Saturday, May 13, 2017

THE HOME FOR DISCIPLESHIP



Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.  (2 Timothy 1:1-5 NKJV)
The home base for discipleship is the Christian home.  While the church can offer resources and reinforcement for discipling our children, we cannot replace what God can do through a father and mother.  Here we see a young man, Timothy, who would make a difference in the world because he was discipled in the home.  A spiritual legacy was transmitted from his mother and grandmother.  Paul had become as a father to him in mentoring him for ministry.  Here is hope for the single parent or for a child whose parents have no spiritual interest.  The church's involvement must extend beyond a couple of hours of teaching during the week and have individual members who invest time and attention on that child which is lacking in the home.  Bottom line: the church has been hemorrhaging youth for years and this must be reversed!  This will not change until authentic faith is modeled and taught consistently in the family unit.  Gone are the days (if there ever were such) that you could drop your kids off at church and expect that will get the job done.  At best that approach is creating spiritual mediocrity and at worst, shoving our sons and daughters toward the abyss.  Dads and Moms, the church will seek to support you more intentionally and effectively, but you must own the responsibility.  God gave you those kids.  What will you do with them?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

THE RAREST OF JEWELS


It as been said, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  Since I don’t have room in this newsletter for a thousand words—and you might not take the time to read them—I will paint a picture of this Biblical principle: a virtuous woman is a rare jewel; a godly mother is of exquisite worth.  I found one in 1973—a treasure called Marilyn Crayton—who on August 24, 1974 became Marilyn Thurman.  Then in 1978, she became a mother with the arrival of the first of five children.  Her portrait in words will be framed by an acrostic of her name.

M—is for model.  She will be embarrassed to read this, of course—and she will quickly deny it, giving you all kinds of reasons why she is not that great a mother.  She isn’t perfect, but Marilyn is a model which every young woman would be wise to emulate.  Her daughters are following her pattern, and by my admittedly prejudiced opinion, are virtuous women as well.

A—is for Alert.  Marilyn has radar—a remarkable intuitive ability.  The kids will tell you she has eyes in the back of her head.  She is ever aware of dangers to the family and opportunities for good.  She has been an invaluable source of help in decision-making to me due to this quality. Her diligent study of the Word of God and sensitivity to the Spirit of God are the root of this.

R—is for Real.  I don’t know a person more real than Marilyn.  She is what she is and you know where she stands.  There is not a shred of pretense.  She hates subterfuge.  Marilyn is so transparent.  You don’t have to wonder what she’s thinking.  You can read her like a book.

I—is for Intercessor.  There is no telling where I would be if not for the faithful, fervent prayers of my wife.  She regularly cries out to God on behalf of our family and flock.  There have been times I have awakened in the night to hear her whispering passionate prayers.  When the “spiritual” preacher may want to collapse in slumber, she will often say, “Let’s pray.”

L—is for Loving.  Since Marilyn pledge her love to me, I have never doubted it for a moment.  She declares it and demonstrates it in a myriad of ways on a daily basis.  Her love for her children and grandchildren is so intense that you had rather try to rob a mama bear of her cubs than do something to her family.  All this flows from her love for the Lord. She loves people.

Y—is for Yielded. She follows the Biblical command to yield to my leadership.  She doesn’t hesitate to express her opinion, but when the final call must be made she defers to me.  Only one exception would be possible—her final allegiance is to Christ.  She is surrendered to Him.

N—is for Near.  She is not omnipresent as the Lord, but she stands by her man.  I know that some of you reading this are single or single again—and this partnership is something you crave or now miss.  If the Lord tarries His coming, one of us will likely slip away first and what a sorrowful thought!  For now, I just want to squeeze out every minute with her in this frantic life.

