November 9, 2014
Have you felt like you were in a cave driven there by despair, sin, your physical or spiritual enemies? It’s dark and dank and you wonder if God sees your predicament and cares. You are afraid to even look out the entrance lest your enemies find you and torment you.
David had a similar experience. Here he is to be the next king and the current one has him hiding in a cave to save his life and that of his men. Not exactly the kind of lifestyle for a future king. Not the kind of situation we children of the King expect to find ourselves in as we march towards Zion.
Psa 142:1 Maschil of David; A Prayer when he was in the cave. I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication.
Note the word Maschil. It means instruction and David is sharing the instruction he received in the cave while waiting on God and seeking His face. We also can learn from this instruction.
I find it interesting that I was led to this Psalm as I was in a cabin last weekend nicknamed the Cave. I went to fast and pray and seek relief from my enemies, me being the chief one. My cave was far more comfortable than the one David was in.
I went there to cry unto the Lord as he did. I had asked for prayer from my family and friends as well as several Internet prayer groups. I requested that those who knew how to pray would pray demon scaring prayers as the average lay me down to sleep and bless him Lord prayers were not what I needed.
We need to pray such prayers. David cried out in anguish or as one who cries that is in danger. Have you ever seen someone in deep grief at a grave site? I have seen too many while I was in the Dover AFB Honor Guard during Viet Nam. They don’t just softly say, “Woe is me.” They are loudly weeping, wailing and groaning. Have you ever heard someone cry for help or scream when they are frightened? There is no reserved, “Excuse me, Sir, could you help me?” or a soft. “Oh, that was scary.” They are trying to get the whole world to hear them in their trouble or fear.
If you ever heard someone from a Charismatic background or an old Baptist from the South pray, you have an idea of what kind of praying David was doing. Those folks call the roll and name names while calling for angels to wallop the devil. They are serious!
The old office of Compline is an end of day prayer. “I confess to almighty God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and before all the company of Heaven, that I have sinned, in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, my own grievous fault; wherefore I pray, almighty God, to have mercy upon me, to forgive all my sins, and to make clean my heart within me.”
Now that is praying! When you are making a supplication for something you really need you are going to be a bit emotional and loud. When your kids really wanted something at the store they did not just say, “Oh dear Father, might I have some candy, please?” No, they got animated. They jumped up and down, gyrated and got that pleading face as they yelled, “Candy! Daddy! Please, Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Please! Please! Please!!!” especially if you initially say no. Then they will get more animated as they tell you why they desperately need it and promise to do two extra chores for infinity and beyond or not punch their siblings anymore.
Psa 142:2 I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.
David poured out his complaint. Poured it out like the blood when you cut yourself and are taking blood thinners. If it was an oil well you’d dance in the gusher. He spilled his guts as we would say it. He let it all hang out! He felt comfortable enough with God to do that. We get before God and act like He doesn’t already know what is going on. He knows it all so why hide it or hold back? That is the great thrill when talking to God. Let it out!
You cannot just tell everyone what is going on in your life or soul. They may not be as faithful to keep your secret or may start looking for a doorway out because of a judgmental spirit or they are afraid you will want them to share their secrets. You can tell it all to God as you see it and He will respond as He sees it and most likely it will be far different than what you think you know!
He poured out his complaint! Man, we complain all the time about our job, co-workers, Bosses, spouses, etc. The word here connotes that there was contemplation or thought given before the complaint. David thought about his situation and the normal ascension process to the throne and then sought to discuss his complaint. We often just complain to hear ourselves complain and about foolish nitpicking things to boot.
Hezekiah did what David did when God told him to get his house in order because he was going to die. He looked at his life and saw he had no heir, he was a good king and his reign was rather short compared to many evil kings that had many heirs and a longer reign. God heard that complaint and granted him fifteen more years. Because of our limited knowledge and near sightedness we can complain to God if we see something that does not fit into our concept of justice or correctness forgetting He has the whole picture. Hezekiah enjoyed his fifteen years and the joy of a son, but that son became one of the most wicked kings Judah ever had. God knew what He was about.
David showed God his trouble. God knew it in better detail than David did. A gracious and loving God let David draw Him a picture. David laid it out as he saw it and probably went into great detail. You wonder if God smiled or chuckled as He watched His chosen one lay out a detailed outline of the problem when He had the full text.
We can also lay it all out to God. In our age, I guess we can create a Power Point with bar graphs, trends and whatever else we may feel that God might have missed in dealing with us. Man, what a gracious and patient God we serve!
Psa 142:3 When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me.
Ever been overwhelmed in your spirit? I have! When I look over my past and see all the mess and failures then consider how far I am from where I would love to be with God it can be very overwhelming. Yet, in this state David can say that God knew his path. Do you see the struggle of faith here? Looking at his circumstances he feels like he is swallowed by the sea or maybe even a whale like Jonah. Then his heart and spirit reaches out to the truth that there is an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God that is not surprised or overwhelmed by the place the man after His own heart is in. Can I get a Glory?
Oh, my beloved brethren, grasp that! You can be as dumbfounded, lost and overwhelmed thinking you are going to lose your mind or die and God is next to you on the path! Hold on to that! You won’t be dropped if you lose your grip because He has you in His grip and no one falls out of His hand!
David was seeking to walk God’s path and yet his enemies laid snares or land minds in the path. His biggest enemy was King Saul, his father-in-law. Sometimes our worst enemies are people who we trust and should love us and encourage us. Yet, even with them, the world, the flesh and the devil often our most dangerous enemy is ourself. We lay our own snares as if we are in some amnesic or hypnotic state because we forget we put them there and what happened the last time we laid those same snares.
He did not blame God for the snares. So often the Children of God accuse their Redeemer of causing their problems or complain because He does not solve their problem or remove their enemies the way they want or in what they think is a timely manner. In all his trouble and complaint David was like Job in that he spoke the thing that was right about the Lord.
Psa 142:4 I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.
He goes back to his situation and relates how he looked on his right hand. The right hand was normally the sword hand and the hand of strength so he looked there for others to join him in his duress. To his dismay, no man would acknowledge him or know him. It was not like they had no knowledge of him. They just chose to ignore him or deny they knew him like Peter did when times got rough and he said he never knew Christ.
