Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pray for the Martyrs

Heb 13:3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

Don't you just cringe when you see the Feed the Children commercials and others which depict the plight of starving children in Africa and elsewhere? I feel guilty for immediately turning the channel, but I must, I cannot bear their suffering.

It is also tough to bear in mind the sufferings of Christians worldwide whose testimony has caused them great persecution. How easy we have it to live for Christ in a country where Christianity is in vogue. To be a believer in most parts of the world means sure and certain retribution from the enemies of the cross of Christ. I receive daily reports via email lists and updates concerning the oppressed of the faith. It is heart-wrenching to know how bad my brothers and sisters have it in the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist countries.

The Word constrains us to keep them in our thoughts and prayers as if we were in the prison cells with them. After all, if the heavy oppression were here in our nation and we were the ones being tortured for Christ, how much would we appreciate our fellow believers living in the lap of luxury, preaching health and wealth, partying as if Christianity was all fun and games? This very day, more than two to three hundred of Christ's followers will purchase the martyr's crown because they chose to bear the cross. The least we can do is to remember them in our prayers.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How to entertain an angel

Heb 13:2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Have you ever entertained an angel? Don't know? Me neither. But I suppose some of us have on occasion, because that's what this verse says. After all, there were only so many verses available in the Word and God wouldn't waste space on something that would never happen. So, we have this admonition, don't forget to be hospitable to those you meet whom you don't know.

Okay, so how do we practically do this? I mean, what's the down side if I fail to take care of an angel? Would my guardian angel cause me to stub my toe when I head to the head at 2 in the morning?

Should I always have the fixins on hand to whip up an angel food cake? Perhaps I should conjure up a batch of divinity fudge or heavenly hash. Would I offend my heavenly visitor if I offered him a deviled egg topped with a couple of drops of Devil's Spit Tabasco sauce?

How do we entertain them?

*One, take it for granted that anybody you meet could possibly be your mystery angel.

*Two, be kind to all strangers. Even if they are not an angel, you have shared the milk of human kindness and that never goes without reward.

*Three, if a stranger has a need and you have the resource, follow the leadership of the Lord in the matter. Whatsoever you sow, you will reap. By casting your bread upon the waters, you insure that it will come back to you.

*And four, talk to the strangers about the Lord, start witnessing. If their eyes begin to twinkle, you have probably met either a fellow believer or maybe, just maybe a powerful being that has been worshiping the King for the past 6,000 years.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What's is your Love Level?

Heb 13:1 Let brotherly love continue.

In my own strength, I can love the brothers, for a while anyway. But, I have to admit that it gets tough after a while.

Offences can add up and overload my ability to keep on loving. Loving the unlovable is a God thing. The Scripture tells us that God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

When someone is kind to me, loves me, respects me, I have no trouble reciprocating. But let a person slight me or do me wrong, let them act in an unloving way, my flesh says, "en guarde!"

But the Saviour asks, "For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans (reviled tax collectors) the same?

Paul tells us to love the brotherhood. He writes that our love is to be without dissimulation. That is, let it remain sincere.

It takes the filling of the Holy Spirit so that we might exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. The top of the list of fruit? You guessed it, love!

How important is it that we let brotherly love continue? Love covers a multitude of sins. Love begets grace and mercy. Love gives and forgives.

Really, there is nothing more needful within the church as enduring, unconditional love. Not a love that our flesh works up, but constant expressions of God's agape love.

What is your love level to the brothers and sisters in the faith?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Eyes on the Prize

Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;

Have you ever been challenged with the philosophical question: If you had to make a choice between being blind and being deaf, which would you choose?

Well, we would all say neither, but that's not an answer. The question was, "if you HAD to make a choice..."

The inability to hear has to be tremendously frustrating. Can you imagine not being able to hear the sweet voices of your children or your spouse? (Okay, no jokes here :<)

Think about no longer being able to hear the Word of God, the preaching and teaching of it. That would be tragic. Lord bless the hearing impaired. GIve them grace and patience!

But, to be blind, that's unimaginable. Often I sit at the table with food in front of me and I think about the plight of the blind. They can't see the things that I pick out fo my food; fat, impurities, ingredients I don't care for, etc. I suppose if they don't have someone to assist them, they just have to discriminate with their mouths and fingers. How tough is that?

Sunsets, mountain majesty, glorious hues, the beauty of a face, fine clothing, the sleek lines of a fine auto, all of these and more exist only in the imagination of the blind. That's tough to conceive.

However, we are all limited in our ability to sight our Saviour. The Word says that we now behold Him through a glass darkly. We see Him only by the eye of faith as we grope in the darkness of earth.

By reading the Word of the Lord, we catch glimpses of the Saviour. As we witness His hand at work in our lives, His face becomes a bit clearer. As often as we can sneek these peeks of His glory, we ought to let them lead us toward the finish line where He awaits us.

