MAGNETIC FORCE

The man watched my frustration for a few moments and then disappeared.  I had dropped a screw in the rocks and could not find it, thus causing the frustration. 

(For those of you unfamiliar with it, we replace grass with decorative rock most of the time in Arizona.)  As I continued my search, he suddenly appeared with a large magnet on a string, hoping that our problem would be solved quickly.  It was!

He felt the necessity of explaining why he kept this magnet handy.  He was so tired of nails appearing suddenly in his yard.  The construction crews had dropped them when the house was being built.  Occasionally he went around trying to gather those nails that had surfaced.

A friend of mine is in the aluminum siding business.  The magnet was of no use to his crew because the magnet would not pick up the aluminum nails.  Someone else decided that I should have one and made a donation to that end. 

I carry it in the truck always.  I remember well the magnets that we took out of those little generators that were attached to our bicycles and, by applying them to a bicycle tire, they would produce electricity for the lamp on our cycles.

Over the years I have found myself endeavoring to utilize some “gimmick” or the other to get people to be born into God’s family.  Far too frequently, I have endeavored to take over the job of the Holy Spirit of God.  I have not been alone, for I have watched many manipulative procedures and psychological ploys to convince people to be saved, to give generously to God’s work, or a host of other goals to be achieved.

Two verses of Scripture have been a blessing to me of recent.  John 6:44: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” 

John 12:32: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”  A man or woman comes to Jesus for Salvation only when the Father, in and through the Holy Spirit, DRAWS him.

Along with other brothers and sisters in Christ, I have endeavored to make the gospel of Jesus as attractive as possible.  However, no matter how masterfully I make my presentation, the ultimate work of a person’s salvation is contingent on the Holy Spirit touching the heart and “drawing” the person to Himself.  The magnet is the magnetism of Calvary.  When Christ was lifted up on the cross, it became the catalyst to cause people to repent and embrace Him as Lord and Savior.  Like aluminum, all will not be drawn, but there are those whose hearts will be tenderized of God and will humbly bow before Him as Lord.  Are you one of those?  I trust so.

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 odorous 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                   

REDUCED CHRISTIANITY

I use those words with slight caution, for many folk with which I fellowship might think that I categorize them thusly!  I speak again of the levity, the laxity, which has filled the, so called Christianity, in this day and age.

There was assignment of that title at Antioch as the disciples were teaching about the resurrected Christ.  They were there for at least a year. (Acts 11:26)  It is interesting to note that they taught “considerable numbers”.  People are not always favorable to the teachings concerning Christ, because it places demands on them concerning their acceptance of Christ.  Having heard the teachings of Jesus, a person is bound by what they have heard.  Failure is rejection!

Currently we are faced with a generation of individuals who want an identification of being Christian, but it is on their terms.  We find more and more of these individuals avoiding a literal adherence to Scripture.  I have heard many of the arguments that hinge on being selective, meaning that they feel some things are outmoded and inappropriate for a modern day and age.  God recorded for us His desires, and less than total obedience to them is the assumption that one believes he knows more than God.

Did you ever make a list of the places where it is recorded that Barnabas was there and was teaching total adherence to the prophecies and doctrines of the Savior?  He was not a compromiser!  He was unbending in his adherence to what Christ had taught.  He obviously was a stalwart among the disciples and early believers.  He was the type that every pastor wants in his congregation.

Oh that God would give us men and women with the commitment that these early believers adhered to.  James was ordered killed by Herod (Acts 12:2) but Peter was delivered from prison.  Give up trying to figure out why God does things or allows them in the manner He does.  As has been said so often, “inscrutable” is the only acceptable definition.

I am certain that I am not alone in trying to understand the workings of the Lord!  At the same time I realize that listening to Him, and obeying Him, will lead to additional avenues of service and approval from Him.

May we bend and yield to what God wants from us, knowing ultimately that this is the only acceptable way of serving Him.  Remember He does not change His Word on “sound doctrine”.

CLOSER HOME

Copyright Ted Cowen

I woke this morning, just before the dawn

The body felt better than did the previous morn

And so, preparing for the day that plainly lay ahead

I spoke with Jesus; He is the Living Bread.

