Luke 8:22-25 He’s Just Asleep in the Boat.

Luke 8:22-25 He’s Just Asleep in the Boat.

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Did you ever wonder what it means to meditate on the Word day and night?  It means that we should constantly be studying the scriptures and contemplating what God is trying to tell us.  We should discuss them with the Lord, with our own hearts, and with one another.  We should be in a manner of constant encouragement and refinement of our thoughts and attitudes concerning life, our families, communities, and God himself.  During this time of uncertainty we can take a look at an event in scripture that is recorded in Luke chapter 8 and see how we can chew up this passage, digest it, and make it part of our life.

luke 8

Jesus Calms a Storm

22  Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. 23  But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. 24  And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25  And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him. (Luke 8:22-25)

The term certain day shows us that this was an actual event that took place.  The event has a particular time, place, and people involved.  For the writer and those involved, it is a matter of history and fact.  They lived this event.  The things that unfold in this short story are real and binding on the hearts of the witnesses, this is their account as relayed to Luke.  The events are further corroborated by Matthew in his gospel account in Matthew 8:23-27.  So here we have two witnesses of this account in writing.  This is very important.  You see in Deuteronomy 17:6 it tells us, “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.” (Deuteronomy 17:6) You see here that all it takes to sentence a man to death according to Hebrew law is for two witnesses to bring a credible witness against the accused.  If this is what is required to condemn a man to death then it is enough to validate this event.

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So we see that the disciples and Jesus were on passage on a boat and when Jesus went to sleep, a violent storm came.  The wind was howling, the boat was taking on water, these men felt that their lives were in danger from forces they could not control.  Take note, these were not inexperienced Saturday afternoon boaters.  Most of these men were fishermen.  These men were of strong hand and backs, they had been in a storm or two in their years of fishing.  If you have ever met a sailor, they often pride themselves on the storms they have endured on the seas.  However; this was not the same kind of storm that these men had endured before.  This storm frightened them to the point of fearing death.  It was pretty easy for them to see that the boat would likely be crushed in the waves, the wind and water was overtaking the boat.  They had no control over their circumstances.  All of their lives were passing before their eyes.  Wives lips that would never be kissed again, children that would never be played with again.  The sunrises they would miss.  Songs that they would never sing again.  As they looked over their possessions, their homes, their clothes, money, land, and more they began realize how little value those things actually had.  They could see that they had focused their whole lives on things that really didn’t matter.  Their children, their spouses, their families, and their God are the things that mattered.  Now they could see that each of them alone would have to face God and each give an account for their lives and sins.  “Oh my, did I confess all my sins during the atonement?”  “Did God actually forgive me?”  “If only I had a Rabbi here now!”…. “Wait… I do!”  Then they turn their eyes toward Jesus.

Jesus is sleeping.  In all of this storming wind, spraying of water, beating of the waves, screaming of the men, Jesus is steadfast asleep.  He is in a place of safety and comfort.  Peacefully like a baby he is there sleeping, probably laying in a puddle of water, soaked from head to toe, but asleep none the less.  Lenny LeBlanc released a song a few decades ago that I use to love listening to.  The name of the song was Asleep in the Boat.  It talks about a promise God made, and that he is always there, just as Jesus was here with his disciples.  Just like when we are in the storm, He is here for us.  I often wonder what Jesus was dreaming about.  I wonder if this scripture from Isaiah 49:15-16 is what he was thinking of, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me”. 

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Jesus could have been dreaming of his home that he left behind, or how much he missed being with the Father.  He could have been dreaming that the swaying of the boat in the waves was him being rocked in the arms of his loving Father.  We could spend all day just contemplating this little portion of the scripture.  Something to contemplate.  Jesus might not have been asleep at all.  He may have been there just listening and observing with his eyes closed.  Waiting for just one of them to say, you know if Jesus is not worried, then neither am I.  He could have been waiting for them to just ask for him to help.  He could have been waiting to see if they had learned anything in how to pray.  After all they did already ask him how to pray, and he gave a line-by-line example of how one should pray.  He had already taught them on many things concerning faith and waiting on the Lord. He could have been testing his disciples to see how they were developing.  I wonder sometimes if I could pass such a test.  Looking death right in the face, would I have enough faith to just lay down and sleep, trusting in the Lord for whatever his will was. There is allot to contemplate concerning God, and ourselves in this passage. One thing for sure, the disciples did not care that he was sleeping peacefully.  They woke him up.

The fear and anxiety the disciples were experiencing was relayed in their choice of words; “Master, we perish”.  They were saying that they just knew they were all dead men, including Jesus.  There plea to Jesus is not one of faith that he can deliver them.  It is a last ditch effort that maybe the preacher can pray for us and God might hear him and just maybe he will save us.  They had no idea that this is the real-to-life, Son of God that they have just awoken and revealed their total lack of faith to.  Now something to once again stop and meditate on.  How often do we do this? How often do we look at the circumstance and look at God and assume he was asleep.  Do we actually believe that he has our best interests in mind?  What if his will is different than ours?  Do we have faith to accept that will, knowing that even though we cannot understand it, that he is doing what is best for us and keeping us in his plan?  That my fellow believer is steadfast faith.  This is nothing that Jesus didn’t do for us.  He led by example.

