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THE CROSS WAS HIS OWN

I borrowed from yesteryear, something I had forgot.  It was the kind of thing you do not want to forget, because of its content.  Most frustrating is the fact that I cannot acknowledge the author, who certainly deserves the credit.  Join me for a moment and thank the Lord for whoever penned: “The Cross Was His Own”

They borrowed a bed to lay his head

When Christ the Lord came down:

They borrowed the ass in the mountain pass

For Him to ride to town;

But the crown that he wore and the cross that He bore

Were his own –the cross was His own.

He borrowed the bread when the crowd He fed

On the grassy mountain side;

He borrowed the dish of broken fish

With which He satisfied;

But the crown which He wore and the cross that He bore

Were His own –The cross was His own.

He borrowed the ship in which to sit

To teach the multitude;

He borrowed a nest in which to rest

He had never a home so rude;

But the crown which He wore and the cross that He bore

Were His own –The cross was His own.

He borrowed a room on His way to the tomb,

The Passover lamb to eat;

They borrowed a cave for Him a grave,

They borrowed a winding sheet;

But the crown which He wore and the cross that He bore

Were His own – The cross was His own

-(Unknown Author)

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STRONG WORDS!

I had to smile recently when I heard that an alcoholic beverage damages the brain! Common sense observation can watch those who indulge, and see its effects shortly after it is consumed.  Have you ever watched the defensive attitude of another when you present such a conclusion as researchers have of recent?

The simple conclusion offered by Solomon, in all of his wisdom, reads in Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler.  And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.”  I only wish I had a camera available when I observed the antics of one who has been imbibing alcohol.  It is pathetic!

Having watched indulgence to the point of brawling has solidified my attitude to be very negative.  That chapter of Proverbs 20 has a few other words that align themselves – “anger, forfeits his own life, strife, quarrel, sluggard, begs, and has nothing”.

In contrast: “a plan in the heart, like deep water, understanding, loyalty, trustworthy, integrity, sons who follow after the father, justice, disperses evil.”

He goes back to: “different weights and measures, abominable to the Lord”.

Then: “It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself if his conduct is pure and right.”

There is much more in Proverbs 20 that shows the effects of alcohol and it’s leading to the unraveling of a person’s life, and the stability of one who avoids those paths.

A few conclusions at the end of life:

                          “The glory of young men is their strength.

                          The honor of old men is their gray hair.”  Proverbs 20:29

If something is questionable, it will probably be far from beneficial!   

-Ted

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NEED FOR THE TASK

When reading the history of Israel leaving Egypt and heading for the “Promised Land”, you cannot help but notice that in spite of the miracles God performed on their behalf, they were one disgruntled nation.  I have never counted all the recorded times they “murmured” or “complained” as they made their way toward what God had promised.  Someone said that if they had worked they would not have had time to murmur.  That is reasonable in one way, but you try camping out under the circumstances they experienced, and see if you could be radiant day after day.  We drove from upstate New York and tented all the way to Alaska, putting the tent up and taking it down every day—in the rain!

There are some things we should note about these “murmuring” individuals.  They were instructed to be involved in building the Tabernacle only if they had a “willing heart” – verses 5,21,22, Fitted for the work – verses 10,25,31,34,35, Fired for the work – verses 21,26.  Mentally, spiritually, committed!

Another observation is the must have-willing hearts – verses 5,22,29 Wise hearts – verses 10,25,35, Stirred hearts – verses 22,26, Teachable hearts – verse 34.

In the next chapter there are the specifics of who is responsible for which part of the Tabernacle.  The requirements of the “trained” individuals are emphasized.  The Temple was not “managed” by people who just thought they were qualified.  God, in His providence gives individuals abilities, those abilities should be trained to maximum so that they can be used to maximum for the work of the Lord.  We meander through the New Testament and discover that we all have these “gifts” from God.  I have also noticed over the years that certain individuals think that they have gifts which they do not have, and they create dissension in the ranks.  The Apostle speaks to this in detail in 1 Corinthians 12, as well as in other places.  

Much is required for the service of Christ.  Let us be certain that we prepare ourselves in order that all things are done orderly for the Lord!

-Ted

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HAVE YOU NOTICED?

The change has been slow, but determined.  When I first became a Christian, I had a hard time figuring out where I should attend church.  I had been brought up in a church that held a very significant prominence throughout our country.  Naturally, I thought that I should go back to that church to grow in the grace of Christ.  I was certain that it was probably my problem in not listening that made a difference.  I attended for a while and decided to “move on” because I did not feel comfortable with what I was hearing.

I started attending another church with a strong evangelical outlook.  I found that the Bible teaching was a high priority among those brethren, and the fellowship was more in keeping with what I felt I needed.  Suddenly it dawned on me that the name of that church signified what it stood for.  It was called The Evangelical Church and did not tie itself to any other group, but it did have fellowship with those of like faith!

After pastoring churches for these many years, I note that many of the churches have changed their name.  Some are selecting new names that they feel is more descriptive of their ministry.  Others have changed their name because they no longer adhere to the same doctrine that once identified their theological convictions, and that can be because of doctrinal differences, or changed emphasis on their methods of worship.

The name changing can indicate a new style of service, it can mean a much broader requirement for membership, it might even present the idea that you can believe what you want and still feel comfortable.  We are all still in the same boat!  Confusion abounds!

The name… “Christian Church” has lost its impact in our society and it requires our floundering attitudes to experience such association.  We have been allowed of God to pastor bigger and smaller assemblies without having to change the name, the by-laws or doctrinal statements.  I have said it before, and I repeat at this time: “In 30 years we will have churches on every corner, like Walgreens, and a significant number will be pastored by self appointed preachers.” 

The early church had problems!  Reading the New Testament you see how every effort was made by the Apostles primarily, and others, to correct those matters and establish procedures for the ongoing assemblies.  If we stick with Scripture, and the churches function in accordance with those Scriptures, the Church will rise from its stagnation and the name will have little importance.  Lone wolves and narrow minds about church growth may catch a fish here and there, but Christians aflame for Christ and living the Word of God is a God ordained strategy. (Acts 11:26)  If you attend a church like that, it will rub off on others and growth will be evident and natural… spiritually and numerically.

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MAXIMIZE YOUR RETIREMENT

That is what the piece of mail stated on the face.  Like most of the mail that comes in this manner, I was about to discard immediately when I realized it was not addressed to me, which meant that if I tampered with it I could end up in prison for throwing away some persons important mail. 

I stopped short of that and went through some “lofty” thought patterns.  How much did it cost the sales man to print this?  What about the people involved in preparing to mail it?  Someone was counting on people to utilize their services so that both the advertiser and recipient would be ready for retirement.  Then, the Postal Department needed money to keep operating, but did impatient me, have time to listen to and analyze the spill?  While the Hotel was not a “dingy hole” to visit, someone was making money off of my presence for which I had already made preparations.  I still had one more item to consider: would my post-person be able to pay her/his bills without, mister “whoever” receiving this informative presentation.

After all of my “wondering”, I am aware that I am about to make far more information available to you about a “retirement” plan that originates from the Almighty, and you can consider it without moving from this computer.

All men are sinners by nature and choice… “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. “ (Romans 3:23)

But a man can be “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;” (Romans 3:24)

Whom God “displayed publicly as propitiation in His blood through faith.  This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25, 26)

As a result “Where then is boasting?  It is excluded. By what kind of law?  Of works? :No, but by a law of faith.” (Romans 3:27)

“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.  Or is God the God of Jews only?  Is He not the God of Gentiles also?  Yes, of Gentiles also.” (Romans 3:28,29a)

There we have in totality God’s plan for our retirement.  He has made the provision in Christ’s life, death and resurrection.  What I can and cannot do is clearly outlined in that you and I can do nothing, save exercise our faith in His accomplished work!

Thank Him!  Thank Him!  Thank Him!

-Ted

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REFLECTIONS

As I started my computer, I noticed immediately that our daughter had used it and had entered a whole new Screen Saver.  The pictures were reflective in nature; photos that are truly calming.  I love them!  The photographer had waited for that “magic moment” to capture the ones I was enjoying.  He did not need to tell me the details involved, the pictures said it all.

I do not know the photographer, but I can almost tell what type of an individual he is by the effort that went into procuring that moment of which I speak.  He may have taken numerous shots; he might be like me and hope that the one I took will be satisfactory.  By the way Mark, I love to study those shots.

My father was a hard working man. He seemed to have energy to keep on the move from early morn to evening.  Somehow, he found time to have some relaxation by sitting and viewing the Bermuda scenery in the evening, and smoking his pipe (Granger Tobacco) from the patio; or if working at the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, from the veranda, 136 feet up!

All of us need time to enjoy relaxation through reflection.  What have I done to better mankind, my family, my friends, even those unruly rascals who disrupt society on a regular basis?

Most of all there was the need to use those reflective moments to pray for those who I find so obnoxious.  We do not know what may be taking place in their lives and as a result has led them on a self-destructive path.

In reviewing the serenity of those photographs, I would suspect that, like me, we find relaxation.  We find preparation for tomorrow!  We find that inner peace that God alone can give.  We have become enabled to help others who are undergoing many of the tragedies that befall humanity.  We find little time to feel sorry for ourselves.

