The Work of Our Hands

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James 1:19-27

The older I grow the more I find what I once considered important changing.
The writer of Ecclesiastes writes, Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (2:11) Therefore, should I have been surprised when I returned to Pine Bluff, after I had left my previous parish five years earlier, and was confronted with the brevity of my reputation?
It is amazing how in five short years everything can change. There were those with their hugs and kisses, ones who had fond memories. There were the new ones who had no idea of who I was or what I was like. I am reminded of a friend who went back to a former church he had served. Walking down the street in the town, the same place where he had given four years of his life, he encountered the husband of a woman who had been active in the church. Admittedly, the man only came to church periodically, but nevertheless, he had given many hours to counseling his family, supporting his two teenage daughters, and working on various church projects with his wife. They met on the street and he greeted him warmly. They talked for a few minutes and he said something about how much he missed living in that town, to which he said, “Did you move? Are you not the pastor down at the church anymore?” Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

Most of us will spend the majority of our lives at work. On this Labor Day weekend, I ask you, “What does our work mean? Will what we do last? Is the significance of our work solely in its eternality?”

People go to college for a variety of reasons, but Bob Kuechenberg, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, may have given the best reason yet in an interview with Newsweek: My father and uncle were human cannonballs in carnivals. My father told me, “Go to college or be a cannonball.” Then one day my uncle came out of the cannon, missed the net and hit the ferris wheel. I decided to go to college.

What is the point of our work, what does all our labor add up to? We and our accomplishments are not eternal. Yet, in the great purposes of God, even what we do can have value and lasting significance. The best thing is for us to work faithfully, to take joy in our labors and to leave the rest to God.

Scripture teaches that labor is a two way street. There is a Biblical relationship of the employee to the employer, and there is a Biblical relationship of the employer to the employee.

The employee is to give and do the best that he can for his employer. One of Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” items pictures a plain bar of iron worth $5. The same bar of iron if made into horse shoes, would be worth $50. If it were made into needles, it would be worth $5,000. If it were made into balance springs for fine Swiss watches, it would be worth $500,000. The raw material is not as important as how it’s developed. God says we have spiritual gifts, but their worth to Him and the world will be dependent on how we develop them.

“In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we have discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.” Our attitude is important, it is the difference between just earning a pay check and being committed to a task assigned by our employer. James writes, Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

Jim was such a good worker, he had just received another raise in pay. But when his brother called him and asked how things were going, Jim said that things were not going so well. His brother was surprised and said that he had heard about the raise. Jim agreed that he had received a sizable raise and enjoyed his job. His brother asked him what the problem was, then. Jim answered, “I’ll tell you what bothers me. I’m making so much money now that I can’t afford to take a day off.”

Good living and good work go together. Life and livelihood ought not to be separated but to flow from the same source, which is Spirit. Spirit means life, and both life and livelihood are about living in depth, living with meaning, purpose, joy, and a sense of contributing to the greater community. A spirituality of work is about bringing life and livelihood back together again.”

The employer is accountable to God for how he treats the employee. Jesus Himself says, … for the worker deserves his wages. (Luke 10:7) Firing an employee is one of the toughest jobs a supervisor ever faces. An insurance sales manager was known for his tact and diplomacy. One of his young salesmen was performing so poorly that he had to be terminated. The manager called him in and said, “Son, I don’t know how we’re ever going to get along without you, but starting Monday we’re going to try.”

My best friend from seminary days was called to his first church. The parsonage was right next to the church, the worst possible place for a parsonage. For several years he tried to get the congregation to make repairs to the parsonage. Members would say things like, “That is a mighty fine house, you should be happy.” The congregation grew and needed to expand so they bought a new parsonage across town. Their plan was to convert the parsonage to classrooms. They decided that the house wasn’t in good enough condition to use as classrooms.

Philemon was a member of the church of Colossae, who owed his conversion to the apostle Paul, for such is the interpretation generally assigned to the words “You owe to me even your own self as well” (Philem 19). To him, Paul addressed his epistle on behalf of Onesimus. His character, as given in that letter, was one of great nobility. The apostle commends his faith and love, his benevolence and hospitality, and his docile, sympathizing, and forgiving spirit.
He asked Philemon to treat Onesimus as Paul would have treated Onesimus.