In the Garden the night before his execution when Jesus prayed the scripture uses phrases like, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death”…”he went forward an little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: never the less not what I will, but what thou wilt”.  See Jesus did exactly what we are expected to do.  Pray for our need, but submit to the will of the Father.  Know that what he is asking us to do is needful and necessary.  If Jesus would not have suffered for us, then we would not know the Father.  If you do not have times of suffering, someone else who may have come to know Jesus by the example of your faith, might die in their sins.  We have to trust in his will, that is faith.  Standing in that hope and knowledge of the love of God towards you is exercising that faith.  So then the disciples awoke Jesus in some vague hope that he just might be close enough to God to do something.

Well it turns out that Jesus has some authority that the disciples were not aware of.  Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. When the disciples had finally exhausted themselves and all of their resources and were still hopeless in their situation, they called on Jesus.  Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and the waters and the wind and the waters ceased… and there was a calm.  This says “a” calm.  It was dead silence.  No one had ever seen the winds and raging seas obey a man.  The closes things to this was the parting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River.  I imagine that Peter and the rest of them were thinking the same thing.  Holy MOSES Batman!  One thing is for sure, there fear of the things of nature turned into the fear of God.  Things that no man could control were controlled by the words spoken by Jesus.  “In the beginning was the Word”… “Then God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”… “I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors, and I said, Thus far you shall come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves stop”… my there is a lot to meditate on in this little section of scripture.  You see they did not know that the very God who created the oceans, and established their boundaries was in the boat with them.  Even when he rebuked the waves, they still did not fully understand.  That is the way we are.  We believe that the Lord has saved us and that he still delivers us out of our troubles, yet we still doubt him and need constant reassurances from him.  We often fail to trust him, even though we know that he is right there in the boat with us.  We confess that he has all authority, then we act like we are hopeless and being tossed about the seas, instead of being rocked to sleep in his loving arms.

Jesus asked them, “Where is your faith?”  That translated into “Where is your faith?”  We Jesus in all fairness we don’t know of when you promised to deliver us from a storm!  Really?  Let us go to Psalms.  “He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! (Psalm 107:29-31)  Oh, you mean that?  Just because it is so specific and says exactly what happened in this event, somehow that applies.  Yes, you see to meditate on the scriptures is to learn of the Lord, and ALL of his ways.  We are to write his words upon our hearts, on our foreheads, on our street corners, and on our door posts. We are to tell them to our children, sing of them in our gatherings, teach them in our schools, and most of all encourage one another in their meanings.  God loves us so much he wrote a whole 66 volume set of books for us to learn about him, his provisions, and his love for us.  Meditate on that.

1 Thessalonians 5 Encourage Ye One Another

1 Thessalonians 5 Encourage Ye One Another

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Paul tells the Christians in Thessalonica, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”  We can learn something from this simple advice given by the Apostle to the Gentiles.  The wherefore concerns what he has just spoke about. What has he just spoke about?

Well in the previous chapters he talked about how we should be living out our daily lives as believers in Christ Jesus.  In chapter one he commended the faithful witness of the Christians in Thessalonica. He called them examples of righteousness to Macedonia and Achaia.  He praised them for their fervent spreading of the gospel throughout the region.  He recognized the changes in their lives, turning from idols to believing on the Lord’s deliverance of them from the wrath to come.  In the second chapter; Paul reinforces the witness that thy have learned by example from him and his party and how they love the hearts of the Thessalonians and desire to be with them again.  Paul expresses his love for them and their love of him and Christ in him.  He encourages them and say that they share the same hope, “For what is out hope, our joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” (v.19)

In the fourth chapter Paul tells them as you have learned from us how to walk in faith, continue in this so that you will increase the pleasure you give to God in your love and obedience.  He reminds them that walking in the spirit is walking in sanctification.  Those who are called of God are not called to uncleanness, but to holiness.  We who love God cannot continue in the sins that we used to walk in.  We should have a different attitude.  We should actually despise our old lifestyle, wanting nothing to do with it.  Instead we should seek to become more knowledgeable about the Lord, his Kingdom, and his will. Then he answers some questions about the rapture and the resurrection.  This is important to the advice his gives us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

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We do not have to fear the times that we live in.  All of these things are given to us as a sign.  A sign that the Lord’s return is imminent. Just as persecutions were on the rise in ancient Rome against followers of the Way so are the prevalent today.  Today we have another 100 year event.  It seems the past few years we have had a 100 year event, of some sort, every year.  This 100 year event for 2020 is the pandemic; COVID-19.  This event has attacked every part of society in every part of the globe and will undoubtedly change the way many things are done in the future.  The way we interact with one another will be different.  The way that foreign government interact and support one another.  Even the sovereignty of nations will be changed.  Individual freedoms will be forever effected.  Powers of local, state, and federal governments will be increased.  Universality of mankind will grow in acceptance, doing away with many boundaries we previously had.