Years ago, we explored a little church in up-state New York, wondering if God would have us minister there.  To this day I can still remember many details about that church, its people, the lake in front of it, the peace and serenity that filled our hearts… and yet the assurance that God gave us that it was not where He wanted us.  Instead, He sent us to Alaska where we found peace, in spite of its ruggedness!

With every move, we went to the Lord in prayer and reflected on all the pros and cons, and only after much reflection made our move.  I can hear my beloved wife saying: “We do nothing until we have prayed and experience PEACE.”                                                                                                                                                   

Reflect; and after all the details are considered, then and only then, make a decision.  As mentioned previously, I find relaxation in reflection in the viewing of my screen saver, and more-so in reflection upon the Word of God when confronting formative decisions, or unreasonable opposition from the devil or his cohorts!

-Ted   

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THE LAMP

Read the Scriptures and suddenly you will recall an unusual occurrence from your childhood; in fact, you will probably remember something you wish you had not remembered some things, and others will be quite fresh and refreshing.

Reflecting on a few verses in Psalm 119 was like enjoying a breakfast prepared for you as a guest.  I was asking myself the inevitable: “Lord!  How did you know what to put on my plate for this moment?”

Verses 105 through 112 begin with: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  As a youngster I loved to go fishing.  I do not recall ever coming home with sufficient fish to feed our family, but to reflect on that whole process was enough to want to repeat it as often as possible.

Because most of our fishing was “off de rocks”, and we never could afford fishing rods and reels, you would be lured back by the stories of what we had not caught on the last “expedition”, and the anticipation of what we might correct before coming home tonight.

We possessed one of those old fashioned kerosene lanterns, and it was mandatory that we get it cleaned up and filled with oil.  I was never certain if we needed it more to see the path before us, or if it would be necessary for those of us who got lost would have an easier time of being found.  After all, the best fishing places were always in locations that demanded climbing the “rocks” to get to that perch that was perfect.

I know that a lantern was an implicit item for us to climb those rocks, and locate a path that did not exist.  I also know that if we ever caught something “big”, we had to return with it.  We never caught more than a few “rock fish” and lost most of our hooks in the process.

The Psalmist has been explicit about the path he must tread.  He knows that he must do more than “freewill offerings of his mouth”.  He must be taught that the principle of survival when his enemies are attacking him from every possible direction there is only one logical solution: “I have not gone away from thy precepts.   I have inherited Your testimonies forever, for they are the joy of my heart, I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes FOREVER, even to the end.”

HE, God/Jesus Christ is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path!”       

-Ted

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INSISTENT PURSUIT

Recall for a moment how Israel ended in Egypt.  Joseph had been sold into slavery to some Egyptians by his brothers.  God, in a miraculous way, saw to his safety and ultimately to his ascendency toward Pharaoh!  A famine in his homeland brought about his brothers visit, which led his family there.   Under a subsequent Pharaoh, the Egyptians made slaves of the Israelites and unbearable circumstances followed.

God raised up Moses to lead the Israelites back to their homeland.  After 10 plagues hit the Egyptians their desire was: “Get rid of those Israelites!”  Some things, being a little harder than others, saw the Egyptians, after changing their minds time after time, until the 10th plague brought death to most Egyptian households.  This particular plague, the death of the oldest son in the family, saw them even assisting the Israelites to go back to Israel.

While there is debate as to exactly where on the Red Sea the Israelites crossed, it is obvious that God intervened, dried it up, and mountainous walls of water formed to allow Israel to cross and then returned and destroyed the Egyptian army who was intent on bringing them back to Egypt.

Exodus 14 records this particular portion of the story as it unfolded.  God had spoken to Moses, giving him the confidence he needed.  He, God, said: “For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, ‘They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’”  ‘Thus I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh, and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.’ And they did so.” (Exodus 14:3, 4)

Someone said: “Old enemies pursue.  You don’t step right to the Throne of God.  Old sin/habits assert themselves.”  The Israelites had simple instructions, which they would battle for forty years pursued by the element of pride.  You cannot find a greater sin.  It affects every avenue of every day of our earthly journey.  It is the type of sin that begets other sin. In particular we are drawn into fear.  NOW, it is time to pray… “the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord.” V12   We sure know how to pray “when the chips are down!”  And then to have Moses come up with his classic instructions:  “Do not fear!  Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today you will never see them again forever.  The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”(Exodus 14:13, 14)

How often God has challenged my heart.  Stand still; do not fear.  God will work!  As hard as it is, Ted, keep silent!

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PREACHING – PRAYER

We write often concerning prayer!  This has been a challenge for me since day one after becoming a Christian.  I confess that I have struggled to keep my prayer life up to what I think it should be.  I read much on the subject and feel a little envious of the pastors that have demonstrated time and again that their ministry has been built on prayer.  I would be the first to acknowledge that is the way it should be!

Somewhere in my early Christian life I read: “Preaching moves men!  Praying moves God!  I have related previously how I enjoyed going to an old fashioned prayer meeting where we knelt on that hard floor, some praying in Portuguese and some in English.  Often we had “all night” Prayer Meetings.  We watched God at work in many lives… healing broken hearts and homes.

Over the years I have watched how those have become “by gone” days.  We have meetings galore with Ladies Meetings, Men’s Meetings, Teens Meetings, Children’s Meetings… and the list is endless.  Most notably is the absence of PRAYER MEETINGS!  In some of our churches we had a Week of Prayer Services at the beginning of each Year.  What in the world has happened with Prayer Meetings?

We live in a “go go” society with little time being occupied in the most important mechanism offered to us… PRAYER.   Jesus prayed all night on several occasions.  The glory of God shone around those present.  Has it ever burned within our hearts that we need to be “praying always”?  We will experience the blessing of the Lord as we meet His conditions as relates to prayer.

The Book of Acts is a demonstration of the Church at prayer, prayer groups meeting in homes, in prisons, and on a beach as they sent Paul on His way.  Stephen praying for those killing him, Peter praying on a roof-top only to be rebuked for not realizing that God had opened the door to the Gentiles.  Chapter after chapter we read of the involvement in prayer.

My friends… A brief reminder!  The devil does not want us to PRAY, but God has ordained it so!  A brief reminder… Preaching moves men!   Praying moves God!

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EVERY MORNING

I have my morning program, like those of you who are reading this.  I notice that it is not as fast as it once was, but it is a little bit more burdensome, and I have to be more careful as relates to the experiences of each day.  I do enjoy preparing my breakfast, unassisted.

My Doctor says I must exercise at least three times a week, so I have had to develop the habit of taking a walk.  It is not a long walk but it has helped my legs and knees, in particular.  Then, I have been able to greet some new friends of the same vintage.   One of the new ones have had a rugged life, not too long ago he and the Lord had an encounter- naturally, the Lord won.  He is one exciting dude!

Then, there is a couple I just met, a few days ago.  She is in no hurry, but I can see that his motor is in gear.  However, a couple of words indicate that he must have been from down south or had lived there… He called me Brother immediately.  I am aware that he could be from a fellowship of Christians, thus the use of that and several other words.  We will meet again and I feel that we have Someone, Jesus, in common.

This morning I noticed that a lady stepped off the sidewalk to be sure I did not stumble over her.  She is from California and is here, taking care of her father.  I immediately told her how my daughter has the same appointment and is spoiling me rotten.  I will have some extra material to share with her tomorrow and prayerfully, something from my favorite book – THE HOLY BIBLE!

There are others that I have shared with consistently.  Hopefully and prayerfully I look forward to sharing something about my Savior.  As God calls me to your remembrance please accept my invitation to pray for me and with me.

My goodness!  I intended to start this in a different manner, but my anxiety to share with you what Commitment is all about got the best of me.  When I get up in the morning, I usually start the day with: “Good morning Lord!”  From there it is just the two of us walking through the day in constant awareness of our relationship!  Join us.

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OPPOSITION LEADS TO…

Glimpses of the past, present and future loom into the mind of the Psalmist as he writes this hymn of praise.  He has not had the support of others, but he has the support of the Lord.  In recognizing that support he quickly refers to his intention to manifest “with all my heart” and to do so “in the company of the assembly” and the presence, or “company” of the “upright”.

When we experience the belittling of people, the “company of the upright”, we can either allow response in cringing fashion, or we can assure one and all that we have experienced the forgiveness of the Lord, and proceed to “move on” in that mode.  There is no need to “crucify” ourselves, but rather to demonstrate that God has forgiven and hence it is our intention to follow Him more faithfully.

The basis of this attitude is to review, not our past, but the facts concerning who He is and His character in totality.  Great is His works and to study them is in itself to “delight” in HIM!  They are “majestic” and they bespeak His “righteousness” that “endures forever”.   Wow!  That in itself should be worthy of continual thought of who He is, and what He has done and is doing on our behalf!

Think of  how “He has given food, He has covenanted with us, (forever) – He has worked on our behalf – truth and justice have come from Him – His precepts are sure , redemption, Holy and awesome is His name.”

Then comes that thunderous concentration in verse 10 of Psalm 111:  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.” It is not ours to allow anything of the past to hinder our walk or talk!  The love of our Lord, manifested in all these areas, gives cause to arise at the greatness of our God toward us and others who will pursue HIM!  Digest these and you will be devoid of indigestion.

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BRAND MARKS AND SCARS

For some individuals who have served the Lord faithfully, the opposition to that service has ended in an unpleasant situation, and it ended with the body being undergoing unpleasant beatings, even death.  While I have been threatened many times, I have never had to undergo such confrontations, with my body receiving a few “brand marks”.  The Apostle was unable to say the same!

