July 10, 2011

 

But as one of them was chopping, his ax head fell into the river. "Ah, my lord!" he cried. "It was a borrowed ax!"  "Where did it fall?" the man of God asked. When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it into the water. Then the ax head rose to the surface and floated. "Grab it," Elisha said to him. And the man reached out and grabbed it.

2 Kings 6:5-7 (NLT) 

 

Grab Opportunities Provided by God

By Don Meadows

God’s prophets needed a bigger place to meet.  Elisha told them to go to the Jordan River where there were many trees and built a place.  While they were chopping, apparently one of the prophet’s ax head flew off the handle and into the river.

The New Commentary tells us, “If it had been his own axe head, he would simply have had to reconcile himself to its loss. Since it was borrowed, he was under an obligation to replace the axe head immediately, and presumably had no money to purchase one. The feeling of anguish at this loss reflects the importance and value of iron implements to people of an agricultural society. Furthermore, the man’s loss reflects the economic level of most people; its loss was considered a major blow.”

The man told Elisha his problem and showed him where the ax head had gone into the water.  Elisha cut a stick, threw it into the water and the ax head floated to the top.  The King James Version said it “swam” to the surface.

“Grab it,” Elisha told the man.  And, he did.

Why would this story be included in the Bible?  Sure, it tells of a miracle of God via Elisha but what merits that it be preserved in the Lord’s eternal Word?  Two thoughts come to mind.

First, it reveals that God is at work in our everyday lives.  The man who borrowed the ax had a problem, to be sure.  He felt an obligation to the owner; his reputation was at stake.  After all, he was a prophet. 

Our life’s concerns are important to God.  He is there in the tragic times, there in the triumphs and there in the day-in, day-out events.  When we are made aware of God’s involvement in our affairs, we must be ready to respond.  Elisha told the man, “Grab it.” 

Heed the directive today.  When you realize God is active and extends an opportunity or blessing, “Grab it.”  You will be blessed, and God’s work will be honored.  Elisha’s standing with God was enhanced; others were helped to see clearly that divine work was accomplished through him.

Never take lightly, nor ignore, the interventions of God in your experiences.  They may not be as dramatic as an iron ax head flowing to the top of a river, but they are there.  Open your eyes and see them.  Open your heart and claim them.

The second thing that comes to mind about this text is prompted by the following verses.   Syria was at war with Israel (has there ever been a time when they weren’t at odds?).  Elisha would warn God’s people of the King of Aram’s plans so that time after time Syria’s intent was thwarted through divine intervention.

Taken together, these passages tell me that God is working in daily events of individuals.  He also is involved in the affairs of nations.  So long as Israel obeyed and followed God, He protected them.  When they disobeyed, they suffered severely.

Those who opposed Israel came under the wrath of the Almighty.  It was so then, and I believe nations today need to consider divine history as they evaluate contemporary foreign policies.  God promised long ago that, as long as Israel was obedient to Him, He would be their God and they would be His people.

Of course, arguments could be made whether Israel has been obedient.  Their failure to recognize Jesus as Messiah must be frustrating to God, but the Word tells us He is longsuffering and patient.  Somehow, and someday, Israel shall confess Jesus as Lord.  Nations may be used to guide them to this discovery; but let us pray that America has a positive influence so the Jewish people develop a correct Christology.  It has never gone well with a pagan nation which was used to bring Israel to its knees.

This underscores the need for the Christian Church to be a guiding light for America.  Our government has yielded so long and so totally to the demands of “political correctness” that it will not recognize nor surrender to divine authority in its foreign policy development.  Thus, prayers of people and the Christian Church become so important.

Not everyone will agree.  Even now there are elements within The United Methodist Church which would lessen UMC support of Israel in hopes it would facilitate a solution to the Palestinian issue.  These views are not official policy of the UMC, but the thinking of one of its divisions.  Only General Conference can establish official policy, so we need to communicate our views to delegates to the conference which meets every four years.   The next session is April 24-May 4, 2012 at Tampa, Fla.  It is interesting that the theme for that conference is “Make Disciples of Jesus Christ to Transform the World.”

The stories in our text illustrates time after time when people had to take action to accomplish God’s will.  Nothing has changed.  You and I must be ready to act when God speaks. When He gives us a chance, a moment to bring glory and focus upon Him, we, like that prophet, should “grab it.”

