Sunday, October 31, 2010

Love .. Part Two

This is the second installment in a series on Love. The Bible is filled with stories and examples of love. The scriptures themselves have been called, “God’s love letter to man.” However, in today’s society, we hear less and less about love every day. Turn on any news channel or watch any networks news broadcast and you will see a world filled with hate, intolerance, and violence. Yet, thrust into the middle of that is the Body of Christ, the church. Jesus tells us that He sends us forth as sheep among the wolves. He admonishes us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. We are a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden. We are to be shining examples of God’s everlasting unchanging love. In this series of studies based on Paul’s description of love to the church at Corinth, we seek to understand the characteristics of a people governed, not by fear or hatred, but by love and assurance. John told us that we would be known by our love.

It has been quoted by many, and I don’t know who said it originally, that people will forget what you say to them and what you do for them, but they will never forget how you make them feel. It is the duty of every Child of God to make the lost feel loved.

This series is about Love, as a fundamental part of the Christian life. I fully realize that there are many more aspects of Christian living, and it is not my desire to de-emphasis their importance, however, love is an essential foundational part of the life of the believer.
The Word tells us that we will know a tree by the fruit it bears. We are not to be judges of men, but we are called to be fruit inspectors. In this, it is important to notice when the writer talks about the fruit of the Spirit, he first mentions love.

As stated in the first installment, there is in the Gospels, the story of Jesus at the fig tree. Jesus, returning to the city of Jerusalem; saw a fig tree in a public place slightly off the road. It was full of leaves and therefore, the expectation was that there would be also fruit. The characteristic of the fig tree is that it bears fruit prior to or at the same time as it bears leaves. Seeing the leaves made one assume there would be fruit as well. Upon inspection, there was no fruit on the tree. Jesus cursed the tree. He caused it to bear no more fruit forever. The tree then withered away.

When we profess to be a Christian (present leaves,) we are expected to have the fruit as well.

The purpose of this Bible Study is not to answer questions, only, but to cause us to ask them as well. It is to cause us to inspect our own fruit. We have the leaves, but do we have the fruit. We call ourselves Christians, but do we really have the goods? We have a Godly imperative not to judge others, but the same Word tells us to judge ourselves.
Simply stated, this study is about LOVE.

John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

We wrote about the long suffering aspect of the love we are to possess in part one. In this second part we will discuss the kindness of love.

· Is kind

Love does not react in anger. Love does not react in rage.

A polliwog is the wholly aquatic larval stage of the frog or toad. A polliwog will grow to become an adult frog or toad.

We readily recognize anger and rage. Do we, however, recognize the polliwog of rage and anger? Can we see the beginnings of these undesirable reactions?

Love is kind. It does not react in anger in its various stages. Anger begins quite simply as annoyance or irritation. Let me turn a phrase here to see if we can shine a clearer light on it. We have all heard the phrase, “that rubs me the wrong way.” We are saying, when we use this phrase, that it is something contrary to how we want or enjoy something to react with us. I am going to use this in a purely physical sense for a moment.

You buy a new pair of shoes which you like. The first time you wear them, you notice that are not as form fitting as your old shoes. There are places that the new shoes don’t fit precisely and therefore rub just a bit. They rub you in a place where you are not accustomed to being rubbed. At first, it is just an irritation. It is a minor annoyance. However, as time passes, that irritation becomes a blister. It has progressed from a minor bother to a moderate displeasure. That shoe has rubbed you the wrong way. Given time, the blister will open if the friction does not change. Then you will have an open sore. This can lead to an infection and even possibly life threatening episode. All of this is because something rubbed you the wrong way.

Most often, we recognize the first sign of tenderness and take action to prevent the rest of the series of events. Do we, however, recognize them when it comes to how our love or lack thereof reacts to a negative stimulus? The tenderness and blister are signs that something is not as it should be. Irritation and annoyance should be equally recognized as signs that something is not as it should be.

Love is kind. Love is like the mortar between the bricks in a brick wall. Sometimes that love holds us together and sometimes that love holds us apart. Love allows you to be different than me. Love allows that everything on you will not fit everything on me, but it is OK. Love allows the sinner, the antipathy of God’s holiness, to come to an altar and kneel before Him. If we, by our unkindness, stand in the way of a sinner’s path to God, how can we expect God to honor us or our desires? How can we claim to exhibit the love which God has, when we cannot love or show love to those whom He loves?

Love is kind. It does not build walls of words between us and others. Love builds bridges. Love spans the gap. Love prompts the sacrifice.

Love is the seed of kindness. If there is, therefore, no kindness, what is the seed buried in your heart?

When Joshua and the armies of the Lord went to do battle against the small city of AI, following the resounding defeat of Jericho, they were utterly defeated. They were set to flight. Joshua goes to his tent and enquires of God. He, sort of, tries to guilt God. He actually accuses God.

Joshua 7.6-9
“And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?”

He says, “Lord, what are we supposed to do now? Once this word gets out, other armies will set in array against us. What am I supposed to say now that Israel has turned their backs and ran?”

God spoke to Joshua and told him to get off of his face. He told him of Israel’s sin in not doing as commanded in Jericho. The command was to destroy it utterly. Yet, someone did not obey. Someone took something that was accursed and hid it amongst their stuff.

The subsequent search revealed that Achan had taken gold and silver and a goodly Babylonian garment and hid it in the heart of his tent. This thing, this accursed thing in the heart of a tent in the camp of the Israelites brought the mighty to a low place. Once it and the offender were removed, the power of God was restored to the armies of the Israelites.

