chooses people from among the unworthy, unqualified and broken. He seeks out the less prominent rather than the celebrity types. The "little people" who have been passed by so often will have opportunity to follow The Savior and learn from Him. He alone would - will - transform them into useful vessels of honor who will bring glory to Him.
Who did Jesus decide to choose and why did He choose them? We note in Mark 3:13, "Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him." Later on in His ministry with them, Jesus reminds the disciples, John 15:16, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last-and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you." Jesus is still seeking those who will serve Him and bear fruit for Him? Could it be that He is wanting you to respond affirmatively to Him?
Prayerfully - consider these things with me.

Monday, February 5, 2018

DIVINE QUESTIONS

I Was Just Thinking About - DIVINE QUESTIONS.
One of the major truths we learn about God pertains to His non-communicable attributes - Omnipotence (God is unlimited in what He can do and He does all things); Omnipresence - (God is everywhere present at the same time); Immutability - (God does not change and is the same always); and Omniscience - (God knows all things about all things as well as knowing everyone). It is His Omniscience that we consider today. Since God knows all there is to know about everyone and everything, why are there so many questions in Scripture that are posed by God to both individuals and groups?
One illustration of this is the first question posed by God in Scripture. It occurs following the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Prior to their disobedience, they would enjoy fellowship with God in the cool of the evening. After they had disobeyed, the anticipation of fellowship with God was altered and their eagerness was now fear. Genesis 3:8-9 indicates: “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him: Where are you?” Just pause and think about how piercing these words were for them both - Where are you? God knew exactly where they were and what they had done that caused them to want to hide from Him. Two additional questions by God quickly follow in Genesis 3:11, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The excuses offered by Adam and Eve were ineffective. They had disobeyed God and that fractured the fellowship they had been experiencing with Him each day. Sin - Disobedience - has a way of doing that with all people from that point forward. 
On another occasion, Jesus Christ poses a question to His disciples in terms of His authenticity - Matthew 16:13-20. His Question: (V.13) “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The disciples respond (V.14): “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” While that is the general conversation in public, Jesus has a particular question for His disciples: (V.15) “But who do you say that I am?” Peter (V.16) responds (almost blurts out that which he truly believed): “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The question for you is: Who is Jesus Christ in terms of what you believe and why? Is Peter’s confession your confession? What is your relationship to Jesus Christ? Have you come to the place where you know for certain that if you were to die today you would enter God’s heaven? What if you did die today and you stood in the presence of God and He said to you: “Why should I let you into My heaven?” - What would you say? These are questions that deserve an answer from you - today!
Prayerfully - consider these things with me.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

PRAYER PEAKS AND VALLEYS

I Was Just Thinking About – PRAYER PEAKS AND VALLEYS

For those who make use of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, there is a very succinct statement regarding: What Is Prayer? The answer given is: “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.” Two passages from God’s Word utilized are Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Additionally, I John 5:14-15 states: This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” Is this the confidence that you have as and when you pray?

A modern response to the question – What is Prayer? – is offered by The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association that defines prayer as: “Prayer is spiritual communication between man and God, a two-way relationship in which man should not only talk to God but also listen to Him. Prayer to God is like a child’s conversation with his father. It is natural for a child to ask his father for the things he needs. There are many promises in God’s Word to encourage us to pray, such as: “He shall call upon me and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him” (Psalm 91:15); “And it shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24); “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). The Scriptures tell us that we are to pray for one another and also assure us that God hears and answers prayer.”

There are two passages that should encourage all of God’s people as they approach Him in prayer. In the last words of Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 28:20), Jesus is making a declaration about reaching the world with Him. He then closes with these words: I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Reflect on this great truth of the presence of Jesus Christ with “you” always. In addition to His Presence with us always are the words of I Thessalonians 5:17 that instruct one to be spontaneous in prayer – “Pray without ceasing.”

