In the seventh chapter of the book of Second Samuel, David looks around and sees how much the Lord has blessed him, and how rich and comfortable his life is. After many years of hiding in the wilderness, being pursued, and having to make war. David has finally been granted a place of rest. He is no longer living in caves or tents. He has a house made of cedar and it is filled with the spoils of war and is a vision of success. David knows that this is all because of the provisions of God. David loves God and does not see where he should have to live in a tent, if his servant does not have to live in one. So he proposes to build a great house for the Lord to rest in.
God is moved by David’s love and concern for him. The Lord says that he does not dwell in buildings, or tents, or things made by man. He has never required a permanent residence to be built for him. His only requirement to the king, and any other leader, was that they feed his children, Israel, and to keep his commandments. Still David’s desire was sincere, and that moved the heart of the Lord God to compassion for David. So God gives David a special dispensation of Grace. In this dispensation he reconfirms his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). He gives David an eternal promise.
This was the promise that God gave David, God would honor David’s love for him by establishing his throne forever. Israel would benefit from the desire of David to build a permanent residence for the Lord, by the Lord building a permanent residence for Israel. The Lord said, “Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more…” (v.10). The Lord even promised of a seed to come through David’s lineage who would build a house for the Lord and whose kingdom would be established forever. God said that he would be his father (the seed’s) and that he would be my son. He said that this future ruler would be chastise by a rod and have the stripes of the children of men. He would be merciful in judgement, and the house and throne of David would be established forever through this king. The prophet Isaiah spoke, “In mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in ruth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgement, and hasting righteousness.”. (Isaiah 16:5) So the Lord God was moved by David’s love for him and his desire to give the Lord a place to rest, that God in turn gave David and Israel a place to rest.
God confirmed his commitment to Israel through his promise to establish the house of David forever, through the coming Messiah. The promised seed from Genesis would be delivered through the lineage of King David. The grace of God was shown in this dispensation. There was no condition of this promise. God gave this assurance to David because he loved David’s love towards him. We can see that God keeps his promise to David even though Israel violates their covenant with God. Perhaps we can see a little of why Jesus now intercedes before the throne of God the Father for us. We are established in the covenant that God made with himself in the blood of Jesus. Because the Father made this promise to Jesus, that those who believe in him would have eternal life, so the model of the promise to David. Israel would be spared because to the promise God made with David. Now the covenant is no longer necessary for salvation. It is the grace of God towards one who has already please him in love. So in Ezekiel, even though destruction is warned of Israel, it is for chastisement. Israel would be redeemed in the end, when this promised seed to David comes to claim his throne and establish his kingdom, forever. “Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it.” (Ezekiel 34:22-24).
The Lord uses terms like… “ know that I the LORD their God am with them”… “I am your God”. The Lord tell us through the prophet Ezekiel that he will make the lands of the enemies of King David to be desolate. The Lord says, “And I will fill his mountains with his slain men: in thy hills, and in thy valleys, and in all thy rivers, shall they fall that are slain with the sword.” ( Ezekiel 35:8). The Lord also promises restoration of Israel, “And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 36:11) The Lord even goes further and promises not only to revive their lands and lineages, and to multiply them, but he promises to deliver them from all uncleanliness and to give them new hearts that love the Lord. (36:26) The Lord even promises the resurrection of the dead from Israel. “Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:12-14). Something to consider is what the Lord says concerning King David in Ezekiel 37:24. Ezekiel prophecies saying, “And David my servant shall be king over them…”. Many interpret this to say that Jesus as the son of David will be the ruler. But remember, the Lord has just raised all the dead of Israel from the grave. There is not reason why David could not rule over Israel and still serve the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The story of Deborah is relayed to us in the book of Judges in chapters 4 and 5. Deborah is from the tribe of Ephraim. She lived between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim. She was married to a man named Lapidoth. Nothing else is mentioned of him. The uniqueness of Deborah is that she was the only female judge mentioned in the scriptures. She was known for her wisdom and prophetic prowess. Judges 4:5 says, “The children of Israel came up to her for judgement.”. She is referred to as “the Mother of Israel”, and is also known for song writing. She is the only prophet besides Samuel who was also a judge. She was also a prophet who was a strong decisive leader, which makes her analogous with Moses and Joshua. This is all in a time when women did not generally hold high positions in society.
As a leader Deborah was courageous. She served with wisdom and knowledge. She trusted God and supported the people that God appointed as leaders. She did not seek to usurp the authority of the leadership already established by God. Unlike another female leader in Israel named Athaliah who murdered her own grandsons in order to seal the crown. The scripture reads, “And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal. But Jehosheba, the daughter of king Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons which were slain; and they hid him, even him and his nurse, in the bedchamber from Athaliah, so that he was not slain. And he was with her hid in the house of the LORD six years. And Athaliah did reign over the land.” (2 Kings 11:1-3) Instead, she encouraged them to do what was right before God. In this, she was direct, unwavering in duty, and still humble enough to let others have the glory. The Song of Deborah testifies to this giving of encouragement to the people and the praise of deliverance to God. She uses terms like:
When the princes in Israel take the lead…praise the LORD! (5:2)
My heart is with Israel’s princess…praise the LORD! (5:9)
Take captive your captives (5:12) – I find this phrase particularly fascinating. Paul uses it in Ephesians 4:8 in describing salvation provided by Jesus and the importance of his ascent to heaven as in Jesus’ ascension he “let captivity captive and gave gifts unto men”. And Psalm 68:18 reports, “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.”
During the time of her calling the Israelites had wandered from God and did evil in his sight. So God used the Canaanites to bring them under judgement. They were brought under the oppression of King Jabin and his strong men. They had a strong army that included 900 iron chariots and they oppressed Israel for 20 years. The men of Israel had lost their courage. Jerusalem was crushed into the dust by their tormentors. Their vineyards were destroyed, their women violated, their children starving and made into orphans. They had no mighty men of valor. Out of this God called a devout woman to be his voice. Where no man had hope in God, God spoke to Deborah. Deborah put her trust in the LORD.