As I walk on a sidewalk, I can close my eyes and still see the details of the path in my mind for several seconds. I can continue to walk in the right direction, even though my eyes are closed.

When the Lord has been revealed to me in the Word or by His work, soon, life obscures His face. But I need to still remember the details of His visage and walk in the right direction until I can catch another glimpse of Him. This is walking by faith, just as the saints of Hebrews, chapter 11 did.

Perhaps yesterday, you saw Jesus as He made a way where there was no way. Now, today, you can't see Him, but He is still there at the finish line - walk in the same direction - looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Home or Away?

Heb 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. As

I work as a chaplain at the Nebraska games, I am repeatedly impressed by the power of the crowd. There have been a few times when it seems the whole crowd is hooked up to an adrenaline pump. The energy is almost electric. "Husker!" shouts the east side of the stadium, 40 thousand strong. "Power!" respond the other 40,000 voices. They are all in unison, all at the top of their lungs. It's as if the concrete of the stadium is moving at the chorus. It is truly an experience.

Is it any wonder that when a team plays at home, they are much more likely to emerge victorious? The cheering of the crowd encourages the players and intimidates the opponents.

Up to now, you may have felt you were behind enemy lines, playing an away game. Not so! If you think about it, only a couple of hellish imps are booing you at any one time. The voices of opposition are relatively few. However, the crowd raucously cheering you on from heaven's bleachers numbers in the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands. Some of the crowd have been listed in the 11th chapter of Hebrews. Among them are; Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets, persecuted women, and many "others." That catch all designation of "others" no doubt includes those in heaven which have a personal interest in your life; saved ancestors, spiritual mentors, church members with which you have served, etc.

So, run the race, play the game, fight the fight, enjoy the battle and win the victory to the heavenly cheers of thousands, half shouting "Heavenly" and the others responding, "Power!"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Substance of Faith

Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

I am hoping for a lot. The word "hope" here means to expect.

I expect the Lord to call me up to the clouds soon, and then conducting me on to glory.
I expect God to deliver on His promises.
I expect a home in heaven.
I expect a judgment seat where I will be rewarded.
I expect a judgment seat where I will suffer loss.
I expect all my needs to be met according to His riches in glory.
I expect that I will reap what I have sown.
I expect to reap of the Spirit for what I have sown to the spirit.
I expect to reap of the flesh for what I have sown to the flesh.
I expect to come rejoicing, bringing my sheaves with me because I have gone forth, weeping, bearing precious seed.
I expect to have tribulation in this life.
I expect that Jesus will never leave me, nor forsake me, even/especially during that tribulation.
I expect to overcome that tribulation as a victorious warrior of God.
I expect that all will work out well for me and for God's kingdom because I love the Lord and have been called according to His purpose.
I expect my children not to depart from the ways of the Lord because we are bringing them up in those ways.

Well, I am expecting a lot, aren't I? That's where faith makes its entrance. I have absolutely no doubt about any of my expectations listed above because they are fully guaranteed by the Word of God...and He always keeps His Word. It has never failed! The faith that I have is not even my faith, it is the faith He has granted me, which makes it doubly availing.

I thank my Lord today that my life is full of substance.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Be Patient

Heb 10:36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
Heb 10:37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
Heb 10:38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
Heb 10:39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

God has promised us so many things, among them heaven, reward, rest.

But, in our suffering, our setbacks and our subsequent impatience, we give up. Giving up usually amounts to losing faith in the One Who promised. Though we would never admit our unbelief, we evidence it by our living. We live as if this were the only life. That there is not a better one to follow, of which the present one is only preparation.

We exist in an instant society where we want to reap what we have sown the same day. Even nature teaches that a season must pass before the harvest. In the meantime, watering and cultivation are needed.

The verses here tell us, "For yet a little while..." It takes some perspective to understand that a little while to God and to us can mean very different things. The author of Hebrews had already gained a heavenly perspective through an "out of body" experience. I am referring to Paul's stoning which allowed him to be caught up to heaven for a time. Imagine if you were allowed to see the glory that awaits the believer. If you could pass through the gates of pearl, walk the street of gold, behold such glorious and holy sights that you would feel it improper to even mention it all, could you implore believers to be patient? Could you serve God with a boldness as Paul did without fear of death because you knew what awaited? I think so. And, wouldn't you feel that any amount of earthly suffering was inconsequential in comparison to future glory?

Perhaps you could pen words such as, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Rom 8:8.

Hebrews 10:36 and 37 make sense when you consider that the author had already witnessed much of the promise.

So, be patient. Let your faith remain strong. Keep on keeping on. Serve the Lord with gladness and don't succumb to the temptation to draw back from the promises of God.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Most Mysterious Character of the Bible

Heb 7:1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
Heb 7:2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
Heb 7:3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
Heb 7:4 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.

