Proper Priorities

I don’t know about you but I am so glad that the mid-term elections have finally come and gone. Or almost. At the time of this writing there is still no final vote count for the senate race in Florida and it’s like deja vu. We could spend the next two or three hours talking about the whys but they really don’t matter at this point. And, in fact, it’s really not as important as many of us think it is. Many of us have let the ugly politics of today become a leading factor in determining our overall attitude and what a number it is doing on our joy and peace of mind.  And what a shame that is! We get so caught up in things that really don’t have an eternal impact on anything or anyone that we lose sight of the most important things. And that is the issue I want us to consider tonight. The issue of proper priorities.

We have previously considered major issues that we are faced with today and have come to the conclusion they are just battles being fought in the bigger war between good and evil. And of course I am referring to those things that God considers good and, on the other side, those things He makes it very clear that are evil. It is very easy for most of us to take a strong position against such things as abortion and homosexuality but it is much more difficult to really consider that we place too much emphasis on some things that really don’t matter in the long run. And I’ll be the first to admit that I am just as guilty as anyone else and sometimes I get my priorities out of whack. So I’ll use myself as an example of what I am talking about.

During the past couple of months with all the campaigning going on and especially the endless barrage of notes on the front door, flyers in the mailbox, radio and television commercials, and candidates surrounding the entrances to the high school football stadiums, I have found my attitude bottoming out to the lowest level it has been in a long time. I found myself getting angry every time I heard the words progressive, socialism, racism, and so many other terms that don’t fit my idea of what is right and acceptable. And I had convinced myself it was righteous anger so it was justifiable. I was becoming more and more bitter with those who would dare stand for those kind of ideas and was ready to unload on them if the opportunity presented itself. All of this was coming to an ugly end with some unintended results. My prayer life began to suffer, my bible study time began to decrease, my relationship with those I love began to wane, and my joy was certainly fast disappearing. And all of this just because my priorities were out-of-order.

So, what happened? Well I guess you could say, like the prodigal son, I came to my senses. Not in some incredible event but in a still, quiet moment as I was reading God’s Word and trying my best to stay focused on what I was reading. It suddenly dawned on me that my priority had become me and not Him. And not my family. And not my friends. And not my church. But me. I felt so dirty and ashamed but realized that it was the Holy Spirit doing what He does best. Convicting, convincing, and correcting. He reminded me of those very powerful words John penned in his first letter, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”, 1st John 1:9. And that is exactly what I did. I’m clean again and I’m putting the right order back to the priorities in my life. There is an old saying that “confession is good for the soul” and I can tell you first hand there is really something to that.

It so happened in my case that my obsession with the battles in the political arena were what took me down the wrong road but there are many other things in life that can do that to someone. As a matter of fact it can be anything that causes us to lose our sense of proper priorities and the results can be very much like the same as mine. It seems many times that it is very small things. But we have a way of making them much bigger than they are but the problem is still the same. The priority becomes ourselves and God, our family, our friends, our church must take a back seat to our desires. It is one of Satan’s best tricks and he knows how and when to use it. So what is yours? What do you put before Him? If we are not as close to the Lord today as we were yesterday we are heading in the wrong direction and where we end up won’t be good. As for me, I am so thankful that He is always near and ready to forgive just like we would forgive one of our own children. That’s why we call Him our Father.

 

New Issues to Consider

Last week we finished the series I had titled The Old Testament Jesus and over a four-week period we covered quite a few Old Testament accounts of HIs appearance. We saw that he appeared as the Angel of the Lord, as a man, as an angel and as the king of peace and a priest of the Most High God in the person of Melchizedek. We looked at numerous scriptures that provided some details of these appearances and I might add that many of these accounts are described by more than one writer. In other words, the proof is in God’s Word.

At this point I would like say that I have presented these accounts from a layman’s perspective and may have embellished some of the appearances as being Jesus when it is possible that it may not have been. However, nothing was presented as an attempt or with any intention of misrepresentation but to clearly show that Jesus has always been active in the lives of men long before His physical birth, His physical death, and His bodily resurrection as we find accounted for in the New Testament scriptures.