Reading Galatians 6:17, and having dealt with his new found faith in Jesus Christ instead of his identification of circumcision as a Jew, although he had been circumcised previously, he identifies the intensity of his convictions by showing what he suffered physically as a result.

The Jewish people identified their heritage through circumcision.  Paul was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, which testified of his devotion, (Damascus Road experience (Acts 9, 23:6).  Interestingly, this was adapted prior to the Law, but later became a requirement to be recognized as a Jew and recognized as under the Abrahamic Covenant.  With Jesus Christ fulfilling all such requirements there is no need for such, but it does produce cleanliness.

We read often of Paul being in the midst of opposition because of his preaching. Sometimes it seems hard for us to digest that such opposition could result over the proclamation and application of a law of this nature, but it did, and it was.  My friends, just suppose such a law existed today.  How far would I, or you, be willing to go in order to live, or avoid being beaten with scars remaining.  It is happening in many parts of this planet.  Hunger abounds, destitution is abundant, life is cheap, but the majority of it is not from the testimony of Christians under the conditions we have described, thankfully!

Let us pause and pray… Lord help us to so help others, even at the cost of comfort or scars!

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JESUS, I MY CROSS HAVE TAKEN

A few mornings ago I was taking my morning walk, endeavoring to get this old knee and the leg overall in better shape.  Suddenly, the Lord brought to mind a song that I have not heard in a long time:  In the Cross of Christ I Glory  

  1. In the cross of Christ I glory,
    Tow ‘ring o’er the wrecks of time;
    All the light of sacred story
    Gathers round its head sublime.
  2. When the woes of life o’ertake me,
    Hopes deceive, and fears annoy,
    Never shall the cross forsake me,
    Lo! It glows with peace and joy.
  3. When the sun of bliss is beaming
    Light and love upon my way,
    From the cross the radiance streaming
    Adds more luster to the day.
  4. Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
    By the cross are sanctified;
    Peace is there that knows no measure,
    Joys that through all time abide.

-John Bowring 1825

Take up the Cross of Jesus.

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OF SATAN’S SUBTLETIES

Some most interesting verses of Scripture are found in John 14; verses that were uttered just prior to His betrayal, his departure and the subsequent promise of another “helper”; namely, the Holy Spirit. 

We are aware of the three plus years of ministry, but the idea that He would not be present to personally minister to their needs, obviously brought forth a little bit of anxiety.  Understand, we would have probably been in the same boat!

First He reminds them of His availability.  “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him to know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

The Christian has an availability that he is sometimes cognizant of, and sometimes his awareness dwindles because we humans are dependent on what we see.  There was no lack of belief after the Pentecostal experience!  As we would say in Bermuda, “they shaped up!”

Jesus made a promise, and through His subsequent appearances solidified their thinking and understanding that God the Father would be sending a “strengthening one”. (That is the meaning of that word “comforter”)!  Every believer has that promised endowment as he faces the day by day decisions, be they positive or negative!

Just for a refresher: Paul the apostle reminded the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 6:19, when he said: “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you.”  He not only gives me that guarantee, but with it the assurance of my salvation and the unequaled filling of the Holy Spirit as I render obedience day by day.  The old timer summed it up in these words: “When I have all of Him, He has all of me!)

A long time ago I discovered that if I do my math right, in the process of obedience at that level, He will give me an opportunity to serve Him.  Let us be afresh in our thinking:  We will experience victory upon victory in the knowledge of His presence!

 -Ted                                               

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FOR OR AGAINST?

A very pointed discourse concerning HATE!  It is found in John 15:18-27.  It is so powerfully stated that the majority of people you show it to will deny it to be the case.  A quick retort to the presentation of God and Jesus and their inter-relationship, as well as that of the Holy Spirit in verse 26; whether it be a jarring insult or a camouflaged  unacceptable ramble, it is a rejection of God!  Such an offence against the Almighty is HATE!  It crosses swords with what has been made known to us through the Scriptures!  It is a rejection of TRUTH!

Jesus has just stated that you can ask God, “in His Name” (Jesus), and it will be given you.  That is not a glib “in Jesus name”, it is asked in His name because of who He is and what He has done as one with the Father.  Then, to add to that He says: “In that day you will know that I am in the Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (V 20)

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me’.” (v23, 24)  These statements indicate, contextually that we either LOVE or we have hated, in a rejection of His LOVE.

It is most interesting to note that such strong declarations are followed by the discourse on Peace.  “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you, Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (14:27) One who rejects God’s love is in effect, hating the message of love in the redemptive provision of God toward men.

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AN AIR OF LEGITIMACY

There is nothing new about those who endeavor to give credence to others that they are something; in reality they are far removed from what they profess.  Matthew illustrates this in a sequence of references about persons that have an air of superiority in his Gospel. Bear with me!

In Matthew 16 the Pharisees and Sadducees, the so called leaders among the Jewish people, asked Jesus to show them a sign from heaven.  He rebukes them by illustrating how they can be accurate about the weather, but not about HIM.  He then demonstrates them by saying: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.”

Then Jesus said: “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  It is then that they began to discuss among themselves and concluded “He said that because we did not bring any bread.”  Obviously, they were way off target and so Jesus corrects their thinking.  Did you already forget about the five loaves and the four loaves and what was remaining?  He was correcting them for not understanding that He was speaking of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Once again He deals with the ignorance of those who have been following Him.  “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  They answered: “Some say John the Baptist; and others Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”  Intent on having them focus on an accurate answer: “But who do you say that I am?”  As usual, Peter speaks: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

Was Jesus speaking to Peter only or was He correcting and enforcing a fact that all of His disciples needed to understand?  He, Christ is the ROCK!  He equips them with the “keys”!  Immediately, Matthew moves on to: “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”

Matthew makes it clear that when Peter tries to correct Jesus, “God forbid it, Lord!  This shall never happen to You.”   The Lord lovingly rebukes what Peter said: “Get thee behind Me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me’.”

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to His deeds.

“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Matthew 16:24-28)

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VICTORIOUS NOT VICTIMS

The Book of Acts is filled with the victories that the disciples of Jesus experienced as they presented Christ to a basically Jewish audience.  Though the going was rough, they were resting on the promises that Jesus had made concerning the follow up to His crucifixion, and then the resurrection and ascension.  While there may not be the violence of that hour, but it remains a stigma if a Jew converts to Christianity.  We must realize that selected vocabulary does not change the underlying resentments.   However, that is basically true of any religious conversion.  I would not go into the thinking of some of my friends toward my faith being placed in Christ. 

Understanding the message that Christ left with His disciples, 1:8 of Acts, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”  And the subsequent speaking in languages that they had never used before shook all the folks that were present when these things happened.  The overriding ministry of the Holy Spirit enabling such occurrences was sufficient to verify that what had been predicted was now taking place.

One of the most significant experiences was the understanding of what was written in other portions of Scripture: “Let His homestead be made desolate, and let no one dwell in it; and let another man take His office.”

Someone wrote: “Fill the cup with incense, and load the altar with odorus wood, but fire is still needed to send out fragrance – So the prayers, talents, genius and other gifts need fire from above, before they can achieve results.”

Once the Holy Spirit descended on the Day of Pentecost, (Acts 2) there was victory upon victory throughout the then known world.  Nothing could hinder His working in and through those believers.  That is the reason for VICTORY upon VICTORY throughout the Book of Acts.  Some have called it THE ACTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

Does God want another display of His power?  I have to believe that the answer is YES!  Will it be identical?  Who knows!  I am certain He is not satisfied with our milk fed believers that give little evidence of a total dependence on Christ!

-Ted       

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GENARATION TO GENERATION

One of the greatest entrustments that one will encounter, yet we see sadly lacking for multiplied reasons, the greatest being the failure to communicate Biblical truths to our children.  Reading the fourth verse of Psalm 145 should make us rethink our obligations and their fulfillment.

The Psalmist impresses upon our thinking when he says: “Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable”. (v3) He follows this with the instruction to the next generation in verse 4, and tells us to declare Your mighty acts.

We have all been confronted with the busyness of our family in various phases of their growing to maturity, and our maturing with them.  At times we feel frustrated, and at times we are jubilant.  Trying to balance our thinking with theirs is a challenge to both of us.  Accordingly, the Psalmist gives us a tip when he says “Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable.” (v3)  I must adapt to what God says in His WORD, and applying it graciously.  Parents are not appointed “dictators”.  They will quickly discover our weaknesses just as we theirs.  We are to focus on the greatness of God. 

The content of this Psalm is loaded with suggestions.  The greatness of God is unsearchable (v3);  declaration of His mighty acts (v4); the splendor of His majesty, and His works, along with His acts (v6); His greatness as well His abundant kindness (v6,7);  His righteousness (v7); His gracious and merciful, slow to anger and great in loving kindness (v8); He is good, His mercies over all His works (v9); all godly shall bless God (v10);  His glory and Kingdom that will last forever (v13);  He raises up all who are bowed down (v14); and I continue to quote of what we might pass on to our generation…

“The eyes of all look to YOU, and You give them their food in due time.  You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.  The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.  The Lord is near to all who call upon Him; to all who call upon Him in truth.  He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them.  The Lord keeps all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.  My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.”  (Psalm 145)

THINK ON THESE THINGS!