Maybe you have done the same thing. You have looked for family, friends and even the Church to come to your aid when you were in despair or afraid and no one wanted to get involved. Maybe they thought your “bad luck” would rub off on them. Maybe like a friend of mine you lost a spouse and all your married friends abandoned you. There was no place of refuge to run to for the safety of your soul. It seemed like no man or woman cared for your soul. I have been there and I have tried not to abandon someone if I knew they were in trouble because of my experiences, but I may have done it and not even realized it because I am flesh and fail.
Psa 142:5 I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.
After looking for human help, David looks up and realizes while human help is wonderful and blessed when the brethren love on you and lift up your wearied arms really all you need is the Lord. When that thought hit him he cried unto the Lord. Literally, he shrieked! Like that shout of joy when you gave your child their first car or when your daughter got the invitation to a class party from the guy of her dreams. It was a joyful cry of triumph. God is his place of refuge, the rock that was higher than him and his buckler and shield!
God was his portion or inheritance in the land of the living. Yes, he was going to inherit the throne of Israel, but his real portion was God, who gave him that throne and would be with him always even in the days of his sins of adultery and murder though he had no clue he would ever do such a thing.
Brethren, all you really need is God. To be in fellowship with Him on a deserted island is far better than to be in the midst of family and friends, but distant in your heart from Him. They may desert you or let you down, but He is there for the long haul called eternity.
Psa 142:6 Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I.
When he dwells on that thought he asks God to attend unto his cry or shriek of grief. You ladies know how this works. You can be in a dead sleep when that baby cries and sometimes just whimpers but you are there like lightning while Dad snores on. God also has his ears tuned to the cry of His children, be they babes in the faith or the aged who cannot even speak for He hears their heart.
He has been brought very low and there has been a quickness about it. One day he is in the castle as the king’s son-in-law, a general and a musician and over night he is in a cave. So many times we are in such a condition because we did not see the red lights or warning signals God gave or we ignored them. It seems we are brought from the mountain top to the valley in an instant when it has really been a slow slide that picked up speed so that the last drop seemed to be so quick. No matter how low or fast it happens, God was there at the top, during the slide and met you at the bottom.
David pleads for deliverance from his persecutors or the ones chasing him down to do him harm. He realizes he does not have the strength to prevail and like Paul was at the point where he had the sentence of death in himself, that he should not trust in himself, but in God which raiseth the dead. (2 Cor 1:9) He would be a dead man if they found him and only God can save him.
We need to come to that point as well. We have no strength over the people and things that persecute us that seem to hunt us down at every turn. We have no recourse for our fear, doubts, grief or sins but Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who was given to us by the Father because of the redemption provided for us through the blood of our Passover Lamb. All other attempts to overcome these persecutors will end in dismal failure.
“When you’re tired of fighting, chained by your control. There’s freedom in surrender. Lay it down and let it go. Just be held.” (Just Be Held by Casting Crowns) Often we just need to be held by Him. Let go and let Him do it!
Psa 142:7 Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.
Is not our cry the same as David’s? Bring our soul out of prison. He was in a cave that he could freely exit, but to do so was to expose himself to his enemies and bring about his death. It may as well been a prison with bars and locked doors. Yet, it was there he was instructed about how to overcome despair and his enemies by looking to Almighty God as his refuge and portion.
Many times we are in prisons of our own making and God lets us dwell there for a season or in a cave to focus us. We are so scattered about in our minds about things we think are important. We are busy, busy, busy. We are too busy for Jesus in we cannot fit Him into our schedule or too busy for Him in that we love ministry more than Him. He just becomes our brand name we work under as we do our thing.
Sin also imprisons many of us. We may think we are not guilty of what we call the big sins and some call the seven deadly sins, but in reality we are guilty. Every sin we commit is an act of adultery against our Groom since we are the Bride of Christ. If He treated us like many pastors teach and many Christians believe there would not be a moment when Christ would not be in divorce court. The New Jerusalem could be much, much smaller as there would be very few residents.
Having being brought of prison so that he can praise God, David recognizes that the righteous will surround him in that day. Indeed, the sound of praising God will draw the righteous like a flame draws a moth, but it draws them to life and light, not death in the flames.
Lastly note, that he is still in the cave. Nothing of his situation has changed and yet, in faith, he affirms that God will deal bountifully with him. Yes, like Job who received twice of what he lost during his trouble, except children for the first ten were alive with God, so also David looked forward to being on the throne and being blessed beyond comprehension while he was still a hunted man living in a cave.
Faith came in the cave because that light was lit before he was in the darkness. It flickered in the cold wind and dankness of the cave, but it did not go out. Peter’s faith wavered in that dark night of Jesus’ arrest while under the gaze and pointed fingers of his persecutors, but it failed not and he, like David, came out of the cave and the righteous compassed him about on the Day of Pentecost with three thousand converts. The Lord dealt bountifully with them both. Hallelujah!!!
Are you in a cave or prison? Are you surrounded by human or spiritual persecutors with seemingly no man caring for your soul? Receive the instruction of this Psalm. It does not matter how low you are just cry out to the true refuge of your soul and your portion for this life. Admit your weakness and let the Lion of Judah deal with the enemies. Give your sins and failures over to Him. Lay it all down at His feet and He shall bring you out of prison that you may praise Him in the midst of the congregation. The righteous will surround you as well and help you praise Him for dealing with you bountifully! Praise Him for his Maschil or instruction in the dark for it will ultimately burst forth into light and freedom! Maranatha!!!
November 6, 2014
One of the basic values of Judaism is hakarat hatov – the gratitude to others for favors and help extended to one. This concept is even embodied in the relationship of a Jew with one’s Creator. Ingratitude towards the Creator Who has granted us life and all of its attendant benefits is reckoned as being a primary sin of attitudes and bad values in Jewish ethical thought. Rabbi Berel Wein
A desire to kneel down sometimes pulses through my body, or rather it is as if my body has been meant and made for the act of kneeling. Sometimes, in moments of deep gratitude, kneeling down becomes an overwhelming urge, head deeply bowed, hands before my face. Esther Hillsume
“Gam zu l’tova. This too is for the good.” – Nachum Ish Gamzu, Talmud, Taanit, 21a “Who is wise? One who learns from every man… Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations… Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot… Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows.” – Ben Zoma, Ethics of the Fathers, 4:1
Lev_22:29 And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the LORD, offer it at your own will.
Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Col_4:2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
November brings us to the Thanksgiving Day holiday, which really should be known as National Gluttony Day or National Stuff Your Pie Hole Till You Can’t Walk Day. ;-) It’s reason to be has been lost in many places and certainly does not to seem to last past the day since we give it no more than a gratuitous prayer before we gorge. Once, my maternal grandfather must have taken a tad too long praying for a cousin. It went “Thank you, Lord, Amen. Pass the ham!” All eyes fell on the “starving cousin” who looked to well fed to be starving.
While, it is honorable and fitting to observe an annual day of thanksgiving, it is more fitting to seek to be thankful every day since God is doing far more for us than we deserve on a second by second basis. When we stand before Him and we see all His background work on our behalf we will be ashamed at our lack of gratitude because we did not get things our way especially when He shows us what a train wreck our way would have been. We will be very thankful then.
If you have more than one change of clothes, a permanent dwelling, some change in your pocket and you know where your next meal is coming from then you are richer than 85% or more of the rest of the world. I’d say that is a cause for thankfulness. Your job stinks and your Boss is a twit? Many people would gladly take your job and deal with the Boss. Be thankful. Your feet or knees hurt? Talk to the folks with no legs. All of this may sound trite, but it is true.
The poorest Americans are for the most part fat. Poor Africans are not. Indian (Bombay) women often only get two dresses in their life and if they are lucky a pair of sandals. What does you closet look like? Our poor have many places they can go to get food and clothes even if they live on the street. Some live on the street by choice. Many could do better if they chose to do so. Many in Asia can never find a way to better their condition. We need to be thankful.
God made a way for someone to give an offering of thanksgiving, but it was not commanded. It was a free will offering. God will not make us grateful or force us to thank Him, but how sad that we who have had so much for so long not only forget to thank Him, but also kick Him out of everything we can and then sing, “God Bless America.” I have a feeling that might anger Him as it is very hypocritical as well as “In God We Trust” on our money when we can’t pray openly or speak His name in many places. I think we are being blest in that He has not destroyed us and taken us into captivity, yet.
If our children were such ingrates as we are, it is unlikely we would continue to do more than what is legally required of us. It is time to return to God and bow down and offer true praise and thanksgiving to Him. Indeed, if Esther Hillsume could bow in gratitude to God in a time of persecution that ultimately ended in her death in Auschwitz we need to rethink our life and bow to His grace and glory! Bad times come, but as the Talmud and Joseph said to his brothers who sold him into slavery, “This too is for the good.” Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.
Want to be rich? Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot. Paul said, he knew how to abound and to be abased and in whatsoever state he was in to be content. He wrote that chained in a nasty dungeon and the whole epistle of Philippians is book of rejoicing. Have you read his “resume” in 2 Corinthians 11? I do not know anyone who has gone through all of that, yet he rejoices, and is content. Wow! Simply, WOW!
As it is a basic tenet in Judaism, it is also in Christianity to have thankfulness.
1Thess 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Many Christians are seeking the will of God for their life. Philippians 4:6 and Colossians 4:2 are pretty clear as what a part of His will is for Christians 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is also one clearly given. Start with these and more guidance will come as you seek Him and seek His Word for more specific information about His will. Notice the emphasis on prayer that does not worry, but is thankful.
Make this Thanksgiving Day, the start of a life full of gratitude and not just a day of ritual prayer and pigging out. It will make major changes in your life. Blessings to you as you count your blessings! Shalom! Maranatha!
October 3, 2014
If you have been a Christian for any length of time you have seen people come and go. Some are famous people who everyone rejoices over at their conversion hoping it will influence many people only to see them convert to something else six months later or just stop talking about Christ. Sometimes it is someone you love or a friend for whom you have been praying for years. They come to church and make a profession of faith and then something the preacher says makes them turn away.
Also, if you have been a Christian for any length of time you have gone through times when circumstances have caused you to have doubts or fears. People may have hurt you or an unwise comment from the pulpit made you think about quitting church. It may have been someone speaking the truth in love about your pet sin that made you want to run.
We could speak to the parable of the seed and the sower, as many use that to explain people leaving church, and sometimes even God behind. However, they often use it to judge forgetting that the harvest is not until the end and what seems like a crop failure may ultimately yield a harvest. It may not be a hundredfold or sixtyfold, but even the good ground allows a thirtyfold.
It is heartbreaking to you, pastors and church members to see someone who was coming so faithfully and seemed to be growing just disappear. They don’t answer their phone. They never seem to be home and they changed their email as well as blocking you on FaceBook or some other social media site.
A great many people do not understand church so they do not attend for the right reasons. They have little or no knowledge of doctrine. They change churches every two years or so and may go from Left to Right and muddle in the Middle because they go for the things that are alluring for a time and when they get bored they move on. They may go because of friends or networking. That particular church may be close by or has Saturday night services or three types of services on Sunday morning; Traditional, Contemporary and Zombie Apocalypse/Emo/Goth/Vampire. Sunday School classes teach financial planning, dating skills or how to be holy in ten weeks and maybe even how to power pray in just sixty seconds a day to get God to have it your way. They think the Epistles are the wives of the Apostles and Ezekiel had a close encounter with UFOs. The band is rockin’ or hip hoppin’! Maybe there are plenty of possible mates. Indeed, they go for many of the same reasons that people frequent a particular bar.
While some of the more sedate topics I mentioned have some merit to be addressed from a biblical basis it is possible that many would not like to hear what the Bible has to say on some of those issues. They would prefer the annotated and culturally relevant version that might not be as strict, judgmental, legalistic or “harsh”. True, some have gone Pharisaical in those areas, but tossing the baby out with bath water, as the cliché says, is not the proper redress of those extremes.
While not all mega-churches are compromising their brains out trying figure out the next Madison Avenue ad campaign to increase their numbers, you do have to look at Scripture and see how many of those type of churches ever existed. Three thousand were converted on Pentecost, but many of those where only in town for the Passover and went back to their homes to preach what they had just received on that day. Laodicea was a big church, but all messed up, lukewarm, wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. Corinth had all the gifts, but was super carnal. Not exactly a pattern to follow, but that pattern is amongst us today in denominational, non-denominational and even Baptist churches.
I, and others I know, have pondered what would happen if some of the mega-churches would start dropping some of the things they use as lures or to maintain a crowd and just had solid expository preaching. Dump all the myriad of age group and special interest group Sunday School classes and just have one class from 18 until glory. How many would they lose and yet, the older are supposed to teach the younger, but they are never together in a teaching context. Even in the morning service they are not together since the old folks are in the Traditional service, the middle aged in the Contemporary and the young adults in the Alternative service.