The opening words of John’s gospel tells us all we need to know about His existence. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”  John 1:1-2  and then And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. So, even before the foundations of the world, Jesus was. And now He is seated at the right hand of the Father. And He will one day return for His own to reign with Him forever more.

With all that said let’s move on to this evening’s post and a new topic. In light of this week’s events I would like to come back to the reality that this world is in a mess and it is obvious that Satan is hard at work. Several months back we did a series centered around the most prominent issues of today’s times and we took a close look at what God’s Word says about them. We considered abortion, homosexuality, and disobedience to civil and government authority and then talked about how we as Christians should react to each one of them. But as we have seen recently, there are other issues that are not necessarily new but are just now beginning to surface on a regular basis. And again, they are most assuredly evidence of the evil that is all around us.

Over the next few weeks we are going to look more closely at some issues that have begun to rapidly divide our nation and even in some cases our families. Some are obvious but some are very subtle in nature and hardly seem worth considering. However, we all know that the sins that seem so small have a way of growing into something large and unmanageable. The magnitude and the pace of change that has very negative consequences is further proof of our evil environment and a foresight of where we are headed. But God is not caught off guard and He has been warning us that these times were coming.

I appreciate each of you that faithfully reads the post each week and I certainly cherish any comments that you make. Again, most of the time I am just putting in writing what is on my mind and trying to apply what God’s Word has to say about each situation. I have enjoyed what research I’ve done and I have learned so much as I have done so. I have also been reminded over and over that God’s Word is complete, infallible, inerrant and consistent in all ways at all times for all time.

Until next week, may God richly bless each of you and your families.  

The Old Testament Jesus

I think we can all agree that we have seen proof positive where Jesus made numerous appearances on earth long before He came to earth as God’s ultimate sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. The past few weeks we have seen how the Old Testament writers recorded His appearances as the king of peace, as a priest of God Most High, as the angel of the Lord, and yes, even appearances in the likeness of a man. Each time was for a specific purpose and the appearances were numerous. It has become obvious that He chose whatever form He felt necessary to complete that purpose on each occasion. This evening we will close the series with a few more examples of His visits but where He was referred to as an angel. At this point however, I think it would behoove us to remember  that no matter what form of appearance He took, He was still God. He was. He Is. And He is to come.

One appearance of Jesus has already been presented and that is when Jacob wrestled with Him. In Genesis 32 we saw that Jacob wrestled with someone who was in the likeness of a man but Hosea records in chapter 12 of his writings that he wrestled with an angel and prevailed.  However in both recordings of the event it is revealed that it was actually the Lord himself.

The book of 2nd Samuel and the book of 1st Chronicles records the event where the Lord chastened David and the people of Israel because of disobedience. David was given three options for the punishment and he left it in the Lord’s hand. God brought a pestilence to the land that resulted in the death of 70,00 men and planned to destroy the city of Jerusalem. However, God then relented and did not destroy the city. Here Jesus was the One to carry out the destruction of the city and He is referred to as the Lord, the angel of the Lord, and as an angel.

In the book of 1st Kings, chapter 19, we find where an angel (Jesus) strengthened Elijah after he fled from Jezebel and was resting under the juniper tree. In Daniel chapter 3 we see one of the best known events of the appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament. The angel (Jesus) protected Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego after Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into the fiery furnace. In this event He is also referred to as Son of God. And of course we find in Daniel 6 where the angel (Jesus) protected Daniel when he was thrown into the lion’s den. In verse 22 the Bible says that God sent His angel and that He shut the lions mouths.

There are many other recorded events in the Old Testament where God, in the person of Jesus, appears on earth and intervenes in the lives of men. As we mentioned earlier, every time He did it was for a specific purpose, at a specific time, involving specific people, and had a specific conclusion to the matter. However, we need to realize that every one of these instances were just one more event in God’s plan to ultimately reconcile man to Himself. Just another step towards the most significant event to ever occur in the history of this world that involved another appearance of Jesus.