This virus is already affecting all of those things and more.   We are losing family members.  Some are questioning God.  Some are flat out angry with God, and have chosen to reject him.  Others have renewed their faith.  Some who have stopped praying and seeking God decades ago are now seeking him out.  This same dynamic plays out in the family circle.  Many families are being drawn together.  Forgiving one another for offences long forgotten.  Parent spending time with their children.  Children once starved for attention from their parents are now being filled up with love.  However; with these things we see unfolding.  The changes in the governments, religious acceptance, the move toward universal-ism and far more set the stage for the events which must unfold.  With these things, and the very upfront reality of death.  Paul tells the Thessalonians, and us to comfort ourselves and one another.

We know the times and the seasons in which we live.  This have been told to us before.  Jesus himself told us of the signs that would show as his return grew closer.  He told us those things so that we could take comfort in them.  When we see these things happen, we know that he already told us and that it is part of his plan.  These things have to take place in order to save as many as possible and to spare them from the wrath to come.

For us, the follower of the Way, we have supreme knowledge and comfort.  We know, that everyone has an appointment with death.  As far as death is concerned, we know that we are just passing through this world.  We are not to cling to things of this world.  We know that the things of this world are temporal.  That means that everything of this physical world fades away, it is temporary.  Things rust, mold, decay, turn to dust, and even dust disappears eventually.  Scripture says that the life of a man is like a vapor.  It is here one moment and then gone.  For us who believe in Christ, we have a more complete knowledge in knowing these things.  We know that there is life after death.

We know that we do not fade away or become a part of the cosmos and loose who we were.  Instead, we have a new life.  We know or true life is spiritual, not the flesh.  We know that God has made a way in Jesus Christ for us to live this eternal life in his presence without fear, without death.  We know that our sorrow will be taken away, and that God himself will wipe away our tears. We can believe this because Jesus Christ not only died for our sins, but he conquered death and arose from the dead.  He is alive, and because he is alive, we who believe have been grafted into his life eternal.

This guidance, given by the Spirit through, Paul says that we should take comfort in what he has just said, and as we take comfort, we are to encourage one another.  What he just said is that Christ is eternal.  Christ is returning.  We know this because of the signs all around us. We then walk in the light of Christ. So we can take comfort in these things that are unfolding around us. This comforting is a two-fold process.

 

We take comfort in the Lord and then this gives us the ability to comfort others. What is our comfort?  We know that we dwell in him.  We are his children.  1 John 4 says that we who know God know that God loves us; for God is love.  He manifested this love in Jesus Christ; that we might live through him.  We are able to love one another because the love of God is in us. We also know that his Spirit is in us because without the Spirit, no man can confess Christ.  With this comfort in our hearts we know that God loves us and that he is faithful.  We can then encourage one another in these odd days of fear, sickness, and death.

We can comfort one another by doing what we are called to do.  Remember Paul complemented the Thessalonians in walking upright before man and the Lord. This example of godliness they lived encouraging him and the whole region about Thessaloniki.  People were being saved and believers were being encouraged by the life that they lived.  Lives of holiness and dedication to Jesus Christ.

We see that walking in the Spirit through living a sanctified life encourages others around us. We can give hope to others in the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We can teach one another of the faithfulness of God in his Word and in the testimony of our own lives in him.  We can also pray for one another.  Pray without whole hearts.  Pray aloud.  Pray boldly.   Pray in faith and in hope.  The Lord says that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much (it means a whole lot- have great influence).  Guess what, you who have believe on the name of Jesus, you have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus.

Psalm 34 – He Delivers from All Fear

Psalm 34 – He Delivers from All Fear

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This Psalm is such an amazing song of relief and hope.  It is credited as a psalm of David.  Many believe that it is written when David and his men were delivered from Achish the king of Gath in 1 Samuel 21:10-15.  In this situation that David found himself in; David was on the run from King Saul.  He ran to the Gath.  Why he would do this?  I am not sure.  Gath is where Goliath was from.  If you recall when David was still a boy, he killed Goliath from Gath when King Saul confronted the intruding Philistine armies.  In this story in 1st Samuel, David had went to the Philistines for a place to hide.  When David understood that they Philistines knew who he was he fear they would kill him and his men, so he acted like he was insane.  The king wanted nothing to do with him and kicked him out.

Thus David saw this as protection from the Lord, and from this we get this Psalm.  But really this Psalm comes from a culmination of a life that has been delivered over and over by the Lord God.  God had made David victorious over a lion, a bear, and over the giant Goliath when David was just a youth.  Then the Lord brought David into the palace of the king.  The Lord protected David through many battles and gave him great fame and glory.  When King Saul became jealous of David the Lord protected David from the entrapment of the king.  He protected him, and fed him while he evaded Saul.  Then here God protected David from his own foolishness and delivered him from his enemies.

David opens this Psalm like so many others.  He starts by declaring that he has chosen to praise the Lord, and that he will continue in such a manner.  David says that he will continue to boast on the Lord.  David is not being quiet.  He is proud of God who had delivered him from death.  David knows by the past events that God is truly with him.  He can have confidence that when he proclaims the name of the Lord, he will not be ashamed for doing it.  The Lord is his protector.  David calls for others who believe on the Lord to magnify the name of the Lord. This is a calling for others to expand upon the name of the Lord wherever they are, and in whatever situation they find themselves in.  David calls others who believe on the Lord to give a loud witness, and glorify God.