The Set up: Abraham had been busy out slaughtering the area feudal lords. We can read about this in Gen 14, vss 15 and following. These kings were Arioch, Chedorlaomer, Amraphel and Tidal. That's what they got for messing with this desert nomad and his highly trained underlings. They had kidnapped Abraham's nephew, Lot and didn't get to live to regret their transgression.

So now Abraham is heading back home and he meets up with a very unique person, Melchisedec. A little we know about him;
1. He is King of Salem, probably Jerusalem. He is also called the king of peace and the king of righteousness.
2. He is priest, not "a" priest, but priest of the most high God.
3. He was sanctioned to pronounce blessings upon others.
4. He was ordained to receive tithes, which he did of Abraham, the great patriarch.
Now, here is where it really gets interesting.
5. He has no earthly pedigree; no father, no mother, no ancestry, no birth date, no date of decease.
6. He is said to be "made like unto the Son of God."
7. He possessed a priesthood without interruption and without end.

And finally, the Word says he was a great man!

Now, I have always wondered what to do with this man. 'Who,' maybe 'what' is he? Perhaps I read too much into the text. Maybe the case is that Mel simply comes without mention of his geneology and that it is a stretch to say that he has no birth or death.

However, I am inclined to think that the Rev. Melchisedec is a Christophanes, an appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament. The description sure fits. And if this is truly the Lord, cannot I also expect to be met by Him, blessed by Him and do I not need to pay up?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Everything Changes, But He Never Does!

And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:
That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
Heb 6:15-19

Lately, my morning routine of my perusal of e-mails, the morning news, a scan of the sports section and then down to business with my devotions once the house is quiet, has been bothered by an unnamed sense of dread.

Who knows? Maybe it’s just too much caffeine. But by the time I am into the Word, I have been getting jittery, nervous about the day, unsure of things.

Enter my solid Rock! Though everything about me is in a state of flux, the constant counsel of God is confirmed to me, an heir of His promises, in its immutability.

I am resting today on the precious promises of God's unchanging Word. That which has never failed me is as sure today as it ever was. No amount of coffee jitters or agenda changers can nullify the principles of His Book nor His love and faithfulness to His own.

His mercies are new to me every morning and they take on different manifestations, but the Author is steadfast and dependable.

And so, I rest in the palm of God's unchanging hand, knowing I am safe whatever befalls me. Pass the creamer, I could use a 3rd cup.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

God Knows!

Heb 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Heb 6:11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
Heb 6:12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

It is October, Pastor Appreciation Month. I have requested, from about 350 pastors on a minister's email discussion list, to know if any have been "appreciated" yet by their churches this month.

The responses have been varied and interesting. One had this to say:

“I do not want to appear to be bragging, but I feel I must say something in regard to this Pastor Appreciation Month issue. As I begin my 14th year here at First Baptist I can honestly say to you my folks do a tremendous job of making both my wife and I feel so appreciated all the time. They do not need a special calendar day to appreciate their pastor.

In January of this year they gave me a 30 day sabbatical and when we returned home there were a large number of cards waiting for us in our mail, all with the message of how much they missed us and well over $1500 in cash in the cards.

Their love for us becomes overwhelming at times. Some of you men on the list know what I say is true because you have had the opportunity to minister to my folks. They are the most loving, kind, gracious and thoughtful people I know and ministering here for the past 13 years has been both a blessing and a privilege.”

There were quite a few pastors who responded by stating that nobody in their churches ever has a clue about PAM (Pastor Appreciation Month) and that the month comes and goes every year and they are left feeling broken-hearted.

Of course, it would be inappropriate for the pastor to broach the subject to his parishioners without sounding egotistic or self-serving. But on the other hand, I feel it is a real shame that the people of the churches would neglect the person who, at the expense of his own family and self interests, pours himself into their lives without any expectation of earthly thanks. Additionally, it is obvious that many church folks have no knowledge that such a thing as pastor appreciation is needed. Many others know, but simply forget. Life gets busy. Perhaps it will help pastors appreciate the emotions of the wives who’s anniversaries are neglected.

I asked a missionary, who has now been preaching for 60 years, what he thought about PAM, he said he never even heard of it! Great is his reward in heaven.

Indeed, the spiritual servant's attitude must be, "We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."

At heart, the servant knows that an even greater reward is being prepared even now up in glory. He awaits these long sought after words from the One Who is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love... "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many
things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord."

Whether you are a pastor or you serve God in some other endeavor, know that God knows, and that is most important.