What secret hatred have you hidden in your heart? What unkindness have you allowed to fester in your life? What prejudice is lurking and refusing to come to the submission of the love of God in your life? What seed is buried in your heart? What seed is choking the kindness of the love of God?

Love extends the hand of God’s mercy. We say, as the scripture says, that love is kind, but we could just as well say that love is kind in its mercy. The root of the word for kindness means to provide what is necessary. When you, a sinner, first approached the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Hallelujah,) what was needful? What did you need to stand in the presence of God Almighty? Mercy, held in His kindness, provided by His love made you able to stand in His presence.

This same kindness is what we are to exhibit if men are to know that we are His disciples.
There is a word that has come to express something totally different that it should. We shudder at the use of the word because of the connotations now commonly associated with it. That word is ‘tolerance.’ Certain groups today had tried (with some success) to make the word mean acceptance. I can tolerate your sinful nature without accepting it. Kindness allows me to be tolerant without being accepting. Tolerance is accepting that every (whosoever) individual (will) has the right to live life as they choose, without condoning that choice as the right choice.

If you choose to live life as a sinner, I accept that it is your choice and your right to choose, but I do not accept that it is the right thing to do.

Love does not build a wall of intolerance between us and then wonder why I cannot reach you with the doctrine of salvation. I may repeat this several times within this Bible study, but love builds bridges, not walls.

There is a story "Old Joe and the Carpenter." It is considered a signature story of Pleasant DeSpain's.

Once, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding, grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.

One morning there was a knock on John's door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox. "I'm looking for a few days work," he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?" "Yes," said John, "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my neighbor. In fact, it's my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I'll go him one better. See that pile of lumber curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence -- an 8-foot fence -- so I won't need to see his place anymore. That should cool him down, anyhow."

The carpenter said, "I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I'll be able to do a job that pleases you." Now John, the older brother, had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer's eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge-a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! It was a fine piece of work, handrails and all.

John looked up and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched. "You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I've said and done." The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other's hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. "No, wait! Stay a few days. I've a lot of other projects for you," said John. "I'd love to stay on," the carpenter said, "but, I have many more bridges to build.

Love is kind. Love builds bridges.

There was a time that we called Baseball the American Pastime. America has a new pastime these days. It is easy to see, especially now, in the waning days before the election. The new American Pastime is Bashing. We bash people everywhere. There are no special skills needed to do it, either. You don’t even need intelligence. All you need is an opinion, informed or otherwise, and a bully pulpit. It is all over the airwaves. It is in every media. Politicians have perfected the art of bashing opponents. Every detail, regardless of how innocuous, is fodder for the basher.

Everyone slams someone. No one is safe from the unexpected onslaught of the basher. Everyone is a victim and everyone is a perpetrator.

We laugh at the hilarity of what goes by the nom-de-plum ‘professional wrestling.’ These athletes get in the ring and get into each other’s faces and hurl their epithets with reckless abandon. The objects of their ‘bashing’ stand and take it until it is their turn with the microphone in their hand and the camera on their face. They go back and forth, seeming at the straining edge of coming to blows. However, there is a method to their madness. They are provoking, not each other, but the audience with such fervor that they dare not miss the conclusion in the ring. As a somewhat intelligent thinking adult, I laugh at this marketing technique. I laugh at the humor of it. I laugh at the genius of it. I laugh at the control it has on some or most of its audience. More than that, however, I cringe at the faces in the crowd, as our children learn this behavior.

Now, it would be simple enough to explain to a child that this is not real. This is an act. These are athletic actors. This is merely for the sake of entertainment. As usual though, there is an ‘however’.

We are in the heat of the political election season. The men and women we will chose to make laws that govern us are vying for our vote. We are in the throes of bashing season. Each proponent of the election systems seeks for and finds the worst of their opponent. They find them at their lowest and worst moments and broadcast it with a smug superiority.

If we, Christians, are not careful, we are drawn into the bashing. We will find ourselves touting the banter of our political favorite without regard to the truth it holds or doesn’t hold. Have we lied if we are merely repeating the slanted truth told by our party favorite? Have we promoted the weaponry of the enemy when we forward the emails sent to us without even trying to verify their authenticity or honesty? Because of the endless bashing, we are no longer left with choosing the better of two good opponents. We are left with the choice of the lesser of two evils.

Luke 9:52-55
52. And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.
53. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
54. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
55. But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.

James and John, two disciples of Jesus, stepped outside the message of love and were rebuked by Jesus. What are we doing when we get caught up in the politics of corruption and hurl volleys of hatred and lies? What spirit are we manifesting? Of what origin are our words?

Let me enlighten you about the wall that hatred builds. The darts and arrows of the enemies of our lives cannot get through, this is true. However, the poison of hated cannot get out. It taints everything within the walls. Hatred paints over the windows so no light comes in. Darkness prevails inside the walls of hatred. This is not the work of the Spirit of God. This is the machination of the enemy.

Another study I am working on involves a parable in Matthew. It is the parable of the wheat and tares. After Jesus has told the parable to the crowd and they have dispersed, his followers ask Him the meaning of the parable. I will save that for that study, but one of the things he clarified was who the enemy was that had sown the bastard wheat in the field. He said, “The enemy is Satan.” It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Nothing Satan does, regardless of how it appears, is for your benefit. Let me make a simple comparison. Let’s say that you had to be at the airport for a flight to a paradise vacation. On the way, a friend stops you and insists that he treat you to an expensive meal. Then, he prolongs and prolongs the meal until you miss your flight. The meal was fantastic. However, was he being a friend in treating you to this wonderful expensive meal at the expense of your flight to paradise?

