August 4 , 2011

 

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

 

John 8:31-36 (KJV

 

What You Are Is Important!

By Don Meadows

The woman was sharing a theological and family dilemma.  She was going to take classes to explore whether she wanted to become a Roman Catholic, but her family was unhappy with her.  I assumed that they are Protestants.

Several people offered advice.  One person told her that no one should try to influence her decisions regarding religion.  Another said, “Live for yourself and do what you feel is right for you.  It makes no difference if you are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or nothing at all.  Do what you feel is right for you and everything will turn out all right. ‘Feels right’ is not wrong. You can tell by your gut feeling if it's right or wrong.”

The advice was well-intentioned, but theologically incorrect and dangerous.  It does make a difference what we are, and feelings are a poor chart to follow if one is trying to navigate one’s soul to heaven.

Jesus told those Jews who believed on him that if they continue in his word they are his disciples.  If they continue in his word they shall know the truth and the truth shall set them free.

I believe there are three main things Jesus meant when he said the truth shall set them free.

First, his word – his teachings based on scripture and his own omniscience – is the only source of truth.  A person is a disciple not by how or what they “feel.”  Faith is a conviction of a truth based upon evidence. The Old Testament pointed to Jesus.  Christ said he had come to fulfill that which was written.  His works testified to his relationship with God the Father.  A disciple, then, is set free to know that the way to God is through Christ, not through tradition, nor obedience to the law, nor obedience to a person in authority and not through “feelings.”

Second, Jesus knew the truth about salvation would set them free from slavery to sin.  We don’t have to sin.  We choose to sin.  Yes, we are human, but disciples of Jesus know the truth that the Holy Spirit is available to empower them to overcome the temptations that cause them to sin.  Yes, “gut feelings” can be a barometer; too often, however, we intentionally or unintentionally misread feelings to give license to do what we want to do that is contrary to God’s will for us.

Third, Jesus meant they would know the truth about eternal life.  Christians are not to live for themselves.  They are to live for Christ, and that means giving of oneself to bring to others the truth and knowledge of God’s love for them through Jesus.  It is to know about and to share the truth of the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross, his burial and resurrection.  It’s about the resulting claims upon our lives if we accept him or the consequences if we don’t.

The bottom line is that we are not the primary focus in our relationship with God.  The real point is not whether we are Catholic or Protestant.  The question is: Are we Christ’s?

Living for oneself is both foolish and tragic.  Those who do so quickly learn what a little, insignificant god they are.  The happiness and joy they seek eludes them.  Jesus said to his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26 (KJV)  

My dear FaceBook friend, I rejoice that you take seriously your faith journey.  Go carefully, however, and listen not to well-intentioned but erroneous advice.  Seek Jesus.  Follow his word, learn of his truth.  Study your Bible.  Pray for guidance.  Listen to the voice of God speak.  Grow in your understanding and in your faith through daily disciplines.

Whether you worship God in a Catholic Church or a Protestant Church is the lesser of issues.  That you worship God through Jesus Christ is crucial.  That you serve him and not yourself is of ultimate importance if you are to find the happiness and joy you really seek down deep inside your soul.

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August 7 , 2011

 

But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

-- Matthew 9:36-37 (KJV)

 

Delayed Harvest Costly, Too

By Don Meadows

Don’t wait to pick those beans.  It’ll be costly if you do.

Thus, the lesson Jesus taught about the harvest being plenteous took on new meaning for me this year.  I delayed picking half-runners and paid for it.

The delay was the result of taking a five-day trip to our Family Reunion in North Carolina.  We left on a Thursday and came back late the following Monday.  Tuesday I went into the garden to pick green beans and I confirmed what I feared:  The beans didn’t wait on me.

Oh, there were plenty of beans, alright, but they had grown and grown.  I picked some and felt the unmistakable form of seed.  Many of the beans had grown so large that the only salvageable part was going to be what we call “shellies”.  The juicy, tasty “meat” was dried up and felt almost like pea shells.

It meant several things.  First, I would have to look a lot harder for “green” beans to can.  Secondly, it would take a lot longer to shell beans.  If you’ve ever done any canning, you know what I mean.

Jesus looked out upon a multitude of people and said to his disciple, “The harvest is ready.  There aren’t enough laborers to get the job done the way it should be done.”

As I thought about those beans and the Christian harvest, several truths were realized.