The last time Jesus set foot on this earth was different from all of those recorded in the Old Testament. When He came, Jesus did not just appear in the likeness of a man. He was born as any other human although conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit. He was born of a virgin woman and was a real human being. He was God Incarnate! He was all God and at the same time all man. He was a man, He was tempted in all ways as a man, He lived a sinless life as a man, He physically died, and He was buried like any other man. But there is a whole lot more to the story!

Because He lived that sinless life, He was the only One that could be the ultimate sacrifice for sin. While He was on the cross God laid all of mankind’s sin on Him. Not for one, not for some, not for many, but for all men. I’m talking every sin ever committed by every man, woman, boy, or girl who has ever been born since the creation and fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, up to this very moment in time and from this point until the end of time as man knows it. In other words, He became sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God. And when He arose on the third day He became the first of many that will be raised from death unto life both physically and spiritually speaking. Sin and death had been conquered! Because of God’s love for us, He shed His grace abroad in our hearts so that we could become His child! What a mighty God we serve!

I’m reminded of a short chorus we used to sing but don’t hear very often now. It went like this: “Thank you Lord for saving my soul. Thank you Lord for making me whole. Thank you Lord for giving to me Thy great salvation so rich and free.” Thank you Lord for reminding me once more of what you did for me!

 

The Old Testament Jesus

Last week we continued our study on Jesus of the Old Testament as we looked at some of the appearances He made on earth but at each time He was called the angel of the Lord. We saw that this is one of the terms routinely used in the Old Testament to refer to Him. And I mentioned last week there are other terms used and we will take a look at another one of them this evening.

On a number of occasions Jesus was referred to as man. The first one we will consider is found in a well-known story in Genesis 18. Abraham was sitting at the door of his tent in the heat of the day when he saw three men standing opposite him. The Bible says that when he saw them he ran from the door of his tent to meet them and bowed himself to the earth. This is the first indication that these were no ordinary men. But let’s continue with the story. Verse 3 records what Abraham said. “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please no not pass Your servant by.” he implored. He went on to offer them water to wash their feet and then bread to eat. They agreed and told him to do as he had said.

Now it is obvious that Abraham recognized one of them as Jesus by calling Him Lord and the fact that he called himself His servant indicates this was no mere man. Abraham had Sarah prepare the bread, had meat prepared by a servant, retrieved curds and milk and then gave to them to eat. As Abraham stood by while they were eating, they asked him a very directed question. Verse 9 says, “Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said “There, in the tent.”

There are a couple of things to note here. First of all, how did they know he had a wife and how did they know her name? It seems to me they knew everything about Abraham and they were there on a mission. Secondly, we find in the next few verses what the mission was. As Sarah was listening from the tent door she heard one of them speak and verse 10 records what He said. “He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.” The mission was revealed. Jesus had come to announce that the promise God gave Abraham that his descendents would be like the sands of the sea was about to begin! In other words, the Lord blessed him.

But Sarah’s reaction was one of unbelief and sarcasm as we see in verse 12. But take particular note of version 13. “And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh saying, “Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?”  Notice that the man is called Lord which we know refers to Jesus. And verse 14 reinforces that when it says, “Is there anything too difficult for the Lord” At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” So we see here that the man in this context is the Lord Jesus himself.

When we fast forward to Genesis 32 we find another story where Jesus shows up in the form of a man and blesses Jacob. Verse 24 tells us, “Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” The Bible goes on to say that the man had not prevailed so he touched Jacob’s thigh and immediately his thigh socket was dislocated. But Jacob would not let go and demanded the man bless him before he would let him go. The man then asked Jacob his name and he said “Jacob” and here is where our story ends up. In verse 28 the man responds, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” And the covenant that God had made with Abraham was passed all the way down to Jacob and the nation of Israel was born. Jacob realized he had met God face to face!

