Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Vital Partnership

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ... And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. I Corinthians 12: 20, 26

If one member of the body suffers... I heard today about a sister in the Lord who has tragically lost her adult son.

My heart breaks for her and her family. And I will pray for her.

But sometimes it doesn't seem like "enough" if we pray for people undergoing suffering. Yet it's the one way we can invisibly support the hurting and grieving members of the Body of Christ.

And in Christ's body, we all need each other.

We should not diminish the fact that we "just pray," as if that is just a small thing. We live in a world where we want to see tangible results. But prayer is accomplished in the spiritual realm that we can only enter by faith.

Did you ever wonder if your prayers were going no higher than the ceiling? If we pray in faith, we take it on faith that somehow our loving Father hears us and will act on our behalf if we ask according to His Word. How is it that an invisible God can hear all the prayers of all His children simultaneously? Again, we take it on God's Word by faith

He's God and not like us limited humans.

Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by the number of prayer requests that I come across in a typical day. I know that I can't keep track of all of them.

 God still hears even when we pray in a way that covers any believer going through a certain circumstance. For example, I think of all the North Korean prisoners kept in chains and suffering for even having one page of the Bible in their possession. I don't know their names, but God does. Sometimes I pray for all of them as a whole. Yet God knows each one individually and sees each one of their hearts at any given moment.

I know there are times when I can "go and do" something to help. But the problems that the world faces at this time are too many for one person, except the Person of Jesus, to be able to solve.

Brothers and sisters in the Body, no matter where they are, believe in the same Lord as I do, and are part of the same body I am part of. If one of them hurts I am to identify with them.

The enemy does not want us to think that praying does much good, and will throw discouraging thoughts our way. We have to ignore those subtle thoughts, and just keep praying.

Rationalism teaches that prayer is unreasonable since God must know what is required better than the one who prays. Perhaps God did not need to arrange it thus; but it is revealed (John 14: 13, 14) that prayer now has been divinely constituted an office, or trust. When Christ can say of prayer, "Whatsoever ye shall ask...that will I do," He has elevated its importance to a point where, to a large degree, God has conditioned His response on the faithful prayer of the believer... It is probable that we cannot know all that is involved, but we do know that, in  the ministry of prayer, the child of God is brought into vital partnership in the work of God in a manner in which he could not otherwise partake.*

 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Major Bible Themes, page 240. 

We are partners with God through prayer. That is an awesome and privileged opportunity that we only have on this side of eternity. I love what John the Apostle said of our prayers in the book of Revelation:

Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand.        Rev. 8: 4-5

That  is "all the prayers of the saints," you and me included. Now is the time to exercise this wonderful privilege as members of His body, on behalf of those brokenhearted by  suffering in this life.

*emphasis mine

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Just Trust

And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are among you and you dwell among scorpions, do not be afraid of their words or be dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house. Ezekiel 2:6

Who'd ever want to be near a scorpion, much less dwell among them? The very thought makes me shudder. Yet God told his appointed prophet to live among people who acted like scorpions and preach to them, even though they would not hear.

In Matthew Henry's Commentary on Ezekiel 2, he says the briers, thorns and scorpions were a representation of the people the prophets had to preach to.

  • 1. God tells the prophet what was the character of those to whom he sent him, as before, v. 3, 4. They are briers and thorns, scratching, and tearing, and vexing a man, which way soever he turns. They are continually teazing God's prophets and entangling them in their talk (Mt. 22:15); they are pricking briers and grieving thorns. The best of them is as a brier, and the most upright sharper than a thorn-hedge, Mic. 7:4. Thorns and briers are the fruit of sin and the curse, and of equal date with the enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Note, Wicked men, especially the persecutors of God's prophets and people, are as briers and thorns, which are hurtful to the ground, choke the good seed, hinder God's husbandry, are vexatious to his husbandmen; but they are nigh unto cursing and their end is to be burned. Yet God makes use of them sometimes for the correction and instruction of his people, as Gideon taught the men of Succoth with thorns and briers, Jdg. 8:16. Yet this is not the worst of their character: they are scorpions, venomous and malignant. The sting of a scorpion is a thousand times more hurtful than the scratch of a brier. persecutors are a generation of vipers, are of the serpent's seed, and the poison of asps is under their tongue; and they are more subtle than any beast of the field. And, which makes the prophet's case the more grievous, he dwells among these scorpions; they are continually about him, so that he cannot be safe nor quiet in his own house; these bad men are his bad neighbours, who thereby have many opportunities, and will let slip none, to do him a mischief. God takes notice of this to the prophet, as Christ to the angel of one of the churches, Rev. 2:13I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is. Ezekiel had been, in vision, conversing with angels, but when he comes down from this mount he finds he dwells with scorpions.