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Then David testifies on the faithfulness of God towards those that love him.  He says, “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (v.4)  What a great thing it is to remember the things the Lord has done for us and to give thanks.  So much better is it for us to give open praise to the Lord for his deliverances.  David said that he “sought the Lord and he heard me”.  That would indicate that the Lord was already listening for David’s cry for help.  What an awesome God we love.  He loves us so much the when we are in trouble, he is standing by for us to call out to him.  He waits to hear us seeking him.  The prophet Isaiah said, “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6).

What a great reassurance.  The Lord tells us in his scripture to seek him while he may be found.  He has a sense of urgency.  The Lord is expectant of you calling to him in your time of need.  Isn’t that awesome?  David then tells us that those who call on the name of the Lord; they were lightened and were not ashamed.  They were relieved and blessed by the presence of the Lord and were not let down. (v.5) The poor cry and the Lord hears them and saves them out of their troubles.  (v.6)  David even goes further and tell us that the angel of the Lord makes his camp around, and delivers those who fear the Lord; and he fulfills their needs. (v.7)

Who are those who fear the Lord?  Those who listen to instruction (v.11); those who keep their tongue from evil; those who seek peace, and to do good.  It is these whose the Lords ears are open to, to hear their cry.  (v.16) We are blessed who love the Lord and who seek to do what is right in his eyes.  “Evil shall slay the wicked and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate” (V.20)  The redemption of the soul of the righteous is a promise made by God and fulfilled in the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Since he is God, nothing can separate us from his love.  Not failure, death, or even an illness like the Corona Virus.  We too can sing out to the Lord without being ashamed.  We have no need of fear.  The Lord God who has delivered us in the past will deliver us again.  We are not alone.  He is waiting for you to cry to him.  He is waiting for you to seek him.  He is waiting to hear you declare your faith in him, that he is faithful, that he is love, that he loves you also.  Make your boast in the Lord and call on others to be so proud, not of themselves, but in the Lord who delivers them.  Give praise to the Most High!  Give praise to the God who heals!  Give praise to the God who encamps his angle about you, to keep watch over you, and to deliver you!  Give praise to the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Fishers of Men

Genesis 15:1 Fear Not

Genesis 15:1 Fear Not

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After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram:  I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

After these things is referring to the previous chapter where a great war had happened between many powerful kings.  In the process Abram’s cousin Lot was taken captive.  This spurred Abram to get involved.  He rallied an army and went an defeated the evil king and set the captives free.  When the King of Sodom and the other kings came to pay tribute to Abram, Abram gave glory to God, and took no rewards from the kings for himself, because it was God who delivered the enemy to Abram.

God now reaffirms Abram.  I know, why should Abram have to worry after such a great victory and the adulation of the surrounding kingdoms?  Well this undoubtedly would make the surrounding kings a bit cautious of Abram and to possibility that if Abram so decided he might take their kingdoms.  After all by this time God promised to Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3) I don’t know about you, but if God told me those things, I would probably tell others about it.  That is some pretty exciting news.

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No matter is the other kings knew why Abram had journeyed so far away from home, it was easy to see that he was a great leader of men and soldiers.  He had a clear head for tactics, he was unafraid, and people from all over the region would now look to him for safety.  You can see how a king would want him for an ally or would see him as a possible enemy to their own heads.

So God reassures Abram.  “I am thy shield”.  God lets Abram know that he is his protector.  It is more than just that.  The shield for a warrior is the brunt of the battle.  It is close at hand.  The shield absorbs impact, protects from missiles and other unforeseen dangers.  Often a shield was worn on the back and allowed for protection from an attack from the rear, and allowed the warrior to concentrate on what was in front of him.

I think this is very important.  God is not telling Abram that there will not be trials, or unforeseen dangers ahead.  God is not telling Abram that he is going to do for Abram what Abram is called to do.  Instead God is telling him to “Fear not”, because he is there with him in the battle, and he will protect him in his fight.  Abram is expected to stand, fight, and have faith in the LORD.

God further encourages Abram when he says that he (the LORD) is Abram’s “exceeding great reward”. Abram can have faith in God to fulfill his promise.  Abram can have confidence in God to stand by him, and see him through all of his afflictions.  Even more important is the expectation of God towards Abram.  Abram is encouraged that he will see the faithfulness of God in his life, and will be greatly rewarded for walking in faith.  Walking in faith is something that Abram had done from the first time the LORD called him.  If we take a study of Abram’s life, we will see that every success Abram had in his life is when he walked in faith.  God was true to this promise to Abram.  It is funny, because when most of us study the life of Abram, and the Promises of Abraham, this promise is often overlooked.  This one little promise is the picture of faith in action and the expectant results.

