Archive for The Word

Passing these along…

Posted in faith, Prayer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2010/10/22 by NY4JB

I didn’t write these but they are worth passing along…

A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him.  It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited.  The pastor made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone then he sat back in his chair, still silent.  The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one lone ember’s flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and dead.  Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. The pastor glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow, once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.  As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said with a tear running down his cheek, “Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I will be back in church…”

And

A woman’s daughter had asked the local minister to come and pray with her mother. When the minister arrived, he found the woman lying in bed with her head propped up on two pillows. An empty chair sat beside her bed. The minister assumed that the woman had been informed of his visit… ‘I guess you were expecting me, he said.

‘No, who are you?’ said the mother.

The minister told her his name and then remarked, ‘I saw the empty chair and I figured you knew I was going to show up…’

‘Oh yeah, the chair,’ said the bedridden woman ‘Would you mind closing the door?’

Puzzled, the minister shut the door.

‘I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter,’ said the woman. ‘But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it went right over my head…’ I abandoned any attempt at prayer,’ the old woman continued, ‘ until one day four years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘ Prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here is what I suggest; sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because he promised, ‘I will be with you always’.  ‘Then just speak to him in the same way you’re doing with me right now.’  So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.’ 

The minister was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old woman to continue on the journey.  Then he prayed with her, anointed her with oil, and returned to the church. Two nights later the daughter called to tell the minister that her mama had died that afternoon. Did she die in peace?’ he asked. Yes, when I left the house about two o’clock, she called me over to her bedside, told me she loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found her. But there was something strange about her death. Apparently, just before Mom died, she leaned over and rested her head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?’

The minister wiped a tear from his eye and said, ‘I wish we could all go like that.’

Colossians 1 Devotional

Posted in Bible Study, Prayer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2010/07/12 by NY4JB

I was asked to lead our praise band in a devotional before our rehearsal last week so here it is.  Feel free to pass it on or use it in any way you see fit…

Heavenly Father,
We are thankful that you have chosen to allow us to worship you, offering songs of praise. We thank you for the talents and skills you have given each of us and the opportunity to use them to glorify your name. As we go to your word tonight we ask that you let us hear your voice. Please don’t let the ink, the paper or the voice of a mere man reading your word become an obstacle or distraction but let your voice be heard by all. Lord you tell us in Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God…” yet as musicians we are not in the habit of being still so tonight we want to stop and listen expectantly for your voice as we prepare our hearts to receive you.
Amen

At this time, please close your eyes and pause in silent worship for about two minutes (Note: I used a timer so that I wouldn’t have to watch the clock)

Paul an apostle of
Christ Jesus by
The will of God and
Timothy our brother

To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

(Colossians 1 ESV)

When asked to lead this devotional I knew the first thing to be done was to choose what we would study. The temptation is to pick a topic and then research Bible verses to support the topic. Of course the danger there is that we are then starting with our own wisdom rather than God’s word and it is fairly easy to find Bible quotes to support just about any opinion even if it’s not Biblically based. So I prayed about how to approach this and found my answer was to cast lots as was done throughout the Bible such as in Leviticus 16:8 “And Aaron shall cast lots …

Using the random number generator in excel to get a number between 1 and 66, yielded 51 as the book of the Bible that we should study. Colossians is the 51st book, since it has 4 chapters I then had excel give me a number between 1 and 4. So by the modern equivalent of casting lots it was determined that we should study Colossians 1. The same method was used to determine our focus for tonight is to be on verse 10, “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

This verse can be applied to the various levels of the church, starting with the individual believer; then up to the group level such as the worship team, in our case a praise band; the leadership of a local congregation, continuing up to the local church entity and finally the universal church, which, as you know, is the collection of all Christian churches.

So how are we supposed to walk? Ephesians 4:1 tells us to “…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, ”. We understand that sometimes small children will do things they are not supposed to do but as a child grows we expect more from them and of course adults don’t act like children. The same applies to our spiritual lives, with new believers being like small children needing help and support from the mature believers. The mature believer is then held to a higher standard and so on up through the levels with teachers, leadership and the local church itself each being held to increasingly higher standards.

