Does Jesus Care?

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Mark 4:35-41

Said the Robin to the Sparrow: “I should really like to know, why these anxious human beings, rush about and worry so.” Said the Sparrow to the Robin: Friend, I think that it must be that they have no heavenly Father, such as cares for you and me!” Jesus has been teaching by the Sea of Galilee and now decides to cross over the sea. That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. Mark doesn’t record the Sermon on the Mount as does Matthew. This boat ride probably takes place right after the giving of the sermon. Why go to the other side – it is desert. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

A couple had not had a date night for at least two months. Their mutual birthday time had arrived and the wife had planned a surprise party for him — a small group of friends was to meet them at a familiar oriental restaurant. With the babysitter armed with instructions and snacks, they headed for the car. Behind the wheel, her husband suggested, “Let’s go for Mexican food!” That would have been a delightful idea — except that their friends would be waiting at the other restaurant. She tried to remain unruffled and said sweetly, “I think Chinese sounds better tonight.” The retort came swiftly, “No. I want a big enchilada!” After some haggling, it became apparent that he had chosen tonight to be demanding, unreasonable, and interested only in his own food cravings. Dark thunderheads formed inside the car. Finally, she screamed in frustration, “You dope! I have a surprise party planned at the Chinese restaurant. We have to go there.” He laughed — and that made her even angrier. He laughed so hard it took him five minutes to tell her that he had planned a surprise party for her, too — at the Mexican restaurant. It was the one fact she didn’t know.

When we are tempted to be impatient with someone we should try to observe the “one fact rule”: We have to learn to look for at least one hidden fact that might offer a logical explanation. Faith is filled with many hiddens!

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool. To weep is to risk appearing sentimental. To reach out for another is to risk involvement. To expose feelings is to risk exposing our true self. To place your ideas, your dreams before the crowd is to risk loss. To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying. To hope is to risk despair. To try at all is to risk failure. But to risk we must, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The man, the woman, who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.

The challenge for the Christian is how to live each moment with faith. We believe that God has the power. We believe that God can and even does perform miracles. The challenge is how to live believing that God cares enough to take care of this moment in our lives.

Fred Craddock tells the story of one of his students in seminary. The young pastor was visiting an old, very sick woman in the hospital. He asked her upon leaving, “What would you like me to pray for today?” With her last ounce of energy she replied, “That God will make me well.” He sighed, then prayed, “Lord, if it be thy will, we pray that this sick sister might be healed. On the other hand, if it is not thy will, we pray that she might be given a positive attitude, a willingness to accept her situation.” As soon as he finished his prayer, her eyes opened. She sat up in bed, threw her feet over the side, stood up and said, “I’m well. I’m really well.” The young pastor stumbled out of the room, headed out of the hospital into the parking lot. Before he pulled out his key to unlock his car, he looked up and said, “Don’t you ever do that to me again!”

“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Sure, He cares, and He calms the storm.
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. (Mark 1:40) “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, `Father, give me my share of the estate.’
So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in the whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, `How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Said the Robin to the Sparrow: “I should really like to know, why these anxious human beings, Rush about and worry so.” Said the Sparrow to the Robin: “Friend, I think that it must be that they have no heavenly Father,
Such as cares for you and me!”

Exorcism Today

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Acts 19:13-20

Some wrestle with whether or not the Devil is real. Winkelbury Camp is an Iron Age hill fort in Wiltshire, England. According to legend, if you march around it at midnight cursing all the time you can summon the Devil who will appear on a black horse and grant one wish. Of course, that’s a foolish superstition. In the first place you cannot summon Satan to come to you. Secondly, you need not summon Satan to come to you, for he is always near.

Anyone who has read the temptations of Jesus, understands and believes in the reality of the Devil. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “`He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. Satan is a better theologian than any of us and is a devil still.

Jesus said, (Luke 10:18) “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. When Satan was thrown out of Heaven and 1/3 of the angelic host followed him. The devil decided to have a garage sale. On the day of sale, his tools were placed for public inspection, each being marked with its sale price. There were a treacherous amount of implements: hatred, envy, jealousy, deceit, lust, lying, pride, and so on. Set apart from the rest was a harmless-looking tool. It was quite worn and yet priced very high. “What is the name of this tool?” asked one of the customers, pointing to it. “That is discouragement,” Satan replied.
“Why have you priced it so high?” “Because it is more useful to me than the others.

