THE FUTILITY OF WORRY!

Used with Permission by, Linda DeSilva

            Worry is an exercise in futility.  It accomplishes nothing – except to engender even greater anxiety.  Yet, in this pandemic, many (if not most) of us are setting ourselves up for more trouble by our fears for the future.  This should not be so for the Christian.  “Worry and worship are mutually exclusive.” …”Worry is usually a result of failure to commit things to God.” (Anon.)

            Why do those of us who trust God for salvation and eternal life, worry?  It demonstrates a lack of faith in God’s care: John Edmund Haggai puts it bluntly: “Worry is an intrusion into God’s providence.”  Before we berate ourselves for our lack of faith, we may be encouraged in the knowledge that Jesus addressed this weakness in His disciples and gave them and us His personal encouragement.  Jesus said: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.  So, don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:33 & 34 NLT)

            The Apostle Paul – who experienced more hardships than most of us ever will – told the Philippians: “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything … Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand.  And this peace will control the way you think and feel.” (Phil. 4: 6 & 7 CEV)

            Oswald Chambers, author of the well-known devotional “My Utmost for His Highest” wrote: “Worrying always results in sin …Fretting rises from a determination to have our own way.  Our Lord never worried and was never anxious, because His purpose was never to accomplish His own plans but to fulfill God’s plans. Fretting is wickedness for the child of God.”

            In ‘The Sermon on the Mount’, Jesus told the crowd: “Look at the birds.  They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your Heavenly father feeds them.  And aren’t you more valuable to Him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Matthew 6: 26 & 27 NLT)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart …He will show you which path to take.”(Proverbs 3: 5 & 6). “Worry is sin against the loving care of the Father” (E. Stanley Jones)

NECESSITY DRIVEN

On occasion I have met with individuals that know little or nothing about the Scriptures; however, they seem to recollect that Jesus went to a wedding feast and turned water into wine. (John 2)   Out of a twisted interpretation they take this miracle as an approval for drinking alcoholic beverages.  This particular word for wine, in the Greek, is what is considered “sweet wine”, or non fermented wine.  Throughout the Word of God, that same word in context is used for sweet wine.

What was so significant about this miracle, is that it was the first miracle that Christ performed; it was performed at a most embarrassing moment for the host; it is noted that “the mother of Jesus and His disciples were present, and the mother said to Jesus, ‘they have no wine’”. This is a most dramatic experience to them and to us.  I cannot recall Jesus mother ever giving her Son an order or request in the Scriptures.  That is the main reason I do not believe that any prayer should be made through Mary.  Jesus did say: “If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.”

Another note is that Mary said only: “They have no wine.”  Jesus reply:  “What does that have to do with us?  Mine hour has not yet come.”  His blood had not been shed!  It is obvious that while she was aware of His ability, there was nothing in the statement that indicated she expected anything to be done.

When the miracle was performed, and they took it to the headwaiter, the taste was “superior”.  Any activity that allows Christ to assume control will always “taste” superior to a mere human effort.  Did you not catch that little statement, “but you have kept the good wine until now?”  (v10)

Necessity makes us cognizant of who can really meet us in our need to have our “water pots” filled, and Jesus will fill them to our satisfaction and beyond! 

-Ted

‘THE DIVINE GARDENER’

Used with Permission by, Linda DeSilva

I have a favourite coffee mug with the slogan ‘The Royal Gardener’.  It was made for Hampton Court Palace and presumably was sold to raise funds.  The mug is decorated with various gardening implements against a background of green foliage.  I guess there is nothing remarkable about it, except that it set me thinking about another gardener – not merely ‘Royal’ but ‘Divine’!

            In John chapter fifteen, Jesus refers to Himself as the true vine, to us as the branches, and God the Father as the vine-dresser – ‘The Divine Gardener’.  Like every good gardener, God takes away every unproductive branch and prunes the productive ones so that they bear more fruit.   The human side of us balks at the idea of being subjected to pruning, but, as every Christian who has been through the pruning process with various kinds of trials will testify, although it was not pleasant “nevertheless afterwards it yielded the peaceable fruit of righteousness,” when we submitted to God’s training. (See Hebrews 12:11 NKJV.)