Regardless of how benevolent or generous the offer of Satan seems, it is wise to remember that he is your enemy. His pleasures last only a season. If you miss your flight to paradise, you have gained little and lost all. Satan is your enemy.

His spirit is the spirit of unkindness. His is the spirit of bashing. His is the spirit of hatred and intolerance.

God’s Spirit is the origin of kindness.

Love is kind.

Next: Love does not envy.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Love .. Part One

I started working on this study some weeks ago. It was going to be a simple study on a familiar passage of scripture. As I began working on it, it began to grow. I try to keep my posted Bible Studies in the 3000 word range. This one quickly approached that and at last count, while it is still unfinished, it contains over 10,000 words. I became obvious that it was going to have to be split into a series of Bible Studies. The problem with that was, because it was going to be a series, I concentrated less on it and more on smaller studies. I was talking via Skype to my nephew in Italy, and the conversation came to this Bible Study, which he and I had discussed previously. I told him that I was going to have to start posting the series to give myself more motivation to finish the rest of the study.

That being said, this is the first installment of this series.

This series is about Love, as a fundamental part of the Christian life. I fully realize that there are many more aspects of Christian living, and it is not my desire to de-emphasis their importance, however, love is a essential foundational part of the life of the believer.

The Word tells us that we will know a tree by the fruit it bears. We are not to be judges of men, but we are called to be fruit inspectors. In this, it is important to notice when the writer talks about the fruit of the Spirit, he first mentions love. Paul continues the list with joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. The first three speak to our character as an inward state, the second three speak of character in expression to man, and the third three speak of character in expression toward God. While there is initial and immediate evidence of the new birth, there is continuing sustainable evidence as well. This evidence is in the fruit.

In the Gospels, the Scripture records the story of Jesus at the fig tree. The story goes that Jesus, returning to the city of Jerusalem; saw a fig tree in a public place slightly off the road. It was full of leaves and therefore, the expectation was that there would be also fruit. The characteristic of the fig tree is that it bears fruit prior to or at the same time as it bears leaves. Seeing the leaves made one assume there would be fruit as well. Upon inspection, there was no fruit on the tree. Jesus cursed the tree. He caused it to bear no more fruit forever. The tree then withered away.

When we profess to be a Christian (present leaves,) we are expected to have the fruit as well.

The purpose of this Bible Study is not to answer questions, only, but to cause us to ask them as well. It is to cause us to inspect our own fruit. We have the leaves, but do we have the fruit. We call ourselves Christians, but do we really have the goods? We have a Godly imperative not to judge others, but the same Word tells us to judge ourselves.

Simply stated, this study is about LOVE.

John 13:34-35A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Jesus is telling the early church that things are going to be different than before. There is a new standard by which they are to conduct themselves. There is a new way of dealing with those within and those without. He says that we are to love with the same manner of love that He had. How does our method of love compare to the way God loved all those around Him?

While He walked on the earth, how did He treat those around him?

I see and hear WWJD all over the place. I sometimes ask myself if all of those that display the “What Would Jesus Do” in stickers and bracelets, really know what Jesus would do, or are exhibiting what Jesus would do.

Part of the problem is that, we, the members of the church, sometimes, are not showing forth the love of God properly. How do we treat our brothers of like faith? How are we treating those living around us? How are we treating those that are afar off?

Now, you may ask, how should I be treating those of like faith and those not of like faith?

Good question.

What does the Word tell us in regard to how we treat others, in the faith or not?

Jesus tells us that we are to love one another as He loves us.

We must ask ourselves, what does love do or not do?

The Word tells us about love. It is imperative that we know what the Word says about love. We learn about love as we grow by the love shown around us. Most prejudices can be traced to how we were taught to love as a child. We tend to mirror the love we knew. While this is not always the case, it is more often than not true.

I want to look at 1st Corinthians 13.4-8 for this study.

Most often, these scriptures are read, paraphrased, or quoted at weddings. However, what it says about love is true outside the wedding ceremony as well. These words were not Paul’s letter to a couple about to be married, but rather his letter to the church. Paul, through the unction of the Holy Ghost, was telling us, the body of Christ, how we were to love. If we are to be like Christ, then we must show evidence of this kind of love. We have a justice system requiring a ‘prima facie’ case. This is from the Latin for ‘at first face’. In most legal proceedings, one party has a burden of proof, which requires it to present prima facie evidence for all of the essential facts in its case. If they cannot, its claim may be dismissed without any need for a response by other parties.

I have heard it stated thusly, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? However, the prima facie evidence of our Christianity lies in our expression of God’s love within us. When the love of God echoes through us, then the world will know we are His children. John 13.35 says they will know us “if ye have (echo) love, one to another.” It is this echoing of love that Paul talks about when he tells the church at Corinth how their love is to appear, and what characteristics their love must possess. We must understand this love. It is the measure by which we will be judged by those around us.

It is to this end that this Bible Study is aimed; that we may know the love we must possess and they we may recognize when secularism comes into play in our expression of love.