Christians must be alert to opportunities to win others to Jesus.  You must look at beans every day to seize the best picking time.  Souls are like that, too.  There are moments and situations when they are more receptive to the Lord Jesus.  Prayerfully watch, wait and act when the Holy Spirit tells you the time is right.

Left without care, bad things start to happen.  Weeds grow and bugs start to nibble away.  Seeds inside get big and the green, juicy part dries.  Life is no respecter of persons.  Sin nibbles at Christians and non-Christians alike, but results are often vastly different.  Christians have a reference point for resisting.  The folks they run around with can strengthen them to endure and overcome evil and life’s nasty realities.  And, eternity?

This doesn’t mean “shellies” shouldn’t be harvested.  They’re delicious when cooked in the tender beans; some might be used for seed, to reproduce.  Many people come to Christ late in life.  They’re special, setting wonderful examples for younger people.  Often, however, I have heard them lament the years they did not walk with Jesus, decry the opportunities that slipped by for spiritual joys, experiences and victories that could have been won.

Of course, the analogies of beans and the spiritual life are soon exhausted.  Think about it, however, the next time you chomp down on a good vegetable.  Maybe, just maybe, you’ll experience a new and refreshing appreciation for how Jesus came into your life.

Chances are good, too, that you, as a Christian, will experience a renewed and invigorated desire to be one of the workers taking in the harvest for the Lord.

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August 13 , 2011

 

"For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, ‘Our God protects all those who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.’"

Ezra 8:22 (NLT)

 

 Put Your Faith on the Line

By Don Meadows

Ezra received a commission from God and the king. They were to take a fortune of goods back for the temple that was to be restored in Jerusalem. Just the value of the gold they were transporting at today’s rate would be $204.5 million.

They had to go through hostile territory, known to be infested with robbers, murders and other undesirables. No one would have though less of them to have asked for military protection.

Ezra, however, had bragged about the power and faithfulness of God. The New Living Translation quotes him as saying, "For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, ‘Our God protects all those who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.’"

It is so easy to make pronouncements about our faith in God. It’s also easy to contradict, by our actions, those very professions of trust in the Lord. We ask God’s help, for example, with finances. Then we take over, working overtime and time over to produce money to help with our problem. Some times our solutions interfere with our worship, devotional time or commitment to Him.

Some folks seem to delight in worry. Don’t you grow tired of seeing profession Christians lament how rough and unfair life is? We ask God to watch over our children and then spend sleepless nights worrying about them.

That is not human nature, beloved. That’s absence of faith. That’s a slap in the face of the very God we have proclaimed to be our strength and protector. Shame on us, especially when we claim to have such trust in Jesus. It’s also a sin, requiring repentance – which means a turning and going in a new direction.

Perhaps many of us believe that worry does work. One person said: "Don't tell me that worry doesn't do any good. I know better. The things I worry about don't happen."

I have learned over the years that God does know what is going on in my life. I have expressed my concerns to him, admitted my circumstances and vowed, "Lord, I now give them into your hands." Then I don’t dwell on them any more. I don’t lose sleep. I am not enslaved to those concerns.

Amazing, too, how God provides. Time after time I have excitedly watched God provide for Janet and me. We have never failed to keep a commitment to supporting missionaries or tithing. It has not always been easy. There have been times we had to reset priorities. There have been moments when we have had to do without something we wanted. In some instances God has miraculously provided what has been needed; those have been awe-some and exciting moments. Just imagine, you sense the very God of Gods working directly in your life. Wow!

For Ezra it was more than his faith in God that was at stake. His witness was on the line, too. Though related, they’re not the same. It wasn’t pride, either. Ezra wanted the Living God of Israel to be understood rightly. Their God would provide protection on their journal; He would fight for them in the future, as those rebuilding the Temple would discover. Those opposing Israel’s work would discover the involvement of God, too.

There is an old but true statement: "Let go and let God." I’d add to that: "Let go, let God and get on with it." You might be surprised, but you won’t be disappointed.

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August 15 , 2011

 

Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I would like to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my distinction of preaching without charge.

1 Cor. 9:15 (NLT)

 

Grace Is Free; Ministry Isn’t

By Don Meadows

This ninth chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth makes me a little uncomfortable.  I’m not sure I understand it; but if I do, I am inclined to see the issue a little differently than the great apostle.

If you discount Jesus’ life being sacrificed, grace is free.  Ministry isn’t.

