Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Keeping Time

By:  K. Anderson

The music twirled and lifted under the spotlighted gaze of the audience in the twilight hall. Beside me, little Anne resonated, feet swinging gently, fingers twiddling tiny conductor’s patterns. Baby Winston bounced in time on my knee. Three rows down, a child who was big enough to know better set up a fuss, “It’s mine!” she whined.

God conducts the music of unfolding history every day for us. Will we pay attention? Will we resonate, keeping time to His patterns? Or will we with our own agendas and our beeper watches set up some other measure?

God’s Creation is set up especially to speak of Him, and the rhythms of time are no exception. The week is explicitly established as a pattern of seven with the cadences of work danced in demonstration by God Himself. Ever wonder who came up with a seven-day week? Why not a neat ten? Genesis 1 and 2. The first work week in history.

When God established a Sabbath day one day out of seven, He explained that this was intended to be the pattern for our imitation of Him.

“Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work,…For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hollowed it.” (Ex 20:9-11)

And in so doing, He invites us to look carefully at the rest of His work week to discern other patterns of work that we should imitate in order to be effective.

Can we arrange our time so that our schedules reverberate with God’s messages to us? So that our work patterns remind us that there is a greater Work that we imitate? So that even washing dishes takes on a beautiful dignity? Oh yes!

James B. Jordan, in his book, Primeval Saints, has a wonderful study of the manner in which worship transforms our work and enables us in turn to transform the broken, ugly and unformed into something more and more glorious.

Jordan points out that God models for us again and again the six-fold pattern for our work.

We lay hold on the world.
We give thanks.
We break it up and restructure it.
We distribute it to others.
We evaluate it.
We enjoy it.

Does this look familiar? When Jesus was demonstrating how we are to remember His work,

“Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying, ‘Take and eat.  This is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them saying, ‘Drink from it all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins…’ When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mt of Olives.” (Matt 26:26)

It is the pattern of the Creation Week, of the Old Testament sacrificial system, of the Communion service, and (except for the thanksgiving part) it is a pattern that we cannot help but follow. Jordan maintains that if we, as believers, discipline ourselves to give thanks, it is the pattern for dominion and for cultural revitalization. 

This can be the pattern for daily life. As you sit down on a Sunday to imitate God in the arranging of your coming week,

-          Lay hold of your lists and calendars.
-          Give thanks for the time you have been given and for the help you have in your children (or co-workers)
-          Divide your work into manageable tasks.
-          Distribute them to the days and hours at your disposal, and, if you have children, to those small helpers at your knee.
-          Consider whether you can really do all that. Does something need to move or be re-assigned to another worker? Or maybe it just needs to be ditched. Leave room to be interrupted. Leave room for God to re-assign His work to you in the measure of the dance.
-          Enjoy the rest brought by knowing your work will be done decently and in order.

Your life will never be the same. This week, I hope you dance!

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Got Time for Patience?

By.  L. Kibler

I sat there, reading my Bible, and tried to still my jumpy legs. The day ahead filled my thoughts and I hurriedly read. I peeked forward to see how long the chapter was. I have 35 more verses? Ugh. I have so much to do, and I have to read another chapter after this. My morning devotions come first thing (after I have made a cup of tea and peeled a banana). I read through the Bible each year and on the morning I read Exodus 31-33, I rushed to finish. I had to hit the treadmill, do laundry, run to the store, meet my accountability partner for lunch, figure out what to have for dinner and get all the ingredients and then cook it. On and on my plans went.

In the chapters I read, the account of the grumbling Israelites at Mt. Sinai convicted me.

"When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, '"Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."' (Exodus 32:1 ESV)

Then it hit me, the impatience of the people at Mt. Sinai was mine. I too sat before the Lord grumbling and stiff-necked. My daily idol of checking things off my list spoiled my precious time with Him. At that realization, I paused to confess my sin and ask the Lord's forgiveness for my hurried attitude. And I asked Him to open my eyes to all that He wanted to tell me and teach me through His Word.

It does no good to be impatient with God. Every time we try to hurry His actions or our reactions, we chase after other gods, other idols to make ourselves feel better about who we are. So, even knowing what we know about God, sometimes we remain stiff-necked, just as the Israelites were during their days in the wilderness. Yet the Lord answered the entreaties of their intercessor, Moses, and did not blot all of them out. He preserved some. His glory and promises shown, even through their sin of unfaithfulness.

That morning, I made myself slow down and look carefully at how the Lord exposed the great sin of the Israelites. The people supposed that Moses had forgotten them, and that his delay was cause for them to create their own idols to worship. They knew he was with the Lord on the mountain, but they wanted Moses, their visible leader, and they wanted him immediately. Did they so soon forget what God had done? Had they made Moses their idol?

God rescued them from their Egyptian yoke of slavery, and after only three months in the wilderness (safe from their oppressors), they had already groused to Moses about leaving Egypt and its resources ("We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic." Numbers 11:5 ESV). God had just given them His commandments in precise detail and promised them their future conquest over Canaan, the Promised Land. They did not know or come to understand their test of faithfulness. They did not know that their time of wandering would be 40 years—40 years of impatient grumbling.

Thank God Moses interceded for them, although not all of them were saved. Actually, all who left Egypt 20-years-old and upward, except Joshua and Caleb, perished before reaching the Promised Land. Joshua and Caleb showed faith in the Lord and trusted His promises to lead them in overtaking the inhabitants of the land they were to inhabit. God rewarded Joshua and Caleb's patient faithfulness, but as for the faithless remainder, He "let their carcasses fall in the wilderness" (Numbers 14:32).