Fear not, is what God told Abram.  Fear not, I am your protector when harm is upon you.  I am your protector when you see the danger, and when you do not see the danger.   I am a rewarded of those who love me.  Great is that reward for those who have faith in me to keep the promises I have made.  I tell you of one thing.  If you look at the New Testament and study the history of the saints, that some took ill.  Paul had to be nursed back to health, after getting so ill he almost perished.  Other saints in the New Testament and in missionary positions throughout history have fallen ill, and some have died after being exposed to diseases as they ministered for Christ.

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It distresses my heart to hear those who say, “I thought you had faith…”, as if faith is what is used to keep you well.  The faith we have is not to keep ourselves well.  If is not even to heal others.  Miracles and healing was not why Jesus came here and died, and rose again.  It is not the reason we are left here after we have believed on Christ.  Jesus came to save that which was lost and to disciple others to know God, and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That is why we are here.  You want to be like Christ?  Then live for Christ, as Christ lived for his Father in Heaven.  Seek those who are lost, share the Gospel of Christ, and disciple others to do the same.  Fear not, the LORD is with you.  The LORD is your shield.  The LORD is your exceeding and great reward.  We are not immune to the tragedies of this world, but we are harbingers of the hope in the next.  Walk in the faith that the LORD has risen, and HE said that HE will raise us up!  We do not fear death, because our lives here are already forfeit for the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

Jeremiah 33 Call Unto Me

Jeremiah 33 Call Unto Me
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In the 33rd chapter of Jeremiah the Lord gives reassurance to the prophet and reaffirms the Davidic covenant.  In this he says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (v.3)  and later the Lord states, “Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth.” (v.6).  This is such an awesome chapter of hope and reconciliation, and of the healing of the land and the people.  We can see the care that God has for his people.  He loves and cares, he is a shield and protector to his people.  He loves so much that he not only delivers, but he reals and restores.
This is the hope that we have.  That Jesus Christ came and died for us to pay the debt of death that we owe.  He was buried and took the keys to hell and death.  He then rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father.  Now he makes intercession for us as our advocate.  We who believe in him are no longer tied to this earth, or this body.  We have a great hope inside that gives us joy.  This hope is in the resurrection of life.  Even as Jesus was raised from the dead and received a glorified by, so shall we.
We are no longer trapped here in this existence. We, followers of Christ Jesus, have been given a new life.  This new life is one of the spirit.  We have been set free from the bonds of the flesh. We know that the few things we posses here in this world are worthless and will eventually rot, and decay. The things we look forward to are everlasting.  We now are pilgrims on our way to the promises of God, to be reconciled with him in Jesus Christ.  We will soon be glorified, although we do not yet fully understand what that entails, we will understand when we finally see him face to face.  This is the gift of God.  We have received unmerited favor from God as demonstrated in the grace he bestowed upon us in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Death has no hold on us, no bind is there to keep us in the grave.
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:6-11)
Look to Jesus, as the Lord says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee”.  Hope is right here waiting for you to call out!  Life is right here waiting for you to seek Him!  Love is right here waiting for you to open your heart!  Peace is right here waiting for you to rest within.  There is no fear in Love.  You do not need to fear the Lord.  He has demonstrated his love towards us.

Abortion and the Failure of the Church

Abortion and the Failure of the Church

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I read a telling tale of a young girl who grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian school, and attended church on a regular basis and yet when she had to face the most fearful time in her life, everyone failed her.  Yes she made a huge mistake, at the age of 16 she was pregnant, and then again at 17.  However; that would not be the worst of what she would have to deal with.  She was in great fear.  We really cannot blame her.  Grown adults, even those who have good finances, and secure lifestyles who have planned for a pregnancy get fearful.  Question swell up inside.  What will my friends think?  How will the father react?  How will I care for the child?  At her young age these questions are magnified by the prospect of addressing her parents, and friends.  What will happen with her schooling, college, and church life?  What about all of the stares, and whispers?  How could she ever care for a baby?  So many unknowns.  Advice is far from accessible because of the fear of shame and rejection.

With all of the Christian influences and church people around her she felt that they failed her.  “At the time, my church, my pastor, my school, and community never told me there were resources out there to help me—with adoption, abstinence, finances, or help caring for a child.” (Anonimous) The only ones who would be available to give her advice was Planned Parenthood.  What was the advice she received?  You can probably guess it.  She was advised that she did not have to keep the “embryo”.  No one asked if she wanted to talk about alternatives to abortion.  No other focus was given except to proceed with the abortion.

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She paid $300.00 for the abortion.  She described the event as horrible, and painful.  She and other ladies that were awaiting the procedure shared how sad they were at the need for the procedure and regretted their decisions.  She learned quick to harden her heart and to lie to herself and her family and everyone else she knew.  She became depressed and withdrawn, driven by more guilt and shame.  She abuse alcohol and herself.  Eventually the Lord led her to a group called Embrace.  Embrace helps people with abortion and abortion alternatives.  She became active in their prayer groups and ministry.  Eventually she began sharing her story. Telling the truth is the only way to rid the shame.  Her message? “Abortion is NOT freedom! Abortion is making “peace” with death and that is an absolute lie and brings so much destruction to a person’s live that goes beyond the mother.”