I marvel at the faith of the man in Michigan who when he sold his business for millions of dollars gave part of the selling price to his employees who had helped him to make the business a success. So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matt 7:11-12) Every seventh year the landowners, the slave owners, the rich, were to release everyone in slavery or in servitude. The issue was to treat all workers justly.

Were You There When The Tree Withered?

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Mark 11:20-25

Following the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: `My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it `a den of robbers.'” Do you get the feeling that Jesus was having a bad day?

In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.

Doesn’t it seem unreasonable to curse a tree for being fruitless when, as the writer, of Mark told us it wasn’t the right season for figs? It is widely believed that Jesus was crucified on April 6th, A.D. 30. So, the incident of the fig tree would have occurred at the end of March or the first of April. Towards the end of March the leaves of the fig tree begin to appear. In about a week of the foliage appearing there appears a small crop of knobs on the tree. The knobs are not the figs. The knobs are a kind of forerunner for the figs. These knobs are called “Taqsh” by middle eastern people. The Taqsh is eatable and is eaten by many peasants. When the Taqsh comes to maturity it simply falls off the tree. The true fig appears six weeks later on that same tree. The Taqsh is a precursor for the fig. If the leaves of the fig tree appear without any Taqsh, that is a sign that there will not be any figs. Since Jesus found only leaves and no Taqsh, He knew that it was hopeless, and said as much to the tree.

A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard and went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard,
`For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ (Luke 13:6)

Both stories represent Jerusalem. Jerusalem was unresponsive to Jesus as he came into Jerusalem’s life. Therefore, Jerusalem is destroyed.

Now the message of the fig tree is our message. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

The Power Of The Spiritual Gifts

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First Corinthians 12:7-11

The most famous Buddhist temple in Bangkok is called the Temple of the Golden Buddha. Inside this very small building is a solid gold statue of Buddha standing 10 ½ feet tall. It weighs over 2 1/2 tons and is worth nearly $200 million. The history of this statue is fascinating. In 1957, a highway was slated to be built over the grounds of the monastery so the monks made preparations for their clay Buddha to be relocated. A crane was employed but when the statue was being lifted it began to crack. The head monk was concerned about the damage and had the statue lowered back to the ground. That evening the monk took a flashlight to make certain the statue was staying dry under the tarp. When he shined his flashlight on the crack it began to glisten. He took a closer look and then went for a hammer and chisel. He knocked off pieces of clay only to find a statue of solid gold. Historians believe the statue was covered with clay several centuries before when the Burmese army was about to invade Thailand. The monks were trying to protect their treasure but when the Burmese army attacked, all of those who knew the secret were killed.

A similar secret exists today. Inside each of us is a largely unknown, yet valuable potential just waiting to be released. A 38-year-old scrub woman would go to the movies and sigh, “If only I had her looks.” She would listen to a singer and moan, “If only I had her voice.” Then one day someone gave her a copy of the book, The Magic of Believing. She stopped comparing herself with actresses and singers. She stopped crying about what she didn’t have and started concentrating on what she did have. She took inventory of herself and remembered back in High School she had a reputation for being the funniest girl around. She began to turn her liabilities into assets. She wasn’t good looking and she had a scratchy voice, but she could make people laugh. A few years later, Phyllis Diller made over $1 million in one year.

Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth was written because there was a problem in the congregation. The new subject, spiritual gifts, is linked with the preceding section by the common relation to public worship. It is important to distinguish spiritual gifts from spiritual fruits and spiritual ministries. We will be talking about the fruits and the ministries in other sermons. Spiritual fruits are features of Christian character. Spiritual ministries are positions in the church for the administration of its affairs of spiritual oversight of the flock. Spiritual gifts are divine enablements related to service in the local church, both official and unofficial. Every believer possesses a spiritual gift, but not all believers possess the same gift. The church at Corinth, certainly no dead church, was in danger of abusing its privileges by an over emphasis on certain of the spectacular gifts. Paul first sets forth the unity and diversity of the gifts (12 a), next the primacy of love over the seeking of gifts (12:31 b-13:13), and finally evaluation and regulation of the exercise of the gifts of prophecy and tongues (14). Paul gives the church an opening word of admonition to aid them in determining genuine spiritual utterance.