-Ted

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CORINTHIANS CATASTROPHE

When a congregation has at least fourteen major problems, you can be certain that there are other problems “hidden” in a closet that have not been disclosed.  Given the ways disgruntled individuals begin digging in dirt and make mountains out of molehills, you can believe that even the smallest disagreement can be maximized.

Much is being said about spiritual problems at Corinth, and they had not made an effort to correct them, or they had decided that they had a solidified opinion that was in need of attention, even if it was actually trivial.

The Apostle issues a challenge that is definitely in keeping with the way that God would have us deal with any issue that leads to disagreement or argumentative brothers. Naturally, the apostle reminds them of the source for solving the problem.  First, let us consider if there is justification for the item to be discussed.  Perhaps those pushing the problem may be having their own problems, and love and understanding may be a solution without others being considered.

The next item of thought should be to search the Scriptures together.  If the problem has a direct answer, deal with it accordingly.  Allow those involved to share why it needs attention, and which portions of Scripture are applicable.

After following Biblical principles, as was the significant outline presented in Matthew 18 which leads on to FORGIVENESS, be sure to demonstrate forgiveness.  After all, believers are going to spend eternity together.  Would it not be ridiculous to have the Lord say: “I forgave both of you and you still have not forgiven each the other.”  Forgiveness as depicted clearly in Scripture should not be conditional on the “I forgave you, now it is your turn!”  Remember: “As He forgave you!!!”

In 1 Corinthians 2, in particular, we have much said about the Holy Spirit’s leadership in contrast to the worldly way of forgiveness.  A Christian following the principles of Christ-likeness as outlined in this portion of the Word of God allows The Holy Spirit to direct his activity as over against the natural (unregenerate) man.

A reminder can be beneficial to all of us: “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9)  If agreeable to all of us, let us be punctilious!

 -Ted   

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BLESS GOD IN THE CONGREGATIONS

As one searches the Scriptures daily, so a verse of the Word seems to come alive.  Its contents seem to say, “You did not notice me when you last read me, but today it appears that you finally were impacted with a deep sense of appreciation.   What a magnificent application of loving rebuke!  How did I miss it previously?

My mind went to this attitude of Blessing God in the congregation.  In the “good old days”, we went to church to pray.  I recall “kneeling benches,” some with pillows, as the pastoral prayer was lifted to God.  I recall some churches where the folk all knelt before the altar at the front of the church, praying aloud and also some kneeling before benches or pews and lifting an Amen as the pastor shared the concerns before the Lord.

I have been concerned about prayer much of lately.  It appears that our churches have switched from prayer citadels to entertainment centers for Sunday and often for Saturday.  Often you see a lonely figure endeavoring to manipulate into a sanctuary, and because of the problems they have to ring a bell, give their name and state their purpose before admission is granted.  I wonder if that is permitted by any church anymore.

A large number of churches no longer have a prayer meeting, and we cannot blame it on Covid 19.  It happened long before there was a “plague” to justify our absence.  While some of us recall  a church with prayer warriors, kneeling on hardwood floors, it gradually yielded to work schedules, school schedules, both parents occupied with earning sufficient to keep up with the “Joneses”, and sad to say, ignoring the importance of prayer in our congregations.

What would happen if we had a box for praise and prayer items to be lifted before the Lord throughout our congregations?  I recognize it would have to be carefully worded, and “grouping” would eliminate many problems.  Suppose that we took our last name on A’s, B’s, or C’s on day one as our commitment for each day of the month.  Every person in the congregation would be involved in prayer and every person would be prayed for frequently throughout the month.  By the way, a phone call or e-mail would find out specifics for prayer!  Naturally, we should not be limited to this, and our prayer interest should increase.  Meanwhile, I have a group that prays for me and my ministry daily.  Please do not quit!

All of these ideas may help to “Bless God in the congregations, Even; the Lord!”
(Psalm 68:26)

-Ted

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A DRUKEN STUPOR

My uncle got rich on it… he sold it to others.  I lived with an alcoholic; therefore I am alarmed by those who try to convince me that there is nothing wrong with alcohol consumption.  I have counseled couples who have abandoned the deep love they had for each other because they refused to abandon the bottled up poison.  I have been threatened with guns, knives and even forks by some who threatened to beat me up, to pulverize me, along with many other instruments.  All of those threats were taken over by our wonderful Lord… to HIM be the praise!

One of the thickest files in my file cabinet is that of Alcohol!  After all, something that is referred to over 627 times in Scripture warrants many opinions.  I have tried to be gracious in responding to the various arguments as to which word was used and how and why, but I have not always been as gracious as I should have been.  I have even quoted my mother on occasion – “Empty kettles make a lot of noise!” Another of her favorites was: “If it is doubtful, it is dirty!”

I must inject a short note about my friend who ran a Mission for the needy.  One day one of the men came running in and said: “There is a guy out there with a knife, and he has another guy trapped in the alley, and is threatening to kill him.  Jack, a short chunky guy who probably could have rolled faster than running… bolted down the Alley, confronted the man and said: “In the Name of Jesus Christ, give me that knife!”  In that moment the “drunk” turned and passed Jack the knife, who immediately said: “Thank you sir!”  Looking up to Heaven and, just as quickly said: “And thank you Lord!”

Alcohol can make people attempt the most ridiculous things; the one sings and the other fights.  In most cases they do not want to talk about it later.  The Apostle said: “And do not be drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:18-19).

This has been only two verses of Scripture, but there are hundreds more that show God’s displeasure.

-Ted

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A STONE ROLLED AWAY

On occasion we encounter someone who says he has no ability to believe in Jesus.  He has concluded that everything that was recorded is nothing but myths.  Of course they usually admit after more discussion that they have little or no knowledge of the Bible. 

Dr. Ryrie, by listing all the Resurrection appearances of Jesus as recorded in Scripture on page 1672 of the Ryrie Study Bible is making it easy for me to convey it to you.

Mary Magdalene          Jerusalem          Sunday          Mark 16:9-11, John 20:11-18

Some other women            “                        “                 Matthew 28:9, 10

Peter                                      “                        “                 Luke 24:14, 1 Corinthians 15:5

Emmaus disciples          Emmaus                 “                Luke 24:13-35

10 disciples                     Jerusalem              “                 Mark 16:14; Luke 24:26-43;    John1, John 20:19-25

11 disciples                     Jerusalem       A week later   John 20:26-31; 1 Corinthians 15:5

7 disciples                       Galilee                    ?                 John 21:1-25

500 at one time                   ?                        ?                 1 Corinthians 15:6

James (Brother of Jesus)   ?                         ?                1 Corinthians 15:6

11 disciples                    Galilee                   ?                Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18

11 disciples                    Jerusalem     40 days later   Luke 24:44—53; Acts 1:3-12

The weight of evidence is there.   Just listen for the kooky opinions and let them know that Christ came for their salvation – He died and He arose!  He intercedes before God on theirs and our behalf. 

-Ted

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ADORATION

Does it not embrace the beauty of adoration?

With a hand clasped to her mouth, the youngster echoed what she had heard and memorized – “O My God!”  I have no idea if anyone was as astounded as I, but immediately “dear old Ted” was desirous of offering some explanatory information to the youngster about the Lord.  However, I realized that this was not the time or place.

When the Psalmist wrote the words of Psalm 145, his opening remarks: “I will extol You, my God, O King, and I will bless Your Name forever and ever.  Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever”; he could hardly contain his excitement about the relationship that they enjoyed.  Somewhere along life’s journey He had recognized that God existed and that he needed to reciprocate the evidence of that relationship!  The words just blurted out as the thought traversed his thinking.

Think with me of the Psalmist using the word “extol”.  Does it not embrace the beauty of adoration?  We certainly use it when our/your grand-child comes out looking like a “princess”, carries herself like a “princess”, and even says: “I am a princess”.  Let’s face it, at that moment we exclaim: “Isn’t she ADORABLE!”

How often do we give unadulterated expressions concerning our God and Savior Jesus Christ?  We even carry pictures in our wallets, or on our cell-phones for the purpose of disclosing to others what, when or how certain things transpired.  There is an element of praise, and maybe even the element of pride.  (The Lord forgive us!)

The Psalmist displays the devoutness and adoration he has acquired in his relationship to his Lord!  No day should be allowed to pass without his exalting before others the Christ that he adores.  He adds that thought of “every day “will he exalt the Lord, “forever and ever”.

What a commitment!  Do we get embarrassed to do this, or do we look for “an open door”, as I call it, a springboard?

-Ted

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“SEE THIS WOMAN!”

Jesus was reclining, so she went to his feet.

In all of our lives there are experiences that we might call “incongruous”!  They happen at the most inappropriate moment; they could not have happened at a more undesirable place.  Everything at that instant seems “why here?”  There are many other locations for such an event to occur, but no, it happens in the house of a Pharisee!

Naturally, it was out of place for a Pharisee to invite Jesus to his house and then to recline at the table.  It is impossible to comprehend how this woman would have entrance into the Pharisees home.  All I can say is that it is what the Lord wanted, so He put the wheels in motion.

The woman heard where Jesus was, and she must have felt comfortable entering that home.  Jesus was reclining, so she went to his feet.  Remember, when she heard where He was located “she brought an alabaster vial of perfume.  Standing “behind Him at His feet, weeping she began to wet his feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.”