Her Christian community around her had failed her.  They failed her in educating her on the importance of abstinence and the holiness of the temple of God, her body.  The environment that she grew up in was more concerned with condemning her sin then helping her to recover from her sin.  In fact they did not help her to recover at all.  So how can we change that so that others do not have to go through this shameful behavior from the church?  We are to educate, listen, remind, and assist; oh then repeat seven times seven.

It starts from the top down.  Pastors, Deacons, Teachers, and other elders of the church need to educate at all levels on the sanctity of marriage, abstinence, and how important each life is to God. (Psalm 139:1-24; Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 127:3; Galatians 1:15; Psalm 22:9-10; Isaiah 48:1)  However; we cannot stop there, we need a culture of love and truth in the church.  Peter tells us, “And above all things have fervent charity (love) among yourselves:  for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)  To many times when a brother or sister falls into sin, we are quick to condemn and not forgive.  We should condemn the sin, however; we do not need to continue with the same failed anti-abortion rantings that drive the repentant away. We are commanded to forgive one another.  Specifically, we are called to confess, repent, and forgive; in that order.  (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13) So then this is the first part in combating fear and shame and allows the truth to be shared.  Confidence given to the brother or sister who sins, that if they confess, they will be forgiven and will receive love and acceptance.

We must also educate our staff and members on a routine basis on alternatives to abortion, should the pregnancy be unavoidable.  Having a list of alternative pregnancy and women’s health clinics that support the woman’s choice to both live and the child to live.  Planned Parenthood spent allot of money making themselves the only voice on women’s health available.  This is not the truth, there are plenty of other alternatives to Planned Parenthood.  There are plenty of alternatives to abortion.  They may include adoption, guardianship of another family member, and single mother housing assistance or missions.  The church can use volunteers that can serve as a daycare for needy mothers so that the mother can continue in school, collage, and work.  Volunteers from the church can be incorporated into a babysitter program.  The church can even host an abortion survivors group.  Time, equipment, furniture, clothes, food, can all be donated by members of the church.  Professional skills can be donated that may include carpentry, mechanical, legal, financial, and even medical can be donated to the church for use in these programs.  Heck someone can even help clean the home, do laundry, mentor child raising, and cut the grass.

If your church does not have this kind of thing going on, then start it.  The Lord can use you to start this group.  In the church I attend a young lady felt a burden for the community after a school shooting, and started a community wide service that the members of the community , churches, and civil authorities could meet under to build up the community and get people in contact with the resources they need.  All it took one person saying, “here I am” to the Lord.

Get informed of local ministries that assist in pro-life assistance to expecting mothers and fathers.  We must always, as much as possible include the other silent victims, the fathers.  There are a many number of men who have these same feelings of guilt and shame, feelings of failure and inadequacy because of abortion.  Sadly, many men who would have rather taken the child into their own homes are not consulted by the mother prior to the abortion.  The biggest thing we can do that is included in all of these suggestions is to talk about it.  We need to bring the truth to the front.  People sin, if we didn’t we wouldn’t have needed a savior.

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Now that we do have a savior, Jesus Christ, who has already paid the price for our sin, and has forgiven us, we should forgive one another of sin.  We need to bring the truth the front.  Abortion is murder of an innocent life.  Murder is a sin, and a violation of the law of the land.  There should be no reason to accept the selfish taking of another life.  Murder of an innocent can never be justified by man. There are alternatives to abortion, even if the mother does not want the child.  The people affected by the sins of sexual immorality and abortion are people that we love.  We need to unashamedly reach out to and assist these victims (mother, father, and child) to find alternatives that will not destroy their lives and will encourage them to return to the Lord Jesus Christ who loves them and desires their love.  We cannot abandon our loved ones, nor allow them to abandon their loved ones out of fear and mis-education.

 

Bibliography

Anonimous. abort73.com. 31 Jan 2020. Loxafamosity Ministries Inc . Internet. 10 Mar 2020. <https://www.abort73.com/testimony/2674/&gt;.

 

The Need of God-fearing Men

The Need of God-Fearing Men

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In Pasadena Texas there used to be a huge Baptist Church on Vista Blvd.  This is the church that I made my public confession of faith in.  The attendance there was probably close to 200 on a Sunday morning, and at least half of that on Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services.  Later I moved to the state of Washington and attended a Baptist church in Roy.  This little country church was packed every service, and even had a radio tower that they used to broadcast their services our over the radio station.  A few year later I moved back to Texas and wound up briefly attending several churches that also had high attendance and great outreaches and ties into the surrounding communities.  In between these churches, I attended several other churches, as I tended to move quite a bit.  I have also had the opportunity to preach at several different churches of various sizes.  In looking back over these churches I could see something that seems insignificant to most, but stands out to me.  There was a difference in the churches that were growing and involved in the community and those who were dying, or at least in peaceful slumber.  The churches that had a fervent men’s ministry were the ones that were growing.

