MEN OF WHOM THE WORLD WAS NOT WORTHY

One reads the news, or listens to it, and discovers suddenly that here is a person mentioned that I never knew before.  At the conclusion, I either feel as though I would appreciate knowing more about the individual, or I find a certain disdain toward them.  However, I am supposed to conclude that the individual is sufficiently important to warrant the article, or I should have known their importance previously.

Some years ago, an individual wrote a letter to me and shared: “What I have learned recently about a guy named, Job!”  I have to admit that I was completely surprised that he had just learned about “this guy named Job”.  However, as I endeavored to communicate about “Job”, the subject was dropped.  Probably because I saw Job in a different light or level than he had discovered.  Who knows?  Many are they who know about the “patience of Job”, but do not know where it originated.

Looking through Hebrews 11, I was again reminded of: Abel, Cain, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sara, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Samuel – The prophets.  I was also reminded of some of the things they accomplished or endured.  By faith they: conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, and were strengthened from weakness. They became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight, and women received back their dead by resurrection. They were tortured, not accepting their release, mocked and scoured, chained, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two, tempted, put to death with the sword, dressed in goatskins and sheepskins.  They were destitute, afflicted, ill-treated, and wandered in deserts, mountains, caves and holes in the ground; and notice they “did not receive what was promised” BUT “THEY ALL DIED IN FAITH”! 

To put it and them in perspective before God, “so that they might obtain a better resurrection”!    Please note the 38th verse in particular, “men of whom the world was not worthy.”  Many of us would not fit into the category of these men who were “sold out” to the Lord, especially as it relates to how the world has seen them, and how the Lord has seen them.   God sees men and women in a whole different perspective, and we who love the Lord should be focused on hearing: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” from HIM as over and  against any praise from men.

DECEASED LETTER

Has it ever occurred to you that someday you may receive a letter from a deceased individual?  Well, when that happened to me about thirty five years ago, initially I was shocked, but then I began to give it a lot thought.

My first thought was, “I am certain that there are few pastors who have ever received such a meaningful experience.”  We go through life enjoying the privilege of ministering to people under all types of situations; never expecting anything in return.  I am certain that far more would express their appreciation in advance if they knew for certain when the Lord was calling them home.

The second thought was, “of all the people I have known, the one to write me such a letter was the wife of a pastor friend.  She could not thank me enough for the close friendship that her husband and I shared.  In reality, he was the teacher and I the student.  However, she felt that I had been an encouragement to him in difficult situations.

Third in my thinking was how much she appreciated the position I held on interpretation of Scriptural truths.  She made it ever so clear how we agreed on some Bible teachers that we both held in great esteem.

In particular, I thought much about the fact that she felt the need to prepare this in advance, and have someone mail it on the day that the Lord called her HOME!

Many of the congregants to whom we have ministered over the years have expressed their appreciation for innumerable reasons, but to have it arrive purposely, immediately after she responded to God’s call to come home, stirred my heart afresh!

Behind my thinking about this dear saint of God was something that the Apostle Peter wrote about in 2 Peter 1.  He was determined to stir up the believers, assured of that necessity because he knew “that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.”

Let’s face it; we all need to have our reminders activated on occasion.  Can I think of a more poignant manner than a letter from a departed friend or relative?  I don’t think so!  We are granted a copy of The Word of God, all 66 Books of the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit and protected in their unique fashion through the centuries, so that we may read and respond positively to this letter from HIM!

WHAT A LETTER!

GOD GIVES ASSIGNMENTS

The Book of Exodus is just as the name suggests with the story of the Israelites being sent a man, Moses, to lead them from slavery to freedom.  From the very outset you gather the “incidents” that culminate in his leadership.  He has a couple of assistants in the likes of Aaron the Levite, and Joshua, in particular.  It is essential that we remember that he gets instructions directly from God.