            March marks the beginning of Spring and we enjoy the results of the autumn pruning in the garden as our eyes now revel in the lovely flowers and foliage, while those areas that were neglected and are now overgrown detract from the beauty all around. They are a parable of those who would not submit to God’s discipline and, having failed to profit by it, hinder the unity and growth of the body of believers – God’s garden – the Church. (See John 15: 5 – 8.)

            As we submit willingly and wholeheartedly – mind, body, soul and spirit – to the skillful hands of our ‘Divine Gardener’, we shall understand more fully what the Lord Jesus Christ endured for us.

The Divine Gardener’ lovingly ‘prunes’ us so that we may grow strong, healthy branches bearing abundant fruit for His glory and the increase of His ‘vineyard’.

(See John 15:8)

BAPTIZE OR BURN

We were discussing the subject of what might be acceptable or unacceptable at this point in history, as it relates to evangelism.  It was always debatable; but since our society has acquired “ better education” than our parents, the “you can’t tell me”, or “get with it and get up to date” has turned our thinking concerning the Holy Bible as unbecoming, out of date, no longer the final standard for Christianity. The theologians jumped into the fray years ago and offered thoughts contradicted by Scripture.

Try to imagine people going into the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”  This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him’.”

To make things even more interesting, “In the desert, wearing clothes that were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist.  His food was locusts and wild honey.  People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.  Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.  But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance’.” (Matthew 3:1-8)

A stinging rebuke that probably excited the audience! John was saying what they thought and were now about to practice.   In fact, he even said a little more in his stinging reproach: “His winnowing fork is in his hand and He will clear his threshing floor, gathering the wheat into his barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (v12)  In effect he was saying, “baptize or burn”.

Please note, it was not being baptized that would produce their salvation, it involved: “Confessing their sins!”, then they were baptized.  I remember vividly that as I read this Scripture, I realized that my childhood baptism was entirely represented by others, and that I needed to do publicly what my new birth in Christ represented.  Shortly thereafter, I was baptized in the Atlantic Ocean.  I was overjoyed knowing I had followed the Scriptures on my own volition.

-Ted

A BALANCE CHECK

Used with Permission by, Linda DeSilva

Not a financial check-up (although that is important) but a review of one’s life.   This came to mind this week as I faced a laundry problem.  My six-year old washer went crazy when it reached the spin cycle.  When the technician checked with a spirit level, he discovered it was way off-balance.  After making the needed adjustments, he successfully washed a small load.  I have no idea of how or when this imbalance occurred …it must have been gradual.

            Like my washer, life can become unbalanced. Sometimes it is almost imperceptible, while at other times it is sudden and cataclysmic. This is probably truer now than it has ever been.  Life with COVID-19 and its many variants has upset the balance of life for people everywhere – mentally, physically and spiritually.  Whatever the circumstances, our personal relationship with God is the only sure foundation of life. If He is at the hub of our lives, all other relationships and events relate to Him.

            Now, perhaps more than ever before, we need to re-evaluate our priorities in life.  We can no longer continue with the regular daily routine.  It may be loss of a job, a family, financial or health issues, etc., but there has to be a re-alignment from what was the ‘status quo’.  We need an anchor – a faith firmly anchored to the Rock of Ages – God the Father, Who never grows weary.

            We who have committed our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, now is the time for learning His will in our current situation.  Many saints in the Bible had to do just that.  Abram learned from God that he had to leave his homeland and wander from place to place as God directed. (See Genesis Ch. 12.); Jonah reluctantly learned that there was no escaping God’s call to preach to Nineveh (See Jonah Chs. 1 – 4.); the Apostle Paul had to change his plans on more than one occasion. (See Acts 16.9, etc.)

            When we do not know what to do, life is unpredictable and the way ahead is uncertain, we need a fixed focal point (person) … in fact, the eternal, changeless One – God Himself – revealed to us in the Lord Jesus Christ.   “He (Jesus) is the same (whether in pandemic, fire, flood, earthquake, or whatever life brings us) “yesterday, and today and forever.”(See Hebrews 13: 8.)