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When we look at what makes a church not only survive, but to thrive in an area, we can look at a lot of different factors.  Many studies go into looking at the local demographics of the area.  What is the income level?  What is the major ethnic population?  What is the major health or poverty driven issue?  What is the current and projected economic climate? Are jobs on the increase or the decrease?  How many children per home?  How many single mother homes are in the populace?   All of these are good questions, and can help to develop outreach opportunities and meet the needs of the people surrounding the church.  However; this information does little to spur the motivation of the church to do anything. We often look at aging churches and try to find ways to get youth programs off the ground.  The idea is that without youth in the church, the church will silently die of old age.  This is true in more than one way.  But what I am speaking of is something more fundamental.  We need men in the church to have a heart for, and to be, active in sharing the Gospel of Christ.

I heard a story one time concerning Charles Spurgeon and his boiler room.  The story goes that some college students came to see Charles Spurgeon preach.  They had arrived early and as they waited, a man from the church offered to give them a tour.  The guide took them into one room, referred to as the “heating plant”.  In this room were an estimated 700 saints praying.  The guide, who turned out to be Charles Spurgeon himself, explained that the secret to his success is not him at all.  Mr. Spurgeon explained that the power of the Holy Spirit was at work in answering the prayers of these saints that desire another soul would be saved.  The secret to these successful churches was the presence of an active, praying Men’s Ministry.

I want to make something clear.  Men’s Ministry is not an event driven service.  It is great to have the Men’s Ministry around to do all of the heavy lifting at an events like VBS or at a Kid’s Festival or a Fall Festival, however; that is not the only way the men should be of value in the church ministry.  They should be intimately involved in every aspect of the ministry of the local church and their families.

Each of these churches I attended that were growing had an active men’s ministry that prayed before, during, and after every service.  They arrived hours ahead of time, and remained as long as needed.  They painted, moved furniture, worked the plumbing, cut the grass and did many other things.  In fact, in the church in Roy, Washington we all met one Saturday morning and worked all day spreading truckloads of rocks around to make a new parking lot and did other landscaping items.  We were there from before the sun came up, until the sun went down.  The ladies brought us food and water as we worked. In all of these churched, men were subject to the Spirit of God and had a desire to see one more soul saved.  Men are the leaders in the church.  When I was in the Army, I learned that Leaders lead by example, and from the front, not the rear.  A leader does not sit in an office and dictate to others what needs to be done.  A leader teaches, demonstrates, and then supervises what needs to be accomplished.  A leader takes personal responsibility in the accomplishment of the mission. This is what an effective Men’s Ministry does.

These men, of the Men’s Ministry, lead by active service.  John 13:12-15 says, “So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for [so] I am. If I then, [your] Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”   This shows us how important this principle of leadership in the church is to Christ.  He himself made a point to ensure the disciples understood that in order to be a leader in the kingdom they must lead in service of the kingdom.  We forget that Jesus actively disciple all of these men.  I know what you’re saying, “Of course he did, that’s why we call them ’the disciples’”.  However, when we get a young man in the church we do not grow them into elders.  Instead we just hope that they will eventually figure it out, stay long enough, or the Lord will instruct them himself.  We forget that we, as men have been given a ministry towards other men. Men need to be disciple in the church.  Men need to be held to a standard and accountability.  These effective Men’s Ministries that I witness did not wait for some young or new male church member to approach them.  These men actively recruited all men in attendance at the church.  To be honest, most did not even care if you were a member of the church, they just wanted to get you active in spiritual growth.

I showed up at one of these churches early one morning.  While waiting for the rest of my family to arrive, an elder from the church came up and asked me my name.  I told him, and he smiled and said, “Well, Mr. Harvey, you’re just in time for the prayer meeting.”  Then he conducted me to an upstairs room where 12 other men were already praying.  The Pastor ducked his head in right before the door closed and told them some names to add to the list and disappeared.  Just like that I was in the Men’s Ministry.  I joined the church that service.  That was all it took.

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Men’s ministry assists the church, as the men in the church are disciple to mature faith and understanding of the scriptures, their roles in the family, local church, the Kingdom of God, and community. The Men’s Ministry is the place where this close discipleship can occur through fellowship, study, accountability, counsel.  Most of all the Men’s Ministry servers through men fervently praying for their families, the church, community, and one another in the unity of group prayer meetings.  There is nothing the devil can defeat a church with that has a group of righteous men praying in earnest for the spreading of the gospel.

Men, the apostle James tell us in his epistle that we should confess our sins to one another.  We should also pray for one another.  Then James tell us that the powerful passionate prayer of a righteous man is very advantageous to the plea being made. (James 5:16)  Wow!  Now imagine how powerful a whole group of such men praying together in agreement before the Almighty God would be, especially with the Spirit of God praying right along beside them, in perfect communion with the God, the Creator of the universe.  Prayer then is the foundation of the men’s ministry.  However, it also includes mentorship in Christ.  Group study of the Word, and proper fellowship.

Fellowship in scripture is not just having coffee before services, or having a lunch after Sunday morning services.  I includes, but is not limited to Men’s Breakfasts, prayer groups, and bible studies.  The word for fellowship in the Greek has a deeper meaning.  It means to share on one’s self.  This means that we should be living in fellowship.  We should be involved in one another’s lives.  We should be giving towards one another.  We should be living with one another on a daily basis.  Giving time, money, food, encouragement, advice, and emotional and spiritual support to one another.  This is what happened in the early church, they gave sacrificially to one another, even to other churches.  Another thing to consider is spiritual leadership.