Of course, Moses does not feel qualified for the position to which God assigned him.  God showed him that he was a mouthpiece thru the observance he had of the burning bush.  God impressed upon him the need of the Israelites. (Exodus 3:7) “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.”  Four hundred thirty years had marked their journey into Egypt, and the welcomed reception they were given when Joseph was serving under Pharaoh had turned into slavery and oppression.

As God gives Moses instructions, Moses has a ready retort with a multitude of reasons someone else would be more qualified than he.  I lack the ability to speak to our people; (3:11) I am not fit for such a responsibility; (4:1) I might be challenged as to my authority. (4:1) My speech lacks eloquence and power. (4:10) And finally he hears God say, in effect, I will send you and empower you until there is recognition: “This is the finger of God.” (8:19)

There are oodles of thought throughout the Exodus journey, but we have sought to focus only on the fact that God sends us on assignments and empowers us to accomplish them, and they cannot be duplicated by the magicians. (8:18) I am far from being alone on this thought!

Perhaps you have staggered at an assignment, like that of testifying directly to an individual about their need of Christ as Savior; maybe as simple as visiting someone and praying with them over a need in their life; mental, medical, shut in, or something that appears to be too big “for little me”.  During the Covid 19 pandemic is an ideal time to accept our challenge.  Remember, Moses obeyed and led Israel for forty years faithfully; he looked and saw the Promised Land, but Joshua had to finish the job.  Both found satisfaction in obedience!  

When one seeks direction from the Lord, and when that individual recognizes that God can enable them to perform His assignment, be it above and beyond something they envision as possible, He will provide!   Someone said, a mighty long time ago, “You and God make a majority!”

SELECTIVE SEATING

Imagine for a moment that you are a part of the congregation of this newly established religious group that is called “Christian”.  You have listened closely to the message it has presented concerning Christ, and as a new found believer, you are made an “usher” in the church.  You are excited about your assignment, especially when you observe Mr. Prominence visiting your group for the first time ever.

Assured in your mind that you would be following the desires of the leadership of the congregation, you very quickly select a seat assignment that puts Mr. Prominence close to Mr. Noteworthy.  In doing so, you have to move the poor man into a location that identifies him as a “poor” man.  That amounts to the indication that you are looking at Mr. Prominence as more important.  It is repulsive that, even in the church, there are those who lack sufficient maturity to reveal equality.

James goes on to ask a very straightforward question: “Have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?   In calling attention by the action taken, James makes a bold statement when he says to the believers: “If you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” (James 2:9)

A little further in that 2nd chapter of James we read: “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.”  The old saying: “Let your walk talk and your talk walk” should find a home in the heart of every believer. 

I am certain that you did not miss how James identified those who allow themselves to be en-snared by the devil’s activity as becoming “judges with evil motives”.  What seems but a simple snare, is sin before the Almighty!

BEEN THERE – DONE THAT

In the work of the Lord we are constantly pursuing in our thinking “ways” to improve the effectiveness of our ministry; and I am not alone in this area.  I would be remiss if I did not admit to ending my thinking in the trash can far more often than continuing to pursue the idea as of the Lord.

We are faced with the truth that while many people are “church shopping”, there are an awful number of people, “church hopping”.   They have little knowledge of the Scriptures, and have less than average solidifying of doctrinal differences.  As for separation from worldly habits, there is little or no distinction whatsoever.   To what do we attribute this particular problem?  Little is said about it, and less is desired to hear about it.  One might conclude that an intimate walk with the Lord is lacking.  The Apostle Paul, addressing Timothy who was brought up under home tutelage, as well as being taught by the apostle himself, was instructed to: “Be diligent to present your-self approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)  Again, we might attribute this to a “quickie” in time spent with the Lord and His Word; too busy for God and His Word?  Too busy!

I love the words of Romans 1:1…”Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…”  How we need a fresh commitment to “who we are” and “how we represent Him 24-7!  How many of our friends know about our relationship to Christ?  “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Join me in thoughtful consideration as to how we can show separation as well as the “sweet aroma” to which we refer!

BEEN TO A FUNERAL RECENTLY?