There is another occasion where Jesus appears as a man and that is when He raised up Samson for Israel. The story can be found in Judges 13 but we won’t go into detail. You can read the story for yourself and see that it is once again the presence of Jesus in the Old Testament.

We have now seen the appearance of jesus in the Old Testament on numerous occasions and in different types and forms. The first as King of Salem, Melchizedek, then in a number of instances where He is call the angel of the Lord, and as we have seen this evening, occasions where he is called a man. The fact is Jesus is seen everywhere in the Old Testament if we take the time to look for Him. He was, and is, and forever will be God just as our theme verse for this series describes.

Next week we will end the series with instances where He is just referred to as an angel. There are other terms used that we will mention so that you can look for them in the Old Testament on your own.

 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”  John 1:1-2

The Old Testament Jesus

Last week began our study on the physical and personal appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament and we saw that the first of these occurred in the person of Melchizedek who was known as the King of Salem. We won’t take the time in this post to repeat everything  we covered last week but I think it would be worth our time to be reminded that there were a number of phrases that were used to describe Melchizadec, thus reinforcing the idea that these references were really about Jesus. And as we look further into the Old Testament we find other words and phrases used to describe someone who can only be Jesus. Keep in mind that these appearances were not as God Incarnate. This didn’t occur until Jesus came in the form of a human baby as seen in the New Testament and was continuously present on earth for a period of about 33 years. However, these appearances were certainly physical and they were personal appearances of our Lord.

Tonight we will take a look at a few of these occurrences also found in the book of Genesis and discover some of the other phrases that makes reference to Jesus Himself. The first one is centered in the story in Genesis 16 of Sarai’s scheme to have a child through her maid Hagar. After Hagar conceived and was with Abram’s child things were not the same for either Hagar or Sarai. Sarai mistreated Hagar to the point that Hagar fled from the very presence of Sarai. And this is where we see Jesus come on the scene. Verses 7-8  continues the story with these words; “Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” This admission by Hagar brings about an unexpected response in verses 9-10. “Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.” Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.”” 

What we need to see here is that the phrase the angel of the Lord is another name for Jesus and where we find it in the Old Testament it is a reference to Him. We find that phrase used in Numbers 22 where the angel of the Lord warns Balaam. In Judges 2 the angel of the Lord rebukes Joshua and Israel and in Judges 6 the angel of the Lord fights for Gideon and Israel. There are a number of other times in the Old Testament that this phrase is used to refer to Jesus and His involvement in man’s affairs. But this is not the only one. Next week we will look at some other terms and phrases that are used for the same purpose.

I hope we all are beginning to have a better understanding that the entirety of God’s Word involves Jesus and He appeared many times before the New Testament writings. But that stands to reason. He was and is and shall ever be God!

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”  John 1:1-2 

The Old Testament Jesus

We are all familiar with the story of the birth of Jesus that we find in the New testament of God’s Holy Word. We know Him as the Son of God, God Incarnate, Savior of the world and Lord of our lives. But there are millions of others who have also heard of the birth of Jesus but do not have a personal relationship with Him or even understand what that means. There are also many church members that certainly believe the story of His birth and even believe He is who He said He is. But the fact is they seem to think that Jesus came to this earth at his physical birth for the very first time. In other words, the only time He was here was during His life on earth from His birth to His ascension. They never reach a point of understanding that He was here many times before He was born to Mary in that stable in Bethlehem. Maybe even some of us don’t realize how many times the Old Testament records His visitation to this world in times past.

Over the next few weeks we are going to take a look at several of those times He made a physical appearance in this world. We will not be able to cover them all but there will be enough to help us realize that Jesus has been interested and involved in the lives of people from the very beginning. The first few verses of the book of John make it very clear that Jesus was from the beginning and still is and forever will be God. And His hands have been in every detail of human life from the day Adam was created and He has appeared on earth on many occasions. This evening we will take a look at what most theologians consider the very first of such appearances.