My discomfort is that I am not sure but what Paul permits Christians to form an incorrect attitude about their responsibilities in enabling the proclamation of the Gospel.  He said he has the right to be paid for his work but has never exercised that right.

It can be debated whether Paul is showing a bit of pride here.  He wrote, according to the New Living Translation, “I would rather die than lose my distinction of preaching without charge.”  I’m not certain that is good pastoral leadership.

Even in the Old Testament those who worked in the Temple were entitled to be compensated for their labors.  They received a portion of those things sacrificed to the Lord.

Early in my ministry I questioned a congregation’s desire to give me a pay raise.  Don Mumma, my superintendent in the Portsmouth District at the time, was not very happy with me.  “Don’t worry about what other people do with their money,” he lectured me rather sternly.  “I assure you that they are quite capable of taking care of it.”

A preacher that lets individuals and congregations “off the financial hook,” so to speak, robs them of the development of good stewardship practices which are required by God’s Word.  Families don’t flinch at paying out $50, $60, $70 and up for tickets to professional sports events or musical concerts.  Yet, these same people will gag over the idea of tithing to the Lord.

For obvious reasons, preachers don’t like to talk about money from the pulpit.  Yet, Jesus talked about money a lot.  He pointed out in at least one instance how one young man turned away from following Him because of his love for his wealth.

Stewardship is the real issue.  Do you, and your church, make it possible for your pastor to live a lifestyle that enables him or her to give total attention to the work of God?  Pastors, are you good stewards over what you have, and how you lead your people to use God’s resources?

Like I said, this passage challenges me.  I can’t help but wonder if Paul didn’t set a precedent for pastors to settle for insufficient wages.  Perhaps churches have used the passage to accept very limited visions for ministry or missions.

This I do know, however.  I am responsible to use appropriately what God has provided for me.  As a preacher, I also am responsible to help others see what is expected of them.

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August 16 , 2011

 

Our ancestors captured fortified cities and fertile land. They took over houses full of good things, with cisterns already dug and vineyards and olive groves and orchards in abundance. So they ate until they were full and grew fat and enjoyed themselves in all your blessings. "But despite all this, they were disobedient and rebelled against you. They threw away your law, they killed the prophets who encouraged them to return to you, and they committed terrible blasphemies. So you handed them over to their enemies. But in their time of trouble they cried to you, and you heard them from heaven. In great mercy, you sent them deliverers who rescued them from their enemies. "But when all was going well, your people turned to sin again, and once more you let their enemies conquer them. Yet whenever your people cried to you again for help, you listened once more from heaven. In your wonderful mercy, you rescued them repeatedly! You warned them to return to your law, but they became proud and obstinate and disobeyed your commands. They did not follow your regulations, by which people will find life if only they obey. They stubbornly turned their backs on you and refused to listen. In your love, you were patient with them for many years. You sent your Spirit, who, through the prophets, warned them about their sins. But still they wouldn't listen! So once again you allowed the pagan inhabitants of the land to conquer them. But in your great mercy, you did not destroy them completely or abandon them forever. What a gracious and merciful God you are!

 Neh. 9:25-31 (NLT)

 

Testing the Patience of God

By Don Meadows

Foolish choices are nothing new.  People have been making them since God first created us.

Adam and Eve chose to eat the forbidden fruit.  Sin came into being.  Nehemiah laments the history of foolish Israel but he just as easily could have been talking about the United States.

The question comes to mind again and again:  Why do people do it?  A man and woman spend years building the house of their dreams.  They labor, they save, they deny themselves many things to get that house.  Finally it’s theirs.  And they split up – go their separate ways, sell the house and argue over had to split the proceeds.

Why do men with godly wives, physically attractive, emotionally responsive women look elsewhere?  Twelve, 13, 20, 30 years down the road?  Then, they walk out, looking for something, someone to scratch a proverbial, lust-dominated, ego-trip itch?

Wives have husbands who provide fine homes, the niceties of life, are faithful.  Yet, it’s not enough.  They go looking for something, someone else.  Thinking only of themselves, these people aren’t sensitive to the pain caused to others. They care only about what they want when they want it.

Solomon, who didn’t always take his own advice, said: “Drink water from your own well—share your love only with your wife.” Proverbs 5:15 (NLT)  The commentary of the Wordsearch Life Application Bible says, “‘Drink water from your own cistern’ is a picture of faithfulness in marriage. It means to enjoy the spouse God has given you. In desert lands, water is precious, and a well is a family’s most important possession. In Old Testament times, it was considered a crime to steal water from someone else’s well, just as it was a crime to have intercourse with another man’s wife. In both cases, the offender is endangering the health and security of family.”