Tone down the band so that there is good music without the band looking like they just came back from traveling with some secular Heavy Metal or Rock group. Make the sound level to where the still small voice of the Spirit can actually be heard and not drowned out by the drums and amplifiers. How many would they lose?
Dump the Starbucks and you might have an insurrection. Make the kids sit with their parents from about the age of ten on. We preach and teach on a third grade reading level these days so that would fit the spirit of Nehemiah 8:3 “And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.” Sounds like they did not worry about the length of the service keeping them from getting to Luby’s on time.
Jesus did do that. He stopped the miracles and feeding the masses. He gave them some hard doctrine and what happened to His crowd? At one point, He had four and five thousand heads of families who at least some of them had family members there since it was a lad who gave up his lunch to be used in a miracle. On the day of Pentecost the assembled congregation was only 120.
John 6:64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
Notice as the crowd dwindled He did not question His methods when He did this. Jesus said many hard things. No fluff and make you comfortable stuff just to please the crowd. He comforted those who needed it and angered many others. What He did was not in any chapter of a modern church growth manual. That would have been a sermon lesson suggested only for the inner circle and not the masses.
Yet, it was very wonderful material. He was trying to teach them a spiritual lesson that they should have understood from their own daily life. As we eat food its structure changes to nourish us and it becomes us. When we take in His words they nourish us and changes us to become like Him. They did not get the analogy because they were only there for the miracles. They took it in a literal sense as many did over the centuries and accused Christians of cannibalism. They could not understand Him because they were only interested in the next miracle and their stomachs. They did not believe in Him as God in the flesh. He was a free buffet and source of entertainment to them..
As everyone was going away, He turned to Peter and asked if he was also leaving. Peter said there was nowhere to go as Jesus had the words of eternal life. Indeed, you are weary, fearful and doubt ridden, where will you go? Only His words can address those issues and give you eternal life.
Those of you who lusted after the leeks and onions of Egypt, are you content with what you found? Are the words of eternal life in the old worldly life you returned to or has that return only brought heartache, pain and even death of relationships and other losses? Come back to Jesus. Only He has the words of eternal life and He is willing to take you back.
Some have turned away from relationship with Him and look for eternal life in religion. Hey Pharisees, neither you or the Sadducees are spot on. In fact, you are so far off it is sad. Words that Jesus speaks are life. The letter kills as much as unbelief. You can never find Him in rituals, rules and good deeds. God expects perfect and even our good works are tainted as filthy menstrual cloths. There is no hope of eternal life there. Come back to Him and hear Him to find life!!!
Have you left Jesus because science seems to conflict with His words? There is no conflict between God and true science. He created the universe the pseudo-scientists have a problem understanding. There is much of what is called science that is more Sci-Fi and faith than empirical science. They can portray a whole human family scene based on one tooth that later proved to be the tooth of an extinct pig. They come up with colors and skin patterns when only bones are found. Grand imagination, but not real science. When they come up with something that destroys their theories, they mock it, but will not admit the facts or investigate further. That is blind faith, not science.
While we have made some great strides in modern medicine and technology there is no eternal life in science. Indeed, if we manage to eradicate disease and people live to a thousand on a myriad of Class M planets it will be useless as the universe is dying. They say energy is dissipating and one day there will be nothing but cold lifeless rocks in the universe. The hope of modern science is death of the entire universe no matter what we do or achieve. Time to return to Jesus who is the way the truth and the life that holds the universe together with far better plans for eternity then even empirical science.
Will you find salvation in government? The Herodians and Zealots thought their politicians could improve their lives. Governments come and go. If you look at history and what is going on in Iraq, it is easy to see that there is death involved in the transitions between take down and set up and often during the regimes. Often the words used by the politicians promise life but even if sincere they have no real power to bring it to fruition. Only the King of kings and Lord of lords can give you words that bring eternal life.
There is no eternal life in stuff. Many have turned away from God for materialism believing that he who dies with the most toys win. Solomon had it all and in Ecclesiastes he called it all vanity. You cannot take it with you so he who dies with most toys dies with nothing. Many rich people get into trouble or are depressed because after a while you have basically bought everything you can use and much of what you will never use. What’s left? Same old things.
There is a story of a great prince who would stop by routinely at the house of one of his subjects. The man and his wife were very poor and yet the prince would stop by and ask for a bowl of the wife’s butter beans. This went on for some time and finally the man got the nerve to ask the prince why he would come eat a bowl of butter beans when he had all the luxuries and dainty delicacies of the palace.
The prince asked the man what his favorite food was and he replied that though he had only had it once as a child he loved Pate de Froie Gras. The prince said that he would see that he would have that dish sent to him every day for a month. There would be enough for him to have three meals a day and he must promise to eat nothing but that for the thirty days. The peasant agreed with great glee.
As promised, the prince promised enough of the delicacy for the day arrived and it was a glorious day for the peasant. Each day he awaited with anticipation the delivery until about two weeks in. Then it was not as great and by the third week he longed for when he could eat his last bowl of Froie Gras and have some of his wife’s butter beans.
The day after the last bowl the prince came by for his bowl of butter beans. He asked the peasant if he enjoyed his meals the past thirty days. The peasant lowered his head and thanked the prince for his generosity and kindness. He then relayed how the month went from joy to boredom to hating to get up in the morning so see the Froie Gras and how great these butter beans he and the prince were sharing. The prince told him that now he knows why the butter beans are so good for a prince who has all the grand food of the palace. From then on, the man always welcomed the prince to his table. To keep the peasant grateful for his life, the prince sent one meal of Froie Gras every month to his favorite peasant.
Materialism is like the Froie Gras. At some point, it becomes a bore and no longer has the sweet taste it once had as you realize you are trading your life for things that do not last, lose their satisfaction and are ultimately left behind at death. Come back to Jesus. He has the words of eternal life and promises you will never thirst or hunger again if you drink His blood and eat His flesh.
What about you? Have you turned away? How’s that working for you? It may satisfy for a season, but there is no life in it. Are you thinking of turning away? To whom will you go? There is nowhere to turn or no one to turn to that will suffice. Only Jesus has the words of eternal life. Go to Him if you have turned away or if you are thinking about it. He will there for you. Maranatha!!!