We find in Genesis 13 the story of how Abram leaves the land of Egypt with his wife and all of his possessions and Lot goes with him. Abram eventually settles in the land of Canaan but Lot decides to settle near the wicked city of Sodom. In that chapter we also find that God makes a binding promise to Abram concerning the land he would occupy and how his descendents would multiply. We know this as the Abrahamic Covenant. But immediately after that in Genesis 14 the story continues with the invasion of Sodom and Gomorrah by four powerful kings which results in Lot and all of his possessions being taken away by those kings. When Abram gets word of this he puts together a small army and goes after them. He successfully defeats the kings and not only brings lot back with all of his belongings, he brings back the women and the rest of the people who had been taken. And here is where we see the appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament.

The Bible says that the King of Sodom went out to meet Abram upon his return and that the King of Salem brought out bread and wine. The name of this king was Melchizedek and God’s Word states that he was a priest of God Most High. And he blessed Abram. This was a physical and personal activity on the part of Jesus. Hebrew 5:6 states that God Himself declares Jesus as a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedec. And then in Chapter 7 that the name Melchizedec translates as king of righteousness and that King of Salem meant king of peace. It goes on to say that “he was without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.” This can only be a description of Jesus. Isaiah the prophet and Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and to the church at Rome offer additional support of this.

Isaiah 9:6 refers to Jesus as the Prince of Peace. In Ephesians 2: 14 Paul says “He Himself is our peace” and in Romans 10: 4 he states “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus. He is the theme and subject throughout all of God’s Word from Genesis to Revelation. And the Old Testament reveals Him for who He is on many other occasions as we will see in the coming weeks.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”  John 1:1-2  

Pastors; God’s Men

In 1992 a group of pastors and religious leaders established what they called Clergy Appreciation Day. The intent was to honor and show appreciation to pastors all over the world for the role they play in their churches. This later became what is known today as Pastor Appreciation Day which is celebrated on the second Sunday in October of each year. Many now consider the month of October as Pastor Appreciation Month. Although this special day and month has been established by men, the idea of showing some kind of tangible appreciation to a pastor by their local congregation has some support from scripture. With this in mind let’s consider what is meant by the word pastor and what God has to say about them.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term pastor as “a spiritual overseer; a clergyman serving a local church or parish”. And from the original biblical languages the literal meaning is “a helper, or feeder of the sheep” which is the more correct definition from a theological perspective. The word carries with it the thought that it is one who loves and cares for, in all ways, those whom he has been given charge over. And to be sure, God is the One who has given the pastor charge over the flock. In other words, the pastor is called, not self-appointed. In addition, the Bible leaves no room for the position to be held by a woman.  Therefore, to summarize, a pastor is a man who has been called by God to serve in that capacity. If these two qualifications are not met, then the person who calls themselves a pastor is serving in the flesh and is not being led by the Spirit.

As we look at the scriptures we see way back in the Old Testament days, the prophet Jeremiah records these words from God himself concerning His chosen people. “Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding”, Jeremiah 3:15. In his letter to the Romans Paul writes “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”, Romans 10:14. And in Ephesians 4:11, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,”. We can certainly see from these verses that God who chooses the pastor and gives the flock to shepherd.

God has also given instructions to those of us who are counted among the sheep as to how we are to consider our pastor. In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul writes “We request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.”, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13. In the book of Hebrews we see more exhortation concerning our attitude towards pastors. “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”, Hebrews 13:7 and again in Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

There are many other verses that can be considered to understand the many aspects of being a pastor and how we are to act towards them. And in all of these we have cited, and those we have not, we will find that God uses pastors to take care of His sheep. And if we are not part of a local flock (church) with a qualified and dedicated pastor we are not being fed and cared for like God has intended.

The fact that my dad was a God called preacher and pastor has given me an insight to the difficulties that come with the task that others may not understand. I witnessed the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, the trying times and the times of celebration that he and our family went through. I developed such a great respect for him because of how he carried out the responsibilities that God gave him because he always did it all with joy and not grief as we saw in the scripture above. And in the midst of it all, he always stood on God’s Word and never compromised what was right. And today, I have great respect for those pastor’s that truly love and care for their flock while still having the courage to proclaim the truths of God’s Word in a day that it may not be well received even by some of their own flock. I have been fortunate to have had those type of men of God as my pastor and I can certainly say that I have that kind of pastor today!