As Nehemiah points out, nations also are guilty of betraying God’s laws.  Legislation, court rulings and pervasive immoral public attitudes point to a corruption of the relationship America once had with the Living God.  Tolerance for abortion, homosexuality, materialism, perverted representations in the media as to what “normal” lifestyles are all point to the depth to which we have fallen.

Take heed, however, because as Israel was brought to its knees, so shall the United States.  Some argue this judgment already has begun.

As we take heed, we can take heart, too.  Look at the text closely.  Though God allowed punishment to come, He did not forsake Israel.  He listened for their sincere cry.  When it came, He heard, responded and delivered them when their hearts were humbled.

God is patient.  He is kind.  He is merciful.  He shall rescue and restore those who sincerely return to Him.  But, oh, what a terrible price is paid by everyone to get to that point.

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August 19, 2011

 

Proverbially Speaking

If you keep your mouth shut, you will stay out of trouble.

Proverbs 21:23 (NLT)

 

For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

Deut. 15:11 (KJV)

 
For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.

Matthew 26:11, John 12:8 (KJV)

 

Biblical Welfare

By Don Meadows

When the woman anointed Jesus’ feet with oil, one of the disciples, probably Judas, said it should have been sold and given to the poor.  He was being selfish, of course.  Anyway, Jesus said:

“The poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.”

Our Lord was not saying you should put me ahead of the poor.  He was declaring that, in this instance, the woman was ministering to him out of her heart and that He would not deny her.  His declaration that the poor are always with you recognized a reality of life, a reality that already had been addressed by laws from Moses.                                                                                        

The Bible is ripe with instances of pointing to society’s responsibilities to the poor.  These were based on responsibilities being taken by those on the receiving end, too. 

Note Moses’ instructions in Exodus 23:11 (KJV):  “But the seventh year thou shalt let it (the land) rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy olive yard.”

In Leviticus 23:22 (KJV), landowners are told, “When ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God.”

Hear that.  They were to leave that which could be gathered by the poor and the stranger.  The poor and stranger were expected to do their own work to gather what was made available for their use.  The landowners were not expected to pick up the leavings, package them neatly and deliver them to the poor.

Somewhere along the way today many people have gotten a mindset that they are entitled to a free handout.  Our welfare system is partly to blame. One of the results of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” concept – while wonderful in many ways – promoted this idea of “you owe it to me.  I ‘ain’t got to do nothin’; I’m entitled.”

Biblical welfare did more than provide material stuff for needy people.  It preserved their dignity, too.  They had to work to help themselves, even though that which they had available was provided by someone else’s efforts.

Jesus’ assertion that “you always have the poor with you,” I think, was based on the assumption that God’s law – a law of love – was going to be followed.  It wasn’t a matter of choosing to minister to Jesus or help the poor.  Jesus was assuming that both would be done.

Preachers say it so often that we don’t hear them anymore.  Before the Sunday offering is received, they’ll remind us:  “All we have is from God and we return but a portion to Him.”   I know.  I’ve done it.

Thought the words go right through our ears, it’s true.  We are here as stewards, to distribute and put to wise use that which has been provided to us.  Likewise, we are to give others the challenge and privilege of doing the same.

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August 22, 2011

 

Proverbially Speaking

Worthless People

Here is a description of worthless and wicked people: They are constant liars, [13] signaling their true intentions to their friends by making signs with their eyes and feet and fingers. [14] Their perverted hearts plot evil. They stir up trouble constantly. [15] But they will be destroyed suddenly, broken beyond all hope of healing.

--Proverbs 6:12-15 (NLT)

 

 

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

--Psalm 139:23-24

 

 

Search Me

 By Don Meadows

Sermon Preached Aug.  21, 2011 at South Webster Grace UMC

David was a brave man.  He fought and killed a lion.  He fought and killed Goliath.  He fought and killed thousands of the enemies of Israel.  David was a brave man.

Perhaps his greatest act of bravery, however, was when he wrote Psalm 139.  This man, described as a man after God’s own heart, recognized that God is all-knowing.  “You know when I sit down and when I stand up; you know my thoughts from afar.”