Now to each one the manifestations of the Spirit is given for the common good.
Paul is very up-front that these gifts are not for individual needs but for the needs of the whole Church. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. These nine (9) gifts are special abilities that God gives to the Church.
1. …to one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom….. Wisdom comes from God just as wisdom was given to Solomon by God. Wisdom is the ability to understand the ways of God. It is the ability to give good advice and give instruction for living.
2. …to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit…. Knowledge is the God given ability to know certain facts that others would not know under normal circumstances. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.
3. …to another faith by the same Spirit…. Faith is the ability to believe in God and to respond to God’s leading in spite of the circumstances. Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17) And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17)
4. …to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit…. Some have the gift of the healing arts in their hands. Others have a special gift of bringing healing to people understanding and reason. Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. (Acts 3:6)
5. …to another miraculous powers…. This is the ability to interfere with the course of nature; e.g., Moses and the parting of the Red Sea. Elijah and the bread and oil with the widow at Zarephath.
6. …to another prophecy…. Prophecy is more then the ability to see into the future, it is the ability to tell the truth regardless of the cost. Prophecy enlightens us! Sometimes that reveals the future but other times it deals with the present.
7. …to another distinguishing between spirits…. This gift is given so that the Church may know when evil is present. This person will know when someone is demon possessed.
8. …to another speaking in different kinds of tongues…. Tongues is the ability to convey the good news to someone of a different nationality. The gift is sometimes used for individual edification and then a heavenly language is used. Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers (1 Cor 14:22)
9. …and to still another the interpretation of tongues. The ability to understand that which has been given in language. This person is to keep the church honest and godly.

One of Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” items pictures a plain bar of iron worth $5.
The same bar of iron if made into horse shoes, would be worth $50. If it were made into needles, it would be worth $5,000. If it were made into balance springs for fine Swiss watches, it would be worth $500,000. The raw material is not as important as how it’s developed. God says “We have spiritual gifts, but their worth to Him will be dependent on how we develop them. ”

Benjamin Franklin once asked the question, “What’s a sundial in the shade?”

The Power of Prayer

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John 16:23-24

Does prayer do any good? James answers quickly, The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16) A visiting farmer stopped at a city restaurant to eat lunch. When he was served his food he bowed his head and gave thanks to the Lord. Some rather uncouth guys sitting at a nearby table noticed the farmer’s prayer and shouted, “Hey, pops, back where you come from does everybody PRAY before they eat?” Their laughter was silenced when the unmoved farmer answered, “Everybody but the pigs.”

The Sixteenth Chapter of John moves us from the Upper Room to the Garden in the Seventeenth Chapter. The whole Seventeenth Chapter is Jesus’ prayer in the Garden. The Sixteenth Chapter is preparing the disciples for what is to come in the garden. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

There are four (4) types of prayer. Personal Prayer. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane in John 17. In the Gethsemane prayer, Jesus prays for Himself. “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. There is great pain for himself, in that prayer. There is nothing wrong with praying for our own personal needs. Luke writes: LUKE 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” There is nothing selfish or unacceptable about praying for ourselves. If our Father in Heaven doesn’t want to do it or knows its not in our best interest, God won’t do it. That is why God sometimes says “NO” to our prayers. The board of deacons was being briefed on techniques for making church calls. One newly elected member was obviously timid about her responsibilities. The pastor hoped to encourage her by stressing the power of prayer. “You’ll find it helpful, before you make the call, to spend a few moments talking to God about it,” he said. When the deacons met later to report, the timid one waylaid the pastor and said enthusiastically, “Oh, thank you for what you said about prayer. I tried it when I went out on my call, and it works.” “I’m glad to hear that,” beamed the pastor. “Tell us what happened.” “Well, I prayed the people wouldn’t be home, and they weren’t.” God hears every prayer. It is personal by the very nature that it is between you and God. …when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Intercessory Prayer. Beginning at the 6th verse of John 17, Jesus changes to intercessory prayer.  He prays for the Disciples and than He prays for all believers. Intercessory prayer is prayer on behalf of someone else. In the Church we use intercessory prayer to pray for the needs of each other. The “Prayer List” invites us to know the needs of others and then we pray for their needs. The Holy Spirit gives intercessory prayer on our behalf. Intercessory prayer is the greatest gift of love that we can give to another person. It is sacrificial and selfless. Intercessory prayer is not to be a public spectral but to be prayed from our closets. ROM 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. A park ranger at Yellowstone National Park tells the story of a ranger leading a group of hikers to a fire lookout. The ranger was so intent on telling the hikers about the flowers and animals that he considered the messages on his two-way radio distracting, so he switched it off. Nearing the tower, the ranger was met by a nearly breathless lookout, who asked why he hadn’t responded to the messages on his radio. A grizzly bear had been seen stalking the group and the authorities were trying to warn them of the danger. How important it is that we never turn off God’s saving communication! What to love someone that is unlovable? What to forgive in someone that is unforgivable? Pray for them, for their good!