There are two other truths that we should always remember in terms of how one prays. Psalm 55:22 (ESV), “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” The idea is to trust the Lord to manage and work out the details of those things which are a burden to you at a given moment in your life. The second verse is very similar in I Peter 5:7, “Casting all your anxieties (cares) on Him, because He cares for you.” These words precede the statement of the adversary, the devil, doing his utmost to devour you. In 1920, Edward H. Joy wrote the words to a Hymn – All Your Anxiety. Some of the lyric states:
Is there a heart over-bound by sorrow?
Is there a life weighed down by care?
Come to the cross, each burden bearing;
All your anxiety—leave it there.
            Refrain
All your anxiety, all your care,
Bring to the mercy seat, leave it there,
Never a burden He cannot bear,
Never a friend like Jesus!
Prayerfully – consider these things with me.






Friday, February 2, 2018

IMPOSSIBILITIES

I Was Just Thinking About - IMPOSSIBILITIES.
When the Angel appeared to Mary about the conception and birth of Jesus Christ, she inquired how these things could come to pass inasmuch as she had kept herself chaste. Depending on the translation one uses, the Angel responds in Luke 1:37 - - -
NIV - For no word from God will ever fail.
NLT - For nothing is impossible with God.
ESV - For nothing will be impossible with God.
Questions: In what ways can these words from the Angel apply in one's every day experiences today? Were they limited just to the special occasion with Mary (and Elizabeth) or do they have validity for everyone at all times?
Jesus made use of these same words when he was instructed His disciples in Matthew 19:23-26. The young rich man turned away from Jesus when he had been told to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. After he left, "Then Jesus said to His disciples: Truly I tell you, it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished and asked: Who then can be saved? Jesus looked at them and said: With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Questions: Does Jesus indicate that these words about impossible and possible have application at all times for all people? Can we - should we - believe they have application in the practical matters one encounters day by day? Is there any limitation imposed by the Angel or Jesus when employing these words?
An older Hymn expresses: "I read in the Bible the promise of God, That nothing for Him is too hard; Impossible things He has promised to do, If we faithfully trust in His Word. CHORUS: Nothing is impossible when you put your trust in God; Nothing is impossible when you're trusting in His Word…." Do you believe these truths are viable for you today? Your answer should be - must be - Yes!
Prayerfully - consider these things with me.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

PEACE AMID CHAOS

I Was Just Thinking About - PEACE AMID CHAOS.

We ordinarily do not attach the word “peace” with the word “chaos”! We like to think that life in Christ will always know His presence with us and love, joy and peace always being part of who and what we are in Him. However, in John 16:33, as Jesus prepared His disciples for life in a hostile world, He shared: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Here Jesus associates “peace” and “tribulation” as part of the life experience that is our expectation and reality. One of the ways by which the child of God copes with this is the embrace of John 14:1-2, 27 and rejoicing in the word of Jesus: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” 

In 1914, I think Oswald J. Smith captured this truth when he wrote the words to the Hymn, Deeper and Deeper. Each stanza emphasizes where one should be in his/her relationship with Jesus Christ: “Into the heat of Jesus…Into the will of Jesus…Into the cross of Jesus…” When he penned Stanza 4, he wrote: “Into the joy of Jesus, Deeper and deeper I go…Joy in the place of sorrow, peace in the midst of pain, Jesus will give…He will uphold and sustain.” In 1893, Horatio G. Spafford wrote a Hymn after two major chaotic experiences in his life: (1) The vast Chicago Fire in 1871 that ruined most business men financially, and (2) The death of his four daughters who died in collision with other ship as they crossed the Atlantic. After receiving a telegram from his survivor wife that stated, “Saved Alone” he went on to write: “When peace like a river, attended my way; when sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say: It is well, It is well with my soul.”

Most of us would love for Philippians 4:6-7 to be the ongoing reality for and of our lives: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heats and your minds in Christ Jesus.” When the unexpected events occur in one’s life, we sometimes forget this great truth and reality that belongs to the child of God - “Joy in the place of sorrow, peace in the midst of pain”! Jesus has given this peace as a gift and also as a vital part of the fruit of the Spirit. It is so easy to think to oneself that this is where one is and how one responds to the experiences and travails of life. We need to be guarded and focused lest the enemy of pour souls diverts our attention off of Jesus and these truths that are centered in Him alone. Let us center our focus on Jesus only and always and not upon the unexpected and chaotic. This Peace, Jesus will give.