· Suffers long

Proverbs tells us that hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins. This is not just the love a man has for his wife and vice versa. This goes far beyond the vows between a man and a woman. We may be able to understand it looking at it in the constraints of a marriage, but the principle cannot be contained therein. We can readily see that in a marriage, there are going to be differences. There are going to be differing opinions. A marriage consists of two people coming from two different directions, with two separate ways of doing things, and two diverse ways of thinking about things, being tossed in a locked room and being told to make it work. If there is hatred there, it will stir up every manner of strife imaginable. Both sides will drag the entire lineage of the other into the fray. Friend, get a woman to hate you and she will talk about your sainted grandmother like she was a demon straight from the depths of the pit. Ladies, get a man to hate you and your father, that champion of provision in your life, will be the most shiftless slew-footed derelict that ever walked.

On the other hand, let love reign and all those things, whether they are truth or not, will be covered in that love.

Love suffers long. A husband that loves his wife will give her time to come around to the right way of thinking. A wife that loves her husband will give him time to get all those foolish notions out of his head.

Love suffers long. We will not be so quick to judge and accuse when our heart is ruled by love. A woman taken in the very act of adultery was brought to Jesus. There was no question of her guilt. There was no reasonable doubt. There was no room for variance or circumstance. She was caught. The law on the matter was clear. The punishment was obvious. Those that brought her had already chosen the stones they were going to throw. In my mind, I could see them, turning the stones in their hands as they awaited Jesus to speak.

Jesus was God, manifested in the flesh. This sin was an abomination to God. The un-holiness of this act was in direct conflict with the holiness of God. Logically, the answer was obvious. However, there was something working that the throng did not expect. For, while Jesus embodied the holiness of God, He also embodied the love of God. Without losing a speck of holiness, God spoke out in love.

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

He returned to stooping and writing on the ground. The throng, the gathered angry righteous crowd was stunned into inaction. There is much supposition as to what Jesus was writing in the sand, if He were writing anything in particular at all. The writer recording this encounter did not record anything concerning the scribbling of Jesus. However, what Jesus said was enough. The stones chosen for throwing were dropped on the ground. From the oldest to the youngest, the crowd dispersed, until only Jesus and the woman remained. “Woman, where are your accusers? Is there no one who condemned you?” “No man, Lord.” “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

His love did not excuse her sin. His love did not deny that it happened. His love suffered the assault to His holiness. His love corrected the sin. (Go and sin no more.)

Think for a moment about your child. Suppose they did something wrong. How would you react to those around you wanting to kill them over the wrongful action? How would you react to someone wanting to hurt someone you love, even if the hurt was a justifiable action?

Now, how would you react if they were just calling them hurtful names? How would you react if they used hateful speech against them, using inflammatory epithets to extol their point and capitalize on crowd reaction?

Would you say the accuser is exhibiting the love that God says we are to have?

How do you think God reacts when we, the claimants of His grace, hurl hurtful epithets at sinners, whom he loves?

That day, with the woman taken in the act, the crowd unwittingly brought her to the one against whom she had sinned. They were spurred by a hypocritical righteous indignation. The woman had not sinned against them. They were not without sin and therefore not in any position to adjudicate guilt or pass sentence. Her act offended their sensibilities. They were affronted by her brazenness. It was not the act of adultery that riled them, but the act of being caught. They were indignant because of the openness of her sin. We react to the openness of some sins while the hidden sins of a hating heart are ignored if they do not flaunt themselves.

This crowd, wrong in motive, wrong in action, wrong in desire, came to the only righteous one. Standing before the only one with any right to examine, judge, or punish, this woman found a long suffering love. This woman came in contact with the only thing that will change the sinner’s heart. She came to a long suffering love. Love .. suffers long.

This is the love that we must possess or that we must allow to possess us. We must allow the agape love of God to replace the phileo love of man. One of the primary differences in the two loves is in the distance each will travel. The phileo love of man will go so far. It will travel to a point. We can site great examples of man’s love for man. There is a limit to have far man’s love will go.

The love of God will travel far greater distances. The Word tells us this much and more. In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul states, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

How many of us could state without a doubt that there is someone we know that would be willing to die for us? How many of us have friends that we would give our live to defend? We like to think that we would give our lives in any effort to save our children, but until we get to that exact moment, we can never be sure, beyond any doubt. I am not seeking to slap around your conviction about your love, but we won’t know. Until the moment of decision, how we will act. I would like to think that I would be able, in that hour, should it come to it, to have the grace to give myself for my children.

This goes beyond that. Paul said that God gave Himself while we were still enemies to the cross. Our sins made us enemies to the cross, and while we were going to be born in our sinful state, Christ loved us, and gave Himself for us.

Like the woman taken in adultery, we were sinners without a cause of redemption. We were not at the point of seeking help. We were taken in our sins. We were, in time, going to be brought to the judgment of God. (Judgment begins at the House of God.) We were going to be defenseless. We were going to be without a sacrifice for sin, until His love for his creation reached across time and space and He robed Himself in flesh and suffered at the hands of His creation. The long suffering love held His hands to the cross. That love reaches across eternity. That love resides is us if we are His child. That love must echo through us.

Love suffers long.

Next week: Love is kind ...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Missing that which is needful on the way to do that which was necessary

John 4.8
(for his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)

Here is a great story of the universal reach of Jesus Christ. As He and His disciples traversed the road from Judea to Galilee, they had to pass by the city of Samaria. there was great emnity between the Jews and the Samaritans. The animosity was such that if a Jew brushed against a Samaritan, he would immediately go wash himself. Here, in this atmosphere, at this time, Jesus decides to wait at the well while his disciples go into the city to buy meat.

Here he encounters a Samaritan woman. He asks her to provide Him with water. There are several things to consider.