James 3:1
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Applying this to us, as a praise band, we see that not only must our personal walk be right but also as a group. So how is a group of Christians to act? Jesus tells us in John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” So then what is Christian love? 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

So with those guidelines about our walk, we move on to the idea of “bearing fruit in every good work.” Initially I thought the word ‘fruit’ meant just new believers but as I searched the scriptures I found there is more to this word fruit. Here are a few of the verses I found.

Hebrews 13:15
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

So praise is also fruit.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Here we again find Christian love associated with fruit.

Philippians 1:9-11
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

And yet another type of fruit, “the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ

1 Corinthians 10:31
…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

In the end, everything we do is the fruit we bear.

Lord, our prayer for El Shaddai Christian Church tonight is that we may be filled with the knowledge of your will, in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

(All Bible quotes are from the English Standard Version.)

That Guy…

Posted in Bible Study, faith, Minutia, Observations, Prayer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2010/06/01 by NY4JB

We often let our surroundings dictate our state of mind but that is not what the Bible tells us to do.

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Genesis 39:20-23 (English Standard Version)
20 And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. 21 But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23 The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.

Here we see that Joseph, who was wrongfully imprisoned, does not lament this injustice.  Instead he becomes the model prisoner, a trustee of the warden.  This does not change the fact that he is physically in prison but it shows that spiritually he is free despite the injustice of his situation.

Titus 2:9-10 (English Standard Version)
9 Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

Once again in the New Testament we are ordered to “be well-pleasing, not argumentative,” but you may say you are not a slave, in which case it should be even easier to maintain a good state of mind.

Lord, we ask to be made aware of your steadfast love in our lives, so that we may be at peace in all situations and that you help each of us reflect your love to those around us that they may see and believe as well, for Jesus sake we pray.
Amen

My Grace is Sufficient

Posted in Bible Study, faith, Observations, Prayer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2010/03/22 by NY4JB

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (English Standard Version)
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I am troubled by those who think that prayer heals anything and everything. While it’s true that prayer is extremely powerful, when we ask for something that is not in God’s will, the answer will be no. It is clear from the above scripture that even the Apostle Paul struggled with matters of the flesh and was denied. God clearly does not view our physical pains in the same way that we do and will at times allow us to suffer, just as a parent must allow a child to experience disappointment, in order that we might grow in the spirit.

In fact, from God’s perspective even physical death is just a calling home of one of his children (assuming the child is ‘saved’) yet from a human point of view it is a sad loss even when the person has lived a long, full life. I believe the following scripture is often misinterpreted as meaning that Jesus was mourning the death of his friend Lazarus but I believe “Jesus wept “ and was “greatly troubled” because of the lack of faith of his friends and followers. Jesus would not be troubled in the human sense because a saved man had died, knowing that they would soon be together again in Heaven.

John 11:32-35 (English Standard Version)
32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.

Caution must be exercised here not to confuse human mourning with the spiritual truth, for as humans we will grieve the loss of a friend or family member from our earthly life.  It is a very real loss and as long as we live in this world we will feel grief for those who go on ahead of us. We will even feel sorrow at the loss of friends or times that are no longer at hand as a parent is both excited to see a child grow up and head out on their own, while missing the child’s presence in their own home.

So, we should pray for those who have needs but we should understand that we have no knowledge of God’s plan and he may answer a prayer with “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Riot or Revival

Posted in Observations with tags , , , , , on 2009/03/22 by NY4JB

Michael Easley quoting one of his professors, “ ‘…wherever Paul went either a revival or a riot broke out, when I go places they serve tea.’  The same can be said of Jesus.”  That is, Jesus caused strong reactions, not the serving of tea.