One day she summoned a commander of the children of Israel to her home where she delivered a message from God. In Judges 4:7 Deborah tells Barak that God wants him to take an army to face Jabin’s army at the river Kison where Elijah slew the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:40. She tells him that God will deliver his enemies into his hand, but the leader will be slain by a woman. In this way Barak will be spared from his own pride. But Barak was afraid to go into battle with out Deborah. So she went and at the time appointed of the LORD, she gave the command to Barak to do battle with the Canaanites. Later we find in the song of Deborah is says that “the river Kishon swept them away, that ancient river the river Kishon.”. We also find that Sisera the commander is slain by a woman named Jael. So the story and Song of Deborah ends with this reassurance. “So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. And the land had rest forty years.” (5:31).
I hope that title caught your attention. In all honesty, I can probably say that my church is not as large as yours is. However, this title is a little funny look at the way we sometimes compare ourselves to one another. We often get caught up on how big a church is. Many like to boast that they go to such and such church, “You know the big one on the corner of such and such“. With so no lack of pride we will tell of the great sanctuary and the stain glass windows. Or maybe we will point out the multiple classrooms, the coffee shop or the bookstore. There is nothing wrong with this. Unless we put our measure of success upon how big our church is. Different size churches can have great success in their place in God’s plan. The apostle Paul wrote, “And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.” (1 Corinthians 12:5).
In truth most churches in the world have less than 100 people on their rolls. The bulk of churches of the world are small to medium congregations that vary from 5-250 active members (I specify active because active members are the only ones who contribute to the mission of the church – don’t fool yourself). The major growths in Christianity around the world are brought from small churches that grow into medium churches or who plant other small churches. These churches are different in their purpose and design than larger churches. They have their own positive and negative attributes.
Small churches (less than 100) have high levels of member commitment. The members are also more consistent in their tithes and offerings, and volunteer work. They have less of a staff and therefore dedicate more of their budget to missionary work. They will likely have a bi-vocational pastor, and because of their small size, he will be easily available to the membership. The membership is likely to be aware of the burden on the clergy and are more likely to assist the pastor with his duties and donate food and clothing to him and his family to ease his financial burdens. There is a genuine care in the membership for one another. Evidence of this is that these churches are likely to have a food closet that is open to any members of the local church. Membership in these churches are generally aligned from family and close friendships, and an occasionally new comer who was invited to attend and then joined the church.
Their Achilles heel of an older small church is that they are likely to have a good portion of their budget tied up in building maintenance. They are also likely to have most of their membership in being 65 or older. They are also likely to have no children. As a general rule their membership is not seeking to increase membership. If this is the case for a small church, then they are a dead church. Unless a change is brought in their evangelism they will no longer exist. For the majority of small churches who are active in evangelism, they will soon grow either in church planting other churches and missionary work, or they will increase in size and take other responsibilities and outreached in the community.
Medium sized churches of congregations of 101-250 active members are more likely to open their buildings up for use to outside organizations that serve a service to the community. Those may be the scouts, a food bank, a day care center, a meeting place for AA or NA meetings and such. They are likely to have a free library available to members instead of a bookstore or a coffee shop. Their main interests are likely to see the membership grow through discipleship classes, small group studies, consistent Wednesday evening Bible studies, Tuesday evening prayer meetings and these things. They will have active committees to care for different needs of the church, its membership, and the outreach programs. They are likely to have a lively children’s ministry, and may even have a certified school for certain age ranges.
As you can see there is a great service that the small and medium churches perform to the growth of Christianity, missions, and in service to the community. So if you’re in a small church, don’t sweat it. Enjoy the fellowship, get involved with the mission, and share the name of Jesus!
6 He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
This passage is a call to repentance. It is not only to the sinner, but to those who think that they are holier than others. If you look into the text preceding this parable, we see Jesus is responding to a common belief that has somehow tricked down through the ages. The question is do people suffer as a punishment from God for sin? More specifically do people die as judgement from God for sin? IN the case of the Jews, they wondered if the Gentiles would receive a greater punishment because their sins were worse than the Jews? Jesus, tells them that those who had suffered, referencing the verses before, were not any worse a sinner than those of whom he was talking to. Then he tells them directly that their fate is the same, unless they repent. Then he illustrates his reasoning with this parable in Luke 13:6-9.
In this illustration, we see the owner of the fig tree who is talking with his servant about the tree. The tree was planted with the owner hoping to have the fruits that it would yield. He probably imagined like many of us would, that the tree would be a big and strong tree with many fruits. He may have imagined that he could one day lay under the shade of the tree and reach up and take a fig and enjoy the sweet delights of his investment. Maybe he could share some with neighbors, or make delicate cakes or jams with the honey like figs. He could gain joy from showing his tree off to his friends and telling them how it was just a twig when he had first planted it.
But today, was one more day among many where he had walked out to the tree and it sat there, fruitless. Most fig trees take three to five years to start ripening fruit. We should assume that because the master was the owner of the vineyard, that he had already considered this. He waited until the customary time that they tree should be producing the fruit he so loved to eat. The story even tells us that it had been three years. So, year after year this owner waited in patient hope that the tree would start new stem growth and produce ripe figs in due season. Finally, the day has come. The owner can no longer justify to himself the need to let the plant continue to waist valuable soil in his fields. He calls his servant, “Cut it down and burn it.” He says with a sad and frustrated heart. So many hopes for the little tree were now gone. It was time to make room for another tree that would hopefully bear some fruit.