The woman came to the well at a time when it was not populated. Most water gathers came in groups for safety and comfort. Solitary travelers were open prey. This woman was more uncomfortable with walking with the women of the city than taking chances with theives and mauraders. She was a 'town harlot'. Her own words convicted her when Jesus asked of her husband. "I have no husband," she replied. "Thou has well said, I have no husband," He replied, "for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband."

The woman talked with Jesus and then went to town to bring all the men. She said, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? His disciples had returned and tried to persuade Jesus to eat some meat. He told them he had meat that they did not understand. The men of the city came and Jesus stayed there and taught for two days.

The second thing to consider was along these lines: His disciples were on the road toward town to purchase meat. The woman was on the same road from the city to the well. At some point they would have passed. The disciples, followers of Jesus, possessors and carriers of his words, and the woman, with a need. They, the disciples, on their way to do that which was necessary passed that which was needful.

I wonder how many times, we, in our hurry and haste, to do all the things in a day that are necessary, pass by the things that are needful. In our haste to do the good things, to pay the bills (necessary,) to feed the family (necessary,) and to raise our children (necessary,) do we sometimes pass by the things which belong to God (needful.)

In Ezekiel 42.20, the writer talked about the wall around the sanctuary. He gave dimensions and a purpose. The wall was "to make a seperation between the sanctuary and the profane place."

What is being said is that God wanted a place to keep the Holy things and a seperate place to keep the common things. Call it a broom closet. God knew there were tools and equipment that was necessary for the upkeep of the sanctuary, but did not want that stored in the same place where the instruments of worship and sacrifice were kept. There was meat used to make sacrifice and meat used to feed the priests and temple workers and God wanted that seperated. Several times later in the scriptures, God, through his prophets admonished the Children of Israel for not keeping these things seperate. He admonished his followers for mixing the common with the sacred.

We have to learn to seperate the needful from the necessary.

In Luke 10, Jesus is coming to dinner at the home of Martha and Mary. Martha is busy preparing and serving. It is her duty as a woman of that time. In that day, the woman had the responsibility of the household. It was her duty to keep it neat and cleaned. It was her duty to gather the water and provisions for the daily meals. It was her duty to train and educate the children. It was her duty to serve the needs of household members and guests. All the while she was doing this, she had no rights or authority. Such was the life of the woman in the days of Jesus. In his approach and respect of women, Jesus brushed against another tradition of the old. However, since this is not a discussion of the equality of women, we will leave this except to sat that Martha was doing the things that were necessary in her household.

She was busy about the house making sure all the needs of the guests were met. Her sister, Mary, sat at the feet of Jesus as He discussed and taught the men gathered there. Eventually Martha could hold her tongue no longer. She spoke to Jesus, an obviously learned man in the scriptures and traditions of the day. She asked if it was right that Mary was not cojoined with her in doing the necessary, the duty, the work of the house. Expecting that Jesus would correct Mary for her grevious error, she was, no doubt, surprised by his response.

"Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

Jesus did not admonish Mary, rather He praised her for choosing the needful thing over the necessary. He did not denigrate Martha, nor say that what she was doing was unnecessary, however, Mary had choosen the needful.

Yes, the electric bill must be paid, the mortgage must be met, the family must be fed, and all of the other host of things that make our days and our lives must still be accomplished. Yet, there is a needful thing in our lives. Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these (other) things will be added to us.

We must make time to pray. We must take time to fast. We must not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. We must worship and praise. We must witness. We must study to show ourselves improved. We must meditate in the Word of God. These are the needful things. These are the things which will carry us to the next life.

These are not our works. These are not our efforts at obtaining salvation. These are the needful things to maintaining our spirit and communication with God.

Can a person never step foot inside a church and still be saved? Yes. There are conditions and circumstances that may make church attendance as we accept it impossible. I cannot tell you that a person will be lost if they never attend church. (Remember .. A truth is a truth is a truth. If it is a truth, it will be true in all cases.) A man, bed-ridden with illness, repents, is baptized, and recieves the Holy Ghost. He never attends a service before he dies. Can you tell me that he will not be saved? No. Therefore, it is not possible to say that one must attend service to be saved.

Is it needful to maintain a relationship with God? I think so. In as much as it is possible in every case, a person needs to assemble with like believers, to build up their holy faith, to encourage their walk, the encourage the walk of others, to receive the Word of God from an annointed servant, and to fellowship in God's house.

Is prayer needful?
Is fasting needful?
Is worship and praise needful?
Is witnessing needful?
Is study of God's Words needful?

To say one cannot be saved without doing them takes away every possibility for anything different and we cannot do that. Someone will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost just before Jesus comes back to take his Bride home.

This is for those walking in faith today. There are necessary things in this world to be done. You will not escape them. There is a place for them. Then, there is a place for the needful things. There is a place for the Godly things. There is a place for the sacred things.

Do not carry the sacred things in your life into the place of the coomon things. Do not carry the common things in your life into the place of the sacred things. The shofar, used to announce spiritual events, was not stored with other instruments of music. Neither must we consider our conversations about God as our common conversations about UK basketball or the weather, or any other like. Our prayers must occupy a sacred place in our lives.

We must be mindful of the needed things in our lives, lest we miss that which is needed on the way to do that which is necessary.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Have You Been To Job's House

Job 27.1-4
1. Moreover Job continued his parable, and said,
2. As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment: and the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul:
3. All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils:
4. My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit.

Have You Been To Job's House?