So, my hat is off to every pastor who stands on God’s Word and feeds and leads as God has intended him to do. No doubt some of you whom I greatly respect in that capacity are likely reading this post. And for those of you who are not pastors, the best thing we can do for them is pray for them on a daily basis. They have an awesome responsibility and I know Satan does everything he can to try to destroy the work they do. But I stand with and beside them! Do you?

Two Truths of Life

It amazes me how so often we can go for weeks without seemingly any significant events occurring in our lives. We get so tied up with our day-to-day routines that it appears we are functioning as mere robots. Days go by and we do the same things over and over again and are almost blind and deaf to some of the events that are going on around us. We are busy like ants gathering food for the winter and our focus seems to be only on ourselves. It reminds me of some of the zombie shows that seem to be so popular today. We are like dead men walking and are immune to any form of  a potential vaccine that may reverse our dreadful condition. And we don’t realize the condition we are in.

Does this sound familiar? I know I have found myself at times almost like what I have just described. And then it happens. Some event or circumstance develops around me that causes me to stop and take note. And all of a sudden my eyes become wide open to the things I have been paying little or no attention to. And then I finally realize that God has awakened me from my stupor and wants to either teach me or remind me of something important. During the past week this has happened to me because of two significant events that have occurred. I have been reminded of a couple of truths that I have not really thought about lately but are most assuredly ones that we all should be more aware of. So I want to briefly describe these events and then discuss the resulting truths in the next few paragraphs because they have had a serious impact on me.

The first event is one that just about every person in this country is watching and talking about. It is the high-profile nomination of the next Supreme Court Justice and subsequent hearing brought about by an allegation of sexual misconduct. If you have watched any part of the hearing or kept up with it through reliable news outlets then you have seen the same things I have seen. It has been very obvious to me that a certain group of the very ones who have been elected to represent the people of this country have taken it upon themselves to destroy an individual in hopes of furthering their personal agendas. I have seen incredible hate all over their faces, in their voices and certainly in their actions. All forms of decency and fairness have been tossed aside by this group of people and as far as I am concerned they have proved themselves to be the very epitome of evil. So what is the resulting truth of all of this? Well here it is: Satan is the ruler of this world and is the master of all evil. As jesus told the Pharisees ” You are not sons of Abraham, your father is the devil.” And it is no different today. Satan has his children and they are doing his bidding. Since the fall of man there has been a continuous battle between good and evil and will continue until the time Jesus returns to this earth and finally puts things in order.

The other event is one that really hits close to home because it involved someone who I hold dear to my heart and love very much. Several days ago my wife Becky had a routine appointment with her regular doctor. She has been having some serious health issues with continuing headaches that seemed to start after an earlier experience with a severe headache that led to some disorientation and tremendous nausea. Another experience occurred shortly thereafter but not as serious as the first. After her regular checkup she informed the doctor about those experiences and the resulting headaches. After doing a couple of other checks the doctor then advised her that he was scheduling a diagnostic test that would determine if she had a serious brain condition. From that moment on fear and anxiety set in for her and then for me because the test would not be for another week. As we researched the possible reason for the symptoms the anxiety grew even worse because of the unknowns that we faced. I began to pray every chance I had and I’m sure she was doing the same. No doubt, both of us were trying to plan how we would handle something serious if diagnosed and if we need to put things in order if there was a terminal condition. Needless to say that week of waiting took a great emotional toll on us. However, on the morning of the scheduled test we prayed together and we cried together but we resolved to leave it all in God’s hands. The test lasted for about 45 minutes and we then took care of some personal business, had lunch together and headed home. Just as we turned on our street Becky got a call from the doctor’s office with the results. I was trying to drive and listen to the conversation at the same time but all the while my heart was racing. The conversation ended about the time I pulled up in the driveway of our home. I could not believe what I was hearing! No tumor! No aneurism! No mass! No brain bleed! No stroke! No sign of any kind of any abnormality! We sat in our car in the driveway and we held on to each other, we cried together, and we thanked God for His answer to our prayers! Now, what is the resulting truth of all of this? Well again I say “Here it is!”: What a mighty God we serve! Every promise He has ever made He will keep. We can trust Him. We realize that the outcome could have been immensely different but we were resolved to trust Him. And we thank Him thank He gives us that opportunity. There is one thing we know. There is coming a day when He will set all things in order and there will be no more evil, no more pain, no more sickness. What a day that will be and we will trust Him until that day appears. 