To know God’s all-knowingness is the beginning of understanding of just how mighty He is; it’s the beginning of understanding just how much we count upon Him, how much we owe Him.  It’s the beginning of knowing how much we are unlike him; how much we have betrayed His likeness.  It’s a start to understanding how much we need God’s forgiveness.

When we realize that God has looked into us and knows our every goodness, and every evil tendency lurking inside us -- when we realize that -- we begin to understand our need for someone to plead our case for mercy before Him.  We start to grasp our need for Jesus.

David’s psalm begins safely enough by telling of the attributes, and the workings of God.  Then he reaches Verses 23 and 24.  There it gets dangerous.  David prays:

Psalm 139 (NASB)

23          Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;

Psalm 139 (NASB)

24          And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878–1969) says that, “Finding God is really letting God find us; for our search for him is simply surrender to his search for us.” 

Because of His eternal love for each one of us, God began searching to lead us to salvation – or eternal harmony with Him – at the instant of our conception.  This same David recognized in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”  He meant, I believe, that he was born into a world saturated with sin and sinfulness.  No one, including his own mother, was immune to its infection.

Thus, God’s search is launched to rescue us, pull us out of the sinfulness inherent in man and lift us up by Christ unto His likeness -- unto, if you will, holiness – a holiness that will permit us to be adopted into the family of a pure and perfect God.  The search is to restore us to that relationship God intended when He created humankind, a relationship which man chose to violate.

David, here, realizes all this.  He wants that intimacy with God secured, an intimacy which you cannot explain to another person but an intimacy which creates a gnawing hunger deep in your very soul.  David, then, was willing to take the risk -- and it is a risk – and asked God to search him.

James Vaughn said, “There are sins latent at this moment in you, of which you have no idea; but it only requires a larger measure of spiritual illumination to impress and unfold them.  You have no idea of the wickedness that is now in you.”

He further says, “Let every Christian count well the cost before he ventures on the bold act of asking God to ‘search’ him.  For be sure of this . . . He will do it.”[1]

He will search you in at least three ways:

First, through His Holy Word.  Read the scriptures, and you shall discover many things – things about the nature of man, things about the nature and workings of God, and things about yourself.  God’s Word will look deeper inside you than the most sophisticated piece of medical technology we have today.  MRIs and CAT scans may look deeply inside your body, but God’s Word will look into your very soul.  Read God’s Word, but do so with courage.

Secondly, God will search you through the eyes of others, especially those placed in positions of spiritual responsibility over you.  I was saddened to see two of my former parishioners who had become so involved in a motorcycle group that it had become their Sunday habit to fellowship with them rather than attend church.  I watched, on FaceBook, at the things they talked about, the places they went, the things they enjoyed doing, the words they used.

You know me – I am a preacher.  I am still care about those folks.  I challenged them.  Sam retorted with a rather smug defense, claiming that God is still his leader and that the motorcycle group obeys God carefully.  But, the words, the values, the desires, the interests and attitudes are not consistent with true discipleship. God will use other people to search you and bring to your attention your strengths and weaknesses of spirit.

Thirdly, God will search you with His Holy Spirit.  It’s not a question of letting your conscience be your guide, because sometimes your conscience yields itself to compromise and refuses to recognize the difference between right and wrong and will settle for political or societal acceptance.  The Holy Spirit, however, will awaken you to what is pleasing or displeasing in God’s sight, and will “trouble you” until you get it right.

That perhaps is why David, in the second part of Verse 23 said: “Try me and know my anxious thoughts.”  Challenge me, test me, expose me and make me aware of those doubts, fears and worries which revel incomplete faith in You, O God.

I cannot conquer my fears, anxieties and worries, O God, unless and until I understand what they are all about.  What they are is sin, a refusal to surrender and submit to God and place in His loving hands the outcome of everything in my life – my health, my wealth, my love, my friends and family – every iota of my being.

My wife is a divinely-inspired arranger of words.  She, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has the gift of putting together words that rhyme which challenge you and reveal to you something about God and something about oneself.  This passage by David spoke to her on June 29, 1993 and she wrote:
 

SHOW ME MYSELF, LORD

Show me myself, Lord,

As Thou doest see me;
And help me to see, Lord,
Just what Thou doest see.

Open my eyes, Lord, open my heart;

Let me see what’s there, in every part--
All that pleases or displeases Thee--
Show it all, Lord, show it to me.
Help me repent of all that is there
That grieves You, Lord, and brings me despair.
Free me from myself, Lord,
From all self-centered thought;
May I let Thy Spirit rule,
In my life as I ought.
 