You talk about a drama!  What could have entered the minds of those present at this occasion!  We do get the thoughts of the Pharisee who had invited Jesus: “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him that she is a sinner.”

Jesus responded to what Simon is thinking.  “A money lender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denari, and the other fifty.  When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both.  So which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered and said, like most of us would have answered, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”  And Jesus said to him, “you have judged correctly.”   He turned toward the woman, He said to Simon, “DO YOU SEE THIS WOMAN?  I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet.  You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume.  For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you: go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-48)

I doubt that more beautiful words have ever been spoken!

Recall what He said: “Do you see this woman?”  No one who ever read this story will forget what Christ had said, and the question is there for all of us to behold, “Do you see this woman?”

-Ted

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CATCH THE FOXES

Some years ago I encouraged our congregation to memorize Song of Solomon 2:15… “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom.”  I had picked up the idea in some of my studies.

Selfishness                    … Spoils love

Discontent                    … Spoils joy

Anxious thoughts        … Spoils peace

Impatience                   … Spoils longsuffering

Bitter words                 … Gentleness

Indolence                      … Spoils Goodness

Doubt                             … Spoils Faith

Pride                               … Meekness

Love of Pleasure           … Spoils Temperance

Together we can lock on to these things and grow immeasurably!

-Ted

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LOTSA LOTS

Corrupt thinking will allow for corrupt action which God judged in the long run.

When Abraham left Ur of the Chaldeans, he took Lot with him.  He came to Haran and there they took up residence.  However, God blessed them so richly that they moved on to Shechem, and when there was famine they moved back to Negev.  With each move, Abraham took Lot with him, along with Lot’s problems.

After their move to the Negev, Lot saw to it that he would follow his old paths and ended in Sodom, one of the most corrupt locations possible.  When God dealt with Sodom’s sin and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot moved to a cave in the mountains with his two remaining daughters.  With the obvious corruption in Sodom, and its influence, there was the action that led to Sodomite thinking. (We may give it new names that Webster’s Dictionary has to deal with eventually.)

Here we are made aware of all the ands, ifs and buts as the daughters develop their plans to inebriate Lot and guarantee the retention of their family heritage.  (For the full story read Genesis 12-19)  Their plan was to get Lot drunk and have him produce children through them.  Corrupt thinking will allow for corrupt action which God judged in the long run.  (You cannot out guess God.  Both tribes were gradually eradicated.)

In giving thought to this entire record, we have to conclude that Abraham made his major error in taking Lot with him from Ur of the Chaldees.  While he thought to help and encourage him, it became one “bail-out” after the other.  Obviously, God allowed Lot to enjoy the benefits of Abraham up to a point and then HE, God, tolerated it no longer.

If your thinking through this “history lesson” is anything close to mine, you have to observe the ill effects of alcohol and sex, which the world has accepted, are not tolerated by the Almighty!  We also must conclude that it is apparent that we are close to the time when the sickle will be applied to the harvest. 

Either we observe and adhere to the lessons of Holy Writ, the Bible, or God will allow corrupt thinking only so long before He steps in and reminds us that this is the end and only subservience to HIM is acceptable.

In the event that you feel I am out on a branch which is about to collapse, a STUDY of the words utilized, wine and sex or their equivalent, found in Strong’s or Young’s Concordance will prove most helpful!

-Ted

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WORKMANSHIP

Suddenly, I was exposed to professionals who were showing me many of the intricacies that accompany carpentry. 

There was that moment in my life when I realized Jesus Christ was now my Savior; I had invited Him into my life and I declared to Him that I wanted to serve Him.  I owned a Bible and I believed that I knew it, and wanted to follow its teachings for the remainder of my life.  What I did not know at that moment was how little I really knew, and how many bumps I would be taking the rest of my life.   Nor did it occur to me that those “bumps” would come often as I dealt with focusing on what God said, and how often that “old nature” would surface and become a hindrance in my walk with the Lord.

Ephesians 2:10 reads: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we might walk in them.”  When I began working in a Carpentry Workshop, I felt that I knew quite a bit about wood working.  Suddenly, I was exposed to professionals who were showing me many of the intricacies that accompany carpentry.  I realized how little I knew as we built windows, doors, a boat, cabinets, lathe work, you name it. I was learning the art of listening and watching.  Fortunately, these pros insisted that I also do what they were doing.  I was often told, at 13 years of age, “You are not here for your good looks”.

God saved this old sinner, and immediately began teaching me what His “workmanship” was all about.  He was taking me from a tree to a piece of furniture, (whatever) through his work in a very methodical manner to be used of Him in a way that I never could imagine.  It reminded me of the penitent coming to the altar and the pastor hearing him pray: “Lord!  Do a good job this time!”  I refuse to get into an argument about his doctrine, only to mention that his hunger was for a complete turn- around in his life.

When God touches and transforms us into useful objects in His plan for us, we must never think of what I can do for Him; it is more in keeping of what God can do in transforming a sinner through the New Birth, making him a saint, developing him into a useful servant that He has planned for him in eternity past.

I recall how I would look at carpentry that had been performed and wonder who had made it.  Much of it I could identify.  Other items were so beautiful that I could also identify them, but because of the professionalism.  May people be able to identify of the workmanship that only one conclusion can be reached –JESUS CHRIST!

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ABRAHAM’S SERVANT

A reading of Genesis 24 gives us the details of this unique event.

The majority of people that we speak with fall short when it comes to understanding what it was to be a “servant”!   They envision someone who works for another and being paid a decent salary, the equivalent of hiring a maid or groundskeeper.  It is inconceivable to the human mind that in reality the servant was “owned”.  He was available to his master 24 hours a day.  Many of those who “owned” servants made little effort to treat them cordially.  They were basically slaves, and could be sold or traded at the will of their master.  From the text of many portions of Scripture, we gather a picture of a large and questionable relationship that existed frequently.  It is important that we observe the exact opposite between Abraham and his servant.

So dedicated is this servant to Abraham that Abraham assigns him the responsibility of going to Haran and selecting a woman that would make the “perfect” wife for Isaac.  He would bring her home, and the rest would become history.  Remember, it would be out of this relationship and subsequent generations that Jesus Christ would come to redeem mankind.

The enormity of such an assignment is staggering.  The thought that Abraham had such deep trust in a servant who would follow every detail assigned him is beautiful!  A reading of Genesis 24 gives us the details of this unique event.  It is equally exciting to watch what takes place in their lives because of that faithful servant.

And, how about that moment when the servant presents the story and how he gets an immediate response from Rebekah – “I will go!” (Genesis 24:58)    Might I leave out what happened when Isaac saw the servant and Rebekah coming?  Nay!  “Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming.  Rebekah lifted up her eyes and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel…Then she took her veil and covered herself….and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her;”

Read the whole story in Genesis 24 … You will feel the emergence of love!

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ADDRESSING THE CONTROVERSIAL

…see what I mean!

It could have been expected!  Those in opposition to the Lord Jesus Christ were determined to be present whenever and wherever He was ministering.  It was not hard to determine the location because there was a crowd following Him, and others joined in the excitement of the moment.

Mark, whose manner of writing catches those moments here in Chapter 10 of his Gospel, when the subject of divorce and the equality of ministering to the children surfaces.  There was always a group of objectors who cautiously asked the questions to which we refer.

The Pharisees “came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife.”  Remember, the question was relative to if it was “lawful”.  If you recall, John the Baptist had lost his head because of his opposition to Herod’s conduct in this matter. (Luke 3)

Jesus makes no attempt to render His opinion, simply to go back to what the Law declared: “What did Moses command you?” They said: “Moses permitted a man to write of divorce and send her away.”  (Mark 10:3, 4) 

Jesus immediately explains the action of Moses: “Because of the hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.  But from the beginning of creation, God made them MALE AND FEMALE.  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so that they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (The idea behind that word is “fused”!)   “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”  (10:5-12)

Like those of our own generation, He no sooner enters the house when the disciples questions Him further…see what I mean!

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and If she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.” (Mark 10:11, 12)

Many have written on this subject and argued from various directions.  The Word of God is unchanged.  The biggest change is that the courts have taken over what can and cannot constitute a marriage relationship.  The “legal” experts issue the license; they certify what is acceptable in our era.  I do not recall that they have ever consulted with any preacher, pastor, priest, or whoever signs that they performed the ceremony, as to the current action that is to be taken.

Obviously, from what Jesus quoted, divorce is not God’s intended standard. 

The New Testament Church had to deal with this problem and because it had become so prevalent Paul wrote to the church at Corinth in an extensive and informative manner. (1 Corinthians 7)

While our standards may have changed, our Lord’s standards have not changed.  One such standard remains… “All sin is forgivable, and confessed is not only forgivable, but forgiven!  Rest assuredly on Him and His Word…”If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9)

I take the liberty of asking simply, If God has forgiven, and that word is not complicated, how would it be possible to continue to recall and penalize?

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NOT UNDERSTANDING

The signs are out there!

Jesus had just left the Temple, and his disciples began to talk about the beauty of the Temple and He said: “Do you not see all things?  Truly I say to you, “not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”

Naturally this would raise questions and their seeking answers about so bold a prediction.  Jesus answered them and in 70 A.D. The Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.

The second question relates to a future date, “What will be the sign of your coming?”  The third part of the question relates to “the end of the age.”  Let us deal with the second question!  Signs of His Coming!