The servant, however, pleads on behalf of the tree. Please! Let me ease the ground surrounding the roots of the tree. Let me then put dung on the roots. Let me soften the soil and put in some fertilizer and give it another season to have a chance to mature and to be pleasing to you. Then if it bears fruit, we can continue to care for it and rejoice over the tree. But, if it does not then we know we tried everything and gave it every opportunity to produce good fruit and I will remove it from the field. The master then relents and continues in patience as the servant begins his tasks of breaking up the ground and seeding the dung about the roots of the tree, then I would imagine the faithful servant waters the soil and undoubtedly prays for good fruit in due season.
There are some things to learn about God in this parable. Some spiritual truths lay hidden in the telling of this story by Jesus. It is an example of the expectations, judgement, and patience of God the Father. We can see the interceding of the servant. Much like the intercession of Jesus Christ, our great high priest before the mercy seat of God. I think it such an amazing thing that God has taken the time to give us his reasoning as to why he does some of the things he does. Surely if God has taken to time to give the why behind the what, we should sit up and listen.
Expectations of God
Here in this analogy given by Jesus, we see a very reasonable expectation. The owner of their vineyard expects his fig tree to give him good fruits. He expects figs to come from his fig tree. Now we can understand that likely Jesus was talking to Israel who had been planted in the promised land and was expected to be God’s people. As God’s chosen, they were to be an example to the nations of how to worship God. Israel was to expound upon the nations of the world that Jehovah was the only God. They were expected to bear fruit for him.
In like manner we as the Church are expected to show forth fruits in showing that Jesus is the only name by which a man can be saved from their condemnation. (John 3:15-19) But not just any fruits. We are expected to produce good fruits. Fruits worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:8). The fig tree was expected to produce figs. We are expected to produce fruits according to our kind also. (2 Corinthians 9:10) The Apostle Paul confirmed this to the Romans saying, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”(Romans 12:1) Here we see that Paul explains that if you believe in God, then it is reasonable that you should do what he expects, that is to produce good fruit. In the following verses in Romans 12 we see that this good fruit of self-sacrifice includes: non-conformity to the world, transformation by renewing of the mind, being an example of what is good and acceptable to God, being humble, and walking in faith. Sounds like the same things that God expected of Israel. Listen this is not to be saved, but to those who have been redeemed. It is a reasonable expectation for them,… for us,… the redeemed of the Lord.
In Matthew 7:16-20, Jesus tells us exactly what is expected. He says, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” The apostle Paul tells us the manner and reason for our salvation.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
The problem with the fig tree is that it was producing no fruits at all. They were neither good nor bad, they were nonexistent. By their fruits you shall know them… A fig tree that does not produce figs is a dead fig tree. James writes, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”(James 2:26) Now take a look at what Jesus said, “every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” A dead tree does not bring forth good fruit. A dead tree is good for nothing and is cut down and burned.
Judgement of God
In the Gospel According to Matthew we see just how sudden and final this judgement is by an example that Jesus makes of an actual fig tree. Here is that telling. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. (Matthew 21:19) The master came to the tree, expecting to find the good fruit that he desired. In finding no fruit, the tree was judged to be just as bad as a tree that brought forth bad fruit. The lack of fruit condemned the tree. Jesus just said since you will not bear fruit, I have not need for you to take up space in the field. How many ministers have stopped producing fruit by being complacent in their Sunday schools, and pulpits? How many churches had failed to produce fruit after years of neglect in their neighborhoods? How many of us who claim to believe in Jesus have never labored to produce the fruits of righteousness in our lives? We have failed to tell family members. We live in complacency. We tell ourselves that everyone knows that we are Christians and if they want Jesus they will come and ask. We ignore the commandment to preach, teach, and to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19-20) We know what is good and acceptable to God. Shall we not be judged? James tells us, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17). If then, what we fail to do is sin to us, are we not like the fig tree? Have we not behaved like Israel? Are we not in error of our reasonable sacrifice? No wonder so many churches are dying. Think not that even though we are forgiven of sin, that we should not be held accountable for our deeds, or lack thereof.
Romans 2:6-10 – Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
Was not the Lord talking to the church when he said, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Revelation 2:5)? But even so in this statement we see the patience of our God. He says to remember, to repent, to do the first works… or else! He will come and remove thy candlestick. The master of the vineyard said, cut the unfruitful tree down. It serves no one any good. Judgement came to the unfruitful tree, and to Israel, and to the unfruitful church.
Patience of God
We however are blessed. Like to good master who waited patiently for many years for the fig tree to mature our Father waits patiently for us. He is not hasty to be angry with us (Ecclesiastes 7:9). He forbears us with love. He is long suffering towards us. The psalmist writes, “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” (Psalms 86:15) This truth is echoed throughout scripture.
1 Peter 3:20 – Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
2 Peter 3:15 – And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Numbers 14:18 – The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
Exodus 34:6 – And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
So, in here we see all kinds of examples of the patience of the Lord. We even learn that the longsuffering of our Lord is what gives us our salvation. This gospel of Grace through Faith is the result of God patiently suffering for us to redeem us at the proper time. The perfect example of this is how Jesus prayed for Jerusalem when he spoke, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37). Yet there is even a limit to the patience of God. Just as the master prepared to lay the axe to the fig tree, so to we see the chilling statement the Jesus added after his plea to Israel. “Behold you house is left to you desolate.” (Matthew 23:38)
Provision of Christ
Like the servant of the master who breaks up the ground and fertilizes the roots with dung, Jesus intercedes for both Jew and Gentile. For the scriptures do say this concerning the work of God towards us who believe on the name of Jesus.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27) So here we have the servant dunging up the roots. We are weak in our flesh, yet the Spirit strengthens us in our hope of what we cannot see. The Spirit intercedes for us with prayers that cannot be understood, nor voiced by the lips of men. It is the Spirit that lives in us that knows our every weakness and what is necessary for us to grow in our faith. He cries out to God the Father to ask for the things we need to remain faithful. The we see here also that Christ himself intercedes for us in Romans 8:34. The Word of God says that who can condemn us? Surely it is not the one who died in our place and who rose again. The very one who sits at the right hand of honor and authority of God the Father does not seek to judge us. Instead, he also intercedes for us before the Father. The scars from his wounded hands, feet and side are a constant witness to the Father of the atonement that he has made by his own blood. Why then would he commend his anger towards us, of whom, he has cleansed? So we have no fear of eternal condemnation. Our salvation is intact in whom we have trusted, in Jesus Christ the Son of God who is the Lamb who was slain for our sin.