Community Prayer. Community prayer takes place in the mist of the Church. MAT 18:20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Community prayer has great power. MAT 16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” God pays special attention to the Church. MAT 18:19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”

Travailing Prayer. Travailing prayer is a prayer lifted up in the middle of sorrow or pain. It is the prayer of the bereaved. It is the prayer of the terminally ill. It is the prayer of the persecuted.  As Jesus was dying on the cross, He prayed, LUKE 23:34 “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” I believe that God has a very sensitive heart for this prayer.  Answering our prayers! It is remarkable to think that God has given us a partnership with him in directing the course of human events. It is extraordinary to realize that our prayer can change events and circumstances in the world around us. But what is just as remarkable is that when we pray, “we” change. More often than not we become the answer to our own prayers as we open up ourselves to God in prayer. A few weeks after Vickie was diagnosed with cancer the Lord gave me Lamentations 3:19: I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

Does prayer do any good? In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, `This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.  I will add fifteen years to your life. (2 Kings 20)

Does it do any good to pray? Ask Hezekiah!

The Power Of The Gifts Of Ministry

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Ephesians 4:11-12

Teddy Roosevelt once had a little dog that was always getting into fights and always getting licked. Somebody said, “Colonel, he’s not much of a fighter.”
Teddy replied, “Oh, he’s a good fighter. He’s just a poor judge of dogs.”

The Church must have leaders. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last.” God has always been about the business of calling His leaders. Sometimes we wonder God’s reasoning, but God’s choice is always best. Someone asked the great preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, if he really believed that the dead lived. He answered, “Yes, I have absolute proof. If you want it, just attend a meeting of my board of deacons.” An old Scottish proverb says, “He that won’t be ruled by the rudder must be ruled by the rock”.

God selects leaders. Paul was going in the wrong direction and God sent him on the Damascus Road. Gideon was a wheat farmer and God called him to be a leader even though he was a man who was uncertain about his calling.

The various types mentioned below are Christ’s gifts to the church. God called some to be Apostles. This was a special office at the beginning of the church. The apostles that surrounded the ministry of Christ had no successors because the criteria was to have witnessed Jesus’ ministry. They were given unique work by the Lord Jesus. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (Eph 2:19) Protestant churches shun using this term today because the term seems to get caught up in apostolic succession of the Catholic Church. The Pope is the pope because he is an apostle in a line of apostles dating from the Apostle Peter. Later in the history of the Church the term “apostle” simply meant “one sent forth.” As time went by and all those who personally witnessed Christ’s ministry had died, the messenger of the good news became the apostle. One who carried letters between the Churches. Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. (Heb 3:1) The Jews, called the collector of the half shekel, which every Israelite paid annually to the Temple, an apostle; also those who carried about encyclical letters from their rulers were called apostles.

A prophet is one who is divinely inspired to communicate God’s will to His people and to disclose the future to them. In classical Greek, Prophetess signifies “one who speaks for another,” especially “one who speaks for a god” and so interprets his will to man. Hence its essential meaning is “an interpreter.” The medieval use of the word propheteia ( “prophecy”) passed into the English language in the sense of prediction, and has retained this as its popular meaning. It was part of their commission to show the people of God ‘their transgressions. They were, therefore, pastors and ministerial monitors of the people of God. Prophecy is not intended to open the future to idle curiosity but is for the higher purpose of furnishing light to those whose faith needs confirming. The prophecy of Jonah against Nineveh seems to be exceptional. He was sent to a pagan power to denounce the judgments of God against it. He did not, in his own land and among his own people, preach against Nineveh, but he entered the great city itself and delivered his message there.