The signs are out there!  False Christ.  They abound today in various places of our world claiming to be Him, and many are misled.  Nation against nation continues to rage on, but Jesus said: “that is not the end”.  More hate and rebellion will flood the future to lead up to that end.

That which is in abundance in our days is (vs. 36-39).  “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, not the Son, the Father alone.  For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day the Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” 

The profoundness, yet the simplicity of the answer to the disciples should be causing alarm in our society, but it is not.  They go on in licentiousness as though it will never happen.  What awaits our society will seem atrocious on the part of God, but that is not the case.

The warnings abound, yet those words in verse 39, “they did not understand” is picturesque as we look at the broad picture in relationship to our society.  If it was ever a framed picture of current ideas and practices, it could be that of which Jesus spoke: “For the coming of the Son of Man will just like the days of Noah.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

We have made the message as simple as possible for events leading up to the end.  Christ gave it to us and hopefully all who read this “understands”!

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FOR THE LONELY

Focusing or refocusing on God and His Word is not easily attainable but takes effort.

I was reading the 68th Psalm and concluded I would make a comment or two concerning the sixth verse – “God makes a home for the lonely”; when our daughter Cathy, out of nowhere said: “Dad!  Isn’t it interesting to note that people can, in the midst of almost ideal conditions, be “lonely”?

Visit a nursing home, a hospital, even a person who is home-bound, and soon you notice that they can deal with the impervious disease, but loneliness is like a missile launched into your “think tank”, which you cannot erase.

When I was in College, I held services and bedside visits with folk in a center, Kessler Institute, designed to assist those with physical maladies.  Many of them seldom or never saw a family member for extended periods!  (Australia, Africa, Canada, West Virginia, etc.)  They did more for me than I for them! Yet, one could sense their loneliness in the midst of excellent care.  Granted, it is horrendous, and dealing with it is an un-mistakable challenge.  Realizing the benefits for you and others through this exhausting time is definitely helpful!  Focusing or refocusing on God and His Word is not easily attainable but takes effort.   When looking into His sovereignty, His purpose behind your experience as it relates to your future, those involved in your current experience to ultimately affect others in a very positive way, (the list goes on), all have a purpose in the plan of the ALMIGHTY as it relates to you, not only for time, but for eternity.

Remember always other gems from God’s Word. Romans 8:28-31 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us who is against us?”

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TWO SONS

It seemed logical to Him.

You barely get into your reading of the Scripture, when you discover how different two sons of the same parents can develop.  Adam and Eve had numerous children according to Genesis 5; however we are only informed of Cain and Abel initially.  Others enter the picture as more specifics are added.

In the 3rd Chapter of Genesis, we read of God’s extended punishment to Adam and Eve.  However, we also read of God’s promise to them, and His curse upon the serpent.  “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.  He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”  This projected the prophecy of Satan having the ability to affect the seed of Adam and Eve.  She would have exceptional pain in childbirth.   Though Satan would attack Adam and try to destroy him, God would affect salvation to mankind through FAITH in the finished work of Calvary.  Jesus would crush the head of Satan in becoming the perfect sacrifice for the sin of Adam and Eve.

A little about those two boys, Cain and Abel!   “Abel was a keeper of the flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” (Gen. 4)  Both, in time, brought offerings to the Lord from their respective endeavors.  God commended Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s.  It was out of a joint conversation that Cain grew angry and slew Abel!

God had warned him, (v10-12) that Abel’s blood was “crying to HIM from the ground”.  The ground was cursed and God told Cain, “You shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.”  When Cain showed lament for his “sin” God promised protection.

There were a couple of boys of a wealthy individual of which Jesus spoke.  The one was not satisfied with his “quiet” life style, and wanted to be given his share of an inheritance, leave home, and go abroad so that he could live it up.  It seemed logical to Him.

After leaving home, squandering all that he had, eating from the hog pens, he came to his senses.  Heading home he was totally surprised to see his father waiting, with open arms.  A banquet was prepared and great celebration took place.  The older son could not understand how his father could be so forgiving in light of the younger son’s actions… Few there are that ever understand the open heart of a father to a wandering son who comes home.  (Read Luke15)

Certainly the younger son could spend much time justifying his action for leaving in the first place, and the father could justify his action, if that is what He wants, give it to him, everyone has to learn the hard way that there are two sides to every matter!

Other cases are mentioned in Scripture, and sometimes the problems originate opposite from what we expect, but the old nature is allowed to manifest itself.  Always, God reminds of the atrocity of what took place regarding His Son, Jesus!  He reminds us how each is looking from a different direction at the situation and beckons us to remember what and how HE dealt with us… He forgave us in and through Christ, in spite of us.  Sin is Sin, and is repulsive to our Holy God.  From Calvary, no less, He said: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!”  There is nothing more beautiful than the words of the songwriter: “Calvary covers it all, my past with its sin and stain, my guilt and despair, Jesus took on Him there, and CALVARY COVERS IT ALL!”

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DEEP PREJUDICE

While reading the Book of Jonah, one cannot help but notice the main problem… Jonah hated the Ninevites.

We continue to live in a country filled with deep prejudices, to deny that would undoubtedly mean that our “masks” have covered beyond our eyes purposely.  I am certain I will not be around long enough to see it end.  At this time we are experiencing a wave of reaction that can only lead to a dismantling over the progress made over recent years.  Reaction will only spur greater reaction.  We can blame one group or the other, but reality suggests that we need to move in a clearly defined program that encompasses every segment of society.

While reading the Book of Jonah, one cannot help but notice the main problem… Jonah hated the Ninevites.  God gave him a command to go to Nineveh and “cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before me.”  Jonah, being the re-actionist that He was, and exuding his anger toward the Ninevites, decided that he had a better way to solve this problem, “So he went down to Joppa, paid the fare and boarded the ship for Tarshish.”   Looking at a map, you have to grasp that his journey would be so far removed from Nineveh that there was little chance to end back there.  I have heard of many Evangelists who wanted to preach in a “Revival”, but none exactly like Jonah, who wanted to put on his running shoes and launch in the opposite direction!

Another thing, Jonah had reached a conclusion which is explained in 3:10… and into Chapter 4.  “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them.  And He did not do it.  But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.  He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country?  Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.  Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life’.”

Certainly the element of PRIDE is prevalent.  But also prejudice is most apparent.  Jonah has gone so far as to criticize the Lord.

My friends please be aware of the extent of this man’s prejudice.  First, he was willing to see the people of Nineveh perish, but now he is even willing to die himself.

Our Country was founded on many Biblical Principles, and unless we return to them, in spite of what our leadership maintains, there will be a major collapse.  Unless there is a genuine desire to return to God and His way of doing business, we are doomed.  The precipice on which we currently hang is a perilous one.

The wife of a preacher friend said: “My husband had callousness on his knees!”  It is a good beginning!

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THE TREE OF LIFE

I have often wondered what it would have been like to walk through the confines of the Garden of Eden.

I have been privileged to visit some beautiful gardens across the United States, and some in other countries.  Then, there have been some that were not under sponsorship, just natural growth.  I certainly will not forget the garden of lilies that my father planted and grew in a garden on a plot of land across from our home.  I can not only see them in my mind, but the fragrance can be recalled in a moment’s notice to the brain.

I have often wondered what it would have been like to walk through the confines of the Garden of Eden.  I especially would love to have seen what the Tree of Life looked like.  There is promise that in the future within the New Jerusalem there will be The Tree of Life!  Think of that fruit and it will tantalize your taste buds.

“Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street.  On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.  And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1-5)

WHAT A SCENE!   What a scene!  What a scene!!!  I am going to behold it in all its beauty.  Adam and Eve’s garden will not compare with it.  Try to behold “the TREE OF LIFE!”  Imagine what the fruit will be like; always different, but always positively fresh.

A garden, filled with these things, but more–The presence of the Lord Jesus Christ!

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CONSIDER THE LILIES

Seldom do we hear someone say: “I wonder what the Lord has in store for us this year?” 

Jesus in speaking to his disciples, on one occasion, engaged their attention by speaking of a rich man, with such a good crop from his harvest that he decided to build bigger barns.  Obviously he could have dispersed among the needy, but greed occupied his thinking… bigger barns, “Soul you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry!”  Like so many others his self centered thinking surfaces.

It is very easy to think only of ourselves when things get tough; when the bottom seems to have fallen out, we speak one to another about the economy has gone bad; the weather has not been up to normal; I wonder what I can do to make adjustments; the endless list! Go get a haircut and you will come home with all types of suggestions.

Seldom do we hear someone say: “I wonder what the Lord has in store for us this year?”  The element of anticipation of how He is going to see us through in some very unusual manner is not a priority in our thinking.  Philippians 4:13 should be a priority, a positive outlook on God’s promise: “for I have learned o be content in whatever circumstances I am.”  Of course, the Apostle had encountered all types of negative experiences, but he assures the Philippians: “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)  In my lingo the apostle reminds them: God has enough for all of us—you and I included!

I have mentioned before how generous the folk are in our part of the country.  There are numerous food banks and the tons of food made available to people is astounding.  When you hear the statistics it is grandiose.

Jesus had reminded the folk that it was the provision of bread that He provided that caused them to follow Him.  Their motive was impure; nevertheless He still cared for their need.  We all need reminding on occasion that we, as Christians, are to live by His instructions, not by our feelings.

About those lilies!  “Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you?  You men of little faith!”