Janet Fenton Meadows
6/29/1993

Janet, that’s a dangerous poem.  Folks, that’s a dangerous prayer.  It’s a courageous prayer that dares ask God to dig deep and stir and stir the pot of sins until they rise to the top and He scoops them away.  But, it’s a prayer that craves that closer union with one’s Creator who knows all.

Do you have that hunger today?  That desire to be more like Jesus in your attitude and your actions?  Is there a deep ache inside of you to know the intimacy of love that can only be realized by total surrender of yourself to God?  I pray so.

As we sing, let your soul be at prayer, saying to God: “Search me, try me.”  Say to God, “Show Me Myself, Lord,” as we sing, “Open My Eyes That I Might See.”

Amen.  And, Amen!

[1] Vaughn, Spurgeon on the Psalms, p643

Other Poems by Janet

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August 24, 2011

 

Proverbially Speaking

Standing Good for Another’s Debt

My child, if you co-sign a loan for a friend or guarantee the debt of someone you hardly know— if you have trapped yourself by your agreement and are caught by what you said— quick, get out of it if you possibly can! You have placed yourself at your friend's mercy. Now swallow your pride; go and beg to have your name erased. Don't put it off. Do it now! Don't rest until you do. Save yourself like a deer escaping from a hunter, like a bird fleeing from a net

--Proverbs 6:1-5 (NLT)

 

The godless seem so strong, like a lush plant growing in the sunshine, its branches spreading across the garden. Its roots grow down through a pile of rocks to hold it firm. [18] But when it is uprooted, it isn't even missed! That is the end of its life, and others spring up from the earth to replace it.

--Job 8:16-19 (NLT)

 

The Weeds of Sin

By Don Meadows

I’ve been proud of my half-runner bean crop this year.  We canned 28 quarts of them, with only one jar not sealing.  We’ll eat it, and enjoy the others this winter.

But, what I grew mostly this year were weeds.  I mean, if there were a market for weeds, I would go into fulltime farming.  In the corn, in the potatoes, in the tomatoes, in the peppers and even some in the beans.  I pull them, hoe them, weed-whack them and even talked to them.  No matter what I do, they thrive.

I was reading Job this morning, listening to Bildad the Shuhite giving advice to the stricken man.  “The godless seem so strong, like a lush plant growing in the sunshine, its branches spreading across the garden. Its roots grow down through a pile of rocks to hold it firm. But when it is uprooted, it isn't even missed! That is the end of its life, and others spring up from the earth to replace it.”[1]

Sounds like weeds to me.  Or sin.  They lurk, constantly growing, trying to assert themselves, attempting to take over what rightfully belongs to something else.  Likewise, they must be dealt with constantly – or at least that’s true in my case.

Jesus died to set us free from the ravages of sin.  His death, however, did not destroy sinfulness.  His death gave us power over sin.

Weeds abound.  All I can do is fight them – constantly guard against them.  This gives me courage, however, the hoe, the string trimmer, the tiller and the hard yank is more powerful than the individual weed.  The Bible, prayer, Christian fellowship, worship and a daily devotional life are strong enough to win out over individual sins.  The blood of Jesus will deal them their final blow.

Friend, don’t let the constant struggle against weeds stop you from enjoying your garden.  The harvest will come; the beans, tomatoes, corn and other veggies are soooooo good.  Christian, don’t let the constant struggle against sin stop you from enjoying your salvation.  The harvest will come, and you and I will be able to sit down with Jesus and feast together and sing:

“It will be worth it all . . .”  gpdcm82311
 

[1] Job 8:16-19 (NLT) 

 

August 27, 2011

 

Proverbially Speaking

Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life. If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.

 

--Proverbs 9:11-12 (NLT)

   

But he knows where I am going. And when he has tested me like gold in a fire, he will pronounce me innocent. For I have stayed in God's paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside.

 

--Job 23:10-11 (NLT) 

  The Lonely Work of Faith

By Don Meadows

If only I could understand.  Who hasn’t felt that way?

A child is very sick, and you question.  Relationships go sour, and you hurt and ask why?  The foundations on which you built your sense of security crumble, and you wonder what you’re going to do?

Job was a good man.  He had done nothing, so far as he could discern, to offend God; but tragedy upon tragedy plagued him.  He looked high and low and everywhere around for God. All he was seeking was an explanation.  Why?  If he knew that, perhaps it would be easier to deal with the situation at hand.