September 4, 2014
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Even a novice Christian knows these verses as The Great Commission. I am afraid it could be better know as The Great Omission. The grand global missions movement of the 1800s has slowed considerably as we approach 2015. Yes, there is a flurry of activity, but for the amount of seed sown there is not much harvesting going on. In fact, we are losing ground.
That is tied to many factors. It is easy to see that we entered into the age of apostasy in the late 1800s. Many mainline churches have apostatized or are heading into that direction. Cults have flourished and because iniquity abounds the love of many wax cold in the sound churches. All of this equates to fewer volunteers for the field as well as funds to send them. The churches that are not entertainment based or not kowtowing to the culture are dying off. Many countries are closing their doors to missionaries as we enter the end times. You must have a needed secular skill or you have to do underground work to minister in many countries of the world.
With all that against missions, I am confident to say that the day of the American or European missionary is nearly over. At least, in the format that we consider normal. This is good, actually. We now have to regroup and get ready for a new and I believe better way. Yet, it is not really new. We sent missionaries to train nationals to be pastors to their people. Yet, many do not train and go on. They stay for an entire lifetime. It is like a mother who does not want to let go of her child on the first day of school.
I understand that you fall in love with a people and they you, but the Apostle Paul kept moving on. Thessaloniki had him for three weeks and he left them though not entirely by his choice. They did OK. I know that many missionaries use one place as a home base and start churches in other areas. Still, in this age it is best if we start bringing our people home and support the base we have in whatever country.
Unless it is a brand new country, we have a core of people already trained and even schools established. Turn the nationals loose and pull our people home. Find them churches to pastor and there are plenty or find them an area where there are people congregated of the nationality they were working with in their native country. Should not be too hard. Get them self-sufficient and then pour the money back into the nationals.
Even with the best of intentions and willingness to sacrifice it takes far more money to send an American missionary to another country than it costs to support a national. They are used to the conditions and do not need to adapt. There is no need for language school. No cultural training required. Their families are there so no home sickness or emergency international flights. They are already immune to the local diseases. All they need is support and tools. For a family of four Americans, they may need $2500 a month support. The national with six kids may only need $500. You can support five national workers for the price of one American family.
With many churches lacking funds and having bi-vocational pastors and staff, and that number will grow, it is going to be increasingly harder for a missionary to get his support. Those in Independent Churches can take up to five years to get their support and some have come home in the middle of their first term because churches dropped them. Even in groups where boards garner the funds for their missionaries things are going to get tight, if they are not tight already. Many missionaries go to the field for one term or less because they cannot adapt to the culture, family issues or the inability to handle the loneliness and pressures causes them to quit. Years of fundraising and training are poof. That won’t happen with a national.
I think it is time to be better stewards and no longer strongly encourage Americans to be missionaries unless they are going to an area where they can get in with a secular skill and be self-supporting.
I can think of two national missionaries that you can consider for support.
The Saripallis in India. He has been involved in establishing 12 churches and currently has two new mission works. He has a college and has been involved with the translation of Scripture into Telegu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Another one is Moises Rocacorba in the Philippines. He has also built a church that has grown so large that he needs to buy land to build. He takes some of his support and supports other pastors. He has many ministries active in reaching his people. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your church is wanting to expand its missions program consider these two and other nationals. In American terms, get more bang for your buck or really more souls for the sowing. America is now a mission field. Let the natives be missionaries to their people and let ours do the same. Maranatha!
August 30, 2014
The Sexton and the Wagon Driver
The children of Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch, the fourth Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, once debated Judaism’s contribution to “living life.” Their father, weighing in on their discussion, summoned his simpleminded sexton, Bentzion. The Rebbe inquired: “Bentzion, did you get a chance to eat yet today?” “Yes.” “And did you eat well?” “I’m not sure about the meaning of ‘eating well,’ but I am satisfied, thank G‑d.”
“I’m not sure about the meaning of ‘eating well,’ but I am satisfied, thank G‑d…””And, why, might I ask, did you eat?” “Why, in order to live!” “And for what purpose do you live?” “In order to be able to serve G‑d.” “Thank you Bentzion, you can go now,” said the Rebbe.
The Rebbe then sent for Ivan, their Russian Yiddish-speaking wagon driver. “Ivan, have you eaten today?” “Sure!” “Have you eaten well?” “And how!” “Tell me, Ivan, why do you eat?” “In order to live!”
“And why do you live?” “Well, I’d say it boils down to a good drink.” With that, Ivan was off.
The Rebbe then turned to his young children who had listened in fascination to the exchange, and said: “This is the Jewish contribution to life; we work to live, and we live for a higher purpose.” – Likuttei Diburim, vol. 3, pg. 421a.
Our sages teach that after studying Torah in the morning a person “should go to work, for all Torah which is not accompanied by work is destined to be nullified and in danger of causing transgression, because excessive poverty may cause him to deviate from the will of his Maker. But even so, a person should not make his work primary, but secondary, and his Torah the center; in this way both will succeed” (Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chaim 156).
Exo_23:12 Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.
2Th_3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
Col_3:17 and whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Col_3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
It’s September and we celebrate Labor Day! For many years, kiddos went back to school the day after Labor Day and I think the parents celebrated the Day more for that than to honor the American worker.
Work defines us as one of the first questions we ask a new person is about where and what kind of work they do.
Yet, work is the one thing most of us are unhappy about our jobs. One report I read said that at least 85% of us are not in the career field of our dreams and many are not even in the career for which they trained.
Man was made to work. We are created in the image of God and we read about His work in Genesis and His many other works all the way through to the last word of Revelation. God rested on the seventh day and we also are to have one day in seven where we rest and worship. Many people suffer burnout from going more than six days at a time or working some odd shifts requiring too many long days in a row with many too many days in a row off. Our clocks are divinely wired for six on and one off. In order to circumvent the curse we have come up with all sorts of ways to make work different, but not always better. Our technology has made us earn our bread by the furrow of our brow and not the sweat. Stress kills quicker and we have made work more stressful while making it less physical.
Adam and Eve were required to dress the Garden, so work is God ordained. They had the best and probably easiest job ever since there was no time clock or pressure even if it was physical. They worked together with no jealousy or competition. They topped off the day spending time with God. Work does not get any better than that.
Sin messed it all up. No more walking with God and the curse made earning their food harder. As more people came forth the sin nature created all kinds of greed, pride, laziness, etc. that made work rough on the individual and whatever team or organization involved. Yet, God says that a man who WILL not work, not CANNOT work, doesn’t get to eat and a man professing faith who doesn’t provided for his own is worse than an infidel/unbeliever.