A materialist is one who does not believe in demons and has no interest in what they do. A magician is one who believes too much in demons and has an unhealthy interest in them. As for the demons, they care not which you are, for both are equally in error and thus leave you open to the demons efforts.

Many American adults believe in psychic phenomena, but few have ever consulted an astrologer, medium, tarot card reader, or psychic. That is the conclusion from a CBS poll of 984 adults. The study found: – 64 percent believe in psychic phenomena – 25 percent say they have personally experienced such a phenomenon – 10 percent consult a medium, etc. regularly.

1 Peter 5:8 Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. I think we understand and feel the effects of the Devil in our lives, especially with temptation. It is the demonic forces, the fallen angels, that we do not understand.

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva were doing this. [One day] the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

Luke cites this incident in Ephesus. Traveling Jewish exorcists were common in the ancient world. The name of a person or of a deity was thought to have special power that could control the person concerned if the name were used in the right way. These Jewish exorcists, witnessing the miracles done by Paul in the name of Jesus, attempted to use the name in the practice of their magical spells. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! (Acts 8:18)

We have never really understood “demonic possession.” We see it portrayed on TV and in the movies. We know that some is based on fact but then becomes greatly embellished.

What do we know about demon possession and what to do about it? First of all, we know very little, and that in and of itself tells us something. There was to be no fear of evil because Christ has won the battle. David writes, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me….” When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. (Matt 8:28)

Secondly, demon possession can be found in some illnesses but not all illnesses. Clearly we know that most illnesses come from viruses, bacteria or some cell that goes crazy. Some illness like VD, may be the result of living a promiscuous lifestyle and a consequence of sin. Clearly Paul is convinced that some illness is brought on ourselves by our choices. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. (1 Cor 11:27) I think it is easier to find demon possession in mental illness than in other types of illness. Please do not misunderstand, not all mental illness is demonic. Some mental illness is of a genic connection. Some chemical or others growths. There is some mental illness where no connection can be made and the behavior is bazaar, and may just be demonic. They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!” (Mark 5:1)

Third, demon possession can be found in some life styles. Probably far more common is the issue of life style and demonic possession. Without realizing it we surrender our lives to many things. I am not convinced that some forms of alcohol and drug additions are not a form of demonic possession. Even after you have purged the person of the alcohol there is a tremendous temptation to return. “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, `I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. (Matt 12:43) There is no proof, but it is widely believed that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute prior to meeting Christ. Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out….She was set free and lived her life for Jesus. Fourth, by the power of Christ, all prisoners can be set free. A safari hunter was startled by the loud screeching of a bird. When he caught sight of the bird, it was darting back and forth around its nest. He was perplexed by all the racket until he noticed a huge snake moving up the tree. The hunter could have easily aided the bird with one shot from his gun but he was captivated by the drama before him. As the snake slithered up the tree, the bird became silent and flew from the nest. It now seemed as though the snake would dine without resistance. But before the reptile could reach the nest, the mother bird returned with a leaf in her beak. She carefully placed the leaf over her babies then flew to another tree. The snake raised his head to strike but then hesitated. It froze as if it had met a foe. Slowly it recoiled from the nest and wound its way down the tree. The puzzled hunter related the event to native Africans when he returned to the camp. The leaf that the mother had used to cover her nest was poisonous to the snake. What looked like nothing more than a leaf was in fact a life-saving shield. Our faith may at times feel as flimsy as a leaf, but God’s Word reminds us that it is a shield against the attacks of our serpentine enemy.

Were You There When Bartimaeus Received His Sight?

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There is a story that comes out of Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 9:27). As Jesus traveled doing healing, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” Please note that the two are blind. They follow Jesus wherever He goes. When he went indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Why does He ask such a question? The fact that two blind men have followed Him (with difficulty) should answer the question. “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you”; and their sight was restored.