Knowing this then are we ok to become complacent at our good fruit? No we are should be ashamed at such an attitude of complacency. Once again, I defer to the Apostle Paul on this matter.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4)
We are now dead to the old world and to the old ways of living in the world. We have become strangers in strange land. Our soul existence is in Jesus Christ. We cannot be charged with sin, and yet we cannot return to our old land, as Israel tried to do when delivered from the bondage of Egypt. We have been delivered from the slavery of sin and death and must now press on the promised land of the Kingdom of God. With so great a provision made for us, that we are now new creations in Christ and called the sons of God, how can we not seek to be fruitful in good works?
John 6:28-29 – Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
This is what makes us to be fruitful. We believe in Jesus Christ. We walk in faith looking forward to the completion of our redemption. We walk in the boldness of being the children of God through Jesus Christ. We put away the shameful behaviors because they no longer define us. Remember James told us that faith without works is dead. So then work out your faith. Not for salvation, but because you believe that you are already dead to sin, and alive in Christ. If you are alive in Christ then you are free to bear the fruits of righteousness today. So dung up your roots and be fruitful. Pray and study that you may be encouraged and your faith may be increased, for faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Go get your shovel.
My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:
A father tries his best to pass on knowledge and life skills to his son. He tries to give him all the good things that he has learned and instructs his son on the pit falls of life. He warns him of the dangers that certain things possess. A father strives to pass on more than knowledge. He instructs in principles for the living of a successful life. When these principles are adhered to, they guide the listener through proper decision making when the father is no longer present to turn to. These principles of life become the everlasting wisdom of the father in the heart of his son.
The father also establishes clear cut rights and wrongs in actions and thinking. These are things that must be black and white, absolute right and wrong, unbendable truths. An example, A man should never strike a lady. Another example of such would be, A man should never take advantage of the week or elderly. Another one from times past would be in the saying, “For God and Country”. Thus establishing the two things that a man must be loyal to. I would add to it in this order, “For God, Family, and Country”. These are things that a man should always know are wrong and never accept any excuse to violate. Nor should he respect or accept that any man should be allowed to violate these rules of manhood. Therefore, these rules that the father teaches his son should never be violated by his son. This passage of a clear line that should never be crossed is the single most important thing a father teaches a young man of integrity. A man’s word used to be his bond, that was because fathers used to teach and model this rule of integrity. A man who does not honor his word, has no integrity. The end never justifies the means. Instead, the means is what makes the end justified or not. So we see the law and the commandment of the father. They are principles and standards for how a good and godly man will act. A man who can be respected by man, beast, and God.
The father’s warning is simple. Don’t forget what I have taught you. Then he adds one more piece of sage advice. He says, “let”- “let thine heart”. Many men know what is right to do, and yet they do it not. Many of men know in their heart of hearts that what they desire to do is ludicrous, and wrong; yet they do it anyway. Therefore, the wise father tells his son that it is not enough just to know what is right and wrong, but you must live it correctly. Knowledge of right and wrong must be evidenced in you very heart. You must allow your heart to do the right things. It is a choice to follow good advice or to ignore it. You can choose to live by the good principles and truthful commandments of your father or you can disregard them. So this good father tells his son, let your hear desire to do what you now is correct. A man should always desire to do what is good and have the backbone to abstain from what is foolish. If he does not, then he is not a man, but a child. For a child cannot stand on his own, as a man must. This father’s will is for his son to stand… stand for what is good and just. He desires for his son to not walk in shame before other men, nor before his God. Then he encourages his son.
For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. The things that you have learned from me, my law and my commandments; these principles and standards of conduct, will lead to success. They will give you a long life, you will live longer if you do not take another man’s wife, for example. Another such example is that incurable diseases come from acts of sexual immorality. These diseases lead to a shortened, and painful life with ruined relationships, loneliness, and anger. Keeping your life simple and clear of ungodly desires with give you a life the is happy, healthy, and peace will follow you, all the days of your life. They will add to the quality of your life and the life of your family. Prosperity comes in times of peace. We can see how this leads to prosperity. Then he tells him about another principle for this successful life. Something we men all too often forget.
Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: Many men are taught how to be tough. We are taught how to stand up and to be strong, to hide our emotions and never show weakness. We often misinterpret these teachings. You see being strong and containing our emotions does have some benefit in lead and motivating others. It does also instill in us an attitude to never quit doing what is right in the face of opposition. Endurance in the faith is a godly quality. But when we pervert it in our hears to become cold and brutal, ignoring the pleas of others, that is wrong. Many young men today use the “respect” issue as a means to justify the using of fear and intimidation to demand respect of others. Fear is not respect.
In reality these brutish men have done nothing to deserve respect. Imposing your will on others through fear and intimidation is nothing to respect. Instead they bring shame to their families. It is the tool of the week in heart and cowardice, especially of, those who have no respect for themselves in seeking to hide their own frailties and shortcomings. A frightened adolescent who is afraid to be a real man and open his heart to the care of others. Hardheartedness is never approved of by God. Instead, the father tells his son to always be merciful and to always seek the truth. This is proper in judgement.