Most of us will never get the ideal job, salary or Boss so how do we keep from getting depressed? By making God our Boss and working for Him, we get past much of the things that drag us down at work. When I worked for K-Mart right after college a manager commented that I worked too hard for the money I was getting. I told him that if I worked for K-Mart, I might agree, but since I worked for God my best is required regardless of my paycheck.
God is the best employer because He knows all your needs and He sees when you have been treated unjustly at work or are under appreciated. He is able to reward and promote better than any organization. Indeed, be thankful to Him that you have a job or He may give it someone else. Live with Him in the moment as retirement may not come to you so wishing your life away for the weekend or for retirement will create unnecessary anxiety, boredom and even anger or bitterness. Do well with a grateful heart and you may find you are in your dream job!
Happy Labor Day! Maranatha!
August 22, 2014
When I was around eight, we were visiting some cousins out on the farm and as all kids back then we played tag. I went zipping around the barn and stepped in a slick patty. I fell, slid and rolled through a copious amount of bovine excrement. When I was able to stand up I went to the porch and yelled for Mom as the other cousins laughed in consolation. Mom came to the door and was horrified to see her son’s new version of playing cowboy. She ordered to me to strip, in front of the cousins, and hosed me down. Fortunately, one of the cousins was male and my size so I was not forced to wear a dress home. I was embarrassed, but clean and Mom still took me home.
As I look back on that now, I am reminded of how many times as a Christian that I was either running from the devil or playing tag with the world that I have slipped and fallen into as much manure as that day. As I ran to God for help or confessed, His mercy stripped me and hosed me off as the devil and his minions laughed. Sometimes it was embarrassing as others saw me spiritually naked, but in the end I was clean and God still called me Son. Like Mom, He took care of the offending substance and smell because He loved the boy covered in it more than He abhorred the filth. It is good to have a loving mother, but far greater to have such a loving Father in God and a savior like Jesus Christ.
July 21, 2014
Lashon Hara is any derogatory or damaging statement against an individual. In Hilchot Deot 7:5, Maimonides supplies a litmus test for determining whether something is or isn’t Lashon Hara:
Anything which, if it would be publicized, would cause the subject physical or monetary damage, or would cause him anguish or fear, is Lashon Hara. Deuteronomy 24:9, “Zachor et asher asa H’ Elokeicha l’Miriam”
It’s Lashon Hara EVEN IF:
a listener pressures the speaker to tell
names are left out
it’s about the speaker’s family
the speaker includes himself in the derogatory description – http://torah.org/learning/halashon/review1.html
Col_4:6 Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
August was named for Caesar Augustus and while in some ways he was not an august person in his actions he did have a dignity and majesty about him as our word august means. I suspect that if someone in his court or entourage would not have acted dignified or stately that person would have lost his head. After all, he/she represented Caesar and he/she better present a good image.
How much more so should we who represent the King of Kings and Lord of Lords carry ourselves in a dignified way and most importantly in our speech, especially when referring to others? We are to let our speech be gracious even when the person(s) do not seem to deserve it. That is fitting as grace is never deserved. It is given. Knowing we are in desperate need of daily grace ourselves we should be very prone to extend it to others.
It is to be seasoned with salt. Salt can add a savory flavor to a meal that without the salt might be bland or even undesirable. The right amount matters as too much will make a person gag and not enough does not produce the desired result. Yes, salt heals wounds, but it also burns and sufficient salt can melt ice. We need to practice so that when we give an answer to every man about our faith or even our heritage or other beliefs we might create a thirst in them without overpowering them or throwing it in their eyes. There may be wounds to be healed, but still the right amount does make a difference.
Graceful words should be used to redeem and restore a person who may be way out of line and even hateful. As our Jewish friends teach about LaShon Hara, even if it is true, some things need not be said in public. Matt 18 should be applied if the issue needs addressed. Go to them in private and seek restoration of the person.
Tit_2:8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
As we go about sharing our faith, history and even political viewpoints, we should strive to be august and use speech that gives no room for our enemy to use it against us. Let them debate the issues not skirt the issues by having our speech and demeanor to attack and focus on thus swaying other people’s emotions. Remember, gallant Lee spoke well of a man who slandered him. Lee should be our example, not his critic. Maranatha!
July 12, 2014
Dear friends and colleagues, today I met with members of the board of Computers for the Blind. We had a very good conversation about this organization and its goals. I am very excited about this organization as one would expect for an IT person and minister. I firmly believe they are doing a marvelous work and are worthy of any support you can give them.
The need is increasing and thus so also is the need for resources. If you live in the area, consider volunteering your time and if you are not in the area consider a donation. Computer technology is changing rapidly so businesses and individuals refresh their equipment regularly. What is legacy or out of date equipment for you might well be the ideal thing a blind or low vision may need to give them access to a world they would not know without it. Many of these people are low income and the cost of equipment as well as the various software would be more than most could afford.
CFTB expands their vision by providing what they need to not be isolated due to their disability. Please consider donating your older equipment to them. Send this message to the IT department or the CFO of your organization asking them to consider CFTB during their next refresh. I am providing the link to their site below. Will you be eyes to the blind?
As always, thank you for your time and consideration!
Dr. Ronald Shultz, ThD, PC+
Job 29:15 I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. KJV
July 7, 2014
Faith Comes By Hearing—Is Anyone Listening? – Part Four
The last thing you need to know about the harvest is the Thresher. The harvest is all about the Lord and in this time He uses the Holy Spirit to bring about the fruit.
3 And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day.
4 For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD.
5 And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.
6 And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.
7 And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious.
8 But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.
9 And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein;
10 And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe. KJV
I am not a five point Calvinist, by any means, but we know that in the foreknowledge of God He knows who will hear and who will not be it unsaved or saved people. Your job is to be the prophet. You are to do the speaking and not the winning. They need to know that a prophet was among them and you cannot do that unless you know your place and duty and His. If you turn them around or mix them you will be frustrated and lose more than you will gain. Just do what He asks in faith and faithfulness and leave the rest to Him.