   

The Autumn of Life

Last week we completed the series we had entitled “Stand or Cower” and we looked in-depth at three major issues that we as Christians are faced with to make a decision as to how we respond to the position that most of our society holds today on each issue. I think, without exception, we have proved what God’s view is on the issues of abortion, homosexuality, and civil disobedience because our answers came directly from God’s Word. There is no doubt that there are other issues within our society that require  us to take a firm stand but these don’t seem to be as prevalent as the three we discussed. So, far the most part, we can end the series with the reminder that our authority is God Himself and our real citizenship is somewhere else.

Tonight I want to change gears and move in somewhat of a different direction. As most of you know, today is the first day of fall according to the astrological calendar and we can expect leaves to begin changing colors and then turn loose, the grass to become dry and dormant, and the temperatures to start a slow downward spiral. We are thus reminded that from the day that God finished His creation, the seasons have come and gone every year and everywhere on this old earth and will continue to do so until the Lord’s return. This is what we know as the autumn of the four seasons. But there are two other autumns I want us to consider.

The first one is what I call the autumn of God’s time. I’m referring to His plan that He has had from before the foundation of the world. His plan to provide the way for man to be reconciled to Him and then a specific length of time He has set aside to give man the opportunity. And of course only God the Father knows what the time duration is. However, I believe we are not too far from that time to come to a close. There are so many signs that we can recognize from the descriptions found in God’s Word that certainly makes it appear the end is nearing. I’m not sure whether we are in the beginning, the middle, or near the end of His autumn of time but I do believe winter is fast approaching.

The other autumn that I want to consider tonight is what I call the autumn of life as our post title indicates. What I mean by this is that many of you and certainly myself have more than likely lived more than half the years of our lives. If we consider the fact that the average life span today is somewhere between 80 and 85 years depending on our gender, we can compare the seasons of our life very closely to the climatic seasons we experience.However, for argument’s sake, let’s assume the life span of a person has now reached 90 years. if that is so then anyone who is 22.5 years old or less would be considered in the spring of life. Those who fall between 22.5 and 45 are in the summer of their lives. And those who are between 45 and 67.5 in the autumn of their lives. And folks I am at the very end of my autumn. And I know many who are in the same situation as me. That also means I am about to begin the winter of my life.

With all of this said, why is the autumn of life so important? Well, I can speak only for myself, but let me share with you my observations and my thoughts. The last few years have had a great impact on me. I have realized that I am no longer invincible and that parts of my body are beginning to wear out. Obviously this affects me physically which also results in additional mental and emotional stress. Like the leaves on a tree, my leaves are turning color and some are falling off. But the thing that wears on me the most is not my physical, mental, or emotional condition but spiritual condition. I have come to the realization that I am still so short of what God wants me to be and time is running out. Therefore the things that I once considered most important in life have waned in comparison to what truly is important. But I am so thankful that God has brought me to the point of understanding that what I do for Him and His glory is what true life is all about. He has given me a desire and hunger for His Word much greater than I’ve ever had and a greater desire to share His Word with others. This includes the good news of His glorious gospel but along with that how God’s Word has the answer to any and all things in this life and many for the life to come.  My greatest desire now is to finish strong! I realize that at my age I will most likely begin to encounter major health issues, loss of loved ones close to me, probably some criticism and maybe even persecution. But this I know. He who began a new work in me will complete it just as He promised. And even though I am in the autumn of my life He still expects me to strive everyday to be what He has called me to be. I know that he still has great things He wants to do in my life. And I pray that when I come to the end of the winter of my life I will leave a legacy that He and my loved ones will be proud of.