Wow, that’s something to think about.  I’ve heard some boring sermons where it was a struggle to stay awake, but on the other hand I’ve heard some that caused a lot of excitement but had no point; you know the type, on the drive home you’re saying “what was that all about?”  I do know that when Jesus comes up in conversation opinions are rarely neutral, sometimes the conversation comes to an abrupt halt, other times there are strong opinions and there are even people who never talk to you again.  I’d love to hear some thoughts from others…

Electronic Christianity

Posted in Prayer with tags , , , , , on 2009/01/27 by NY4JB

A while back I posted about using my computer as a prayer notebook – the results are in

  • Distraction – up
  • Quiet time – down
  • Prayerless times – up

A week ago I printed the prayer list and I’m getting back to normal – the electronic list just didn’t work for me.

On another front, I just reloaded The Thomas Nelson Bible Study Library (Libronix), in preparation for a business trip.  I hope that it will allow me to have good reading material and only carry a couple of paper books but I am still going to pack my pocket size NKJV Bible and one other book for times that the laptop is inconvenient.

I don’t think paper books will go away totally but digital distribution is certainly less expensive and more convenient. Once somebody comes up with an electronic reader that is to reading what the mp3 player (ipod if you must) is to music I will think about making the leap. Although, as of today my mp3 player doesn’t see much use – maybe I’m just old but it’s just easier to use CDs in the car – again integration will be the key change their. And how about a reader for the car that reads your digital books to you. The computer generated voices are getting pretty good, or at least bearable and I love books on tape; I mean CD; I mean audio books…

On the other hand, newspapers and magazines are dead to me – The internet gives me magazine articles and the news anytime I want. Why print something that’s good for one day and send out trucks to deliver it, that’s nothing but a waste.

Heavenly Father,
Whatever the medium, from your lips, to the ears of prophets, to scrolls, to the codex, to paper, to digital renderings, we give thanks that you gave us the word, your word. Please don’t let the technology become an idol to us when we should be praising and worshiping you as our God. In Jesus’ name we pray
Amen

John MacArthur On Alcohol

Posted in Bible Study with tags , , , , , on 2009/01/19 by NY4JB

I’m listening to John MacArthur talk about drinking and if it is allowed Biblically.  Very interesting and you can download the mp3s free at http://www.gty.org/Products/AudioSeries/72

As somebody who, up until recently, would have defended drinking I need to give my testimony on this.  Up until about five years ago I drank socially and only occasionally to excess, then I found out that there was diabetes on both sides of my family.  I started to cut back and also started to notice that my gut would hurt when I had a drink so I stopped completely.  Notice that I only noticed the pain when I started to cut back as it would go away if I kept drinking but it was probably there all along.

Now, MacArthur mentioned the excuse that, if everyone else is drinking you have to just to fit in.  He calls it as he sees it, that’s no excuse at all, yet that is the way I felt after I stopped.  I was uncomfortable and avoided going out and this is the part of my testimony that may be helpful to somebody going through that stage.  I am now perfectly comfortable in a setting where the bulk of the people are drinking and I am not.  I order a coke or a sweet tea and nobody blinks an eye, they really don’t care the peer pressure I thought was there was all in my mind.  So if you are holding on to that as an excuse for having a beer with the boys, give it up, they won’t even notice if you order a coke.  Even if they do, you’re not a teenager who needs to defend yourself just say that’s what you want to have.

Now, here’s the other side of the coin for those who are not fully mature adults (anyone who has not lived on there own for at least five years – college doesn’t count as living on your own), teenagers and college kids are still impressionable and for them peer pressure is real.  This is not an excuse for them to drink but a reality they face and if the adult figures in their lives drink they are very likely to also. 

I recommend listening to the MacArthur series but if you must know the Biblical legality of drinking.
– Getting drunk is outright prohibited
– Strong drink, which includes modern wine, is prohibited (they mixed it with water)
– Drinking wine when it is the only thing available is allowable but caution must be used
– Those of a higher spiritual calling are prohibited from drinking
– Any action that might cause another to stumble is prohibited (parents this is you, your children heed the example you set much more than the words you say)
– If you drink it is by choice not mandate and if your conscience is clear than it is allowed but may not be the best choice

I’m trying to compress several sermons into a few bullet points so please listen to the source.

Heavenly Father,
You are wise beyond human understanding and have provided for us all we need.  Help us to understand all that is available to us and to make wise choices that honor your name.  In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen