Monday, January 30, 2012

A Problem of Growing More Mature (old)

Holy Land Picture of the Day  
Ruins of Biblical Dan (ICEJ Staff photograph)Dan 
Today's picture is of the entrance to the ruins of Biblical Dan, near the headwaters of the Jordan River. The city is mentioned several times in the Old Testament, including in I Kings 4:25; "During Solomon's lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree"

“Search me, O God, and know my heart:  Try me and know my anxious thoughts;  And see if there be any hurtful was in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Hey Gang:  Have you ever found yourself on the landing between the basement and first floor of your home and you not only can’t remember what you were about to do, but also you cannot remember if you were going up or going down?

I read, recently, about two ministers who said they had a problem with their mind wandering while reading God’s word and in prayer.  As I pondered this conversation, I readily agreed with what they were saying.

I, too, have problems with a wondering mind, not only when reading the Word but also when in prayer.  I have no problem with concentration when reading sports magazines, or what is happening in the world of prophecy; nor do I normally have problems when talking with others. 

So, the question: Why, when we read the most precious Book of all, or speak to the Giver of all good gifts, does our mind wander?  I am quick to blame such lapses on Satan and his dart machine but I sense God would not totally agree with that.  True, Satan hates to see us in the Word and in prayer to the Father, but sometimes I believe we give him far too much credit for our short comings.

I have come to the conclusion that until I have a hunger and thirst for the Lord- that supersedes all other things-  my mind will wonder. I believe when we are inspired to praise God, and feel the deep need for forgiveness for our transgressions and when we are eager to request His blessings on our life, then, the Holy Spirit will keep our thoughts focused.

(From Gramma – and a paragraph from  January Jewish Jewels, a Messianic Newsletter we get monthly:)
“Pray with ‘Kavanah’ is the Hebrew word for focus, direction and intent. This means to pray with zeal, to passionately desire to know God and hear from Him. This attitude includes reverence for God and a shift of focus from self  toward God. It includes concentration, lack of distraction and having a sense of standing in the presence of God.  May we give God our best efforts in prayer at ALL times.”

Here is some food for you to ponder as your drive down the roadways today,  if you too are plagued with a wondering mind at the wrong times:  When your team pulls the upset of the year in some sporting event are you not quick to read everything that is written about that victory and listen to every word spoken in praise of the victory?  Why?  Because you are filled with excitement and want to relish the victory as long as you can.

Soooooo, could it be when our mind wonders when we are reading the Word or praying it is a sign we are not excited about His Word or talking to Him personally.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Have You Ever Done Anything Strange?

Holy Land Picture of the Day  
Capernaum (ICEJ staff photograph)Capernaum
Today's picture is of the ruins of Capernaum, which is mentioned several times in the Gospels, including Mark 1: 21-22; "They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He (Jesus) entered the synagogue and began to teach. They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

“Because of her joy, she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was
standing in front of the gate.” (Acts. 12:5).

Hey Gang:  Now, that is a loaded question!  Show me someone that has never done anything
Strange, and I will show you a person that has lived their life in a box.  But then again, would that
not be strange?

When we chose to leave California and good jobs, and home and excellent chances for climbing
the  corporate ladder to become an unemployed director of a non-existent boys home, most folks
thought we were strange.  You’re going to do what? Was the premier question.  Even our families
thought we were a wee bit unattached.

But as I read the Word I find that there are many examples of people who did very strange things:
like, talk to donkeys, pack up all their earthly possessions and move to a place they had no idea
where they were going…  At least we had an idea where we were going.

In today’s Scripture we find Peter has been set free from prison by an angel of the Lord and went to
the house of Mary, where many of the followers of Jesus were praying for that precise thing to

James had been executed and Herod was planning on adding Peter to the “dearly departed” the
next morning.  One might think that he (Peter) would be on his knees pleading with God to intervene
on his behalf ,but strange as it may seem, he was sleeping!  He was not mentioned in the Hebrew’s
Hall of Faith but he certainly qualified for membership.

The church was praying for him and God was at work on the other side of the city dispatching
an angel to set Peter free.   When Peter arrived at the gate of Mary’s house and rang the door
bell Rhoda came to answer, and ,in her excitement left Peter standing at the gate and went to
tell the others.  Now, that folks, is strange.

Soooo, let’s look beyond the strangeness to the source of the power of this story.  Have you ever
felt like your prayers were like bricks that fall to the ground as soon as they are uttered. If so,
perhaps you need someone to agree with you in prayer.  Jesus did say, “If two or you agree
about anything…it will be done for you by My Father in heaven” (Matt. 18:19). Ecclesiastes
tells us a strand of three (you, your prayer partner and the Holy Spirit) cannot be broken.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Are You Weary?

Holy Land Picture of the Day  

“The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.  His understanding is inscrutable” (Isaiah 40:28).