To all the women out there—let me challenge you to be virtuous.  For each wife, may I urge you to be godly.  To each mother who models holiness, I say, “Happy Mother’s Day!”  Men and children, heed the Biblical injunction:

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:

 “Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. 
(Proverbs 31:28-30 NKJV)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Image result for no pain no gain

POWER FROM OUR PAIN

We have likely heard the expression, “No pain; no gain.”  That is true in getting physically fit.  Working out is exactly that—work!  If muscles are to be built they are first made sore.  It is the exertion that produces the stamina and strength.  There is no easy way.  This is a spiritual axiom as well.  Faith muscle can only develop through resistance.  Pain produces power.  It is for our profit if received as such.  We have the notable example of the Apostle Paul as he shared it in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10:

It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord:  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven.  And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.  Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities.  For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.  Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul is speaking of an experience he had—unsure whether it was a vision or transported physically into God’s presence.  The occasion is uncertain, but the destination is said to be, “the third heaven.”  The first heaven is our sky—the atmosphere where clouds form and birds fly; the second heaven is space—where the stars shine and planets pursue their courses; the third heaven is Paradise where God sits on His throne—the object of worship by angels and departed saints.

It is of note that Paul refused to give details of his trip to Heaven, unlike many who have found great profit in writing books and making movies about “near death” experiences.  If Paul was forbidden to speak of what he heard, then why are people free today to describe such?  I am making no judgment, just asking the question.

Be that as it may, what is known is that God put a governor on the Apostle, lest he run away with pride and wreck his ministry.  Conceit over his experience would potentially prove his downfall, so God moved to preserve his servant—and in a most unusual manner.  God sent Paul “a thorn in the flesh…a messenger of Satan to buffet me….” 

We do not know the nature of Paul’s affliction—a myriad of ideas have been proposed—and we simply cannot say with confidence.  Perhaps this is God’s intent, so that whatever affliction we may face enables us to identify with the Apostle, and it would prevent pride from those who had the same problem were it defined, perhaps prompting the boast, “I’ve got Paul’s disease!”  That is how sinister pride can be, and that is why God would afflict his choice servant with pain so he would not fall.

Notice the source of Paul’s pain—God!  It was, “a messenger of Satan,” to be sure, but dispensed by a sovereign God as a gift!  He says this was “given” to him.  Strange gift!  Not exactly what you would want to find under your Christmas tree!  Yet, the omniscient and omnibenevolent God gave Paul precisely what was needed when he gave permission for this demonic buffeting to occur.  This is reminiscent of Job’s experience, where God initiated the waves of disaster that would sweep over him as a result of the Lord’s challenge to Satan and subsequent permission to attack him.  Always remember that God is in charge.  Satan and his imps have no power but what God permits, and if he permits them to bring problems then it is to fulfill His purpose with that very evil generating good (Rom.8:28).  The Old Testament story of Joseph is a perfect illustration.  All the harm that was meant for him would become the very vehicle that would carry him to power!

Paul described this as a “thorn,” literally, a sharp stake driven into him.  That is most suggestive.  It recalls the sharp spikes hammered into the flesh of Christ and the spear thrust into His side.  What an awful evil was done; what agonizing pain He felt!  Yet, this is how God wrought His most wondrous work as the satanic act of killing Jesus would be the very means of crushing the Serpent (Gen.3:15).  This is God’s mysterious and glorious way.

Still, Paul was human and not a masochist who found pleasure in the pain itself.  Normal folk would not.  They would do what he did—pray for deliverance!  Jesus prayed that if there would be any other way to accomplish His mission than to drink that bitter cup, then that would be His desire.  There was not, and He submitted after praying three times.  In this, Paul followed the Lord’s example.

Beware those who claim that if you have enough faith then all your problems will vanish.  Faith often creates more pain than it removes!  It was true for Jesus.  It was true for Paul.  It was true for Job.  It was true for Joseph.  It will be true for us.

God had something better in mind for His servant.  He promised something superior to physical deliverance.  God gave him abundant, amazing grace.  The Apostle’s pain that drove him to his knees in submission would enable him to rise clothed in power!  The affliction would not limit him, but enable him to tap into God’s limitless might.  So, instead of expressing grief, he exuded gladness.  Paul’s contentment in his circumstances was found in being in the will of the Lord.  There is no better place to be!