Prayer Meeting

Yesterday was an unusually busy day.  I never even got to my study until evening and I was so tired I just ate and went to bed.

Still, it was a productive day.  After finishing my morning routine I went to a prayer meeting at the church.  This prayer meeting was first set up as part of the plan for us to look ahead and find out what the Lord was up to.  We were moving to a point of being out of debt and our church wanted to find out what our next step was.  Instead of simply redirecting the funds of the church, we wanted to know what the Lord had in mind so the church requested a number of the members to meet regularly to seek the Lord in prayer to discover His will in the matter.  The group was divided into 4 sets and each one set aside time to pray as well as to meet once a month in prayer together.  Also, each set would take turns so that there was a weekly group meeting.  We were directed to pray specifically for the will of God, the planning committee, specific prayer needs as they arose as well as the whole staff and membership.

These were special times and we discovered the direction we believe the Lord is leading us as well as getting to know each other much better.  I am happy to report that next month our church will be debt free.  We believe that our mission ahead includes supporting other struggling churches and establishing missions and under girding the kingdom work.  We specifically determined that we were not going to try to store up funds for our own use.  We will keep only a 3-6 months reserve of our budget for operations cash flow and then funnel the remainder into mission and the extension of God’s kingdom.

One of our commitments includes a mission that we are helping to also become debt free.  To do that we are committing an additional $100,000 to their budget so that they will be enabled to extend this plan even further.  We will not lessen our current efforts in missions or in our other efforts to minister to the multiple retirement homes, teaching, training, mission trips, etc but will seek to improve them as well.  Another one of our missions reported that they will move into their own worship facility this next Sunday.

Because the prayer effort was so effective, we also decided to make it a permanent part of our operation as a church.  It is such an honor to be a part of this church as we endeavor to carry out our Lord’s great commission and to see it being done effectively.  Only to God be the glory.

Refining My Skills

This afternoon I attended our monthly teacher training class.  After 50 years of teaching you would think that I knew how to teach.  I really enjoyed the class and was blessed with developing my skills even more than I had before.  If I do not continue to develop my skills then I will get lazy and rely on past knowledge.  When I do that I find that my class becomes predictable and I loose my appeal.  Every class should be fresh and exciting.  If it isn’t exciting for me then it won’t excite them.

Today’s class addressed how to open the class because everyone comes to a class with a wealth of different circumstances and moods.  We discussed how to get everyone on the same page so that learning will not be a drudgery or duty.  We took a passage of scripture and framed the subject matter into a lesson that was scriptural, and applicable to the audience.  While the educational pastor was teaching it came to me that it was like a funnel.  Bringing a collection of different people, backgrounds, interest, and knowledge into a single lesson that is edifying.

We also looked at the coming lesson plans for the next year to give our classes a continuity and to be able to watch for things that will aid us in our efforts.  In that vein, we noted some particular events that are upcoming.  One of them is our church Bible conference that will be held in June.  Because the national convention will be here in Dallas, Texas this year, we are taking advantage of some of the greatest Bible teachers of our time that will be here for the convention, to be our speakers/teachers.  The Bible conference will be held on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday following the Convention.  I am really looking forward to this event.

Inching Ahead

Today was a study day.  I worked on my SS lesson for tomorrow and worked on this website some more.  Little by little I am getting up to speed.  I love it when I get a response to a blog or article.  Also, I am looking forward to getting some questions on the Q&A.

This week I went to the eye doctor and will be having eye surgery on the 13th of Feb. and again on the 13th of March.  It is not real major – just cataract surgery on both eyes, one at a time.  It got me to thinking how much we depend on our eyesight.  My life would change so dramatically and I would really struggle to adjust to life if I lost my eyesight. I was thinking about how our seeing helps us to understand God’s perception of everything.

Tomorrow I will be in a teacher training meeting.  Our church has these meetings once a month.  They are to help us as teachers to do a better job.  Our educational pastor is so devoted to equipping us that he goes the extra mile all the time.  He is so supportive and helpful.  I needed a large monitor for my class on Wednesday and he got it together with just a few hours notice.

After that meeting I will be practicing with the men’s choir on some new music that we just got last week.  I am relatively new in the men’s choir and am really out-skilled  as I don’t even read music but they encourage me and so I keep going.  Who knows, I might even get better.