Matt 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. KJV
He already knows that even in the Church there are going to be wheat and tares. Too many preachers want to tear up the tares and in the end often tear up the church and their ministry. Let them grow together. Preach the whole Word and the wheat will grow and the tares may leave your field and go to another willingly or they will expose themselves and will leave anyway though they are not as willing, but the shame will drive them out. If a few stay, consider them a means for your growth and no worse than Paul’s thorn that made him rely upon God and not his own skill sets or gifts.
Rom 10: 1-21
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)
7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
You may want a person or group of persons saved as much as Paul did his fellow Israelites, but you cannot force it. When you were first saved you went to all your friends and relatives joyfully sharing and confident they would be saved. Some may have and many others may have rejected. That is not your fault and you have to turn it over to God or you will despair. You trust that the God of all the earth shall do right. Pray and witness when you can, but don’t try and shove it down their throats. They will just spew it out and turn and rend you like the pearls being cast before swine. You go, you preach, you pray and then commit the rest to God. It may take years to see some saved and some may not be saved until you go to glory or they may never be saved. You trust that to the owner of the vineyard and the one who will thresh he field.
1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
11 Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,
12 And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.
13 But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.
Even in faithless, rebellious Israel, there would be a tenth that would be the Lord’s. If we look at the world’s population of seven billion and look at a tenth we only get seven hundred million of those living if we were Raptured this minute. Yet, I don’t don’t think we will get that many. Jesus asked if there would be any faith on the earth when He returned making it sound like a very small remnant and yet a remnant. Seven hundred million scattered around the world would make some very small remnants per country. We have a little over three hundred million in the US. I doubt we have half the remnant in our borders. Think of the size of your church and how many would go if only a tenth went. Mega-churches would be mini-churches when you look at the remnant.
I once interviewed with a church that had a split. They were looking for a man with experience in a three hundred and fifty member church though they were only at one hundred and seventy five after the split. The fellow said the great thing was that there was no change in the offering after the split. I told him there is no organization that loses half their membership and has no financial decrease. I said what you had was a church of one hundred and seventy five members and the same amount of visitors. He did not like that and that was the end of my trail in relation to pastoring that church, but I told him the truth. That is all you have to do whether you are preaching or witnessing. Just tell the truth of the Word. The Thresher will handle the rest.
The world and the Church are listening. They are hungry and will listen and will eat what is given them. If you know the Message, the Entreater, the Audience and the Thresher you will give them meat. The Holy Spirit will cook it, season it, serve it and nourish the ones who He knows wants it and He knows which ones will spit it out. Faith come by hearing and if you will speak it in power they will hear. Maranatha!
July 7, 2014
Faith Comes By Hearing—Is Anyone Listening? – Part Three
Once you know the message and the entreater you must know the audience. Those who are in evangelism and revival ministries understand this principle. When they stand up to speak to an audience they have never met before they have to make some basic choices based on the the pastor, if they know him, the doctrinal position of the church though that can still be tough as many church people today know little about doctrine and with six Baptists you can get thirteen opinions. Check the physical makeup of the church. Are they primarily young, old, well mixed, one culture, multi-cultured, etc. Are you in the North, South, East or West. All of these factors will determine what direction you need to take in your sermon, applicable stories or analogies if you are going to make any impact at all.
Many colloquialisms and historical references that would work well in Texas would be curiosities or confusions in Maine. Sometimes I will not realize that I am using terms or acronyms that are quite common at my job or my church but are only vaguely familiar or unknown to the people I am talking to at the time. When I see that glazed look or they say they have no clue as to what I just said that I know I have to back up and use a different approach. Having served in three military branches as well as working for the Veterans Administration I could use a great many acronyms that would confuse Socrates. or Einstein. People might think me quite intelligent, but there has been no real communication.
Keep It Simple, Saint is not enough because what is simple to you may not be to the group you are trying to convert or teach. I work in the computer field and I try very hard to keep the cookies on the bottom shelf so everyone can eat them when I try to explain things to my clients. Still even using simple language and down home humor and illustrations some folks still do not get it and just acquiesce to let me do what I need to do. Their minds are just not wired to understand that particular set of information.
2 Cor 4:3-4
3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. KJV
7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded
8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.
9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:
10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.
You are going to run into people who are not going to get the Gospel because of satanic blindness or because of the hardness of their heart, self-inflicted or God caused, as we see in these passages. No one is saved by clever speeches or being defeated in a debate. You may have vast intellectual knowledge of archeology and various science disciplines, excelled in debate club in college and read your Bible in the Koine Greek on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but in Aramaic on Tuesdays and Thursdays saving the Saturdays and Sundays for Hebrew, but there are people who will not be impressed. They are not ready to be saved or they are the ones that never will be saved. Accept that and pray that God will send someone to them when they are ready or weep for the fact that they are dead men walking.
When Peter gave his sermon on Pentecost and won three thousand souls he spoke to them from the background of Jews and tied them to current events of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. He did not speak to Greek poetry, politics or economic issues. He spoke to the reason for what the audience was seeing repudiating their accusation of drunkenness and taking them to the Scriptures speaking to it and then explaining how Christ caused it to happen then pointing to their guilt. As one man said, start with your text and make a beeline to the Cross. The result was conviction, repentance and salvation. He used the right material to the right crowd and yet we know that sheer man’s wisdom was not all involved in this.
There was a time in this country when you could preach to unbelievers and they understood what you were saying because they had been exposed to the Scripture as a child at home, school and even church. They may have been religious like the Jews in Acts or scoffers, but they understood because they heard the Bible in many places and scenarios so they were not ignorant. Many could have quoted Scripture for you. I have had many an interesting conversation with a person who grew up as a preacher’s kid or overheard some deep and even sound theology discussed by drunks. In a session of prison ministry I have heard men read poems or sing songs they wrote and even had one fellow break out in a sermon when we were somehow forgotten by the guard and were there three hours instead of one.
When we had a nation filled with people like this it was much easier to get the message out because all that was needed was clarification of issues or conviction of sin. We were like the Jews at Pentecost. We are no longer that nation and yet we are trying to give the message as if we were and we wonder why we are not as effective as Peter. We are a nation of Pilates who ask what is truth.
The Jews had the Law and the history of God working in their nation. They at least outwardly gave lip service to God though their lives did not always match up. You did not have to convince them that Yahweh was God though at times in their history you had to remind them that He was the only God. If you quoted Scripture they would listen and often repent. They believed in a literal six day Creation. They believed in Adam and Eve, the Flood and on and on. Of course, they had the Sadducees who really did not believe in much of anything and probably should have been kicked out of the Sanhedrin, but the average Jew would have been far more in alignment with the Pharisees sans their hypocrisy.