Someone who cannot invoke judgement and give a reward and punishment cannot show mercy. Now you may empathize with someone and feel sorry for them. However, you are in no position to be merciful to them. You can plead for mercy for them to the one who can show mercy, but you cannot provide mercy. A father can show mercy to his children. A judge can show mercy to a criminal. A king can show mercy to whom he governs over. Here the father tells his son that a good man shows mercy and upholds the truth. He holds himself accountable. Mercy and truth should be a part of who he is as a man of integrity.
You see he says to put them about they neck and to write them on his heart. This causes a man to examine himself and to keep himself in check. I have a necklace that I wear every hour of every day. It has an anchor pendant on the chain. I wear this for a two-fold remembrance. The first is to remind me of the calling of the gospel of Jesus Christ upon my life. If reminds me that he said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). The second is that it reminds me of my dad, who was seaman, and an avid fisherman.
Now, when I look in the mirror every morning the two things, I am reminded of are the commandments of my God. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40) and the promise to be a fisher of men. Then I am also reminded of the many things my dad had taught me about the way a man should act and feel. You see in looking at this necklace that I put about my neck, I am reminded of proper priorities in my life.
In putting the things into my heart, this is a purposeful consideration and a constant meditating on the things I have been taught, by God through scripture and through the law and commandments of my dad, in every situation that comes up in my day. I am forced to examine my thoughts, and the desires of my heart when I look in the mirror and consider the teachings I have received from childhood. Because I have chosen to let my heart accept the truth, I know in my heart what is good and godly and what is not. By choosing to do what is good and godly I choose to live at peace with man and with God in mercy and truth. This brings the peace.
This peace is not just from men, but in living a righteous, faithful life before God, so God and I are at peace with one another. So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. The law and the commandments given to a son, by a God fearing father are the passing down of the keys to success and happiness in life. They are the means of having a successful relationship with God, family, and country (men). The advice that is passed on? Son, always trust God. Son, always seek the truth (God). Son, always love God. Son, always be kind and merciful. He says this in another way. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. What then is a wise man, my son? A wise man is one who knows his limitations, understands the fear of the LORD (Jehovah), and goes in the exact opposite direction from evil and even the very appearance of it. My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: for length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.
At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. – John 16:26-27
We live in a great age in the prophetic timeline. We live in the time of the Grace of God. We now have access to God in a way that the prophets of old so desired, and yet went to their graves not realizing. Moses met with God at the burning bush, had multiple conversations with God, and even went up to Mount Sinai several times to meet with God in the exodus. He saw the Lord descend from heaven in a pillar of fire and smoke. He even had a glimpse of God as he passed by Moses.
Abraham saw the angels of God and even the Son of God, talked with God, and was even called God’s friend. However, neither of these were allowed into the holy of holies. Neither of these had God indwell them with his Holy Spirit.
Even John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets who was on the cusp of the dispensation of the Gospel of Peace and the sending of the Holy Spirit did not have access to the Father as we do today.
We have intimate access to God that was previously not know. Even when Jesus told his disciples these words, “until now you have asked nothing in my name”. But now in that day, in this day we can ask in his name. We have a guaranteed audience and have been given access to the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ. No other religion in the world can make that claim, only Christianity. Therefore, we can ask in his name.
We are to ask and to continue to ask. Paul says, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). And so in this day we are to pray in his name and to pray continuously in his name. We must understand that we have full access and permission to approach God the Father in the name and authorization of Jesus Christ. For Jesus said, “I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you”. No instead he tells us that I do not need to go to the Father on your behalf, because the Father himself loves you and desires to hear from you directly. The Father loves us because we love his son and obey him. The Father knows that we love his son because we obey him. (John 14:23; John 15:16; 1 John 3:21-22; Philippians 2:11)
The Father testifies of the son on more than one occasion saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17; 17:5) Because we have loved his Son the Father loves us. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). He knows that we love him because we listen to him, and we keep his commandments. (John 14:15) But as we read what Jesus said in our text, that the Father loves us “because ye have love me (Jesus), AND have believed that I came out from God.” So then loving Jesus unto obedience is necessary, but also the believing that he is the Son of God, and that he is from God. Jesus said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me…” (John 6:39).
What then is the will of him (God the Father) that sent him (Jesus the Son of God)? • That all that the Father gives him should not be lost, not one • That all that Father gives him should be raised up on the last day • That all that see and believe on him (Jesus Christ) should have everlasting life • That all that see and believe on him (Jesus Christ) should be raised up also on the last day
Therefore we can come before the Father with boldness to lay our petition before him. To pray and to seek and to find. For he says in our text that all we need to is ask. Ask for it. Ask for what it is that you desire of a sincere and concrete heart. In other places he tell us to seek, and to seek earnestly. So then we are to seek in earnest fervent prayer. For James, the half-brother of Jesus tells us that the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16) In east-Texas we would say that man’s words “hold water”. There is weight in the fervent prayer of a righteous man. It is because of who he is, who he knows, and what they mean to one another. Trusting in someone’s words means to trust that someone. John the one whom Jesus loves, said, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” (1 John 5:14-15) It is with great relief that Jesus tells us in our text that all we need do is to ask.
In the time of the Temple period only the High Priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies. The High Priest had to go through quit a lengthy ritual to enter into the Holy of Holies where the presence of God dwelt. To fail at any point in the preparations could lead to his death. Now we have free access to God. We can enter his gates with full joy knowing that we need not fear death. We do not have to worry if we have been properly cleansed, because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has taken care of all the requirements and removed all uncleanliness from us. We do not have to earn the right, pay a fee, or even plead for the audience. We only have to come and ask. Simply ask. We must never fail to ask. To ask should be our first act.
If one has never asked God for anything, then they must be an unbelieving, unregenerate soul. For if we truly believe that we can have anything we need to please the living God and to be of service to him, to receive the rewards he gives to those who ask, then surely we would ask. It is true that if you do not believe, you will not ask.