Today, there is a parallel to the times we are living in. We are in a real battle for our souls, and anxiety over everything and anything seems to be swallowing us up so that we will give up in the fight. We live in perilous times. Could all the evil things that are in our face daily be like briers or thorns, or worse yet, scorpions? Our enemy is not people but principalities and powers that want to kill, steal and destroy. Yet two times in verse 6 alone God tells Ezekiel not to be afraid.

Situations in life are uncertain. None of us know what the future holds. But even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, (and barring being part of the Rapture generation, we all will) we are commanded to fear no evil.

Paul the Apostle went through "just a couple" things. He was stoned to death (and revived), received beatings, shipwrecked, in hunger, sleeplessness, among many other setbacks. Yet he called all of it "a light affliction."

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed--
always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
So then death is working in us, but life in you. II Cor. 4: 8-12
and then, further on, at the end of the chapter:
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

But all of it just "a light affliction," lasting for "only a moment?" Come on Paul, did you really mean that? People who have gone to prison for their faith, people who have been martyred, people who are cut off from their families, is that just a light affliction? What about  Ezekiel and all the Old Testament prophets preaching to unrepentant countrymen who were stoned to death or even sawn in two?

The Word says it is temporary and light.  Right now, I face uncertainty over what my near future will hold with family obligations and caring my elderly mother. I'm tempted to get anxious about it. But it's only a light affliction, just a blink of an eye in the light of eternity.

God already sees me in the heavenly places with Him. He wants me to trust Him for this new and uncertain role. If you are a believer, He sees you there with Him too.

If I think about it that way, I can face the future with confidence. One minute my life is here, but in God's view I am already with Him in eternity. 

Fear not. Trust. One step at a time.

God does not show us the future for a good reason. We could not bear to know what will come to pass. But day by day, he was with the prophets and day by day He will be with me.

If I fear Him, I don't need to fear anything else. The problem is, most of the time I fear man more than I fear Him. Today, I repented of my fear and once again said simply, "I will trust You."

Immediately after I said it a little test came along and I was ready to panic once again, fearing the worst. Then I stopped and committed my problem to Him and asked Him to please rescue His silly daughter once again.  Praise Him, He did.

He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.   Psalm 112: 7

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Convenient Time

"... Felix was afraid and answered, 'Go away for now, and when I have a
convenient time I will call for you.'"

Acts 24: 25

I was reading in John 18 this morning, where Jesus appeared before Pilate, and Pilate asked Him: "What is truth?"

Isn't that the universal question of all time? Just what is the truth, amongst all the lies and madness surrounding us? Truth was standing before Pilate, yet Pilate did not have the eyes to see Him, at least at that time.

In looking up cross references, I found the interaction of Paul with Felix in Acts 24. Felix was the Roman governor of Judea from AD 52 to 60, and presided when Paul was arrested there.

The account in Acts 24:24-27 says:

And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.
Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, "Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you."
Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him.
But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.

Felix was talking to the "chief Apostle," the one who went from cheering the martyrdom of Stephen to being God's man to dispense the truth of the New Testament and the mystery of Christ and the Church.

It appeared that they had a deep discussion about Jesus Christ, but then Felix said he would call again for Paul at a more "convenient time."

Is there ever a "convenient time," really? 

The enemy never wants us to have a "convenient time" with the Lord. That's why he sends so many distractions, just at the time when someone might be serious in wanting to know more about the Lord.

It's tragic, really. Because the Lord is a gentleman, He won't force Himself upon us. But who knows if another opportunity to place our faith in Christ will arrive before our moment of death?

Scary and sobering, as it should be.

The Philippian jailer had his "time" when the great earthquake occurred. Before the earthquake, he was a Roman jailor beating his prisoners and only concerned about not letting them escape. After the earthquake, he received the new birth, along with his household, and even had a chance to minister to Paul and Silas.

Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods.
And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely.
Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed.
And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.
But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here."
Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.
And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"*
So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.
And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Acts16:22-34

An eternal gulf separates the jailer's response from the response of Felix. He did not put it off for a more convenient time. In a split second, his destiny was changed.

There are many other examples. In Matthew 22, Jesus told the Parable of the Wedding Feast. The king arranged a marriage for his son and sent out invitations... 
"But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business." Matthew 22:5*
 Jesus was offering the Jews the Kingdom, but they refused it, so instead it went to the Gentiles. But it also applies to any of us individually. We can say no or yes every day to the Father's bidding us to fellowship with Him.