After going through the normal preparations

I checked the headlines for sensations

Things had not changed much, since the night before

Democrats and Republicans were trying hard to score

I headed for some good old-fashioned grub,

Fixed myself a pot of coffee, not quite a tub.

Next came some pills to cure and stop the ills

At my age, I would not be running up the hills

And soon I found myself, thinking about today

My Father had created it, for work and also play

What would I do with the hours that lay ahead

I surely would not consider going back to bed.

Pondering the agenda, and thinking what must be done

I looked out the window and once again saw the sun.

The darkness had left; the welcomed dawn arrived,

It was time to get a going, that’s how things survived

Then it “dawned” on me, “With Christ I am secure!”

I AM ONE DAY CLOSER HOME THAN I EVER WAS BEFORE!

So my friend, before you head out to make your great display

Remember, this could be your very last, before the Judgment Day

You need Jesus as your Savior, to wash away your sin

Welcome Him into your heart; He’ll give you peace within.

When that is done, hope will prevail, you too will feel secure

For you will be One Day Closer Home than You Ever Were Before.

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

LOTS OF SHOES

I studied her features, listened to her accent, and finally decided that I would have to ask: “And where did you come from originally?”  Her reply surprised me, because she didn’t resemble those I’ve known from the Philippine Islands.  She proceeded to explain that her family had moved there from Spain and Holland prior to her birth.  She began to explain many things about the Philippines and their culture.  It was an exciting time of learning.

Somewhere in the middle of the conversation, she mentioned the multiplied millions of dollars that had been stolen by Marcos.  I expressed my “indebtedness” to the Philippines for my heart surgeon.  Turning to the lighter side, I explained how I had to build shelves for a lady’s shoes that must have numbered close to those of Mrs. Marcos.  (Not quite…  Approximately 100 pairs.)  It was then that she opened a vista that I had never considered.

People knew that Mrs. Marcos loved shoes.  She purchased many from far and wide.  However, many of the shoes that she possessed were given to her as gifts.  This produced a problem.  Many of the people of the Philippines are known for their belief in voodoo.  Anything that had been handled by another, stood the possibility of having a curse placed upon it; that could then be cast upon the person who wore it.  This meant that because of Mrs. Marcos’ prominence, attacks might have been launched against her in this insidious form.  Many of her shoes were never worn and, even if she tried to give them away, people would not want to wear them for fear of an evil curse being applied.

Many are those that go through life with various types of fears attached.  Some will say they are not superstitious but will avoid cracks in a sidewalk; walk great distances to avoid a black cat crossing their path; almost have a heart attack if someone puts shoes on a table; avoid the number 13; and the list goes on.  Kurt Koch, in his book “The Devil’s Alphabet”, with no attempt to gather all of them, lists 47 different areas of the Occult and Superstition.  His excellent writing on “Between Christ and Satan” opened up Ephesians 6:10-20.  One cannot help but sense the battle arrayed: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB)

We read the words of David: “and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands”. (1 Samuel 17:47)  This is as real today as the day it was written; we approach the elements of Satan and voodooism with confidence.  John writes in his Epistle: “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)  We need to read this entire Epistle to garner the truths concerning our not being given over to fear.  Claiming victory in the power of the blood of Jesus is the only method of dealing with such an enemy.

By the way… try this pair of shoes: “and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace”. (Ephesians 6:15 NASB)  That pair is better than a thousand pairs!

RICHES

Having been brought up in a tight financial situation in World War 2, and following, there were times that I looked at the financially affluent, thinking that it would be wonderful to be in that situation.  However, as the years slipped by I began to realize that what I thought to be “wonderful” might never be mine.  Also, that many of those who possessed “riches” were lacking some of the things that we enjoyed to the maximum.  Exclusiveness was evident as were some of the snobs.

Thankfully, there were those who knew what it was to cross the barrier of riches and allow us all to be treated as equals.  Riches did little or nothing to spoil excellent relationships.

After becoming a Christian I began to study the Word of God, we began to even have better relationships.  Personally, I found it much easier and healthy to apply Scriptural principles in all relationships.