News update!  The translations are all progressing.  The Russian translation is in the third chapter and the Spanish translation is almost through the second chapter.  I haven’t heard about the Japanese translation in a while.  I know that the translator was on a mission trip, out of his country so I am guessing that slowed him down some.  I understand that he is working on the 5th chapter.  The translator on the Chinese translation was here a couple weeks ago and they are working on the 6th chapter. The work is slow but it is moving along steadily.

Prisoners 6

This is the last post I will make on prisoners, at least for now.  These are not a complete list of all of the different types of prisons that there are but enough that you get the idea that most of the world is living in a prison of one type or another.  We become prisoners because of our own choices that we make, often with incomplete or erroneous information.  The way out of the prison is always the same.  You can not do it on your own strength but there is one who can and will set you free on the condition that you place your faith in Him instead of yourself, and then follow His instructions.

Today we will look at the prison of  MISAPPROPRIATED AUTHORITY.  Whenever a person is placed in a position of authority, it is for the purpose of service to others.  It is not for personal gain or because you are something special.  As long as that service is maintained then the people under that authority are blessed.  But when that authority is used for personal gain then the people under that authority suffer.   Authority itself is not the problem, but when that authority ceases to serve others and assumes an alternate purpose, it becomes a restricting and controlling prison.  Those under that authority are caught in a prison of abuse and pride and the original purpose of being a blessing, is lost.

So what is the proper response to those caught in this prison?  Rebellion against authority is not the answer for authority is necessary.  There are seven types of authority that have been established by God to serve the people. (See The Mystery of Faith, chapter 3, page 26)  A respect for authority must be maintained and as much as is possible it should be obeyed. Just as those who find themselves caught in other prisons cannot free themselves, neither can these free themselves.  They must be set free.  These prisoners should appeal to the ultimate authority, God.  By living under the established authority does not mean blind obedience, but rather a conscious acceptance of the result of your own actions.  If you disobey the authority it may bring consequence.  Just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3) faced the fiery furnace because of the refusal to bow to the golden idol, we must be willing to accept the consequence of our actions.  It is then up to God how we are delivered.  It may be that we will suffer pain for a season or even death but God will give us grace to sustain us, and we will have pleased the Lord.  It may be that we will be miraculously delivered that God will be seen for who He is.  The real trial is not the circumstance but do we trust the Lord with our lives?  John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

 

Prisoners 5

The prison in discussion for today is COVETOUSNESS or greed.  Covetousness is the desire to posses, whether it be things, land or wealth.  It is the desire to take ownership when the reality is that all things belong to God.  The closest we can come to ownership is really stewardship, that is to manage it for a time, for the owner.  When a person dies he leaves everything behind and it doesn’t matter how much or how little he had, it is all left behind  :His ownership is temporary at best.

The problem with having possessions is that it is a short step before the pride of wealth possesses you.  1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  This verse does not say the money is the root of all evil but it does say the the “love of money” is the root of all kinds of evil.  Wealth is not evil but the love of it is.  Once the love of money takes control, it demands more and more.  When Howard Hughes was asked how much wealth it would take to satisfy him he answered, “just a little more.”  Wealth becomes the warden and the person becomes the prisoner.  The demand for more drives one to compromise himself and to do almost anything to get more.

As wealth is increased, so also is the demand upon that wealth.   Ec 5:11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?  Not only are the demands of its use increased but also the care it takes to protect it.  It is an awful taskmaster and knows no limits in its cruelty.

When a rich man asked Jesus what must I do to inherit eternal life, Jesus answered him, “go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me” Matthew 19:21  I don’t know of a better answer to how to be free from the grip of wealth than that plan.  The next verse says he went away grieved; for he had great possessions.  In other words, his faith was in his riches and not in Christ. He could have been free but it was his choice to remain a prisoner.  You must hold possessions loosely for the Lord’s use or the possessions will hold you.