In the song, Holy Shore, we have this thought expressed:



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Throw Away the Sippy Cup

Heb 5:11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
Heb 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
Heb 5:13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
Heb 5:14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Silly picture, isn't it? In fact, it is rediculous. But no more so than the sad infantile state of much of Christianity. Christianity has never been so shallow. I remember a couple of decades or so ago when pastors criticized the deeper life movement in favor of evangelism. Now, evangelism has waned, much to everyone's chagrin. And what we have left is a ton of people who have "said the prayer" yet have Moses at the helm of the ark.

I am embarrassed at the lack of basic Bible knowledge. I don't think it can be all the fault of the teachers, for they diligently dispense the pabulum and puree' week in, week out, year in, year out.

It seems rather that believers are content to be spoon fed for the rest of their church lives, refusing to dig out truth for themselves in the environment of their prayer and study closets.

The church body suffers greatly, because their services are dearly needed, yet they have no depth in themselves in order to teach others.

Appetite is the key. When one has tasted of the meat, they no longer are content with the milk.

It is time we throw away the sippy cups and get skillful in the use of the steak knife.

My believing friends, if these verses fit, please, wear them. Move on to being skillful in the Word, for this is where you need to be at this stage of your Christian life.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Minister's Call

We are on the cusp of Pastor Appreciation Month. Perhaps the following will give some perspective.

Heb 5:1 For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
Heb 5:2 Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
Heb 5:3 And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
Heb 5:4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

The priest had the duty of ministering on behalf of the people. In our age of grace, each believer becomes his own priest. However, some of the aspects carry over to a New Testament minister.

First, he is chosen by God out from amongst his peers just as the Holy Spirit said to the Antioch church, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." We must remember, natural gifts, talent, and personality give way to the providence of God. He chooses whom He will for His glory, the weaker and more unlikely the vessel, the greater the wonder of God's ability. See I Cor. 10 concerning this.

Second, the individual is ordained "for" men. That is, he is set apart for the service of others. Personal goals, ambitions, treasures and career are no longer a concern. The life of the minister is no longer his own, he serves totally at the behest of his Caller and Enabler.

Next, he busies himself in offering gifts and sacrifices for sins. Now that the sacrifice of Jesus has been offered once and for all, the minister's constant offering is outward. He takes the message of God's gift and sacrifice to a lost and dying world.

Additionally, the minister is called to have compassion on the ignorant, that is, on those who don't know. The lost are without knowledge of Christ's payment for them. Many of the saved are ignorant of even some of the basics. Therefore, it behooves the man of God to methodically and compassionately instruct those who, many times, oppose themselves because of their lack of knowledge.

Finally, through the strength of the Lord, he must overcome his own weakness. The salvation and subsequent calling of the New Testament minister do not exempt him from temptation and occasional indiscretion. The fact is that the preacher is himself also compassed with infirmity. Therefore, it stands to reason (vs 3) that he also falls under the "blood plan."

To conclude, the 4th verse reminds us that humility is a necessity. This honor, and it is a high honor, is not self-imposed, it comes only from God on high. The man of God does not choose ministry, but is chosen of God to minister on Heaven's behalf. This is not to say that he may not volunteer his life and be chosen for the task.

So pray for those who are called to minister on your behalf. Theirs is a high calling, though often lonely, sacrificial and without thanks. (Until that day when the Master says, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!)
And, a blessed pastor appreciation month to all of God’s true ministers.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Don't Leave My Carcass in the Wilderness.

Please read Hebrews 3.

The 3rd chapter of Hebrews tells the tale of two houses; the house of Moses and the Household of Faith. Moses' house is referring to the Jews under his charge who made a 2 week trip in 40 years, (none of the fault lies at Moses' feet). The Household of faith includes all who have trusted Jesus as Savior.

The first household is intended to serve as a stark reminder to the 2nd, "Stay on your game and believe!"

Following is the downfall of Moses' household:
1) They hardened their hearts
2) They provoked God
3) They tempted Him to destroy them. (8, 9)
4) They grieved Him by sinning in their hearts
5) They neglected to understand His ways. (10)

The result of their autocracy was to be barred from entering their promised land.

So we have a challenge laid down in this chapter by the author and the holy Spirit. In verses 12 and following, we are admonished to take heed to stick close to God. We are to lift one another up daily in the faith, to not be deceived by sin. We are to keep the faith and to keep our hearts tender.

This world is our wilderness, but God has a rest for us, not in the life to come, but here and now. That rest is a life of victory where no wilderness wanderings continue. And we only reach that shore by faith's decree.

Let's believe God! The land of promise has been spied out and it is everything we hope for. Let's believe the good report and enter in to that good land flowing with milk and honey rather than shrink in fear because we think the opposition is too great.

Don't harden you heart, don't disbelieve, don't provoke the Holy One, don't tempt and grieve Him. Believe and be blessed.

Lord, deliver my carcass to the Land of Promise and leave it not to perish in this wilderness. I believe, help thou my unbelief.