The man is to be a spiritual leader in the church and in the home.  1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong”.  This means that we should be like men of wisdom who have understanding.  We should act like mature men, not like children.  We should be strong in doctrine, not carried away by every spirit.  We should search the scriptures to test what we have been told and what we interpret concerning scripture.  We should be proficient and able to identify truth from error.  We, men, should be able to instruct others on the meaning of the scriptures.  We should have the backbone to stand up for what is good and right before God.  In this age of effeminized men we need men who can show themselves as men.  Men who set the example of righteousness, no matter what the cost.  Men who lead.  If a woman goes to church, she will undoubtable drag her children with her.  The husband may not go.  She has no authority to make him.  The children, especially the boys will have a divided desire.

The boys will develop a resentment with one parent or the other, and the church.  This is because, boys want to be like their fathers.  The hidden message in their heart will be on of, “If dad doesn’t have to go, why should I?”  In all honesty, that is a very good question. If the father does not put any emphasis on church attendance then their children will fail to realize the importance of the church, Sunday school, or even Christ himself.  However; if the father goes to church then everyone goes to church.   He has that authority.  The wife who wishes to please her husband will go.  The children who see that both parents are in attendance will desire to go, because the importance of the church is recognized by both parents.  More so if the father is actively involved in the church.  Then the children see that a relationship with Christ is of most importance.   The child who understands the importance of a relationship with Christ will tell their friends, and invite them to church to meet Christ.  A family who worships Christ together, grows in love towards one another, the church, and in Christ Jesus.

The Church does not need to change its culture to make themselves more attractive to society.  To much of that nonsense has already happened.  We don’t need men that are effeminate, unsure of scripture, afraid to confront evil, or not daring enough to step on a few toes for Christ. What the church needs is a culture where men are righteous, caring, and active in their families, the church and community.  Men that are bold in their profession of faith.  Men that stand up for what is right.  Men who confront evil no matter what the personal cost. Men who would rather step on a toe or two in love, rather than see someone waist their life and die and go to hell.

When God made mankind, he first made a male and put him to have dominion over all of his creation. When Jesus selected his apostles, out of thousands of men, women, and children; he chose men.  When the disciples gathered together to replace Judas Iscariot, out of over a hundred men and women gathered together, the Holy Spirit chose a man. When the first deacons for the church were chosen, the Holy Spirit of God chose men.  The first recorded martyr was also a man.  The Holy Spirit moves through righteous men.  I am not saying that the Holy Spirit does not use women also, however; there seems to be no shortage of active women in the church today.  That being said, this is why scripture encourages men saying, “if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1) You see the Lord wants men to desire to be of service.  He says that it is a good thing to have a desire to be of service; teaching, preaching, caring for the flock.  Then he gives some criteria.

I know what you are most likely thinking.  This is the criteria that he gives for pastors and deacons, however; shouldn’t all Christian men strive for these?  He says that a man of God should be blameless.  There should be no cause for accusation in his life.  He should have a clean witness both in and out of the church.  He should be the husband of one wife.  This man should have no eyes for any other woman than his wife.  He should have no mistresses, or practice polygamy.  He should be vigilant.  This means he should be aware of his surroundings. Attentive to the needs of others.  Aware of the dangers of the enemy about him.  He should be sober.  He should be of a good nature and not into mischief.  He is temperate, not into brawling, or striking others.  He does not boast or throw his weight around trying to impress himself.  The list goes on, and then includes some very specific things for the bishop. (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Titus 1:5-9)

These are the things that we should be shepherding and disciplining young men in the way. This is the culture that we should seek to have in the men of our churches.  Real men who stand up for God and that do not let anything stop them from seeking the will of the Lord.  Men like this who pray together have a great effect on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in a church.  In Ezekiel 34 we can read that there are dire consequences for Israel because the shepherds of Israel failed their duties.  Israel became scattered having no leadership.  The people became the victims of wolves and beasts of prey.  They were weak and sickly.  This sounds like some churches you may know, does it not?

Something else to be aware of in Ezekiel 34:1-10, the Lord says, “I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock”.  Now let us move to Revelation chapter 3.  “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” (Revelation 3:15-17) Remember the Lord is talking to the members of the church.  He says that they have become self-sufficient and think that they have everything and that they have lost their zeal.  They are not doing the things of the Lord.  Because of this they are worthless to him, and he will spew them out.  Ever wonder if a church closed because God wished them to close?  They had become slipshod and non-responsive to the Spirit and the Lord simply pulled their charter.

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Men of God you must understand that you are important to the ministry of your local Church.  In fact, you are an invaluable asset to your church.  Your skills and craftsmanship are a great asset to the church, but your leadership and compassion for others has a far more reaching effect.  You have knowledge and understanding that some young man needs to tap into to see the working of Christ in his life.  We need men of God engaged in the fight for what is good, and right, and virtuous. (Philippians 4:8) These are the things that we should be doing.  We should learn to do well, seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, and protect the orphans and widows.  (Isaiah 1:17) This is the work that God has for men.