If you are in the autumn of your life or even winter, God still has great plans for you. Never give up and finish strong with me.

Civil Disobedience; Biblical Examples

When we started our series entitled “Stand or Cower” the intent was to identify those issues that today’s society so readily embraces as acceptable and even normal. We have seen that these include abortion, homosexuality and ungodly civil authority. It is very obvious and easy to understand what God’s view is with regards to the first two but civil disobedience is not quite that simple. We saw that God’s view of civil authority requires us as Christians to obey those in authority over us because he has put them in that position. However, we have also seen that scripture tells us that there are exceptions and that is when those in authority are attempting to require us do something that God commands and instructs us not to do. Last week we looked at the three basic views that we may have concerning this issue with the Biblical view being the one we are to follow. That view basically is that we obey unless it is contradictory to God’s laws.

With today’s post we will take a look at some biblical examples that will give us an insight as to when civil disobedience is acceptable in God’s eyes. As we do so it should serve as a reminder that the day is coming if the Lord tarries that we may very well have to make a decision if we will stand or cower in the face of very similar circumstances.

The first example involves the Hebrew midwives that Pharoah commanded to kill all of the male Jewish babies but did not do so. In Exodus 1 we are told that they feared God, disobeyed the command of Pharoah, and the lied to him as to why they did not kill them. The Bible also said that God was good to them and the people multiplied. We also know that shortly after that was when Moses was born and was hidden in a basket in the Nile river. And we know how God used Moses to lead His people out of Egyptian.

In Joshua chapter 2 we see where Rahab disobeyed the command of the King of Jericho to produce the Israelite spies. We see that she was rescued from the destruction of Jericho because of her previous actions. In 1 Samuel we see where King Saul’s own son Jonathan ate honey for refreshment not knowing that Saul had ordered that no one could eat until he had won the battle. When Saul ordered that Jonathan be put to death the people rose up against the king and Jonathan was spared.

The Bible says that Obadiah “feared the Lord greatly” and hid 100 of God’s prophets while Jezebel was attempting to have them all killed. This was certainly in defiance of the queen’s authority. And the book of Daniel records several acts of civil disobedience. The two most prominent are when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to the golden idol and subsequently were thrown into the fiery furnace and when Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den because he prayed to someone other than the king. In both cases God spared them and in fact Jesus was present with them during their time of trial.

In the New Testament, the book of Acts records the civil disobedience of Peter and John towards the authorities that were in power at the time. After Peter healed a man born lame, Peter and John were arrested for preaching about Jesus and put in jail. The religious authorities were determined to stop them from teaching about Jesus; however, Peter said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19–20). Later, the rulers confronted the apostles again and reminded them of their command to not teach about Jesus, but Peter responded, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). 

There are certainly other instances that can be found in God’s Word that are considered to be defiance to civil authority. And every one of them is because the rules or the actions of the authority are in direct opposition to God’s commandments and expectations. In each instance it required courage on the individual’s part and God’s presence in their lives. In each of the examples we have seen the individual chose to stand and not cower. May God give us the courage to stand!

As we draw this to a close let’s review the possible conclusions we can come to with regards to the this subject. Below are just a few:

• Christians should resist a government that commands or compels evil and should work nonviolently within the laws of the land to change a government that permits evil.
• Civil disobedience is permitted when the government’s laws or commands are in direct violation of God’s laws and commands.
• If a Christian disobeys an evil government, unless he can flee from the government, he should accept that government’s punishment for his actions.
• Christians are certainly permitted to work to install new government leaders within the laws that have been established.

We should also be reminded that we are to pray for our leaders and for God himself to intervene in His time to change the ungodly path they are pursuing. May we then have the urgency to pray for them and the patience to wait upon the Lord.