Hey Gang:  Week number two is completed at Voice of Martyrs and I must admit to you that I have learned that God does indeed give strength to the weary.  I also confess I had some doubts coming into this three week challenge, I was not sure my 78 year old frame would stand up under three weeks of strenuous labors. 

My prayer daily has been, strength for one more day.  God said one day of manna is sufficient, so don’t ask for two days worth.  In the past ten working days we have turned out 376,196 pieces of mail which means I have handled more than 750,000 envelopes feeding each into a machine that stuffs materials into and seals the envelop ready for mailing.  Of our crew of six people, three were over the age of seventy.  But then again I find no place in God’s word where we are told to prepare for the rocking chair days.

Annie Johnson Flint wrote this neat little ditty that rang my bell:  “BUT God hath promised strength for the day,    Rest for the labor, light for the way, grace for the trials, help from above,  unfailing sympathy, undying love.”

I love the words of Isaiah 40, especially the last several verse, “Though youths grow weary tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagle, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” (vs. 30-31).

Soooo, my young friends, take a word or two of advice from a very senior person, take heed of Malachi’s words, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this” says the Lord of  hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”  (3:10). 



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

There When You Need It

Holy Land Picture of the Day  
Kidron Valley (ICEJ Staff photograph)
Today's picture is of the Kidron Valley, on the eastern side of Jerusalem at the foot of the Mount of Olives. It is mentioned several times in the Bible, including in the Gospel of John 18:1-3; "When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples.Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons"

The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7).  (Read also Hebrews 9:11-22)

In recent years, my bride and I have been regular volunteers at Red Cross Blood Banks.  That in itself is a work of God for me for I have always had an aversion towards needles and blood.  

In my most recent tenure at the Blood Bank, I happened to come across an article that was titled “There When You Need It”.  There was a listing of percentages of people who have different blood types:  The most common is “O” Positive, (37.4%), followed closely by “A” Positive (35.7%).  Then comes “A” Negative (6.3%) followed by “B” Negative (1.5%).

The rarest, AB Negative, is found in only one in one hundred sixty seven people, or 0.6% of the population.  But the point that really got my attention was this statement: “The rarest blood type is the one that’s not there when you need it”. 

But there is another supply of blood that is 'one of a kind' and always available to those who ask for it!  First John 1:7 states, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin”.   Wow, is that not awesome?    

I confess that I have a hard time understanding why a Holy and Perfect God could love me so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die on a hideous cross to open the door for salvation for me. 

Why was He willing to do this?  Because it was the death of Christ – the shedding of His blood – that satisfied the demand of a holy God as payment for our sins.   The writer of Hebrews made this very clear when he wrote, “...and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all having obtained eternal; redemption”. (Heb. 9:12).

Sooooo, friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, “According to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22).  

And that is food for some deep meditation.



Saturday, January 14, 2012

What Price?

Today's picture from Israel is of a small boat on the Sea of Galilee. It reminds us of the many times in the Gospels that Jesus and the Apostles travelled on the Sea in small boats, including Matthew 14: 22-23; " Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone”.

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing  value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and county them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8)

Hey Gang:  Each time we return to Voice of Martyr’s to give of our time and energies, I gain a new appreciation for Paul’s words and find myself questioning how deep my love for the Lord really goes.  When I hear the stories of those who endure persecution for standing firm in their love for the Lord, I wonder, if someone held a gun to my head and gave me a choice – reject Jesus as Lord and accept Islam (or whatever other religion)  or die, what would I say?    

I am reading a book titled The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg , which addresses this question.  One his first statements kind of hit me between the eyes.  He wrote, “When I began to ask the question , ‘Am I willing, and how deep does my willingness go to serve my Lord no matter what the circumstances’, I found myself answering my question ‘I am disappointed in my lack of disappointment.”  The more I thought about that statement the more I found myself saying,“and so go I”.

What he is asking is – ‘Am I truly living the life that Christ designed for me even before time began?’  There was a man by the name of Frank Constintino who was one bad motor scooter.  He found himself in prison facing a life sentence when God visited him and said, “Frank you are leaving a ‘Hole In Time’. I have a very special mission for you. I have programmed you to reach people for my kingdom and you  have broken the chains of redemption by choosing to ‘go your own way’.”

We were privileged to hear the VOM International Representative to the Far East in Chapel and he shared some of beautiful stories of what is happening in North Korea, even though to be a Christian there is to have a bulls eye on your back.   We also heard the story of a Ugandan pastor who was attacked by several Muslims who threw acid in his face, arms that resulted in the lose of one eye; even in his suffering, he has not neglected his sheep.   We also learned of a church of more than a thousand in China that cannot find a building to worship in so they meet in God’s great outdoors.

Soooo, my young friends, that brings me back to my first statement, what price are you willing to pay?  A very common message here is get into the word and prepare for the persecution that will come to this country.   One has to have their head in the sand to not see that each day the Christian values of our nation are being taken away.