Sunday, March 17, 2019

Two Sons

Imagine you’re Abraham. You’ve seen all your friends and family members having children but you’ve given up having any of your own. Then God promises you that you are going to have a son. Sure enough when you turn 86 years old God gives you a son named Ishmael. In the Bible names mean things and Ishmael’s name means “God hears”.
Then when you turn 100 years old God gives you a son from your 90 year old wife Sarah. His name is Isaac which means “laughter” because both Abraham and Sarah laughed when God promised them a son.
When Ishmael turns 14 years old and Isaac turns 3 years old, God tells Abraham he must turn Ishmael and his mother out. Abraham was “greatly distressed” at having to lose his oldest son… greatly distressed. After all this was his son! He rejoiced at his birth and rejoiced at being a Dad (and all that means) and now he had to say goodbye to him. I imagine part of his hurt was seeing how Ishmael was hurt.
I don’t guess that Abraham could predict that when his second son Isaac turned a similar age that God would ask him to kill and sacrifice him but that’s exactly what God did. Of course Abraham was a little prepared for that command. After all, God had already had him cut Ishmael loose but had assured Abraham that Ishmael would be all right and would father a great nation. So when it came time to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac… Abraham dutifully complied knowing somehow, some way, God would make everything all right. In fact, the author of Hebrews adds this… “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead (Isaac).”
Abraham had two sons who he loved with all his heart, “God Hears” and “Laughter”, and was asked to give them up.
God also asks us to make some sacrifices. Don’t make the mistake of comparing whatever we have to sacrifice with the sacrifice Abraham had to make because it doesn’t compare. Just remember… do whatever God asks and God will take care of you and maybe, just maybe shower you with great blessings like he did for Abraham.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Hospitality: Abraham, Lot and Sodom

In Genesis 18, we find Abraham cooling off during the heat of the day at the door of his tent. Three men approached. He ran and out to meet them and bowed before them and implored them to stay and visit. He washed their feet, he had Sarah (his wife) make cakes, he had a servant prepare a freshly killed calf and offered his guests, curds, milk and beef.
In Genesis 19, we find Lot sitting at the gates to the city. He sees two of the same three men. He didn’t run to greet them like Abraham had done but he did bow down before them and invited them into his home. They entered his home and he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread (not cakes) for them.
Further on in Genesis 19 we find the “hospitality” of Sodom. When the men found out the city had visitors they tried to forcibly gang rape them.
What a huge extreme in hospitality between Abraham and the citizens of Sodom.
I suppose if you had to say… even though Lot demonstrated remarkable hospitality, Abraham illustrated the highest level of hospitality. The Sodomites were killed for their inhospitality.
How about today? What if some strangers approached you, what would your level of hospitality be? If you saw them coming from afar off would you run and turn out all the lights and pretend not to be home? If they knocked on the door would you say, this is not the best time? Would you think, my house is a mess and I have a headache come back another day please?
Sometimes we can plan hospitality and sometimes it’s a spontaneous event… you don’t get advanced notice. Have a hospitable heart and prepare for those events that come out of nowhere. God does test his people.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Admonishment

One of the responsibilities Christians have for each other is admonition. That’s a Bible word for correcting improper or sinful behavior. It is really an act of love. Its purpose is to help keep each other on the straight and narrow so we can all go to Heaven.
But it’s a ticklish subject. I mean who likes to be corrected by others… right? Done properly it can have great results but done improperly it can be a disaster. So it needs to be thought out and prayed about.
First of all I think you have to earn the right to admonish someone else. In my opinion that means you have to have some type of positive relationship with the person. They need to know you care about them and have their best interests at heart.
I might need to admonish someone I barely know but its better coming from someone else who has “earned” the right. I have seen folks who needed to be admonished and have identified someone who was close to that person and asked them to do help out. It turned out well.
Admonishment is a bit of an art as well. Consider the case of Nathan and David. David needed to be admonished but he was a King and usually people in power aren’t great at taking advice. Nathan devised a story about a great villain and waited for David’s reaction and then Nathan told David that he was the villain. David had judged himself.
If you could pick anyone in your home congregation to admonish you who would it be? For me it would be an older person who has a humble disposition, someone who is reticent about things like that. Not someone who took joy or smug satisfaction in the process. Someone like my mother maybe.
Failure to admonish others is really selfish and unloving. It’s like first aid for a bleeding wound… it needs to be bandaged. Don’t just watch someone “bleeding out” and fail to act. Step up… you might just save someone and yourself along the way.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Blood of Jesus Christ