I do not want to give the impression that serving God brings sorrow. Although the devil would have you believe that, it is just not true. Ask anyone, saint or sinner, if there is sorrow in their lives and the answer will be yes. That comes from being human. Every one of us will, in this life, experience times of pain and sorrow. We will all have times of turmoil and times of great personal crisis. There will be times when we will all think we are alone and abandoned. On the cross, carrying the weight of every sin, even Jesus felt that aloneness and cried out, “hast thou forsaken me?” There will be times in our service to Christ that we will serve with sorrow. You will. I will. They will.

We are hesitant to speak of those times because:
• We do not want to burden others. We are filled with courtesy and consideration.
• We feel that the wrong might be in us. It is in these time we feel most alone and fear the judgment of others.

If the truth be known, every one of us has wrestled with some great and personal problems in our lives. Problems:
• We do not understand
• We do not know from whence they came
• We do not know how long they will last
• We do not know if we will make it through them
While we are in the midst of them, here comes Satan, whispering, “Give up.”

Job was a great and righteous man. He was the greatest (wealthiest) of all the men in the land of the east. He was upright, feared God, and shunned evil. He offered offerings for himself and his children, in the event that they may have sinned or cursed God in their hearts. He had seven sons and three daughters. His wealth was as such:
• Seven thousand sheep
• Three thousand camels
• Five hundred yoke of oxen
• Five hundred she asses
• A great household
He was:
• Stripped of earthly possessions and prosperity
• Deprived of property
• His children destroyed
• Inflicted with a most loathsome, painful, and terrible disease, from which there was, humanly speaking, no hope of recovery
• Three friends came from considerable distance to console him and, if possible, comfort him. After one burst of irrepressible grief, they sat with him on the ground for seven days and nights without addressing him a word.
• When the speaking resumes, they accuse him of some great sin of which he has not repented and for which God is punishing him.

Have you ever been to Job’s house?

Let us backtrack here.

Job was going along doing fine. Everything was great. Every day was sunshine. Life was good. His family was healthy. His businesses were prospering. His flocks and herds were increasing. Unbeknownst to Job, there was a meeting taking place in heaven, of which, he would become the chief subject.

“Have you considered my servant Job?”
Wait, wait, wait ..

Satan, the accuser of the brethren, the liar and murderer from the beginning, has just told God that he was walking up and down the face of the earth and going to and fro, like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour, and God says, “Have you considered my servant Job?”

Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.

Here, we see one fundamental difference in the thinking of Satan, or in the presentation of facts and how they can be made to say something untrue. He is seeking to confuse results with reasons. Satan implies that the reason Job serves God is because He has a hedge around him. Satan pointed to the hedge as the reason, while in truth, the hedge was the result. Job did not serve God because of the hedge. The hedge was there because Job served God. The hedge was:
• About him and his family
• About all that he had on every side

This may seem like mere semantics, but it is an important distinction. The Bible states that we will be blessed in putting God first. Matthew says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” When we put God first, the blessings spill into everything else that we do. However, in 1st Timothy, He tells us that we to turn away from those that would preach godliness as gain. We must not error in the understanding of reason and results.

And the Lord said unto Satan, behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.”

In the days that followed, a servant came to Job with news. The oxen were plowing with the she asses beside them and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them all. They slew all the servants and I alone escaped to tell you.

While he was still talking, another servant arrived and told him of a fire from heaven that fell and consumed all his sheep and the servants, save himself, that escaped to tell him the news.
While this servant was still talking, another servant arrived with news of the Chaldeans taking all of his camels and slaying all the servants, save him, that escaped to deliver the news.
While the third servant was finishing his woeful tale, another servant arrived with the news of his children. They had gathered in the house of the eldest son. While they were eating and drinking, a wind smote the four corners of the house and it fell on them. They are all dead, save me, who escaped to tell you.

What a powerful illustration of the way the devil cares for what is placed into his hands. In God’s care, the flocks and herds increased. The children prospered. In Satan’s hands, they were taken and destroyed. Can there be any clearer message as to the intents or objectives of God and Satan.

In a matter of moments, everything that defined Job in this world was gone. We look at people and judge them by their appearance and possessions. We look at their clothes and the way they carry themselves, and determine in our minds, the manner of person they are, and their station in life. We deal with people how we perceive them. Generally, we deal with people, as we perceive them to be worthy of dealing, by their appearance and possession. It is a sad commentary on our society in the way we deal with the poorest in our community.

In one afternoon, Job went from being a prosperous family man to being a poor lonely man. He rose. He tore his garment. (Satan anticipating.) He shaved his head. (Satan is beginning to glee.) He fell to the ground. (Satan is barely able to contain his excitement.) He worships. (The end of Satan’s party.)

There are times we can more readily accept pain from sinners or the world, as it is what we expect. Then, there are times when we completely do not understand, nor can we accept the pain and sorrow. We are overwhelmed. There are times when we, out of utter exasperation, fall to our knees and throw up our hands. There are times that things come upon us and we become angry, angry at the world, angry at the person responsible, angry at ourselves, and if we are not careful, angry at God.

It was to be expected that the Sabeans and the Chaldeans would attack and take his flocks and herds. They were the enemies. However, where would Job look to explain the fire from heaven, or the mighty wind that took his most prized charge? In his lament, in his worship, Job acknowledged that these might have come from God when he cried, “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.

Have you been to Job’s house?