As a pastor over these many years, the number of funerals conducted has been extensive, and each one has some type of uniqueness to it.  I remember many of them, and recall what people wanted or did not want included.  The hardest was probably those of children; that does not surprise me, because I notice that when a statistic is mentioned on the news of the death of individuals, in qualified numbers they usually mention, with X number being children.

In most cases people will lay a flower on the casket before it is lowered.  Sometimes they will choose to drop the flower into the grave; on one occasion the family followed a tradition and gradually threw in pieces of a puzzle until the entire puzzle was on or next to the casket.  There are many other traditions involved related to Bibles being placed in a casket before it is closed, and some even opened to a particular portion of Scripture that was a favorite of the deceased.

There are numerous references to deaths and funerals in the Bible.  When David lost his child, he had been mourning because of the child’s illness, but upon the death of the child he came into the house of the Lord and worshipped.  Because of his manner of dealing with the result of his sin, we find him explaining to his servants his actions: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, “Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.  But now he has died; why should I fast?  Can I bring him back again?  I shall go to him but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:22-23)  Strong words of acceptance of God’s will in the matter.

Some of the Old Testament Prophets were involved in the restoration to life of individuals they encountered.  In the New Testament we have the restoration of life to Lazarus.  (John 11:1-44)  In the 35th verse we read the shortest verse in the Scriptures: “Jesus wept.”  Further we read the reason, “See how He loved him!”  It is reasonable that when death takes the life of one we love to be involved in a good “bawling session”.  Surely we rejoice in the confidence that we shall see them shortly, and that knowledge brings healing by the Holy Spirit of God… one remembrance at a time.  If you are like me, you will thank the Lord daily for the bond you had with that individual, child or adult, and for what the future holds in eternity with our transformed and glorified bodies.

We all have an appointment with death that God has determined.  The day remains uncertain, but the guarantee of our presence with HIM is determined by our attitude toward Him here and now!

A reminder:  “AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”  Acts 2:21

MONEY

All of a sudden we are made aware of a crisis, and we presume that the solution to the whole matter is MONEY!  Manipulative processes are applied that appear to tentatively resolve the problem.   The real problem is much deeper than it first appears, and somewhere down the road, the chickens will come home to roost.

For a moment we need to be realistic about our need versus our greed.  There are obviously a large number of people who have befallen upon “hard times”, but there are those who have put themselves into this mess.  I refuse to individualize each person’s situation, but I can say that the Scripture warns, (and remember that Timothy, the preacher/pastor is being addressed as well as the congregants) : “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many grief’s.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

When greed replaces our need, it takes such a hold on our lives that our income and outlay clash.  I read recently, how in one particular country, the increase in family confrontations, as a result of families being at home for more hours, have placed exceptional demands on the police.  Here, in the Phoenix area, it is considered the most dangerous situation that a law officer may have to encounter.

I must commend the demonstrations of concern that we have seen displayed of recent.  It reminds me of the instruction God gave Moses to give to the people as they were engaged in journeying, and then residing in the Promised Land; these folk were under tight laws, even to caring for the “poor man”. (Exodus 20 thru 24)

The solution is obvious:  “Flee from these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” (1 Timothy 6: 11)  These are the things that form a balanced diet in regard to finances.

NARCISSISM

You probably read it, just like many others.  President Obama’s step brother accused him of being a “narcissist”.  I have no intention of engaging in discussion on that apparent “family feud”. 

Sometime ago I was reading in Galatians 6, when a thought along those lines entered my brain; it dealt with a thought concerning a brother in the Lord caught in a “trespass”.  The more spiritual brother should “restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness.”  A Christian, dealing with another Christian brother, has no business in kicking him while he is down; he should be in the restoration business, and gentleness should prevail.  He is also assigned the obligation of “bearing one another’s burden.” (v2)

So far, so good!  Now comes an additional warning. “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”  It is obvious that there is the element of narcissism imbedded in his thinking, because he obviously must have been singing his own praises, “How great I am!”  That type of unfortunate conduct becomes detrimental to a congregation of believers in short order.