One has to admit that we find little, if anything, that equals a single lily in an unusual setting.  My wild flower garden was beautiful this year, and it still remains beautiful, but it did not have a lily out there to sit and gaze upon.  However, our Son in Law came home with one for our daughter.  Such beauty! God sees us in all His beauty; He desires that we reflect Him, the Lily of the field!  In doing so, we accomplish our purpose in life and service for our Savior.   

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ALL OF CREATION “GROANS”

Groan, but do not grumble!

Little time elapses between one cataclysmic event and another.  We rejoice when we sing “He’s got the Whole World in His Hands”—especially when we reach the words, “that wee tiny baby in His hands” or “You and me brother, in His hands!”  Such knowledge is peaceful, restful, comforting, it is like a tranquilizer.

No matter our background or experience in life, there are moments when it seems that God has taken hold of this old “globe”, and made us aware that though He made Eden in all of its magnificence, a problem called “sin” was at the doorstep of Adam and Eve, and when they sinned, an eruption of climatic proportions so enveloped our earth as to leave it marred, until, one day He will destroy it.

Patty often spoke of all of creation echoing the pains of corruption and it’s “groans”.  She would speak freely of music and its beauty, and then of its descent to its modern stage.  She spoke of her enjoyment playing Chopin, whereas she would show disappointment with Beethoven incorporating too much minor; at the same time she would be quick to compliment their music genius.  However, one is aware of the existence of “the minor key” that is a result of the sinful acts of Adam and Eve.  (Romans 8) 

The beauty of that phrase, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to the futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the glory of the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.  And not  only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.  For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?”

One cannot read these verses without looking at the next verse… “But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Romans 8:18-25)

Groan, but do not grumble!    For a believer, the best is yet to come!

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PARABLES

When Jesus began His ministry, Mark, notes how He began it with the teaching of parables.

Most of us know that a parable is basically a story with a much deeper meaning.  Some have no problem interpreting a parable, whereas a large number of individuals struggle in procuring a proper interpretation because of multiplied reasons.  Perhaps the major reason is that they have already formed opinions in given areas, and a parable is met with mental conflicts that cannot be accepted.  I recall in one of my studies that the professor said: “Illustrations are good.  However, most illustrations can be picked apart by nit picking.  Be careful in utilizing illustrations!”

When Jesus began His ministry, Mark, notes how He began it with the teaching of parables.  Initially, He chose to use the parable of the “sower”.  He used it and concluded by saying: “He that has ears to hear, let him hear!”  The entire crowd gathered at the seaside and everyone listened.  However, some were not listening!  By that, we understand that basically they were shrugging off what He said!

Following that He explains why He is utilizing parables to convey His message.  He is also noting that some are and some are not in the hearing mode! That group obviously enjoyed the parable, but not its interpretation!  Conveniently, they had done exactly as He expected.  The “men and the boys” were separated spiritually.  After many years in the ministry, I understand how this mental separation took place.  It has happened frequently at the conclusion of a sermon that I have preached.

In reading Mark 4 clarity is presented on what brought about this attitudinal divorce from what they heard.  Note that it is the “WORD” that separates!  Jesus was presenting truth, and truth separates.  Even at the outset of His ministry, He makes it clear that His ministry would separate.  He proclaimed the “mystery” of the kingdom of God, and they did not comprehend that it was not to be as they expected; an earthly reign at that time, but a Spiritual Kingdom.   They wanted a man on a white horse.  He indicates it was not to be because some would be “outside”.

Calvary and establishment of the church would be in between His thinking and theirs.  Looking again at this passage will help us to understand His interpretation in verses 11 and 12 of Mark’s Gospel!

What they thought initially was foreign to Scripture.  The truth is to those of us who have believed!

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IN DUST AND ASHES

Just try to imagine how distraught Job must have felt after this confrontation.

The Book of Job is believed to probably be the oldest Book of recorded Scripture!  Not being one of those intellectual giants of academy, I must find it within myself to be satisfied with their conclusions.

Recall the story of Job!  He was “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (1:1) He had seven sons and three daughters. 

Why anyone would want to own 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, many servants, and “that man was the greatest of all the men of the east.”

The story relates a conversation between Satan and God, with Satan accusing God of protecting Job.  He asserts that if he was allowed to attack Job with physical maladies, Job would curse God, in that he only worshipped God because of God’s blessings.

God allows Satan to test Job.  First he destroys Job’s family, his home, and his animals. When he reaches the zenith of his temptations, he even sends Job’s three friends to endeavor to mix Job’s mind about the reasons that God is a allowing these things to happen to Job.  They do this in back and forth discussion for 40 chapters.  Job’s defense begins with these words:  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return there.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  To this the writer adds: “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.” (Job 1:21-22)  In our modern day classicism: “You can’t take it with you!”

His friends sat for seven days without saying a word because “his pain was so great”.  Job then cursed the day of his birth, but not God, or even sin.  Probably, he even wished that his friends had never come to visit.  We have all experienced such, and should learn when to “zip the lip!”  A few words of prayer would be much more meaningful.

Just try to imagine how distraught Job must have felt after this confrontation.  It is then that God steps in and speaks to Eliphaz, and his two friends. “My wrath is kindled against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has.”

Thank the Lord, after His rebuke, all three of these men offer up sacrifices.  God declares that He accepts their confession in doing what He has ordained for them.  And we read: “and the Lord accepted Job.” (Job 42:9)

THEN, God showers blessing upon blessing!  It is described as “The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had 14,000 sheep and 6,000 camels and 1,000 yoke of oxen and 1,000 female donkeys.  He had seven sons and three daughters.  He named the first Jemimah, and the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch.”  He ended up with 10 in Heaven and 10 on earth. By the way, their names all signify “beauty”.  And Job’s illness left no taint of what he had endured! (42:17)

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AT THE DOOR

…it would be a shirking of duty and privilege if I neglected to say something about the proximity of the return of the Lord…

With things as precipitous as they are world- wide; with our own country sinking closer to the edge of total collapse because of the moral degeneracy; with our laws being skirted and gradually negated… it would be a shirking of duty and privilege if I neglected to say something about the proximity of the return of the Lord for His own, and the blight which has become almost unbelievable, and corruption abounding.

Matthew wrote concerning the fig tree.  Often we see Israel is likened to the fig tree.  When she as a nation was restored, we were of the opinion that the truth of Matthew 24 was getting closer to fruition.  Because the portion selected is in the middle of two groups of events that will be rolling on and on, there has been disagreement as to the time period when it should all surface. 

It is not my purpose to argue.  It is simply to say that the picture is one of a gradual spiritual, moral and ultimately national and international abyss, with every acre of ground in the world experiencing its effects, which are currently irreversible.  It is corruption, at its peak!  According to the verses we have read, there is little doubt that “He (Jesus) is near, right at the door!”

Personally, I see the Rapture of the Church as the up-coming event.  When that happens there will be no restraining force in the world.  The domino effect will be evident.  Having a continual upheaval will be the norm and that will continue for seven years.

With such a description of those days, being like that of Noah, “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the day of Noah.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the Ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.  Therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.”

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HAGGAI

No matter how much they had, it was not enough and satisfaction eluded their thinking.

Two little chapters, almost unknown, but thought to have come back from Babylon with Zerubbabel.  His ministry was to call together the people to finish the temple.  God uses unlikely individuals to perform the most unlikely jobs.  We can testify to the manner in which our own lives have been challenged of the Lord and used in unexpected and unplanned ways.

Haggai was undoubtedly a very straight forward guy who said what had to be said.  He obviously turned a few heads when he addressed people.  Look at the 4th verse of chapter one – “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?”  Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways!”

The walls had been constructed but an attitude of heart was now apparent.  Obviously they felt that it was time to hang up their tools and enjoy the luxuries that were their privilege.  No matter how much they had, it was not enough and satisfaction eluded their thinking.

Haggai “beats his drum” of concern when he rebukes them with the words: “he who earns wages to put into a purse with holes. You can’t even drink enough to get drunk, or put on clothing to keep you warm.”  Then in bombastic fashion he says: “Consider your ways”, for the second time.

With holding little or nothing he says: “Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple that I may be pleased with it and be glorified.” Says the Lord, “You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away.  Why” declares the Lord of hosts, “Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.  “Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce.  “I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands.”

The preaching may have been hard but it accomplished what God desired.  When Zerubbabel, the of son Shealtiel, and Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their
God and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him.  And the people showed reverence for the Lord.

“So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts their God.”

Haggai, boldly outspoken, was whom God used to stir up the people and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God. (1:14)

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IDEAS NEED REVAMPING

We are immediately reminded that the one who appears as lacking substance, even to his clothing, should be treated equally.

If one follows the words of James you note that he deals with the subject of personal and practical Christianity.  Put your practices in a world of evidence by not just saying “I have faith in the Lord Jesus as my Savior”; but so live that your declaration is accompanied by works of righteousness which bespeak that personalized faith.

The obvious is that many were making all types of assertions as to their identity with Christ, but the culmination of their declarations were so in conflict with what they were manifesting in their daily lives that James reminds them in 1:16, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren”.

James is not just being a noisemaker in the congregation, he is intent on seeing the problem exposed and dealt with.  He identifies the “Father of lights” and exposes the brethren as thinking themselves to be “rich”; they have forgotten their relationship to Christ and are the equivalent of grass that ultimately dies.  While we are beneficiaries of God’s blessings, we have hogged them to ourselves.  God will ultimately hold us accountable for our blessings!