Therefore, • If any lack wisdom, let him ask of God (James 1:5) • If any lack in our health, let him ask • If any lack in our homes, let him ask • If any lack in a sound mind, let him ask • If any lack in matters of the spirit, let him ask For we know this, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask of him?” (Luke 11:13). We do not need a formal set of words. We only need to ask. Just as we would to anyone in whom we trust.
We do not need to worry about how accurate our word order is, or how proper our speech. There is no special formula. There is only the sincere desire of the need from a pure and upright heart. Not a seeking of evil, but because of a great care for goodliness and the desire in righteousness. For how can we ask in his name and pour out a selfish desire? Lord, please listen to me for his sake (Jesus).
When I was a young man, I went over to help my dad with a plumbing issue that he had. I did not have the right tools and could not afford the tools needed to complete the task. My dad sent me to the local hardware store. He told me that I should go see the owner and explain what tools and material were needed and who they were for. Then once all the items were totaled up the owner told me all I had to do was to sign on the receipt. I told him I did not have the money for the items, he told me it was ok, because I asked for them in my father’s name, and he trusted my father’s name. He knew that my father’s name was honorable and that he would take care of the bill. I left the hardware store with everything I needed to complete the repairs because I had asked in my father’s name.
You see Jesus says, use my name when speaking to the Father. For Jesus also said, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24) We are allowed to use that honor in speaking to the Father. The honor associated with the name of the only begotten Son who the Father is well pleased in. Therefore, this should be our governance, if Christ would not pray for it then I should not either. If our desire should conflict with the desire of the Father then we should decline our will to his. Who would dare bring shame upon another’s name by asking inappropriately for something that would be out of character for the one of who’s name they are asking in?
Surely if I would have gone into that hardware store and asked for an excess of materials, or for items that were not warranted for me to use for the job I was sent for, then he owner of the store would have been wise and denied my requests. In addition, any other time I approached and used my dad’s name, then he would have had suspicions against my motives. Eventually, he would not let anyone receive goods on my dad’s name. I would have ruined the reputation of my dad’s name. Shamefully many Christians have already ruined their witness for Christ, by abusing his name. We therefore should not, cannot defile the precious name of Jesus with such a request.
What then is the “day”? For Jesus does say, “At that day ye shall ask in my name…”. It is the day in which he has returned to the Father. It is the day in which the Comforter has been sent unto us. In reading the preceding chapter we see that this in all in the context of persecution. In that day, when persecutions arise, you will ask of the Father in my name. One thing is guaranteed that when persecutions arise so does the voices of the children of God.
Was not Gideon found hidden in the winepress while threshing his wheat in order that the Midianites might not discover him? Did not Israel turn to the Lord and cry to him for deliverance because of the persecution of the Midianites? Did the Lord then answer, and give Gideon all that was needed to deliver Israel from the Midianites, and return the prosperity of the land? Undeservedly, they asked. The Lord was gracious in his deliverance. Why? Because he loved them and desired to do good things for them.
The Lord God desires to do good for you. Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Ephesians 2:8-10 – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Psalms 37:4 – Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Titus 2:14 – Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
If you are in persecution for Christ, then you shall ask in his name, and it shall be done unto you. When they beat upon for your testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, pray, and ask. The Holy Spirit will equip you in your time of need. For the scripture reads, “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matthew 10: 19-20)
We pray not only in persecution, but also in deliverance and in the days of plenty. We then give thanks and ask for the continued blessings of God. We ask for wisdom to remain obedient and to never become slack in our praises. Ask and he will give you, because he loves you, and desires good things for you. Pray therefor for your real need. The hunger and desire to the believing is to be in his presence. Does not he say, in that day YOU WILL ASK?
You will ask because it will be your God given desire to pray. The Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance all things that we have been taught concerning the Lord. It is the Holy Spirit who prays for us and who teaches us to pray. So in our time of Joy we ask, and in our time of trial we ask. In the suffering of those we love, we ask. We ask in his name. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) For the labor of which we must set upon is intensive. We have not yet entered into his rest, for those who have entered into rest, labor no more. We instead look to him and pray in his name, our high priest unto God the Father, knowing that he has provisioned for us access to the grace of God. We can labor then and not faith, because we can pray, and ask what we will, for his will. We can pray, and pray without ceasing. For in that day, this day, we can ask what we will of the Father in Jesus’ name and the Father will give to us, because of the love for us and the honor to the Son. The Father is honored that the Son has been obedient and glorified the Father with his children. Every good Father loves his children. Pray, and pray now.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116.15)
I read today from, The Christian Post, about Reverend Silas Ali of Evangelical Church of Winning All, and how he was brutally murdered. This church is located in Kaduna State, Nigeria. Their pastor’s remains were found after a search was made when he had come up missing. The police speculate that he was attacked around Kibori, near Asha-Awuce, where his body was found. He had been mercilessly hacked to death by machetes. While the assailant(s) are unknow, there is a pattern of Christians being killed Nigeria without any signs of relief.
The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law repots that thousands of Christians have been killed in Nigeria. They report that at minimum of 3,462 Christians have been killed in just 300 days. They have been killed by Islamic extremists, and the government appears to be helpless to deter the genocide. 