In a general sense an Evangelist applies to anyone who proclaims the mercy and grace of God. This passage, accordingly, would lead us to think of them as standing between the two other groups-sent forth as missionary preachers of the gospel by the first, and as such preparing the way for the labors of the second. The same inference would seem to follow the occurrence of the word as applied to Philip (Acts 21:8).

Pastors have three functions: The ministration in divine service includes the ordering of worship, administering the sacraments, and preaching the Word.
The responsibility of pastoral care springs out of the worship of God.
This pastoral relation passes naturally into the scriptural authority for calling the spiritual government of the church. The design of the Lord’s gift of pastors and teachers, as supplementary to that of apostles and evangelists, is “the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12).

Teachers (Rabbi) at least some of them, had private lecture rooms but also taught in public. Their method was the same as prevailed among the Greeks, that is, any disciple was allowed to ask questions to which the teacher replied.
They did not have any official position and received no salary other than voluntary gifts from their disciples.

Leadership is accepting people where they are, then leading them in the right direction for growth. Much of the wasted effort in human activity is a result of lack of clear definition of the real or total reason for doing something. If you cannot determine why you are doing something, you probably won’t do it very well . . . Don’t miss the opportunity to expose your real purpose to yourself. A true leader is committed to the cause, and does not become the cause. Staying personally dedicated to the cause can become extremely difficult, particularly if the cause succeeds.

I admired Mother Teresa, who decided after winning the Nobel Prize that she would not go to accept any more recognition because it interfered with her work. She knew she was not in the business of accepting prizes; she was in the business of serving the poor of Calcutta. Are you a leader?

Success With Boundaries

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Isaiah 55:9

When I furnished my bedroom with only a bed, night stands and chests, I found that I put all of my clothes where they belong and my room stays clean. As soon as I bring in a chair to sit on, clothes start accumulating on it that would normally be put away. I find myself getting lazy, not making the very small effort to keep my house in order. When the clothes pile up to the point that I can’t even sit in the chair, I finally have to make a much larger effort to put away my clothes. Sometimes it’s easier just to do without the chair. Ever notice that the same thing happens with sin in your life?

There are two dogs in my back yard, lazy and sunning trying hard to get their share, and maybe more, of the overflowing from the table. Satisfied with the task they’re at, of eating and sleeping and getting fat. But whenever a rabbit ventures into the yard, they remember they are dogs and run after the rabbit.
Run after it until it darts through the fence and away from them. It is a pitiful sight watching those two dogs with their heads through the fence but not able to get their bodies through. The fence is a boundary that confines the dogs and makes the difference between tame dogs and wild dogs.

One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.” Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

God put boundaries on Satan and on Job. No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Cor 10:12-13).

God’s boundaries on our lives is not to control us but for our benefit. The treasurer of a rural church resigned and was replaced by a man who managed the local grain elevator. The grain operator agreed to the new position on one condition that the church not require a financial statement or ask him any questions about the finances for one year. The church members were confused by the request but obliged him because he was a successful and trustworthy man. At the end of the year, this secretive treasurer gave a great financial report. The $25,000 debt had been paid off, there were no outstanding bills, and there was a cash balance of $12,000. The congregation was elated and wanted to know how he managed to accomplish such a great feat. He replied, “Most of you bring your grain to my elevator. When I paid you, I simply withheld ten percent on your behalf and gave it to the church in your name. You never missed it and now you have seen what God can do when we each give back to God the tithe He has commanded of us all.” Tithing provides a beautiful transformation in the life of a Christian who is obedient to God’s command, and collectively, tithing transforms the entire scope and magnitude of ministry in ones church.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Decide upon a goal and launch it! Put first things first and we get second things thrown in; put second things first and we lose both first and second things. “I visualized where I wanted to be, what kind of player I wanted to become. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, and I focused on getting there,” said Michael Jordan.

Prov 23:7 says “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he….” One step at a time while always remaining flexible! You can achieve almost any goal you set for yourself if you simply take it one step at a time. Even the universe took six days – one day at a time. No one accomplishes their dream alone! Nobody makes it on their own. We all need help from others to get over the rough spots on the journey of life. We are a product of someone else’s generosity. Welcome obstacles and difficulties as valuable lessons toward your goal! Whenever you try to do something out of the ordinary, people will line up to tell you that you can’t do it. To achieve anything great or worthwhile, you must train yourself to rise above these people, ignoring them and pressing on toward your goal regardless. A typical piano has over 240 strings that, when tuned and tightened, create a pull of 40,000 pounds on the frame. Without the tension, there would be no beautiful music. Yet, too much exerted pressure can cause the piano to crack and will destroy it’s sound. Balance in work, exercise, diet, recreation, worship, and relationships keeps us in harmony. Keep it Christian! Ps 145:19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.

Running From God

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Jonah 3:1-5

In the later years of his life Robert Louis Stevenson was a man of deep and profound faith. It was not always like that, however. Like many young people he rebelled against his upbringing. He was reared in Scotland in a very strict Presbyterian home. As a college student he quickly shed his rigid upbringing, which he called “the deadliest gag and wet blanket that can be laid on a man,” and adopted a thoroughly sinful lifestyle. He called himself a “youthful atheist.” As he became older, however, he began to have “doubts about his doubts.” He came to see that for all its claim to wisdom, the world had no satisfying answers to the deepest questions of life. Later Robert Louis Stevenson would write, “There is a God who is manifest for those who care to look for him.” Still later he would describe his own religious outlook as a “cast iron faith.”

A man was sitting at home one evening, when the doorbell rang. When he answered the door, a 6 foot tall cockroach was standing there. The cockroach immediately punched him between the eyes and scampered off. The next evening, the man was sitting at home when the doorbell rang again. When he answered the door, the cockroach was there again. This time, it punched him, kicked him and karate chopped him before running away. The third evening, the man was sitting at home when the doorbell rang. When he answered the door, the cockroach was there yet again. It leapt at him and stabbed him several times before running off. The gravely injured man managed to crawl to the telephone and summoned an ambulance. He was rushed to intensive care, where they saved his life. The next morning, the doctor was doing his rounds. He asked the man what happened, so the man explained about the 6 foot cockroach’s attacks, culminating in the near fatal stabbing. The doctor thought for a moment and said, “Yes, there’s a nasty bug going around.”

I was in a store a few days ago shopping. There was a little boy about 8 or 9 who wanted a game boy. His mother had said, “No.” He didn’t want to accept her answer and protested. It was an ugly scene as the child lay on the floor kicking his hands and feet into the air. And yelled his protest at the top of his voice. The mother was obviously upset by the matter and was trying to get the young man out of the store. She never gave in and you could hear the child yelling all the way out into the parking lot.

May we have enough happiness to make us sweet, enough trials to make us strong, enough sorrow to keep us human, enough hope to make us happy. Rebellion (running from God) is a part of who we are as independent human beings. Jonah was commissioned by Jehovah to go and prophesy to the Ninevites, but being a partisan Israelite he did not want to see Israel’s great enemy spared. He was reluctant to obey and attempted to flee to Tarshish. He went to Joppa and there embarked upon a ship. A violent storm arose, and the captain of the vessel called upon Jonah to pray to his God to save them. As the storm did not abate, the sailors proceeded to cast lots, believing that some person on board the ship had caused the anger of God, as manifested in the tempest. Jonah was singled out as the culprit, and at his suggestion they unwillingly cast him into the sea. By the appointment of God he was swallowed by a great fish, which upon the third day cast him out upon dry land. Jonah was again commanded to go to Nineveh and immediately obeyed. The people repented, a fast was appointed, and the city was not destroyed. Provoked at the sparing of Nineveh, Jonah in his displeasure prayed to Jehovah to take his life because his proclamation had not been fulfilled. God taught him, by means of the rapidly growing and speedily decaying plant, that it was proper for Him to exercise mercy toward the repentant city (Jonah).

Even some of the strongest Christians find themselves running from God.
Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed.

Sometimes we run away from God to find God and ourselves. The Sign of Jonah became important for the coming of Christ. A sign of Jesus coming out of the tomb after three days alive as Jonah came out of the fish. As well as the mercy of a God who is determined to save his people.

“You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen!
He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, `He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'” (Mark 16:7)

Don’t stay locked in your past. Don’t keep focusing on yesterday with its heartaches and problems. It’s not important how many people have disappointed you, failed you, and done you wrong. The crucial issue now is not what they did, but what God has done . . . and what He’s going to do.
Go forward. Keep believing. Keep moving!