As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city of Jericho, a blind man, Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging.
When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Almost like Jesus words, “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Jesus invites us to examine our lives to find the blindness that exists within. The tragic irony is that we can remain by the roadside (as “Blind Bartimaeus” could have) continuing to beg. We can ignore the presence and the power of Jesus if we desire. To do so is to continue in our blindness. It’s possible to be surrounded by the wonders of God’s grace and complain bitterly about not getting what we want out of life. It’s possible to complain about our bills and unhappiness while Jesus has the potential to bring meaningful wholeness to our lives if only we will turn to him with our need.

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! You say, `I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.

It is frightening to look within – to allow the darkness to disappear and the light to reveal everything. We lose our innocence and come face to face with reality. A summer visitor was asking a local farmer how to get off Southport Island in Maine and find his way back to Boothbay Harbor. The farmer began to explain how to find the road back to the bridge. The visitor insisted, “But I didn’t cross any bridge to get here.” The Farmer looked at him skeptically and replied, “Well, now, if you didn’t cross any bridge, then you ain’t here in the first place, so you got nothing to worry about.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. 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. What you have just said is quite true.” (John 4:15-20)

There is an old Sufi story about a blind man and a crippled man who stumbled into each other in a forest. They were both lost, and they struck up a conversation sharing their stories about wandering through the forest for as long as they could remember. The blind man said, “I cannot see to find my way out.” The crippled man nodded and responded, “I cannot get up to walk out.” As they sat there sadly talking, the crippled man cried out, “I’ve got it! You hoist me up onto your shoulders and I will tell you where to walk.” Together, they found their way out of the forest.

An elderly gentleman was out walking with his young grandson. “How far are we from home?” he asked the grandson. The boy answered, “Grandpa, I don’t know.”
The grandfather asked, “Well, where are you?” Again the boy answered, “I don’t know.” Then the grandfather said good-naturedly, “Sounds to me as if you are lost.” The young boy looked up at his grandfather and said, “Nope, I can’t be lost. I’m with you.” Ultimately, that is the answer to our “lostness” too. We can’t be lost if He is with us.

(John 8:31-32) To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Boundaries and Your Work

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Romans 12:2

Can you develop gifts? A reporter once said to George Bernard Shaw: “You have a marvelous gift for oratory. How did you develop it?” Shaw retorted, “I learned to speak as men learn to skate or cycle, by doggedly making a fool of myself until I got used to it.”

In a Sunday school class they had been studying Adam and Eve. A little boy spoke up and said, “I don’t like Adam and Eve because if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have to clean up my room!” It sounds just like a child, thinking that the Garden of Eden was filled with pleasure and leisure. Work isn’t always fun.

Work existed before the Fall; it was always part of God’s plan for humanity.
God gave humanity two jobs. (Gen 1:28) God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” The two jobs? Subdue and rule. Gen 2:20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

Our difficulties came later after the fall. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

We all have a vocation, a “calling” into the service of this world we live in.
Wherever we work, whatever we do, we are to do it as if we are doing it for God. Therefore, our labor (our work) becomes a spiritual activity. In our work, we are made in the image of God, who Himself a worker, a manager, a creator, a developer, labored for six days creating the world.

A lack of boundaries in our workplace creates problems. (1) Getting saddled with another person’s responsibilities. All of us who have co-workers have faced the challenge of doing someone else’s job. It is enough to do your own job and it becomes important to establish our boundaries with our co-workers.
Their anger isn’t as hurtful as their poor work habits. If they get angry at you for saying no, be firm about your boundaries and empathize with their anger. Don’t get angry back. Keep your emotional distance and say, “I am sorry if this upsets you, but that job is not my responsibility.”