A perfect illustration is utilized as the brothers are reminded how we sometimes see one person as more important in our thinking and therefore should be given certain priority, even to their sitting position in the assembly.  We are immediately reminded that the one who appears as lacking substance, even to his clothing, should be treated equally.  It is important to note the possibility that the man might well have been without food, yet he had come to hear the Word of God which was more important (2:15, 16) to him.

The words of James in addressing the brothers in Christ carry a sting that demands attention.  He notes that “faith” and “works” are inseparable, especially when we consider this verse of James 1:17… “Even so faith, if it has no works is dead, being by itself.”  To those who endeavor to separate the two and for a boasting point say: “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”  In response, James says: “You believe that God is one.  You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?  Was not Abraham out father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?”  You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God.  You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:20-24)  They are individually, yet jointly integrated.

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FALSE OR ACCURATE BALANCES

Perhaps this is a way to make the same old price in actuality look identical.

When our first child, Steve, was born, we decided that we needed a scale to keep check on his weight.  After observing a few dozen, we decided on an old fashioned one, because it was far more accurate than the others.  With them, the slightest movement and you did not have an accurate reading.  Our choice was like one that they had in the grocery store back home.  I remembered how the old grocer would touch it with finger, up or down, to make sure that it was exact or what he must do to make everything balance accurately.

I am told that in the “old” days there were those who carried two sets of weights; one accurate, and the other favorable for his profit.  I noticed this week that the tissue boxes are a little smaller and the tissues a little smaller.  Perhaps this is a way to make the same old price in actuality look identical.  I am not saying that is the case, but I am wondering!  Of one thing I am certain… we are felling fewer trees, and certain folk are so happy that they are slobbering over each other, while others are saying “I am being ripped off!”

After that paragraph, one has to conclude that the wise man, in writing Proverbs, probably left us by saying: “Things have not changed!”

There are some choice morsels in the verses that follow.  We read: “But a just weight is His delight.  When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.  The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.” 

Comfortableness and being uncomfortable are before us.  Honesty and integrity are actually our only choice!

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FOREVER IS FOREVER

“God cannot forgive a sin twice!”

It was never my privilege to hear the great preacher Dr. F.B.Meyer, however, I have been honored to have a number of his books in my library.  In fact, when we were married, our dear friend Dan Bartkow gave us a little book on marriage that was authored by Dr. Meyer.

One quote from Dr. Meyer became extremely helpful as I launched out into my Christian life.  You see, I was repetitious in asking God for forgiveness over my sin, not understanding much about that word forgiveness.  One thought that came to my heart was when I was aware of two specific thoughts, one being a quote from Dr. Meyer. “God cannot forgive a sin twice!” The other came from Scripture in reference to a future for Israel: “I will put My law within them and on their heart; I will write it: and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  They shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord, for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more’.”(Jeremiah 31:18)

If you followed those thoughts, as they caught my attention, God forgives in totality when sin has been confessed.  He alone does what a man cannot do, “He remembers NO MORE!”  To repeatedly ask forgiveness for something already forgiven is in effect denying the efficacy of the blood of Jesus. 

Once more from Dr. Meyer: “God cannot forgive a sin twice!”

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REASON FOR REJOICING

An angel appeared and spoke to them.

It is imperative that we understand that what takes place, according to the record of Matthew, follows the events of the previous days.  Jesus had been crucified, and every precaution possible had been applied to guarantee that His body could not be removed.  There was even the expression that the disciples might try to steal it away.  The fact that these women came to the tomb, indicated their knowledge of Jesus death, and what they brought with them, and then confirmed in their thinking that He was dead.  More explicit facts are confirmed in the other Gospels, (Mark, Luke, John) that there was only one possibility when they arrived-Jesus was dead!

At their arrival numerous things took place. There was the earthquake!  The guards were awakened.  The stone was rolled away from the entrance.   An angel appeared and spoke to them.  So momentous was the activity that the guards were “shook with fear” and ended “became like dead men”.  Please do not by- pass the statement that their clothing was “as white as snow”.  I note this because it crossed the culture of that hour.

The clarity of the words spoken: “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.  He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said, Come, see the place where He was lying.”

We can get caught up in, what happened to the spices or we can recall the words of the angel and enter the opened tomb to behold the absence of the body of the Lord Jesus and the explanation given… “remember what He said!”

Jesus had conquered death!  He had risen!  Our risen Christ has conquered death, the most feared experience that confronts the average man.  With that assurance He beckons us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The message is clear, the three persons of the God-head are equally identified, the persons to whom they were to go are specified, the continuity of His presence is assured and the cessation will be “to the end of the age.”

The privilege of fulfilling that resurrection proclamation is ongoing to us, His recipients.

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THE COMFORT ZONE

The possibility of my being classified as a pessimist is not justified; I am more of a realist!

I would be mistaken if I thought for a moment that we would not have, or will not have had, a cataclysmic experience of one type or another in our lifetime.  Further, one will encounter it when other factors of negativity are being magnified in our daily living.  It seems at that moment to activate the words why me, or why me now, with alarming repetition.

The possibility of my being classified as a pessimist is not justified; I am more of a realist!  If you have been reading my thoughts over an extended time you will be aware of that statement.

While thinking of the Scripture I had been reading the other evening, it was obvious that the Israelites were befuddled time after time as they made their journey to occupy the Promised Land.  One king after the other ascended and descended, was described as good or bad, religious or irreligious, and was removed by the Almighty as they thought themselves to be invincible.  God was sometimes worshipped, and at other times He was treated as a laughing-stock.  All in all, it was not the most glorious period of history.

When the Promised King came, religious corruption was abounding, insomuch that while a “handful” were acceptable to His credentials, saw prophecy fulfilled and endeavored to place Him as their standard-bearer, it was not so to be then, and I would say that today it is even worse.

As we behold the corruption of the hour that is plaguing our world, we envision nothing less than what happened in the three years of Christ’s ministry on this earth.  A mere handful, perhaps less than those involved in the crucifixion, is destroying  every vesture of Christianity, and frequently it is being done by those who claim to be Christ’s representatives.  What goes on six days is nullified by pretense on the seventh!

The billows may roll and catastrophes may abound, but for the person whose confidence is settled in Christ as Savior and Lord, there is the ever present recognition the God is on the throne.  All things are subject to HIM! Psalm 23 ever relevant.

               The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

               He makes me lie down in green pastures;

               He leads me beside quiet waters.

               He restores my soul;

               He guides me in the paths of righteousness

               For His name’s sake;

               Even though I walk through the valley of

               The shadow of death,

               I fear no evil, for You are with me;

               Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me

               You prepare a table before me in the

               Presence of my enemies;

               You have anointed my head with oil;

               My cup overflows.

               Surely goodness and loving kindness

               Will follow me all the days of my life,

                And I will dwell in the house of the

                Lord forever.

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GOD’S PROMISES

Remember…! “You will never break God’s PROMISES by leaning on them.

Someone said: “You will never break God’s promises by leaning on them.”

“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” (1 John 3:2)

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)

“In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  (Colossians 1:14)

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”  (1 Corinthians 10:13)

“Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  (Hebrews 7:25)

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:19)

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”  (John 14:13, 14)

Remember…! “You will never break God’s PROMISES by leaning on them.”

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REBEKAH

You can see that he is very specific in his request!

Have you read the story of Rebekah lately?  In fact, have you ever read the story of Rebekah?  It is found in Genesis 24.  May I suggest that you read in its entirety because I will be focused on specific portions, but not the entire story as presented in that portion of Scripture.

Abraham had a son named Isaac, and a servant named Eliezer. (Gen. 15:2)  He wanted his son to have a wife of his own ancestry, and so he sent the servant to secure the wife.  Please remember that this was an exceptionally long  journey to the area from which Abraham had come, and it left little margin for error to go there and find a woman to meet the qualifications presented;  “To my country and to my relatives.” Even Abraham understood the problems with the unequal yoke!

The servant travelled those miles and then put the matter before the Lord.  #1, “He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water.” (v11)

#2, “O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show loving kindness to my master Abraham.  Behold I am standing by the spring, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water; now may it be that the girl to whom I say, “Please let down your jar so that I may drink,” and who answers, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels also’—may she be the one whom You have appointed for Your servant Isaac; and by this I shall know that You have shown loving kindness to my master.”

Recall for a moment how narrow this request.  The servant presented his request in the midst of numerous girls approaching the well; he recognizes his own inability to identify the person he is seeking; he basis the needed identification on the relationship of Abraham to God, and her identity of the “exact” manner in which she would reply, and the “jar” on her shoulder.  You can see that he is very specific in his request!  Remember how in the story she was to not only care for his needs, but after caring for his need she is to offer to water his camels and that after his long journey.  (Obviously this was not a simple undertaking.)

How often do we make our prayer requests in the broadest terminology; “Not my will, but Thine be done!”  When I enjoined upon the congregation that we should ask only after we have a clearly defined object, at the close of the Service a lady commented, “I have never heard that before!”

Has our prayer- life become one of ambiguity?  As a servant of our Lord, have I narrowed my requests to “a jar on her shoulder” and the Lord of which I am but a servant?    Let us never forget the words of John 14 and the context in which our Savior said: “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”  (John 14:13, 14)