If one is engaged in assisting a fallen brother, the element of boasting is repulsive!  He is told to recognize this, and to realize that such activity leaves him in a situation where he is only patting himself on the back.  That element of self-love will break your arm, and the trust that one had in you is negated.  We are to honor our trust!

WHERE RIGHTEOUSNESS DWELLS

Try as we might, it is virtually impossible to talk about the throes of earth in the final days, without feeling that they are indescribable.   Even as early as the formation of the church following the resurrection of Jesus, they were aware that there would be a judgment that would destroy the entire earth and the heavens and the elements would melt with intense heat. 

Peter makes direct reference to it in his second Epistle.  However, he includes in his remarks that “According to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (11 Peter 3:13)

Personally, I have seen some of the most beautiful places that one can imagine, and I have not seen everything created by our wonderful Lord.  I could not live the length of time it would require to do something of this magnitude.  Imagine, if possible, what it will be to see “New heavens and a new earth” without a curse upon it.  It is unimaginable with the limited abilities that we possess.  But is will be so, and because every believer and follower of the Lord Jesus will have been made a “spiritual” body, a perfect creation that was led by our Lord Jesus in His resurrection, will experience perfection for the first time. 

Accordingly, the aura of perfection will touch everything and everyone in that new creation.  I realize that there are those who give the rest of us the idea that they are “perfect”, I assure you that they will find great satisfaction when they live in that environment and experience the “promise” (v13) that is actualized.

There are those words “righteousness dwells” that stand out at the end of these promises.  Every day our “news casts” blurt out the tragedies, world- wide, that bespeak the works of unrighteousness of the world in which we live.  The tragedies are everywhere and man with his limited capacity, because of this body of clay that is marred since the beginning, cannot find any solution to such tragedies, and it becomes more and more frightful from a human standpoint.  We are “more intelligent” but frightfully more sinful.

Our hope can and will be realized only when God intervenes.  If the days of Peter were described as close to the “end time”, we are obviously very close to what God intends to do.  If righteousness in that day reigns, and we certainly agree with what Peter has said, let us: “Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation;” (v14)

THE WINGS OF A DOVE

I wrote recently about the many birds that come into our back yard.  They are all beautiful to watch and though we do not feed them, they must know how much they are appreciated by their daily return.

A number of them are doves; whenever I take time to sit and watch them I notice that each bird, or group, have preferences as far as what they want to indulge in.  We have lost a few young plants to their selectivity of approach, but we do not let it bother us.

The dove is mentioned frequently in the Bible.  Perhaps the most catching account is found in relationship to Noah sending one out of the Ark to test the levels of water. (Genesis 8)  For the romantic readers they probably love the reference in Song of Solomon where there is the reference to the lady who has eyes like those of a dove.  We all have our reasons for selected texts for moments that fit the occasion. 

The Psalmist writes of the weighty problems that beset him in Psalm 55.  At least he does the right thing he goes to God and cries out in the middle of his distress.  He speaks about his supplications and asks that God would not hide from him or fail to heed him and answer him.  He is desperate!

As one looks at his selection of words, I am conscious of Psalm 140:10 where we have the idea of “rolling mischief” on an individual. He has “hit bottom”!

It is then that we read: “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest.  Behold, I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness.  I would hasten to my place of refuge, from the stormy wind and tempest.”

It is doubtful that there is not someone reading these words from Psalm 55 that has not questioned the sincerity of his friends, his colleagues, those who were his support who have now obviously turned against him.

I suggest you turn your thinking to the Lord, as was the case of David.  The words of v16 and some verses that follow are certainly the keys to the lock: “As for me, I shall call upon God, and the Lord will save me.  Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He will hear my voice.  He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which against me, for they are many who strive with me.  God will hear and answer them—even the one who sits enthroned from of old—with whom there is no change, and who do not fear God.”

I purposely left out one word after “old”—it is the word Selah!  It simply means “Think on these things!”