Thursday, February 05, 2015

They drank beer on Sunday, but they were neighborly

  In the late 1980’s my family attended a convention in Richmond, Virginia. We drove a blue Ford LTD that was long past its prime. On the return trip, a stream of white smoke clouded the highway and soon the car just stopped.

  We were a mile from an exit and 20 miles from a hotel. The five of us walked along the highway, passed by hundreds of cars as we walked in the summer heat on a Sunday morning. We looked pretty ragged that day. A man, his wife and three little boys who were dirty, sweaty and tired.

   A church van approached us and the driver asked if we wanted a ride to his worship services. We declined after explaining our situation. They van drove off to pick up worshippers waiting for rides.

   At the exit, in Ladysmith, Va., we were assisted by several men who were drinking alcohol and playing loud music. They put us in their car and carried us 20 miles to a hotel, and then returned and towed our car to their home. They happened to be mechanics.

   We had a blown head gasket, but they stayed up all night long, drinking, listening to loud music and repaired our vehicle. They only charged us for the parts and continued drinking.

   As we pulled away, the church van stopped us and the driver asked whether we had our problem solved. He said, “God bless you,” and then drove away.

   Each time we go in that direction my wife bakes a cake to take to those men, in gratitude for helping us when we were stranded. We never even thought about attending that church.

   Luke 10:29 asks a question, “Who is my neighbor?”

   On that Sunday, when we were in distress, our neighbors were three drinking men who listened to loud music on Sunday, but gave of themselves to help us.

Monday, January 26, 2015

She fasted and posted, did she really fast?

  A young woman was concerned with her weight, so she decided to go on a diet. She concluded that fasting at the same time was a “cool” idea. As she fasted she posted to all of her friends on Face book that she was on a 30 day fast. Her posts received hundreds of comments and likes. At the end, she announced she had lost ten pounds and attributed to fasting. She received even more comments and congratulations from her friends!

   The young woman participated in a weight loss regimen,  but it was not a spiritual fast. Fasting means we do without a prescribed diet for the purpose of helping us intensify our spiritual connection with God. Each time we would normally consume the item of the fast, we pray instead.

   The churning in our stomachs reminds us of the yearnings in our soul and keeps us on task.

   Fasting is secret. It is not posted on Face book, Tweeted or announced. It is part of a believer’s prayer life. It is not a weight loss program.

   No one should know that we are fasting by our appearance or communications; that is, if we are really fasting.

   In Matthew 6:18 Jesus says, "That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly."

   The moment we tell someone we are fasting, it loses its power!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I prayed, but I'm still sick

    A young lady stayed absent for church for several months. She refused to worship, read her bible or call on the name of the Lord. She was asked why by friends and she responded that the church lied to her. She said she prayed for her mother’s sickness to be removed and followed all of the rituals and steps in the bible, but her sickness remained. She said, praying, God and faith were a waste of time.

   Believers should understand the nature of our relationship with God. Generally, sickness is related to sin or testing. How do we know which one?

   First, we confess our sins and pray the prayer of faith for forgiveness for those sins. If the sickness persists, then we know that it is not sin based, so we then change our prayer from “forgiveness” to “endurance.” –Lord help me to endure my time of testing.

    James 5:15  And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they  shall be forgiven him.

    Each believer will endure testing periods; those times when everything seems to fail: health, strength, finance, relationships-everything. When test time comes we pray for strength to endure and gain from the situation. That prayer, when prayed fervently and intensely, and in faith, will count heavily toward the desired result.
    Those who know they are not practicing sinners, immediately know that they are in a time of testing.

    That’s when they fervently pray for strength to endure.

    The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much. (James 5:16)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Absolutely 'flicted!

We’ve all seen people that we thought were absolutely “off the chain!” They did and said crazy stuff. The old timers around us had a way of describing erratic, changes in mental or physical health as being “flicted.” It was not proper English, but everyone understood what they meant.

Flicted covered a whole range of problems such as mental instability, foolishness, immorality, bi-polar issues, infidelity, abusive behavior and often physical illness.

When we couldn’t understand why a person with money in his pocket shoplifted from a store, it was described as ‘flicted. The man who had a beautiful loving wife, but felt the need to cheat, could only be described as ‘flicted. Bodily aches and pains and sicknesses were also called, "flictions."

We have a few flictions ourselves, if we tell the truth. We have flictons in our body. Flictions in our heads. Some of us have flicted zippers and skirts.