We need to pray for Nigeria and for our Christian brother and sisters that are in harms way. We need to pray for their strengthening and faithfulness. As the apostle Paul says, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, … that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love…” (Ephesians 3)
We need to pray for the conversion of the souls of the Islamic extremists. We need to pray that the Lord will open their eyes to the truth. The truth that Jesus is the Son of God. We need to pray that their hearts will be made ready for the planting of the seed and that they will receive watering of the seed of the Word, and that this will flourish into a white field ripened for harvest. For we do not war against the individuals who commit such atrocities, but rather the spiritual principalities who have blinded the unfortunate followers of radical Islam. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
We must also encourage one another in this life and remind one another that we serve a God of the living, not the dead. For the psalmist says, “For though hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from failing. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 116:8-9). Who is this God? Why he is the Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified and was buried, and then triumphantly defeated death, by raising himself from the grave. It was he who left us no doubt when he said, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:32)
What then do we have to fear of men? Though they kill the body, they cannot kill the soul. For the soul lives on. Those who love the Lord and die for him are greatly loved. The Lord spoke to us in the psalmist and let us know, “precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” What a labor of love it is towards the Lord God to lay down one’s own life for his sake. The LORD loves and rewards those who are faithful unto death. These extremists who think that they do God a favor by killing his children have only joined together the Father with his loved ones and have heaped coal upon their souls. We should pray for their salvation, because they act in ignorance. They have been deceived into thinking they are doing a favor for God and gained his approval. Instead, they have gained his wrath to be poured out upon them, in everlasting torment in the Lake of Fire which was made for the Devil and his angels. Much like Paul who was deceived by the foolish teachings of his own religion and persecuted the children of God, these men have gone astray. However, like Paul, they can be made to see the error of their way, through the Lord Jesus Christ. They can be given the opportunity to see, and hear, and to repent and turn to the God who loves them. We pray therefore that they will see the truth in Jesus Christ and come to repentance, and then reproduce disciples who love the Lord Jesus Christ.
Kumar, A. (2021, September 13). Migerian Pastor Macheted to death; body foung by search party. Retrieved from The Christian Post: https://www.christianpost.com/
We often feel we are inadequate or lack enough training or knowledge to share the gospel. Some of us think we don’t have the ability to be a great orator. We get tongue tied, or speak to softly, or stutter. Some of us are held back from the shame of our past. We wonder how could we ever confront someone on what is right or wrong with the things we have done in our past? Maybe its that we are not the right color, or the right age, or that we are just a new Christian. Insecurities creep in from every direction. Our insecurities help is to make millions of excuses why “someone else” should tell people about Jesus and not us.
We compare ourselves to Billy Graham, or some other big named evangelist and tell ourselves that I could never be that useful to God. We may even compare ourselves to the Apostles and say man, I wish I could be like Luke and write amazing things about Jesus and the church. We may tell ourselves, I could never be like Paul and plant churches everywhere I go. To often we look at our own limitations and not what God can do; if we were to just be obedient.
Peter was just an average guy when he was called by Jesus. He was a fisherman who made a living by the sweat of his brow and the sores on his hands. Peter denied Christ when he needed him most. Peter was a man of shame. He had to overcome this in love of Jesus Christ. Paul murdered Christians and suffered beatings, sicknesses, and ridicule. Paul had to be encouraged in his ministry by other believers, and even had to have a personal physician. Paul had to overcome all of this in the love of Jesus Christ. Both men, and even Luke had their failings from the past to look beyond. They had to keep looking forward to the day of redemption, and to be faithful to the commandment from Jesus that they had received. The commandment to go and tell. We however continue to look at our failures and let them assure us that we are unworthy to carry such a message.
The truth is, we are unworthy to carry such a message. However; we are also uniquely qualified to carry the message of hope. We to must overcome our past by the love of Jesus Christ. You see we did not earn the privilege to speak on his name. We received a task that is a privilege to perform for him. We know our dreadful past with all of the horrific things we have done against God and others. But we are not the only ones who know. Those who God sends us to, they know it also. Our friends and family, wives, siblings, children, parents, they all know who we used to be. More importantly, we know who we used to be. But we have something to share with them.
What we share with them is hope. We share with them Jesus and a new life that is free from the past. We show them by our lives that they do not have to be the same way they are. There is a way to live without shame, addiction and rejection. None of us started out the way we ended up. We all wanted to be something better than what we became. We show them how Jesus can make us free to live life in a better way than we ever dreamed. We can have redemption, hope, joy, and love! We can be loved! We can love others too! The gospel of Jesus Christ is that and so much more. But, we hide this important message from them because of our insecurities. We forget that it is not us, but the Spirit of the Living God who resides in us that gives us the ability to bear witness of the things he has done for us, for them.
We don’t see that before Billy Graham was a world renowned evangelist and clergy to the Office of the President of the United States, he was just another guy. He gave his life to Christ at the age of 16. He was a farmer’s son. His first ministry was to lead prayer meetings in a trailer park. He applied to be an Army Chaplain and was denied do to a lack of formal experience. He then became a Pastor of a small Baptist church. He began to host a weekly radio program. Billy Graham looked for opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Eventually he became the first full time organizer of Youth for Christ. This is what God used to open doors all across the world for many generations. Billy Graham was of humble beginnings, without experience, and largely unlearned, and often felt inadequate to speak the gospel of Jesus Christ. But he was obedient. It is God who made Billy Graham, Paul, Peter, Luke, and all the other historic men and women of God who they are today.
In Acts 26 we get a look at Paul, or Saul at this time. It is strange, but; when we consider who would have been the first martyrs of the church we would assume that it would be one of the twelve apostles. You know the guys who were right there, and saw it all go down. I could see Peter volunteering himself to go first. After all, he did tell Jesus that he would go with him unto death! However; this is not the case. Instead, the first martyr recorded was a young man. This youth was named Stephen. Stephen was one of the deacons of the church. He tended to the widows, orphans, and other needs of the church and it’s members. Like other early followers, he was not restricted to just administrative tasks, but was active in spreading the gospel himself. This is something that we should all learn. Even though he was a deacon, he understood that his work for the gospel of Jesus did not end there. He didn’t say, “I’m a deacon, not a preacher”. In fact, if you study the book of acts you will see that all of the first deacons were also preachers, and evangelists.
Scripture doesn’t tell us what seminary or special training that Stephen went though, or how powerful of a speaker he was. It does not tell us that Stephen was anything exceptional. With the exception of this, “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” (Acts 6:8) Stephen was full of faith! That is it. Because Stephen was full of faith, God did great wonders and miracles through Stephen. So this humble young man who believed enough to share his faith soon got into trouble with the local religious groups.