Prayerfully - consider these things with me.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

MYOPIA

I Was Just Thinking About – MYOPIA.

For those afflicted with myopia, the meaning is that they have become short-sighted; or are lacking in foresight or intellectual insight.” This can apply to the cultural erosion and deterioration that is occurring within our nation as a whole and the church in particular. A problem with being myopic is that the horizon of one has become very abbreviated. It is more individualized rather than seeing life and function in the broader perspective of which one is a part.

For the Church, it can be too easy to fall into the snare of the Church at Laodicea, Revelation 3:15-19. As Jesus walks in the midst of the Church, He observes: “I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other. So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of My mouth! You say, ‘I am rich; I have grown wealthy and need nothing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, white garments so that you may be clothed and your shameful nakedness not exposed, and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore, be earnest and repent.” The condition Jesus observes and that stands out is: “…you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.”  

How does a group of people get themselves to a point where there is a neglect of reality and it is no longer part of their consciousness? Is it due to their personal self-contentment? Have they fallen into the trap of comparing themselves with other organizations and rationalizing they are not as bad as the other group is? Have they taken the Word of God for granted – they have it but are no longer governing themselves by it? Have they allowed themselves to become an organization that has neglected or forgotten its calling, purpose, vision and mission?

As and when a group gets back on track with the Lord’s call, purpose, vision and mission, Revelation 3:20-21 indicates a renewed relationship with Jesus Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me. To the one who is victorious, I will grant the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” What awaits one who responds to the words of Jesus? It involves relationship, fellowship and victory. 

The Hymn, Faith is the Victory, contains these words: “On every hand the foe we find; Drawn up in dread array. Let tents of ease be left behind, And onward to the fray.” This is our calling and opportunity. How will you respond to it? Will you maintain the status quo or cross over into Christ’s victory for you, His people and His Church?

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

MEDITATING DAY AND NIGHT

I Was Just Thinking About – MEDITATING DAY AND NIGHT.

Two of my favorite passages of Scripture address the subject of meditating. The first is Psalm 1:1-2, “Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his Law day and night.” The second is very similar, Joshua 1:8-9, Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Closely akin to these verses are the one’s pertaining to Prayer. I Thessalonians 5:17, (NIV) “pray continually “and (ESV) “pray without ceasing.”

Having to spend too many days in the Hospital/Medical facility of late has allowed me to reflect on these and other verses and their particular application. I have found it very challenging to “meditate” and to "pray without ceasing.” There are many interruptions as caregivers perform their duties and administer one’s needed medications. Questions are asked and protocols are explained. The way I have resolved these Biblical instructions is to view them in terms of the attitude of the heart and mind amid the necessary activities by which one is surrounded. I can always Pray – “Lord! Right now, I need Your presence and aide.” The Lord is aware of the need so doesn’t require my going into great detail except to express the concern of my heart and mind at that point. The same holds true to meditating on God’s Word. I may not be able to turn to a particular passage but I do have the Spirit bearing witness with my spirit that all of God’s promises are valid for me and are “Yes!” in Jesus Christ. It becomes a matter of claiming the promises of God in Jesus’ name and then implementing Psalm 37:7 to, (ESV) “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” and (NLT) “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” I came across the idea some years ago that the idea conveys to one the need to “relax in the Lord while waiting for His timing in your behalf.”

John MacArthur wrote about I Thessalonians 5:17, “Prayer is to be a way of life--you're to be continually in an attitude of prayer. It is living in continual God-consciousness, where everything you see and experience becomes a kind of prayer, lived in deep awareness of and surrender to Him.” The same principle applies to meditating. It is a familiarity with God’s Word that in a given situation the Word of God comes to one’s mind and confirms that God is faithful, caring and aware of one’s need or situation. His Word always serves as a lamp to one’s feet and a light for one’s path (Psalm 119:105). These things are to constantly fill one’s heart and spirit. May you find them to be true in and for your life.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.
-->