James 5:13 says people who are ‘flicted should pray that God would help them deal with their fliction-issues. It says, “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray.” The person who is flicted should pray for him/herself.

In most cases people are so flicted they won't pray for themselves or won’t, so in the meantime those who are affected by the ‘flicted people have to keep praying for them.

The prayers of the faithful can go a long ways.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What if you Never ask?

 Three children stood outside their father’s room and debated with each other. They wanted an increase in their allowance. They did all of their chores, obeyed all of the family rules and always tried to be respectful. They wanted an $1 increase in their weekly allowance, but two of them said it would be a waste of time because the father would probably say no. The third said, “It’s not like we’re going to get a beating for asking, let’s just ask him.” The first two refused, but the third, who was very bold said, “I’ll do it.”

   As the boys went before their father he greeted them with a big hug, and then the third one popped the question. When the father agreed all of them were surprised. The father said, “I decided weeks ago that you should be rewarded with a $2 increase, but decided to wait until you asked.” Then the father said something that they remembered the rest of their lives, “You have not, because you ask not.”

    In Hebrews 4:16 the word of God says, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

     It means that we are God’s children, he knows what we need and will help.  We should not be afraid to ask for mercy and for help in time of need. This knowledge helps us to be like the third child. We should bow humbly before the father and boldly plead our case.

     We’ll find out that, in most cases, the help we need (which may be more than what we ask)  is available, just waiting for us to ask.

     We have not because we ask not.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Been there-Done that!

    A man opened a marriage counseling service and hung his many degrees on the wall. He followed all of the protocols for establishing a successful business: he was well financed, advertised, and executed a great business plan. However, after a year in business he only had a few clients. It seemed no one cared. It suddenly dawned upon him that he had the wrong business model. He changed his business to “Divorce Counseling” and his business increased. His business increased because he was now seen as someone’s whose advice could be heeded. He had been married seven times.

    When we are in despair we get our best help from those who understand our dilemma. A cancer victim can find solace in the words of  a cancer survivor. A person who has known the hard life listens to the advice of those who have done the same and rebounded. This is so because they have been in the same position. They can relate.

    In Hebrews 4:15 believers are encouraged to look to Christ for our help because whatever our dilemma, he has faced a similar situation himself. The meat of text says, “but was in all points  tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

    To be tempted is to be tested in matters of morality, social acceptance, health, financial security, family concerns, dealing with enemies, facing death and other issues of life. Jesus faced them all.

    He could easily say, “I’ve been there-done that and I have the marks to prove it.”

    He will listen when we pray and we will receive an answer. The answer we receive will be from someone who has walked a mile in our shoes. He knows what we are going through.

    An old hymn says, “He knows the pain we feel, he can save and he can heal, take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.”

   When you pray, be assured that God understands and will respond at the appropriate time according to his will.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Ask a favor for Judas, too?

    Have you ever put it all on the line for someone, pleading in their defense or asking a favor for them? If so then, you know what it is to intercede or act as a middle man to help someone.
   There are many who are hired on jobs, get promotions, get scholarships or other opportunities because someone recommended them, pleaded their case or called in a favor to help them. It helps to know someone on the inside.
   In John 17:9 Jesus intercedes on behalf of his 12 disciples, even Judas. He asked God to show them favor because they have been loyal to him. He specifically notes that in this prayer he is not praying for the whole world, but especially for these twelve. (In verse 12 he notes that since  Judas' role was ordained, he doesn't like what the son of perdition is doing, but he prays for him anyway).
   In verse 13 he asks God to give his followers “my joy.”
   His prayer was personal, specific and in line with God’s eternal plan. It asked God to favor his followers to the extent that they put themselves on the line for the cause of the kingdom.
   Like Jesus, we pray intercessory prayers, too. These are not prayers for the world, but for specific people. These prayers are personal and touch the heart. We ask God to favor a friend in need or a hurting family. We ask that an opportunity be made available for a deserving person.
    There have even been times when we asked a favor for someone who hurt us in the past. We followed Christ's example.
    We ask him to give them “The joy of the Lord” for their situation.
    Jesus pleads for us and God shows us favor, often undeserved.
    We should intercede for others, even the Judases in our lives, and ask God to help them know the “Joy of the Lord.”
    Those who know the “joy of the Lord” can pray for Judas, too!