(2) Working too much because of misplaced priorities. One can work all hours and make a lot of money but if we lose our families and other significant things in our lives, we have lost what is important. Jesus said, What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Set boundaries on your work that, is not allowed to cross. Review your job description and discuss these issues with your boss. Jethro, helped Moses establish boundaries on his work load. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. When Charles Schwab, the president of Bethlehem Steel Corporation was given advice by Ivy Lee, a consultant. Schwab agreed to pay Ivy Lee “anything within reason” if Lee’s suggestion worked. Lee later handed the executive a sheet of paper with the plan: Write down the most important tasks you have to do tomorrow. Number them in order of importance. When you arrive in the morning, begin at once on Number 1 and stay on it until it is completed. Recheck your priorities, then begin with No. 2. . . then No. 3. Make this a habit every working day. Pass it on to those under you. Try it as long as you like, then send me your check for what you think it is worth. That one idea turned Bethlehem Steel Corporation into the biggest independent steel producer in the world within five years. How much did Schwab pay his consultant? Several weeks after receiving the note, he sent Lee a check for $25,000, admitting it was the most profitable lesson he had ever learned.

(3) Difficult people to work with. You only have the power to change yourself. You can’t change another person. You attitude is the key to the joy of working.

(4) Expecting too much from the workplace. People increasingly come to the workplace wanting the company to be a “family.” The workplace ideally should be supportive, safe, and nurturing. But the workplace is not your family. The workplace will ask from you without giving because they are going to pay you for your work.

(5) Disliking your job. Boundaries establish our identity. Our work is part of our identity in that it taps into our particular giftedness. Finding our life’s work involves taking risks. One must firmly identify his/her identity. One must have ownership of how we feel, think and want. One must assess his/her talents and recognize one’s limitations. One must be lead by the Holy Spirit.

John Smith was a loyal carpenter, working for a very successful building contractor who called him into his office one day and said, “John, I’m putting you in charge of the next house we build. I want you to order all the materials and oversee the whole job from the ground up.” John accepted the assignment with great enthusiasm and excitement. For ten days before ground was broken at the building site, John studied the blueprints. He checked every measurement, every specification. Suddenly he had a thought. “If I am really in charge,” he said to himself, “why couldn’t I cut a few corners, use less-expensive materials, and put the extra money in my pocket? Who would know the difference? Once the house is painted, it will look just great.” So John set about his scheme. He ordered second-grade lumber, but his reports indicated that it was top-grade. He ordered inexpensive concrete for the foundation, put in cheap wiring, and cut every corner he could, yet he reported the purchase of much better materials. When the home was completed and fully painted, he asked the contractor to come and see it. “John,” said the contractor, “What a magnificent job you have done! You have been such a good and faithful carpenter all these years that I have decided to show my gratitude by giving you this house you have built, as a gift!”

Boundaries and Our Family

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Genesis 2:24-25

A busy–and wealthy–grandfather phoned his grandson to cancel an appointment to go to the movies. The grandson did not seem interested in his grandfather’s reasons for his cancellation. Instead, the grandson kept interrupting his grandfather’s apology by asking him to make the sound of a frog. Finally, the grandfather asked his grandson why it was so important that he make the sound of a frog. “Because,” the little boy explained, “I just heard Dad tell Mom that we can’t afford to go to Disneyland until you croak.”

We do not develop habits of genuine love automatically. We learn by watching effective role models – most specifically by observing how our parents express love for each other day in and day out. A house is built of logs and stone, of piles and posts and piers; A home is built of loving deeds that stand a thousand years.

Encouragement in a family is like a peanut butter sandwich–the more you spread, the better the sandwich sticks together.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Marriage is a vow that one man and one woman make to each other. A vow is a solemn promise or pledge that binds a person to perform a specified act or to behave in a certain manner. All vows are made to God. Vowing was voluntary. But after a vow was made, it had to be performed. Vows, therefore, were to be made only after careful consideration.

Once the vows have been made to each other, boundaries have been established. By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll become happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher. –Socrates In marriage fidelity becomes a boundary. One remains faithful to the person they have committed themselves too. Adultery takes place when one crosses that boundary. Sometimes it really is just about sex. But most affairs are conducted primarily on the telephone rather than in bed. Affairs aren’t as intensely sexual as you’d think. It’s not like in the movies.” The essence of an affair is in “establishing a secret intimacy with someone” — a secret that necessarily, must be defended with dishonesty. Infidelity, isn’t about “whom you lie with. It’s whom you lie to.” To think of infidelity mainly in terms of sex is actually the first step toward rationalizing it. “You have heard that it was said, `Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27) In marriage there is a spiritual boundary. Believers are forbidden to marry non-believers. An eight year old boy asked his girlfriend to marry him. She turned him down, saying that in her family only relatives married. She explained, “If you and me were relatives we could get married, but we’re not. In my family my daddy married my mother. My grandpa married my grandma, and all my uncles married my aunts. So you see, we can’t get married, cause we’re not relatives. The believer is forbidden to divorce the non-believer that wants to remain married. Husbands are to be the spiritual head of the home, but frankly I find more wives being the spiritual head then I do the husbands.