Stephen was brought up on charges of blasphemy for proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Stephen was stoned to death for his testimony of Jesus. Now a man named Saul, was one of those present and took pleasure at the stoning of Stephen. This Saul, would become known as Paul, the same one who would latter change the world with the doctrine of salvation by grace, hated believers in Jesus Christ. Saul even went further and received authorization to persecute Christians throughout the Providences of Asia. This meant he had permission to go from town to town and arrest, beat, and stone to death anyone who he witnessed or was witnessed to him, as a Christian.
Paul himself testifies of his own evil deeds that he did. He tells King Agrippa that he threw many “followers of the way” (Christians) into prison and saw to it that they were executed. Paul himself would testify against them in courts. He said that he often punished them in the synagogues. He would back them into a corner with his knowledge of scripture and his intellect and force them to commit blasphemy in front of the Pharisees so that they would be stoned to death. When the persecuted fled Jerusalem, then Paul proceeded to hunt them down throughout Asia. Now, I ask you. What have you done that is shameful? What has disqualified you from sharing the gospel? How many innocent lives have you taken? How many followers of Jesus Christ have you condemned to death?
OK, so this Saul was on a hunting trip to catch more followers of the Way. Then while Paul is riding along and anticipating his trophies to be won, suddenly, he runs right smack dab into Jesus. Jesus blinds Saul with his glory and then confronts him on his sin. Saul, like you and I, repented. Saul saw the error of his ways, his foolish pride and arrogance, his sins against God himself. His errors in the past swept before his heart and his mind’s eye. Saul was immediately sorrowful and his shame was displayed before him. He suddenly understood how shameful he was. He was not the righteous soldier of God he had imagined in his vanity. Instead he was a murderer of the ones that truly loved God. Saul had worked his whole life and studied hard to be pleasing to God, and yet he had not seen the light. He was lost, more than any other man. He also knew that his actions, above of all other men’s, could not be forgiven. The pride that had blinded him, was now gone. Saul was broken.
Then something happened. Jesus forgave Paul. He forgave him of everything, with nothing left out to hold over his life. Just like Jesus forgave you and I. But that would not be the only thing that Jesus did for Saul. Jesus sent Saul on mission. Acts 26:16-18 tells of about this, “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
Paul was to rise to his feet, but to never think to highly of himself again. Paul’s humility would be the strength that God would use to spread his gospel of grace by faith. Jesus told Paul, “rise and stand upon thy feet.” Jesus told him to stand up, I have a job for you. Jesus confronted Paul of his sin. Once Paul confessed and repented, Jesus stood him up and gave him purpose. The Lord gave Paul a new life and a new purpose, in and for Jesus Christ. Now that Paul had been delivered, he was not to return to his old life. Paul would no long serve his own purposes. Paul, now that he was redeemed was now a servant of the Lord who had redeemed him.
Paul’s new purpose was to go where the Lord directed and “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
How did Paul start out this mission? He was humble. He was blind. He was dependent upon those around him. He was led about by the hand. He had to wait on the Lord. When Paul first started preaching, no one listened to him. His past immediately came up, and people did not trust him. They didn’t believe in his conversion. Then when they did start listening they tried to kill him. Does this sound familiar? When you first believed in Christ, were you not treated in such a way? Did friends and family disbelieve the sincerity of your conversion? Did they say things like, “Awe you just on a Jesus kick!” Afterward, they would then grow tired of you talking about Jesus and even begin to be confrontational, or avoiding you. See these same things you go through, even the great Apostle Paul went through. All of these feelings of inadequacy. Things that encourage you to just crawl in a hole and not mention the name of the one who redeemed you. They are real things the enemy uses to silence us.
See we are all the same. We are all just servants, none of us is better or more important than the other. We all need to be obedient and follow the calling of Christ. This mission that Jesus gave Saul, it the same one he gave the other disciples. It is the same one he gives us as new disciples. This is part of our inheritance. We have the great privilege to speak life to people in the name of the Lord Jesus
Christ. Let us then do like Saul, who became known as Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Let us get up and put our old lives behind us. Live the life and purpose that Jesus has now given to us. Go on mission to tell others about what God has done for you. How he has delivered YOU from death and shame into love and life in Jesus Christ. Have we forgotten that the Lord told the Pharisees, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” We are who the Lord chose to reveal himself to; those who are sick, and feeble, those who are in need. He did not come to call the religious, but those who are lost and need redemption. He did not call the perfect, but those who are broken and distraught. Those who need him are the ones he came to deliver.
We who have believed have now been made anew. Like a new garment that is clean and nicely pressed we have a new life. The Spirit of God has come to indwell this new wineskin, not the old. Jesus had laid his hands upon us and healed us from our infirmities. Jesus removed the shackles of death and the bondage of sin (addictions) that once crippled us. He has raised us up to be glorified in him, to him, and for him. We like Saul have been redeemed, bought, for his purposes. It is by faith that we have been made whole. Faith that God exists. Faith that Jesus if the Son of God. Faith that Jesus dies and was buried for our sin. Faith that we will be resurrected just as he resurrected. Faith that he will return to establish his kingdom here on earth and destroy his enemies. Faith that we are delivered to eternal life through Jesus Christ.
This is our hope in this life. We have this newness of life in Christ. Death died with the old man we used to be. Now we have a new life in Jesus Christ. This new life is free from sin, shame, and death. We have nothing to fear in this life and can then love as Christ has love us. There is nothing that anyone can hold against this new creature in Christ that we have become. Paul told Timothy, “let no man despise they youth”. Let no man despise you’re youth, in age or spiritual maturity, for many elders in the church have gone to sleep spiritually.
So again let us, open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among we which are sanctified by faith that is in us concerning Jesus Christ.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.