Prisoners 4

Today we will visit a prison that starts out as a good thing that turns into a monster.  It is the prison of SEXUAL PERVERSION.  Sex is a good thing.  It was created by God for the propagation of the human race,  His command to Adam to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the Earth came with commitments to subdue it and to have dominion over it.  That is not a license for pleasure but a charge of responsibility.  This subduing is not meant for the woman to be subdued but for the man to subdue his own lower nature and to manage things in this world, in a manner that is consistent with God’s reign over His creation.  The pleasure is God’s reward for proper management.  What we see today is a mismanagement of our authority and to steal the reward without carrying the responsibility to care for and manage this world.  What God had commanded for the good of man was perverted into self gratification and became a curse on man.  It was open rebellion to God and produces untold numbers of problems and pain.

When pleasure becomes the goal, it now has become the plan of man and not the plan of God.  God’s plan will bless man as a reward but the blessing is God’s gift.  Man’s plan is simple theft; in that is he steals the blessing and refuses to carry the responsibility.  The lust of the flesh then reigns over the man and he becomes it’s prisoner.  As time goes on, the pleasure begins to decrease but the desire for that pleasure increases until it reduces man to the level of animals and his conduct becomes irresponsible.  This downward spiral continues its perversion through pornography, the wrecking the lives of lives (both male and female) in making them sex slaves, profiteering, bestiality, mutilation and finally ends in death.

So how does one escape such a prison when one of the strongest urges of man has been perverted?  It is not a mind over matter fight.  The cravings of the body don’t care about facts and it will fight dirty.  It is not so much of an effort as it is a fight for control.  Which will rule, the right thinking or the emotional gratification.  The problem is one of basic belief.  Is it worth the cost to forego the moment that will quickly fade in time to gain that which will never fade away.  The enriching of the soul that comes from having valued that person’s life more than your own gratification can be a treasure that enriches your life from now on.  The body will scream “I want” or “I need” but that is because it has never learned or been trained in self control.  A person who has not learned self control is really out of control.  A person who gratifies the flesh is concerned about pleasure but the one who edifies the soul and spirit gains eternal growth and benefit.  One is for a moment and the other is for eternity.  It really comes down to who is going to control your life.  When you are in charge you will make the wrong choice most of the time but when the Lord is in control you can and will overcome Satan’s devious trap and be freed from this prison.   John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

 

Prisoners 3

The next prison that I will examine is VICES AND ADDICTIONS.  This prison is one of the most cruel of all of the prisons.  The suffering in this prison is inflicted on all levels; physical, emotional, relational, intellectual and offers no hope of a better life. The dependency is chemical, social, habitual, emotional and intellectual.  The scope of the suffering goes beyond the suffering and expense to the individual, to include friends, family, community, government and environment.  The property damage exceeds the cost of war by several times, every year, yet we pass laws to protect these vices because of the taxes from them.  Still these taxes are swallowed up several times in the cost to the governments for such things as welfare, public medical cost, police and fire protection, etc.  The number of deaths caused by these vices and addictions in the last 50 years exceed the combined cost of all the wars of all time.  That does not take into consideration the personal injury or the wrecked lives of the innocent who have nothing to do with them.

The interesting thing about this prison is that most of those who go there, do so by their own choice. There are some exceptions such as those who have been thrust there by circumstances beyond their control such as addiction from medications to save the life.   There is an old saying, man takes drink, drink takes drink, drink takes man.  The door into this prison is inviting.  It offers thrill, fun, pleasure, success, happiness, profit, etc.  Then once entered the door slams shut behind and a return to the former life is lost.  Many have testified that they hate what they do now and cannot escape its grip.  I know that it is not as simplistic as I make it sound but the point is not being made that it can be avoided if we make right choices.

The scope of vices and addictions is wide.  It includes the obvious of tobacco,alcohol and drugs but extends to pleasures, powers and passions.  The allurement of all of these vices and addictions are temporary while the consequence remains for a long time. The grip of these vices is strong and the dependence is hard to break but it really is not complicated.  It is as simple as placing that dependency on Jesus instead of the vice.  Even though it is simple, it is not easy.  To make this adjustment requires a complete rejection of the vice and all it offers and choose the life of obedience to the Lord of life.  He has made provision for your stumbling and weakness and accepts you just as you are and will lead you out of this prison.

God’s plan is to free us from this prison ( Joh 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.).  If you want to escape you can but you have to do it His way.  Joh 8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Ga 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.  There is hope but it is only in Jesus Christ.