Again, unbeknownst to Job, a meeting takes place in heaven, of which again, he is the chief subject. Satan, again, coming from walking to and fro in the earth, and God, again, says, “What about my servant Job?”“Skin for skin, all that a man hath will he give for his life.”

Job is afflicted. His body is wracked with disease. He was afflicted with boils over his entire body. He sat in ashes and scraped his sores with a broken piece of pottery. His faith abandoned by his wife and friends. His wife comes to him saying, “Why do you keep your integrity? Curse God and die.” His friends come and accuse him of some unknown sin for which he is suffering.

Have you ever been to Job’s house? Have you ever been there?

Have you ever felt abandoned?
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there;

Have you ever felt you faced your trials alone?
and backward, but I cannot perceive him:

Have you ever felt misunderstood and misaligned?
On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him:

Have you ever stood in a trying time and wondered where all your friends had disappeared to?
he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him:

Have you ever been to Job’s house?

We are all going to face dire circumstances in our lives. The stories of tragedy will not always be the neighbor’s stories. These are not the products of serving God. These are the products of being human.

Over the course of 2007, I attended the funerals of six family members and my next door neighbor. We saw the passing of my father, Tammy’s father, my grandmother, Tammy’s grandmother, my great aunt, Tammy’s children’s father, and our next door neighbor. It will not always be someone else.

In all of this, Job did not sin nor curse God foolishly.

Job 23.1-10
1. Then Job answered and said,
2. Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.
3. Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!
4. I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.
5. I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.
6. Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me.
7. There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge.
8. Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him:
9. On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him:
10. But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

What a powerful statement. If I could find Him, Job says, if I could but plead my case, if I could but come before his judgment seat, then I would know the words He has against me. He would fill me with his power. I know, Job says, I know I have done no wrong. I do not fear to stand in his judgment. I have looked for him and cannot find him. I draw solace in this fact, that while I may not know where he abides, He knows where I am. When this trial is over I will be as gold.

Have you been to Job’s house?

God knows where you are sitting. He knows where you are kneeling.
In sorrow, He knows
In pain, He knows
In suffering, He knows
In turmoil, He knows
We have his promise that we will not be overwhelmed. We may be in the water but we will not be swept away.

If I must serve him in sorrow, I must serve him.

Have you faced pain this week? Have you suffered a trial? Has Satan whispered to you to ‘give up’? Have you been disappointed by friends or family? Have you been to Job’s house?

It is alright if your troubles send you to your knees. Find God there.

In the end, Jobs blessings were doubled. His oxen were doubled. His sheep doubled. His camels doubled. His she asses were doubled. There was born to him, seven sons and three daughters after his trial.

Monday, October 4, 2010

This is not your promise

Genesis 17.20-21
20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.

“This is not your promise”

He is seventy-five years old when God tells him to leave his homeland and to go to a place where “I will shew thee.” Now, I fully realize that in those days, seventy-five was not looked on like seventy-five is today, but he was still a man in his old age. He was one hundred seventy-five years old when he died. He is considered the patriarch of the Israelites, the Ishmaelites, and the Edomites.

At seventy-five, he does strike out with nothing more than a promise from God. He finds a promised land and is the founding father of the nation of Israel. He receives a second promise from God in that He would make him a great nation. Genesis 12:2-3 tells us “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

This was the promise of God. The Word tells us that God is not slack concerning His promises as some men count slackness. (2 Peter 3.9) He will perform every good work He begins in us. (Philippians 1.6) the word ‘perform’ here is ‘epiteleo’ which means to ‘fulfill completely’.

If God makes the promise, it will come to pass.

Sarah, Abraham’s wife, bore him no children. In order for there to be a nation there had to be an heir. To this end, Abraham and Sarah take matters into hand and Sarah gives her handmaiden, Hagar, to Abraham, to bare him a child. As soon as Hagar conceives, Sarah despises her. She deals hardly with her. Hagar flees into the desert. The angel of the Lord finds her at a fountain in the way of Shur. He entreats her to return to Abraham and Sarah. He tells her that she has a son inside her. He will be the father of a nation. She will call him, Ishmael, which means, “God will hear” because the Lord had heard her cries.

Thirteen years later, Abraham is ninety-nine years old, and the angels of the Lord come to him to tell him that he will conceive a child with Sarah. They tell him that in one year’s time Sarah will give him a son. This is a marvelous story about God and His promises.

The angels continue after giving Abraham instructions concerning his forth coming son, Isaac. They tell him that Ismael will flourish and conceive twelve princes. He will be the father of a great nation. “BUT my covenant will I establish with Isaac.”

“Abraham, this is not your promise.”

Ishmael is the son (product) of your human effort. Abraham, your promise will not come by your reasoning or your efforts. Your promise will come from God.

Spiritual blessings come from God.

With the proliferation of ‘prosperity ministries’ it is easy to become confused and gage our spiritual level by outside indicators. These ‘prosperity ministries’ preach serving God as a means of monetary gain. They talk about seed money’s.

The anthem of such ministries is that God wants us to prosper. God wants us to be rich. If we are not prospering, if we are not rich, then we must be missing the boat spiritually.

“If God isn’t prospering your wallet, then maybe you need to send some ‘seed money’.

This is not your promise.

In the book of 1 Timothy 6.5, Paul tells us that anyone supposing Godliness is a means of gain is destitute of the truth. The word Paul uses for ‘destitute’ is ‘apostereo’ which means to ‘keep back by fraud’. Paul is telling Timothy, in his letter, that those that preach godliness as a method of gain are holding back the truth by this fraud.