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July 11, 2011

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

 

Rev. 3:19, to Church of Laodicea   (KJV)

 

Grow Through Correction

By Don Meadows

I was 14 years old.  Most of my friends could go squirrel hunting whenever they wanted.  I thought I should have the same privilege.

One day after school, I told my mother I was going to take my .22 rifle and go hunting.  She said I wasn’t.  I insisted I was.  She was as determined as I was; and after telling her what I thought, she proclaimed victory.  She promised that dad would discuss it with me when he came home from work.

There wasn’t much discussion about hunting.  “Donnie, I won’t have you sassing your mother that way.  I am going to spank you.”

I fancied myself as being grown-up.  I looked dad in the eye, pointed my finger and said, “OK, Old Man, but this is the last time you’ll ever spank me.”

My daddy wasn’t the least intimidated.  He pointed his finger at me and announced calmly, “OK, young man, since this is going to be the last time, I’ll make it a good one so you never forget it.”

Well, he did; I didn’t.  It was, true to my prophecy, the last time he spanked me.  He didn’t have to.

Being disciplined is never enjoyable.  I had no fun that day.  It was, however, one of the more important days of my life.  Several lessons were learned.  I learned I had a mom and dad who stuck together on important matters.  I learned that sassing mom was taken personally by dad.  I learned that I wasn’t as big as I thought.  I learned that dad loved me enough to incur my anger, although I had to think about that one several days.

God loves us unconditionally.  He wants us to be happy, but He won’t hesitate to correct us when we are wrong.  He will discipline us; and, if necessary, He will do it in a way we won’t forget.  There are so many ways He can apply the “rod”, but I believe He will use the least painful way possible to get the desired results.

Then comes the difficult part.  How will we respond?  Will we rebel further, pout and insist on having our own way? Or will we repent, agree with God and accept the punishment as He intended it – redemptively? God wants for us what is in our best interests.

Dad loved me.  Eventually I got the privilege of going squirrel hunting.  He bought me a .20 gauge shotgun because it was safer than a 1-mile range .22 bullet.  It was a single shot that had to be manually cocked.  I used it many years, took many squirrels, rabbits and pheasants with it.

Each time I took it out, however, I remembered that day when dad put his love for me ahead of my happiness.   And, I am glad he did.

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July 20, 2011

 

Later on God tested Abraham's faith and obedience. "Abraham!" God called. "Yes," he replied. "Here I am." "Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will point out to you."

 Genesis 22:1-2 (NLT) 

 

The Abraham Adventure

By Don Meadows 

Reading again the testing of Abraham’s faith is humbling.  How would I respond in a situation like that?  Then I am troubled, for I realize that life is filled with testings and I don’t always do well with these Abraham Adventures.  Today, I hope to do better.

As I write, Janet and I sit in the waiting room of another doctor.  A specialist.  A vascular surgeon.  We’re here because Janet has something going on with her immune system.  It’s new.  It’s confusing.  It’s scary.  And, we wait – in faith, trusting.

We trust in the knowledge and skill of the doctor.  God has acted mightly in our lives by giving humankind the amazing knowledge and ability to understand and treat the body.  It doesn’t come free, but it is available to us by many acts of God’s grace.

So, we will surrender to the guidance of the doctor, believing that he (or maybe she) is under the power of an all-knowing God who will see that our best interests are realized.

Also, we wait in faith.  Many years ago, Janet and I both committed our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ.  That commitment includes our earthy bodies as well as our eternal souls.  They are, to my understanding, the same, merged together for a time to exist as one.

The nurse just called Janet’s name.  I sit alone, now.  Of course, I wonder what’s happening – but more about what’s going to happen.  Abraham must have felt somewhat like that – only multiplied thousands of time.

He knew, just as I know, that since God is in this, it will be OK -- eventually.  He was prepared to obey; we, too, must be ready to do or not do whatever God asks.  In faith we’ll do that; there is no thought of doing otherwise.  The frightening thing would be to do otherwise. 

One does not set conditions or bargain with God. Obedience is the only option if we are to be safe in providential keeping of the Lord.  We have a choice, of course, but disobedience is fraught with danger.  I don’t want to go there, for it would disappoint God and expose me to the danger of disciplining to bring me back into line with His desires for Janet and me.

I know that sometimes things can go badly.  People get sick; they do all the right things they can – both medically and spiritually – to effect a positive result in our earthly existence, to the best of our understanding and desires.  Still, things don’t work out even though our prayers, and the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ, are sincere.