Check your balance:

Is Jesus Christ the hub of YOUR wheel of life?

AN INTERESTING GENEALOGY

Our daughter, Cathy, recently acquired an interest in the family genealogy.  I know little about my family background, but when she started asking questions, I realized I knew less than I thought.

For instance, in the past it is obvious that folks were quick to name the new child out of the family history of the past.  I was born at my grand-parents home and registered at the local post-office.  I think it is right because there were so many Edwards and Thomas’s in the family.  On my mother’s side it was a little confusing because there are still differences of opinion.  Bless their hearts, I am here and one day I will confuse the list even more.

In reading the genealogy of the Lord Jesus, you cannot help but notice that there are four women mentioned, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba.  While some of their backgrounds were not squeaky clean, God still used them, and they are mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus.

Before we start throwing rocks or wielding a machete, let us realize that none of us is “without sin”.  Jesus said to those intent on destroying the life of a prostitute that “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8)  When every one of the crowd had departed, Jesus asked her, “Woman, where are they?  Did no one condemn you?”  NO ONE, Lord!  I do not condemn you either.  Go.  From now on sin no more.”  The next verse explains exactly what had taken place… “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”  In that moment the woman saw the LIGHT.  That person, Jesus illuminated her need, and His willingness to accept her unconditionally as His follower.

We need to refresh our thinking about the power of Christ to not only forgive her in totality, but to instruct her to “sin no more!”

If one reads further in the passage, we discover how Jesus rebukes those involved and says: “You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone.”  Still further:  “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.  Therefore I said to you that you will die in you sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

For further study, take a good look at the four women that God chose to use and who were listed in the genealogy of Jesus!  God forgives in totality, and then uses us as He sees fit!

-Ted

‘THE REAL JOY-GIVER!’

Used with Permission by, Linda DeSilva

In these days, when joy seems to be in short supply, the title words above (from verse 3 of ‘As the Deer’ -Psalm 42- by Martin Nystrom) have been a reminder to me of Jesus’ preparation of His disciples for His approaching departure, as recorded in John chapter 15.  There we read that Jesus reassured them of His love and promised that they would be filled with His joy, even though He would no longer be with them.  But, to ensure they got the message they could not fully understand, Jesus repeated it: “Yes, your joy will overflow!” (Verse 11.)

            There is only one ‘real joy-giver’ – The Lord Jesus Christ.  Happiness is not in the same dimension. It is ephemeral – brief, changing with circumstances.  In contrast, joy is an experience we choose! At a seminar, a woman told the presenter: “I never realized that I don’t have to be happy to be joyful!” A children’s chorus of the past explains it like this:   ‘Happiness happens, but joy abides, in the heart that belongs to Jesus!”

             Long ago, when Christians in Rome were led into the Colosseum to face the ravenous lions, their joy-filled eyes looked beyond the present to the eternal.  It is equally true of the many martyrs today, suffering torture and death for Christ in many parts of the world.  Hebrews chapter 11 with its list of godly men and women who suffered for their faith, concludes with the statement (v. 39 & 40) that they have yet to receive their reward. They are waiting until ALL followers of Christ (including this and succeeding generations) have finished our race of life and receive our reward.

            “You and I were created for joy, and if we miss it, we miss the reason for our existence … If our joy is honest joy, however, it must somehow be congruous with human tragedy.  This is the test of joy’s integrity; is it compatible with pain?  Only the heart that hurts has a right to joy.” (Lewis Smedes quoted by Tim Hansel in “The Hidden Adventure”)  The Apostle Paul, writing from a Roman Jail, told the Philippians: “Whatever happens, dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord give you joy!” (Ch.3: 1 NLT)

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

JESUS: THE REAL JOY-GIVER!

JESUS IS COMING AGAIN

Some years ago, W.E. Blackstone, in his book “Jesus Is Coming” wrote…

“WATCH

therefore; for we know not what hour your Lord doth come.”

-Matthew 24:42

“WATCH

therefore; for ye know neither the day nor the hour.”

-Matthew 25:13

“Take ye heed,

WATCH

and pray; for ye know not when the time is.”