Here is a doubled edged sword, so to speak. It is God’s will that we prosper. John wrote in his third epistle, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” John uses ‘euodoo’ when he talks about prospering. This means to have ‘help on the road’. He is not saying that we will enjoy riches in this life. He is saying that it is God’s will that we have what we require here to make it to the next world. As the matter of fact, John goes as far as to say that we should have the help we need as our soul prospers. Jesus spoke in the book of Matthew that we are to “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

After listing many of the basic needs that seem to capture our time, Jesus further states that we are to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” He did not say that we would be rich.

Let me emphatically state: I am not telling you that a rich person cannot be saved or that a poor person has any advantage in the salvation category.

I am aware that the Bible tells us that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Looking at that scripture and applying it narrowly to our general knowledge today, it would appear to state that a rich man cannot be saved. However, upon deeper study, we find a startling fact.

In Jesus’ day, cities were protected by great walls. The strength of the wall was only as strong as the gate. Therefore the gates were fortified. When the night would fall, the gates were closed and protected. Any movement into or out of the city was by a much smaller gate to the side of the main gate. This smaller gate was called the ‘eye of the needle’. It was sized so that a camel could still go through it, but only if it were carrying nothing. In order for the camel to go through the eye of the needle, it had to be stripped of everything it was carrying. In this, no one could come or go with anything to cause harm to the city.

The rich ruler that came to Jesus seeking the way into heaven learned he had to give all he had to the poor and take up his cross and follow Jesus. It is not a sin to have. I have heard it wrongly stated many times that money is the root of all evil. Money is not the root. Love of money is the root of all evil. Solomon says that the man who loves money will never have enough. It is not what we have that is wrong; it is what we have between ourselves and God.

This is not our promise.

There was a certain rich man that had good grounds that brought forth plentiful. The story tells of no crime in this. There was no finesse charged. There were no claims of embezzlement. No one was charging theft in this story. There were no mentions of ill means of gain. It was simply the mixture of good ground, good seed, good farming technique, and a good harvest. Up to this time, the certain rich man was charged with no wrong.

What will I do? He asks. I know, I will tear down my barns, and I will build greater barns and there I will bestow my fruits and goods. Then, I will say, “Soul, take ease. Eat, drink and be merry.”

Thou fool, this is not your rest.

This is not your promise.

This is not the barometer of your spirituality.

This is not the fuel gauge of the Spirit filling.

The Word says that this is not of works. It is not of self. The promise was made on spiritual conditions. It is not determined by qualities of natural disposition.

Some will tell you that it is all in the dance and the shout. It is all spirit expression and little substance. They will tell you if you cannot shout the victory, then you must have ventured away from God.

I agree that we should never be far from our victory shout, but there are times all of us will walk through a dry valley.

The shout and the dance; this is not our promise.

“This” is not in the dance. It is not in the shout. It is not even in the tongues.

2nd Peter 2 tells us of those that speak just for speaking sake. They talk loudly, making great boasts, using swelling words. They talk about liberty. However, they were the bondservants of corruption. They were like wells without water. They used high sounding phrases to cover an evil life. They are like clouds that promise rain and then are driven away by strong winds, leaving the fields dry and parched.

This is not your promise.

There are cultists that try to convince us that it is in their dogged determination to a cause, however misguided, that will take them to heaven.

Our promise will not come by the efforts of human hands. Our promise will also not be taken away by the efforts of human hands.

Abraham and Sarah rushed the promise.

The promise will come in its time. It will never be early. It will never be late. There is a time for the promise. There is a place for the promise. All of our efforts will not rush the promise or cause it to be fulfilled early.

This is not the time.

This is not the place.

We have not yet arrived. We have not yet made it. We do not need to sit in our rocker with our feet up and say, “Soul, be at ease.”

The fringes of the promise are never to be mistaken for the promise itself. We cannot afford to be at rest in our spiritual lives. We do not need to rest in the stories of yesterday or yesteryear.

Our stories of healings need to be today stories. Our stories of deliverance need to be today stories. The blessing needs to come today. The shout needs to be heard today. The dance needs to happen today. The world needs us today.

There was a time that the disciples came rejoicing because the devils were subject to them. Jesus tells them, in Luke 10.20, “Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” What is He telling the disciples here?

This is not your promise.

The promise comes from God. He is the author and finisher of our faith. Mankind was devoid of hope, devoid of any means of bringing salvation. Within our hands were no means to save us.

We were without; without God, without hope, without salvation, without deliverance. We had nothing until God made a promise unto all men.

God did not promise that I would be wealthy. He even said I might labor in poverty and obscurity. He did not say that I would always be shouting and dancing, but he did promise that I could make it out of this world amassed with confusion.

Out of the jumble of voices today, there rings a voice of clarity. There is a voice dripping of promise.

This is my promise.

There is rest that is promised

There is a way that is promised.

There is a refreshing that is promised.

“Abraham, my covenant (promise) will I establish with Isaac.”

Jesus, the promise from the foundation, not made by man, not produced by man, not established by man, and not founded on man. It is a better covenant founded on a better promise.

This promise is not based on financial status.

This promise is not founded on my joyful exuberance.

This promise is not locked into me determination.

This is a promised based on God’s character. It is founded on God unchanging, unwavering Word. It is locked into His marvelous majestic name.

He will bless our efforts, but this is not our promise.

We have the promise of riches in glory.

We have the promise of the joy of His ever abiding presence.

David faced Goliath armed with a promise.

We have a promise. We face each day with a promise. We face each night armed with a promise.