God held back Abraham’s hand as he was about to sacrifice Isaac.  Many times we are rescued from experiencing awful things.  Yet, Isaac did die.  Not then, but later.  We all shall die because  earthly death can not be avoided.  It can be delayed, God willing, and even in this our faith and trust prove true.

Our physical bodies enjoy just a moment of life, a breath.  “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” (Isaiah 40:6-8 (KJV))

The eternal remains.  We are alive; we live through the power of the everlasting magnificence of His love.  It’s a love so complete that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus, to suffer the final penalty of sin on a cross.  There, Jesus died that we might be dead to death, living forever with Him whether in earthly or heavenly body.

Thus, we take courage.  I know that words are much easier to write than faith is to walk.  Tests come, doubts arise, weaknesses exposed, anger roars, human passions do combat with our spiritual resolve.  We pray for strength to be faithful, pleading we don’t fail when the biggest tests come.

Janet’s back . . . No answers. Tomorrow we come back for a biopsy – an ugly word because it connotes uncertainty.  Another word rises higher: Omniscience.  It means all-knowing.  Everything.  Past.  Present.  Future. Docs don’t have it.  I don’t have it.  God does, and He says  it’s OK.  Whatever, He will walk with us all the way – even to eternity.

Quite a trip, isn’t it, this Abraham Adventure?

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July 21, 2011

 
But the people answered Joshua, saying, "No, we are determined to serve the Lord!" "You are accountable for this decision," Joshua said. "You have chosen to serve the Lord." "Yes," they replied, "we are accountable."

Joshua 24:21-22 (NLT)

 

Now you must choose to be slaves of righteousness so that you will become holy.  

Romans 6:19b (NLT) 

Accountability

By Don Meadows

One of the characteristics of the Arab mentality is that what you say is not really all that important; what is important is that the words you use get you what you want.

This is one of the fascinating things I have learn while reading “The Arab Mind,” by Raphael Patai (Charles Scriber’s Sons, New York).  For example, an Arab may say I’m going to cut your heart out.”  He may have no intention whatsoever of doing it, he may not even have a knife.  If you respond the way he wants, and give in to him, he can take great pride in gaining what he sought.

Obviously this personality attribute is not confined to those of the Arab community.  If you observe closely, you’ll see hints of it about everywhere.  Most disturbingly, I think, it that it is becoming more and more a reality in the Christian community.

Many professing Christians talk a wonderful life of discipleship on Sunday morning and when people are watching.  Watch closely and long enough and the truth depth of their commitment to Jesus is revealed.

Israel’s success in possessing the Promised Land depended on their obedience to God.  Joshua pointed this out time after time. “We are determined to serve the Lord!" they told him. "You are accountable for this decision," Joshua said. "You have chosen to serve the Lord."     "Yes," they replied, "we are accountable."

God takes seriously the things we say publically.  So should we.  Is our time at worship a genuine sacrifice of love to be in the fellowship of other Christians in expressing adoration for and loyalty to our God?  Are we there to declare our thankfulness for his watching over us, for pouring out upon us untold acts of mercy and grace?

Or do we gripe and grumble about the inadequacies of those leading in the worship?  Do we squirm in our seats because we really want to be elsewhere else doing something else?  Is our witness inside the church and outside the church congruent?

I saw on FaceBook the other day someone declaring that “going to church doesn’t make you any more of a Christian than standing in a garage makes you a car.”  It’s not a new saying, of course, but it is true.

What my young friend failed to recognize, however, is that cars in garages are there for protection or repair.  Christians go to church for repairs and protection against the schemes of the evil one.  It’s not necessary for a person to go to church to be a Christian, but two questions arise:

  1. Why would they not want to be obedient to God’s word and help other people become better Christians?  [Hebrews 10:24-25:  And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (KJV)]
  2. Is their purpose to be a better disciple and serve Jesus or to be entertained and and have self served?

Paul said in Romans that our freedom in Christ gives us the power to choose who will be our master.  There is no alternative; we always choose.  We can be slaves to our old nature, or we can be obedient to Jesus.  Having it both ways is impossible.  Jesus instructs us, ‘No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24 KJV)

What say ye?  “We are determined to serve the Lord!” the people declared to Joshua.

He replied, “Then you are accountable for this decision.”