The Greeks on the other hand did not have this background. They and other Gentiles had all sorts of interpretations of God and the origin and purpose of life as well as many gods in their organizational chart. You can find many stories in antiquity from many groups with similar stories as what is in the Bible, but this is to be expected. After all, only eight people got off the Ark. Those eight had the facts straight but as the earth was repopulated and people were scattered about the facts got blurry and somewhat enhanced like Eve adding do not touch to God’s command. Some details would be forgotten so someone would come up with something to fill in the gaps. Thus you have a world wide flood story in many cultures with even one that says only two brothers survived the flood. Why people did not question how the world got repopulated with that one is a good question, but then again many people accept many other tenets of religion and so-called science with obvious errors without question today.
To preach to them as Peter preached to the Jews that day would have been futile. They would have had no clue to much that was being said and thus Festus thinking Paul was mad or crazy from much study while King Agrippa was convicted and almost a Christian. We are in a day of Gentiles, not a day of Jews and we have start with a different premise when dealing with them. We do not change the message. We change the delivery. We start at square one as they have no clue what our church lingo means.
We are becoming more and more secular so we abound in atheists and agnostics. We are a pluralistic culture with people from all over the globe that come from a myriad of religions. Folks are into being spiritual though they often have no idea what that means but because they are open to a buffet of ideas where they pick and choose they think they are spiritual versus the dogmatic, narrow minded folks they perceive biblical Christians to be.
They don’t believe in Creation so to tell them Jesus died to save them from their sins means nothing since they don’t see a fall of evolved man. Sin is not being true to yourself and experiencing life to the fullest no matter what your desires might be as we are all part of the cosmic consciousness and indeed are all little gods. The Bible is not the Word of God for God is within them, not a divine Being to which they will answer, so they may accept Jesus as a god, but no more a god then you or they are. God is love and even a professing Christian author believes no one goes to Hell because love wins. I have a psychologist friend that was raised Catholic, but just can’t grasp the substitutionary atonement.
To walk up to these folks and give our standard presentation that we grew up with when there were still a substantial amount of Jews left would be useless. Hollywood, the media and Liberal theologians have so polluted the Gospel with their variations that you can use the same words with six people and have thirteen meanings. Catholics have been training their people to use our lingo, but the meanings are different. They are born again when they are sprinkled as infants and they receive Christ as their Savior when they receive the sacrament of the Eucharist for they are taking in the literal body and blood of Christ.
Many people in our own circles know the handshakes and lingo, but are not truly converted so even non-Catholics need to be thoroughly questioned even if they say everything right. Many pastors, deacons, teachers, musicians and members have been saved after being in a solid church for years. Since that is true, imagine how hard it is for someone with no background and has been taught secular humanism for many years or raised in an Eastern religion or some cult to grasp the message. You cannot win someone in thirty minutes at a doorstep as you might have done sixty years ago.
18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?
20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.
21(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.
23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.
30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.
33 So Paul departed from among them.
34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them. KJV
The Epicureans were the atheistic eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die and if it feels good, do it crowd where the Stoics were more of the prideful suck it up and do it because it is right and what will be will be type. As opposite as they were they were still curious and thought it might be a good show to take Paul to where the gang hung out that just wanted to hear new things. I would venture most were the idle rich, who in their boredom, would listen to most anything.
Talk about a tough crowd. Indeed, we are only told of these two major philosophical schools that were present, but they were probably others else the debates would get old too quickly. Paul used their curiosity and fear of leaving out some god to gain his hearing. The unknown god to them was the only true God. They knew a myriad of false gods. They needed to know the true One.
He did not water down the message or even try to make it more appealing to them. They were seekers, but he did not go overboard to make it a seeker church kind of a thing. He did what all good teachers do. He took them from something they knew and led them to what they did not know. In the end, many laughed and mocked, but he did win some more time to explain with a group of people including a big wig named Dionysius whose name meant divinely touched, but really got divinely touched by Paul’s message and even though Damaris meant little woman she must have some influence in the city since she is called out by name.
12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.
13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; KJV
Sometimes you have to appeal to a person they respect and use what that person has said to gain an ear. Truth is truth and when a unbeliever speaks truth he is speaking God’s truth without giving Him credit. While some might see this prophet’s statement as a stereotype, there is usually some grain of truth to it which made it a stereotype. When I say kilt, what group do you think of automatically? The Scots and yet not all Scotsmen wear a kilt. If I say Lederhosen, you will say German and I am here to tell you I am one German you will most likely never see in that attire. When one of your own that speaks with authority says that you are something it is safe to say that you are what they say. That is why the movie, God’s Not Dead, uses many quotes from scientists and philosophers that show the folly of evolution.
I am not saying that you have to be fluent in every religion and philosophy. You will not live that long. The principle is to find something you can agree with or break the ice with to gain a hearing. Once they are paying attention you will start to see where you need to go to get them to where they need to be. Ask questions. Never assume they understand you even if they are nodding in assent.
You may have to go back to second grade Sunday School. If you do, no problem. Better to go back there and spend time making sure the person is saved then to have him say a prayer he does not understand to a God he really is not sure about so you can report back to someone your victory and the guy dies and goes to Hell the next night.
Matt 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. KJV
I used to think this was just the cults and apostate groups, but I fear that some of us bible thumping, independent Baptists and others like us are just as guilty. You have to get a man lost before you can get Him saved and if he does not believe in Creation, Adam and Eve and the Fall, you are not going to get him lost in his mind though he is lost biblically.
Using the phrases we love so well, regeneration, sanctification, justification, born again and on and on will be as useful to most people today as my IT and military lingo would be to a civilian or a person who can barely turn a computer on. It will be Greek to them as it would be if I spoke some of the things I know in other languages would be to most of you in the class.
When you meet a stranger do not press him hard for a conversion unless you sense real conviction. He may just say the prayer to send you on your way or to be polite. In most cases, you are going to plant the seed and water it a bit, but it is unlikely you will go from seed, to water, to fertilize, to harvest in twenty minutes or less. Someone will have to water what you’ve sown and someone else may end up harvesting so don’t feel like it has to be you. You were put there for that time to accomplish nothing else, but to be faithful and present the Gospel. If you are truly sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit you will know if it is time to plant, water or harvest. If they walk away, you are not a failure.