1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. The boundary of mutual benefit. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. They become a priority to each other. (1 Cor 7:3) The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.

A happy family is but an earlier heaven.

Apostolic Calling

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A young minister was being interviewed by a church board for the position of pastor. One old hard-working Irishman, who was on the board, looked at the young man sternly and asked, “Young man, did God send you here?” He replied, “Well, I don’t know if God sent me here. I am here trying to find the will of God and find out if you would like me for your next pastor.” The board member replied, “Young man, did God send you here?” The young minister was somewhat at a loss for words and came back again, “Well, I just stopped by to talk with the board . . .” The board member interrupted again and said, “Young man, did God send you here?” Finally he skewed up his courage and said, “Well, I guess God didn’t send me here. I just stopped by to see about whether we could get together.” The old board member leaned back in his seat and said, “That’s good. The last four said that God had sent them and we had nothing but trouble with all four of them!”

Do you ever feel that the minister steps up to the pulpit on Sunday morning not as well prepared as he/she should be? I am reminded of the pastor who thought, when he had difficulty preparing a particular sermon, ‘Perhaps the Holy Spirit will tell me what to say on Sunday morning.’ This thought returned to him several times during the week, and when at last he stood silently before his congregation, he turned to the Holy Spirit for guidance, and a celestial voice said to him, ‘Tell the people you are unprepared!”‘

APOSTLE is Greek for apostolos, meaning a “delegate.” One sent with a special message or commission. The Church called those it sent on special errands apostles. Those who carried the news of the gospel were called apostles. The Jews, it is said, called the collector of the half shekel, which every Israelite paid annually to the Temple, an apostle. Those who carried about encyclical letters from their rulers were also called apostles. Paul used the word in this sense when he declared himself “an apostle, not sent from men, nor through the agency of man” (Gal 1:1), plainly indicating that his commission was directly from Christ.

The official name of the twelve disciples chosen by our Lord to be with Him during His ministry and to whom He entrusted the organization of His church were called apostles. Shortly after their ordination “He gave to them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness”; “and sent them out in pairs” to preach. As regards the apostolic office, it seems to have been preeminently that of founding the churches and upholding them by supernatural power specially bestowed for that purpose.

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:1-4)

It is at this point that we discover the difference between an Elder and a Diaconate. The Elder becomes the spiritual leader of the Church. …will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. It was the Elder who later became the bishop setting up a hierarchy in the Church. The Diaconate became an administrator of ministry. The widows who were being overlooked, needed to wait on tables.

Clearly the early Church had an informal ministry, a ministry of laity. Those chosen for leadership were ordinary folk. Qualifications were not based on training or their ability to do the job. Qualifications were based on character – the Church trusted the Christian character of the one being called.

Certainly, the Church has developed a professional clergy to do the preaching, the funerals, the weddings, and the administration of the church. Paul writes, How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom 10:14-15)

The clergy cannot do it by themselves, we need the help of the laity. In the Old Testament we often find the Israelites “murmuring.” What a wonderful expression. In the church we often find people murmuring, too. The only thing some people are willing to give is advice. In 1884 in Princess Ida, W. S. Gilbert wrote a verse that must surely be the feeling of some Christians:
Oh don’t the days seem lank and long, When all goes right and nothing goes wrong and isn’t life extremely flat with nothing whatever to grumble at.
Leadership is accepting people where they are, then taking them upward?

If you have knowledge of Jesus, let others light their candles at it. “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.

A Survival Guide For Those Left Behind!