In Luke 8: 34-37, the negative response of the townspeople in Gadara after Jesus healed the man filled with many demons displayed an awful choice. 

They saw with their own eyes that the man was no longer naked, raging and foaming at the mouth, but rather sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. 

 Instead of praising God for what a glorious healing He had performed, they only wanted Him to go away. The demons begged Jesus to be sent into the pigs, who were a great source of business for the townspeople. Money was more important to them than the visitation of God in the flesh.

When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country.
Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.
They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed.
Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And He got into the boat and returned.*
 They missed their golden opportunity.

What does this have to do with me, one might ask? That was then. 

But each day that we are still breathing, fogging a mirror, we have a "convenient time" too. If we do not know the Lord, we personally believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and what He did for us by dying on the cross, and we exchange a destiny of perishing to one of eternal life in heaven with God. (John 3:16)

If we already know the Lord, we only have so much time left on this earth, and He wants us to know Him more and more each day. Like the Apostle Paul said in Philippians,

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

"... Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts..." Hebrews 3:7

*emphasis mine 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My Ticket to Freedom

Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. Then the people complained against Moses, saying, 'What shall we drink?' So he cried out to the LORD and the LORD showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet... Exodus 15: 23-25

Praise God! After recognizing the futility of self effort, I know only the Lord can make something beautiful from my life. The bitterest experiences of my life (which were many) were allowed in God's plan to point me in one direction: the cross.

When I was younger, I didn't realize that the cross Jesus died on was not just the centerpiece of our faith, it was everything to our faith. For He told us that when He died, we died, when He was buried, we were buried, and when He rose, we rose with Him. (See Romans 6: 1-14) 

But I didn't know that, to my shame. And so I tried and tried to do what was good and found myself in the same situation as the Apostle Paul in Romans 7, finally culminating in my exclamation "What a wretched person I am!"

It was such bad news, for me to say that I really was a wretched person. For in my ignorance I didn't believe that God did not hold those things against me, they were already paid in full by His Son. (John 19:30) He doesn't expect anything from me, but to look away from myself and constantly to Him.  The Israelites found that the tree Moses plunged into the bitter water made it sweet. In every situation, I see a "tree" submerged into the awful situations of my life and making it sweet. 

 This tree shows me my ticket to freedom, my finished work rest. I am free from trying all manner of self-help programs, for my "self" cannot be helped. The last time I was at the bookstore, I looked at some of the self-help books and finally realized that I don't have to "listen" to all these experts. All my answers are found in one Book, the Bible.

 Let's see it the way God does about efforts of self reformation:

"Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, And the whole heart faints.
From the sole of the foot even to the head, There is no soundness in it, But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; They have not been closed or bound up, Or soothed with ointment." Isaiah 1:5-6
Who really wants to admit to that about themself? On the other hand, I wonder how people looked at Christ when He was beaten to a pulp. He became sin for us. (II Corinthians 5:21)  Men turned away their faces.

"He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him." Isaiah 53:3
It was our own wretchedness that made Him despised. It was the awfulness of our helpless condition that we inherited from Great Granddaddy Adam. It's OK for us to realize that about our natural selves. Why?

God provided a perfect solution for that wretched person. It is  new life He gives us in Christ. A talented woman from my church, Mrs. Vicky Andreis, wrote and recorded a beautiful song called "The New Life He Gave Me." The next line after that chorus is "the very life of the Savior." His life is our life, instead of any efforts we  make on our own.

The solution is to learn through the Word how to let Christ live in us instead of us. I studied in Romans 7 where Paul talked about the Law being holy, righteous and good. But God's Law cannot help us. In the Dake Study Bible, on page 166 in the New Testament, Dake wrote this note on Romans 7:13:

"The Jew would ask, 'Do you mean to say that the law is holy, just, and good, and yet it is the cause of your death? The answer is, God forbid.' It was not the law that killed me, but sin that would not let me obey the law. That made sin appear what it really is-- a deeiver, a deadly enemy, and a killer."
It is still an ongoing process of learning this day by day, but God is so patient. It's the key to my happiness. I don't have to rely on Megan anymore, but in the infinite, limitless Person of Christ who lives inside me.

If this encourages you as it did me, there is a free resource online that gives daily encouragement about this "exchanged" life. It is called 'None but the Hungry Heart,' compiled by Miles Stanford. You can view the PDF form for free from this website: http://www.fbcva.org/filerequest/7883.pdf