Prisoners 2

The prison that I want to discuss today is that of having a COMPLEX.  There  are different types of complexes such as inferiority, superiority, persecution, invincibility, etc.  A complex is a perception about oneself that is believed because of a collection of pieces of information that may or may not be interrelated or complete. Several things go together to compile this belief such as emotion, success or failure, reports, bullying, prejudices. desires, etc.  However true or false the belief actually is, the person with the complex believes it to be true.  Often the case is not open for discussion so responding to the situation is extremely difficult.  It is not until the one with the complex comes to see the belief in relation to the full picture and not just a perception that real progress is made.

I often use the illustration of 4 people looking at a cup in the center of a table.  They are all looking at the same cup at the same time.  One sees a cup with a handle on the left, the person on their left sees a cup with the handle in the middle of the cup, the person on their left sees a cup with the handle on the right and the remaining person sees a cup with no handle at all.  This illustrates that perception is not the full picture and that a person that has a complex does not have a grasp on the full picture either.  It is probably impossible to talk someone with a complex out of their position.  If you are to help them you must first come along side of them and support their individual worth.  Relationship building takes time and love and a quick fix is highly improbable.  Then little by little you can examine each bit of information as it is presented to you. They need to see their perception in light of the greater truth so that they can unlock the chains that bind them because they are the ones that locked themselves in their own prison by their own acceptance of perception as truth.

The Bible declares that a person’s soul is more valuable than the whole world.  It is important for a person with a complex to see their value to Jesus and that He is come to give us life, real victory, not just a way to cope with life.  He will set us free from the imprisonment of our complex to live that life that is overflowing with abundance.  That is the message that they need to embrace.

 

Prisoners 1

In preparing the SS lesson for today on the sanctity of life, I became burdened for the vast majority of all people who are prisoners of one type or another.  I will be expanding on this theme in the next several days.

When Jesus began his ministry, he quoted  Isaiah. 61:1 which is repeated in Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, It is this message that the gospel focuses on.  As you know, the word gospel means good news.  The greatest news to those who are captives and are bruised would be deliverance.  Jesus said in Joh 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

I have identified a number of such prisons that hold people prisoner and keep people from living the abundant life that Christ intended.  I will address several of these in the next few post.  So what makes something a prison?  I am thinking of a poem written by Richard Lovelace in 1642 to Althea, from Prison “… Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage:”  The reverse is also true, If it controls, it is a prison even if there is not walls or bars.

The first prison I will address is traditionsMatthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.  Also, in Mark 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.  Traditions offer a sense of security that sometimes blinds us to truth.  It may be very difficult to break a wrong teaching if it has been held it for a long time.  It makes it even harder if there is some seeming justification for it.  It is much easier to go along with it even if you see that it is wrong.  You can be sure that if you rock the boat, there will be some push back reaction.  So you are faced with the choice to reject the error and receive the consequences or to just go along and become its prisoner.  I have no way of knowing how many lives have endured the consequence of going along with what they knew was wrong but I believe that there are many who have wrecked their own lives as well as being a hindrance to others who were affected by the error.

The gospel will set men free from such a prison.   Jesus said in John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. In dealing with traditions it is important to deal with issues not personalities.  Establish facts, not feelings.  Allow the other(s) to disagree with you if they so choose.  You are not trying to change them but you are trying to establish your own way.  Ask them to allow you the same freedom you give them in not making them a prisoner to your thoughts.  A tradition can be good when it is founded upon truth and does not take prisoners. The good news is that a person is set free in Christ.

Broken Rules

My dad was one of the wisest men I ever knew, even though he only had an eighth grade education.  He had a lot of “country sayings” that he would bring out just at the right time.  I remember one time I was working on my car and he asked me what was wrong with it.  I answered nothing, to which he responded, If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.   I was able to put together these “Broken Rules” from such experiences and a little of my own learning.

It came out a bit fuzzy so I retyped them below so they are more legible.

Broken Rules

  1. Don’t fix it if it’s not broke.
  2. If it is broke, figure out if it is worth fix’en.
  3. You can’t fix it till you know what is broke.
  4. Don’t try to fix what’s broke till you know how.
  5. If it’s broke, fix it, don’t punish it.
  6. Fix what’s broke.
  7. Fix what broke it.

Life can be quite complicated sometimes but when the rules are simple we seem to do better at life.