In my studies I quickly discovered that I was rich beyond my comprehension.  Overnight I realized that Romans 1:4 and following was revealing my wealth; that which God had provided.

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?  But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”  What a contrast: His riches, kindness –tolerance-patience to a hard headed person until I came in repentance to Him.  Then, and only then, did I experience the realization of glory, and honor and immortality, eternal life.

We reach the eleventh verse, and there we discover something that not only benefits me, but to you who would be reveling in those riches, “there is no partiality with God.”  

Die a pauper, or a wealthy person!  God offers riches!

MAPPING OUR COURSE

We left Sun City with every intention of returning about a month later.  We had in mind the basic route we would cover.  In fact, we did a print out of a map to give clear indication of our various destinations.  Things went well until… Have you ever used a map and discovered later that it was inaccurate?  I did!  The instructions said, “left”, but something in me said, “right”.  I went “left”, only to discover that I should have gone “right”.  It was disconcerting to discover that the map was wrong, but good to know that we discovered the inaccuracy shortly and were able to counteract our instructions.

Our friends had told us: “When you are an hour or so from our house, call and with our instructions, you will be able to cut 20 minutes off of your travel time.”  I listened and that rural setting became quite simple, even with my misgivings.

A gentleman once called me to correct a problem he had encountered.  After studying the maps extensively, I called him back and said: “Your street is not on any of my maps.”  He gave me directions and when I arrived at his home, his greeting was something like this: “You are right!  My street does not exist according to the area maps.”  I inserted it into my maps.

In our travels this trip, my wife and I found ourselves changing our minds frequently about where we would go next.  It was fun, but at times, confusing.  However, in most cases, we were able to avoid “unexpected side tours”.

Most of us like to plan our lives a long way in advance.  We endeavor to “plot our course” and like to feel that, when we pursue our plans, at the end of life things will be as we anticipated.  However, there are always interruptions of one type or another.  My initial plans after finishing College were to enter the pastorate to gain experience that would enable me to become an evangelist.  God had other plans!  Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, we found ourselves in multiple areas of service that we never contemplated.  Our current ministry developed in much the same manner.  Always, we have been able to look back and see God mapping our course in contrast to our jumping on some bandwagon and getting detours that meant the map was incorrect or that we were moving in a self- centered direction.

All of this is the result of reflecting on some precious portions of God’s Word…

“…for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.” (Psalm 31:3)  “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel (guide) you with My eye upon you.” (Psalm 32:8)  “…He will guide us until death.”  (Psalm 48:14)  That’s a precious reality!

Corinthian 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   

COINCIDENTAL

My friend Jerry is an interesting character that I met at a prayer meeting when Patsy and I moved to Arizona.  We get together weekly just to fellowship and talk about the Scriptures.

If I share with Jerry something special of the Lord’s working, he will usually say in a very sagacious manner, “Coincidental!”  He knows, and I know that the sarcastic tone is actually an “Isn’t it amazing way to see how God works!”  Sometimes I will reference an individual to some things that have transpired, (In the Scriptures) and I will say “Would you explain this to me?”  After they have worn out the word “coincidental” they realize that they have no explanation of how it happened.

Try explaining the ten plagues that led to Israel being released from Egypt. (Exodus 7 thru Exodus 11)  Give me an explanation for 40 years of travel in the wilderness and God’s provision of food and water all along the way.   What is the explanation for Daniel and his three friends in the fiery furnace? (Daniel 3)  There are hundreds of prophecies concerning Jesus that were fulfilled, how possible?  There are many other incidents that cannot be explained from a human standpoint, save for the fact that God intervened! 

When Jesus was here upon this earth, He healed many, He walked on water, and He fed thousands from miniscule provisions of bread or fish, picking up fragments.  When attempting to throw Jesus over a cliff, He walked through their midst.  As John wrote in chapter 20:31, “But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

What is sometimes explained as “coincidence” is actually the intervention of God and no less.  He is ruling in a situation to make us more aware of His activity and desire to have us more alert to our needed dependence on Him.  Our inabilities are quite obvious, and only His ability, superiority, His love and compassion, brought that “coincidence” to a conclusion.

The intervention of the Almighty is the only acceptable explanation!