Here are my comments from a discussion list on blood.
I’m not sure where you are going with this but I agree that blood has always been important to God. We live in a sanitized civilization where the impact (and connection) with blood is minimized… bloodless capital punishment, low profile abattoirs, bloodless surgeries, etc.
I’ve always thought about it like this… every crime (sin) against God carries the death penalty… sometimes immediate and sometimes delayed. In the Mosaic law some (not all) crimes could appease God with the substitution of animal blood. Animal blood, of course, isn’t the proper payment for human sin. It is limited in what it can achieve. The proper payment for crimes against God is human blood. The blood of the criminal.
Then God makes the blood of Christ available to us. It is like an overpayment for our sins and has such value that it can pay for the crimes of all of humanity past, present and future. It also has the ability to cleanse our consciouses.
Of course the question is why? At this point I like to fold in Ephesians 5, Christ wanting a pure, virginal bride (in regards to sin).
God wants a relationship with a pure people. He makes the down payment of the blood of Jesus Christ. That is the initiating point. With that head start, we strive to grow into the very stature of Jesus Christ by conquering sin (and the desire to sin) in our lives and become the pure bride and completely fitted soldier in God’s army.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Incredible Acts of Heroism

I’ve been watching re-enactments on Netflix of the heroics of “Medal of Honor” winners. They are very emotional and very inspiring. One of the commentators said this,
“Once you cross the line that you are not going to survive anyway, then you are enabled to achieve incredible acts of heroism.”
I’ve heard that sentiment before, they quit fighting for themselves and were just fighting to help their fellow soldiers survive. True sacrificial living on behalf of others.
Christian soldiers have a completely different mindset… I cannot be killed therefore I’m totally unafraid of what might happen to me (on earth) and am therefore completely free to testify about the Lord Jesus Christ to anyone who will listen.
In fact, that was exactly the mindset of the early Christian Martyrs. Today you hear of Christians going into places like North Korea, Iran, China, etc. and you wonder… have they lost their minds? No they haven’t, the bravest soldiers go where they are needed the most and understand that their “Medal of Honor” awaits them in Heaven.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Softening Hard Hearts

When I was a kid my parents were big into gardening. We never could afford one but my dream was to own a Troybilt Horse tiller. Now that I’m advanced in years I’ve realized that dream and have owned about ten of them. Right now I have three in my shop and a few more in pieces. You see if I can find them for about $200 I buy them, work on them and sell them for about $400 (new ones cost $2000). It’s fun for me to bring an old piece of equipment back to life.
The easiest thing to work on are the engines. Those old tillers usually have gummed up carburetors that are easy enough to fix. The worst thing to deal with is taking off the wheel. They are usually rusted on and locked up tight. Sometimes you can get them off with an impact wrench and a little pressure. Sometimes you have to add a little heat. Sometimes you have to use a wheel puller which you have to be careful with as I have ruined a few wheels exerting more pressure than the metal can withstand. Other times you need to soak them in diesel. Right now I have one that’s been soaking in diesel for a year and I can finally get it to turn but not enough to get it off… yet.
Getting a sinner to turn from his sin and commit to Jesus Christ is kind of like getting those wheels off those old tillers. It always, always takes some effort. Sometimes it takes a little bit of effort and sometimes it takes a lot of effort. It kind of depends on how long that wheel has been stuck on that axel. Sometimes if you’re in a hurry and impatient you can ruin a wheel. You have to look for the signs and that takes experience. You might have to take that wheel puller off and let some diesel work on it for awhile.
God’s Word is kind of like diesel. Once you add diesel to the equation it’s working 24 hours a day… slowly and sometimes imperceptibly breaking down that rust.
I’ve known godly women who were married to scoundrels whose patience in well doing softened a heart that most thought would never soften.
The best kind of oil for penetrating an old hard heart is the oil that demonstrates the best of Christian living… a tender compassionate heart. The oil that forgives when one is not deserving of forgiveness. The oil that loves the unloveable. If you use that kind of oil and be patient and long suffering you might just be able to get that old wheel (sinner) to turn.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Wayward Members

Back when I was in large animal practice one of the issues we had to deal with were “Crypt” horses. Those are male horses with hormone producing tissue in their abdominal cavity. “Crypt” horses behave like Stallions and are barely manageable.
The treatment is surgery which has some risk involved. You can imagine laying down a 1000 horse behind your clinic with less than perfect anesthesia and going in to find that hormone producing tissue. Clients usually ask if there is any risk involved. Yes, your horse might die. An old time Veterinarian told me he would tell clients… “If he dies, you don’t really have a horse anyway do you?”
Often in congregations we have those members who wander away from our services. As Shepherds we have the responsibility to try to herd those sheep back to the flock. Usually that means a phone call or two, sending a card/note, texting, messaging on Facebook or trying to set up an appointment to go visit.
Many times those things don’t work. As a last resort I try to just go knock on their door. Some people aren’t comfortable with that and feel like it’s an invasion of privacy or it just goes too far. I know this, that God is going to hold me personally responsible for the sheep in our flock and I’d better have a good answer for Him when he asks me about what I did to take care of His sheep when I meet up with Him on the Judgment Day.
Those wayward members may never respond to any of our efforts but let’s try everything we can possibly do and if the “surgery” is a success then it’s worth whatever risk it took. Because after all… we don’t really have a horse any how do we.