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In the village of Blockley in Gloucestershire, England, Joanna Southcott, won national attention due to her belief that she would bear the second Messiah, to be named Shiloh. Through the centuries many have harbored such delusions. The Shakers believed that as God came once in the male, Jesus, God would later to earth in the female, Mother Ann Lee. But Jesus is unique. There was only one Messiah prophesied. Only one Messiah came and lived a sinless life. Only one Messiah died a sacrificial death. Only one Messiah rose from the dead. Only one Messiah is coming again. There is no one like the Lord Jesus, and there never will be.

The very name Jesus, at Christmas time reminds us what it is all about. Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor.

There is coming a time (yet no one knows the day or hour) when God will call all believers to Heaven. We call that moment the Rapture. Revelation tells us one of God’s angels will swing a sickle and gather the believers unto God. Paul writes, We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. One moment we are here and the next moment we are gone!

The New Testament writers speak of Christ’s returning “soon” or “quickly,” with the apparent expectation that he might return in the writers’ own lifetime. The meaning of returning “soon” is that it would happen “at any moment.” It is like my phone- answering machine. The message informs the caller that I am away from my desk but will return “soon.” I use the same message whether I expect to be gone two minutes or two weeks for the very simple reason that I want to encourage the person without revealing exactly how long I will be gone! James Sullivan points out that when it comes to the return of our Lord, “God did not put me on His Time & Place Committee; he put me on His Preparation Committee.”

What about the ones left behind? Think about it. All at once something has happened! Some of your friends who were here this morning are gone. All of the children have disappeared. Everyone is talking about this large number of people that are missing. There is a fear that grips your heart and soul. You are confused and wonder what you should do. Could it possibly be the rapture that you have heard about but never believed?

There is now a voice whispering in your ear that it is too late to have any hope. The little Ball City Baptist Church near the tiny town of Luck, North Carolina, has been closed for years. Young people moved way from the community. The older members died out one by one. But if you passed the church today you would not know that it was no longer operating. The grass is mowed, the windows are washed, the bushes are trimmed. If you looked in a window you would see artificial flowers on the pulpit, a clean floor and everything ready in case the church is ever needed again. It is all done by one 74 year old woman. Her husband was the last deacon of the church. When it closed he decided to keep it up in case it was ever needed again. Since his death his widow has carried on. Barring an unexpected growth in population the church is not likely to re-open. In a way, we do all our Christian work in the same spirit, making sure the church is always ready — and making sure we are always ready — for that day in the future when Jesus comes. But what about the one that isn’t ready?

The best way to prepare for the coming of Christ is never to forget the presence of Christ. There is still hope! But, there are two very important things that you must do and do quickly. If you fail to do these two things, you will be lost for sure. Salvation is an act of faith and at this moment you must act.

First, you must do exactly what every believer who is now missing had to do and that is confess Jesus Christ as Lord of your life. Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” God has always offered us His love. That love has been unconditional. But we must accept that love or it is of no value. Whether we accept that love under “normal” conditions or out of fear, the importance is found in accepting that love.

Second, our acceptance of God comes with obedience to God’s will. At the end of time there will be a world leader who will offer us a “mark” which will allow us to buy and sell with great ease. In order to get the mark, we have to sell our souls to the devil. The Christian will refuse the “mark” and will be cut off from commerce. You will give up the “mark” and probably be persecuted and have to flee for your life. You may even lose your life, but you will have gained your soul.

The love and grace of God is far greater than what we can even begin to imagine. The Lord told us not only to wait for him but to watch for him, and he has pronounced a special blessing on those who watch. The difference between waiting and watching is illustrated in a story told of a Scotch fishing village. After days at sea, the skipper of a fishing boat was bringing his craft back home. As the boat neared the shore, the men gazed eagerly toward the dock, where a group of their loved ones were waiting. The skipper, looking through his glass, identified some of the women, saying, “I see Bill’s Mary, and there is Tom’s Margaret, and David’s Anne.” One man was very anxious because his wife was not there. He left the boat with a heavy heart and pressed his steps up the hill, where he saw a light in his cottage. As he opened the door, his wife ran to meet him, saying, “I have been waiting for you!” He replied with a proper rebuke, “Yes, but the other men’s wives were watching for them.”

Come, Lord Jesus, come!