It was as though God was hiding from Job.  And his suffering went on and on and on.

It happens – unexplainable trouble.  Like an avalanche it grows.  Life starts to tumble downward, and hurt upon hurt piles on.  We seek answers.  What have I done?  How could I have avoided this?  Why me?  Why not me?

Despite the silence of God, in face of mounting heartache and physical and mental pain, this man declares his confidence in the One whom he has trusted for so long with so much.  He wouldn’t be dissuaded.

I might not be able to find God, he reasoned, but God will find me.  When He does, it will be all right again.

How did he know?  How could he make such a declaration?   "For I have stayed in God's paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside.” Job 23:11 (NLT)

Friend, this is the work of faith.  Stand firm.  You may not be able to find God, but God can, and will, find you.  At the very deepest darkness, when all seems lost and hopeless, God will reveal himself.  He will appear.

Turn not to other devices for strength or comfort.  Job declared in Verse 12, I have followed God’s command; I have treasured His word in my heart.

It’s so easy to follow God, to “trust” Him when the world is at peace with you.  That’s the time, however, to raise the warning flag.  All might seem peaceful and calm, as it does in the path of an approaching storm; but hear the warning, heed it.  A storm is coming!

Find safety; get there as quickly as possible.  Stand on solid, proven ground.  Stand on Jesus, who said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."  John 16:33b NLT)

Faith isn’t easy work.  It’s lonely, discouraging and frightening work.  It  seems contrary to logic.  Hold on, then you will discover, at last, the mighty power of God who is there all the time.

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August 29, 2011

 

Proverbially Speaking

Lesson of the Ant

Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and be wise!  Even though they have no prince, governor, or ruler to make them work,  they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.  But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? I want you to learn this lesson:  A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—  and poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.

--Proverbs 6:6-11 (NLT)

   

'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.  'Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  'And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 'And I will be found by you,' declares the LORD, 'and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,' declares the LORD, 'and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.'

 

--Jeremiah 29:11-14 

After the Storm: Look!

By Don Meadows

Israel wouldn’t listen.  Time after time God warned them, even begged them:  “Don’t turn from me.”  “Obey me.”  “Listen to me.”

The pleas fell upon deaf ears. Israel continued its sinful ways.

Finally, God did what He didn’t want to do.  He permitted Israel to learn the hard way.  He allowed another nation, the Babylonians, to conquer and send many of them into exile.  Not until the storms of disaster came, not until they hurt miserably, not until they learned they could not disobey God and be happy – not until all this, would they learn and turn.

My No. 1 son, Don II, taught me something the other day about storms.  He lives in Charleston, S.C., and is an old Navy man.  He loves the sea and beaches and treasure hunting with his metal detector.

“Poppa, I can’t wait until Irene has passed through,” he said.  “If she brings the kinds of tides they’re predicting, it will be bonanza.  I’ll get my metal detector and have a ball.’

Don said when storms come ashore they stir up everything. The tides grow, which stirs up the sands on the beaches and hundreds of yards out to sea.  The tides lift it up and bring it ashore and dump the “treasure” in new hiding places.

There’s where he looks, often finding buttons, watches, rings, coins and other stuff.  He digs them out, cleans them up and then tries to find out how to make the best use of his “treasure.”  One time he found a rare gold coin, of  which only 1,300 were minted.  He sold it at auction for more than $4,000.

His descriptions of the aftermaths of storms intrigued me.   Life’s storms, like hurricanes, come in different categories.  Sometimes they are severe, and many things we take for granted, or don’t even think about, get stirred up and shifted.  Many people look at the results as litter or a mess.  Why not search them out deeper to find their hidden value?

If we’ll look carefully at what is left behind, what is stirred up, we may find some new truths, some gems of understanding about how change is needed in our lives. 

The storms in Israel’s life were permitted to bring about reconciliation. God wanted Israel to come back to Him, to learn its true happiness, its future was to be found in Him and not in someone or something else.

As the clean-up of Irene goes on, what lessons will be learned, what insights gained?  Positive things can come out of negative experiences.  A preacher at the West Ohio Annual Conference said something years ago that stuck with me.

“The tragedy is not that many people suffer, and suffer greatly,” he said.  “The tragedy is that they suffer for nothing.  The tragedy is that they don’t become good stewards of their hurt and get the most good out of it.”

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