As I reread those passages, I thanked God for slowing my pace. He gave me the opportunity to reflect and learn. If Joshua and Caleb gained such a reward for their patience during the time of Israel's 40-year test in the wilderness, how could 40 minutes of reading not benefit me? 

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Why Do Christians Suffer?

By:  J. Meyer

As Christians, we like the thought of sharing in Christ's glory, but what about sharing in His suffering? Jesus took care of the death penalty once and for all so we don't ever have to worry about that again. But the Bible teaches that we must suffer times of trial if we are to share in the glory. Is it worth it? Read what Paul says in Romans 8:18: ...For I consider that the sufferings of this present time (this present life) are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us!

Acting Right When Things Are Wrong

Many of us think we suffer because of our circumstances. We believe that if our circumstances would change, we'd be able to act right. But God wants us to become so mature and stable that we act right even when none of our circumstances are good. There are different levels of faith, and most of the time we want to use our faith to get rid of a problem. But sometimes God's plan is for us to exercise a higher level of faith that will carry us through life's challenges. This requires even greater faith than being delivered from a situation.

Too often we marvel at the delivering power of God and overlook His keeping, strengthening and enabling power. Although there are many reasons why Christians suffer, I would like to address what I believe are eight of the most common reasons why there is suffering in our lives.

#1: A Lack of Word Knowledge

Many Christians suffer because they're too busy seeking carnal knowledge instead of the Word of God. The Lord Himself said, My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge... (Hosea 4:6). Paul was an educated man, with a wealth of carnal knowledge. When he realized the importance of spiritual knowledge, he said, ...I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Like Paul, we need to realize the importance of learning spiritual things, for Galatians 6:8 says, ...he who sows to his own flesh (lower nature, sensuality) will from the flesh reap decay and ruin and destruction, but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

#2: Disobedience

Once we know the Word of God, we have a responsibility to be obedient to it. Too many of us intend to be obedient, but put it off. Even procrastination is disobedience, and it can cause us to suffer. James 4:7 gives us good advice: Submit yourselves therefore to God... . When God tells me to do something, I find it helpful to write it down. This serves as a reminder that I must be obedient if I want God's blessings. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land (Isaiah 1:19).

#3: To Purify and Test Your Faith

Sometimes people seem surprised that they must go through a time of trial or suffering. Perhaps they’ve been faithful to learn and obey the Word, and the trials still come. Sometimes trials come simply to test and purify our faith. [You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations, so that [the genuineness] of your faith may be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than the perishable gold which is tested and purified by fire. [This proving of your faith is intended] to redound to [your] praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is revealed(1 Peter 1:6-7).

#4: A Need for Brokenness

The word brokenness may strike fear in some people, but it's really not a bad word. God doesn’t desire to break our spirits, but He wants to break that outer shell, the flesh that prevents Him from being all He wants to be in and through us. He wants to break off things like pride, rebellion, selfishness and independence. God wants us to be totally dependent on Him, and suffering seems to bring us to that point.

However, having to depend on God shouldn't cause us to feel sorry for ourselves. I once said, “Oh, God, I'm so lonely, and I don't have anybody but You.” And the Holy Spirit said, "Poor Joyce, you're just stuck with God." I've discovered that having only God is a good position to be in.

#5: To Build Compassion

Compassion is born out of experiencing similar problems. The Bible says, ...we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning (Hebrews 4:15). It comforts me to know that Jesus understands me and has compassion.

Going through trials and experiencing God's deliverance better equips us to minister to others. Our pain is never wasted; it brings about compassion that reaches out to other hurting people by saying, "I've been there, and God brought me through it, and He'll do the same for you."

#6: To Encourage Others

The apostle Paul said there were many things that God allowed him to go through simply as object lessons for other people. ...I want you to know and continue to rest assured, brethren, that what [has happened] to me [this imprisonment] has actually only served to advance and give a renewed impetus to the [spreading of the] good news (the Gospel).... most of the brethren have derived fresh confidence in the Lord because of my chains and are much more bold to speak and publish fearlessly the Word of God... (Philippians 1:12-14). Even in Paul's imprisonment, his stability and ability to be used of God was evident.

If we’re to minister to others, we too must face some adverse circumstances. But if we stand in faith and confidence, God will bring us through to victory, and we'll be a great encouragement to others in the process.

#7: Because of the Word

Sometimes we suffer attacks from the enemy simply because of our involvement with the Word of God.Mark 4:17 speaks of those who hear the Word and endure it for a while, ...then when trouble or persecution arises on account of the Word, they immediately are offended (become displeased, indignant, resentful) and they stumble and fall away. When someone receives the Word of God, Satan delights in coming immediately to try to steal what’s been sown in their heart. He knows the Word will strengthen us and help us live a victorious Christian life, and he wants to stop it if he can. So it’s imperative to guard the Word in your heart and resist the devil from stealing it away from you.

#8: Because of Living in the World

Christians may also face trials and suffer simply because we live in a world full of sin. But Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you]” (John 16:33).

What a promise! Understanding the reason for our suffering and having the assurance of the final glory we'll share should make it a little easier to enjoy our lives...even during the times of sharing in suffering.

And if we are [His] children, then we are [His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His inheritance with Him]; only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory(Romans 8:17).

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Waiting on God and His Light in the Heart

By:   A. Murray “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they t...