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July 22, 2011

 
So Solomon made all the furnishings for the Temple of God:

the gold altar;

the tables for the Bread of the Presence;

the lampstands and their lamps of pure gold to burn in front of the Most Holy Place as prescribed;

the flower decorations, lamps, and tongs, all of pure gold;

the lamp snuffers, basins, dishes, and firepans, all of pure gold;
the doors for the entrances to the Most Holy Place and the main room of the Temple, overlaid with gold.
 

2 Chron. 4:19-22 (NLT) 

 

Give of Your Best . . .

By Don Meadows

The elaborate specifications of the Temple of God take your breath away.  The other day I read where 20-ounce gold nails were used in building the interior of the Holy of Holies.  At today’s gold rate of $1,500 per ounce, that figures out at $30,000 per nail.

That’s expensive, even for the U.S. government.  Immediately alarms go off.  What were they thinking?  There’s a bit of Judas in all of us, I guess, but that would provide a lot of housing and food and medicine and clothing for a many poor people.

Remember that Solomon was building the Temple for Israel’s God.  It was to be the focus of worship.  It was here the people would remember the covenant God made with them.  Here they would remember the promises they made to God.  The finery of the Temple would be a testimony to their reverence to the Living God.  As He had provided so richly for them, they would symbolize their love by offering to Him the best they had.

There is merit in that line of reasoning.  Today God still deserves the best we have to offer.  He deserves structures which witness to our community that we love and honor Him and want others to know Him.

He deserves our respect.  When we visit our “temple” today, how do we go?  Do we make an effort to be our best – in dress, in attitude, in resolve to be focused upon Him rather than someone else or ourselves?  Do we count it a privilege or a chore to go to “temple?”  Do we present adequate sacrifices to Him?  Oh, the days of offering animals or grain on the altar are long past, yet there are other resources.  There is the sacrifice of prayer and praise and contrition.

Do we go to the “temple” expecting to encounter God there?  To listen to Him?  Respond to Him?  To humble ourselves before Him and be obedient?

The building is a place sanctified (set aside) for the worship and use of God.  Still, there remains the danger today that was there when Solomon was building and consecrating the Temple.  It can become an idol, where the focus becomes more on the Temple of God rather than the God of the Temple.

As a pastor I saw repeatedly such concern for the building, for meeting the needs of the people going to the church that the mission of God was forgotten.  The needs of those in the world became lost in the realities of dollars and cents. Resources could be readily raised for upkeep of the building but mission programs were dropped for lack of funding.  Many folks will work readily on the church building, but thank God for the rare few who will be The Church.

Admittedly it can be a fine line that gives balance between rightful “Temple Building” and idolatry. It is a divide which must be navigated carefully by every Christian and congregational leaders lest the house made by hands stand magnificently while crumpled into spiritual ruins.

Jesus loved the Temple of His day.  One of the few examples of his anger being expressed was unleashed by abuse of its use (see Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46).  Remember, too, He said His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).  God expects more of us than our presence in a building, going time and time again through ritual after ritual.  He expects holiness, as He is holy.

God told the people, in a scalding sermon by the Prophet Jeremiah:  (7:1-15 (KJV)

 [1] The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, [2] Stand in the gate of the Lord's house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the Lord. [3] Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. [4] Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these. [5] For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; [6] If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: [7] Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.

[8] Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. [9] Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; [10] And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? [11] Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord. [12] But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. [13] And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not; [14] Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. [15] And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim.

What God wants, what He demands is honesty and integrity.  Remember that old song that goes:  “Give of the best to the Master; give Him first place in your heart?”

When we do that, the Temple will be a brighter concept; when we do that, our church buildings will become treasures that are priceless in our hearts for our souls will sing in concert with the love of the Lord Jesus.

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July 23, 2011

 

Solomon . . . kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven,

 

2 Chron. 6:13 (KJV) 

 

A Praying Posture – Inside and Outside

By Don Meadows

Be careful how you pray and for what you pray.  It just might be answered the way you ask.

Solomon had completed construction of the Temple, and he gathered the people to consecrate it.  At this time, I believe, his heart was right with God and his head was thinking clearly.  A large area was built that would enable all the people to see and hear.  It was not meant as a big show; Solomon sincerely wanted to do what was right and set the example for his people.

Can’t you just imagine the sound of the buzz in the crowd, the smell of the animals standing in the animal pens.  I can almost feel the sense of expectation that consumed the people, awaiting the appearance of the king on what all knew would be an historic day.

Then, there he was.  I don’t imagine there was applause.  Probably silence engulfed the thousands of tense people as he walked onto the center of the platform.  He stopped, looked around at the spectacle around him and then “kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation. . .”

Wow!  Can’t you sense it?  Could only – would only – our nation’s leader and leaders provide that kind of leadership for us today!

Yesterday I watched coverage of the President’s meeting with a group in Maryland.  He was mostly lobbying for support of his economic agenda but announced he would take questions from the crowd.  A woman from Ohio was the first to respond.  She declared she was an atheist and wanted to know what the President’s administration was doing to curtail religious discrimination in the job market.

He skated on the ice of political correctness for several minutes, owing how difficult an issue that is, but assured her his people were working diligently to lessen the incidence of all discrimination in America.  When I thought about his answer, I realized that he had said nothing but had said it beautifully.

I don’t mean this as a negative criticism about the President.  It is, really, a compliment to his skill of political rhetoric. In a democracy all people have the right to their views, whether we agree or disagree with them.  A Republican politician probably would have given pretty much the same non-answer; it’s the way the democracy game is played.

Christians so easily forget there is a basic conflict with Christianity and democracy.  We argue for prayer in school, but by that, we really mean Judeo-Christian prayer.  Democracy declares Muslim prayers, Satanist prayers and all other prayers of recognized religions and cults are equally entitled to the same consideration.

Thus, our need to evangelize is easily discernable.  We will never, in democracy, legislate that Christianity be the legal standard of conduct and thought.  We can, and must, however, witness individually and collectively of our commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and set an example that others would want to follow.  Not everyone will want that; a few will.

Meanwhile, hear in a personal way the prayer of Solomon.  It can guide you into a deeper prayer life and show you ways to approach God on your own behalf, on behalf of our nation and other people.  Read it, make your own list

SOLOMON’S PRAYER

  1. Confirm for me what you told my daddy about your relationship with Israel if the nation is obedient unto you.  I want a personal relationship with You. (17)
  2. Hear my prayer, based upon my own standing with you. (19)
  3. When you hear our prayers, forgive us. (21)
  4. Judge rightly, i.e., punish the guilty and acquit the innocent. (23)
  5. When we repent, restore us:
    1. To our Promised Land (25)
    2. Rain for crops (27)
    3. Health of agriculture (29)
    4. Health of bodies (29)
  6. Deal justice with people (30-31)
  7. Accept the stranger who calls upon your name from the Temple (32)
  8. Hear prayers of those engaged in “righteous” war (34-35)
  9. Hear sinners captured who pray for forgiveness (36-39)
  10. Empower priests, enable happiness of pious and godly people (41)
  11. Look upon the king with favor. Guide our leaders.(42)

There was a result; God answered the prayer.

"Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house." 2 Chron. 7:1 (KJV)

Later, God verbally rehearsed the items listed in Solomon’s prayer.  He said in effect, “You’ve got what you asked for.  Now live it.”

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July 24, 2011

 

I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

 

2 Timothy 1:12b 

 

A Moment of Sharing -- A Moment With God

By Don Meadows

Yesterday (23 July 2011) was a busy day.  Much of it was spent in the garden, some of it in my recliner (but not resting) and about an hour tending the gas grill under the car port.  Janet was busy, too, not doing the same things as I was doing; but she and I were working for the same goal.

The zenith of the day came in seven nearly-identical moments we shared.  It was around the dinner (or supper) table.  “Click.”

“That’s one,” Janet said, a smile on her face.  We listened for nearly another minute.  “Click.”  I held up two fingers.  Five more times: “Click.” “Click.” “Click.” “Click.” “Click.”  She broke the silence, “All sealed!”

Our first canner of seven quarts of half-runner green beans was in the books.  Oh, I imagine that some of you might think we’re a few beans short of a pot, but it was a moment we’ll treasure the rest of our lives.  I plowed, and plowed and tilled and tilled.  I planted and weeded.  I hung string for the beans to climb on.  I picked, pulled strings and sorted.  Janet washed, cut out bad spots, washed again, found some strings I had missed.  Then she stuffed the beans into quart jars, heated lids, screwed them on, loaded the pressure canner and we started the cooking.

“Watch the little thingy on top,” she told me.  “When it starts to jiggle, press the start button on the (“Made in China”) timer and keep the thingy jiggling for 25 minutes.”  I always do what she tells me, of course, and when the thingy started its jiggle, I cooked those beans for 26 minutes – an extra minute just to be sure.

Then the pot had to cool.  The canner was eventually unloaded and the vigil to count sealing clicks began.

I know you think we’re silly; but, hey, folks, we love to do things together.  We’re hoping to put up at least three canners of beans so that, come winter, we can savor that garden-fresh taste of half-runners.  Sure beats those beans that come out of a metal can at the grocery.

There’s another reason for our enjoyment.  We saw God at work in so many ways.  We worked, to be sure, but it was He who gave the harvest.  He gave us the desire and know-how to preserve those beans for the day we want them.

God is in the preserving business, too, you know.  Paul wrote to young Timothy, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

We followed a plan to can those beans.  God has a plan to keep the souls of his children forever.  It’s called God’s Plan of Salvation.  He gave us His only begotten Son Jesus to die on the cross, thus satisfying the penalty of death for the sins of everyone.  Jesus died, but He was raised the third day, conquering death.  This means that you and I, though we will die a physically death, shall also be delivered from death’s grip and live forever with Jesus and those who believe in Him, trust in His work in God’s plan and accept this in faith.

I am going to really enjoy those beans between now and next summer, God willing.  Each bite will remind me of the special time Janet and I had together raising and canning them.  Truth be told, the actual cost of canning the beans probably is more than I would have paid at the store.  But, the taste, the experience and sharing them with others is priceless.

Just consider that if I can get so much joy out of a few green beans, can you even imagine how much I am going to enjoy heaven! I can’t.  I guess that’s why we call it heaven.

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July 25, 2011

 

They agreed that anyone who refused to seek the Lord, the God of Israel, would be put to death—whether young or old, man or woman. They shouted out their oath of loyalty to the Lord with trumpets blaring and horns sounding.

2 Chron. 15:13-14 (NLT)

Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. 

Deuteronomy 5:9 KJV

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant.

1 Corinthians 13:4

Just a Pinch of God, Please

By Don Meadows

Paul declares, in The New American Standard Bible, that “Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)  Well, that’s not always the case.

Moses instructs Israel in Deuteronomy 5:9 that the people “Shalt not bow down thyself (unto foreign gods), nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God.”  Both the KJV and the NASB use the word “jealous.”

There is no contradiction.  Jealousy on God’s part is love-driven; jealousy on man’s part is self-driven. Love-driven jealously is Tough Love, in that it is willing to risk rejection to bring about the highest good for the one being loved.

Asa was a good king.  He did much to bring the people back into rightful fellowship with God.  The blessings the people of Israel realized were so great that they decided everyone must seek and serve the only Living God. “They agreed that anyone who refused to seek the Lord, the God of Israel, would be put to death—whether young or old, man or woman. They shouted out their oath of loyalty to the Lord with trumpets blaring and horns sounding,” 2 Chron. 15:13-14 (NLT)

Now, that sounds a bit harsh to our modern-day thinking.  In a democracy, of course, it would never be tolerated.  If we push the scripture to its theological limits, however, we come to realize that it is a punishment still enforced today.  The sentence is not carried out by the hand of man but by holiness of God.

Those who refuse to seek the Lord shall die – they shall die spiritually.  It is divine Tough Love, not enforced because God gets His feelings hurt but because He seeks for those whom He loves their highest good. “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” John 10:10b (NASB)

God wants us to experience full lives, plus.  He is not content to permit us to just “live.’  He wants more for us than that.  His goal for us is a depth of living that exceeds our greatest dreams or expectations.  He wants us to be one with Him, to experience the glories that are His and those who are totally His.

For these reasons, God is unwilling to share us.  Too often, however, we, who are the recipients of such selfless love, are prone to compromise the relationship.  We do this because we begin to believe the lies of Satan that there is more joy to be had than what God offers.  Thus, we seek other gods, lesser than God, of course, but gods nonetheless.

They come in many forms, but mostly they’re attitudinal. There’s this attitude we develop that says God will understand if we explore other enticements. I’ll keep a pinch of God in my life and that will be enough.  That will let me have other things, too.  We miss a few Sundays at worship and explain, “Well, I really feel close to God on the river bank.”  It might be a golf course, a ball game, an outing with friends or family – all very logical, all so very innocent.  Compromise follows compromise, temptation gives into temptation and pretty soon life’s priorities have changed.