“WATCH

ye therefore; for ye know not when the Master of the

house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the

cock crowing, or in the morning, lest, coming suddenly,

He find you sleeping.   And what I say unto you I say unto

ALL, WATCH.”

-Mark   13:33-37

Blessed is he that WATCHETH, and keepeth his garments.

-Rev. 16:15

“If therefore thou shalt not

WATCH

I come on thee as a thief.”

“BEHOLD, I COME QUICKLY.”

-Rev. 3:3, 11

NO GATECRASHERS!

Used with Permission by Linda DeSilva

            Several years ago, there was an incident at the WHITE HOUSE when a well-dressed couple gained admission to a function, mingled with the guests and generally enjoyed themselves – until their ‘gate-crashing’ was discovered and they were unceremoniously ushered out!

            On another occasion, a singer and her husband had been invited to a very select wedding reception – THE social event of the year.   With great anticipation, they arrived at the venue – only to be refused entry and escorted out. Why?  Their names were not on the guest list. Although they had received a legitimate RSVP (invitation) they had neglected to signify their acceptance!

            Everybody enjoys stories about love, weddings, and fabulous feasts.  Jesus, whose parables enthralled His listeners, in this way taught people one day about the Kingdom of Heaven. The scene Jesus described in Matthew chapter 22 was that of a royal wedding feast. A King was honouring the marriage of his Son. The prospective guests, however, rudely refused his invitations for frivolous reasons. Others actually killed the King’s messengers, so the King sent an army to deal with them.  A wedding feast without guests would be a very bleak affair, so the King sent his servants to invite everyone – rich or poor.  When the King entered the banquet hall, it was full of guests.  One, however, caught the King’s eye.  He was not suitably dressed in a wedding garment.  A gate-crasher!  He was quickly bound and bundled off into utter darkness … there to mourn and weep for eternity.

            The first two stories are an interesting commentary on life – but Jesus’ parable has a message for everyone today, just as it did in His generation.    God invites everyone to come to Christ for salvation and an eternity with Him in heaven.   Some will try to come in their own way: living a ‘good’ life, doing kind deeds, obeying the Law, etc.  It sounds feasible – but is unacceptable!  There is only One who has ever lived a perfect life.   It is in Christ alone, through His sacrifice for the sins of the world, that we are invited by God the Father to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.(See Romans 10: 13.)

God has invited you!  Have you accepted?

THERE ARE NO GATECRASHERS IN HEAVEN!

SIGNS EVERYWHERE!

In reading Mathew 24, I understand what so many are conversing about these days, “WARS AND RUMORS OF WAR”. (24:6)

I am of the age that I can recall WW2 and many things since then.  I recall much of the details of fear that constantly plagued our little Island of Bermuda, and how we were engaged in every angle of protection.  Even at that young age, we had to help dig trenches around our school property.  They taught us to shoot a gun, a 303 that was almost as heavy as ourselves.  The hotel and golf-course where the Princess Hotel now stands was an army camp that tested their readiness with guns that shot they said, as much as twenty miles. (It was probably a little exaggeration, but when you are seven years of age, there was immediate fear.)

Fear has been generated constantly since those days.  I know that we basically live in a “bird cage” as compared with other parts of the world.  There has seldom been a day in the last 80 years when I did not hear of “wars and rumors of war”.  One of the most obvious wars that we hear about each day is that of personal wars in our own society.  Listening to the news daily is like the old days of the “police blotter”.  

If one is estranged to Jesus Christ, they wonder for their safety, in and out of the home.  It is a challenge to be at peace when you hear what is taking place; “Wars and rumors of war” locally and internationally.

When Jesus spoke those words in Matthew 24, one would have thought they were probably “far- fetched”.  Who would have thought the Temple that had just been called to His attention, would be in ruins shortly? 

In the 2000 years since Jesus Christ said those words, “the world shall never know peace.”

Thankfully, when one explores the words of Holy Writ, we hear what He declared in John 14:27… “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

These are exciting words in light of what we can expect.  “Wars and rumors of war”, but God is Sovereign and in control!     Put your hand in His and allow Him to be your Savior and Lord, and face your future in peace!

-Ted