Friends and family notice; they may even comment on it.  We counter their concerns, insisting we know what we’re doing, that everything is as it has always been between us and God.  Only it’s not.

Israel flirted with other gods.  Satan’s seductions are so subtle they aren’t recognized until the trap springs and we’re caught.  Pain comes.  Others feel it first, but eventually it gets to us.  And we mourn, and wonder what happened, how’d it happen, when did it happen?  Why didn’t we see it?

God is a jealous God for good reason.  He knows our weaknesses, our humanity and He weeps long before we even suspect we’re causing Him, and ourselves, grief.  He’s all-knowing.  He knows how we are going to suffer, how we are going to long to be restored to the true love we shared with Him.

Beloved, how precious is the love of God. Cling to it with every bit of resolve you have.  A man and a woman pledge their faithfulness to each other in marriage “until death us do part.”  Too often one or both of them don’t keep that promise, and the relationship is torn apart.  They didn’t mean for it to happen; they just, by carelessness, allowed it to happen over time

The death of one’s relationship with God is even more tragic.  It has eternal consequences.

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July 28, 2011

 

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.

 

2 Tim. 1:1-5 (KJV) 

 

Encouragement: From Here to Eternity

By Don Meadows

Nothing causes a parent to swell up with pride like someone bragging up their kid.  Eunice and Lois must have had mile-wide smiles when Timothy shared a letter he’d received from the Apostle Paul.

It was a letter of encouragement.  Paul was so proud of his theological protégé that he referred to him as “my dearly beloved son.”  One can become very close to someone when they work together serving the Lord.

I have three wonderful “natural born” sons:  Don II, Joel and James.  The bonds that hold us together are growing stronger as they mature and I get older.  They are fine men, husbands and fathers.  I am very proud of each one.

It’s been my privilege, also, to “beget” three spiritual sons.  Eric Dailey was my youth leader at Countryside Chapel in Van Wert County.  A factory worker, he experienced a call to fulltime ministry, quit his job, went to school and has been a pastor for more than 20 years. He presently serves Oakwood UMC in western Ohio.

Perry Prosch was an engineer with the Ohio Department of Transportation.  He was the youth leader at First United Methodist Church in Portsmouth, which I pastored at the time.  He, too, felt God’s call, went back to school, became a lowly-paid student pastor, and now serves as pastor at Wheelersburg UMC.

These thoughts have all surfaced because of FaceBook.  That’s the online social networking service that is so popular.  Many of my friends and family use it.

A few days ago I saw a comment to one of my posts by a Nancy Robbins of North Carolina.  I asked if she knew Josh DeLong?  Josh was just a kid – I mean it, a real kid – when I became pastor at Maple Street Church in Lancaster in 1996.

It was my custom there to have children read the morning scripture lesson.  They were required to prepare for it at home, and Josh was one of the best readers.  He captivated the congregation because he had a speech impediment.  It wasn’t a major problem -- just enough to make you appreciate his reading.  At the time, he was in speech therapy to correct it.

There were other youngsters who read and did quite well.  Josh, however, was special.  One morning during the sermon I looked at Josh and said, “Young man, someday you will be a preacher.  God already has laid his hand upon you.”

Josh finished a four-year degree in three years at Wright State University in Dayton, and this fall he will enter his second year of seminary at the School of Divinity of Duke University.

Nancy Robbins “friended” me and was prompt to reply to my question:

“He is our youth minister @ St. James UMC in Tarboro, N.C.,” she said. “He is a gifted young man ... he almost radiates with the spirit of JESUS CHRIST. . . has a wonderful message to share. . . we are blessed.”

So am I, blessed to be privileged to play a small role in the life of a young man who is a great witness and worker for the Lord Jesus and who will someday be an excellent pastor.  The folks at Maple Street correctly feel pride that another of their sons offers the Church so much.  It’s a privilege for them to underwrite the cost of his books while he is at seminary.

Thus, along with the Apostle Paul, I can write, with minor editorial adjustments: “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee (Josh) in my prayers night and day; Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Betty, and thy mother Lisa.”

What a cause for celebration, especially in a world where one is bombarded by tragic things happening to young people who are walking down wrong paths.  But, today, we rejoice . . . .

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